His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hector’s Diary appears in the fortnightly on line and print editions of the Bali Advertiser.