Thursday, June 25, 2009

Where have all the mailboxes gone?

Matheos Viktor Messakh , The Jakarta Post , JAKARTA | Tue, 06/23/2009 12:24 PM | Lifestyle
A good example: A mailbox in front of Le Meridien hotel in Jl. Sudirman, Central Jakarta. (JP/Matheos V. Messakh)A good example: A mailbox in front of Le Meridien hotel in Jl. Sudirman, Central Jakarta. (JP/Matheos V. Messakh)
Post offices are not dead, but why is it getting harder and harder to find mailboxes in Jakarta? 

Blame it on vandalism, but then consider that ATMs haven’t met the same fate; blame it on the Internet and cell phones, and you’ll find not all kinds of letters and documents can be sent through these latest technologies.

Although the Internet and cell phones have become so dominant in this era of communication, people still send letters — applying for jobs through handwritten or printed letters, sending and receiving bank documents, settling problems of debts and receivables through printed letters.

The number of mailboxes in Central Jakarta has been on the decline over time, down to 52 this year from 110 in 2006.

Many mailboxes are removed because they are regarded as being ineffective, says Asep Saiful Uyun, assistant technical and equipment manager at the Central Jakarta Post Office.

“I think the existing number of mailboxes represents the post figure and public need,” says the man responsible for the procurement and maintenance of mailboxes.
“Some addresses only get two to three pieces of mail a week, so they don’t warrant the operational cost to pick up the letter and the maintenance cost.”

Uyun says vandalism is also one of the main reason mailboxes are removed.

“Vandals put anything in the mailboxes, including firecrackers or water. They even break the keys.”

He adds the post office still has to remove mailboxes considered very unproductive.

“People tend to use phones or email to sent documents. Although we still need to provide a mail delivery service, it’s not as much as before,” says Uyun.

The 52 mailboxes in Central Jakarta are located mostly along the main thoroughfares of Jl. Gajah Mada, Jl. Juanda, Jl. K.H. Hasyim Ashari, Jl. Gunung Sahari, Jl. Matraman and Jl. Diponegoro, as well as near local post offices.

“The most used mailboxes are those in the shopping centers and [traditional] markets and office areas,” says Darmawan, assistant mailbox and stamping manager at the Central Jakarta Post Office.

Working or not?: A poorly shaped mailbox at Jl. Palmerah Barat in West Jakarta. (JP/Matheos V. Messakh)Working or not?: A poorly shaped mailbox at Jl. Palmerah Barat in West Jakarta. (JP/Matheos V. Messakh)
“People are also more confident about putting their letters in mailboxes near or in front of a post office because they believe the postmen will get them. A few also prefer to put their letters in the nearest mailboxes to the post office, because they might not have time to queue at the post office,” he said.

While the Central Jakarta Post Office’s delivery center has 286 employees and supervisors to serve customers, as well as 202 postmen, only six couriers are assigned to check mailboxes along the main roads once a day from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., while mailboxes near local post offices are checked two to three times a day.

The six officers are also assigned to collect mail and packages in 45 local post offices around Central Jakarta, as well as from mobile post offices, post office extension counters and post office agents.

Many couriers, says Darmawan, complain about the construction of public facilities that pay no attention to their job, such as the construction of a busway lane on Jl. Pejambon, which prevents couriers from getting to the mailbox at the Foreign Ministry, or the construction of a bus stop in front of some mailboxes in Matraman.
“People don’t know there are mailboxes behind the bus stop,” he says.
Darmawan add he has no current data on the volume of mail posted through mailboxes, but data from Augustus to September 2008 shows about 200 to 300 letters were posted through mailboxes each day.
He says people no longer rely too much on mailboxes, since the post office offers various other mail delivery services, such as mobile post offices, post office extension counters and post office agents that all feature extending working hours.

The Central Jakarta Post Office has 45 local branch offices, 17 mobile post offices, eight extension counters and 10 post office agents.

Jakarta itself has 189 local post offices, with 48 in Central Jakarta, 40 in West Jakarta, 41 in South Jakarta, 40 in East Jakarta and 20 in North Jakarta.

Herri Waskita, head of the Central Jakarta Post Office’s delivery center, says although the number of personal letters passing through the post office have been tailing off over the past decade, the number of corporate correspondence such as billing statements, credit card bills, utilities bills and account statements is on the rise.

This is why the post office is still alive and kicking, and courier services continue to increase over time. The Central Jakarta Post Office has detected around 15 courier services frequently used to send or pick up letters or packages.

The lack of public attention toward mailboxes, Herri says, is because people need assurance their mail will be picked up and deliver in a timely manner.
“Mailboxes represent an ordinary service, and there is no way for people to trace their letters. They fear their letters could stay lost in the system forever or thrown away somewhere,” he says.

“That’s why for fast delivery, people need to go the post office. They need to know their letters will be arrived at the right time.”

— Photos By Matheos V. Messakh

Monday, June 22, 2009

A night at the movies ... at home

Matheos Viktor Messakh , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Sat, 06/20/2009 12:12 PM | Lifestyle
Going to the movies is one of the most popular forms of entertainment around, whether for families, dating couples or young professionals seeking escape from workplace stress.
But the cinema has its limitations - the hassle getting there, the rigid schedules, the limited choice. And now, with technological leaps for home entertainment units, it also has a serious competitor: The living room.
Sandy, who runs and owns a shop in Mangga Dua Mall in Central Jakarta, has embraced the growing trend for Jakartans to dedicate a room in their house to movie watching.
About 18 months ago, the 29-year-old single guy had a home cinema installed in his apartment.
"I don't have to queue for a ticket, look for a parking spot, and I can watch my favorite movie any time I want," Sandy says.
Sandy and his friends can sit back and relax in their choice of four big seats and watch movies projected by a Blu-ray player onto a 101-inch screen.
"I know that a home theater can never really replace a real theater but at least a home theater set gives you a kind of ease. It's much better for me than going to the movies," says Sandy, who splashed out with more than Rp 50 million (US$4,800) on equipment for the room.
While not all movie lovers are taking their recreation to the same extreme, retailers and analysts agree that the home entertainment market is booming. Hollywood-style screening rooms are becoming increasingly common.
According to Electronic Marketer Club (EMC), which tracks retail electronics sales, the number of home theater packages sold in Indonesia rose from about 31,379 units in 2006 to 84,405 units in 2008; already by April this year 29,716 units had been sold.
"People want to bring the sight and sound of movie theaters to their home," says EMC chairman Iffan Suryanto.
Although there are a variety of home cinema theater systems designed to please the most demanding viewers offering many extra digital devices, the basic home theater components will include video displays, a digital surround sound system and DVD player or video source.
In the past, a home system was well out of reach for the ordinary family on a tight budget. While prices for top-of-the-range systems might still have some jaws dropping, new products coming out all the time mean movie lovers can now find something to suit their taste and budget.
In general, there are two kinds of home theater system: a high-quality home theater and home theater in a box (HTiB).
High-quality home cinemas are assembled from components purchased separately to provide the best combination of equipment for the price. An HTiB is a basic all-in-one unit that includes a DVD player, audio amplifier and surround sound speakers with a powered subwoofer to pick up the bass.
"Those who really want to bring the feel of the theater into their home usually choose their components separately and have them fitted together," says deputy editor of Audio Video magazine Budi Santoso. "This brings out more detail in terms of sound and visuals."
Those who find the task of putting together a home theater system from separate components too arduous can get HTiB - a whole package at once - and be confident that it works.
Packages include an audio/video receiver along with enough speakers so viewers can properly enjoy the surround sound that is part of most DVD and HDTV broadcasts. A home theater system can also include a DVD player, either integrated with the AV receiver or as a separate component. A few also include high-definition Blu-ray players.
Basic HTiB units are available for anywhere from Rp 1 to 3 million, and the more elaborate the system the higher the price tag. A high-quality HTiB can cost more than Rp 10 million.
Sales of HTiB units have boomed over the past four years, according to Iffan Suryanto, who is also general manager of PT. Sharp Electronic Indonesia. "The most wanted segments are the units in the price range of one to one and a half million rupiah," he said.
High-end packages - which are made up of at least a 5.1 speaker, AV receiver and DVD player or Blu-ray player - started about Rp 50 million.
As it is important for the dedicated room to be of a decent size and soundproof, some customers choose to hire an acoustic designer to ensure they get the ultimate home entertainment experience, Budi says.
According to estimates by researcher Dini Wirastri, the average Indonesian family spends nearly Rp 3 million on a television, DVD player and sound system.
But there are plenty of big spenders around too, buying front, center and surround speakers with prices heading toward the Rp 80 million mark, or rear projectors that range from Rp 8 million to Rp 40 million, or large plasma televisions, which can sell for more than Rp 15 million.
"High-end shoppers prefer LCD to plasma screen TVs," says Wirastri, adding that Blu-ray players, which are currently all the rage, can be bought for Rp 12 million.
Wirastri said the demand for home cinemas was "going crazy" and fit-outs worth Rp 1 to 2 billion were not uncommon.
Mee Kim, a company director from Pondok Indah, South Jakarta, had a Rp 500 million home theater built into her home three years ago.
"You have a limited choice of movies with the movie theaters here in Jakarta," she says. "With a home theater I can watch my favorite movie anytime, invite our close friends, or even my colleagues at my company to have karaoke."
Doharto Simatupang, a multimedia observer, says he believes the move toward home theater systems reflects a wider social trend of people wanting to spend more time in the comfort of their homes.
"People aren't running away from the outside world, but they're saying home is the nicest place to be," he said.
Some might view purchasing a home theater system as an extravagance, but others would argue that with all their hard work, they deserve something that will enhance their home and the time spent in it - especially those who love the movies.
"It's really a kind of hobby," says Sandy. "If it isn't a hobby, people won't spend millions or even billions just to get the movie theater experience at home."

Back to the drawing board

Matheos Viktor Messakh , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Thu, 06/18/2009 1:22 PM | Arts & Design

Mother of Many by Ipong Purnama Sidhi (JP/P.J. Leo)Mother of Many by Ipong Purnama Sidhi (JP/P.J. Leo)

For some time now, the art of drawing has tended to be associated with preparation and incompletion, a mere stepping-stone to a "higher" form.

Rather than being treated as an art form in and of itself, drawing is often regarded as a means to an end. But with modern art stripping away any lingering hierarchy of mediums, drawing began to reclaim a position as a final and autonomous work - an end in itself.

A contemporary drawing exhibition at the National Gallery Jakarta brings together 73 first-grade drawings by 53 Indonesian artists with the simple goal of showing that drawing can be and is an "autonomous medium" for expression in the context of contemporary art.

"Drawing as an autonomous medium of art means that it is the final aim of artistic expression and not just in preparation for some other kind of art," said curator Asmudjo Jono Irianto.

"These are not sketches; these are artistic drawings which are artistic expressions using drawing techniques, mediums and approaches."

Art history shows that drawing has long been respected as a skill but has had little acclaim as an artistic end in itself. Rather, it has tended always to be relegated to the service of painting and sculpture.

The role of drawing as servant has diminished recently as artists turn to digital technologies, such as digital cameras, computer software and projectors, to do the groundwork for their paintings and sculptures. In the meantime, the contemporary fine art world has boosted the popularity of drawing in the past two decades by challenging set conventions and hierarchies.

Quoting art critic Emma Dexter, Irianto said the rising popularity of drawing in the past decade had been more or less influenced by the popularity of painting: "In painting's slipstream followed its shy sibling, drawing, arriving without any apologies or explanation," Dexter is quoted in the exhibition brochure. "Drawing had never been widely theorized in its own right, allowing the field to be open for the artists to make of it what they choose."

Construction of drawing as servant for other mediums, said Irianto, was apparent in the very structure of the nation's art schools where drawing is not included as a course of study, but where various kinds of painting and sculpture, for example, are.

"In European countries, the popularity of drawing has come back within the past two decades, thanks to the concept of no hierarchy of mediums and *anything goes'," Irianto said.

"With the concept of *anything goes', artists tend to create more egalitarian works. They know that it's easier for people to appreciate good choices than hard choices. Drawing has the potential to be easier to understand than installations, video art, or performance art."

Yet its simplicity is deceptive. "Drawing" is ultimately difficult to define but is characterized by specific techniques; thus it is reasonable that most of the works featured in the exhibition were done on canvas if only to demonstrate this character, whatever the material.

Consider, for example, Artist Ingusan (Runny-nosed Artist) by painter Agus Suwage. This work is done in acrylics on canvas but is regarded as a drawing because the artist used lines - considered a drawing technique - to create the picture rather than using painting techniques.

Agus Suwage also chose to leave part of the canvas blank, as is common in drawings, rather than covering the entire surface, as is typical of paintings.

"Drawing is about the medium but it's also about the approach - such as using lines, shadows and hatching. So as long as an art work uses lines or hatching, it will still be regarded as drawing no matter what material is used," said Irianto.

Some artists even made drawing and painting equal by combining the two techniques in one medium. One such work is Seno Andrianto's 8-08, done in pencil and pastel on canvas, which depicts a man sitting among watermelons playing a Portuguese guitar.

Another attempt to bring drawing alongside painting is Chusin Setiadikara's Two Girls on the Mountain, done in charcoal and oils on canvas.

Although more and more artists are demonstrating confidence in using drawing for their final pieces, the exhibition pulls together artists from all walks but who have drawing in common.

"Many artists are now confident with drawing as their main skill," Irianto said. "*There are those who have* drawing as their main medium or technique but there are also some painters who draw too."

The choice of canvas as the base for the drawings is also a strategy to persuade art lovers to see drawing as a serious art.

"Drawing on canvas will make people respect the works more because it doesn't deny the drawing techniques but at the same time solves the classic problem of maintenance," said Irianto. With drawings able to offer more longevity, people "will not hesitate to become collectors" of drawings, he added.

The exhibition might be a positive sign for art lovers that drawing - a mere prerequisite for good artists since the Renaissance era and dominated during the Modern era by abstract expression - is now enjoying a resurgence.

Triyadi Guntur, whose graphite drawing on canvas titled So Close portrays a photograph by Hyperrealist artist Chuck Close, said he was interested in drawing because it laid down the rules in fine art. As an artist who learned abstract painting and realism at the same time, Triyadi understands that knowing the basic rules is important.

"How can we break the rules if we don't know them?" he asked.

Indonesian Contemporary Drawing
Until June 24
National Gallery
Jl. Medan Merdeka Timur 14
Central Jakarta

June 28 - July 26
Andi's Gallery
Jl. Tanah Abang 4/14
Central Jakarta