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THINGS THAT INTEREST, ENGAGE AND ENRAGE

Category: Australia

Property Bloom

HECTOR’S DIARY

His regular diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

HectorR

The Cage, Bali

Apr. 8, 2017

OK, so in Bali a property boom that will surely be unregulated – if it eventuates anywhere beyond the hype files of realtors – has about as much of a helpful impact as an algal bloom in fragile coral-fringed ocean waters, but we’ll try to be positive. Changes to Indonesia’s property laws that give foreign buyers leasehold rights for 80 years and access to local bank finance are good. They’re fair, for a start, and take account of the market that exists for such deals.

It’s true that Bali’s property market is unlike any other in the country – even Jakarta’s, where it’s underpinned by solidly productive industrial and commercial investment and a growing real economy – but at the same time, practically speaking, there’d be no property boom in Bali were it not for tourism, on which the investment sector of the economy is irrevocably based. So it also makes sense, of a sort, to facilitate private domestic and foreign investment in that job-creating area, as long as this doesn’t squeeze any more myopic local greed out of the souring Balinese lemon. That’s a long-shot option, of course.

Invitations to hop aboard the latest bus to paradise are popping up everywhere. One reached us the other day from Bali & World News and Views, an online thing that is run by Lawrence Bellefontaine, of PT. Bali. He has organised two free seminars in Sanur on Apr. 13 and Apr. 15 at which, he says, he will reveal the wealth to come to anyone who invests in what passes here for bricks and mortar.

There are certain fundamentals in the Bali property market that realtors of all stripes seek to explain away, if they cannot hide them. There’s been, so it is said, a “correction” in the market lately. Real estate is subject to the same range of cyclical factors as any other economic sector, so on the face of it that’s a fair statement.

It overlooks an essential point, however: that markets only work – indeed can only operate – when sellers meet buyers’ expectations. There’s a great deal of property in Bali that has been on the market for a very long time, because sellers put prices on their property that are more than buyers will pay. That’s the correction we need to have. This concept doesn’t suit sellers, of course, but that’s the way the crumbling cookie has always turned to dust.

It doesn’t suit realtors, either. They want to make a profit, and of course they should, for otherwise there’s very little point in being in business. But they’re increasingly unlikely to do so, except at the opportunistic margins, in the unregulated building environment here. A prime villa with sea views – just for example – becomes sub-prime the moment someone builds out that view. That they’re more than likely to do this very soon and compound their offence by building on your wall as well, ignoring regulated requirements for space between properties, makes it worse.

The key to proper property and development management is fair regulation that is enforced. Neither of these factors is present in Bali.

Gut Feeling

FACEBOOK’S capacity for instantly advising you of where friends are and their circumstances of the moment is of course very useful. Some of those old enough to remember the days when if you sailed away from the homeland you were never heard from again are still trying to come to grips with the fact that, these days, there’s nowhere to hide.

A note posted by one of our more peripatetic pals the other day reminded us of this modern benefit. “Breakfast in Bangkok”, his Facebook proclaimed. At the time, we hadn’t had the second morning cup of coffee before which persons possessing natural caution do not approach us. “As long as it’s not dinner in Dhaka, you should be right,” we replied.

Lala Land

IT’S not just this side of the Arafura Sea that you find bureaucratic nonsense under foot wherever you turn. A friend who has recently moved back to Australia from Bali relates a sorry tale of Aussie-style bureaucracy run amok. Having heard the tale in all its risible detail, we shall never again complain about Indonesian rules. Well, OK, we might, but you know what we mean.

Apparently, if you’re applying for a driver’s licence there, and not just renewing one, you must now provide details of your first Australian licence. It’s not clear why that should be the case. Surely the last valid licence would be sufficient.

Difficulties arise, in the Australian way, because state authorities issue driver’s licences and databases do not necessarily match and may in fact not be accurate.

It certainly prompts the thought that even if you are away from Australia for an extended period of time, you should try to renew your driver’s licence on expiry. If you have an address in Australia, that’s simple enough, though of course you need to be there to renew.

On a related matter, new banking rules in Australia mean that even as a long-established customer with a local address, a registered signature, and all the other bumf that you need on file these days, including a tax file number, you cannot now establish, say, a new term deposit (or even add to one) without fronting up at the bank to sign in person.

No doubt the fat controllers fear that retired folk on reduced incomes trying to scratch an extra measly sou out of catatonic depositor interest rates are actually undercover agents of the global money laundering conspiracy.

Barker Beach

We spent a pleasant hour or so the other day at Karang Beach in Sanur, where locals and foreigners alike look after the beach dogs as if they are family. It was lovely to see. They’re friendly beings (the dogs we mean; the people are nice too) and appreciate the food and contact they get. Most are still statistically underweight and have health problems, but they’re better than many, and that’s fabulous.

Sanur benefits from a strong sense of community and the extensive canine health programs that local banjars have embraced. Among other things it has eliminated rabies as threat in the area. They’ve done this via efforts by local and overseas not-for-profit animal welfare agencies, and an innovative project that Udayana University is running as a result. It’s good to see.

Just Joshing

ALL Fools’ Day has now passed again for the year. We decided not to post a diary on Apr. 1 because of this factor, even though, by many marks, it’s always all-fools’ day around here, as well as around the globe.

The origins of April Fools are obscure, but whether it stems from confusion in 16th century France over the new Gregorian calendar which moved New Year’s Day to Jan. 1, from ancient Roman and Greek spring rites, or even from Holi, the Indian Hindu festival, it’s a day to believe even less than ever of what you might read and see.

HectorR

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

Blocked Roads, Anyone?

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

His regular diet of worms and other delicacies

Bali, Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017

 

BALI’S singular contributions to Chaos Theory are well known. They fuel debate, sometimes, but mostly they result only in huffing and puffing that gets no one anywhere, or else create fractious ennui, quite often of the terminal variety.

It’s when experiments such as those with traffic management that have been tried previously – and have been found to fail –are wheeled out again with all the pomp and circumstance that such diversions demand, that it gets, well … funny.

So it is with Kuta’s old-but-now-it’s-new-again one-way traffic mismanagement system, the brainchild of the new police chief. We haven’t yet dared venture into the melee ourselves, though one day we’ll have to, we suppose, but friends who have report that the chaos is far from theoretical.

Say Cheese!

IT’S been a breezy in Bali lately. It’s La Niña, who seems determined this time around to make her presence fully felt. As well as being breezy, it’s been very wet. It usually rains in the wet season, this being its climatic purpose, though in a range of variables that, in these days of Google-supplied expertise, seem to worry the punters something dreadful.

The Cage, of course, is leaking. Bowls of all sorts and sizes have been conscripted to the cause of at least trying to contain the drip-water until the regular hurried tip-outs down the sink regain the liquid volume capacity for the process to continue. Some people claim their houses do not leak. We’d like to believe them, just for the fun of it.

It’s the breezy bit of it that has caught our attention, though.

We had a lovely weekend guest at The Cage, who bitterly complained that as she sat on the edge of the swimming pool teasing the water with her toes and eating cheese on toast, a nasty gust of wind had blown away the fromage du jour from her breakfast, even though she had a tight grip on the multigrain thing it lay upon. She’s from Melbourne, so it’s surprising that fickle weather strikes her as odd.

The growing potholes on the Goat Track Highway to our place are a concern, however, even if it’s torrential rain and raging runoff rather that’s to blame, rather than the overly zealous zephyrs that have been whipping around. Even chucked-in pebbles covered imperfectly by a thin skin of concrete are not usually affected by wind shear at surface level.

Chump Day

IT’S not often that the Oddzone makes the news anywhere else, unless it’s because of bushfires or reports of man-eating wombats. But Donald Chump helped ping the radar recently. He’s sticking resolutely to his serially twittered promises to shake up everything from Mexican imports to the timetable for Armageddon. To the astonishment of many around the world, he is still supported in this grand strategy by a large number of Americans.

It was one of those avoidable train-wreck things. A one-hour comfy chat with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (later identified in the dysfunctional White House’s phone call schedule as the President of Australia and in another reference named Trunbull) ended abruptly after 25 minutes. The Donald, holding forth in the Oval Office and in the presence of his national security adviser (retired gung-ho Marine Corps general Mike Flynn) and his hapless media man, Sean Spicer, who were taking notes, went ape-shit.

That Australia is about the staunchest ally the US has anywhere, and certainly in the critically important Asian region, must have gone out of his mind. Or perhaps it had never managed to break into it.

Then again, perhaps he had been advised that with Australia, American leaders can administer beatings on the basis that these will continue until morale improves, in the certain knowledge that Australia’s own brand of foreigner funk means any protests will either be non-existent or of the pipsqueak variety.

In this rare incidence of immaterial cause and effect, Chump can fulminate about foreigners to domestic affect without any overly embarrassing whickering becoming evident at the other end of the megaphone.

The cause of this episode of egregious trumpeting (and twittering) was the deal Australia did with President Obama under which – as a further sorry example of its lack of moral fibre – Australia would ship people from its detention camps for unauthorised migrants in Nauru and PNG to the USA. Trump characterised this a dumb deal. We’re about as close to agreeing with him, on that, as we’re ever likely to be on anything much at all: though the deal was not so much dumb as disgraceful.

But the trumpet voluntary from the Oval Office gave everyone a much-needed giggle too. We particularly liked The Washington Post’s take on the affray. Dana Millbank, in a lovely opinion piece, gets to the nub of America’s historical difficulties with its fractious ally in the South-West Pacific. He writes: “Vegemite? Mel Gibson? Dual-flush toilets? They totally had it coming Down Under.”

And that’s not all. He went on to note this, complete with Trump-style all-caps for play school emphasis: “There are a lot of bad dudes Down Under, and for years, Australia has been sending them to America. They sent third-rate Air Supply, which has NO TALENT. ‘Lost in Love’? Pathetic. And Mel Gibson — a dope! Olivia Newton-John: highly overrated — and that ‘Grease’ reunion she’s planning will be a TOTAL EMBARRASSMENT. Crocodile Dundee is a true lowlife, and Nemo is a dumb clownfish. SAD!”

Ridicule is such a useful corrective.

Pushing It

THE desire of the established area-based taxi cartels to protect their turf might be understandable – especially in the case of Bali where economic trickle-down effects are very limited – but maintaining them does not make market sense.

Neither does it take into account advances in communications technology. A taxi that can be summoned by instant message, and go directly to a GPS-located address, has value for customers who wish to use such services.

There’s a lot of “tolak” that goes on here. Tolak Reklamasi, which relates to the unacceptability of the notion that rich people can get even richer by building over large parts of Benoa Bay, is sensible. In contrast, Tolak Uber and Grab (the non-cartel taxi options) is protectionism, plain and simple, and does the consumer no good at all.

It’s entirely possible to argue that taxi companies should be regulated – they should – and be properly audited and pay their share of tax. So should Uber and Grab, and any other operators that might emerge in the future. But regulation is not something at which the authorities here are spectacularly brilliant.

In that scenario, an area arrangement makes some kind of sense, as long as it allows for new technology out-of-area contractors also to work. The airport taxi cartel is a particularly difficult option for travellers. Since only airport taxis can operate out of the airport, they can (absent enforced regulation) charge whatever they like. They do.

The recent reported affray at the airport, targeting Uber and Grab and allegedly involving air force police, was disgraceful. Airport security is vital – and the presence of the military in the form of air force police personnel is sensible in that context – but that’s where military involvement should end.

Cartel protection, harassing drivers, and making them do punishment push-ups at the roadside is an appalling tactic. Indonesia has civilian authorities that make, apply and enforce the law.

HectorR

Hector writes a monthly diary in the Bali Advertiser. The next appears on Mar. 1.

Law v Lore

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

His diet of worms and other delicacies

Bali, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017

 

THERE’S a great deal of misinformation about on the issue of Sharia law, particularly in western countries. So when Ubud identity Darsih Gede passed along a handy brief from a long-time friend, an American woman married to an Indonesian Muslim, we thought it would be good to share.

Here it is:

“If you are anyone who feels fear when you hear the words ‘Sharia law,’ or interpret it to mean that something is coming to get you, or will be imposed upon you, I really hope you’re listening.

“Time for a little ‘Sharia Law 101’:

” 1. All Muslims believe in Sharia law.

“2. No. 1 is true because Sharia law is the religious law governing the members of the Islamic faith; it is formed by what it written in the Quran (Muslim holy book) and in the Hadiths (reports describing the words, actions, or habits of the Islamic prophet Muhammad).

“3. Do not confuse Sharia law with the laws that exist in countries that call themselves ‘Islamic’ or happen to have a Muslim majority: Absolutely not the same thing. For example: the fact that women in Saudi Arabia aren’t allowed to drive has nothing to do with Sharia law or Islam; it has to with men trying to control women under the guise of religion just like they try to do in various ways in the United States.

“4. Part of Sharia law (Al-Baqarah 256, from the Quran) states that ‘There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion.’

“So, to summarise: Sharia law is something that Muslims follow willingly, and no one can force you to become Muslim (aka: someone who believes in Sharia law).

“It would be great if people from other religions wouldn’t attempt to force people to follow their religious leanings by attempting to legislate their views into civil laws that are applied to the masses, especially in a country like the United States, wherein religious freedom is supposed to exist.

“Thanks for listening. ~ A Muslim (aka: someone who believes in Sharia law)

“Note: Please, find a Muslim and ask them questions instead reading articles from Fox News and/or listening to what uninformed people like Newt Gingrich have to say about Islam. They have no idea what they are talking about, ever.”

That’s a message that needs to be heard far more widely than only in the USA, where a tidal surge of untreated dyspepsia has just been converted into bother boots under the big desk in the Oval Office.

Trumped

THERE is something seriously wrong with the newly inaugurated 45th President of the United States. It’s not his policies that worry me in this instance, though many of them seem to be based on a Locker Room-Neocon-Robber Baron belief that the clocks can be turned back to earlier imagined eras of American capitalist supremacy and gross private wealth and some are frankly execrable.

It’s his behaviour. Half a million invisible people were at his inauguration. He lost the popular election by 2.5 million ballots because undocumented aliens and other illegals didn’t vote for him. The CIA loves him to death and he took along his own cheer squad to demonstrate this when he visited Langley. All three of these things are plainly delusional. He has senior people on his staff whose fortitude doesn’t extend to being able to tell him so, and who, moreover, will tell lies for him. That’s a real worry.

Perhaps it wouldn’t matter if he were just another Idi Amin intent on gazumping some poor little country somewhere that no one really cares about, even if they should. And we all understand the political imperative to deliver something that will make the people hum, since, as a lovely old ditty puts it, the alternative is to vanish with a boot up the bum.

But it’s America we’re talking about: the place some people still think of as the leader of the free world.

At this point in the Trump presidency the best policy is still to laugh. It’s his Beer Hall Moment, even though his oratory gets nowhere near the exclamatory splendour achieved by a certain murderous malcontent of Central European origin and late gross notoriety.

A beer hall rant is something the duplicitous Trump might manage. He’d be a sorry failure at a Nuremberg rally.

His trade policy, which during the election campaign was taken by the duped masses to mean he’d bring factories and jobs back from China where successive American governments and multinational corporations had sent them, risks a trade war with China.

This in turn creates risk for other nations rather closer to the locus of China’s acquisitive predispositions than the USA, and, in turn, may prompt political responses that (to take up the point a late Japanese emperor made in his surrender broadcast at the end of World War II) may not develop to our advantage.

His Mexican wall policy is risible, though it’s of less concern globally than other aspects of his Bonfire of the Vanities platform.

We could go on. But we’re not quite ready for Seppuku, our hara-kiri moment, just yet, so we won’t.

Except to have a lovely laugh at a report that a Native American nation in Arizona whose traditional lands include 120 kilometres of Mexican border won’t be allowing the POTUS to erect his ridiculous wall along it.

Mexico is known for Montezuma’s Revenge (think Bali Belly). Perhaps Mr Trump is about to experience Geronimo’s Revenge as well. That thought, at least, gives us a smile.

Not So Bad

WHEN sometimes it may seem that one’s life is a mess, or at the very least, is conflicted, it is useful to have friends in far more interesting places.

An acquaintance who works in West Africa and who seems to spend a deal of time in Burkina Faso advised yesterday that he had just checked in (again) at the Hotel Splendid in Ouagadougou, the country’s capital city.

“Bullet holes have been removed now,” was his laconic situation report. We shot back a note: “Splendid!”

Rice Field View

WE made a brief foray to Ubud this week, to stay with an amusingly lovely French friend who – we discovered – has a fondness for North African music, which is right up our alley. Her house, in the rice fields and just completed, is up an alley too. The Diary’s trusty mini-SUV just made it through, in L for go really slowly, exterior mirrors retracted.

It’s lucky we were staying the night. The little thoroughfare back to the main road might have been a challenge on a rainy evening after a glass or two of red. It was eminently negotiable the next afternoon, by which time enough restorative coffee had been taken. Though we did take the precaution of switching on the iPod’s drive-time playlist to drown out the Distaff’s exclamatory outbreaks.

On the way home through the mayhem of pre-Gong Xi Fa Chai traffic we decided to extend our French experience. We stopped at La Tartine on the bypass at Sanur for refreshments dans le style français. The scrambled feta salad was wonderful (the Distaff had quiche Lorraine) and we were quite unable to resist trying the Unicorn Poop afterwards, as a shared desert. You really can’t beat the French for chocolate cake.

Back to Work

WELL, that’s in the notional sense, since we are retired gentlefolk who live quietly and whose singular mission is to fail to ripple anyone’s pond. But being of Australian provenance, one of us fully and the other by long adoption, we’ve always found it difficult to get back into harness until Australia Day has come and gone, which it now has.

It is celebrated on the same date that India celebrates its Republic Day. Perhaps this secretly inspires Australian non-monarchists, those chaps who are always looking for an excuse to fast-forward a forthcoming inevitability. Patience is not a public virtue in these days of instant crowd-funded issues.

Anyway, this weekend has been set aside for quill sharpening and post-it noting. Focused scribbling has recommenced.

Flaming Feathers

WELCOME to the year of the Red Rooster, aka Fire Rooster. If flaming roosters of our acquaintance – these include the Distaff – can get through it without setting their tail feathers on fire, good luck to them.

The other occupant of The Cage has just managed to survive his Year of the Monkey. It is surely a cruel joke that our zodiacal challenges should be consecutive. Thank goodness there are 12 years between run-ons. Or run-ins.

HectorR

Hector writes a monthly diary in the Bali Advertiser. His next appears on Feb. 1.

Another Round

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

His diet of worms and other tasty morsels

Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017

THE Bali authorities have accepted a proposal from the Japanese city of Kumamoto to help with rabies eradication, a duty they’ve managed to evade for nine years now despite help from local animal welfare charities, foreign governments and the United Nations.

Two months ago Governor Made Mangku Pastika visited Kumamoto, a city of around 1.4 million people that neighbours the slightly larger Fukuoka in Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan’s home islands. Now a team from Kumamoto has visited Bali for substantive talks on the issue. The Japanese city has successfully controlled rabies in cats – the disease vector there – through humane population control and properly managed vaccination programs.

The Bali plan involves Kumamoto University, which runs an alumni program in Indonesia, and the Kumamotu Indonesia Friendship Association (KIFA). That connection is facilitated through PT Karang Mas Sejathara, one of the operating arms of the Jakarta based corporation MidPlaza, owned by Rudy Suliawan whose wife Yoko is from Kumamotu. Its Bali enterprises include the Ayana and Rimba resort hotels on the Bukit.

A leading veterinarian who owns the Ryunosuke Animal Hospital in Kumamoto (Dr. Tokuda) said after the Jan. 12 meeting in Bali that the best method of eliminating rabies is to capture animals, vaccinate and sterilise them and then release them.

Of the successful program in Kumamoto, he said this: “Everyone worked hard so we could vaccinate and sterilize 1800 cats each week, allowing us to finish our work in two years. I am convinced that Bali could do the same.”

Well, so it could. It just needs to work at it.

Rabies broke out here in 2008 and is still a deadly threat. Rabid dogs have recently bitten a number of people in Sukawati in Gianyar and Kediri in Tabanan.

Police News

THREE men who until recently were employed as bouncers at La Favela in Seminyak, where a Ukrainian tourist who queried his bill was beaten so severely that he lost an eye, are having to explain themselves to police. This of itself is an advance in law enforcement in Bali.

Police have suggested bars and other places in need of on site security should employ properly trained personnel and not just whomever the locally franchised gang sends along. This too would enhance both public safety and civility.

Meanwhile, traffic police have reorganised the road system in Kuta in an attempt to regulate the area’s chronic gridlock. They’ve even made a map of the changes, which will start with a “socialisation” phase – here’s a map, look at it – and move to enforcement and traffic fines later.

Whether the new scheme will work is moot. Nothing much has in the past. Motorbikes traditionally ignore all the road rules anyway. Taxis cruising for fares at 10kmh have never yet been driven by anyone who would think for an instant that they should move over so non-touting traffic can move on. We’ll see.

The Lunar New Year (Jan. 28) should provide an early test of the gridlock reduction plan.

All Froth, No Lager

THE 45th President of the United States is now in office. President Trump is due the respect of the office he holds (protesting political opponents to note) and the democratic courtesy of a little time to show that he has policies and not just rhetoric to bring to the table.

His opponents must debate him in substance, though in the absence of substance to debate that can be difficult. They should do so with courtesy. Violent demonstrations are invidious and unhelpful. He will of course have his own political difficulties to overcome, given that the working class white population that voted for him doesn’t – now it understands what he was saying in the campaign – want him to take away their free health care, among other things.

It must be said that his inaugural speech did nothing to advance an argument that he has policies that will work. It had more of the echo of a Munich beer hall oration than anything else. And that is a worry.

He chose a song made famous by Frank Sinatra as the tune for his first dance at the inauguration ball: “My Way”. His daughter Nancy Sinatra, who wasn’t at the bash, tweeted that he should perhaps have remembered what its first line says. It says “And now the end is near.”

She later deleted the tweet, possibly a wise thing to do in a country as gun-fixated as America. But it was a delicious line and it gave us a very welcome grin on a bleak day.

Crumbs

SPEAKING of grins, the enigmatic “A”, who crafts the delightful weekly Eat Live Travel newsletter from Medan in Sumatra was at her peak – or possibly pique – in her latest. When it dropped into the in-box at The Cage and we read it, we had a fit of the giggles and had to break for coffee. But no biscuit: Read on to find out why.

Among other things, an article in The Guardian had caught her eye. It was headlined: Jakarta: The unlikely capital city of sex and swinging.

She particularly liked this one for its razor-sharp insights, such as this: “Morality is almost always linked to sexual behaviour, not corruption, say, or mendacity in public office.”

The icing on the cake was apparently supplied by Twitter comments from bamboozled expat Jakarta residents, such as: ‘This makes me see Jakarta in a whole new light”, etc.

She concluded: “Uh-huh. Show me a corner of the earth where people are not knobbing on the sly and I’ll give you a biscuit.”

Well, the Diary likes a challenge, and biscuits, especially ones with oats in them. But finding such a place to cite and thereby winning a welcome crumb might be asking too much.

Oh Clock Off!

THE Diary’s Australian-based Collector of Idiocies made a lovely point the other day. It was that, time-wise, it was either 3am or three in the morning. It wasn’t 3am in the morning. Someone incautious and functionally illiterate – that’s a big field these days – had come to her attention.

She’s been having trouble sleeping, apparently, as well as with the cricket, on both of which points we can certainly sympathise.

It does sound like something people who are challenged might say, perhaps on returning home from a night out on their first-year anniversary.

But in this instance, it seems, it came from a reporter on a television news show at 7am. She notes with a scowl: “They all do it.” And that’s true, sadly. It’s worse in the land of mangled vowels and incomprehensible nouns. As Afferbeck Lauder would say: No more gnus, calm bear klyter.

We’ll just say this, of our favourite CI. She’s the most entertaining that we’ve ever had on the team.

HectorR

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

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

A Warrant Officer and a Gentleman

 

OVER New Year I heard a sad piece of news. Bill Cunneen had died. The name may mean little to most people. It means the world to me.

He was some 12 years my senior, of a respectable enough vintage to shuffle off. But it’s always hard to take when someone you know and value – even if as in this case, you haven’t seen him for years and were not in touch – departs Gaia for destinations unknown.

I knew Bill through the Australian Army, in which when I met him he served as a photographer. He was a Warrant Officer Class 2 then, nearly four decades ago. He had served in Korea as a private in the infantry and in Vietnam as an army photographer. We wore the same cap badge, but that was where the similarities began and ended. He was already a legend. I wasn’t and never would be.

But Bill once gave me the greatest and most valued compliment I’ve ever received in a military setting (the Australian one in this instance). I’ve never forgotten it, the circumstances in which he said it, and the pride I felt when he did.

For some time, back in the day, I combined my journalistic career with a part-time one, in a similar role, in the Australian Army. I was a reservist, recruited as an officer for my specific skills and made a captain.

Bill was a regular soldier, in every sense of that term. He’d earned his rank.

As far as I was concerned, he far outranked me. But on duty he called me sir. That’s the form. You respect the rank, not (necessarily) the person.

In 1979 we worked together for that’s year’s training exercise, K79 (Kangaroo 79). I’m not sure at this distance whether it was the Kamarians, Musorians, or the un-definable Orangeland that we were opposing. It didn’t matter, though, because in those days all our enemies were notional.

(I do remember that the Kamarians, who lived upon an upturned Tasmania somewhere in the Solo Sea, I think, and were for a time regular enemies until being surpassed as a threat by the fiendish Musorians, eventually acquired a lovely flag. This had been invented in part by another regular soldier of my long acquaintance, Ross Eastgate, a Duntroon graduate. The flag was dubbed Duck l’Orange, since its heraldic motif was a black duck on an orange field.)

In 1979 I had been given the task of running bits of the exercise media centre, since the reserve formation for which I was then part-time toiling was also engaged – and because they needed better people than me up at the pretend sharp end.

I did my best, turning up in uniform every day and trying very hard to be serious about the whole thing. Bill knew that I was a choco (a reservist). And my own policy was that I while I might be sir, I wouldn’t order so much as a coffee until I’d checked with him. We mucked in well together. His military professionalism was unshakeable.

At the end of the exercise he found a quiet moment and place to tell me this: “I thought you were just another wanker, sir, but you’re not.”

That’s the best, and the most valued, accolade that I ever got in uniform, anywhere, with or without a loaded weapon to hand.

Rest in Peace, Bill.

….

Wiiliam (BILL) James CUNNEEN

Korea (Pte) 30 July 1952 to 8 November 1952 3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment 6 January 1953 to 19 January 1953 3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment, Royal Australian Infantry Corps. Vietnam (WO2) Headquarters, Australian Army Force Vietnam 16/02/1966 to 21/03/1967. Headquarters, Australian Force Vietnam (Army Component) 01/10/1970 to 20/02/1972. Royal Australian Army Educational Corps.

His funeral is in Sydney on Saturday (Jan. 7)

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