8degreesoflatitude

THINGS THAT INTEREST, ENGAGE AND ENRAGE

Category: Uncategorized

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.

A Ridiculous Travesty

Bali, May 9, 2017

THERE are several things that can be said about the two-year jail sentence meted out to Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaya Purnama (Ahok) for his astoundingly correct but politically incautious observation that matters of religion are often subject to varying interpretations.

One is that no one sentient would argue with his point. But he knew, or he should have known, that he was dealing with the wall-eyed crowd from the Islamic Defenders Front, the FPI, which apparently believes rational thought is a pernicious disease found only in kafirs who ignorantly and unwisely follow other, haram, religions.

Another is that Ahok, who is not a good politician (that’s not necessarily a bad thing) and who has a habit of tripping over wires more cautious beings would see in plain sight, was setting himself for a fall. He is a Christian of Indonesian Chinese ethnicity and Jakarta, like most places in the crowded bits of Indonesia, is predominantly a Muslim city.

Anywhere else his faith and ethnicity would be at most a talking point. In Indonesia, where the full sunlight of daytime still has to fall on many things, including good governance and a true sense of participatory national feeling (beyond regional and often obtuse pejoratives) Ahok was foolish to disturb the mediaeval shadows that still inform much Indonesian discourse and significant elements of its culture.

That said, it passes belief that a court would sentence a leading public official to two years in jail for making a general statement with which even a scholarly Islamic cleric would have difficulty arguing. Muslims believe that the Qur’an is literally the word of God. The supporting liturgy with which Islam has equipped itself over the 1,400 years since Mohammad received the word explains and (arguably) sets in context the revelations of the Qur’an. The Hadiths can be interpreted. The Qur’an cannot: It simply is.

Non-Muslims – and even Muslims themselves if they wish to stick a toe into headstrong waters – are equally entitled to suggest that rationality deserves a place in Islamic thinking. But these are things for scholarly debate, not for political argument. That much is common sense, for one thing, as well as polite.

That such politeness is generally not reciprocated, sent in the other direction – from those who repeat the unarguable word of God from the minarets and then apply this deist fiat to political dispatch boxes now found in many a mosque – is by the way. The nuance of the Christian New Testament, where an eye for an eye is sensibly replaced by two wrongs not making a right, is absent from the Qur’an. That is, unless you read it with an eye that suggests things may have changed, not to mention word usage, over nearly a millennium and a half.

Perhaps other, less hide-bound, jurists than the panel that sat on the bench at Ahok’s trial will amend the judgement of that court on appeal. They certainly should. It is for expert jurists to determine whether Indonesia’s blasphemy laws were broken by the otherwise inoffensive comment the governor of Jakarta made to lower economic status electors whose votes were being sought by his opponents. The fact that Indonesia has blasphemy laws – it’s not unique in this: such laws exist, for example, in the overwhelmingly Catholic Republic of Ireland among other places – is beside the point, though it sits rather oddly with the Pancasila principles and rather a lot of modern life.

So those who would like to see Indonesia become Raya (Greater Indonesia) should today be considering the appalling damage that has been done to their cause by the judges of the Jakarta court who decided to jail Ahok on a trumped up political charge of blasphemy.

Among those who should be worrying about great things, as opposed to banal political manoeuvres, however useful these may be to themselves, is former army general Prabowo Subianto. His political pal beat Ahok in last month’s gubernatorial election with the significant assistance of the blasphemy charge, and will become governor in October.

It worked as a political tactic. For that, it required neither moral judgement nor an ethical base. In fact, the absence of these benefits was a decided plus.

But it has seriously dented Indonesia’s claim to be a leading light in Southeast Asia on the basis of its moral authority and its economy. If Prabowo’s vision for Indonesia Raya includes dressing up political manoeuvres in mediaeval misapprehensions, then his vision won’t be seen as great by many people at all, except for a bunch of fundamentalists who insist that Islam is Indonesia’s only way, and who happily blaspheme other religious beliefs (free of penalty) to maintain this flat-footed, fat-headed proposition and their place near the centre of power.

It may well be true that the real target of these shenanigans is President Joko Widodo and that Ahok is simply collateral damage on the way to Prabowo’s great Indonesia, which he will almost certainly campaign on for the next presidential elections.

But that makes it even more dangerous, as well as worse, more venal, and thoroughly banal. In a word: It’s the Trump card.

Bali Daze

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

in the Bali Advertiser

Wednesday, Apr. 26, 2017

THEY do things differently there. That used to be something people said of the past, as in its being a foreign country. In the tried and true practice of Bali, however, doing things differently is something those who rule the island prefer to do in the present. The past is historic and mythical. The future hasn’t yet arrived and is therefore notional and can take care of itself.

Those among with long memories (that is, more than the preceding 12 months) will recall earlier schemes where attachment to reality somehow failed to find its way into the master plan. The round-island railway comes to mind. There are others, but we won’t go on. It is proposed to construct an offshore airport near Singaraja on the north coast, where the submerged landform goes gazompa in a steeply downward direction as soon as the narrow coral fringe of coastal water ends. The scheme got another airing recently. We’d love to see the engineering plans (not the pretty public relations guff; that’s useless).

As usual, the timeframe for development is hysterical. And we’ll ignore the economics, since everyone else is. But these are of no moment. This is Bali. What might be of interest are two elements of the engineering required for the offshore airport and its onshore supporting infrastructure – including the lengthy Jasa Marga toll road proposed to link the south and the north through geologically unstable landforms and forests of unalienable adat ownership.

The runways, taxiways and standing areas for big aircraft require thousands of tonnes of concrete of a thickness that would mystify most Indonesian civil engineers. Keeping that afloat would be a challenge. And then there’s the question of how to engineer the thing to avoid its destruction by a standard-risk 10-metre tsunami.

Way to Go

THE innovative Program Dharma animal health project being run by Udayana University  with support from the international organisation IFAW and locally the Bali Animal Welfare Association is showing great results, which deserve notice. A pilot program in 28 banjars in Sanur (Denpasar) has reduced the rabies threat there to an observed zero incidence, supported community engagement that’s a great model for the government to follow and implement island wide, and improved health in the local dog population.

All of this has been done without unnecessary killing of street and beach dogs, whose right to exist – and to coexist with the human population – is unquestionable, or should be. By keeping itinerant dogs healthy, including by vaccinating them against rabies so that the protective screen against the disease remains effective, and getting banjars (local precincts) involved in caring for them, an integral part of Bali’s heritage can be preserved. There are signs that the authorities at provincial and regency level are at last recognising this.

There’s no shortage of assistance available from foreign sources, including financially. An equally innovative Japanese program, from Kumamoto in Kyushu, is in place. Kumamoto eliminated rabies in cats – the disease vector there – by focused effort and effective administration.

Go Divas!

170426 SYDNEY DIVAS

From left: Sydney Divas committee members Sharon Kelly, Christina Iskandar, Maria Antico, Jackie Brown and Amanda Molyneux at the Apr. 1 event.

CHRISTINA Iskandar, Sydney wife-mother-grandmother and former Bali fixture, isn’t someone to let the grass grow under her feet. The first-ever Sydney Divas charity lunch, on Apr. 1 at the Royal Motor Yacht Club, Point Piper, which we can safely say wouldn’t have happened without her, raised a very substantial sum for the Bali Children Foundation. The money is sufficient to help the children of an entire village, an outcome that is truly wonderful news. We wish we could have been there for the inaugural event, but Sydney is already in our travel plans for a little later this year – 2017 is a big year for really important birthdays – and dollar-deprived diarists are compelled to budget.

Iskandar’s now internationalised Divas, who started the money-raising round here in Bali a while ago – and whose local lunchtime affrays are always worth attending for their ambience and to check for fashion foibles – have given new meaning to charitable enterprise in Bali. The Australian connection was always there, but now Iskandar’s back in her old hometown, it’s stronger than ever.

There are many worthwhile charity causes here, but the Bali Children Foundation, run by Margaret Barry, is right at the centre of the discretionary dollar target.

A Gold Coast Divas charity lunch is to be held on May 26. It’s at Edgewater Dining, a tapas bar and restaurant on the Isle of Capri in the Nerang River, one of The Diary’s long-established stamping grounds.

Soft Cells

THERE is, as the old saying puts it, one born every minute. Apparently quite a few of them then visit Bali for holidays. We instance, in this case, a gentleman from Australia who complained to police that he had been unkindly robbed in a Kuta alley by a lady boy who had offered him a one-minute massage in that informal salon.

We have no view on the sexuality of others, or of their morals, provided they involve only consensual activity and harm no one. It has long been our belief that people are people, and that their peccadilloes are best left to their own decision. For example, the fact that American Vice-President Mike Pence might perhaps feel sexually uncomfortable if he was alone in a dining room with one of Betty Crocker’s fine confections, gives us nary a frisson of fear – as long as he’s never let anywhere near anything that actually matters.

Similarly, if idiotic tourists want to get drunk and imagine that they’re going to find nirvana in an alley way with a lady who owns an Adam’s apple, that’s their own affair. The “lady” in question shouldn’t steal the poor sap’s wallet, of course; and, despite the best efforts of the nightclub circuit here, exposing yourself in public is still frowned upon. But, well, whatever.

Changing Times

LIPPO Group’s takeover of BIMC is now complete, following the 2013 sale of the Nusa Dua and Kuta facilities by BIMC’s Australian principal Craig Beveridge (for Rp208 billion, around US$23 million at current exchange rates). In a rebranding this week (Apr. 26), the flagship facility at Nusa Dua becomes BIMC Siloam Nusa Dua. It’s formally a brand merger, but it also redirects the hospital’s operations towards local people – a positive direction to be warmly welcomed – while keeping a focus on tourist and foreign resident health care.

The hospital, which opened in 2012, has Australian Council on Healthcare Standards International (ACHSI) recognition. In March this year it added crucial Indonesian accreditation from KARS (the national hospital accreditation committee).

BIMC Director I A Made Ratih Komala Dewi, a medical doctor, says of the changes: “Now is the time for BIMC Siloam Nusa Dua to begin providing affordable, quality healthcare to the local market – essentially all of Bali’s communities now have greater access to all hospitals in the group including this fine facility.”

She adds that the merger will generate a positive market reaction once awareness and trust are built. “We are expecting a 40 per cent conversion rate of total patients from local communities. To support the awareness of the brand merger, BIMC Siloam will open a local polyclinic in Badung regency with more affordable prices without compromising healthcare quality.”

BIMC marketing manager Windarini Fransiska says: “We believe the rebrand isn’t just a logo, it’s an experience and one that’s shaped by every doctor, nurse, and associate who delivers it and with this all our stakeholders are on board.”

The BIMC Siloam polyclinic will accept patients (KTP, KITAS holders and those with local insurance) from Monday to Saturday. Specialists practising in the BIMC polyclinic include internal medicine specialists, ENT specialists, paediatricians, dentists, anaesthesiologists, obstetricians and gynaecologists, cardiologists, neurologists, general and orthopaedic surgeons, and surgical oncologists.

BIMC Siloam Nusa Dua is holding an open house on Apr. 28-29 and May 5-6 so the public can see its facilities and inquire about its services.

For Your Diaries

RAMADHAN, the Islamic month of fasting, starts on May 26 this year (at sunset) and runs to Jun. 24.

HectorR

Hector’s Bali Advertiser diary is published monthly. The next will appear on May 24. He writes a blog diary as well, between times.

Capital Capers

HECTOR’S DIARY

His diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

HectorR

The Cage, Bali

Apr. 22, 2017

 

IT’S a shame that Basuki Tjahaya Purnama (Ahok) lost Wednesday’s ballot for mayor of Jakarta. He has shown a commitment to civic service that’s rare anywhere, but rarer still in Indonesia, where winning office is so often a licence to snooze between fulminations. It’s even more of a shame that he was defeated with the rowdy assistance of the zealots of the Islamic Defenders Front, the FPI, and under the shadow of an inventive blasphemy charge that had still to be adjudicated in court.

But it is only Jakarta, the mayor is only the governor of the capital city province, and the world as Indonesia knows it won’t end because General Prabowo Subianto’s good friend will be in office in that municipality from October. Neither, fundamentally, does it matter that Ahok is a Christian and his successful opponent is Muslim. He won the vote in the ballot office in the Jakarta district where the FPI has its headquarters. He can get a smile, and take heart, from that, as can we all. Most Indonesians are Muslim. Most would most like their leaders just to get on with their day jobs and go to mosque on Friday like they all do.

So it’s a time for cool heads rather than screaming and shouting and running around the burning deck. The deck isn’t burning, for one thing. The new mayor may think that he has won some national role, but the citizens of his shambles of a city will mark him (once he takes office and has to actually deliver anything) on far more prosaic matters. Service delivery, infrastructure improvement, and other measures of local governance have very little to do with Indonesia Raya, ex-general Prabowo’s favourite tin drum; or with fundamental interpretations of Islam, the FPI’s fixation.

Ahok won’t go to jail for his non-offence in quoting from the Qur’an in a political context. The charge has achieved its objective: he lost the election. The boys with the beards and the bother boots didn’t want a Christian in charge.

It’s not Armageddon, but it is, as many have said, a sorry day for Indonesian democracy. Two steps back after one stumble forward isn’t progress.

Wake Up, Little Susi

THERE’S a lovely pop song from the 1950s that sprang to mind this week, when maritime minister Susi Pujiastuti told the Japanese that Southeast Asia’s leading economic power needed the borrow their superseded maritime radar systems on a permanent, non-returnable basis. The key lines go like this:

Wake up little Susie, Wake up

Wake up little Susie, Wake up 

We’ve both been sound asleep

Wake up little Suzie and weep

The movie’s over it’s four o’clock 

and we’re in trouble deep

There’s no doubt at all that Minister Susi is right when she notes that Indonesia needs maritime radar to properly administer and keep the waterways of the archipelagic nation safe. But she needs to wake up (so do a lot of other people). There are many things that are beyond the sensible financial scope of Indonesia’s central government. Expensively unnecessary military hardware falls into that category, along with other toys, and a lot of brown envelopes. Maritime safety does not. It is a question of priorities.

The somnolently boring mendicant movie is indeed over. It’s late, but it’s still not too late for Indonesia’s government to wake up and work it out.

Bless You

WE saw a note the other day from a Facebook friend who had just commenced a camping trip in the New Mexico high country, along the lovely upper reaches of the Rio Grande, and posted a photo to show it. It looked beautiful. It would be great to tramp through that area, and we sent along a cheery greeting and an inquiry as to whether the party had plenty of DEET.

Something must have gone missing in the translation. By return post we were informed that pollen wasn’t a problem this early in the season. That was good to know. But it was sneezes of a different sort that had concerned us. DEET is a very effective anti-flea agent in insect repellents. New Mexico – like Arizona next door, where they even have bumper stickers proclaiming “The Land of the Flea and the Home of the Plague”, plus Colorado and California – is the most affected part of the western USA where, as the health leaflets put it, plague occurs naturally. Every year.

It probably got to the New World with the flea-ridden Spanish conquistadors from plague-ridden Europe centuries ago, though most plague ships of that era were Mary Celestes in the making, but officially it arrived during the 1898-1910 pandemic, the gift that Burma gave to the 20th century.

Fleas on prairie dogs (burrowing rodents) are its chief host. But dogs and cats can get it, along with bears, squirrels, rabbits, and sundry other creatures, including people; and other ground dwelling rodents are natural carriers. But perhaps Taos County is too elevated for prairie dogs. Plague is generally a summer disease. There were four human cases in New Mexico last year.

HectorR

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

Finding Refuge

This is a really lovely read.

The Global Goddess

saba
ON a balmy Brisbane evening I am slouched under a magnificent tree, savouring a plate of colourful African fare and sipping a Tusker malt lager. There’s but a whisper of a wind on this hot summer evening, just enough to scatter the tree’s tiny white flowers onto the faded tablecloth like confetti. The flowers fall into my hair and onto my head, like little sparks of inspiration.
africancrockery
I’m at Mu’ooz Eritrean Restaurant in West End, surrounded by fellow writers, artists, poets, singers and daydream believers, attending Wild Readings. I blew in here a little like the white flowers, an invitation from a friend to join this underground movement of creatives, who gather on the third Tuesday of every month. It is here that they soak up the collective juices, which are threatened with drought when you are alone for too long in a big city, stalked by the shadows of…

View original post 638 more words

Hello, January

On our 2017 schedule.

Lottie Nevin - The Rioja Diaries

New Years Eve

Despite my best intentions, the festive red knickers that I’d ear marked for last night’s celebrations never did make it out of the knicker draw. Neither did I get round to making the lentil stew and, worst of all, the lucky twelve grapes assigned to each of us for the chimes at midnight, are still in their bag in the fridge. So much for Mrs Nev’s stab at NYE Spanish style.

img_5280

On a positive note, I did produce a cracking dinner. Well, part of the dinner at any rate. A crackling dinner. My slow cooked belly pork was a triumph; Wilma and Colin thought it second to none. Alas, the same cannot be said of my Irish Cream Tiramisu. This creamy gorgeous, calorie laden confection was to have been the star of the show, a fitting and sweet finale to 2016 . A treat that Pedro had…

View original post 983 more words

Passing Out Parade

161219-russian-ambassador-to-turkey

He went to open an art show

 

I’m just turning 72. I don’t expect short of an accidental interaction with Fate that I shall die particularly soon; but you’d have to be an incredible optimist to assume at that age that you’ll notch up anything like another seven decades.

And you’d have to be a fool to want to.

One decade might do it, or a tad more. That’s reality. And reality, when we’re discussing death, is conspicuous in its absence in our soft, complacent and entitled western world. Where our mental graffiti reads: “Euphemisms Rule OK!”

Every living entity will die. And looking at that process rationally, you’d have to say that that’s a good thing. It’s a natural cycle. To reverse the usual form of that vacuously irritating aphorism, without death there can be no life.

This year has been a shocker for the otherwise rational – but of course by chance sometimes untimely – passage of celebrities from Gaia to Oblivion. We live by vicarious means where celebrity is in the picture.

Yet as the metaphysical poet John Donne (1572-1631) asserted …

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so;

For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow

Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.

From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,

Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,

And soonest our best men with thee do go,

Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.

Thou’art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,

And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,

And poppy’or charms can make us sleep as well

And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?

One short sleep past, we wake eternally,

And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

In this take on life and death, death’s role is that of a slave, to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men. It is an agency of other factors, not a self-motivating actor on the stage of life. It is not to be feared.

This year, and last, I’ve had some personal connection with death, in a family context. It’s always awful for those who are left behind, who are yet to take ship for their own final passage.

But it doesn’t do to be mawkish. My mother, dead these past 15 years, wouldn’t have a bar of that. She remains among my most powerful interlocutors. Some might suggest this is tomfoolery, but it isn’t. An inspiration that lives within you, and with whom it doesn’t seem in the least mad to have a present tense, present-day conversation, cannot be dead in the sense that we are invited, schooled, conditioned, to understand the term.

What would enrage my Mum is the modern fashion to euphemise the process. She would steam at the ears if it were to be said that she had passed. She died. We gave her a good send-off and had a party afterwards. We thought she’d like that. I’m sure we were right. She was always a G&T girl. We did the same for my Dad. He was a whisky man.

Death at the end of a long, or reasonably lengthy, life is no surprise, or shouldn’t be. It’s tragic when people meet their deaths in an untimely way. There are many thousands of now former lives (in Aleppo, just for example) that might take a view on that, if their murderers had allowed them that opportunity.

This murderous factor operates in the singular too. The Russian ambassador to Turkey went to open an art show. He didn’t expect to end up as an obscene corpse on the floor, the victim of some mad Turk.

That’s a vital perspective we’ve somehow lost. John Donne again:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

Most of 2016’s dead people (including those of Aleppo or of the Russian diplomatic corps) are not celebrities. They didn’t pass. They did not slip away. They did not move to eternal rest. They are not sleeping peacefully. They were killed. They died in horrible circumstances. They might have died in what could be seen as perfectly normal political circumstances (perfectly abnormal perhaps). But that says much more about their still extant fellow human beings than it does about them.

They are the ones who should be in our focus – they and all the other victims of political chicanery and economic abuse, whose corpses briefly litter the earth and may be photographed before they’re forgotten, and which then return to the elements from whence we all spring.

Life is a cycle. When the chain breaks, or someone or some thing breaks it for us, we fall off.

Book Review: Cove

I shall take your advice and buy ‘Cove’.

Tim Hannigan

cmr8ou0wiaa2ejbThe first echo is there in the physical form of the book itself: a slender pinch of pages, little thicker than a floor tile; a thing to be handled carefully as if it might break, and to be read with a delicate dabbing, like eating some rare dessert. The next echo is in the form of the story within: a man in a tiny boat, striving shoreward. And there’s an echo in the sparsity of the style too.

And yet somehow it isn’t until a nine-word paragraph, put delicately in place on the forty-sixth page – which, hereabouts, is halfway through the book – that the realisation passes under you like the bow-wave of a bigger ship:

You went out. You went out too far fishing.

Ah, yes. Of course.

Cormac McCarthy, Bruce Chatwin, and, above all here, Ernest Hemingway: these are clearly Cynan Jones’ writers – the writers that…

View original post 776 more words

On Hanson’s claims that women lie about sexual assault

Reblogged because this argument, contra Pauline Hanson’s dangerously asinine remark, is part of the essential learning process that Australian society, and others, need to undertake urgently.

No Place For Sheep

Michaelia Cash, Minister for Women, hugs Senator Pauline Hanson Michaelia Cash, Minister for Women, hugs Senator Pauline Hanson

My default attitude to Pauline Hanson is that my life is too short to spend much time contemplating her, however, an interview on Sunrise (no, I’m not linking) in which she gloated about the Trump victory and sputteringly claimed that women who accuse him of sexual assault are liars and women in general should toughen up when a man, uninvited, strokes our breasts and grabs our pudendas enraged me to the extent that I have to address it.

Aside: Sunrise enrages me as well, as does all breakfast television: who the hell wants to start the day with overly-cosmeticised women in tube frocks, and self-congratulatory men in nifty suits cackling & exclaiming, not me, I’d rather listen to the parrots & wattle birds brawling outside my window, they make more sense. Somebody thoughtfully sent me a clip of the Hanson…

View original post 637 more words

Waiting for the Last Trump

U.S ELECTION

Sep. 29, 2016

 

Them good ol’ boys were drinking whiskey and rye and singing ‘this’ll be the day that I die’ 

– Don Maclean, ‘American Pie’

161010-donald-trump-is-a-vulgar-pig

Update 10 Oct. 2016: This election sign somewhere in America says it all.

THE 2016 American presidential election pits against each other two candidates for whom I am grateful, as a non-American, that I shan’t have to vote. The Republican-Democrat stranglehold on federal power, a function both of machine politics and the complexity of government, prevents any alternative emerging.

Neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump is an inspiring figure. Both carry what is crudely called baggage. However, the American election is of interest, because the financial, political and military power of the US naturally impacts on the world at large, and which one of them becomes the next president of the USA is of critical importance.

So let’s briefly look at them both, from an outsider’s perspective.

Clinton has been part of the American political machine for more than two decades. She does know how it works (and probably that this is not very well) and she has standing on the world stage. She is a known factor in international diplomacy.

Things over which she may fairly be criticised are openly known; they are things with which other international leaders are familiar. She has fairly set out the international policy directions she would implement in office. They are mainstream positions. They won’t frighten the horses (or the Chinese, or the Iranians). They represent only modifications to the status quo.

She won’t set the world on fire. Most of us would probably say that this was a good thing.

Trump is a complete contrast. He has no public service experience. He says he’ll do deals with foreign nations, as if they were businesses that the Trump imperium either wanted to work with or to see in court – or to welsh on, another Trump SOP. That’s his record.

His pitch to American voters is that he’ll do things differently. And that’s fine, or it would be if Trump’s word were worth even a lawyer’s letter. His persona is vainglorious, his intellect (which is substantial) is focused on personal acquisition, his manners are appalling, his taste is execrable, his political direction is plainly scary, his social morals are questionable if not entirely absent, and his ethics are notional.

He is also risible, and it is on this last point that his real vulnerability exists. His supporters don’t care for policy, so arguing those is a zero sum game. He is more TV personality than leader in waiting (who would ever want to be Trump’s Apprentice?) He is loose with his language, crassly dismissive of all criticism, a sort of personal bonfire of the vanities.

Liberal democracies can deal with such personalities, if they wish, and if they have the energy and can find the courage. Trump is not actually a figure of fun – he is a clear and present danger – but he is vulnerable to ridicule. Most such people are.

And therein lies the beneficence of liberal democracy. We can slag off at our leaders, actual or putative, without risking police action on behalf of the rich and powerfully offended.

There was no tradition of liberal democracy in Germany when Adolf Hitler seized the public stage and later the nation. If a lot of people had laughed at him early in the piece, he might not have become quite the global problem that he later did. But it was left to the music halls of other western democracies and to Charlie Chaplin to make him a figure of fun, too late in the piece to head off disaster.

His fellow fascist, Benito Mussolini, was of course Italian, and Italy had (and still has) its own risible ways of conducting its politics.

Trump is no Hitler. But he might be a Mussolini, if left unchecked and un-laughed at. He probably does want to make the trains run on time. Mussolini managed that, but by means of adjusting the timetables to take account of time spent idle at train stations en route. He had some sensible ideas. Well, one sensible idea.

We haven’t heard a sensible idea from Trump in this election campaign.

We’ve heard that he’d like to build a wall to keep out the Mexicans and deport millions of illegal immigrants who are chiefly doing jobs Americans won’t do.

We’ve heard that he’d like to repatriate American money to create jobs, but no actual working plan that would achieve that.

He’d like to repudiate the architecture of global commerce and put European members of NATO on a pay-for-the-privilege program.

He thinks Russia’s Vladimir Putin is a good ol’ boy and that the irredentist Chinese, except for their success in stealing American jobs, are doing OK on a range of things, presumably including human rights, which anyway functionally fail to rate on the Trump scale of excellent ideas.

Lately, I’ve been criticised (by people I respect immensely) for making fun of Trump on social media and for playing the PC game. I don’t play the PC game. Economically I’m drier than Innaminka in a drought year. I make no apology for that. But neither do I apologise for publicly laughing at Trump, a living caricature, a man of other people’s means, a sociopath.

He is a risible candidate for POTUS. He is 72. There’s nothing wrong with that. I shall shortly achieve that milestone myself. But I don’t possess the sort of questionable and worrying vanity that would persuade me to wear a ginger stoat on my head.

Sorry, but if Trump’s the answer, the question is stupid.