8degreesoflatitude

THINGS THAT INTEREST, ENGAGE AND ENRAGE

The Doolally Squad

HECTOR’S DIARY

Titbits from his regular diet of worms

 

The Cage, Bali

Sunday, May 20, 2018

 

 

IT’S hard to know what to write about the Surabaya bombings. Doubtless there are those who would advise against writing anything about them. But that won’t do. Perhaps we could start by saying that at least the suicide bombers did everyone a favour by exiting the gene pool. It’s a shame hell doesn’t exist except as a human notion. They’d look good rotting there forever.

There are, however, some practical things worth noting about the events of the past week in East Java and elsewhere. First, let’s consider this: it is all but impossible to live a secluded, unnoticed life in Indonesia, the more so within the majority Muslim community, where the mosque is not only the prayer room but also the community centre and the focal point of guidance. The archipelago is in any case communal by cultural history, social preference and force of habit. In Surabaya, someone must have worked out that the mad father and mother of the sacrificial children seemed a bit bent, if not actually murderously doolally. Perhaps they decided it would be better, or safer, not to have worked that out, and that if the local prayer leader wanted to do so, he would; there’s a sort of communal blindness too. The substantial cache of pipe bombs found after the church attacks would have been difficult to pass off as spare motorbike mufflers, even to the thickest of casual observers. Did anyone say anything, to anyone? If they did, to whom was it said?

The second thing to be said is that the police did a good job after the events, both in Surabaya and in Pekenbaru, though clearly more needs to be done in the intelligence gathering area by both the police and the national intelligence body. A good rule of engagement for any police is one that states that if you see a terrorist, shoot him dead instantly, or her, since it seems women are taking up the profession of mass murder. Going some way back to Densus 88’s previous tactics, as has now been authorised, is also a sensible protective measure. There’s an argument too for reviving the military’s tri-service special forces, also now under way, though they should stay out of it unless the situation is truly dire. Densus 88 is the best policing anti-terrorist tool in the kit.

The third, and most important, thing to say is that Indonesia should not allow itself to be spooked by terrorism into retreating from the democratic norms that it has courageously and progressively put in place since the Suharto era. It shouldn’t worry, either, about the longer-term effects on tourism of an uptick in terrorist activity ahead of next year’s presidential election. There may be short-term dip, primarily in western source markets. Leaders, especially in Bali, need to develop a responsive and responsible narrative on that front.

Taking Fire

AN old friend, Ross Eastgate, a former Australian army officer who now writes (in Australia) on military issues, got into trouble for a column he wrote after the Israeli army employed snipers to pick off selected targets on the “front line” between Israel and Gaza. As he noted, snipers are legitimate military assets when they are used to target enemy military personnel (or important insurrectionists or terrorists). Using them against a crowd of protesters chiefly armed with slingshots, whether or not they have been organised by Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist outfit, is not. It’s a war crime, plain and simple.

Hamas in Gaza took advantage of the Trump decision to shift the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, to drum up more anti-Israeli action. Given the conditions that exist in Gaza under Hamas’s control, we can safely assume that the interests of the common people there are not its primary concern. But the modern State of Israel, originally the product of a European Jewish plantation in the Levant two millennia after the Romans threw them out, has a duty to abide by international law. It’s a legal state and it must behave lawfully, particularly if it proclaims its democratic credentials.

The trouble is, the global Israel lobby has turned into an art form the idea that anti-Zionism is the same as anti-Semitism. It isn’t.

A Lovely Man

WE left Queensland 13 years ago and headed to the west coast. Not in the Billy Joel sense. We’re not doing a stand-up routine in LA. Who’d bother in Perth anyway? And we retain east coast connections and lots of old friends, some of whom come to see us from time to time, though that’s in Bali, our Fat Controller-proof bolthole.

Sadly, we lost another of our old friends recently, former Queensland treasurer and Labor Party strongman Terry Mackenroth. He died, far too early, and unexpectedly, soon after the lung cancer that he’d beaten 20 years ago had been diagnosed again. They gave him a state funeral (in non-Toff Australia that’s without the trinkets and baubles). It would have been good to be there (it was in Brisbane on May 8) but like so many things these days that was not to be.

Mackenroth was a hard-fighting politician but straight as a die. If he said he’d do something, you knew he’d do it. If he said he wouldn’t, all you could do was shut your briefcase and go away. He was also a very lovely man.

When people leave us, we pause for thought. There are always anecdotes that spring to mind. They can be a comfort. After he saw off his first bout of the Big C two decades ago he got into the annual shave heads for cancer fundraising effort. At that time, for his sins, Hector’s amanuensis was working in politics, having given up on Rupert Murdoch. It was the opposite side of politics from Mackenroth’s.

The annual tribute visit to the minister’s parliamentary office, to deposit that year’s personal contribution to the razor gang, was always a treat. We’d stay for a brief chat and then return to our own quarters. The funny looks and pursed lips of our own little troupe of flacks when we got back from enemy territory were fun to observe.

Name Games

THERE’S another of those curious Facebook-focused phishing exercises going around at the moment. It purports to list the 20 people most important to you. That’s on Facebook, of course, which isn’t real life at all and your best friends (who are also your worst enemies) are actually those two chaps called Cursor and Autocorrect.

We’re very happy that we haven’t appeared on anyone’s virtual nearest and dearest list. At least, we hadn’t when we last checked. To appear on one would bring to mind Groucho Marx’s sensible injunction against joining any club that would see fit to invite him.

Big Wedding

SINCE we were in Bali, where big weddings are all the go, we felt no pain in missing out on that other sizeable celebration in Windsor, U.K. Well, we wouldn’t have anyway, but let’s not spoil a good story.

On Friday evening we were at the Nusa Dua nuptials of a couple whose connections, from our perspective, are some lovely friends we’ve known for years. Nyoman Sueta is a community leader in Nusa Dua and his wife Made Siri is too. She also makes fabulous pancakes.

We ran into other old friends there, Made Winarsa – who is now sommelier at the St Regis Bali – and his wife Ayu Trisna, whose hospitality records run right back to the Conrad Bali years ago and both of whom we’ve known since they were students. There were lots of speeches – it helped that they were all in Balinese and Indonesian of course – and between times, opportunities to chat.

The setting was Peninsula Island, which will be familiar to many Australian and other visitors. It didn’t rain (it’s the dry season now) and the south-easterly breeze from the ocean was pleasantly cool.

It was a great night all round, and it was an honour to be present. We had our photo taken with the bride and groom, an obligatory thing. Possibly we jumped the queue for that. But nobody seemed to mind.

MEOWvellous

IT’S without question the purrfect way to spend a Saturday evening in Ubud. There will be no yoga, for one thing. The occasion is the inaugural Villa Kitty ACATemy Awards, an invitation only soiree at Indus Restaurant. It’s on May 26.

Elizabeth Henzell, hostess with the mostest on the night and the inspiration for Villa Kitty, tells us we should be dressed up as much as we like and be prepared to dance the night away. Yes, um. Good. Make mine tonic water with ice so it looks like a G&T (an old trick from our flack days).

Villa Kitty does marvellous work for Bali’s feline community and is worth support every time. Its sponsors are great people.

Elizabeth recently lost Maya, the light of her life. She arrived six years ago as a hairless waif and became a silken black tortoiseshell with the love and proper food and care she found with Elizabeth, along with the 10 other cats who shared her domain. She had a good life and was loved. There’s nothing to beat that.

Chin-chin!

Off We Go

HECTOR’S DIARY

Titbits from his regular diet of worms

 

The Cage, Bali | Wednesday, May 10, 2018

 

IT’S been a while between scribbles here at the Diary’s desk, for all sorts of reasons that really don’t rate a mention. We have heard no complaints, but we’ll ignore that silence and the signals it might otherwise send, and bat on. It’s compulsory for writers to write, but not for readers to read.

We were back on the Outanback Track today, the Diary and the Companion, for the first time in eight months. It was a doddle, though the proof of the pudding, not to mention potential denouement, will come later, when the muscles react to the shock. It was nice to stride out (and largely up) our 2,400 metres of morning walk routine. From a walker’s viewpoint it didn’t look much different from how it looked the last time we did it, which was before last year’s two-month European adventure.

A brisk morning walk in these parts, of course, requires an early rise, or else the sun melts you; and this in turn demands both alarm calls and earlier nights. Still, that’s said to be better for you than reading – or, worse, scribbling – into the wee hours. It’s probably not quite as much fun, though we can set that off against the necessity for karmic equivalence.

Mount Up

GENERAL Prabowo Subianto, he who likes military-style parades with his politics and a fine horse from which to review them, and who envies ants their ordered eusocial societies, has secured the backing of the Prosperous Justice Party for his candidature, as leader of the Greater Indonesia Party, in next year’s presidential election.

This was expected. He ran against the current president, Joko Widodo, in 2014, and lost, which, predictably, he didn’t like very much. The Jokowi presidency is not to the taste of those who believe government is better in the hands of people who hold the Quran aloft and cite it in preference to the Constitution, or others who believe they have a field-marshal’s baton in their kitbag.

This week’s news from Malaysia may have emboldened their optimism. There, the 61-year stranglehold on power of the formerly ruling Barisan Nasional has been broken by the voters.  Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s informal collection of “others” won the popular vote and a sizeable majority of parliamentary seats. His venerable age – 92 – might give Bernie Sanders hope for 2020. The voters heard Mahathir’s message loud and clear. They were fed up with the institutionalised corruption of the ruling clique. But Indonesia is not Malaysia. This is not just because Indonesia was formerly Dutch and run as a dysfunctional mercantile empire while Malaysia was British and run as a much more efficient one.

Phoney Argument

THE pre-paid mobile phone shemozzle continues. It was a joke to begin with. Now it is well past that point. Under regulations that took effect this year, people who buy pre-paid SIM cards with which to operate their phones have to provide official identity documents and register. This is sensible in an era where otherwise any phone can be a covert command post.

But there’s some glitch in the system – apart from the shambolic nature of the phone companies’ own administrations – that means even if you have registered, they’ll still cut you off. If the phone companies were running a kids’ party, there’d have been a riot by now.

Since rectifying the continuing idiocy requires further queuing up – take a number and wait to be called – and that this frequently means many wasted hours, it’s easy to see why people are fed up with the whole thing. Many Indonesians use pre-paid SIM cards and top them up. The telephone companies profit from this. With the acquisition of profit comes a duty of care, along with – one would have thought – some interest in keeping customers happy. These benefits of consumer capitalism are often invisible here. Indonesia might be a little more raya if its privileged private sector could get its act together. Well over 200 million Indonesians must dearly wish it would.

The phone registration funfest only affects pre-paid numbers. A better way is to have a post-paid plan.

The Germane German

IT was Karl Marx’s birthday on May 5, so happy 200th birthday to him. It’s probably just possible to mention the name in Indonesia without getting into trouble for expressing communist sympathies. We certainly have none that stem from the subsequent perversion of Marxist theory by the later crop of despots, tyrants, various leaders dear or great, or helmsmen or mass murderers, who purloined essentially sensible social ideas and buggered them up, or ignored them, in single-minded pursuit of their own misanthropic interests.

Though we do like good theories and to consider these objectively, as an otherwise unreconstructed Tory of our past acquaintance, economic theorist Henry Ergas, did recently in an engaging commentary in The Weekend Australian. His conclusion was basically that communism didn’t work because political practitioners bent its theoretical basis out of recognition, and anyway that the theory itself contained fatal flaws, especially those concerning the morality and ethical standards of the sort of people who historically end up dancing privileged mazurkas on the froth on top of the great beer of human affairs. Agreed. You could say exactly the same about capitalism.

Past Imperfect

WELL, it always is. It makes everyone a little tense. Just ask any historian. But in this instance we refer not to that which passed before, as in the entity that is a foreign land where they did things differently, but to the novel of that name by writer, film director and actor Julian Fellowes. It’s the Diary’s current reading for siesta time. It’s pretty good in 10-page tranches.

We should have read it long ago – it was published in 2008, following his first novel, Snobs– but didn’t. Most of our reading is not fiction. There’s enough farce and incredulity in real life to fill our regular reading list. What makes Fellowes’ Past Imperfect perfect for our relaxation is that it is set in two eras – the (now decade old) present, and fifty (then forty) years ago – and, moreover, in Britain, our domicile before we flew the coop, um, nearly fifty years ago now.

The narrative has some lovely vignettes – the fictionalised Season of 1968 provides many and seems to have been somewhat more outré than that of 1965 – and some devastating put-downs. There’s one that particularly caught our attention. The narrator, confronted by someone who unwisely asserts in conversation that something wouldn’t happen where he came from, responds:  “Where was that? I forget.”

Neanderthalistan

CHRISTINE Retschlag, the Global Goddess whose travel writing has made her a familiar face in Bali, reported a sour incident the other day, from Yeppoon, a little place on the central coast of Queensland, Australia.

She was in the area doing some scribbling, as you do if you’re a global goddess, and would be dining alone. Women have been doing that for ages, after all. It’s actually a pleasant pastime, too, even for men. There are no embarrassing pauses in the conversation, and you can quaff the wine of your first choice.

Retschlag had called in at a restaurant in the afternoon and said she’d like a table – that table in the corner, she pointed out – and duly returned at reservation time. The establishment had given the table to a couple.

She protested, as you would. She’d reserved it and they’d taken the reservation. They told her she could have another table, slap bang in the middle of the room. There was a row.  We’re sure it was decorous, if steely-eyed. And she finally got the table.

But sheesh! It’s 2018, fellas. Even in provincial Queensland. The restaurant’s name is Vue.  We mention this so others in town with less prehistoric attitudes are not unfairly thought to have been responsible.

Heads Up

TODAY is Ascension Day, in Indonesia Kenaikan Yesus Kristus, a red day in the national calendar, a public holiday. It’s a Christian festival. It is also relevant to Muslims, since Yesus, aka Isa, is their Messiah and a very important Nabi, being the last prophet before Mohammad.

The day is marked by Indonesia’s millions of Christians, those whom the loudly Arabian-desert robed lot, who’d like Arabian mores to swamp ancient archipelagic customs, would rather ignore. Indonesia’s Christians officially come in two constitutional brands:  Kristen and Katolik. We’ve often wondered what the Pope makes of that.

A Little Bit Rudy

FORMER mayor of New York City and now Trump legal flack Rudy Giuliani got off to a flying start in his new day job. Avi Steinberg | The New Yorker

 

Chin-chin!

Peak Effort

HECTOR’S DIARY

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

Titbits from his regular diet of worms

The Cage, Bali | Saturday, Apr. 28, 2018

 

DIAN Cahyadi, with whom we had the pleasure of working in Lombok more than decade ago, on a little and now extinct monthly newspaper called the Lombok Times, has achieved a new personal best for 2018. Actually, it’s a double triumph.

He scaled Mt. Rinjani, a feat in itself. We’ve seen photographic evidence. It wasn’t photo-shopped. It did look a tad chilly up there at 3,726m, where if the air is dry – and it is at the moment, now the dry season has properly kicked in – the lapse rate can easily take 25 degrees Celsius off the sea-level equivalent temperature.

Lombok’s Sasak people are not necessarily built for chill. This is a property they share with most Indonesians whose good fortune it is to live in an equatorial archipelago. His wife Barbara, who with Dian produces the useful Lombok Guide monthly, tells us the air temperature was zero Celsius when hubby and party left their long-way-up-the-mountain base camp at 2am to trek to the summit for sunrise. Brr-risk.

He’s a glutton for punishment, too. He’s done the climb four times now, an annual treat at the start of the climbing season. He and his mates clean up rubbish left on the mountain and take time out to educate porters and local communities about the importance of the environment.

(This item has been edited subsequent to its original publication, to reflect information later made available.)

Plumb Line

THE Governor of Jakarta says he’d like to see all the boats that service the Thousand Islands off the city operate safely. That’s an eminently reasonable position to take. It follows a report by the national maritime transportation safety agency to the effect that most of the boats are unsafe and poorly crewed.

There’s an easy solution. It is to ensure that boats are well built, adequately maintained and their crews competent, that navigation is conducted by the rules and not by whim, that boats are not overloaded, that weather conditions are taken into account, that harbourmasters work as harbourmasters instead of collectors of additional fees, and that the waters are effectively and not just ephemerally patrolled by enforcement agencies.

In short, the trick is to run things as they should be run and not as an informal and frequently manic circus. We made that point publicly. Someone came back immediately and said, well, that’s where the grand plan fails, then.

It’s hard to argue to the contrary, though we wish this were not so.

What Refugees?

THERE’s an interesting article in the Jakarta Post today – the newspaper is celebrating 35 years of telling it like is, give or take a line or two, by the way – that points out the refugee problem Indonesia faces. There are 14,000 such people, that we know of, who have arrived in Indonesia for a variety of reasons. One of these is that Australia remains a preferred destination for people seeking a new life, or any sort of life at all.

The Australian drawbridge was pulled up sharply some years ago, of course, assisted by a policy of employing the country’s navy to turn back unauthorised vessels. Australian policy is to deny entry to anyone claiming refugee status and specifically to keep such people out of Australian waters where, should they reach them, the courts might take a less political and more humane view of the country’s responsibilities.

It’s a policy that has worked, in terms of reducing basically to zero the number of people who are able to place their lives in the hands of rapacious people smugglers and get on leaky boats that might sink and drown them. Stop the boats was the Australian government’s mantra. It was a constant refrain.

It has left Indonesia with a problem, however, though that’s not Australia’s fault. These people – refugees, economic migrants, potential pogrom victims, whatever – are in Indonesia after unauthorised arrival and are therefore Indonesia’s responsibility. None will be going on to Australia, short of a change of conceivable government and a Damascene conversion among the electors. That won’t happen. So they’re stuck.

Kuta Crawl

WE’VE just had the considerable pleasure of a visit from an old friend of the Companion, and of the Diary’s by natural association. She’s a journalist who lives on the Gold Coast in Queensland – and who had a lengthy spell in Hong Kong too, long before its reacquisition by China – and whom we had been trying for ages to get to come and see us.

She and the Companion go back a long way, more than three decades, in fact, via various adventures and misadventures, and she’s a lively sort. So we all had fun. Ubud and Candi Dasa were on the expeditionary schedule, in pleasant accommodations (Tegal Sari in Ubud and Bayshore Villas in Candi Dasa) and plenty of activity (Venezia Day Spa in Ubud and Vincent’s – for the Thursday evening live jazz – in Candi Dasa) plus time at The Cage with its cooling Bukit breezes, ocean glimpses and chance of chainsaws. On the latter, it did seem that the gods had smiled upon us and declared a moratorium on borrowed buzzing for the duration. Or perhaps it all took place while we were away.

On her last evening we went into Kuta, toured the shops, bought some things, and dined at Un’s, a favourite spot of ours. Their frozen margaritas were declared a thing. The traffic afterwards, in contrast, was declared an unimaginable thing. And so it was, but then it almost always is. The more bucolic lifestyle of the western Bukit is much better, especially if you want to take photos of pretty little cows.

Handbag Parade

THE Kuta outing provided another chance for the Diary to prove his credentials as Handbag to the Companion. This is something we’ve done, in various places and forms, over rather more years than it is now comfortable to recall.

These days, it’s not corporate hand bagging. We are no longer required to stand around, consort-like, and engage with small talk persons who are unknown to us and whom we might otherwise wish to keep in that state of dimensional offset. It’s actual, physical, handbag carrying that’s now all the go. This is a duty we perform with serious intent, since a woman’s handbag is like one of those black holes in space. Things go in them that are apt never to be seen again, but it wouldn’t do to be the duty handbag holder if something were to be required from within and could not be found. Not finding things in her handbag is a job reserved for the lady who owns it.

In Jl. Legian in Kuta this week, while the distaff detail was in a shop looking for things with bling on them, we stood sentry outside, toting the handbag and trying to ignore the importuning of the massage ladies across the street. Sometimes it’s good to have reached an age where, like other things among life’s former functions, blushing is no longer feasible.

Whine o’Clock

180428 HECTOR'S DIARY CARTOON

This is a very good point. More information please.

 

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

Chin-chin!

Absolute Rubbish

HECTOR’S DIARY

Titbits from his diet of worms

 

THE CAGE

Ubud, Bali

Wednesday, Apr. 18, 2018

 

THE perennial problem of rubbish has yet again raised its head as a topic de jour. The trash that litters Bali’s beaches – it’s not only in the tourist-overburdened south – is something that won’t go away. At least, it won’t without concerted government-led action to set up efficient, sustainable and sufficiently funded waste management programs island-wide.

Getting troupes of anti-litter activists out onto the beaches to pick up trash isn’t the answer. It is merely a necessary immediate response (and very welcome and public spirited) to the universal practice of despoiling the island’s environment, from the tourist beaches where it’s blindingly and revoltingly evident to the piles of discarded garbage thrown away everywhere. The way to deal with the overall crisis – for that is what it is – is to reduce the amount of trash that gets dumped in the drains (ha!) and little streams and creeks, and the one or two watercourses that actually qualify as rivers. This is a local problem, not a tourist one, though of course the authorities point out that without tourism there wouldn’t be the level of waste with which they choose not to deal because official indolence is easier than effort. That way, in the methodology of Indonesian excuse making, it’s the tourists’ fault anyway.

There was an irate outburst on Facebook recently, from someone who lives in a family compound. She reported that she went off – there’s no better way of expressing what she did – when she saw one of her family neighbours littering the collective home environment. There’s no excuse for doing that. It’s not a matter of education. The only explanation is that the perpetrator doesn’t give a shit.

Yet as Yoda might say, “A shit is what we must give.” Until that happens, the criminal littering of Bali will simply continue.

Rubbish on a beach in the Sanur area recently.

Photo: Ton de Bruyn |Facebook

Plain Sailing

IT’S abundantly clear that Australia won’t be joining ASEAN in its present format, not least – as Aussie-Kiwi Indonesian hand Duncan Graham recently noted in a post on an Australian site for more conservative chatterers, On Line Opinion – because every member state has an effective veto on such matters.

Nonetheless, it’s a theoretical question that should be raised now and then, for example in the context of Australia hosting an ASEAN summit, as it did in Sydney recently. Such navel-gazing is in the interests of all parties to any such future arrangement, and James Massola, the new South-east Asian correspondent for the Fairfax media group, was right, not naïve as Graham implies, to do so. He had asked that question of President Joko Widodo and had received a Javanese answer. We’re sure Massola understood that this is what it was. But it was an answer that should be placed on the record.

Australian membership of South-east Asia’s leading geopolitical architecture would make more sense, in the future, and in the regional political circumstances that might well arise on the coattails of Chinese instead of American hegemony, than metaphorically sailing Australia round the world and anchoring it in the Atlantic in the middle of the New Anglosphere, as some Australians apparently would like.

Der Dummkopf

THE Commonwealth Games, a quadrennial sporting festival held among the countries that in long-ago days were jewels in the British imperial crown, and which have recently finished at the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia, provided the country’s leading former fish and chip shop proprietor with yet another opportunity to embarrass herself.

Two Indians won shooting medals at the games. According to Senator Pauline Hanson, she of the burka ban farce in the Australian parliament’s upper house in August last year, this was unsurprising since Indians were Muslim and Muslims do this sort of thing (shooting) for a living. She said this on Sky News television, the station of choice for those with towering intellects.

There are many Indian Muslims, but they constitute 14.2 per cent of the population. Hindus are the majority, totalling 74.3 per cent. It was possible, and indeed would be unremarkable if this had been so, that both Indian medallists were Muslim. But they weren’t, as their names would make abundantly clear to anyone even lightly briefed on the sub-continent, such as (even) an Australian fringe politician. The male winner was a chap called Jitu Rai. The female – she’s only 16 – was Manu Bhaker. For the record the men’s silver medallist was Australian Kerry Bell. He’s also neither a Muslim nor a terrorist in training.

Expeditionary Notes

WE’RE in Ubud again, as we write, with a visiting Australian friend who was last in Bali shortly after that dove got back to the Ark with a twig. She notes that things have changed. She enjoyed our drive up to Ubud from the Bukit the other day. It didn’t quite teach her any new words, but the form and expression of them was something of a novelty.

We’ve dined – again – at Kagemusha, the little Japanese garden restaurant at Nyuh Kuning, and the girls went shopping and dropped into the Diary’s favourite Monkey Forest Road café, The Three Monkeys, for a cooling drink. It’s hot work toting the totes.

Tomorrow we’re off to Candi Dasa. That’s a 57-kilometre drive which Google Maps told us today would take an hour and forty minutes. We’ll see tomorrow how long it actually takes to shift by road from Tegal Sari in Ubud to Bayshore Villas at Candi Dasa.

Tomorrow night it’s live jazz at Vincent’s. Pianist Nita Aartsen and her trio are on the bill. They’ve just performed at the closing night of the Ubud Food Festival.

Get It On

WE had a little note from Clare Srdarov the other day, telling us that An Evening on the Green is on again. This one’s on Apr. 28, at Hatten Wines in Sanur, with lots of wine, beer, games, raffles, auctions, and of course food trucks and bars. There’s music too, from four bands: Kim Patra, Muara Senja (from Ceningan), Eastern Soul and Linga Longa. Entry is by pre-purchased tickets only (Rp.200K a pop) and funds raised will go to BIWA, Solemen, Rumah Sehat and Trash Hero Sanur. Hatten’s technical adviser Jim K’alleskè, who also goes by the moniker Blue Cat Jimmy, was at last year’s show in his party hat as well as his Hatten one. This one should be a good gig too.

Chin-chin!

Cool Aid Needed

HECTOR’S DIARY

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

Titbits from his diet of worms

 

Ubud, Bali

Saturday, Apr. 7, 2018

 

 

IT should surprise, though of course it doesn’t, that Indonesia’s pique Islamist bother boots brotherhood, the FPI, has taken issue with a poem written nearly two decades ago and recently recited by Sukmawati Sukarnoputri. It laments the way Middle Eastern inspired (and funded) perceptions of Islamic religious probity are taking root in Indonesia and displacing archipelagic ways. Sukarnoputri is a high-profile collateral target – being the daughter of founding president Bung Sukarno – in the political war the FPI is waging against modernising Indonesia. They want her jailed for blasphemy, like the Christian former Jakarta governor Ahok, who foolishly made a political point and paid for it with two years in the pokey. Sukarnoputri has apologised and the moderate Islamic organisation the MUI suggests that this should be enough. It would be, for anyone but a hot head with a political agenda to prosecute.

Matters of dogma within faiths – all faiths, not just irredentist Islam – should be left to their adherents to adjudicate. They are no one else’s business. But many religions – Islam and Christianity are to the fore in this – are also very active social and political forces, and there, what they say and do is legitimately a matter of public interest. The FPI seeks to fully veil Indonesia in the cultural attire and social precepts of the Middle East. It is entitled to propose and promote such a policy. And it is for Indonesians as a whole to decide their response to this. It wants a more strongly Islamist president in the Istana Negara. That is also a political objective. Its street demonstrations fuelled by modest emoluments and nasi bungkus should be understood in that context. There is a presidential election in 2019.

Time may not be on the side of Indonesia’s hard-line Islamists, however. The modest reforms commenced in Saudi Arabia, where women have been given the green light to drive motor vehicles and cinemas have reopened, have already subtly changed the shape of the religious wave the FPI hoped would assist them in swamping the archipelago. The petrol dollars are also running out. Sharply curtailed largesse from Arabia and its littoral will surely follow. Indonesia rightly wants to be Indonesia – the leading power in South-east Asia. That is a nationalistic aim, which the Chinese will probably choose to support, though they will do so to advance China’s profit, not the Prophet. In that secular scenario, matters of religion are for the mosque, not the cabinet table.

In a Paddy

WE’RE enjoying a long weekend at Petulu, near Ubud, where the famous white herons live and wisely try to evade touristic cameras. One was in the rice field next to our lovely friend’s villa this morning, a lone forager by choice perhaps, or maybe it had argued with its mates and flocked off in a huff. It made a pretty picture in reflection in the recently planted water-field. Such images, prosaic though they may be, are good for the soul.

They help alleviate the irritation of hearing about events such as that which befell Ubud resident Darsih Gede this morning. Her two much-loved Bali dogs disappeared from her home, stolen by a person or persons unknown.

On the island of the Gods, there are a lot of devils.

Crocodile Rock

WE won’t be going along, sadly. There’s a probably an upper age limit for croc hunters and we’re sure we’re well past it. And anyway, they snap at you. But there’s a crocodile catching opportunity tomorrow night, which you can join for a fee, and which we heard about from Rex Sumner. The trip is out and back from Serangan, in Benoa Bay.

Among the many things you’re always told by those with cosy touristic stories to tell is that Bali doesn’t have Crocodylus porosus, the estuarine or saltwater crocodile. Magically, they are said to have created a special zone around Bali, which is otherwise right in the middle of their habitat range from Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean to the Marshall Islands in the North Pacific, and all points in between. They are reportedly no longer present in the city-state of Singapore (they don’t like crowds) and Thailand claims their absence too, though you wouldn’t want to bank on that. But of course, we know they’re here. People keep catching them in the riverine and tidewater mangrove environment that fringes Benoa Bay.  Apparently the biggest caught has been two metres long. That’s not so big, in salty terms. They’re the world’s largest reptilian predator, if left alone to live out their allotted lifespans without accident or human intervention, and have been recorded at more than five metres, as well as far out to sea.

It is also said, by some of those who say they know, that the Benoa mangrove croc community comprises former zoo inmates which escaped or were let out when their unpleasant prison became yet another victim of the White Elephant Syndrome that so afflicts business here. Perhaps. Or perhaps these poor dispossessed animals simply augmented an already existing population. South Bali is fairly densely populated, something that would have reduced endemic numbers over the years.

The capture program is designed to relocate the animals to natural habitats far away, where it is thought they will be happier and possibly better fed, and won’t worry the tourists and lead to further travel advisories from foreign governments. They are far from uncommon in Flores and West Timor, not to mention Raja Ampat and the Indonesian half of New Guinea. In Darwin, Australia, if you go sunbaking at the beach you’re likely to do so behind a croc-proof fence. Apparently that trumps them, but then, of course, they’re not Mexicans.

180407 HECTOR ILLUSTRATION

These are alligators, and elsewhere, but the message might be apt. It came to us from a keen spotter of idiocies.

Cake With All The Extras

LUHUT Binsar Pandjaitan, the coordinating minister for home affairs in the Jokowi cabinet, was in Bali recently, on a trip that was loosely connected with the proposed North Bali Airport, that on again, off again project that so excites the Bupati of Buleleng and others.

The northern airport is on, according to Minister Luhut, rather than off, which had been the preceding announcement from some other office at chaos central. Furthermore, the network of toll roads to connect the south with the north and the northwest would also proceed, along with expansion of Ngurah Rai International Airport in the south.

This box of expensive tricks was flourished, we’re sure, because there are provincial and districts elections this year, and the presidential election next year already referred to above, and naturally everyone wants to have their piece of the cake. Having got it, they’ll then eat it, or their friend will, and then they’ll want more.

It must be a very rich fruitcake indeed.

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

Chin-chin!

 

Fair Sets You Off

HECTOR’S DIARY

Titbits from his regular diet of worms

 

The Cage, Bali

Saturday, Mar. 31, 2018

 

 

LAND of the fair go, mate! That’s what they say. Hector’s amanuensis got into trouble during the week, because he’d dared to write about a friendly little warning he got not to diss the Aussies, over this and that (and in Barnaby Joyce’s case, possibly the other, though this wasn’t directly canvassed). He’s an immigrant to Australia, you see, Hector’s helper.

We’re a precious little mob, sometimes, we Aussies. The Bushwhacked Brigade has its moments. Anyway, never mind. It’s all water under the bridge, or would be if they hadn’t sold already off all the water in the Darling River to people to profit from and then avoid paying tax.

There are far more important things to talk about where Australia’s reputation is concerned. Two Australian friends of ours who were on holiday in India when the news of the Cape Town Test match ball tampering came out told a little story that puts some redeeming points on the scoreboard. When a party of Brits in the hotel restaurant wished them a cheery good morning at breakfast, they replied: “We’re Australian. We cheat at cricket.”

We don’t know how it went from there – they didn’t say – but we expect the omelette was scrambled. No one would have tampered with it, of course, even though India is a cricketing country. Most people have better manners and the ethics and morality to go with them. But it’s not nice being a laughing stock.

The fair-go Aussies have done it before. That infamous underarm bowling incident in the 1981 one-day international against New Zealand was puke-worthy. This week, after the ball-tampering affair in the Cape Town Test match against South Africa – they were either mad or stupid, take your pick – three Australian players including the captain were sent home in disgrace. They have since been seeing weeping in public. Sheesh! Breaker Morant (the Australian officer executed by a British firing squad for killing Boer prisoners during the South African war) did it better, at least in the Australian movie about him. “Shoot straight you bastards. Don’t make a mess of it.”

Part of the problem with modern international level sport, as others have pointed out, is that it has become big business, a competition for audience and advertising, a process that prefers the pecuniary benefits of colour and movement ahead of sporting spirit that risks being boring. It was always going to end in tears. The people like bread and circuses. The Roman emperors understood that very well. They always got sell-out crowds to the annual Coliseum Challenge Cup even though everyone knew the result would be rigged: invariably it was Lions 10, Christians 0.

But here’s the bottom line: If you can’t play the game to win fairly, then don’t play at all: cede that honour to those who will.

Easter Message

THE Diary was out getting the messages on Friday – a note for our Aussie friends who think everyone from Britain is English: that’s Scottish for shopping – and felt in need of refreshment, so we dropped in at Tempoe Doeloe on Sunset Road in Kuta for a nice es campur.

There was an eclectic crowd within, seriously eating lunch. It was after Friday prayers for Muslims, who would have been reminded during these that the day was Wafat Isa al-Mahdi. That’s Good Friday for Christians, for whom the day marks the same death: that of Jesus Christ, the foundational figure of Christianity, Isa ibn Maryam, in Islam the precursor to Mohammad, the Mahdi (Messiah) and the most mentioned person in the Quran.

The tables were mixed, in some cases not just by placement but also by diners. The white caps of Hajis – those who have made the Haj to Mecca – and Hijabs of the women mingled with the interpretative Western attire of Christian Indonesians, along with loud chatter and lots of smiles and laughter. This is a picture of Indonesia that many in the West don’t get, either literally or figuratively.

The es campur was delicious, by the way.

Chat Time

JEWEL Topsfield, who is settling back into four-seasons-a-day Melbourne after her three-year stint as the Fairfax media group correspondent in nicely tropical Indonesia, was in Perth this week to give a talk at an event organised by the Australia Indonesia Business Council. We couldn’t be there, though we should have liked to go along. It’s always fun to catch up with Topsfield.

Direct interpretation of events – it’s a crucial function of journalism, and the most likely to cause argument – provides essential intelligence for those who are engaged in any enterprise. The relationship between Australia and Indonesia is far more important south of the Timor Gap than it is north or east or west of it. This is something too few people understand.

Sure as Eggs

A LOVELY Dutch friend who was recently our houseguest left some welcome Easter gifts for us. We’ve done the right thing and kept them for tomorrow, Easter Sunday. They comprise stroepwafel and wickedly rich Belgian chocolate eggs.

Since we are Notas (None Of The Above in terms of religion) it might seem strange that we mark Easter in any way. Of course it’s a Christian festival, and we honour that at one remove. But like many such rites, its timing was borrowed – long ago so it’s no longer a live issue – and in the case of Easter, it was borrowed from the ancient pagan Spring rites of what is now known as Europe.

It’s a fertility thing, really, so it’s fun. It has to do with budding plants and blossoms, the promise of summer fruit, and the return to practicality, with warmer weather, of the chance of rumpy-pumpy.

There’s a Thought

JADE Richardson, who is by way of being The Diary’s favourite facilitator of writing talent – she is also a fine lunch companion – and who has just run the latest in her series of classes in Ubud, posted a little note today which was a much needed antidote to the inchoate quibbles that have otherwise intruded into our week. Here it is:

“Ah… the way it works… so exquisite! Creation, maintenance and transformation laid out before me in the art of fallen flowers. A parting gift from the nest from which I taught this week… and there, rebirth, tucked away at the heart of things. Life is eloquent.”

It certainly is.

And here’s what she was talking about:

PHOTO: Jade Richardson | Facebook

 

Chin-chin!

 

We Have Been Warned

Sunday, Mar. 25, 2018

 

 

SOMETHING happened the other day that caused me to think deeply about the political direction Australia is taking. It was a disturbing incident; it was nothing to worry about personally, but it gave me pause. It did so especially because it came in the course of an exchange of views – by email – with someone I’ve known for a long time.

It was this: I should be careful in my criticism of Australian domestic security issues, since I was an immigrant, and it didn’t matter how long I’d been a citizen.

It’s true that I am an immigrant. I arrived in Australia early in 1971. I was fully formed by that stage – I had just turned 27 – and was thus not fit for moulding to the local matrix except by consent and (I have to confess) peripherally. I was, and still am, British, though I acquired Australian citizenship by declaration in 1972. There was no hoopla involved in such a decision then, neither pledges of allegiance nor hands on hearts; nor flag-waving. It was just a bit of paper: just as I wanted; nationalistic hyperbole has always alarmed me. It’s perfectly possible to be patriotic without turning out with the mob.

So, to set out the scene more fully: I’ve been an Australian citizen for longer than the half of today’s population aged under 45. Half of them wouldn’t pass the apparently nascent, unpleasant Australian Birther test, since they were either born overseas or one or both of their parents were.

Peter Dutton, the Home Affairs minister who is leading the charge towards making Australia even less relevant to the world than it already is, was two months old when I arrived in Australia, and he was two years old – just off rusks – when I became a citizen.

But I’m an immigrant. And because of this I should modulate any comments I make about my adopted homeland.

When I arrived in Australia its population was 12,507,349, less than the number of Australians today aged 45 or under who have therefore been Australian for less time than me. (This year Australia’s population is estimated to be 25 million.) I found a country that was still identifiably British in many of its ways. This wasn’t a requirement of mine. It was just that it was pleasant and comfortable to be in a place where, while the Old World shadows might be getting longer and changing hue, certain principles remained in place with which I had grown up and was thoroughly familiar. You could call these liberal values, the distilled product of two centuries of social advance.

I first voted in Australia in 1972, the Whitlam election. I voted for Gough Whitlam, less for political motivation than because poor Billy McMahon was plainly a joke. I was living in Tasmania then. I shared a lunchtime giggle with Margaret Whitlam during the campaign. It was an unusually hot day in the Apple Isle and I remarked to her that it really felt quite like Australia. After voting in Launceston on Dec. 2, 1972, I went trout fishing in the central highlands with friends. It snowed on us. Ah, Tasmania! Beautiful one day, English the next.

In 1973, I moved to Queensland. I lived there, except for three years in Papua New Guinea, for 32 years until 2005 when we moved for family reasons to Western Australia (and part-time in Indonesia). I served in the Army Reserve, perhaps poorly according to some, though I’d be entitled to a medal for turning up if I wanted one. I don’t. I worked in the national media and in state and federal politics. Nothing I did ever indicated to me that I was anything other than “an Australian” – just one of the growing number of Girts on the Big Gibber, surrounded by warm seas and buoyed by membership of an inclusive and caring community.

But I’m an immigrant, and should therefore be careful about what I say and write. Perhaps the warning was intended kindly – it came from an old mate, after all – but it was a sickening shock. And I’ve thought about it for a day or so and now I’m writing this.

I should be careful? After 46 years of being as dinky-di as I’ll ever be, because some flat-footed politicians mightn’t like what I say about policies of being beastly to Foreigners Not From The Anglosphere or Certain Other Currently Favoured Places? It might be “noticed” – by the Stasi perhaps, oh no, that police state’s gone now; by the Gestapo maybe, no, same difference; by ASIO or ASIS then, or the Border Farce, though surely they’ve got better things to waste their time on – that as an immigrant I’m not entitled to full free speech because I’m not a real Aussie. Geddoutofit!

Australia might have doubled its population in 46 years, but at 25 million it’s only 2 million people larger than the city of Shanghai. It’s smaller than California and Texas in the U.S.A. Even Madagascar’s got more people.

On these figures an “Australian Birther” movement is a risible exercise (demographically I mean: it might play to parochially perverse local politics) and socially it’s an excrescence. Or to put it even more plainly, it’s a sick joke.

If you don’t like it here, go home, is a favourite line among exclusivists and (occasionally) of politicians and political activists under pressure. But I am home. I vote in the federal electorate of Curtin. And I won’t be shutting up.

Drawing the Line 1

HECTOR’S DIARY

Titbits from his regular diet of worms

 

The Cage, Bali

Saturday, Mar. 24, 2018

 

A PHOTO appeared yesterday – we saw it in the social media, which is a thing these days – of a packed crowd, said to be more than 3,000, though numbers are always difficult to estimate, of incoming passengers waiting to get through customs at Ngurah Rai International Airport. Someone noted that it indicated Bali was returning to normal.

Sadly that’s the case if it wasn’t just a one-off snafu (though come to think of it, those are pretty normal events too). The defence that airport arrivals holdups are standard everywhere these days, when as one airline puts it as a pitch, everyone can fly, is an easy cop-out. Los Angeles is a horror story, though that has more to do with the funk and wrangle of American security requirements than raw numbers. LA is not alone. Amsterdam has far queues too, and other places; and closer to home, Sydney and even Perth can be a pest if the boyos are working that day.

However, Bali’s numbers are not on the gross side of the ledger, and most of the arrivals are starting their holidays. Pissing people off before they’ve even got out of the airport is not good PR. There are peak arrival and departure times for airlines everywhere too, naturally and understandably.

Someone needs to do some homework.

Drawing the Line 2

ADRIAN Vickers, the Sydney-based Australian academic who is so far from being a stranger to Asia that he’s almost part of the furniture in Indonesia, has had a little gripe about yet another reference to “spring” in relation this time to an upcoming art exhibition in Jakarta. We shall entertain no suggestions that he is a pedant on this score, since we share his partisan belief in accuracy. The southern hemisphere autumnal equinox was this week, on Mar. 21, Wednesday.

Vickers says this reference indicates that geography is not a strong suit in the Indonesian education curriculum. No contest. It isn’t anywhere, of course, but let’s not spoil a good story.

It might just be possible (if you forget that the equatorial zones don’t actually have any seasons other than hot and dry or hot and wet) to stage an event in the spring at this time of the year in, say, Medan or Manado. They’re north of the Line (that equator thingy) and therefore in the Northern Hemisphere.

Jakarta is not. Neither is Bali, for that matter, where some of the more challenged touristic and retail entrepreneurs insist that at this time of year we’re heading into “summer”. As someone else noted: This isn’t Euramerica, despite what the media and assorted other ignoramuses seem to think.

Back to the Future

THE tribulations of white South African farmers are unfortunate, though they were probably inevitable in the long process of change that had to follow the historic end of whites-only rule in the country nearly 30 years ago now, and the dismantling of the horror of its internal repression under apartheid.

The government of the republic – under its new president, Cyril Ramaphosa, who took over in February from Jacob Zuma, who is now facing criminal charges for exemplary personal wealth acquisition – proposes to expropriate white-owned farms, saying that a sin was committed when the country was colonised. Many sins have been committed, throughout history, by strangers who suddenly turn up at your door (metaphorically speaking) and steal your land. The peoples of eastern, central and western Europe had similar problems in the past with successive waves of Vandals, Huns and Tartars – and then the Ottomans – and so should feel some sympathy for the Xhosa, Zulu and other peoples of South Africa.

It’s for South Africa to devise and implement national policies, though the rest of us are free to assess these for what they are, and say so. The cause of the white farmers, however, is damaged by the history of Boer expansion and settlement. They were originally Dutch-speaking, though the modern language is Afrikaans, a highly modified derivative of Dutch. White supremacist practices were looked at askance even in the colonial era, though until very late in the piece only on a tut-tut basis by the British who had become the colonial masters.

It’s perhaps not widely known that racial exclusion policies in (British, English-speaking) Natal were modelled on those of the Australian colony of Queensland before federation and that, later, apartheid itself drew inspiration and some of its repressive mechanisms from Australia’s appalling treatment of its Aboriginal peoples. So when Australia’s home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, calls for white South African farmers to be rescued by “other civilised countries” (code for “white”) he is committing an egregious offence.

South Africa is in many respects a lawless country, a place where the competing requirements of its distinct population groups often create trouble. The immigrant Nigerian gangs of Johannesburg are a later case in point. The national murder rate is very high, and some of the victims of this epidemic are, naturally enough, white farmers. It is beyond doubt that there is a racial motive behind some black killings of whites. There are reasonable arguments to suggest that any white South African farmer, who wishes to leave, should be given that opportunity, and go to Australia in some instances, along with the many other people elsewhere whose claims the Australian government knows very well are much more dire and far more urgent. (Though we should note that the English-speaking South African white community is much reduced these days. Many among it had British citizenship or access to it. Boer farmers whose ancestors lived in South Africa for 400 years have no other country of automatic refuge.)

The Dutton proposal for special visas, however, needs to be seen in the context of domestic political arguments within the ruling Liberal Party. There is a move in Australia to harden the “right” of politics – a ridiculous term these days but we’re probably stuck with it – and it is almost inevitable that this will split the Liberal Party. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is very far from being “right”. The proposal also insults South Africa – at least diplomatically – and runs the risk of turning Australia back into the anachronism it once was and for which some of its politicians apparently pine.

Perhaps they should too should look at an atlas, as equatorially and seasonally challenged Indonesians should. If any among Australia’s irredentists on the right are able to multi-task, they could examine their consciences at the same time.

And Now, a Giggle

Some of the foregoing is rather heavy, so here’s a lighter moment to finish up with.

With thanks to our inveterate collector of engaging ephemera, Philly Frisson.

Chin-chin!

The Figjam Factor

HECTOR’S DIARY

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

Titbits from his regular diet of worms

 

The Cage, Bali

Friday, Mar. 16, 2018

 

BALI is home to many oddities. We refer in this instance to those found in the expatriate community. Readers will recall that someone by the name of Terry Brockhall chose to defame two former expatriates recently on the basis of his full misunderstanding of a set of circumstances relating to volcano relief fundraising. We noted this, he didn’t like it, and we invited him to get in touch for a chat. We heard nothing, which didn’t surprise us. Sometimes silence is the best policy, after all, when the vino has worn off but the uncomfortable verities remain.

The thing is, though, blowhard rule-benders very rarely learn a lesson they won’t forget in a goldfish’s brain-snap, especially if they’re of the variety that likes to jest about having to look bright eyed and bushy tailed for the boss, ha-ha. Well, not exactly the boss: it’s just someone who feeds him, but you’ll know what we mean. So he was back recently, in the social media, having another gratuitously ungracious and misinformed go on the same issue. The same message in return is warranted. But do get in touch, Terry, if you’d like a chat this time.

Terry has now been joined in the figjam chorus (Google figjam if you must) by another person, also late of Brisbane, faraway on the eastern seaboard of Australia. His name is Chris Osses, a used car salesman who now seems to live in Kalgoorlie. That’s in Western Australia and it’s a place with lots of rocks for lower forms of life to hide under. Apparently he has deep knowledge of the law in Australia and Indonesia. He’s welcome to drop by for a chat too.

Do It Right

THIS might be a moment to say some things about the volunteering sector here, especially in regard to fundraising and effective concentration of effort. The restrictions on foreigners doing good works are frequently ridiculous and the rules – fiscal and otherwise – onerous, but it has to be done right. Among most of the established charities, it is. There are some who don’t, and they’re administratively foolish and legally on shaky ground. They also put their own future funding from donations at risk unless they are fully transparent – with their donors and the authorities – on how the money is spent. It’s a formal accounting process, not the tea money.

This is also a place where when an emergency situation comes to light there’s a race – like a sort of manically disorganised egg and spoon event – to get out there first and be visible doing something. In short, it’s a battle for territory, a narrow view that produces unnecessary discord and shuts off creation of a focused and fully effective operation. Those in need of assistance don’t really care who helps, whether they’re volcano evacuees for whom the government provides only second-grade rice, or animals in distress. The Mt. Agung emergency has not gone away. There was a minor eruption today (Mar. 16) that was but the latest in a long-running series.

Uang Kecil

THE practice of some Balinese whose homes overlook picturesque rice terraces in demanding money from tourists taking photos has recently caused a flurry of self-interest among the Canggu crowd. You’ll be aware that Canggu is selfie-centred, to coin a phrase.

In the to-and-fro that followed someone’s social media complaint that a farmer had tried to sting him for a small consideration – it was probably only Rp.10K or Rp.20K (US$1 or US$2) – there were several comments.

The best we saw came from Ipong Wayan, a name not unknown in Bali’s tourism fuelled economic sectors. He told the complainant in chief, someone called Frederick Dillon, this: “Oyyyy stop this bullshit … come visit my village I will give you free lunch or dinner and cash to go back to your country … please come quickly as this offer is limited (only for cheap people).”

Over the matter of small money, uang kecil, we couldn’t have put it better.

Festival Central

180316 FOR HECTOR'S DIARY

A modern-day seeker after truth…

UBUD’S the place for doing all sorts of things to your mind and your body. It has a reputation as a fine resort for feeding the mind, or bending it, or for bending your body while your chakras are reorganised by your guru of choice. It’s actually as venal as anywhere else, but we don’t talk about that.

It is also Festival Central. This is a fine thing for many reasons, not the least of these being that many of them are the kind of Lost Westerner dreamtime stuff that doesn’t attract hordes of Chinese tourists in big buses. So we note the upcoming annual Bali Spirit Festival (Apr. 2-8) where you can bend it, but not quite like Beckham, and on the alimentary front, Janet DeNeefe’s fourth Ubud Food Festival (Apr. 13-15).

In its latest e-newsletter, UFF suggests that if you’re looking for something nourishing for the mind and the body, then Jam Secrets with Arif Springs and Healthy Eating for Midlife and Beyond with Sam Rice are the answers. Or, as DeNeefe suggests for devotees of freshly baked sourdough bread, Sourdough from Scratch with Starter Lab and Sourdough Pizza with DUMBO could be just what you need.

Yum!

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

Chin-chin!

 

Silence is Golden

HECTOR’S DIARY

Titbits from his regular diet of worms

 

The Cage, Bali

Wednesday, Mar. 7, 2018

 

IT’S Nyepi in ten days (Saturday, Mar. 17), the annual day of silence in Bali, by the island’s traditional Hindu Dharma religious and customary rites. This requires a twenty-four-hour period in which no work is performed, no noise is heard, and no lights are seen. It is a sacred time for Hindus and demands respect and observance from everyone on the island.

There are benefits from the day for everyone. There’s no traffic, so the road system copes very well with the load it is required to carry. The airport is closed, so the tourist sluice is temporarily dry. There is no lighting (except that required by international regulations at the airport and the ports) so the night sky is fully visible. If it’s not cloudy, the stars are magic.

Here at The Cage, we are not Hindus. Neither are we Jewish (you’ll never see us holding a scroll and bashing our heads against the Western Wall in al-Quds) nor Christian (we don’t fast during Lent) though we are “Kristen” for Indonesian bureaucracy’s benefit, nor Muslim (we never kill goats for Eid al-Adha). So we shan’t be engaging in twenty-four hours of quiet spiritual reflection, which is the formal requirement of Balinese Hindus for Nyepi. But no noise will be heard beyond our property boundary, no visible light will show, and we won’t be having a party.

We might, if it is ends up being too hard for the island’s ISPs to switch off their signals as they are under pressure to do, quietly use our Internet connection. We may even listen (quietly) to some music. We shall certainly eat, bathe, and do all the other things in the normal daily routine of well-mannered unbelievers. In the evening, we shall marvel at the stars. That’s what we do every year.

Last year the silence of Nyepi in our little bit of our banjar was broken only once. This was by the Pecalang patrol that motored loudly down our track in the middle of the evening, flashing their torches to see if anyone was illegally illuminated, and the neighbourhood dogs, which quite understandably made a dreadful racket about this disturbance.

Nyepi observance varies according to local tradition. In one place we know of, the restriction used to be only that you should not leave your village. Some of the observance is informal, too. We generally stay home these days, but one year we went to Candi Dasa and stayed at a small resort within that “Obyek Wisata”. We and all the other guests were chivvied out of the restaurant by 7.30pm and sent stumbling off in the dark to our bungalows where no light should be shown. We sat quietly on our terrace thereafter and enjoyed the partying of the hotel staff, who observed the holiest night of the Balinese year by purloining all the pool toys and splashing around noisily in the big pool for hours.

Cover Up, There’s a Dear

WE do love a good rant, as regular readers will know. And this time, we’ve got two to report – one from our favourite feisty American surfer-ecologist Mara Wolford, and the other from a lovely little to-and-fro on a Bali expat Facebook page.

Marvellous Mara’s is about surfboards and the unreliability of friends: see “Hang Ten”, below. The other is about dressing appropriately in the immediate vicinity of temples. In the old days, when respect was an obligation you owed to others instead of a right you demand from others, there might have been fewer problems. But (not to put too fine a point on it) appropriate dress for such occasions involves managing to put on something that doesn’t show everyone quite so much of your bum, even if you do come from a land down under where (as Men at Work sang in one version of their fine paean to the antipodes) women glow and men plunder.

The glutinous maximus may be the strongest muscle in the human body, but it is seldom able to prevent heavy buttock droop, particularly in those whose diet chiefly comes from FastFoodInc, purveyors of grossness to Their Majesties The Common Herd. It’s predominantly a western thing – although locally the backsides of some motorbike riders seem to be expanding – and thus is another visual pollutant courtesy of the age of mass tourism.

Body shape should not be dissed of course. We are all what we are. It would be impolite and disrespectful to comment subjectively. It should be said, though, of the apparently endless range of such endowments, that self-respect needs to get a look-in too. Near nudity is fine on beaches – if local laws permit and you’re not from the growing cohort of full burka bathing enthusiasts – but you’re not paying attention if you think going shopping covered in less than most people put on as underwear is anywhere near acceptable.

We’re not prudes. Though we do remember the lesson drummed into us in our formative post-pubescence, in a world now long gone: the shorter the skirt, the lower the price.

It’s Unarchipelagic

SPEAKING of burkas, which is a difficult thing to do if swaddled in one, it was interesting to read the other day that the State Islamic University in Yogyakarta has banned the garment from its campus. Yogya is a special region of Indonesia in many ways, not least because by custom its hereditary Sultan is always the head of government. It’s an example of how Indonesia can manage its diversity. Aceh is another, though that compact, more recent, had particular religious-political and economic reasons behind it after the long insurrection, and is showing some less than pleasant results.

The burka is primarily desert dress, its origin flowing (pun intended) from the need to cover up against the super-fierce heat of the dry-climate sun. It has acquired religious significance since, even though the Prophet, when he said that Arabian women should cover up, was only saying they should put an end to their Neolithic practice of going about bare-breasted. In an Indonesian context, where (somewhat naturally) traditional modes of dress are not Arabian, though they often include head-coverings, the burka is Unarchipelagic. It’s good to see that someone’s found the fortitude to act upon that fact.

Barnyard Barnaby

SINCE we’re on matters of prurience, an area of life that apparently fixates many, a word about the former deputy prime minister of Australia, now backbencher, Barnaby Joyce. He was never a household name as leader of the coalition National Party, until his private predilection for unzipping became public property. His disgraceful conduct in having an affair with his media adviser, and her pregnancy, showed him to be unfit for high office. He’s now made it worse by promoting speculation that the baby may not be his. In effect he has slut-shamed his lover and – much worse – created a situation in which an as yet unborn child is already invidiously a figure of public notoriety. In short, he’s a shit: he’s Barnyard Barnaby, the Hayseed Hemlifter.

Generally speaking, the sex lives of others are private matters. They engage only those people, except for vicarious moral, ethical and financial obligation to the established partners of the participants if the sex is (as it is put) illicit. But such sex and longer love affairs happen in every society, for many more reasons than base lust. (And while we’re about it, let’s be honest and award base lust a place in our humanity.)

The “one and only” rule created by the control systems societies put in place for religious and patriarchal reasons is widely observed in its breach, and by a large plurality. It was ever thus, since legislating for what the fun police tell us is morality is a waste of time and an infringement of liberties of much greater value. We just gossip about others more widely and publicly these days, here on Planet Banal.

Of course, it is delicious if a defaulter is discovered who has made a political career out of stern patriarchal moral imperatives. Feet of clay discovered in such luminaries make their entire existence farcical. But that’s less about the sexual aspect of an affair than it is about their character. That handy old rubric – let he who is without sin cast the first stone – is what is best applied to one’s desire to comment on the behaviour of others. How people deal with breach of trust, sexual or otherwise, within their own relationships, including whether they even regard it as such, is something for them, not for public discourse.

Hang Ten

DOING so might encourage the others, to reprise the old aphorism. Our feisty friend Mara Wolford, now back in Bali from a spell in the United States of Trumpism, reports having gone to look for surf boards in Kuta, and at a brace of boards an old, and now presumably former, friend has stored for her. Hers had been taken out of their covers and left unprotected in the full glare and flow of the weather, and were functionally ruined. The fare in the shops wasn’t much better, apparently: roughly built, horrifically decorated, etc.: The sort of thing, or so we gathered from reading Mara’s magnificent mouthful about it all, that a girl just wouldn’t surf on.

We are not surfers, though we deeply respect people who are. We wonder how they can stay on their feet, how they pick a wave that will carry them shoreward so they can paddle out again, and we still have no real idea what a wipeout is. But we do understand quality, and how, in mass-market Bali, that is more than ever what you find very difficult to get. Hrmph.

Chin-chin!