8degreesoflatitude

THINGS THAT INTEREST, ENGAGE AND ENRAGE

Month: February, 2015

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Feb. 18, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

No Time and High Tide

It’s always fun to read stories in the local press that relate to statistical information. The power of presentational representation (some people call that PR) is a skill that should never be undervalued in Indonesia. Thus we had a little smile when we read that Bali’s Department of Marine Affairs and Fisheries reported seaweed production in the regencies of Badung, Klungkung and Buleleng fell last year by 42 per cent on the 2013 figure. Official statistics show seaweed production was reduced from 145,597 tons to 84,320 tons.

A representative of the department, I Made Gunaja, said conversion of seaweed farms into tourist attractions had caused dramatic reductions in production at Pandawa and Kutuh beaches on the Bukit. Hello? How can that be? Who would have expected that to happen if you shooed off the seaweed farmers because their way of life and subsistence income was superfluous to Bali’s modern requirements to turn secret beaches and other lovely natural spots into resorts for the newly rich and wannabe famous?

The departmental spokesman added this hopeful line to his spin cycle:  “Because the land is used for tourists, the seaweed farmers are now switching professions to join the tourism sector.” It’s good to hear that all these displaced persons, casualties of the national struggle for plutocrat enrichment, are getting professional jobs in the tourism-related sector. Executive Manager, Leaf-Sweeping, with the prospect of eventual promotion to bag-carrier, sounds an absolutely ideal new career path.

Part of the problem, according to Dr Spin, is the weather. Apparently it has been inclemently unkind recently to the sort of seaweed that has populated the marine environment in the area forever. So they’re proposing to plant red seaweed, which the department asserts could promise a much bigger crop and which is supposedly rather more resistant to climate cycles (and possibly jet-skis, though Dr Spin didn’t say this).

It would be interesting to read the findings of the EIS on introducing red seaweed into the environment apparently vacated by the green variety and its harvesters. Did we just hear a hollow laugh?

Her Kitchen Rules

Janet DeNeefe of Fragrant Rice fame has added a food festival to her list of Ubud-centred Bali things. She says the idea flowed from feedback from patrons of the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival that suggested they’d enjoy the added benefit of exploration in the diverse culinary landscapes of Indonesia. Last year’s UWRF in Bali’s self-styled culinary and cultural capital included a Kitchen Program.

The first Ubud Food Festival is the result. From June 5-7 DeNeefe and others will run a three-day culinary extravaganza. She promises a festival that will bring together Indonesia’s and Southeast Asia’s most celebrated chefs, restaurateurs, producers and food professionals to serve up a program rich in food mythology, authenticity and taste.

Its tastes and sensations will be eclectic, ranging (in her words) from coffee to chocolate and tempe to turmeric. The UFF will include a range of free and ticketed events spanning cooking demonstrations, master-classes, panel discussions, night markets, farmers’ markets, food tours, wine tastings and film screenings.

We must get along to it.

Lost in the Myth

It’s something of a comfort to learn that the trade minister in the new Jokowi Cabinet, Rahmat Gobel, decided to ban the import of used clothes because they could spread HIV. Most of President Widodo’s ministers had seemed, up to that point, to be a serious-minded bunch, even if some of them were there for political rather than qualified reasons. The mirth was missing.

Pak Rahmat has bravely returned us to the comedy routine. There’s nothing quite like a torrent of tosh to get the belly-laughs going. So we all owe him a favour for lighting up our day. Far be it from us to suggest that his feeling for farce is in fact connected with appalling ignorance and morbid misconception.

We can safely leave that to Ayu Octariani of the Indonesia AIDS Coalition (IAC). She put the situation into its correct perspective. She said the minister’s statement was regrettable and reflected a lack of awareness in Indonesia regarding HIV and what it can lead to (AIDS) if not treated with appropriate drugs and qualified medical care.

She also said this: “Let’s not talk about educating the public just yet. Even in the cabinet, which consists of educated people, there’s still a misconception about HIV/AIDS.”

Indeed there is.

Phew – Made It!

When we sent this diary column in on deadline, we were in Brisbane, in the Australian state of Queensland, a place that is remarkable for many things, including having been abandoned yet again by serial schedule-changer Five Star Garuda.

In Queensland, as some may know, they’ve just had another of those “the voters have spoken – the bastards” elections. Attending scenes of chaos, political or otherwise, has been our lifelong work and it was amusing to be back in the thick of it, briefly. We were due to have a chat with the Diary’s international cultural attaché, Philly Frisson, on these and other matters, but other matters intervened. We’ll catch up later with the dear girl.

Being allowed into Queensland, though, was a damn close run thing, because the government just given its marching orders (despite winning the popular vote by a margin of nearly four percent) had enacted astonishingly anti-democratic bikie laws during its first (and as it turned out, only) term. Among the rules imposed by this inventive legislation, as noted in the Diary of Feb. 4, was a provision that any gathering is illegal if two or more members of bikie gangs are present.

We were carrying two lovely Bali “German-style” bike helmets for a friend who collects such cultural items to decorate his bar. Fortunately, though we of course declared the presence of more than one possibly bikie helmet to the seriously-minded lads and lassies of Customs and Border Protection at Brisbane Airport, we were told that whatever Queensland laws might suggest, they were not regarded under federal law as evidence of criminal intent.

Celebrity Support

Paris Hilton, whose favourite colour is pink and who recently holidayed in Bali yet again, is a fan of the efforts the Bali Animal Welfare Association makes on behalf of the island’s disadvantaged dogs and other animals.

She told her global fan club this in words and pictures on her Facebook page, which is essential reading for diarists who like to keep abreast of what the international glitterati does between breakfast and dinner. (What it does between dinner and breakfast is its own affair.)

On her latest Bali break, Hilton also found time to chat with the glitter-obsessed macaques of Ubud’s Monkey Forest. Good on her!

Evil Weed

It was very nice of Kerry Ball to invite us along to the Alan Bates Stop Smoking seminar held at Petitenget Restaurant & Bar on Feb. 7. We couldn’t attend since we had just the day before taken our personal pollution program off the island temporarily. But we do agree that people should be encouraged to stop smoking, if they are smokers who wish to stop doing so.

Bates claims to have helped thousands of people around the world give up the pernicious weed first identified as such by King James VI of Scotland – he was also King James I of England, something the untutored crowd south of that particular border are apt to forget – not long after Sir Walter Raleigh returned from the Americas with his first packet of Indian Rough. He wrote a famous treatise about it, in 1604, entitled A Counterblaste to Tobacco.

As Bates notes and as experience suggests, nicotine addiction is both a physical and a behavioural thing. Willpower can do the job if you really want to stop. But you have to really want to stop.

Being told you’re a social excrescence and a rude person of immense stupidity, constantly, is not as much of an inducement to cease smoking as some of the anti lobby apparently would like to believe. But smoking rates are falling sharply in many parts of the world. In Australia, where the Diary is temporarily hiding away behind bushes or toilet blocks to snatch a quick draught, only 13 per cent of people now smoke.

It’s a dying habit, as they say.

Four Play is Such Fun

Putri Wedasari, who used to make noise as an account executive for OZ Radio 101.2 Bali, has changed her style. She now heads Four Play Communication, an agency that operates within her skill sets of marketing and strategic communications, the latter being the field in which she obtained her master’s degree last year.

She lists Zumba dance among her recreational interests. That sounds like just the thing for a young lady on the move.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter. His diary appears in the print and online editions of the Bali Advertiser http://www.baliadvertiser.biz

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Feb. 4, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

A Tale of Two Statues

The new style of Bali’s fixation with monumental ornamentation, as seen in the grossly huge and garishly illuminated nightly by circus-style flashing lights “monkey mountain” that has been erected at the junction of Prof Ida Bagus Mantra Bypass and I Gusti Ngurah Rai Bypass just south of Tohpati, is certainly a distraction to drivers. That’s about the kindest thing you could say about it.

It’s true that after a while it fails to totally shock – the brain is adept at repressing all manners of vast unpleasantness – but we can personally attest that for the first several times this visionary excrescence comes suddenly into view one is auto-prompted to utter loudly a crudely pejorative four-letter word before asking (audibly or otherwise, and rhetorically of course) “What on earth is that?”

Fortunately the future of world-class Balinese stone craftsmanship is in safe hands in other areas. Gianyar regency sculptor Ongky Wijana, for instance, has recently completed a work that will honour the mining heritage of the little town of Laxey in the Isle of Man, one among the Queen’s possessions that has never been incorporated into the United Kingdom.

Wijana’s wife Hannah Black, an art editor and designer, is from the Isle of Man, which is in the Irish Sea roughly equidistant from the Irish and Scottish coasts and a little further from the nearest bits of England and Wales. That’s the connection. He has spent quite a lot of time there (he tells us he loves the weather; but he is a very polite gentleman) and got the commission after he was spotted practising his art amid the chill gales of winter as a good way of keeping warm.

It was a nearly year-long task – thankfully this was performed warmly in Bali – to create the statue from a 5000kg block of stone from Ireland and four pieces of Welsh slate. The finished work left Bali in early January and is due to be unveiled at Laxey on May 23.

A Hundred Shades of Grey

We’re not sure of the actual numbers (we were having far too much fun to count heads) but it’s in the nature of seventieth birthday parties to produce fields of grey wherever the eye might fall. And this was the case at The Santosa in Senggigi, Lombok, on Jan. 17, when former leading South Australian and federal Labor politician Peter Duncan had his big bash.

We flew over for the occasion and caught up with some old friends, including Barbara Cahyadi of the Lombok Guide who, because she’s a she, can legitimately crawl away and dye. She didn’t look grey at all. But then she’s nowhere near seventy either. Septuagenarian status in this context is a privilege shared only by itinerant scribblers and former politicians.

Duncan says it was not his idea, and we believe him, but The Santosa had erected a very visible backdrop behind the music stage that loudly (in the visual sense) congratulated “Mr Peter Owner of Taman Restaurant” on his birthday, which was on Jan. 1. It displayed a photographic representation of the present Mr Peter and another of the former political artist as a young man. Well, a very much younger man. This is why we keep our family album under virtual lock and key.

Duncan wore white for the night. His lovely wife Wiwik Pusparini had given him the outfit for his birthday. It was the evening’s one disappointment. Duncan had hinted earlier that he might, in his opening remarks, say that this was a great moment to appear in his birthday suit. Sadly, he flaked on that.

He did make an excellent point in his little address, however. He noted that if he’d held his big bash in Queensland, Australia, all his guests would have risked arrest. Among them were two members of bikie gangs. The Queensland government has outlawed any gathering at which more than one bikie is present. They like their paranoia by the shovelful in Bananaland.

Hang on a Tic!

The endemic political Tourette’s syndrome and OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) that afflict Indonesia can be entertaining. Or they would be if they weren’t simply revealing ubiquitous dysfunction and the fact that those creating it would rather play silly games than do any serious work.

The real Tourette’s, a debilitating and limiting neurological condition, and OCB, an anxiety disorder, are involuntary medical conditions. The non-medical and characteristically self-inflicted political variants of these sad conditions are not. They are elective and risible.

It needs to be noted that while Indonesia has pervasive exposure to these syndromes – most lately demonstrated in the Keystone Kops tit-for-tat farce involving the national police and the anti-corruption commission which would be hilarious if it weren’t so dangerous – they are not unique to the archipelago. They are prevalent in many places, globally, including within the Australian political class.

Last year the government announced that five countries would get visa-free entry for short-term visitors. These countries were Australia, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia.

In 2014 Australian arrivals to Bali, totalled 991,024, which was 26.3 percent of all visitors. Among the countries awarded free visa status from 2015, China last year sent us 586,197 tourists, a more than 50 percent increase; South Korea 106,774 (to Sep.), making it our sixth largest market; Japan, once our biggest market, fell to fourth place with not much hope of any marked improvement in the short term; and Russian arrivals fell 10 percent (to Sep.) due to unfortunate circumstances at home and the collapse of the rouble. Malaysia, which is on the ASEAN free visa list, was our third-largest market in 2014 with 224,962 arrivals.

Now Australia has been dumped from the list of those countries whose travelling citizenry is to be excused the tedious business of being tickled for US$35 on arrival. Officially this is because the free visa arrangements require reciprocity (and that would certainly be sensible on the basis of a short-stay holiday and a return ticket, should anyone in Canberra feel interested enough to notice). But since Australia was on the original list and now isn’t, it seems safe to assume that the move is political.

In the words of Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Indroyono Soesilo: “For Australians, the visa on arrival is enough.” Perhaps he means that US$34,685,840 is nice pocket-money.

But what Indonesia has just said to its potential one-million-plus-a-year Australian tourists, its largest market, is, “Welcome to Bali. Sod off.”  What needs to be understood in Jakarta and Denpasar is that there are now many other places in the region which offer Australian tourists holiday experiences with free visas, less expense, less inconvenience, and better facilities. As blogger of note Vyt Karazija observed, it’s that shoot first, shout later thing: Ready! Fire! Aim!

Move Along Now…

No doubt Bali will give its famous blank stare response to the recent decision of the Supreme Court of India to uphold a ban on cock-fighting in the Hindu state of Andhra Pradesh. An action to overturn the ban on cultural grounds was opposed by Humane Society International, which told the court: “These cruel practices are against the law and should not be conducted under the garb of tradition. These events are nothing but gambling events.”

In Bali, cock-fighting is ubiquitous. Only the blind or the beneficially suborned would suggest gambling is not. Blood sacrifice is integral to both Balinese and Indian Hindu rites but the question is whether a religious validation of cruelty extends to death sports for gain. Animal activists are working (in the case of the Bali Animal Welfare Association, with IFAW, the International Fund for Animal Welfare) to educate communities in animal welfare and animal rights.

Interesting Thought

Waiting for a delayed flight can have benefits, not the least of them the chance to drink even more coffee. So it was when we flew back from Lombok to Bali on Jan. 18 after a weekend visit for a party (see above) and two lovely nights at Sudamala Suites and Villas on the beach at Mangsit north of Senggigi.

The benefit in this case came at our second coffee stop, after we discovered by the sort of osmosis required to obtain accurate information from anyone in Indonesia, that our Wings Air flight would be leaving 90 minutes late.

We were at the Dante’s outlet in the departure area and had switched off the smart phone to conserve its pathetic battery capacity. In an effort to delay terminal boredom, the eye wandered around the establishment’s many promotional billboards and found a reward.

One of these colourful eye-catchers was offering Brazilian Lemon. We wondered, briefly and indelicately, if that was a lemon with the zest shaved off.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter. His diary appears in the print and online Bali Advertiser http://www.baliadvertiser.com

Beyond Monogamy: exploring the possibilities of the human heart

Here’s an interesting point of view from Jennifer Wilson on Noplaceforsheep that’s worth absorbing.

No Place For Sheep

monogamy not amrried to the idea

Like many of our abstract sacred moral concepts, the cult of monogamy is reified to the degree that it’s considered “natural” for humans to live within its framework. Never mind that people break out all the time, and that the entirely monogamous relationship exists more in the theory than in the practice, still the monogamous ideal dominates our culture’s sexual and loving relationships.

However, “it just is” has never been a persuasive argument for me, and the reification fallacy of misplaced concreteness always comes in useful when thinking about morality.

I’ve wondered often if one of the unacknowledged goals of monogamy is to protect us from experiencing difficult emotions such as jealousy, insecurity, a sense of abandonment, of being displaced by another. Of loss, of insignificance, and so on. These are emotions we first experience in childhood, for some of us when we acquire siblings, and for all of…

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