Sunday, February 27, 2011

Hollywood and Protectionism

As the Oscars have been approaching, Hollywood has been under fire in the country with the fourth highest theater attendance, according to 'the Economist'. Recently, a law was passed that drastically increased the tax rate on American movies played in Indonesian theaters, and in response, Hollywood and the theaters refused to pay the new rate, effectively creating a ban. I was interested in what both Indonesians and my fellow ex-pats thought of this and worry about the overall effectiveness, and public perception, of this policy.

Governmental rationale for the law was protectionist in nature and, contrary to the Washington Concensus, I think protectionism is a good thing for the main economic sectors of a rapidly growing economy. For example, there was a law passed last summer putting a minimum term of investment on FDI (Foreign Direct Investment), which was strongly opposed by multi-national banks because it restricted the ever important flow of capital. Yet, this was an example of good protectionism because it was aimed at quelling speculation and over-investment. While I'm not arguing that the law was a cure-all, it is an example of enacting a law that may be 'bad for business,' but ultimately is in the best long-term interest of Indonesia.

In contrast, I have issues with the 'Hollywood ban' for two reasons. First of all, while the government is trying to foster the Indonesian film-making industry, this industry is far from being a central component to the overall economy and the domestic unrest at not being able to see Harry Potter #7 Part Two and other internationally anticipated movies in theaters doesn't seem to be worth the political capital. This is especially worrisome because the boot-leggers will still get ahold of the DVDs, thus rendered the ban essentially useless and further encouraging disrepect of intellectual property.

Secondly, I am concerned about the implications of restricting art and speech. The inherent message this law sends may be more dangerous than the law itself. I believe that the most important institutions to a functional democracy are free speech and free expression (and I'm not arguing that we are a shining example back home in America because we might want to question how free speech is that is owned by a small handful of enormous corporate entities)

Overall, I am interested in observing how this plays out, and the situation highlights just one of many issues every country must deal with in an increasingly inter-connected world where boundaries are blurred like never before.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Weekend in Lombok and Brown outs...

Unfortunately, age and inconsistent power sources in Brooklyn and abroad has taken it's tole on my computer causing it to fizzle out. I assumed that I would need to get a new one soon, but I was hoping it would make it to June, but I suppose these things happen. Fortunately, the advent of the netbook enabled me to regain some form of connectivity recently!

Another reason for relative silence this past month has been the amount of time I have spent away from Jakarta. Every other weekend I have left town, and most recently I visited the islands of Lombok and Gili Meno. I'm continually blown away by the natural beauty of Indonesia and being on an island without any motorized form of internal travel (Gili Meno) was one of the more relaxing experiences I've ever had in my life. Also, taking a 'speed boat' to Gili Meno that required I jump out into the shallows when we came ashore was a fun experience :)

I found that the majority of the population on Gili Meno were able to communicate in English, but they loved when I tried to use my limited knowledge of Bhasa Indonesian. The more I use the language, the more I want to study it because my deficiencies are all the more apparent and it is a great joy to communicate with people in the native tongue.

Also while out in the Gili Islands, I met some interesting foreigners. The first group were three Frenchmen out on their vacation, but one of them lived in Boston but had quit his job as an investment banker to travel for 8 months. I was struck by the sense of balance he had and for the amount of courage that took to do at age 28. The four of us ended up spending a decent amount of time together that day and the other group that I talked with for a while was a Dutch couple and we ended up sharing dinner together. Both experiences made a lasting impression as to how travel brings people universally closer together, but to give myself a little breather, I'm only taking one more trip before my family comes out over spring break.

I hope everyone has been doing well! I miss you all very much!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


This week the ninth graders are taking a mock national exam in the mornings. Consequently, I am missing out on seeing one class and instead of the other class getting a full week ahead, I've decided to teach them some basic calculus (why not, right?! :) lol) The idea initially came to me when we were working through an arduous problem that could've been quickly solved by taking the derivative. This got me thinking about ways that derivatives could be made accessible to ninth grade students, and today we started by graphing the line y = x (squared) zoomed in around the origin and then finding the slope of lines tangent to the curve. I'm not sure if the idea has fully taken root yet, but there were some ah-has and we have two more classes to work it out. I'm confident the students will start to recognize the pattern because we're only looking to scratch the surface; definitely not going to get to the chain rule or other complexities like that. I'm hoping this exercise will make higher mathematics seem more accessible and applicable.

Aside from that, of all the Super Bowl ads I perused on YouTube today (clearly I've been productive over here :)!), this was my favorite:

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Brothers Karamazov

Over the holidays I reloaded my reading list and under the influence of books Joe has read and found worth while, 'The Brothers Karamazov' was added. Initially, I was intimidated to read my first Russian novel because it was first published 130 years ago and I was concerned with its readability, however, I am about 80 pages into it and have been surprised how it has be very accessible and flowed easily.

Zosima, an elder monk, plays a very prominent role in the first part of the novel and conversations with the monk help establish the philosophical and theological function of the novel. As I am making my way through the tome, there are two quotes from the elder that I found very profound and wanted to share.

"Above all, do not lie to yourself. A man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point where he does not discern any truth either in himself or anywhere around him..."
-This, coupled with some interesting research on Motivation and Achievement, highlights the importance of being true to ourselves and taking the plank out of our own eyes before being so critical of the specks in others.

"-'How can we be certain of the presence of God?'
-By the experience of active love. Try to love your neighbors actively and tirelessly. The more you succeed in loving, the more you'll be convinced of the existence of God and the immortality of your soul. "