HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Mar. 16, 2016

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Keep them at Bay

Made Wijaya, the go-to Bule for behind-the-friezes analysis of Bali society and what really makes it tick, has some very sensible things to say, in his latest Stranger in Paradise column, about the excrescence Governor Made Mangku Pastika and Jakarta business tycoon Tomy Winata wish to visit upon the precious marine environment of Benoa Bay.

Among them was this, a quote he gave The Sydney Morning Herald, whose Indonesian correspondent Jewel Topsfield has been following the story of the proposed vandalism of the bay:

“The Balinese are fed up and they are finally unifying to express protest against rampant development. Imagine filling in Sydney Harbour — it’s pretty radical. It’s going to become like, heaven forbid, South Florida, with fake waterways and cheesy houses. And the last thing we need is more traffic in South Bali. It’s mindless, environmental vandalism.”

He also noted this, of the massive local demonstrations on Feb. 28, including those authorized by the Benoa village authorities and its constituent banjars, with one of which we have a close personal connection:

“As a guest in this country, I can’t go out marching, as I would like to. As an environmentalist — and as a lover of real, not real estate Balinese culture — I feel obliged to write about these threats to the environment. Some Balinese have suggested that taking on Jakarta developers is like taking on the mafia. The Balinese used to believe that it is better to roll with the punches and just get on with the show, their ceremonial show, rather than wetting their pants over things that can’t be changed. But not any more.”

Like Wijaya, Hector is a guest and can’t go out protest marching. But that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t like to.

Hats Off to Them

We enjoyed a nice night out on Mar. 4, at the Fairmont Sanur where the ROLE Foundation and Bali WISE had a hat party to celebrate International Women’s Day. The traffic was horrendous – six changes at the traffic lights at the end of the tollway to get onto Bypass Ngurah Rai to Sanur, for all the usual incomprehensible reasons – but eventually we got there, parked (in the wrong place) and walked along the beach path to the Fairmont.

It was easy to spot ROLE founder Mike O’Leary in the crowd. His hat had big bananas on it. He looked nonplused when we greeted him thus: “Mr. Cavendish, I presume”. But when you’re the big banana on the night, you’ve naturally enough got a lot of things on your mind, so we forgave him.

We did not wear a hat. We look shocking in headgear of any sort. Neither did we win the raffle, but that too is the standard script. The Distaff took a hat with her but decided to leave it in the car. Fellow guests at our table were Amanda Csebik, of Indonesian Island Sail, who was hatless, and Muriel Ydo, formerly of ROLE, who had brought along a severe but really rather fetching 20-year veteran of her hatbox and put it on now and then. Deborah Cassrels, a fellow scribe we’ve known for more than two decades, joined us from her table after dessert and we all had a lovely chat.

O’Leary says the night, which featured a silent auction with some lovely options, was a great success. The dance displays were interesting, especially the samba, though it really wasn’t clear exactly what that had to do with empowering women. The feathers looked ticklish, which prompted a hastily erased thought. Many in the 100-strong crowd got out there and boogied. We stayed at our table and tried to make ourselves heard above the racket.

The Fairmont is a lovely property. We’ll have to go back in a quieter time.

Oh Buoy!

When that shallow magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck the seabed south of Sumatra on Mar. 2, both the Indonesian and Australian authorities issued tsunami warnings. A wave did not eventuate and the warnings were later cancelled.

But none of the tsunami detection buoys expensively arrayed in the Indian Ocean off Sumatra after the 2004 Aceh disaster were working. Apparently their solar panels and other useful bits had been stolen by enterprising thieves who if apprehended – fat chance – would probably only concede, and that grudgingly, that they might just possibly be public nuisances.

Foreigners are frequently advised, sometimes forcefully, to remember that cultural differences exist between Indonesia and places where law enforcement agencies are properly resourced, their performance is regularly monitored, their reporting is timely and accurate within agreed tolerances, and their actual enforcement of laws is generally speaking OK. That’s always been a very thin argument, worthy of a hollow laugh, in a country whose ringmasters insist on its, and their, dignity being beyond dispute, but never mind.

In situations where petty thievery and supine enforcement endangers lives, however, no laughter is appropriate, hollow or otherwise. There is a point at which rampant venality becomes more dangerous joke than cultural proclivity.

The latest ferry sinking is another case in point. This one capsized on Mar. 4 in the narrow strait separating Java from Bali, fortunately with only low loss of life (there were five fatalities). Inquiries were made as a result of the accident. Doubtless some primary cause will eventually surface and may even be disclosed.

But no one would be surprised if the boat was overloaded when it left Gilimanuk for Banyuwangi, a 30-minute trip excusing the hours then spent floating around waiting to dock.

Please Explain 1

One of Klungkung Regency’s minor panjandrums got an unwelcome hurry-up the other day. Governor Pastika dropped in to ask awkward questions about, shall we say, some unauthorised fundraising for phantom projects. Perhaps it came as a surprise to the fellow that private enterprise wallet-stuffing on government time is frowned upon at the Governor’s office in Renon.

If so, that’s a very welcome little shaft of light from the heavens. Klungkung isn’t the only place on the island where nefarious is understood to spell opportunity, as an unrelated corruption probe in Badung sourly demonstrates, but it’s a start. The Balinese who exist lower down the food chain than wallet-stuffing panjandrums (that’s most of them) will possibly be pleased that the Governor has actually required something to be done about it.

Klungkung is Bali’s smallest mainland regency, though its regent’s realms include Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan across the Badung Strait. Its bureaucracy likes to do nothing much about a lot. A case in point is rabies, which is of course not really a problem at all as long as anyone who could actually help eradicate it, or at least reduce it by world recognized vaccination and humane sterilization based dog population controls, is kept out of Klungkung.

Please Explain 2

Badung Regency has declared South Kuta – the area that encompasses Tuban, Jimbaran and the Bukit peninsula – a red zone for rabies. They’ve done this, they say, on the basis of the many dogs in the area, not necessarily because of cases of canine rabies.

Why this should still be necessary eight years after the rabies outbreak began (on the Bukit where the authorities failed dismally to contain it) is problematic, or would perhaps seem so to people unversed in how things are done here. The thing being, of course, that things are only rarely done here. The subtext to the announcement, early in this month, is an excuse to kill more dogs in the arcane belief that this will reduce the rabies threat.

The issue is education, so that people learn and are helped to take care of their animals – including village dogs which have always been informally, collectively owned – and effective vaccination and sterilisation programs. Killing dogs is cruel and unnecessary. It is also profoundly counterproductive when they have been immunised against rabies and are thus an essential part of the defence against the invariably fatal disease. All this takes money and effort, and a clear sense of purpose.

It’s something you might think the local veterinarian association would be active in advocating, even if only because vets are supposed to be bound by a version of the Hippocratic oath that applies to human medicine. Do no harm.

We noted this, in relation to the ongoing rabies emergency, in the Diary of Dec. 9, 2015:

“Where is the provincial government in all of this? What is it doing to educate people about their responsibility for animals in their care? Nothing. It’s off finding further excuses for indolence. Where is the Association of Veterinarians Indonesia (PDHI) of Bali? Perhaps its chairman, veterinary doctor Made Restiani, would like to tell us when the PDHI will be back from being out to lunch.”

Apparently, it’s an astonishingly long lunch.

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

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Jan. 20, 2016

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Modern Times

There’s been an outbreak of nostalgia for the “old Bali” recently, one of those periodic episodes where everyone puts on their rose-tinted glasses and peers back into the past, fondly recalling what they think they remember. Ah, the old days! Things were so much better then.

Fundamentally, that’s tosh. It’s certainly true that the economic value Bali has been able to add to itself and its people over the past 40 years has not been spread with anything like theoretical Marxist (or even Jesuit) perfection. To say nothing of the age-old Hindu culture that could sustain subsistence living for all, at a pinch, but is quite incapable of doing so in a modern monetary economy. It’s thoroughly arguable too that in the ambient social and cultural climate of Indonesia, wealth and its acquisitive benefits will never be universally available. The poor will always be with us. As will the robber baron plutocracy and grasping kleptomaniacs. The poor are nicer people.

The social welfare net that supports the mendicant classes in the western world won’t be replicated here, or anywhere in East Asia. And that’s not only because it’s plain that the overweening expectations about the immutability of that safety net will in the end cause the collapse of democratic capitalism and the western world with it. It’s chiefly because the Eastern ethos is different.

Progress is not always progressive or socially responsible. A 2014 book, by old Bali hand Phil Jarratt and called Bali: Heaven and Hell delineates the divide rather well. Fellow pioneer surfer Steve Palmer, a long-term fixture in Bali’s firmament when he’s not schussing the ski slopes of western Canada and the United States, has a word in it. He remembers the days when reaching the Uluwatu surf breaks meant trekking through miles of cactus-lined cliff paths and that this was something done by relatively few people. Sitting in a traffic jam for hours is certainly a less appealing prospect.

The old Bali is gone. Bits of it may still be seen, like sad little echoes of a past epoch, but we’ve all moved on. Unfortunately the landscape and the environment are less pleasant, both literally and figuratively. Gordon Gecko’s maxim holds sway here now. Greed is good. It’s the Balinese (and their fellow Indonesians who have made the island their home) who must deal with that.

Perhaps Governor Pastika recognizes this and will ditch his Old Curiosity Shopful of ideas that sound good at the time, but fail the test of sentience, like the round-island railway and filling in Benoa Bay for condominiums. He was reported as saying, after Travel + Leisure magazine named Bali as “one of the best islands in the world”, that this would simply ensure millions of tourists swarmed to Bali like ants. Um, a word in your ear, Guv.

Stardust to Stardust

It was very sad to hear on Jan. 10 that British rock singer David Bowie had died of liver cancer. His chameleon character and eclectic musical styles were an adornment to the otherwise frequently vacuous rock culture of his era and his way of handling celebrity was admirable. He declined a knighthood in 2003.

He recorded a last song only two days before his death. It’s a moving and extraordinarily symbolic monument to the place he knew he had in life. It followed release of his last album. These will surely be both his swansong and his epitaph. Perhaps his death and his final album are sad, in the saccharine way that western society seems to have made its leitmotif, but in fact his music and his manner are much better seen as an anthem to acceptance of inevitability. For that, too, he deserves high praise.

He was 69. That’s far too young to comfortably shuffle off this mortal coil. He will be missed, but his talent and music will never be forgotten.

Litter Louts

At Perth international airport there’s a quaintly named Smokers’ Refuge. It’s possibly not unlike a leper colony in its own way. It’s outside the terminal building, as it should be, and is basically in the car park across the road. But there are sun umbrellas to shade you and plenty of bins for your butts. As a place of exile for those among us who still use a usuriously taxed legal product and yet are frowned upon for doing so, it fits the bill quite nicely.

Most of the people who use it seem to be airport or airline staff, and some members of that recently inaugurated and nattily uniformed farce, the Australian Border Force. An occasional traveller drops by, either for a quick restorative draught after arrival or a last puff before having to submit to the artificial air inside the terminal and the long drag in the metal tube that follows.

Littering is a heinous offence in Australia, where in some places you can get stung the equivalent of between Rp5 million and Rp20 million for leaving a cigarette butt on the ground; and rightly so. But apparently this was of little moment to the three ladies in corporate uniforms we saw smoking there while they chatted in their break. They left an empty can of soft drink on a bench, right beside a bin, and the paving beneath them littered with butts. Shocking.

Home is Where the Art is

For reasons which are private and entirely peripheral to the point of this item, we recently had to remove from storage, re-pack and then re-store, numerous items of value, intrinsic and otherwise, which we keep in Australia because there’s no room at The Cage.

Among them are two lovely Made Kaek abstracts that caught our eye at an Ubud gallery in 2001 and which (of course) we promptly bought. They adorned our townhouse in Brisbane for four years, before – being greying nomads with absolutely no interest in buying a Winnebago – we moved to Bali. As the Distaff is a Westie (she’ll never be permitted to forget that, poor thing) that’s where we sent our memorabilia, our modest art collection, glassware, cutlery, sundry other household effects and a simply beautiful marble chess table and matching pieces. They were the collectibles of a life together that at that point had reached 26 years. You get less for murder these days, of course, but that too is peripheral to the point.

Both the Made Kaek works had latterly and briefly hung at the matriarchal McMansion, which made visits there even more pleasant than ever. But when we came to repack our stuff for future storage, one of the works had suffered seriously cracked glass. Naturally, Sod’s Law being what it is, this was discovered in the midst of Australia’s summer slumber and only two days before the truck was to come to take it and everything else away to Perth.

Happily, we found Sarah Bowes of Country Road Picture Framers in Busselton, to whose house – after a phone call – we repaired post-haste. She broke into her holiday downtime to replace the glass and re-back the frame.

We cannot thank her enough for her skill, her willingness to accommodate our urgent schedule, and the comfortable cost of the operation that she performed. Take that as a high recommendation.

And There’s the Rub

Getting home is always a blessing. Even if you discover on arrival that your internet isn’t functioning because your ISP has obviously sequestered the substantial megabytes of upload and download that you have paid for and that this requires four telephone calls to restore. Three of these calls mysteriously dropped out mid-conversation. Perhaps the unfortunate lackeys with whom we were conversing couldn’t find a handy friend who had done it.

Never mind. This indelicacy, along with others, was vitiated by a visit to our preferred local salon, Island Spa in Jimbaran, where restorative massages were enjoyed. Well, partly so. During his massage The Diary, perhaps incautiously, said when prompted by the therapist well into the 60-minute session that slightly stronger pressure might be in order. It was very good, since the seat pitch on Jetstar’s Airbus 320s is not septuagenarian friendly, but it cost Rp110K instead of the Rp80K that had been booked. The masseuse was commendably young and highly skilled, but an otherwise unmentioned 30 per cent rise in the tariff was perhaps a little stiff for the additional service rendered.

Still, best not to be churlish. Everyone needs to make a crust. There are significant pluses, also. We have our temporary resident permit process under way, albeit with added irritations, and have restored to working order the Distaff’s CIMB debit card that had very unkindly expired in her absence.

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

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Nov. 11, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Eastbourne Option

There is a fine line between farce and tragedy in both the thespian tradition and in real life. This is a worldwide phenomenon, granted, but it does seem especially prevalent in Bali and indeed more broadly throughout Indonesia. Witness the recent travels of President Joko Widodo, who had to go all the way to Washington before he discovered that much of his country was criminally ablaze and making such a nuisance of itself that he had to cut short his trip and dash home to deal with the crisis. He got the dashing home bit done. The rest is a work in progress; or perhaps it isn’t.

The Eastbourne Option is a handy practice for those who don’t have the opportunity to fly to distant places so that they can allow reality to hit home and find that things suddenly seem too much. It comes from that lovely episode in the John Cleese television series Fawlty Towers. When a guest at his terrible Torquay hotel tells Cleese (as owner manager Basil Fawlty) that it is the worst such establishment in Britain, the Major, a permanent paying guest, rounds on the critic and forcefully asserts that this is not true. “No! No! I won’t have that!” he exclaims. He pauses, thinking. Then he adds: “There’s a place at Eastbourne.”

Given the latest rounds of farce that have emanated from the Bali authorities, choosing the Eastbourne option is a way to escape the heightened risk of conniption or terminal tedium over the indecently close relationship between incredible farce and terrible tragedy visited upon their island by those who run Bali.

If you screw your eyes up and concentrate really hard you can momentarily ignore the otherwise inevitable assessment that inexcusable inattention and monumental hubris go together like … well, like rotten peaches and rancid cream.

Sense and Censor Ability

Literature requires dissent. In the absence of this important ingredient you end up with a library of promotional pamphlets that, like most of these glossy paeans to self-delusion, are of no practical use at all. Of course criticism must be objective in whatever genre it is offered. Fiction is often a better way to inform and spark debate than direct, unalloyed history. Sometimes it’s good to change the names to protect the innocent, the guilty, or indeed the author.

This year’s Ubud Writers and Readers Festival (Oct. 28-Nov. 1) was royally interfered with because – Shock! Horror! – its long published program contained elements that would discuss the events of 1965 and the mass murders that were its disgraceful central feature. When the chief of police of Gianyar made the shocking discovery that people at literary festivals might be talking about these things, he decided such rumination might encourage the communist tendency.

Where he has been since misapplied Marxism collapsed on a global scale, and even in China, is an interesting question. So too is why he failed to reference the fact that Indonesia’s expensive guest appearance at the Frankfurt Book Fair this year focused on the very same horrors. Though it should be noted that after the event some legislators in Jakarta have also spotted the fact that they hadn’t been paying attention either. They do the “horse bolted, shut stable door” routine so well here.

Another casualty of the newly reprised practice of suppressing dissent was a discussion of the plutocratic proposal to vandalise Benoa Bay for commercial interests. The Gianyar police chief said this decision was nothing to do with him.

Cursors! They’re on to Us

The useful Bali Crime Reports page on Facebook notes that Bali Police HQ is getting edgy about social media. Given rising street crime about which the police do nothing and the appearance in the media of reports on really important police activity like nabbing people who aren’t married to each other because having unmarried sex is illegal, or arresting the odd mangku for suggesting someone’s practising black magic, that’s perhaps not surprising.

As a note on the page suggests, the police probably didn’t expect their own social media bulletins to be translated into English and posted elsewhere where foreigners might read them. Bad scene! Bad for Bali’s image! They’ve apparently reduced their own social media posting in response and set up a supervisory system.

A bulletin from POLRI (police central) explains (and we quote verbatim):

“This supervision is meant to find out how prepared Bali police at all levels are, to enact the Development of Opinions to Facilitate Public Safety Which Are Conducive In Relation To Negative Effects On Opinions in Social (media) Society.”

In shorthand: Here’s a broom. Sweep that embarrassing stuff under the carpet.

Get on a ROLE

OK, now for some positive thoughts. Do you enjoy fine dining and great entertainment? Are you a supporter of women’s empowerment? Would you like to build links with like-minded individuals? If that’s a yes to any or all of these questions, then the ROLE Models Charity Dinner on Nov. 21 may be just the thing for you.

The ROLE Foundation’s work with disadvantaged women is a great example of the productive value of voluntary charity efforts in Bali and beyond. It’s not work that gets much exposure – certainly not as much as it deserves – but it’s practical benefits are priceless. ROLE educates and finds work for women from Bali and other islands who would otherwise miss out on life’s most basic opportunities. It’s all about breaking the poverty cycle.

The event is at RIMBA in the scenic AYANA Resort complex at Jimbaran. Service at the four-course dinner is by ROLE RIMBA trainees; there is a reception before dinner from 6pm, entertainment throughout, and a rooftop after party. Tickets are Rp1.3M and they’re selling fast, we hear. Bookings can be made at RIMBA, AYANA or through ROLE. Unique auction prizes can be seen here.

See you there! We’re not going to miss the occasion.

Vulcan Redux

We shan’t miss the ROLE Models Dinner if Vulcan permits, at least. We’re currently in Australia and due back home in Bali in a day or so. So it’s been a bit disturbing to watch the resurgence of volcanic activity in the region, this time from Vulcan’s otherwise minor franchise outlet at Mt Baru Jari in the crater of Lombok’s lofty Rinjani.

The Mt Raung eruption in East Java – we can see that culprit from The Cage on the Bukit – caused significant chaos in Bali’s airborne arrivals and departures system earlier this year. To coin a phrase, it wasn’t fun while it lasted. Let’s hope Mt Baru Jari’s little effluence is short-lived, both for air traffic purposes and for the health and wellbeing of Lombok’s people.

Visa Follies

For those who might still be wondering why Australia (which last year sent 1,128,533 paying guests to Indonesia, overwhelmingly to Bali) is one of only four countries now left off the list for free 30-day tourist visas, here’s a handy brief. Officially, only countries that reciprocate are entitled to free visa status, but of the 90 nations that are now graced with that favour, only 18 return the compliment. The three other countries on the frown list are Andorra (it’s a little patch of ground in the Pyrenees surrounded by France and Spain), Brazil and Libya.

Leaving aside ASEAN states, for which reciprocal free visa entry naturally applies, most of the favoured nations have presumably said something comfortable like “we’ll think about it” or cited the universal mirror response (“we’re looking into it”) when they’ve been asked about reciprocal rights for Indonesian tourists. Australia’s strict entry requirements are well known – from many perspectives they are highly arguable, but that’s beside the point – and Indonesian tourists are probably less likely to choose Australia over other destinations anyway, even if they could.

The free visa denial is plainly political. It flows from a desire to make a point of astonishing banality. It’s a bit like having Sukhoi fighter-bombers fly cover for chartered aircraft transporting Australian prisoners. It’s overkill. They do that so well here too. Just for the record.

One Horse Race

Australia’s iconic Melbourne Cup horse race, held every year on the first Tuesday in November, really was the race that stops a nation this year. A 100-1 outsider was first past the post. Its jockey became the first woman to ride a Melbourne Cup winner. And the horse’s strapper – carer, basically – is the jockey’s brother. He has Down syndrome and demonstrates that people with that condition are fully functional individuals (and often great fun). It’s a story that has it all. It would make a fabulous movie.

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

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

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Let’s Make a Mess of It

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

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

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

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

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

Island Faces

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

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

Beach Style

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

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

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

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

From Vulcan’s Lair

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

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

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

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

See You in Sanur

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

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

Festival details are on the festival website.

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

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, June 24, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Mama Mia!

We failed to wear pink for the occasion because – well, just because. But we were present at the June lunch of the indomitable DIVAS, who gathered at Slippery Stone in Jl Batu Belig, Kerobokan, for fun, frivolity, a clear absence of fasting as a practice any girl in her senses would endorse, and to raise money for the women’s empowerment group the ROLE Foundation.

We had promised chief Diva Christina Iskandar that we’d get along to the show, on Jun. 12. This was made easier by an arrangement to appear as Lizzie Love’s handbag. ROLE chief Mike O’Leary presented some interesting facts about his organization and the useful – actually essential – work it does to shift disadvantaged women out of poverty. Eva Scolaro sang some songs, sultry and otherwise, and ended with Mama Mia, that old ABBA staple. That created an amazing scene, at least in the view of superannuated diarists. Crowds of women from dowagers to dinky divas leapt up and began punching the air. It was quite alarming until Lizzie, dear creature, calmed our rising fears. Apparently it’s the done thing.

Lizzie, who didn’t do the punch-the-air thing, was in fetching Flapper-style pink but she had along with her for the show a lovely Sydney friend, Jocelyn Johinke, to whose presence we formed an immediate attraction. Like the Diary, she was wearing the “new pink” which is, well, basically white.

It was all good fun with no disappointments since we never win raffles anyway, and now we know it’s safe to be in the middle of a moderately raucous female crowd we’ll get along to the next one, in September. That’s if Lizzie will extend the handbag option.

Free For All

Well, not quite. But President Joko Widodo has issued a decree that suspends the effect of legislation to the contrary and lists 45 countries whose citizens will be able to visit Indonesia without the financial embarrassment and onerous queuing involved in first paying $US35 for a VOA and then lining up again to get a stamp in their passport.

Apparently the reciprocity rule doesn’t matter any more. If Indonesia wants to exempt certain aliens from paying for tourist visas, it’s no longer germane whether their own countries offer the same privilege to Indonesians. One of the President’s stated aims is to get 10 million tourists a year to Bali by 2019. That’s just four years away. Perhaps he hasn’t realized this, since mathematics is apparently a problem to him. Making the announcement in Denpasar he said that 10 million was nearly double the present 4 million a year.

Then again, maybe the idea is to prove the local theory that the availability of infrastructure to cope with such an influx really doesn’t matter a damn.

There might be a little confusion in the queues though. In the grand tradition of bureaucracies everywhere, which is of course played out in spades in Indonesia, the signs in the arrival hall at Ngurah Rai International are also, shall we say, to be decorous about it, not quite right. Never mind. Just mill around and marvel. That’s what Bali wants its tourists to do anyway, once they get out of the airport. So they can just start a little early.

The U.S., Canada and New Zealand are on the free list. Pointedly, though not surprisingly given the tedious you’ve-got-feet-of-clay two-way exchanges across the Timor Sea that have recommenced lately, Australia is not.

A Note for Scribblers

It popped into our in-box recently from Janet DeNeefe, doyenne of the literary tea set in Ubud and founder of the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. The twelfth rendition of this felicity takes place between Oct. 28 and Nov. 1. Do make a note in your diaries. It’s always worth getting along to the program of events DeNeefe and crew put on for the festival.

Having reached the halfway mark of the year, DeNeefe notes, there are only four short months until the 2015 festival. We’ll leave aside the fact that discounting June (now all but gone) only September is a short month in that timeframe. We know she meant.

More than 150 writers and creatures she calls creatives from Indonesia and beyond “will gather to discuss extraordinary stories and big ideas”. Gabfests are always fun, so we’ll certainly be planning to join the jamboree.

All the latest details, including the names of writers in the fields of fiction, human rights and research, are on the festival website. If you’re writing a book and would like to launch it at UWRF 2015, applications are now open. The Diary’s alter ego is engaged in just such a venture, but it may not be ready in time and in any case its genre might better suit a more outré venue.

Early Bird tickets go on sale in July.

Barking Mad: Latest Update

Some shocking figures have found their way into the local Bahasa press on rabies, which has been a feature of Bali, though not an attraction, since 2008. They show that in 2013 the percentage of dogs vaccinated against rabies – and therefore providing the vital screen between canine rabies and its transmission to humans – was 68 percent, just below the 70 percent level international standards say is necessary for effective herd immunity and suppression of the disease. (In 2010, at the end of the successful campaign led by the animal welfare NGO the government now loves to hate, the figure was 80 percent.)

It gets worse. In 2014 it was 44 percent. By June this year (without figures from Klungkung regency which is either playing silly beggars or has gone to sleep) it was 36 percent. That’s effectively half the optimum protection level. No wonder we’re seeing a procession of local animal husbandry worthies panicking while they do their repertory performances of Cpl. Jones in Dad’s Army, whose catch-cry was “Don’t Panic! Don’t Panic!”

And that’s not all the bad news, either. In 2013 the risk that a dog might be infected with rabies and thus likely to bite you and cause you to die an unnecessary and horrific death was 4.1 percent. In 2014 this figure had risen to 10.2 percent. In the middle of 2015 it is a shocking 20.8 percent – one in five dogs.

Another of Cpl. Jones’ favourite aphorisms was “They don’t like it up ’em”, and this too is a feature of Bali’s disgraceful failure to counter rabies. Animal husbandry authorities have warned that anyone interfering with their kill-at-will response to the disease they have allowed to become endemic is breaking the law and could be jailed. Animal welfare organizations could face closure if they pursue an activist agenda.

Bali’s authorities might win first prize for idiocy and short sightedness over this. They won’t win anything else, far less the battle to control rabies.

There are also problems with supply of human rabies post-exposure vaccine. It’s basically an argument over money (sigh) but it’s symptomatic of the deficient budgetary processes that are ubiquitous here and the vacuous policy of judging risk as functionally absent until something actually happens.

Indonesia Raya

Britain’s ambassador to Indonesia, Moazzam Malik, told a gathering in Jakarta to celebrate the birthday of Queen Elizabeth II that Indonesia, along with China and India, will dominate the global economy as the 21st century progresses, because of its large population. The proprietors of countless bengkels relying for their livelihood on perforated mufflers and wonky suspensions will be pleased to hear this.

No, seriously, British analysis of global trends clearly identifies population mass as a key driver of economies, and notes that Britain, with a medium population (it’s around 59 million) relies on partnerships or strong cooperation with larger countries. This factor alone argues against the developing tendency in Britain to view with favour an exit from the European Community, though that’s a separate issue in this context.

The Queen’s Birthday is celebrated in June – it’s not her actual birthday – so that the Brits have an outside chance of seeing the grand military parade in London called Trooping the Colour held in conditions rather more clement than the usual shivery temperatures and intermittent drizzle.

Tweet, Tweet 

The Japanese city of Yokohama – it’s Tokyo’s port city – is working with the Indonesian government to help conserve the endangered Bali Starling by donating birds for resettlement in the Bali Barat National Park. It’s the second three-year program. The first began in 2012.

The Bali Starling (Leucopsar Rothschildi) is locally known as the jalak or curik. In 2005 there were only five birds known to be survivors in their natural habitat, the national park in west Bali. Today the population is more than 100, including 40 that have been released in the park.

Hector is on Twitter and tweets @ scratchings. His diary appears in the print and online editions of the Bali Advertiser.

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, May 27, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Comedy of Horrors

The head of animal husbandry in Badung regency, Made Badra, is reported (by the Jawa Pos newspaper) to have come up with a brilliantly cunning Baldrick-style plan to solve the rabies problem in Bali. These guys must be watching bootleg DVDs of the entire series of The Black Adder, the way they go on. Pak Made in particular seems to have been chatting with the Wise Woman. She was the witch who advised Lord Blackadder, who had a little difficulty with two men and a queen, to kill everyone.

No, that’s unfair. He apparently would like to keep 200,000 dogs in Bali as long as they’re vaccinated and sterilized, and kept as pets, in order to protect the Bali Dog. It’s possible that he was misreported as to the precise detail of his proposal. As head of animal husbandry he would presumably know that sterilized dogs have difficulty reproducing. Given the average lifespan of a dog, on the reported basis of his plan he’d be looking at eliminating the Bali Dog as a distinct species within about 15 years.

The crux of the problem with rabies control in Bali is that no one is in control. There’s not enough vaccine in stock because not enough is being bought. District control programs are administered – though that hardly seems the word – by officials who don’t know how many dogs there are but nonetheless would like to kill lots of them. The health bureaucracy cannot vaccinate people who need anti-rabies shots after they’ve been bitten by village dogs that no one can say have been vaccinated. Look up shemozzle in the dictionary. It’s all the rage here.

On top of this, the Badung animal husbandry chief has a shot at animal welfare organizations that, he says, really should do more than just shout and scream if they want to help. We know of one such organization that right from the start of the crisis in 2008 actually did rather a lot more than just run around like a headless chook. It reduced rabies in dogs by a huge quantum in the first stage of a vaccination campaign it organized with international support. Then it ran into a poisonous thicket of provincial posturing and little local jealousies – these were not in Badung regency; that needs to be noted – and has since been monstrously hindered by inventive licensing and permit restrictions in doing its day job, let alone the government’s.

We say again: world best practice shows that controlling rabies and eventually eliminating it as a threat to human and animal populations is achieved by vaccinating (and regularly re-vaccinating) domestic and informally owned dogs to create an effective vaccinated screen. Dogs are territorial and will see off interlopers and hence keep potentially rabid animals away.

What part of “Oh I see” do the authorities here not understand?

Two Gems

The Diary dined in excellent company at the new Jemme Restaurant in Jl. Petitenget at Kerobokan on May 9, its opening night after significant renovations. It was busy and at times a little noisy – but, hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little chatter and clatter – and the food hit the spot. It’s a gem. There’s a very decent wine list and a menu that suits all tastes. Our advice: Do drop in.

Another gem was along for the occasion. Eva Scolaro, Perth jazz singer and now Bali resident, sang for everyone’s supper. She’s doing regular spots there. And we hear she’ll be performing at the next DIVA do, on Jun. 12 at Slippery Stone at Kerobokan.

In an entirely different style, we looked in at Hog Wild’s soft opening in Jl. Batu Belig on May 14. It’s the former Naughty Nuri’s and the charity outfit SoleMen had a benefit there. The grub’s good. So was Ceremco, the Dutch illusionist who has now been reading minds in Bali for two years.

We’d seen him not long before at the Europe on Screen film festival at Pan Pacific Nirvana. He specializes in two different genres – kids’ magic (which was certainly working magically for the kids at Hog Wild) and hypnosis, psychological magic and self-help for adults.

Chaos Theory: Proved

We’ve had a lovely taste of the chaos the European and post-Ramadan high season will cause on Bali’s roads this year. The long weekend recently brought South Bali’s major arterial roads to a standstill. It’s reported that on the Friday evening of the long weekend it was taking up to two hours to make the trip from Seminyak to Kuta. That’s 6.4 kilometres via Sunset Road. Traffic was stalled for kilometres on the Ngurah Rai Bypass and all the connecting roads were jammed.

Vehicle traffic from Java via the Ketapang-Gilimanuk ferry link rose by 37 percent. More than 3500 vehicles entered Bali from Gilimanuk on the Thursday before the long weekend alone. Since the Denpasar-Gilimanuk road would be flat out properly handling 10 percent of its regular traffic and alternatives to this – a toll road option – are still in the department of pretty pictures, nothing’s going to change on that arterial route soon.

In South Bali, the traffic situation at peak times has returned to the jam-packed inch-forward profile for which it was famous before the Nusa Dua-Benoa toll road was built. Given rock-bottom airfares aimed at domestic tourists and the Chinese invasion (they drive around in large parties in Leviathan-sized charabancs, as is their wont) the future looks bleak.

It’s a Squeeze

A telling illustration of the bind Bali has got itself into over tourism and infrastructure comes to light in new figures released by the statistics bureau that show a disastrous 2011-2015 decline in room occupancy rates of classified hotels (the ones with stars basically).

They’re worth running your eye over even if you’re not directly involved in the hotel sector, since they demonstrate with stark clarity why retail outlets and other services that depend on high throughput of human customers are also struggling.

In January 2011 the occupancy rate was 64.66 percent. In 2012 it was 62.01; in 2013, it fell to 57.57, then to 52.85 in 2014 and 47.23 in 2015. For the month of February the rates were 62.23 (2011); 55.52 (2012); 58.05 (2013); 52.76 (2014); and 47.59 (2015). Similarly sharp falls in occupancy rates occurred in all but two months of each year between 2011 and 2015. March in particular stands out. In Mar. 2011 the occupancy rate was 63.16 percent. In Mar. 2015 it was 43.24 percent. August and September are the only months in the series in which the 2015 occupancy rates are higher than they were in 2011. (The 2014 and 2015 figures are provisional.)

Under Bali’s unplanned planning rules, new hotels are still being built and opened. Existing hotels are discounting room rates to attract custom, or are being squeezed by the online bookings sector. We hear a suggestion that most hotels even at the top star-rated level are effectively getting only Rp300,000 a night per room. If this is so – it’s unlikely any hotel general manager is going to be saying so publicly – then the situation is unsustainable in the long term without massive new numbers of visitors.

Eat Up!

Penelope Williams, whose unique Bali Asli restaurant is at Gelumpang, near Amlapura in un-crowded East Bali, and who featured as a foodie at the 2014 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, is on the program at the first Ubud Food Festival on Jun. 5-7. She is giving a cooking demonstration on Jun. 7.

Williams, who was formerly executive chef at Alila Manggis, has a stellar CV and came to Bali from 12 years in Sydney, Australia, says her aim is to promote Balinese cuisine and culture without exploiting it or Bali’s people. The menu offers authentic Balinese food using a traditional Balinese style kitchen. They cook on wood-fired, mud brick stoves, which Williams says allows the real flavours of Bali to shine. Most of Bali Asli’s ingredients are either grown in its own or a neighbour’s garden or bought from the local market. There’s a cooking school too.

She has a refreshingly open approach to life and its vagaries. On the Bali Asli website there’s this lovely entry: “On Trip Advisor …. Among the few critics is an expat who has lived in Bali for several years. She describes the restaurant as a place for naive tourists and her advice is to get far less expensive but good Balinese food at a local warung.”

Well, we’re another expat who has lived in Bali for several years and eats at local warungs. And Bali Asli is on our non-naive-tourist must-visit list.

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

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

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

A Line in Their Sand

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

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

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

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

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

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

Karmic Payback

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

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

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

Our Favourite Dish

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

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

Still Barking Mad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Show it Off

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

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

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

Resourceful Crowd

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

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

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

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

Way to Go

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

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

Got it! A good giggle is just the ticket.

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

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Feb. 18, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

No Time and High Tide

It’s always fun to read stories in the local press that relate to statistical information. The power of presentational representation (some people call that PR) is a skill that should never be undervalued in Indonesia. Thus we had a little smile when we read that Bali’s Department of Marine Affairs and Fisheries reported seaweed production in the regencies of Badung, Klungkung and Buleleng fell last year by 42 per cent on the 2013 figure. Official statistics show seaweed production was reduced from 145,597 tons to 84,320 tons.

A representative of the department, I Made Gunaja, said conversion of seaweed farms into tourist attractions had caused dramatic reductions in production at Pandawa and Kutuh beaches on the Bukit. Hello? How can that be? Who would have expected that to happen if you shooed off the seaweed farmers because their way of life and subsistence income was superfluous to Bali’s modern requirements to turn secret beaches and other lovely natural spots into resorts for the newly rich and wannabe famous?

The departmental spokesman added this hopeful line to his spin cycle:  “Because the land is used for tourists, the seaweed farmers are now switching professions to join the tourism sector.” It’s good to hear that all these displaced persons, casualties of the national struggle for plutocrat enrichment, are getting professional jobs in the tourism-related sector. Executive Manager, Leaf-Sweeping, with the prospect of eventual promotion to bag-carrier, sounds an absolutely ideal new career path.

Part of the problem, according to Dr Spin, is the weather. Apparently it has been inclemently unkind recently to the sort of seaweed that has populated the marine environment in the area forever. So they’re proposing to plant red seaweed, which the department asserts could promise a much bigger crop and which is supposedly rather more resistant to climate cycles (and possibly jet-skis, though Dr Spin didn’t say this).

It would be interesting to read the findings of the EIS on introducing red seaweed into the environment apparently vacated by the green variety and its harvesters. Did we just hear a hollow laugh?

Her Kitchen Rules

Janet DeNeefe of Fragrant Rice fame has added a food festival to her list of Ubud-centred Bali things. She says the idea flowed from feedback from patrons of the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival that suggested they’d enjoy the added benefit of exploration in the diverse culinary landscapes of Indonesia. Last year’s UWRF in Bali’s self-styled culinary and cultural capital included a Kitchen Program.

The first Ubud Food Festival is the result. From June 5-7 DeNeefe and others will run a three-day culinary extravaganza. She promises a festival that will bring together Indonesia’s and Southeast Asia’s most celebrated chefs, restaurateurs, producers and food professionals to serve up a program rich in food mythology, authenticity and taste.

Its tastes and sensations will be eclectic, ranging (in her words) from coffee to chocolate and tempe to turmeric. The UFF will include a range of free and ticketed events spanning cooking demonstrations, master-classes, panel discussions, night markets, farmers’ markets, food tours, wine tastings and film screenings.

We must get along to it.

Lost in the Myth

It’s something of a comfort to learn that the trade minister in the new Jokowi Cabinet, Rahmat Gobel, decided to ban the import of used clothes because they could spread HIV. Most of President Widodo’s ministers had seemed, up to that point, to be a serious-minded bunch, even if some of them were there for political rather than qualified reasons. The mirth was missing.

Pak Rahmat has bravely returned us to the comedy routine. There’s nothing quite like a torrent of tosh to get the belly-laughs going. So we all owe him a favour for lighting up our day. Far be it from us to suggest that his feeling for farce is in fact connected with appalling ignorance and morbid misconception.

We can safely leave that to Ayu Octariani of the Indonesia AIDS Coalition (IAC). She put the situation into its correct perspective. She said the minister’s statement was regrettable and reflected a lack of awareness in Indonesia regarding HIV and what it can lead to (AIDS) if not treated with appropriate drugs and qualified medical care.

She also said this: “Let’s not talk about educating the public just yet. Even in the cabinet, which consists of educated people, there’s still a misconception about HIV/AIDS.”

Indeed there is.

Phew – Made It!

When we sent this diary column in on deadline, we were in Brisbane, in the Australian state of Queensland, a place that is remarkable for many things, including having been abandoned yet again by serial schedule-changer Five Star Garuda.

In Queensland, as some may know, they’ve just had another of those “the voters have spoken – the bastards” elections. Attending scenes of chaos, political or otherwise, has been our lifelong work and it was amusing to be back in the thick of it, briefly. We were due to have a chat with the Diary’s international cultural attaché, Philly Frisson, on these and other matters, but other matters intervened. We’ll catch up later with the dear girl.

Being allowed into Queensland, though, was a damn close run thing, because the government just given its marching orders (despite winning the popular vote by a margin of nearly four percent) had enacted astonishingly anti-democratic bikie laws during its first (and as it turned out, only) term. Among the rules imposed by this inventive legislation, as noted in the Diary of Feb. 4, was a provision that any gathering is illegal if two or more members of bikie gangs are present.

We were carrying two lovely Bali “German-style” bike helmets for a friend who collects such cultural items to decorate his bar. Fortunately, though we of course declared the presence of more than one possibly bikie helmet to the seriously-minded lads and lassies of Customs and Border Protection at Brisbane Airport, we were told that whatever Queensland laws might suggest, they were not regarded under federal law as evidence of criminal intent.

Celebrity Support

Paris Hilton, whose favourite colour is pink and who recently holidayed in Bali yet again, is a fan of the efforts the Bali Animal Welfare Association makes on behalf of the island’s disadvantaged dogs and other animals.

She told her global fan club this in words and pictures on her Facebook page, which is essential reading for diarists who like to keep abreast of what the international glitterati does between breakfast and dinner. (What it does between dinner and breakfast is its own affair.)

On her latest Bali break, Hilton also found time to chat with the glitter-obsessed macaques of Ubud’s Monkey Forest. Good on her!

Evil Weed

It was very nice of Kerry Ball to invite us along to the Alan Bates Stop Smoking seminar held at Petitenget Restaurant & Bar on Feb. 7. We couldn’t attend since we had just the day before taken our personal pollution program off the island temporarily. But we do agree that people should be encouraged to stop smoking, if they are smokers who wish to stop doing so.

Bates claims to have helped thousands of people around the world give up the pernicious weed first identified as such by King James VI of Scotland – he was also King James I of England, something the untutored crowd south of that particular border are apt to forget – not long after Sir Walter Raleigh returned from the Americas with his first packet of Indian Rough. He wrote a famous treatise about it, in 1604, entitled A Counterblaste to Tobacco.

As Bates notes and as experience suggests, nicotine addiction is both a physical and a behavioural thing. Willpower can do the job if you really want to stop. But you have to really want to stop.

Being told you’re a social excrescence and a rude person of immense stupidity, constantly, is not as much of an inducement to cease smoking as some of the anti lobby apparently would like to believe. But smoking rates are falling sharply in many parts of the world. In Australia, where the Diary is temporarily hiding away behind bushes or toilet blocks to snatch a quick draught, only 13 per cent of people now smoke.

It’s a dying habit, as they say.

Four Play is Such Fun

Putri Wedasari, who used to make noise as an account executive for OZ Radio 101.2 Bali, has changed her style. She now heads Four Play Communication, an agency that operates within her skill sets of marketing and strategic communications, the latter being the field in which she obtained her master’s degree last year.

She lists Zumba dance among her recreational interests. That sounds like just the thing for a young lady on the move.

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