8degreesoflatitude

THINGS THAT INTEREST, ENGAGE AND ENRAGE

Category: Bali

Straight to the Point

HECTOR’S DIARY

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

Titbits from his regular diet of worms

 

The Cage, Bali

Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018

 

IT’S magic what you can do these days with a talking smart phone. The other day we had to drive into Denpasar – a strange bit of it with which we are unfamiliar – and it was a dream. All we had to do was follow the dulcet directions of the lovely lady map-reader who apparently inhabits The Diary’s Huawei and speaks to you with perfect diction and in very sound English. Possibly her name is not Joy, but nonetheless a joy she is.

It’s good too that as you inch along in south Bali’s dense traffic, threatened on all sides by even denser drivers, you can also see from your handy interactive map where your next major tailback is going to be. There’s no escaping it, generally, but at least you know it’s there. It’s a bit like how Lieutenant Colonel Custer might have found himself unhappily pre-advised if he’d bothered to send scouts out ahead of his cavalry column as it trotted up the Rosebud. He could have sworn pre-emptively himself, too, then.

Encore du Vin

HAVING a French friend has always been lovely, as we’ve noted before. The French are often much more interesting than Anglos, and that’s not just because the expressive nature of the language and French culture adds to the joie de vivre.

We’re fortunate, as we’ve also noted previously, to have a good friend who lives in the French style at Petulu near Ubud, in a villa in which astonishingly we are welcome visitors. Even her cats speak French, with a meow of course, and in fact they appear to be trilingual. They understand “Non,” “No,” and “Tidak,” though of course, being cats, they pretend they don’t, or that they haven’t heard you, or that plainly you have directed your latest vocalised imperative to someone else. If pressed upon a particular point, each affects insouciance in the face of unwanted instruction that is both typical of the feline community and a joy to watch: “Moi? Sûrement pas!”

Another benefit of long weekends in a French ambience is the availability of wine and cheese and the cultural necessity to consume these victuals in more than micro-measurable quantities well into the evening and in fact well past the time when your calèche has turned into a citrouille (and you’ve given up worrying about that silly glass slipper anyway).

Lost Their Tackle

THE Indonesian agriculture ministry and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have designated four areas in Indonesia for pilot projects to tackle the spread of zoonotic diseases such as rabies, anthrax and avian influenza, and emergent ones, that normally have animal hosts but can infect humans. There’s another zoonotic disease of deep concern, plague, which is endemic in parts of Central Java, including Boyolali, one of the areas nominated for study, and in East Java, but that’s long been under strict control measures – including effective rubbish control and disposal – and fieldwork to keep an eye on infection levels in rodents.

The four areas in the new study are Bengkalis in Riau, Ketapang in West Kalimantan, Boyolali in Central Java and Minahasa in North Sulawesi. “We select areas based on the risks and the state of medical infrastructure and the commitment of regional administrations,” says the FAO’s Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) Indonesia’s Andri Jatikusumah.

Bali isn’t on the list. It lost its tackle over rabies when, after international efforts following the 2008 outbreak gave it a great start, it all became too hard for the provincial and local governments. It’s not only in Bali where foolish politics, conflicting priorities (all those Kijiangs and Fortuners) and administrative ennui combine to derail all sorts of things. Bureaucracies everywhere have dreadful trouble with dogs that eat their homework.

Cina Bali

WE’VE just read a really interesting feature in The South China Morning Post, about the symbiosis between Chinese and Balinese cultures. We’d recommend it as reading for anyone who is interested in anthropology, as well as the many who fear that Balinese culture will ultimately be swamped by the tsunami of profane banality that is modern day Indonesian money power.

Among other things, it makes the point that Agama Hindu Dharma – Bali’s unique religion and culture – is an accretion of Hindu, Buddhist and animist beliefs. It is a naturally accepting belief system, not a religion that is hidebound by a book. The point in this instance is that the Chinese Indonesian writer who is the subject of the interview felt no sense of being an outsider when she was growing up in Bali. That ridiculous predisposition in the minds of others only came to her notice when she went to Jakarta to study. At home in Bali she was Cina Bali, properly just part of the human landscape. Off the island, she was “Cina!” or worse, “Amoy”, presumptive and frankly threatening accusations of difference. She was not pribumi: she was an outsider.

The Chinese have a very long history in Bali, as do Chinese communities in other parts of Indonesia. But, here, where for all the set nature of Hindu Dharma religious observance and cultural practice, there is a long tradition of accretion, of incorporating symbolism and articles of faith from elsewhere, a formal veneration of ancestors, and wide acceptance of the benefits of otherness. The Chinese presence – around 14,000 people identify as Cina Bali – has become integral to the island’s culture, rather than something temporarily attached to it.

There’s a book in all of that, and one’s apparently in the works. It should be an anthropological feast.

As We Were Saying

AMID some hoopla, the authorities some days ago downgraded the alert status for Mt Agung, noting that while volcanic eruption was still occurring, there was less pressure within the mountain’s core and therefore less risk of a powerful eruption. The mountain answered that, partly in the affirmative, within a matter of hours. It staged an eruption that sent ash 1,500 metres into the air above the 3,000-metre summit. There was light ash fall from Amlapura to Tulamben on Bali’s eastern coast.

On figures from Feb. 13 from 103 evacuation posts – down 43 from the previous day – there are still 10,890 evacuees registered. More than 6,000 people had left the evacuation camps since the alert status was lowered from IV to III and the exclusion zone was reduced to a four-kilometre radius. Residential numbers high on the volcano show 602 people live within the four-kilometre radius, 986 within five kilometres, and about 17,000 within six kilometres.

But the emergency is not over. This is not the time for anyone to drop any balls.

Festivities

WE had an opportunity while in Ubud to chat with Janet DeNeefe, over sparkling water served at Honeymoon Cottages in Jl. Bisma, about this year’s writers and readers’ festival – it’s in October and is the fifteenth – and the 2018 Ubud Food Festival, which is in April. It was an interesting chat. We’ll come back to the UWRF, at some length, in another forum in a little while. Meanwhile the food festival program is now online. Mouths may now officially water in anticipation.

It’s the Ethics, Stupid!

AS a rule, we avoid too closely associating with the political news that filters out of Australia. It’s generally banal and – unless it’s about something that directly affects you – rather pointless. Scoring political points is for others, trolls and the like, and those for whom partisanship is a way of life.

There are exceptions to this rule, and one such is upon us now, concerning the deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce, who is leader of the junior (but essential) branch of the coalition, the National Party. Joyce has made a sad, sorry, and farcical nonsense of his personal life, bedding and impregnating his staff media adviser and leaving his quarter-century-old marriage as a result. That, essentially, is a private matter. If it requires condign and clamorous judgment from outside the home he’s wrecked, this should come from those whose deepest wish seems to be to force their way into the private lives of others.

What actually matters is the ethical question as it relates to public office and expenditure of public funds. As Simon Longstaff of the Ethics Centre (in Sydney) has noted, it is here that Joyce has disastrously failed. For those offences, which are not those upon which one could litigate, he should go. He probably knows this but (another ethical lapse) has been resisting the concept of leaping off the gravy train.

The barnyard farce of Joyce’s personal life has brought forth an amendment to the ministerial code of conduct, which specifically bans sexual relationships with staff. The real scandal is that a ministerial code of conduct is deemed necessary in the first place. It’s clumsy and dangerous anyway, since it encourages those to whom demerit is a notional concept to take the view that something dodgy is OK if it’s not precisely disallowed in the code.

But the real bottom line is this: If you’re incapable of defining what’s right and what’s wrong, or worse, are unwilling to bother doing so, you’re not fit for any senior office, political or otherwise.

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

Chin-chin!

Excrescences, Etc.

HECTOR’S DIARY

Titbits from his diet of worms

The Cage, Bali

Monday, Feb. 5, 2018

 

MANY foreigners come to Bali for its unique culture and some choose to live here. The people with whom one wishes to associate are in that cohort. Some may be misguided, but that’s OK. The flowers of Eastern mysticism are as open to misinterpretation as any shamanistic bloom. Bali is a great place to have your chakras fiddled with by itinerant foreign gurus with malleable morals. It’s a sort of “Eat, Love, Prey” thing. The preying is usually mutual, or at any rate consensual.

There are others, of a different class, who are here to gouge a buck and to take advantage of the brown envelope culture. Perhaps some among them occasionally reflect that they are fortunate to be in a place where they can practise their predilections, not all of them necessarily commercial, in an environment in which with the right connections you are rarely caught out. A few are possibly here because they couldn’t behave in their own societies as they can generally manage to here, or because they’d be in jail if they did.

It is this latter cohort that sometimes gets up one’s nose, especially when it involves public assertions (which have no basis in fact) of the selfishly acquisitive practices of others. One particular recent incident has got up ours. Normally you’d just ignore such dog-droppings, and the dogs that drop them. But sometimes you feel that you can’t. So, Terry Brockhall, formerly of Brisbane, Queensland, and presently of Dalung, Bali, this one’s for you, mate.

Perhaps he was drunk or otherwise intellectually incapacitated when last week he posted (on the Bali Expats Facebook group) his intemperate, litigious and profoundly incorrect assessment of what someone who has been at the forefront of obtaining funds to assist the thousands of Balinese volcano evacuees had actually done with the money. A good rule of thumb for civilised existence is to subject your own subjectivity to rigorous analysis before you mouth off.

If Mr Brockhall would like to discuss this with us, he’s welcome to do so. Privately would be best, to avoid further embarrassing himself and his former business associates in Australia, who are surprised that he still lists on LinkedIn a company he left five years ago as his current place of employment. (The Diary hasn’t named the target of his misplaced ire. Her friends and associates know whom it is, and we’ll make sure they see this item.)

The Affliction

IT’S no surprise, though one might wish it were, that the Sharia authorities in Aceh have taken to publicly stripping and whipping transsexual people whom they are sure have angered Allah. It is a surprise, in contrast, and yet another sour one, that Indonesia Air Asia announced last week that its cabin crews on services to the autonomous Neolithic province would in future be all male.

There was another incident, last week, far away and in a different milieu, which was even more alarming. The Manchester Art Museum in Britain removed from display

Hylas and the Nymphs, the widely known painting , by John William Waterhouse. It is one of the most recognisable of the pre-Raphaelite paintings. Postcards of the painting were taken off sale in the shop.

In the painting’s place, a notice went up explaining that a temporary space had been left “to prompt conversations about how we display and interpret artworks in Manchester’s public collection”. Members of the public have stuck Post-it notes around the notice giving their reaction. Most of them are entirely predictable. They were a lot more polite than the Post-it note The Diary would be tempted to stick in the “temporary space.”

According to the gallery’s curator of contemporary art, Clare Gannaway, the aim of the removal was not to censor but to provoke debate. Tell that to the nymphs and wait for the derisive laughter in response. The work usually hangs in a room titled In Pursuit of Beauty, which contains late 19th century paintings showing lots of female flesh.

Perhaps the key to the whole horror of this act of non-censorship lies in Gannaway’s explanation – no doubt it is “feminist” by some empty-headed definition or other – that the room’s title was a bad one, as it was male artists pursuing women’s bodies, and paintings that presented the female body as a passive decorative art form or a femme fatale.

Still, it’s a device that would easily fix the hefty financial call on galleries to acquire, care for, insure and display works of art. They could just put post-it notes around the walls instead. That would be much cheaper and surely would offend no one except those who like to look at paintings and who in such circumstances would naturally no longer visit museums and galleries. The great unwashed, who do not do so anyway, would neither care nor notice: Planet Doh again.

The curiously disingenuous argument from the museum flows from the supposed pandemic of sexual mistreatment of minors. A mob has been raised on this matter and in the manner of such swarms is now out of control. There are perverts in any society. If those who fiddled with little boys and girls had been privately horsewhipped on discovery of their first offence, most would probably not have done it again. Madness is an illness. Perversion is an elective practice.

A friend who saw the report asked: “Has everyone gone quite mad? Is it something in the water?” To which we could only reply: “We have long suspected something of the sort; or random radons.”

Peak Piquancy

THE Ubud Food Festival, Janet DeNeefe’s highly successful annual spin-off from the well established Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, has won star billing from ABC, the Indonesian food company that produces Indonesia’s essential condiments, kecap manis and sambal. Without these, no one’s food from his or her island home would be as piquant as it should be.

According to Dhiren Amin, who is head of marketing, Southeast Asia, at Kraft Heinz ABC, popularising Indonesian cooking and the archipelago’s diverse culinary traditions is a vision ABC shares with UFF, and this was a primary motive in the company becoming a presenting partner at the 2018 festival. And DeNeefe notes: “It’s a brand we all know and love, so it’s a perfect fit for our festival.” We agree. The Diary’s finely tuned taste buds are already in full anticipatory mode.

Corporate sponsorship is essential for any style of festival these days, so ABC’s move is as welcome as its spicy little bottles at the UFF table. The festival is from Apr. 13-15 this year – themed Generasi Inovasi – and will feature nearly 100 speakers, and their culinary delights.

There’s much more here 

Lying Doggo

THE volcano was quiet on Sunday. Literally. For the first time in a long while, no volcanic or resultant seismic activity was noted. Inevitably, this will result in those who believe their economic and political interests lie in assumptions that all is well seeing an opportunity to promote the idea that there is no emergency. To these people, we simply say this: Study the records, such as they are, of the lengthy and occasionally quiescent eruption of Mt Agung in 1963, and do not assume anything. Go with the volcano science, not political science.

Farewell, Friend

SOME who read The Diary will know the name: John McKenzie Keir. He was a fine gentleman, well known in the Australian commercial aviation sector. He was also our friend of more than two decades, and we were greatly saddened to learn, today, that he had left us. He died last Tuesday, the victim, finally, of the leukaemia with which he was diagnosed twenty-two years ago. Latterly other opportunistic agents of fatality had joined the assault upon him, and he succumbed.

Our association came about because his wife and our Companion worked together in the now distant past, and hit it off rather well. They were often rowdy, in a ladylike way, and maintained that practice throughout the years following, during which they occasionally saw each other and misbehaved. Mr Keir and The Diary were sometimes peripheral to these celebrations, as Significant Others are supposed to be.

We last saw him on a flying visit to Brisbane in 2016 – the trip was to attend someone’s political birthday party – and saw a Lions v Swans match at the Gabba by benefit of his ALF fixation and his Lions’ membership. It was a good game on a mild Brisbane autumn afternoon and we all dined pleasantly together afterwards.

We’ll miss the enigmatic smile with which he handled cross-table repartee and his sommelier-standard handling of wine bottles with recalcitrant corks. His funeral is in Brisbane tomorrow. We shall toast him at dinner tonight – we hope in the style and with the panache on which he would surely insist – with warm thoughts for his lovely family.

Chin-chin!

Janet’s World

HECTOR’S DIARY

 

 

Titbits from his regular diet of worms

 

THE CAGE

Bali

Monday, Jan. 29, 2018

 

 

THAT’S Bali, of course, Janet DeNeefe’s home for more than thirty years. But like most Australians who live overseas or spend a great deal of time beyond the moat, she retains an umbilical link to her original homeland. So it was pleasing, though no surprise, to see her featured recently in Australia Unlimited, a web-based Austrade (i.e., official) site where good-thinking Aussies are given exposure.

DeNeefe, who trained as an art teacher before first coming to Bali in 1975 and returning forever the next year, runs restaurants and a guesthouse in Ubud, the little hill town now known as guru central, and started the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival after the 2002 Bali bombings to contribute to the healing process. She’s written two books about Bali cuisine. This year’s UWRF, from Oct. 24-28, will be the fifteenth, though, sadly, we need to note that this may be volcano permitting. The fat lady has yet to sing. More recently DeNeefe added the standalone Ubud Food Festival to her stable. It’s from Apr. 13-15 this year and the full program will be out in mid-February.

In the nine-item Q&A on Australia Unlimited, she says Bali’s a magical place and she’s lucky to have made a life here. It’s hard to argue with the theory that Bali is magic. DeNeefe has some very sensible advice for foreigners who come here to live and work: get with the culture.

Trumpet Voluntary

DONALD Trump made a good speech at the annual Davos gabfest, just over for another year. It was rational, it had a theme and held to it (his speechwriter must have been pleased) and it was not delivered as if he were addressing a campaign crowd in, say, Allentown, PA. That is not to say it was a good speech in the other sense. He proclaimed that America First did not mean America Alone, and then laid out linked economic and security proposals that functionally ensured the U.S. voice will be a singular one, especially where China is concerned.

Economically, it was an unreconstructed capitalist speech. The bulk of the world – sensibly – has long ago shifted focus back towards some sort of planned economy, having finally realised that uncontrolled capitalists and egregious oligarchs don’t actually give a toss about anyone except themselves and their offshore untaxed wealth. Creating more billionaires isn’t economic progress; it’s a function of social failure.

In terms of global security, everyone from the Chinese down thinks that the nutbar in Pyongyang should be corralled into something resembling common sense. How to do that without having a nuclear war is the central issue. America’s sheriff-exceptionalist predilections won’t help there. They won’t help with Iran either, where the regime (while unpleasant) is principally concerned with regional issues – the Gulf, primarily – and not with the sort of global power play that so worries certain Americans with leader of the free world syndrome.

The full text of the speech is here. It’s worth reading.

All A-Flutter

THE happy folk at Ausflag, the outfit that keeps coming up with alternatives to the national flag that Australia has had since 1901, chose Australia Day (Jan. 26) to produce yet another. If you’re on a hiding to nothing, as executive director Harold Scruby surely knows by now, another biff around the ears doesn’t matter. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who in his republican days was a director of Ausflag, knows that too.

Australia is a monarchy, or more accurately is a crowned republic. Its head of state is the governor-general but its sovereign is the Queen of the United Kingdom (as well as concurrently Queen of Australia and other places; the poor woman wears many crowns). The Australian flag is perfectly sound. Its origin as a defaced British blue ensign is immaterial a century later, when the empire of which Australia was part is no more. Just to note: defaced is not an insult; it describes its heraldic status.

Canada, also a crowned republic, has a striking and simple flag that does not carry a reference in its upper left quarter to the country’s long ago British colonial birth. It also avoids in any way looking as if it might be some sort of corporate banner. This is the way forward for Australia, when eventually it is more widely understood that the British flag in the corner of its own is arcane and misplaced. For that reason the latest Ausflag offering is worthy of consideration: it retains the essential identifying elements of the existing flag – the Southern Cross and the seven-point Star representing the six (still sovereign) states plus the federal and territory elements – while dispensing with the Union Flag.

We’ve probably told this story before – it’s a good one and always worth a giggle – about an occasion many years ago in the U.K. on family matters, when The Diary was driving a party of British relatives to a funeral in England. They were Scottish relatives so humour was present. For some ecclesiastical or other reason the churches that day were flying the Union Flag. The Diary mentioned, on passing one that was more prominently fluttering in the breeze than most, that there before us was a large corner of the Australian flag. There was a moment’s silence. And then there were loud guffaws.

That wouldn’t happen with this one:

Look Mum … No bars

Volcano Casualty

THE drone that the excellent Indonesian volcanology boffins had been using to provide essential photography of the crater of Mt. Agung in eruption, and to collect gas emissions from it for analysis, crashed on operations last week. That’s a great pity, since its missions provided opportunities for real-time analysis of the eruptive state of the mountain.

The accident demonstrates the dangerous conditions that exist around the summit, which isn’t a place for people to hang around, or even to fleetingly visit. The Stromboli-type eruption on Jan. 19 showed that very plainly.

Well Deserved

MARGARET Barry, the Australian philanthropist who is the public expat face of the Bali Children Foundation, was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in the Australia Day Honours List published last Friday. It’s well deserved recognition of her work over 15 years to educate Balinese children so that they can prosper in their lives and help others by doing so. Barry notes that the BCF is a venture in which many people help, unsung.

Veteran scribbler Mungo MacCallum wrote this week that he wondered whether an Australian honours system was appropriate. He’s always been a contrarian. He did make a good point that the OAM is widely, if unfairly, viewed as the also-rans list. An additional grade within the ranks might help fix that problem.

But the answer to his question of course is yes. As a scribbler, though, he most likely takes The Diary’s view of gongs, which is similar to that of Groucho Marx about clubs that might invite him to become a member. Writers are best when they adopt the obverse of the old argument that it’s better to be inside the tent, pissing out, rather than outside, pissing in. An establishment writer is a walking oxymoron.

Chin-chin!

Hot Rocks

HECTOR’S DIARY 

 

Tasty and distasteful morsels from his regular diet of worms

 

THE CAGE

Bali

Monday, Jan. 22, 2018

 

MT Agung staged a further demonstration of its volcanic power the other day, with a Strombolian eruption that showed the mountain’s capacity to pick and choose how it goes off. It suddenly blew rock into the atmosphere from its crater, causing ash and heavier particular matter to crash to earth again within a one-kilometre radius of the summit. It was an unexpected outburst. One does wonder what would have happened if stupid foreign tourists had been on the mountain at the time, in defiance of an exclusion zone order of which, of course, they had chosen not to hear.

Strombolian eruptions – named for the Italian island on which Monte Stromboli stands and regularly shoots rocks into the air – are generally fairly mild, though if you were hit by a two-kilo lump of rock plummeting from the heavens at terminal velocity, that moderation would be immaterial. The risk is present and should be avoided.

All the signs still point to a 1963-style major eruption. When that will be is anyone’s guess. In the meantime evacuees from villages in the declared danger zones need support. The government gives them second-grade rice but that’s all. There are several charitable organisations that arrange to donate essentials for a healthy life, and they’re all doing a great job.

Chic of Araby

THE King of Saudi Arabia is trying to liberalise his country. That term is relative: women will be allowed to drive this year – you do a sort of double take when you write those words – and cinemas are to reopen after a 35-year ban on them.

These efforts at modernisation are welcome, even if some of the driving force behind them relates to Saudi Arabia’s increasing fears about how to remain relevant to the rest of the world (where mostly it’s the 21st century) once the oil that brings in money runs out.

The misogynists are putting up a strong resistance to the process. One of the country’s leading religious figures, Sheik Salah al-Fozan, reiterated a common argument against women driving. On his website he said this: “If women are allowed to drive, they will be able to go and come as they please day and night, and will easily have access to temptation, because as we know, women are weak and easily tempted.”

It’s difficult to frame a response to such an idiotic statement in terms that would pass any test for publication. So we won’t. We’ll simply say that the silly sheik fails to see the fatal flaw in his argument. If indeed women are easily tempted (this has not been our experience anywhere) it’s men who are doing the tempting. It’s their problem, not women’s. What he and his cohorts are actually deeply afraid of is the chic of Araby.

Saudi and Gulf State religious influence is strong in Indonesia, where the veil is becoming more and more predominant and ever more veiling as money pours in for mosques that will preach a harder Islamic line than is customary in the diverse and historically easy-going archipelago. In Nusa Tenggara Barat – the province next door to Bali that includes Lombok and Sumbawa – the grandeur of the new Arab-funded mosques sits in odd contrast to the grinding poverty of the people. This poverty will eventually be lifted, according to the narratives preferred by local leaders, by the forthcoming growth of Islamic tourism. Well, we’ll see.

Stray Day

II’S Australia Day this coming Friday, Jan. 26, the date these days currently used in the special biosphere to celebrate the nation. It’s widely viewed, though quite erroneously, as the “birthday of Australia”, somewhat in the same manner as the landing of the Pilgrim Fathers in North America in 1620 is seen: as the initial spark in the crucible, from which great things grew.

In fact, Jan. 26 in Australia denotes three things: First, the start of a century of theft of a continental island from its original inhabitants, who were in the imperial enlightenment of the times not regarded as its owners, or even as people; second, the plantation there of a penal colony for miscreants Britain wanted out of the way; and third, deliciously in the context of today’s official policy against such people, the first recorded instance of unauthorised arrivals on the sacred shore.

Of course, for most of today’s Australians, it’s just another excuse for a piss-up. Aussies do that so well. That’s fine. Having a party is good way to celebrate most things. And there’s a lot to celebrate – no, really, there is – about the Australia that was first known as such several decades after the penal colony that later became Sydney was established. Australians are easy-going, welcoming, generous folk, unless they chance to see a passing hijab or their name is Peter Dutton. With New Zealand (tiny in comparison) they are the only western democracy in this part of the world, and remain fundamentally liberal about it in the residual British tradition that still informs their polity and governs how they live.

In the polarised politics of Australian debate today, the date of Australia Day is an issue. To Australians of Aboriginal origin, it’s no surprise that it’s “Invasion Day”. To the great mass of Australians – including the 28 per cent born overseas – the original theft, now 230 years in the past, may indeed be beside the point. But to the 3 per cent of Australians who are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, it isn’t.

A concession to this fact, and some lateral thinking, would help. Australia Day has always been a moveable feast. Jan. 26 merely marks the day Governor Phillip got his boots wet at Sydney Cove. It might make a lot of sense if the date were moved to May 9 (or the nearest Monday if they want to continue the tradition of Australia being the land of the long weekend). It could replace the Queen’s Birthday holiday in the calendar and would mark the day the first federal parliament met in 1901. Australia formally became a nation by act of the British parliament on Jan. 1, 1901, but by long tradition that’s already National Hangover Day.

Full Dress Dinner

IT’S been chilly on the Bukit in Bali lately – its position as a limestone blob sticking out into the ocean off the bottom of the island gives it cooler maritime air as a rule anyway, one of its many benefits – and when it’s wet and blowy, it can be quite bracing for tropical types.

The other night we had to dress formally for dinner. It was only 24C or something and a proper shirt needed to be worn over the t-shirt and sarong that is our customary evening attire. Or else shivers.

Chin-chin!

 

Goodbye and Thanks for All the Words

HECTOR’S DIARY

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

Tasty and distasteful morsels from his regular diet of worms

 

THE CAGE

Bali

Monday, Jan. 15, 2018

 

WE’VE had to say goodbye to Jewel Topsfield, who has been the Fairfax media correspondent in Indonesia for three years. It’s one of those rotational things: people get posted in, and then they get posted out. Topsfield has returned to Melbourne, from whence she came, and will be replaced in some weeks’ time by her colleague James Massola. His brief will be wider: South East Asia, but Jakarta-based.

Those of us left behind, post-Jewel, might like to recall the old aphorism from the days of the (British) Indian Army: the soldiers never minded what their officers were like; they just wanted them to stay a long time. In that context, Topsfield is a very good “officer”. She was often in Bali – and is a delightful dinner companion, by the way – and reported far more widely than the shit-and-disaster round preferred by the tabloids and TV, providing her readers with a picture of Indonesia as it actually is.

Our personal favourite is the long interview she did with hard-line 2014 presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto, at his hill country ranch in West Java, from which she elicited the information that he looks after the ants there, talks to them, and honours and seeks to protect their highly organised eusocial communities. It was a window into the soul of the real man.

She wrote at the weekend, in her farewell piece, that she had fallen in love with Indonesia, but didn’t really know when, except that it was early in the day. We all feel like that, those of us in the foreign community here for whom the value of humanity in all its rich kaleidoscopic intensity stands far above the business of making a buck. We don’t know, either, when our own cathartic moment was, but it was a very long time ago.

Topsfield relates one anecdote, about her taxi getting caught in floods in Jakarta and her taxi driver getting the giggles as the water crept higher and higher up the car. She said she couldn’t imagine an Australian taxi driver showing such comedic insouciance in such circumstances. We’ll have to pick her up on that, though otherwise her point is insightful. It was a long time ago, so she’s excused, but in floods in Brisbane in 1969 a Yellow Cab got washed into a fast-flowing creek. When rescuers reached it, the driver and his passengers were happily singing the Beatles’ latest hit song, Yellow Submarine.

Thanks for spending some time with us, Jewel.

Wholly Smoke and Mirrors

STATISTICIANS are very useful people. They tell us all sorts of things that would otherwise escape our attention. From the latest data delve by Bappenas, the office of national statistics, we see that cigarette consumption is the second largest contributor to poverty in Indonesia. Tobacco products are relatively cheap here, in contrast to many countries where governments have created huge revenue streams from horrific excise levels on cigarettes.

Smoking rates are declining globally – tobacco is credited with a range of health demerits that would put to shame all four horsemen of the apocalypse, and that oversold message is getting through – but in Indonesia, the smoking demographic is different.

It was interesting that the chief contributor to poverty in Indonesia, according to the statisticians, is rice consumption. Taken together, these two statistics point to costly policy failure by government, as much as anything else. Statisticians rarely measure such meaningful data.

’Tis the Season for Galoshes

THE monsoon is particularly strong in the archipelago this year, and it’s been very wet, as we noted last week. This has given us opportunities for laughter – on the old “if you know a better shell-hole, go to it” line from the Western Front in World War I – as well as a lot of practice at mopping. The Cage never leaks unless it’s raining.

One day recently we felt compelled to pen a little ditty offering advice to the Companion ahead of another maritime excursion to the shops. It went like this:

Get your galoshes, I said to my Squeeze,

It might be as well.

For this rain is heaven,

But we’re going to hell.

Grand Old Oprah

THERE’S something about celebrities. We have one as President of the United States at the moment, though in his case we should place celebrity in inverted commas and add a parenthetical notation (self-proclaimed). Now there’s another one apparently waiting to wait in the wings, in the person of television star Oprah, buoyed by her acquisition of a Golden Goose award.

It’s true that American politics is broken. It shares this condition with other Western democracies – including Australia’s – where the principles that have long underpinned representative legislatures are being stripped away by political chicanery, creeping official controls on people’s lives, and the perversion of democratic freedoms.

The answer in the American context wasn’t Hillary – the Democratic Party must take the rap for that miscalculation – but it most certainly wasn’t Trump, and it wouldn’t be Oprah. It will be found – eventually – in a revival of popular (not populist) principle. Perhaps we need Trump to show us the danger and rank incivility of political incontinence writ large. He may yet be there for two terms, kept in office by those he continues to dupe and others whose interests, some secret, that he really serves even if he doesn’t know it; though there seems to be a rising risk that he will tweet us all off in the interim. We’ll have to see.

In this context, it’s interesting that American governance seems to be on the cusp of beneficial reform – or at least be brought back into the paddock where Old Rationality used to prosper on true public service – by an observable upswing in female interest in politics. The neo-cons and the oligarchs and patriarchs won’t like this, since women are consultative and consensual, definitely not into dick contests, and can generally spot a shyster or a nutcase very quickly. Neither will the so-called heartland of Middle America, where the “No chicks” demographic rules, the one that helped undermine Hillary Clinton’s appallingly bad 2016 campaign. So it may be a long haul. But – Wagons roll!

Fingerprints? Check!

ONE of the delights of being a temporary resident of Indonesia, for Indonesian purposes, is the annual check on your fingerprints as part of your twelve-month visa extension. This requirement is not because the immigration authorities believe that fingerprints change. Well, we don’t think this is the reason, but you never know. It’s because their data storage capacity is too small to store all the data they need. And they need lots of it, several times over.

Well, that and the bureaucratic impossibility of anyone actually finding out how to access data to check. It’s that sort of place. Recordkeeping is high on the list of essentials, but finding records afterwards is apparently a problem.

Still, at least it’s now an electronic digit on the pad affair. There’s no more nasty ink that won’t come off for absolutely ever.

Distaff Dystopia

THE delectable science of sentient flirting has been under siege ever since information technology gave us the human equivalent of the infinite number of monkeys on an infinite number of keyboards that might by chance recreate all the works of Shakespeare. At least in the old days you could ignore the locker room louts. Now they take selfies and tweet about their self-proclaimed prowess. But hey, we’re not talking about the President of the United States here.

Instead, we’re referencing French actor Catherine Deneuve and the 99 other French women who have caused a storm by suggesting that the #metoo campaign – the offspring of Harvey Weinstein, the disgusting (and now unloved, since the open secret is no longer even secret) Hollywood mogul, and others who abuse women as if by right – could result in the rise of a New Puritanism. It’s a complex debate that we’ve blogged about here, wearing our other hat.

It’s an issue in Indonesia too, and very broadly so, though in a different setting and context. The winked-at debasement and marginalisation of women must stop, everywhere. Now would be good.

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Mountain Views

HECTOR’S DIARY

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

His regular diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

THE CAGE

Bali

Jan. 8, 2018

 

IT was rather lovely, we thought, that Mt Agung should choose to see out the old year and bring in the new with another minor eruption. It placed immediately in perspective the claims of various luminaries in these parts, from all points, including the risible foreign guru-seer sector, that the mountain and its risks had been blown out of all proportion. It sort of said that you shouldn’t argue with the precise though (like all science) still imperfect discipline of volcanology, which is a very sensible position.

Two Australians helped bring in 2018 in Bali by re-proving the theory that there’s nothing much more stupid than dumb Aussies with a death wish. The gentlemen concerned had climbed Mt Agung and told the police, who then detained them for having done so, that they hadn’t heard of the exclusion zone. Perhaps it is time to introduce an IQ test for adolescent tourists (no upper age limit: adolescence seems to last a lifetime in some people). It should be noted that French and German idiots pulled the same stupid stunt, so it’s obviously not just a cerebral version of the Coriolis effect.

Noah, Goer

WE spent the weekend at Petulu, near Ubud, the village famous for the white herons that live in the area. It’s a favourite spot of ours, for the natural environment of course, but mostly because a lovely French friend lives there. She likes long conversations and coffee, which is always an unbeatable combination.

The drive up from the Bukit on Friday was as uneventful as you could wish, if in Bali; the FPM (frisson per minute) rate seemed marginally lower than usual, and much of the two-hour, fifty-kilometre, trip was not as slow as it sometimes can be. It was still the usual strain on the brain, of course, and a useful test of your driving reaction times. Beneficially for several motor-scooter riders, ours apparently remain within acceptable tolerances. A particular difficulty at one point – it was at Lodtunduh, if any of the relevant authorities are interested in enforcing the laws against underage and unlicensed riding and that which makes wearing helmets mandatory – was that a whole squadron of sky-larking schoolboys on the way home from their regular brush with basic education chose that day to play loony tunes. It would have been fun to shout at them, but they wouldn’t have taken any notice; and anyway, as foreigners who might get voluble here are frequently advised, it’s culturally undesirable to point out local idiocy. Apparently, voicing such perceptions demonstrates a colonial mind-set.

As we approached and prepared to skirt Guru Central – the new park-out /shuttle-bus-in / no parking arrangements there are going as well as anything organised by Gianyar regency’s department of bright ideas ever does, it seems – the sky darkened dramatically and a stiff breeze blew up. Shortly thereafter, the heavens opened. We mean, even worse than usual. Drainage and road engineering also being among the list of essential skills not applied in Bali, the road running up to Petulu swiftly became a raging torrent running down. We’re not sure, but we think we spotted Noah and his Ark trying to stay their course descending the rapids. Though it might have been just another Deadly Yellow truck aquaplaning with bald tyres and no brakes.

Fortunately we know the road and where its chief hidden hazards lie in wait for the unwary. The large forever uncovered drain opening in the road where we make our final turn to reach our destination was surprisingly easy to keep away from: a wave of surf-riding capacity made its position plainly visible. Nosing into the adjacent alleyway scarcely wider than our little car (we retract the wing mirrors to avoid causing neo-colonialist damage to the residential walls) was slightly more challenging than usual, owing to the possibility of unwanted floatation. But, hey, it was all good fun.

Chinese Chequers

TOURIST arrival figures for Jan.-Oct. 2017 show very clearly the impact of the new visitor demographics on Bali. Chinese tourists now account for nearly 26 per cent of foreign arrivals, a 57 per cent increase on the same period in 2016. Australians are now firmly in second place (just short of 19 per cent of total arrivals) and their numbers are continuing a slow decline, as are those for Singapore and Malaysia, albeit at far lower figures.

An interesting aspect of the latest official statistics is that “Other Nationalities” are running at nearly 13 per cent of tourist arrivals, totalling nearly 648,000, which makes this disparate group third in the order of magnitude. A breakdown of those figures by national source would reveal the extent of the so-called Islamic tourism sector’s impact on Bali. That impact is in no way a bad thing, since it reflects among other things the socio-economic facts of life with which Bali must live and from which it can choose to prosper.

Music Book

WE’RE reading The Memory of Music, the book by composer and broadcaster Andrew Ford, whose migration from Britain to Australia in the 1980s was certainly an Antipodean benefit. He writes well and in a chatty style – his broadcast experience shines through there – that makes the story he wishes to tell very readable indeed. The book contains some lovely anecdotes that may not please some, and which are therefore all the better.

Music has a capacity to wound the soul as much as balm it, but in a way that’s different from the written word, and arguably much more powerfully. Ford explains this phenomenon very well.

Several pieces of music bring wounding sensations to The Diary. Perhaps the chief among them is Samuel Barber’s Adagio For Strings, as we’ve noted before, and which he wrote in 1938 as the clouds of cataclysmic war gathered over Europe. It much later made an appearance as the musical score for the movie Platoon. It’s sad that many people probably only know it as that. It’s hard not to feel, sometimes, these days, now that the winds of change are blowing through the fraying relics of the American empire, that we’re headed for cataclysm again. One hopes not, and that cooler, more measured heads will win the day.

Last Trump

AMERICA’S internal politics, and the serial denouements that it is beginning to produce, are its own affair, mandated by the minority of the national popular vote that got Donald Trump into office via the dodgy business of the Electoral College. Its foreign policy, conversely, is directly everyone’s concern. It’s increasingly worrying, not less so, that this global outreach of American impact is being publicly conducted by kindergarten Tweetstorm from the White House.

It’s possible that Trump, whose grasp of diplomacy seems to flow from his experience shouting “You’re Fired!” at participants in his own TV reality show, is actually aware that tweeting is not the way to go. It’s just something he does, because he can’t help himself, and so that he becomes the news instead of the (hopefully positive) generator of it.

George W. Bush, the 43rd President (2001-2009), whose own grasp of the crucially cerebral nuances of policy and of the particular needs of foreign policy have been judged by some to be deficient, said after being present on the dais at Trump’s inaugural speech a year ago in Washington, “That’s some weird shit.” It was, indeed, whether or not you agreed with Trump’s campaign platform. It’s got weirder since.

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Chin-chin!

Degrees of Idiocy

HECTOR’S DIARY

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

His regular diet of worms and other non-religious fare

THE CAGE
Bali
Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017

Degrees of Idiocy

THE President of the Republic, Joko Widodo, familiarised here in the Indonesian way as Jokowi, has just visited Bali. Miraculously, the beaches appeared clear of the middens of muck that despoil them year round, but worse in the monsoon season. He was pictured in the press on a beach walk in which, to everyone’s surprise, not even a loose lolly wrapper could be seen, far less the tonnes of plastic gunge that usually assaults the eye. So that’s good. He’ll have returned to the Istana Negara in Jakarta fully convinced that Bali has absolutely no problems at all.

Another problem we learned Bali does not have, as a result of the presidential peregrination, is that volcano thing. The alert status that has cruelly impacted in a negative way on the island’s desired overburden of tourists has been scrapped by presidential decree. Apparently, when you’re president, you automatically acquire Nobel laureate status in the science of volcanology.

What Gunung Agung thinks about this is not known, at least to the Diary, which does not presume to talk to the gods of anything and especially not those of the underworld. But last time we looked – and that was just on Friday morning and it was up quite close, from a boat sailing from Lombok to Bali (Teluk Amuk, which seems apt) – Mt Agung was having its regular morning spit. That was vapour and ash. As a non-volcanologist, we made the brave assessment that this meant its eruption is still a matter of the moment. Perhaps there had been a hold-up in delivery of the presidential decree.

We’d agree that it’s a nuisance that there’s an ongoing eruption and with it the threat that volcanic ash may any moment get into the atmosphere and bugger about with airline operations. But nature tends to scoff at human discomfort with its activities. Bali has two active volcanoes (the other is Mt Batur). The last time Mt Agung erupted, in 1963, it was disastrous. It must have escaped the president’s attention that its behaviour this time – a lengthy period of intermittent, low-threat activity is the phase we’re in at present – rather worryingly mirrors that of half a century ago.

Splashing Out

THE Diary and The Companion had an early Christmas present this year, a five-day cruise around the southern and northern gilis (islands) of Lombok. We were aboard the Al-Iikai, a fine Sulawesi phinisi operated by Indonesian Island Sail, and securely under the guiding hand of owner Amanda Zsebik. It was fabulous fun. We only had one lumpy day, on passage between the southern and northern gilis, and while that temporarily changed the hue of several on board, it also presented a great opportunity to see how the boat performed in fairly hefty seas. It did so brilliantly. We’d do it all again in a flash.

If you’re thinking of exploring the limpidly placid seas of the archipelago, you could do a lot worse that book an all-mod-cons cruise on the Al-Iikai. The snorkelling opportunities are brilliant. Even The Companion doubled as a marine wildlife on several occasions. She looks good in the guise of a Nautilas floataboutabit. Such creatures always worth spotting from your long-chair on the beach.

Because it’s Christmas

WE won’t bat on about all sorts of things that, up-nostril-wise, have come to our attention since we last scribbled a Diary. Time enough for all of that when the coming New Year hangovers are themselves but a distant unpleasant memory.

Merry Christmas (we can say that, because this is our blog) and Happy New Year!

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Chin-chin!

FOOTNOTE: Because of a technical problem with WordPress, now resolved, this Dec.24 Diary first appeared on my stand-by blog at Blogger, headlined There’s Always a Way.

 

Born Free

 

HECTOR’S DIARY

The Cage, Bali

Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017

 

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

His regular diet of diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

THERE is a release, of sorts, in being relieved of the duty to write for a publication. You’re freer to write what you really think, in the patois of your choice, in the absence of a publisher’s preference for the Life Unmolested, and in a timeframe that suits your own elastic concept of deadlines. It’s a bit like being Truman Capote (though only in certain respects) except that he was famous and could deal with deadlines by simply ignoring them.

Those of us at the grafting end of the writer’s writ must obey those who pay. Or else the dosh does not materialise. So when there’s no dosh to be had, and you’re your own proprietor, publisher, editor and virtual printer, deadlines can take a back seat. Though not too far back: it’s sensible to remember Idi Amin’s advice that if you don’t want to vanish with a boot up the bum, you have to give the population something to hum.

As most of you know, Hector is a retired cockatoo. He squawks a lot (the habits of a lifetime are hard to retire and can’t be fobbed off with a gold watch) but only when he wants to, or can be bothered. A lot bothers him, of course. You’ll have noticed that too. He proposes to continue being bothered, because he can, and to do so on a malleable seven-day plan, from wherever his cage is situated. This is his first in that new milieu.

Cease and Desist

SUCH orders are given rather more frequently than might be understood in today’s media world, where genetically mixed American actresses becoming engaged to British princes fifth in line to the throne, and President Trump’s latest twittering insults to people outside the “native” white oligarchy he prefers to favour, are deemed more newsworthy than real events. Cease and desist sometimes has legal utility, though mostly it’s a waste of time (see Trump, above).

It would be nice if we could issue one against Nature, which is giving us a hard time in the central archipelago at present. It’s quite understandable that volcanoes should erupt from time to time – it’s what they do, after all – but it would really be much better if they could manage to stick to a schedule and advertise it. We’ve also had a cyclone, though it hit Central Java, the province of Yogyakarta, and East Java, where it killed 19 people, far harder than Bali and Lombok. It was unusual in forming inside the normal exclusion zone for cyclones (10S-10N, the equatorial belt) and was less powerful than those experienced in true cyclonic areas. They’re not unknown, but are rare. The climate change shamans did rain dances about it, of course.

UPDATE (Dec. 7): The Java cyclone death toll more than doubled to 41 in latest reports on the aftermath, including 25 people killed in a single landslide.

Notional Airline

WE try to love Garuda, which is up there with the high flyers for cabin service. We’ve even renewed our membership of its frequent flyer club, though we more frequently fly with other airlines that charge you less for the privilege of defying gravity.

Garuda is impossible to contact by phone. Its sales office in Kuta won’t even take calls. If you can’t book online – and that’s a mammoth struggle, mostly – you have to actually go to the office. It used to be at Nusa Dua, which is where we went two weeks ago when we needed to book flights to and from Lombok. It was there no longer, however, and the helpful security guard at the entrance to the Bali Collection shopping centre told us it had moved to Jimbaran Square. We worked out that this was actually Benoa Square and went there. There was an office but it was unoccupied. Other helpful security people at the scene told us the real one was at the Kuta Paradiso Hotel, in Kuta. We called Garuda’s customer service number (sic) and they gave us a number to call. It was the Kuta Paradiso Hotel. Um, thanks guys. So we went there and finally managed to buy tickets.

Our flight to Lombok was uneventful. The trolley dollies just managed to get round the packed cabin with the sweet buns and water bottles they were required to hand out. The pilot deserved credit for flying his Boeing 737-800 at what seemed to be just above stall speed, so that the flight time could stretch out to the required 30 minutes. (It’s 18 minutes Ngurah Rai to Lombok International at jet speed, at the most.)

Our flight back to Bali did not take place. Gunung Agung on Bali had spewed ash into the atmosphere in the interim. Lombok’s and Bali’s airports were open on the day we were due to fly – Dec. 1 – but Garuda had cancelled all its Lombok-Bali flights that day. You only found that out when you got to the airport. The melee inside – that is, past the melee of the security screening – was not to be borne, and we didn’t. We left the scene, got a taxi to Senggigi where we stayed overnight, and a boat to Bali next morning. Apparently Garuda’s interest in customer service does not extend to calling in extra staff to deal with reallocated flight requests in such situations. Our next task: to get a refund on our unused return tickets.

Scrofulous Scribbles

THE volcano drama has brought out the best – that’s as in, the worst – of the foreign scribblers who get paid for dramatizing events by interviewing people (or sometimes themselves) so they can gild the lily and get their names up in lights. This is especially so if they want to have a go at airlines that cancel flights not because volcanic ash is deadly to aircraft and possibly their crews and passengers, but because they’re on a mission to mess with the personal holiday plans of Mr or Ms Aggrieved. Fuckwits are a swiftly growing demographic (see – there’s one immediate benefit of blogging rather than writing for print). They’re ripe for satirising, and should be thus dealt with, as some brazen outlets have done. There was a lovely piece the other day, somewhere or other, which foretold shocking disaster for any Aussie tourists still stranded in Bali when the Bintang ran out.

The other side of that coin is seen in the sterling efforts of expatriates and locals alike in getting essentials such as food and water and basic medicines and health preservatives to the poor Balinese who have been shipped off to evacuation camps because their villages are in the volcano exclusion zone. There’s one camp in particular that we know of, at Kubu on the northeast slopes of Agung, where 110 people are living in appalling conditions. The charities I’m An Angel and Solemen Indonesia and others are helping out there, with donated funds. A food convoy the other day was met with smiles from people who in reality were close to tears of despair. That’s the human story. It’s not about poor Wozzer and Tosser, world travellers, yair, mate, whose sense of Anglosphere entitlement excludes consideration of anything beyond their own convenience.

Serial Affendi 

YES, we know. The shocking issue of dominant male versus submissive woman, the result of residual caveman genes and men’s stupidity, isn’t really something to laugh about. But nonetheless, we’ll keep trying. There really is humour in everything, if you look hard enough.

So we were pleased to see a report in The Straits Times on Nov. 28 about a chap in Singapore whose cerebral cognisance is so severely deficient that even though he was shouted at by his victim after he touched her thigh in a bar, he was not deterred from later touching her breast while her boyfriend had his arm around her.

Take a bow, Affendi Mohamed Noor, 54. You really are a prize chump. The annual Darwin Awards honour idiots who remove themselves from the gene pool by misadventure. There should be a Weinstein Award for those other idiots who apparently live by the motto, “I’ve Got a Prick, So I’ll Be One.”

 

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Turd World

HECTOR’S DIARY

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

Bali Advertiser, Nov. 8, 2017

 

WALKING out of a restaurant without paying the RP3 million (around US$250) you owe is against the law anywhere. It’s foolish, among other things including selfish, dismissive of others’ rights, and a low act that reflects very poorly on the perpetrators. Mostly those who commit such acts are immune to conscience. They are citizens of what it is tempting to call the Turd World.

A recent incident in Ubud attracted attention, and the interest of police, after a group of foreigners reportedly staged a careful one-by-one disappearing act designed to dodge their accumulated cash consideration. A photo of the group and a report about their bill dodging was posted all over the social media. It would be nice to think that this exposure resulted in their eventual apprehension by the police (a possibility) or that it prompted a group attack of conscience (an improbability).

The problem with social media exposure is that it also provides an unedited forum for those with grotty as opposed to gritty opinions, whose mission in life is apparently to see things with one eye only and to avoid connection with the principle of non sequitur. Two wrongs do not make a right.

Crossed Wires

AMONG the many things here that cause outbreaks of mutual angst – “locals” on one side and “foreigners” on the other – is the thorny question of what actually constitutes “work” for visa purposes. It’s a hardy annual, forever popping up in some form or other. It usually creates a quite unnecessary furore and leads to all sorts of tin drums being banged in a very discordant manner. In large measure this because Indonesia, while it is beset by a tangle of rules and regulations, is also a place where anyone with connections and currency can bend or ignore the rules. It’s that sort of place. People are working on fixing that but it remains a work in progress.

An Italian tourist, Carmine Sciaudone, has just been released from jail in Bali and has gone home after more than year of incarceration. He had helped fix a projector on a locally operated party boat because it wasn’t working (no surprise there) and he knew how to fix it. That’s work, you see, if the authorities choose to decide that it is. And you can’t “work” on a tourist visa.

Interpreted very broadly, such rules also mean you can’t cut the grass, wash the car, mend a fuse in your house, or do anything much at all, on any sort of tourist of temporary resident visa. That’s because, notionally, it deprives an Indonesian of a work opportunity. It’s good that Sciaudone has been freed. It’s ridiculous that he was incarcerated in the first place.

Don’t Panic! Don’t Panic!

WELL, not quite as much, anyway. The authorities reduced the alert level for Mt. Agung to level three on Oct. 29 and the exclusion zone with it to six kilometres. This was on the basis of scientific advice, not that of political science.

The highest level alert, level four, implemented weeks ago when the mountain showed seismic and volcanic indications that an eruption might be imminent, led to the usual scaremongering in the Australian press. It also created difficulties – more logical and certainly far more soundly based – in relation to the 100,000-plus villagers removed from their homes and farms on the mountain’s slopes and to travel insurance for tourists, which in the way of the insurance world, suddenly excluded cover for pre-existing volcanic inconveniences.

The national and provincial authorities deserve credit for the way they handled the immediate situation, and the work of both government and local and overseas charities in alleviating the distress of removed residents has been exemplary. The emergency remains in place. It is a virtual certainty that the mountain will erupt. No one knows when that will be. Now is not the time to drop vigilance as a policy.

UPDATE, 27 Nov.: Mt Agung is now in full-scale eruption, and event that was also very creditably handled by the authorities. Among the local expats, and the wider Bali-focused expat diaspora, the eruption caused several renditions of The Boy Stood On The Burning Deck. Our advice: Cool it.

Kia Ora, Emoh Ruo

THE ins and outs of Australia’s particularly prosaic version of parochial politics are rarely of more than passing interest, even to Australians, but the constitutional shemozzle highlighted by the dual-citizenship question is perhaps worth more than just the usual response: a harrumph of tedium and a raised eyebrow of confected surprise.

This is not only because the High Court has ruled that seven parliamentarians – including the Deputy Prime Minister – were ineligible to stand for election because they held dual citizenship at the time. They are people whose second citizenships, in some cases unwittingly, reside either in Britain or the formerly British countries of New Zealand and Canada. The original proscription was meant to exclude citizens of foreign (defined at the time as non-British) dominions. This once desirable but later invidious distinction was then quietly forgotten by everyone from bureaucrats to senior counsel, as well as by politicians. It was not until after World War II that Australia moved in several ponderous steps to formalise the absolute independence that it had de facto enjoyed for some time.

The constitutional prohibition dates from 1901, when the continent’s fractious British colonies united – New Zealand was invited to the party but declined the invitation – to form the Commonwealth of Australia.  Stand-alone Australian citizenship dates only from 1986, when Canberra finally cut its last remaining constitutional ties with Britain, to that country’s great relief. (The Queen remains the Sovereign, but the head of state is the Governor-General: Australia is a crowned republic.)

The high-profile victim of his own inattention in the present case is Barnaby Joyce, the Deputy Prime Minister, leader of the coalition National Party. There is a by-election on Dec. 2 in his New South Wales electorate. Now Joyce has done the little rain dance that today’s embarrassing flag-waving and mawkish hand on heart clasping requires, and has formally renounced any claim to NZ citizenship, as he should have done long ago, he will almost certainly be re-elected.

Partisan politics aside, he should be. He was born in Australia. His mother was Australian. His father moved to Australia from New Zealand before Joyce was born. When Papa Joyce jumped the ditch (the Tasman Sea) he did so as a British Subject. He then married an Australian who was also a British Subject, like all Australians of that time. There were separate immigration controls in both countries, but effectively and legally no distinction existed. The legislative changes that made formal aliens of Kiwis (and the British themselves) in Australia were enacted later. And still today, New Zealanders have the right to live in Australia and Australians in NZ.

Feeling Bookish

A lengthy holiday in faraway places provides great opportunities for reading outside of one’s usual circuit. In Portugal we read The Operators, by Rolling Stone journalist Michael Hastings, the 2010 work that led to the resignation of the then American commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal. Over the break we also read Capote: A Biography, by Gerald Clarke. Capote has always fascinated, not least for his writing regime, mirrored by our own. He turned his life upside down and wrote at night.

These exercises, and the opportunity to delve into some of the material you find in the better class of in-flight magazines, sashayed naturally, if somewhat jet-lagged, into the 2017 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. UWRF is always a treat and this year’s was better than ever, on the theme of Origins.

The Bali Advertiser was well represented with three columnists doing the rounds and The Diary hanging around the perimeter, as diarists are wont to do. We were docked a couple of degrees on the media pass slung around our neck. The media organisers were clearly very busy, and must have confused six degrees of separation with those of latitude.

Next year Janet DeNeefe’s post-Bali Bomb therapy baby will turn 15, having quite properly grown bigger every year. That will be a benchmark worth noting.

Cheers, Monte

MONTE Monfore, the Californian swimmer who some years ago turned challenging ocean and lake excursions in and around Bali into great charity resources, has died. His body, with head wounds, was found on a beach on Rota Island, in American Micronesia, in late October, in unexplained circumstances. He was living there, it is reported, as a retired gentleman.

We had some dealings with Monte in the past, when we were wearing different hats. He was always pleasant, full of enthusiasm, and quite impossible to refuse. It’s very sad that he has left us.

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END NOTE: This was the last Diary column in the Bali Advertiser, which advised shortly after its appearance that it had decided to discontinue its publication. Hector’s Diary, freed of the need to take account of publishers’ sensitivities, will of course continue to appear on this blog.

Living with Vulcan

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

Bali Advertiser, Oct. 11, 2017

 

ONCE upon a time, the activity of a volcano in a distant domestic backyard from which one is temporarily absent would have been something relayed at intervals by news reports, or not at all. Its inactivity ahead of anticipated action would have been even harder to detect through the prism of news reportage. Not these days, when both the mainstream and the social media bring you up to the minute information and misinformation. Sorting the wheat from the chaff is more immediate (though there’s a lot more chaff) but there’s no reason to be uninformed.

So it is with the Great Mountain, Gunung Agung. It is more than 70 kilometres from our domestic premises on the Bukit. When we wrote this Diary, from even more distant Portugal, the mountain was grumbling and had been promoted by Indonesia’s excellent alert apparatus to most dangerous threat, as a result of this misbehaviour.

The story, at that point, was the removal by government order of more than 100,000 people whose villages and farms are within the defined danger zone, and the consequences, individual and collective, of this displacement. Relief efforts have brought out the best in people, Indonesians and foreigners alike. But it was not the sort of shock-horror story the western media so loves, since it was actually a good news story. It was a story of swift and effective action by provincial and national governments and agencies, and the outlaying of significant sums of money to assist those in need.

We know of course that other than in exceptional circumstances, or in the glossy magazines, a good news story about Bali is about as likely to be seen as a phoenix or a unicorn. We’ve had the usual tremulous twittering of Australians fearful that their cheap holidays might be at risk. Travel insurance generally covers such tribulations. That’s if you had the wit to get it (and pay for it) in the first place. If you can’t afford insurance, you shouldn’t travel. If you’re so thick that you can’t work out that it matters, you certainly shouldn’t.

There was one particular bit of very yellow journalism that got right up our nose. It did this in quite a major way. Surprisingly it appeared in The Guardian, which is usually among the more sentient of journals. It reported that foreign holidaymakers had fled Bali’s “tourist towns” because of the volcano alert. But this was the case only in Amed, a tiny place that barely qualifies as a village, let alone a town, and which is in the far east of the island virtually in the shadow of Mt Agung. It’s not inside the precautionary evacuation zone, though if the volcano did erupt then road access to and from it might be compromised. Meanwhile it was business as usual everywhere, including in Amed.

The last time Agung erupted, in 1963, there were large numbers of deaths. The official figures from that time probably understate the actual numbers. This time, half a century on, there are better communications and transport infrastructure that works, in the main. There is also an appreciation on the part of governments and authorities that, with a volcano, you can’t just sit around and hope it doesn’t erupt.

In Balinese Hindu mythology, Agung is thought by some to be a portion of Java’s sacred Mt Meru brought to the island by the original settlers. It has a place in the island’s spiritual life and its actions are accorded godly intent. In 1963 its pyroclastic flows (lava) missed the Mother Temple, Pura Besakih on the middle slopes of the mountain, by only metres. This was seen as a sign that the gods wished to demonstrate their angry displeasure but not to destroy the pinnacle of Balinese Hindu observance.

There were two major eruptions in 1963, the first in February and March, and another in May. Most casualties came from lava flows. Cold lahars (mixed slurries of volcanic and other materials generated by heavy rains) killed many others. A lahar – it’s an Indonesian word – can flow very quickly, unlike lava, and very deeply. When it stops it solidifies like concrete. Look at the landscape around Kubu, one of the areas now evacuated, to see the long-term results of that phenomenon.

We don’t pray, being in the None of the Above classification except on our Indonesian official documents, but we do think. And we’re thinking positive thoughts for Bali and its people while we’re away and Agung is being a threat.

A Rare Double

WE were in Lisbon, enjoying 30C days in the middle of the Lusitanian autumn, when this column was given to the electronic pigeon for transmission to the good folk at the Bali Advertiser. The Portuguese capital is a location long desired as a destination on our personal travel schedule, for many reasons but also because it presents an opportunity to perform a rare obeisance.

Some years ago we were in Kochi in India, where among the points of interest locally is the tomb of Vasco da Gama. It’s empty, but so what? He is still felt as a physical presence in the city, where – just in passing in this instance – there is a thriving Christian presence that was already ancient when the Portuguese adventurer “discovered” the India trade for Christ and His profits half a millennium ago.

Old Vasco is something of a figure in Lisbon, too, so we said hello there as well. His other resting place is in the Jerónimos Monastery at Bélem, fortuitously close to the best custard tarts in Lisbon.

The city is big on history, historiography, and monumental statuary. Dom Joāo I, splendidly mounted and holding his sceptre aloft, is near our digs, a pleasant apartment on the steep slopes just below the Castelo de S. Jorge. He was King of Portugal and the Algarve from 1385–1433 and is referred to as “the Good” and sometimes “the Great” in Portugal, or “of Happy Memory”.

In Spain he was referred to as “the Bastard”, because that’s what he was, and because he preserved the independence of the Kingdom of Portugal from the Kingdom of Castile. Through his efforts to acquire territories in Africa, he became the first king of Portugal to use the title “Lord of Ceuta”.

Ceuta is now a Spanish enclave on the coast of Morocco. It’s not quite analogous to Gibraltar, which is a bit of Spain the British long ago requisitioned as a spoil of war, though the point may be moot.

Joāo (John, as his English wife Philippa, daughter of John of Gaunt, might have called him, though she of course spoke French like all the posh Poms of the time and possibly called him Jean) deserves his statue: he had his day and won an entry in the record.

Spoiler Alert

IT used to be said that there were eight million stories in the naked city. Well, that’s what that old TV series said, so it must be right. There are also eight million hard-luck stories, a matching phenomenon with which every traveller must surely be familiar.

The Diary prefers to deal with these gently and in a non-judgemental way, while trying not to part with too much currency, especially when travelling on a pauper’s budget. The Distaff, being a girl, is made of far sterner stuff. We were lunching out in Málaga, in Andalusia, one day, enjoying in equal measure the warmth of the Mediterranean autumn and a modest beer and some tapas, when one of the local mendicants chanced to pass.

The tale was extraordinary, which is to say it was unbelievable. But since the immediate supplication was for 50 cents (€0.50, roughly Rp. 6500) to buy a loaf of bread, we were ourselves disposed to dig deeply into our diminishing pocket money and come up with the dosh.

Some might say that this indicates a certain measure of softness in the Diary, but that is not the case. Fifty cents to go away quietly, whether or not temporarily buoyed by thoughts of the brotherhood of man, seems to us to be a bargain triple entry in the fiscal, moral and problem solved ledgers.

Not so the Distaff, dear girl. As the pleas gathered length, speed and descant, she fixed the person uttering this tosh with her trademark killer steely glare and said: “You are spoiling my day. Go away.” This was not a request. It plainly invited no further conversation. It worked like a charm. The holiday budget was preserved.

See You Soon

BARRING accidental arrest en route or major volcanic dyspepsia at home, we’ll be back in Bali just in time to run up the road to Ubud for the 2017 Writers and Readers Festival. Unlike arrest or volcanic unrest, the festival is an event not to be missed.

HectorR

Hector’s Diary in published in the Bali Advertiser every second issue. The next will appear on Nov. 8. Hector blogs here between times, when he’s not holidaying in Europe.