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

by 8 Degrees of Latitude

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.