8degreesoflatitude

THINGS THAT INTEREST, ENGAGE AND ENRAGE

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Oct. 15, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Probability Prabowo

People seem to be somewhat exercised over the coalition that failed presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto has fashioned in the national legislature. Why this should be so is an interesting question. Indonesia is far from alone in being a democratic entity in which rival political constituencies vie for supremacy between the executive head of state and the popular assembly, sometimes with questionable people at one or the other helm. It has been a function of republican governance from ancient Rome to modern Washington.

Prabowo seeks to undermine and effectively sideline the power of the incoming president, who to his apparently still extant surprise is not himself. It’s certain that Joko Widodo will have his work cut out to lead from the Istana Negara while the Prabowo faction holds sway in the legislature.

This is not entirely novel anywhere, including in Indonesia. What makes the situation unique here is that party politics is fluid, and fully dysfunctional, rather than fully formed and in working order. Political parties have labels and compete for attention in the public space, but on the basis of their leading members’ personalities and personal desires rather than hard-worked policy. They all sing the same song, but it is a discordant one, sung in a thousand self absorbed voices. Everyone’s heard it countless times, the useless anthem Saya Pertama.

In this fractious melange, bit players come to the fore. Such as the Islamic Defenders Front, or PKI; it’s an outfit that specializes in being beside itself with rage and which literally gets away with murder. The PKI isn’t lawfully registered but no one will confront it. It doesn’t represent mainstream Indonesian opinion, but all it has to do – figuratively speaking – is drop its pants in public and everyone swoons. It parades its goon squads wherever it wants and thumbs its nose at the constitution, the law, public order and common sense, and has never heard of human rights. In this it has been aided and abetted by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (who leaves office on Oct. 20), who can only be a closet sympathizer or else feel compelled to push the funk button every time a thick-headed fundamentalist mouths his way into view.

Its latest campaign is to unseat the Indonesian Chinese Christian governor-designate of Jakarta – Jokowi’s former deputy, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known by his diminutive, Pak Ahok – because it says Muslims shouldn’t be governed by an infidel. Never mind Pancasila, then. Forget about the plurality that was the foundation stone of Indonesia’s independence and the recognized religions enshrined in the constitution. Overlook the fact that people need services, good governance and incorruptibility rather more than episodic repertory performances by Rent-a-Mob. The FPI seems to want to shift Indonesia two or three time zones to the west, where its mind-set, preferred dress codes, misogyny and bully-boy tactics are all the rage. It doesn’t matter to them that Indonesians, overwhelmingly and very sensibly, have no such desire.

At the formal political level, however, Indonesians should not yet be too alarmed by Prabowo’s indistinct grasp of democratic principle or the astonishing luminosity that he seems to believe attaches to his self-proclaimed stellar position. All politics are compromise. The precipitate decision to de-legislate direct elections at local level, a bill SBY supinely signed into law on Oct. 7, is a foolish step too far. Even generals have to keep the troops happy.

A Fine Send-Off

This year’s Ubud Writers and Readers Festival has come and gone – the first in seven years that the Diary has had to miss – and it was sent on its way in fine style on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 4 and 5, by some great Australian music.

The Oct. 5 closing extravaganza featured musicians ALPHAMAMA (Anita Meiruntu) and Ben Walsh. We’re really sad to have missed that. Meiruntu’s original music and passion constantly pushes the boundaries of creative expression. She’s popular in Indonesia, where she has recently toured.

Walsh is one of Australia’s most accomplished percussionists, performers and composers. He has been touring professionally since he was 18 and has made music for dance performances, the circus and film. At the UWRF closing show he performed with a number of local percussionists. By all accounts it was an explosion of creativity.

The Saturday and Sunday performances at Ubud’s ARMA Museum were supported by the Australian Embassy Jakarta as part of its Arts and Cultural Program 2014. Ambassador Greg Moriarty said of Sunday’s finale: “The talent and musical depths of both artists showcase the best of what contemporary Australia can offer and I hope the musical collaborations created during this festival will further strengthen the cultural understanding and creative connections between our two countries.”

On the Saturday there was a performance of Ontosoroh by Australian dancer and choreographer Ade Suharto and Indonesian vocalist and composer Peni Candra Rini. Suharto and Rini have been working closely over the past two years to create Ontosoroh, which tells the story of the heroic female lead Nyai Ontosoroh in the Indonesian literary classic, This Earth of Mankind, by Pramoedyah Ananta Toer.

This Australian-Indonesian collaboration explores feminine strength and the struggle for freedom.

The embassy’s Arts and Cultural Program 2014, which began in March and ends next month, includes music, visual art exhibitions, dance, literature, textiles, sport and a science and innovation seminar series. The program also includes arts residencies and exchanges involving artists from both countries.

Cliff-Top Fantasia

The lovely people at AYANA and RIMBA, whose fireworks displays so often entertain us gratis at The Cage where they light up our horizon and shortly thereafter set the local dogs barking when the sound waves hit, have introduced a new cliff-top venue, SKY.

It opened on Oct. 10 with the sort of swell party we’ve come to expect from those in charge of the plush acres on the Jimbaran end of the Bukit. Opening night was themed Kahyangan, White Beauty at Sky. The venue caters for up to 80 people on the cliff-edge deck, up to 2,000 on the lawn, offers an amphitheatre seating up to 80, and was designed by St. Legere International. It is being marketed as a great spot for weddings and special events – and comes complete with a special panoramic seat on which you can get yourself photographed with the cliff-top vista in the background.

The opening featured the full repertoire of son et lumiere – yes, including fireworks – for which the property is renowned and was MC’d by Denada, the well-known former rapper and Dangdut singer.

Sinking Fund

Celia Gregory, the British underwater sculptor and the Diary’s favourite mermaid, tells us of an interesting crowd-funding scheme for her Marine Foundation’s living sculptures in the sea program. They’re chasing GBP 4,000 (that’s around Rp 78.5 million) to pay for a film being made on Aspara, their most recent sculpture.

Apsara will be sunk into her underwater home in Jemaluk Bay at Amed, East Bali, on Oct. 22 where three village communities with the help of Reef Check Indonesia and CORAL are working to establish effective marine management and become guardians to their coral garden and fish nursery preserving its well-being for future generations.

Gregory says the art work is inspired by the Apsaras, ancient Hindu spirits who are very beautiful and wonderful dancers that in many ways have qualities similar to the Greek fables of the sirens and mermaids. The sculpture has been designed to provide a hiding place for fish and a solid surface for corals and sea creatures to settle. The Sinking of the Apsara into the underwater coral and fish garden is seen as a unique creative opportunity to make an inspirational and uplifting short film.

It would also help promote Amed and Bali, which is a worthwhile project in itself.

When we checked on Oct. 7, our deadline day, the funding site was saying they’d raised GBP1,128, which is 28 per cent of their target. The campaign closes on Oct. 30.

Go here if you’d like to help: indiegogo.com/projects/apsara-spirits-of-the-sea

Get Walking

Just a reminder that this year’s Bali Pink Ribbon Walk against breast cancer is on Oct. 25. It’s in the walk-friendly environment of the Nusa Dua tourism precinct, the manicured bit behind the security gates. It’s a great cause and the Diary’s one day of the year for wearing pink. Full details are on the web at balipinkribbon.com. The Bali Advertiser is a sponsor.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Oct. 1, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

A Zesty Little Soup, Again

This year’s Ubud Writers and Readers Festival kicks off today without the assistance of V.S. Naipaul, the Tolstoy of Trinidad, who withdrew from the program last month apparently dissatisfied with the quantum of perquisites set to come his way. Never mind. There are plenty of other entertainingly literary minds involved in the festival, the eleventh. Most of them aren’t gold pass members of the Figjam Club.

This year’s theme, Saraswati: Wisdom & Knowledge, is an exploration of the wisdom to be gained by creative expression. The festival is fielding more than 150 writers from 25-plus countries, including a great line-up of Indonesian talent. Goenawan Mohamad, intellectual Azyumardi Azra, art patron Agung Rai and Festival favourites Debra Yatim, Ahmad Fuadi and Ketut Yuliarsa are on the list, as well as Sacha Stevenson, the How to act Indonesian YouTube hit sensation.

Made Wijaya will make an appearance. It’s good to see the Seer of Sanur out and about. He’s no stranger to paradise, after all, and he’s always good for a giggle. The festival organizers declare him to be Truman Capote with a machete. Such a shame then that we shan’t actually be present: People tell us we do a great Stephen Fry with a sharp s-s-stick.

Prizewinning Hassan Blasim (Independent Foreign Fiction Prize); Eimear McBride (Baileys Women’s Prize) and Cyrus Mistry (2014 DSC Prize) and the Scottish queen of crime writing and creator of the TV series Wire in the Blood Val McDermid will be sampling the mists of Ubud. Novelist Amitav Ghosh and Pulitzer Prize-finalist Deborah Baker are on the program and will also lead an exclusive post-Festival Komodo Islands cruise.

Also on board are avant-garde Asian fiction writers Can Xue from China and Minae Mizumura from Japan. Former UN Representative in Sudan Mukesh Kapila; frontline journalist Pallavi Aiyar; author of The Wisdom of Whores and Indonesia etc Elizabeth Pisani; and Polish editor and journalist Adam Michnik are providing the human rights and social comment diet. And on the environmental front there’s Keibo Oiwa, Nadya Hutagalung and Willie Smits, among others. It will be a good show.

One of the book launches is especially timely. Darwin, by Tess Lea, captures the essence of Australia’s northern capital. Her Darwin is a hybrid creation: part social history, part anthropological study, part personal memoir. Lea captures the city’s violent beginnings, its battles with the elements, the press of the heat and humidity, its wondrous multiculturalism, its beauty and its policy foibles.

The book launch is free and is at The Elephant, Hotel Taman Indrakila, Jl Raya Sanggingan, from 4.30-6pm tomorrow (Oct. 2). This year is the 40th anniversary of Cyclone Tracy, which all but obliterated Darwin on Christmas Day, 1974.

 

Resource KA-boom

Meanwhile, a few hundred post-iconic rice field views away to the east from Ubud where foreign navel-gazers have taken over the place to commune with themselves, ruminate over their macrobiotic diets, wicker about saving the world, and imagine they’re experiencing the real Bali, lies Bangli, where suspension of belief takes on another form.

Anthropologist-journalist and long-term Indonesia-watcher Graeme MacRae had a disturbing piece from his blog in the online Indonesia Weekly in mid-September, about the Wild West-style despoliation of Bali. He wrote this:

A few weeks ago, I drove up the Sidemen road, famous since the 1930s as one of the most beautiful in Bali. I would have taken it slowly anyway, to enjoy the views, but I had no choice. Around 200 trucks were coming the other way, down from the mountains, overloaded with sand, gravel and rock.

Where were they coming from? Where were they going to?

They come from quarries on the slopes of the sacred mountain Agung. They are headed where everything else is headed: into the hundreds of hotel, villa and other construction projects. Most are in Bali’s coastal resorts, but some are on rice fields around the sprawling urban area of Denpasar/Kuta.

A few days later, I meet a similar procession coming down the other sacred mountain, Batur. This time I learn a bit more. Every day, from before dawn till after dusk, at least 1500 overloaded trucks grind their way painfully up out of the crater, stopping on the way to offload excess weight.

Down in the caldera, amid what is left of a rich but delicate ecosystem of wild grasses and orchids which feed off volcanic ash among spectacular fields of black lava, lies one of the far outposts of the global resource economy.

Piles of black gravel line the narrow road around the caldera floor. Alongside it are makeshift shelters under which men and women shovel gravel through large sieves into piles of finer sand. When the sieving is done, they flag down a truck and load it by hand. Signs invite trucks into a hinterland of even narrower dirt tracks where more piles are waiting. Each hamlet the trucks pass through shares in the boom by levying its own little toll.

There’s a lot more to MacRae’s piece than that, of course. But it exactly describes the dilemma that faces Bali, one that is rooted in over-development, incapable administration, local lawlessness and unmet (and impossible) expectations.

Never mind that Agung and Batur are sacred. Forget that Batur is UN heritage listed. Overlook the fact that the scene of its despoliation is slap bang in the middle of a brand new Geopark.

Batur is in the Panjandrumistan of Bangli (we know it more formally as Kabupaten Bangli and more familiarly as the regency of the same name). Like so many other little district council areas in Indonesia, it runs at its own pace – with regal distain and glacial slowness unless acquisition of money has piqued interest – and operates by its own set of impenetrably circular rules.

MacRae’s “Wild West” description is colourful. But it’s inaccurate. The Sioux, the Cheyenne, the Crow, the Ute, the Apache, the Navaho and all the other nations that made up the indigenous humanity of the American West didn’t despoil their country themselves. Outsiders came in and did it for them.

Here in Bali, the indigenous population is busily wrecking the joint do-it-yourself-style.

 

Oh Yes, We Know it Well

A smile briefly creased the lips the other day when Jack Daniels’ inestimable Bali Update told us this, in relation to the proposed pedestrian underpass at the airport traffic circle to enable people to visit the park wherein one of the many monumental remembrances of local hero I Gusti Ngurah Rai stands, Ozymandias-style, surveying its domain:

“The statue and the surrounding park area are deemed suitable for public recreation but are made inaccessible to the public by four lanes of heavy traffic that continually circle the area.”

We’ve often thought that the chaotic traffic there is caused precisely by vehicles that continually circle the area. They might perhaps be trying to change lanes, though that’s unlikely. In Bali you just barge in. They’re probably just trapped, poor things.

The plan to build the Rp 3.7 billion underpass is in doubt because the Ministry of Public Works in Jakarta, the formal owner of the non-monumental infrastructure involved, has yet to say it’s OK.

 

Homeward Bound

For two decades long ago Britain’s longest-published weekly journal of affairs and politics, The Spectator, had a wonderful columnist whose name was Jeffrey Bernard. He was among the last of the Soho Set, a roué in the full sense of the term. He was a dreadful sot and as a result was frequently absent in the latter part of his 21 years with the magazine. “Jeffrey Bernard is unwell” became a line one looked for whenever one bought a copy of the magazine and searched for his column. Quite understandably it was called Low Life. He liked a rant and did it well. He ceased ranting in 1997, aged only 55.

Nominated in one newspaper obituary as his own Boswell, he ranted so well that Keith Waterhouse wrote a play about him and Peter O’Toole starred in a made-for-TV movie filmed at the Old Vic in London.

There have been times over the past four months when Hector has entertained the passing fancy that he too could be unwell. It does carry a certain cachet, after all, being vicariously included in such errantly distinguished company as Bernard’s. But we resisted the temptation. There are many we would have disappointed by non-appearance, we reasoned, the legions of Advertiser readers who turn to Hector’s Diary and utter their fortnightly imprecation: “What on earth is he on about this time?”

We’re due to be home in Bali by the time the next Advertiser hits the streets. It’s been a very long time between drinks.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter

 

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Sep. 17, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

In the Picture

Myuran Sukumaran, the British-born Australian who has been on death row in Kerobokan Jail for eight years awaiting a firing squad for his leading part in the infamous 2005 Bali Nine drug smuggling case, has been on show in Melbourne. Well, his art has, at an exhibition at the Matthew Sleeth Studio in inner suburban Brunswick on Sept. 6.

Sukumaran, who says his art has helped give him a sense of self-control in prison, has worked hard to rehabilitate himself while his various appeals against his death sentence have worked their way through the Indonesian court system. His final plea for clemency now rests unanswered in the presidential office, where in the near-dead-duck closing stages of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s term not even the paperwork can be bothered to shuffle. The famous last words of the 19th century Australian criminal Ned Kelly, “Such is life”, come to mind. They are both a parable of Sukumaran’s own sorry record and an allegorical reference for SBY’s presidency.

Some people say criminals such as Sukumaran and the leading lights of the Bali Nine gang deserve no sympathy. But an eye for eye is neither a moral precept nor a sensible social response. Further, judicial killing is still killing. Two wrongs will never make a right. Policymakers everywhere should remember that.

One of the aims of a corrective prison system is to rehabilitate inmates. Sukumaran established the prisoner art scheme in Kerobokan. He has talent, as his work shows, and has plainly responded well to mentoring by Australian artists Ben Quilty – whose portrait of the painter Margaret Olley won the Archibald Prize in 2011 and who was the official Australian war artist in Afghanistan – and visual artist Sleeth. Both have been working with the Kerobokan art group for two years.

The 20 Sukumaran works shown in Melbourne were all for sale, at prices several floors above bargain basement. They are eye-catching – and conscience-gripping – works which among other things feature portraits of SBY and Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa and his Australian counterpart, Julie Bishop. Funds raised from sales of his paintings went to support the Kerobokan art project.

That project is ongoing with the support of local interests – and the indomitable Lizzie Love. Good show!

Seal of Approval

BIMC Hospital at Nusa Dua has won Australian Council on Healthcare Standards (ACHS) accreditation, the first hospital in Indonesia to receive recognition that its standards meet those set within Australia by the country’s leading independent authority on health care. The award was made in July after three assessors form Australia and Hong Kong spent three days reviewing the care and standards at BIMC Nusa Dua and commended the team on the quality of care and service.

This year BIMC linked with the Lippo Group and its Siloam hospitals in a major move to bring western standard health and hospital care within reach of more and more Indonesians. BIMC Nusa Dua is targeting the broadening market in medical tourism with a suite of specialties. These include cosmetic medicine, state of the art orthopaedic treatments and a dialysis centre that can cater for tourists who require regular sessions.

Executive chairman of BIMC Siloam, Craig Beveridge, said of ACHS accreditation that “[It] sends a clear message to the community that BIMC Nusa Dua, its management and staff, are committed to excellence in health care with a strong and continuous focus on safety, quality and performance. I would like to commend all involved.”

Beveridge is justifiably proud of his establishment’s achievement. He says this: “We believe our patients deserve the best. Going through the process challenged us to find better ways to serve our patients, and it is a constant reminder that our responsibility is to strive to continuously improve the quality of care we provide.”

As the leading independent authority on the measurement and implementation of quality improvement systems for Australian health care facilities, the ACHS provides assessment of the development of health care standards through consultation with industry by which quality of care may be assessed and a survey of health care organizations on a voluntary basis using these standards. This is done by peer review.

It also has an Australian national education program to help in preparing for accreditation; offers advice and consultation on health care programs; has information services on quality in health care; and offers electronic assessment tools to assist in recording data.

There is a rigorous process of external peer review to meet world class standards for patient care; performance outcomes that provide data for benchmarking throughout the health care system; and measures to improve outcomes of care and respect for the individual.

It also puts BIMC prominently on the marketing map. That’s no bad thing.

Throwing Petrol on the Fire

It’s surprisingly difficult to get arrested in Indonesia for crimes such as corruption or bare-faced incitement to murder. But try “defaming” someone with clout, real or imagined, and you can swiftly end up in the pokey. That’s what happened to an unfortunate young woman student at Yogyakarta’s Gadjah Mada University after she ran into an intemperate queue at a petrol station – a queue formed in the crucible of the government’s unsustainable subsidy scheme – and bleated about it in a social media post.

She said that Yogyakarta was poor, stupid and uncultured and suggested friends in Jakarta and Bandung should avoid the place. Her post on Path went viral, in the patois of the text message age, and numbers of self-elected luminaries decided to be really, really pissed off about it. She was first subjected to online bullying (we get some ourselves from time to time: we find that a virtual knee in the goolies deters further assault) and then a precious group – oops, sorry, pressure group – called Jati Sura reported her to police for defamation. Astonishingly, defamation is a criminal offence in Indonesia. Pricking balloons and puncturing egos is a threat to the state, it seems.

The young woman apologized in the grovelling way one has to do that here and the little storm blew itself out without upsetting too many teacups. But it’s such a shame that there appears to be no provision for someone with rank in the police to stamp on such silly overreactions before yet another seriously embarrassing comedic opportunity is generated.

Silly Question

Speaking of social media, Ubud fixture Annie Canham had this to say on Facebook the other day: “Just a question … why are there now so many dog rescue people, shelters, beach feeders, sterilisation groups and more…but from my personal observations they don’t seem to be connected at all … seems crazy … why can’t they be one united group, sharing facilities, drugs, equipment food and most of all donations…”

She got an answer (of sorts) from someone called Nyoman Sugirawan, who said Canham surely knew the answer and why was she asking it again.

There are of course many reasons for separate efforts, including differences of emphasis (and intellectual value). But the general point is a good one. As we’ve noted before several times, there are more than enough needy dogs around to occupy any number of animal welfare groups. It would make sense to work together in a planned and organized way, in a spirit of mutual recognition. Turf wars are tedious.

Back Home to a Curate’s Egg

Blogger extraordinaire Vyt Karazija returned to Bali earlier this month – and to a more regular diet of social media posts – with two bits of intelligence to hand. In the manner of the apocryphal curate’s egg, some of this was bad and some of it good. On the demerit side of the oeuf, he found that after a spell in Melbourne using an Australian SIM card in his Telkomsel phone his Indonesian SIM wouldn’t work and that several other cyber difficulties also apparent.

On the merit side, he tells us the much valued and essential Multiple Exit Re-entry Permit is now valid for the full 12 months of your KITAS instead of the bureaucratic nightmare 11 months that has been the unbelievable practice until now.

You win some, you lose some.

Lit., Glit and Otherwise

Next edition’s Diary will appear on the opening day of Janet DeNeefe’s annual lit-glit festival in Ubud. This year, unfortunately, a date with another event in Australia and some further time necessarily to be spent in the Special Biosphere afterwards will deprive us of an opportunity to be present to ooh and aah with the in-crowd.

We got a little note from DeNeefe in our mailbox on Sep. 10, telling us that at three weeks out there was plenty of excitement building in Ubud for the Oct. 1-5 Festival. All the details of the 200 events at 54 venues were on line and the program book was making its way from Jakarta to Bali. Hopefully this was not by camel train.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Sep. 3, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

  

Welcome to Bali, Far Queue

We keep hearing about the new model management at Ngurah Rai International Airport. About this beneficence we can only say that it will be good if the promissory notes it is issuing and that denote improved service have actual as opposed to notional value. It’s not clear that anyone should risk turning blue in the face while holding their breath awaiting these developments, however.

There are so many things. The rude entrapment of departing passengers in a maze of duty free shops is but one. You can’t get from passport control to anywhere you’d want to be without running the gauntlet of shop girls desperate to separate you from your money. Far more important and even more irritating is the security check shemozzle before you even get into the airport building. It’s a circus.

That’s when you’re trying to leave the Bali. It’s worse when you’re trying to arrive, especially if you’re a visa-on-arrival passenger. It’s an insult that anyone should have to stand in a horrendous queue to buy a visa and then join the tail end of another melee to get a passport officer to stamp it. It can sometimes take four hours. Welcome to Bali – Not.

It should be noted that staffing of passport control desks is a function not of the airport authority but of the government, but surely someone must have noticed that if there are 2000 incoming passengers from planes that all seem to have managed to land at once, four passport officers at the desks is hardly enough. Rosters, anyone? Perhaps the airport authority might mention this to someone, somewhere (possibly even in the Istana Negara) if it would like to encourage passengers to continue to arrive in line with their revenue forecasts. Perhaps it has. If so, this would be nice to know.

If you survive this tedious circuit of paper-shuffling, Indonesian style (why give one person a simple job when you can give it to four and complicate it beyond measure?) and the next queue for the baggage scanning, and make it to the exit, the rapacious taxi monopoly is then waiting for you. Or not. If it’s after midnight because you’ve been held up in the queue to get in, that particular piratical crew might well have gone home.

 

Give ’Em a Wave

ROLE Foundation Bali put on a Waterman’s’ Benefit Night on Aug. 30. We’d have been there but for the displacement factor: we’re still in Australia at the moment. The Grand Prize was indeed grand. Padang Padang 8″2′ Doris Gun Surf Board + 13 Night Surf Boat Trip on Doris’ Ship ‘The Raja Elang’, Mentawai, Sumatra Organizer Sean Cosgrove billed it thus: Padang Padang 8″2′ Doris Gun Surf Board + 13 Night Surf Boat Trip on Doris’ Ship ‘The Raja Elang’, Mentawai, Sumatra.

Doris is of course Tony Eltherington, a good bloke indeed and a man you can rely on to lend a hand in any circumstances, however difficult. He is memorialized in many places, including at InSalt, the little surfers’ warung on the Balangan road at Ungasan, where a burger has been named after him. InSalt is the nearest local eatery to The Cage. The Doris Day burger is OK. The mie goreng is too. And the music is cool.

The raffle prizes at the Aug. 30 show – the Doris special included – were all top-notch. The money raised was to benefit the Soul Surf Project, a non-profit organisation that helps underprivileged orphans in Bali experience the thrill of surfing by providing lessons as a means to grow awareness of the environment to keep the sea and beaches clean. Party-goers performed a public service as well as enjoying themselves.

It was at Old Man’s, Batu Bolong. Along with awards, great prizes and an auction, there were live sets by Hydrant and the Mangrooves. 

 

Hanging with an Old Friend

Made Kaek is an artist of exceptional talent, something that was happily revealed to The Diary and Distaff nearly a decade and a half ago on an early holiday trip to Bali. This discovery resulted in the purchase of two of his 2001 works which then travelled to Queensland, Australia, where they hung, much loved by ourselves and frequently admired by friends, in our house in Brisbane.

When four years later we subjected our lives to a sea change and shifted domicile to share Western Australia and Bali on a sort of extended and largely informal fly-in fly-out basis, the Made Kaek paintings went into storage along with the rest of our art. Nomads don’t generally travel with a collection in their baggage.

Now, however, with the retirement of some other works at the premises, they have found another wall to hang on, at the place in Busselton (it’s conveniently close to many fine wineries) that functions as our Australian home. Among the works now adorning the walls are the two Made Kaek pieces.

Since 2001 Made Kaek’s work has developed in style and presentation, and in some ways genre. This has taken it beyond his earlier form. He regularly produces work that one would covet were it not a sin to do so, in all three religions of the Book and most others. And buy, if one’s wallet were as flush as it was in former times.

There’s a school of thought – it seems to owe some of its genesis to the irritating post-colonial counter-cringe that gets underfoot in Bali and the rest of Indonesia, as it does in so many places – that suggests contemporary Balinese artists face a challenge in defining the relationship between their traditional cultural heritages and being a modern artist. According to the Balinese anthropologist Degung Santika (surely writing tongue in cheek) this is probably part of the “burden” of being Balinese.

It’s true that outsiders often expect the Balinese to conform to stereotypes that don’t fit their individual characters. It’s true too that in the West most of the exhibitions of non-Western artists are in ethnological museums rather than museums of modern art. But these are Western problems, “outsider” problems, not Balinese ones.

Made Kaek and other modern Balinese artists rise above their cultural roots but continue to acknowledge their heritage. Made Kaek’s art might owe as much to New York City’s graffiti artists as it does to Balinese ritual and religion, but modern art is trans-cultural, globalized, and increasingly anarchic. He does his very well indeed.

 

Heading for a Crunch

Speaking of the art of anarchy, the continuing expansion of condotels in Bali provides a prime example (unfortunately not pretty) of the wilful way in which developers and governments – at all levels – ignore both reality and their own future fiscal security. Planning laws are a joke, where they aren’t just a mess. Regents, doubtless citing the panjandrum clause that apparently makes them and their local districts functionally independent of the province within which their little bailiwick is located, approve hotels and other accommodation houses with gay abandon.

Governors, whose spatial planning regulations are routinely ignored, climb on the bandwagon and back mad schemes such as the filling in of more bits of Benoa Harbour to build more tourist-attracting facilities. At central government level, environmental laws are more notional than national.

In Bali, focus of most of Indonesia’s high-throughput tourism trade, the inability of existing or “planned future” infrastructure to match demand is plain to see, even by Blind Freddy. Oversupply of visitor accommodation is foolish. It is a way to lose money and markets. Not in the immediate future, of course; though that is exactly where planning falls apart in Bali. No one thinks beyond the current calendar or visualizes over the horizon.

Recent reports indicate that there are 5000 Condotel units already operating in Bali with another 8000 entering the market over the next few years.  A study by Cushman & Wakefield Indonesia points to coming pressures on value of properties. It’s true that everything has its price. The problem is an oversupplied market sets prices below return levels for investors.

A timely warning on another aspect of Bali’s one-egg-in-one-basket dollar economy – tourism – again makes the point that the push for more and more tourists is counterproductive since it will devalue the product.

The chairman of the Indonesian Tourism Association (GIPI), Ida Bagus Ngurah Wijaya, said recently that Bali’s past success was no guarantee of continued performance. He fears that Bali’s reputation may be on the downturn because of the emphasis over the past three to four years on becoming a bargain destination.

He has a point. Premium and bargain are generally terms that are mutually exclusive.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Aug. 20, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Trash Can be Beautiful

A month or so back we dropped in on a Green Drinks meeting in Ubud organized by organic food guru and long-time Ubud luminary Darsih Gede. It was an interesting and inspiring occasion. The presentation was on the then forthcoming Bali Creative Reuse Centre and its plans to engage children, their parents and their communities in finding innovative ways to recycle trash.

The centre opened in late July (it’s at Jl Bisma 53). Its goal is to collect waste from local businesses, schools and families and package these in activity kits or sold in bulk to teachers and families. The message is that trash is a valuable resource to reuse for art and as learning materials.

That message is being delivered by Eka, a local teacher who is running the centre, and American volunteer Renee. The centre supports local Indonesian artists and organizations with workshops on the artistic and practical value of recycled trash and acts as a resource centre. It supports local schools and community programs offering arts programs reusing their trash and helping them find resources to support environmentally safer ways to dispose of their waste.

A website is being developed. They have also just finished their first teacher workshop at Dyatmika and are designing a recycled materials space for them.  The aim is for this to become a model to replicate in other schools and villages to promote creativity and inspiration to use trash as a medium to produce useful products and eye-catching art.

Eka has augmented her teacher qualifications by training at the Bali Environmental Training Centre (PPLH) in Denpasar and is teaching children in villages to use plastic for weaving and crocheting to make bags and other functional products they can sell.  She has also met Bali Recycling to inform local villagers about ways they can recycle and get money for their trash.

An open day is planned for Sep. 7. This would be a great opportunity for all segments of the community to have a look at the innovative programs the centre offers. Trash is everyone’s business, after all.

It would be good to see other not-for-profit organizations in Ubud getting aboard this great civic and educational initiative. There’s nothing to beat cooperative engagement.

 

In General, Not a Good Idea

Former General Prabowo Subianto has made a bit of a mess of losing the presidential election. It seems that everyone other than himself is to blame for the fact that he failed to win the support of more Indonesians than his opponent, president-elect Joko Widodo.

Perhaps on Aug. 17, Independence Day, he might have found time to reflect on reality. In a democratic election the candidate who wins most votes is elected. Prabowo either can’t add up or doesn’t want to. It’s not as if he was beaten narrowly. The margin was wide enough to make a declaration of a result beyond the reach of anything other than a most inventive challenge.

Independence Day celebrates Indonesia’s nationhood and the 69 years of history that now stands on the record. Prabowo played a small part in some of that history, as a military man. He’s entitled to run for civil office. He’s not entitled to claim he was robbed of a victory that he plainly didn’t win. Civil society and democratic elections do not run on a military command basis.

He can try again next time, if he wants. A sensible appreciation of Indonesian politics and the voting figures this time shows clearly that Joko Widodo will have to accommodate a spectrum of views and policy positions, including those espoused by Prabowo’s party, which says it seeks a greater Indonesia.

That’s practical democracy. It is also the Indonesian way. It’s just not a good idea to ignore facts, even if (actually, especially if) you’re a retired general who was drummed out of the army under a cloud.

 

We Are Not Amused

American Bali muse Susi Johnston, who lives at Mengwi in a villa someone else has been trying to seize for their own enrichment, is in more trouble. This time someone has poisoned her pet dog and beloved cat in – on the evidence she presents – a carefully planned and deliberate manner. It might just be a case of VBS – Vindictive Bastard Syndrome, which like dengue and a lot of other avoidable endemic disorders is widespread in Bali – but given the history of her case that seems unlikely.

There are several aspects of her situation that are profoundly disturbing. They are worrisome for other long-term expatriate residents who contribute to the wider life of the island and whose presence directly benefits the Balinese and other Indonesians they pay or otherwise support.

Johnston has endured a lengthy campaign to remove her from the villa she shared with her Italian husband Bruno Piazza, who died in 2011 and whose name was on the nominee agreement. It has involved threats, break-ins and raids by thugs on the premises; detention by police pending “investigations”; a court process that has been stymied at every turn; and sundry other molestations that only the truly mean-spirited or graspingly acquisitive would visit on a widow. She assumes, with what seems to be good reason, that the pet poisoning is the latest incident in this lengthy round of bastardry.

In such circumstances the fainter of heart might simply mutter “this is not to be borne” and move someplace else where the rule of law, the principles of basic justice and common sense apply. But Johnston’s not a quitter. Bali is where she has made her life. The “system”, such as it is, should recognize that.

 

Revealing Fatwa

The roving eye was caught the other day by news that the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) has issued a fatwa against women teaming the jilbab with “tight” clothing below the neck. Apparently its fatwa proscribing pornography (as defined by Islamic leaders) also means Muslim women should not show the shape of the body.

It’s true – as we’ve noted before – that some of the more excessive revelations made possible by modern western fashions are over the top. It’s not quite clear how or why painted-on jeans and bust-enhancing tops are pornographic, though we concede they must be dreadfully uncomfortable to wear.

Modern Islamic fashion for women is in its own way highly decorative, and that’s good. Seeing women primarily as sexual objects is a male disease, a genetic disposition that should have dropped off the scope very shortly after Urk, Gurk and the crew vacated their cave dwellings and got a bit civilized. It’s a shame that it hasn’t.

We agree with the vice-chairman of the MUI, Ma’ruf Amin, that women already choosing to wear the jilbab should not do so in a vulgar way. Vulgarity of any kind is offensive, after all; including the vulgarity of presuming rights to proscribe the elective and legal behaviour of others.

 

Blush Highlights

Sydney jazz singer and Villa Kitty ambassador Edwina Blush is back in Bali for her annual season of swingalongs. Through to September she’s playing the Three Monkeys Restaurant at Sanur between 6pm and 9pm every Tuesday and Sunday with her cool Blush Sextet (Yuri Mahatma on guitar,  Astrid Sulaiman on keys, Helmi Augustrian on bass, Pramono Abdi and sax and newcomer Wisnu Priambodo on drums; and Thursdays at Il Giardino in Ubud with the trio (7.30pm to 10pm).

Blush arrived in July with a program including four different combos and three different variations on a Jazz theme Classic Jazz, 20’s Swing and SkaJazz. Good stuff!

In her Villa Kitty hat she’ll have been pleased to see that Elizabeth Henzell’s Ubud establishment featured on the Australian TV series What Really Happens in Bali.

 

New Deal, Old System

The new management at Ngurah Rai International Airport has put a stop to the “VIP arrival services” that permit those unwilling to mix with the masses in the Visa on Arrival melee to pay to be fast-tracked around the bottleneck. Experience and an understanding of how things really work here suggest that normal service will be resumed shortly, if it hasn’t already.

If the new management is really interested in improving customer service at the airport it might like to look at a system that rosters porters (and provides luggage trolleys) when they’re needed and not simply at the porters’ convenience. We’re told by a traveller that mid-afternoon on Saturday, Aug. 9, neither porters nor trolleys were available in the arrivals hall.

Then there’s the piratical taxi monopoly. That warrants managerial examination too.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Aug. 6, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

 

Let’s Hear More from Her

Nafsiah Mboi is a very impressive person. This is immediately obvious to anyone who hears her speak, reads what she says, or takes an interest in the febrile nature of global health challenges. As Indonesia’s health minister, she is the shining star of outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s cabinet, unarguably from the Diary’s perspective his best ministerial appointment.

She was the star panellist too on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s flagship Q&A program on Monday, Aug. 21, on the topic of HIV/AIDS and held at the same time as the International AIDS Congress in Melbourne. Tweets to the show’s Twitter hashtag included this memorable one: “Can we have a health minister like that too?”

Someone else suggested that incoming president Joko Widodo should reappoint her as health minister. Now that is a great idea. Indonesia’s congressional system makes it possible to appoint technocrats and academics to cabinet from outside the formal elective system.

Nafsiah Mboi is an academic, health researcher and Harvard graduate. She should indeed be continued in her appointment.

Another stand-out performer on the Q&A panel was the eminent Australian jurist Michael Kirby, whose finessed judicial mind and personal preferences made him ideal for the occasion.

Kirby is a darling of the intellectual left in Australia. There’s nothing wrong with that, except for what’s wrong with the intellectual left in Australia, which these days has cornered the market in received wisdom and adopted the position that anyone who argues with it is mad or bad or both.

Kirby is certainly an activist jurist. He has not only said that judges make law, but he has also done the really hard yards in reinterpreting the Constitution to the embarrassment of various governments of the day.

But he’s not for turning on a point of judicial value. Q&A is moderated by the oppressively self-assertive Tony Jones. On the program he expressed – with the trademark arched eyebrow, surprised look and dismissive wave of the hand favoured by those who know they know what everyone else should think – his view that it was somewhat strange that Kirby should have given a speech the day before praising Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop for increasing AIDS funding to Papua New Guinea when every other bit of the budget is being pared to the bone.

Followers of Australian politics will know that Abbott has been declared beyond the Pale by those of the left. Kirby skewered Jones, in less than 50 words, and showed with stark clarity why he (Kirby) is a judge and Jones is just an up-market shock-jock. It was delicious.

It’s sad that Australia Network, which screens the must-watch Q&A among many other quality Australian programs to Indonesia and the region, will be going off the air in September because of another decision, a foolish one, of the Abbott government.

 

Apologies

The last edition of The Diary didn’t appear. Those who might have felt disposed to cheer this outcome should cease their chatter now. It was an administrative error on the part of your diarist, who had as usual been belting along full-pelt, as he has always done, oblivious to the natural processes of aging (including acquisition of common sense) and in complete ignorance of the great big wall he was about to hit.

The Eagles’ Life in the Fast Lane has always been the Diary’s addiction, especially this little stanza:

She said, “Listen, baby. You can hear the engine ring.

We’ve been up and down this highway; 

haven’t seen a goddam thing.”

He said, “Call the doctor. I think I’m gonna crash.”

On a West Australian sabbatical, a visit back to the other home, we crashed. That is, in the metaphorical sense. But fortunately the splendid intervention of the West Australian hospital system got us (and a bitterly twisted gut) out of the wreck and reconnected the circuitry.

A painful lesson has been learned. All life forms are finite. At some point, you have to slow down.

 

Jazz and All That

John Daniels of Bali Discovery Tours and Bali Update sent us a cheery get-well note when he heard of our circumstances. It’s always nice to get a note from Jack. And nice in this instance to note in turn a recent item in his Update that refers to Ubud, which we love for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes we even love it for its traffic, though its range of cuisines generally wins the vote, when we finally make it to the restaurant.

It’s good for jazz too, as Jack notes. This will be demonstrated again at the 2014 Ubud Jazz Festival on Aug. 8-9. This year’s theme is “Awakening Indonesia” and headline national and international performers will take the stage.

Scheduled to appear are Gilad Hekselman Trio (USA), Dian Pratiwi and Uwe Plath (Germany), Astrid Sulaiman and Yuri Mahatma Trio (Bali), Balawan BID Trio, Rio Sidik, The GAPPProject Feat Dave Barlow (Australia- Indonesia), Dwiki Dharmawan (Indonesia), Erica Tucceri (Australia (Bali), Ben van den Dungen Quartet (Holland), Deborah Carter (Holland), Endo Seiji (Japan) and Chika Asamoto (Japan-Bali).

There’s also an educational element, presented in cooperation with The Dutch Jazz Summer School form South Korea. The six-day “Jazz Camp” running Aug.3-8 offers six study courses including guitar, drum, piano, double bass, vocal and wind instruments with special focus sessions on music theory and jam session performance.

 

So Long

The West Australian trip had been timed to meet some family needs which need not concern us here. But there was one feasible element, not expected in the timeframe but judged a possibility, that required suit, black shoes and army tie to make the trip too.

We’d been friendly acquaintances for the long time with a chap for no reason other than the fact that life’s little pathways, rivulets and occasional landslides carry you where they will. We had nothing in common, fundamentally. He was from country WA, which is about as far as you can get from the Diary’s bricks and mortar and pleasant parklands. He’d long ago given up trying to get us to go on fishing trips or home-brew expeditions, or down to the pool hall every Tuesday afternoon.

We had settled into a pleasant communion of ruminative breakfasts on our infrequent co-locations. He made a good cuppa. He could never understand why a round of toast and marmalade could possibly be better than a plate piled with the dead remains of former beasts removed with great energy and enthusiasm from one or other of the many freezers.

But we chatted amiably in the earlier portions of the mornings, now and then, in the calm before the daily ceremony of the Risings of the Distaffs (and the chores that inevitably followed) and we muddled along.

He had one thing in common with my father, though the code of football was different. If my dad had been on the field every time the Scottish rugby side ran on, they’d have won every game.

My chum’s fun was found in Australian football. The West Coast Eagles would have found similar game success if he’d been on the oval rucking, marking, kicking six-pointers, spoiling tackles and taking miraculous long marks right in front of the goal posts.

He was 80 and had been a national serviceman. He deserved a salute at his last parade.

Fate dictated that he leave the field while I was indisposed and unable to be present. I’m sad about that.

So long, Mal. Catch you for a cuppa sometime.

 

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter

 

 

 

 

 

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, July 9, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

So Nearly the Big Chill

This edition of the diary comes to you from the chilly depths of wintertime southern Western Australia, for reasons that really don’t matter. What does matter is that The Diary inadvertently left its wallet in seat 9C on AirAsia flight QZ536 from Bali to Perth on June 23.

It is pleasing to be able to report that The Diary and the wallet were then miraculously reunited through the intercession of a couple of AirAsia ground staff angels at Perth International Airport.

It was one of those horrible “Oh No” moments. We had breezed through passport control – an e-entry without even sighting an official with a stamp, oh joy! – as well as baggage collection and customs. We were in the car park loading the suitcase into a friend’s car when the alarming lightness of the back pocket came to notice.

Aside from cash, credit card and all sorts of other essential plastic impedimenta without which modern life is impossible, there was the question: What Does One Tell The Distaff? This is a very important issue, since it has been apparent for several millennia that The Distaff doesn’t think The Diary should ever be let out alone. An unsupervised drive to the shops is about the length of the leash, and then only with the right money.

So there was nothing for it but to break just about every security rule in the book and bowl right back into the customs area – through the exit door by which one had recently legitimately exited – and find a friendly soul to help. Going to the airport arrivals hall desk wasn’t an option. It would be far too complicated and would take too long.

It was interesting to see that the old rule still applies. If you look as if you know what you’re doing, official people will rarely challenge you. We found a nice customs officer (a woman: they’re nearly always a better bet because of their female capacity for lateral thinking).

She got on her phone to someone while The Diary rang the number displayed at the service desk for use if the desk was unattended and spoke to one of the angels, who said she had already got the wallet.

Very soon the two angels appeared. They had been on the aircraft when they received The Diary’s call. Thank you again, ladies.

 

Fit to be Tied

Merritt Clifton, the American animal activist who takes an interest in Bali matters from faraway Washington State, USA, posed a very interesting rhetorical question in an article on the Animals24-7 website on June 28.

It followed the Governor’s incomprehensible announcement that any dogs found running loose in Bali villages would be killed as part of the provincial government’s dysfunctional anti-rabies campaign.

Clifton wrote: “If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly, each time expecting a different result, Bali governor Made Mangku Pastika on June 26, 2014 fitted himself for a strait jacket.”

He went on to write: “Disregarding four years of steady progress toward quelling a canine rabies outbreak that began in mid-2008, Pastika repeated the same general invitation to cull dogs that sent the rabies outbreak into overdrive in the first place – this time ordering the massacre of about 300,000 healthy vaccinated and mostly docile neighbourhood dogs, allowing unvaccinated and largely nocturnal feral dogs to reoccupy the habitat and breed up to the carrying capacity.”

Disregarding in turn Clifton’s assumption that unvaccinated and largely nocturnal dogs in Bali are feral (that is, wild) which overwhelmingly they are not, in the formal sense, he’s right on the mark. It’s true that the island’s rabies control program has gone haywire. Or perhaps that should be “missing”.

Why else, apart from madness, would you revive a killing spree that failed to work when you tried it before and which in any case all the literature on rabies control and eradication shows won’t work? Negligently shredding the basis of herd immunity that has been built up by the vaccination program by killing anything that moves outside someone’s notional property boundary is complete madness.

The Bali authorities apparently choose to define madness in terms that wouldn’t be readily recognized anywhere else. But that’s no surprise. After six years of toil and trouble, all we’re left with is a muddle. There are no surprises there either. Since reasonable excuses cannot be found, a scapegoat or two are essential political tools.

In the rabies imbroglio, there are two scapegoats. One is the dogs, which despite being savagely culled by government diktat and significantly reduced by rabies, are claimed nevertheless to have repopulated the island to a level equal to or in excess of the pre-rabies 2008 estimate. The gallant lads at animal husbandry plainly deserve fulsome praise for that egregious triumph.

The other scapegoat is the animal welfare lobby in general, which strangely persists with its view that in order to achieve something you have to do the work required, and particularly the Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA), which led the anti-rabies battle. The Gianyar district authorities closed the BAWA clinic last year on grounds that would not survive administrative appeal in any jurisdiction with fixed rules. BAWA remains in operation, but with some of its previously valuable services curtailed by out-of-sorts, or out of pocket, officials.

There are only two fixed rules in Indonesia, of course. Neither is visible on the statute book. One is, don’t even look as if you’re telling us what to do. The other is, don’t step on toes, especially the precious little toes of the local panjandrum. Unfortunately the immediate human and animal health requirements in 2008-2010, to step on rabies quickly, required both these rules to be broken.

 

A Short Fuse

Plans to turn part of Benoa Harbour into Port Excrescence by shooing away the ocean and building artificial land on which to erect explicitly non-Bali infrastructure (including a motor-racing circuit) have angered a lot of people, mainly Balinese. The widely held view is that if Governor Pastika proceeds as planned and creates the proposed monstrosity for the profit of its promoters and developers, all of Bali is lost.

That may be gilding the lily (not to mention mixing a metaphor) but it can certainly be argued that there’s already enough around in the tourist-attraction field to fulfil the legal desires of most visitors, and most of the illegal ones too. Bali is a special place. That’s its marketing edge. We shouldn’t blunt it further.

There have been a number of demonstrations that have made these points with some force. Let’s hope someone was listening.

 

Who Gives a Toss?

It’s not really a question, and we’re not being rude. Pizza-tossing is the topic, and Ayana Resort and Spa at Jimbaran was the venue, because the Pizza Acrobatics world champion 2001 and 2002, Pasqualino Barbasso, was there from July 2-6 to demonstrate his skills, which are no doubt essential in Sicily.

Well no, to answer Ayana spruiker Marian Carroll’s query, we didn’t know there was a World Champion of Pizza Acrobatics. So many aspects of our education were neglected while we were being schooled in algebra, calculus, physics, logic, Latin, Greek, Eng Lit, history and comparative religion all those years ago.

Barbasso was at Ayana to flip the dough and perform thrice daily, free, for diners at the resort’s Sami Sami restaurant during his five-day extravaganza. Since the restaurant is on the cliff-top overlooking the precipitous drop to the Rock Bar and beyond, the pizza champ was doubtless on the alert for sudden orographic up-draughts and the attendant risk of unauthorized flying pizza.

Sadly, geographic displacement meant we could not be present to attempt to order that modern challenge to both cuisine and poor spellers, Pizza Hawaiian, and thereby cause a Greco-Roman incident.

 

Marginal Note

Indonesians vote today (July 9) in the presidential election, which as expected has come down to a race between Jakarta mayor Joko Widodo and former army general Prabowo Subianto, the latter formally endorsed on July 1 by outgoing president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as his pick for Supreme Leader. It’s moot whether the opinion of a lame duck with a 10-year record of under-achievement counts for anything beyond a querulous quack.

But that’s not what concerns us here. What does is further entrenchment of the Indonesia-Australia relationship through a new agreement between the National Archives of Australia and the Indonesian national archives on archives cooperation.

Under a new five-year Memorandum of Understanding, Indonesia and Australia will continue to collaborate on developing staff skills, sharing professional resources and participating in scholarly and cultural exchanges.

Indonesia’s and Australia’s relationship and shared interests extend back into the end of the Dutch colonial era. Indonesians with a sense of history understand the role Australia played in persuading the world to accept the beneficial fact of Indonesian independence, unilaterally declared on August 17, 1945, and its practical and material help towards that goal too.

 

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Jun. 25, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Browned Off

PLN is up to its old tricks again. No, we’re not talking about the sharp round of rises in its tariffs. It’s the lingering brown-out after its triumph in the 2010 globally unplugged championships that’s focusing our mind. PLN said then that there would be no more power cuts in Bali. No one believed them of course, but that’s entirely to be expected and anyway it’s hardly the point. PLN delivers on its promises with the same level of commitment it shows to providing service.

It’s so obviously a problem – lack of capacity about which the monopoly state-owned power provider effectively does nothing except buy cheap high-polluting Chinese diesel generators instead of more expensive but cleaner German ones – that we think its actual business plan, which of course no one has ever seen, has “Dysfunction” where normally you’d see “Function” above that happy little paragraph promising the world.

So here at The Cage we’re giving serious consideration to proposing to PLN that we pay them 80 percent of their tariff, based on the average voltage actually delivered, and further reduce that, pro rata, for time over the billed month during which nothing was delivered at all.

We’ll let you know how we go with those negotiations.

 

Think of a Number, Run With It

It can work for effect, if you’re in PR. But sometimes you despair of the bureaucracy and its political bosses here. Actuarial process always seems to take second place to inventive accounting, whether that’s of money, some promotional boosting, or a handy story to sell to the punters.

We heard recently that some official had stated there were now 500,000 dogs in Bali, which is the same, more or less, as the pre-rabies 2008 figure. More likely someone’s barking mad (a clue: it’s not the dogs). The figure can only be an estimate. Such is the way of things. It sits oddly with the 294,000 (est.) said to have been here in 2010, after two years of widespread canine rabies deaths and panicked culling following the tardy realization in late 2008 that the disease was on Bali. Unless, that is, the authorities really have being doing two-fifths of five-eighths of you know what about it, which they deny.

The 2008 outbreak naturally came as a complete surprise to the authorities. Well it would. If you were in charge of Bali’s animal or human health you’d obviously fail to see any reason for anxiety in the fact that we’re in regular commerce with Flores, the third rock along in archipelagic terms, where the disease has been present for 17 years.

Given the ravages of the disease among dogs (not to forget the 150 human deaths) plus the ill-planned, uncoordinated, often informal, thoroughly counter-productive and completely shameful killing sprees that have occurred in the six shambolic years since, half a million seems rather on the high side. But we’ll go with it, just for fun. The government is now going to vaccinate 80 percent of these dogs. Well, that’s the plan.

It tends to support the conclusion that no one officially has much of a clue about anything at all. What’s worse (since ignorance and short-funding will always be with us) is that the real official position appears to be similar to that expressed by Rhett Butler as he left Scarlett O’Hara in the movie Gone With The Wind.

The latest figures from the government on rabies distribution in Bali are, however, both interesting and of some statistical value.

According to the Bali livestock and animal health service 36 confirmed cases of rabies in dogs were recorded in the January-May period. Buleleng (11 cases) and Jembrana (10) were the worst districts. No confirmed rabies cases were recorded in Badung – where most tourists are – or in Denpasar.

Gianyar (which includes Ubud) had five confirmed cases of rabies in dogs, neighbouring Klungkung four – as well as a small mainland area, Klungkung includes the islands of Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Penida – and Bangli one. Tabanan district recorded three cases and Karangasem two.

April was the worst month for confirmed cases of rabies in dogs, with 14. There were six cases in May. January-March therefore produced 16 cases. The cautious optimist therefore would assume an annualized average of four to five reported and confirmed cases in dogs per month. That’s between 48 and 60 a year.

Under World Organization for Animal Health rules, two clear years (24 months) must elapse between the last reported animal and human case of rabies for an infected area to be declared free of the disease. So if a miracle occurs and May’s six cases were the last, May 2016 could be looking good.

Short of that miracle, the emergency is not over. There have been two confirmed human deaths from rabies this year on which details were released (they were in Buleleng in the north) and others in which all the indicators point that way.

 

Happier Tales

Still with the doggies, here are two happy tales. Iconic British animal rights and environmental warrior Jane Goodall and Bali Animal Welfare Association’s leading light Janice Girardi got together at the Green School’s weekend dedicated to conservation and sustainability on June 14-15.

Girardi was there to talk about BAWA’s vision for the future. Goodall, whose research work begun five decades ago led to her becoming the chimpanzee champion in Tanzania, was the weekend’s special guest. Both women know that it’s never easy being an advocate, let alone an activist.  Perseverance pays off. It’s a fundamental rule of human and individual progress.

On June 20 in Vancouver, Canada, BAWA benefited from a Wishbone charity night organized by supporters of its educational and animal welfare work here. All donations went to BAWA to help heal, feed and protect neglected and abused street animals.

Among things wags at the show could do was be pampered and learn insider tips from make-up artists, hairdressers, manicurists and eyelash technicians. Or they could try a henna tattoo.

We think their efforts rate a very big woof.

 

All Aboard

The man in the white mess kit, expatriate Glaswegian Neil Carl Hempsey, of Indo Yacht Support at Benoa, is gearing up for the seventh annual Ray White/YSG Super Yacht charity do on Aug. 1. We’ll keep you up to cruising speed on that.

Glasgow is in the spotlight at present as the venue for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, from July 23 to August 3, at which Indonesia could be competing if the British had been our filthy colonialists of the age instead of the Dutch. It’s a fine city, Glasgow, as well as Scotland’s biggest. It has a character all of its own and a bracingly damp climate to go with it.

Some Glaswegian humour, which is generally best kept at home if only because the accent with which it is delivered is impenetrable, has been given an outing in honour of the occasion. We saw a lovely photo of a bus whose lighted destination sign advised “Ah’m Nae in Service”.

There’s also a map which bears a certain very rudely short word that nowadays, unfortunately, is in common currency among the lexicographically challenged. It suggests that Glasgow is the epicentre of Scotland, a city of “Guid [that word]”. Guid is good, by the way. It also suggests that Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital awa’ a wee bit on the east coast, is a city of “English [that word again]”.

The Diary demurs. We’re sure that Edinburgh native and occasional correspondent Alistair Speirs, who publishes Now Bali and ensures we still get to read The Stranger, would agree with us that Auld Reekie is nae such thing. Sassenach, yes; but English? Never!

 

A Useful Muse

Susi Johnston, the Muse of Mengwi, has crafted a masterly compendium of things you can do to reduce crime and the risk that you’ll be a victim, either of street crime or of a break-in. It’s on her blog (ubudnowandthen.com) and should be a must-read for everyone.

We should not of course get into tizzy over crime. The incidence is rising here, but objectively it’s highly noticeable chiefly in comparison with received wisdom as to the carefree, crime-free days of yore that nearly everyone says they can remember.

That said, clearly the risk of becoming a victim of theft or worse is increasing. Avoid risk (as Susi says and we’ve noted ourselves in the past) by not being a visible target. Don’t walk or ride alone at night in places you don’t know and in which people are scarce. Lock up. Keep your valuables secure and out of sight. Common sense really.

She mentions the reporting facility at POLDA in Denpasar which many may not know of, and the presence in Bali of a special police unit, OBVIT, that is tasked with protecting vital assets – of which Bali is one – and of which almost no one has heard.

Don’t forget, either, that the Tourist Police now have a special reporting system and a Facebook page.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser Jun 11, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

No Place for Mugs

Airlines operate on razor-thin financial margins, the virtual space between the cost of operating a flight and the net revenue gained from it. That’s no bad thing, since it is evidence that competition benefits people who want to fly, which is the object of the exercise.

The days are long gone when airlines could afford to over-staff, or position crews on standby except under the most stringent of budgetary conditions. And sensible rules about the allowable working hours of flight and cabin crews proscribe extension of these under most circumstances. So interference with a flight is an extremely costly business.

The eruption of Mt Sangeang off Sumbawa caused an ash cloud that resulted in flights being cancelled between Australian cities and Bali and Lombok. That’s a natural hazard and it’s really not possible to be angry with a volcano anyway.

But when interference comes from disruptive passengers, as it did recently with the Australian airlines Jetstar and Virgin, it’s very galling. Jetstar’s experience with a drunken lout aboard one of its Melbourne-Bali services stranded more than 240 Brisbane-bound passengers. It cost the airline heaps in accommodating those travellers, whose Boeing 787 Dreamliner flight home was a temporary non-event.

Jetstar took firm action with its alcohol-fuelled defaulting passenger. He was handed over to authorities at Ngurah Rai, denied entry to Indonesia, and deported. He then became a person of interest to the Australian Federal Police. Good.

There used to be a view that Australian drunks were risible characters, larrikin types, just good blokes (plus the occasional sheila) who had had too much of a good thing. In a pub, within limits, that might still be the case. On an aircraft they’re a bloody nuisance as well as a hazard to themselves and everyone else. And more to the point, they’re breaking the law.

Perhaps if a few bloody nuisances found to their horror that their thoughtless misbehaviour led to them being sued in the civil courts for restitution (a substantial six-figure dollar sum) it would deter all but the most stupid among future offenders.

Just a thought.

 

Snatch and Grabbed

Good news to report, and plaudits to the police to hand out, over an alleged bag-snatching gang whose seven members are now in custody and under criminal investigation. According to the on-line Indonesian language newspaper Suluh Bali  (a great operation by the way) police were quick on the trail after an incident in Kuta on May 26.

They had a little help. The brace of bandits on a motorbike that snatched the handbag of another rider, a woman, lost their licence plate in the melee as they sped off. It lay upon the road begging for attention. It got it. The registration details led immediately to the owner of the bike and thereafter to the arrests of seven young men, all from Denpasar.

The two youths who committed the crime (they are aged 16 and 17) could face up to seven years in jail and their accomplices up to four. Publicizing crimes and reporting sentences handed down to perpetrators is a significant deterrent. So we’ll be watching this case with interest.

The woman who was robbed in this instance was an expatriate, one of a number recently. But local women are targeted by these low-life characters too. A dear friend of The Diary and Distaff was injured in a bag-snatch as she rode her bike in Jl Bali Cliff at Ungasan recently.

The Beat Daily, which provides a very useful English language digest of news, also reported the Kuta incident. The dyspepsia caused by the news was heightened by this line: “A police investigation into a bag snatching last Monday lead to police successfully catching two teenage boys and investigating five others.”

Um, fellas, try “led”. It’s in the English dictionary, past tense of “lead”. Not to be confused with the metal of course, which is pronounced “led”.

 

Getting Together

The good burghers of Ubud are getting together in a number of ways. The latest initiative is a monthly Ubud Village informal meeting, the first of which was held on Jun. 1 at Paula’s Rice Terrace Cafe in Jl Suweta, Ubud.

Organizer Douglas Snyder says the meetings, on the first Sunday of every month, are a chance to say hello and get to know people and make the village a little more personal. He hopes to create an environment in which people actually meet instead of just on Facebook. That sounds like a capital plan.

Crime of a petty or more serious nature is now part of the landscape in Ubud. This is a comparatively recent development and a very unwelcome one. The death of British resident Anne-Marie Drozdz apparently during a break-in at her rented villa is especially disturbing.

A candlelight vigil and a meeting of concerned residents followed her death. A man was arrested in Jakarta soon after the crime.

 

Have a Treat, Jump the Queue

The magnificent marketers at AYANA Resort and Spa and RIMBA at Jimbaran have found a way for non-resident guests to jump the queue to the Rock Bar, the destination of choice of many who wish to imbibe a cocktail or three at sunset at that iconic cliff-side watering hole perched 14 metres above the waves. It’s a must-do thing. You can watch the people or the waves.

The Rock Bar’s popularity is such that in high season the walk-in trade can sometimes find itself waiting 90 minutes for the glide down the inclinator to those glasses with little brollies in them. Not surprisingly, some among such putative patrons are disinclined to do so.

Priority access to the Rock Bar is reserved for guests staying at the hotels but now outside guests can get priority access too if they relax and take special spa packages (Rp480K plus tax). The deal runs until Sep. 30.

Two packages with one free Rock Bar cocktail are offered: the Perfectonic Package, which is a two-hour Aquatonic massage at Thermes Marins Bali Spa (in this process, we’re told, 60 therapeutic jet streams, micro-bubbles and geysers whack you around in seawater); and the Rock My Body Massage, a 75-minute deep relaxation experience available at both Thermes and RIMBA’s new Rooftop Spa.

Sounds cool! We might give up food for a month and drop in. We’d dress properly too, as per requirements. Well, we always do. We don’t wear singlets or board shorts and we don’t own anything that says Bintang.

Better leave the Wise Guy tee at home though. It comes from an up-market winery we favour at Cape Naturaliste in Western Australia. But it might not pass the no-alcohol-branding rule.

 

Can You Help?

Bali Pink Ribbon stalwarts Rrashida Abdulhusainn, Priya Bojwani and others were looking last week for donated material for a second-hand boutique stall at the Bali Pink Ribbon Bazaar at the FX Church, Kuta, this Sunday (Jun. 15).

New or second hand clothing, bags, shoes, sandals, jewellery, glasses, ceramics, painting, books, magazines, towels, napkins, pillow cases, bed sheets, bed covers, school bags, children’s clothing, scarves, home ware, glasses, cups, etc, were on their we’d-really-like-it list.

So if you’ve got anything that would look better making money for Pink Ribbon’s breast cancer awareness programs and seminars, get on to the Bali Pink Ribbon Centre in Jl Dewi Sri, Kuta. Email balipinkribbon@gmail.com or phone (0361) 83 52299.

 

Marathon Muddle

Pheidippedes the Diary is not; and certainly not a modern marathon runner either. A modest outing over 10km in boots and patrol order webbing, with rifle, in pursuit of an annual fitness rating in the military service of HM Queen Elizabeth II in two of her several symbolic crowns, was ever the best we could manage. And that was a few years ago.

Maybe that’s why, in the Diary of May 28, we mistook the Bali Marathon for the Bali Triathlon. Or perhaps it was just inexcusable inattention. Jack Daniels of Bali Discovery Tours and the invaluable Bali Update, and the triathlon, may have a view on that.

The 2014 Bali marathon is being held in Gianyar later this year. It involves no swimming. For its part, the 2014 Bali triathlon – in the inimitable style that Indonesia has made its own – has been postponed to 2015 so that presidential candidates can run around, splash out, and be told to get on their bikes instead.

The modern marathon dates from the 1896 Athens Olympics. It celebrates the myth of Pheidippedes’ 40-kilometre sprint from the 490BCE battle site of Marathon to Athens with the news that the Athenian lads had seen off those nasty Persians.

In the manner of such myths, the poor chap expired from his exertions immediately after giving the anxious archons this happy news. There’s a classically kitsch 1869 painting by Luc-Olivier Merson that depicts the heroic demise.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser May 28, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Bad Burghers

A new Facebook group has appeared in cyberspace, dedicated to curbing crime in Ubud. This is an unpleasant sign of the times. Ubud may be where everyone goes to commune with the fairies, go Vegan, try to find anything that remotely resembles the purported revelations in Elizabeth Gilbert’s bodice-ripper book Eat, Pray, Love, and get in touch with their inner Pilates, but it’s also catching up with the modern world.

Some of the good burghers of Ubud, local and foreign, are upset by the intrusion of street crime and motorbike bandits bent on petty theft. The sexual predator is also present. It excuses nothing, of course, but those who suggest foreign visitors in particular should comply with local custom and dress respectfully are on the mark.

We recently saw a female tourist – she seemed to be Russian from the Slavic, not to say irritably strident, language in which she was chivvying along her oppressed male companion who in the global custom was carrying the bags – out shopping in a brief yellow bikini that was struggling to contain her bosom. Further, it was failing to hide much of her bottom. Clearly she hadn’t read the brief.  Or perhaps she thought she was in Malibu on her way to a porn shoot.

There are two fundamental rules to apply when travelling. The first is don’t be gross. The second is do not display wealth or otherwise draw spectacular attention upon you or your person.

Tourist areas in Bali are as much at risk of experiencing crime, petty or otherwise, as any other pleasure resort around the world. Community based policing and common sense help reduce the incidence.

There are bad burghers everywhere these days. And they don’t only target tourists. Locals are also at risk.

(Post-script: The death by strangulation, apparently during a break-in, of British woman Anne-Marie Drozdz at her villa near Ubud on May 22, adds a horrific dimension to Ubud’s problems.)

Get Weaving

We got a lovely invitation from the ROLE Foundation to attend Bali Living Colour (they spell it color in the American fashion, but these days even ancient Oxford English scribblers can live with that) on Thursday, Jun 5. It’s an open house for the Southern Bali Women Weavers Association and Bali WISE women’s business development.

It’s one of a number of grass-roots organizations in Bali that benefits from small grants from the Australian Consulate-General and operates from premises at Sawangan, an area of the southern Bukit where despite otherwise rampant development (that among other things has shut many locals out of seaweed farming) deprivation is a common factor.

The function will also formally inaugurate the Southern Bali Women Weavers Association and officially open the new weavers’ building, the natural dyes plant nursery and the colour sample display.

Since they’ll be serving organic juices, teas and snacks and providing music, we plan to be there. Especially since the Australian Consul-General, Majell Hind, is also scheduled to be present. It’s always nice to catch up with a Townsville girl.

 

Be Gentile, Now

Sydney-resident historian, wry wit and novelist Ross Fitzgerald, who will be coming to see us in June on his annual Bali pilgrimage with his wife Lyndal Moor – Fitzgerald and the Diary are due at Sambo’s Sports Bar at Bukit Jimbaran on Sunday, Jun. 15, to watch the Collingwood-Bulldogs game since he barracks for Collingwood and the Diary is still neutral since we’re still waiting for the Saints to come marching in – has an interesting engagement in Melbourne prior to that date.

He tells us he’s one of only two Gentiles speaking at the Melbourne Jewish Writers Festival. He’s on the dais for a chat on Jun. 1 with Dave Bloustein, John Safran and Howard Nathan (chairing the session). The topic: It’s Funny ’cos It’s Us.

Another friend of the Diary won’t be at the festival at all, even though he qualifies, since he’s Jewish and he writes. Journalist-blogger and sometime Ubud Writers and Readers Festival luminary Antony Loewenstein has views on Israel’s Palestinian policies that are regarded as unorthodox within the Australian Diaspora.

 

Favourite Mermaid

Everyone should have a favourite mermaid. Well, it’s a thought, anyway. And Celia Gregory of the World Marine Foundation is ours. We met her ages ago at a Rotary evening at Tugu Hotel at Batu Bolong and we were instantly captivated. She sculpts things and places them under water as an aid to coral regeneration, which is surely a lot more useful than many things a girl could do.

Gregory was speaking today (May 28) at yoga-focused Desa Seni at Canggu, on Living Sculptures in the Sea. Her work is already encrusted with polyps at Pemeruteran in North Bali and now she’s planning to do the same at Amed, with a work named Apsara, after the beautiful supernatural females in yoga mythology.

The structure is designed to create new homes for fish and coral at Jemaluk Bay.

The Desa Seni program Gregory is leading as creative director and founder of the marine foundation includes a special workshop on Jun. 4 with Angela Perez exploring and honouring the Apsara deities.

It ties in with World Oceans Day on Jun. 8.

On Jun. 7 there’s a kids’ workshop for children under 12 at which Gregory and Bali fixture Kayti Denham will explore the myth of the mermaid and her dolphin protectors.

Gregory’s foundation offers a visionary approach to one of the most pressing problems confronting the tropical and sub-tropical oceans. Coral regeneration is essential to the health of reefs around the world.

 

On the Rocks

It’s a shame the Australian government has pulled the plug on Australia Network, the satellite TV service that has been taking Australian culture (no that’s not an oxymoron) to the region for years under a special funding program from the foreign affairs budget.

The announcement came in the federal budget handed down on May 13 but had been long forecast.

Under the previous government it had been proposed to give the Australia Network contract to a commercial operator. This plan was then reversed in the face of argument from many that showing endless reality TV programs and titbits of tabloid “news” wouldn’t really work if the aim was to advance Australia’s interests. You need a public broadcaster with a commitment to cerebral thought to do that.

The budget had to sharply reduce spending, particularly in the forward years. Many people understand that fully. But the Australia Network contract was only worth $20 million (Australian) a year which is a drop in the bucket in comparison with much that appears in budget line items. The ABC has been progressing very well with its symbiosis of Radio Australia, Australia Network, partnerships with foreign networks (including one in Indonesia) and on line platforms and social media.

While it isn’t true that under the Abbott government advancing Australia’s interests overseas will in future be confined to dishing out free budgie-smugglers on a limited annual giveaway plan, there are some curiosities in the broader foreign policy area that worry a few people.

Australia Network runs – ran – on the budgetary equivalent of the smell of an oily rag and with proper direction was beginning to get some good runs on the board. It had just done a deal to get its service broadcast in China, for example.

The view in Australia seems to be that it’s primarily for expatriate Australians. They may constitute a sizeable portion of the existing audience demographic. It is a way to stay in touch with home after all. But that’s not the point. Unless some rabbit is pulled from a hat, “engaging with the region” may suffer a potentially serious and unnecessary blow.

It’s not clear (at time of writing) when the network will cease operating. A call to the Australian foreign minister’s office in Canberra elicited (after a little while on hold trying not to listen to some fairly offensive “rock” music) advice that discussions were under way with the ABC about the closure date and a suggestion that we should check the ABC website.

We’d already done that. Um, that’s why we called.

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Marathon Event

This year’s Bali Marathon has deserted Jimbaran and its sheltered waters for Gianyar regency. It will be interesting to see where the organizers propose to stage the swimming part of the deal, given that the Gianyar coast is rather well known for having very dangerous beaches and offshore currents.

Registration for the Sep. 14 event opened on May 17. The marathon is sponsored by BII Maybank. Professional and amateur participants are expected from throughout Indonesia and overseas.

If you’re planning to stretch yourself, you can register on line at balimarathon.com.

 

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter

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