Quotulatiousness

June 27, 2014

Indonesia’s SoldatenKaffee re-opens

Filed under: Asia, Business — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 07:27

After some minor redecoration, the Nazi-themed SoldatenKaffee has re-opened in Bandung:

Really, there is no reason you should be offended by the SoldatenKaffee, its owner insists.

True, this cafe in Bandung, Indonesia’s third largest city, features a portrait of Adolf Hitler over its fireplace. There are also giant Third Reich iron eagles bearing swastikas on the wall, next to Nazi posters. And yes, some of its customers are wearing military uniforms and Nazi armbands.

But this is definitely NOT a Nazi-themed place. Nope, not at all.

The owner wants to make this very clear, once for all.

A Nazi swastika insignia sign on the floor decorates the interior of the reopened SoldatenKaffee in Bandung city, western Java island on June 21, 2014. The Nazi-theme cafe in Indonesia that sparked international outrage and closed shop has reopened with its walls still bearing swastikas and a large painting of Adolf Hitler. AFP PHOTO / TIMUR MATAHARI

“We have a lot of customers from Europe and they don’t have a problem with the World War II theme, because it is seen here from a historical perspective,” the owner also said at the cafe’s reopening.

But somehow, the Hitler pictures, Hitler quotes on the wall and swastikas suggest otherwise. The fact that the cafe’s Facebook page is full of Nazi propaganda doesn’t help either.

Knowledge of the Holocaust and the Nazi era is not widespread in Indonesia. Winda, who works in Jakarta but studied in Bandung, says she doesn’t really remember studying the topic at school and only heard about concentration camps after she left. “Perhaps the Holocaust was mentioned, but very briefly, we only heard about Adolf Hitler,” she says. “I think we were taught to dislike the Jews more than the Nazis.”

The owner may not understand why this is of such interest to the Western media, but he clearly knows that keeping that attention on his café is good for business.

October 3, 2013

Postwar horror – the misery didn’t stop with VE day or VJ day

Filed under: Europe, History, Japan, Media, Pacific — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:38

In the last couple of years, I’ve read several books about the aftermath of World War Two, including Tony Judt’s Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945, Ronald Spector’s In the Ruins of Empire: The Japanese Surrender and the Battle for Postwar Asia, and David Stafford’s Endgame, 1945: The Missing Final Chapter of World War II. When you concentrate on the combat side of war, you can easily miss the destructive side-effects of that combat and it’s hard to imagine how long it can take for a city or a region to recover from being a battlefield. What is even more interesting is the complex interplay of humanitarian, political and social pressures on the winning side, too often leading to actions that we would have called war crimes if they’d happened just days or weeks earlier. In the New York Times, Adam Hochschild looks at an interesting new book covering the immediate postwar period:

Ian Buruma’s lively new history, Year Zero, is about the various ways in which the aftermath of the Good War turned out badly for many people, and splendidly for some who didn’t deserve it. It is enriched by his knowledge of six languages, a sense of personal connection to the era (his Dutch father was a forced laborer in Berlin) and his understanding of this period from a book he wrote two decades ago that is still worth reading, The Wages of Guilt: Memories of War in Germany and Japan. His survey rambles over a wide expanse of ground, from sexual behavior (imagine millions of Allied occupation troops in a Germany where women outnumbered men by eight to five), to British and American soldiers unintentionally killing thousands of liberated concentration camp inmates by feeding them more than their shriveled intestinal tracts could handle, to the Allies’ blindness to how much of their cornucopia of food and supplies found its way into the hands of Italian, French and Japanese gangsters, restoring some of their prewar power.

Despite the lofty democratic aura of World War II, Buruma points out that the Allies spent much of the latter half of 1945 reviving colonialism. After Algerian Arabs began an uprising on V-E Day, demanding equal rights, some of the troops the French governor general called in to suppress them included an elite infantry regiment that had just taken part in the final assault on Germany. Rebellious towns and villages were bombed, or shelled by naval vessels; in two months of fighting as many as 30,000 Algerians may have been killed. Thousands were made to kneel before the French flag and beg forgiveness.

On the other side of the world, inhabitants of the Dutch East Indies demanded freedom just after the Japanese surrender. But the Dutch government answered with troops, aided by soldiers from Britain’s large Indian Army, British battleships and abundant American military supplies. Fighting continued for four years. And in Vietnam, where a crowd of more than 300,000 gathered to hear Ho Chi Minh declare independence from France, the story would of course eventually become even bloodier. In 1945 British troops were crucial to restoring the colonial order in Vietnam, with help from French Foreign Legion detachments. These included many German volunteers, recruited from P.O.W. camps, who had recently been fighting the Allies in Europe or North Africa.

Meanwhile, the victorious Allies were uprooting some 10 million ethnic Germans from parts of Eastern Europe, where they had lived for generations, and forcing them to move to a shrunken Germany, with perhaps a half-million or more dying in the process from hunger, exposure or attacks by vengeful neighbors. Buruma, like others before him, notes the paradox of the Allied armies carrying out something that echoed “Hitler’s project . . . of ethnic purity.”

February 19, 2013

Container ships embiggen again

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:17

BBC News looks at the soon-to-be-launched Triple-E container ships:

What is blue, a quarter of a mile long, and taller than London’s Olympic stadium?

The answer — this year’s new class of container ship, the Triple E. When it goes into service this June, it will be the largest vessel ploughing the sea.

Each will contain as much steel as eight Eiffel Towers and have a capacity equivalent to 18,000 20-foot containers (TEU).

If those containers were placed in Times Square in New York, they would rise above billboards, streetlights and some buildings.

Or, to put it another way, they would fill more than 30 trains, each a mile long and stacked two containers high. Inside those containers, you could fit 36,000 cars or 863 million tins of baked beans.

The Triple E will not be the largest ship ever built. That accolade goes to an “ultra-large crude carrier” (ULCC) built in the 1970s, but all supertankers more than 400m (440 yards) long were scrapped years ago, some after less than a decade of service. Only a couple of shorter ULCCs are still in use. But giant container ships are still being built in large numbers — and they are still growing.

It’s 25 years since the biggest became too wide for the Panama Canal. These first “post-Panamax” ships, carrying 4,300 TEU, had roughly quarter of the capacity of the current record holder — the 16,020 TEU Marco Polo, launched in November by CMA CGM.

In the shipping industry there is already talk of a class of ship that would run aground in the Suez canal, but would just pass through another bottleneck of international trade — the Strait of Malacca, between Malaysia and Indonesia. The “Malaccamax” would carry 30,000 containers.

Comparison of bounding box of Chinamax with some other ship sizes in isometric view. (Wikimedia)

Comparison of bounding box of Chinamax with some other ship sizes in isometric view. (Wikimedia)

October 24, 2012

Indonesia turns to India for help with their Russian-built aircraft

Filed under: India, Military, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 08:02

Strategy Page on the odd post-sales attitude of Russian aviation manufacturers:

Indonesia knows that India has learned how to deal with shabby Russian support. For example, earlier this year India went public with yet another complaint about the Su-30 fighters it buys from Russia. This time it was an unspecified “design flaw” in the electronic flight control system. This bit of information was made public because India has found that more discreet communications about these matters results in little or no action from the Russians. For example, India has been pressuring Russia for several years to do something about component failures in the Russian designed AL-31 engines that power the Indian Su-30MKI jet fighters. There have been several AL-31 failures because of this in both Indian and Russian Su-30s.

[. . .]

India buys bare bones fighters from Russia and equips these Su-30MKIs with Israeli sensors and communications gear. In many respects, the Indian made Su-30s, the Su-30MKI, is the most capable version available, due to its Israeli and European electronics and the well trained Indian pilots. The 38 ton SU-30MKI is most similar to the two seat American F-15E fighter-bomber. Even though equipped with Western electronics, the aircraft cost less than $40 million each, about half what an equivalent F-15 costs. The Su-30MKI can carry more than eight tons of bombs and hit targets over 1,500 kilometers away.

Indonesia has already become disenchanted with its Su-30s and announced last August the six Su-30 jet fighters it ordered from Russia earlier this year (for $78 million each) would be the last Russian fighters purchased. Indonesia already has ten Su-27s and Su-30s, and wanted at least 16 of these modern aircraft so they will have a full squadron.

August 1, 2012

Badminton in the headlines, but not in a good way

Filed under: Britain, China, Sports — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:53

It’s not a sport that generally attracts a lot of attention during the Olympics, but several Badminton players are accused of deliberately losing games to secure better match-ups in the elimination round:

China’s Olympic sports delegation has begun an investigation into allegations two badminton players “deliberately lost” their match, state media say.

Doubles players Yu Yang and Wang Xiaoli are among eight players charged by the Badminton World Federation (BWF) with “not using one’s best efforts to win”.

Four players from South Korea and two from Indonesia have also been charged.

Some of the players said they were saving energy. Reports say they wanted to lose to secure an easier draw.

It may not be a technical violation of the rules to “take it easy” in a non-critical game, but it does sound as if these particular players didn’t even bother to make it look like they were competing.

The match between the top-seeded Chinese duo and South Koreans Jung Kyung-eun and Kim Ha-na came under scrutiny after the longest rally in their game lasted four shots.

Match referee Thorsten Berg came on court at one point to warn the players, who also appeared to make deliberate errors.

Both pairs were already through to the quarter-finals.

The Chinese duo lost, meaning — Xinhua noted — that if both Chinese pairs continue to do well, they will not meet until the final.

Update: The IOC Badminton World Federation (BWF) brings out the ban hammer:

EIGHT female badminton players have been sent home from the Olympics, disqualified by the sport’s world federation after throwing matches in a case condemned by London Games boss Sebastian Coe as “depressing” and “unacceptable”.

A disciplinary hearing held this morning, which Australia’s badminton coach made a submission to, found that four players from South Korea, two from Indonesia and the competition’s top seeds from China deliberately tried to lose their qualifying matches in an attempt to manipulate their draws.

The four sets of doubles teams were charged after matches on Tuesday littered with basic errors. Accused by badminton’s international governing body of “conducting oneself in a manner that is clearly abusive or detrimental to the sport”, they were ultimately found guilty of trying to lose with the motive of improving their positions for the knockout stages.

The spectators who attended the matches on Tuesday night will not be offered refunds by the London organizers, according to the BBC:

Update, the second: I couldn’t find any actual footage of the match in question until CTV posted it (not embeddable, unfortunately). It’s amazingly bad. The audience absolutely deserve a full refund.

May 19, 2012

Mark Steyn on “The Great Baracksby”

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:54

In his weekly Orange County Register column:

It used to be a lot simpler. As E.C. Bentley deftly summarized it in 1905:

“Geography is about maps

But Biography is about chaps.”

But that was then, and now Biography is also about maps. For example, have you ever thought it would be way cooler to have been born in colonial Kenya?

Whoa, that sounds like crazy Birther talk; don’t go there! But Breitbart News did, and it turns out that the earliest recorded example of Birtherism is from the president’s own literary agent, way back in 1991, in the official bio of her exciting new author:

“Barack Obama, the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review, was born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii.”

So the lunatic theory that Barack Obama doesn’t meet the minimum eligibility requirements to be president of the United States was first advanced by Barack Obama’s official representative. Where did she get that wacky idea from? “This was nothing more than a fact-checking error by me,” says Obama’s literary agent, Miriam Goderich, a “fact” that went so un-“checked” that it stayed up on her agency’s website in the official biography of her by-then-famous client up until 2007:

“He was born in Kenya to an American anthropologist and a Kenyan finance minister.”

[. . .]

“I suppose he’d had the name ready for a long time, even then,” says Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby. “His parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people — his imagination had never really accepted them as his parents at all. The truth was that Jay Gatsby of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself… . So he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen-year-old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end.”

In a post-modern America, the things that Gatsby attempted to fake — an elite schooling — Obama actually had; the things that Gatsby attempted to obscure — the impoverished roots — merely add to Obama’s luster. Gatsby claimed to have gone to Oxford, but nobody knew him there because he never went; Obama had a million bucks’ worth of elite education at Occidental, Columbia and Harvard Law, and still nobody knew him (“Fox News contacted some 400 of his classmates and found no one who remembered him”). In that sense, Obama out-Gatsbys Gatsby: His “shiftless and unsuccessful” relatives — the deportation-dodging aunt on public housing in Boston, the DWI undocumented uncle, the $12-a-year brother back in Nairobi — are useful props in his story, the ever more vivid bit-players as the central character swims ever more out of focus, but they don’t seem to know him either. The more autobiographies he writes, the less anybody knows.

Like Gatsby presiding over his wild, lavish parties, Obama is aloof and remote: let everyone else rave deliriously; he just has to be. He is, in his way, the apotheosis of the Age of American Incredibility. When just being who you are anyway is an incredible accomplishment, Obama managed to run and win on biography almost entirely unmoored from life. But then, like Gatsby, he knew a thing or two about “the unreality of reality.”

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