HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Aug. 6, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

 

Let’s Hear More from Her

Nafsiah Mboi is a very impressive person. This is immediately obvious to anyone who hears her speak, reads what she says, or takes an interest in the febrile nature of global health challenges. As Indonesia’s health minister, she is the shining star of outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s cabinet, unarguably from the Diary’s perspective his best ministerial appointment.

She was the star panellist too on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s flagship Q&A program on Monday, Aug. 21, on the topic of HIV/AIDS and held at the same time as the International AIDS Congress in Melbourne. Tweets to the show’s Twitter hashtag included this memorable one: “Can we have a health minister like that too?”

Someone else suggested that incoming president Joko Widodo should reappoint her as health minister. Now that is a great idea. Indonesia’s congressional system makes it possible to appoint technocrats and academics to cabinet from outside the formal elective system.

Nafsiah Mboi is an academic, health researcher and Harvard graduate. She should indeed be continued in her appointment.

Another stand-out performer on the Q&A panel was the eminent Australian jurist Michael Kirby, whose finessed judicial mind and personal preferences made him ideal for the occasion.

Kirby is a darling of the intellectual left in Australia. There’s nothing wrong with that, except for what’s wrong with the intellectual left in Australia, which these days has cornered the market in received wisdom and adopted the position that anyone who argues with it is mad or bad or both.

Kirby is certainly an activist jurist. He has not only said that judges make law, but he has also done the really hard yards in reinterpreting the Constitution to the embarrassment of various governments of the day.

But he’s not for turning on a point of judicial value. Q&A is moderated by the oppressively self-assertive Tony Jones. On the program he expressed – with the trademark arched eyebrow, surprised look and dismissive wave of the hand favoured by those who know they know what everyone else should think – his view that it was somewhat strange that Kirby should have given a speech the day before praising Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop for increasing AIDS funding to Papua New Guinea when every other bit of the budget is being pared to the bone.

Followers of Australian politics will know that Abbott has been declared beyond the Pale by those of the left. Kirby skewered Jones, in less than 50 words, and showed with stark clarity why he (Kirby) is a judge and Jones is just an up-market shock-jock. It was delicious.

It’s sad that Australia Network, which screens the must-watch Q&A among many other quality Australian programs to Indonesia and the region, will be going off the air in September because of another decision, a foolish one, of the Abbott government.

 

Apologies

The last edition of The Diary didn’t appear. Those who might have felt disposed to cheer this outcome should cease their chatter now. It was an administrative error on the part of your diarist, who had as usual been belting along full-pelt, as he has always done, oblivious to the natural processes of aging (including acquisition of common sense) and in complete ignorance of the great big wall he was about to hit.

The Eagles’ Life in the Fast Lane has always been the Diary’s addiction, especially this little stanza:

She said, “Listen, baby. You can hear the engine ring.

We’ve been up and down this highway; 

haven’t seen a goddam thing.”

He said, “Call the doctor. I think I’m gonna crash.”

On a West Australian sabbatical, a visit back to the other home, we crashed. That is, in the metaphorical sense. But fortunately the splendid intervention of the West Australian hospital system got us (and a bitterly twisted gut) out of the wreck and reconnected the circuitry.

A painful lesson has been learned. All life forms are finite. At some point, you have to slow down.

 

Jazz and All That

John Daniels of Bali Discovery Tours and Bali Update sent us a cheery get-well note when he heard of our circumstances. It’s always nice to get a note from Jack. And nice in this instance to note in turn a recent item in his Update that refers to Ubud, which we love for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes we even love it for its traffic, though its range of cuisines generally wins the vote, when we finally make it to the restaurant.

It’s good for jazz too, as Jack notes. This will be demonstrated again at the 2014 Ubud Jazz Festival on Aug. 8-9. This year’s theme is “Awakening Indonesia” and headline national and international performers will take the stage.

Scheduled to appear are Gilad Hekselman Trio (USA), Dian Pratiwi and Uwe Plath (Germany), Astrid Sulaiman and Yuri Mahatma Trio (Bali), Balawan BID Trio, Rio Sidik, The GAPPProject Feat Dave Barlow (Australia- Indonesia), Dwiki Dharmawan (Indonesia), Erica Tucceri (Australia (Bali), Ben van den Dungen Quartet (Holland), Deborah Carter (Holland), Endo Seiji (Japan) and Chika Asamoto (Japan-Bali).

There’s also an educational element, presented in cooperation with The Dutch Jazz Summer School form South Korea. The six-day “Jazz Camp” running Aug.3-8 offers six study courses including guitar, drum, piano, double bass, vocal and wind instruments with special focus sessions on music theory and jam session performance.

 

So Long

The West Australian trip had been timed to meet some family needs which need not concern us here. But there was one feasible element, not expected in the timeframe but judged a possibility, that required suit, black shoes and army tie to make the trip too.

We’d been friendly acquaintances for the long time with a chap for no reason other than the fact that life’s little pathways, rivulets and occasional landslides carry you where they will. We had nothing in common, fundamentally. He was from country WA, which is about as far as you can get from the Diary’s bricks and mortar and pleasant parklands. He’d long ago given up trying to get us to go on fishing trips or home-brew expeditions, or down to the pool hall every Tuesday afternoon.

We had settled into a pleasant communion of ruminative breakfasts on our infrequent co-locations. He made a good cuppa. He could never understand why a round of toast and marmalade could possibly be better than a plate piled with the dead remains of former beasts removed with great energy and enthusiasm from one or other of the many freezers.

But we chatted amiably in the earlier portions of the mornings, now and then, in the calm before the daily ceremony of the Risings of the Distaffs (and the chores that inevitably followed) and we muddled along.

He had one thing in common with my father, though the code of football was different. If my dad had been on the field every time the Scottish rugby side ran on, they’d have won every game.

My chum’s fun was found in Australian football. The West Coast Eagles would have found similar game success if he’d been on the oval rucking, marking, kicking six-pointers, spoiling tackles and taking miraculous long marks right in front of the goal posts.

He was 80 and had been a national serviceman. He deserved a salute at his last parade.

Fate dictated that he leave the field while I was indisposed and unable to be present. I’m sad about that.

So long, Mal. Catch you for a cuppa sometime.

 

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter

 

 

 

 

 

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser May 28, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Bad Burghers

A new Facebook group has appeared in cyberspace, dedicated to curbing crime in Ubud. This is an unpleasant sign of the times. Ubud may be where everyone goes to commune with the fairies, go Vegan, try to find anything that remotely resembles the purported revelations in Elizabeth Gilbert’s bodice-ripper book Eat, Pray, Love, and get in touch with their inner Pilates, but it’s also catching up with the modern world.

Some of the good burghers of Ubud, local and foreign, are upset by the intrusion of street crime and motorbike bandits bent on petty theft. The sexual predator is also present. It excuses nothing, of course, but those who suggest foreign visitors in particular should comply with local custom and dress respectfully are on the mark.

We recently saw a female tourist – she seemed to be Russian from the Slavic, not to say irritably strident, language in which she was chivvying along her oppressed male companion who in the global custom was carrying the bags – out shopping in a brief yellow bikini that was struggling to contain her bosom. Further, it was failing to hide much of her bottom. Clearly she hadn’t read the brief.  Or perhaps she thought she was in Malibu on her way to a porn shoot.

There are two fundamental rules to apply when travelling. The first is don’t be gross. The second is do not display wealth or otherwise draw spectacular attention upon you or your person.

Tourist areas in Bali are as much at risk of experiencing crime, petty or otherwise, as any other pleasure resort around the world. Community based policing and common sense help reduce the incidence.

There are bad burghers everywhere these days. And they don’t only target tourists. Locals are also at risk.

(Post-script: The death by strangulation, apparently during a break-in, of British woman Anne-Marie Drozdz at her villa near Ubud on May 22, adds a horrific dimension to Ubud’s problems.)

Get Weaving

We got a lovely invitation from the ROLE Foundation to attend Bali Living Colour (they spell it color in the American fashion, but these days even ancient Oxford English scribblers can live with that) on Thursday, Jun 5. It’s an open house for the Southern Bali Women Weavers Association and Bali WISE women’s business development.

It’s one of a number of grass-roots organizations in Bali that benefits from small grants from the Australian Consulate-General and operates from premises at Sawangan, an area of the southern Bukit where despite otherwise rampant development (that among other things has shut many locals out of seaweed farming) deprivation is a common factor.

The function will also formally inaugurate the Southern Bali Women Weavers Association and officially open the new weavers’ building, the natural dyes plant nursery and the colour sample display.

Since they’ll be serving organic juices, teas and snacks and providing music, we plan to be there. Especially since the Australian Consul-General, Majell Hind, is also scheduled to be present. It’s always nice to catch up with a Townsville girl.

 

Be Gentile, Now

Sydney-resident historian, wry wit and novelist Ross Fitzgerald, who will be coming to see us in June on his annual Bali pilgrimage with his wife Lyndal Moor – Fitzgerald and the Diary are due at Sambo’s Sports Bar at Bukit Jimbaran on Sunday, Jun. 15, to watch the Collingwood-Bulldogs game since he barracks for Collingwood and the Diary is still neutral since we’re still waiting for the Saints to come marching in – has an interesting engagement in Melbourne prior to that date.

He tells us he’s one of only two Gentiles speaking at the Melbourne Jewish Writers Festival. He’s on the dais for a chat on Jun. 1 with Dave Bloustein, John Safran and Howard Nathan (chairing the session). The topic: It’s Funny ’cos It’s Us.

Another friend of the Diary won’t be at the festival at all, even though he qualifies, since he’s Jewish and he writes. Journalist-blogger and sometime Ubud Writers and Readers Festival luminary Antony Loewenstein has views on Israel’s Palestinian policies that are regarded as unorthodox within the Australian Diaspora.

 

Favourite Mermaid

Everyone should have a favourite mermaid. Well, it’s a thought, anyway. And Celia Gregory of the World Marine Foundation is ours. We met her ages ago at a Rotary evening at Tugu Hotel at Batu Bolong and we were instantly captivated. She sculpts things and places them under water as an aid to coral regeneration, which is surely a lot more useful than many things a girl could do.

Gregory was speaking today (May 28) at yoga-focused Desa Seni at Canggu, on Living Sculptures in the Sea. Her work is already encrusted with polyps at Pemeruteran in North Bali and now she’s planning to do the same at Amed, with a work named Apsara, after the beautiful supernatural females in yoga mythology.

The structure is designed to create new homes for fish and coral at Jemaluk Bay.

The Desa Seni program Gregory is leading as creative director and founder of the marine foundation includes a special workshop on Jun. 4 with Angela Perez exploring and honouring the Apsara deities.

It ties in with World Oceans Day on Jun. 8.

On Jun. 7 there’s a kids’ workshop for children under 12 at which Gregory and Bali fixture Kayti Denham will explore the myth of the mermaid and her dolphin protectors.

Gregory’s foundation offers a visionary approach to one of the most pressing problems confronting the tropical and sub-tropical oceans. Coral regeneration is essential to the health of reefs around the world.

 

On the Rocks

It’s a shame the Australian government has pulled the plug on Australia Network, the satellite TV service that has been taking Australian culture (no that’s not an oxymoron) to the region for years under a special funding program from the foreign affairs budget.

The announcement came in the federal budget handed down on May 13 but had been long forecast.

Under the previous government it had been proposed to give the Australia Network contract to a commercial operator. This plan was then reversed in the face of argument from many that showing endless reality TV programs and titbits of tabloid “news” wouldn’t really work if the aim was to advance Australia’s interests. You need a public broadcaster with a commitment to cerebral thought to do that.

The budget had to sharply reduce spending, particularly in the forward years. Many people understand that fully. But the Australia Network contract was only worth $20 million (Australian) a year which is a drop in the bucket in comparison with much that appears in budget line items. The ABC has been progressing very well with its symbiosis of Radio Australia, Australia Network, partnerships with foreign networks (including one in Indonesia) and on line platforms and social media.

While it isn’t true that under the Abbott government advancing Australia’s interests overseas will in future be confined to dishing out free budgie-smugglers on a limited annual giveaway plan, there are some curiosities in the broader foreign policy area that worry a few people.

Australia Network runs – ran – on the budgetary equivalent of the smell of an oily rag and with proper direction was beginning to get some good runs on the board. It had just done a deal to get its service broadcast in China, for example.

The view in Australia seems to be that it’s primarily for expatriate Australians. They may constitute a sizeable portion of the existing audience demographic. It is a way to stay in touch with home after all. But that’s not the point. Unless some rabbit is pulled from a hat, “engaging with the region” may suffer a potentially serious and unnecessary blow.

It’s not clear (at time of writing) when the network will cease operating. A call to the Australian foreign minister’s office in Canberra elicited (after a little while on hold trying not to listen to some fairly offensive “rock” music) advice that discussions were under way with the ABC about the closure date and a suggestion that we should check the ABC website.

We’d already done that. Um, that’s why we called.

.

Marathon Event

This year’s Bali Marathon has deserted Jimbaran and its sheltered waters for Gianyar regency. It will be interesting to see where the organizers propose to stage the swimming part of the deal, given that the Gianyar coast is rather well known for having very dangerous beaches and offshore currents.

Registration for the Sep. 14 event opened on May 17. The marathon is sponsored by BII Maybank. Professional and amateur participants are expected from throughout Indonesia and overseas.

If you’re planning to stretch yourself, you can register on line at balimarathon.com.

 

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Mar. 5, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Diving Lessons 

The matter of the Japanese divers whose expedition turned into disaster off Nusa Penida on Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14) is now in police hands. An investigation is apparently under way. The skipper of the dive boat is a person of interest, according to reports.

That seems fair enough. The facts of the case should not be the subject of ill-informed prattle or gossipy rumour. As always, one lives in hope that should the authorities actually discover the facts, they’ll let everyone know about this rather than finding another corner of carpet to sweep them under. One hopes. They do say hope springs eternal.

It was interesting that the rescue authorities – who did a magnificent job and deserve public praise for doing so – suggested at one point (there was a published reference to this) that the dive boat wasn’t where it was supposed to be when the seven Japanese female divers surfaced as scheduled because it was low on fuel and had gone away to get more.

If this is the case, it is yet another astonishing example of the cavalier approach to dangerous behaviour so often seen in Bali and other parts of Indonesia. It would seem to ordinary mortals, for example, that if you’re running a dive boat you don’t run low on fuel. You ensure you have enough for the scheduled task and a safety reserve to cover emergencies or unforeseen events.

The weather was foul on dive day. That’s another issue the regulators should look at both from the local regulatory perspective and in terms of measures to foreclose on foolish decisions to go ahead in risky conditions. The waters off Nusa Penida are not benign.

Five of the seven divers survived their experience, including three days adrift in dangerous waters or clinging to a submerged coral head. Sadly two did not. That makes it a tragedy, not just something that can be dismissed as bad karma.

Lobbying for Art

There was a lovely little soiree at Conrad Bali on Feb. 28 to introduce the in-crowd to the hotel’s Living Lobby Art exhibition. It’s often been pleasant to drop into the lobby at the Conrad in the past, since it has always featured art to catch the eye. It goes with the ambience, so to speak.

Some little time ago, when Michael Burchett was GM, we dropped by to chat with the delightful Cecilia Hatmandayani and while waiting were entranced by the delightfully outré art on display. The erotic does not have to be prurient, after all, and in fact is better for not being so. There are other places to view material that’s more explicit, if that’s your bag.

In any case the hint of hidden delights provides much greater cerebral piquancy. One of the problems with the modern world and its condign attachment to the banal is that you so often find the finer side of life has been abolished in favour of rude vacuity.

We couldn’t make the opening unfortunately. But it was nice of Imuthia Yanindra, Conrad’s marketing, PR and communications manager, to ask us along. We shall have to drop by now and then, while living art from sculpture to painting is gracing the place, and have a look. We’ll have a drink at the lobby bar too. It’s a fine venue.

Evening Wrap

Those who observe Australian matters (of which there are a few and they are important) will have noticed that Australia Network, the satellite TV service run by the ABC, has been attracting some critical attention at home in the Special Biosphere. In part this is because of the curiosity of how it funded, which is by the Department of Foreign Affairs, and debate about how the network achieves its aim of advancing Australia’s interests.

It actually does this very well in an environment (in Australia) where internalized self-interest does not necessarily bring benefits to those who espouse a world view. Its programming is specific and includes a useful English language teaching element. Australia is a small player on the world stage and the resources it can afford to outlay on winning friends (in this case audiences) and influencing people are finite.

Australia Network heavily emphasizes news and current affairs. This is sensible. There’s more than enough pap around elsewhere in the televised ether to service other needs. So it was good to hear that a new one-hour news and current affairs program will launch on Mar. 10. The World, presented by veteran Jim Middleton and former ABC globetrotter Zoe Daniel, will cover the news of the day and in-depth analysis of the most important issues affecting the Asia-Pacific region.

It will screen Mondays to Fridays at 8.30pm in Bali (7.30pm in Jakarta).

Moving Moments

Vyt Karazija, the Australian blogger and closet bon vivant who enlivens several social media forums locally, has recently moved house. This event is unremarkable. It is something many of us do from time to time, as fancy dictates or quantum increases in wet season leaks suggest is warranted.

Karazija’s move did strike a chord at The Cage, however, since he reported that his trusty domestic manager, the sibilant Seven, had taken charge of the program and had made it work. Moreover, it had worked more speedily, to greater effect, and remarkably smoothly.

This brought back memories of a similarly moving event in our own life. Twenty years ago we shifted house in Brisbane, Queensland, from one suburb to another. The Distaff was busy elsewhere at the time, doing important corporate things in Thailand. The Diary’s schedule was constrained by journalistic duties. You know, editorials to write, issues to research, news lists to ponder, copy to edit, writers to correct (“It was the Boer War you idiot, not the Bore War”) and sundry other things to attend to on behalf of Mr Murdoch; dross like that.

Plainly things were not going quite as speedily or efficiently as they might on the necessary domestic movement front. Nor were they ever going to, which was also abundantly clear, especially to our then local equivalent of Karazija’s inimitable Seven. She stepped firmly into the breach. We’ve moved any number of times in the course of our three decades together, Distaff and Diary, but that shift has passed into history as The One That Neither of Us Noticed.

Sanctuary Plus

One of the special delights of living at The Cage is that the little local kitty clan has adopted our securely walled back yard as a sanctuary for its latest kittens. We use it only as a utility area – it houses the underground tank without which we’d be as stuffed for government water as everyone else in the precinct and the gas house, which we built to the wonderment of the locals so we could shift the hot-water service and the kitchen gas out of the crawl space – and therefore mostly leave it alone.

But it is sheltered from the wet north-west monsoons and brightly lit for security at night. Regularly, the latest kittens are settled at dusk by their mums on the warm timber steps at our back door, safe from dogs and snakes and other dangers. They’re wary of us (we often delay daily checks on the utilities to give them time in the sunny mornings to pack up their swags and move on for the day) but each seems quickly to work out that while we’re big and noisy we’re no threat.  We engage in mutual meowing and purring through the glass door now and then. That’s nice.

We don’t feed them and they’re in no sense our cats. It would be unfair to feed them since our schedules make regular feeding impossible. But we like them around because their regular diet (you might call it “ratatouille”) helps keep under control the Norway rats that proliferate locally and which, unless sudden death by cat intervenes, feed and breed well on the selfishly and thoughtlessly discarded garbage of others.

On the mutually supportive neighbour scale, members of the kitty clan are great acquaintances for whom we’re happy to provide light and safety.

Good Work

It was nice to get a little note the other day from Alicia Budihardja, the helpfully svelte No. 2 in the public relations team at the top-line St Regis and Laguna resorts at Nusa Dua. It’s always pleasant to hear from good friends, especially if it’s good news.

It was in this case. Budihardja told us The Laguna Bali had been named one of the island’s top performing resorts by leading online accommodation booking outfit Booking.com, part of Priceline.com. The property achieved an exceptional score of 8.5/10 in verified reviews for consistency in delivery in six review classifications: cleanliness, comfort, location, facilities, staff, and value for money.

Hector is on Twitter @scratchings

Save Us from Visiting Firepersons

Judith Sloan, contributing economics editor at The Australian, is someone who should be read regularly for her insights on matters within her portfolio. She generally makes very good sense. But in a piece in her newspaper on April 17, she breaks a fundamental rule of considered comment. On the basis of “travelling around Asia for the past three weeks,” she judges that the government should axe the ABC-run Australia Network and save taxpayers millions of dollars.

She’s making a political – or perhaps it’s a corporate – point. But it isn’t one that has any basis on a broader view. It panders to the assumption that Sky News, which had tendered to produce the service before Julia Gillard’s overly muddled government cancelled the process, would do a better job of presenting an Australian face to the region than the ABC. That’s a moot point. Sloan says Australia Network’s news coverage is below par. So it is – and ABC24, from which it draws some of its content, could certainly improve. But Sky News does not inspire one with confidence that what is being broadcast is necessarily the distilled essence of a better pile of dung.

Sloan bemoans being assailed (as an apparently infrequent viewer of Australia Network’s fare over three weeks – wow! – in the near abroad) by ancient programming drawn, as it must be on Australia Network’s deficient funding, from the bottom drawer. Watching four-year-old rebroadcasts of that advertising industry self- love-in The Gruen Transfer is neither edifying nor informative, agreed. Watching “reruns” of Sea Patrol isn’t either – except that for most of Australia Network’s audience they’re first-run shows. We’ve only just got to the series where the fine folk of HMAS Hammersley get to wear their “new” RAN-cam spotty uniforms. What’s old to Sloan, who presumably views television most of the time from safely within the  wall-to-wall reality show environment of the Special Biosphere, is not necessarily old to others.

In her gratuitous polemic promoting Sky News as a better alternative – it is part owned by the Murdoch empire which publishes the paper in which her words appear – she also says this:

“For anyone interested in Australian politics, the coverage is scant and unsatisfactory. It almost seems that the programmers regard it as unseemly to cover too much Australian politics. By contrast, the rescue of orang-utans in Kalimantan or melting ice sheets in the Antarctic – this opinion segment was carried in the news – are given lengthy coverage. I also stumbled on some sort of basic English-as-a-second-language teaching programme.”

In the utter vacuity of that comment, she exposes herself as a visiting fireman of the worst sort, the kind of blow-in to whom the lowest assessment is awarded: She doesn’t have a clue that she doesn’t have a clue.

Sloan might be good at economics (well, she is, and eminently readable about it too) but she’d be woeful as an editor or programmer, on her analysis of what might interest overseas neighbours. Australian politics are parochial, mundane and peripheral to the broadcast region, except in exceptional circumstances or when – as for example on the excellent news analysis shows broadcast by the network – some deeper coverage is warranted.

In her article in The Australian, Sloan also wrote this: “As far as the Australia Network is concerned, there is simply no case for its continued existence. The content of the network is second-rate and any notion that a contribution is being made to the soft diplomatic effort of Australia is simply laughable.

“It is very likely that Sky News would have produced a more interesting and vibrant range of programmes, which would have attracted a wider audience. But the bottom line is that we should be ditching this endeavour altogether and saving the taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.”

There’s the rub.  Australia Network is not presented for an expatriate audience – though some of us watch it from time to time – or for wandering warblers, such as Sloan in this instance. And it’s very unlikely that news flashes about another traffic accident on the F3 (or whatever) would add anything to a foreign viewer’s perception of Australia.

Of course Australia Network could do a better job. Some lateral thinking is certainly required. An effective merging of the cerebral efforts of the ABC and SBS, for example, and creation of an international broadcasting division formally including both Radio Australia and Australia Network, could do the trick.

But that would need more funding, not less. It’s unlikely to get it while ever Australians – including, apparently, the otherwise cerebral Sloan herself – take the view that it’s not worth presenting a measured face to the world.

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, April 4, 2012

Off With the Pixels

Australia Network, the officially funded Asia-Pacific TV satellite channel run by the ABC, is always strapped for cash. It gets its money from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and is tasked with presenting an Australian image to the near abroad, so to speak.

It does a lot of good things with the modest stipend it gets from the government in Canberra (note to Bob Carr, new Foreign Minister: do something really useful and get it some more money so it doesn’t have to show us ancient examples of blinding self-abuse such as of The Gruen Transfer circa 2008) but its total annual budget would barely fund one of those awful reality TV shows everyone seems to like to watch nowadays.

(It is difficult to think why they do, except from madness or possibly ennui. Oscar Wilde once described foxhunting as the unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable, and of course he was dead right, as he so often was.  A similarly fatal rapier thrust is urgently required to dismiss the relevance and taste of the disreputable modern sport of figjamming, especially as seen on reality shows.)

Australia Network is not targeted at Aussies who live beyond the boundaries of the Special Biosphere, even if they do tend to watch it for news from home and, occasionally, TV drama shows in a language they can understand (this rules out most Kiwi programmes).  We know this, having once asked that precise question. So given that the Diary is in that underclass – of Australia Network viewers about whom the operators affect a Rhett Butler air, frankly not giving a damn – the following complaint may well fall on deaf ears.

A new drama on air is Rake, starring the insouciant Richard Roxburgh playing yet another reprehensible but occasionally insightful roué, this time a barrister. It’s a good show, but it’s made for audiences accustomed to naked butts and bosoms on screen and these are pixellated out on Australia Network. Since the ubiquitous naughty words are bleeped out as well, watching the drama itself is difficult. You tend to watch for the pixels and listen for the bleeps and lose the plot completely, even in the brief interludes during which it is remotely visible.

The thought occurs that if nudity and foul language are judged unacceptable for Australia Network’s target audiences – and the censorious proclivities of their governments – the programming is wrong.

Of course, how you then effectively reflect popular Australian culture – given its preference for bad language, near-nakedness and self-centred disrespect for almost everything – is another matter.

Welcome to Purgatory

Legian resident Vyt Karazija – a good friend and eminently readable blogger – recently posted a cri de coeur that really should be read by anyone who still thinks Bali is a paradise populated exclusively by caring, sensitive, sentient souls in touch with their inner Muse. And then they should weep. It concerns a young Balinese woman whose life is being ruined by her grasping family, who wrench from her all the money she makes an enormous effort to earn.

It would not be an unusual story either; which makes it worse. You can – and you should – read it at http://www.borborigmus.wordpress.com. Look for the post headlined Suffering in Silence Behind the Smile.

Hello, Kitty

Villa Kitty, the cat refuge at Ubud that is celebrating its first birthday, had a fundraising night at Indus restaurant on March 27. We’re sure it all went well. Villa Kitty founder and Chief Meow, Elizabeth Grant Suttie, who in her other hat is personal assistant to Ubud identity Janet DeNeefe, is a fine organiser and a dedicated animal lover.

She tells us the fundraiser was brought forward from its original planning date due to the generosity of Edwina Blush, the sexy, sassy Australian jazz vocalist, songwriter, poet and (as Blush’s website self-describes) provocateuse. Someone once wrote of Blush that “she must have a tail under that gown”; and maybe that’s why she’s singing for the kitties, as it were. Or perhaps it is just that some people are cat people (the Diary is such) and it’s all in a good cause.

Villa Kitty needs to expand, we’re told, because it’s proving such a popular place with felines seeking accommodation.  We wish the establishment the very best of good fortune and we’ll keep up to date with its developing story.

Time Goes By

The delightful publicist Hellen Sjuhada, who among other things helps keep that haven of Catalan cuisine, El Kabron at Bingin Beach, in the public eye, tweeted the other day that she was old enough to remember when MTV played music videos. We sent a little tweet in response, noting that we were old enough to remember when there was no MTV. She replied in turn, saying she took her hat off to us. We said we were trying to age gracefully and that perhaps her hat might help.

But that’s the trick, when at the more mature end of whatever is one’s unknown allotment of Essential Vivacity: to age gracefully, which among other things surely means keeping abreast of technology. Well OK, disgracefully is all right too, and it’s a lot more fun.  But the real time-saver is to keep up with the pack. That’s why here at The Cage we’re right into gizmos. They cannot be allowed to bamboozle and must be conquered. We’re working on that.

It might be all downhill from here … but hey, as any former snow-skier can attest, it can all go so well until, finally, that unavoidable magnetic tree collects you.

Silly Clod

Why anyone would seek to break out of their villa at Nyepi defies belief. Why anyone would seek to do so merely to go in search of milk elevates the level of stupidity to stratospheric height. Yet this is apparently what an American villa owner in Seririt, Buleleng, chose to do on Friday, March 23, in an area where Nyepi rules are strictly enforced and where as a result his villa was blockaded by angry villagers.

His name, according to reports, is Claude. Perhaps he should be known as Clod. Nyepi might be an onerous imposition to people in Bali who are not Hindu, but there are ways round that. If it’s all too much, decamp to a designated tourism entity, where by convenient fiat some services continue and the lights remain more or less on. Or if you really want to make a noise, go to the Gilis off Lombok.

Or you could do what we did here at The Cage. We stayed home (having made sure we had sufficient milk for the duration) and stayed quiet. We didn’t observe the full requirements of Nyepi.  But we kept lighting to an absolute minimum and made sure none escaped our villa; that no noise got past the gate; and that the holy customs and practices of our Hindu neighbours were entirely undisturbed. That’s not only common sense; it’s also good manners.

Mea Culpa: In the Diary of March 21 we wrote that since Muslims would be allowed to go to mosque on Silent Day, it being a Friday, the authorities should provide the same privilege to Christians when Nyepi fell on a Sunday. An Indonesian friend who is a practising Christian tells us this is already the case.

True to Herself

Some of us live on Facebook – not literally you understand, it’s more of a virtual vitality – and some of us pay a price for this devotion. Some of us, for example, have Dear Spouses who wouldn’t touch Facebook with the grottier end of a used toe-rag, and say so quite often. But there you go.

Those among us who do use Facebook for rational reasons – those in other words who do not use it as their personal diary or for marginal notes on their day – generally get good results. Hector’s helper, for example, has many virtual friends, some of whom are actual people known to him. He says it’s great to be able to keep in contact in real time rather than waiting for the time-worn stuff that used to be stuffed into real mailboxes.

Then there are the others, collected as Friends rather in the manner that one might acquire buddies at a bar. These come and go. Hec’s helper recently lost a Dear Friend who rejoiced in the name of Ivana Logov.

Apparently, she finally worked out how to do that.

Bitter Glitter

We love a pun, as countless people have come to learn, some of them, poor things, believing this to be at their cost. And we’ve just been reminded of this little gem:

King Ozymandias of Assyria was running low on cash after years of war with the Hittites. His last great possession was the Star of the Euphrates, the most valuable diamond in the ancient world. So, desperate, he went to Croesus the pawnbroker to ask for a loan.

Croesus said: “I’ll give you 100,000 dinars for it.” The king protested: “But I paid a million dinars for it. Don’t you know who I am? I am the king!”

Said Croesus: “When you wish to pawn a star, it makes no difference who you are.”

Hector’s Diary appears in the fortnightly print edition of the Bali Advertiser, out every second Wednesday, and at http://www.baliadvertiser.biz. Hector is on Twitter (@scratchings) and Facebook (Hector McSquawky).