HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Oct. 31, 2012

by 8 Degrees of Latitude

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

It’s a Scream

Anyone who travels by plane – and who doesn’t these days – would be sure to get a giggle out of Indonesia AirAsia’s pre-takeoff briefing for passengers on the Bali-Perth run. The Diary had a sample on the latest SEB flit to the world’s most isolated capital city.

    Try this: “Everybody should know how to buckle and unbuckle a seat-belt. If you don’t, you should probably not be travelling unsupervised.” Or this: “If oxygen is required during the flight, a mask like this will drop from the panel above your head. Stop screaming and fit your own mask before assisting children or adults behaving like children.” Or this: “If there is smoke in the cabin, stop screaming, keep low and follow the floor lights to the nearest exit.”

     And then the killer: “This is a non-smoking flight. Should you feel an irresistible urge to smoke later in the flight, you’re welcome to smoke outside the aircraft at your own risk.”    

Tender Trap

Redevelopment of Bali’s Ngurah Rai Airport will necessarily change the way its tenants do business. This is seemingly not clear to hundreds of traders from the airport who protested outside Bali’s provincial legislature in Denpasar on Oct. 16. They are protesting over the decision by airport operator Angkasa Pura I to re-tender airport trade booths. Ngurah Rai Traders Association chairman Wayan Sukses said the airport expansion would displace traders who have made a livelihood at the airport for years.

     The issue is complex. But the bottom line – it’s one not often visibly present in complaints about changing times here or anywhere – is that business is business and trading concessions and rules-in-place cannot be assumed to be forever. The politicians who nominally have charge of the matter need to publicly acknowledge this singular, if uncomfortable, fact of life too. Commission I chairman Made Arjaya, who would like Angkasa Pura to postpone any tenders until after talks with existing traders, should note this.

     Tenders should be open and the process transparent. And of course a proportion of traders at Bali’s airport should present local products and services for selection by airport users.

     Several things are wrong with the way the airport has operated. The redevelopment is an opportunity to correct them. The extortionate taxi monopoly should go for a start.

Dish Update

Diana “The Dish” Shearin, who is hobbling and will be for a while after an accident in the shower – now recorded in history as The Mandi Incident – tells us she attended the Helen Reddy charity benefit at Anantara in Seminyak in mid-October as forecast and that she enjoyed the audience sing-along when Reddy performed the anthem of the 1970s women’s lib movement.

     The Dish tells us, and we’re sure she’s not joking, that she made up her own words: “I am Woman. My knees are sore. I went arse-up on a wet terrazzo floor…”

Zero Sum

Uli Schmetzer, globetrotter, author and journalist, was at this year’s Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. He had been invited to launch his latest book, on payment of US$500, but decided against allowing himself that privilege. He did however attend many of the events, noting that some of the panel sessions were good value, if you could sneak in without a tag.

      He wrote on his website about his experiences, saying that three methods always worked: 
             “Number One:  You clutch the Festival brochure against your chest and smile as you join the throng squeezing past the ushers at the entrance. The ushers are young volunteers, untrained, unpaid lovable local Balinese who would never ask you to show your (non-existent) tag beneath the brochure. That wouldn’t be polite in Balinese culture. 
              “Number Two: Rush in once the debate has started. Squeeze yourself into a seat. No usher has the courage to meander through the audience to challenge you for your credential. (Keep that brochure tugged against your chest). 
              “Number Three: Seat yourself on a balustrade, under a banyan tree or in a café on the premises where you can clearly hear the loudspeakers. 
              “This way one managed to attend everything worthwhile – with one exception. On the last day a beanstalk of a young Australian female usher kept signalling me across the audience to remove the brochure from my chest so she could see the tag. I kept smiling back at her which made her signal more frantically. Eventually I blew her a kiss which disconcerted her so much she dispatched one of her underlings, a young Balinese, to investigate. The guy knew I didn’t have a tag but he obviously thought I was entitled to listen all the same. ‘This is an important discussion about democracy in the Middle East,’ he whispered: ‘Everyone should hear this. Stay and enjoy.’ He was about one third of my age, but the boy has a bright future, though perhaps not as a sniffer dog at the W&R Fest. “

     Schmetzer these days divides his time between Venice in Italy and Torquay in Australia. He is the author of Times of Terror, Gaza, The Chinese Juggernaut – and The Lama’s Lover, 10 short stories from around the world. 

Big Screen

We missed the fun, of course, since we were enjoying the distinctly chillier ambience of south-western Australia’s allegedly spring-like beach weather, but it was good to hear that the 2012 Balinale International Film Festival, the sixth, went off well in its new venue – the Beachwalk cinema at Kuta – from Oct. 22-28. Co-founder Deborah Gabinetti and co-founder actress Christine Hakim announced the programme earlier in the month in Jakarta. In the absence of an international film festival in Indonesia, the Balinale has become the leading film event in the country.  Perhaps this might eventually prompt remedial, or at least catch-up, thinking elsewhere.

      The festival opened with the latest movie by director Salman Aristo, Jakarta Heart. As with his earlier film, Jakarta Maghrib, Salman’s latest offering consists of six short stories about the city of Jakarta from different perspectives.

      The movie will be released nationally on Nov. 8.

      Balinale also staged the international world premiere of the film Alex Cross from director Rob Cohen, whose work includes the box office The Fast and the Furious, xXx (Triple X), and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. His latest movie, a crime thriller, features some scenes shot in Karangasem, East Bali. A total of 34 films from 34 countries were screened at this year’s event.

     That other Hollywood movie, Eat Pray Love, premiered at Balinale 2010.

     Until this year the Balinale has been held at the Cinema 21 complex at Bali Mal Galeria at Simpang Siur. But that’s virtually a no-go zone while the lengthy Planners’ Nightmare Festival takes place around Dewa Ruci.

Spot of Lunch

On this Australian trip we had a very pleasant lunch at Bunkers Beach Cafe – it’s at Bunker Bay near Cape Naturaliste in WA, where the breakers on the ocean side come all the way from Africa if not beyond – that deserves being put on the record for several reasons.

     First, it’s right on the beach giving patrons a fine view of the crystal clear water and splendid surf, and of the magnificent sweep of the beach itself. It’s amazing what a clean beach and a litter-free wave line can do for the ambience. Not to mention the tourist trade: the place was packed.

     The Diary’s second delight was his choice of dish for lunch – a lovely tempeh with sweet potato and cherry tomatoes, spiced just right for the Asian palate.  Compliments were sent to the chef. They had earlier asked if the Diary was familiar with tempeh and warned that the dish was rather spicy. That’s probably sound policy in Australia, where there are sure to be lawyers around who’d offer to sue if you went to them with a tale of woe, or a lightly spiced tongue.

A Good Show

They’re raising funds for diabetes research in Australia and on Sunday, Oct. 21, we did the de rigueur five kilometres of fundraising walk that was staged in Busselton that day. It was a brisk walk – the breeze was a tad chilly though many of the locals apparently thought it was high summer – of just under 55 minutes. We were, we decided, the tail-enders in the breakaway serious walker cohort that led the way throughout. About 120 people walked and a substantial sum was raised for this vital cause.

     The beachside pathway (also a cycleway) system in Busselton features miniature road markings, possibly in an attempt to remind cyclists that their machines do have brakes. They also feature dinky little walking-figures and colourful feet impressed into the paving. It makes life interesting. It almost makes you want to go “vroom“as you step up your pace after slowing at a Give Way sign.

     We considered trying it on our morning walks here at home, after getting back on Oct. 29. But we thought better of it in the end. We don’t want to give the locals any more reasons to think we’re raving mad.

Hector’s Diary appears in the fortnightly print edition of the Bali Advertiser and on the newspaper’s website http://www.baliadvertiser.biz. Hector tweets (@scratchings) and is on Facebook (Hector McSquawky). He blogs at http://www.wotthehec.blogspot.com.