HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Sep. 2, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Heading for the Hills

Last year an unavoidable detention in Australia – its cause was medical, not custodial, in case any among the Diary’s more liverish readers might snigger and wonder – meant we were not among the 126, 000-plus attendees reported to have crowded Bali’s cultural capital for the eleventh Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. There might have been a bit of creative mathematics in that figure (people attending multiple events and so forth) but never mind. A good number’s a good number. Nothing shall stand in the way of our getting to the twelfth (acts of the deity excepted) to be held from Oct. 28-Nov. 1. The line-up for UWRF 2015 is very fine indeed.

This intelligence reached us in the customary way, in a virtual billet-doux from festival founder and director Janet DeNeefe. There are 160 names, including leading authors from around the world, thinkers, artists, advocates and social commentators from more than 26 countries. All of this makes for a very big word fest. More than 200 separate events are on the schedule.

The headline act is American Michael Chabon, whose book The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay won the Pulitzer Prize; award-winning British foreign correspondent Christina Lamb; Tony and Maureen Wheeler who founded the Lonely Planet series; and Moshin Hamid, the celebrated Pakistani author of How to get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia.

Also in the line-up are Nigerian-born Chigozie Obioma, whose debut novel The Fishermen was recently long-listed for the Man Booker Prize; 2015 Miles Franklin Award winner Sofie Laguna; and Emily Bitto, winner of the 2015 Stella Prize for her debut novel The Strays. Other names worth noting are philanthropist Mpho Tutu, daughter of South African anti-apartheid churchman and activist Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Indonesian campaigner for Papuan social justice Andreas Harsono. Not to forget Australian academic Adrian Vickers, whose masterly contribution to and editing of the recent Lempad of Bali book flowed directly from his longstanding interest and expertise in Indonesian cultural history.

The theme of the festival this year is “17,000 Islands of Imagination”. Full details are on the UWRF website.

Murder Aforethought

One crucial element of Chaos Theory is that if something isn’t going to work, however hard you beat your head against a brick wall and however much advice you reject out of hand, you just keep at it. This murderously farcical nonsense is in full play in Bali over rabies and how (not) to deal with it. The provincial and local governments know best. Just don’t ask how. And if by any chance you hold the view that in fact they are talking out of an aperture remote from and somewhat south of their mouth, they’ll bash your ears forever until you run away to hide from the noise.

Never mind that Jakarta has given up on trying to get them to understand, or that the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization is wringing its hands in despair, or that animal welfare groups – overseas as well as in Bali – are roundly criticised for actually caring. Execution teams are fanning out across the island armed with strychnine darts to bring painful, sometimes cruelly lingering and completely unnecessary deaths to thousands of Bali dogs. Quite where karma fits into this dystopian picture is something for others far more qualified to say than the Diary. We’ve only read the world literature and standard practice on eradicating rabies, after all. It’s not as if we’ve wasted all the money on other things and have convinced ourselves, by applying the vacuous calculus of the Great Panjandrum equation, that up is down, black is white, and that anyway, we’re in charge so everyone else can just shut up.

In the city of Denpasar and in the regencies of Gianyar, Bangli and Tabanan, as well as in other parts of the island, teams from animal husbandry – that’s the outfit that’s supposedly responsible for animal management and welfare – are darting dogs willy-nilly as part of the government’s counterproductive anti-rabies campaign. Alongside this there’s a growing record of dogs being stolen – the disgusting dog-meat trade and rampant pet theft are clearly factors in this – and of associated beatings to death of dogs in public places. It’s a great tourism image, that.

Pets are being slain in front of weeping little children. Village communities that the government has failed to bother to educate about rabies or anything much else are signing up to culling programs they clearly do not understand will increase their exposure to rabies, not reduce it. We hear suggestions that the provincial authorities would like to coopt non-profit animal welfare agencies into their strategy. In the upside-down world of Bali administration, that would make them part of the problem rather than the solution. That’s the way things are done here. It might work, as a concept at least, if the Governor and other luminaries could work out that the smoggy blue bit up there is the sky and the litter-strewn vistas below are the land. But don’t wait up for that to happen.

There is a problem. There’s no doubt that rabies is on the rise again. But there’s another problem too. It is the provincial government and its blindness.

Splash Out

We had a fun evening at the 2016 Waterman’s Awards night, held at the Padma Resort in Legian on Aug. 14. This was despite not bidding high enough in the silent auction to score a plush holiday break in Goa and some glitches in the presentation and continuity (“run-sheet problems,” we said to ourselves sotto voce at several points). Those demerits aside it was a good show. It was particularly pleasing to see longstanding local benefactor and Surfer Girl proprietor Steve Palmer pick up the major award of the evening, the lifetime inspiration award. A good friend of the Diary, Delphine Robbe of Gili Eco Trust, picked up Water Lady of the Year.

Events like these are always works in progress. The Waterman’s is the brainchild of ROLE Foundation chief Mike O’Leary, who deserves credit for the initiative. We look forward to the 2016 awards.

That Sinking Feeling

News that Dubai’s grandiose interference with the hydrography of its bit of the Arabian Gulf has come to grief in the shape of artificial islands that are sinking into the sandy base of that chiefly enclosed but fiercely tidal waterway may or may not have caused a sinking feeling in the corporate court of Tomy Winata, self-made billionaire tycoon and friend of Sumatra’s tigers.

We’re betting “may not” since the practice here is to ignore the actuarial risk of what might happen tomorrow in favour of dollars (or any convenient convertible currency) today. Come on! Benoa Bay is nothing like the Arabian Gulf. It’s just a little, formerly beautiful, mangrove-swathed inlet. The Shatt al-Arab doesn’t empty the remains of Mesopotamia into it. It is the sludge pond only for a few of Bali’s little rivers and the filthy rubbish that clogs and despoils them. But artificial islands and shifting sands do not as a rule go together like peaches and cream, or for that matter like enormous horseless carriages and the mega-vroom that makes them go in a suitably rich boy-toy fashion.

Moreover, it’s a place that might make a mint for someone if it is eventually turned into an artificial eyesore. This outcome is the central objective of Pak Winata’s plan to build Excresence-sur-Mer. He will be long gone from the scene of that environmental crime before it turns into Excresence-sous-Mer.

It’s That Girl Again

Schapelle Corby, whose criminal notoriety was glibly turned into victim-celebrity by her family and the tabloid and lowbrow-glossy western media, is reported to be planning a baby. The reportage is third hand and gossipy, as much of that sort of dross tends to be. She did look rather wan in the photo of her that we saw. It was taken at the beach where the putative father of her apparently conceivable future baby has a business. She is not expectant, it seems, so her listless pallor cannot have been morning sickness. Perhaps it was ennui or irritation.

Nothing about this has anything to do with anyone other than Corby, high-profile Australian parolee, and the person who might one day impregnate her. It certainly has nothing to do with her sister Mercedes, one-time Ralph Magazine boob-barer and motor mouth for hire. In the report we saw she seemed to be attempting to reinvent herself in some sort of mother-superior role.

Give. Us. A. Break.

Hector tweets @ scratchings on Twitter. His diary appears in the print and online editions of the Bali Advertiser http://www.baliadvertiser.biz

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, July 8, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Nice Little Ding-Dong

Australian Consul-General Majell Hind’s residence at Sanur was transformed on the evening of Jul. 2 into a micro-gallery to showcase cultural synergy between Indonesia and Australia. The show was curated by Micro Galleries, which works with artists globally to create visual art that crosses boundaries and helps change communities. It is bringing its work to Denpasar for a full-scale exhibition in October, but the Jul. 2 event gave a sneak preview into the magic that they weave in visual arts, dance and music. It was also a prime example of the deep links between the two countries.

A feature of the evening was a performance by traditional dancers from West Bali and Dayak dancers from Kalimantan, presented by leading Australian photographer David Metcalf. He is heavily involved in promoting and preserving Dayak culture as well as traditional dance throughout Indonesia.

The main event was a musical collaboration between leading Australian jazz saxophonist Sandy Evans and a group of university students from the University of New South Wales playing Gamelan. The university group has been studying Balinese Gamelan for several years and performed at the annual Bali Arts Festival.

Incidentally the 2014-2015 Direct Assistance Program run by the Consulate-General had double the previous year’s funding. The DAP funds local level projects. There were some very interesting projects in Bali in the Australian financial year just ended (Jun. 30) and we’ll look at some of those in a due course.

Time to Splash Out

A committee formed by Mike O’Leary of ROLE Foundation – ROLE does sterling work to empower and educate local women who otherwise would miss out on life’s opportunities – is hard at work on this year’s Waterman’s Awards, another O’Leary project.

The focus of the awards is the marine and river environment. Since both the ocean and the rivers are prime dumping sites for throwaway rubbish in Bali, that’s a critical focus.   Efforts to clean up these environments – and then keep them clean – are worth rewarding with recognition.

At a time when five-plus star properties, in East Bali for example, are experiencing reductions in guest numbers because however much the beaches are cleaned the rubbish in the ocean keeps coming ashore, it’s clear that urgent action is needed. A little further afield, who would want to dive to look at the iconic mola mola (sunfish) whose peak season is nearly upon us, when what you also see in even more spectacular quantity is plastic rubbish?

The Waterman’s this year is at the Padma Resort in Legian on Aug. 14. A range of awards will be presented. It’s worth making a note of the date in your diary, and getting along to the show if you can.

Tittle Tattle

Tomy Winata, the rich entrepreneur who with the Governor’s help would like to fill in Benoa Bay so he can build Port Excrescence under the Ngurah Rai airport landing and take-off flight-paths, made it onto the front cover of the latest Indonesian Tatler. He saves tigers, you see, in Sumatra. It’s a worthy cause.

He also funds anti-drugs and anti-poverty programs, which are worthy causes too. Shame the turtles and other marine life forms in Benoa Bay aren’t big and colourfully striped, and that the fishermen of the bay are poor and therefore of no consequence.

Indonesia Tatler has a fine place in the field of journalistic puffery.  No hard questions asked.

Gianyar Gets it Right

Animal husbandry authorities in Gianyar regency recently vaccinated 147 dogs in the village of Buruan and around 200 at Manukaya in Tampak Siring instead of killing them, in their ongoing campaign to reduce the rabies threat in Bali. They deserve congratulations for this action, which conforms to world best practice in the face of a rabies outbreak: if you vaccinate the dogs, they won’t get rabies and will not therefore transmit the disease to humans.

That simple formula escapes many here, including unfortunately many of the local governments which respond to human rabies cases – there have been at least 10 deaths this year, up from the official two last year – by going on dog-killing sprees. They kill vaccinated dogs too, in this dangerously vacuous non-answer to a problem they themselves are perpetuating.

The regency of Klungkung seems to be particularly thick about this. As we noted recently, they’re the guys who either couldn’t or wouldn’t provide health authorities with their rabies figures up to June this year. Perhaps someone filched the office ballpoint?

They recently vaccinated dogs on Nusa Lembongan but the same day poisoned a large number of them. The barbarity is sickening. The stupidity is tedious. You’d think it must be something in the water. Only a madman would drink that here, after all.

(UPDATE: Unfortunately Gianyar has also joined the killing spree, telling residents of Batu Bulan (Jul. 6)  that this week it will poison dogs found outside their homes or in the streets.)

He’s Our Hero

A little family of street dogs in Seminyak has been adopted by the proprietor of Kendi Kuning restaurant, Putu Mahayana, and is now assured of care and attention. That’s lovely to hear in the circumstances that prevail in Bali today.

The dogs, a mother and two pups, live in the laneway near the restaurant. They have now been sterilized and vaccinated, a project paid for by the Bali Animal Welfare Association. BAWA acted when alerted to the situation by visitors to the island who, like many, were shocked by the conditions in which street dogs live. Visitors come and go, but disadvantaged dogs remain.

So here’s a big thank-you to Pak Putu. We note his restaurant gets good reviews on Trip Advisor. He and that establishment are worthy of good review on humanitarian grounds too.

A Beachwalk Treat

There’s a little gem at Kuta Beachwalk, the shopping centre on Jl Pantai Kuta, that’s well worth a visit if you’re interested in the rich traditions of Indonesia’s batik.

It’s Museum Kain, which the Diary discovered by accident the other day and in which it would surely be possible to spend hours immersed in the colourful history of traditionally woven cloth. That process is a ritual drawing together the people and the land and spiritual and physical lives.

Modern technology displays and explains the design and purpose of cloth on show. The museum is an initiative of the cloth and batik retailer BINHouse.

It’s on Level 3 at Beachwalk. Entry costs Rp 100K.

Touché, Toupee

We hear that American billionaire toupee magnet and presidential candidate Donald Trump may be buying the Nirwana golf resort near Tanah Lot in Tabanan. He has such a fine grasp of culture that this proposal can only be applauded, though it’s a pity in the circumstances that it’s not on Sunset Road. But perhaps he could stage his upcoming TV series My Kitsch Rules at the venue.

In that regard it was nice to read in the American online journal Wonkette – the gals there do irony and satire very well and are adept at puncturing pomposity – that Trump has been fired from the NBC channel in the US. Not because his taste in everything induces nausea, but because he’s a racist chump.

NBC won’t be showing Trump-produced shows after his recent outburst about Mexican immigrants. It said in a statement: “At NBC, respect and dignity for all people are cornerstones of our values.”

Strasbourg Prize

Singapadu sculptor Ongky Wijana, whose memorial to the miners of Laxey in the Isle of Man was unveiled there on May 23, stayed on after these festivities to make his own version of the grand tour of Europe.

He does advise that this involved quite a lot of drinking. This is commendable, since the cultures of continental Europe encourage such pursuits. They are certainly much more fun than sitting around moping about how the rest of the world has failed to get it right so far.

He visited Strasbourg, the French city where the inhabitants speak German. It’s in Alsace, where those dogs come from. While he was there he picked up first prize at the 2015 European Stone Festival.

That’s another feather in his cap. His wife Hannah Black Wijana tells us she is very proud of him. We all are.

Hector tweets @ scratchings on Twitter. His diary appears in the print and on line editions of the Bali Advertiser http://www.baliadvertiser.biz

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Apr. 29, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

An Orwellian Travesty

Putu Sumantra, who is head of Bali’s animal husbandry and livestock service but who keeps providing evidence that he would be better not allowed out with a broom and instructions to sweep the steps, would like the public not to oppose the killing of “feral” dog populations by provincial animal control officers.

He says that the final solution decided on by the Bali authorities in their latest guaranteed to fail response to the seven-year-long rabies outbreak is necessary to eliminate the risk of unvaccinated dogs mingling with the vaccinated crowd and diminishing the level of disease protection. Maybe he’s from Planet Pluto. Perhaps they really do things differently there. Perhaps Governor Made Mangku Pastika is from Pluto too. He’s backing this latest piece of madness.

Sumantra, reported in the Indonesian language Bali Post newspaper, also hinted that he didn’t want people to be influenced by the views of the anti-killing lobby. In the invidious nature of the times, that’s code for “foreign” animal welfare organizations and namby-pamby westerners. He not only wants to shoot the dogs, he’d like to shoot the messengers too.

No matter that global experience shows that rabies control and eventual eradication can be achieved through carefully coordinated and rigorously financially audited vaccination campaigns. Humane reduction of numbers through sterilization and education to improve treatment of dogs that live alongside people in their villages then nurtures a healthy dog population.

This is not some radical activist program. It is the accepted world benchmark mandated by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization. What’s more, it works. There is no reason why it should not work in Bali, except of course that it requires careful coordination, exemplary leadership, and rigorous, responsible management.

There are very few “feral” dogs in Bali, something else the authorities know very well. The Bali dog is an independent spirit but generally has a place, if not a home. Most are not formally “owned”, but the latest research indicates that up to 95 percent informally belong within their community.

There is the beginning of a groundswell of resistance among the Balinese to the promiscuous killing of street dogs. There is sensitivity on that point. This must be why when he announced the commencement of a vaccination campaign in Denpasar (as part of the latest underfunded and under-resourced effort) Sumantra said that dogs without collars would be captured and tested for the virus.

Several of the unpleasant characters in the political novels of George Orwell would be very pleased with Sumantra’s mastery of propaganda and disinformation. Rabies can only be positively identified from brain tissue. To obtain a test sample, you have to kill the dog.

Seven years after an isolated imported case of canine rabies occurred on southern Bukit and no one noticed for an astonishing length of time and the disease broke out from there, it is now endemic to the entire island and people are still dying. It is most prevalent in Buleleng, Bangli and Karangasem.

Flexible Format 

Bali is to host the world’s first International Yoga Day (it’s on Jun. 21) at the invitation of the Indian government. The day was proposed by the Indian prime minister to the United Nations with the goal of promoting universal aspiration of physical and mental wellbeing by way of practising yoga.

The day is planned to feature tutorials presented by influential yoga practitioners, competitions for best practitioner, and an attempt to set a world record for the largest practice of yoga.

We’re a bit rusty, but we might brush up on our five basic positions and drop in at the Bajra Sandhi Monument in Renon on the day. The timing is a tad awkward, though. On Sundays at The Cage, we always celebrate First Coffee at 7am.

Substance, Not Froth

If Muhammad Arwani Thomafi, that chap from the National Development Party who wants to ban beer – and not just from mini-markets, he wants to ban it totally – would like to get his head around a real problem as opposed to an imaginary one, he might care to look at the latest UNESCO report on education.

It shows that in 2012 there were 1,336,000 Indonesian youngsters who weren’t attending primary school, double the figure from 2000. While enrolments doubled in early childhood or pre-primary education, from 24 percent in 2000 to 48 percent in 2012, it’s still far short of the indicative target of 80 percent set in the Education for All goals, launched in 2000.

It contrasts poorly with Malaysia (70 percent), Vietnam (79) and Brunei (92).

Change of Seasons

Four Seasons veteran Uday Rao, who was manager at the Sayan resort, has moved to Jimbaran as general manager of both the seaside property and Sayan. He plans to create new synergies between the two properties to give Four Seasons guests a truly Bali experience.

A resort manager will be appointed at Sayan.  The two-resort GM is not a novel concept. The jovial John O’Sullivan, now in Mexico and still with FS, held a similar position in the past.

There’s another move of interest to record. Marian Carroll, formerly chief spruiker at the Ayana-Rimba resort complex up the hill, has moved to Four Seasons as director of public relations. We look forward to catching up with her in her new hat, at a Ganesha gallery exhibition opening perhaps, or (if we’re really good) the fabulous beachside Sundara. Just for a tonic-water with a lemon twist, of course.

My Hat!

It was good to see the Ubud Food Festival website go live on Apr. 22. There’s nothing to beat fine food or, except in a few circumstances, Ubud as a venue in which to eat it. It’s also a good place to chat about books, but we have to wait until later in the year for the latest incarnation of Janet DeNeefe’s firstborn festival, the writers’ and readers’.

There’s one event at the food festival (which runs from Jun. 5-7) that as well as serving delicious edibles also serves as an allegory for the little town that’s growing like Topsy in which it will take place. It’s on Jun. 7 and it’s a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.

In Lewis Carroll’s wonderful tale, Alice in Wonderland, such an event takes place. (It’s in chapter seven if you want to refresh your memory). In it, Alice approaches a large table set under the tree outside the March Hare’s house and finds the Mad Hatter and the March Hare taking tea. They rest their elbows on a sleeping Dormouse who sits between them. They tell Alice that there is no room for her at the table, but Alice sits anyway.

(Well, as you would…)

The March Hare then offers Alice wine, but there is none. She tells the March Hare that his conduct is uncivil, to which he rejoins that it was uncivil of her to sit down without being invited. The Mad Hatter enters the conversation, saying that Alice’s hair “wants cutting.” Alice says he is rude and he responds with a riddle: “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” Alice attempts to answer the riddle, which begins a big argument about semantics.

There is silence after this until the Mad Hatter asks the March Hare the time. But the March Hare’s watch, which measures the day of the month, is broken, and the Mad Hatter becomes angry. He blames the March Hare for getting crumbs on the watch when the March Hare was spreading butter on it. The March Hare dips the watch in his tea, dejectedly remarking that “It was the best butter.”

The food festival grew out the culinary elements of earlier writers’ shows, prompted by feedback from people who said they’d like to sample much more of the spicy bits (pedas as opposed to panas) and in bigger portions.

The festival’s Mad Hatter’s Tea Party sounds fun, though hopefully it will be better organized than its original namesake. Well, we’re sure it will be. It will feature fare from Janice Wong, Asia’s leading pastry chef, and Angelita Wijaya in a long table setting. Apparently you should wear your favourite hat.

The festival website has all the details of the three-day event.

Flash Outfit

Sharp-eyed Aussie sheila Marian Carroll, mentioned above in quite another context, reports a traffic event on the Ngurah Rai Bypass recently that is even more astonishing than most. She was bowling down the highway in broad daylight when she passed a man on a motorbike who had chosen to stand out from the rest of buzzing, ducking and weaving crowd by riding stark naked.

Something boggles. We hope it’s the mind. Carroll didn’t say whether she’d seen that the naked man was being pursued by an angry fully-clothed one. Possibly then it was just a matter of choice to bolt in the buff, and not an emergency escape from the consequences of being caught embarrassingly in flagrante.

Hector tweets @ scratchings on Twitter. His diary appears in the print and on line editions of the Bali Advertiser www.baliadvertiser.biz