8degreesoflatitude

THINGS THAT INTEREST, ENGAGE AND ENRAGE

Category: America

Belt and Braces

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

His regular diet of worms and other non-religious fare

The Cage, Bali

Wednesday, Jul. 12, 2017

 

DONALD Trump made a remarkable speech in Warsaw ahead of the economic summit he attended later in the historic Hanseatic League city of Hamburg, where he demonstrated exactly why the Group of 20 is now the G19 + 1. It was a good speech, too, well crafted, though redolent of former times or perhaps vainglorious hopes for the future. To his credit, he stuck to the script. A juvenile tweet-storm it was not.

The world has been asking Donald for some time where his trousers are. So it was fun in a way to see him turn out in Warsaw in both belt and braces. He is six months into the most profoundly dysfunctional American presidency since, well, we can’t think when, as the forty-fifth holder of that elected kingship. His office was created by the Founding Fathers of the American revolutionary union and it has been causing difficulties ever since. We should never say that America is in no position to teach the world anything. Its system of national government, formed as it is on the basis of rival electoral bases (for reasons that at the time were completely understandable) is a prime lesson in how not to run a country.

Predictably, the preserved-in-amber Western triumphalist cohort got a fit of the rah-rahs when it heard what Trump had said. It was helpful that Trump for once stuck to the script. We wonder who wrote it. But while a good speech can be good politics, it’s not necessarily good policy. And that’s where it comes unstuck.

These are difficult times, and that’s not just because No. 45 seems to be stuck in a time warp of his own fake making and to be determined to reintroduce both American isolationism and the Monroe doctrine. These are elements that are applauded by the American right-wing columnist Mark Steyn – who is still a Canadian citizen and really should know better – and the flagship of Little England’s Brexit misadventure, the London Daily Telegraph, among others.

Sense and Insensibility

NICK Cater is a thoroughly responsible journalist with whom we once toiled, which was nice, and with whom we share a fondness for North China cuisine, which is lovely. He’s now executive director of the Menzies Research Centre, named after the founder of the Australian Liberal Party, which as current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull reminded everyone this week is not a conservative party. Turnbull was speaking in London where he had gone after not being a headline act at the G19+1 summit, for talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May, whose party is Conservative.

Cater had a piece in The Australian this week (Jul. 11) in which he had a go at the good-thinking folk who would like to rearrange Australia, its workplaces, its pastimes, its society and its culture, by means of ethnic and other quotas, whatever Australians think about that. It’s a mad idea, we agree.

So he made a good argument – the piece was headlined “Curing our country of whiteness” – though it seems to us “whiteness” (whatever that is: last time we looked we were a sort of mottled beige) is itself a matter of subjective perception. We guess it’s banal code for “We’re Aussies”. That said, Australia does need as a nation to return to common sense and an understanding of what (beyond self-interest) really drives human responses.

We had a laugh on the way through a serious subject. Cater cited American academic Joan C. Williams’ belief – she makes a point of it in her somewhat dense book White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America – that cultured homosexuality began as transgressions among 19th-century European artists.

Sappho and a few other prominently ancient Greeks, not to mention Persians of equal antiquity, would be surprised to hear that.

Java’s Great

Well, drink up. Apparently two new international studies have found that coffee may prolong life. That’s good news for Java (coffee) as well as for people who apparently want to live forever. It may not be so beneficial for Bali’s oppressed luwaks, but that’s another matter. Two or more cups of coffee a day are said to reduce the risk of death by 18 per cent, if you’re male. At the rate The Diary drinks coffee, we’ll win the Methuselah Cup.

We quote from a rather breathless Sky News Australia item on the topic: “But the latest research bodes better for men than women with one study of more than half a million people across 10 European countries finding men who consumed at least three cups a day were 18 per cent less likely to die from any cause than non-coffee drinkers…Women, on the other hand, drinking the same amount benefited less but still experienced an 8 per cent reduction in mortality.”

Grammar Police Note: Bode is an English verb, of Germanic origin. It can bode well or badly. It’s unclear whether it can legitimately do so “better”, at least grammatically (although in that sense it may be “very unique”). But never mind, it was on Sky News after all, which so frequently proves its worth as a risible source of misinterpreted information and mangled language.

HectorR

Hector writes a diary in the Bali Advertiser newspaper. The next appears on Jul. 19.

Statuary Declaration

HECTOR’S DIARY

His regular diet of worms and other non-religious fare

HectorR

Candi Dasa, Bali

Wednesday, Jun. 28, 2017

 

TEN days in the blissful zephyrs, beside the azure briny you get in the better parts of the archipelago, can do you a power of good. Such a break provides time to read books – or re-read them – instead of wading through 24/7 news reportage and grim analysis suggesting that Armageddon is next week, and all sorts of other things that would turn your hair grey if you had any left. We tore ours out long ago.

We read, among other things, Us, a novel that dissects marital and other human disorders, by David Nicholls; The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai (which we should have read ages ago); and a fast-paced and thoroughly predictable American crime novella written in the “this is a film script” mode so popular in the pulp fiction market these days. It was called Beyond Suspicion and was by someone named James Grippando, of whom we hadn’t heard.

The environment suited reading. We were at Sea Breeze at Mendira, a lovely spot and much to be recommended, where we breakfasted daily in the al fresco fashion beside the pool and then retreated to long chairs under umbrellas to contemplate the sea view, or the universe, or anything else to hand. There is statuary present that falls into the latter category and which several times brought to mind a Florentine garden, or possibly – traversing Italy at upper thigh level (it’s so much more fun than lower down) – one of the more outré among the Venetian renaissance master Titian’s supposedly recorded thoughts as he was mixing rose madder while his model reclined on a ladder.

There are several stone maidens who might easily be Titian’s models around one of the pools at Sea Breeze, in very decorative states of dishabille. Their daily task is to continuously pour water from the bowls they carry back into the pool. This makes a lovely tinkling sound, which is probably designed to be cooling. Among the more mature within earshot, however, it is a frequent prompt to revisit the facilities.

Tidy Town

CANDI Dasa has always impressed us as a place where the words Bali and rotting rubbish do not necessarily go together. The place is an example that many others could follow and should, perhaps especially those in the crowded south where the bonds and discipline of traditional settlement have weakened, injuring civic pride and sensibility.

Mendira, in Sengkidu a little towards the Pertamina fuel facility at Tanah Ampo, and Padang Bai, has really got the business down pat. Our morning walk route has been a joy: four kilometres of it because it’s flat and there are properly made roads to walk along, with space to get properly onto the verges if something with more than two wheels comes along. We’ve barely seen a carelessly discarded lolly wrapper, far less stinking piles of over-stuffed plastic garbage bags. It’s been great to be able to gaze at the lovely banyan trees as we pass them at a brisk trot without having to worry about stepping in anything.

Haloumi Heaven

NO visit to Candi Dasa can be regarded as complete unless it includes Vincent’s, the eatery and jazz bar named for that fellow Don McLean sang about, the guy who painted irises and other things and then cut his ear off before topping himself. Many artists are troubled, but relatively few go all the way with Vincent van Gough.

There’s live jazz at Vincent’s every Thursday evening.

On our visit this time we dined at the bar. It’s near the door, where smoking is still permitted, and close enough to get the full flavour of the jazz action. There’s no smoking in the main restaurant area, which is a good thing, and while the garden area at the back is great, it doesn’t suit on live jazz nights or if it’s raining.

Aside from the Haloumi, there was a special unscheduled treat on this occasion. A visiting troupe of jazz performers from Yokohama (where they are well known it seems) turned up with their instruments and played a very lively set, complete with a lissom performance dancer whose interpretation of Balinese dance was … interesting. It was all a delight. Also delightful was the broad smile that lit up the oboist’s face when after the performance we waylaid him as he returned to his seat and said “Domo arigato”. It wasn’t quite a Midnight Diner moment, but it came close. And it was nice to say thank you.

Coffee and Ice Cream

WELL, what could be nicer, especially if you’re on a seaside break? Mendira House, conveniently en route to Lu Putu’s desirable garden restaurant from our hotel (it’s a 13-minute walk: we timed it) is open from 8am to 8pm. Its coffee is not to be passed up, its ice creams are divine, and the gift shop is full of stuff you’d buy as a tourist – though we aren’t of course – and a handy source of bric-a-brac you might pack in your bag to take to relatives when you next travel.

Lu Putu has great food; it’s home cooked by Lu Putu herself. It also has a lovely, quiet garden restaurant area we’d recommend to anyone who wants the real deal.

There are many gems in the Candi Dasa area. These are two you shouldn’t miss.

Jailhouse Blues

FOUR prisoners left Kerobokan Jail recently on self-awarded tickets of leave, via a drainage tunnel that took them conveniently underground and out of sight the fifteen metres to the street outside. Two were recaptured in Timor Leste, whence they had fled. The headline act of the foursome, an Australian of questionable human value and of clearly criminal character by the name of Shaun Davidson, was still on the run when we scribbled this diary. A Singaporean convict was also still on the run. Davidson had only seven months of his sentence left to serve and the theory was that he didn’t want to return to Australia. The police there are keen to chat with him about skipping bail and the drugs charges on which he had of course obtained bail in the first place.

The incident provided another of those welcome comedic breaks you get here. The prison governor said the prisoner concerned had recently grown a beard and a moustache, perhaps to alter his appearance. No shit Shakespeare! The chief of police said it was thought an international crime syndicate had had a hand in the escape. By this we assume he means they had outside help, as opposed to inside assistance. A torch had been found in the tunnel, close to where there was access to the street. It must have been the light at the end of the tunnel.

Kerobokan is vastly overcrowded. It was built for around 300 inmates but these days it houses 1,300. Only 10 guards are on duty at any one time, because of staffing restriction, and none of them was in the watchtower that overlooks the spot where the escapees would have emerged and where he might otherwise have been able to point his trusty weapon in their general direction and shout “Surprise!”

#44 … The Man

THE expatriate bit of Bali does agog very well, being celebrity-fixated. And so it was when Barack Obama and family arrived here for a little downtime at the Four Seasons Sayan. The Ubud hinterland is good for the soul, and of course Four Seasons provides very comfortable digs for those whose wallets stretch that far.

He also dropped by a Bukit haunt that’s on The Diary’s Most Favoured List, El Kabron on the cliff at Bingin. It was an unscheduled and brief visit, we hear, but it’s the best place to sample Catalan cuisine and hospitality that we know of in Bali.

We didn’t join in the “I saw Barry” parade. He’s the former president of the USA, speaks quietly and with consideration, tweets rather nicely, has a functional family, and deserves to be left alone. These are all qualities his successor in office, #45, does not possess. Ah well, that’s Electoral College democracy for you. How sad. Never mind. Carry On.

Old Friends

ONE among these told us recently she’d missed us at a reunion of journalists and photographers and held, amidst much reminiscing, at the Pig ’n Whistle in West End, Brisbane. It would have been nice to be there.

Our informant tells us there were 60 or so Formers present, and much grey hair. Time waits for no man, as it is said, while the hair changes colour or falls out. It reminded us that in three months it would be 21 years since we left a note for Rupert on our desk saying, “Gone to the Dark Side”, or words to that effect.

We didn’t add, although we might easily have done so, a line to the effect that a rude letter would follow. Judging by what has taken place in the print media world since we furled our News Ltd quill and took off, we think we made the right decision in a timely fashion.

HectorR

Hector also writes a diary in the Bali Advertiser. The current rendition was published on Jun. 21. The next will appear on Jul. 19.

Beggaring Belief

 

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

His regular diet of worms and other (usually) non-religious fare

The Cage, Bali

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

 

FAITH is a personal compact between a person and his or her deity. The faithful, of any ilk, should be honoured for their commitment to a life beyond secular concerns and for the higher calling that this condition imposes. Those who study their religious texts and who seek to live within the strictures these impose, are honourable people.

In the secular west – fundamentally these days a godless society – these things, and the various deities in whom a great many people believe, are often scoffed at or made the topic of comedic intervention. That is wrong, when the objective is only to get a cheap laugh. It’s possible – or it should be so in a rational society – to debate the existence of God. It’s plain rude just to slag off at people who believe, if you yourself don’t.

The three Abrahamic religions, each of which sprang from the Levant or its contiguous desert interior without any intervention from Europeans until after their invention (a seminal fact that Europeans should note and really should try very hard to comprehend) share syncretic theologies, a melange of mythologies, and, in the Old Testament, a common liturgical origin. Yet each has historically been at war with the others (and often with themselves) forever, philosophically if not actually.

That’s a rather cursive way to get into a matter of current concern in Indonesia, but it’s necessary to set the parameters of debate and to avoid stepping unnecessarily on possibly angry toes. Of course, the problem is far wider than just the archipelago. Islam’s sectarian schism leaves the former fatal fractures within Christianity for dead, so to speak.

In Indonesia, where, except for Aceh, Islam has traditionally adopted a Southeast Asian rather than an Arabian face over the half a millennium of its establishment here, a more fundamentalist mind-set is taking root. That cannot be denied. Neither can its future risk to the integrity of Indonesia if it flourishes.

The proselytes of Indonesian Islamic fundamentalism assert that theology is the driver of their intentions. It’s perfectly possible to encourage deeper religiosity in the faithful, and to prescribe firmer and more restrictive patterns of social behaviour for them, from a philosophical standpoint. It’s when the boys with the bother boots take to the streets that problems emerge. There’s very little that’s philosophical about a mob armed with sharpened sticks and intent on enforcing their own interpretations of Ramadan rules, after all. These actions may be clothed in Islamic cloth, but their purpose is political – it is to manoeuvre government policy – and thus is plainly secular.

There’s an interesting article in The Diplomat, written by Benedict Rodgers – for context: he’s East Asia team leader for the human rights organisation Christian Solidarity Worldwide – that illustrates the point. He instances a broken long-term friendship between two fifteen-tear-old girls at a Jakarta high school, one Christian, the other Muslim. Rodgers reports that the Christian girl got a phone call from her Muslim friend telling her: “We can no longer be friends. My God does not allow me to be friends with people like you.” It sounds almost apocryphal, or would if the messages that are coming out of the mosques weren’t couched in similarly simplistic and fundamentally threatening terms.

There’s much more than this to Rodgers’ article, which is very readable. He cites the conviction and imprisonment of now former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok), a Christian Chinese-Indonesian, for blasphemy; and Aceh, church burning, death threats and other signals of restrictive intent. He warns that Indonesia could become Pakistan.

That’s a bit dire, and Rodgers says so himself in the article. Indonesian culture is very far from those of the sub-continent and (like anywhere else) Pakistan is what it is because of its own cultural mix, not someone else’s. But it’s understandable that other Islamic sects, moderate Sunnis (the great majority) and other religious communities should feel deep concern.

The real risk, and the real warning that needs to echo through the rainbow archipelago, is that doltish insistence on Islamic exclusivity will ultimately risk fracturing Indonesia. Political figures whose vision fails to extend beyond the next convenient deal and endless machinations to buy votes should consider that. Seriously.

That said, there is some brighter news. Rizieq Shihab, head of the Islamic Defenders Front (the FPI), faces arrest when he returns from Saudi Arabia if he fails to answer his third summons from police – he ignored the first two, of course – to answer questions about alleged breaches of the anti-pornography law. He wanted the porn laws and he influenced their scope. What an interesting case this will be.

It’s That Man Again

THE unedifying spectacle of Donald Trump shoving through the throng and shouldering lesser leaders out of the way to get to the front of the photo opportunity at the NATO summit last week, and then posing, Mussolini-like, complete with superior grin, is further evidence that real-estate shysters and reality TV hosts do not necessarily make good leaders.

They said of No. 45 that he probably needed time to become presidential. Time was not the only thing he needed, as events and growing awareness that they’ve been duped among many who voted for him last November now show. Some character would have helped. H.L. Mencken, who in the 1920s predicted that profane and populist politics meant that America would one day have an imbecile for its president, would be rolling his eyes if he were not rolling in his grave.

Trump still has a cheer squad, of course, not all of it confined to America where he’s making things grate again. We saw an Asia-based Australian observer’s view this week that suggested his hard line on NATO funding and self-reliance had paid off, because German Chancellor Angela Merkel had said publicly that America’s allies needed to do more.

They do. You get what you pay for. But the obverse of that coin, for “the leader of the free world” (whatever that is) and his country, is a proportionate reduction in America’s clout within NATO. That mightn’t be quite what the master of the universe is looking for, but it would be no bad thing, since the Custer gene remains ascendant.

Sent Home 

SCHAPELLE Corby, 39, the Australian woman who was convicted of drug trafficking in Bali in 2005 and spent nine years behind bars before being paroled three years ago, was deported from Indonesia on May 27. Immigration authorities put her on a plane to Australia. That is all.

HectorR

Hector writes a diary in the Bali Advertiser. It appears monthly. The current diary was published on May 24 and the next will appear on Jun. 21.

Capital Capers

HECTOR’S DIARY

His diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

HectorR

The Cage, Bali

Apr. 22, 2017

 

IT’S a shame that Basuki Tjahaya Purnama (Ahok) lost Wednesday’s ballot for mayor of Jakarta. He has shown a commitment to civic service that’s rare anywhere, but rarer still in Indonesia, where winning office is so often a licence to snooze between fulminations. It’s even more of a shame that he was defeated with the rowdy assistance of the zealots of the Islamic Defenders Front, the FPI, and under the shadow of an inventive blasphemy charge that had still to be adjudicated in court.

But it is only Jakarta, the mayor is only the governor of the capital city province, and the world as Indonesia knows it won’t end because General Prabowo Subianto’s good friend will be in office in that municipality from October. Neither, fundamentally, does it matter that Ahok is a Christian and his successful opponent is Muslim. He won the vote in the ballot office in the Jakarta district where the FPI has its headquarters. He can get a smile, and take heart, from that, as can we all. Most Indonesians are Muslim. Most would most like their leaders just to get on with their day jobs and go to mosque on Friday like they all do.

So it’s a time for cool heads rather than screaming and shouting and running around the burning deck. The deck isn’t burning, for one thing. The new mayor may think that he has won some national role, but the citizens of his shambles of a city will mark him (once he takes office and has to actually deliver anything) on far more prosaic matters. Service delivery, infrastructure improvement, and other measures of local governance have very little to do with Indonesia Raya, ex-general Prabowo’s favourite tin drum; or with fundamental interpretations of Islam, the FPI’s fixation.

Ahok won’t go to jail for his non-offence in quoting from the Qur’an in a political context. The charge has achieved its objective: he lost the election. The boys with the beards and the bother boots didn’t want a Christian in charge.

It’s not Armageddon, but it is, as many have said, a sorry day for Indonesian democracy. Two steps back after one stumble forward isn’t progress.

Wake Up, Little Susi

THERE’S a lovely pop song from the 1950s that sprang to mind this week, when maritime minister Susi Pujiastuti told the Japanese that Southeast Asia’s leading economic power needed the borrow their superseded maritime radar systems on a permanent, non-returnable basis. The key lines go like this:

Wake up little Susie, Wake up

Wake up little Susie, Wake up 

We’ve both been sound asleep

Wake up little Suzie and weep

The movie’s over it’s four o’clock 

and we’re in trouble deep

There’s no doubt at all that Minister Susi is right when she notes that Indonesia needs maritime radar to properly administer and keep the waterways of the archipelagic nation safe. But she needs to wake up (so do a lot of other people). There are many things that are beyond the sensible financial scope of Indonesia’s central government. Expensively unnecessary military hardware falls into that category, along with other toys, and a lot of brown envelopes. Maritime safety does not. It is a question of priorities.

The somnolently boring mendicant movie is indeed over. It’s late, but it’s still not too late for Indonesia’s government to wake up and work it out.

Bless You

WE saw a note the other day from a Facebook friend who had just commenced a camping trip in the New Mexico high country, along the lovely upper reaches of the Rio Grande, and posted a photo to show it. It looked beautiful. It would be great to tramp through that area, and we sent along a cheery greeting and an inquiry as to whether the party had plenty of DEET.

Something must have gone missing in the translation. By return post we were informed that pollen wasn’t a problem this early in the season. That was good to know. But it was sneezes of a different sort that had concerned us. DEET is a very effective anti-flea agent in insect repellents. New Mexico – like Arizona next door, where they even have bumper stickers proclaiming “The Land of the Flea and the Home of the Plague”, plus Colorado and California – is the most affected part of the western USA where, as the health leaflets put it, plague occurs naturally. Every year.

It probably got to the New World with the flea-ridden Spanish conquistadors from plague-ridden Europe centuries ago, though most plague ships of that era were Mary Celestes in the making, but officially it arrived during the 1898-1910 pandemic, the gift that Burma gave to the 20th century.

Fleas on prairie dogs (burrowing rodents) are its chief host. But dogs and cats can get it, along with bears, squirrels, rabbits, and sundry other creatures, including people; and other ground dwelling rodents are natural carriers. But perhaps Taos County is too elevated for prairie dogs. Plague is generally a summer disease. There were four human cases in New Mexico last year.

HectorR

Hector writes a diary in the Bali Advertiser. The next appears on Apr. 26.

Little Ripples

 

HectorR

HECTOR’S DIARY

His regular diet of worms and other tasty morsels

Bali, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017

 

WHERE Indonesia and Australia are concerned, you can always count on something unexpected to suddenly ripple the waters. It’s a bit the same as an Indonesian volcano: it’s quiet until it goes boom.

In Australia, it’s mostly a careless minor politician or some media “celebrity” who clumsily drops a pebble in the pond, or very occasionally a former prime minister. In Indonesia, it’s just as likely to be a military personage drawing himself to attention by banging a big nationalist drum.

That these little interruptions flow chiefly from ignorance is no comfort. The reverse, in fact, since Indonesia has been functionally independent for 72 years and formally for 68, and was politically and materially supported by Australia in its resistance to post-World War II Dutch efforts to resuscitate their dead colonial dreams.

By the end of the Japanese war Australia had become the least imperially minded member of the Anglosphere. Except for isolated attempts at ridiculous recidivism on the right of Australian national politics, this welcome and natural process has continued.

The latest little political difficulties involve an invidious inscription allegedly seen by a Kopassus officer who was attending a language course in Perth and the raising of the West Papuan flag at a protest in Melbourne.

Neither incident is really worth wasting time on further discussion. Posturing is painful and counterproductive, especially when it becomes fodder for insensate commentary in the blinkered depths of the social media pool.

Tiger Tales

THE sudden imposition of new regulations on the Australian low-cost airline Tiger, which is owned by Virgin Australia, seems to have come straight from the Because We Can clause officialdom likes to cite now and then.

If this were a place where you could have confidence in regulatory policy even if a particular set of regulations disadvantaged you or others, then it would be easy to accept changes. They shouldn’t be sudden, they should be discussed – socialised is the term they use here – and they should of course be facilitative rather than the reverse.

Someone must have had an “oh, doh!” moment, because the Indonesians later gave Tiger permission to fly 2000 passengers out of Bali back to Australia over the weekend.

Tiger was forced to cancel Australia-Bali flights virtually at a moment’s notice. They seem to have been told their scheduled operations here had been transferred from the office that handles scheduled airline services to the one that regulates charter operations and requires much more complex, flight by flight, arrangements. Go figure.

The airline’s scheduled services will resume, we assume, at some point. That’s if Tigerair Australia and its parent airline company can be bothered continuing to scratch for profit when local low-cost players want the lion’s, or in this case the tiger’s, share of the market.

That might be the ultimate twist in the tail, so to speak.

Goon Show

THE shocking events at a Seminyak glitter strip venue the other day, when security guards restrained a protesting Russian partygoer by bashing him so severely that he has lost an eye, demonstrate very clearly how far down the road to perdition Bali has gone in its quest for the tourist dollar.

There is still time to retreat from the precipice, and to regain some of the island’s past reputation as a place where you can have fun – and even be a little naughty – without risking life and limb. But swift action is needed.

Properly trained security personnel can deal with such events easily. A quick knee in the groin and a half-Nelson arm twist will effectively and temporarily disable anyone who has had the temerity to query their bill.

Of course, proprietors of such venues need to possess a socially balanced brain themselves, or be forced to act as if they have, and must spend money on actually doing things properly. That’s another side of Bali’s tourism and regulatory environments. It applies (or should do) to entertainment venues everywhere, especially in the Kuta-Legian-Seminyak-Canggu riot quarter.

The authorities and the police must be proactive. That’s a polite way of saying they really should get off their bums and do something. We know; that’s a difficulty. Goon squads, empowered quasi-official thugs, mobs amok, and fire-and-forget non-thinking is the usual form here.

The latest event was the second publicised one at the venue recently. In the first incident, two Indonesian customers were criminally bashed by security.

For the record, the venue is La Favela, in the thoroughfare colloquially known as Oberoi Street. A favela is a Brazilian slum. Just saying.

Prodigal Return

WE hadn’t been to North Bali for the best part of a decade until last weekend, when we spent two lovely days at Villa Patria on the slopes behind Lovina.

It really is a magic place, set 355 metres above sea level but only some six kilometres from the coast. There’s only one guest villa, plus a lumbung, and the owners live on site with first-class staff running the show.

The food is rather on the yummy side, so if you don’t want to venture out to sample that of others, dinner at home is a good idea. The tariff includes breakfast.

The little resort is set in lovely gardens, with a swimming pool, and high quality massage is available on call. Think of it as a home away from home. We’ll be back.

It’s a bit of a trek from the south of Bali. But if your travel plans can accommodate a 3.5-hour car trip each way – and the magnificent lakes and mountains and plenty of places to stop for a coffee in cool Baturiti or Bedugul – it’s an easy ride.

More Sad Farewells

RIO Helmi, the Ubud-based photographer and writer, wrote a wonderful obituary for Linda Garland, the bamboo lady, who has died in Australia after a long battle with cancer, at the age of only 68. It’s definitely worth reading.

There are many adornments to the expat scene here – there are many others in the resident foreign community who adorn only their preferred views of themselves, in the manner of the self-promotional everywhere, but that’s for another time – and Garland was several dozen laurel wreaths more worthy than most.

Her work here over many decades was immensely practical in terms of the inspirational and income earning opportunities it gave to the Balinese. Helmi’s piece describes all that, at length and much better than we can here.

Another old Bali hand has left us, too. Quirky photographer Pierre Poretti died at home in Switzerland, of a stroke. His art was magnificent and it, and he, will be sorely missed.

What a Shower

THE Australian feminist fulminator Helen Razer is always good. She’s exactly the Diary’s kind of social Marxist. Her summation in a piece she published this week about the greed-and-envy-fuelled collapse of the selfish capitalist dream helped our morning coffee go down with an extra zing on Friday.

It’s the sort of argument that fuels real discussion about things that actually matter. In such a setting, over a table, say, with prime Arabica to hand, we’d probably say this:

Have you read A Short History of Stupid? We found it a wonderful to-and-fro on many issues. Razer wrote it in counterpoint with Bernard Keene, who is exactly not the Diary’s kind of social libertarian.

The argument she puts in her piece is basically sound about the revolting Trump and his neocon mates and Bonfire of the Vanities cheer squads. They can all forever get golden showers from infinite numbers of Russian hookers before anyone should care about the moral and ethical depravity of their private personalities and behaviour.

It’s the moral and ethical depravity of their policies (if discernible) and politics that sicken us.

But the Diary has enough of old journeyman journalist in the veins (Razer does not) to get a good giggle out of the risible idiocy of populist celebrity “leaders” who think debate is about massaging their own egos, or having others do that for them; who apparently think the serial indiscretions that litter their private lives can possibly escape scrutiny in the global porn shop they’ve created and from which they grossly profit; who wouldn’t know a decent social (or economic or health or national security) policy if any of these happened by chance to tickle their coccyx while some fake-bosomed slag was teasing their private parts with perfumed tissues; and who are so functionally useless except in their own interest that they couldn’t boil an egg.

Today (Jan. 14) is T -6, by the way.

Great Going

ONE of the Diary’s favourite R&R places, the Novotel Lombok Resort and Villas at Mandalika beach in the island’s south, has another deserved gong in its collection of awards.

The resort, part of the Accor chain, was named The World’s Best Halal Beach Resort 2016 at the World Halal Tourism Awards during International Travel Week in Abu Dhabi late last year.

WHTA estimates that about 1.9 million votes from 116 countries were lodged in the 2016 awards, over 16 categories and among 383 candidate properties. You can see all winners in all categories here.

Lombok is carving out a niche for itself in tourist and travel opportunities for Muslims, part of which naturally includes Halal food and a rather less raunchy entertainment picture. Even the sexy dancers aren’t, really.

Except in the northern Gilis – Trawangan, Meno and Air – which these days most visitors access direct from Bali by fast boat – the sun-sand-and-sin western tourist demographic is conspicuously absent, at least in large, noisy numbers.

Some people think that’s a good thing.

Hector also writes a monthly diary in the Bali Advertiser newspaper. The next appears on Feb. 1

Messing About in Boats

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

His diet of worms and other non-religious fare

Bali, Jan. 4, 2017

 

WE have a lovely friend, a former media colleague who goes by the pen name of The Global Goddess. She has a tough life, poor thing. She’s forever flitting off from Brisbane, her home city, to go to distant places and write about them. Well, someone has to do it, we suppose.

Her most recent gambol was a cruise to Komodo aboard the Al-Iikai, a 37-metre Bugis pinisi fitted out for maximum comfort and operated from Serangan in Benoa Bay. It was, she tells us, a program that gave her plenty of stories about messing about in boats.

The goddess, real name Christine Retschlag, apparently didn’t read Kenneth Grahame’s marvellous fantasy tale Wind in the Willows as a child. But we’re sure that Ratty will forgive her, given her later experiences. Hector, who is one of Ratty’s firmest friends, will pay close attention to her trip reports on her blog and in the travel media.

We’re sure that Ratty – whose ancestral lineage, we remember, traced back to a seafaring rat who had sailed to England from Constantinople long before (though possibly not as early as the Black Death fleets of 1348-49) – will fully understand that the Bali Sea and beyond is a different kettle of fish to the somewhat placid Thames in the golden age of Edwardian England more than a century ago.

The goddess finished her archipelagic sojourn with some lovely down-days at Palms Ceningan, where we hear she adopted surfer-chick hair because she had lost her comb. She’ll have found it eventually in the designer Black Void handbag that she, like all the girls, simply has to tote around.

Before Indonesia, she had been in Canada chatting up polar bears. As a result of this earlier adventure, and when we caught up with her aboard the Al-Iikai at Benoa before she sailed away to joust with dragons, courtesy of Indonesia Island Sail’s Amanda Zsebik, we dubbed her Nanook of the Near North.

That’s no igloo, just the smile.

What a Blast

It’s over now, for another year, thank goodness. But Christmas is worth discussion. It marks the requisitioned and wholly notional birthdate of Jesus the Nazarene, who in the Christian rite is the Messiah, the prince of peace, Son of God, prophet and prince of life, among other things. Nothing in his story seems to mandate explosive exclamation, except perhaps the feeding of the five thousand, which must have been a blast.

So it is curious that in Indonesia it’s apparently an occasion for letting off fireworks. From the noise these infernal objects generate, they must be rather bigger than the two inches (five centimetres) maximum allowed by official order. Never mind, no one here takes any notice of official orders.

There’s a serious point in this. Christmas is a Christian religious feast. For Muslims, it is the birthday of the Messiah (Mahdi), Isa – Jesus – who ranks behind only Muhammad as a prophet of Allah.

It is the secular West that has turned Christmas into an occasion for consumer excess. But even there, and in the little pockets of bad behaviour its acolytes occupy around the globe, pyrotechnics don’t figure in the events of the season.

A Sari Tale

The other day we came across a delightful Jakarta-based blog (www.eatlivetravel.com) that had somehow previously escaped our notice. We really should get out more. It comes with an emailed newsletter, to which we have now subscribed. Interesting takes on current events are always good value, whether they are serious or of the ROFL class. Hereabouts they’re often of the ROFLMAO variant.

What caught our eye particularly in the newsletter we saw on Dec. 17 was a spin-off from the awful Ahok saga. It involved Sari Roti, a bread maker, whose products were seen in apparently invidious proximity to the governor of Jakarta in the context of his legal difficulties with the FMP (the Fanatical Muslim Push). Sari Roti’s stock value had fallen as a result (no, we’re not kidding).

No one can have missed the fact that Governor Ahok is on trial for blasphemy on the grounds that he misquoted the Qur’an and is therefore a kafir of the worst order. He’s a Christian, of course, and an Indonesian of Chinese ethnicity. Neither of these qualities is favoured as a political option by the chaps with the placards and the turban fetish.

It’s a sorry tale all round, and not one to laugh about. Except that sometimes if you don’t laugh, you cry.

It Just Piles Up

Photos that surfaced on Facebook just before Christmas, of the disgraceful piles of garbage washed up on Double Six beach at Legian, after seasonal rains flushed out the poisonous detritus that clogs every watercourse you can think of, are an object lesson in the poverty of public policy in Bali.

They show how fiddling around at the edges, or hoping someone else will front up with the money and the means to do something for you while funding your latest vehicle fetish, is a cop-out, a disease risk and a PR disaster all rolled into one.

They were taken by surfing identity Tim Hain on Dec. 24. He noted that he was feeling a little delicate as a result of the ASC Tour awards party held at Canggu the previous evening, but what really made him feel sick was the sight that greeted him on Double Six beach on his morning walk.

It’s true that there are some good waste management initiatives in an increasing number of localities in Bali, organised at local community level. Craig Glenister of the Alasari resort in Tabanan mentioned the one that’s up and running in his area. Fair enough.

But it’s not enough. Just for example, in the Bukit area that houses The Cage (from whence Hector scribbles) a local contractor is paid by some residents to properly dispose of their rubbish. Others couldn’t care less – it’s not the money – and continue with the sorry custom of just tossing garbage away. Sometimes they set fire to it and the noxious plastic it contains. But mostly they just forget about it. Everywhere you go there’s a smelly bag of diseased rubbish lying in the scrub or by the road.

The local free-range dogs, a pariah class created by public apathy and indolence, the rats and the dengue mosquitoes, are guaranteed a continuous feast as a result.

A Sound Point

Helen Mirren is a great actor. And anyone who has seen the long-ago guest spot she did as a much younger one on a British TV talk show – when interviewer Michael Parkinson asked her with a particularly gauche grin if her “attributes” got in the way of her winning offers of serious roles – will understand also that she is a highly intelligent woman with whom one should not trifle.

So when she observed that by general agreement 2016 was a shit of a year, as she did recently, it was very hard to argue. You don’t even have to have read the library-load of end-of-year reviews to work that out. She wasn’t making a partisan political point. That’s a tiresome practice of some actors, who seem to believe that a good publicist, a photogenic presence and an ability to take direction on a film set invests them with special knowledge, but it’s not hers.

Neither was she speaking in personal terms. She has a broader mind than that. She can see that things happen that aren’t good, even if they don’t directly affect you; and she is not so consumed with Self in the modern fashion that nothing else seems to matter. In short, she’s a breath of fresh air

See below for Hector’s view on The Year It Would Be Nice to Rewind.

Monkey of a Year

The Monkey is most likely exhausted, or near as, since his year is nearly over. The Diary, a Monkey of the class of 1944, certainly is. In the Chinese Zodiac, everyone’s once-in-a-dozen years mazurka is not a treat but a challenge. And 2016 was not a good year for anyone.

The year of the Fire Rooster starts on Jan. 28. We look forward to it. The next Monkey year is in 2028. Perhaps we’ll see you for that party.

President-elect Donald Trump’s next celestial challenge is in 2018, by the way. He’s a Fire Dog. But he gets his box of matches a year early, on Jan. 20, when he is inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States. He’ll probably tweet about that.

This column appears in the Bali Advertiser, out Jan. 4. The newspaper publishes Hector’s Diary in every second edition. It is a fortnightly print and on line publication.

 

 

Best in Bali

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Wine country, Western Australia

Nov. 23, 2016

 

CHRISTINA Iskandar, who is busy expanding the Diva Empire in Australia from her Sydney hometown base, tells us of a lovely little charity revenue stream she’s putting in place. It’s at the invitation of a major greetings card company.

The idea is they’ll put a selection of Best in Bali images on cards and other gift products and 5 per cent of the proceeds of sales will go to nominated Bali charities.

Iskandar has chosen as the first beneficiary of this scheme the Suryani Institute for Mental Health, a non-profit institute established in 2005. It and its sister organisations the Committee Against Sexual Abuse (CASA) and the Bali Elderly Welfare Foundation (Yayasan Wreda Sejahtera) work to create a healthy and happy community in Bali. Through academic, medical, psychiatric, educational and social work, the institute seeks to help the Balinese people become more intelligent, independent, creative, as well as physically, psychologically, socially, and spiritually healthy.

The institute is headed by Professor Luh Ketut Suryani, MD, PhD. Its holistic approach to problem solving and positive advance – which it terms biopsycho-spirit-sociocultural – combines Western mainstream psychiatric/psychological practice with Eastern and Balinese cultural and spiritual knowledge and beliefs.

The Bali Divas themselves have been busy getting ready for a White Christmas ahead of their Divas and Dudes Christmas Charity Lunch on Nov. 25. It’s been a little chill on the island lately, courtesy of the annual wet season, though not that cold! Still, it’s a lovely old song. Thanks, Bing Crosby.

The “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” event is at Merah Putih in Kerobokan, where the fun starts at 12 Noon on Friday. We’ll be getting reports of frivolity and other action, so play up, folks. It’s for a good cause. Proceeds from the charity lunch will go to the Bali Children Foundation and The Refugee Learning Nest.

Bali Children Foundation is a non-profit organisation that provides education opportunities to more than 2300 children from disadvantaged families across Bali. The Refugee Learning Nest is a community-based project in Java that helps refugees through informal educational programs including women’s literacy, tailoring classes, and sporting activities.

The lunch, sponsored by Chandon, will feature a performance by the Bali-based singer Eva Scolaro, who we hear has added footwear designs to her list of skills. She looks good in shoes. There will be the usual raffles and auction items.

Don’t be a Dork

There was a flurry of fevered interest in Australia in the misbehaviour of women at this year’s Melbourne Cup, run on Nov. 1 and won, as usual, by a horse. Apparently media focus on idiot women should not overemphasise their looks, as this perpetuates sexist myths. It’s an interesting point of discussion in Bali, where the loudly drunk and selfishly inclined tourist cohort regularly makes a mess of itself and whichever locality it is that they’ve chosen to disgrace with their presence.

Fine. If you’re drunk as a skunk and passed out in a wheelie bin in a short skirt and with your legs up, because you’re blotto and the remains of your mind thought the bin was a good place to be, you’re not going to look good.

There’s a lot of talk about the glass ceiling these days, and how while some women have managed to crack it, many have yet to do so. This is held to be a sin, and not only against the sisterhood. We agree. Merit and a capacity to commit are the keys to advance.

It’s a shame that efforts to crack the glass ceiling are seen in some quarters as licence to wreck the joint once you’re in there. Not in the business sense: the women we know who have gained access to the glass cage at the top of the corporate bureaucratic ladders are all sensible, thinking people. Some among them might like a drink, and even to misbehave, in all sorts of ways, but they do so in private, where in a free society such things are legitimately enjoyed.

It’s on the party circuit, broadly defined, where bad behaviour occurs publically. It’s true that in many societies, especially the Anglo ones, the bad behaviour of men is apparently expected, still largely accepted, often cheered on (crassly) and frequently overlooked. The stupid boys will be boys rule. Read that line any way you like. This dispensation is not extended to women who drink too much and behave like dorks. Women are supposed to be savvy and sexy and all of that, in whatever body shape they naturally possess, and not to compete with men in the idiot stakes.

Fundamentally this is phooey, despite grandma’s sensible advice to always keep yourself nice. People are people. They come in all shapes and sizes and an infinite range of personalities. These days, however, good manners have largely been thrown out of the window in the western world, along with common sense. They have been replaced by the glottal-stop baby talk and short attention span of the Me generation. That’s what people need to think about and correct. It’s not really a gender thing at all, except among men with a fixed and prehistoric belief in their own sex’s supremacy.

Chump Time

That a man whose adult life has been spent losing other people’s money, stiffing business partners, failing to pay creditors, creating a lengthy list of corporate failures, avoiding tax, being a loud-mouth reality TV front-man (“You’re Fired!), running the Miss Universe pageant while ogling the talent, pushing forward the boundaries of shocking kitsch and publicly avowing the delights of pussy-grabbing, can be elected the 45th president of the United States is something that takes American democracy into new territory.

There are good reasons for American voters to disavow the political practices of establishment candidates and the two-party system (never mind the quality, feel the width) and to choose something that promises to break that matrix. On Nov. 8 they wanted, in sufficient numbers, to belt the Beltway (the popular synonym for Washington’s inner circle).

It’s a bold political experiment. We can only hope the test-tube doesn’t blow up and destroy the joint. It will be an interesting spectacle whatever results. An Australian friend whose considered opinions we greatly value, remarked when we asked him what he thought of the events that it was a bit like jelly wrestling: you know it’s wrong but you watch anyway. The life of a voyeur can be very rewarding.

There were the expected reactions to Donald Trump’s win on Nov. 8. Locally, the rupiah weakened, though this was expected to be only a temporary effect. Global bond markets were spooked. The Brexit Brits were re-enthused, since like them Trump wants to overturn all sorts of apple carts. The British see a fortune to be made in bilateral trade deals. (They’ve managed, oddly, to get the Australian government politically on side in that respect. Perhaps Canberra needs to glance briefly at a world map.)

Trump for his part wants to reinvent American rustbelt industry, which according to him shouldn’t have disappeared to China and other places where cost-effective manufacturing is practised. He’s a bit like Don Quixote, albeit with rather less moral fibre. Though tilting at windmills can be fun, for the spectators at least.

Another friend, this time in America itself, reports an unexpected side effect of Trumpism’s triumph. She’s looking for a new hairdresser in her gentle, liberal New England domain. Her long established snipper, who’s very good and very, very gay, has taken to loudly singing the praises of the White House Apprentice. She said she had not yet allowed this to disturb her coiffeur but that it had seriously ruffled her feathers.

Karma on the Rocks

The sports bar at Echo Beach over which long-term American resident of Bali Mara Wolford raised a stink earlier this year with allegations that her drink was spiked, has closed. That’s good news.

When it found itself criticised after the events Wolford wrote about on her Facebook, it adopted the usual tactic of miscreant businesses in Bali: First, anguished hurt that anyone could possibly think they were to blame; second, inventive and wholly inadequate answers; and third, threats of retribution.

The bar ceased trading this month. We love karma.

Chilling Out

The Diary is in Australia this week, on an SEB: a short essential break. So chilling out is the order of the day. That’s not difficult at all, when you’re in the bit of the Special Biosphere that has cool nights and often none-to-warm days even when late spring is said to have finally arrived.

We’ll be back shortly. The woollies will need washing.

HectorR

Hector writes a blog at 8degreesoflatitude.

 

Dystopian Delights

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Bali

Nov. 9, 2016

 

THERE were no visibly ruffled kebayas at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival session featuring American author Lionel Shriver on Oct. 29. No one loudly rattled their worry beads or furiously flounced out. This was in stark contrast to the thought chasm at the Brisbane Writers Festival in September, where an angry ethnic headdress made a public point of walking out of Shriver’s presentation. Someone else then thumped out an anguished memoir that appeared somewhere or other and, in it, claimed that Shriver was stealing other people’s heritage.

Shriver’s crime is to give voice in her novels to imaginary characters whose culture and ethnicity is not her own. In doing do, so the good thinking collective asserts, she and others perpetuate an invidious imperial-colonial imbalance. These days, this warrants condign punishment, such as being shouted at before being sent to Coventry.

The modern white man’s burden is to be continually assailed by charges that might have applied to his great-grandfather (the point is moot). It’s true that much of the world’s body of literature, fictional or otherwise, is in English. But much of it isn’t. There are other global languages, Spanish, French and Portuguese in particular. And if a culture whose native language isn’t one of these or any of their increasingly incomprehensible derivatives wishes to fully develop literature in its own lingua franca, it is perfectly free to do so.

This of course is not the thing to say at a literary festival, unless you want to have your tea poisoned.

But it is hard to see how Shriver and her ilk are the agents of continued bastardry just because they write into their narratives imaginary representatives of other cultures. Fiction, whether grittily realistic, or enervating, or readable, or otherwise, is neither fact nor claims to be. That alone should eliminate angst among the sentient and offset the risk of injury to readers from that modern plague, acquired cultural offence.

It’s true of course that many authors and their cheer squads claim gritty realism as the leitmotiv of their works and the arbiter of their own social relevance. But these days if you’re not socially relevant, you’re nowhere, baby.

Shriver’s presentation concerned her latest book, The Mandibles, a dystopian romp of sorts through the imagined near-future economic and social collapse of America. Mad Max on Mandrax, in a way. She read from the text. It’s unlikely to set the world on fire, though America might. The session was moderated by Gill Westaway, once of the British Council and now of Lombok.

Better than Chocolate

We spent some time at the festival chatting with Ines Wynn, who writes for the Bali Advertiser and lives in a riparian setting with a small menagerie (of dogs and cats) far from the madding crowd, just an easy three-hour round trip away from the nearest supermarket that’s stocked with anything bules might actually want to buy.

In such a setting, one has to plan. It doesn’t do to run out of something essential. We thought of foie gras, not because we suppose Ines likes to keep it in stock, as indeed neither do we, but just par exemple, to break briefly into one of her eight languages. Ines is originally from Belgium, that confection of four languages, several instances of casus belli, multiple competing legislatures and former Heart of Darkness empire that was invented in 1830 as a sort of final post-mortem act in the overlong and competing narratives of the Holy Roman Empire and the Spanish Crown.

Lunch with her, which we took at Kori, just across the road from the gabblers’ headquarters, was much less complex. It was also very tasty and in a quiet environment where the only noise seemed to be coming from our table. We didn’t have any chocolates. It seemed invidious to suggest that we might, since chocolates are perhaps Belgium’s finest exports. No substitutes permitted.

Solemen Indonesia’s Robert Epstone, by the way, had a sort of TED Talk opportunity at the festival, on Oct. 30 rescheduled from earlier in the program, to introduce the lit crowd to the sterling work his charity organisation does.

We couldn’t be there, unfortunately, but Ines tells us Epstone worked his usual magic and passed the virtual hat round to good effect.

Shoot to Thrill

The executioners have been out and about. We’re not referring to the national drug agency, which says it would like to shoot drug dealers without benefit of judicial process, as in Rodrigo Duterte’s new killing fields in the Philippines perhaps, and which hopefully will never get permission to engage in state-sanctioned murder.

It’s Gianyar regency we’re talking about, again, and its cruel and counterproductive dog-culling program. The latest victims were 21 dogs in Batubulan, after a dog bit someone and was later found to have rabies. Just to be clear, we’re not opposed to killing dogs when circumstances dictate that there is no other option, even though it would leave a heavy shadow on our non-Hindu heart.

Instead, as is much of the world that exists outside the blank-stare fiefdoms of the regents of Gianyar and others, we are opposed to the idea of killing dogs because this is easier than implementing an effective vaccination (and re-vaccination) program and humane population control through sterilisation, and because, being cheaper, it won’t interfere with the Essential Additional SUV Acquisition schedule.

There’s plenty of literature available on how to actually suppress rabies rather than just look as you’re doing so. We’ve had rabies in Bali since 2008, at a cost now approaching 200 human lives. That’s ample time to have assimilated the information and to have translated even the difficult bits into Bahasa Indonesia.

A Fine Award

Puri Mas resorts and spa in Lombok has a new and very fine feather in its cap. It’s just been voted Best Luxury Boutique Hotel in Indonesia at an awards presentation in Doha, Qatar. GM Sara Sanders, who was in the Puri Mas contingent at the St Regis Doha to collect the gong, says this: “Congratulations to Marcel De Rijk and all the amazing staff in Puri Mas. Well deserved.”

Puri Mas has always been a great place – in two places: right on the beach at Manggis north of Senggigi and inland at Kerangandan, where owner and long-term Lombok resident and ballroom dancer De Rijk maintains his residence. The resort truly is a jewel in the crown of Lombok tourism.

Get. A. Life.

It is not a criminal offence to be gay in Indonesia. (That’s a good thing in the other, older, sense of the word, because there’s plenty here that gives you a laugh, even if it’s a horse one.) But, seriously, it’s not a crime.

So the disgraceful hue and cry that was reported last month, involving the police and other guardians of self-assessed moral requirements in Manado, North Sulawesi, was a very sorry spectacle. Two gay men were hunted down and arrested because they had displayed their affection for each other in a Facebook post.

Social media is not a public space. It’s certainly true that public demonstration of affection is not what one does here. It is culturally inappropriate. Tourists of all stripes please note, especially the half-clothed young bucks and does of western provenance whose displays of plainly sexual intent are blots on the landscape in Kuta and other goodtime places.

In the Manado incident, there was no cause for public disquiet. It’s no business of the police what private individuals choose – unwisely or otherwise – to post on their social platforms. “Our team tracked down the locations of the two men thanks to information from netizens, and on Oct. 11 we found the two in Bahu, Manado,” North Sulawesi Police Spokesman Marzuki wrote in a statement.

What a circus. The police should have told “concerned netizens” to go away instead of responding with a farcical witch-hunt. That way, police spokesman Marzuki wouldn’t have had to look as if he’s with the Keystone Kops.

The silly business even reached Jakarta, where IT ministry spokesman Noor Iza was quoted as saying: “Facebook is very concerned about inappropriate content, including LGBT.”

Um, no, Facebook is rather more rainbow minded than Indonesian regulator-enforcers like to think.

End Game

The US election will be all over bar the continued shouting by the time this appears in print, but American scribbler Richard Boughton, who very sensibly lives in Bali, posted a plaintive note on his Facebook on Nov. 2 to which we can relate, both in his specific and our own more general circumstances.

He wrote: “I can’t believe how much time I wasted last night arguing with Trump supporters on Facebook. Not that I don’t have time to waste. But I could have wasted it in so many more pleasant ways. Sleeping, for instance. Or pigging out on junk food. Or picking a scab off my leg.”

HectorR

Hector’s Diary appears, edited for newspaper publication, in the print and on line editions of the fortnightly Bali Advertiser

Waiting for the Last Trump

U.S ELECTION

Sep. 29, 2016

 

Them good ol’ boys were drinking whiskey and rye and singing ‘this’ll be the day that I die’ 

– Don Maclean, ‘American Pie’

161010-donald-trump-is-a-vulgar-pig

Update 10 Oct. 2016: This election sign somewhere in America says it all.

THE 2016 American presidential election pits against each other two candidates for whom I am grateful, as a non-American, that I shan’t have to vote. The Republican-Democrat stranglehold on federal power, a function both of machine politics and the complexity of government, prevents any alternative emerging.

Neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump is an inspiring figure. Both carry what is crudely called baggage. However, the American election is of interest, because the financial, political and military power of the US naturally impacts on the world at large, and which one of them becomes the next president of the USA is of critical importance.

So let’s briefly look at them both, from an outsider’s perspective.

Clinton has been part of the American political machine for more than two decades. She does know how it works (and probably that this is not very well) and she has standing on the world stage. She is a known factor in international diplomacy.

Things over which she may fairly be criticised are openly known; they are things with which other international leaders are familiar. She has fairly set out the international policy directions she would implement in office. They are mainstream positions. They won’t frighten the horses (or the Chinese, or the Iranians). They represent only modifications to the status quo.

She won’t set the world on fire. Most of us would probably say that this was a good thing.

Trump is a complete contrast. He has no public service experience. He says he’ll do deals with foreign nations, as if they were businesses that the Trump imperium either wanted to work with or to see in court – or to welsh on, another Trump SOP. That’s his record.

His pitch to American voters is that he’ll do things differently. And that’s fine, or it would be if Trump’s word were worth even a lawyer’s letter. His persona is vainglorious, his intellect (which is substantial) is focused on personal acquisition, his manners are appalling, his taste is execrable, his political direction is plainly scary, his social morals are questionable if not entirely absent, and his ethics are notional.

He is also risible, and it is on this last point that his real vulnerability exists. His supporters don’t care for policy, so arguing those is a zero sum game. He is more TV personality than leader in waiting (who would ever want to be Trump’s Apprentice?) He is loose with his language, crassly dismissive of all criticism, a sort of personal bonfire of the vanities.

Liberal democracies can deal with such personalities, if they wish, and if they have the energy and can find the courage. Trump is not actually a figure of fun – he is a clear and present danger – but he is vulnerable to ridicule. Most such people are.

And therein lies the beneficence of liberal democracy. We can slag off at our leaders, actual or putative, without risking police action on behalf of the rich and powerfully offended.

There was no tradition of liberal democracy in Germany when Adolf Hitler seized the public stage and later the nation. If a lot of people had laughed at him early in the piece, he might not have become quite the global problem that he later did. But it was left to the music halls of other western democracies and to Charlie Chaplin to make him a figure of fun, too late in the piece to head off disaster.

His fellow fascist, Benito Mussolini, was of course Italian, and Italy had (and still has) its own risible ways of conducting its politics.

Trump is no Hitler. But he might be a Mussolini, if left unchecked and un-laughed at. He probably does want to make the trains run on time. Mussolini managed that, but by means of adjusting the timetables to take account of time spent idle at train stations en route. He had some sensible ideas. Well, one sensible idea.

We haven’t heard a sensible idea from Trump in this election campaign.

We’ve heard that he’d like to build a wall to keep out the Mexicans and deport millions of illegal immigrants who are chiefly doing jobs Americans won’t do.

We’ve heard that he’d like to repatriate American money to create jobs, but no actual working plan that would achieve that.

He’d like to repudiate the architecture of global commerce and put European members of NATO on a pay-for-the-privilege program.

He thinks Russia’s Vladimir Putin is a good ol’ boy and that the irredentist Chinese, except for their success in stealing American jobs, are doing OK on a range of things, presumably including human rights, which anyway functionally fail to rate on the Trump scale of excellent ideas.

Lately, I’ve been criticised (by people I respect immensely) for making fun of Trump on social media and for playing the PC game. I don’t play the PC game. Economically I’m drier than Innaminka in a drought year. I make no apology for that. But neither do I apologise for publicly laughing at Trump, a living caricature, a man of other people’s means, a sociopath.

He is a risible candidate for POTUS. He is 72. There’s nothing wrong with that. I shall shortly achieve that milestone myself. But I don’t possess the sort of questionable and worrying vanity that would persuade me to wear a ginger stoat on my head.

Sorry, but if Trump’s the answer, the question is stupid.

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