Little Ripples

 

HectorR

HECTOR’S DIARY

His regular diet of worms and other tasty morsels

Bali, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tiger Tales

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goon Show

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prodigal Return

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

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

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

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

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

More Sad Farewells

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

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

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

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

What a Shower

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Great Going

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

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

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

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

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

Some people think that’s a good thing.

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

Dystopian Delights

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Bali

Nov. 9, 2016

 

THERE were no visibly ruffled kebayas at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival session featuring American author Lionel Shriver on Oct. 29. No one loudly rattled their worry beads or furiously flounced out. This was in stark contrast to the thought chasm at the Brisbane Writers Festival in September, where an angry ethnic headdress made a public point of walking out of Shriver’s presentation. Someone else then thumped out an anguished memoir that appeared somewhere or other and, in it, claimed that Shriver was stealing other people’s heritage.

Shriver’s crime is to give voice in her novels to imaginary characters whose culture and ethnicity is not her own. In doing do, so the good thinking collective asserts, she and others perpetuate an invidious imperial-colonial imbalance. These days, this warrants condign punishment, such as being shouted at before being sent to Coventry.

The modern white man’s burden is to be continually assailed by charges that might have applied to his great-grandfather (the point is moot). It’s true that much of the world’s body of literature, fictional or otherwise, is in English. But much of it isn’t. There are other global languages, Spanish, French and Portuguese in particular. And if a culture whose native language isn’t one of these or any of their increasingly incomprehensible derivatives wishes to fully develop literature in its own lingua franca, it is perfectly free to do so.

This of course is not the thing to say at a literary festival, unless you want to have your tea poisoned.

But it is hard to see how Shriver and her ilk are the agents of continued bastardry just because they write into their narratives imaginary representatives of other cultures. Fiction, whether grittily realistic, or enervating, or readable, or otherwise, is neither fact nor claims to be. That alone should eliminate angst among the sentient and offset the risk of injury to readers from that modern plague, acquired cultural offence.

It’s true of course that many authors and their cheer squads claim gritty realism as the leitmotiv of their works and the arbiter of their own social relevance. But these days if you’re not socially relevant, you’re nowhere, baby.

Shriver’s presentation concerned her latest book, The Mandibles, a dystopian romp of sorts through the imagined near-future economic and social collapse of America. Mad Max on Mandrax, in a way. She read from the text. It’s unlikely to set the world on fire, though America might. The session was moderated by Gill Westaway, once of the British Council and now of Lombok.

Better than Chocolate

We spent some time at the festival chatting with Ines Wynn, who writes for the Bali Advertiser and lives in a riparian setting with a small menagerie (of dogs and cats) far from the madding crowd, just an easy three-hour round trip away from the nearest supermarket that’s stocked with anything bules might actually want to buy.

In such a setting, one has to plan. It doesn’t do to run out of something essential. We thought of foie gras, not because we suppose Ines likes to keep it in stock, as indeed neither do we, but just par exemple, to break briefly into one of her eight languages. Ines is originally from Belgium, that confection of four languages, several instances of casus belli, multiple competing legislatures and former Heart of Darkness empire that was invented in 1830 as a sort of final post-mortem act in the overlong and competing narratives of the Holy Roman Empire and the Spanish Crown.

Lunch with her, which we took at Kori, just across the road from the gabblers’ headquarters, was much less complex. It was also very tasty and in a quiet environment where the only noise seemed to be coming from our table. We didn’t have any chocolates. It seemed invidious to suggest that we might, since chocolates are perhaps Belgium’s finest exports. No substitutes permitted.

Solemen Indonesia’s Robert Epstone, by the way, had a sort of TED Talk opportunity at the festival, on Oct. 30 rescheduled from earlier in the program, to introduce the lit crowd to the sterling work his charity organisation does.

We couldn’t be there, unfortunately, but Ines tells us Epstone worked his usual magic and passed the virtual hat round to good effect.

Shoot to Thrill

The executioners have been out and about. We’re not referring to the national drug agency, which says it would like to shoot drug dealers without benefit of judicial process, as in Rodrigo Duterte’s new killing fields in the Philippines perhaps, and which hopefully will never get permission to engage in state-sanctioned murder.

It’s Gianyar regency we’re talking about, again, and its cruel and counterproductive dog-culling program. The latest victims were 21 dogs in Batubulan, after a dog bit someone and was later found to have rabies. Just to be clear, we’re not opposed to killing dogs when circumstances dictate that there is no other option, even though it would leave a heavy shadow on our non-Hindu heart.

Instead, as is much of the world that exists outside the blank-stare fiefdoms of the regents of Gianyar and others, we are opposed to the idea of killing dogs because this is easier than implementing an effective vaccination (and re-vaccination) program and humane population control through sterilisation, and because, being cheaper, it won’t interfere with the Essential Additional SUV Acquisition schedule.

There’s plenty of literature available on how to actually suppress rabies rather than just look as you’re doing so. We’ve had rabies in Bali since 2008, at a cost now approaching 200 human lives. That’s ample time to have assimilated the information and to have translated even the difficult bits into Bahasa Indonesia.

A Fine Award

Puri Mas resorts and spa in Lombok has a new and very fine feather in its cap. It’s just been voted Best Luxury Boutique Hotel in Indonesia at an awards presentation in Doha, Qatar. GM Sara Sanders, who was in the Puri Mas contingent at the St Regis Doha to collect the gong, says this: “Congratulations to Marcel De Rijk and all the amazing staff in Puri Mas. Well deserved.”

Puri Mas has always been a great place – in two places: right on the beach at Manggis north of Senggigi and inland at Kerangandan, where owner and long-term Lombok resident and ballroom dancer De Rijk maintains his residence. The resort truly is a jewel in the crown of Lombok tourism.

Get. A. Life.

It is not a criminal offence to be gay in Indonesia. (That’s a good thing in the other, older, sense of the word, because there’s plenty here that gives you a laugh, even if it’s a horse one.) But, seriously, it’s not a crime.

So the disgraceful hue and cry that was reported last month, involving the police and other guardians of self-assessed moral requirements in Manado, North Sulawesi, was a very sorry spectacle. Two gay men were hunted down and arrested because they had displayed their affection for each other in a Facebook post.

Social media is not a public space. It’s certainly true that public demonstration of affection is not what one does here. It is culturally inappropriate. Tourists of all stripes please note, especially the half-clothed young bucks and does of western provenance whose displays of plainly sexual intent are blots on the landscape in Kuta and other goodtime places.

In the Manado incident, there was no cause for public disquiet. It’s no business of the police what private individuals choose – unwisely or otherwise – to post on their social platforms. “Our team tracked down the locations of the two men thanks to information from netizens, and on Oct. 11 we found the two in Bahu, Manado,” North Sulawesi Police Spokesman Marzuki wrote in a statement.

What a circus. The police should have told “concerned netizens” to go away instead of responding with a farcical witch-hunt. That way, police spokesman Marzuki wouldn’t have had to look as if he’s with the Keystone Kops.

The silly business even reached Jakarta, where IT ministry spokesman Noor Iza was quoted as saying: “Facebook is very concerned about inappropriate content, including LGBT.”

Um, no, Facebook is rather more rainbow minded than Indonesian regulator-enforcers like to think.

End Game

The US election will be all over bar the continued shouting by the time this appears in print, but American scribbler Richard Boughton, who very sensibly lives in Bali, posted a plaintive note on his Facebook on Nov. 2 to which we can relate, both in his specific and our own more general circumstances.

He wrote: “I can’t believe how much time I wasted last night arguing with Trump supporters on Facebook. Not that I don’t have time to waste. But I could have wasted it in so many more pleasant ways. Sleeping, for instance. Or pigging out on junk food. Or picking a scab off my leg.”

HectorR

Hector’s Diary appears, edited for newspaper publication, in the print and on line editions of the fortnightly Bali Advertiser

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Nov. 28, 2012

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

By Jiminy, a GM

Ayana Resort and Spa, etc, which sits decorously back from the cliff at Jimbaran to which the iconic Rock Bar clings – and to which it is sometimes possible to gain access, if you have the inclinator – finally has a chief man at the helm. It’s been 10 months since Charles de Foucault departed for Mauritius where the ambience, not unlike some of the Caribbean islands also formerly ruled by the Brits, is a kind of eclectic Faux Français. It’s the sort of place where patrons can be heard intoning “Merde, I’d kill for a beer.” Unless they’re South Africans, in which case some of them might say, ”Shit, ek wil doodmaak vir ‘n bier,” and completely fail to make themselves understood.

The new man is Ed Linsley, who was selected in a process personally led by Horst Schulze, founder and chief executive of Capella Hotel Group.  Linsley has more than 22 years’ experience in hotels and resorts – 21 of them with the Four Seasons group – and was resort manager at 4S Bali Jimbaran (once home to the entertainingly enigmatic John O’Sullivan, who these days wears a sombrero having decamped to a plush 4S resort in Mexico) before going to Vietnam last year as general manager of The Nam Hai Resort.

Linsley says he was drawn back to Bali by its people and the opportunity to join the Capella Hotel Group. He rides Harley-Davidsons and he’s from Pennsylvania. Ground Hog Days could be fun.

The Good, the Bad, and the Plain Ugly

The Bali-based Institute for Peace and Democracy has been busy lately, talking to delegations from Egypt and Myanmar and selling Indonesia’s proud record of democratic advance achieved by digging the military out of politics and business, and overseeing completion of its monumental premises on the Jimbaran campus of Udayana University.

The institute is a project that carries the personal imprimaturs of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, and is supported through various elements of Australia’s foreign aid programme and those of other nations.  We’ll be hearing much more about it in the near future.

The IPD was closely involved in the recent Bali Peace Forum, a recurring international gabfest that this time, and among many other (more valuable) things, provided yet another opportunity for Iran’s chief curiosity, President Ahmadinejad, to have a free shot at the Great Satan and sundry other lesser devils.

For ordinary mortals, or at least those of them who were trying to use the roads between Kuta and Nusa Dua while troupes of rude police were shooing traffic out of the way so VVIPs and VIPs could get wherever it was they were going before their tea got cold, the forum was chiefly notable, as such things invariably are, for its disruption of normal life.

It’s not over yet. Next year, when the APEC jamboree hits town with lots of HIPs (Hugely Important Persons) along with the VVIPs and the ordinary VIPs, it’ll be even worse. Note to self: Ensure you are away from Bali in November 2013.

She’s a Champ

Christina Iskandar, luminary of note on the glitter circuit (conscience division), has lost a lot of weight. This was deliberate – a girl likes to look trim, after all, though the Diary has never minded chunky if it comes along with brains, conversation and character – and this feat has also resulted in more than Rp 200 million in funds for YPAC, the children’s home at Jimbaran.

She told the world proudly via Facebook:  “We did it! Over 200 million raised for YPAC & new van very soon for the kids, a 20 kilo weight loss for me & a new lease on life… a huge thanks to the dedicated supportive amazing bunch of friends that attended this event for such a worthy cause you are all stars, thank you Motion Fitness Team and all the sponsors.”

Well done, Christina.

Fifty Shades of Bleh

It was amusing to see veteran British publisher Christopher MacLehose on Australia Network’s eminently watchable One-Plus-One programme recently. He was courteously perplexed as to how show host Jane Hutcheon could possibly refer to the blockbuster sex-romp novel Fifty Shades of Grey as a literary work. He said she was the first person he had heard make such a claim.

(We hear from friends, anecdotally, that the expatriate husbands of Vietnam are passing the book around theirs and other’s expatriate wives for serious study, apparently with mutually satisfying results. That alone supports MacLehose’s reflective assessment of the book’s true value and titillating purpose.)

MacLehose, a patrician Scot who reads in French – his wife is from l’Hexagone, as French people with an interest in cartography sometimes call their hexagonal patrie – made a late career change from mainstream publishing into publisher of foreign works in translation. He gave the world The Millennium Trilogy, a true work of literature.

Originally written in Swedish by the late Stieg Larsson, the trilogy – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest – had been rejected by a series of publisher’s houses. Apparently this was because the author was Swedish (and so not an English language writer and therefore difficult to sell) and being unfortunately dead was not going to be writing any more books, which precluded creation of further career-enhancing income streams for publishers’ marketing people.

Planet Earth has long been made a better place by far-sighted Scotsmen (and women).

Fine Fare

Australia Network is always good value. On its summer schedule is a new Australian drama series, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. This is a period piece, set in Melbourne in the 1920s. The network suggests you should get yourself ready to sashay into the city’s back lanes as Phryne Fisher sleuths her way through jazz clubs and other shady spots armed with a pearl-handled pistol and a dagger-sharp wit.

It sounds fun. The 13-part series will be on the viewing schedule at The Cage. It starts on Dec. 3 (at 9.30pm Bali time). Monday will be a stay-home night for the following three months.

And More Saxy Jazz

Sin City singer Edwina Blush is a regular feature of the saxier parts of Bali, as well as an ambassador for Villa Kitty cat refuge at Ubud, and we look forward to seeing her here again in the flesh –attractive portions of it at least – when next her schedule allows.

She’s been keeping in form for her much desired reappearance here by playing cabaret style at the Camelot Lounge in Marrickville, Sydney (on Nov. 28) with a pared down quartet and guests. The finely named Blush (she doesn’t, but others have been known to) says of the show: “Refuse to run with the pack, take the cat to the beach, comfort a surf widow, have an affair with your barista and surf a tidal wave of love in the quirky comforts of the Camelot Lounge.” It would have been fun to be there, but we didn’t have enough Qantas points to spare for the trip.

Blush launched her latest album, Sea for Cats, in June. She describes it as a lush retro cocktail with an over-proof kick and a hint of kitsch indulgence. Clearly, it should be listened to even though The Cage hasn’t done kitsch since … well, forever. But Edwina says it’s saxy, so of course it must be. The album is available on iTunes or through the Edwina Blush website shop.

So Very Sad

Little Ani, the eight-year-old severely malnourished and physically challenged girl rescued from distressing conditions in Sideman in Karangasem earlier this year by Jimbaran-resident British nurse Sarah Chapman and her Balinese friend Yuni Putu, has died. She had been playing happily at her new home, YPAC, on the morning of Nov. 17 but later that day had to be taken to Sanglah Hospital with serious breathing difficulties. In spite of truly heroic efforts by the Sanglah team, she died a few hours later.

Ani had become quite a Facebook presence – through a page called Friends of Ani – and touched the hearts of everyone who had contact with her actually or through the social media. Losing her is a tragedy, when she had been gaining much needed weight, was beginning the process of socialisation in an adequate setting, and was waiting for essential surgical correction of her cleft palate. It is particularly hard on her immediate carers and on people such as Robert Epstone of the charity Sole Men, who made strenuous efforts to win Ani a new (and proper) life.

But Ani, like all who pass away, will live on in the hearts of those who were her family and friends. Her last months were full of fun and love. She was only eight, and could not speak, but she taught many people the real meaning of humanity.

There’s a proposal to build a hospice in her name and in her memory.

Hector’s Diary appears in the fortnightly print edition of the Bali Advertiser and on the newspaper’s website http://www.baliadvertiser.biz. Hector tweets (@scratchings) and is on Facebook (Hector McSquawky). He blogs at http://www.wotthehec.blogspot.com.