8degreesoflatitude

THINGS THAT INTEREST, ENGAGE AND ENRAGE

We Have Been Warned

Sunday, Mar. 25, 2018

 

 

SOMETHING happened the other day that caused me to think deeply about the political direction Australia is taking. It was a disturbing incident; it was nothing to worry about personally, but it gave me pause. It did so especially because it came in the course of an exchange of views – by email – with someone I’ve known for a long time.

It was this: I should be careful in my criticism of Australian domestic security issues, since I was an immigrant, and it didn’t matter how long I’d been a citizen.

It’s true that I am an immigrant. I arrived in Australia early in 1971. I was fully formed by that stage – I had just turned 27 – and was thus not fit for moulding to the local matrix except by consent and (I have to confess) peripherally. I was, and still am, British, though I acquired Australian citizenship by declaration in 1972. There was no hoopla involved in such a decision then, neither pledges of allegiance nor hands on hearts; nor flag-waving. It was just a bit of paper: just as I wanted; nationalistic hyperbole has always alarmed me. It’s perfectly possible to be patriotic without turning out with the mob.

So, to set out the scene more fully: I’ve been an Australian citizen for longer than the half of today’s population aged under 45. Half of them wouldn’t pass the apparently nascent, unpleasant Australian Birther test, since they were either born overseas or one or both of their parents were.

Peter Dutton, the Home Affairs minister who is leading the charge towards making Australia even less relevant to the world than it already is, was two months old when I arrived in Australia, and he was two years old – just off rusks – when I became a citizen.

But I’m an immigrant. And because of this I should modulate any comments I make about my adopted homeland.

When I arrived in Australia its population was 12,507,349, less than the number of Australians today aged 45 or under who have therefore been Australian for less time than me. (This year Australia’s population is estimated to be 25 million.) I found a country that was still identifiably British in many of its ways. This wasn’t a requirement of mine. It was just that it was pleasant and comfortable to be in a place where, while the Old World shadows might be getting longer and changing hue, certain principles remained in place with which I had grown up and was thoroughly familiar. You could call these liberal values, the distilled product of two centuries of social advance.

I first voted in Australia in 1972, the Whitlam election. I voted for Gough Whitlam, less for political motivation than because poor Billy McMahon was plainly a joke. I was living in Tasmania then. I shared a lunchtime giggle with Margaret Whitlam during the campaign. It was an unusually hot day in the Apple Isle and I remarked to her that it really felt quite like Australia. After voting in Launceston on Dec. 2, 1972, I went trout fishing in the central highlands with friends. It snowed on us. Ah, Tasmania! Beautiful one day, English the next.

In 1973, I moved to Queensland. I lived there, except for three years in Papua New Guinea, for 32 years until 2005 when we moved for family reasons to Western Australia (and part-time in Indonesia). I served in the Army Reserve, perhaps poorly according to some, though I’d be entitled to a medal for turning up if I wanted one. I don’t. I worked in the national media and in state and federal politics. Nothing I did ever indicated to me that I was anything other than “an Australian” – just one of the growing number of Girts on the Big Gibber, surrounded by warm seas and buoyed by membership of an inclusive and caring community.

But I’m an immigrant, and should therefore be careful about what I say and write. Perhaps the warning was intended kindly – it came from an old mate, after all – but it was a sickening shock. And I’ve thought about it for a day or so and now I’m writing this.

I should be careful? After 46 years of being as dinky-di as I’ll ever be, because some flat-footed politicians mightn’t like what I say about policies of being beastly to Foreigners Not From The Anglosphere or Certain Other Currently Favoured Places? It might be “noticed” – by the Stasi perhaps, oh no, that police state’s gone now; by the Gestapo maybe, no, same difference; by ASIO or ASIS then, or the Border Farce, though surely they’ve got better things to waste their time on – that as an immigrant I’m not entitled to full free speech because I’m not a real Aussie. Geddoutofit!

Australia might have doubled its population in 46 years, but at 25 million it’s only 2 million people larger than the city of Shanghai. It’s smaller than California and Texas in the U.S.A. Even Madagascar’s got more people.

On these figures an “Australian Birther” movement is a risible exercise (demographically I mean: it might play to parochially perverse local politics) and socially it’s an excrescence. Or to put it even more plainly, it’s a sick joke.

If you don’t like it here, go home, is a favourite line among exclusivists and (occasionally) of politicians and political activists under pressure. But I am home. I vote in the federal electorate of Curtin. And I won’t be shutting up.

Drawing the Line 1

HECTOR’S DIARY

Titbits from his regular diet of worms

 

The Cage, Bali

Saturday, Mar. 24, 2018

 

A PHOTO appeared yesterday – we saw it in the social media, which is a thing these days – of a packed crowd, said to be more than 3,000, though numbers are always difficult to estimate, of incoming passengers waiting to get through customs at Ngurah Rai International Airport. Someone noted that it indicated Bali was returning to normal.

Sadly that’s the case if it wasn’t just a one-off snafu (though come to think of it, those are pretty normal events too). The defence that airport arrivals holdups are standard everywhere these days, when as one airline puts it as a pitch, everyone can fly, is an easy cop-out. Los Angeles is a horror story, though that has more to do with the funk and wrangle of American security requirements than raw numbers. LA is not alone. Amsterdam has far queues too, and other places; and closer to home, Sydney and even Perth can be a pest if the boyos are working that day.

However, Bali’s numbers are not on the gross side of the ledger, and most of the arrivals are starting their holidays. Pissing people off before they’ve even got out of the airport is not good PR. There are peak arrival and departure times for airlines everywhere too, naturally and understandably.

Someone needs to do some homework.

Drawing the Line 2

ADRIAN Vickers, the Sydney-based Australian academic who is so far from being a stranger to Asia that he’s almost part of the furniture in Indonesia, has had a little gripe about yet another reference to “spring” in relation this time to an upcoming art exhibition in Jakarta. We shall entertain no suggestions that he is a pedant on this score, since we share his partisan belief in accuracy. The southern hemisphere autumnal equinox was this week, on Mar. 21, Wednesday.

Vickers says this reference indicates that geography is not a strong suit in the Indonesian education curriculum. No contest. It isn’t anywhere, of course, but let’s not spoil a good story.

It might just be possible (if you forget that the equatorial zones don’t actually have any seasons other than hot and dry or hot and wet) to stage an event in the spring at this time of the year in, say, Medan or Manado. They’re north of the Line (that equator thingy) and therefore in the Northern Hemisphere.

Jakarta is not. Neither is Bali, for that matter, where some of the more challenged touristic and retail entrepreneurs insist that at this time of year we’re heading into “summer”. As someone else noted: This isn’t Euramerica, despite what the media and assorted other ignoramuses seem to think.

Back to the Future

THE tribulations of white South African farmers are unfortunate, though they were probably inevitable in the long process of change that had to follow the historic end of whites-only rule in the country nearly 30 years ago now, and the dismantling of the horror of its internal repression under apartheid.

The government of the republic – under its new president, Cyril Ramaphosa, who took over in February from Jacob Zuma, who is now facing criminal charges for exemplary personal wealth acquisition – proposes to expropriate white-owned farms, saying that a sin was committed when the country was colonised. Many sins have been committed, throughout history, by strangers who suddenly turn up at your door (metaphorically speaking) and steal your land. The peoples of eastern, central and western Europe had similar problems in the past with successive waves of Vandals, Huns and Tartars – and then the Ottomans – and so should feel some sympathy for the Xhosa, Zulu and other peoples of South Africa.

It’s for South Africa to devise and implement national policies, though the rest of us are free to assess these for what they are, and say so. The cause of the white farmers, however, is damaged by the history of Boer expansion and settlement. They were originally Dutch-speaking, though the modern language is Afrikaans, a highly modified derivative of Dutch. White supremacist practices were looked at askance even in the colonial era, though until very late in the piece only on a tut-tut basis by the British who had become the colonial masters.

It’s perhaps not widely known that racial exclusion policies in (British, English-speaking) Natal were modelled on those of the Australian colony of Queensland before federation and that, later, apartheid itself drew inspiration and some of its repressive mechanisms from Australia’s appalling treatment of its Aboriginal peoples. So when Australia’s home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, calls for white South African farmers to be rescued by “other civilised countries” (code for “white”) he is committing an egregious offence.

South Africa is in many respects a lawless country, a place where the competing requirements of its distinct population groups often create trouble. The immigrant Nigerian gangs of Johannesburg are a later case in point. The national murder rate is very high, and some of the victims of this epidemic are, naturally enough, white farmers. It is beyond doubt that there is a racial motive behind some black killings of whites. There are reasonable arguments to suggest that any white South African farmer, who wishes to leave, should be given that opportunity, and go to Australia in some instances, along with the many other people elsewhere whose claims the Australian government knows very well are much more dire and far more urgent. (Though we should note that the English-speaking South African white community is much reduced these days. Many among it had British citizenship or access to it. Boer farmers whose ancestors lived in South Africa for 400 years have no other country of automatic refuge.)

The Dutton proposal for special visas, however, needs to be seen in the context of domestic political arguments within the ruling Liberal Party. There is a move in Australia to harden the “right” of politics – a ridiculous term these days but we’re probably stuck with it – and it is almost inevitable that this will split the Liberal Party. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is very far from being “right”. The proposal also insults South Africa – at least diplomatically – and runs the risk of turning Australia back into the anachronism it once was and for which some of its politicians apparently pine.

Perhaps they should too should look at an atlas, as equatorially and seasonally challenged Indonesians should. If any among Australia’s irredentists on the right are able to multi-task, they could examine their consciences at the same time.

And Now, a Giggle

Some of the foregoing is rather heavy, so here’s a lighter moment to finish up with.

With thanks to our inveterate collector of engaging ephemera, Philly Frisson.

Chin-chin!

The Figjam Factor

HECTOR’S DIARY

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

Titbits from his regular diet of worms

 

The Cage, Bali

Friday, Mar. 16, 2018

 

BALI is home to many oddities. We refer in this instance to those found in the expatriate community. Readers will recall that someone by the name of Terry Brockhall chose to defame two former expatriates recently on the basis of his full misunderstanding of a set of circumstances relating to volcano relief fundraising. We noted this, he didn’t like it, and we invited him to get in touch for a chat. We heard nothing, which didn’t surprise us. Sometimes silence is the best policy, after all, when the vino has worn off but the uncomfortable verities remain.

The thing is, though, blowhard rule-benders very rarely learn a lesson they won’t forget in a goldfish’s brain-snap, especially if they’re of the variety that likes to jest about having to look bright eyed and bushy tailed for the boss, ha-ha. Well, not exactly the boss: it’s just someone who feeds him, but you’ll know what we mean. So he was back recently, in the social media, having another gratuitously ungracious and misinformed go on the same issue. The same message in return is warranted. But do get in touch, Terry, if you’d like a chat this time.

Terry has now been joined in the figjam chorus (Google figjam if you must) by another person, also late of Brisbane, faraway on the eastern seaboard of Australia. His name is Chris Osses, a used car salesman who now seems to live in Kalgoorlie. That’s in Western Australia and it’s a place with lots of rocks for lower forms of life to hide under. Apparently he has deep knowledge of the law in Australia and Indonesia. He’s welcome to drop by for a chat too.

Do It Right

THIS might be a moment to say some things about the volunteering sector here, especially in regard to fundraising and effective concentration of effort. The restrictions on foreigners doing good works are frequently ridiculous and the rules – fiscal and otherwise – onerous, but it has to be done right. Among most of the established charities, it is. There are some who don’t, and they’re administratively foolish and legally on shaky ground. They also put their own future funding from donations at risk unless they are fully transparent – with their donors and the authorities – on how the money is spent. It’s a formal accounting process, not the tea money.

This is also a place where when an emergency situation comes to light there’s a race – like a sort of manically disorganised egg and spoon event – to get out there first and be visible doing something. In short, it’s a battle for territory, a narrow view that produces unnecessary discord and shuts off creation of a focused and fully effective operation. Those in need of assistance don’t really care who helps, whether they’re volcano evacuees for whom the government provides only second-grade rice, or animals in distress. The Mt. Agung emergency has not gone away. There was a minor eruption today (Mar. 16) that was but the latest in a long-running series.

Uang Kecil

THE practice of some Balinese whose homes overlook picturesque rice terraces in demanding money from tourists taking photos has recently caused a flurry of self-interest among the Canggu crowd. You’ll be aware that Canggu is selfie-centred, to coin a phrase.

In the to-and-fro that followed someone’s social media complaint that a farmer had tried to sting him for a small consideration – it was probably only Rp.10K or Rp.20K (US$1 or US$2) – there were several comments.

The best we saw came from Ipong Wayan, a name not unknown in Bali’s tourism fuelled economic sectors. He told the complainant in chief, someone called Frederick Dillon, this: “Oyyyy stop this bullshit … come visit my village I will give you free lunch or dinner and cash to go back to your country … please come quickly as this offer is limited (only for cheap people).”

Over the matter of small money, uang kecil, we couldn’t have put it better.

Festival Central

180316 FOR HECTOR'S DIARY

A modern-day seeker after truth…

UBUD’S the place for doing all sorts of things to your mind and your body. It has a reputation as a fine resort for feeding the mind, or bending it, or for bending your body while your chakras are reorganised by your guru of choice. It’s actually as venal as anywhere else, but we don’t talk about that.

It is also Festival Central. This is a fine thing for many reasons, not the least of these being that many of them are the kind of Lost Westerner dreamtime stuff that doesn’t attract hordes of Chinese tourists in big buses. So we note the upcoming annual Bali Spirit Festival (Apr. 2-8) where you can bend it, but not quite like Beckham, and on the alimentary front, Janet DeNeefe’s fourth Ubud Food Festival (Apr. 13-15).

In its latest e-newsletter, UFF suggests that if you’re looking for something nourishing for the mind and the body, then Jam Secrets with Arif Springs and Healthy Eating for Midlife and Beyond with Sam Rice are the answers. Or, as DeNeefe suggests for devotees of freshly baked sourdough bread, Sourdough from Scratch with Starter Lab and Sourdough Pizza with DUMBO could be just what you need.

Yum!

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

Chin-chin!

 

Silence is Golden

HECTOR’S DIARY

Titbits from his regular diet of worms

 

The Cage, Bali

Wednesday, Mar. 7, 2018

 

IT’S Nyepi in ten days (Saturday, Mar. 17), the annual day of silence in Bali, by the island’s traditional Hindu Dharma religious and customary rites. This requires a twenty-four-hour period in which no work is performed, no noise is heard, and no lights are seen. It is a sacred time for Hindus and demands respect and observance from everyone on the island.

There are benefits from the day for everyone. There’s no traffic, so the road system copes very well with the load it is required to carry. The airport is closed, so the tourist sluice is temporarily dry. There is no lighting (except that required by international regulations at the airport and the ports) so the night sky is fully visible. If it’s not cloudy, the stars are magic.

Here at The Cage, we are not Hindus. Neither are we Jewish (you’ll never see us holding a scroll and bashing our heads against the Western Wall in al-Quds) nor Christian (we don’t fast during Lent) though we are “Kristen” for Indonesian bureaucracy’s benefit, nor Muslim (we never kill goats for Eid al-Adha). So we shan’t be engaging in twenty-four hours of quiet spiritual reflection, which is the formal requirement of Balinese Hindus for Nyepi. But no noise will be heard beyond our property boundary, no visible light will show, and we won’t be having a party.

We might, if it is ends up being too hard for the island’s ISPs to switch off their signals as they are under pressure to do, quietly use our Internet connection. We may even listen (quietly) to some music. We shall certainly eat, bathe, and do all the other things in the normal daily routine of well-mannered unbelievers. In the evening, we shall marvel at the stars. That’s what we do every year.

Last year the silence of Nyepi in our little bit of our banjar was broken only once. This was by the Pecalang patrol that motored loudly down our track in the middle of the evening, flashing their torches to see if anyone was illegally illuminated, and the neighbourhood dogs, which quite understandably made a dreadful racket about this disturbance.

Nyepi observance varies according to local tradition. In one place we know of, the restriction used to be only that you should not leave your village. Some of the observance is informal, too. We generally stay home these days, but one year we went to Candi Dasa and stayed at a small resort within that “Obyek Wisata”. We and all the other guests were chivvied out of the restaurant by 7.30pm and sent stumbling off in the dark to our bungalows where no light should be shown. We sat quietly on our terrace thereafter and enjoyed the partying of the hotel staff, who observed the holiest night of the Balinese year by purloining all the pool toys and splashing around noisily in the big pool for hours.

Cover Up, There’s a Dear

WE do love a good rant, as regular readers will know. And this time, we’ve got two to report – one from our favourite feisty American surfer-ecologist Mara Wolford, and the other from a lovely little to-and-fro on a Bali expat Facebook page.

Marvellous Mara’s is about surfboards and the unreliability of friends: see “Hang Ten”, below. The other is about dressing appropriately in the immediate vicinity of temples. In the old days, when respect was an obligation you owed to others instead of a right you demand from others, there might have been fewer problems. But (not to put too fine a point on it) appropriate dress for such occasions involves managing to put on something that doesn’t show everyone quite so much of your bum, even if you do come from a land down under where (as Men at Work sang in one version of their fine paean to the antipodes) women glow and men plunder.

The glutinous maximus may be the strongest muscle in the human body, but it is seldom able to prevent heavy buttock droop, particularly in those whose diet chiefly comes from FastFoodInc, purveyors of grossness to Their Majesties The Common Herd. It’s predominantly a western thing – although locally the backsides of some motorbike riders seem to be expanding – and thus is another visual pollutant courtesy of the age of mass tourism.

Body shape should not be dissed of course. We are all what we are. It would be impolite and disrespectful to comment subjectively. It should be said, though, of the apparently endless range of such endowments, that self-respect needs to get a look-in too. Near nudity is fine on beaches – if local laws permit and you’re not from the growing cohort of full burka bathing enthusiasts – but you’re not paying attention if you think going shopping covered in less than most people put on as underwear is anywhere near acceptable.

We’re not prudes. Though we do remember the lesson drummed into us in our formative post-pubescence, in a world now long gone: the shorter the skirt, the lower the price.

It’s Unarchipelagic

SPEAKING of burkas, which is a difficult thing to do if swaddled in one, it was interesting to read the other day that the State Islamic University in Yogyakarta has banned the garment from its campus. Yogya is a special region of Indonesia in many ways, not least because by custom its hereditary Sultan is always the head of government. It’s an example of how Indonesia can manage its diversity. Aceh is another, though that compact, more recent, had particular religious-political and economic reasons behind it after the long insurrection, and is showing some less than pleasant results.

The burka is primarily desert dress, its origin flowing (pun intended) from the need to cover up against the super-fierce heat of the dry-climate sun. It has acquired religious significance since, even though the Prophet, when he said that Arabian women should cover up, was only saying they should put an end to their Neolithic practice of going about bare-breasted. In an Indonesian context, where (somewhat naturally) traditional modes of dress are not Arabian, though they often include head-coverings, the burka is Unarchipelagic. It’s good to see that someone’s found the fortitude to act upon that fact.

Barnyard Barnaby

SINCE we’re on matters of prurience, an area of life that apparently fixates many, a word about the former deputy prime minister of Australia, now backbencher, Barnaby Joyce. He was never a household name as leader of the coalition National Party, until his private predilection for unzipping became public property. His disgraceful conduct in having an affair with his media adviser, and her pregnancy, showed him to be unfit for high office. He’s now made it worse by promoting speculation that the baby may not be his. In effect he has slut-shamed his lover and – much worse – created a situation in which an as yet unborn child is already invidiously a figure of public notoriety. In short, he’s a shit: he’s Barnyard Barnaby, the Hayseed Hemlifter.

Generally speaking, the sex lives of others are private matters. They engage only those people, except for vicarious moral, ethical and financial obligation to the established partners of the participants if the sex is (as it is put) illicit. But such sex and longer love affairs happen in every society, for many more reasons than base lust. (And while we’re about it, let’s be honest and award base lust a place in our humanity.)

The “one and only” rule created by the control systems societies put in place for religious and patriarchal reasons is widely observed in its breach, and by a large plurality. It was ever thus, since legislating for what the fun police tell us is morality is a waste of time and an infringement of liberties of much greater value. We just gossip about others more widely and publicly these days, here on Planet Banal.

Of course, it is delicious if a defaulter is discovered who has made a political career out of stern patriarchal moral imperatives. Feet of clay discovered in such luminaries make their entire existence farcical. But that’s less about the sexual aspect of an affair than it is about their character. That handy old rubric – let he who is without sin cast the first stone – is what is best applied to one’s desire to comment on the behaviour of others. How people deal with breach of trust, sexual or otherwise, within their own relationships, including whether they even regard it as such, is something for them, not for public discourse.

Hang Ten

DOING so might encourage the others, to reprise the old aphorism. Our feisty friend Mara Wolford, now back in Bali from a spell in the United States of Trumpism, reports having gone to look for surf boards in Kuta, and at a brace of boards an old, and now presumably former, friend has stored for her. Hers had been taken out of their covers and left unprotected in the full glare and flow of the weather, and were functionally ruined. The fare in the shops wasn’t much better, apparently: roughly built, horrifically decorated, etc.: The sort of thing, or so we gathered from reading Mara’s magnificent mouthful about it all, that a girl just wouldn’t surf on.

We are not surfers, though we deeply respect people who are. We wonder how they can stay on their feet, how they pick a wave that will carry them shoreward so they can paddle out again, and we still have no real idea what a wipeout is. But we do understand quality, and how, in mass-market Bali, that is more than ever what you find very difficult to get. Hrmph.

Chin-chin!

The Landlord Line

HECTOR’S DIARY

Titbits from his regular diet of worms

 

The Cage, Bali

Saturday, Mar. 3, 2018

 

A FRIEND who is in the poor but thoroughly sensible expat cohort ignored by the hyped media that surrounds the other chief cohorts – the party expat and the good works expat – has just enjoyed another round of that Balinese sport, renting a “villa”. His story is an object lesson in a number of things, including landlord venality.

This last demerit is by no means exclusive to Bali, though it finds some of its loftiest expression here, because of course, to many, all foreigners are rich and shouldn’t  be here except as handy ATMs, and are fair game.

Our friend had earlier done the right thing: his lease would be up in several months, so he had advised his landlord that he’d like to renew for a further year at the same cost as his current contract. He heard nothing until the week before expiry, when he was informed that the house would be available, but at a much higher rent.

This was unacceptable, our friend told his landlord, and in any case, in his situation, unaffordable. He began searching for a rooming house to lodge within at a price he could afford. This proved difficult, especially morally and ethically (these commodities are in short supply in Bali too, by the way). One place he found, while speaking Indonesian, was not available until the operator discovered that he was talking to a foreigner, not a local.

At that point he got a call from his landlord who agreed to rent the house to him for a further year at the existing rental, but with no renovations (read: repairs). That’s partially happy news, since our friend now has a place to live – and after all, the rainy season is sure to end soon and so a leaking roof and area flooding aren’t long-term problems, or so the landlord probably thinks – but it’s the sort of smash-and-grab behaviour that leaves a sour taste in the mouth and the name Rachman echoing in the brain of anyone old enough to remember 1950s-1960s London slum landlordism.

Things are not necessarily better elsewhere, but in most places there is some recourse to mediation, if necessary through the courts. Here, you’d think, with the prevalence of karma as a guiding principle of life, being a slum landlord wouldn’t be what you’d want to be.

It’s true of course that local people rent accommodation that is even less salubrious than a broken down “villa” rented to a poor foreigner for the cost-of-living equivalent of squillions. But it’s also true that couldn’t-care-less local property owners make the local equivalent of a motza from foreigners.

Apparently, here in paradise on the Island of the Gods, it’s as easy as anywhere to ignore your conscience if there’s profit involved.

Road Rage

THE roads are a mess in south Bali. There’s no argument about that, especially while the underpass is being constructed at the airport traffic circle in time for the IMF conference scheduled for Nusa Dua in October this year. As a recipe for chaos, that’s unbeatable. Even the police agree, and suggest finding alternative routes. In theory that’s great, except that there isn’t really any alternative to sitting in a tailback of up to an hour, or going far out of your way to sit in another monster parking lot waiting to get through the card-swipe gates at the southern end of the Mandara-over-the-water-way.

But it affects everyone equally. And you get used to being pushed out of the way by enormous tourist buses full of Chinese, or trucks driven by madmen, in even more confined spaces than usual. The rules of the animal kingdom prevail as always: if it’s bigger than you, flee!

Road rage is seldom seen here. That’s always been one of the pleasures – no really – of driving in Bali. But there was an incident the other day on the bypass south of the airport shemozzle that’s worth reporting. Partial reporting, at least: There was a denouement that deservedly pained the perpetrator and cheered the local drivers he had also monstered, which we shan’t report.

We drive a Suzuki X-4. We call her Suzi (very original, we know) and we chose her because she is engineered – and powered – to propel her weight with the required torque, unlike most of the underpowered conveyances that help gum up the works here. When she needs to zip, she zips, and when she needs to zoom she just about shouts “Yeehah!” and leaves everything in her wake, even a lawyer’s BMW.

It wasn’t a lawyer’s BMW that gave us trouble, however. It was another Suzuki, a smaller car, driven by a guy who was either on bad uppers or had just been dissed by his girlfriend. We’d zipped through the airport traffic circle slo-mo, being awake. Pak Tidur behind us didn’t like this. Being beaten into the last available cubic centimetre of space by a Bule is no fun any more. Apparently.

He pursued us, desperate to get past and prove … something. That he’s an idiot, probably. Who knows? Since we were in the outside lane (a notional proposition near the airport traffic circle given that motor bikes use the opposite lanes as their personal space) we could not move over so he could get off on his personal power. He could, though, via a series of illegal manoeuvres that had his little black Suzuki on two wheels at times and drivers braking and shouting all over the place. He caused two motorbikes in the left lane to decamp into the mangroves, then jigged in front of us, also on two wheels, spilling another motorbike onto the median strip, and braked, one space further forward in the tailback than he would otherwise have been.

The traffic was stalled, waiting for the lights at the Benoa Square intersection, half a kilometre ahead. We got out of our car and asked the motorcyclist on the median strip if he was OK. He was. His bike wasn’t all that well. We then approached the little black car in front, watched with close attention by the drivers of other vehicles in the tailback. We could see them thinking, “What’s that old Bule doing?”

We tapped upon the driver’s side window and motioned “window down”. The occupant complied and shouted “Bule c–t!” To which we replied, “And you’re a limp-dick.” Sadly, he was a Balinese driver, not some off-island Indonesian with bad manners and no local road sense. He seemed to be some sort of junior gangster, snappily dressed in an expensive white shirt, tight black pants, shiny shoes and glittering with gold. Perhaps he was thirty. But anyway, from an old Bule’s perspective he was a young man.

He sat in insolent silence in his car. We told him he had been driving dangerously, that he could easily have killed three motorcyclists, and that he was a fuckwit. (These are not the sorts of things you generally tell Indonesian drivers. It was leading edge stuff.)

He said again, “Bule c–t!” The bit we shan’t report then followed, to thumbs-ups and loud acclaim from the locals. Since the traffic was then beginning to move we returned to our vehicle and zoomed away.

Some days are diamonds.

Facebooked

IT’S possible that we are now on the Facebook geeks’ list of undesirables, since an incident the other day. One of their silly prompt-questions popped up and we answered it. We’ll paraphrase, but what the question asked was what would we wish for if a genie materialised from a bottle. For Facebook to stop playing silly kindergarten games was our answer. Oddly, it didn’t appear on the timeline.

Though we missed an opportunity. Instead of being dismissive, as one is sometimes tempted to be with small, errant children, we could have been more adult in our response. “A cool djinn and tonic, thanks,” would have fitted the bill perfectly.

Chin-chin!

The Elegant Stomping Dance

SEAN DORNEY

Veteran ABC journalist, former Kumuls captain, and all-round good bloke

“Roast” Dinner, Brisbane, Feb. 24, 2018. I wrote these words for the occasion and hope someone got a giggle out of them. By all accounts, it was a rollicking night.

180224 SEAN and PAULINE

Sean and Pauline, early arrivals (as is only proper for the guests of honour) at Saturday’s Brisbane bash. ~ Photo courtesy of Sue Ahearn

 

Lea Crombie and I have known Sean and Pauline Dorney for nearly forty years. They were at our wedding in Port Moresby in 1982.

Sean recently told me, when he’d seen a reference to this event, “Who could forget that wedding?”

It was quite an occasion, naturally. Lea and I sometimes remember it ourselves, when we’re in “those were the days” mode.

Among other memorable moments from the wedding, was Sean’s fine performance of his Elegant Stomping Dance. He did this after we had relieved him of the military sword with which the wedding cake had been symbolically severed. Sean’s a lovely fellow, but we didn’t think that his attachment to a sword was necessarily consistent with even the rudimentary health and safety standards of the day, or indeed the welfare of our other guests.

Those of you who have not seen Sean’s Elegant Stomping Dance have missed out on one of life’s great pleasures. It’s up there for thrills and dangers of spills with his other practice of freefalling from balconies.

If you imagine a sort of manic cross between the Jumping Jews of Jerusalem – also a fine dance, and one appropriately constructed by John Cleese and the other clowns of Monty Python fame – and Irish dancing, with perhaps a bit of Manus heritage thrown in, you’ll get the picture. He performed it at our house a number of times, on those occasions on which Pauline had brought along the buai, but his wedding rendition was the killer.

This was literally so. The Dorney “Elegance” had been demonstrated over wide sections of the grass matting that served as carpet in the dining and living area. Several guests, and from memory also the bride and groom, had had to exercise nimble steps themselves, to avoid the dervish who had appeared in their midst.

Some days later, the fresh Coral Sea breezes that aired our house with ocean ozone acquired another distinctive aroma, one that was rather less pleasant. Eventually we felt compelled to ask Segive, our houseboy, to lift up the matting during his next cleaning round, and investigate.

Segive met Lea a little later, as she returned home, dangling a small, flattened, and possibly mummified corpse from one hand. “Poor mousey,” he intoned, with due Protestant solemnity.

It had apparently been unable to escape one elegant stomp too far.

So Sean, you can be sure your presence at our unforgettable wedding was also, in its own way, unforgettable too.

Lea and I are sorry we couldn’t be here tonight. But not too far away we are raising our glasses to toast a great friend, a fine journalist, and an excellent elegant stomping dancer.

Cheers, mate!

Sean was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease a little while ago.

Straight to the Point

HECTOR’S DIARY

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

Titbits from his regular diet of worms

 

The Cage, Bali

Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018

 

IT’S magic what you can do these days with a talking smart phone. The other day we had to drive into Denpasar – a strange bit of it with which we are unfamiliar – and it was a dream. All we had to do was follow the dulcet directions of the lovely lady map-reader who apparently inhabits The Diary’s Huawei and speaks to you with perfect diction and in very sound English. Possibly her name is not Joy, but nonetheless a joy she is.

It’s good too that as you inch along in south Bali’s dense traffic, threatened on all sides by even denser drivers, you can also see from your handy interactive map where your next major tailback is going to be. There’s no escaping it, generally, but at least you know it’s there. It’s a bit like how Lieutenant Colonel Custer might have found himself unhappily pre-advised if he’d bothered to send scouts out ahead of his cavalry column as it trotted up the Rosebud. He could have sworn pre-emptively himself, too, then.

Encore du Vin

HAVING a French friend has always been lovely, as we’ve noted before. The French are often much more interesting than Anglos, and that’s not just because the expressive nature of the language and French culture adds to the joie de vivre.

We’re fortunate, as we’ve also noted previously, to have a good friend who lives in the French style at Petulu near Ubud, in a villa in which astonishingly we are welcome visitors. Even her cats speak French, with a meow of course, and in fact they appear to be trilingual. They understand “Non,” “No,” and “Tidak,” though of course, being cats, they pretend they don’t, or that they haven’t heard you, or that plainly you have directed your latest vocalised imperative to someone else. If pressed upon a particular point, each affects insouciance in the face of unwanted instruction that is both typical of the feline community and a joy to watch: “Moi? Sûrement pas!”

Another benefit of long weekends in a French ambience is the availability of wine and cheese and the cultural necessity to consume these victuals in more than micro-measurable quantities well into the evening and in fact well past the time when your calèche has turned into a citrouille (and you’ve given up worrying about that silly glass slipper anyway).

Lost Their Tackle

THE Indonesian agriculture ministry and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have designated four areas in Indonesia for pilot projects to tackle the spread of zoonotic diseases such as rabies, anthrax and avian influenza, and emergent ones, that normally have animal hosts but can infect humans. There’s another zoonotic disease of deep concern, plague, which is endemic in parts of Central Java, including Boyolali, one of the areas nominated for study, and in East Java, but that’s long been under strict control measures – including effective rubbish control and disposal – and fieldwork to keep an eye on infection levels in rodents.

The four areas in the new study are Bengkalis in Riau, Ketapang in West Kalimantan, Boyolali in Central Java and Minahasa in North Sulawesi. “We select areas based on the risks and the state of medical infrastructure and the commitment of regional administrations,” says the FAO’s Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) Indonesia’s Andri Jatikusumah.

Bali isn’t on the list. It lost its tackle over rabies when, after international efforts following the 2008 outbreak gave it a great start, it all became too hard for the provincial and local governments. It’s not only in Bali where foolish politics, conflicting priorities (all those Kijiangs and Fortuners) and administrative ennui combine to derail all sorts of things. Bureaucracies everywhere have dreadful trouble with dogs that eat their homework.

Cina Bali

WE’VE just read a really interesting feature in The South China Morning Post, about the symbiosis between Chinese and Balinese cultures. We’d recommend it as reading for anyone who is interested in anthropology, as well as the many who fear that Balinese culture will ultimately be swamped by the tsunami of profane banality that is modern day Indonesian money power.

Among other things, it makes the point that Agama Hindu Dharma – Bali’s unique religion and culture – is an accretion of Hindu, Buddhist and animist beliefs. It is a naturally accepting belief system, not a religion that is hidebound by a book. The point in this instance is that the Chinese Indonesian writer who is the subject of the interview felt no sense of being an outsider when she was growing up in Bali. That ridiculous predisposition in the minds of others only came to her notice when she went to Jakarta to study. At home in Bali she was Cina Bali, properly just part of the human landscape. Off the island, she was “Cina!” or worse, “Amoy”, presumptive and frankly threatening accusations of difference. She was not pribumi: she was an outsider.

The Chinese have a very long history in Bali, as do Chinese communities in other parts of Indonesia. But, here, where for all the set nature of Hindu Dharma religious observance and cultural practice, there is a long tradition of accretion, of incorporating symbolism and articles of faith from elsewhere, a formal veneration of ancestors, and wide acceptance of the benefits of otherness. The Chinese presence – around 14,000 people identify as Cina Bali – has become integral to the island’s culture, rather than something temporarily attached to it.

There’s a book in all of that, and one’s apparently in the works. It should be an anthropological feast.

As We Were Saying

AMID some hoopla, the authorities some days ago downgraded the alert status for Mt Agung, noting that while volcanic eruption was still occurring, there was less pressure within the mountain’s core and therefore less risk of a powerful eruption. The mountain answered that, partly in the affirmative, within a matter of hours. It staged an eruption that sent ash 1,500 metres into the air above the 3,000-metre summit. There was light ash fall from Amlapura to Tulamben on Bali’s eastern coast.

On figures from Feb. 13 from 103 evacuation posts – down 43 from the previous day – there are still 10,890 evacuees registered. More than 6,000 people had left the evacuation camps since the alert status was lowered from IV to III and the exclusion zone was reduced to a four-kilometre radius. Residential numbers high on the volcano show 602 people live within the four-kilometre radius, 986 within five kilometres, and about 17,000 within six kilometres.

But the emergency is not over. This is not the time for anyone to drop any balls.

Festivities

WE had an opportunity while in Ubud to chat with Janet DeNeefe, over sparkling water served at Honeymoon Cottages in Jl. Bisma, about this year’s writers and readers’ festival – it’s in October and is the fifteenth – and the 2018 Ubud Food Festival, which is in April. It was an interesting chat. We’ll come back to the UWRF, at some length, in another forum in a little while. Meanwhile the food festival program is now online. Mouths may now officially water in anticipation.

It’s the Ethics, Stupid!

AS a rule, we avoid too closely associating with the political news that filters out of Australia. It’s generally banal and – unless it’s about something that directly affects you – rather pointless. Scoring political points is for others, trolls and the like, and those for whom partisanship is a way of life.

There are exceptions to this rule, and one such is upon us now, concerning the deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce, who is leader of the junior (but essential) branch of the coalition, the National Party. Joyce has made a sad, sorry, and farcical nonsense of his personal life, bedding and impregnating his staff media adviser and leaving his quarter-century-old marriage as a result. That, essentially, is a private matter. If it requires condign and clamorous judgment from outside the home he’s wrecked, this should come from those whose deepest wish seems to be to force their way into the private lives of others.

What actually matters is the ethical question as it relates to public office and expenditure of public funds. As Simon Longstaff of the Ethics Centre (in Sydney) has noted, it is here that Joyce has disastrously failed. For those offences, which are not those upon which one could litigate, he should go. He probably knows this but (another ethical lapse) has been resisting the concept of leaping off the gravy train.

The barnyard farce of Joyce’s personal life has brought forth an amendment to the ministerial code of conduct, which specifically bans sexual relationships with staff. The real scandal is that a ministerial code of conduct is deemed necessary in the first place. It’s clumsy and dangerous anyway, since it encourages those to whom demerit is a notional concept to take the view that something dodgy is OK if it’s not precisely disallowed in the code.

But the real bottom line is this: If you’re incapable of defining what’s right and what’s wrong, or worse, are unwilling to bother doing so, you’re not fit for any senior office, political or otherwise.

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

Chin-chin!

Excrescences, Etc.

HECTOR’S DIARY

Titbits from his diet of worms

The Cage, Bali

Monday, Feb. 5, 2018

 

MANY foreigners come to Bali for its unique culture and some choose to live here. The people with whom one wishes to associate are in that cohort. Some may be misguided, but that’s OK. The flowers of Eastern mysticism are as open to misinterpretation as any shamanistic bloom. Bali is a great place to have your chakras fiddled with by itinerant foreign gurus with malleable morals. It’s a sort of “Eat, Love, Prey” thing. The preying is usually mutual, or at any rate consensual.

There are others, of a different class, who are here to gouge a buck and to take advantage of the brown envelope culture. Perhaps some among them occasionally reflect that they are fortunate to be in a place where they can practise their predilections, not all of them necessarily commercial, in an environment in which with the right connections you are rarely caught out. A few are possibly here because they couldn’t behave in their own societies as they can generally manage to here, or because they’d be in jail if they did.

It is this latter cohort that sometimes gets up one’s nose, especially when it involves public assertions (which have no basis in fact) of the selfishly acquisitive practices of others. One particular recent incident has got up ours. Normally you’d just ignore such dog-droppings, and the dogs that drop them. But sometimes you feel that you can’t. So, Terry Brockhall, formerly of Brisbane, Queensland, and presently of Dalung, Bali, this one’s for you, mate.

Perhaps he was drunk or otherwise intellectually incapacitated when last week he posted (on the Bali Expats Facebook group) his intemperate, litigious and profoundly incorrect assessment of what someone who has been at the forefront of obtaining funds to assist the thousands of Balinese volcano evacuees had actually done with the money. A good rule of thumb for civilised existence is to subject your own subjectivity to rigorous analysis before you mouth off.

If Mr Brockhall would like to discuss this with us, he’s welcome to do so. Privately would be best, to avoid further embarrassing himself and his former business associates in Australia, who are surprised that he still lists on LinkedIn a company he left five years ago as his current place of employment. (The Diary hasn’t named the target of his misplaced ire. Her friends and associates know whom it is, and we’ll make sure they see this item.)

The Affliction

IT’S no surprise, though one might wish it were, that the Sharia authorities in Aceh have taken to publicly stripping and whipping transsexual people whom they are sure have angered Allah. It is a surprise, in contrast, and yet another sour one, that Indonesia Air Asia announced last week that its cabin crews on services to the autonomous Neolithic province would in future be all male.

There was another incident, last week, far away and in a different milieu, which was even more alarming. The Manchester Art Museum in Britain removed from display

Hylas and the Nymphs, the widely known painting , by John William Waterhouse. It is one of the most recognisable of the pre-Raphaelite paintings. Postcards of the painting were taken off sale in the shop.

In the painting’s place, a notice went up explaining that a temporary space had been left “to prompt conversations about how we display and interpret artworks in Manchester’s public collection”. Members of the public have stuck Post-it notes around the notice giving their reaction. Most of them are entirely predictable. They were a lot more polite than the Post-it note The Diary would be tempted to stick in the “temporary space.”

According to the gallery’s curator of contemporary art, Clare Gannaway, the aim of the removal was not to censor but to provoke debate. Tell that to the nymphs and wait for the derisive laughter in response. The work usually hangs in a room titled In Pursuit of Beauty, which contains late 19th century paintings showing lots of female flesh.

Perhaps the key to the whole horror of this act of non-censorship lies in Gannaway’s explanation – no doubt it is “feminist” by some empty-headed definition or other – that the room’s title was a bad one, as it was male artists pursuing women’s bodies, and paintings that presented the female body as a passive decorative art form or a femme fatale.

Still, it’s a device that would easily fix the hefty financial call on galleries to acquire, care for, insure and display works of art. They could just put post-it notes around the walls instead. That would be much cheaper and surely would offend no one except those who like to look at paintings and who in such circumstances would naturally no longer visit museums and galleries. The great unwashed, who do not do so anyway, would neither care nor notice: Planet Doh again.

The curiously disingenuous argument from the museum flows from the supposed pandemic of sexual mistreatment of minors. A mob has been raised on this matter and in the manner of such swarms is now out of control. There are perverts in any society. If those who fiddled with little boys and girls had been privately horsewhipped on discovery of their first offence, most would probably not have done it again. Madness is an illness. Perversion is an elective practice.

A friend who saw the report asked: “Has everyone gone quite mad? Is it something in the water?” To which we could only reply: “We have long suspected something of the sort; or random radons.”

Peak Piquancy

THE Ubud Food Festival, Janet DeNeefe’s highly successful annual spin-off from the well established Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, has won star billing from ABC, the Indonesian food company that produces Indonesia’s essential condiments, kecap manis and sambal. Without these, no one’s food from his or her island home would be as piquant as it should be.

According to Dhiren Amin, who is head of marketing, Southeast Asia, at Kraft Heinz ABC, popularising Indonesian cooking and the archipelago’s diverse culinary traditions is a vision ABC shares with UFF, and this was a primary motive in the company becoming a presenting partner at the 2018 festival. And DeNeefe notes: “It’s a brand we all know and love, so it’s a perfect fit for our festival.” We agree. The Diary’s finely tuned taste buds are already in full anticipatory mode.

Corporate sponsorship is essential for any style of festival these days, so ABC’s move is as welcome as its spicy little bottles at the UFF table. The festival is from Apr. 13-15 this year – themed Generasi Inovasi – and will feature nearly 100 speakers, and their culinary delights.

There’s much more here 

Lying Doggo

THE volcano was quiet on Sunday. Literally. For the first time in a long while, no volcanic or resultant seismic activity was noted. Inevitably, this will result in those who believe their economic and political interests lie in assumptions that all is well seeing an opportunity to promote the idea that there is no emergency. To these people, we simply say this: Study the records, such as they are, of the lengthy and occasionally quiescent eruption of Mt Agung in 1963, and do not assume anything. Go with the volcano science, not political science.

Farewell, Friend

SOME who read The Diary will know the name: John McKenzie Keir. He was a fine gentleman, well known in the Australian commercial aviation sector. He was also our friend of more than two decades, and we were greatly saddened to learn, today, that he had left us. He died last Tuesday, the victim, finally, of the leukaemia with which he was diagnosed twenty-two years ago. Latterly other opportunistic agents of fatality had joined the assault upon him, and he succumbed.

Our association came about because his wife and our Companion worked together in the now distant past, and hit it off rather well. They were often rowdy, in a ladylike way, and maintained that practice throughout the years following, during which they occasionally saw each other and misbehaved. Mr Keir and The Diary were sometimes peripheral to these celebrations, as Significant Others are supposed to be.

We last saw him on a flying visit to Brisbane in 2016 – the trip was to attend someone’s political birthday party – and saw a Lions v Swans match at the Gabba by benefit of his ALF fixation and his Lions’ membership. It was a good game on a mild Brisbane autumn afternoon and we all dined pleasantly together afterwards.

We’ll miss the enigmatic smile with which he handled cross-table repartee and his sommelier-standard handling of wine bottles with recalcitrant corks. His funeral is in Brisbane tomorrow. We shall toast him at dinner tonight – we hope in the style and with the panache on which he would surely insist – with warm thoughts for his lovely family.

Chin-chin!

Janet’s World

HECTOR’S DIARY

 

 

Titbits from his regular diet of worms

 

THE CAGE

Bali

Monday, Jan. 29, 2018

 

 

THAT’S Bali, of course, Janet DeNeefe’s home for more than thirty years. But like most Australians who live overseas or spend a great deal of time beyond the moat, she retains an umbilical link to her original homeland. So it was pleasing, though no surprise, to see her featured recently in Australia Unlimited, a web-based Austrade (i.e., official) site where good-thinking Aussies are given exposure.

DeNeefe, who trained as an art teacher before first coming to Bali in 1975 and returning forever the next year, runs restaurants and a guesthouse in Ubud, the little hill town now known as guru central, and started the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival after the 2002 Bali bombings to contribute to the healing process. She’s written two books about Bali cuisine. This year’s UWRF, from Oct. 24-28, will be the fifteenth, though, sadly, we need to note that this may be volcano permitting. The fat lady has yet to sing. More recently DeNeefe added the standalone Ubud Food Festival to her stable. It’s from Apr. 13-15 this year and the full program will be out in mid-February.

In the nine-item Q&A on Australia Unlimited, she says Bali’s a magical place and she’s lucky to have made a life here. It’s hard to argue with the theory that Bali is magic. DeNeefe has some very sensible advice for foreigners who come here to live and work: get with the culture.

Trumpet Voluntary

DONALD Trump made a good speech at the annual Davos gabfest, just over for another year. It was rational, it had a theme and held to it (his speechwriter must have been pleased) and it was not delivered as if he were addressing a campaign crowd in, say, Allentown, PA. That is not to say it was a good speech in the other sense. He proclaimed that America First did not mean America Alone, and then laid out linked economic and security proposals that functionally ensured the U.S. voice will be a singular one, especially where China is concerned.

Economically, it was an unreconstructed capitalist speech. The bulk of the world – sensibly – has long ago shifted focus back towards some sort of planned economy, having finally realised that uncontrolled capitalists and egregious oligarchs don’t actually give a toss about anyone except themselves and their offshore untaxed wealth. Creating more billionaires isn’t economic progress; it’s a function of social failure.

In terms of global security, everyone from the Chinese down thinks that the nutbar in Pyongyang should be corralled into something resembling common sense. How to do that without having a nuclear war is the central issue. America’s sheriff-exceptionalist predilections won’t help there. They won’t help with Iran either, where the regime (while unpleasant) is principally concerned with regional issues – the Gulf, primarily – and not with the sort of global power play that so worries certain Americans with leader of the free world syndrome.

The full text of the speech is here. It’s worth reading.

All A-Flutter

THE happy folk at Ausflag, the outfit that keeps coming up with alternatives to the national flag that Australia has had since 1901, chose Australia Day (Jan. 26) to produce yet another. If you’re on a hiding to nothing, as executive director Harold Scruby surely knows by now, another biff around the ears doesn’t matter. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who in his republican days was a director of Ausflag, knows that too.

Australia is a monarchy, or more accurately is a crowned republic. Its head of state is the governor-general but its sovereign is the Queen of the United Kingdom (as well as concurrently Queen of Australia and other places; the poor woman wears many crowns). The Australian flag is perfectly sound. Its origin as a defaced British blue ensign is immaterial a century later, when the empire of which Australia was part is no more. Just to note: defaced is not an insult; it describes its heraldic status.

Canada, also a crowned republic, has a striking and simple flag that does not carry a reference in its upper left quarter to the country’s long ago British colonial birth. It also avoids in any way looking as if it might be some sort of corporate banner. This is the way forward for Australia, when eventually it is more widely understood that the British flag in the corner of its own is arcane and misplaced. For that reason the latest Ausflag offering is worthy of consideration: it retains the essential identifying elements of the existing flag – the Southern Cross and the seven-point Star representing the six (still sovereign) states plus the federal and territory elements – while dispensing with the Union Flag.

We’ve probably told this story before – it’s a good one and always worth a giggle – about an occasion many years ago in the U.K. on family matters, when The Diary was driving a party of British relatives to a funeral in England. They were Scottish relatives so humour was present. For some ecclesiastical or other reason the churches that day were flying the Union Flag. The Diary mentioned, on passing one that was more prominently fluttering in the breeze than most, that there before us was a large corner of the Australian flag. There was a moment’s silence. And then there were loud guffaws.

That wouldn’t happen with this one:

Look Mum … No bars

Volcano Casualty

THE drone that the excellent Indonesian volcanology boffins had been using to provide essential photography of the crater of Mt. Agung in eruption, and to collect gas emissions from it for analysis, crashed on operations last week. That’s a great pity, since its missions provided opportunities for real-time analysis of the eruptive state of the mountain.

The accident demonstrates the dangerous conditions that exist around the summit, which isn’t a place for people to hang around, or even to fleetingly visit. The Stromboli-type eruption on Jan. 19 showed that very plainly.

Well Deserved

MARGARET Barry, the Australian philanthropist who is the public expat face of the Bali Children Foundation, was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in the Australia Day Honours List published last Friday. It’s well deserved recognition of her work over 15 years to educate Balinese children so that they can prosper in their lives and help others by doing so. Barry notes that the BCF is a venture in which many people help, unsung.

Veteran scribbler Mungo MacCallum wrote this week that he wondered whether an Australian honours system was appropriate. He’s always been a contrarian. He did make a good point that the OAM is widely, if unfairly, viewed as the also-rans list. An additional grade within the ranks might help fix that problem.

But the answer to his question of course is yes. As a scribbler, though, he most likely takes The Diary’s view of gongs, which is similar to that of Groucho Marx about clubs that might invite him to become a member. Writers are best when they adopt the obverse of the old argument that it’s better to be inside the tent, pissing out, rather than outside, pissing in. An establishment writer is a walking oxymoron.

Chin-chin!

Hot Rocks

HECTOR’S DIARY 

 

Tasty and distasteful morsels from his regular diet of worms

 

THE CAGE

Bali

Monday, Jan. 22, 2018

 

MT Agung staged a further demonstration of its volcanic power the other day, with a Strombolian eruption that showed the mountain’s capacity to pick and choose how it goes off. It suddenly blew rock into the atmosphere from its crater, causing ash and heavier particular matter to crash to earth again within a one-kilometre radius of the summit. It was an unexpected outburst. One does wonder what would have happened if stupid foreign tourists had been on the mountain at the time, in defiance of an exclusion zone order of which, of course, they had chosen not to hear.

Strombolian eruptions – named for the Italian island on which Monte Stromboli stands and regularly shoots rocks into the air – are generally fairly mild, though if you were hit by a two-kilo lump of rock plummeting from the heavens at terminal velocity, that moderation would be immaterial. The risk is present and should be avoided.

All the signs still point to a 1963-style major eruption. When that will be is anyone’s guess. In the meantime evacuees from villages in the declared danger zones need support. The government gives them second-grade rice but that’s all. There are several charitable organisations that arrange to donate essentials for a healthy life, and they’re all doing a great job.

Chic of Araby

THE King of Saudi Arabia is trying to liberalise his country. That term is relative: women will be allowed to drive this year – you do a sort of double take when you write those words – and cinemas are to reopen after a 35-year ban on them.

These efforts at modernisation are welcome, even if some of the driving force behind them relates to Saudi Arabia’s increasing fears about how to remain relevant to the rest of the world (where mostly it’s the 21st century) once the oil that brings in money runs out.

The misogynists are putting up a strong resistance to the process. One of the country’s leading religious figures, Sheik Salah al-Fozan, reiterated a common argument against women driving. On his website he said this: “If women are allowed to drive, they will be able to go and come as they please day and night, and will easily have access to temptation, because as we know, women are weak and easily tempted.”

It’s difficult to frame a response to such an idiotic statement in terms that would pass any test for publication. So we won’t. We’ll simply say that the silly sheik fails to see the fatal flaw in his argument. If indeed women are easily tempted (this has not been our experience anywhere) it’s men who are doing the tempting. It’s their problem, not women’s. What he and his cohorts are actually deeply afraid of is the chic of Araby.

Saudi and Gulf State religious influence is strong in Indonesia, where the veil is becoming more and more predominant and ever more veiling as money pours in for mosques that will preach a harder Islamic line than is customary in the diverse and historically easy-going archipelago. In Nusa Tenggara Barat – the province next door to Bali that includes Lombok and Sumbawa – the grandeur of the new Arab-funded mosques sits in odd contrast to the grinding poverty of the people. This poverty will eventually be lifted, according to the narratives preferred by local leaders, by the forthcoming growth of Islamic tourism. Well, we’ll see.

Stray Day

II’S Australia Day this coming Friday, Jan. 26, the date these days currently used in the special biosphere to celebrate the nation. It’s widely viewed, though quite erroneously, as the “birthday of Australia”, somewhat in the same manner as the landing of the Pilgrim Fathers in North America in 1620 is seen: as the initial spark in the crucible, from which great things grew.

In fact, Jan. 26 in Australia denotes three things: First, the start of a century of theft of a continental island from its original inhabitants, who were in the imperial enlightenment of the times not regarded as its owners, or even as people; second, the plantation there of a penal colony for miscreants Britain wanted out of the way; and third, deliciously in the context of today’s official policy against such people, the first recorded instance of unauthorised arrivals on the sacred shore.

Of course, for most of today’s Australians, it’s just another excuse for a piss-up. Aussies do that so well. That’s fine. Having a party is good way to celebrate most things. And there’s a lot to celebrate – no, really, there is – about the Australia that was first known as such several decades after the penal colony that later became Sydney was established. Australians are easy-going, welcoming, generous folk, unless they chance to see a passing hijab or their name is Peter Dutton. With New Zealand (tiny in comparison) they are the only western democracy in this part of the world, and remain fundamentally liberal about it in the residual British tradition that still informs their polity and governs how they live.

In the polarised politics of Australian debate today, the date of Australia Day is an issue. To Australians of Aboriginal origin, it’s no surprise that it’s “Invasion Day”. To the great mass of Australians – including the 28 per cent born overseas – the original theft, now 230 years in the past, may indeed be beside the point. But to the 3 per cent of Australians who are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, it isn’t.

A concession to this fact, and some lateral thinking, would help. Australia Day has always been a moveable feast. Jan. 26 merely marks the day Governor Phillip got his boots wet at Sydney Cove. It might make a lot of sense if the date were moved to May 9 (or the nearest Monday if they want to continue the tradition of Australia being the land of the long weekend). It could replace the Queen’s Birthday holiday in the calendar and would mark the day the first federal parliament met in 1901. Australia formally became a nation by act of the British parliament on Jan. 1, 1901, but by long tradition that’s already National Hangover Day.

Full Dress Dinner

IT’S been chilly on the Bukit in Bali lately – its position as a limestone blob sticking out into the ocean off the bottom of the island gives it cooler maritime air as a rule anyway, one of its many benefits – and when it’s wet and blowy, it can be quite bracing for tropical types.

The other night we had to dress formally for dinner. It was only 24C or something and a proper shirt needed to be worn over the t-shirt and sarong that is our customary evening attire. Or else shivers.

Chin-chin!