8degreesoflatitude

THINGS THAT INTEREST, ENGAGE AND ENRAGE

Statues of Liberty

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

Bali, Saturday, Mar. 11, 2017 

IT was so nice to hear that our high profile regal Arabian visitor – Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, King of Saudi Arabia, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, and Head of the House of Saud – liked Bali so much that he extended his stay. He’s due to leave tomorrow, it seems.

It was also good to hear that the Balinese authorities refused to cover any of the rather outré statuary of traditional and religious significance to Bali Hindus, in rather the same way as the folks who look after the palace in Bogor placed Adam and Eve-style foliage in front of the lovely nude statues in the gardens there.

They had heard suggestions that they should organise something of the same kind of visual obstruction. This would act as a prophylactic against offence among the Saudi royals, who in the manner of most occupants of their hot, dry, desert country, go around in full Casper the Ghost rig and don’t dig the naked gig.

For Arabs, in Arabia, it’s a sensible precaution against sunburn, and this was indeed its original function. It may even be useful when riding camels, which are difficult beasts at best. But Islam mandates modesty (something the decadent West has given up for dead). Moral turpitude is frowned upon (ditto). And it is most especially a practice publicly disavowed by the strict rules of Wahhabi Islam.

King Salman is said now to view Indonesia as his second home. It rained a little while he was here, which must have been a novelty, and was perhaps an attraction. Speaking of novelties, if the king and his party managed to catch more than a blurred glimpse of other traffic while flat-footing it around in big limos escorted by police outriders and get-off-the-road-now loudspeaker trucks, they might have seen women riding motorbikes or even driving cars.

High-Placed Leak

JOHN Donne (who we might remember has been dead a little while now) reminds us never to ask for whom the bell tolls, because it tolls for thee.

Bill Leak, controversial Australian cartoonist, has now joined him in the lists of those who are no longer with us. It’s unlikely that he will be remembered as much as some who people the supposed pantheon, or as long, or as fondly, or with as much good reason.

Nonetheless, we are all of us nothing without the benefit of free speech. Another, greater, brain, Voltaire, makes that point rather firmly.

One great risk of free speech is that it nurtures public hyperbole, especially among those who in earlier ages would have been confined to being pamphleteers and activists within many mobs. We have to live with that, of course, which is one of the points Voltaire was on about.

But measured appreciation and objective conclusion, of Leak in this instance, need not be obsequious, and indeed shouldn’t be. Let those who love him sing the paeans. He’s dead, which is sad in the human sense (the bell eventually will toll for us all). He has passed into the afterlife from which, to the benefit of everyone who abhors clumsy and stupid racism, he can produce no more execrable cartoons.

Kuta Capers

NO, we’re not talking about those small pickled berries that season your food, especially if you dine at The Cage. We’re referring to the traffic in Gridlock Central in the place that certain sorts of tourists have ensured is known globally as a fun show. It’s also Cooter Central, but we won’t go there.

We’ve been avoiding Kuta for a while, to allow the police to work out that their new (old) traffic management system, involving a lot of one-way streets that take you everywhere except where you want to go, wouldn’t actually work. They’ve done that now, which is good. They really had no option, since the local banjars (precincts) wouldn’t have a bar of it, no one was in the least interested in being “socialised” by the cops about their new recipe for chaos, and paying traffic fines is viewed as a sort of optional extra in Bali.

This week, however, we had to venture in. There was a lot of traffic – especially at the airport traffic circle, where as usual the three notional traffic lanes entering it had been converted into six-and-a-half by the impressive insouciance of the locals – but it all worked, on the old model.

You just keep moving, slowly, and insinuate yourself into the melee. It takes nerves of steel (or in the Distaff’s case, in the passenger seat, an episode of closing your eyes and thinking of England) but it’s effective. We have heavily tinted windows in the car so mostly the locals don’t know they’ve been beaten into the last cubic centimetre of available space by a filthy foreign “tourist”. If by chance they do, they tend to look surprised, which is delightful. Road rage is not a factor here, a great benefit.

Further on, the always-interesting turn across the traffic to access one of Kuta’s more spectacular road shemozzles and get to our destination, was as much fun as ever.

On our return, because of the traffic, we drove north to get back onto Sunset Road rather than retracing our route that would have necessitated one of the manic traffic-snarl U-turns that they do here.

The police, fresh from their triumphant failure to change the pattern of chaos on Kuta’s roads, are engaged in a campaign to enforce the road rules. Perhaps they know what these are. That’s an interesting theory. The Highway Patrol car we had seen earlier, parked on the airport traffic circle, had evidently been left there by a policeman who didn’t.

At the four-way junction with Sunset Road, on our way back, the traffic police were about, waving their arms and blowing their whistles. That particular intersection is interesting because the only way traffic turning right (onto Sunset) can get through in more than four long changes of the lights is to get into the other-way lane. One assumes this would transgress certain of the traffic laws. No matter. The policemen with the whistles and the waving arms didn’t seem to care. They never do.

Hector writes a diary in the Bali Advertiser. It appears monthly.

A Spicy Date

HECTOR’S DIARY

in the Bali Advertiser

HectorR

Wednesday, Mar. 1, 2017

 

UBUD is the centre of much heritage and tradition in Bali. This remains its principal charm, which is offset only by its other role as a testing ground for the skills – or lack of these – of drivers of huge buses that service the growing Chinese takeaway tourist trade. The narrow streets of Aum Central are believed by package tour operators and entrepreneurial bus companies to be ideally suited to big vehicles.

Fortunately such impediments are only spasmodic. It mightn’t seem that this is the case when you’re caught in one of the regular hour-long crawls around the Monkey Forest-Raya Ubud-Hanoman horror, or the similar stop-start treks up from Lod Tunduh, but it would be churlish and quite wrong to assert that shemozzle is a round-the-clock affair. The roads are generally quite trafficable between midnight and 6am.

Ubud is also Festival Central. It’s home to the Writers and Readers Festival (the 14th, this year, is from Oct. 25-29) and Bali Spirit Festival (Mar. 19-26), and many other celebrations, especially those of the highly favoured navel-gazing variety. Some of these are delightfully boutique affairs where deep and meaningful navel gazing takes on an almost personal perspective. There’s a lot to be said for navel gazing, if this is conducted with an open mind.

Janet DeNeefe’s writers’ festival has gone from strength to strength since its first rendition, which was held as a healing process after the first Bali bombing in 2002. A little while ago it incorporated a culinary element to its programming, which added pedas (spice) to panas (heat). Some wag at the time defined this as fragrant rice meets flagrant lies. The full degustation of the Ubud Food Festival grew from this early appetiser.

This year’s festival is themed Every Flavour is a Story. DeNeefe tells us it is designed to reflect the rich cultural texts that underpin the diverse culinary traditions of the archipelago. Last year’s event attracted around 8000 international visitors, according to the organisers, which naturally provided a spin-off benefit for local traders and accommodation providers. All good.

There are narratives attached to any set of food traditions, of course, and Indonesia’s are richer than many, weaving stories that depict the journey your food has taken from farmer’s plots and livestock owners to the dinner table. UFF, which bills itself as Indonesia’s biggest culinary festival, has invited leading aficionados of the genre to share their insights and kitchen secrets. Leading restaurateurs, food manufacturers, and producers, food writers and gourmands will be on hand to spread the love.

During the three-day event, visitors will be able to join forums, cooking demonstrations, workshops, special events, food markets, musical performances and film showings. Among those down to attend are Tasia and Gracia Seger, known as the Spice Sisters, who recently won a nationwide cooking contest in Australia; Professor Winarno, an expert on tempe; and the “jungle chef” of Papua, Charles Toto, who will introduce unique dishes made from the produce and heritage of Indonesia’s easternmost province.

There’s an international element as well. This year Bo Songvisava and Dylan Jones are down to appear. Their Bo.Lan Restaurant in Bangkok is on the best 50 restaurants in Asia list. They will feature in a special street food event together with Indonesian cooking legend Will Meyrick at his Ubud eatery Hujan Locale.

Also back this year will be the Kitchen Stage presenting Indonesian language cooking demonstrations. Look for appearances by Made Runatha and Made Januar from MOKSA; Chef Made Lugra from The Ayung Resorts; and Made Surjaya from The Standing Stones.

Full details are available at www.ubudfoodfestival.com.

Collectors’ Items

There’s a lot of rubbish in Bali. It is a constant problem that becomes most foully evident when it rains and all the stuff everyone’s dumped out of sight – and sometimes just out of olfactory range – in previously dry watercourses gets flushed out into the sea and ends up on the beaches.

Fighting pollution on the beaches is also a constant problem. Many are recruited to the forces deployed against this threat, by means of regular clean-ups and their commitment to public voluntary service is commendable. It’s true of course that the new mass market tourists, from China, along with the increased Indonesian component and the growing Indian one, are less fretful about rubbish than the western tourists who hitherto have been the preferred market.

But this is not an excuse to continue in the false belief that rubbish is not really a problem. The dengue figures alone prove that, as well as the increase in rats that these days, due to other shortsighted policies, are preyed upon by fewer feral dogs.

There is, too, a lot of rubbish talked about rubbish. Those who might assert that no one cares should study the efforts made by the Denpasar city authorities to implement workable local rubbish collection policies, fund these, and enforce the law concerning them. A very good rule is always credit where credit is due.

Denpasar is a city of more than three-quarters of a million people, in a densely settled and therefore more easily administered area, with a revenue base that is beginning to be workable, and an administration that is keen to create and sustain liveability. Other areas of Bali do not have that civic benefit, the services of broadly educated administrators, or the resources to fund effective waste collection and disposal. That, like so much else here, remains a work in progress.

This element of life in Bali needs to be understood by critics who briefly occupy plush villas and wrinkle their noses at the despoiled environment beyond their privileged walls.

Catch a Chill

The Diary is just back home from a brief visit to that other place, the big island to our south where, to quote from a now venerable pop song, women glow and men plunder (not chunder, just by the way) and Vegemite sandwiches are all the rage. So it’s really good to be home, for all sorts of reasons, not least for the reliability of warmth as a constant factor in Bali’s climate.

Our flit this time took us to the southwest corner of Western Australia. A good friend who lives in Bali’s southern suburb was celebrating an important birthday and we had to be there. It was a lovely show, at a surf lifesaving club on Perth’s fantastic beachfront. It was hot in Perth.

Then we went further south, into the karri forest country that is the ancestral territory of the Distaff, and hit one of those quirks of climate that make life in that part of the world so interesting. Rain’s OK – we’re used to that in Bali. But if we ever want thermometer readings in the teens we can trip up to Kintamani or Bedugul and sample these very briefly before getting back in the car and returning speedily to lower altitude and higher temperatures.

It’s summer in the great southern land. But for some reason, Murphy’s Climatic Law has always followed us on our travels. It’s most unfair.

Water Rites

The unusually heavy rains of this year’s strong La Niña wet season will have partly replenished Bali’s groundwater reserves, which is a good thing. But these reserves have been so heavily plundered by over-use and shockingly absent planning and regulation that it would take several successive La Niña events to make any noticeable difference. The reality of global climate cycles is that nature will not provide that benefit. The girl child’s drought-fixated brother El Niño will inevitably return.

Conservation and responsible use – enforced by both law and the effectiveness of price signals on usage – are the only way to prevent terminal decline. There are of course some things humans can do to build sustainable water resources. They could fix deficient reticulation systems, for example, though that seems to be a bridge too far under water for Bali’s authorities at the moment.

Innovative science can help, where perennial and pervasive losses from leakage and thievery won’t. So it was good to see the IDEP Foundation unveil a recharge solution on Feb. 27 designed to counter Bali’s water crisis. It did so by means of a media launch of its demonstration recharge well under the Bali Water Protection (BWP) scheme started in 2015. It’s part of a longer-term solution to the problem of rapidly depleting aquifers, many of which are being invaded by salt water because of the depletion of the water table. It’s apt that this is the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.

The program calls for a network of 136 recharge wells to be installed across Bali, harvesting water to balance consumption. The Bali Water Protection program involves educational programs in 132 schools located along rivers, and a media campaign aimed at raising public awareness for water preservation in the province. The demonstration well has been funded by Fivelements, a luxury wellness resort, which is showing the way by supporting the concept of the entire pilot program.

As IDEP Executive Director Ade Andreawan says, it is vital that Bali’s business communities offer strong support for the program.

HectorR

Hector’s Diary in the Bali Advertiser is published monthly, in every second edition

Blocked Roads, Anyone?

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

His regular diet of worms and other delicacies

Bali, Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017

 

BALI’S singular contributions to Chaos Theory are well known. They fuel debate, sometimes, but mostly they result only in huffing and puffing that gets no one anywhere, or else create fractious ennui, quite often of the terminal variety.

It’s when experiments such as those with traffic management that have been tried previously – and have been found to fail –are wheeled out again with all the pomp and circumstance that such diversions demand, that it gets, well … funny.

So it is with Kuta’s old-but-now-it’s-new-again one-way traffic mismanagement system, the brainchild of the new police chief. We haven’t yet dared venture into the melee ourselves, though one day we’ll have to, we suppose, but friends who have report that the chaos is far from theoretical.

Say Cheese!

IT’S been a breezy in Bali lately. It’s La Niña, who seems determined this time around to make her presence fully felt. As well as being breezy, it’s been very wet. It usually rains in the wet season, this being its climatic purpose, though in a range of variables that, in these days of Google-supplied expertise, seem to worry the punters something dreadful.

The Cage, of course, is leaking. Bowls of all sorts and sizes have been conscripted to the cause of at least trying to contain the drip-water until the regular hurried tip-outs down the sink regain the liquid volume capacity for the process to continue. Some people claim their houses do not leak. We’d like to believe them, just for the fun of it.

It’s the breezy bit of it that has caught our attention, though.

We had a lovely weekend guest at The Cage, who bitterly complained that as she sat on the edge of the swimming pool teasing the water with her toes and eating cheese on toast, a nasty gust of wind had blown away the fromage du jour from her breakfast, even though she had a tight grip on the multigrain thing it lay upon. She’s from Melbourne, so it’s surprising that fickle weather strikes her as odd.

The growing potholes on the Goat Track Highway to our place are a concern, however, even if it’s torrential rain and raging runoff rather that’s to blame, rather than the overly zealous zephyrs that have been whipping around. Even chucked-in pebbles covered imperfectly by a thin skin of concrete are not usually affected by wind shear at surface level.

Chump Day

IT’S not often that the Oddzone makes the news anywhere else, unless it’s because of bushfires or reports of man-eating wombats. But Donald Chump helped ping the radar recently. He’s sticking resolutely to his serially twittered promises to shake up everything from Mexican imports to the timetable for Armageddon. To the astonishment of many around the world, he is still supported in this grand strategy by a large number of Americans.

It was one of those avoidable train-wreck things. A one-hour comfy chat with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (later identified in the dysfunctional White House’s phone call schedule as the President of Australia and in another reference named Trunbull) ended abruptly after 25 minutes. The Donald, holding forth in the Oval Office and in the presence of his national security adviser (retired gung-ho Marine Corps general Mike Flynn) and his hapless media man, Sean Spicer, who were taking notes, went ape-shit.

That Australia is about the staunchest ally the US has anywhere, and certainly in the critically important Asian region, must have gone out of his mind. Or perhaps it had never managed to break into it.

Then again, perhaps he had been advised that with Australia, American leaders can administer beatings on the basis that these will continue until morale improves, in the certain knowledge that Australia’s own brand of foreigner funk means any protests will either be non-existent or of the pipsqueak variety.

In this rare incidence of immaterial cause and effect, Chump can fulminate about foreigners to domestic affect without any overly embarrassing whickering becoming evident at the other end of the megaphone.

The cause of this episode of egregious trumpeting (and twittering) was the deal Australia did with President Obama under which – as a further sorry example of its lack of moral fibre – Australia would ship people from its detention camps for unauthorised migrants in Nauru and PNG to the USA. Trump characterised this a dumb deal. We’re about as close to agreeing with him, on that, as we’re ever likely to be on anything much at all: though the deal was not so much dumb as disgraceful.

But the trumpet voluntary from the Oval Office gave everyone a much-needed giggle too. We particularly liked The Washington Post’s take on the affray. Dana Millbank, in a lovely opinion piece, gets to the nub of America’s historical difficulties with its fractious ally in the South-West Pacific. He writes: “Vegemite? Mel Gibson? Dual-flush toilets? They totally had it coming Down Under.”

And that’s not all. He went on to note this, complete with Trump-style all-caps for play school emphasis: “There are a lot of bad dudes Down Under, and for years, Australia has been sending them to America. They sent third-rate Air Supply, which has NO TALENT. ‘Lost in Love’? Pathetic. And Mel Gibson — a dope! Olivia Newton-John: highly overrated — and that ‘Grease’ reunion she’s planning will be a TOTAL EMBARRASSMENT. Crocodile Dundee is a true lowlife, and Nemo is a dumb clownfish. SAD!”

Ridicule is such a useful corrective.

Pushing It

THE desire of the established area-based taxi cartels to protect their turf might be understandable – especially in the case of Bali where economic trickle-down effects are very limited – but maintaining them does not make market sense.

Neither does it take into account advances in communications technology. A taxi that can be summoned by instant message, and go directly to a GPS-located address, has value for customers who wish to use such services.

There’s a lot of “tolak” that goes on here. Tolak Reklamasi, which relates to the unacceptability of the notion that rich people can get even richer by building over large parts of Benoa Bay, is sensible. In contrast, Tolak Uber and Grab (the non-cartel taxi options) is protectionism, plain and simple, and does the consumer no good at all.

It’s entirely possible to argue that taxi companies should be regulated – they should – and be properly audited and pay their share of tax. So should Uber and Grab, and any other operators that might emerge in the future. But regulation is not something at which the authorities here are spectacularly brilliant.

In that scenario, an area arrangement makes some kind of sense, as long as it allows for new technology out-of-area contractors also to work. The airport taxi cartel is a particularly difficult option for travellers. Since only airport taxis can operate out of the airport, they can (absent enforced regulation) charge whatever they like. They do.

The recent reported affray at the airport, targeting Uber and Grab and allegedly involving air force police, was disgraceful. Airport security is vital – and the presence of the military in the form of air force police personnel is sensible in that context – but that’s where military involvement should end.

Cartel protection, harassing drivers, and making them do punishment push-ups at the roadside is an appalling tactic. Indonesia has civilian authorities that make, apply and enforce the law.

HectorR

Hector writes a monthly diary in the Bali Advertiser. The next appears on Mar. 1.

Seriously, Folks

HECTOR’S DIARY

in the Bali Advertiser

HectorR

Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017

WE had an interesting chat the other day (no names, no pack-drill) about Bali’s new tourism demographics and their effect on the five-star-plus hotel sector. Basically, it’s not good news.

The emphasis on the low-cost domestic and Chinese markets is bringing in lots more people and is, from time to time, filling up the Rp35-Rp500K a night hotels, as well as clogging up the road system. And that’s fine as a policy setting (well except for the strain on the road infrastructure) if pursuit of raw numbers is the name of the game.

But that’s a double-edged sword.

The downside is that these pressures are forcing higher quality hotels and resorts to lower their prices. You’d have to be a Trump supporter to accept that argument without pausing to think. If it continues unabated or is enhanced further, as some propose, it will ultimately make quality resorts wholly uneconomic instead of only marginally so.

This in turn will speed up Bali’s descent into the mass market, low-cost, culturally unaware, sector. So much for Bali’s special magic then: it will disappear into a morass of cheap-eats-and-trinkets-style offerings.

Suckling Imlek, Anyone?

YOU have to dig deep for a laugh these days. So it was fun to read that the Pork Festival in Semarang, Central Java, had been renamed the Imlek festival so as to avoid mentioning babi, a food that is haram. We do hope no followers of the Prophet were taken in by this exquisite renaming and because of this tried to order Imlek guling.

The festival took place from Jan. 23-29, right over the Lunar New Year, on Jan. 28. It’s now the year of the Fire Rooster, which might explain why everyone was running around like chooks with their tail feathers ablaze.

The incident caused us to recall that lovely little pop song from 1963, sung by the Ronettes. We’ve amended it for the good halal burghers of Semarang.

The sing-along bit goes like this:

So won’t you, please, be my be my babi
Be my little babi, my one and only babi
Say you’ll be my darlin’, be my be my babi
Be my babi now, my one and only babi
Wha-oh-oh-oh. 

It could catch on.

Snowball’s Chance

REGULAR readers will remember that The Diary is a Monkey. We’re very glad our once in a dozen years turn around the dance floor is over. But all is still not well at The Cage.

The Distaff is a Rooster. Moreover, she’s a Fire Rooster. We’ve had our share of challenging moments over the past twelve months and must now look forward to back-to-back mazurkas.

Of course, it could all go swimmingly well. They do say hope springs eternal. But as someone who lives in the optimist-pessimist convergence zone, we think we’ll see some bumps in the road. And we’re not just talking about the worsening state of the goat-track access to our little rumah pribadi.

Another Round

It will not have escaped anyone’s notice that rabies has been endemic in Bali since 2008, when the killer disease broke out on the Bukit and wasn’t noticed soon enough to stop it spreading island-wide. Rabid dogs have recently bitten people at Sukawati in Gianyar regency and at Kediri in Tabanan.

The Bali authorities have now accepted a proposal from Japan to help with rabies eradication. Wiping out the disease is the public duty they’ve managed to evade for nine years, despite help from the national government, local animal welfare charities, foreign governments and the United Nations.

Two months ago Governor Made Mangku Pastika visited Kumamoto, a prefecture (district) of around 1.8 million people that neighbours the slightly larger Fukuoka in Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan’s home islands. Last month a team from Kumamoto visited Bali. Kumamotu has successfully controlled rabies in cats – the disease vector there – through humane population control and properly managed vaccination programs.

The Bali plan involves Kumamotu University, which has an alumni program in Indonesia, and the Kumamotu Indonesia Friendship Association (KIFA). That connection is facilitated through PT Karang Mas Sejathara, one of the operating arms of the Jakarta based corporation MidPlaza, owned by Rudy Suliawan whose wife Yoko is from Kumamoto. Its Bali enterprises include the Ayana and Rimba resort hotels on the Bukit.

A leading veterinarian who owns the Ryunosuke Animal Hospital in Kumamoto (Dr. Tokuda) was at the Jan. 19 meeting in Bali and said of the successful program in Kumamotu: “Everyone worked hard so we could vaccinate and sterilize 1800 cats each week, allowing us to finish our work in two years. I am convinced that Bali could do the same.”

Well, so it could. It just needs to work at it.

Happy Endings

No, it’s not what you think, at all. Shame on you! Though it’s possibly true that Mellors might have had a mind to advise Her Ladyship that “there’s nowt beats a bit of nooky” if that coarse word of later Australian popular origin had been in common usage in the Old Dart in Lady Chatterley’s more plainly Anglo-Saxon days.

Those to which we refer in this instance are offered in the desserts section of the menu at a new Canggu eatery recently made the subject of comment in the Yak magazine’s e-brief MinYak. Our favourite Dorset Girl, Sophie Digby, suggested we should try it; and we said, yes, we would, incognito as always.

MyWarung Canggu – which has a sister operation at Echo Beach – is the brainchild of Juan-Pierre Anthony, a native Indonesian from Tanjung Benoa who has spent most of his adult life globetrotting, and French-Canadian chef Hugo Coudurier.

We’ve looked at the menu, courtesy of Sophie the Yakker, and it’s certainly both tasty and affordable. We told her we’d look at the Happy Endings. No tarts are on the menu, but there’s an apple crumble that could quite easily turn our head.

You can look it up on line at mywarung.com.

The Bali Advertiser publishes fortnightly. Hector’s Diary in the Bali Advertiser appears monthly.

Law v Lore

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

His diet of worms and other delicacies

Bali, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017

 

THERE’S a great deal of misinformation about on the issue of Sharia law, particularly in western countries. So when Ubud identity Darsih Gede passed along a handy brief from a long-time friend, an American woman married to an Indonesian Muslim, we thought it would be good to share.

Here it is:

“If you are anyone who feels fear when you hear the words ‘Sharia law,’ or interpret it to mean that something is coming to get you, or will be imposed upon you, I really hope you’re listening.

“Time for a little ‘Sharia Law 101’:

” 1. All Muslims believe in Sharia law.

“2. No. 1 is true because Sharia law is the religious law governing the members of the Islamic faith; it is formed by what it written in the Quran (Muslim holy book) and in the Hadiths (reports describing the words, actions, or habits of the Islamic prophet Muhammad).

“3. Do not confuse Sharia law with the laws that exist in countries that call themselves ‘Islamic’ or happen to have a Muslim majority: Absolutely not the same thing. For example: the fact that women in Saudi Arabia aren’t allowed to drive has nothing to do with Sharia law or Islam; it has to with men trying to control women under the guise of religion just like they try to do in various ways in the United States.

“4. Part of Sharia law (Al-Baqarah 256, from the Quran) states that ‘There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion.’

“So, to summarise: Sharia law is something that Muslims follow willingly, and no one can force you to become Muslim (aka: someone who believes in Sharia law).

“It would be great if people from other religions wouldn’t attempt to force people to follow their religious leanings by attempting to legislate their views into civil laws that are applied to the masses, especially in a country like the United States, wherein religious freedom is supposed to exist.

“Thanks for listening. ~ A Muslim (aka: someone who believes in Sharia law)

“Note: Please, find a Muslim and ask them questions instead reading articles from Fox News and/or listening to what uninformed people like Newt Gingrich have to say about Islam. They have no idea what they are talking about, ever.”

That’s a message that needs to be heard far more widely than only in the USA, where a tidal surge of untreated dyspepsia has just been converted into bother boots under the big desk in the Oval Office.

Trumped

THERE is something seriously wrong with the newly inaugurated 45th President of the United States. It’s not his policies that worry me in this instance, though many of them seem to be based on a Locker Room-Neocon-Robber Baron belief that the clocks can be turned back to earlier imagined eras of American capitalist supremacy and gross private wealth and some are frankly execrable.

It’s his behaviour. Half a million invisible people were at his inauguration. He lost the popular election by 2.5 million ballots because undocumented aliens and other illegals didn’t vote for him. The CIA loves him to death and he took along his own cheer squad to demonstrate this when he visited Langley. All three of these things are plainly delusional. He has senior people on his staff whose fortitude doesn’t extend to being able to tell him so, and who, moreover, will tell lies for him. That’s a real worry.

Perhaps it wouldn’t matter if he were just another Idi Amin intent on gazumping some poor little country somewhere that no one really cares about, even if they should. And we all understand the political imperative to deliver something that will make the people hum, since, as a lovely old ditty puts it, the alternative is to vanish with a boot up the bum.

But it’s America we’re talking about: the place some people still think of as the leader of the free world.

At this point in the Trump presidency the best policy is still to laugh. It’s his Beer Hall Moment, even though his oratory gets nowhere near the exclamatory splendour achieved by a certain murderous malcontent of Central European origin and late gross notoriety.

A beer hall rant is something the duplicitous Trump might manage. He’d be a sorry failure at a Nuremberg rally.

His trade policy, which during the election campaign was taken by the duped masses to mean he’d bring factories and jobs back from China where successive American governments and multinational corporations had sent them, risks a trade war with China.

This in turn creates risk for other nations rather closer to the locus of China’s acquisitive predispositions than the USA, and, in turn, may prompt political responses that (to take up the point a late Japanese emperor made in his surrender broadcast at the end of World War II) may not develop to our advantage.

His Mexican wall policy is risible, though it’s of less concern globally than other aspects of his Bonfire of the Vanities platform.

We could go on. But we’re not quite ready for Seppuku, our hara-kiri moment, just yet, so we won’t.

Except to have a lovely laugh at a report that a Native American nation in Arizona whose traditional lands include 120 kilometres of Mexican border won’t be allowing the POTUS to erect his ridiculous wall along it.

Mexico is known for Montezuma’s Revenge (think Bali Belly). Perhaps Mr Trump is about to experience Geronimo’s Revenge as well. That thought, at least, gives us a smile.

Not So Bad

WHEN sometimes it may seem that one’s life is a mess, or at the very least, is conflicted, it is useful to have friends in far more interesting places.

An acquaintance who works in West Africa and who seems to spend a deal of time in Burkina Faso advised yesterday that he had just checked in (again) at the Hotel Splendid in Ouagadougou, the country’s capital city.

“Bullet holes have been removed now,” was his laconic situation report. We shot back a note: “Splendid!”

Rice Field View

WE made a brief foray to Ubud this week, to stay with an amusingly lovely French friend who – we discovered – has a fondness for North African music, which is right up our alley. Her house, in the rice fields and just completed, is up an alley too. The Diary’s trusty mini-SUV just made it through, in L for go really slowly, exterior mirrors retracted.

It’s lucky we were staying the night. The little thoroughfare back to the main road might have been a challenge on a rainy evening after a glass or two of red. It was eminently negotiable the next afternoon, by which time enough restorative coffee had been taken. Though we did take the precaution of switching on the iPod’s drive-time playlist to drown out the Distaff’s exclamatory outbreaks.

On the way home through the mayhem of pre-Gong Xi Fa Chai traffic we decided to extend our French experience. We stopped at La Tartine on the bypass at Sanur for refreshments dans le style français. The scrambled feta salad was wonderful (the Distaff had quiche Lorraine) and we were quite unable to resist trying the Unicorn Poop afterwards, as a shared desert. You really can’t beat the French for chocolate cake.

Back to Work

WELL, that’s in the notional sense, since we are retired gentlefolk who live quietly and whose singular mission is to fail to ripple anyone’s pond. But being of Australian provenance, one of us fully and the other by long adoption, we’ve always found it difficult to get back into harness until Australia Day has come and gone, which it now has.

It is celebrated on the same date that India celebrates its Republic Day. Perhaps this secretly inspires Australian non-monarchists, those chaps who are always looking for an excuse to fast-forward a forthcoming inevitability. Patience is not a public virtue in these days of instant crowd-funded issues.

Anyway, this weekend has been set aside for quill sharpening and post-it noting. Focused scribbling has recommenced.

Flaming Feathers

WELCOME to the year of the Red Rooster, aka Fire Rooster. If flaming roosters of our acquaintance – these include the Distaff – can get through it without setting their tail feathers on fire, good luck to them.

The other occupant of The Cage has just managed to survive his Year of the Monkey. It is surely a cruel joke that our zodiacal challenges should be consecutive. Thank goodness there are 12 years between run-ons. Or run-ins.

HectorR

Hector writes a monthly diary in the Bali Advertiser. His next appears on Feb. 1.

Another Round

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

His diet of worms and other tasty morsels

Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017

THE Bali authorities have accepted a proposal from the Japanese city of Kumamoto to help with rabies eradication, a duty they’ve managed to evade for nine years now despite help from local animal welfare charities, foreign governments and the United Nations.

Two months ago Governor Made Mangku Pastika visited Kumamoto, a city of around 1.4 million people that neighbours the slightly larger Fukuoka in Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan’s home islands. Now a team from Kumamoto has visited Bali for substantive talks on the issue. The Japanese city has successfully controlled rabies in cats – the disease vector there – through humane population control and properly managed vaccination programs.

The Bali plan involves Kumamoto University, which runs an alumni program in Indonesia, and the Kumamotu Indonesia Friendship Association (KIFA). That connection is facilitated through PT Karang Mas Sejathara, one of the operating arms of the Jakarta based corporation MidPlaza, owned by Rudy Suliawan whose wife Yoko is from Kumamotu. Its Bali enterprises include the Ayana and Rimba resort hotels on the Bukit.

A leading veterinarian who owns the Ryunosuke Animal Hospital in Kumamoto (Dr. Tokuda) said after the Jan. 12 meeting in Bali that the best method of eliminating rabies is to capture animals, vaccinate and sterilise them and then release them.

Of the successful program in Kumamoto, he said this: “Everyone worked hard so we could vaccinate and sterilize 1800 cats each week, allowing us to finish our work in two years. I am convinced that Bali could do the same.”

Well, so it could. It just needs to work at it.

Rabies broke out here in 2008 and is still a deadly threat. Rabid dogs have recently bitten a number of people in Sukawati in Gianyar and Kediri in Tabanan.

Police News

THREE men who until recently were employed as bouncers at La Favela in Seminyak, where a Ukrainian tourist who queried his bill was beaten so severely that he lost an eye, are having to explain themselves to police. This of itself is an advance in law enforcement in Bali.

Police have suggested bars and other places in need of on site security should employ properly trained personnel and not just whomever the locally franchised gang sends along. This too would enhance both public safety and civility.

Meanwhile, traffic police have reorganised the road system in Kuta in an attempt to regulate the area’s chronic gridlock. They’ve even made a map of the changes, which will start with a “socialisation” phase – here’s a map, look at it – and move to enforcement and traffic fines later.

Whether the new scheme will work is moot. Nothing much has in the past. Motorbikes traditionally ignore all the road rules anyway. Taxis cruising for fares at 10kmh have never yet been driven by anyone who would think for an instant that they should move over so non-touting traffic can move on. We’ll see.

The Lunar New Year (Jan. 28) should provide an early test of the gridlock reduction plan.

All Froth, No Lager

THE 45th President of the United States is now in office. President Trump is due the respect of the office he holds (protesting political opponents to note) and the democratic courtesy of a little time to show that he has policies and not just rhetoric to bring to the table.

His opponents must debate him in substance, though in the absence of substance to debate that can be difficult. They should do so with courtesy. Violent demonstrations are invidious and unhelpful. He will of course have his own political difficulties to overcome, given that the working class white population that voted for him doesn’t – now it understands what he was saying in the campaign – want him to take away their free health care, among other things.

It must be said that his inaugural speech did nothing to advance an argument that he has policies that will work. It had more of the echo of a Munich beer hall oration than anything else. And that is a worry.

He chose a song made famous by Frank Sinatra as the tune for his first dance at the inauguration ball: “My Way”. His daughter Nancy Sinatra, who wasn’t at the bash, tweeted that he should perhaps have remembered what its first line says. It says “And now the end is near.”

She later deleted the tweet, possibly a wise thing to do in a country as gun-fixated as America. But it was a delicious line and it gave us a very welcome grin on a bleak day.

Crumbs

SPEAKING of grins, the enigmatic “A”, who crafts the delightful weekly Eat Live Travel newsletter from Medan in Sumatra was at her peak – or possibly pique – in her latest. When it dropped into the in-box at The Cage and we read it, we had a fit of the giggles and had to break for coffee. But no biscuit: Read on to find out why.

Among other things, an article in The Guardian had caught her eye. It was headlined: Jakarta: The unlikely capital city of sex and swinging.

She particularly liked this one for its razor-sharp insights, such as this: “Morality is almost always linked to sexual behaviour, not corruption, say, or mendacity in public office.”

The icing on the cake was apparently supplied by Twitter comments from bamboozled expat Jakarta residents, such as: ‘This makes me see Jakarta in a whole new light”, etc.

She concluded: “Uh-huh. Show me a corner of the earth where people are not knobbing on the sly and I’ll give you a biscuit.”

Well, the Diary likes a challenge, and biscuits, especially ones with oats in them. But finding such a place to cite and thereby winning a welcome crumb might be asking too much.

Oh Clock Off!

THE Diary’s Australian-based Collector of Idiocies made a lovely point the other day. It was that, time-wise, it was either 3am or three in the morning. It wasn’t 3am in the morning. Someone incautious and functionally illiterate – that’s a big field these days – had come to her attention.

She’s been having trouble sleeping, apparently, as well as with the cricket, on both of which points we can certainly sympathise.

It does sound like something people who are challenged might say, perhaps on returning home from a night out on their first-year anniversary.

But in this instance, it seems, it came from a reporter on a television news show at 7am. She notes with a scowl: “They all do it.” And that’s true, sadly. It’s worse in the land of mangled vowels and incomprehensible nouns. As Afferbeck Lauder would say: No more gnus, calm bear klyter.

We’ll just say this, of our favourite CI. She’s the most entertaining that we’ve ever had on the team.

HectorR

Hector also writes a monthly diary in the Bali Advertiser. The next appears on Feb. 1

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

Little Ripples

 

HectorR

HECTOR’S DIARY

His regular diet of worms and other tasty morsels

Bali, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017

 

WHERE Indonesia and Australia are concerned, you can always count on something unexpected to suddenly ripple the waters. It’s a bit the same as an Indonesian volcano: it’s quiet until it goes boom.

In Australia, it’s mostly a careless minor politician or some media “celebrity” who clumsily drops a pebble in the pond, or very occasionally a former prime minister. In Indonesia, it’s just as likely to be a military personage drawing himself to attention by banging a big nationalist drum.

That these little interruptions flow chiefly from ignorance is no comfort. The reverse, in fact, since Indonesia has been functionally independent for 72 years and formally for 68, and was politically and materially supported by Australia in its resistance to post-World War II Dutch efforts to resuscitate their dead colonial dreams.

By the end of the Japanese war Australia had become the least imperially minded member of the Anglosphere. Except for isolated attempts at ridiculous recidivism on the right of Australian national politics, this welcome and natural process has continued.

The latest little political difficulties involve an invidious inscription allegedly seen by a Kopassus officer who was attending a language course in Perth and the raising of the West Papuan flag at a protest in Melbourne.

Neither incident is really worth wasting time on further discussion. Posturing is painful and counterproductive, especially when it becomes fodder for insensate commentary in the blinkered depths of the social media pool.

Tiger Tales

THE sudden imposition of new regulations on the Australian low-cost airline Tiger, which is owned by Virgin Australia, seems to have come straight from the Because We Can clause officialdom likes to cite now and then.

If this were a place where you could have confidence in regulatory policy even if a particular set of regulations disadvantaged you or others, then it would be easy to accept changes. They shouldn’t be sudden, they should be discussed – socialised is the term they use here – and they should of course be facilitative rather than the reverse.

Someone must have had an “oh, doh!” moment, because the Indonesians later gave Tiger permission to fly 2000 passengers out of Bali back to Australia over the weekend.

Tiger was forced to cancel Australia-Bali flights virtually at a moment’s notice. They seem to have been told their scheduled operations here had been transferred from the office that handles scheduled airline services to the one that regulates charter operations and requires much more complex, flight by flight, arrangements. Go figure.

The airline’s scheduled services will resume, we assume, at some point. That’s if Tigerair Australia and its parent airline company can be bothered continuing to scratch for profit when local low-cost players want the lion’s, or in this case the tiger’s, share of the market.

That might be the ultimate twist in the tail, so to speak.

Goon Show

THE shocking events at a Seminyak glitter strip venue the other day, when security guards restrained a protesting Russian partygoer by bashing him so severely that he has lost an eye, demonstrate very clearly how far down the road to perdition Bali has gone in its quest for the tourist dollar.

There is still time to retreat from the precipice, and to regain some of the island’s past reputation as a place where you can have fun – and even be a little naughty – without risking life and limb. But swift action is needed.

Properly trained security personnel can deal with such events easily. A quick knee in the groin and a half-Nelson arm twist will effectively and temporarily disable anyone who has had the temerity to query their bill.

Of course, proprietors of such venues need to possess a socially balanced brain themselves, or be forced to act as if they have, and must spend money on actually doing things properly. That’s another side of Bali’s tourism and regulatory environments. It applies (or should do) to entertainment venues everywhere, especially in the Kuta-Legian-Seminyak-Canggu riot quarter.

The authorities and the police must be proactive. That’s a polite way of saying they really should get off their bums and do something. We know; that’s a difficulty. Goon squads, empowered quasi-official thugs, mobs amok, and fire-and-forget non-thinking is the usual form here.

The latest event was the second publicised one at the venue recently. In the first incident, two Indonesian customers were criminally bashed by security.

For the record, the venue is La Favela, in the thoroughfare colloquially known as Oberoi Street. A favela is a Brazilian slum. Just saying.

Prodigal Return

WE hadn’t been to North Bali for the best part of a decade until last weekend, when we spent two lovely days at Villa Patria on the slopes behind Lovina.

It really is a magic place, set 355 metres above sea level but only some six kilometres from the coast. There’s only one guest villa, plus a lumbung, and the owners live on site with first-class staff running the show.

The food is rather on the yummy side, so if you don’t want to venture out to sample that of others, dinner at home is a good idea. The tariff includes breakfast.

The little resort is set in lovely gardens, with a swimming pool, and high quality massage is available on call. Think of it as a home away from home. We’ll be back.

It’s a bit of a trek from the south of Bali. But if your travel plans can accommodate a 3.5-hour car trip each way – and the magnificent lakes and mountains and plenty of places to stop for a coffee in cool Baturiti or Bedugul – it’s an easy ride.

More Sad Farewells

RIO Helmi, the Ubud-based photographer and writer, wrote a wonderful obituary for Linda Garland, the bamboo lady, who has died in Australia after a long battle with cancer, at the age of only 68. It’s definitely worth reading.

There are many adornments to the expat scene here – there are many others in the resident foreign community who adorn only their preferred views of themselves, in the manner of the self-promotional everywhere, but that’s for another time – and Garland was several dozen laurel wreaths more worthy than most.

Her work here over many decades was immensely practical in terms of the inspirational and income earning opportunities it gave to the Balinese. Helmi’s piece describes all that, at length and much better than we can here.

Another old Bali hand has left us, too. Quirky photographer Pierre Poretti died at home in Switzerland, of a stroke. His art was magnificent and it, and he, will be sorely missed.

What a Shower

THE Australian feminist fulminator Helen Razer is always good. She’s exactly the Diary’s kind of social Marxist. Her summation in a piece she published this week about the greed-and-envy-fuelled collapse of the selfish capitalist dream helped our morning coffee go down with an extra zing on Friday.

It’s the sort of argument that fuels real discussion about things that actually matter. In such a setting, over a table, say, with prime Arabica to hand, we’d probably say this:

Have you read A Short History of Stupid? We found it a wonderful to-and-fro on many issues. Razer wrote it in counterpoint with Bernard Keene, who is exactly not the Diary’s kind of social libertarian.

The argument she puts in her piece is basically sound about the revolting Trump and his neocon mates and Bonfire of the Vanities cheer squads. They can all forever get golden showers from infinite numbers of Russian hookers before anyone should care about the moral and ethical depravity of their private personalities and behaviour.

It’s the moral and ethical depravity of their policies (if discernible) and politics that sicken us.

But the Diary has enough of old journeyman journalist in the veins (Razer does not) to get a good giggle out of the risible idiocy of populist celebrity “leaders” who think debate is about massaging their own egos, or having others do that for them; who apparently think the serial indiscretions that litter their private lives can possibly escape scrutiny in the global porn shop they’ve created and from which they grossly profit; who wouldn’t know a decent social (or economic or health or national security) policy if any of these happened by chance to tickle their coccyx while some fake-bosomed slag was teasing their private parts with perfumed tissues; and who are so functionally useless except in their own interest that they couldn’t boil an egg.

Today (Jan. 14) is T -6, by the way.

Great Going

ONE of the Diary’s favourite R&R places, the Novotel Lombok Resort and Villas at Mandalika beach in the island’s south, has another deserved gong in its collection of awards.

The resort, part of the Accor chain, was named The World’s Best Halal Beach Resort 2016 at the World Halal Tourism Awards during International Travel Week in Abu Dhabi late last year.

WHTA estimates that about 1.9 million votes from 116 countries were lodged in the 2016 awards, over 16 categories and among 383 candidate properties. You can see all winners in all categories here.

Lombok is carving out a niche for itself in tourist and travel opportunities for Muslims, part of which naturally includes Halal food and a rather less raunchy entertainment picture. Even the sexy dancers aren’t, really.

Except in the northern Gilis – Trawangan, Meno and Air – which these days most visitors access direct from Bali by fast boat – the sun-sand-and-sin western tourist demographic is conspicuously absent, at least in large, noisy numbers.

Some people think that’s a good thing.

Hector also writes a monthly diary in the Bali Advertiser newspaper. The next appears on Feb. 1

A Warrant Officer and a Gentleman

 

OVER New Year I heard a sad piece of news. Bill Cunneen had died. The name may mean little to most people. It means the world to me.

He was some 12 years my senior, of a respectable enough vintage to shuffle off. But it’s always hard to take when someone you know and value – even if as in this case, you haven’t seen him for years and were not in touch – departs Gaia for destinations unknown.

I knew Bill through the Australian Army, in which when I met him he served as a photographer. He was a Warrant Officer Class 2 then, nearly four decades ago. He had served in Korea as a private in the infantry and in Vietnam as an army photographer. We wore the same cap badge, but that was where the similarities began and ended. He was already a legend. I wasn’t and never would be.

But Bill once gave me the greatest and most valued compliment I’ve ever received in a military setting (the Australian one in this instance). I’ve never forgotten it, the circumstances in which he said it, and the pride I felt when he did.

For some time, back in the day, I combined my journalistic career with a part-time one, in a similar role, in the Australian Army. I was a reservist, recruited as an officer for my specific skills and made a captain.

Bill was a regular soldier, in every sense of that term. He’d earned his rank.

As far as I was concerned, he far outranked me. But on duty he called me sir. That’s the form. You respect the rank, not (necessarily) the person.

In 1979 we worked together for that’s year’s training exercise, K79 (Kangaroo 79). I’m not sure at this distance whether it was the Kamarians, Musorians, or the un-definable Orangeland that we were opposing. It didn’t matter, though, because in those days all our enemies were notional.

(I do remember that the Kamarians, who lived upon an upturned Tasmania somewhere in the Solo Sea, I think, and were for a time regular enemies until being surpassed as a threat by the fiendish Musorians, eventually acquired a lovely flag. This had been invented in part by another regular soldier of my long acquaintance, Ross Eastgate, a Duntroon graduate. The flag was dubbed Duck l’Orange, since its heraldic motif was a black duck on an orange field.)

In 1979 I had been given the task of running bits of the exercise media centre, since the reserve formation for which I was then part-time toiling was also engaged – and because they needed better people than me up at the pretend sharp end.

I did my best, turning up in uniform every day and trying very hard to be serious about the whole thing. Bill knew that I was a choco (a reservist). And my own policy was that I while I might be sir, I wouldn’t order so much as a coffee until I’d checked with him. We mucked in well together. His military professionalism was unshakeable.

At the end of the exercise he found a quiet moment and place to tell me this: “I thought you were just another wanker, sir, but you’re not.”

That’s the best, and the most valued, accolade that I ever got in uniform, anywhere, with or without a loaded weapon to hand.

Rest in Peace, Bill.

….

Wiiliam (BILL) James CUNNEEN

Korea (Pte) 30 July 1952 to 8 November 1952 3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment 6 January 1953 to 19 January 1953 3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment, Royal Australian Infantry Corps. Vietnam (WO2) Headquarters, Australian Army Force Vietnam 16/02/1966 to 21/03/1967. Headquarters, Australian Force Vietnam (Army Component) 01/10/1970 to 20/02/1972. Royal Australian Army Educational Corps.

His funeral is in Sydney on Saturday (Jan. 7)

Messing About in Boats

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

His diet of worms and other non-religious fare

Bali, Jan. 4, 2017

 

WE have a lovely friend, a former media colleague who goes by the pen name of The Global Goddess. She has a tough life, poor thing. She’s forever flitting off from Brisbane, her home city, to go to distant places and write about them. Well, someone has to do it, we suppose.

Her most recent gambol was a cruise to Komodo aboard the Al-Iikai, a 37-metre Bugis pinisi fitted out for maximum comfort and operated from Serangan in Benoa Bay. It was, she tells us, a program that gave her plenty of stories about messing about in boats.

The goddess, real name Christine Retschlag, apparently didn’t read Kenneth Grahame’s marvellous fantasy tale Wind in the Willows as a child. But we’re sure that Ratty will forgive her, given her later experiences. Hector, who is one of Ratty’s firmest friends, will pay close attention to her trip reports on her blog and in the travel media.

We’re sure that Ratty – whose ancestral lineage, we remember, traced back to a seafaring rat who had sailed to England from Constantinople long before (though possibly not as early as the Black Death fleets of 1348-49) – will fully understand that the Bali Sea and beyond is a different kettle of fish to the somewhat placid Thames in the golden age of Edwardian England more than a century ago.

The goddess finished her archipelagic sojourn with some lovely down-days at Palms Ceningan, where we hear she adopted surfer-chick hair because she had lost her comb. She’ll have found it eventually in the designer Black Void handbag that she, like all the girls, simply has to tote around.

Before Indonesia, she had been in Canada chatting up polar bears. As a result of this earlier adventure, and when we caught up with her aboard the Al-Iikai at Benoa before she sailed away to joust with dragons, courtesy of Indonesia Island Sail’s Amanda Zsebik, we dubbed her Nanook of the Near North.

That’s no igloo, just the smile.

What a Blast

It’s over now, for another year, thank goodness. But Christmas is worth discussion. It marks the requisitioned and wholly notional birthdate of Jesus the Nazarene, who in the Christian rite is the Messiah, the prince of peace, Son of God, prophet and prince of life, among other things. Nothing in his story seems to mandate explosive exclamation, except perhaps the feeding of the five thousand, which must have been a blast.

So it is curious that in Indonesia it’s apparently an occasion for letting off fireworks. From the noise these infernal objects generate, they must be rather bigger than the two inches (five centimetres) maximum allowed by official order. Never mind, no one here takes any notice of official orders.

There’s a serious point in this. Christmas is a Christian religious feast. For Muslims, it is the birthday of the Messiah (Mahdi), Isa – Jesus – who ranks behind only Muhammad as a prophet of Allah.

It is the secular West that has turned Christmas into an occasion for consumer excess. But even there, and in the little pockets of bad behaviour its acolytes occupy around the globe, pyrotechnics don’t figure in the events of the season.

A Sari Tale

The other day we came across a delightful Jakarta-based blog (www.eatlivetravel.com) that had somehow previously escaped our notice. We really should get out more. It comes with an emailed newsletter, to which we have now subscribed. Interesting takes on current events are always good value, whether they are serious or of the ROFL class. Hereabouts they’re often of the ROFLMAO variant.

What caught our eye particularly in the newsletter we saw on Dec. 17 was a spin-off from the awful Ahok saga. It involved Sari Roti, a bread maker, whose products were seen in apparently invidious proximity to the governor of Jakarta in the context of his legal difficulties with the FMP (the Fanatical Muslim Push). Sari Roti’s stock value had fallen as a result (no, we’re not kidding).

No one can have missed the fact that Governor Ahok is on trial for blasphemy on the grounds that he misquoted the Qur’an and is therefore a kafir of the worst order. He’s a Christian, of course, and an Indonesian of Chinese ethnicity. Neither of these qualities is favoured as a political option by the chaps with the placards and the turban fetish.

It’s a sorry tale all round, and not one to laugh about. Except that sometimes if you don’t laugh, you cry.

It Just Piles Up

Photos that surfaced on Facebook just before Christmas, of the disgraceful piles of garbage washed up on Double Six beach at Legian, after seasonal rains flushed out the poisonous detritus that clogs every watercourse you can think of, are an object lesson in the poverty of public policy in Bali.

They show how fiddling around at the edges, or hoping someone else will front up with the money and the means to do something for you while funding your latest vehicle fetish, is a cop-out, a disease risk and a PR disaster all rolled into one.

They were taken by surfing identity Tim Hain on Dec. 24. He noted that he was feeling a little delicate as a result of the ASC Tour awards party held at Canggu the previous evening, but what really made him feel sick was the sight that greeted him on Double Six beach on his morning walk.

It’s true that there are some good waste management initiatives in an increasing number of localities in Bali, organised at local community level. Craig Glenister of the Alasari resort in Tabanan mentioned the one that’s up and running in his area. Fair enough.

But it’s not enough. Just for example, in the Bukit area that houses The Cage (from whence Hector scribbles) a local contractor is paid by some residents to properly dispose of their rubbish. Others couldn’t care less – it’s not the money – and continue with the sorry custom of just tossing garbage away. Sometimes they set fire to it and the noxious plastic it contains. But mostly they just forget about it. Everywhere you go there’s a smelly bag of diseased rubbish lying in the scrub or by the road.

The local free-range dogs, a pariah class created by public apathy and indolence, the rats and the dengue mosquitoes, are guaranteed a continuous feast as a result.

A Sound Point

Helen Mirren is a great actor. And anyone who has seen the long-ago guest spot she did as a much younger one on a British TV talk show – when interviewer Michael Parkinson asked her with a particularly gauche grin if her “attributes” got in the way of her winning offers of serious roles – will understand also that she is a highly intelligent woman with whom one should not trifle.

So when she observed that by general agreement 2016 was a shit of a year, as she did recently, it was very hard to argue. You don’t even have to have read the library-load of end-of-year reviews to work that out. She wasn’t making a partisan political point. That’s a tiresome practice of some actors, who seem to believe that a good publicist, a photogenic presence and an ability to take direction on a film set invests them with special knowledge, but it’s not hers.

Neither was she speaking in personal terms. She has a broader mind than that. She can see that things happen that aren’t good, even if they don’t directly affect you; and she is not so consumed with Self in the modern fashion that nothing else seems to matter. In short, she’s a breath of fresh air

See below for Hector’s view on The Year It Would Be Nice to Rewind.

Monkey of a Year

The Monkey is most likely exhausted, or near as, since his year is nearly over. The Diary, a Monkey of the class of 1944, certainly is. In the Chinese Zodiac, everyone’s once-in-a-dozen years mazurka is not a treat but a challenge. And 2016 was not a good year for anyone.

The year of the Fire Rooster starts on Jan. 28. We look forward to it. The next Monkey year is in 2028. Perhaps we’ll see you for that party.

President-elect Donald Trump’s next celestial challenge is in 2018, by the way. He’s a Fire Dog. But he gets his box of matches a year early, on Jan. 20, when he is inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States. He’ll probably tweet about that.

This column appears in the Bali Advertiser, out Jan. 4. The newspaper publishes Hector’s Diary in every second edition. It is a fortnightly print and on line publication.