8degreesoflatitude

THINGS THAT INTEREST, ENGAGE AND ENRAGE

Category: Books

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!

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.

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

Chin-chin!

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.

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

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.

Statuary Declaration

HECTOR’S DIARY

His regular diet of worms and other non-religious fare

HectorR

Candi Dasa, Bali

Wednesday, Jun. 28, 2017

 

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

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

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

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

Tidy Town

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

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

Haloumi Heaven

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

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

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

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

Coffee and Ice Cream

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

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

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

Jailhouse Blues

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

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

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

#44 … The Man

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

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

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

Old Friends

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

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

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

HectorR

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

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

Head for the Hills, Gabblers

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Bali

Oct. 12, 2016

 

WELL, the Diary is ready for the feast. This will not be in Hotel California style. We’re not much into steely knives and we certainly don’t want to kill the beast. Not that what we’re talking about is a beast at all, anyway. It’s Ubud’s annual rite-fest, the Writers and Readers Festival, which has been a treat every year since 2004 and which this year is on from Oct. 26-30.

Our focus of interest in this instance, America-wise (nothing else trumps it), lies on the east coast, where as The Eagles also take time to remind us, the old world shadows hang heavy in the air. Specifically, it’s the New York novelist Lionel Shriver, who a few weeks back caused a frisson of flounces in an address to a literary occasion in Brisbane. Perhaps she’ll ruffle a kebaya or two while she’s here. That would be fun.

Shriver’s fiction is elegant, but gritty in the social-realistic sense. Some people seem to think that fiction writers should not speak in voices that are not their ethnic or national own. It was this apparent prohibition that caused the flurry in Brisbane, when Shriver made an assertion that fiction is fiction and characters within those narratives are fictional too. That seems like common sense. Still, it’s a free world. Read an author if you want to. Don’t, if you don’t.

Shriver, whose background is journalism, is the author of 11 novels, including the New York Times bestsellers So Much for That (finalist for the 2010 National Book Award and the Wellcome Trust Book Prize) and The Post-Birthday World (Entertainment Weekly’s 2007 Book of the Year).  Her book We Need to Talk About Kevin won the 2005 Orange Prize and was adapted for film by Lynne Ramsay in 2011. Shriver won the BBC National Short Story award in 2014. Her latest novel, her twelfth, is the disturbingly dystopian The Mandibles: A Family, 2029–2047, published this year.

She features in two events at the festival: Talking Fiction and a session on her latest book.

This year, the festival will host five days of “after dark” events with a full program of arts, live music, performance and poetry taking place at various venues in Ubud.

Pecha Kucha kicks off the program at Betelnut (Oct. 26), where presenters will take to the stage to deliver a 20:20 presentation of thoughts, words and ideas: 20 slides at 20 seconds a piece.

The festival’s popular Poetry Slam (Oct. 29) will also be returning for 2016, with a festival-first, in which Betelnut will also play host to a women-of-words Poetry Slam (Oct. 27), a special celebration of sisterhood in the form of spoken word.

Returning for its second year, the festival’s Late Night Laughs at Casa Luna (29 October) will feature Pakistani stand-up comedian and social commentator Sami Shah.

There’s much more – see the program on the festival website for details – but there’s something on Closing Night (Oct. 30) that particularly piques The Diary’s interest: The Scottish Avant-garde noisemakers Neu! Reekie!

This year too there’s a new type of “Residents” pass that gives holders of other visas as well as KITAS one-day passes for Rp 700K.

The full festival program is here.

Helping Hands

Those of us who live here – and a goodly proportion of those who don’t but still find the wit to learn about Bali, Lombok and Indonesia – know that the tourist scene is just a veneer. The real places exist beyond the fly-in-fly-out package tour, the entertainment, and the chance to fire off a quick criticism that takes no account of reality (see next item).

It is always pleasing to see the distressing reality of life here get both an airing and a partial comeuppance, as we did with a story from Sanur resident Elizabeth Travers. She told the saga of little Kadek who has a very rare skin disease and is being helped by Solemen Indonesia.

Kadek needed a bath installed to help with soaking his painful skin several times a day and Travers asked friends here and in Australia and Singapore to consider making a donation. Well, did they ever! They contributed enough to Solemen to provide an undercover bathtub and a hot water system so he can have warm baths. Solemen will also help to pay the electricity for this.

Travers knows of three other children in Bali with the same problem skin and the money will assist them all. From her post she also got referrals to the Melbourne manufacturers of QV cream head office in Melbourne from Caroline Anderson and the Queensland makers of Poly Visc eye ointment. A scientist who researches genetic skin disorders has volunteered his time and travel to visit Kadek to see if there is anything he can do to help.

Poor Show

Australian visitor Tim Hodge felt obliged recently to publicly note that he’d been disappointed while on a white-water rafting trip to Bali to see that rubbish is still being dumped straight into rivers. He wrote: “
I just don’t understand their way of thinking. T
hey think the river is like a magic trick and just makes it disappear?”

That’s a fair point, except that it fails to acknowledge – perhaps understandably since Hodge is a visitor who doesn’t know the whole picture (and couldn’t be bothered to take one himself, apparently) – that many people here, locals and foreigners alike, are doing all they can to properly manage rubbish.

He compounded this felony by posting a picture on his Facebook of a truck in Peru that was engaged in grossly polluting one of that South American country’s rivers, and seemed aggrieved when this was pointed to him. Not good enough, Tim.

Off Your Bikes

There’s a campaign under way in Java to punish parents of under-age motorbike riders. The police take no notice of this law-breaking, of course, because there’s no money in it and no doubt because irresponsible adults would be miffed if they were to be held accountable for their negligence. We’ll see how that goes.

In Bali, meanwhile, the death toll among under-age illegal motorbike riders shows no sign of slackening. Children who seem barely old enough to be let out on their own, let alone zoom off on Dad’s motorbike, regularly ride to and from school and spend weekends riding dangerously around narrow, non-engineered roads. It’s almost as if they’re looking for an accident.

Too often they find one, in a variety of fatal ways. Jack Daniels of Bali Discovery said the other day that if it looked as if he was starting a crusade against this dreadful plague, that was because he was. He makes a very powerful point.

On Sep. 30 a 15-year-old boy and his 35-year-old mother were killed in a head-on collision with a truck in Tabanan regency. The boy was driving the bike. He rode out into the opposite lane to overtake traffic and straight into an oncoming truck. Both he and his mother died at the scene. The truck driver was not negligent. He is undoubtedly traumatised, and will probably be mentally scarred forever, but harm to others is something else little idiots never think about.

It’s time the traffic police started doing their real job.

Gold Standard

Australian businessman Geoffrey Gold, with whom we once had a pleasant dinner at Un’s restaurant in Kuta and who is long-term fixture in Indonesia and Singapore, referred the other day to the dwindling numbers in the Australian business community in Jakarta. That’s a sign of the times of course, on both sides of the tectonic fault-line that bedevils relations. His comment was in the context of the Australian football grand final function in Jakarta, at which this year neither the ambassador (Paul Grigson, with whom, many moons ago and in plentiful company, we also broke bread) nor the Qantas manager were present. So be it. A footy final is just that: a footy final.

Gold has a far more interesting tale to tell about another function in which he was recently involved. He has just been to Yogyakarta where lie the remains of the Australian-British crew of a C-47 (Dakota) aircraft shot down by the Dutch air force in 1947 while on a mission to deliver medical supplies to the Indonesian authorities during the war of independence.

The graves of Australian pilot Alexander Constantine, his British wife Beryl, and British co-pilot Roy Hazlehurst, were unmarked for nearly two decades. Gold rediscovered them three years ago and negotiated to get a new toilet block at the site turned away from facing them. Others, including Constantine’s family, have since contributed a simple new memorial.

Indonesia’s independence narrative has plenty of heroism in it. There’s room too, to mark the heroism of foreigners, particularly Australian and British, who contributed their lives to the struggle.

HectorR

Hector’s Diary appears in the fortnightly on line and print editions of the Bali Advertiser.

 

Shibboleths Revealed

HECTOR’S DIARY

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

HectorR

Bali, Aug. 31. 2016

Expatria, the spreading collection of dots that peppers the map of Bali like kibbutzim, as if it were the beginnings of an overbearing expropriation, had an unpleasant frisson of ferment recently over the tragic death of a policeman in an affray at Kuta Beach. Though it was less over the death, it seemed, than it was about a thoughtful and kindly plan to raise money so that the policeman’s bereaved family would not end up in ruinous poverty.

The issue, for those whose plan this was, was not one of guilt or innocence, or even of the circumstances. These are properly matters for the police investigation, the prosecutors, the defence lawyers, the defendants, and the judiciary. Everyone else is supernumerary to these arrangements, or should be. Some among the cohort of thicker, self-centred, expatriates here would benefit from understanding that.

The thing is, you see, it’s very difficult to argue with people whose set views define their untutored assumptions about imperfect justice and shambolic public officialdom in Indonesia. Nowhere is perfect. Mistakes are made everywhere. That, inter alia, is one of the most pressing arguments against the death penalty. No decision should ever be made that cannot be changed or reversed.

When a blather-load of shibboleths is trotted out by the disaffected, as it so sadly was in the instance of the death of sub-inspector Wayan Sudarsa, they throw up smokescreens that hide the blindingly obvious. They also obscure from view – until it’s too late – the rocks that always litter the path of public discussion.

We did check, of course, but as expected we found that none among those offering policing, investigatory or legal opinions had any standing in these matters. So basically, they should have shut up. They didn’t like being told this, naturally. In Expatria, the loud-mouthed man is king. Or thinks he is. It was an unedifying though salutary episode.

The funding appeal is going well, by the way. If you’d like to contribute, visit this link.

It’s a Giggle

The Distaff, dear thing, is a serious lass, particularly when she feels herself under siege by the asinine crowd, that informal collective of the cerebrally challenged or seriously up themselves who ignore common sense and as result blunder blindly and inevitably into the mire. Sometimes one joins her in wishing it were quicksand. Her intolerance of idiocy is among her most attractive features.

The Diary as a consequence seeks from time to time to make her laugh, or at least giggle (she does a good giggle now and then, when encouraged to lighten up). At last resort, we’re content with a smile, and if the environment is particularly dire at the time, we’ll even settle for a wan one. Beggars, they say, cannot be choosers.

So one evening recently, when we were dining at Vincent’s, the Candi Dasa eatery that offers nice music, and delicious fare including haloumi in various preparations, we decided to give her a laugh. She’s had a hard day, poor thing. Our method is to say something of quite extraordinary stupidity. On this occasion it worked a treat. Inquiry had been made as to what had chiefly constituted the compote that underlay the salad that accompanied the Diary’s pastry-baked haloumi.

We ventured the thought, accompanied by a perfectly straight face, that it might be crushed quinoa beans. The effect of this intelligence was electric. The Distaff dissolved into hysterics for some considerable time, with successive recurrent bouts.

It was plainly a triumph. Hysteria is the very apogee of cause and effect in discourse with the Distaff; it is the Holy Grail, so to speak. There was further reward. As we left the restaurant a little later a lovely young woman who was dining a deux at a neighbouring table gave the Diary a perfectly wonderful smile. She clearly appreciated, and wanted to applaud, the fact that an old codger could still administer a powerful dose of levity to his dinner companion. Laughter, after all, is the best medicine.

Coo! Ta!

Perth, the world’s most isolated capital city, is a step closer to getting its own Ku De Ta to further cement its position as Bali’s southern suburb. The KDT brand has been granted a conditional liquor licence for its proposed premises on the redeveloped waterfront in Perth’s central business district.

Jo Hocking, a name familiar to many in Bali and Cambodia (the latter briefly, we understand) asked a question on a post on The Beat Daily’s Facebook the other day, in relation to this intelligence. She asked: “No dancing in bikinis though?” We can suppose not, the fun police being extremely active in Hibernation Central.

This is no bad thing. If we want dancing bikinis in our face while we’re sipping the latest designer mojito (we don’t, the point is polemical) there are plenty of pole-dancing and other establishments where gratuitous exposure of flesh is available to view at the market price.

In this instance not only the boringly prescriptive and omnipresent fun police are in the way, but also Perth’s chilly winters and fresh summer breezes. There are many ways, after all, in which lissom young ladies can choose to stand out in the crowd.

Check, Lit.

The Diary is limbering up for the delights of Bali’s annual literary feast, Janet DeNeefe’s Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, which this year is on Oct. 26-30. The line-up includes Erica Jong, Lionel Shriver, Dewi Lestari, Hanya YanigaharaHelon Habila, Kamila Shamsie, Amit Chaudhuri, Eka Kurniawan, Jill Dawson, and Ariel Leve.

Ahead of that not to be missed beneficence, there’s another lit glit occasion that has caught our eye. It’s the latest in Jade Richardson‘s Write of Passage courses, this one in Ubud on Sep. 14-18 (in the newspaper version of the Diary, the dates are earlier – a late change beat our deadline there).

Richardson has been in Denmark for a while – the one in Western Australia, where the complexities and machinations of Shakespeare’s Hamlet are, we understand, rather outdone by those of the local Yoga collective – but is now back where she should be, in Bali. We’ll have to see about lunch.

She bills the workshop as a rare chance to join one of the world’s best journeys for writers in its heartland of beautiful, magical Bali: “an empowering journey for those longing to find their voice, on the brink of a new work, or seeking a creative push into the beautiful ride of loving the writing.”

Well, that certainly sounds more fun than a double-decaf soy lite latte no sugar, so we’ve made a note to follow the action. Hector’s amanuensis has a book of his own in the works between diaries and dealings with Expatria (see above) though it may not be of the genre that Richardson’s aspiring writers would view as empowering.

Richardson is an investigative journalist, photographer, editor, writing coach and speaker whose work appears in major newspapers, magazines and anthologies. She draws on her own career and studies with authors, teachers and wisdom keepers to provide a creative writing process that she claims, with reason, is like no other.

You can see more here and book for the Sep. 14-18 course by emailing here.

Noah! Not My Place!

We had to giggle when the unusually extreme summer floods that have been ravaging Louisiana in the USA decided to destroy the home of Tony Perkins, president of an anti-gay religious lobbying group, the Family Research Council. Among the many idiocies Perkins has publicly uttered in his career as a Christian fundamentalist of fundamental dysfunction is a claim that god sends natural disasters to punish an increasingly gay-friendly world.

He called in to his own radio show to describe the flood as one of “biblical proportions”, though apparently without irony. We suspect that irony, as with a grip on the powerful proclivities of karma or the avoirdupois of schadenfreude, is something else in which he is dysfunctional.

This particular deluge was not because of the gays, he said. It was an “incredible, encouraging spiritual exercise to take you to the next level in your walk with an almighty and gracious God who does all things well.”

Should have built an Ark, Bro.

Made Wijaya, RIP

The man of many parts, all of them colourful, gave us all a shock when he caught the last train to the coast on Aug. 28. We’ll miss him. Yes, even those who number in the legion of Those of Whom He Disapproved. Among the many tributes that appeared when news came of his death in Sydney is this little scribble, from the pen of yours truly.

MADE WIJAYA PHOTO: www.naplesgarden.org

Photo courtesy http://www.naplesgarden.org

160829 MADE WIJAYA .png

HectorR

Hector’s Diary also appears in the on line and print editions of the Bali Advertiser.

Blots on the Landscape

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

 

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Bali, Jul. 20, 2016

 

Where to start? We’ll leave aside (for the moment) certain segments of the bar scene where duty of care, which shouldn’t be an entirely foreign concept, is spelt WTF, and winks and nods at malfeasant bad behaviour, if not actual complicity, are commonplace. They’re blots on the social landscape. The ones at issue in this instance are actual, physical, blots. The latest to come to attention is the groyne built out over the coral reef in front of the new Kempinski hotel at Sawangan on the southern Bukit. The hotel wants to make a playground for its guests.

That this has altered the natural wave break pattern – with possibly incalculable future impacts – and destroyed the reef habitat is of no consequence to people whose interest lies solely in chasing money. Surfers who have been deprived of The Nikko, a great surf break, and the shooed-away local seaweed growers don’t count. They’re not in the 5-plus-star demographic. There’s a petition out on Change.org. We’ve signed it. It’s unlikely to move the rocks, but at least they’ll know we don’t like them, and why.

Just round the bend – how appropriate – and up around the Jakarta-by-Sea that developers have created with what locally luminous landscaper Made Wijaya dismissively (and quite properly) writes off as New Asian Architecture along the Ngurah Rai Bypass, the row continues over the plan to turn Benoa Bay into Port Excrescence. There was another huge Tolak Reklamsi demonstration on Jul. 10, organized by the local villages and banjars. We’re sure Governor Pastika heard about it. We do wonder what he said about it, though.

In a related move, there’s popular action in Lombok to stop massive sand extraction contracts there from going ahead. Apart from anything else, they seem to be illegal, created under the brown envelope rules that blight Indonesia. Tomy Winata needs all that silicon to fill in the Benoa mangroves and kill a natural, traditional community so he can construct an artificial one.

Shoot! There’s an idea

Apparently it’s not illegal to import unlicensed weaponry into Indonesia if you can get your new killing toys stuffed in the diplomatic bag. This is what members of the presidential security squad did in the USA. A man who assisted with their acquisition has been before the American courts since (perhaps astonishingly, although thankfully) it is unlawful to export guns from the Land of the Second Amendment unless you have a permit.

You can buy them there willy-nilly, as mass shootings by homicidal madmen demonstrate with tedious regularity, because Congress and the National Rifle Association seem to believe it’s still 1791 and that the right to bear arms has more validity than the nakedly bare truth.

But because the Indonesian presidential security squad was able to organize to get their new guns into diplomatic protected baggage, no crime that legal process can adjudicate has been committed at either end of the deal. Here at home, according to reports, administrative measures are under consideration (or at least they were when we wrote this). We don’t think we should wait up for a meaningful result.

Dr. Hannigan, We Presume?

British writer and skilled Indonesia hand Tim Hannigan, whose archival skill at demythologizing Raffles and other Names of Empah will always have a laudable capacity to sabotage the keyboards upon which post-imperial paeanists like to tinkle, wasn’t at last year’s Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. He had a prior engagement in Mongolia, though not among the marmots of the Gobi or indeed the yurts of same, since yurts do not exist, though marmots do, and carry plague. The large tents of the local nomads are called Gers. This is pronounced grrrr in the way one might voice imprecations against massed idiot bike riders who turn right from the left lanes at the numerous traffic lights on Sunset Road and heedlessly cause karmageddon.

Sadly, Hannigan won’t be at this year’s festival either. He will be at Leicester University in England, doing a PhD on the ethical issues of travel literature that’s being funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the M3C (Midlands 3 Cities) doctoral program.

Hannigan recently revised Willard Hanna’s Bali Chronicles, which are due to appear around festival time (UWRF 2016 is Oct. 26-30) as A Brief History of Bali, with a foreword by Adrian Vickers. Never mind, the Diary will have a beer for him on opening night.

His lovely light history, Raffles and the British Invasion of Java, deliciously upset the Hyacinth Bucket-style riparian delights favoured by certain imperial historiographers when it was published in 2012. Come to think of it, we owe him at least a beer for that, if not a G&T. He also wrote A Brief History of Indonesia (2015) and says he hopes to be back in archipelago during the northern summer of 2017. He’s a dab hand at fishing out historical and other anecdotes and Indonesia has a rich lode of those.

A View With a Room

Lunch at Sundara, Four Seasons Jimbaran’s eclectic beachside swan-around place for the locally well placed, is not to be missed. There’s plenty of outdoors for outdoor types and it’s airy inside with a lovely view of the bay beyond, especially at high tide. We recently ruminated there, on a very pleasantly passable Caesar salad and other delights, in the fine company of chief 4S Bali spruiker Marian Carroll. We made a couple of notes, as you do on such occasions, though the divine mini lemon meringue pie we had for dessert rather got in the way of concentrated effort.

Of primary interest was that the Ganesha art gallery has been reinvented as a multimode arts and cultural space. That’s great news. Of this, GM of Four Seasons Resorts Bali, Uday Rao, says: “We believe it is our responsibility – as well as our honour – to give guests the opportunity to personally meet and learn from Bali’s talented artists, who are hand-picked and invited to share their knowledge and skills. Guests can take a lesson in woodcarving, painting, dancing, making offerings for ceremonies, or weaving fine songket (cloth).”

Officially it’s the Ganesha Cultural Centre. It opens on Jul. 29. We’ll get along there soon enough.

Sundara is also spreading its wings. It is introducing a long brunch. We’ll have a word with Sophie Digby of The Yak about that. She’s a brunch and bubbles girl from way back, and the launch date (Aug. 14) might already be in her diary. It does seem to be a pretty good way to spend a lazy Sunday.

Animal Welfare? What’s That?

News that Thailand, Malaysia and South Korea have moved to seriously tighten up and enforce animal welfare laws may furrow the odd brow here. Isn’t that sort of thing best left to karma? A dog’s life is – well, a dog’s life.

It shouldn’t be. In the Australian state of New South Wales the government has announced greyhound racing will be abolished from July next year, because of rampant cruelty and mistreatment of dogs. There’s a chorus line of unrepentant recidivists now in pursuit of the premier, Mike Baird. He apparently will not be budged; neither should he.

Here in Bali, animal welfare outfits often have a hard time when they try to help animals. It’s not only dogs. Monkeys – intelligently sentient beings – are locked up in cages and made to perform perversely infantile tricks so their “owners” can make money. We won’t even touch on civets forced to shit for a living so people can drink Luwak coffee (ugh!) or the poor dolphins of Keremas, whose unhealthy and woefully inadequate “pool” affords them nothing but pain and – if they look wistfully over the edge – a view of the nearby ocean that is their natural home.

When clear evidence of gross abuse of dogs comes to light, as it has recently in a case where patient and horrendously expensive negotiation that went on for weeks thankfully resulted in a large number of animals being rescued from hell, no one in authority was prepared to do a thing.

Animal welfare laws in Indonesia are antiquated – they date from the Dutch era – and are shockingly inadequate. They are rarely enforced. The example set for Jakarta by Malaysia, Thailand and South Korea cannot be dismissed as yet another instance of western policies that have no relevance to Indonesia Raya.

Make Vroom

It was pleasing to see recently that Rakesh Kapoor, who is equally adept on two wheels or four, has returned to Bali from Jakarta, though not to his former domicile, Tampak Siring in the green rice terraces of Gianyar. He’s popped up as general manager of Seminyak Village Mall

HectorR

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

The Great Performer

BOOK REVIEW

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hector’s Bali Diary, Mar. 30, 2016

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Voice of the People

That 29 banjars can get together to protest the proposed corporate vandalism of Benoa Bay and the destruction of its precious mangrove environment is a political problem for the provincial government and the lesser authorities whose fief is Badung regency. This protest, on Mar. 20, wasn’t authorized. It wouldn’t have been. But it was authoritative and it called in all the weight of adat (custom). It was also the second such protest: an earlier one on Feb. 28 involved the village of Benoa and its banjars.

The Mar. 20 protest shut off airport access to the toll way and the traffic circle at the airport road intersection on Bypass Ngurah Rai. The organizers announced the event well ahead of time and apologized for the inconvenience. But most likely few people – beyond the Governor and his Benoa Bay despoiler of choice, Jakarta tycoon Tomy Winata – thought the demonstration was a bad idea. Most people think the bad idea in this instance is wrecking a fragile and precious environment in the interests of rich people getting even richer.

The police were powerless. They are not a constabulary here; they are effectively a paramilitary enforcement squad. But you wouldn’t want to start a war with 29 banjars. They took away two important adat leaders for a compulsory little chat while the non-affray was in progress. A crowd that then gathered outside the police office where this enforced conversation was taking place ensured that the detention period swiftly ended.

What happened on Mar. 20 was an exercise in grass roots democracy. It should provide valuable instruction for those in office. The primary lesson is that the people at all times effectively limit your power to act contrary to their wishes. There’s another lesson too. It is that while economic advance is essential, and should be welcomed, this needs to be achieved by public consensus and sensible planning, not by diktat or fiat or droit de seigneur. (Look that last one up. It’s allegorical in this case, but it’s apt and you might get a giggle.)

Candi Break

We spent Easter at Candi Dasa in East Bali, far from the madding crowd. We felt the need to stare at the ocean for four days. It’s always restless, but it sticks to its game plan and is predictable, at least in the main. The tides always come in and go out twice a day, a Circadian rhythm that for us provides a truly meditative focus from the comfort of a long chair by the pool. The discomfort of a yoga mat is for others in a more malleable state of grace.

We stayed at a favourite place, Pondok Bambu, where no one knows us as anything other than those crazy old Bules who’ve been coming here for years. We hadn’t been there for a while, but neither Nusa Penida nor Lembongan had moved. They remained in full view across the shimmering Badung Strait. Away to the east, Lombok gave us a glimpse of its comely contours now and then. The offshore parking arrangements for the Bali-Lombok ferries were as interesting as ever. Waiting your turn to Ro-Ro at the wharf at Padang Bai a few kilometres down the coast can sometimes be longer than the crossing.

And Pondok Bambu’s breakfast pancakes, enjoyed under the umbrellas by the low wall just above the water, were as tasty as always too. If you have hang around all Easter, it’s a pretty good spot to do so.

Switch Off

It was Earth Hour on Mar. 19, that annual observance through which, by switching off the lights for 60 minutes, we are encouraged to believe that we are saving the planet, or at least that we are helping to do so. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a bit of tokenism. No, really. It’s what the world seems to live on these days.

PLN, the national power utility, joined the chorus. It said Earth Hour was a great idea and consumers of its ephemerally available current should certainly participate. They didn’t quite go so far as to call on us to be upstanding and sing Indonesia Raya at mosque-loudspeaker pitch, but you got the idea.

A hollow laugh would be appropriate at this point. PLN has its own Earth Hours, somewhere, every minute, through its Well That’s a Surprise program of unannounced and inexplicable outages.

We once considered, in a nightmare we vaguely recall, what we might do if we woke up and found we were running PLN. Resignation and a plea to be considered instead for a position more closely aligned with the less fanciful claims in our CV came to mind. A paperclip-counting position in some dustily remote office of government might suit.

Just So We’re Cleare

It’s official. Australia is finally on the free tourist visa list, for visitors who are not intending to extend their stay beyond 30 days. That’s good news. But while the decision has officially been made and announced (accepting that here as indeed anywhere, things can be unannounced as required) it wasn’t immediately in place.

The super-active Clare McAlaney, who saw the announcement on line from the consular people at the Indonesian embassy in Canberra, got on to them for confirmation.

They told her this, on Mar. 21, in an email addressed to “Dear Cleare”:

“The new regulation on free visa to Indonesia for several countries, including Australia, was already signed by the President.

“However, its effective implementation shall wait for the issuance of the implementing regulation from the Ministry of Law and Human Rights.

“Once the new visa regulation is officially effective, it will be publicly announced by Indonesian Embassies/Consulates.”

Apparently some Australians got through immigration at Ngurah Rai International without paying US$35 as soon as the decision was announced. Even though the presidential pen had squiggled, the scrap of paper hadn’t been dug out from under the administrative overburden and no regulation yet existed. They’ll sort it out, eventually. The department of crossed wires must be Indonesia’s busiest bureaucracy.

Putting on Weight

The annual Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, a fixture since 2002, is breaking new ground with the collation of the UWRF’s bilingual Anthology series, which each year brings together the work of 15 emerging writers from across Indonesia. The writers themselves will launch the published anthology at the 16th festival, which runs from Oct. 26-30.

Festival director Janet DeNeefe tells us that this year UWRF has the largest number of submissions so far, with 894 aspiring writers from throughout Indonesia sending in stories for consideration. Submissions go to an independent curatorial board for selection.

In another move to widen its reach, the festival is collaborating with the Australasian Association of Writing Programs to select an aspiring writer to attend UWRF 2016. Submissions close at the end of May.

A Vital ROLE

The innovative travel outfit Destination Asia has been a supporter of the ROLE Foundation’s Bali WISE Women’s Skills Education program for more than a year now and have signed up to continue this support throughout 2016 as well.

That’s great news for all the women who have taken the opportunity to be part of the Bali WISE program. It highlights the benefits of corporate community support, delivered at a practical level, directly to the advantage of people who would otherwise remain truly disadvantaged.

ROLE founder Mike O’Leary tells us all Bali WISE students go through a six-month intensive school program. This is split into two parts: Three months are spent at ROLE’s Nusa Dua campus to learn English, women’s health, family planning, IT, and business skills. The next three months are spent at hotels for in-field hospitality training. Students’ education, accommodation and transport costs are covered throughout the six months of education.

Destination Asia started business in 1996 as the first destination management company to specialise in Indochina operations and the first Asia based travel business owned by its employees. Its network now spans 11 countries including Indonesia.

It runs on the old fashioned concept of a family business, without outside shareholders or directors, or equity relationships with international travel conglomerates.

So that’s a Woof, then

Bali’s most talkative recluse, Vyt Karazija, was some time ago adopted by an itinerant Bali dog, a feisty little fellow whose name is Lucky. Those of us lucky enough to be on Vyt’s mailing list have ever since enjoyed the Tales of Lucky. A recent post on canine affairs particularly caught our eye.

Karazija wrote: “Last night, Lucky was instructed by one of the people he owns to report to my place for his morning medication. ‘What time?’ he asked. ‘10am,’ he said. This morning, precisely at 10am, Lucky reported at my front door. Amazing dog.”

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