8degreesoflatitude

THINGS THAT INTEREST, ENGAGE AND ENRAGE

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Feb. 3, 2016

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious matters

 

Load of Pit Bull

Bali’s attractions as a resort for western tourists (that distinction is becoming more and more important) have taken a hammering lately. It was interesting to see that this received notice in the Jakarta Post on Jan. 27. Or perhaps not a hammering: It might have been a whipping with a flip-flop, if we are to believe the preferred version of an instance of animal cruelty involving pit bulls being transported in inhumane conditions that was seen and videoed and photographed in the middle of Seminyak in Bali’s premier tourist precinct. The truck stopped and the driver got out and caused further distress to a caged dog that had panicked and had blood around its mouth.

There are things that go on here that lie on the debit side of the excellence ledger, though this is apparently a continuing surprise to many people who prefer fiction or fairyland, or simply accept what they deem to be culturally inevitable. These debits are of no consequence either to those caught breaking the law or failing to enforce it, to people not doing their jobs or picking your pocket, the latter either literally or figuratively, or to louts of any class shouting gratuitously offensive go-home advice at outsiders. It’s their country, so the loudspeaker patois of popular nationalism says.

Bali is unique, and it’s a great place to live. But sometimes, you know, you see things that warrant comment that won’t rate on the preferred Bali APP Scale (APP = Automatic Paeans of Praise). On Mon. Jan. 18, the Bali Animal Welfare Association posted a report from one of many witnesses to the scenes of Friday night. There were photos with it. These went up on BAWA’s English language and Bahasa Indonesia Facebook pages.

There was an immediate outcry. The report went even more viral on BAWA’s Indonesian page than it did on the English one. Someone in the Bali bureaucracy who is capable of lateral thought (yes, we know) should have a think about that. They already know – although of course they won’t concede this publicly – that a lot of Balinese people are angry about the cruel, indiscriminate and counter-productive killing of dogs including vaccinated animals as a pathetic non-response to the rabies outbreak, now in its ninth year because the authorities royally messed up.

Pit Bulls are used for dog fighting, a popular and lucrative illegal betting industry which as well as breaking national laws that prohibit all gambling also contravene the (disgracefully inadequate) national animal cruelty laws. Not every pit bull is kept for this purpose. And we’re told that the ones in the Seminyak incident hadn’t been at a fight. They’d been somewhere preparing for a non-dog-fighting event to take place at a later date. Etc. Blah.

On Wed. Jan. 20 BAWA received visits from delegations that repeated previous advice that the event had nothing to do with dog fighting. It’s just unfortunate, apparently, that the event they hadn’t been to and the inhumane transport conditions so upset the dogs that the truck driver felt it necessary to stop and remonstrate with one of them in a rather physical fashion

Later that day BAWA posted something on its Facebook that it called “Update on Monday’s Pit Bull Post”. The original post disappeared, swept under the carpet by someone or other. The Bully a Bule SOP had kicked in. It is applied every time a foreigner sees something offensive and dares to say so. Buckets of whitewash are essential if you’re planning a snow job.

Wrap it Up

Plastic is not fantastic, as everyone should know by now, especially in Bali where it litters the landscape – and will do so for ages, since it is practically non-degradable – and continues to be used for wrapping throwaway rubbish. In the practice of this island, plastic then handily stores whatever it contains for foraging dogs and vermin, and as blockage material in the rivers and streams into which they are dumped from which in due course a deluge will release them into the ocean where their remains kill precious marine life or wash up on beaches, bothering tourists.

There was a TED Talk in Bali on Jan. 30, about plastic waste that broke new ground because it featured Indonesian teenagers talking about getting rid of non-biodegradable products. Proper environmental care is a matter of education, like many things. Activist teens such as Bye Bye Plastic Bags co-founder, Isabel, who features in the TED Talk show, are a real bonus in that situation. They have peer appeal, for one thing, and for another will carry their message forward into their adult lives and really make a difference. Online Rotary Club member Clare McAlaney kept us up to speed with the event.

Not a Good Idea

Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who was deposed in a party room vote last September and who said then that he would consider his future, has now done this. He has decided to re-contest his Sydney parliamentary seat of Warringah at the national elections due later this year.

He’s entitled to do so, of course. Almost anyone can stand for office in Australia, even certain classes of lunatics. It’s a fully functioning democracy, a fact that is of unquestionable benefit to Australia and its neighbours. But in considering his future, Abbott appears to have overlooked a number of things. He is not unintelligent, so unless hubris has informed more of his judgment on his future than is wise, he will be aware that staying around will destabilise his party.

His successor, Malcolm Turnbull, is a social liberal and rather more inclined to take the view that this is the Twenty-first Century. Abbott should be aware that the fossil energy resource policies he likes to boost might (that’s debatable) be profitable in the short term but are not economically, scientifically, environmentally or socially sustainable in the long term. He should have noticed, too, that many people who customarily vote for his Liberal party do not support his regressively conservative social positions. Australian secular, democratic politics occupies the middle ground and it is from there that governments are formed.

Abbott is 58, still a youngish man in an Australian context. He has many years left in which to perform public service if that is his desire, or to do something else if that suits him better. It would be more productive of him to reassess his demerits rather than rely on the supposed upsides he and his factional friends promote. He was gauche in office as prime minister. He is personable as an individual, as is his similarly demagogue-dogmatist Labor predecessor Kevin Rudd. He might be better writing dissertations.

All Inclusive

Eastern philosophies have had more influence on those of the west than many suppose. This enlightenment is not merely a product of easy travel in the last half century and the invasion of other peoples’ thinking spaces that was its natural corollary. It is a function of the symbiosis of humanity, of the free flow of ideas and inspiration that has always taken place. This process is quicker nowadays and no longer something reserved for the educated elite or politically well placed.

This Diary was written in Ubud, local seat of the modern fad for worshipping self-selected gurus. Ubud is more than that, of course, and it seems appropriate to mention the 2016 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival as a forthcoming attraction toute force. The dates have just been announced: Oct. 28-Nov. 1. Put those in your diaries.

The theme this year is Tat Tvam Asi, the Sixth Century Hindu philosophy that says in basic shorthand, “I am you, you are me.” As Janet DeNeefe noted in her latest UWRF update, the Roman playwright Terrance once wrote, “If I am human, then nothing human is alien to me.” He was on the money.

The power of words is inestimable. That’s why dictators burn books and knuckleheads ban publications. Words make it possible for each of us to construct our own – possibly parallel – existence. They are the ultimate freedom.   

Here’s Cheers

Happy New Year, Chinese style! As noted previously, the Diary is looking forward to the Year of the Monkey, which starts on Feb. 8 and ushers in 12 months of special time for those of us fortunate enough to be Monkeys ourselves. It only happens every 12 years, so forgive any out of left field ambient frivolity between now and early in 2017.

It’s also Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14, though this of course happens every year. It’s a great time for red roses and chocolates, and for profit, for those who can spin some business off St. Val’s feast day. Valentine was a martyred Third Century Roman priest who from the Fourteenth Century became associated with the European tradition of courtly love. That’s the no-nooky, perfumed token variety.

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

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Jan. 20, 2016

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Modern Times

There’s been an outbreak of nostalgia for the “old Bali” recently, one of those periodic episodes where everyone puts on their rose-tinted glasses and peers back into the past, fondly recalling what they think they remember. Ah, the old days! Things were so much better then.

Fundamentally, that’s tosh. It’s certainly true that the economic value Bali has been able to add to itself and its people over the past 40 years has not been spread with anything like theoretical Marxist (or even Jesuit) perfection. To say nothing of the age-old Hindu culture that could sustain subsistence living for all, at a pinch, but is quite incapable of doing so in a modern monetary economy. It’s thoroughly arguable too that in the ambient social and cultural climate of Indonesia, wealth and its acquisitive benefits will never be universally available. The poor will always be with us. As will the robber baron plutocracy and grasping kleptomaniacs. The poor are nicer people.

The social welfare net that supports the mendicant classes in the western world won’t be replicated here, or anywhere in East Asia. And that’s not only because it’s plain that the overweening expectations about the immutability of that safety net will in the end cause the collapse of democratic capitalism and the western world with it. It’s chiefly because the Eastern ethos is different.

Progress is not always progressive or socially responsible. A 2014 book, by old Bali hand Phil Jarratt and called Bali: Heaven and Hell delineates the divide rather well. Fellow pioneer surfer Steve Palmer, a long-term fixture in Bali’s firmament when he’s not schussing the ski slopes of western Canada and the United States, has a word in it. He remembers the days when reaching the Uluwatu surf breaks meant trekking through miles of cactus-lined cliff paths and that this was something done by relatively few people. Sitting in a traffic jam for hours is certainly a less appealing prospect.

The old Bali is gone. Bits of it may still be seen, like sad little echoes of a past epoch, but we’ve all moved on. Unfortunately the landscape and the environment are less pleasant, both literally and figuratively. Gordon Gecko’s maxim holds sway here now. Greed is good. It’s the Balinese (and their fellow Indonesians who have made the island their home) who must deal with that.

Perhaps Governor Pastika recognizes this and will ditch his Old Curiosity Shopful of ideas that sound good at the time, but fail the test of sentience, like the round-island railway and filling in Benoa Bay for condominiums. He was reported as saying, after Travel + Leisure magazine named Bali as “one of the best islands in the world”, that this would simply ensure millions of tourists swarmed to Bali like ants. Um, a word in your ear, Guv.

Stardust to Stardust

It was very sad to hear on Jan. 10 that British rock singer David Bowie had died of liver cancer. His chameleon character and eclectic musical styles were an adornment to the otherwise frequently vacuous rock culture of his era and his way of handling celebrity was admirable. He declined a knighthood in 2003.

He recorded a last song only two days before his death. It’s a moving and extraordinarily symbolic monument to the place he knew he had in life. It followed release of his last album. These will surely be both his swansong and his epitaph. Perhaps his death and his final album are sad, in the saccharine way that western society seems to have made its leitmotif, but in fact his music and his manner are much better seen as an anthem to acceptance of inevitability. For that, too, he deserves high praise.

He was 69. That’s far too young to comfortably shuffle off this mortal coil. He will be missed, but his talent and music will never be forgotten.

Litter Louts

At Perth international airport there’s a quaintly named Smokers’ Refuge. It’s possibly not unlike a leper colony in its own way. It’s outside the terminal building, as it should be, and is basically in the car park across the road. But there are sun umbrellas to shade you and plenty of bins for your butts. As a place of exile for those among us who still use a usuriously taxed legal product and yet are frowned upon for doing so, it fits the bill quite nicely.

Most of the people who use it seem to be airport or airline staff, and some members of that recently inaugurated and nattily uniformed farce, the Australian Border Force. An occasional traveller drops by, either for a quick restorative draught after arrival or a last puff before having to submit to the artificial air inside the terminal and the long drag in the metal tube that follows.

Littering is a heinous offence in Australia, where in some places you can get stung the equivalent of between Rp5 million and Rp20 million for leaving a cigarette butt on the ground; and rightly so. But apparently this was of little moment to the three ladies in corporate uniforms we saw smoking there while they chatted in their break. They left an empty can of soft drink on a bench, right beside a bin, and the paving beneath them littered with butts. Shocking.

Home is Where the Art is

For reasons which are private and entirely peripheral to the point of this item, we recently had to remove from storage, re-pack and then re-store, numerous items of value, intrinsic and otherwise, which we keep in Australia because there’s no room at The Cage.

Among them are two lovely Made Kaek abstracts that caught our eye at an Ubud gallery in 2001 and which (of course) we promptly bought. They adorned our townhouse in Brisbane for four years, before – being greying nomads with absolutely no interest in buying a Winnebago – we moved to Bali. As the Distaff is a Westie (she’ll never be permitted to forget that, poor thing) that’s where we sent our memorabilia, our modest art collection, glassware, cutlery, sundry other household effects and a simply beautiful marble chess table and matching pieces. They were the collectibles of a life together that at that point had reached 26 years. You get less for murder these days, of course, but that too is peripheral to the point.

Both the Made Kaek works had latterly and briefly hung at the matriarchal McMansion, which made visits there even more pleasant than ever. But when we came to repack our stuff for future storage, one of the works had suffered seriously cracked glass. Naturally, Sod’s Law being what it is, this was discovered in the midst of Australia’s summer slumber and only two days before the truck was to come to take it and everything else away to Perth.

Happily, we found Sarah Bowes of Country Road Picture Framers in Busselton, to whose house – after a phone call – we repaired post-haste. She broke into her holiday downtime to replace the glass and re-back the frame.

We cannot thank her enough for her skill, her willingness to accommodate our urgent schedule, and the comfortable cost of the operation that she performed. Take that as a high recommendation.

And There’s the Rub

Getting home is always a blessing. Even if you discover on arrival that your internet isn’t functioning because your ISP has obviously sequestered the substantial megabytes of upload and download that you have paid for and that this requires four telephone calls to restore. Three of these calls mysteriously dropped out mid-conversation. Perhaps the unfortunate lackeys with whom we were conversing couldn’t find a handy friend who had done it.

Never mind. This indelicacy, along with others, was vitiated by a visit to our preferred local salon, Island Spa in Jimbaran, where restorative massages were enjoyed. Well, partly so. During his massage The Diary, perhaps incautiously, said when prompted by the therapist well into the 60-minute session that slightly stronger pressure might be in order. It was very good, since the seat pitch on Jetstar’s Airbus 320s is not septuagenarian friendly, but it cost Rp110K instead of the Rp80K that had been booked. The masseuse was commendably young and highly skilled, but an otherwise unmentioned 30 per cent rise in the tariff was perhaps a little stiff for the additional service rendered.

Still, best not to be churlish. Everyone needs to make a crust. There are significant pluses, also. We have our temporary resident permit process under way, albeit with added irritations, and have restored to working order the Distaff’s CIMB debit card that had very unkindly expired in her absence.

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

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Jan. 6, 2016

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

A Prime Appointment

Helena Studdert, the new Australian consul-general in Bali, comes to the job by an unusual route. She has already held an ambassadorial post – she was Australia’s envoy to Serbia from 2010-2013 – and has some background in the sometimes fractious field of civil-military affairs, having served most recently as international adviser to the Australian Civil-Military Centre.

These are not often the qualifications one finds in consular appointments, where the job is to look after people rather than foster the often separate interests of diplomatic relations. They aren’t quite mutually exclusive, though, especially in a post such as Bali. Studdert’s appointment, announced by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Dec. 22, gives additional oomph to Australia’s interests here, where the consulate-general is the country’s third busiest consular mission. This can only be a good thing. It might get a little busier yet, too, with the third and we hope lasting announcement in December that Australia is now on Indonesia’s free visa on arrival list.

Studdert, who has a PhD, takes up her new post this month. She replaces outgoing consul-general Majell Hind, who leaves with the good wishes of everyone who came to know her during her time here.

Australia will open a new consulate-general in Makassar this year.

He’s No Bule!

Tim Hannigan, who gets a regular outing in this column because he’s a good fellow who has lots of interesting things to say, tells us he found a lovely little scribble in his own First Exposure diary of Indonesian travels, from a decade ago. He’d been prompted to delve into the origins of his Indonesian writings by the death in December, in Malang, of the American chronicler Benedict Anderson, whose passing we noted in the Diary of Dec. 23.

Hannigan was in remote eastern Indonesia on his first traveller’s journey here and on one island came across the story of a white man who had lived thereon for 20 years, married a local woman, spoke the local language, and followed the basically animist religious rites of the community. His journalistic interest piqued, he inquired of the locals what was the man’s name. These worthies then looked at each other and said um and ah in their own lingo and after a while reached a collegiate conclusion that his name had been Turis.

Bule, the not altogether offensive word for Europeans more commonly used in Bahasa Indonesia, is less favoured in the archipelagic east. There, such people are tourists and apparently remain so even when fully salted, over two decades, into the local community.

Amen to That

Pope Francis, chief counsellor to the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics and the first Jesuit Pope, had a great message about Jesus’ birth for his global flock on Christmas Day. He said this: “In a society so often intoxicated by consumerism and hedonism, wealth and extravagance, appearances and narcissism, this child calls us to act soberly … in a way that is simple, balanced, consistent, capable of seeing and doing what is essential.”

Common sense and fine judicial and spiritual judgment is the hallmark of the Jesuits. Even those not of the faith – or indeed not of any faith – can relate to the Pope’s words on this occasion and on this topic. It’s a message the consumerist West should listen to especially carefully. There is really no reason for empathy overload, one of the new psychiatric ailments that is said to be afflicting those who can afford to spend their time and money on elective counseling and through this find justification in not caring quite as much as they might that others are less fortunate than themselves.

Red Litter Day

How lovely it was to see – on Facebook on Dec. 26 – that Coco supermarkets had rushed in to clean up the mess when photos emerged of one of their trucks stopped in Ubud near a watercourse, dumping trash. Perhaps there’s a lesson in that for all the defaulters who, for reasons of ennui or avarice, can’t be bothered disposing of rubbish in the required manner. That includes managements as well as workers, just to make that point.

If this practice spreads, Bali’s little rivers might one day be relatively free of the disgusting debris that defiles them and which then, when it rains properly, is expelled into the sea. In the fiction of the island, it used to be said (though no one ever believed that particular fable) that all the awful beach rubbish came from Java. They do such a lovely line in terminological inexactitude here.

Coco’s deserves credit for acting swiftly when the littering habits of that particular delivery truck’s crew were publicized on social media. These days, nowhere is immune from observation and recording by people whose cell phones take photos and videos. That’s a lesson that should be swiftly absorbed, as apparently it has been by Coco’s management.

It would be nice if the provincial government made more of an effort to return Bali to something approximating its natural beauty than just making up pretty slogans and hoping someone else will pick up the slack. Bali Clean and Green should be a planned objective, not just a PR pitch on a wish list.

Tim Tam Time

The Diary, courtesy of its Australian sojourn, has been enjoying original Tim Tams. And not just the occasional one: just the day before Christmas, for example, we enjoyed three of them, one after the other, no breaks, except of the delicious choc-covered biscuit between our teeth. Out of their packet, cool and crisp from the fridge and well before their use-by date is even a twinkle in Old Father Time’s eye.

An original Tim Tam in mint condition has been a rare treat for more than a decade now. They’re unobtainable in Indonesia, unless you’re prepared to list as mint condition a fused mess caused by faulty refrigeration and the Lucifer-like temperatures you tend to find in local stores, even the ones with the premium prices. In Indonesia, too, Arnott’s seem to experiment almost weekly with some new sticky confection they call Tim Tams, but which are as related to the original as, say, the urban gangs of modern Metro America are to the robber barons who forced King John’s hand with that Magna Carta deal back in 1215.

The Tim Tams we’ve been eating remind us of the Stress Diet a very lovely friend alerted us to in Brisbane years ago, when we were permanently on each other’s tryst list. Perhaps memory has played cruelly with a few details, but it went something like this:

Breakfast: Cup of coffee, one Tim Tam. Elevenses: Cup of coffee, two Tim Tams. Lunch: Cup of coffee, three Tim Tams. Afternoon tea: Forget the coffee and eat the rest of the Tim Tams.

It’s always worked for us. Of course, you have to find the Tim Tams first.

Early Monkey

As Georgie is reported to have advised, in the Rod Stewart song that records his untimely passing on a New York boulevard at the hands of a New Jersey gang with just one aim, you’ve got to get in fast or it’s too late. Georgie was of course speaking of that elusive faculty, youth; most of the sentient among us remember it as that golden time we enjoyed in the brief interlude between childhood and growing up. But getting in fast, or at least first, is sound advice nonetheless.

It was fun therefore to see a little promo doing the rounds recently from the Aman chain, which has three plush establishments in Bali at which the well heeled can kick up a little decorous dust. In this case the dust – suitably mediated, we’re sure – relates to 2016 being the Year of the Monkey. As we noted in the diary of Dec. 23, this is good year for us, since we are of the simian persuasion in the Chinese Zodiac.

Aman advises its potential guests that the island of Bali presents the opportunity to experience cultural adventure, a vibrant natural landscape and three unique Aman destinations. The principal monkey business is set for the lush terraces of its Ubud property, where Amandari will be welcoming guests to usher in the Year of the Monkey with a celebratory dining experience, traditional music and dance performances.

This Monkey year – it commences on Feb. 4 – is the Year of the Red Monkey, which might pique the interest of any genuine communists still extant in China.

Splashing Out

San Diego zoo in California gave its polar bears a great present on Christmas Days – 26 tons of real snow provided for them to play in. And what fun they had. It made us wonder if the execrable dolphin jailers at WAKE at Keramas had thought to give their poor wild captives some real seawater as a treat. They might have liked that.

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

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Dec. 23, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences 

 

A Christmas Story

This week we observe the official birthday – though of course its date is wholly notional – of one of Islam’s leading saints, the nabi Isa al-Mahdi, whom Muslims also honour as the Messiah. In the Christian rite, it is Christmas, the nativity of Jesus, born of a virgin mother. To Christians, Jesus is the Son of God. To Muslims that very notion is anathema. To those of the Jewish faith, Jesus was a rebellious and schismatic rabbi with whom their religious leaders dealt expediently by getting someone else to do away with him. That is a practice that is still with us. Defenestration, actual or metaphorical, has an unrivaled place in political tradition.

Thanks to Mammon and his right-hand man Capital over the last century and a half, fuelled by the rise of rampant consumerism, Christmas has become an occasion for Bacchanalian excess. This secular Christmas has nothing to do with religion, or with faith except for the widespread belief that it’s the one time of the year when you might get something for nothing. Santa and his elves, like the timing of the feast itself, are borrowed at one remove from Old Europe’s pagan rites of midwinter. In the same way, Easter, which marks the death and resurrection of Christ, coopted the pagan spring festival of its original Greek and Roman times.

Neither of these occasions was religious in the terms most people of faith would accept today. Not to put too fine a point on it, they were occasions for a good deal of romping and a whole lot of rumpy-pumpy. And jolly good fun all that must have been. You could say then that the wheel has just about turned full circle, especially, as an instance, in tourist areas of Thailand where to suggest that the elves are merely outré would be to unduly favour understatement as a conversational artifice.

The same invitation to overlay a patina of sexuality on everything – perhaps this is the single most significant success, if such it be, of capital-fuelled consumerism – is seen well beyond the pagoda-strewn landscapes of Old Siam. Elves whose moral influence probably wouldn’t stand scrutiny are a commonplace in Bali’s overeat, overdrink and badly misbehave tourist precincts. They have even been known to appear in certain parts of Lombok, the island of a thousand mosques.

The birthday of the Prophet is a much more important Islamic date. This year, on the lunar Sunni calendar, it’s on Christmas Eve.

All-abuzzZZZZ

We’re spending Christmas in Australia this year, not because we want to but because there are some family matters with which we and other people must deal. It is the first time in ages that we’ve been in the Odd Zone when the customary somnolence of the place, which is hard enough to bear anyway, gives way to six weeks or more of summer holidays and to something that closely approximates catalepsy. To be fair, many continental Europeans do the same sort of thing in August – try getting pain au chocolat of any decent quality in Paris then (it’s difficult: everyone is août, and not just to lunch) – but the Aussies take leisure even more seriously over their own big sleep. Unless it’s cricket or tennis, or they’re murdering prawns on a BBQ or getting zapped by stingers at the beach, forget it. The confluence of Christmas and New Year with the southern summer makes this possible, and it’s no bad thing, unless you want something done.

There are some things we need to get done. But we’ll do these ourselves. Our aim is to get home as quickly as possible. We have to see where the roof has decided to leak this year. Since it has now been raining properly, El Niño notwithstanding, our return might be quite revealing.

Merry Christmas!

Hannigan’s Wake

Well, no, not raconteur and history writer Tim Hannigan’s. He surely has time for a goodly number of books yet, though we did hear from him of the sad event: the death in Malang on Dec. 13 of Benedict Anderson, the Cornell University scholar who became one of the most influential voices in the fields of nationalism and Southeast Asian studies. He was 79.

Anderson is best known for his 1983 book Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. Its much-debated thesis is that nationalism is largely a modern concept rooted in language and literacy. Its publisher, Verso, says the book has been translated into more than two-dozen languages.

His early specialization in Indonesia gave us a near-forensic analysis of the 1965 coup – he wrote it with fellow scholar Ruth McVey – and led to him being banned from the country until 1999. The Cornell Paper, as it came to be known, suggested that the coup was not the consequence of an abortive communist uprising but of premeditated action by the army. Such assessments were not encouraged in post-coup Indonesia, and still aren’t. Perhaps Karma played a part in Anderson’s outlasting both General Suharto and his New Order regime.

Hannigan also writes on Indonesia, with a light style and a strong sense of narrative as the essential ingredient in popular reading. His latest is A Brief History of Indonesia (Tuttle, 2015) and it’s very good. His 2012 book on British bureaucrat-imperialist Stamford Raffles – Raffles and the British Invasion of Java (Monsoon Books) – should have earned him that year’s Really Stinky Rafflesia Prize from the British Society of Wholesome Hagiographers. That’s if such an outfit existed, which it probably should. Tiffin ladies?

The Great Game

While we’re in the mood for long shadows and long drinks, we should mention a little Facebook post we saw recently. It had been posted by Patricia Morley Brown on the Ubud Community page and told us this: “
Croquet time again on Monday at Dewangga Bungalows from 9.30. Snack n Chat about 11.00 and there’s talk that there will be birthday cake this week for someone who turns 71. This week’s pics of magazine covers from 1918 and 1920s.”

We played croquet once. In about 1954 from memory, when we were just short of 10 and lodging temporarily, en famille, with an uncle in the Misty Isles who was the vicar of a lovely, leafy rural parish.

One Step Back … and One Forward

It’s sad to hear that the excellent organic garden at Sawangan near Nusa Dua and operated by Mike O’Leary’s ROLE Foundation has fallen victim to a land dispute, one of the more pernicious of the many social distempers endemic to Bali. ROLE is also seeking funding for new premises in Siligita. We’ll keep an eye on that. See them at http://www.rolefoundation.org.

On a much happier note, we hear that the non-profit charity Yayasan Solemen and a local company, Indosole LLC, along with the Bali Dynasty Resort, were busy in November giving a helping hand to the villagers of Waribang in Sanur. Indosole handed out rice and 50 pairs of adult footwear made from recycled tyres. Solemen distributed 111 towels and 50 bed sheets donated by the Bali Dynasty and transported to the village by Mark Tuck, founder and principal of Paradise Property Group.

The villagers of Waribang make their living by collecting plastic bottles to trade in for cash, which earns them Rp 3000 (about 21 US cents) per kilo. That’s something to think about while you’re enjoying your Christmas feast.

Solemen, whose leading hot-foot is the entrepreneurial Robert Epstone, regularly distributes food and clothing to needy villages around Bali and organize medical aid, physiotherapy and nutrition assistance.

If you’d like to help, visit www.solemen.org.

Write Stuff

Another Bali connection, the enigmatically alluring Jade Richardson who blogs with zest as the Passionfruit Cowgirl, has a gig going in the New Year that might interest any formative scribblers who are in Western Australia during the Long Sleep. It’s the latest in her Write of Passage workshops and the first one in Perth (though it’s actually in the port city of Fremantle, a good place to be in January when the searing heat of the Australian summer might otherwise be upon one).

Gentle Jade asks this question: Could this be the journey that changes everything? She tells us that this is her favourite workshop for aspiring writers and is designed for those seeking profound insight to their work in stories, a powerful shift in writing, and an understanding of creative energy.

The workshop is on Jan. 5, 6 and 8. Details are at www.heartbookwriting.com or you can email her at jade.gently@gmail.com.

Cheers to the Monkey

When the clock ticks over to 2016 the Diary will be in a very good mood. For shortly after that it will be the Year of the Monkey. We have plans for plenty of simian pursuits, a treat we award ourselves every 12 years.

See you next year!

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

 

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Dec. 9, 2015

 

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences 

 

You Could Cry

Animal fan Rhonda Lepsch has for two years run a great operation called Jet Set Petz – the name came from the jet ski operation in which she’s involved at Tanjung Benoa near Nusa Dua – but it will soon be no more. It will close on Dec. 15 and its useful Facebook page will disappear. This would be sad in any circumstances, since Jet Set Petz estimates it has saved or otherwise cared for 400 dogs in the area. What makes its closure shocking is that it has been brought about by the blind indifference to anything but immediate benefit and money-grubbing that so blights Bali today.

Lepsch lost a loved pet dog at the end of November, either poisoned or taken by dog meat traders. It was too much for her. Who could blame her for deciding that since her neighbours in Tanjung Benoa declared themselves uninterested in doing anything much at all, they were not worth bothering about? You could cry, really. Bali is the island of spiritual wholesomeness, or so the Balinese keep saying. Increasingly the evidence points in the other direction.

Lepsch says she knows of no rabies cases in Tanjung Benoa over the past two years that she’s been running the program. The dogs of the locality are healthy. So now they are the target of dog meat thieves and mean little people who poison other people’s pets because … well, because they can, because they have no conscience, and because no one in authority can be bothered getting out of their air-con to stop them.

Official policy, such as it is, now mandates mass killing of dogs to reduce rabies. It doesn’t work, of course, but it looks busy and it’s cheaper than doing the hard yards that would actually work, such as resuming the planned and implemented vaccination programs they abandoned when all the money ran away, and the sterilization schemes that were meant to run alongside it to humanely reduce dog numbers.

Where is the provincial government in all of this? What is it doing to educate people about their responsibility for animals in their care? Nothing. It’s off finding further excuses for indolence. Where is the Association of Veterinarians Indonesia (PDHI) of Bali? Perhaps its chairman, veterinary doctor Made Restiani, would like to tell us when the PDHI will be back from being out to lunch.

Bali’s spirited dogs would like to know, just as much as we would.

Dharma and Karma

Balinese Hinduism is different from the Indian variety. It is heavily influenced by syncretic elements from Buddhism and other faiths. But it shares many common points with its Indian originator and certainly emphasizes the same influence of Karma on human actions. So it was interesting to read the other day a scholarly outline of Hindu responsibilities for animals, their health and welfare, and their place in the world. It’s on the web at this URL if you’d like to read it, which you should: hinduwebsite.com/hinduism/essays/animals.asp.

Among other things, it makes this point: Hinduism is a compassionate religion that treats all living organisms as aspects of god with souls of their own. Hindu scriptures encourage the devout to treat all animals with respect, not to harm them, and not to subject them to cruelty or to kill them. Sacrificing animals for religious purposes is seen in Indian Hinduism as a prehistoric rite that no longer has a place in society.

There is, you might say, food for thought in that.

Many religions formulate the same Karmic rule, unfortunately too often observed in its breach. Among these, Christians are reminded in their scripture that you reap what you sow. Karma’s a tonic, or possibly a poison. Or to put it even more plainly, if you’re a right berk, one day you’ll pay.

Pack ’Em In

It’s good to see that La Gazette de Bali, the monthly newspaper for the Francophone community, is right behind the longstanding efforts of Tabanan-based PT EnviroPallets to reduce the footprint of non-reusable packaging and the plastic that is its chief component. La Gazette is required reading at The Cage. It’s always interesting, runs lots of material you mightn’t otherwise see, and is especially useful as a foil to the English-language dominance of information (not only in Bali).

So it was slightly odd to read a three-year-old Jakarta story recycled on one of the virtual print platforms serving the local Anglosphere that might easily have been misunderstood as suggesting EnviroPallets is a new venture. We hadn’t seen the piece ourselves and were alerted to its presence by that inveterate reader of everything, Philly Frisson, The Diary’s international cultural attaché and a girl who loves a giggle.

Speaking of oddities, we were amused to read elsewhere, in the Googlish print media, the reported view of the local weather bureau that it’s been hot because the temperatures have been high and dry because it hasn’t rained. Ah, the delightful perils of instant on line translation. Still, one needs to smile, especially when the flying ants that always presage big rain are apparently still in hiding and refusing to come out to play.

Don’t Bank on It

We had a chat the other day with Susi Johnston, who remains as feisty as you’d expect a graduate cum laude of Bali’s school of hard knocks to be. The issue was land law and property ownership – it’s her specialty of course, in her case because of a criminally unfair situation – and a daylong seminar held in Kuta on Nov. 28 attended by 120 to hear about the thorny matter of foreign-owned property.

Some good came from it, though nothing of immediate substance. Among things in the pipeline are possible moves to create a Hak Pakai title available for people who are in Bali only to live – retirees for example – and it’s clear that the authorities desire at least to try to clear up the mess here. Not using a nominee would be sensible. Using a Jakarta lawyer might be a good idea. These ideas will upset the perfumed, flash shirt and shiny pointed shoes brigade here. Oh dear, how sad, never mind.

A Good Result

Mike O’Leary of ROLE Foundation tells us the 2015 ROLE Models Charity Dinner on Nov. 21 brought in around Rp 300 million to boost funds that ROLE outlays on its groundbreaking Bali WISE effort to educate and empower marginalized Indonesian women. The event was attended by 180 and held at Rimba, hosted by Ayana Resort and Spa.

Bali WISE gives students from Bali and other Indonesian islands skills education so that they may secure a worthwhile job with a fair wage to support themselves and their families. The program, which depends on corporate support from the business and hotel sector, has been running for nearly a decade. So far 762 students have graduated, 90 per cent of them finding jobs afterwards.

The 180 guests at the function, who turned out in a colourful collection of Across the Archipelago traditional attire, were welcomed with cocktails at Rimba’s Orchid Tea Lounge before a five-star dinner was served in the ballroom. The Bali WISE student choir and well-known Indonesian performer Lisa Soul entertained the crowd. A silent auction offered prizes donated by sponsors and attracted enthusiastic bidders. The after party was at Unique, the property’s scenic rooftop bar.

O’Leary tells us the evening beat its fundraising target. If you’d like to learn more about ROLE or lend a hand, browse www.rolefoundation.org

Fatally Unplugged

The Indonesia Air Asia Airbus A320 that crashed into the Java Sea on December 28 last year, less than halfway into a two-hour flight from Surabaya to Singapore, had a flight control computer that had malfunctioned 23 times over 12 months and four times during the fatal flight.

How that problem can have been left uncorrected in the normal maintenance cycle is for others to say. Whatever is now said, the Diary says this: From our point of view the accident resulted from inexcusable negligence; it indicates a corporate attitude to a duty of care on a par with its fatally cavalier attitude to aircraft airworthiness; and Indonesia Air Asia is now on our no-fly list. We’d rather walk, thanks.

The Indonesian crash investigation report, released on Dec. 1, found that crew action caused a loss of control and the stalling of the aircraft. All 162 people on board were killed. The report said flight crew action resulted in inability to control the aircraft. The situation caused a prolonged stall condition that was beyond the capability of the flight crew to recover.

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

 

 

 

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Nov. 25, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Blacklisted

It’s official. The Diary and Vulcan, god of the underworld and chief patron of volcanic excess, are no longer speaking. Vulcan has been blacklisted. Until further notice, even if we should by chance fly over one of the spectacular mountain vents that lead down to his lair in the underworld, we shall affect an air of lofty distain and total disinterest and shan’t even go “Ooh! Ah!” on a sotto voce basis. This is because we were marooned in Australia at a critical time because of the risk of suspended particulate matter in the air above Bali.

OK, volcanic dust is special in that it is basically glass and its impact can puncture aircraft hulls, make windows instantly opaque, kill jet engines and get into places that require lubricants to which in later maintenance cycles the fused glass dangerously denies entry. In that respect, Vulcan’s damaging offerings are far more immediately a risk, even though less ubiquitously fatal, than all the other detritus, that man-made stuff, which hangs around in the island air every day.

The disruption to The Diary’s travel plans was a nuisance – we accept its necessity: that’s not the point – principally because of two things. First, it meant we couldn’t get to the ROLE Models charity dinner at RIMBA on Nov. 21. This was especially irritating because we like a good bash and Mike O’Leary and ROLE Foundation do a fabulous job of empowering disadvantaged Indonesian women who would otherwise have lives of unfulfilled promise and low economic status. The second irritant was that the delay meant we were out of the country when our temporary resident visa expired. That’s a big no-no because unavoidable absence is not an excuse. You just have to start over with the bureaucratic bun-fight, which is a nuisance.

That personal problem pales into insignificance against the economic cost to Bali (and Lombok) of Mt Rinjani’s activity. While we were cooling our heels in Western Australia we saw a photo of Ngurah Rai’s arrivals area on Facebook. It was empty.

With a Skirl and a Whirl

Alistair Speirs, publisher of Now Jakarta and Now Bali – and of Made Wijaya’s Stranger in Paradise columns – is an Edinburgh laddie. Such is the draw of the kilt in Scottish culture that even mercantile east coast Lowlanders – the only true Sassenachs by the way; forget the English – have bought the idea that even though they have the money to buy trousers they should instead swaddle themselves in wraparound plaid.

Speirs suggests that anyone interested should follow the sound of the pipers (this year from the Perth Highland Pipe Band) to the annual St Andrew’s ball on Nov. 28. It’s organized by the Java St. Andrews Society and will take place at the Sahid Hotel, at a cost of Rp 1.6M a head. He notes: “As is custom with Scottish events, there will be food and drinks aplenty, lots of kilted men, and much Ceilidh dancing (interspersed by the odd yelp of “whhheeeoooshh!!”). The Scots know how to throw a party so don’t miss this one! There will be a lot of fantastic packages for auction – Are you a rugby fan? Do you like Hong Kong? What about a business-class travel and luxury accommodation? You get the idea. At the same time, bid to help some very worthy causes too.”

There’s no word on whether Made Wijaya will be present, though his former name, Michael White, could suggest Scottish roots. The availability of kilts might pique the interest of The Diary’s international cultural attaché, Philly Frisson, who is otherwise an eminently sensible lassie (see below).

International Event

The Diary was privileged recently to attend a wedding celebrated at a lovely winery in the Margaret River district of southwest Western Australia. It was a warm day – which was good for refugees from Bali – and the occasion went along with plenty of zing. The celebrant noted that under current Australian law marriage was between a man and a woman and that this might soon be changed to accommodate couples whose sexual orientation rules out opposite gender status as a determining factor. Cheers to that.

The couple that was being married on this occasion was of the opposite sex. Their families and friends were from around the globe, which was nice. A variety of accents enlivened the event, from the United States and Canada (they’re not the same places, something about which some people apparently need continual reminders), South Africa, Scotland (yes, a kilt was present) and other spots as well as various bits of Australia. It was hot, though the cooling ocean breeze – in WA’s lovely southwest it comes all the way from South Africa incidentally – was a treat. The dancing was spectacular. Seeing a kilt swirling to the difficult demands of a rap beat was something else.

Hoarse Before the Cartel

Regulating maritime traffic to and from and within environmentally sensitive areas is good sense. These arrangements require sensible and fair rules that take account of all factors. In the case of Gili Trawangan, the “party island” off Lombok’s northwest coast, these factors include the fact that a lot of people want to go there. A lot of them want to go there direct from Bali. Whatever the charms of alternative first-arrival points on Lombok’s mainland – Senggigi has obvious attractions; those of tout-cartel capital Bangsal and of Teluk Nara, where dive and accommodation operators have corporate facilities are harder to define – the chief destination of choice is Trawangan. Why irritate people who want to go there by insisting that they first go somewhere else? As a marketing strategy this practice would seem to have several demerits.

So it was somewhat strange to read recently that the West Nusa Tenggara tourism and culture department, the naval base in Lombok and Mataram Water Police are reportedly working together to limit the access to Trawangan of fast boats from Padang Bai and Benoa. Local navy commander Colonel Rachmat Djunaidy is said to believe that these boats cause environmental damage and coral reef erosion. It’s in the interests of the tourism industry and the Trawangan community to protect vital natural assets, of course, and if there is a particular problem then rules need to be set – or applied if they already exist – to minimize damage.

The colonel, though, apparently has a better idea. A bit of heavy-footed stomping. He will work with the bureaucrats and the water police to “curb these fast boats and redirect them to the three local ports of Bangsal, Teluk Nara and Senggigi.” Perhaps he has boat turn-back strategy in mind. Or perhaps he just doesn’t want to get hoarse in a shouting match with a cartel that would like to get a bit of the action (or possibly all of it).

Time for Another Good Yak

This year’s Yak Awards could be a frightful scene if The Diary gets along to them in the gear Sophie Digby, Chief Yakker, seems to suggest should be dusted off for the occasion. We look shocking in lamé and leopard print.

The event is on Dec. 4 at Il Lido, Kerobokan, and celebrates among other things the fact that Studio 54 is coming to town as well as Santa Claus.

It may just have been a glitch – many virtual calendars don’t seem to do UTC+08 if an event is in Indonesia, and this one is listed to start at 6pm UTC+07, which is Jakarta time. Sophie will sort it out, we expect.

Voting for the awards is under way as well as ticket sales – they’re Rp 650K at various outlets or Rp 850K at the door. Dress code for the evening is Studio 54 – Elton, Cher, Jackson, Warhol, Jagger, Minnelli, or Shirley Mclaine. We could do Warhol, possibly. That would suit 15 minutes of infamy.

All A-Buzz

These things don’t usually spark Hector’s interest, but the otherwise unremarkable visit of Charles and Camilla to New Zealand and Australia earlier this month brought this little Sydney incident to attention, as reported by Rick Morton in The Australian:

“Hundreds of community organization members, politicians and other dignitaries were invited to a garden party at Government House where [NSW] Governor David Hurley declared himself ‘Bee-One, the chief beekeeper’ and insisted the royal couple try the first harvest of honey from the grounds. ‘We thank you for giving your time and visiting Australia,’ he said. ‘Post the rugby World Cup, we understand you had to visit New Zealand first.’”

We had another little line from Philly Frisson about that. She suggested the Royal Taster had then stepped up manfully (oops, person-fully).

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

 

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Nov. 11, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Eastbourne Option

There is a fine line between farce and tragedy in both the thespian tradition and in real life. This is a worldwide phenomenon, granted, but it does seem especially prevalent in Bali and indeed more broadly throughout Indonesia. Witness the recent travels of President Joko Widodo, who had to go all the way to Washington before he discovered that much of his country was criminally ablaze and making such a nuisance of itself that he had to cut short his trip and dash home to deal with the crisis. He got the dashing home bit done. The rest is a work in progress; or perhaps it isn’t.

The Eastbourne Option is a handy practice for those who don’t have the opportunity to fly to distant places so that they can allow reality to hit home and find that things suddenly seem too much. It comes from that lovely episode in the John Cleese television series Fawlty Towers. When a guest at his terrible Torquay hotel tells Cleese (as owner manager Basil Fawlty) that it is the worst such establishment in Britain, the Major, a permanent paying guest, rounds on the critic and forcefully asserts that this is not true. “No! No! I won’t have that!” he exclaims. He pauses, thinking. Then he adds: “There’s a place at Eastbourne.”

Given the latest rounds of farce that have emanated from the Bali authorities, choosing the Eastbourne option is a way to escape the heightened risk of conniption or terminal tedium over the indecently close relationship between incredible farce and terrible tragedy visited upon their island by those who run Bali.

If you screw your eyes up and concentrate really hard you can momentarily ignore the otherwise inevitable assessment that inexcusable inattention and monumental hubris go together like … well, like rotten peaches and rancid cream.

Sense and Censor Ability

Literature requires dissent. In the absence of this important ingredient you end up with a library of promotional pamphlets that, like most of these glossy paeans to self-delusion, are of no practical use at all. Of course criticism must be objective in whatever genre it is offered. Fiction is often a better way to inform and spark debate than direct, unalloyed history. Sometimes it’s good to change the names to protect the innocent, the guilty, or indeed the author.

This year’s Ubud Writers and Readers Festival (Oct. 28-Nov. 1) was royally interfered with because – Shock! Horror! – its long published program contained elements that would discuss the events of 1965 and the mass murders that were its disgraceful central feature. When the chief of police of Gianyar made the shocking discovery that people at literary festivals might be talking about these things, he decided such rumination might encourage the communist tendency.

Where he has been since misapplied Marxism collapsed on a global scale, and even in China, is an interesting question. So too is why he failed to reference the fact that Indonesia’s expensive guest appearance at the Frankfurt Book Fair this year focused on the very same horrors. Though it should be noted that after the event some legislators in Jakarta have also spotted the fact that they hadn’t been paying attention either. They do the “horse bolted, shut stable door” routine so well here.

Another casualty of the newly reprised practice of suppressing dissent was a discussion of the plutocratic proposal to vandalise Benoa Bay for commercial interests. The Gianyar police chief said this decision was nothing to do with him.

Cursors! They’re on to Us

The useful Bali Crime Reports page on Facebook notes that Bali Police HQ is getting edgy about social media. Given rising street crime about which the police do nothing and the appearance in the media of reports on really important police activity like nabbing people who aren’t married to each other because having unmarried sex is illegal, or arresting the odd mangku for suggesting someone’s practising black magic, that’s perhaps not surprising.

As a note on the page suggests, the police probably didn’t expect their own social media bulletins to be translated into English and posted elsewhere where foreigners might read them. Bad scene! Bad for Bali’s image! They’ve apparently reduced their own social media posting in response and set up a supervisory system.

A bulletin from POLRI (police central) explains (and we quote verbatim):

“This supervision is meant to find out how prepared Bali police at all levels are, to enact the Development of Opinions to Facilitate Public Safety Which Are Conducive In Relation To Negative Effects On Opinions in Social (media) Society.”

In shorthand: Here’s a broom. Sweep that embarrassing stuff under the carpet.

Get on a ROLE

OK, now for some positive thoughts. Do you enjoy fine dining and great entertainment? Are you a supporter of women’s empowerment? Would you like to build links with like-minded individuals? If that’s a yes to any or all of these questions, then the ROLE Models Charity Dinner on Nov. 21 may be just the thing for you.

The ROLE Foundation’s work with disadvantaged women is a great example of the productive value of voluntary charity efforts in Bali and beyond. It’s not work that gets much exposure – certainly not as much as it deserves – but it’s practical benefits are priceless. ROLE educates and finds work for women from Bali and other islands who would otherwise miss out on life’s most basic opportunities. It’s all about breaking the poverty cycle.

The event is at RIMBA in the scenic AYANA Resort complex at Jimbaran. Service at the four-course dinner is by ROLE RIMBA trainees; there is a reception before dinner from 6pm, entertainment throughout, and a rooftop after party. Tickets are Rp1.3M and they’re selling fast, we hear. Bookings can be made at RIMBA, AYANA or through ROLE. Unique auction prizes can be seen here.

See you there! We’re not going to miss the occasion.

Vulcan Redux

We shan’t miss the ROLE Models Dinner if Vulcan permits, at least. We’re currently in Australia and due back home in Bali in a day or so. So it’s been a bit disturbing to watch the resurgence of volcanic activity in the region, this time from Vulcan’s otherwise minor franchise outlet at Mt Baru Jari in the crater of Lombok’s lofty Rinjani.

The Mt Raung eruption in East Java – we can see that culprit from The Cage on the Bukit – caused significant chaos in Bali’s airborne arrivals and departures system earlier this year. To coin a phrase, it wasn’t fun while it lasted. Let’s hope Mt Baru Jari’s little effluence is short-lived, both for air traffic purposes and for the health and wellbeing of Lombok’s people.

Visa Follies

For those who might still be wondering why Australia (which last year sent 1,128,533 paying guests to Indonesia, overwhelmingly to Bali) is one of only four countries now left off the list for free 30-day tourist visas, here’s a handy brief. Officially, only countries that reciprocate are entitled to free visa status, but of the 90 nations that are now graced with that favour, only 18 return the compliment. The three other countries on the frown list are Andorra (it’s a little patch of ground in the Pyrenees surrounded by France and Spain), Brazil and Libya.

Leaving aside ASEAN states, for which reciprocal free visa entry naturally applies, most of the favoured nations have presumably said something comfortable like “we’ll think about it” or cited the universal mirror response (“we’re looking into it”) when they’ve been asked about reciprocal rights for Indonesian tourists. Australia’s strict entry requirements are well known – from many perspectives they are highly arguable, but that’s beside the point – and Indonesian tourists are probably less likely to choose Australia over other destinations anyway, even if they could.

The free visa denial is plainly political. It flows from a desire to make a point of astonishing banality. It’s a bit like having Sukhoi fighter-bombers fly cover for chartered aircraft transporting Australian prisoners. It’s overkill. They do that so well here too. Just for the record.

One Horse Race

Australia’s iconic Melbourne Cup horse race, held every year on the first Tuesday in November, really was the race that stops a nation this year. A 100-1 outsider was first past the post. Its jockey became the first woman to ride a Melbourne Cup winner. And the horse’s strapper – carer, basically – is the jockey’s brother. He has Down syndrome and demonstrates that people with that condition are fully functional individuals (and often great fun). It’s a story that has it all. It would make a fabulous movie.

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

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Oct. 28, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Peace Off

There is a debate under way over Bali’s branding as a destination. It’s probably less tiring to whicker about that than to act firmly to curb the growing list of demerits that stand in the way of Bali being any sort of destination: rampant and uncontrolled development in the crowded south; official and corporate corruption (“Brown Envelope Island” might be a suitable slogan there); public administration that is a sick joke where it’s not simply absent; environmental degradation and woefully inadequate infrastructure; the disastrous failure to apply common sense (not to mention internationally proven remedies) to the business of suppressing rabies. The list is practically endless.

In that regard, a suggestion from former provincial politician Wayan Puspa Negara reported in the local newspaper Bisnis Bali that “Bali: Endless of Unique” would be an apposite slogan seems worthy of critical examination. As Jack Daniels noted in a recent edition of his Bali Update, the syntax is questionable. We might suggest a modest rewording to correct both the grammar and its accuracy. “Bali: End of Unique” would certainly sum up both the current situation and the banal, continuing march towards despoliation that is a feature of today’s “tourist Bali”. There is nothing unique in cheek-by-jowl hotel developments, the proliferation of trinket megastores designed to relieve low-cost package tourists of the last of their money, the winked-at sex trade, or the shockingly inadequate infrastructure through which we expect tourists to struggle and still have a good time.

Bali’s longstanding slogan is Shanti Shanti Shanti (shanti is a Sanskrit word meaning peace). This properly reflects the island’s unique Hindu culture and the uniqueness of Bali within Indonesia and in the world. But that’s the very thing – the vitally important thing – that is now directly under threat from the tsunami of mismanaged, greed-driven, hubris-laden drives for more and more tourists. It’s not the raw numbers that are necessarily the problem, provided the facilities are there to handle a mass-market approach. It’s the vacuous pursuit of more and more paying guests in the absence of infrastructure to support them that is the poison chalice. Kuta-Legian-Seminyak (and now beyond) is unmanageable. It should never take two hours to travel the 15 kilometres from Canggu to Kuta by road. That it regularly does so is testament to the stupidity of putting the cart before the horse and expecting anything to work.

Slogans are only one part of the equation, of course. They are a double-edged sword and open to abuse. One such slogan, a delightful double entendre that thankfully failed to see the light of day is said to have been once offered (by an Englishman, in distempered jest) to the Scottish tourism authorities. It said “Scotland: You’re Welcome to It”. Bali might need some better marketing, but what it needs even more is better, more sensitive (and sensible) Balinese management. Stay unique is good advice.

Whistle-Blower 

Speaking of Scotland, your diarist recently had the benefit of watching a rugby match in which whoever was the victor he had a rare opportunity to come out a winner. The Australia-Scotland quarterfinal in the 2015 World Rugby Cup was a nail-biter from start to finish, perhaps the best edge-of-the-seat game in years. The margin (to the Scots) at half time was one point. The margin at the final whistle was one point (to the Australians). The Wallabies – on recent form more pointedly known colloquially as the Wobblies – got through to the semi-finals and created a situation in which the semis and the final would be completely a southern hemisphere affair, Argentina’s feisty Pumas having just seen off the Irish.

The circumstances of the Australian win were regrettable however. Two minutes before fulltime Scotland were ahead by two points. There was a Scottish infringement in the scrimmage taking place just out from their try-line. It was penalized, as it should have been, by South African referee Craig Joubert. Except that he awarded a penalty kick to the Australians where a scrum would plainly have been more appropriate. The Australians kicked the goal (worth three points) and won the match.

From a scrum, if Joubert had pondered for a second or two more and decided on that course instead of a penalty, the Australians would have been ideally placed to throw the ball well back, to their best backline kicker, for a field goal attempt. If successful that would have earned them three points and won them the match.

Joubert’s hesitation before awarding the penalty kick was telling – he was clearly very undecided about the level of infringement by the Scots – and he left the field at rather more than a brisk canter when he blew the final whistle as the Australian ball from the place kick flew straight and true through the unmissable uprights. It was a sorry end to a great match.

But hey, rant over. One of the Diary’s sides on the field won.

Heads in the Sand

It’s hard to be an optimist, sometimes. Icarus has always served as an exemplar in that regard. It never does to soar to such lofty heights, even on terrific flights of fancy, that your carefully constructed wings of wax are melted by the sun. Cautious optimism has always seemed a better bet even though this policy should be underpinned by the certainty that neither does it pay to be a pessimist, since that would never work.

We did allow ourselves one little flight of fancy recently, however, when we heard that Governor Zainul Majdi of West Nusa Tenggara had come out against a plan to acquire sand from Lombok to fill in Benoa Bay for private profit. His assertion that he and his generation held the environment of Lombok and Sumbawa in trust for future generations sounded really good. We penciled him in as worthy of note among an exclusive – read: very small – group of Indonesian leaders whose visionary capacity stretched beyond immediate benefit.

Sadly, we have now had to use the eraser. We were mistaken in our assessment. The private profiteer in question, Tomy Winata, tried another tactic when he found himself and his blandishments banished from the Governor’s Palace in Mataram. He took his plans for the exploitative acquisition of massive quantities of West Nusa Tenggara’s environment-in-trust offshore, into the aptly named Alas Strait, where what he wants lies out of sight under water and is protected – if that’s the word – by the much more malleable provisions of national mining regulations. Governor Zainul apparently supports this environmental rape and as a result has lost a large portion of his local hero status. Those who care about the environment and the livelihoods of local fishermen have told him this. They can be counted on to repeat that message at every opportunity.

That’s good news. Ruining one environment so that another one somewhere else may also be ruined might typify the developmental impulse to build undesirable and unnecessary private infrastructure complete with extra kitsch, but that doesn’t make it right. The marine environment of the Alas Strait is worth protecting from all manner of threats. Among these must now be numbered Tomy Winata and Zainul Majdi.

Fragrant Rise

The 2015 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival gets under way today (Oct. 28) with the panache, eclecticism and variety of writers, pundits and performers we have come to expect from Janet DeNeefe’s literary baby, which began life in 2003 as a response to the 2002 Bali bombings and has grown with every annual edition. The UWRF now has a baby sibling, the Ubud Food Festival, which has just announced its dates for 2016. Mark your diaries for May 27-29.

DeNeefe, who operates two restaurants, a bakery and a cooking school in Ubud and who writes about food (her famous foray is a little tome called Fragrant Rice) was recently at the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany, where Indonesia was a special guest and at which she was one of the chefs invited to represent Indonesian cuisine.

This year’s inaugural food festival attracted 6,500 palates seeking temptation. Now that the word has got around, we can be sure there will be more next year. The festival is looking for a fulltime manager whose role would be to coordinate festival staff, look after programming, and handle stakeholders (and of course founders). Applications are open until Nov. 11.

If the job comes with a daily chocolate ration, we might even be tempted to apply.

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

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Oct. 14, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Mynah Triumph

Like the reports relating to the death of Mark Twain – which the gentleman concerned noted were greatly exaggerated – claims that the endangered Bali Starling is again on the verge of extinction in its natural habitat may lack several crucial grades of veracity. It has been claimed that the program to rebuild the bird population in the West Bali National Park has been seriously compromised by poachers. That of course would be no surprise if it were true, Bali and indeed the whole of Indonesia being a place where many social precepts are promiscuously ignored and laws are broken ubiquitously if there’s money in it. In these areas of malfeasance it is very far from being alone, that is true. It is in its attempts to reduce malfeasance, and its real official interest in doing so, that its performance is noticeably risible.

But in this instance, happily, it appears not to be the case. The reported reduction in breeding numbers is based on observation and it has been pointed out that the introduced pairs may simply be in parts of the park where they are not observed by human eyes. Apparently the Bali Starling is as smart as the Bali Dog, which to the chagrin of officials who wish to kill it sensibly runs away when it sees men with nets approaching.

The Bali Starling is indeed a unique bird, not least because it is not a starling at all, but a mynah: Leucopsar rothschildi, locally known as Jalak Bali. It is found in captivity in zoos around the world (there is an introduced population on Nusa Penida too) but of course it should be encouraged to repopulate its natural West Bali environment. The Yokohama Zoo in Japan is working with Bali’s wildlife authorities to re-establish a viable breeding population in the national park.

Dropping the Ball

The 2015 Rugby World Cup competition has turned up a number of surprises. Japan beat South Africa for one thing, in an early group match. It was a fluke, though very instructive of the fact that you must never drop the ball until the final whistle blows. The South Africans were mortified (their coach felt it necessary to apologize to his nation) but they were beaten fairly, in the closing minutes, by some very inventive play and by Japanese determination, a factor that should never be discounted.

The best surprise, however, was that the host nation, England, was eliminated from the Cup before it got out of its group round of matches. Two disastrous losses at Twickenham, its home ground in London, to Wales and Australia, sent it home – or would have done so if it hadn’t already been home – early and shamefully. For the rest of us, of course, it was rather less than an event of such stunning calamity that it required a period of national mourning. It was much more a belly laugh occasion. The words of Sergeant Major Williams in the British TV sitcom It Ain’t Half Hot Mum sprang to mind: Oh dear. How sad. Never mind. It also produced a collector’s item range of memes on social media.

The Diary is a rugby fan, a legacy of an undistinguished school-years experience in which, beneficially for other reasons related to acquiring life skills, we learned while playing in the No. 10 spot – fly-half – the importance of being able to dodge the nuggety bits, the built-of-bricks blokes in the scrum. Off the field these fellows are often very nice chaps, and we are friendly with two of these – they missed out on mauling us on the field by a small matter of geography and two decades – with whom in recent weeks we have shared a few laughs.

One is a very fortunate fellow indeed, whose life circumstances have given him the opportunity to be in England for the Cup. We’d have given our eye teeth to be there too – it’s easy and cheap to get them made and implanted in Bali, after all – except that our own life circumstances required our presence elsewhere. He sent us a very nice photo of the England team bus. The caption with it pointed out to any prospective buyers of this conveyance that it was a bargain because it had only been used twice.

Takes its Toll

Among the many delights of living in Bali is that development policy (yes, it does sound like an oxymoron when you put it like that) seems to consist of flights of fancy. The Governor’s famous round-island slow train delighted us some years ago, and still gets an outing now and then. The latest project to bring a smile to the dial is the toll road proposal that would provide a fast traffic link from the crowded south to the unserviced north and which would wind through the mountains from Tabanan regency to Buleleng.

It’s true that this would be a boon to the north, if it wishes to be overwhelmed by tourists like the south. It’s odds on that it does, since the ubiquitous rule here is to acquire in haste (if someone else pays for it) and forget about repenting at leisure because the future does not yet exist and is therefore something for other people to worry about.

The Rp 35 trillion 125-km toll road would have the additional benefit (apparently) of being the longest in Indonesia, beating the Cipali toll road in West Java by nine crucial kilometres. It would be interesting to see the figures on which the proposed developer, Waskita Toll Road, is basing its commercial return and due diligence.

Behave Yourselves

Seriously, that’s sound advice. Or so it seems. In Aceh, where the Wahhabi shadows hang especially heavily in the air, police have apprehended women who were seen hugging, for reasons that according to some reports include suspected lesbianism. In Jakarta, “world city”, the authorities have placed a midnight curfew on entertainment places. In Bali, police have said they plan to charge a wedding coordinator with blasphemy after a same-sex ceremony was performed at the local focus of valuable pink dollar tourism, the Four Seasons at Sayan, just up the hill from Ubud, where in the name of self-awareness and mental freedom all sorts of Tantric and other sensual experiences may be had. That olfactory unpleasantness in the air is hypocrisy. They do it so well here. Amazingly, this odour is often suppressed temporarily by the aerosol application of magical pocket money.

As we so often find it necessary to state, lest we be accused of western uppity-ness or colonial recidivism, it is for Indonesia to govern itself and administer its society as it wishes. That’s not the issue (we have to say that fairly often too). But the government needs to work out with the Botherers, who are legion and are found everywhere in various forms, whether it wants to maintain the national objective to keep Indonesia as a practising part of the 21st century. If they don’t want to do this, they should say so.

Sands of Time

We read in the very useful Lombok Guide that Tomy Winata’s search for galactic quantities of sand to fill in Benoa Bay for his Excrescence-sur-Mer project has resurfaced, though in a sub-surface way. Having been knocked back by West Nusa Tenggara Governor Zainul Majdi on his plan to strip an East Lombok beach of its natural mineral covering, on very sensible environmental and social grounds, Mr Winata is now proposing to dredge what he wants up from the sea floor in the same general area. This application is under the mining regulations and (at last report) had the support of the Governor whose remit in that area of administration is minimal.

It’s still a very bad idea, both for Lombok – whose environment as Governor Zainul has previously said is held in trust for future generations – and for Bali, which needs more dreadful kitsch and loudly selfish rich like a hole in the head. Benoa Bay is also an environment that, as with every other one (Sumatran and Kalimantan forests for example) should be treated with respect. It’s true that Benoa long ago ceased to be the pristine, mangrove fringed tidal inlet that nature intended. It is now part of the built environment. Like a garden, however, it can be beautiful and retain its natural usefulness to the wider environment.

Protecting the mangroves instead of digging them up and dumping huge quantities of sand in their place would be a good way to do this. Commercial reasons are rarely sufficient argument to destroy something of irreplaceable, inestimable value.

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

HECTOR’S DAIRY Bali Advertiser, Sep. 30, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Rabid Response

An eight-year-old boy from Batur Tengah in Bangli died of rabies in mid-September, and a woman has died in Buleleng from the disease, the latest victims of the seven-year outbreak of the disease in Bali. Their deaths are yet another tragic reminder that the authorities here long ago dropped the ball over rabies, an entirely preventable disease, after making a good start on combating it in 2009-2010.

Sadder still is that the methodology of their anti-rabies campaign is now focused on killing dogs, including vaccinated ones and family pets, instead of on vaccination, humane reduction of numbers through sterilisation, and firm, well resourced community education. Most sadly of all, rabies has become a bureaucratic battleground, a venue for fractious argument, and the latest environment in which the local bureaucratic view that foreigners should just shut up about problems since these problems (which are sometimes presented as not being problems at all) are nothing to do with them.

The sensitive nature of advocacy is well understood among the foreign cohort here that does that sort of thing. They’re not doing it for money, except in the sense of spending it, since there’s very little money to be made in lending a hand. That applies in animal welfare just as much as it does in education, rural and remote health and village infrastructure, and a lot else.

The particular problems of animal welfare groups are well known. They have national licences that govern their establishment and permit them to work in the field. But the provincial and district administrations are responsible for a range of subsidiary permits and permissions, and these of course can be held up at will or withdrawn at a moment’s notice. As was the case with a sterilization and vaccination day held recently in Gianyar regency and funded by the Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA). Public order police shut down the event even though the village concerned had sought that assistance and advised the authorities of this. The nose of the relevant regency factotum was out of joint, apparently.

There’s a rare outbreak of rabies in Penang, an island off the western coast of Malaysia. It is an isolated event involving only a few dogs, and is exactly analogous with Bali’s situation in 2008 since the disease was imported. The authorities there are mass-killing dogs as a result, in the face of protest and advice that this is not the way to go, and yet again in clear breach of effective disease control measures that everyone else knows work very well. Sadly, unless they see sense and work with organisations – including NGOs with runs on the board in terms of animal welfare and health – the result in Penang will be same as in Bali. The disease will spread and people will die.

The bottom line in public health (we’ll keep saying this until someone wakes up) is that rabies is a controllable disease with proper countermeasures and is not a threat in Bali to people who are fully vaccinated against it and who if they are bitten by a suspect animal have the money to obtain the necessary post-exposure booster shots. That excludes the bulk of the Balinese population, for whom such protection is a sick joke. Government clinics often do not have rabies vaccine in stock. Immunoglobulin, the expensive additional necessity in preventing rabies in people who do not have pre-exposure protection, is unobtainable.

It would be wrong to keep silent while the national government looks the other way and the local authorities kill people’s pets and destroy whatever vestiges still exist of the vaccinated dog screen so painstakingly and expensively put in place in 2009-2010. We must again conclude and publicly note that the inmates have escaped and are running the asylum.

A Fond Farewell

Family business has taken The Diary yet again to Western Australia, Bali’s southern suburb. This time it was to farewell the feisty lady whom we long ago dubbed World’s Best Mother-in-Law. It was a sad occasion, of course, as such things always are, but there were lots of laughs as well. The MiL was more dear friend than in-law; moreover, one with a wicked wit which she sometimes allowed herself to let loose on the unsuspecting crowd.

We managed to have a little conversation, she and The Diary, before nature took its inevitable final step. And it was instructive of times past and lovely memories. The MiL, aside from being a gentle jokester when the feeling was upon her, was an inveterate traveller and shopper including in Bali, where she has Balinese friends. She was also responsible for the marriage that has sustained The Diary through three decades. She arrived in Port Moresby in 1982 – The Diary and the would-be Distaff were living there at the time – with a wedding cake and a bridesmaid and it would have been such a shame to waste the cake.

There was one outstanding question to which The Diary had always sought an answer. Not about the wedding (the cake was fabulous) but about an incident in Vanuatu a decade later. We were holidaying there, The Diary, the Distaff and the MiL, and one day hired a little sailboat, a catamaran, for a breezy self-sail tour of the Erakor lagoon. The breeze faded to nothing shortly afterwards, leaving us becalmed mid-lagoon. The Diary knew that sooner or later a boat would motor out and retrieve us, but as time passed the feeling grew strongly that the MiL would really like The Diary to get out of the boat into the chest-deep water and push the boat back to base. The Diary did not do this, for Erakor lagoon is where barracuda breed and toes seemed more important than timeliness.

In our last little chat, the day she died, The Diary made a final attempt to secure an answer as to the MiL’s wishes on that long-gone day, helped along by a warmly firm squeeze of the hand. The hint of a wicked smile appeared. So now we know. Farewell, feisty lady. You’re a trouper.

No Sax Please, We’re Closed

We’ve been going to The Jazz Café Ubud since, well, forever, so it was very sad to hear that it closed its doors for the last time on Sep. 19. The last night was quite a party, it seems, and that’s fitting indeed for an Ubud institution and a place where fine musical fare was available in a great jazz atmosphere.

It won’t have been making money, since it was a place where regulars were apt to drop in and sit on a single drink all evening – they were there for the music of course, but such is the focused self interest of many that the commercial viability of the establishments they frequent is at most secondary matter to them. There are other places in Ubud to listen to jazz, but none we know of that comes even close to The Jazz Café.

Musical Chairs

It used to be said, not least by Australians themselves, that Australian politics were both parochial and boring. It has lost the boring part of things – for those who enjoy such shenanigans anyway – in recent years with the development of mid-term party room coups that unseat prime ministers and install in their place a rival contender.

The Labor Party started this curious art form, when it saw off Kevin Rudd and installed Julia Gillard before then uninstalling Gillard and screwing Rudd back into the socket as its preferred light on the hill. It has now spread to the Liberal Party, the larger part of the conservative coalition that has run Australia since the national elections in 2013. Tony Abbott, who was a good opposition leader but for most observers a poor and uncommunicative prime minister, had his Julius Caesar moment on Sep. 14. He was replaced by Malcolm Turnbull, a lawyer and merchant banker, whose social views are less restrictive and far less prescriptive and whose economic advocacy may turn out to be both more palatable and of better effect than that of his predecessor. Time will tell.

It was good to see that Julie Bishop remained foreign minister and Andrew Robb trade minister in the cabinet changes. Political diplomacy requires a mannered and quiet approach.

Feeling Bookish

The 2015 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival kicks off today (Sep. 30). It is a firm fixture in Bali’s festival calendar, puts our island firmly in the international spotlight, and promotes Indonesian writing to a very wide audience indeed. It is an annual event that is not to be missed.

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

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