HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, June 27, 2012

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Raking it In

The lively Beat Daily, the online news update produced by the chaps behind the bi-weekly entertainment glossy, had an interesting item recently, sourced from the local Bahasa press, though not – read on – the Bali Post: the 2012 Top 10 corporate rich kids on the block, those earning between Rp100 billion and Rp1 trillion. It bears noting that this is corporate, not personal, wealth, lest anyone starts to get jealous, or overly socialistic, or is tempted to formulate invidious comparisons.

In any case, there is nothing wrong with having a lot of money, provided it has been acquired lawfully and is made fully available to comply with whatever tax law applies in the jurisdiction in which it is enjoyed. Though one might add that therein lies the rub.

It is no surprise that Kadek Wiranatha and his brother Gede Wiratha, the local success story writ large, again top the list. They own the Bounty Group and a diverse portfolio of companies operating taxis, food exports and property (and the newspaper in which this diary appears).

Also no surprise to the Diary is that the Ramayana group, headed by Putu Gde John Poets and owner among other things of Pepito supermarkets and the Mini Mart chain, comes in at No. 2. Given the mark-up on Nescafé Classic instant coffee at Pepito outlets – nearly 27 percent on the price of the product at other retailers and even more than that at, for example, Hypermarket – it’s no surprise they rake in the local shekels by the shovel-load. It’s a bit rich because Nescafé Classic, while modestly aromatic and fully satisfying, is hardly a premium brand; it’s just your regular kitchen jar of instant partial nirvana.

Wayan Kari’s Waka group was third; Ida Bagus Putra’s Santrian group fourth; and then in descending order Hadi Wirawan’s Suzuki empire, Ubud royal Cokde Tjok Oka Artha (Tjampuhan), Tomy Raka,  Kelompok Usaha Keluarga,  the Bali Post group, and Anak Agung Sukadhana (his AAA Kusemas group operates mines, petrol stations and a laundry business).

Such a Shame

Serambi Arts Antida, the great alternative art space in Denpasar, has closed its doors. Apparently the two joint owners of the premises had different ideas about how to capitalise on it. One wanted to sell the property and no compromise could be found.

It opened in 2010 and among other things hosted this year’s Bali Emerging Writers Festival – in late May – which is a spin-off from the annual Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. Organiser Antida Darsana used Facebook to tell everyone who’s going to miss the space created for artists, musicians and students how much he regretted “that a valuable space for creativity, art, and culture cannot be maintained in Denpasar.”
He added: “We will surely rise again to continue our idealism to develop arts and culture in Bali. We may, for the moment, be homeless, but we have not lost our spirit.”

Alternative arts need far-seeing sponsors. Are there any local fat-wallets around – the recent Rich List might point to a name or two – whose skill in acquiring billions of rupiah for their businesses could be turned (in a very minor way after all) to useful philanthropic effect?

Onya, Sonya

The excellent Strewth diary in The Australian – both it and the newspaper, which (disclosure) we should note is run by Hector’s former colleague Chris Mitchell, are required reading for those with an Aussie bent, albeit online if you live outside the Odd Zone – had a lovely little item the other day. It was headed Transporting Type and is worth reproducing unabridged, without further comment:

At an inner Sydney gig on Sunday night, musician Kim Sanders – a practitioner of world music, if you’ll allow the term – had just finished wowing the audience with a piece of Sufi music on his ney, a type of Turkish flute. It was beautiful, bordering on the ethereal, and when he stopped, there was a sense the audience was still suspended in mid-air, held by the coils of the ney’s voice. Careful not to break the mood, Sanders introduced the next piece in almost a whisper. One of his own compositions he explained, inspired by a poem whose intensity, longing and passion had moved his heart and his imagination profoundly. He’d read it only once, he explained, as it was written on the back of a passing bus – the 473, no less. He proceeded to recite it in its entirety: “Sonya, Sonya, let me onya.” Which makes haiku look long-winded in comparison. Sanders got a great tune out of it.

Old Friends

We had old friend Ross Fitzgerald to lunch at The Cage recently. He was staying in Ubud – he and his wife Lyndal Moor have been Bali visitors for 20 years or more and always stay in the attractively royal ambiance of the Pura Saraswati hotel right in the middle of town – and drove all the way down to the Bukit (and back) for a bite and chat. It takes a true friend to do that, given today’s traffic conditions.

Fitzgerald is a professor of history and author or co-author of 35 books, the most recent being Fool’s Paradise, a fictional rendition of political events in the Australian state of Queensland that was long in the making because when first written it was met with horror by publishers who didn’t want to be sued by the non-fictional moulds from which Fitzgerald formed his characters.

Among the several tales told over lunch – they mainly concerned mutual colleagues and friends – was one lovely little story. He had to get back to Ubud early because he was giving a talk to a group of Indonesians (only men and from Bali and Java chiefly) who had recognised that they were addicted to alcohol.

One of Fitzgerald’s books is My Name is Ross, the story of how he beat potentially lethal alcoholism. He hasn’t touched a drop in more than 40 years and still attends meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous regularly.

He was giving his talk, he said, because Indonesians here don’t attend AA meetings, or not in significant numbers, and the chap who organised the meeting got the idea from reading a review of Fitzgerald’s book written some time ago by none other than your diarist. It was in Another Newspaper.

We’re sure the talk went well. Fitzgerald is an amusing raconteur.

All A-buzz

Marie Bee, who writes for the French-language monthly journal La Gazette de Bali and continuously demonstrates that she made very good use of her university days in Aix-en-Provence, is not a person on whom it would be wise to waste a fallacy.

So it was interesting to read in the June edition of La Gazette, in her Ubud column, that she had been to Anand Krishna’s ashram there and found a lingam in residence. The busy little Bee pointed out immediately, lest Francophone readers get quite the wrong idea, that it is not there in the sexual sense that so fixates people today – lingam massage being billed as the art of penis worship – but in its original meaning: the creative power.

Cleaning Up

World Ocean Day on June 8 got a welcome boost worth US$10,000 – that’s around Rp90 million give or take an exchange slip or two – from Blue Season Bali’s effort on the day that helped clean up the Sanur beach and raised funds through a fun scheme (though perhaps not entirely novel in Indonesia) under which people could bribe their way out of jail. The jail operated at the evening BBQ and was guarded by a local police officer who played the role of jailer. Guests paid for their “friends” to be thrown into jail and they then had to raise money to “bribe” the jailer to be released.

Captain Who?

We were planning to end this edition’s diary with a little joke, just to give readers a giggle. We had one all set – don’t worry, it won’t date – when the thought occurred that there was a real joke we should tell instead. It concerns Captain Emad, real name Ali al-Abassi, the well known Iraqi people smuggler who when he arrived on one of the boats from Indonesia that he’d organised fooled the gullible Aussies into believing he was an asylum seeker. They gave him a visa (of course) and, not to gild the lily, a measure of public assistance.

But – shock, horror – the poor dears are now thinking of cancelling his refugee visa after he was outed by the ABC TV current affairs show Four Corners as still, shall we say, somewhat active in the illegal business of putting desperate people on leaky boats to Australia, land of plenty.

The day after the programme aired he left Australia, the plods conspicuously not in pursuit. Oddly, though, he was already a person of interest. Police had raided his home some time before armed with a drug warrant.

But we can tell them that well before the Four Corners exposé, he was seen in Senggigi, Lombok, with a group of fawning Iranians who seemed all to be hoping to pin little kangaroo badges on themselves soon, and that this was reported. Our source was not official and the sighting was reported through civilian contractor channels, not direct to the authorities. But we are confident the circumstances were as described. It is also clear no one in authority in Australia bothered to check effectively.

Hector’s Diary appears in the print edition of the Bali Advertiser, published every second Wednesday, and on his Blog at http://wotthehec.blogspot.com. Hector is on Twitter (@scratchings) and Facebook (Hector McSquawky).

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, June 13, 2012

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Stir Slowly, Drink at Leisure

The May edition of the 2012 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival newsletter made it out with a week to go before it was June – it popped into the Diary’s in-box on May 26. And since it was leading off with a bit of a blurb about the Bali Emerging Writers Festival (which had been advertised as scheduled for May 25-27) one assumes deadlines in festival-land are as notional as any on this island.

But never mind. BEWF is beaut, even if acronyms are as prevalent as litter. This year’s was the second and organisers said it presented a more colourful line-up than the inaugural acronym last year. Said UWRF community development manager Kadek Sri Purnami, and we quote verbatim (it’s not our grammar): “We are trying to present as diverse and colourful voices as possible. These young writers, some write with words, some with lights and images, will take the audience into the kaleidoscopic world of contemporary Bali.”

We’re sure it was a blast – and we’re glad about that too. Perhaps the 2012 UWRF Newsletter for June, which apparently should reach us just before it is July, will give us some idea of how it actually went.

The festival took place (May 27-29) at Serambi Arts Antida, the hot Denpasar alternative art space.

Meanwhile, festival founder and fragrant coffee drinker Janet DeNeefe is being as shy as ever about the international programme for this year’s big show, scheduled for October 3-7. A little note in the aforementioned newsletter coyly states: “While the list of international authors for the UWRF 2012 is tightly embargoed, several of the authors on that list were featured at the Sydney Writers Festival, recently concluded.”

We do know of one author invited to participate: Uli Schmetzer, who lives half the year in Venice and half in Australia and the Philippines. He and his lovely Italian wife Tiziana, who cooks the most marvellous pasta, lent us their pushbikes in Beijing 20 years ago (we gave them back) as well as their driver, a redoubtable fellow called Fang who knew but one word of a language other than Mandarin. Unfortunately this was “nyet,” which did not get us very far. Well, only to the nearest bit of the Great Wall.

As to other internationals, well, just for fun, we’ll scribble out a list, blindfold ourselves, and play a literary version of pin the tail on the donkey.

Help the Cause: Buzz Off

As noted above, a diarist’s reading must be very wide. Or else you miss all sorts of things that give you a huge laugh. So we propose to share with you some other advice recently to hand – we found it online and it would be amusing to suggest this resulted from a tip-off – that urges women to select a vibrator that is eco-friendly

It notes – this was a surprise to the Diary – that there are more makes of vibrators on the market than there are models of cars on the roads. Gee, that intelligence hits the spot. It’s a wonder poor old Gaia hasn’t been knocked out of her orbit with all the under-the-counterpane buzzing that must be going on. And it says that choosing a brand, let alone a single product, can be daunting; it kindly offers to help narrow your search.

It suggests you choose a rechargeable vibrator for maximum sensation with minimum ecological footprint. Apparently a typical user can deplete up to four batteries a week on a battery operated vibrator – that’s more than 200 dead batteries a year. (How many extinct libidos, we wonder?)

Oh yes – and we’re thinking that would have to be the Big O – it also says that responsible manufacturing is important for your vibrator (they are sentient as well as sensory?) and suggests you seek out companies that share your values. Perhaps you should just look for one that gives you a nice warm buzz.

Or Otherwise…

A diarist also needs a quick eye, as well as a deep appreciation for delicious double entendres. LinkedIn’s handy People You May Know feature – which as we noted recently unearthed for us poor Angus McCaskill, who is no longer counted among our population – popped up another unknown name the other day. We won’t name the fellow, since he seems to be a Canadian and might therefore respond by saying “Eh?” or else entirely miss the joke.

But he’s the manager of a mining industry outfit whose name might cause an involuntary appreciative intake of breath among any number of distressed gentlewomen hereabouts: Cougar Drilling Solutions.

Fame à un Prix

Those among us who like to follow the risible side of Australian politics – it’s a broad field of study – have been transfixed of late at the thought of supersized Queensland mining magnate Clive Palmer running for parliament, though not for the Whirling Dervish Party, which is such a pity. He’d like to be a Liberal MP instead, which he’d surely find is absolutely no fun at all. Apparently he’s serious about it all but the idea went straight into our Too Silly file, along with some of Palmer’s other titanic ideas.

As well as desiring to pay no tax on his mines (paying tax is for wimps and non-whirling dervishes) Palmer wants to build an “unsinkable” modern version of the Titanic that some people – Céline Dion, Kate Winslett and Leonardo DiCaprio prominently among them, one imagines – will clearly remember was also unsinkable but which nevertheless sank on its maiden voyage in 1912 after running full-pelt into an eminently avoidable iceberg. He also wants to build a Zeppelin, though he promises it wouldn’t be a Hindenburg exploding one.

It was therefore fun to find in a recent edition of the fine French satirical newspaper Le Canard enchainé – it had been donated to The Cage by some kind French visitors – a little item by Jean-Luc Porquet, who writes a lovely column aptly named “Peouf!” It was headlined “Trésor national vivant” (“Living National Treasure”).

The piece primarily concerned the discarded Nicolas Sarkozy who was recently unelected as President of the Republic. It was Sarkozy’s titanic political misadventures which principally informed Porquet’s pointed prose. But unfortunately, while Palmer’s Australian national treasure feat may be recognised in France and be of some peripheral utility to satirists having a go at poor M. Sarkozy, his living clay is less well known.

Porquet called him Clive Barker. Perhaps he was thinking of Ronnie, the Brit comic who was nearly as round. But he could just have been joking. He seems to share the widely held view that Clive Palmer is barking mad.

More Sax Please

The delectable Edwina Blush will soon be back in Bali, which is good news for Villa Kitty at Ubud – of which she is an ambassador – and people, like your diarist, who love saxy jazz and the (unfortunately now largely notional) concept of smoky bars and attractively accommodating company.

She’ll be playing a six-week gig here with her Balinese sextet at Three Monkeys Sanur after the June 15 launch in Sydney of her latest album, Sea For Cats. We’ll get along to a session or two. The album’s available from various download sites including iTunes, the Diary’s preferred legal provider. Half the proceeds of sales go to Villa Kitty to provide veterinary care and – as Edwina unblushingly puts it – much needed population control measures (she adds: “Frisky little darlings”).

Villa Kitty is on Facebook, by the way. Founder and Chief Meow Elizabeth Grant Suttie would love to hear from you.

Fiesta Time

El Kabron, the cliff-top watering hole at Bingin on the Bukit where host David Iglesias Megias tempts patrons with all sorts of delights, including Catalan and other Spanish treats, celebrated its first birthday with a great little party on June 10.

It was a good chance to catch up with old friends – though none of them are old in the literal sense – including our Most Favoured Argentine, artist-architect Leticia Balacek, who has recently been in Shanghai. We buttonholed her at the do and asked if, as a result of her Sino experiences, her word was still her Bund. Sorry.

No Kidding

We hear from the delightful Alicia Budihardja, chief spruiker at Conrad Bali where Frenchman Jean-Sebastien Kling is now general manager that the property is going after the kids in a big way. It has launched a new family package that offers free meals and recreational and cultural activities to youngsters while their parents are enjoying the definitely more relaxing and possibly more cerebral aspects of the place.

Kling wants to help parents unwind on an ultimate getaway.  That’s a nice thought. They deserve a break.

Hector’s Diary appears in the print edition of the Bali Advertiser, published every second Wednesday, and on his Blog at http://wotthehec.blogspot.com. Hector is on Twitter (@scratchings) and Facebook (Hector McSquawky).