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!

 

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.