8degreesoflatitude

THINGS THAT INTEREST, ENGAGE AND ENRAGE

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Feb. 18, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

No Time and High Tide

It’s always fun to read stories in the local press that relate to statistical information. The power of presentational representation (some people call that PR) is a skill that should never be undervalued in Indonesia. Thus we had a little smile when we read that Bali’s Department of Marine Affairs and Fisheries reported seaweed production in the regencies of Badung, Klungkung and Buleleng fell last year by 42 per cent on the 2013 figure. Official statistics show seaweed production was reduced from 145,597 tons to 84,320 tons.

A representative of the department, I Made Gunaja, said conversion of seaweed farms into tourist attractions had caused dramatic reductions in production at Pandawa and Kutuh beaches on the Bukit. Hello? How can that be? Who would have expected that to happen if you shooed off the seaweed farmers because their way of life and subsistence income was superfluous to Bali’s modern requirements to turn secret beaches and other lovely natural spots into resorts for the newly rich and wannabe famous?

The departmental spokesman added this hopeful line to his spin cycle:  “Because the land is used for tourists, the seaweed farmers are now switching professions to join the tourism sector.” It’s good to hear that all these displaced persons, casualties of the national struggle for plutocrat enrichment, are getting professional jobs in the tourism-related sector. Executive Manager, Leaf-Sweeping, with the prospect of eventual promotion to bag-carrier, sounds an absolutely ideal new career path.

Part of the problem, according to Dr Spin, is the weather. Apparently it has been inclemently unkind recently to the sort of seaweed that has populated the marine environment in the area forever. So they’re proposing to plant red seaweed, which the department asserts could promise a much bigger crop and which is supposedly rather more resistant to climate cycles (and possibly jet-skis, though Dr Spin didn’t say this).

It would be interesting to read the findings of the EIS on introducing red seaweed into the environment apparently vacated by the green variety and its harvesters. Did we just hear a hollow laugh?

Her Kitchen Rules

Janet DeNeefe of Fragrant Rice fame has added a food festival to her list of Ubud-centred Bali things. She says the idea flowed from feedback from patrons of the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival that suggested they’d enjoy the added benefit of exploration in the diverse culinary landscapes of Indonesia. Last year’s UWRF in Bali’s self-styled culinary and cultural capital included a Kitchen Program.

The first Ubud Food Festival is the result. From June 5-7 DeNeefe and others will run a three-day culinary extravaganza. She promises a festival that will bring together Indonesia’s and Southeast Asia’s most celebrated chefs, restaurateurs, producers and food professionals to serve up a program rich in food mythology, authenticity and taste.

Its tastes and sensations will be eclectic, ranging (in her words) from coffee to chocolate and tempe to turmeric. The UFF will include a range of free and ticketed events spanning cooking demonstrations, master-classes, panel discussions, night markets, farmers’ markets, food tours, wine tastings and film screenings.

We must get along to it.

Lost in the Myth

It’s something of a comfort to learn that the trade minister in the new Jokowi Cabinet, Rahmat Gobel, decided to ban the import of used clothes because they could spread HIV. Most of President Widodo ministers had seemed, up to that point, to be a serious-minded bunch, even if some of them were there for political rather than qualified reasons. The mirth was missing.

Pak Rahmat has bravely returned us to the comedy routine. There’s nothing quite like a torrent of tosh to get the belly-laughs going. So we all owe him a favour for lighting up our day. Far be it from us to suggest that his feeling for farce is in fact connected with appalling ignorance and morbid misconception.

We can safely leave that to Ayu Octariani of the Indonesia AIDS Coalition (IAC). She put the situation into its correct perspective. She said the minister’s statement was regrettable and reflected a lack of awareness in Indonesia regarding HIV and what it can lead to (AIDS) if not treated with appropriate drugs and qualified medical care.

She also said this: “Let’s not talk about educating the public just yet. Even in the cabinet, which consists of educated people, there’s still a misconception about HIV/AIDS.”

Indeed there is.

Phew – Made It!

When we sent this diary column in on deadline, we were in Brisbane, in the Australian state of Queensland, a place that is remarkable for many things, including having been abandoned yet again by serial schedule-changer Five Star Garuda.

In Queensland, as some may know, they’ve just had another of those “the voters have spoken – the bastards” elections. Attending scenes of chaos, political or otherwise, has been our lifelong work and it was amusing to be back in the thick of it, briefly. We were due to have a chat with the Diary’s international cultural attaché, Philly Frisson, on these and other matters, but other matters intervened. We’ll catch up later with the dear girl.

Being allowed into Queensland, though, was a damn close run thing, because the government just given its marching orders (despite winning the popular vote by a margin of nearly four percent) had enacted astonishingly anti-democratic bikie laws during its first (and as it turned out, only) term. Among the rules imposed by this inventive legislation, as noted in the Diary of Feb. 4, was a provision that any gathering is illegal if two or more members of bikie gangs are present.

We were carrying two lovely Bali “German-style” bike helmets for a friend who collects such cultural items to decorate his bar. Fortunately, though we of course declared the presence of more than one possibly bikie helmet to the seriously-minded lads and lassies of Customs and Border Protection at Brisbane Airport, we were told that whatever Queensland laws might suggest, they were not regarded under federal law as evidence of criminal intent.

Celebrity Support

Paris Hilton, whose favourite colour is pink and who recently holidayed in Bali yet again, is a fan of the efforts the Bali Animal Welfare Association makes on behalf of the island’s disadvantaged dogs and other animals.

She told her global fan club this in words and pictures on her Facebook page, which is essential reading for diarists who like to keep abreast of what the international glitterati does between breakfast and dinner. (What it does between dinner and breakfast is its own affair.)

On her latest Bali break, Hilton also found time to chat with the glitter-obsessed macaques of Ubud’s Monkey Forest. Good on her!

Evil Weed

It was very nice of Kerry Ball to invite us along to the Alan Bates Stop Smoking seminar held at Petitenget Restaurant & Bar on Feb. 7. We couldn’t attend since we had just the day before taken our personal pollution program off the island temporarily. But we do agree that people should be encouraged to stop smoking, if they are smokers who wish to stop doing so.

Bates claims to have helped thousands of people around the world give up the pernicious weed first identified as such by King James VI of Scotland – he was also King James I of England, something the untutored crowd south of that particular border are apt to forget – not long after Sir Walter Raleigh returned from the Americas with his first packet of Indian Rough. He wrote a famous treatise about it, in 1604, entitled A Counterblaste to Tobacco.

As Bates notes and as experience suggests, nicotine addiction is both a physical and a behavioural thing. Willpower can do the job if you really want to stop. But you have to really want to stop.

Being told you’re a social excrescence and a rude person of immense stupidity, constantly, is not as much of an inducement to cease smoking as some of the anti lobby apparently would like to believe. But smoking rates are falling sharply in many parts of the world. In Australia, where the Diary is temporarily hiding away behind bushes or toilet blocks to snatch a quick draught, only 13 per cent of people now smoke.

It’s a dying habit, as they say.

Four Play is Such Fun

Putri Wedasari, who used to make noise as an account executive for OZ Radio 101.2 Bali, has changed her style. She now heads Four Play Communication, an agency that operates within her skill sets of marketing and strategic communications, the latter being the field in which she obtained her master’s degree last year.

She lists Zumba dance among her recreational interests. That sounds like just the thing for a young lady on the move.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter. His diary appears in the print and online editions of the Bali Advertiser http://www.baliadvertiser.biz

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Feb. 4, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

A Tale of Two Statues

The new style of Bali’s fixation with monumental ornamentation, as seen in the grossly huge and garishly illuminated nightly by circus-style flashing lights “monkey mountain” that has been erected at the junction of Prof Ida Bagus Mantra Bypass and I Gusti Ngurah Rai Bypass just south of Tohpati, is certainly a distraction to drivers. That’s about the kindest thing you could say about it.

It’s true that after a while it fails to totally shock – the brain is adept at repressing all manners of vast unpleasantness – but we can personally attest that for the first several times this visionary excrescence comes suddenly into view one is auto-prompted to utter loudly a crudely pejorative four-letter word before asking (audibly or otherwise, and rhetorically of course) “What on earth is that?”

Fortunately the future of world-class Balinese stone craftsmanship is in safe hands in other areas. Gianyar regency sculptor Ongky Wijana, for instance, has recently completed a work that will honour the mining heritage of the little town of Laxey in the Isle of Man, one among the Queen’s possessions that has never been incorporated into the United Kingdom.

Wijana’s wife Hannah Black, an art editor and designer, is from the Isle of Man, which is in the Irish Sea roughly equidistant from the Irish and Scottish coasts and a little further from the nearest bits of England and Wales. That’s the connection. He has spent quite a lot of time there (he tells us he loves the weather; but he is a very polite gentleman) and got the commission after he was spotted practising his art amid the chill gales of winter as a good way of keeping warm.

It was a nearly year-long task – thankfully this was performed warmly in Bali – to create the statue from a 5000kg block of stone from Ireland and four pieces of Welsh slate. The finished work left Bali in early January and is due to be unveiled at Laxey on May 23.

A Hundred Shades of Grey

We’re not sure of the actual numbers (we were having far too much fun to count heads) but it’s in the nature of seventieth birthday parties to produce fields of grey wherever the eye might fall. And this was the case at The Santosa in Senggigi, Lombok, on Jan. 17, when former leading South Australian and federal Labor politician Peter Duncan had his big bash.

We flew over for the occasion and caught up with some old friends, including Barbara Cahyadi of the Lombok Guide who, because she’s a she, can legitimately crawl away and dye. She didn’t look grey at all. But then she’s nowhere near seventy either. Septuagenarian status in this context is a privilege shared only by itinerant scribblers and former politicians.

Duncan says it was not his idea, and we believe him, but The Santosa had erected a very visible backdrop behind the music stage that loudly (in the visual sense) congratulated “Mr Peter Owner of Taman Restaurant” on his birthday, which was on Jan. 1. It displayed a photographic representation of the present Mr Peter and another of the former political artist as a young man. Well, a very much younger man. This is why we keep our family album under virtual lock and key.

Duncan wore white for the night. His lovely wife Wiwik Pusparini had given him the outfit for his birthday. It was the evening’s one disappointment. Duncan had hinted earlier that he might, in his opening remarks, say that this was a great moment to appear in his birthday suit. Sadly, he flaked on that.

He did make an excellent point in his little address, however. He noted that if he’d held his big bash in Queensland, Australia, all his guests would have risked arrest. Among them were two members of bikie gangs. The Queensland government has outlawed any gathering at which more than one bikie is present. They like their paranoia by the shovelful in Bananaland.

Hang on a Tic!

The endemic political Tourette’s syndrome and OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) that afflict Indonesia can be entertaining. Or they would be if they weren’t simply revealing ubiquitous dysfunction and the fact that those creating it would rather play silly games than do any serious work.

The real Tourette’s, a debilitating and limiting neurological condition, and OCB, an anxiety disorder, are involuntary medical conditions. The non-medical and characteristically self-inflicted political variants of these sad conditions are not. They are elective and risible.

It needs to be noted that while Indonesia has pervasive exposure to these syndromes – most lately demonstrated in the Keystone Kops tit-for-tat farce involving the national police and the anti-corruption commission which would be hilarious if it weren’t so dangerous – they are not unique to the archipelago. They are prevalent in many places, globally, including within the Australian political class.

Last year the government announced that five countries would get visa-free entry for short-term visitors. These countries were Australia, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia.

In 2014 Australian arrivals to Bali, totalled 991,024, which was 26.3 percent of all visitors. Among the countries awarded free visa status from 2015, China last year sent us 586,197 tourists, a more than 50 percent increase; South Korea 106,774 (to Sep.), making it our sixth largest market; Japan, once our biggest market, fell to fourth place with not much hope of any marked improvement in the short term; and Russian arrivals fell 10 percent (to Sep.) due to unfortunate circumstances at home and the collapse of the rouble. Malaysia, which is on the ASEAN free visa list, was our third-largest market in 2014 with 224,962 arrivals.

Now Australia has been dumped from the list of those countries whose travelling citizenry is to be excused the tedious business of being tickled for US$35 on arrival. Officially this is because the free visa arrangements require reciprocity (and that would certainly be sensible on the basis of a short-stay holiday and a return ticket, should anyone in Canberra feel interested enough to notice). But since Australia was on the original list and now isn’t, it seems safe to assume that the move is political.

In the words of Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Indroyono Soesilo: “For Australians, the visa on arrival is enough.” Perhaps he means that US$34,685,840 is nice pocket-money.

But what Indonesia has just said to its potential one-million-plus-a-year Australian tourists, its largest market, is, “Welcome to Bali. Sod off.”  What needs to be understood in Jakarta and Denpasar is that there are now many other places in the region which offer Australian tourists holiday experiences with free visas, less expense, less inconvenience, and better facilities. As blogger of note Vyt Karazija observed, it’s that shoot first, shout later thing: Ready! Fire! Aim!

Move Along Now…

No doubt Bali will give its famous blank stare response to the recent decision of the Supreme Court of India to uphold a ban on cock-fighting in the Hindu state of Andhra Pradesh. An action to overturn the ban on cultural grounds was opposed by Humane Society International, which told the court: “These cruel practices are against the law and should not be conducted under the garb of tradition. These events are nothing but gambling events.”

In Bali, cock-fighting is ubiquitous. Only the blind or the beneficially suborned would suggest gambling is not. Blood sacrifice is integral to both Balinese and Indian Hindu rites but the question is whether a religious validation of cruelty extends to death sports for gain. Animal activists are working (in the case of the Bali Animal Welfare Association, with IFAW, the International Fund for Animal Welfare) to educate communities in animal welfare and animal rights.

Interesting Thought

Waiting for a delayed flight can have benefits, not the least of them the chance to drink even more coffee. So it was when we flew back from Lombok to Bali on Jan. 18 after a weekend visit for a party (see above) and two lovely nights at Sudamala Suites and Villas on the beach at Mangsit north of Senggigi.

The benefit in this case came at our second coffee stop, after we discovered by the sort of osmosis required to obtain accurate information from anyone in Indonesia, that our Wings Air flight would be leaving 90 minutes late.

We were at the Dante’s outlet in the departure area and had switched off the smart phone to conserve its pathetic battery capacity. In an effort to delay terminal boredom, the eye wandered around the establishment’s many promotional billboards and found a reward.

One of these colourful eye-catchers was offering Brazilian Lemon. We wondered, briefly and indelicately, if that was a lemon with the zest shaved off.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter. His diary appears in the print and online Bali Advertiser http://www.baliadvertiser.com

Beyond Monogamy: exploring the possibilities of the human heart

8 Degrees of Latitude:

Here’s an interesting point of view from Jennifer Wilson on Noplaceforsheep that’s worth absorbing.

Originally posted on No Place For Sheep:

monogamy not amrried to the idea

Like many of our abstract sacred moral concepts, the cult of monogamy is reified to the degree that it’s considered “natural” for humans to live within its framework. Never mind that people break out all the time, and that the entirely monogamous relationship exists more in the theory than in the practice, still the monogamous ideal dominates our culture’s sexual and loving relationships.

However, “it just is” has never been a persuasive argument for me, and the reification fallacy of misplaced concreteness always comes in useful when thinking about morality.

I’ve wondered often if one of the unacknowledged goals of monogamy is to protect us from experiencing difficult emotions such as jealousy, insecurity, a sense of abandonment, of being displaced by another. Of loss, of insignificance, and so on. These are emotions we first experience in childhood, for some of us when we acquire siblings, and for all of…

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Survival of the Sickest – the mess, the cause and how to fix it.

8 Degrees of Latitude:

Now this is worth a read.

Originally posted on Passionfruitcowgirl:

If you’re on the path to peace, you’ll find out pretty quick that those be shark-infested waters! A guide to finding happiness, the Curse of Darwin and who’s who in the spiritual zoo.

David Yarrow, http://edition.cnn.com/2013/11/26/travel/africa-wildlife-david-yarrow/ David Yarrow, http://edition.cnn.com/2013/11/26/travel/africa-wildlife-david-yarrow/

Twenty years’ down the road less traveled and that gorgeous, lonely path is now some of the most fought-ever real estate on the planet.

This far along, and with a little bit of overview, I wanted to write about the world out here, reflect upon the hullabaloo, and offer some insight to those considering a bit of a Walkabout.

From Cusco to Ubud; Kathmandu to Ko Samui, it’s true that New Age profiteers have hung their shingles everywhere you’re thinking of heading.

They eclipse the pretty views of nature, and lure would-be questers with a buffet of spiritual experiences. A booming spiritual industry sells anything you can think of – shamanic travel, kundalini for cats, conscious…

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HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Jan. 21, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Guys, Get Serious!

A photo taken on Dec. 21 and displayed on Facebook this month of a 500-metre wide by unknown kilometres long stretch of garbage floating offshore from around Tanah Lot (it’s an important temple: might that resonate with any of the stumblebums officially responsible for the island’s environment?) lays bare the filthy joke that is Bali’s official non-position on waste management.

We all know, here, that garbage immediately becomes something that is not your problem if you throw it over the wall or dump it in the bush or a dry watercourse. The well-meaning assert that this is because the population needs to be educated and companies that produce masses of plastic pre-waste – packaged food producers largely – need to be forced to comply with the law.

The realists among us, well-meaning or otherwise, would suggest that since ever- increasing amounts of non-degradable rubbish have been a feature of Bali for a period that now approaches three decades, the actual causes are sloth, crass stupidity, blind selfishness, and a desire not to spend money on waste management because there are far more exciting things to waste money on.

It’s true that except in a few (commendable) cases, public waste disposal services are a sick joke. Organizing them requires a sound plan, good administration, ample funding, and that most elusive of public assets, real leadership. So something’s missing, and it not just all eight cylinders in Pak Plutocrat’s big limo.

It’s also true that Bali has only an embryonic tax base, even though except for Jakarta it is the richest province in Indonesia. Most people, those the tourists won’t tip because Rp 50,000 is a good screw for the work they do, yeah, and I’m here for a holiday and I don’t give a toss, are outside the collectible tax base.

There are environmental laws that require packagers to produce packaging that won’t litter the landscape for a millennium or kill marine life in the ocean for a hundred years. Like most laws here, especially the ones that emanate from the national level which are universally ignored, they are not policed unless someone’s suddenly got a bee in their bonnet or wants money, or both.

The packagers have lobbied heavily – on the tired old argument of anyone bothered by regulations: that they can’t afford it – against having to comply with these laws. The proper answer to that self-serving pitch is that if your business model can’t function within the rules then you should shut up shop.

The government proclaims that Bali is clean and green. It should try to make some progress towards that thoroughly laudable goal before someone invents a counter-slogan: Bali Unclean and Queasy Green.

 

You Don’t Say!

Governor Made Pastika frequently reminds us, via the little homilies about this and that which he likes to deliver as directional-correctional thinking, of the perils of being trite. His latest such utterance is to assert that Bali can no longer be referred to as the Island of Paradise or as Paradise Island, because there are a lot of poor people in Bali who need better welfare.

As with much that is trite, this is also right. The churlish might mutter “Oh, he’s noticed” and have a chuckle and find in that some temporary relief from his promotion of the scheme to murder the mangroves in Benoa Bay to build Port Excrescence and attract lots more tourists who aren’t in the least interested in the local culture. But that would be a little unfair. Pastika has shown commendable interest in the fortunes of the poor – or their lack of fortunes rather – and his critics should remember that there wouldn’t be free health care for Bali’s poor without him.

He went on to say this: “If we’re honest, we see a lot of poor people in Bali, but still dare to say this is an island paradise? In heaven there aren’t any poor people. In heaven it is all fun, and a nice house.”

Well, that’s a lovely thought. And it was apt for his audience. The Governor was speaking at a dialogue session that discussed the issue of whether the vast array of religious ceremonies affects poverty in Bali. It would be foolish to put money on the answer being “No”.

 

Bon Voyage

It was sad to hear that Christian Vanneque, a veritable institution in the expat community, lost his courageous battle with cancer early this month. He was in his sixties, which is far too young to shuffle off.

He will be missed by many and not least by our favourite Yakker, Sophie Digby, who told us this when we spoke about him:

“He used to call me Hello Bali so I used to call him Living Room, or Daniel. It was always a pleasure to see him. Always a pleasure to share a quick word ‘en passant’ as they say.

“He was part of the fabric that makes up Bali; more Aubusson than tie-dye; a gentleman; and I was his friend, not his closest by far, but a friendship that goes way-back-when and a few hundred bottles of wine in between, of that I am sure.

“Following the way of my mind, he is not gone but will still pop up on any given sunny afternoon, just as I walk in to commandeer our favourite table at Sip – Table 10. He will call me Hello Bali.

“So ‘bon voyage’ Christian, we enjoyed your company just like we enjoyed some pretty good wines … ones you gracefully taught us about and encouraged us to drink.

“Santé and Sip!” 

 

Eastward Shift

Kim McCreanor, who used to do save the doggies things for the Bali Animal Welfare Association and then moved on to make local noises elsewhere in the same field, has moved on yet again. She has become chief barker at an NGO based in Australia’s “northern capital”, Darwin, as chief executive officer of AMRRIC (Animal Management in Rural and Remote Indigenous Communities).

AMRRIC is an Australian not-for-profit led by veterinarians and academics; and health and animal management professionals. It works to improve the overall health and wellbeing of remote Indigenous settlements, including their dog populations, which are integral to those communities. The organization’s 10th annual conference in Darwin last September, which McCreanor attended, was supported by IFAW, the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

Here in Bali, IFAW funds a very valuable village-level education project run by BAWA.

 

Freedom of Joyce

Hector’s helper has an interesting life, sometimes. He received a connect request the other day on LinkedIn (it’s where he does his serious work) from someone called Joyce Smith, of whom up to that very moment he had never heard.

Since Ms Smith’s profile was not visible when he tried to look it up – it’s what you do: that’s what LinkedIn profiles are for – he sent her an in-mail thanking her for her request and suggesting she provide some details about herself (e.g., a profile) and they’d take it from there.

He got a note back from LinkedIn immediately which advised that the said Joyce Smith had declined his in-mail. There was a message with it, however, which further advised: “Thanks for thinking of me, but I’m not interested.”

Normally Hec’s helper would leave things there, on the basis that there’s never a lot of point in talking to the plainly certifiable. But the devil was in him that day. He sent an in-mail back asking: “So why did you send me the initial connect request, Joyce?”

He forbore to inquire what it was that she wasn’t interested in.

 

No Regrettas

In these days of instant interconnection and virtual space filled with homely though sadly too often vacuous aphorisms designed to boost the reader’s self-esteem (the latter are mostly from WWW.con) you find all manner of litter in the corners of your social media sites when you fire up in the morning.

So it was the other day when an item posted by The Mind Unleashed was brought to our attention. It retailed Maxwell Maltz’s quote that “If you make friends with yourself you will never be alone.” The Mind Unleashed ran it in support of a little primer of its own invention for those who have difficulty thinking for themselves even after their first cup of coffee in the morning: Sometimes you need to disconnect and enjoy your own company.

Greta Garbo probably put it better, but it is useful advice nonetheless. We often take it ourselves. At least when you’re alone, no one argues with you.

 

Stuff It

We were dining at a Jimbaran restaurant one evening recently when the activities of the attendant loud-crowd, which seemed largely to hail from Jakarta and Surabaya, prompted a disconsolate thought: We have seen the future and it is stuffing its face.

 

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter. His diary appears in the print and online editions of the fortnightly Bali Advertiser

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Jan. 7, 2015

 

 

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

BAWA with a Bang

BAWA, the pre-eminent animal welfare organization on the island because of focused effort and the seminal role played by founder Janice Girardi in dealing with rabies when it broke out in Bali in 2008 – the disease is now endemic, but that’s Indonesian bureaucracy for you – ended 2014 with a bang, though not one that would frighten the doggies.

It held a Bridge to New Year fundraising dinner on Dec. 29 at Ubud’s Taksu Restaurant, an event at which the organization was able to brief guests on its plans for 2015 and beyond. It came complete with musical entertainment provided by BAWA staff members who, when they’re not doing their day jobs, sing and strum a guitar with enthusiastic aplomb.

Earlier in December BAWA announced a real coup. Ubud prince Cok De Piko (Tjokorda Gde Dharma Putra Sukawati) has become a BAWA ambassador and, because of his enduring love for dogs and particularly the very special Bali Dog, will be seen out and about with BAWA teams as they perform their daily work.

His favourite quote is from Mark Twain: “If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.” Cok De studied in Australia, where he did not adopt a dog because he wouldn’t have been able to leave it behind when he returned to Bali. That’s the sort of thinking casual pet owners the world over should get their heads around.

Ubud’s traditional royalty remains very influential in the local community and is extremely well connected where it matters.

On Jan. 3, BAWA hosted the third of its series of events at Kuta Beachwalk, themed around its Adopt-Learn-Chat with a Vet program. That came along with really good music that ran late into the evening; a selection of beautiful puppies; ready-to-chat veterinarians; and some lovely art from Urban Sketchers. The event was sponsored by Beachwalk, Legian Beach Hotel, and others including Scooby-Doo, the dog food-delivery people.

BAWA’s Christmas card was interesting, by the way. You might say it was highly traditional. There was snow everywhere. This did not bring to mind Snowing in Bali, Kathryn Bonella’s book about the drug scene. Instead, it reminded us that snow looks great on Christmas cards and is murder anywhere else. We did wonder what the lovely Bali dogs and the little monkey on the BAWA card were thinking.

Please, Do Amuse

Jade Richardson, the peripatetic scribbler, recommenced her writers’ workshops in Ubud this month. This is good to see. Her approach to the written word is unique and she has a mind that is fun to engage. It’s no surprise that in Bali, where Ozymandias still lives in self-nominated splendour and where so many have built glittering local reputations upon the geographically distant rubble of pasts imperfect, she’s not on everyone’s most-favoured list.

Her mission with The Write Path is to get intending authors of books, biographies, short stories, poetry and those with ideas for articles or scripts fictional or factual, to take that first bold step and release their inner muse. Richardson, who is not one with whom to trifle, says that her process with writers “releases a genie from the bottle – meaning that I can assist those who have the call to write to discover a genius for storytelling that they never knew they had.”

She started her workshops in Bali and they’ve since been to Ecuador, the Galapagos and Thailand and online. It’s good to see her home again. It’s worth looking at www.heartbookwriting.com too.

Play-tonic

Plato always gets a good rap at The Cage. He’s well up Hector’s Top Ten Thinkers list. So it’s a bit sad, as he is so anciently a posthumous source, that his engaging aphorisms, real or otherwise, get co-opted by the ignorant for all sorts of nefarious purposes.

A case in point: On Dec. 28 there was an event at Dragonfly Village in Denpasar billed as Sensual/Sexual PlayDay – Conscious pleasure with consent, organized by someone called Matthias Schwenteck. This gentleman purloined for his own purposes the Platonic observation (one of the many Plato didn’t actually utter) that “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation”.

The event seemed more suited to Ubud, where lots of people like to spend their time examining their navels while harbouring the intent to get a close-up glimpse of someone else’s.

Perhaps the fixation with things better organized privately, or which are undertaken singularly in darkened rooms with the doors locked, really is spreading beyond the confines of Loopville.

Alpha Mail

An item a fortnight ago noted that the new British envoy to Indonesia, Moazzam Malik, was still ambassador-designate because he had not yet presented his letters of credence to President Joko Widodo.

Well, he hadn’t engaged in this ancient formality when we sent the previous diary in by its deadline. He did shortly thereafter, it seems, though this was not without a little last-minute hitch. He tweeted on Dec. 18, the big day: “Almost forgot my letter from the Queen – had to run back to get it.”

Banzai!

We had a pleasant drive (we jest) one Saturday evening recently when the Distaff decided she’d like sukiyaki for dinner and suggested we journey to Seminyak to enjoy the table-top cooking at Kaizan. We hadn’t been there for a while, so a plausible excuse to avoid the trip did not spring to mind.

But Kaizan wasn’t there – perhaps the extortionate rents now demanded in the area had driven it away – so we dined instead at another favourite nearby, Kuni’s, on seaweed salad, Gyu asupara maki, Gohan, Sukiyaki Nabe, and a delightful green tea mousse. This was accompanied in order by “one large Bintang two glass”, some rather pleasant sake and a nice plum wine.

The Distaff has a thing for Japan. This dates from many years ago. And for sukiyaki, ditto, though it is more a home-cooking dish than a fine-dining experience. Her view on sukiyaki, as on many things, is “Doko ga warui no desuka?” It’s a colloquial Japanese transliteration of an interrogative “What’s wrong with that?” And we agree.

The drive from Ungasan was another matter. Large numbers of idiots were dangerously riding their motorbikes and the drivers of all the tourist buses were clearly on speed. Half the street lights were out on the by-pass. There were Hindu ceremonies everywhere that required fierce-looking village guards armed with Star Wars-style magic wands to stop the traffic so that scattered little groups of celebrants could wander at will across the thoroughfare.

The airport traffic circle was mayhem as a result. Northbound traffic had formed eight (we counted) “lanes” to force a way into the circus. The Distaff closed her eyes and thought of sukiyaki while her driver, whom we know as Perpendicular Pronoun, edged and all but nudged his way through. It helps, we think, to have been a lemming in a former life.

He’s Cooking

Vyt Karazija, the inveterate blogger, was thinking virtually out loud on Facebook on Boxing Day evening as to whether he should go out to eat or stay home and cook. Neither prospect amused him. We (and others) tendered advice. Ours was simple and direct: “Easy. Starve.” In the end he decided to cook and explained why:

“The prospect was get dressed, release security cobras, then quickly lock up premises, don wet weather gear, get bike outside, lock gates, ride to restaurant while trying not to skid, fall off, get hit by some moron, park bike somewhere where it won’t fall over/get stolen/get flattened by some blind idiot with a Hummer, order food, get accosted by friendly drunk, argue about the ++ charges on the bill and then do everything in reverse just to get home.

“Then having to round up the security cobras and put them back in their boxes and pacify them because I forgot to pick up their mice for dinner.

“Or alternatively, cook dinner and eat it.”

It’s a piece of cake, really.

Dance Class

A chance remark the other day, offered by an acquaintance who may have been concerned that some might have missed the module on delicious irony when they were majoring in epithet, prompts us to say that we know the iconic Bali dance that tourists have been going ga-ga about since it was invented in the antiquity of the 1930s is called Kecak.

Readers may have noticed a reference or two to Kecap dances in the diary in recent times.

It is often called Kecap by tourists and in many less than scholarly references on that global kindergarten primer, the world-wide web. Kecap is sauce. Though it must not be confused with ketchup, which is to piquant what semolina is to Bubur Injin.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter. His diary appears in the print edition of the Bali Advertiser and at http://www.baliadvertiser.biz

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Dec. 24, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Art with a Frisson

Two books recently given an Australian launch – at the University of Sydney – provide a more profound focus on the real Bali than any number of tourist-oriented creations. The real Bali is of course not found in performances of the Kecap Dance and other (wonderful) expressions of the live art presented for gawkers, moneyed or not, but in the heritage and still-practised and continuously renewed culture and lifestyle of the Balinese themselves. These are not seen in the KLS triangle (Kuta-Legian-Seminyak) or in multi-star international hotels where tourists spend the money that fuels Bali’s economy. They are found in the villages and are revealed to the fully interested and sentient through electively-sourced media, principally books.

Adrian Vickers, whose research at the University of Sydney itself constitutes an important body of work in Asian studies generally and (from our perspective) Bali in particular, has edited a book, Lempad of Bali, just published in Singapore by Editions Didier Millet. He describes it justifiably as probably the most important work yet published on a single Balinese artist. It is a collaborative effort with Bruce Carpenter, the late John Darling, Hedi Hinzler, Kaja McGowan and Soemantri Widagdo.

Vickers writes in his useful Australia in the Asian Century blog: “Gusti Nyoman Lempad was legendary not only as a radically different artist from the 1930s, but also as the architect who created Ubud, and for his longevity. While there are different estimates of his age, at his death in 1978 he was either 116 or 106. Two other books on Lempad have also come out this year. Although neither of these has much scholarly weight, they do illustrate the range of work of Lempad and his school, which mainly consisted of his family.

“I met with a more profound set of insights into Balinese perspectives on life than I had imagined … Lempad was concerned with gender, with attaining wisdom and power, and with moving between the world of the senses and the world beyond. In his art, the three are combined.”

It is the very real eroticism of the ancient Hindu and Buddhist cultures of the archipelago that piques the interest of many today, especially since these influences still inform cultural practice and, one suspects, rather more of daily life than is generally revealed.

Made Wijaya’s new book, Majapahit Style, also launched on the occasion, is attracting critical acclaim and rightly so. Few non-Balinese know more about the island’s true culture than he. In this instance he has cast his net much wider and lays bare the cultural DNA that binds together the many diverse peoples of the archipelago.

The Diary’s newly-appointed international cultural attaché, Philly Frisson, attended the launch. She tells us: “Not sure that I should quip! [Oh go on, don’t be a spoilsport – Hec] … but Wijaya was in his element at his old university and sold out of his books to an enthusiastic crowd. Vickers had everyone fascinated and quite agog with the exquisite and highly erotic Lempad drawings. Those frisky, risqué Balinese … they leave the Kama Sutra for dead with their dexterity and imagination.”

 

Out to Score Goals

The new British ambassador to Indonesia, Moazzam Malik, was in Surabaya on Dec. 11-13 as part of his round of provincial introductory calls. We certainly look forward to seeing him in Bali. He is still officially ambassador-designate since in the arcane form of legation-based diplomacy, he hasn’t yet formally presented his credentials. [See below – Hec.]

No matter. He’s clearly got straight down to business. In Surabaya – which is close enough to mention, we feel, since it is only about 45 minutes by air and just a horror of a day-and-a-night trek by road and ferry from here – Malik joined East Java Governor Soekarwo for Friday prayers and discussion; met the Mayor of Surabaya, Tri Rismaharini, a very feisty lady; visited Airlangga University; and joined an informal gathering of the Surabaya-based Big Reds, the Liverpool FC fan club. Despite being a Londoner, Malik is a Liverpool fan. Bali’s strong contingent of Liverpool supporters are doubtless also hoping that their team’s season improves.

In Surabaya, Malik announced that a new British Council learning centre  will open there in March 2015. In April, a “pop-up” British Embassy will also open. It will provide a full range of services. Surabaya has an interesting place in immediate post-World War II British history. It is where in 1946 some of the British troops sent to help re-impose Dutch colonial rule refused to advance on independence fighters’ positions. They argued, mutinously but with a fine grasp of historical determinism, that they hadn’t just finished fighting World War II so they could prop up the old order. Malik, whose background is in international aid and development and who is an active tweeter, is also ambassador to Timor-Leste and ASEAN.

There’s another new ambassadorial appointment to note: Paul Grigson is moving from the very senior position of head of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s SE Asia division in Canberra to take over from veteran diplomat Greg Moriarty in Jakarta. Grigson, who in an earlier life was a journalist, was Australia’s ambassador to Thailand 2008-10 and Burma 2003-04.

Update: Ambassador Malik presented his credentials on Dec. 18

 

Hey, We’re Eclectic

It’s really very nice of Rock Bar at the Ayana to host a special party for Eve Eve, Dec. 30. It’s our birthday. We don’t mind at all being Eve on the evening in question if it gets us a drink and some hot music. DJ Mr Best is flying in to pump out the decibels for the event. He’s offering an eclectic mix of House, Rock & Roll, R&B and Hip Hop to celebrate the year that was and set you up for 2015, which everyone hopes will be better.

Mr Best is said by Ayana’s decoratively efficient PR team to be the go-to man for A-list clients including Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Lauren Conrad, and Lenny Kravitz as well as the Emmy Awards and Golden Globe After Parties. We’re sure they’re right. He provides music, after all, not advice on dress sense, good taste and acceptable manners.

 

Their Garden Grows

Wiwik Pusparini’s and Peter Duncan’s Taman Restaurant in Senggigi, Lombok, is now not only home to a very decent menu, wine list and fine coffee – as well as a shop where you can buy bread and treats and pies and cakes, yum – but also to an accommodation house that is rapidly taking shape behind the premises. Sixteen rooms are under construction, with eight more to follow. They are aimed at budget travellers who want access to things such as universal power points (no more plug-in-plug-in-plug messiness) and a standard of service and accoutrements, including a swimming pool, that will reward guests for choosing to stay there.

Duncan, who has lived in Lombok since 2003, has a Big Birthday coming up, on Jan. 1. The Big Seven Zero looms. Like The Diary and others (including Ross Fitzgerald, the Australian historian, author of scholarly works, the autobiographical My Name is Ross – about alcoholism – and some interesting novels) he is a pre-Boomer. He’s the baby of the bunch. Fitzgerald is the senior of our trio, having chosen to arrive on Christmas Day. As noted above, the Diary’s attainment of septuagenarian status is on Eve Eve. Fitzgerald usually comes to Bali once a year, in the dry season, with his wife Lyndal Moor, an accomplished ceramicist. They are Ubud fans.

We should get together – the Diary will raise this with Duncan, a former minister in both the South Australian and Australian federal parliaments, at his big birthday bash set for Jan. 17 in Senggigi – to form the Pre Boomers’ Club and get some balance back into the ageist debate. Those retiring Boomer youngsters get all the attention.

 

Pouring In

Latest figures (they’re for October) show that Bali continues to shoehorn more and more tourists into its oversupply of private hotels and undersupply of public infrastructure. Bali accounted for more than 40 per cent of Indonesia’s international arrivals in October. The Central Statistics Agency (BPS) recorded 808,767 overseas visitors to Indonesia during the month, 12.3 per cent more than in October 2013.

This takes the total for the first 10 months of 2014 to 7.75 million, 8.7 per cent up month on month. Ngurah Rai recorded the highest increase in international arrivals, up 27.3 per cent to 339,200.  Jakarta’s main gateway, Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, went the other way. It recorded a decline of 7.4 per cent.

 

Happy Christmas

Rotary Club of Bali Kartika has a Christmas event on Dec. 27 featuring Angklung Daeng Udjo, the Bali Community Choir, a Fire Dance performance, Sing-a-Song and Dancing. It’s from 7pm to 10pm at Gereja Fransiskus Xaverius in Jl Kartika Plaza, Kuta. Season’s greetings – and we’ll be back when the logic of manmade mathematics has ticked us over to 2015.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter. His diary appears in the Bali Advertiser print edition and  at http://www.baliadvertiser.biz

 

A prayer for the beautiful suffering

8 Degrees of Latitude:

Jade Richardson puts an interesting argument here, one that needs wide readership. The Ubud specifics she cites are unknown to me (I am renowned as blind to the private silliness of others, preferring my own) but the picture she paints is just about ubiquitous. Or it was when I was trying not to be a lad.

I think she’s right about the world (the Western portion of it at least) having lost touch with genuine intimacy. Modern mass media and the ill-informed prattle of much social media has also killed the understanding that there can be real (cerebral) intimacy in non-sexual relationships. She’s right too about the soft-porn pitch of the advertising industry. I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing in itself, but on the other hand cute=titter=unnecessary prurience is tedious and mind-bending.

There’s a great narrative under way here. I look for more of it.

Originally posted on Passionfruitcowgirl:

Could the wounded human love story be the tearing open of the bud to a truly Divine Romance?

Huge, hard, kinky, tantra, boots and whips and puppies. Ice creams, gags, wax and weird conjugations of the kundalini…. since when did sensuality form this venomous helix with suffering? And where, on our wounded Earth, is all this going to end?

Is it a secret to say that for so many of us those precious, early tones of longing for love got warped somewhere: on the dating scene, in marriage, in the loneliness of this modern three-way hi-way adventure in the bad, bad honeylands of craving? And if so, what next?

Out here in expat-land, on the frontiers of the new, ‘unshackled’ humanity, there’s plenty of talk about finding Love, but not much time for making it. Meanwhile, we bud into tribes of vegans, yogis, crusaders for animal rights, poets, singers and yes – ecstatic, sexy dancers.

View original 982 more words

HECTOR’S DIARY, Bali Advertiser, Dec. 10, 2014

 

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Salad Days? Hold the Mayoh

We were surprised recently to read that Royal Pita Maha, one among many resort hotels at Ubud, was “quite literally out of this world”. News of this galactic shift had hitherto eluded us. Fortunately it turned out not to be true. We made urgent inquiries and were able to satisfy ourselves that the establishment remained on terra firma. Moreover, it was still located up the hill from the lovely Pita Maha Resort and Spa where we stayed a couple of times, years ago in the days before there was a Royal Pita Maha, when we were holidaying in Bali as pay-your-own-way tourists.

The source of the easily disproved theory that Royal Pita Maha had moved to Pluto or some other planet was someone called Lisa Mayoh, who wrote a puerile puff piece that appeared in Rupert Murdoch’s little asteroid belt of cyber-papers which litter Virtual Australia.

The version we saw, courtesy of the dyspeptic blogger Vyt Karazija who (quite rightly) fiercely fulminated on Facebook about it, was in Perth Now. But reading the text – and this was not a labour of love, of that you can be sure – told us that Mayoh, who appears to have majored in breathless hyperbole, perhaps while studying at public expense, hails from Sydney. Or that’s where she told us she and her husband had come from on their adventure in Bali.

While here (unless she really was on Pluto) she engaged the services of a taxi driver named Wyan. Yes, that’s without the first a, which makes him unique among the 25 per cent or so of Bali’s population called Wayan. It’s such a shame that Wyan apparently failed to take her to see a performance of the iconic Ketchup Dance. She might have found that saucy.

Someone really should start a petition to have Ignoramus Australis declared a global pest.

In the Soup de Jour

Ubud returnee Jade Richardson, with whom we have at last lunched (yippee-yi-yay!) wrote a fine piece on her Passionfruitcowgirl blog recently in which she had a bit of a go at the selfishly acquisitive and culturally catatonic sector of the American Diaspora in Ecuador, the Andean republic where she was living until recently, mostly in a little city called Vilcabamba. She’s now back in Bali, where she should remain if we are to have any chance of repeating the delights of lunchtime conversation.

Her piece is well worth reading. This is especially so because – national origins excused: it’s not only a certain class of American that blots the globe after all – what she writes has significant, important, and resonant, echoes for Bali.

Needless to say her piece was not received with adulation by her former non-confreres in Ecuador. Some American realtor chap even went litigiously over the top about her on his come-in-and-give-me-your-money-I’m-honest-well-I-would-say-that-wouldn’t-I blog. To which we say, stick it to them again, Cowgirl.

Divas and Dudes Get Giving

Christina Iskandar, who is by way of being the chief diva hereabouts, has been busy promoting the annual Divas & Dudes Charity Xmas Event set for Mozaic Beach Club on Dec. 19. It’s a good show in a good cause and is of course open also to those among us who would have a hard time qualifying as either a diva or a dude.

The program, starting from 6pm, includes Carols by Candlelight, a fashion show by Indonesian Designer Arturro, Canapés & Cocktails, and dinner. There will be a Christmas tree covered with Child Sponsorship images from Bali Children Foundation, a silent auction for YPAC Bali -Institute for Physically & Mentally Handicapped Children, and Christmas gift-giving under our tree for balikids.org. If you’d like to donate a gift, wrap it and place it under the tree clearly labelled girl or boy and age.

You can call Rosa at Mozaic Beach Club for details on (0361) 47 35796.

Reality Bites

Lombok looked a bit low when we were there three weeks ago. We exclude the Three Gilis, which we didn’t get to on this trip. It’s basically always high season there, especially now there are fleets “fast boats” whizzing backwards and forwards across the Lombok Strait from Bali.

The suspension of the Jetstar service direct from Perth (it ended on Oct. 15) has plainly hit the rest of tourist-focused Lombok hard. That’s a shame, because it’s a great place that with effective support from the West Nusa Tenggara provincial government would be ripe for at least modest, and one would hope managed, expansion.

Unfortunately, in the way things go in Indonesia, effective government support is unlikely to emerge. The message the provincial government took back from a crisis meeting with Jetstar in Melbourne seems to have been that the airline was very pleased that they’d come all that way to see them. Um, yes. Sort of thing you say, really. The message they should have taken back was that in the growth phase Jetstar needed much more support from the government.

We hear, incidentally, that one of the reasons the government hadn’t actually spent any of the substantial funds it had outlaid for promotion of its lovely new direct Australian tourist link was that the committee that was supposed to dish out the dinars had never been appointed. Cue: Scream!

According to some figures whispered in our ear, Jetstar load factors on the Lombok-Perth sector were running around 5 per cent below the Perth-Lombok one. That rather negates another theory put to us: that the problem was large numbers of Perth-Lombok passengers using the service as an alternative way to get to Bali – and going home from there. But Jetstar must carry some of the blame for its failure to sustain the new route. You might need to run disastrously negative-revenue “get-in” seats on a start-up basis, but getting the marketing right so that you attract profitable passengers is a better bet.

What’s really needed is assiduously planned, well executed and energetically proactive involvement by all parties.

A Little Wilted

We stayed at Kebun Resort and Villas in Senggigi. Sadly, it was a bit of a disappointment. The original general manager was someone we’d known well when we lived in Lombok several years ago. The property had been developed on a sort of Four Seasons Lite scale (they didn’t say this, but that was the subtext). We’d seen it completed, some time ago.

It has now been operating for seven years, which in terms of Indonesian infrastructure amounts to several life-cycles. You know how it is: some edifice is erected and it instantly looks as if it’s seen better days.

Incidentally, if you’re thinking upmarket Lombok and a glowingly promoted enterprise named Svarga catches your eye, be advised (they do not so advise on their website) that despite sounding vaguely Slavic by name, it’s Muslim-owned and run and teetotal. There’s nothing wrong with that. But many western tourists (not to mention any number of partying Arabians we’ve come across over the years) like a drink.

It’s All White, Really

Nikki Beach, started by entrepreneur Jack Penrod in 1998 as “the ultimate beach club concept” by combining elements of entertainment, dining, music, fashion, film and art, is said to be sexiest party place on the planet.

It has now opened in Bali and did so on Dec. 6 at Nusa Dua with a signature Grand Opening White Party. We look shocking in white, or perhaps invisible, so we weren’t there. But we do think it’s worth noting that now it has its own sexiest place on earth, where naked legs and mischievous breeze-blown hemlines raise both the interest of the attendant dude pack and the bar takings, Bali has clearly made it to the top in the sun, sand and sex league.

Nikki Beach Bali joins a stable that includes beach clubs at Miami Beach, USA; St Tropez, France; St Barth in the French West Indies; Marbella, Mallorca and Ibiza in Spain; Porto Heli in Greece; Cabo San Lucas in Mexico; Marrakech in Morocco; and closer to home Koh Samui and Phuket in Thailand. There are also Nikki resort hotels at Koh Samui and Porto Heli and two pop-ups (no, best leave that alone) at Cannes in France and Toronto in Canada.

Partygoers at Nusa Dua on Dec. 6 were promised “Nikki Beach-style extravagance, world-class entertainment, resident DJs, fireworks and a host of unforgettable surprises!” As long as they wore white and believe that pointless exclamation marks are de rigueur.

Huānyíng

Members of Bali’s consular corps have a new colleague, inaugural Chinese consul-general Hu Quan Yin. The new Bali consulate-general opened (in Denpasar) on Dec. 8 to provide services for the growing number of Chinese tourists.

Governor Made Mangku Pastika attended the official opening to say huānyíng (welcome).  China also has consulates in Surabaya and Medan.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter. His diary appears online at http://www.baliadvertiser.biz

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Nov. 26, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Singapore Sling-off

It’s been a while since we were in Singapore so we had been quite looking forward to getting back there this month. We had been amusing ourselves with thoughts about minding the platform gap again, but the MRT was full of very pushy people on our two train rides and the whole experience was one of rather less than unalloyed delight.

Traffic also seemed to be much less well behaved than hitherto. The unnecessary and noisy practice of sounding your car horn – for any reason, or none – is gaining a growing toehold in the previously well-mannered and equable city state. Worse, “big car” syndrome is more and more obvious. It is familiar to anyone in Indonesia and many other places where capitalism, bureaucracy and fat-wallet-lawyer are synonyms for bad-mannered. The bumptious practice of the cashed-up mob in such environments is to assume droit de seigneur and to believe it is immutable fact that if you’re in a BMW or a Mercedes and are therefore visibly rich and powerful, lesser mortals have only two options: to swoon at your feet or get run over.

Of course, democracy has never had much of a place in Singapore, what with Raffles being an English provincial imperialist, his successors being chiefly British and (briefly) Japanese officer bureaucrats, and their successors being Lee Kwan Yew, etc. We should not be surprised. Singapore seems, in so many ways not discounting the Gilbert & Sullivan, to be the very model of a modern Venetian republic. The Serenissima was the most successful city state of its thousand-year era, after the nabobs of the day demoted democracy to historical theory, until its last supine grandees capitulated to that well-born Corsican brigand Napoleone Buonaparte in 1797.

Great Australian Bite

We had dinner one evening with an old chum, Ian Mackie of Lasalle Investment Management. He’s a 20-year veteran of Singapore whose interests are many and among which is a chain of coffee-culture shops named Dimbulah. We were at the one at CHIJMES, a cloistered former convent, which  offers an evening dining experience as well. It has just added a burger that is out of this world. The menu is complemented by a nice range of Australian and New Zealand wines. The NZ pinot noir we had was first rate. It came from Central Otago. The burger came from the kitchen and was better than the best.

The coffee comes from Dimbulah Mountain Estate in North Queensland. Dimbulah is a little place on the Atherton Tableland behind Cairns where the altitude knocks a point or two off the tropical temperatures and Arabica coffee trees thrive. It is not to be confused with Dimboola in Victoria, in Australia’s far chillier south. Dimboola grows wheat and its chief claim to fame is the play of the same name written by Jack Hibberd.

Incorrigible Indeed

The Singapore trip – an occasion forced upon us by reason of the visa run you have to do if your KITAS expires while you’ve been away in Australia trying not to – did create one other opportunity. We’ve been trying to get a start on reading an English translation of Jean-Michel Guenassia’s 2011 debut novel The Incorrigible Optimists Club. It is at last available in paperback (Atlantic Books) and the translation by Euan Cameron is very good.

It’s certainly best in many circumstances to be an incorrigible optimist. For example, we are optimistic that we won’t have to miss the 2015 Yak Awards. This year’s otherwise not-to-be-missed and exotically eclectic bash was held on Nov. 14, the very day the bureaucrats had set for our temporary exile from the Island of the Bumf Shufflers.

It was such a shame. Not to be counted among 600 partygoers is bad enough. But to miss yet another chance to see the sibilantly sassy Sydney songbird Edwina Blush in action is surely a sin.

And So to Lombok

We’re not gluttons for punishment, really. But we did have some things to do in Lombok after the visa trip (and Visa trip) to Singapore, so we went straight there. Well, we tried to. We’d booked AirAsia Singapore-Bali with enough time if things had run to schedule to make a change to the domestic terminal at Ngurah Rai and get on a Garuda flight to Praya.

Things didn’t run to schedule. You can never afford to discount the intervention of Murphy’s (or Sodd’s) Laws. We missed our connection and had to get a later flight and pay an additional fee for doing so.

Never mind. It was good to see Lombok again; and some old friends and a patch of weeds we once thought seriously about turning into our Des Res. This trip we stayed at Kebun Villas – just across the road from the Sheraton in Senggigi – which we eventually reached after an interminable taxi ride from the airport.

Still, the glacially-paced taxi ride was a pointed example of the benefits of different styles. The cabbie who took us from the Copthorne King’s in Singapore to Changi Airport that morning had obviously been taught at taxi-driver school that whatever Gweilo passengers might say (“Slow down you idiot!” “Hey! That was a red light!”) if they’re going to the airport they’re always running late.

Resolve to Devolve, Properly

It’s interesting to hear reports – as the Jokowi presidency gets into gear and begins its promised shift towards more meaningful consultation than has been the case before – that Balinese delegates to the Regional Representative Council (DPD) are seeking greater autonomy for the island.

Real provincial powers are no bad thing, in a country of many ethnicities and significant, difficult differences and distances. That is, if they are managed properly; if they codified so that there is a clear division between central government and provincial powers; if they are understood by all parties as subordinate to national policy and judicial check; and if local-level governments understand their own place is at the bottom of the structure rather than the top and that the Great Panjandrum, if he exists at all, resides somewhere other than in a district council office.

Provincial autonomy until now has been a response to separatist pressures, notably in Aceh and Papua. It should instead be a political arrangement, a compact, designed to enhance the national entity. It would among other things do away with the need for a Regional Representative Council, which in Bali’s case is an invidious arrangement since it administratively groups Bali and both West and East Nusa Tenggara. Achieving this would require courage, open minds, and a true commitment to democracy.

Methanol Methodology

There’s a very useful initiative under way in Bali, the Methanol Poisoning Awareness (MPA) campaign. It’s being run by the British Consulate and was launched in October by Governor Made Mangku Pastika and the acting British Ambassador, Rebecca Razavi.

The campaign aims to raise awareness of the danger of methanol in counterfeit alcoholic drinks, and reduce the number of deaths and injuries suffered by foreign and domestic tourists in Indonesia, as a result.

Razavi said at the launch that the campaign underlines the importance of British tourists being aware of the health risks of counterfeit alcohol. In 2013 counterfeit alcohol caused more than 51 deaths and 52 hospital admissions in Indonesia.

The campaign materials are being distributed throughout Bali.

UK visitor arrivals to Indonesia have risen sharply in recent years. In the first quarter of 2014 a total of 48,871 British tourists travelled to Indonesia. In April alone, 19,809 British nationals visited, up 18.2 percent on April 2013. British authorities expect numbers to continue to increase now Garuda is flying to London.

It’s pleasing to report some British-sourced news. Though in this case there is also an Australian connection, albeit at one remove. Razavi was born in Tasmania.

Home Is Where the Art Is

It may pass almost unnoticed by many, but the growing collaboration between the national galleries of Indonesia and Australia is paying huge dividends in terms of sharing artistic expression and exposing art lovers in both countries to new experiences.

The Masters of Modern Indonesian Portraiture exhibition, which has recently had a month-long season at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra, was a major National Gallery of Indonesia initiative. It was one of three art expositions this year that have demonstrated how diversity can foster unity.

The exhibition showed 35 significant Indonesian art works and offered insight into the rich portrait practice of Indonesia, showcasing key modernist works (1930-1980s) drawn from the National Gallery of Indonesia’s collection along with a selection of works by leading contemporary artists.

It was the first time works from the National Gallery of Indonesia had been shown in Australia. There are plans to ensure it is not the last. It was certainly a rare opportunity for Australian audiences to view the work of eminent modern artists from Indonesia, including masters S. Sudjojono, Hendra Gunawan and Affandi.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter. His diary appears in the Bali Advertiser

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