8degreesoflatitude

THINGS THAT INTEREST, ENGAGE AND ENRAGE

Month: April, 2016

Here’s a Tip

 

Hector’s Bali Diary, Apr. 27, 2016 

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Now that the issue of destroying Benoa Bay so that rich people can get even richer is at the forefront of the public mind, and is the subject as it should be of robust dissention, it’s time to consider another threat to that formerly pristine piece of the global environment.

This is the waste mismanagement facility at Suwung, which for years has been leaching toxic material into the tidal swamps. Mangroves are very good at soaking up foreign substances, but even they have a limit to their tolerance. After a recent row – sadly but the latest in what is likely to be a continuing series – the managers of this excrescence leaped into action and started burying loose garbage under a layer of sand and soil. That helps reduce the stink. It doesn’t stop the leaching, either the insidious sort that you can’t see and can therefore pretend doesn’t exist, or the full Monty of black sludge that, if you own it and can’t be bothered working out what to do with it, you can only hope is never seen by anyone who might complain.

The usual cohort of Mea Culpa penitents, primarily of the imported variety, has appeared in the wake of this. They point out that waste management and disposal is a huge problem in South Bali because development responds to unplanned front-end demand by growing in an undisciplined manner since what planning rules do exist are ubiquitously ignored. In the fundamentalist Gaia liturgy, the cause is Selfish Greed, the secular original sin. Some of those who have woken up and found to their surprise that they’re living in a concrete jungle have even taken to arguing that the Balinese didn’t want development in the first place. Tell that to all the jobseekers.

Public policy is always a compromise. This immutable fact will forever fail to engage the activist mind. This is especially so in relation to the built environment and the issues of managing urban and industrial landscapes. It’s not clear that such esoteric matters win much airtime in the bureaucracy or at the political level. They should. But then Bali is littered with things that should be “shoulds” and “musts” that are viewed as anything but.

All that toing and froing aside, it is surely beyond dispute that high levels of leached toxins should never find their way into the waters of Benoa Bay. Its hydrography is already compromised and its mangroves depleted. It needs more mangroves, not less, to deal over time with toxic wastes from Suwung as well as with riverine refuse (another issue). Its tidal flows should be left unmolested.

None of this will ultimately be achievable without closing Suwung – and installing effective leaching ponds in the interim – and foreclosing on the creation of artificial islands in the bay.

Ni Hao

Along with the news that Chinese investors have been offered an open door in North Bali comes intelligence to the effect that Chinese brides may be looking for local bridesmaids. Apparently it’s the going thing to recruit such personages in the locality in which your nuptials are to take place. It saves on airfares and helps head off family or dynastic argument over who should be in the line-up.

The entrepreneurial sorts here will be quick into that action, for sure. One of the requirements for Chinese bridesmaids is that they should be pretty. There’s no shortage of that class of talent in Bali. In the piece we read on the emerging phenomenon, it was also said that Chinese brides require respect and decorum at their ceremonies. In many places – though not in Balinese society – these are qualities that these days are more remarked by their absence.

The Chinese tourist market is burgeoning here. Perhaps in time the theory that respect and decorum has more than just notional or historical value will percolate down to the tour bus brigade and into the supermarkets they’re delivered to for their snatch-and-grab raids on the way to their accommodation.

We live in hope.

Raw Deal

Still on tourism, the announcement of a lift in European visitors – in January and February: it takes a little time for the backroom boys to press go on the computerized data – has sparked comment. The tourism lobby here suggests it indicates that Europe, while still economically and in other ways comatose, has rediscovered its innate interest in Bali as a holiday spot.

It is famously said that there are lies, damned lies, and statistics. Raw statistics – which is what we’re dealing with in this instance – are neither lies nor damned lies (unless someone’s fiddled the figures) but they raw, untreated, have not been extrapolated for analysis, and apart from being pretty figures, are therefore pretty useless.

The data we’re looking at counts European Community passports seen at Ngurah Rai and stamped accordingly by a passport officer. It doesn’t account for actual intended length of stay, or repeat arrivals, or most importantly the place of embarkation.

A European Union passport holder may not have flown in direct from Europe on the hunt for the famous local rites that provide parties, Bintang, hair-braiding, a tattoo, and if such be your thing, a bit of nooky. Many such travel documents reside long-term, with their holders, in other parts of Southeast Asia, Northeast Asia, and Australasia.

In that last regard, Bali is a visa-run destination of choice in its own right for foreign passport holders in Australia who have visas that require them to leave and return from time to time.

Around Again

The Bali administration has launched a fresh program to vaccinate 400,000 dogs against rabies, with continuing support from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

The seventh mass dog vaccination kicked off at Munggu in Badung regency on Mar. 18. In the three-month campaign the authorities plan to target 716 villages, according to a statement from the FAO.

As before, vaccinated dogs will be given a special collar to ease identification by a special team of dogcatchers and vaccinators. Animal health director at the agriculture ministry, I Ketut Diarmita, says the program will run more efficiently than in previous years.

That would be welcome. Previous campaigns have died of confusion or ennui (or from siphon disease, which is fatal to public funds). When this has happened in the past, the killer squads go out again and eliminate dogs indiscriminately, even those with vaccination collars.

On official figures up to March, rabies has killed 164 people in Bali since 2008.

Eat Up

The 2016 Ubud Food Festival – it’s Janet DeNeefe’s writers’ festival spinoff (yes, we’re sure there will be fragrant rice somewhere in the mix) – will be tempting a lot of tummies and taste buds on May 27, 28 and 29.

DeNeefe, who sent us a note about it on Apr. 19, says there’s a great lineup of talent. This includes Indonesian culinary icons Sisca Soewitomo, William Wongso, Mandif Warokka, Petty Elliott, Bara Pattaridjawane and Bondan Winarno, award-winning cocktail-guru Raka Ambarawan, celebrated pastry chef Dedy Sutan, local raw food masters chef Arif Springs (Taksu) and chef Made Runatha (MOKSA), New York-trained sate king Agung Nugroho, and budding local agricultural star Tri Sutrisna.

From overseas, we’ll see Margarita Fores, the 2016 “Asia’s Best Female Chef” winner; Australian tapas legend Frank Camorra; Singapore’s Julien Royer (he’s supported by Cascades Restaurant); Jamie Oliver’s seafood sustainability champion Bart Van Olphen; high profile food photographer Petrina Tinslay; and found-and-foraged chef Jessie McTavish.

Local talent includes Kevin Cherkas of Cuca; Eelke Plasmeijer of award-winning Locavore; pastry icon Will Goldfarb of Room4Dessert; head chef of CasCades Restaurant Nic Vanderbeeken, Mozaic’s modern maestro Chris Salans; Bisma Eight head chef Duncan McCance; sushi master Yuki Tagami; culinary expert Diana Von Cranach; and French sommelier Antoine Olivain of Bridges.

The three-day program includes free Think, Talk, Taste sessions at Taman Kuliner, the festival hub; day and night markets; live music; film screenings; yoga (almost nothing happens in Ubud unless you flex); Kopi Korner; and a Festival Bar that will stay open late (which in Ubud seems to mean “after 10pm”); Special Events, where chefs will put their best plate forward for your personal tasting pleasure.

For those with the energy or kilojoules to work off as a result, there are food tours and workshops. Festival tickets are now on sale.

Farewell

It was sad to see on Apr. 17 that Gerard Delhaes, one of Lombok’s more quietly visible expats, had died. He was in his early seventies, which from the perspective of many in his age cohort, is far too young to shuffle off.

We must all do so eventually, of course. This fact of life begins to become a conscious response to successive birthdays at some point after the hubris of invincible youth is sensibly foregone. But it is nonetheless difficult to deal with friends’ departures. They are always untimely.

Hector’s Diary appears in the fortnightly newspaper the Bali Advertiser.

Lost in the Forest

Hector’s Bali Diary, Apr. 13, 2016

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

A Hollywood actor, Leonardo DiCaprio, visited Sumatra and said he thought it would be a great idea to protect the rainforest and the orangutans living in it, especially from palm oil plantations. This is an unexceptional statement. It is also an ecologically sensible view to hold, as well as humane and in the wider interests of Indonesians as a whole. He made the statement, let it be noted, while a forestry minder was with him on his fleeting visit.

When what he said became public, the flatfoots set off in pursuit. The immigration department said it would investigate what he’d said and if he had misused his tourist visa to cause a disturbance or to harm the national interest, they’d look at deporting him. Even the orangutans would have had a good laugh at that, especially as DiCaprio had already left by the time they’d tied their shoelaces. Well, we all did, except that our laughter was a little hollow.

The forests minister has a much more sanguine approach to criticism, thank goodness. She said she’d like to work with DiCaprio on advocating sensible forest management policies and an approach to clearance that doesn’t just knock down all the trees and fail to ask questions afterwards. She did say, too, that DiCaprio might have been better briefing himself properly via her department, before hitting Twitter. And we’d agree. The modern fad for vacuity has created an instant tradition that holds that high-profile actors are repositories of great wisdom. Like many traditions, old and young, its central thesis is very much open to question.

A Greenpeace study, released late last year, lays bare the shocking maladministration of Indonesian landholdings and the corporate-governmental nexus that presides over this shemozzle at the big end of the business. Of course, environmentalists are as apt to over-egg their puddings as any other set of advocates, but there’s plenty of evidence that they’re not far off the mark on this one.

And Another Thing

In that classic protest anthem American Pie, singer Don McLean memorably tells us … “Bad news on the doorstep, I couldn’t take one more step”. That was just before he took his Chevy to the levee only to find that the levee was dry. Many of us have been in that situation.

At Renon, where the Governor dispenses governance, and at Dalung, where the Regent of Badung sits on his council, something of the same feeling must be becoming apparent. The row over the proposed destruction of Benoa Bay and its mangroves shows no sign of going away. Neither should it. A piece of official paper that purports to delist the bay as a natural environment, and which is then used to justify its total obliteration, is a weak and highly litigious excuse for environmental banditry. That’s if you don’t view it instead as a shocking obscenity.

Two embarrassing mass demonstrations – conducted with civility in the face of provocation, let it be noted – and continuing action to disrupt pre-project work, indicate that the local people aren’t going to shut up about it. The beautiful thing is that they’re going about their campaign using adat (custom law and practice). This is both proper and presents an argument the Balinese authorities would be foolish to ignore. Hindu ceremonies are being held at important temples – including on Nusa Penida, where there is a very important temple – and there was one on Serangan Island (site of an earlier despoliation) on Apr. 10.

It isn’t only the Balinese who are voicing objection. Other Indonesians are too. ForBALI is an alliance consisting of student groups, non-governmental organizations, musicians, artists and others concerned about Bali’s environment and who believe the Benoa project is part of an irresponsible environmental policy. They have a petition out on Make a Change.

So we’ll just underline the point. The people aren’t going to walk away from this.

Update: Indonesia’s Hindu high priests ruled on Apr. 9 that Benoa Bay is a sacred area.

It’s a Scream

There’s no denying that Christina Iskandar and the Bali DIVAs do it in style, or that they do so with considerable verve. The ladies raise a lot of money for worthy causes and usually come up with greats gigs at which to do this.

So we’ve made a firm booking with them to be at the next show, on May 27, 12 Noon as always, at Cocoon, Seminyak. That’s not because Iskandar has recently spent an inordinately lengthy time in Sydney and we want to get all the gossip. Although, of course, we do: A diarist devoid of gossip is like a carriage without a horse. It’s because the headline act she’s stitched up for May 27 is Carlotta, the DIVA of all DIVAs, the original Les Girl and an icon of the Sydney entertainment scene.

Not to be missed. Neither is the special guest star, Polly Petrie, who for more than 20 years has been giving new drag queens a chance to showcase their talents at her weekly Sydney revues.

Tickets are Rp650K and went on sale on Apr. 7.

The Big Cheese

Steve Palmer, Bukit resident, surfer and now formally former Bali business icon having fully handed over the reins at Surfer Girl, posted a photo on Facebook recently that really caught our eye. It wasn’t one of miraculously deep and crisp powder snow in the Rockies and other places, where he has been snowboarding. We’d seen plenty of those and wished we were there. This one was from Carmel, the Californian seaside town where action film actor Clint Eastwood made punks’ days for a while as mayor.

It showed the packed interior of an emporium called The Cheese Shop. It looked absolutely divine. Some photos are almost olfactory. This one certainly was, and Bali-resident cheese fans live in a very challenged environment, as we know.

We posted a note to him: “Steve – the Cheese Shop photo! How could you!” He was in no way contrite. He posted back: “The aroma when entering this shop was divine … and the samplings were spectacular.”

There was nothing for it. A one-word response was clearly indicated. “Bastard!”

Latex-Faire

Bringing in condom supplies for free distribution to the HIV/AIDS community in Bali seems like a sensible and generous thing to do. On official figures, one in four sex workers on the island is HIV positive. Handing out free protection is a significant help in curbing the spread of the disease.

Leaving aside idiocies such as regulations that list condoms as pornographic material – pornography is a banned import – there are certain forms to observe when travelling here. There are very few laissez-faire customs boundaries anywhere. The quantity of products you can bring with you is limited and a common factor is “commercial quantities”. It’s frankly strange that Kim Gates, head of the Northern Territory AIDS and Hepatitis Council, didn’t know this. She claims she was scared and surprised when she was detained on arrival back in March when quantities of latex (720 condoms) were found in her luggage and judged to be beyond reasonable bounds. It would be worse if (like many a numbskull tourist) she didn’t care; and it is curious that she apparently failed to read her customs declaration form.

It’s perfectly permissible to have a giggle at some of the things some countries have a problem with at their border crossings; and even to speculate about their sanity, if you wish. Though it’s often better to do that privately. Thick heads are so often paired with thin skins. It is, however, common sense to abide by the regulations. Don’t try to take an apple into Western Australia, for example.

The most sensible advice came from the Consul for Information, Social and Cultural Affairs at the Indonesian Consulate-General in Darwin, Ardian Nugroho. He said they were happy to provide letters for people taking large quantities of donated products to Indonesia, to show to immigration authorities on arrival.

Groan…

This is so bad that it’s very good. A meme site of our acquaintance called The Northern Drunken Monkey (well, how could we resist?) offered it the other day.

A Mexican magician tells the audience he will disappear on the count of 3. He says, ‘uno, dos…” He disappeared without a tres.

Hector’s Diary, edited for print publication, appears in the fortnightly publication the Bali Advertiser

 

 

 

The Great Performer

BOOK REVIEW

KEATING by Kerry O’Brien. 2015. Allen & Unwin, Sydney. ISBN 978 1 76011 1625.

 

Many Australian journalists have a Keating tale to tell. Not all of them are denizens present or past of the parliamentary press gallery in Canberra, though naturally that was the former treasurer’s and prime minister’s chief stamping ground.

It was a privilege to be on the receiving end of a Keating harangue. He was – is – a driven man, certain of his verities, adamant that his blueprints were the only way to go. And in truth, he was perhaps the best reforming treasurer Australia has ever had; as prime minister he was less spectacular and came to a sticky end, but he deserved the gig when he was finally to persuade the Labor caucus that it was time to chisel away the ancient, concrete-hard chewy by which Bob Hawke had fixed himself to the leader’s chair.

Those of us who only had visiting rights to the Canberra gallery – the visiting fireman trips we used to make for special occasions, such as one or other of Keating’s budgets – and therefore a closer acquaintance with the world outside the febrile Capital Hill environment were less often in his sights.

But there’s one incident that I treasure. It was when he was prime minister, during the 1993 federal election campaign in which he saw off the hapless Hewson, and he had been having trouble with the editorials in The Courier-Mail. (This was when The Courier-Mail was a responsible broadsheet newspaper.)

The editorials had been asking questions about the sustainability of the Keating matrix for market-based superannuation. The question in chief was what would happen to people’s super when the market crashed, in, say, 25 years.

(In fact the editorial writer’s timeframe was slightly out of sync. The market crashed well short of the quarter century and we’re all still paying the price now.)

Keating arrived at The Courier-Mail’s offices one day, at very short notice. A group was hastily gathered together to listen to the prime ministerial lecture (I called it the Wigging Group when then chief executive John Cowley rang me up to say I’d better be there, since I’d been writing the editorials.)

We sat in a sort of acolyte semicircle in the boardroom annex and were harangued non-stop for 45 minutes. Towards the end, Keating fixed us with a trademark Question Time stare and said, “Do you agree with me now?”

No one from mahogany row or the loftiest peaks of the editorial domain said a word. But he knew it was me who had been writing the disgraceful things that so signally failed to acknowledge the future paradise of which he so lyrically spoke. So I stepped up to the plate. “No,” I said.

He looked displeased – well, he would, and one of his minders made a note to this or that effect – and shortly after he left, escorted back to the big glass doors and his white limo by a shambling, informally disorganized crocodile of executives. Cowley said to me in a stage whisper – we were two back in the crocodile, possibly just out of earshot – “He doesn’t like your editorials…”

It is a priceless vignette from my life as a scribe: a never to be forgotten moment.

Kerry O’Brien’s book naturally covers a much wider field of anecdote and policymaking. It is an engaging read, especially perhaps for readers who know both the protagonist and his interlocutor. It’s drawn from a wide reading of Keating’s archives and other sources, and is in Q&A style.

O’Brien sets the scene for each new chapter, and asks the questions. Keating responds, often at length, sometimes less so. He is engagingly honest in much of what he says, sometimes brutally. In some of his responses, he is a little more opaque. He is devastating on Bob Hawke, reasonably dismissive of Peter Walsh, kinder to many than one might expect or even think is warranted, and amusingly direct on some of the international leaders he corralled into his prototype APEC.

A picture emerges of the Keating you thought you knew – and are delighted to find that it is the Keating you actually did know. He was always an inclusive, pleasant host – in my case only rarely, since I was Brisbane based and only occasionally within a thread-length of the Zegna suit – and a genuinely nice man.

He was (still is) the consummate politician. He was a killer in Question Time, but he always valued the forms and principles of parliament. He was never a warrior in the class sense, or a hater. You do what you think is right, or what you must, but away from the battle, you’re a normal person.

Well, perhaps a slightly abnormal one. Not so many modern politicians embrace fine arts and ancient clockwork in quite the way that Keating does.

O’Brien’s book, and the photographic collection it contains, reveal the political animal, but also allow us glimpses of the man behind the carefully constructed public image.

Keating’s legacy lies in the open Australia that he created – financially, the finest of his political elements – and in the invitation that he has left on the table, for us all, to view Australia outside the parochial prism that politics and constrained public empathies continue to mandate.