Mary Lou and My Catharsis

I saw your lips I heard your voice
Believe me I just had no choice
Wild horses couldn’t make me stay away
I thought about a moonlit night
Arms around you good and tight
That’s all I had to see for me to say

Hey hey
Hello Mary Lou, goodbye heart
Sweet Mary Lou I’m so in love with you
I knew Mary Lou, we’d never part
So hello Mary Lou, goodbye heart
Yes hello Mary Lou, goodbye heart
Hello Mary Lou, goodbye heart


A few days ago I was musing, the way one does between engagements with one’s laptop and work on behalf of other people being performed for a miserable trickle of lucre, when the 1960 pop song Hello Mary Lou popped into my head. I’d been thinking about the past – many people don’t; they like to pretend it doesn’t exist or at least that since it is dead it doesn’t matter – and about some formative moments in my early life.

Mary Lou, the original 1960 version sung by Johnny Duncan, not the Ricky Nelson version with extra schmaltz that followed in 1961, had figured in one such turning point in my then brief existence. In 1960 I was 15 until just after Christmas, when I turned 16 and (to no one’s surprise) nothing much changed. Though one thing did change, during the course of that year; something that had a profound effect on me.

Fifteen-year-olds don’t generally think very deeply, or didn’t in those days, unless about Latin declensions or algebraic equations which these days no one thinks about at all. I’m not aware that I did – think very deeply that is – although it’s true I was a bit of a reader. Young habits die hard, apparently.

In 1960 I was a privileged child, at school in England during term time and with my mum and dad (in those days mummy and daddy, though daddy, a colonel, was occasionally Sir) in Malta, where Sir ran some things for the British army garrison.

In the Easter holidays of 1960 I formed an adolescent attraction for a young lady, also a Service Child. Her name wasn’t Mary Lou (perish the thought: Seven-Up was as close as any Brit got to anything American in those days). It was Anne, she was nearly a year younger than me, and I remember her with delicious clarity. That holiday and through the longer summer holiday to follow later we became what today would be called an item, though in those days no such thing existed. In even earlier days, we might have been stepping out, except that in the society I then inhabited, if you were 15 you stepped out very rarely, mostly chaperoned or under parental control, and were expected to behave yourself.

We misbehaved, the two of us, as much as we dared, which wasn’t very much. Over those summer holidays and other school breaks to follow, we developed a close though substantially chaste relationship. It was noted that we enjoyed each other’s company. Garrison gossip relayed the news that we were known to sit holding hands at the stern of the Governor’s launch – we were, after all, privileged children enjoying the last fading rays of the sun that was finally setting on the Empire – and that, on several occasions, we had wandered off on our own and out of sight having reached our boat party’s beach destination.

By today’s standard rules, we were not in the race. Having sex did not occur to either of us as proper or possible. It would be something for later, though we both knew that for us there would be no “later”; that the army posting system would mandate a sad but decorous end to the relationship by sending her father off to his next post and her with him before it moved mine and me along. As it did, though not before Ricky Nelson’s 1961 Mary Lou had raised our private song to pop status.

We negotiated visiting rights, but only from north of a notional point an inch (or so) below the navel. This arrangement was not disclosed to anyone, though doubtless the possibility of such a compact having been made was a matter of speculative interest among our peers and perhaps filtered upwards into the parental chain of command.

I recall soon seeing what I adduced to be alarm in my parents’ eyes and I remember thinking, no, surely they don’t think we’re doing that? It was therefore a shock – it was during the next holidays, the long summer break, when our dangerous liaison reached full flower – to find that the alarm I had seen had nothing to do with the prospect that their son and that girl might be engaging in, um, er, that sort of thing.

It had, instead, it turned out, everything to do with the fact that Anne’s father had served in the West Indies and while there had acquired a West Indian wife who – in the fullness of time and as nature took its course in the flat, calm waters of most British marriages in those days – then became the mother of Anne.

In those now distant days the West Indians one came across were white West Indians, the settler community in those fever-ridden isles that were otherwise commendable jewels in the shrinking imperial crown. Even the West Indian cricket side was white (though it soon acquired a duskier hue and began beating the hell out of English test teams). It was not a matter of comment but merely of fact. I don’t think we even thought about whom it was that actually did the hard work of harvesting all those bananas and putting them on the boats.

However, even in those days when one’s granny and certain aunts remained resolute that table legs should stay in purdah, lace-draped to guard against the possibility of unseemly and ill-bred arousal, and sex was quite unmentionable, it was understood that in the years that the British and their conscripted African, Asian and Amerindian workforces had been ploughing mutual furrows, some measure of miscegenation must have taken place. I don’t remember the term “touch of the tar-brush” being uttered when the topic was broached with me – it would have been low language, not something one would say in polite conversation – but the message was clear.

Anne and her mother might be very nice people (as indeed they were) but they were probably Not Quite White. Moreover, the possibly minuscule measure by which they might be Not Quite White was beside the point. One felt a subliminal invitation to recall the brindle Babu in that Kipling tale, the one who used his last drop of white blood to prevent a riot and then collapsed in a heap of un-British moral funk.

This was my youthful catharsis. It was immaterial to me that the alluringly fragrant and honey-blonde Anne, who always had a light tan, whose grey-green eyes were hypnotic and whose sense of the absurd so perfectly matched my own, did not produce tan lines of such blindingly obvious contrast as to put liverwurst and burnt bacon to shame. It didn’t rate on my list of Things to Note, except that I’d have killed to have her natural skin-tone. I did envy her for her all-over super-light bronze.

By this time in my life I was enjoying not only Kipling but Conrad, Somerset Maugham, Saki and others who produced the hagiography of late imperial times. For one thing, it got me away from Pliny (both Elder and Younger) and their dead language. Yet I had identified, defined (at least to my own youthfully untutored satisfaction) and completely rejected the implicit racism that coloured the writing I otherwise admired.

This shaped my response to the Anne Question when it was eventually raised by my parents. They thought I should find another nice girl to make friends with. They suggested one or two I might consider. Apparently, though this was not stated, they would pass the colour test. I’m sure they were very nice. They seemed pleasant enough. But they weren’t Anne and I said so.

It was the first time I had argued with my parents. It angered me that it was over the matter of “tainted blood”, a commodity whose existence I would vehemently deny, that was vital only in a racial narrative which I also rejected.

The confrontation was well-mannered and nuanced as all such matters should be and they accepted that I was not to be shifted. But nonetheless it shocked me.  My parents were lovely people, the kindest I’ve ever known, and certainly among the most indulgent. But the incident showed me – all children must find this out at some point of course – that they were the product of their formative era and I of my emergent one.

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser September 18, 2013


His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences


Golly! It’s Scribbler Time Again

Coming up soon are several jamborees – including Miss World, see below – that are set to put Bali (however briefly) in the world spotlight. The primary one is the APEC summit, of which we have written before. But shortly after the last APEC delegates buzz off and allow the rest of us to access our airport normally and drive around unmolested by rude police motorcade marshals, this year’s Ubud Writers & Readers Festival will be upon us.

     The 2013 festival brings with it the spirit of coming home, and presents the best Indonesian, South East Asian and international voices as it celebrates its tenth anniversary from Oct.11-15.

     This year it features more than 170 writers, performers, artists, musicians and visionaries to Ubud, navel-gazing centre of the universe, to talk about all forms of storytelling – from travel writing to song-writing, plays, poetry, comedy and graphic novels.

     Joining the line-up – and in his first festival appearance in the region – is bestselling British author Sebastian Faulks (Birdsong, Devil May Care), Lionel Shriver (We Need to Talk about Kevin), publishing entrepreneur and Lonely Planet co-founder Tony Wheeler, legendary Australian cartoonist Michael Leunig, and festival favourite Richard Flanagan, back for a welcome encore.

     The festival also welcomes 2013 Man Booker long-listed authors Ruth Ozeki (A Tale for the Time Being) and Tash Aw (Five Star Billionaire) as well as India’s “first literary pop star”, Amish Tripathi. Among other international guests are David Vann (Legend of a Suicide), double Miles Franklin winner Kim Scott (That Deadman Dance), American talent Nami Mun, and one of France’s most prolific writers Alain Mabanckou.

      They will be joined by a top line-up of Indonesia’s finest and most successful writers and thinkers. Pre-eminent Indonesian poet and man-of-letters Goenawan Mohamad, award-winning writer Ayu Utami, bestselling writer and celebrity singer Dewi Lestari, celebrated filmmaker Garin NugrohoLaksmi PamuntjakAhmad Fuadi and more than 45 others.

     Also on the menu is an exclusive open-air preview screening of Daniel Ziv‘s highly-anticipated documentary film Jalanan, about the lives of three Jakarta street musicians.


Limbering Up

We caught up a few days ago with Lian Monley, who some time ago was here for a stretch – among other things she ran a fitness centre in Seminyak – and who tells us she was back in Bali again recently in pursuit of another of her current ventures, this one involving the social media.

     Monley runs a juice company in Sydney that delivers cold-pressed organic juice to client’s doorsteps, probably an essential in Australia’s biggest city where the pace of life can be frantic and the traffic a challenge. She says of this venture: “The business extends to restaurants bars and cafes. It’s a very modern American juicing concept which is going nuts here.” 
      Her other business – the one that brought her to Bali – is building up and involves using social media to promote businesses. It’s the big thing at the moment. Monley’s efforts here are directed towards presentations on behalf of clients about where social media is going and what leverage a business can get from it if done correctly.

     Clearly she’s a busy lady. We’ll try to catch up with her again, sometime when schedules permit. 

Stool Pigeon

We hear that a “winged “spy” has been found dead in Egypt and that a local conservation group is crying foul. It seems Egyptian police detained a stork in August when someone in Qena province, 350 kilometres southeast of Cairo, became suspicious after noticing a European wildlife tracker on the bird,  According to news agency reports authorities suspected the bird may have been linked to foreign espionage. (Memo self: Add Egypt to the Risibility Alert List.)

    The authorities eventually set the stork free, but it didn’t get far, apparently falling victim to the local custom of catching and killing – and eating – anything that happens to flutter past. The Diary sympathizes. From time to time we’ve been so hungry ourselves that we could have eaten the ass out of a low-flying duck. We might, though, draw the line at storks.

     Nature Conservation of Egypt – now there’s an organization that clearly deserves a medal for trying – which had named the stork Mendes and argued for its release, said in an understatement: “Storks have been part of the Nubian diet for thousands of years, so the actual act of eating storks is not in itself a unique practice.”

     Moving on from the sad demise of Mendes, we note that the unfortunate stork is one of several animals Egyptian authorities have suspected of sinister plotting in recent years. In January, police in the Nile Delta sent a pigeon to a criminal investigation unit because when found it had microfilm and paper tied to its feet bearing a message that read “Islam Egypt.”

    In 2010, the governor of a province in Egyptian Sinai was reported as blaming a series of shark attacks on an Israeli plot to stunt Egyptian tourism.


On Your Camel (Again)

Speaking of the Risibility Alert List (see previous item) it’s depressing to find that the FPI, the staunch defender of democracy, is still making an ass of itself over the Miss World Pageant that was to be staged in Jakarta and Bali at the end of the month and is now only going ahead in Bali.

      Apparently Bali is the focus of evil, having agreed to go ahead with the pageant in the face of advice from this self-elected group of funsters that to do so would contravene religious and social norms that are (sorry, fellas) profoundly irrelevant to Hindu Bali.

     It’s not at all clear to the Diary why staging the Miss World event is directly relevant to Bali’s image, but heck, if relevance – to say nothing of good taste – were the rule, we’d probably stage nothing much at all. The FPI represents no one except itself.  It should be free to do so since Indonesia has grasped democracy and presumably the principles that underpin it, but that is hardly the point. For the benefit of the camel corps, then, this is the point: Indonesia is a multicultural and multi-ethnic society which does not begin and end with the island of Java.

      Of course it is a shame the political apparatus is so supine but that, again, is as it is. Our advice to the FPI, repeated: Back on your camels, Bali’s not for you.


Fragile Environment

We see that the convenient belief among Indonesia’s powerful personages that they should not be asked awkward questions has spread to forests minister Zulkifli Hassan, who didn’t like what American actor Harrison Ford said to him in a filmed interview about climate change.

     He thought the interview was rude and, according to presidential adviser Andi Arief this had left him shocked. Suggestions were heard that Ford, star of the Indiana Jones adventure movies, could be deported. He was leaving Indonesia the day after the interview anyway, but apparently a tin drum was available for ministerial beating and could not be ignored.

     Minister Zulkifli is also said to have taken the view that Ford and his crew were “harassing state institutions” and added (this is tedious, if not ominous, even if it is only hot air) that “his crew and those who were helping him in Indonesia must be questioned to find out their motives for harassing a state institution.”

      Ford also interviewed President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, though not shockingly, it seems. He was in Indonesia to film for an upcoming TV series on climate change called Years of Living Dangerously, related to national forestry policy that permits large-scale forest clearing across the archipelago to make way for paper and palm oil plantations, as well as for mining and agriculture.


Pure Gold

Indonesia hand Geoffrey Gold recently had some happy news to tell a popular LinkedIn group, Australians in Indonesia. August was a record month for the Indonesia Australia Report, a documentary website. Visits to the website that month exceeded 3000, followers of its Twitter news service approached 500 and views of its Indonesia Australia Weekly online compilation of links to recent newspaper articles topped 1000.

     Gold also said the number of Australians resident in Indonesia who had joined the LinkedIn discussion group had doubled and noted they had just started a Facebook Page for others to keep up with our latest articles and conversations. 

      It’s well worth visiting . Newly on the site is an overview of the new Australian government’s policies on engagement with Indonesia.

Hector tweets @ scratchings

AUSTRALIA’S ELECTION: Why I’ll be voting Liberal on Saturday (and no, it’s not because I usually do)

It’s fair to say that neither of the major parties – Labor and the Coalition (taken collectively this is sometimes a fractious prospect as we have seen demonstrated in recent days) – totally inspire confidence. But that’s democracy. You get a choice, but it is never a clear one between inexhaustible excellence on one hand and cloddish stupidity on the other.

I am by nature a Liberal voter in Australia, since I believe that while we must look after those whose life circumstances make it difficult for them to do so themselves, we should avoid mollycoddling. We should do this because taking away personal initiative breeds sloth and creates a client relationship between citizen and government. Civil society requires the reverse relationship (the religious and secular charities demonstrate this point). In general, the more the government keeps its hands out of people’s pockets the better. Labor, because of its history, its apparatchik practice, and its perception of where political advantage lies, epitomizes the oxymoronic pitch “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.”

But I am not a bolted-on voter. I’ve swung before, electorally speaking, generally when the non-Labor government in question has been absolutely hopeless, or venal, or simply not up to it. I voted ALP in 1972 (my first Australian election after early opportunities to vote in another of Her Majesty’s realms) not because I thought Gough was God or because of the catchy slogan, but because it really was time. I voted ALP in 1983 because Malcolm Fraser had squandered his historic opportunity and just been a pedantic patrician for seven years. I voted ALP in Queensland in 1989 because the proto-democratic post-Joh Nationals needed to go away and learn how to get quite a different sort of grip on themselves.

And it’s on that last ground, this time, that there is no contest. The demeaning and embarrassing pantomime that the Labor machine has served up since 2007 –  first Kevin 07, who they knifed;  then Julia 2010, who they beheaded; and now the reincarnated Captain Chaos of Kevin 13 – demonstrates in spades just how badly the federal ALP needs a spell in the paddock. It desperately needs to go on retreat to work out what it actually believes in (as a political movement) and what it really can bring to the national narrative. It needs to be sharply reminded that slapstick farce is entertainment on TV or the movies or the stage, not something requiring daily performances in the national auditorium.

It is a fact – though it has been repeated so often that it is danger of dying from aphorism – that far more binds Australians together than keeps them apart. The bulk of the policy platforms of the major parties are unremarkably – and thoroughly sensibly – similar. The real work of the parliament, an institution it has become fashionable to denigrate, is collegiate. And this is across the board, taking the Senate into account where the minor parties actually do have a role to play. This seldom gets an outing in print media, because concord is basically boring. And it is never aired on commercial radio or TV because it’s completely devoid of colour and movement and is thus wholly unsuited to the 10-second grab.

I’ll be voting in my electorate on Saturday – these days that’s in Western Australia not Queensland: something that even after eight years away remains more geographical dislocation than new start allowance – but I’ve observed the campaign from outside Australia. This has given me a distant perspective that, for me, brings the picture into sharper focus.

Australia will not be in deadly peril if Tony Abbott becomes prime minister. Labor bots please note. Ruin does not automatically await us if an electoral miracle occurs and Kevin Rudd hangs on. Coalition partisans please jot that down too. It would be better if Abbott did win, and Rudd did not, for the reasons outlined above and others to follow shortly. It would be better – this is merely a qualitative assessment – because Australia needs a circuit-breaker and some people need to go away and get a life.

Popular politics – this sounds like an oxymoron but actually isn’t – is seen by its practitioners as something demanding sharp contest. It’s meant to be a battle of ideas, after all. But this is difficult to achieve, and even more difficult to manufacture, when most of the ideas presented are sensibly middle of the road. Abbott is no Thatcherite, and Rudd is no Bevanite, to place the matter in a political context familiar to many.  The light has certainly gone out on the hill, but there’s no great divide behind it over which anyone might blunder inadvertently, however much the partisans of either side seek to assert their discovery of such an entity.

Few Australians cavil with the carbon-copy principles (sic) of each side’s policy on asylum seekers who risk their lives to reach their privileged country. The disgusting nature of this bipartisan approach unsettles rather fewer coalition voters than it does latte Labor ones. But unless you’re going off with the fairies and voting Green, there’s nowhere to go. A vote for either Labor or Liberal means poor bastards are still going to drown. And voting Green won’t help them anyway.

No one is going to be seriously disadvantaged if either of the rival national broadband policies proceeds, at whatever pace and cost-blowout is available at the time. Defence and foreign policy are (sensibly) essentially bipartisan. Both cost a lot of money on which the average taxpayer would fail to discern any immediate personal return.

Policy settings on health, aged care, pensions and education are basically the same. Both sides favour cost-concessional health, disability and aged care, each is as bureaucratically mean about pensions as the other, and both understand that “private” education in a religious school system is in a functional sense public schooling.

There are differences of emphasis in employment and workplace relations. The Liberal position is better – with proper safeguards and absent Peter Reith and the other hairy-chests – because it retreats from manipulation of commercial reality.

Each side panders to and seeks to benefit from another aspect of the unpleasantly xenophobic streak in Australian public opinion. This gets an airing in pronouncements about foreign land ownership such as the latest faux-horror about owning the farm expressed by Rudd. Reality check: only miners actually dig anything up and take it away.

Neither side has an industry policy that truly recognizes the reality that subsidy is not the way to conjure up excellence and product marketability but that seed funding for cutting-edge technology, green or otherwise, is.

The killer in this election is delivery. We don’t want any more Pink Batt scandals; we can do without politically motivated grace-and-favour funding for self-serving plaques on school hall walls; we do not want any more fairground-style revolving prime ministers, or tedious Lazarus acts such as we’ve seen with the Labor and Rudd-Gillard-Rudd circuses; we need no more policies presented on a “gotta zip” basis.

We need – bottom line, both literally and figuratively – budget integrity; lean administration; true consensus (and then delivery) of policies to counter environmental challenges (including climate change); concerted proactive action to bring Australia’s first peoples fully into the mainstream of national life and opportunity; and a firm grasp by those who occupy the corridors of power of the fact that Australians will prosper better and faster and on a greater scale if official busybodies leave them alone and let them get on with it.

Labor under Hawke (and, just, Keating) did that well. The Coalition under Howard did it very well. The years since 2007 – whether or not we’re all better off on a range of arcane statistical measures, as Labor-leaning economists keep trying to tell us – have been a hiatus for common sense, applied focus, and sensible outcomes.

Oh and by the way, none of it is the fault of Rupert Murdoch, whatever you may think of him and the appalling crassness of many of his corporate products.

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser Sept. 4, 2013


His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences


Ugly and Over It

Australian tourists get a bad rap in Bali. In some ways that’s understandable. The appalling behaviour of some of them in the more licentious parts of the tourist strip and (to be brutally honest) the astonishingly gauche naivety of a lot of them rather grates. But not all Australians are like that. We’re not all like that, rather. The Diary is a citizen of the Special Biosphere; an elective one having been born elsewhere. We didn’t like the bother-boots immigration official all those years ago who reluctantly observed the requirements of the visa and stamped the Pommy passport, but we got over it. Perhaps he did too, the silly duffer.

      So criticism needs to be measured on the basis of the observed misbehaviour of the Doh brigade in Kuta and Legian. There’s not a lot worse than a crowd of beer-bellies in vests of a certain brand – or any brand – toting gulp-as-you-go beer bottles down the street; or for that matter their uncontrolled infants and pre-teens having screaming hissy-fits. But that’s the mass market for you. Neither is it only Australians who lurch around drunk and half naked in public. Other westerners do this too.

      That said, as an interesting discussion on the Australians in Indonesia LinkedIn group recently showed, there’s reason to feel discommoded. In the old days – ah, the old days, in the Republic of Nostalgia – there were certainly scruffy surfers and seekers after truth and certain other substances. But there were not nearly as many, and they weren’t all crammed into a Patpong of pubs getting slammed and eying off the rent-girls, real or fake, or trying to injure themselves on gazillions of rented scooters.

      The huge growth in tourism has benefited large numbers of Balinese and the other Indonesians who have moved here to get a piece of the action. It’s moot whether what has resulted is an example of the law of unintended consequences, though that law is about the only constant in Bali. Cheap air fares and an oversupply of low-cost holiday accommodation practically guarantees high uptake, especially when for many Australians it’s far cheaper to get a passport and an international air ticket to Bali than it is to holiday at home.

      We now all know about the Australian rite of passage called Schoolies Week. It’s a staggered affair – no, that’s not a pun – with dates that vary from state to state. We mostly get West Australian school-leavers, off the leash in very large numbers, in November.

     It’s such fun. Luckily most of them stay in Fleshpot Central and leave the bulk of the island to the rest of us, who like a bit of peace and quiet; and good manners.


Change, Please

The way you hear it, everyone’s on their beam-ends in Bali. They’re all scratching for the last rupiah; they’re all on the very edge of the precipice of privation; and they’re all quite unable to find a couple of spare rupes to rub together; that is unless they’re lawyers, in which case they’ve probably already got everyone’s last rupiah. And that discounts the real poor – the unfortunate rakyat miskin who have seriously missed out on Bali’s boom times and for whose interests we should all look out.

     We understand this situation. It is not dissimilar to our own circumstances, give or take a western perception or two about what actually constitutes deprivation. No one (here, there or indeed anywhere) seems to give a toss about the circumstances of those trying to live on the earnings of retirement savings rendered catatonic by low interest rates and the taxing proclivities of governments, which everywhere claim seizure rights over people’s funds.

     So we keep small change around the place to pay bills – such as for example laundry bills – in the exact amount due. At last report, Rp 100 and Rp 200 coins were still legal tender. Products and services (e.g., laundry services) are even priced in these ludicrously small amounts.

     It was therefore a surprise recently to learn that the local laundry we use – because so far it hasn’t lost too many of our things or returned too much in a tattered, faded or colour-changed condition – would really rather not bother with the very small change. Rp 500 was the smallest denomination they would take.

     Well tough. They’ve now got the message that either they take the money we give them or we’ll take our business elsewhere.


Water Woes

PDAM – the government water monopoly whose acronym should surely be PDAMN – is far from a curious public institution. It goes about its business as it likes, which effectively means it frequently doesn’t bother. In that respect it is depressingly normal, in the way that sheltered bureaucratic workplaces in Indonesia and other places often are.

     Its lack of any distinguishing features, as a public bureaucracy, should not however shield it from criticism voiced by concerned non-recipients of its sole product, water. The Cage is situated on the Bukit, which suffers from being at the end of a long, rickety and thoroughly overwhelmed reticulation system. Here, we frequently pay for “hair” – as an Italian neighbour told us once in an excess of over-aspiration – because when there’s no water in the pitiful bit of pipe that reaches our location, the air pumped into it to keep it “open” makes everyone’s pay-by-the-click meters whiz round even faster.

     We’re fortunate to have a 5000-litre in-ground tank into which PDAM water trickles from time to time. For a little while recently we were getting water overnight – not a lot but just enough – that kept the tank more or less topped up. We knew it wouldn’t last. And sure enough this beneficent regime was soon replaced by a lengthy drought.

     Oddly, or perhaps not oddly, the new Big Dry followed closely upon the supercalifragilisticexpialidocious day that PDAM finally got around to repairing the broken main nearby. They have probably wasted their time. Some clumsy truck will run over it again. It is more or less slap-bang in the middle of the trafficable part of the track that passes for a road, after all.

      PDAM is keeping up with some aspects of technology. It has a website page on which you can leave feedback. But oddly (again) this never seems to appear. Perhaps we should not be too disheartened. It does point to the possibility that someone might be reading the messages received. 


Jailhouse Rock

Tricia Kim, Nagacia jewellery designer and indisputably our favourite New York Korean chick, got on to us recently about an event with a very good aim: a charity night organised by IDEP, the NGO that delivers training, community programs and media related to sustainable development through permaculture and community-based disaster management, to help fund a permaculture garden at Kerobokan Prison.

     Convicts are generally in jail for offences that warrant their removal from open society, but – Surprise! No! Really? – this neither deprives them of their human rights nor strips them of their humanity.

     There was to be dancing (not at the jail – the fundraiser was at La Finca at Hotel Tugu and was supported by Canggu Rotary) and an auction of artwork donated by the Prison Art Education Program. The bash was on Aug. 29 and the toe-tap and wallet-rummage crowd paid Rp 300K to get in with 10 percent of bar takings also going into the kitty.

     We’ll catch up with the result next time.  


Taking Us for a Ride

The FPI is a fundamentalist movement that promotes a hard-line version of Islam and is entitled to do so, since Indonesia is a democratic country that constitutionally recognises several religions and guarantees freedom of political expression. Its leader, the über-repressive Rizieq Syihab, was recently here with some of his supporters to persuade Bali to ban the Miss World Pageant. We don’t know exactly what he was told by the Bali authorities, who are not Muslim, but we’re hoping it went something like this: “Back on your camel Rizieq. We’ve already got them to drop their bikinis and that’s as far as we’re going.”

     Having succeeded in getting the hump (though he will have recorded it as a triumph of advocacy) he returned to Jakarta, rather quicker than if he had chosen to travel by large non-indigenous ruminant.

     And it was there that the FPI staged another of its risible public relations failures. It rode around Jakarta’s thoroughfares, attempting to raise the mob as it does, in expensive American Jeeps. The capital’s twitterfreaks had a field day and good for them. Most Indonesians have a very clear view of the pernicious extent of the FPI’s agenda.

     For some reason this event brought to The Diary’s mind the alluring lyrics of a seriously seductive 1974 pop-rock song, Midnight at the Oasis. Specifically these lyrics:

But you won’t need no harem, honey

When I’m by your side

And you won’t need no camel, no no

When I take you for a ride



Hector tweets @scratchings