8degreesoflatitude

THINGS THAT INTEREST, ENGAGE AND ENRAGE

Goodbye and Thanks for All the Words

HECTOR’S DIARY

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

Tasty and distasteful morsels from his regular diet of worms

 

THE CAGE

Bali

Monday, Jan. 15, 2018

 

WE’VE had to say goodbye to Jewel Topsfield, who has been the Fairfax media correspondent in Indonesia for three years. It’s one of those rotational things: people get posted in, and then they get posted out. Topsfield has returned to Melbourne, from whence she came, and will be replaced in some weeks’ time by her colleague James Massola. His brief will be wider: South East Asia, but Jakarta-based.

Those of us left behind, post-Jewel, might like to recall the old aphorism from the days of the (British) Indian Army: the soldiers never minded what their officers were like; they just wanted them to stay a long time. In that context, Topsfield is a very good “officer”. She was often in Bali – and is a delightful dinner companion, by the way – and reported far more widely than the shit-and-disaster round preferred by the tabloids and TV, providing her readers with a picture of Indonesia as it actually is.

Our personal favourite is the long interview she did with hard-line 2014 presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto, at his hill country ranch in West Java, from which she elicited the information that he looks after the ants there, talks to them, and honours and seeks to protect their highly organised eusocial communities. It was a window into the soul of the real man.

She wrote at the weekend, in her farewell piece, that she had fallen in love with Indonesia, but didn’t really know when, except that it was early in the day. We all feel like that, those of us in the foreign community here for whom the value of humanity in all its rich kaleidoscopic intensity stands far above the business of making a buck. We don’t know, either, when our own cathartic moment was, but it was a very long time ago.

Topsfield relates one anecdote, about her taxi getting caught in floods in Jakarta and her taxi driver getting the giggles as the water crept higher and higher up the car. She said she couldn’t imagine an Australian taxi driver showing such comedic insouciance in such circumstances. We’ll have to pick her up on that, though otherwise her point is insightful. It was a long time ago, so she’s excused, but in floods in Brisbane in 1969 a Yellow Cab got washed into a fast-flowing creek. When rescuers reached it, the driver and his passengers were happily singing the Beatles’ latest hit song, Yellow Submarine.

Thanks for spending some time with us, Jewel.

Wholly Smoke and Mirrors

STATISTICIANS are very useful people. They tell us all sorts of things that would otherwise escape our attention. From the latest data delve by Bappenas, the office of national statistics, we see that cigarette consumption is the second largest contributor to poverty in Indonesia. Tobacco products are relatively cheap here, in contrast to many countries where governments have created huge revenue streams from horrific excise levels on cigarettes.

Smoking rates are declining globally – tobacco is credited with a range of health demerits that would put to shame all four horsemen of the apocalypse, and that oversold message is getting through – but in Indonesia, the smoking demographic is different.

It was interesting that the chief contributor to poverty in Indonesia, according to the statisticians, is rice consumption. Taken together, these two statistics point to costly policy failure by government, as much as anything else. Statisticians rarely measure such meaningful data.

’Tis the Season for Galoshes

THE monsoon is particularly strong in the archipelago this year, and it’s been very wet, as we noted last week. This has given us opportunities for laughter – on the old “if you know a better shell-hole, go to it” line from the Western Front in World War I – as well as a lot of practice at mopping. The Cage never leaks unless it’s raining.

One day recently we felt compelled to pen a little ditty offering advice to the Companion ahead of another maritime excursion to the shops. It went like this:

Get your galoshes, I said to my Squeeze,

It might be as well.

For this rain is heaven,

But we’re going to hell.

Grand Old Oprah

THERE’S something about celebrities. We have one as President of the United States at the moment, though in his case we should place celebrity in inverted commas and add a parenthetical notation (self-proclaimed). Now there’s another one apparently waiting to wait in the wings, in the person of television star Oprah, buoyed by her acquisition of a Golden Goose award.

It’s true that American politics is broken. It shares this condition with other Western democracies – including Australia’s – where the principles that have long underpinned representative legislatures are being stripped away by political chicanery, creeping official controls on people’s lives, and the perversion of democratic freedoms.

The answer in the American context wasn’t Hillary – the Democratic Party must take the rap for that miscalculation – but it most certainly wasn’t Trump, and it wouldn’t be Oprah. It will be found – eventually – in a revival of popular (not populist) principle. Perhaps we need Trump to show us the danger and rank incivility of political incontinence writ large. He may yet be there for two terms, kept in office by those he continues to dupe and others whose interests, some secret, that he really serves even if he doesn’t know it; though there seems to be a rising risk that he will tweet us all off in the interim. We’ll have to see.

In this context, it’s interesting that American governance seems to be on the cusp of beneficial reform – or at least be brought back into the paddock where Old Rationality used to prosper on true public service – by an observable upswing in female interest in politics. The neo-cons and the oligarchs and patriarchs won’t like this, since women are consultative and consensual, definitely not into dick contests, and can generally spot a shyster or a nutcase very quickly. Neither will the so-called heartland of Middle America, where the “No chicks” demographic rules, the one that helped undermine Hillary Clinton’s appallingly bad 2016 campaign. So it may be a long haul. But – Wagons roll!

Fingerprints? Check!

ONE of the delights of being a temporary resident of Indonesia, for Indonesian purposes, is the annual check on your fingerprints as part of your twelve-month visa extension. This requirement is not because the immigration authorities believe that fingerprints change. Well, we don’t think this is the reason, but you never know. It’s because their data storage capacity is too small to store all the data they need. And they need lots of it, several times over.

Well, that and the bureaucratic impossibility of anyone actually finding out how to access data to check. It’s that sort of place. Recordkeeping is high on the list of essentials, but finding records afterwards is apparently a problem.

Still, at least it’s now an electronic digit on the pad affair. There’s no more nasty ink that won’t come off for absolutely ever.

Distaff Dystopia

THE delectable science of sentient flirting has been under siege ever since information technology gave us the human equivalent of the infinite number of monkeys on an infinite number of keyboards that might by chance recreate all the works of Shakespeare. At least in the old days you could ignore the locker room louts. Now they take selfies and tweet about their self-proclaimed prowess. But hey, we’re not talking about the President of the United States here.

Instead, we’re referencing French actor Catherine Deneuve and the 99 other French women who have caused a storm by suggesting that the #metoo campaign – the offspring of Harvey Weinstein, the disgusting (and now unloved, since the open secret is no longer even secret) Hollywood mogul, and others who abuse women as if by right – could result in the rise of a New Puritanism. It’s a complex debate that we’ve blogged about here, wearing our other hat.

It’s an issue in Indonesia too, and very broadly so, though in a different setting and context. The winked-at debasement and marginalisation of women must stop, everywhere. Now would be good.

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

Chin-chin!

The Sans Culottes Brigade

Saturday, Jan. 13, 2017

 

WHEN the French actress Catherine Deneuve revealed herself this week to be a woman who believed that men had the right to pester – the obverse of the right of women to tell them to get lost – I waited for the return fire. It wasn’t long coming, and of course it came from the flanks, from the ranks of those whose feminism (and their unarguable position that sexual predation is a crime) have turned #MeToo into a distaff crusade. One wonders, peripherally, what is their view of Heloise and Abelard; but never mind.

Deneuve, who is a fine actor and a woman one suspects it would have been fun to bed – the use of the transitive past is a reference to this writer, not the lady – was the leading name among the 100 French woman, of varying degrees of fame, who wrote an open letter to the newspaper Le Monde. Their point was simple and perfectly sound: that the fevered “debate” now taking place over male predation risks costing us – us being human society – much more than it would gain. They suggest it is risks leading us into a new puritanism.

Pester was perhaps the wrong verb. It invited attention to the worst-case scenario, which in today’s social media scene is tantamount to summoning four horsemen and their attendant apocalypse. It comes in various classifications of fault, from mere irritation (including irritating), annoy, bother or worry, to the Full Monty of plague, persecute, torment or molest.

But I would argue for what we might shorthand as the Deneuve Indulgence. She and her sisters in arms presented an argument that has merit, if we wish to sustain humanity in the form with which we are most comfortable and which, let it be said, nature intended.

The critical commentary that she attracted – I’m thinking particularly of that from the Australian scribbler-feminist Van Badham – to the effect that Deneuve was a good actress but that didn’t make her a social commentator worth listening to, was an ad hominem assault where none was needed. Tell Cate Blanchett and all the other actor-seers who use their privileged podiums to put the world to rights according to them, that they should shut up, and see what happens.

There’s no argument here – or anywhere – to support the actions of the world’s Harvey Weinsteins. It’s a shame, literally, that no one ever took them out behind their limousine garages and belted them with a baseball bat to teach them a lesson. There’s no argument for the patriarchy, either; on any analysis that takes account of fact, it has royally buggered the world. And there is certainly never an argument for turning a blind eye to criminality, because that’s what coercive sexual predation is.

But that’s not what Deneuve and the others were saying. They are women who simply suggest – they’re French women, from a culture where sex has never been secretive, or even fundamentally “dirty”, kept behind Calvinist lace curtains, or viewed as something one does only if licensed to perform that socio-religious rite – that human society is … human society. Sex is for reproduction, certainly, but it is also recreational. It’s fun to become, by agreement, sans culottes with someone else who is also insufficiently clad.

Deneuve and others say that the danger in the present situation is that men will be shoved aside, finally compelled by the weight of “feminist” petitioning to recognise their complete lack of utility, because none can be trusted not to pester.

Where to draw that line is presented in some feminist dialectic as problematical, sometimes even unresolvable. That’s tosh and we owe Deneuve and her friends a vote of thanks for saying so. As a woman who is also an actor, Deneuve is familiar with the ethos of the casting couch (whether she ever used it is beside the point). She is aware, as a sentient, worldly and highly intelligent woman, that opportunity is a chameleon. It thrives by design in whatever environment it is in, and like anything else, is kept within appropriate boundaries by good manners and common sense.

We can say without fear of contradiction that many women who wished to be actors began their careers on their backs. That may not be very moral – on either side of the sexual equation – but we’re not really talking about morality. It’s such a subjective question anyway.

The world would be a poorer place if the frisson of la chasse were to be denied us because, in a gender-neutral society, there should be no such thing as prey or predator. It’s very unlikely that we shall reach that poverty-stricken pass, because despite the exponential increase in opportunities to fulminate presented by the new world of social media, people generally (and beneficially) seem intent on carrying on much as they always did.

We do need to encourage men to grow up and to deter unwelcome sexual predation, which as Van Badham and others rightly assert is far more than just a Hollywood thing. I think Deneuve made that point too, with her friends, in her letter.

There’s plenty of room for debate about where consent ends and compulsion begins. It’s not a clear-cut line at all, and it operates both ways in the sexual spectrum. Though these days, perhaps that should be kaleidoscope.

Mountain Views

HECTOR’S DIARY

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

His regular diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

THE CAGE

Bali

Jan. 8, 2018

 

IT was rather lovely, we thought, that Mt Agung should choose to see out the old year and bring in the new with another minor eruption. It placed immediately in perspective the claims of various luminaries in these parts, from all points, including the risible foreign guru-seer sector, that the mountain and its risks had been blown out of all proportion. It sort of said that you shouldn’t argue with the precise though (like all science) still imperfect discipline of volcanology, which is a very sensible position.

Two Australians helped bring in 2018 in Bali by re-proving the theory that there’s nothing much more stupid than dumb Aussies with a death wish. The gentlemen concerned had climbed Mt Agung and told the police, who then detained them for having done so, that they hadn’t heard of the exclusion zone. Perhaps it is time to introduce an IQ test for adolescent tourists (no upper age limit: adolescence seems to last a lifetime in some people). It should be noted that French and German idiots pulled the same stupid stunt, so it’s obviously not just a cerebral version of the Coriolis effect.

Noah, Goer

WE spent the weekend at Petulu, near Ubud, the village famous for the white herons that live in the area. It’s a favourite spot of ours, for the natural environment of course, but mostly because a lovely French friend lives there. She likes long conversations and coffee, which is always an unbeatable combination.

The drive up from the Bukit on Friday was as uneventful as you could wish, if in Bali; the FPM (frisson per minute) rate seemed marginally lower than usual, and much of the two-hour, fifty-kilometre, trip was not as slow as it sometimes can be. It was still the usual strain on the brain, of course, and a useful test of your driving reaction times. Beneficially for several motor-scooter riders, ours apparently remain within acceptable tolerances. A particular difficulty at one point – it was at Lodtunduh, if any of the relevant authorities are interested in enforcing the laws against underage and unlicensed riding and that which makes wearing helmets mandatory – was that a whole squadron of sky-larking schoolboys on the way home from their regular brush with basic education chose that day to play loony tunes. It would have been fun to shout at them, but they wouldn’t have taken any notice; and anyway, as foreigners who might get voluble here are frequently advised, it’s culturally undesirable to point out local idiocy. Apparently, voicing such perceptions demonstrates a colonial mind-set.

As we approached and prepared to skirt Guru Central – the new park-out /shuttle-bus-in / no parking arrangements there are going as well as anything organised by Gianyar regency’s department of bright ideas ever does, it seems – the sky darkened dramatically and a stiff breeze blew up. Shortly thereafter, the heavens opened. We mean, even worse than usual. Drainage and road engineering also being among the list of essential skills not applied in Bali, the road running up to Petulu swiftly became a raging torrent running down. We’re not sure, but we think we spotted Noah and his Ark trying to stay their course descending the rapids. Though it might have been just another Deadly Yellow truck aquaplaning with bald tyres and no brakes.

Fortunately we know the road and where its chief hidden hazards lie in wait for the unwary. The large forever uncovered drain opening in the road where we make our final turn to reach our destination was surprisingly easy to keep away from: a wave of surf-riding capacity made its position plainly visible. Nosing into the adjacent alleyway scarcely wider than our little car (we retract the wing mirrors to avoid causing neo-colonialist damage to the residential walls) was slightly more challenging than usual, owing to the possibility of unwanted floatation. But, hey, it was all good fun.

Chinese Chequers

TOURIST arrival figures for Jan.-Oct. 2017 show very clearly the impact of the new visitor demographics on Bali. Chinese tourists now account for nearly 26 per cent of foreign arrivals, a 57 per cent increase on the same period in 2016. Australians are now firmly in second place (just short of 19 per cent of total arrivals) and their numbers are continuing a slow decline, as are those for Singapore and Malaysia, albeit at far lower figures.

An interesting aspect of the latest official statistics is that “Other Nationalities” are running at nearly 13 per cent of tourist arrivals, totalling nearly 648,000, which makes this disparate group third in the order of magnitude. A breakdown of those figures by national source would reveal the extent of the so-called Islamic tourism sector’s impact on Bali. That impact is in no way a bad thing, since it reflects among other things the socio-economic facts of life with which Bali must live and from which it can choose to prosper.

Music Book

WE’RE reading The Memory of Music, the book by composer and broadcaster Andrew Ford, whose migration from Britain to Australia in the 1980s was certainly an Antipodean benefit. He writes well and in a chatty style – his broadcast experience shines through there – that makes the story he wishes to tell very readable indeed. The book contains some lovely anecdotes that may not please some, and which are therefore all the better.

Music has a capacity to wound the soul as much as balm it, but in a way that’s different from the written word, and arguably much more powerfully. Ford explains this phenomenon very well.

Several pieces of music bring wounding sensations to The Diary. Perhaps the chief among them is Samuel Barber’s Adagio For Strings, as we’ve noted before, and which he wrote in 1938 as the clouds of cataclysmic war gathered over Europe. It much later made an appearance as the musical score for the movie Platoon. It’s sad that many people probably only know it as that. It’s hard not to feel, sometimes, these days, now that the winds of change are blowing through the fraying relics of the American empire, that we’re headed for cataclysm again. One hopes not, and that cooler, more measured heads will win the day.

Last Trump

AMERICA’S internal politics, and the serial denouements that it is beginning to produce, are its own affair, mandated by the minority of the national popular vote that got Donald Trump into office via the dodgy business of the Electoral College. Its foreign policy, conversely, is directly everyone’s concern. It’s increasingly worrying, not less so, that this global outreach of American impact is being publicly conducted by kindergarten Tweetstorm from the White House.

It’s possible that Trump, whose grasp of diplomacy seems to flow from his experience shouting “You’re Fired!” at participants in his own TV reality show, is actually aware that tweeting is not the way to go. It’s just something he does, because he can’t help himself, and so that he becomes the news instead of the (hopefully positive) generator of it.

George W. Bush, the 43rd President (2001-2009), whose own grasp of the crucially cerebral nuances of policy and of the particular needs of foreign policy have been judged by some to be deficient, said after being present on the dais at Trump’s inaugural speech a year ago in Washington, “That’s some weird shit.” It was, indeed, whether or not you agreed with Trump’s campaign platform. It’s got weirder since.

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

Chin-chin!

Degrees of Idiocy

HECTOR’S DIARY

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

His regular diet of worms and other non-religious fare

THE CAGE
Bali
Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017

Degrees of Idiocy

THE President of the Republic, Joko Widodo, familiarised here in the Indonesian way as Jokowi, has just visited Bali. Miraculously, the beaches appeared clear of the middens of muck that despoil them year round, but worse in the monsoon season. He was pictured in the press on a beach walk in which, to everyone’s surprise, not even a loose lolly wrapper could be seen, far less the tonnes of plastic gunge that usually assaults the eye. So that’s good. He’ll have returned to the Istana Negara in Jakarta fully convinced that Bali has absolutely no problems at all.

Another problem we learned Bali does not have, as a result of the presidential peregrination, is that volcano thing. The alert status that has cruelly impacted in a negative way on the island’s desired overburden of tourists has been scrapped by presidential decree. Apparently, when you’re president, you automatically acquire Nobel laureate status in the science of volcanology.

What Gunung Agung thinks about this is not known, at least to the Diary, which does not presume to talk to the gods of anything and especially not those of the underworld. But last time we looked – and that was just on Friday morning and it was up quite close, from a boat sailing from Lombok to Bali (Teluk Amuk, which seems apt) – Mt Agung was having its regular morning spit. That was vapour and ash. As a non-volcanologist, we made the brave assessment that this meant its eruption is still a matter of the moment. Perhaps there had been a hold-up in delivery of the presidential decree.

We’d agree that it’s a nuisance that there’s an ongoing eruption and with it the threat that volcanic ash may any moment get into the atmosphere and bugger about with airline operations. But nature tends to scoff at human discomfort with its activities. Bali has two active volcanoes (the other is Mt Batur). The last time Mt Agung erupted, in 1963, it was disastrous. It must have escaped the president’s attention that its behaviour this time – a lengthy period of intermittent, low-threat activity is the phase we’re in at present – rather worryingly mirrors that of half a century ago.

Splashing Out

THE Diary and The Companion had an early Christmas present this year, a five-day cruise around the southern and northern gilis (islands) of Lombok. We were aboard the Al-Iikai, a fine Sulawesi phinisi operated by Indonesian Island Sail, and securely under the guiding hand of owner Amanda Zsebik. It was fabulous fun. We only had one lumpy day, on passage between the southern and northern gilis, and while that temporarily changed the hue of several on board, it also presented a great opportunity to see how the boat performed in fairly hefty seas. It did so brilliantly. We’d do it all again in a flash.

If you’re thinking of exploring the limpidly placid seas of the archipelago, you could do a lot worse that book an all-mod-cons cruise on the Al-Iikai. The snorkelling opportunities are brilliant. Even The Companion doubled as a marine wildlife on several occasions. She looks good in the guise of a Nautilas floataboutabit. Such creatures always worth spotting from your long-chair on the beach.

Because it’s Christmas

WE won’t bat on about all sorts of things that, up-nostril-wise, have come to our attention since we last scribbled a Diary. Time enough for all of that when the coming New Year hangovers are themselves but a distant unpleasant memory.

Merry Christmas (we can say that, because this is our blog) and Happy New Year!

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

Chin-chin!

FOOTNOTE: Because of a technical problem with WordPress, now resolved, this Dec.24 Diary first appeared on my stand-by blog at Blogger, headlined There’s Always a Way.

 

To Note

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

I think I have at last managed to administer phoenix serum to my blog, with the assistance (here acknowledged) of the WordPress team. So, excusing Murphy, Sod, and all their works, the Diary and other things should be back up and running again soon.

Chin-chin!

 

 

 

A Treasured Gentleman

 

 

RON WATSON

Died Queensland, Australia, Dec. 8, 2017

 

171210 RON AND TANIA from Tania's FB timeline 

Ron and his wife Tania dining out in style in Brisbane just days ago. (Photo from Tania Watson’s Facebook page, with my apologies for lifting it without first getting permission.)

 

RON Watson was a lovely man. We were never close friends. Life’s exigencies had taken us on divergent paths less travelled, though in recent years we had compared our fitness walk performances via social media. But when I had most to do with him, which was during the 1989-1996 Goss Government in Queensland, we profited from a shared insistence on getting things right.

Ron’s background was media – he was the Australian Associated Press political correspondent in Queensland for 10 years before joining the dark side. He wasn’t an apparatchik, though one felt that even if he had been, he’d have insisted on propriety. He had the mark of the true professional.

He was media adviser to Treasurer Keith De Lacy from 1990-1996, a job that required presentation of financial fact rather than the smoke and mirrors favoured in more political ministries. He did that well. He certainly made the job of an editorial writer with some divergent ideas much more pleasant than it might otherwise have been. The political-economic nuances of editorial writing are not all that different from those of partisan collectivism within a government that’s anxious to advance specific interests and its preferred narrative. We got along famously, especially since we could share, from time to time, in camera, the sort of journalistic frivolity that gets you through your day. Ron knew I was straight down the line and I knew he was. He made it easy.

Well, mostly. There’s an anecdote that deserves retelling. At this distance I cannot readily recall which state budget it was, or what the specifics of the media inquiry were, but that doesn’t matter. It was at a budget lock-up, one of those annual and arcane previews of the budget attended by the media and carefully monitored by Treasury boffins and ministerial minders, which used to be such a feature of the annual exercise and perhaps still is. I jumped ship more than two decades ago and don’t know, and don’t want to.

Because I was writing the next day’s leader in The Courier-Mail, which on the morning after budget day would inevitably be on the budget, I was in the lock-up. I kept to myself – editorialists are best when they are solitary creatures – confident that Ron and the boffins, and afterwards the Treasurer, would respond in a timely way to a furrow of the forehead or a raised eyebrow. Budgets of course are political documents and they hide things. You need to know what they’re hiding, even if you’re not going to let that particular emaciated cat out of the bag in print. Ron knew my thinking. He was good like that.

That time, however, the list of things the media might ask even if you’re totally surprised that they’ve even thought about it, proved deficient in one minuscule detail. By the time it was raised as a question, after the lock-up and in the area where you waited for the elevator, Treasurer De Lacy, his boffins and his media man had left the building. Only the Premier, Wayne Goss, remained amidst the media scrum. The question was put (I think by Mike D’Arcy then of Channel Nine).

The Premier looked alarmed. Goss was a lawyer (a good one). He was not an economist. He looked at the ceiling. Sadly, he found no inspiration there. He looked around the crowd, somewhat in the manner of a kangaroo caught in a spotlight. His eyes fixed on me. “Richard, can you explain it?” he said, following this up without pausing for breath with a general statement to the gathered chooks: “Richard can explain it.”

Fortunately I could, at least to the satisfaction of the questioner and his colleagues. Ron and I had a good laugh about that later, in suitably discreet and private surroundings.

There’s another anecdote worth telling, this one from a Treasurer’s private dinner at Budget time. I arrived at the chosen restaurant on crutches, with one leg swaddled so tightly that even a Bethlehem manger baby might have complained, and hobbled up the steps to the door. Ron came to help me get in – he knew I was struggling but that there was no way I was going to miss one of Keith De Lacy’s chatty budget soirees – and whispered to me, “they’ll want to know how that happened.” He said this like a smiling assassin, though I knew he meant well.

I told the table, in response to the collective of raised eyebrows, that I had injured myself at home. That was perfectly true.

I just didn’t say that I’d done so in haste and panic a couple of days earlier when – as one did on balmier Brisbane mornings, in the privacy of one’s house – I was naked in the kitchen making myself another coffee before getting ready to buzz off to work when our cleaner, who usually arrived long after I’d left, opted that day to turn the key two hours early. I made it to the bedroom and managed to slam the door shut before I was seen. But I left a good bit of skin and tissue on the doorjamb and split my foot between the little toe and the rest in the process.

I never told Ron the real story. I should have. He’d have had a good laugh. So Ron, this one’s for you.

Vale, mate.

Born Free

 

HECTOR’S DIARY

The Cage, Bali

Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017

 

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

His regular diet of diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

THERE is a release, of sorts, in being relieved of the duty to write for a publication. You’re freer to write what you really think, in the patois of your choice, in the absence of a publisher’s preference for the Life Unmolested, and in a timeframe that suits your own elastic concept of deadlines. It’s a bit like being Truman Capote (though only in certain respects) except that he was famous and could deal with deadlines by simply ignoring them.

Those of us at the grafting end of the writer’s writ must obey those who pay. Or else the dosh does not materialise. So when there’s no dosh to be had, and you’re your own proprietor, publisher, editor and virtual printer, deadlines can take a back seat. Though not too far back: it’s sensible to remember Idi Amin’s advice that if you don’t want to vanish with a boot up the bum, you have to give the population something to hum.

As most of you know, Hector is a retired cockatoo. He squawks a lot (the habits of a lifetime are hard to retire and can’t be fobbed off with a gold watch) but only when he wants to, or can be bothered. A lot bothers him, of course. You’ll have noticed that too. He proposes to continue being bothered, because he can, and to do so on a malleable seven-day plan, from wherever his cage is situated. This is his first in that new milieu.

Cease and Desist

SUCH orders are given rather more frequently than might be understood in today’s media world, where genetically mixed American actresses becoming engaged to British princes fifth in line to the throne, and President Trump’s latest twittering insults to people outside the “native” white oligarchy he prefers to favour, are deemed more newsworthy than real events. Cease and desist sometimes has legal utility, though mostly it’s a waste of time (see Trump, above).

It would be nice if we could issue one against Nature, which is giving us a hard time in the central archipelago at present. It’s quite understandable that volcanoes should erupt from time to time – it’s what they do, after all – but it would really be much better if they could manage to stick to a schedule and advertise it. We’ve also had a cyclone, though it hit Central Java, the province of Yogyakarta, and East Java, where it killed 19 people, far harder than Bali and Lombok. It was unusual in forming inside the normal exclusion zone for cyclones (10S-10N, the equatorial belt) and was less powerful than those experienced in true cyclonic areas. They’re not unknown, but are rare. The climate change shamans did rain dances about it, of course.

UPDATE (Dec. 7): The Java cyclone death toll more than doubled to 41 in latest reports on the aftermath, including 25 people killed in a single landslide.

Notional Airline

WE try to love Garuda, which is up there with the high flyers for cabin service. We’ve even renewed our membership of its frequent flyer club, though we more frequently fly with other airlines that charge you less for the privilege of defying gravity.

Garuda is impossible to contact by phone. Its sales office in Kuta won’t even take calls. If you can’t book online – and that’s a mammoth struggle, mostly – you have to actually go to the office. It used to be at Nusa Dua, which is where we went two weeks ago when we needed to book flights to and from Lombok. It was there no longer, however, and the helpful security guard at the entrance to the Bali Collection shopping centre told us it had moved to Jimbaran Square. We worked out that this was actually Benoa Square and went there. There was an office but it was unoccupied. Other helpful security people at the scene told us the real one was at the Kuta Paradiso Hotel, in Kuta. We called Garuda’s customer service number (sic) and they gave us a number to call. It was the Kuta Paradiso Hotel. Um, thanks guys. So we went there and finally managed to buy tickets.

Our flight to Lombok was uneventful. The trolley dollies just managed to get round the packed cabin with the sweet buns and water bottles they were required to hand out. The pilot deserved credit for flying his Boeing 737-800 at what seemed to be just above stall speed, so that the flight time could stretch out to the required 30 minutes. (It’s 18 minutes Ngurah Rai to Lombok International at jet speed, at the most.)

Our flight back to Bali did not take place. Gunung Agung on Bali had spewed ash into the atmosphere in the interim. Lombok’s and Bali’s airports were open on the day we were due to fly – Dec. 1 – but Garuda had cancelled all its Lombok-Bali flights that day. You only found that out when you got to the airport. The melee inside – that is, past the melee of the security screening – was not to be borne, and we didn’t. We left the scene, got a taxi to Senggigi where we stayed overnight, and a boat to Bali next morning. Apparently Garuda’s interest in customer service does not extend to calling in extra staff to deal with reallocated flight requests in such situations. Our next task: to get a refund on our unused return tickets.

Scrofulous Scribbles

THE volcano drama has brought out the best – that’s as in, the worst – of the foreign scribblers who get paid for dramatizing events by interviewing people (or sometimes themselves) so they can gild the lily and get their names up in lights. This is especially so if they want to have a go at airlines that cancel flights not because volcanic ash is deadly to aircraft and possibly their crews and passengers, but because they’re on a mission to mess with the personal holiday plans of Mr or Ms Aggrieved. Fuckwits are a swiftly growing demographic (see – there’s one immediate benefit of blogging rather than writing for print). They’re ripe for satirising, and should be thus dealt with, as some brazen outlets have done. There was a lovely piece the other day, somewhere or other, which foretold shocking disaster for any Aussie tourists still stranded in Bali when the Bintang ran out.

The other side of that coin is seen in the sterling efforts of expatriates and locals alike in getting essentials such as food and water and basic medicines and health preservatives to the poor Balinese who have been shipped off to evacuation camps because their villages are in the volcano exclusion zone. There’s one camp in particular that we know of, at Kubu on the northeast slopes of Agung, where 110 people are living in appalling conditions. The charities I’m An Angel and Solemen Indonesia and others are helping out there, with donated funds. A food convoy the other day was met with smiles from people who in reality were close to tears of despair. That’s the human story. It’s not about poor Wozzer and Tosser, world travellers, yair, mate, whose sense of Anglosphere entitlement excludes consideration of anything beyond their own convenience.

Serial Affendi 

YES, we know. The shocking issue of dominant male versus submissive woman, the result of residual caveman genes and men’s stupidity, isn’t really something to laugh about. But nonetheless, we’ll keep trying. There really is humour in everything, if you look hard enough.

So we were pleased to see a report in The Straits Times on Nov. 28 about a chap in Singapore whose cerebral cognisance is so severely deficient that even though he was shouted at by his victim after he touched her thigh in a bar, he was not deterred from later touching her breast while her boyfriend had his arm around her.

Take a bow, Affendi Mohamed Noor, 54. You really are a prize chump. The annual Darwin Awards honour idiots who remove themselves from the gene pool by misadventure. There should be a Weinstein Award for those other idiots who apparently live by the motto, “I’ve Got a Prick, So I’ll Be One.”

 

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

Chin-chin!

Turd World

HECTOR’S DIARY

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

Bali Advertiser, Nov. 8, 2017

 

WALKING out of a restaurant without paying the RP3 million (around US$250) you owe is against the law anywhere. It’s foolish, among other things including selfish, dismissive of others’ rights, and a low act that reflects very poorly on the perpetrators. Mostly those who commit such acts are immune to conscience. They are citizens of what it is tempting to call the Turd World.

A recent incident in Ubud attracted attention, and the interest of police, after a group of foreigners reportedly staged a careful one-by-one disappearing act designed to dodge their accumulated cash consideration. A photo of the group and a report about their bill dodging was posted all over the social media. It would be nice to think that this exposure resulted in their eventual apprehension by the police (a possibility) or that it prompted a group attack of conscience (an improbability).

The problem with social media exposure is that it also provides an unedited forum for those with grotty as opposed to gritty opinions, whose mission in life is apparently to see things with one eye only and to avoid connection with the principle of non sequitur. Two wrongs do not make a right.

Crossed Wires

AMONG the many things here that cause outbreaks of mutual angst – “locals” on one side and “foreigners” on the other – is the thorny question of what actually constitutes “work” for visa purposes. It’s a hardy annual, forever popping up in some form or other. It usually creates a quite unnecessary furore and leads to all sorts of tin drums being banged in a very discordant manner. In large measure this because Indonesia, while it is beset by a tangle of rules and regulations, is also a place where anyone with connections and currency can bend or ignore the rules. It’s that sort of place. People are working on fixing that but it remains a work in progress.

An Italian tourist, Carmine Sciaudone, has just been released from jail in Bali and has gone home after more than year of incarceration. He had helped fix a projector on a locally operated party boat because it wasn’t working (no surprise there) and he knew how to fix it. That’s work, you see, if the authorities choose to decide that it is. And you can’t “work” on a tourist visa.

Interpreted very broadly, such rules also mean you can’t cut the grass, wash the car, mend a fuse in your house, or do anything much at all, on any sort of tourist of temporary resident visa. That’s because, notionally, it deprives an Indonesian of a work opportunity. It’s good that Sciaudone has been freed. It’s ridiculous that he was incarcerated in the first place.

Don’t Panic! Don’t Panic!

WELL, not quite as much, anyway. The authorities reduced the alert level for Mt. Agung to level three on Oct. 29 and the exclusion zone with it to six kilometres. This was on the basis of scientific advice, not that of political science.

The highest level alert, level four, implemented weeks ago when the mountain showed seismic and volcanic indications that an eruption might be imminent, led to the usual scaremongering in the Australian press. It also created difficulties – more logical and certainly far more soundly based – in relation to the 100,000-plus villagers removed from their homes and farms on the mountain’s slopes and to travel insurance for tourists, which in the way of the insurance world, suddenly excluded cover for pre-existing volcanic inconveniences.

The national and provincial authorities deserve credit for the way they handled the immediate situation, and the work of both government and local and overseas charities in alleviating the distress of removed residents has been exemplary. The emergency remains in place. It is a virtual certainty that the mountain will erupt. No one knows when that will be. Now is not the time to drop vigilance as a policy.

UPDATE, 27 Nov.: Mt Agung is now in full-scale eruption, and event that was also very creditably handled by the authorities. Among the local expats, and the wider Bali-focused expat diaspora, the eruption caused several renditions of The Boy Stood On The Burning Deck. Our advice: Cool it.

Kia Ora, Emoh Ruo

THE ins and outs of Australia’s particularly prosaic version of parochial politics are rarely of more than passing interest, even to Australians, but the constitutional shemozzle highlighted by the dual-citizenship question is perhaps worth more than just the usual response: a harrumph of tedium and a raised eyebrow of confected surprise.

This is not only because the High Court has ruled that seven parliamentarians – including the Deputy Prime Minister – were ineligible to stand for election because they held dual citizenship at the time. They are people whose second citizenships, in some cases unwittingly, reside either in Britain or the formerly British countries of New Zealand and Canada. The original proscription was meant to exclude citizens of foreign (defined at the time as non-British) dominions. This once desirable but later invidious distinction was then quietly forgotten by everyone from bureaucrats to senior counsel, as well as by politicians. It was not until after World War II that Australia moved in several ponderous steps to formalise the absolute independence that it had de facto enjoyed for some time.

The constitutional prohibition dates from 1901, when the continent’s fractious British colonies united – New Zealand was invited to the party but declined the invitation – to form the Commonwealth of Australia.  Stand-alone Australian citizenship dates only from 1986, when Canberra finally cut its last remaining constitutional ties with Britain, to that country’s great relief. (The Queen remains the Sovereign, but the head of state is the Governor-General: Australia is a crowned republic.)

The high-profile victim of his own inattention in the present case is Barnaby Joyce, the Deputy Prime Minister, leader of the coalition National Party. There is a by-election on Dec. 2 in his New South Wales electorate. Now Joyce has done the little rain dance that today’s embarrassing flag-waving and mawkish hand on heart clasping requires, and has formally renounced any claim to NZ citizenship, as he should have done long ago, he will almost certainly be re-elected.

Partisan politics aside, he should be. He was born in Australia. His mother was Australian. His father moved to Australia from New Zealand before Joyce was born. When Papa Joyce jumped the ditch (the Tasman Sea) he did so as a British Subject. He then married an Australian who was also a British Subject, like all Australians of that time. There were separate immigration controls in both countries, but effectively and legally no distinction existed. The legislative changes that made formal aliens of Kiwis (and the British themselves) in Australia were enacted later. And still today, New Zealanders have the right to live in Australia and Australians in NZ.

Feeling Bookish

A lengthy holiday in faraway places provides great opportunities for reading outside of one’s usual circuit. In Portugal we read The Operators, by Rolling Stone journalist Michael Hastings, the 2010 work that led to the resignation of the then American commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal. Over the break we also read Capote: A Biography, by Gerald Clarke. Capote has always fascinated, not least for his writing regime, mirrored by our own. He turned his life upside down and wrote at night.

These exercises, and the opportunity to delve into some of the material you find in the better class of in-flight magazines, sashayed naturally, if somewhat jet-lagged, into the 2017 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. UWRF is always a treat and this year’s was better than ever, on the theme of Origins.

The Bali Advertiser was well represented with three columnists doing the rounds and The Diary hanging around the perimeter, as diarists are wont to do. We were docked a couple of degrees on the media pass slung around our neck. The media organisers were clearly very busy, and must have confused six degrees of separation with those of latitude.

Next year Janet DeNeefe’s post-Bali Bomb therapy baby will turn 15, having quite properly grown bigger every year. That will be a benchmark worth noting.

Cheers, Monte

MONTE Monfore, the Californian swimmer who some years ago turned challenging ocean and lake excursions in and around Bali into great charity resources, has died. His body, with head wounds, was found on a beach on Rota Island, in American Micronesia, in late October, in unexplained circumstances. He was living there, it is reported, as a retired gentleman.

We had some dealings with Monte in the past, when we were wearing different hats. He was always pleasant, full of enthusiasm, and quite impossible to refuse. It’s very sad that he has left us.

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

END NOTE: This was the last Diary column in the Bali Advertiser, which advised shortly after its appearance that it had decided to discontinue its publication. Hector’s Diary, freed of the need to take account of publishers’ sensitivities, will of course continue to appear on this blog.

Living with Vulcan

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

Bali Advertiser, Oct. 11, 2017

 

ONCE upon a time, the activity of a volcano in a distant domestic backyard from which one is temporarily absent would have been something relayed at intervals by news reports, or not at all. Its inactivity ahead of anticipated action would have been even harder to detect through the prism of news reportage. Not these days, when both the mainstream and the social media bring you up to the minute information and misinformation. Sorting the wheat from the chaff is more immediate (though there’s a lot more chaff) but there’s no reason to be uninformed.

So it is with the Great Mountain, Gunung Agung. It is more than 70 kilometres from our domestic premises on the Bukit. When we wrote this Diary, from even more distant Portugal, the mountain was grumbling and had been promoted by Indonesia’s excellent alert apparatus to most dangerous threat, as a result of this misbehaviour.

The story, at that point, was the removal by government order of more than 100,000 people whose villages and farms are within the defined danger zone, and the consequences, individual and collective, of this displacement. Relief efforts have brought out the best in people, Indonesians and foreigners alike. But it was not the sort of shock-horror story the western media so loves, since it was actually a good news story. It was a story of swift and effective action by provincial and national governments and agencies, and the outlaying of significant sums of money to assist those in need.

We know of course that other than in exceptional circumstances, or in the glossy magazines, a good news story about Bali is about as likely to be seen as a phoenix or a unicorn. We’ve had the usual tremulous twittering of Australians fearful that their cheap holidays might be at risk. Travel insurance generally covers such tribulations. That’s if you had the wit to get it (and pay for it) in the first place. If you can’t afford insurance, you shouldn’t travel. If you’re so thick that you can’t work out that it matters, you certainly shouldn’t.

There was one particular bit of very yellow journalism that got right up our nose. It did this in quite a major way. Surprisingly it appeared in The Guardian, which is usually among the more sentient of journals. It reported that foreign holidaymakers had fled Bali’s “tourist towns” because of the volcano alert. But this was the case only in Amed, a tiny place that barely qualifies as a village, let alone a town, and which is in the far east of the island virtually in the shadow of Mt Agung. It’s not inside the precautionary evacuation zone, though if the volcano did erupt then road access to and from it might be compromised. Meanwhile it was business as usual everywhere, including in Amed.

The last time Agung erupted, in 1963, there were large numbers of deaths. The official figures from that time probably understate the actual numbers. This time, half a century on, there are better communications and transport infrastructure that works, in the main. There is also an appreciation on the part of governments and authorities that, with a volcano, you can’t just sit around and hope it doesn’t erupt.

In Balinese Hindu mythology, Agung is thought by some to be a portion of Java’s sacred Mt Meru brought to the island by the original settlers. It has a place in the island’s spiritual life and its actions are accorded godly intent. In 1963 its pyroclastic flows (lava) missed the Mother Temple, Pura Besakih on the middle slopes of the mountain, by only metres. This was seen as a sign that the gods wished to demonstrate their angry displeasure but not to destroy the pinnacle of Balinese Hindu observance.

There were two major eruptions in 1963, the first in February and March, and another in May. Most casualties came from lava flows. Cold lahars (mixed slurries of volcanic and other materials generated by heavy rains) killed many others. A lahar – it’s an Indonesian word – can flow very quickly, unlike lava, and very deeply. When it stops it solidifies like concrete. Look at the landscape around Kubu, one of the areas now evacuated, to see the long-term results of that phenomenon.

We don’t pray, being in the None of the Above classification except on our Indonesian official documents, but we do think. And we’re thinking positive thoughts for Bali and its people while we’re away and Agung is being a threat.

A Rare Double

WE were in Lisbon, enjoying 30C days in the middle of the Lusitanian autumn, when this column was given to the electronic pigeon for transmission to the good folk at the Bali Advertiser. The Portuguese capital is a location long desired as a destination on our personal travel schedule, for many reasons but also because it presents an opportunity to perform a rare obeisance.

Some years ago we were in Kochi in India, where among the points of interest locally is the tomb of Vasco da Gama. It’s empty, but so what? He is still felt as a physical presence in the city, where – just in passing in this instance – there is a thriving Christian presence that was already ancient when the Portuguese adventurer “discovered” the India trade for Christ and His profits half a millennium ago.

Old Vasco is something of a figure in Lisbon, too, so we said hello there as well. His other resting place is in the Jerónimos Monastery at Bélem, fortuitously close to the best custard tarts in Lisbon.

The city is big on history, historiography, and monumental statuary. Dom Joāo I, splendidly mounted and holding his sceptre aloft, is near our digs, a pleasant apartment on the steep slopes just below the Castelo de S. Jorge. He was King of Portugal and the Algarve from 1385–1433 and is referred to as “the Good” and sometimes “the Great” in Portugal, or “of Happy Memory”.

In Spain he was referred to as “the Bastard”, because that’s what he was, and because he preserved the independence of the Kingdom of Portugal from the Kingdom of Castile. Through his efforts to acquire territories in Africa, he became the first king of Portugal to use the title “Lord of Ceuta”.

Ceuta is now a Spanish enclave on the coast of Morocco. It’s not quite analogous to Gibraltar, which is a bit of Spain the British long ago requisitioned as a spoil of war, though the point may be moot.

Joāo (John, as his English wife Philippa, daughter of John of Gaunt, might have called him, though she of course spoke French like all the posh Poms of the time and possibly called him Jean) deserves his statue: he had his day and won an entry in the record.

Spoiler Alert

IT used to be said that there were eight million stories in the naked city. Well, that’s what that old TV series said, so it must be right. There are also eight million hard-luck stories, a matching phenomenon with which every traveller must surely be familiar.

The Diary prefers to deal with these gently and in a non-judgemental way, while trying not to part with too much currency, especially when travelling on a pauper’s budget. The Distaff, being a girl, is made of far sterner stuff. We were lunching out in Málaga, in Andalusia, one day, enjoying in equal measure the warmth of the Mediterranean autumn and a modest beer and some tapas, when one of the local mendicants chanced to pass.

The tale was extraordinary, which is to say it was unbelievable. But since the immediate supplication was for 50 cents (€0.50, roughly Rp. 6500) to buy a loaf of bread, we were ourselves disposed to dig deeply into our diminishing pocket money and come up with the dosh.

Some might say that this indicates a certain measure of softness in the Diary, but that is not the case. Fifty cents to go away quietly, whether or not temporarily buoyed by thoughts of the brotherhood of man, seems to us to be a bargain triple entry in the fiscal, moral and problem solved ledgers.

Not so the Distaff, dear girl. As the pleas gathered length, speed and descant, she fixed the person uttering this tosh with her trademark killer steely glare and said: “You are spoiling my day. Go away.” This was not a request. It plainly invited no further conversation. It worked like a charm. The holiday budget was preserved.

See You Soon

BARRING accidental arrest en route or major volcanic dyspepsia at home, we’ll be back in Bali just in time to run up the road to Ubud for the 2017 Writers and Readers Festival. Unlike arrest or volcanic unrest, the festival is an event not to be missed.

HectorR

Hector’s Diary in published in the Bali Advertiser every second issue. The next will appear on Nov. 8. Hector blogs here between times, when he’s not holidaying in Europe.

Wingnuts Away!

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

in the Bali Advertiser

Wednesday, Sep. 13, 2017

 

WHEN this diary was written, we were supposed to be in Provence, France. Specifically, we were supposed to be in the lovely lower Rhone Valley, at L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. “We,” in this instance, means The Diary and the Distaff. That’s for any quibblers out there. We had one recently. He seemed to think its use in previous episodes was not so much a clumsy third-person generic construction as an indication that we had a pretentious royal fetish. If he knew us at all, which he doesn’t, he’d know that’s well off all the Marx.

But the Big Wingnut, or whichever entity it is who is charged with messing up people’s plans, intervened and we weren’t anywhere, except still in Bali. Our KLM aircraft experienced a “technical issue” after arriving from Amsterdam via Singapore on Sep. 1. That technical issue may have been resolved in a fairly timely way with a fly-in gizmo replacement (that’s good) but the resulting customer snafu certainly wasn’t. In our case, a planned four-night spot in Provence became, in order of later options, a three-night spot (still doable), then a two-night spot (just), and then a nil-night spot. Which was a dreadful outcome: all that cheese and wine that was not consumed (by us). Instead we had an unscheduled two nights in Amsterdam en route to Scotland, originally our second but now our first destination. Ah well, tak ada, one might say. And of course that’s probably all you should say, publicly. A Dutch friend told us on Facebook, “I can not believe it.” Our response: “We wish we could not.”

C’est la vie, as we might have said if we had reached French speaking territory as planned. Evidently Provence was not on Fate’s list of preferred destinations for The Diary and the Distaff. Was it something we did on a previous visit? Surely not, for we seem to remember being rather well behaved. But L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is near Avignon, once the seat of the popes while others also claiming that title were in possession of the Vatican in Rome. Maybe that’s it. We remember once, a long time ago now, having been rather critical in print about the crusade against the Cathars, who seem to have been among the early modernists, though they were well before their time. Their cruel reduction was one of the more outrageous of Medieval Christendom’s schismatic outrages.

By the time this column appeared in print, we were in Scotland. Such are the imperatives of the Grand Tour as it is nowadays taken. It’s quicker – unless one of your airline’s flying machines has a technical problem, that is – though quite possibly it is far less fun than grand tours were when they were invented. In the good old days, you travelled by carriage and counted yourself lucky if your journey had not been interrupted by the untimely demise of your postilion due to his inattention in being struck by lightning. That is if you survived it yourself, having avoided death by dicky oysters or from whatever epidemic had won the gig as pestilence of choice that year. It’s much safer now, despite what the media and various government nursemaids try to tell you.

We’re away until late in October, which in one crucial element is unfortunate, since we’ll miss an opportunity to unwind with a delightful friend whose own schedule brings her to Bali this month. But, hey, we’re all so interconnected these days. We even know pretty much everything that’s going on in Bali. Well, as much as your sources will drop at your feet and the desire of the authorities to avoid detection will let out for viewing, at least. The next Diary will come to you from Portugal, following a spell in the lovely Moorish shadows of Andalusia.

And So …

TO the 2017 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. We’ll be back for that. Wouldn’t miss it. Unless your preference runs to ear-splitting music, shamanistic shaking, or novel reorganisation of your chakras, it’s Ubud and Bali’s jewel in the festivals crown and a fixed date our diary every year.

This year the principal media sponsor is The Guardian newspaper, in its web-based Australian guise, a virtual journal that is ably edited by Lenore Taylor, a fine scribbler of our long acquaintance. The resident festival guardian will be Steph Harmon, the paper’s culture editor, who tells us she is looking forward to some interesting discussion around the theme of the festival, Origins.

It’s a fascinating theme, on a human scale. Bali is a very special place, with a religion and culture that incorporates non-human life forms in its narrative. It could well be argued, just for example, that the unique Bali dog and the village dogs are so central an element in traditional life that they deserve discussion within the context of Origins. Too often these days these dogs are seen instead as a street nuisance. The origins of mass tourism, a factor in this emerging disaffection, are of course neither historic in the wider sense nor spiritual in the least. That is unless you worship money, the capitalist deity.

Never mind. There’s plenty of material for discussion on the program this year, including some interesting workshops – the one on yoga for writers might bend a few minds; and Andreas Hartono on investigative journalism promises to introduce his audience to the key strengths and challenges of narrative reporting.

For full details visit the festival website at www.ubudwritersfestival.com.

No Barking Aloud

IN Bali, you’re not supposed to bark at things you might think should be brought more fully into the public consciousness. Local crime, for example, while the subject of some concern among the citizenry – who wants to be mugged, after all, or find that their home has been broken into – just bubbles along otherwise largely unremarked except in the social media, unless the police have a triumph of detection or happenstance to put on parade. The epidemic of dog thefts, presumably for breeding trophy dogs and the disgusting dog meat trade, continues unabated.

Dogs feature in another of Bali’s preference for official silence: the matter of rabies. It’s not done to talk about where a rabid dog – poor creature – has been found, as they are, and especially not about human rabies cases, which continue at low endemic rates. Then there’s the anti-rabies vaccine issue. Bitten? Good luck if you can find post-exposure protection. In a rabies endemic area, and all of Bali falls into that category, no dog that you don’t know is fully vaccinated and has had the required boosters at the correct intervals, can safely be regarded as not potentially a risk.

But the administrative zeal for implementing an effective island-wide anti-rabies program doesn’t exist, the bureaucracy is largely indifferent to any stimulus other than embarrassment if something leaks out, and the budget that would support a real effort doesn’t exist. That’s occasionally mentioned as a factor in the continued failure of Bali’s authorities to get on top of rabies. But it’s generally along the lines of its being a pity no one from somewhere else has fronted up with extra money.

The idea that it might, if it was then deployed effectively and on some basis that might meet accounting standards, doesn’t seem to register.

Postscript

STEVE Palmer, the long-term expatriate of note who is now recovering well from further surgery resulting from the altercation his snow board had with a Canadian tree stump late last year, asked friends on Facebook recently to nominate a book that had significantly impacted on their attitude to life.

Axel Munthe’s The Story of San Michele was our nomination. It is a narrative that magically defines the real scope of human endeavour. But in thinking about that, we considered (though because they are basically primers, passed them over) Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet and Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations.

Meditations, written chiefly as private notes by M Aurelius when he was Roman Emperor, should be required reading for any politician or those with leadership ambitions. He was a Stoic – a Stoic’s Stoic in fact. He died of plague at Vindobonda (it’s now Vienna) in 180 CE.

HectorR

Hector is taking the Grand Tour at present and will be blogging on an irregular schedule over that time. His next Bali Advertiser column will appear on Oct. 11.