HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser Aug. 21, 2013

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences


Dancing on an Ethereal Stage

It is always tragic when someone young and full of life is taken from us by that inevitable final caller, death. It is doubly so when the person concerned has been among the brightest talents around. So it is with Bali’s internationally acclaimed contemporary dancer and choreography, Nyoman Sura, who has died aged 37.

     Sura, who was born in the Denpasar village of Kesiman in 1976, was destined by the fates to be an interpretative dancer who dazzled at the very edge of the performance envelope. He failed the entrance exam for an accountancy degree course at Udayana University. So instead he fell back on his childhood attraction to traditional dance and enrolled at the Indonesian Institute of Fine Arts (ISI).

     In 1995, when he was 19, he was awarded Best Choreographer in a Java-Bali dance competition. When he graduated from ISI the next year he remained at the campus but on the faculty. He taught dance and movement.

     An exponent of both traditional and contemporary dance, he later studied at ISI Surakarta (Solo). But he remained committed to Bali traditional dance as his works Sri Tanjung (2009) and Ritus Legong (2002) amply demonstrate.

     He broke very new ground in 2002, however, when he danced nude at the premier of his work Waktu Itu (That Time) in Medan, North Sumatra. He caused a stir nationally, especially among the prudish, institutional and otherwise, but said the dance portrayed man’s transitions from birth to life to death and that being naked reflected the state of man at the end of life when he must face God free of all earthly accessories.

     It is the artist’s lot to be outré. The truly “out there” are dreadfully missed when they leave us.

     Sura is reported to have died of pancreatic cancer, a vicious disease.

     Jack Daniels of Bali Discovery and the weekly online briefing Bali Update wrote a very moving eulogy. It’s on the Web (posted on Aug. 12). You should read it.


Silent Night

There was supposed to be an item in the print edition of the diary this time, about jazz singer Edwina Blush’s benefit night for Villa Kitty, the Ubud establishment that does so much for our neglected feline friends.

     Sadly, it had to be pulled just after we’d sent the column along to the Bali Advertiser, for reasons that will shortly become shrilly clear.

     Faced with the difficulty of finding a venue in a rush since other things had complicated the long-settled option, the energetic Edwina did a deal with Rouge, an establishment in Jl Bisma, to stage a night primarily of performance poetry there on the planned date, Aug. 29.

    This plan too bit the dust swiftly. Unbeknown to Ms Blush (and for that matter the Diary) the exotic settlers who inhabit that part of Jl Bisma don’t like the joint. It plays music, you see, being a place of entertainment, and this discommodes the ambiance, or rattles the rattan, or disturbs the peace, or interrupts the evening navel-gazing; or possibly all these things.

    A solution involving the Jazz Café and Sept. 2 has been found. This extravaganza is billed as The Cat Fight Continues (love it!) and the dress code is said to be cat/combat. Slink along and you’ll find things meowing nicely. The view at the Jazz Café is that anyone who thinks Bali is NIMBY-Land is off with the fairies. We agree.

     Blush has two other gigs planned before she heads back to Sydney in early September. The details are below. But first, you should read the original item, for the full flavour of the moment:            


Sultry Night


Edwina Blush, the seriously sexy Sydney songstress known for bringing out the blushes of many who attend her sultry jazz sessions inadequately briefed, so to speak, is on a mission in Ubud on Aug. 29. She’s performing on behalf of Villa Kitty, the Lodtundah cat refuge for which she is an ambassador, at a benefit being staged at Rouge in Jl Bisma.

      So here’s the drill: Donation on arrival plus any contributions to “kitty” during the night that Blush and crew can squeeze out of you; raffles, door prizes, and auctions; prizes for best dressed (Dress code: Kitty Rouge).

      And the line-up’s definitely not to be missed: Edwina Blush, jazz cabaret vocalist and performance poet; Skid More, comedian; Alexa Bauer; and Mr Richard H Simorangkir, Rouge house pianist.

     Blush performed earlier this month in Ubud. We’ll do our damndest to get along to the Aug. 29 “cat” show, though. So far we’ve managed to miss all her Bali gigs. Can’t have her thinking we’re pussies.

     There’s a sad aspect to this one, by the way. Marcus Page, the Ubud identity who died unexpectedly this month, was a fervent supporter of Villa Kitty and will be missed, by Villa Kitty Ibu-in-Chief Elizabeth Henzell and many others.

     Besides the Jazz Café on Sept. 2, Blush is performing at Il Giardino in Ubud on Sept. 4 and staging her final Bali session of 2013 on Sept. 5 at Oazia in Kerobokan. This will feature an eight-piece band with a full horn section.

    Blow it! Can’t make the 2nd or the 5th, but we’ll get to Il Giardino by hook or by crook.


A Sad Mishap

It’s been a bad time for untimely deaths. New Zealand-born Australian surfing legend Allan Byrne – he of the iconic Byrning Spears board brand – died on Aug. 8 of injuries resulting from a motorbike accident on Aug. 2. He was treated at a Jimbaran hospital (for a broken arm) but later collapsed and at another hospital was diagnosed with a skull fracture.

     He had been in Bali for the Rip Curl surf championships.


Virtually Certain

We know we’re getting the big APEC jamboree in October. The Bigwigs have already said they’re going to close the airport for extended periods so they can gad about on it and have a gaggle at everyone else’s expense. What we weren’t certain of (actually we still aren’t) is whether Bali will host the annual World Internet Forum (IGF), which is – Was? May be? – scheduled for Nusa Dua on Oct. 22-25.

      There had been, it seems, a “period of uncertainty” over the fate of this particular gabfest, a hiatus that the top flack at the communication and information ministry, Gatot S. Dewa Broto, recently felt confident enough to say was at an end.

      Apparently “several obstacles” had puzzlingly stood in the way of getting the show on the road. These had to do with money. The IGF is budgeted to cost around Rp22 billion – a snip at only US$2.2 million after all – but funding components from Indonesia had been, shall we say, sadly though somewhat familiarly sub-par. IGF organizers raked up Rp9 billion, the communications ministry chipped in Rp2.5 billion, and other Indonesian stakeholders divvied up a dribble. Luckily Google and other interested private concerns have dropped in enough dollars to patch us back into the world.

       Thus Minister Tifatul Sembiring, who is most often seen in his self-appointed role as Censor of the Nation, was able to advise at the eleventh hour that the dog that ran away with his homework had been collared and the paperwork retrieved.

       He said this: “Right now, myself and the ranks of the ministry of communications and information  technology will take whatever action is necessary to immediately complete a Host Country Agreement signed by Indonesia and the UN, as this the most important foundation of the implementation of the IGF 2013.”  In this pronouncement he proved yet again the theory that, for a politician, 46 words will always beat four (“OK. We’ve fixed it.”)

       It’s not entirely clear why 2,500 hot-wired itinerants have to come to Bali to discuss the virtual world they inhabit. Surely if what they say works, works, they could do it all on Skype or something. Never mind. There may be a bonus. Internet speeds here would give any geek a conniption. They may be able to advise how to lift that sorry performance. That would be really good.


Oh, I See…

Lion Air, which made a splash in the world news in April when one of its (many) new Boeing 737-800s “landed” rather spectacularly short of the runway at Ngurah Rai airport, frightening the fish in Jimbaran Bay, seems to have a novel PR campaign under way.

     This month another of its lovely new jets ran into some cows while landing at Gorontalo in Sulawesi. We don’t know why there were cows on the runway (elsewhere the mind might boggle over this question, but not in Indonesia). We do know, though, that pilots of large passenger aircraft are generally thought to have a duty of care to the human souls strapped into the seats behind the flight deck that extends to taking care to avoid significant visible obstacles while landing.

      Apparently, the pilots reported seeing dogs on the runway.

      One thing you can count on in Indonesia is a laugh; sometimes it’s a hollow one, but beggars can’t be choosers. This particular little chuckle reminded us of the 1990s Irish TV comedy Father Ted.  On one occasion in that ecclesiastical funfest naive novitiate Fr Dougal McGuile, spotting a herd of cattle grazing in a paddock some distance away, mused aloud that they seemed very small.

      It’s OK to laugh when all you’re doing is watching a sit-com.  When you’re on a plane whose pilots are apparently as challenged as a fictional nincompoop, it’s a little more serious.


Get Along!

Mike O’Leary from the ROLE Foundation is expecting a good turn-out for his latest fundraiser, Blues for the Blue, at Tapeo Gastrobar, Kuta Beachwalk, on Aug. 31. It’s in aid of efforts to deal with the 5,000 to 20,000 tons of solid waste and unknown tonnage of liquid waste dumped illegally in Bali every day. As he notes, the people who are responsible for waste management here seem unable to act.

     The Island Sustainability Education Centre is working on long-term solutions to give Balinese and other Indonesians who really care the know-how, skills and assistance to meet this challenge.

     The inaugural Bali Waterman’s awards will honour water sportspeople and adventurers. It’s Rp300K to get into the gig, of which San Miguel Light is a Gold Sponsor.



On Aug. 8 – the date was darkly apposite: Hiroshima day was Aug. 6 and Nagasaki day Aug. 9 – the good folk at The Guardian in Britain twittered: “Fukushima leaks: Japan PM steps in.”

     We do hope his minders made sure he was wearing his yellow wellies.

Hector tweets @scratchings


HECTOR’S DIARY (in the Bali Advertiser, Aug. 7, 2013)

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences 

Jam Session

The Ubud Jazz Festival (Friday and Saturday, Aug. 9-10 at ARMA) is one among many annual events that crowd the calendar there. And since jazz is among the more useful creations of human ingenuity, it’s well worth the trouble. Jazz is a fundamentally anarchic art form that demonstrates that people are not cattle who can be prodded into doing what they’re told. Fundamentalists of all stripes should note this.

While listening to some lovely anarchic music on the iPod recently – we were driving towards a delightful lunchtime appointment with our favourite Ubud-based scribbler-savant, Marie Bee, for which we were frightfully late – we found ourselves in a jam session of our own.

This one was not musical. It was so humdrum and normal that no one even bothered to toot their horns. It was but the latest example of the lack of capacity hereabouts to understand a very simple equation: ROB + VNS + ISB = TFC. That’s where ROB is Ridiculous Oversized Bus, VNS is Very Narrow Street, and ISB is Impossible Sharp Bend. The answer is TFC, as we all know; where T is Total, C is Chaos, and the middle letter is unprintable.

Ubud, You Know

The jazz festival’s website blurb, by the way, is a great example of how trite travelogue and pop history these days combine to give you hollow laughs, if not soulful sighs laden with ennui and exasperation. It is headed Welcome to Ubud and says this:

     Ubud is a remarkable town in the middle of the island of Bali, Indonesia. For more than a century, it has been the island’s preeminent centre for fine arts, dance and music. While it once was a haven for scruffy backpackers, cosmic seekers, artists and bohemians, Ubud is now a hot spot for literati, glitterati, art collectors and connoisseurs. Famous names walk its busy sidewalks every day. Elegant five star hotels and sprawling mansions now stand on its outskirts, overlooking the most prized views in Bali. Nonetheless, Ubud is still popular with backpackers, mystics and all the finest fringe elements of global society. Ubud is not “ruined”. Its character is too strong to be destroyed. It still draws people who add something; people who are actively involved in art, nature, anthropology, music, dance, architecture, environmentalism, “alternative modalities,” and more.

We go to Ubud for the music and the food – and, if Janet DeNeefe lets us, for the literature.

A Nice Drop

We sampled Plaga Wines’ newly introduced cabernet sauvignon recently, at an affray held at The Deck at the Semara Resort & Spa, Seminyak. It’s a very nice drop of wine. Well, it would be: Plaga’s range of quaffable products blends Chilean and West Australian grapes, which to our mind gives you a basically unbeatable southern hemisphere double.

Plaga’s pitch is to produce quality affordable wine for your table in Bali, a quest in which it deserves wholehearted support. The price of imported wine here is horrendous and largely unaffordable, unless you’re paying with someone else’s credit card. Plaga is one of a number of new (or improved) players in the field and we certainly wish them all good fortune. We’ll be adding Plaga’s cab sav to our modest cave at The Cage.

There’s something about wine that is quite irresistible, as the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda famously noted (Plaga’s Facebook page recently posted it as a neat reminder): “I had a fling with beer, a passionate affair with Cognac, but the love of my glass is wine.”

Many of us have travelled that particular life-path. The Diary admits to a continuing infatuation with whisky (as well as its attractive cousin whiskey) but we think wine long ago came to terms with the occasional lapses that inevitably follow.

We caught up at The Deck do with Alexsander Martins Paim, F&B director at the Semara Seminyak, and Marian Carroll of Ayana at Jimbaran. Carroll was just in from a business trip to Japan that (as they do) had ended with the modern hell of an overnight long-distance flight, but she looked trim, taut and terrific.

Fine Dining

We were back recently at a favourite grazing spot, variously known as Warung Chilli or Rice & Noodles and sometimes just as the noodle house. It’s at Taman Griya between Jimbaran and Nusa Dua. We like it because the food is great. It’s basically Japanese–Balinese fusion, reflecting the provenance of the family that runs the place. The chicken katsu-don and udon noodle soup are fabulous.

There are other reasons to like the place. It doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is: it’s a local eating-house. Its staff all know what they’re doing. They know what you’ve ordered. And they bring it to you with commendable speed. Plus it’s cheap. A winner on all counts, really.

Here, Kitty

Blogger-about-Bali Vyt Karazija, who like many among the fine and fearless is also to be found on Facebook (we share that and St Kilda as favourite lost causes) had a lovely tale the other day about the cat which came by his Legian digs. He tells it this way:

     So a cat wanders into the villa. The only way in is over a 3 metre wall. With monumental insouciance, he stares into the lounge area, climbs a tree, explores the garden and responds to my “Shoo!” and “Get the hell out of here” with utter disdain.
Finally in his own time he leaves by scaling the wall again.
Then I hear running water, and it takes 5 minutes to track down the source. The outdoor shower is running full-bore and I turn it off. But the only way to control that shower is with a lever that hangs straight down in the “off” position, and must be pushed 90 degrees to the right to get water flow. You need hands to move it; paws don’t cut it. There is no way a cat going up a wall can possibly turn that tap.
And yet the damn cat turned on the tap as it left. I am starting to develop a healthy respect for that cat’s ability to achieve engineering impossibilities.
No wonder the ancient Egyptians worshipped them. Maybe cats were the ones who built the pyramids.

Of course they were. We told him: “Get with the program, Vyt. Or the Loud Meow will want to know why.”

Very Important imPediments

We are, we suppose, glad in a way that Bali is to host the 2013 APEC CEO Summit. It will focus the world output of 10-second grabs and sound-bites on our beautiful little island for a nano-second and may even encourage some among the global media to go off and find stories they haven’t been spoon-fed by the PR machines. Plus we’ve got the Dewa Ruci underpass and that new aquatic playground, the Sanur-Nusa Dua toll road, as lasting memorials to the great jamboree.

The VIP lads and lasses are only going to be here for a day or so. But neither we nor those who manage the world’s airline schedules are going to miss the impact of their fleeting presence, since it will seriously disrupt that other time-delayed wonder, the Work-In-Progress International Airport.

This is because to accommodate the very important travel schedules of these honoured jests (oops, guests), the airport will be closed to normal traffic for significant portions of four days: Oct. 5 and 6 (from 10am both days until 4pm on Oct. 5 and 8pm on Oct. 6) and Oct. 8 and 9 (again from 10am both days until 8pm on Oct. 8 and 4pm on Oct. 9). That’s six hours or 10 hours a day, not counting Indonesia’s gift to the world, jam karet (rubber time).

It hasn’t been explained why this is necessary. It isn’t, of course. Other places manage to do these things with minimal disruption.

Hard Yards, Great Result

Sole Men, the charity group inspired by entrepreneur Robert Epstone, has done it again, this time with the help of the Hard Rock Hotel at Kuta, which takes its community service obligations very seriously indeed.

Over the last weekend of July they had a rave (if people still do that; it could be so yesterday for all we know) over two nights including body painting by Yaari, sexy dancing by outrageous Go Go Dancers, with MC Dee on hand and lots of live music headed by Indonesian super-group Superman is Dead.

Other sponsors were Heineken Beer and Plaga wines. Money raised – it was still being counted when the Diary hit deadline – will go towards proper housing for two poor Denpasar families who are supporting their seven severely disabled children.

Epstone tells us builder Nevhouses has said it will build two dwellings on land Sole Men are acquiring in Denpasar. As he says, given this level of support from all over, you can’t lose.

Hector may be contacted at hector.mcquawky@yahoo.com. He tweets @scratchings.