HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Sep. 2, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Heading for the Hills

Last year an unavoidable detention in Australia – its cause was medical, not custodial, in case any among the Diary’s more liverish readers might snigger and wonder – meant we were not among the 126, 000-plus attendees reported to have crowded Bali’s cultural capital for the eleventh Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. There might have been a bit of creative mathematics in that figure (people attending multiple events and so forth) but never mind. A good number’s a good number. Nothing shall stand in the way of our getting to the twelfth (acts of the deity excepted) to be held from Oct. 28-Nov. 1. The line-up for UWRF 2015 is very fine indeed.

This intelligence reached us in the customary way, in a virtual billet-doux from festival founder and director Janet DeNeefe. There are 160 names, including leading authors from around the world, thinkers, artists, advocates and social commentators from more than 26 countries. All of this makes for a very big word fest. More than 200 separate events are on the schedule.

The headline act is American Michael Chabon, whose book The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay won the Pulitzer Prize; award-winning British foreign correspondent Christina Lamb; Tony and Maureen Wheeler who founded the Lonely Planet series; and Moshin Hamid, the celebrated Pakistani author of How to get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia.

Also in the line-up are Nigerian-born Chigozie Obioma, whose debut novel The Fishermen was recently long-listed for the Man Booker Prize; 2015 Miles Franklin Award winner Sofie Laguna; and Emily Bitto, winner of the 2015 Stella Prize for her debut novel The Strays. Other names worth noting are philanthropist Mpho Tutu, daughter of South African anti-apartheid churchman and activist Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Indonesian campaigner for Papuan social justice Andreas Harsono. Not to forget Australian academic Adrian Vickers, whose masterly contribution to and editing of the recent Lempad of Bali book flowed directly from his longstanding interest and expertise in Indonesian cultural history.

The theme of the festival this year is “17,000 Islands of Imagination”. Full details are on the UWRF website.

Murder Aforethought

One crucial element of Chaos Theory is that if something isn’t going to work, however hard you beat your head against a brick wall and however much advice you reject out of hand, you just keep at it. This murderously farcical nonsense is in full play in Bali over rabies and how (not) to deal with it. The provincial and local governments know best. Just don’t ask how. And if by any chance you hold the view that in fact they are talking out of an aperture remote from and somewhat south of their mouth, they’ll bash your ears forever until you run away to hide from the noise.

Never mind that Jakarta has given up on trying to get them to understand, or that the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization is wringing its hands in despair, or that animal welfare groups – overseas as well as in Bali – are roundly criticised for actually caring. Execution teams are fanning out across the island armed with strychnine darts to bring painful, sometimes cruelly lingering and completely unnecessary deaths to thousands of Bali dogs. Quite where karma fits into this dystopian picture is something for others far more qualified to say than the Diary. We’ve only read the world literature and standard practice on eradicating rabies, after all. It’s not as if we’ve wasted all the money on other things and have convinced ourselves, by applying the vacuous calculus of the Great Panjandrum equation, that up is down, black is white, and that anyway, we’re in charge so everyone else can just shut up.

In the city of Denpasar and in the regencies of Gianyar, Bangli and Tabanan, as well as in other parts of the island, teams from animal husbandry – that’s the outfit that’s supposedly responsible for animal management and welfare – are darting dogs willy-nilly as part of the government’s counterproductive anti-rabies campaign. Alongside this there’s a growing record of dogs being stolen – the disgusting dog-meat trade and rampant pet theft are clearly factors in this – and of associated beatings to death of dogs in public places. It’s a great tourism image, that.

Pets are being slain in front of weeping little children. Village communities that the government has failed to bother to educate about rabies or anything much else are signing up to culling programs they clearly do not understand will increase their exposure to rabies, not reduce it. We hear suggestions that the provincial authorities would like to coopt non-profit animal welfare agencies into their strategy. In the upside-down world of Bali administration, that would make them part of the problem rather than the solution. That’s the way things are done here. It might work, as a concept at least, if the Governor and other luminaries could work out that the smoggy blue bit up there is the sky and the litter-strewn vistas below are the land. But don’t wait up for that to happen.

There is a problem. There’s no doubt that rabies is on the rise again. But there’s another problem too. It is the provincial government and its blindness.

Splash Out

We had a fun evening at the 2016 Waterman’s Awards night, held at the Padma Resort in Legian on Aug. 14. This was despite not bidding high enough in the silent auction to score a plush holiday break in Goa and some glitches in the presentation and continuity (“run-sheet problems,” we said to ourselves sotto voce at several points). Those demerits aside it was a good show. It was particularly pleasing to see longstanding local benefactor and Surfer Girl proprietor Steve Palmer pick up the major award of the evening, the lifetime inspiration award. A good friend of the Diary, Delphine Robbe of Gili Eco Trust, picked up Water Lady of the Year.

Events like these are always works in progress. The Waterman’s is the brainchild of ROLE Foundation chief Mike O’Leary, who deserves credit for the initiative. We look forward to the 2016 awards.

That Sinking Feeling

News that Dubai’s grandiose interference with the hydrography of its bit of the Arabian Gulf has come to grief in the shape of artificial islands that are sinking into the sandy base of that chiefly enclosed but fiercely tidal waterway may or may not have caused a sinking feeling in the corporate court of Tomy Winata, self-made billionaire tycoon and friend of Sumatra’s tigers.

We’re betting “may not” since the practice here is to ignore the actuarial risk of what might happen tomorrow in favour of dollars (or any convenient convertible currency) today. Come on! Benoa Bay is nothing like the Arabian Gulf. It’s just a little, formerly beautiful, mangrove-swathed inlet. The Shatt al-Arab doesn’t empty the remains of Mesopotamia into it. It is the sludge pond only for a few of Bali’s little rivers and the filthy rubbish that clogs and despoils them. But artificial islands and shifting sands do not as a rule go together like peaches and cream, or for that matter like enormous horseless carriages and the mega-vroom that makes them go in a suitably rich boy-toy fashion.

Moreover, it’s a place that might make a mint for someone if it is eventually turned into an artificial eyesore. This outcome is the central objective of Pak Winata’s plan to build Excresence-sur-Mer. He will be long gone from the scene of that environmental crime before it turns into Excresence-sous-Mer.

It’s That Girl Again

Schapelle Corby, whose criminal notoriety was glibly turned into victim-celebrity by her family and the tabloid and lowbrow-glossy western media, is reported to be planning a baby. The reportage is third hand and gossipy, as much of that sort of dross tends to be. She did look rather wan in the photo of her that we saw. It was taken at the beach where the putative father of her apparently conceivable future baby has a business. She is not expectant, it seems, so her listless pallor cannot have been morning sickness. Perhaps it was ennui or irritation.

Nothing about this has anything to do with anyone other than Corby, high-profile Australian parolee, and the person who might one day impregnate her. It certainly has nothing to do with her sister Mercedes, one-time Ralph Magazine boob-barer and motor mouth for hire. In the report we saw she seemed to be attempting to reinvent herself in some sort of mother-superior role.

Give. Us. A. Break.

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

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Aug. 19, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Let’s Make a Mess of It

We do try very hard – really we do – to find little political or bureaucratic triumphs to lighten the load of otherwise observing serial dysfunction and give us something positive to write about that has emerged from government. But it’s hard. Since Australian beef imports were slashed – someone had heard the stirring beat of that nationalist drum again and had convinced himself that Indonesia Raya was self-sufficient in that variety of essential protein – local prices have shot up by 180 percent because (and we won’t even bother pausing for effect) supplies were now short. The government has said it will import 50,000 tons of Australian beef to meet the shortfall, or perhaps to fill in the gap in its mind.

We’ll move along to the next little upset apple cart. This is the invidious effect of steep rises in tariff charges on imported wine and spirits, which (to no one’s surprise except the sentient) have caused a conniption in the drinks industry – it’s worth rather more than a snip at US$300 million (Rp Something plus far too many zeroes) – especially coming on top of this year’s ban on beer sales through mini markets. From Jul. 23, importers have been paying 90 percent of import consignment value on wine and 150 percent on spirits. The industry says this will lead to retail price rises of between 15-100 percent. It fears, somewhat naturally, that this may have a negative impact on sales.

It is true of course that observant Muslims are forbidden alcohol – it is haram – and that premium wines and spirits are only ever so rarely found in your average Indonesian household whose occupants, if they have jobs, earn derisory wages that are flat out putting nasi bungkus on the meja. Cheap hooch is widely available and – as we have just seen again in Bali in a separate criminally stupid or criminal profiteering case – is highly likely to have been adulterated with methanol or other dangerous substances. Most Indonesians are unlikely to be affected by prohibition-style, speakeasy-level prices for imported drinks they will never consume.

But there is another aspect to the alcohol issue that should worry a great many people. It is that the drive to suppress consumption is coming from the hardline Islamist push in the legislature and the government. Consuming alcohol is not prohibited for many people who profess Indonesia’s other religious faiths. It is a commodity that the tourism sector must provide to meet the expectations of their markets. There are plenty of other places for tourists – or rich Indonesian elites – to go if they want a drink at a reasonable price with their holiday dinners, after all. This factor is critical to Bali, where tourism is the single most important economic driver. It’s quite clear that Islamic legislators in Jakarta – a world city in which alcohol fuels the metropolitan entertainment sector – have given little thought for the deeper ramifications of their campaign.

Drinking is not compulsory. It is elective behaviour of the sort that sensible, secular states permit (properly regulated) on the basis that people should be free to choose to indulge in lawful, pleasurable activities and ought to be facilitated in these pursuits. Too often when fanatics get into the act all sorts of things are proscribed because it is suspected that somewhere, someone might be having a good time.

Island Faces

There’s a lovely photographic exhibition at Lestari Art Space in J. Drupadi, Seminyak, called The Island’s Faces and featuring an eclectic range of local dials. The photographs are the work of Ayu Swarie. They have been acclaimed by many as emblematic of our island and won deserved applause from the crowd at the opening on Aug. 7.

The Diary could not be present on opening night because of a prior engagement (see below). But the exhibition runs through to mid-September and we’re not going to miss it. The works are for sale.

Beach Style

A good friend, filmmaker and photographer Adithio Noviello, and his bride Adita Dwi Putrianti chose a sunset beach setting for their wedding on Aug. 7. It was a lovely occasion, especially because it was a celebrated with Muslim rites in front of a gathering whose own religious beliefs encompassed Islam, Balinese Hindu, Buddhist, Judaism, Christianity of various sects, and a goodly component of those whose religious practice exists only as an entry on their ID cards. It seemed a delightful allegory of the real world, the one that exists away from Those Who Like to Bother You.

It’s always a pleasure to hear Arabic spoken or sung at religious occasions and, in the old days before loudspeakers took over from the solitary muezzin who intoned from the minaret, the call to prayer was a mellifluous affair. It’s also rather nice to hear Qur’anic Arabic that’s not being spoken or sung by a native speaker of the language. In that respect, it shares qualities with the Latin one used to hear in Christian churches: unintelligible to most and quaintly pronounced.

We said this, at the party at the Holiday Inn Baruna Bali at Tuban, to a fellow guest whose provenance is Jewish, and added that when such occasions bless the ear it is for us very much like listening to Hebrew. Shalom Aliechem.

Noviello recently produced a short film on the under-threat Bali Dog – it was launched at a function at the Mercure Bali in Sanur the week before his wedding – and auctioned the centerpiece work from his brilliant exhibition of still photographs in aid of BAWA, the Bali Animal Welfare Association. One of his other photographs now resides at The Cage, courtesy of the charge-card facility at the show.

From Vulcan’s Lair

Our favourite local blogger, Vyt Karazija, had a lovely take on Mt Raung’s lengthy effluence in nearby East Java that has lately caused distress to airports, airlines, and especially airline passengers who have no idea of the dangerous properties of volcanic dust except that it must be someone else’s fault. That episode had abated at the time of writing – though one should never wholly trust Vulcan not to return to bother us again shortly – but it gave all sorts of people an opportunity to fulminate.

Karazija fulminates quietly, in his own erudite way. He noted on his Facebook one day that his newly cleaned motorbike had acquired a dull sheen of dust – debu in the local parlance – and he became quite lyrical about this. He wrote that it was wondrous that minute particles of Inner Earth had been expelled by pyrotechnic flux and had floated free for the first time in four billion years, seeing the Sun and all the other wonders available above the crust. It was pleasing, he noted, that some of these microscopic and newly free entities had chosen to grace his motorbike.

This is sort of poetic prose that can bring a tear to eye of an old diarist, someone from the dark side who has seen the English language mangled by many for whom it is their native tongue and who unaccountably have been paid to write in that language. We did have a briefly lachrymose moment. But Karazija, while he is light with the virtual equivalent of a pen, is also a practical man. The rare dust that had blessed his bike, he finally decided, might actually be debu from the rampant construction and deconstruction, licensed or otherwise, that takes place round the clock in South Bali.

Then again, we ourselves mused, it could merely have been particulate-laden smog, that other constant in the atmosphere above the murdered landscape of Denpasar, Badung and parts of Gianyar and Tababan. We daily see that dreadful pall – beneficially, this is from a distance – from The Cage in our still mainly wooded and freshly aired bit of the Bukit.

See You in Sanur

The tenth Sanur Festival will be held from Aug. 26-30. Its theme is “Decade”, which is accurate at least, if not a natural crowd-puller of a slogan. Along with the usual mix of such events, including kite flying, a food festival, fun runs (on Aug.23), beach cleanups, turtle hatchling releases, a photographic competition and other entertainments, this year’s festival includes nightly showings of films from the 2015 Bali International Film Festival, which itself takes place from Sep. 24-30. For those more actively inclined there are Village cycling tours; and the Sanur Open golf tournament will be held at Bali Beach golf course on Aug. 29-30.

Sanur Festival chairman Ida Bagus Gede Sidharta Putra makes a good point. “If we do not have a flagship tourism activity, Bali tourism will stagnate and slowly it could be abandoned by tourists.”

Festival details are on the festival website.

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

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, July 8, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Nice Little Ding-Dong

Australian Consul-General Majell Hind’s residence at Sanur was transformed on the evening of Jul. 2 into a micro-gallery to showcase cultural synergy between Indonesia and Australia. The show was curated by Micro Galleries, which works with artists globally to create visual art that crosses boundaries and helps change communities. It is bringing its work to Denpasar for a full-scale exhibition in October, but the Jul. 2 event gave a sneak preview into the magic that they weave in visual arts, dance and music. It was also a prime example of the deep links between the two countries.

A feature of the evening was a performance by traditional dancers from West Bali and Dayak dancers from Kalimantan, presented by leading Australian photographer David Metcalf. He is heavily involved in promoting and preserving Dayak culture as well as traditional dance throughout Indonesia.

The main event was a musical collaboration between leading Australian jazz saxophonist Sandy Evans and a group of university students from the University of New South Wales playing Gamelan. The university group has been studying Balinese Gamelan for several years and performed at the annual Bali Arts Festival.

Incidentally the 2014-2015 Direct Assistance Program run by the Consulate-General had double the previous year’s funding. The DAP funds local level projects. There were some very interesting projects in Bali in the Australian financial year just ended (Jun. 30) and we’ll look at some of those in a due course.

Time to Splash Out

A committee formed by Mike O’Leary of ROLE Foundation – ROLE does sterling work to empower and educate local women who otherwise would miss out on life’s opportunities – is hard at work on this year’s Waterman’s Awards, another O’Leary project.

The focus of the awards is the marine and river environment. Since both the ocean and the rivers are prime dumping sites for throwaway rubbish in Bali, that’s a critical focus.   Efforts to clean up these environments – and then keep them clean – are worth rewarding with recognition.

At a time when five-plus star properties, in East Bali for example, are experiencing reductions in guest numbers because however much the beaches are cleaned the rubbish in the ocean keeps coming ashore, it’s clear that urgent action is needed. A little further afield, who would want to dive to look at the iconic mola mola (sunfish) whose peak season is nearly upon us, when what you also see in even more spectacular quantity is plastic rubbish?

The Waterman’s this year is at the Padma Resort in Legian on Aug. 14. A range of awards will be presented. It’s worth making a note of the date in your diary, and getting along to the show if you can.

Tittle Tattle

Tomy Winata, the rich entrepreneur who with the Governor’s help would like to fill in Benoa Bay so he can build Port Excrescence under the Ngurah Rai airport landing and take-off flight-paths, made it onto the front cover of the latest Indonesian Tatler. He saves tigers, you see, in Sumatra. It’s a worthy cause.

He also funds anti-drugs and anti-poverty programs, which are worthy causes too. Shame the turtles and other marine life forms in Benoa Bay aren’t big and colourfully striped, and that the fishermen of the bay are poor and therefore of no consequence.

Indonesia Tatler has a fine place in the field of journalistic puffery.  No hard questions asked.

Gianyar Gets it Right

Animal husbandry authorities in Gianyar regency recently vaccinated 147 dogs in the village of Buruan and around 200 at Manukaya in Tampak Siring instead of killing them, in their ongoing campaign to reduce the rabies threat in Bali. They deserve congratulations for this action, which conforms to world best practice in the face of a rabies outbreak: if you vaccinate the dogs, they won’t get rabies and will not therefore transmit the disease to humans.

That simple formula escapes many here, including unfortunately many of the local governments which respond to human rabies cases – there have been at least 10 deaths this year, up from the official two last year – by going on dog-killing sprees. They kill vaccinated dogs too, in this dangerously vacuous non-answer to a problem they themselves are perpetuating.

The regency of Klungkung seems to be particularly thick about this. As we noted recently, they’re the guys who either couldn’t or wouldn’t provide health authorities with their rabies figures up to June this year. Perhaps someone filched the office ballpoint?

They recently vaccinated dogs on Nusa Lembongan but the same day poisoned a large number of them. The barbarity is sickening. The stupidity is tedious. You’d think it must be something in the water. Only a madman would drink that here, after all.

(UPDATE: Unfortunately Gianyar has also joined the killing spree, telling residents of Batu Bulan (Jul. 6)  that this week it will poison dogs found outside their homes or in the streets.)

He’s Our Hero

A little family of street dogs in Seminyak has been adopted by the proprietor of Kendi Kuning restaurant, Putu Mahayana, and is now assured of care and attention. That’s lovely to hear in the circumstances that prevail in Bali today.

The dogs, a mother and two pups, live in the laneway near the restaurant. They have now been sterilized and vaccinated, a project paid for by the Bali Animal Welfare Association. BAWA acted when alerted to the situation by visitors to the island who, like many, were shocked by the conditions in which street dogs live. Visitors come and go, but disadvantaged dogs remain.

So here’s a big thank-you to Pak Putu. We note his restaurant gets good reviews on Trip Advisor. He and that establishment are worthy of good review on humanitarian grounds too.

A Beachwalk Treat

There’s a little gem at Kuta Beachwalk, the shopping centre on Jl Pantai Kuta, that’s well worth a visit if you’re interested in the rich traditions of Indonesia’s batik.

It’s Museum Kain, which the Diary discovered by accident the other day and in which it would surely be possible to spend hours immersed in the colourful history of traditionally woven cloth. That process is a ritual drawing together the people and the land and spiritual and physical lives.

Modern technology displays and explains the design and purpose of cloth on show. The museum is an initiative of the cloth and batik retailer BINHouse.

It’s on Level 3 at Beachwalk. Entry costs Rp 100K.

Touché, Toupee

We hear that American billionaire toupee magnet and presidential candidate Donald Trump may be buying the Nirwana golf resort near Tanah Lot in Tabanan. He has such a fine grasp of culture that this proposal can only be applauded, though it’s a pity in the circumstances that it’s not on Sunset Road. But perhaps he could stage his upcoming TV series My Kitsch Rules at the venue.

In that regard it was nice to read in the American online journal Wonkette – the gals there do irony and satire very well and are adept at puncturing pomposity – that Trump has been fired from the NBC channel in the US. Not because his taste in everything induces nausea, but because he’s a racist chump.

NBC won’t be showing Trump-produced shows after his recent outburst about Mexican immigrants. It said in a statement: “At NBC, respect and dignity for all people are cornerstones of our values.”

Strasbourg Prize

Singapadu sculptor Ongky Wijana, whose memorial to the miners of Laxey in the Isle of Man was unveiled there on May 23, stayed on after these festivities to make his own version of the grand tour of Europe.

He does advise that this involved quite a lot of drinking. This is commendable, since the cultures of continental Europe encourage such pursuits. They are certainly much more fun than sitting around moping about how the rest of the world has failed to get it right so far.

He visited Strasbourg, the French city where the inhabitants speak German. It’s in Alsace, where those dogs come from. While he was there he picked up first prize at the 2015 European Stone Festival.

That’s another feather in his cap. His wife Hannah Black Wijana tells us she is very proud of him. We all are.

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

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Jun. 10, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Let’s Get Nauti

It is Ratty, in Kenneth Grahame’s wonderful 1908 children’s fantasy story Wind in the Willows, who reminds us that there is absolutely nothing better than messing about in boats. As a theory, this is quite possibly an incontrovertible statement. As a practise, if one is of the sort whose natural nautical agilities and skills equate with those of Frank Spencer in Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em, avoidance is the best technique.

The Diary’s preference, despite some early messing about in boats, has always been to be aboard something rather larger than the fierce marine creatures that inhabit the waters upon which one is sailing. So we were very pleased when Pulau Luxury Charters invited us aboard its latest acquisition, a 22-metre catamaran called Haruku, for a day of fun and frivolity arranged for the media by The Diary’s favourite local dish, Diana Shearin. This event took place on May 8, shortly before we needed to make an unscheduled two-week-long visit to the chilly climes of pre-winter southern Western Australia. The recalled warmth of the occasion kept us going throughout that later ordeal.

Aboard the Haruku on that sybaritic day all the messing about was done by the efficient crew and the drinks and nibbly things were offered around by svelte young ladies wearing tiny skirts which could easily have doubled as belts. This was, the Diary mused, just how nautical experiences should be enjoyed. It gives you something to contemplate other than the horizon or your own navel.

The Haruku, which has joined five other boats in the Pulau fleet, is a refurbished and upgraded long-range expedition yacht that purrs along at 12 knots and is pushed through the briny by two Cummins 700hp diesel engines. Its twin hulls flatten most of the wind waves one might encounter in our waters, though the Indian Ocean swells punching up the Badung Strait made the trip from Serangan to Nusa Penida a little interesting for some on board.

There’s plenty of space and lots of headroom, plus all the kit you expect in these days of state-of-the-art music systems, monster flat screen TVs and on board WiFi. On day trips the boat can accommodate up to 25 guests and for long-range cruising it sleeps up to eight passengers in three cabins.

The open aft deck is a great place for lounging. It leads down to dual swim/dive platforms and the range of watercraft available to guests. It also leads up to the spacious fly bridge where further comfy seating is available to people whose on-board job is to relax and have fun.

The boat was built in 2002 and refurbished in 2014-15. It’s very comfortable and well equipped. One quibble: It did seem a shame that the refurbishment did not extend to changing the two-pin power points to universal points. Pulau Luxury Charters is part of the group that includes boutique villas at Banjar Anyar Kelod in Umalas and the eclectic Cafe Cous Cous whose Moroccan cuisine and ambience are worthy of inclusion on anyone’s must-do list.

Big Day

We note with pleasure that two lovely people we know – Australian Marian Carroll of Four Seasons and long-term Bali resident Brazilian Alexsander Martins Paim – tied the knot on June 5. It would have been a grand party, especially as it also tied together two representations of the Southern Cross, the stellar icon of the southern hemisphere night sky. It features on both the Australian and Brazilian flags.

The nuptials took place at former Alila Manggis executive chef Penelope Williams’ destination for gourmets, Bali Asli at Gelumpang, near Amlapura in Karangasem, and featured a megibung feast, served in the style of the royal family of Karangasem. We’re sure the Brazilians in the party were happy to forgo pão de queijo and coxinha on that occasion.

We hear there was a spot of Capoeira on hand, however. This will have helped the guests feast not only on the fine fare but also the spectacular views of Gunung Agung. Alex is from Porto Alegre in southern Brazil, where the local mountains aren’t quite as lofty but do occasionally sport picture-postcard snowfalls.

Bali Asli recently hosted the Great Chefs of Bali dinner. Female chefs from all over Bali cooked their signature dish as part of a meal celebrating the not to be missed feminine component of exemplary cuisine in kitchens. They raised Rp 56 million to help the nearby village of Pangi restore a traditional paon kitchen and also to build a needy family a bathroom and a family temple.

Scumbags

A sickening video showing a group of men from Tabanan regency savagely beating to death a black dog that they had led to a pole and then tied to it has gone round the world. Even more tragically, the dog was obviously a pet or at least habituated to being around people, since it was happily wagging its tail as it walked towards its execution place. It only panicked and began yelping piteously when it finally realized what was about to happen.

Such incidents, less the videoing, are regrettably possibly commonplace wherever thick young men with too much testosterone and too few brain cells gather, but that neither excuses nor explains it. Specifically, it is very bad for Bali’s image as a place of great spirituality. That’s already taken a hammering from the authorities’ fixation with killing dogs, vaccinated or not, in their mad and unnecessary panic over the rabies crisis that they have prolonged through their own negligence.

It’s against Indonesian law to mistreat an animal, especially in a way that causes painful death. So since these ridiculous and unpleasant young men had themselves videoed committing their crime and laughing while they did it, and since this incriminating evidence was downloaded elsewhere before their brain cells picked up enough power to think that perhaps they shouldn’t have posted it on Facebook, no doubt the police will take action.

We’re keen to see the outcome of the judicial proceedings that will naturally follow.

In the video a man – he was not one of the murder-party – is filmed riding up on a motorbike without a helmet. That might bring the traffic police into the action too, since it is also against the law to ride a bike without a bone-dome, however thick your skull is.

A Frisson Too Far

The Diary’s international cultural attaché, Philly Frisson, who has just enjoyed a sojourn in Bali and should return as soon as possible for further talks in the 2015 Made’s WarungWatercress series, reports a curious incident when she arrived back in Sydney and went out to buy her morning bagel (it’s the sort of thing you do in Sin City).

She tells us: “Being just back from Bali where I smile at my neighbours, the local mangy dogs and even the devious money exchange boys on the corner, I smile hither and yon. Oops, well sorry folks, I didn’t realize it was some sort of taboo.” She notes, though, that the resident nutcase acknowledged her. And that she still loves Sydney. Well don’t we all?

Feliç Aniversari!

We missed the party, since we were still in the pre-winter chill far to the south, but it seems incredible that it is four years since El Kabron opened on its pretty cliff-top at Pecatu on the Bukit and brought a Catalan-Spanish flavour to the sunset scene. That was where we fell in love with Yellow Dog, an evocative water-colour by Leticia Balacek that to our mind completely captures the true expression of modern Bali.

Balacek has long since returned to her native Argentina – and to Buenos Aires, which has been our favourite global city since a fabulously long holiday there in 1986 – and we can only hope that Yellow Dog has found a suitable home.

El Kabron’s fourth birthday party was on Jun. 7. We’re sure David Iglesias Megias and the crew made it a memorable occasion for party-goers.

Coup d’État

Ku De Ta is an icon of Bali’s beachfront eat-drink-and-be-merry sector. Its name is globally known for its ambience – less for its victuals, in the Diary’s subjective assessment – and its premier position as a spot to watch the sun go down. It’s where the party set parties and the wannabes want to be.

Its name is its essence, its commercial actuality, and it was therefore surprising when an establishment entirely dissimilar to the Seminyak venue opened on top of one of Singapore’s lofty towers and began trading under the same name. So it was good to read the other day that after a five-year court battle over the rights to the name Ku De Ta, the Bali partners have won the case and a name change for the crowd-pulling Singapore club.

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

 

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, May 13, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

The Full Farce of the Law

Sometimes a diarist in the Pancasila Archipelago finds himself wishing he were Archie Clark-Kerr, the British ambassador in wartime Moscow famous for finding himself grateful for any little shafts of light that came his way from heaven. He memorialized one such rarity in 1943 in a rather outré note he typed himself. It reported to the Foreign Office in London the arrival in the beleaguered Soviet capital of a new Turkish envoy called Mustapha Kunt.

There are precious few shafts of light from heaven or anywhere else around here at the moment. Instead, clouds of judicial and political imprudence (readers may wish to regard the ‘r’ as silent) darken the scene.

Susi Johnston, the long-time American resident of Bali whose home was serially invaded by thugs plainly connected with a bid by a woman who was not the nominee to acquire the property at Johnston’s expense, has had many days in court. None of them have been productive of anything except unintelligible bumf and rulings more suited to fictional Ruritania than to factional Indonesia, which aspires to leadership in South-East Asia.

The nominee system is of course outside the law. Lots of lawyers are driving expensively shiny black motor cars on the back of this winked-at illegality. The new Minister of Land Law (who is also director-general of the department) is conducting an audit of foreign-owned residential property to ensure that none continues to be held under this acquisitive fiction, on pain of confiscation to the financial detriment of any foreigners who haven’t regularized their titles prior to seizure. Possibly a lot more lawyers are planning to acquire expensively shiny black motor cars given this latest opportunity to charge outrageous fees to achieve nil result.

That aside, Johnston’s experience with home invasions and ex-nominees is highly instructive. A panel of judges in Denpasar District Court recently heard a criminal case brought by the police against three miscreants alleged to have thrice smashed up Johnston’s home at Mengwi, removed its contents to a handily waiting truck, and terrorized her for two years in the home she and her late husband built.

The judges – two of whom then immediately departed Denpasar for judicial posts elsewhere in Indonesia – found all three not guilty of any crime. They are, therefore, innocent, at least in the judicial meaning of that word. Most of us would be happy, granted, if we were in fact innocent of the charges on which we had been arraigned in court. Some of us might even celebrate that fact, judiciously, a little later, outside the precincts of the court in question.

Not these three however, who attended on the day the judges’ decision was to be handed down and sentences (if any) were to be meted out. They were supported by a group of male persons whom some have described as thugs. We were not in court and can make no assessment ourselves of their thuggish nature. They did however engage in scenes of fist-pumping and shouted approbation when their three friends were cleared, took group selfies, and threatened a female journalist covering the case.  Anywhere else this disgraceful display would have been seen as contempt of court worthy of reprimand if not penalty.

If all this leaves a foul taste in your mouth, then while it may not take the taste away, be assured it is a sensation that is fully shared by your diarist – and by anyone else, anywhere, who would prefer not to have to regard the law as a complete farce.

Bright Ideas Department

Perhaps President Joko Widodo is under even more pressure to perform to someone else’s prescription than has been evident thus far. He has now appeared publicly in populist mode promoting a threat to revoke the licences of private hospitals that refuse to treat people on their government issued health cards.

He’s missing the point. No hospital worthy of licensing would turn away an emergency case, but private hospitals are not bits of the health infrastructure that government doesn’t have to bother funding. “Socialisme” is, well, rather passé. Just ask China.

A more reasonable view is that private hospitals should participate in and support government programs to provide health care for the poor. The President would most likely find the private hospital sector keen to play a role in raising the standard of health of the population.

This would necessarily come at a price. The government could (and arguably it should) support private hospital programs for health card holders by allowing them to access the affordable medication, consumables and other incentives that are afforded to public hospitals.

Shot in the Dark

A lot of people have said quite a lot about the executions of six convicted drug traffickers at Nusa Kambangan Island in Central Java on Apr. 29. More will be said in coming months as the law of unintended consequences catches up with President Widodo. The executions – and those which preceded them as well as any that may follow – will not stop trafficking.

The drug problem that the President says he will stop by ignoring his commitment to human rights and instead having people routinely shot dead just after midnight is a modern phenomenon of cities and tourist centres found around the globe. And while international trafficking is a serious problem, the real problem and the real criminal organizers of it are home-grown.

It will not be countered by risible circuses demonstrating state power, such as the deployment of Sukhoi fighters to Bali to fly cover for the chartered aircraft transporting Bali Nine prisoners Myuran Sukumaran, who became an artist in jail, and Andrew Chan, who took holy orders while incarcerated, to their place of death. Or by the contingents of armed police that were also, astonishingly, deemed necessary.

Transporting two convicts can be done, with the assistance of handcuffs if necessary, by police and prison officers. Barnum & Bailey three-ring circuses are superfluous. Both men had become model prisoners who had contributed to rehabilitation programs at Kerobokan that are a tribute both to them and to the prison authorities.

We’re aware of certain darker elements in Sukumaran’s post-conviction behaviour that are not to his credit, but that’s rather beside the point now and in any case predated his obvious rehabilitation. Neither he nor Chan was going to attempt to escape. The Australian SAS was not going to swoop from the sky and snatch them away.

The President’s predecessor, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and members of the new government from the vice-president down seem to have understood this very well. They offered advice that it was possible to look at things on a case by case basis – and at the execution orders when these were slipped across the presidential desk for signature. They advised that Indonesia’s real interests would be better served by pulling back from the “kill everyone” formula. Even Prabowo Subianto, Jokowi’s strongman rival last year when the President was running on a human rights ticket, said so.

There is now a revitalized push among Indonesians to abolish capital punishment. It’s unlikely to go anywhere fast; but things are moving – and that’s forward, not backwards.

Ah, Daylight!

And now for some light relief: the Bali program of the 2015 Europe on Screen festival in Indonesia. This was at Pan Pacific Nirwana at Tanah Lot on May 2-3. It’s a great location to watch a movie. The waves rolling into the beach almost seem part of the film set.

The film on May 3 was Daglicht (Daylight) made by Eyeworks in the Netherlands in 2013 and directed by Diederik van Rooijen. It was adapted from the 2008 book by Marion Pauw that won the Golden Noose Dutch Crime award. The film stars Angela Schijf and is a little noir (it also has a different ending). But it deals in a compelling way with autism and the plot keeps you on your toes. The English subtitling was very good. Perhaps for Indonesian screenings subtitling should also be in Bahasa.

We had a chat with producer Judith Hees about films in the works. That was another highlight of the evening. Eyeworks, whose main work is in TV, made the series What Really Happens in Bali. We didn’t chat about that.

The film on May 2 was the British production Rush (2013) portraying the merciless 1970s rivalry between Formula One rivals James Hunt and Niki Lauda. The Europe on Screen Bali program was supported by the charity SoleMen, whose best foot forward Robert Epstone was present. He was shoeless but in fine form as always.

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

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Apr. 29, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

An Orwellian Travesty

Putu Sumantra, who is head of Bali’s animal husbandry and livestock service but who keeps providing evidence that he would be better not allowed out with a broom and instructions to sweep the steps, would like the public not to oppose the killing of “feral” dog populations by provincial animal control officers.

He says that the final solution decided on by the Bali authorities in their latest guaranteed to fail response to the seven-year-long rabies outbreak is necessary to eliminate the risk of unvaccinated dogs mingling with the vaccinated crowd and diminishing the level of disease protection. Maybe he’s from Planet Pluto. Perhaps they really do things differently there. Perhaps Governor Made Mangku Pastika is from Pluto too. He’s backing this latest piece of madness.

Sumantra, reported in the Indonesian language Bali Post newspaper, also hinted that he didn’t want people to be influenced by the views of the anti-killing lobby. In the invidious nature of the times, that’s code for “foreign” animal welfare organizations and namby-pamby westerners. He not only wants to shoot the dogs, he’d like to shoot the messengers too.

No matter that global experience shows that rabies control and eventual eradication can be achieved through carefully coordinated and rigorously financially audited vaccination campaigns. Humane reduction of numbers through sterilization and education to improve treatment of dogs that live alongside people in their villages then nurtures a healthy dog population.

This is not some radical activist program. It is the accepted world benchmark mandated by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization. What’s more, it works. There is no reason why it should not work in Bali, except of course that it requires careful coordination, exemplary leadership, and rigorous, responsible management.

There are very few “feral” dogs in Bali, something else the authorities know very well. The Bali dog is an independent spirit but generally has a place, if not a home. Most are not formally “owned”, but the latest research indicates that up to 95 percent informally belong within their community.

There is the beginning of a groundswell of resistance among the Balinese to the promiscuous killing of street dogs. There is sensitivity on that point. This must be why when he announced the commencement of a vaccination campaign in Denpasar (as part of the latest underfunded and under-resourced effort) Sumantra said that dogs without collars would be captured and tested for the virus.

Several of the unpleasant characters in the political novels of George Orwell would be very pleased with Sumantra’s mastery of propaganda and disinformation. Rabies can only be positively identified from brain tissue. To obtain a test sample, you have to kill the dog.

Seven years after an isolated imported case of canine rabies occurred on southern Bukit and no one noticed for an astonishing length of time and the disease broke out from there, it is now endemic to the entire island and people are still dying. It is most prevalent in Buleleng, Bangli and Karangasem.

Flexible Format 

Bali is to host the world’s first International Yoga Day (it’s on Jun. 21) at the invitation of the Indian government. The day was proposed by the Indian prime minister to the United Nations with the goal of promoting universal aspiration of physical and mental wellbeing by way of practising yoga.

The day is planned to feature tutorials presented by influential yoga practitioners, competitions for best practitioner, and an attempt to set a world record for the largest practice of yoga.

We’re a bit rusty, but we might brush up on our five basic positions and drop in at the Bajra Sandhi Monument in Renon on the day. The timing is a tad awkward, though. On Sundays at The Cage, we always celebrate First Coffee at 7am.

Substance, Not Froth

If Muhammad Arwani Thomafi, that chap from the National Development Party who wants to ban beer – and not just from mini-markets, he wants to ban it totally – would like to get his head around a real problem as opposed to an imaginary one, he might care to look at the latest UNESCO report on education.

It shows that in 2012 there were 1,336,000 Indonesian youngsters who weren’t attending primary school, double the figure from 2000. While enrolments doubled in early childhood or pre-primary education, from 24 percent in 2000 to 48 percent in 2012, it’s still far short of the indicative target of 80 percent set in the Education for All goals, launched in 2000.

It contrasts poorly with Malaysia (70 percent), Vietnam (79) and Brunei (92).

Change of Seasons

Four Seasons veteran Uday Rao, who was manager at the Sayan resort, has moved to Jimbaran as general manager of both the seaside property and Sayan. He plans to create new synergies between the two properties to give Four Seasons guests a truly Bali experience.

A resort manager will be appointed at Sayan.  The two-resort GM is not a novel concept. The jovial John O’Sullivan, now in Mexico and still with FS, held a similar position in the past.

There’s another move of interest to record. Marian Carroll, formerly chief spruiker at the Ayana-Rimba resort complex up the hill, has moved to Four Seasons as director of public relations. We look forward to catching up with her in her new hat, at a Ganesha gallery exhibition opening perhaps, or (if we’re really good) the fabulous beachside Sundara. Just for a tonic-water with a lemon twist, of course.

My Hat!

It was good to see the Ubud Food Festival website go live on Apr. 22. There’s nothing to beat fine food or, except in a few circumstances, Ubud as a venue in which to eat it. It’s also a good place to chat about books, but we have to wait until later in the year for the latest incarnation of Janet DeNeefe’s firstborn festival, the writers’ and readers’.

There’s one event at the food festival (which runs from Jun. 5-7) that as well as serving delicious edibles also serves as an allegory for the little town that’s growing like Topsy in which it will take place. It’s on Jun. 7 and it’s a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.

In Lewis Carroll’s wonderful tale, Alice in Wonderland, such an event takes place. (It’s in chapter seven if you want to refresh your memory). In it, Alice approaches a large table set under the tree outside the March Hare’s house and finds the Mad Hatter and the March Hare taking tea. They rest their elbows on a sleeping Dormouse who sits between them. They tell Alice that there is no room for her at the table, but Alice sits anyway.

(Well, as you would…)

The March Hare then offers Alice wine, but there is none. She tells the March Hare that his conduct is uncivil, to which he rejoins that it was uncivil of her to sit down without being invited. The Mad Hatter enters the conversation, saying that Alice’s hair “wants cutting.” Alice says he is rude and he responds with a riddle: “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” Alice attempts to answer the riddle, which begins a big argument about semantics.

There is silence after this until the Mad Hatter asks the March Hare the time. But the March Hare’s watch, which measures the day of the month, is broken, and the Mad Hatter becomes angry. He blames the March Hare for getting crumbs on the watch when the March Hare was spreading butter on it. The March Hare dips the watch in his tea, dejectedly remarking that “It was the best butter.”

The food festival grew out the culinary elements of earlier writers’ shows, prompted by feedback from people who said they’d like to sample much more of the spicy bits (pedas as opposed to panas) and in bigger portions.

The festival’s Mad Hatter’s Tea Party sounds fun, though hopefully it will be better organized than its original namesake. Well, we’re sure it will be. It will feature fare from Janice Wong, Asia’s leading pastry chef, and Angelita Wijaya in a long table setting. Apparently you should wear your favourite hat.

The festival website has all the details of the three-day event.

Flash Outfit

Sharp-eyed Aussie sheila Marian Carroll, mentioned above in quite another context, reports a traffic event on the Ngurah Rai Bypass recently that is even more astonishing than most. She was bowling down the highway in broad daylight when she passed a man on a motorbike who had chosen to stand out from the rest of buzzing, ducking and weaving crowd by riding stark naked.

Something boggles. We hope it’s the mind. Carroll didn’t say whether she’d seen that the naked man was being pursued by an angry fully-clothed one. Possibly then it was just a matter of choice to bolt in the buff, and not an emergency escape from the consequences of being caught embarrassingly in flagrante.

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

 

HECTOR’S DIARY, Bali Advertiser, Apr. 15, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

A Line in Their Sand

Developer tycoon Tomy Winata, who rose from street ice-pop seller to become one of Indonesia’s richest men and whose substantial and rightly recognized philanthropic ventures include helping the poor and saving Sumatran tigers (and protecting mangroves; we kid you not) is having a rough trot with his plans to destroy more than 700 hectares of mangroves in Benoa Bay to build hotels, a convention centre and an entertainment complex.

The plan has the approval and support of Governor Made Mangku Pastika, though why this should be so has long been something of a mystery. Perhaps it is connected with Pastika’s wish to see millions of Chinese tourists in Bali. They travel in corralled but otherwise unmanageable packs, so Winata’s proposed seaside attraction might at least provide space for all their buses to park.

Digging up the mangroves and destroying a precious marine habitat requires 23 million cubic metres of sand to be dumped in their place. Winata’s company Tirta Wahana Bali International would like to dredge that sand from East Lombok.

Governor Zainul Majdi of West Nusa Tenggara doesn’t like this idea at all. The Apr. 5 issue of the useful publication Lombok Guide reported his view as being that the plans were the reverse of beneficial as “the disadvantages outweighed the advantages”. Doubtless the crabs and fish of the Benoa mangroves would agree. So would the Benoa fishermen whose livelihoods are to be expropriated so that Winata and others can get even richer at the expense of Bali’s unique natural environment and traditional human society.

Governor Zainul has formally filed a letter rejecting the plan with the Forest and Environment Ministry’s Centre for Environmental Impact Analysis. The Lombok Guide reported what he said when advising of his action. His words are worth thinking about:

“Lombok Island has a small island ecosystem and must be maintained, both on land and at sea. We want to guard this area so we can pass it on to the next generation. Therefore, we won’t permit anything that can destroy the environmental quality in West Nusa Tenggara.”

Karmic Payback

Still with the Lombok Guide – it is essential reading at The Cage: We had a giggle when we read that Governor Zainul Majdi was a little shirty about PLN (in its West Nusa Tenggara incarnation) because of the continual blackouts it was visiting upon his province.

He was particularly miffed about them not even bothering to reply to his correspondence, reminded them publicly of their corporate charter (it involves supplying power, which may surprise them) and threatened to report them for doing dodgy business. We sympathize. Monopolies everywhere are as uncommunicative as possible.

But we shouldn’t have giggled. It was incautious in the Karmic sense. The day after we did, PLN (in its defective Bali incarnation) turned the power off at The Cage for several hours. Since on the previous evening, after Easter libations had been taken to excess, we had not been bothered to recharge our laptop or our mobile phone, the morning in question was rather flat and unproductive.

Our Favourite Dish

A Moroccan ambience has always attracted The Diary. It’s nothing to do with kif, really, or Orwell’s diaries, or even Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. It’s much more to do with Moroccan food and coffee, especially when these are evocatively teamed with the warm Berber colours and tones of the western Maghreb.

So we were pleased to hear from our favourite dish, Diana Shearin, that Café Cous Cous is the place to go for same, if you can find your way through the traffic to reach the new establishment in Jl Bumbak, Gg Pulau, at Umalas. We’ve promised to try.

Still Barking Mad

Rabies is re-emerging as a threat to Bali, with another death from the preventable disease in Bangli regency and clear indications that the required 70 per cent vaccination screen in the canine community is nowhere near reality and that rabies must be assumed to be both present and a deadly threat everywhere throughout the island.

This situation is made even grimmer by a silly (and dangerous) dispute between Bali’s health department and the suppliers of the Indonesian-made human anti-rabies vaccine used in the public system here, the Bandung-based BioFarma. The health authorities said in early April that vaccine supply was sufficient for only two weeks at prevailing levels of demand.

Provincial health director Dr Ketut Suarjaya told local media (on Apr. 5): “There are only 9,000 vials left of the VAR, this could last from two to three weeks. The average number of dog bites a day is roughly 120; one person requires four vials of the vaccine.”

The shortage is not one of supply, but of argument over the price of the vaccine. Last year’s agreed price was Rp. 155,000 a vial (that’s around US$13). This year, so the health department says, BioFarma is advertising a price per vial of Rp. 78,000 (US$6.50) but is refusing to supply it at that price.

The terms of the contractual agreement between the Bali health department and BioFarma are of course invisible in the thickets of dysfunction that pass for public administration here. It would be unreasonable to compel a private company to supply material at sub-economic cost, but it is also criminally stupid to risk running out of essential protection against an invariably fatal disease because of a commercial dispute.

Preventing internationally notifiable diseases is – or it should be – a function of the central government. Measures such as ensuring there is sufficient vaccine available in areas where it is needed are too important to be left to take their chances in a confusing mishmash of sight-impaired bureaucracies.

Someone needs to take responsibility. What’s that? Do we hear a rush for the doors?

Show it Off

The Bali Animal Welfare Association has an interesting opportunity for designers who would like to showcase their work in a contest to choose designs to feature in BAWA’s 2015 line of T-shirts and ecologically responsible bags.

BAWA wants designs with international appeal that represent what the animals of Bali mean to the artist and how the artist has been positively affected by the association’s work to nourish and protect Bali’s dogs and other animals.

Participants can enter up to three original designs and up to five designs will be chosen to be featured on merchandise sold to raise funds at BAWA shops and events, including overseas. Submissions close on Apr. 23. See BAWA’s website for details.

Resourceful Crowd

Marine and fisheries minister Susi Pudjiastuti turned out at a function in Jakarta on Mar. 31 to help launch a very worthwhile initiative – the Indonesian chapter of Women in Global Business. The actual launch was performed by the new Australian ambassador, Paul Grigson, who replaced Greg Moriarty in December 2014 but remained officially in purdah (as is the form) until he presented his credentials to President Joko Widodo on Mar. 19.

Businesses owned and operated by women are one of the fastest growing economic sectors. The international program launched on Mar. 31 supports businesswomen who want to take their products and services to the world by offering a central source of information and resources, support and connection.

Minister Susi, formerly an entrepreneur and head of charter airline Susi Air, and Grigson spoke at the gathering along with Indonesian and Australian women entrepreneurs and role models. The global resource centre is sponsored by ANZ, an Australian bank.

It’s good to diarize Ambassador Grigson now he can be seen publicly. Readers may remember that when the new British ambassador, the engaging tweeter Moazzam Malik, presented his credentials to President Widodo late last year, he forgot his letter from the Queen and had to leap from his limo and run back to get it. We do hope Grigson remembered his billet-doux from the Queen’s Australian viceroy and didn’t have to do the same.

Way to Go

Back in the day, when Sex and the City was all the rage with the distaff class, the on-screen antics of Kim Cattrall (Samantha in the series) were matters of very deep personal disinterest. But a little reference in the British newspaper The Guardian recently revealed the real Kim, and she is to our taste.

She said this: “The men I’ve been with have all been pleasant-enough looking. But for me, sex starts in the brain. What’s going on lower down doesn’t make me want to possess someone; it’s usually a little twinkle about them or a sense of humour.”

Got it! A good giggle is just the ticket.

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

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Apr. 1, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

In a Word: Tosh

Proposals lately aired that would further limit the number of foreign workers in Indonesia are sensible. As a medium- to long-term strategy they are surely free of any downside. Though that would be in the context of the further development of the nascent ASEAN free market where, as in the European Community, state borders and indeed national citizenship would become progressively less important.

But most foreign workers in Indonesia are not “white”, as economic ministers looking for nationalistic headlines like to suggest. That old pejorative is code for “former colonial oppressors and their running dogs”. Indonesians are not disadvantaged because 70 years of independence has failed to free them from the fiscal drag of the colonial era. Instead, they are not as advantaged as they could be, because their governments have failed for seven decades to build an open, educated society and legislate for the competitive economy that would then have developed.

Nationalistic claptrap offers nothing of value. It produces only deflective, self-serving political rhetoric.  The economy does not run on rhetoric. It runs on money. If Indonesians desire progress, which they sensibly do, the ex-colonial cringe is a tiresome mindset they should have sent to the junkyard long ago.

A real economic imperative facing Indonesia is foreign investment. The national investment board, announcing recently that a “one-stop-shop” would soon open (good luck with all the sub-national impediments, chaps) said it estimated US$23 billion in planned investment was forgone in the five years 2007-2012 because regulatory and administrative holdups, and endemic corruption, chased it away.

So far as employment goes, if there are Indonesian workers who can do the job, no one in their right mind would recruit anyone else (in Indonesia). But what’s needed is an effective middle economy in the huge space between local global-list enterprises and the small-to-micro business sector (both of which work well).

That requires not only coordinated policies that actually work and are implemented, including foreign investment, but also a cultural change: No more “passing” people as qualified because not to do so would be culturally embarrassing (or invidious to the interests of and continued presence in Indonesia of the examiner); a real work ethic inspired from the top (that’s where the bosses work harder than those they employ); an education system that produces young people with well rounded global skills; and a health system that keeps people healthy and therefore productive.

It also requires effective public infrastructure, both physical and human. And last, though certainly not least, it needs government and business environments that are notable for minimal corruption and sound judicial decisions rather than the reverse of this.

“Expats” (a ridiculous word) have a limited role in Indonesia’s efforts to build a truly balanced economy. Foreign workers should be regulated by legislation, but in the context of an environment in which private profit (universally and fairly taxed as a revenue growth stream) is recognized and supported as a generator of wider wealth. Now there’s another vacant space that could and should be filled with objective, forward-thinking debate.

Take a Break

When the diary in Ubud, which is often because it’s a fun place to be – it’s got everything, after all, from spirit festivals to sex therapy (either amateur or professional) – we’re often to be found at Warung Semesta in Jl Monkey Forest. It has very nice coffee, a decent café-style menu, and reliable WiFi. The latter is essential these days since you carry your office with you in your laptop.

It’s attached to the Tegal Sari resort, which specializes in the Japanese tourist market but not exclusively so. As a drop-in spot for shopped-out shoppers, Semesta’s hard to beat, too, as it’s located just round the corner from where Jl Hanoman meets Jl Raya Pengosetan and segues into Jl Monkey Forest. (Hanoman is named after Hanuman, monkey hero of the Ramayana.)

The establishment is very near the monkey forest itself. A little troupe of macaques can sometimes be seen foraging in the mango trees outside or performing trapeze-style on the PLN wires.

Doris, Mate!

Dining über-casual the other night at Warung In-Salt on Jl Pantai Balangan at Ungasan turned into a better experience than ever. Tony Eltherington, aka Doris Day for reasons that are still not fully explained but who is the diary’s favourite mariner for all sorts of reasons his modest approach to achievement forbids him to boast or boost, was also there and in fine style.

He was shore-based at the time but told us he was shortly back off to his floating home, a nicely fitted out former West Australian crayfish boat, for its next tour of duty to the Mentawai Islands and beyond with surfing-diving-fishing fans in tow.

He gave us one of his new corporate T-shirts as a memento. It’s a fetching black and has a logo which – from a distance – resembles that of a particularly sought-after brand of motorbike that goes vroom in an expensively classy way.

Bombast Away!

The risk Bali faces of slipping behind in the race to win market share in the highly competitive international tourism market has lately come to the fore as a topic of official conversation. That this has been primarily in a constructive sense is a significant benefit. Applied analysis beats boring bombast any time, as an indicator of which of the paths thus far less travelled should in fact be chosen.

State reform minister Yuddy Christiano recently said that despite Bali’s popularity there were still areas that required improvement, among them measures to avoid the slightest risk of not providing the best service. That’s a fair point. It depends on the view of the tourists concerned what service can be defined as best. But most people want things that work efficiently and on schedule.

Over to Bali tourism head Anak Agung Gede Putra Yuniarta, who points out that the key to maintaining visitor levels and providing a better experience in spite of rising costs lies in creativity and services.

His list of must-do’s includes creating tour packages that show visitors more of Bali and encourage repeat business, enough electricity, road infrastructure that gets tourists to and from their ooh and aah places without giving them a headache or a conniption, and improving the environment of tourism sites.

He also notes that domestic tourists these days can visit Singapore and Malaysia and spend less doing so than if they came to Bali.

In this context, efforts to build up the nascent Indian tourism trade would be boosted by direct flights to Bali and free visas. Figures for January and February this year show 17,400 Indian tourists visited, up 47.5% on the same months last year.

It seems Indian tourists are impressed with the artistry and customs of Balinese Hinduism and yoga is a modern cultural connection. There was a conference in Nusa Dua on Mar. 26-28 from which further Indian media promotion was expected.

Free visas are certainly an issue. The government last year expanded the list of countries for which VOA charges would be removed and this year announced a further expansion, to 40 countries. Australia was on the first list but then wasn’t, the reason given being that it did not offer a reciprocal privilege to Indonesian travellers. Yes, well, perhaps someone was finding a plausible excuse after removing his foot from his mouth.

Now a court has ruled that free visas must be reciprocal or that they are otherwise illegal (apparently this is the intent of existing legislation). This is a further embarrassment for tourism minister tourism minister Arief Yahya. A significant number of countries on Jakarta’s fanfare of free visa felicities do not offer reciprocity. The dogs have been eating his homework yet again.

That’s the Spirit

The Bali Spirit Festival got under way in Ubud yesterday (Mar. 31) and runs until Sunday (Apr. 5). It’s in its eighth year. Like other song-and-dance shows on the calendar it may face problems in the future as the demographic of Bali tourism changes and Bali – inevitably – with this. But that shouldn’t worry inspirer-guru of the Global Celebration of Yoga, Dance & Music Meghan Pappenheim this year, or the happy-clapping collective which organizers said was expected to number 6000 and come from more than 50 countries.

There’s all the usual material at the festival’s two venues, one for the day-long workshops and the Agung Rai Museum of Art Open Stage for nightly world music concerts. Both venues also feature markets focusing on health and wellness through organic and healthy foods, crafts, clothing and merchandise.

But there was one item listed in an electronic promo that came our way about which we would be less than ecstatic if it was anything to do with us. It was something called Estatic Dance. Perhaps you stand rooted to the spot and fiddle with your cursor?

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

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

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

A Tale of Two Statues

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

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

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

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

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

A Hundred Shades of Grey

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

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

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

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

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

Hang on a Tic!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Move Along Now…

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

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

Interesting Thought

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

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

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

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

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

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Jan. 7, 2015

 

 

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

BAWA with a Bang

BAWA, the pre-eminent animal welfare organization on the island because of focused effort and the seminal role played by founder Janice Girardi in dealing with rabies when it broke out in Bali in 2008 – the disease is now endemic, but that’s Indonesian bureaucracy for you – ended 2014 with a bang, though not one that would frighten the doggies.

It held a Bridge to New Year fundraising dinner on Dec. 29 at Ubud’s Taksu Restaurant, an event at which the organization was able to brief guests on its plans for 2015 and beyond. It came complete with musical entertainment provided by BAWA staff members who, when they’re not doing their day jobs, sing and strum a guitar with enthusiastic aplomb.

Earlier in December BAWA announced a real coup. Ubud prince Cok De Piko (Tjokorda Gde Dharma Putra Sukawati) has become a BAWA ambassador and, because of his enduring love for dogs and particularly the very special Bali Dog, will be seen out and about with BAWA teams as they perform their daily work.

His favourite quote is from Mark Twain: “If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.” Cok De studied in Australia, where he did not adopt a dog because he wouldn’t have been able to leave it behind when he returned to Bali. That’s the sort of thinking casual pet owners the world over should get their heads around.

Ubud’s traditional royalty remains very influential in the local community and is extremely well connected where it matters.

On Jan. 3, BAWA hosted the third of its series of events at Kuta Beachwalk, themed around its Adopt-Learn-Chat with a Vet program. That came along with really good music that ran late into the evening; a selection of beautiful puppies; ready-to-chat veterinarians; and some lovely art from Urban Sketchers. The event was sponsored by Beachwalk, Legian Beach Hotel, and others including Scooby-Doo, the dog food-delivery people.

BAWA’s Christmas card was interesting, by the way. You might say it was highly traditional. There was snow everywhere. This did not bring to mind Snowing in Bali, Kathryn Bonella’s book about the drug scene. Instead, it reminded us that snow looks great on Christmas cards and is murder anywhere else. We did wonder what the lovely Bali dogs and the little monkey on the BAWA card were thinking.

Please, Do Amuse

Jade Richardson, the peripatetic scribbler, recommenced her writers’ workshops in Ubud this month. This is good to see. Her approach to the written word is unique and she has a mind that is fun to engage. It’s no surprise that in Bali, where Ozymandias still lives in self-nominated splendour and where so many have built glittering local reputations upon the geographically distant rubble of pasts imperfect, she’s not on everyone’s most-favoured list.

Her mission with The Write Path is to get intending authors of books, biographies, short stories, poetry and those with ideas for articles or scripts fictional or factual, to take that first bold step and release their inner muse. Richardson, who is not one with whom to trifle, says that her process with writers “releases a genie from the bottle – meaning that I can assist those who have the call to write to discover a genius for storytelling that they never knew they had.”

She started her workshops in Bali and they’ve since been to Ecuador, the Galapagos and Thailand and online. It’s good to see her home again. It’s worth looking at www.heartbookwriting.com too.

Play-tonic

Plato always gets a good rap at The Cage. He’s well up Hector’s Top Ten Thinkers list. So it’s a bit sad, as he is so anciently a posthumous source, that his engaging aphorisms, real or otherwise, get co-opted by the ignorant for all sorts of nefarious purposes.

A case in point: On Dec. 28 there was an event at Dragonfly Village in Denpasar billed as Sensual/Sexual PlayDay – Conscious pleasure with consent, organized by someone called Matthias Schwenteck. This gentleman purloined for his own purposes the Platonic observation (one of the many Plato didn’t actually utter) that “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation”.

The event seemed more suited to Ubud, where lots of people like to spend their time examining their navels while harbouring the intent to get a close-up glimpse of someone else’s.

Perhaps the fixation with things better organized privately, or which are undertaken singularly in darkened rooms with the doors locked, really is spreading beyond the confines of Loopville.

Alpha Mail

An item a fortnight ago noted that the new British envoy to Indonesia, Moazzam Malik, was still ambassador-designate because he had not yet presented his letters of credence to President Joko Widodo.

Well, he hadn’t engaged in this ancient formality when we sent the previous diary in by its deadline. He did shortly thereafter, it seems, though this was not without a little last-minute hitch. He tweeted on Dec. 18, the big day: “Almost forgot my letter from the Queen – had to run back to get it.”

Banzai!

We had a pleasant drive (we jest) one Saturday evening recently when the Distaff decided she’d like sukiyaki for dinner and suggested we journey to Seminyak to enjoy the table-top cooking at Kaizan. We hadn’t been there for a while, so a plausible excuse to avoid the trip did not spring to mind.

But Kaizan wasn’t there – perhaps the extortionate rents now demanded in the area had driven it away – so we dined instead at another favourite nearby, Kuni’s, on seaweed salad, Gyu asupara maki, Gohan, Sukiyaki Nabe, and a delightful green tea mousse. This was accompanied in order by “one large Bintang two glass”, some rather pleasant sake and a nice plum wine.

The Distaff has a thing for Japan. This dates from many years ago. And for sukiyaki, ditto, though it is more a home-cooking dish than a fine-dining experience. Her view on sukiyaki, as on many things, is “Doko ga warui no desuka?” It’s a colloquial Japanese transliteration of an interrogative “What’s wrong with that?” And we agree.

The drive from Ungasan was another matter. Large numbers of idiots were dangerously riding their motorbikes and the drivers of all the tourist buses were clearly on speed. Half the street lights were out on the by-pass. There were Hindu ceremonies everywhere that required fierce-looking village guards armed with Star Wars-style magic wands to stop the traffic so that scattered little groups of celebrants could wander at will across the thoroughfare.

The airport traffic circle was mayhem as a result. Northbound traffic had formed eight (we counted) “lanes” to force a way into the circus. The Distaff closed her eyes and thought of sukiyaki while her driver, whom we know as Perpendicular Pronoun, edged and all but nudged his way through. It helps, we think, to have been a lemming in a former life.

He’s Cooking

Vyt Karazija, the inveterate blogger, was thinking virtually out loud on Facebook on Boxing Day evening as to whether he should go out to eat or stay home and cook. Neither prospect amused him. We (and others) tendered advice. Ours was simple and direct: “Easy. Starve.” In the end he decided to cook and explained why:

“The prospect was get dressed, release security cobras, then quickly lock up premises, don wet weather gear, get bike outside, lock gates, ride to restaurant while trying not to skid, fall off, get hit by some moron, park bike somewhere where it won’t fall over/get stolen/get flattened by some blind idiot with a Hummer, order food, get accosted by friendly drunk, argue about the ++ charges on the bill and then do everything in reverse just to get home.

“Then having to round up the security cobras and put them back in their boxes and pacify them because I forgot to pick up their mice for dinner.

“Or alternatively, cook dinner and eat it.”

It’s a piece of cake, really.

Dance Class

A chance remark the other day, offered by an acquaintance who may have been concerned that some might have missed the module on delicious irony when they were majoring in epithet, prompts us to say that we know the iconic Bali dance that tourists have been going ga-ga about since it was invented in the antiquity of the 1930s is called Kecak.

Readers may have noticed a reference or two to Kecap dances in the diary in recent times.

It is often called Kecap by tourists and in many less than scholarly references on that global kindergarten primer, the world-wide web. Kecap is sauce. Though it must not be confused with ketchup, which is to piquant what semolina is to Bubur Injin.

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