Dusk in Yogyakarta

Posted in Art, Java, Photography with tags , , , , on March 18, 2014 by briancarnold


Minggarin, a small park in the south side of Yogyakarta at dusk.  Young lovers sit on stone benches circling the park, sharing quiet moments together.  There is a small playground, where there are some parents and their children – playing basketball, riding seesaws.

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There is a group of older men sitting together, about 8 of them, huddled close under a large banyan tree, huddled intently over a chess board.  They sit together on the ground, each one as attentive to the game as the two playing.

There is another group of about 10 younger men, perhaps in their early to mid twenties, and each of them with very dark skin.  I assumed they must be from the eastern parts of Indonesia – perhaps Papua or the eastern parts of Nusa Tenggara.


Together, these younger men played football, practicing their corner kicks.  Their ball was full of air, but was also flat and lifeless.  The field was mostly loose, dry dirt, and where there was grass, it grew in tough bunches, each several inches tall.

Left just outside the park, there was an abandoned Honda.  The windows were all broken out, the seats rotting, and the front end looked like it had a survived a fire.

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There was a soft, diffused light over the park, over the whole city of Yoyga.  The air was still and quiet.  Everyone seemed content in the park, quietly taking in their shared experience.

Downhill Skiing

Posted in Art, Java, Photography with tags , , , , on March 7, 2014 by briancarnold

Growing up in Colorado, I skied a lot as a kid.  But given how much I skied, I wasn’t that good.  I was okay, but the time to accomplishment ratio was out of balance.  I guess I always felt a little intimidated and fearful – the speed, the balance – whatever, I was always scared of losing control.


A friend of mine in Ithaca once told me that if you aren’t scared, you’re not really skiing.


I think he was on to something there, but today I want to modify his comment just a little.


If you aren’t scared, you aren’t really living.  You gotta show up to make it happen.  Living has to be a fully activated.



Dream is Destiny

Posted in Art, Photography with tags , , , , on March 5, 2014 by briancarnold

At the beginning of Richard Linklater’s great film Waking Life, two kids sit playing an age old game with paper, a fortune teller I suppose.  The two kids – one the main character as a child – unfold his future, with the words dream is destiny.  Thus the story begins, a study of consciousness and experience, as the main character tries to discover the root of experience.


British filmmakers, Lorne and Lawrence Blaire, spent many years producing a series of documentary films in Indonesia, The Ring of Fire.  There are four in the series, the last being The Dream Wanderers of Borneo.

In this film, the two travel deep into Borneo, and spend time with a nomadic tribe, the Punan Dyaks.  The Punan’s believe in a dream wanderer, and higher, spiritual self that manifests in dreams.


Recently, I had in dream in which I was with a good friend, and we found ourselves in a bit of  pickle.  Though all was well that ends well.  In the dream, it seemed likely we’d both be injured or stained, but left largely unblemished and unwounded.


I do want to believe in mysticism.  I want there to be balance and order in my life, reason and intuition meeting to help determine my outcomes.  Dream is destiny.

Keeping the Faith

Posted in Art, buddhism, Java, Photography with tags , , on March 5, 2014 by briancarnold

Sometimes, desperate times call for desperate measures.


And in desperation, sometimes we have to rediscover faith, to believe that our world has meaning.


I just want to have my own little life in my own little corner of the world.  Sometimes even that requires a little faith, and a need for protection.


The Middle Way

Posted in Art, buddhism, James Joyce, Java, literature, Photography with tags , , , on March 1, 2014 by briancarnold


There was a time in college and just after in which I was completely obsessed with James Joyce; I really considered myself a disciple of his life and work.

Among many other things, I loved his appropriation of the Daedalus/Icarus myth.  Giving his alter ego the name Dedalus, Joyce chose a middle way, not flying too high so that his wings wouldn’t melt under the sun, nor too low to be drowned by the sea.  And Daedalus was a master craftsman.  This is how Joyce reconciled his Catholic youth with his adolescent hedonism and his life as an artist.


Like most of the major religions of the world, Balinese Hinduism acknowledges the human crisis, caught between good and evil.  Unlike most, however, in Balinese Hinduism both good and evil are considered to be benevolent and malevolent forces.  Rather than trying to repress darkness, the Balinese see it as an inevitable part of life, and by acknowledging it correctly, you can live with and not be consumed by it.  Just so with the gods, who can be as fickle as humans.


Driving the streets of Yogyakarta can be a challenge.  In a word, chaotic.  Most drivers use motorbikes, and when approaching a red light, everyone is jockeying for better position.  When the light turns green, all the motorbikes are packed closely together, and starting again always feels a little nerve wracking.  As everyone starts, all the bikes swerve when accelerating and resuming balance.


In the end, it is all the same.  Life is really a question of balance.

Beach Side (Or In Perfect Balance)

Posted in Art, Photography with tags , , on February 26, 2014 by briancarnold

It was December 1992, but I still remember it clearly.


It was the end of my academic program in Bali, while still a college student.  We’d all completed our independent research projects, as well as our class presentations.  Before heading for home, we took a group beach vacation to the Bali resort town of Amed.


It is a gorgeous spot, as you can imagine, along the eastern tip of the island.


I think there were about 18-20 of us in the group.  Our first night there, we had a big feast.  I mostly remember the fried bananas!  I also remember an abundance of flies.  They were all over our food.


That night, everyone got sick.  Well, everyone but me.  I shared a room with the only other men in the program, Brian and Ollie.

Brian wretched and vomited all night.  He seemed the hardest hit in the group.  Her girlfriend was puking too, but she came over to comfort him.

I must be the sickest guy in all of Bali, he kept saying between his wretching.

Probably, she said.


We were there for several days, and everyone was sick the whole time.  Except me.  I went snorkelling all day, every day, and feasted at night.  Everyone turned green just watching me eat the fried bananas.


In my mind, it was all a question of balance.  I was in complete harmony with my life in Bali, and knew I could overcome this obstacle.  Everyone else was sick, in my mind, because they hadn’t grown through the experience with the right sense of balance, didn’t embrace what life was offering them in Bali.  Their sickness was the result of growing pains, and a lack of connectedness with the lives before them.


I was in Bali for months at that point, and in touch with my own mystical self.  I was at one.

Nature and the Universe

Posted in Art, Photography with tags , , on February 25, 2014 by briancarnold


Some speak of a return to nature.  I wonder where they could have been.

Frederick Sommer


Perhaps it is the natural biproduct of my current cultural dislocation – living and working in Java – but I find myself contemplating my own role in the universe.  Can my individual life have meaning in the unknowable multitude of life around?  Can my own little corner, really just a grain of sand in the larger universe, really be apart of the universe.


Completely ridiculous questions, I know.


As part of my own resolve, I’ve started thinking about words like these, Frederick Sommer:

Everything is shared by everything else; there are no discontinuities.


I think John Cage said something similar, something to the effect that the biggest mistake we make in positioning ourselves in the universe is to think that we might be positioned other than we are.


Perhaps the universe is all one mind, broken into an infinite amount of parts.  And if so, I am always one with the universe, moving forward only as I can.


Only as I can.


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