HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Nov. 26, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Singapore Sling-off

It’s been a while since we were in Singapore so we had been quite looking forward to getting back there this month. We had been amusing ourselves with thoughts about minding the platform gap again, but the MRT was full of very pushy people on our two train rides and the whole experience was one of rather less than unalloyed delight.

Traffic also seemed to be much less well behaved than hitherto. The unnecessary and noisy practice of sounding your car horn – for any reason, or none – is gaining a growing toehold in the previously well-mannered and equable city state. Worse, “big car” syndrome is more and more obvious. It is familiar to anyone in Indonesia and many other places where capitalism, bureaucracy and fat-wallet-lawyer are synonyms for bad-mannered. The bumptious practice of the cashed-up mob in such environments is to assume droit de seigneur and to believe it is immutable fact that if you’re in a BMW or a Mercedes and are therefore visibly rich and powerful, lesser mortals have only two options: to swoon at your feet or get run over.

Of course, democracy has never had much of a place in Singapore, what with Raffles being an English provincial imperialist, his successors being chiefly British and (briefly) Japanese officer bureaucrats, and their successors being Lee Kwan Yew, etc. We should not be surprised. Singapore seems, in so many ways not discounting the Gilbert & Sullivan, to be the very model of a modern Venetian republic. The Serenissima was the most successful city state of its thousand-year era, after the nabobs of the day demoted democracy to historical theory, until its last supine grandees capitulated to that well-born Corsican brigand Napoleone Buonaparte in 1797.

Great Australian Bite

We had dinner one evening with an old chum, Ian Mackie of Lasalle Investment Management. He’s a 20-year veteran of Singapore whose interests are many and among which is a chain of coffee-culture shops named Dimbulah. We were at the one at CHIJMES, a cloistered former convent, which  offers an evening dining experience as well. It has just added a burger that is out of this world. The menu is complemented by a nice range of Australian and New Zealand wines. The NZ pinot noir we had was first rate. It came from Central Otago. The burger came from the kitchen and was better than the best.

The coffee comes from Dimbulah Mountain Estate in North Queensland. Dimbulah is a little place on the Atherton Tableland behind Cairns where the altitude knocks a point or two off the tropical temperatures and Arabica coffee trees thrive. It is not to be confused with Dimboola in Victoria, in Australia’s far chillier south. Dimboola grows wheat and its chief claim to fame is the play of the same name written by Jack Hibberd.

Incorrigible Indeed

The Singapore trip – an occasion forced upon us by reason of the visa run you have to do if your KITAS expires while you’ve been away in Australia trying not to – did create one other opportunity. We’ve been trying to get a start on reading an English translation of Jean-Michel Guenassia’s 2011 debut novel The Incorrigible Optimists Club. It is at last available in paperback (Atlantic Books) and the translation by Euan Cameron is very good.

It’s certainly best in many circumstances to be an incorrigible optimist. For example, we are optimistic that we won’t have to miss the 2015 Yak Awards. This year’s otherwise not-to-be-missed and exotically eclectic bash was held on Nov. 14, the very day the bureaucrats had set for our temporary exile from the Island of the Bumf Shufflers.

It was such a shame. Not to be counted among 600 partygoers is bad enough. But to miss yet another chance to see the sibilantly sassy Sydney songbird Edwina Blush in action is surely a sin.

And So to Lombok

We’re not gluttons for punishment, really. But we did have some things to do in Lombok after the visa trip (and Visa trip) to Singapore, so we went straight there. Well, we tried to. We’d booked AirAsia Singapore-Bali with enough time if things had run to schedule to make a change to the domestic terminal at Ngurah Rai and get on a Garuda flight to Praya.

Things didn’t run to schedule. You can never afford to discount the intervention of Murphy’s (or Sodd’s) Laws. We missed our connection and had to get a later flight and pay an additional fee for doing so.

Never mind. It was good to see Lombok again; and some old friends and a patch of weeds we once thought seriously about turning into our Des Res. This trip we stayed at Kebun Villas – just across the road from the Sheraton in Senggigi – which we eventually reached after an interminable taxi ride from the airport.

Still, the glacially-paced taxi ride was a pointed example of the benefits of different styles. The cabbie who took us from the Copthorne King’s in Singapore to Changi Airport that morning had obviously been taught at taxi-driver school that whatever Gweilo passengers might say (“Slow down you idiot!” “Hey! That was a red light!”) if they’re going to the airport they’re always running late.

Resolve to Devolve, Properly

It’s interesting to hear reports – as the Jokowi presidency gets into gear and begins its promised shift towards more meaningful consultation than has been the case before – that Balinese delegates to the Regional Representative Council (DPD) are seeking greater autonomy for the island.

Real provincial powers are no bad thing, in a country of many ethnicities and significant, difficult differences and distances. That is, if they are managed properly; if they codified so that there is a clear division between central government and provincial powers; if they are understood by all parties as subordinate to national policy and judicial check; and if local-level governments understand their own place is at the bottom of the structure rather than the top and that the Great Panjandrum, if he exists at all, resides somewhere other than in a district council office.

Provincial autonomy until now has been a response to separatist pressures, notably in Aceh and Papua. It should instead be a political arrangement, a compact, designed to enhance the national entity. It would among other things do away with the need for a Regional Representative Council, which in Bali’s case is an invidious arrangement since it administratively groups Bali and both West and East Nusa Tenggara. Achieving this would require courage, open minds, and a true commitment to democracy.

Methanol Methodology

There’s a very useful initiative under way in Bali, the Methanol Poisoning Awareness (MPA) campaign. It’s being run by the British Consulate and was launched in October by Governor Made Mangku Pastika and the acting British Ambassador, Rebecca Razavi.

The campaign aims to raise awareness of the danger of methanol in counterfeit alcoholic drinks, and reduce the number of deaths and injuries suffered by foreign and domestic tourists in Indonesia, as a result.

Razavi said at the launch that the campaign underlines the importance of British tourists being aware of the health risks of counterfeit alcohol. In 2013 counterfeit alcohol caused more than 51 deaths and 52 hospital admissions in Indonesia.

The campaign materials are being distributed throughout Bali.

UK visitor arrivals to Indonesia have risen sharply in recent years. In the first quarter of 2014 a total of 48,871 British tourists travelled to Indonesia. In April alone, 19,809 British nationals visited, up 18.2 percent on April 2013. British authorities expect numbers to continue to increase now Garuda is flying to London.

It’s pleasing to report some British-sourced news. Though in this case there is also an Australian connection, albeit at one remove. Razavi was born in Tasmania.

Home Is Where the Art Is

It may pass almost unnoticed by many, but the growing collaboration between the national galleries of Indonesia and Australia is paying huge dividends in terms of sharing artistic expression and exposing art lovers in both countries to new experiences.

The Masters of Modern Indonesian Portraiture exhibition, which has recently had a month-long season at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra, was a major National Gallery of Indonesia initiative. It was one of three art expositions this year that have demonstrated how diversity can foster unity.

The exhibition showed 35 significant Indonesian art works and offered insight into the rich portrait practice of Indonesia, showcasing key modernist works (1930-1980s) drawn from the National Gallery of Indonesia’s collection along with a selection of works by leading contemporary artists.

It was the first time works from the National Gallery of Indonesia had been shown in Australia. There are plans to ensure it is not the last. It was certainly a rare opportunity for Australian audiences to view the work of eminent modern artists from Indonesia, including masters S. Sudjojono, Hendra Gunawan and Affandi.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter. His diary appears in the Bali Advertiser

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Aug. 20, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Trash Can be Beautiful

A month or so back we dropped in on a Green Drinks meeting in Ubud organized by organic food guru and long-time Ubud luminary Darsih Gede. It was an interesting and inspiring occasion. The presentation was on the then forthcoming Bali Creative Reuse Centre and its plans to engage children, their parents and their communities in finding innovative ways to recycle trash.

The centre opened in late July (it’s at Jl Bisma 53). Its goal is to collect waste from local businesses, schools and families and package these in activity kits or sold in bulk to teachers and families. The message is that trash is a valuable resource to reuse for art and as learning materials.

That message is being delivered by Eka, a local teacher who is running the centre, and American volunteer Renee. The centre supports local Indonesian artists and organizations with workshops on the artistic and practical value of recycled trash and acts as a resource centre. It supports local schools and community programs offering arts programs reusing their trash and helping them find resources to support environmentally safer ways to dispose of their waste.

A website is being developed. They have also just finished their first teacher workshop at Dyatmika and are designing a recycled materials space for them.  The aim is for this to become a model to replicate in other schools and villages to promote creativity and inspiration to use trash as a medium to produce useful products and eye-catching art.

Eka has augmented her teacher qualifications by training at the Bali Environmental Training Centre (PPLH) in Denpasar and is teaching children in villages to use plastic for weaving and crocheting to make bags and other functional products they can sell.  She has also met Bali Recycling to inform local villagers about ways they can recycle and get money for their trash.

An open day is planned for Sep. 7. This would be a great opportunity for all segments of the community to have a look at the innovative programs the centre offers. Trash is everyone’s business, after all.

It would be good to see other not-for-profit organizations in Ubud getting aboard this great civic and educational initiative. There’s nothing to beat cooperative engagement.

 

In General, Not a Good Idea

Former General Prabowo Subianto has made a bit of a mess of losing the presidential election. It seems that everyone other than himself is to blame for the fact that he failed to win the support of more Indonesians than his opponent, president-elect Joko Widodo.

Perhaps on Aug. 17, Independence Day, he might have found time to reflect on reality. In a democratic election the candidate who wins most votes is elected. Prabowo either can’t add up or doesn’t want to. It’s not as if he was beaten narrowly. The margin was wide enough to make a declaration of a result beyond the reach of anything other than a most inventive challenge.

Independence Day celebrates Indonesia’s nationhood and the 69 years of history that now stands on the record. Prabowo played a small part in some of that history, as a military man. He’s entitled to run for civil office. He’s not entitled to claim he was robbed of a victory that he plainly didn’t win. Civil society and democratic elections do not run on a military command basis.

He can try again next time, if he wants. A sensible appreciation of Indonesian politics and the voting figures this time shows clearly that Joko Widodo will have to accommodate a spectrum of views and policy positions, including those espoused by Prabowo’s party, which says it seeks a greater Indonesia.

That’s practical democracy. It is also the Indonesian way. It’s just not a good idea to ignore facts, even if (actually, especially if) you’re a retired general who was drummed out of the army under a cloud.

 

We Are Not Amused

American Bali muse Susi Johnston, who lives at Mengwi in a villa someone else has been trying to seize for their own enrichment, is in more trouble. This time someone has poisoned her pet dog and beloved cat in – on the evidence she presents – a carefully planned and deliberate manner. It might just be a case of VBS – Vindictive Bastard Syndrome, which like dengue and a lot of other avoidable endemic disorders is widespread in Bali – but given the history of her case that seems unlikely.

There are several aspects of her situation that are profoundly disturbing. They are worrisome for other long-term expatriate residents who contribute to the wider life of the island and whose presence directly benefits the Balinese and other Indonesians they pay or otherwise support.

Johnston has endured a lengthy campaign to remove her from the villa she shared with her Italian husband Bruno Piazza, who died in 2011 and whose name was on the nominee agreement. It has involved threats, break-ins and raids by thugs on the premises; detention by police pending “investigations”; a court process that has been stymied at every turn; and sundry other molestations that only the truly mean-spirited or graspingly acquisitive would visit on a widow. She assumes, with what seems to be good reason, that the pet poisoning is the latest incident in this lengthy round of bastardry.

In such circumstances the fainter of heart might simply mutter “this is not to be borne” and move someplace else where the rule of law, the principles of basic justice and common sense apply. But Johnston’s not a quitter. Bali is where she has made her life. The “system”, such as it is, should recognize that.

 

Revealing Fatwa

The roving eye was caught the other day by news that the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) has issued a fatwa against women teaming the jilbab with “tight” clothing below the neck. Apparently its fatwa proscribing pornography (as defined by Islamic leaders) also means Muslim women should not show the shape of the body.

It’s true – as we’ve noted before – that some of the more excessive revelations made possible by modern western fashions are over the top. It’s not quite clear how or why painted-on jeans and bust-enhancing tops are pornographic, though we concede they must be dreadfully uncomfortable to wear.

Modern Islamic fashion for women is in its own way highly decorative, and that’s good. Seeing women primarily as sexual objects is a male disease, a genetic disposition that should have dropped off the scope very shortly after Urk, Gurk and the crew vacated their cave dwellings and got a bit civilized. It’s a shame that it hasn’t.

We agree with the vice-chairman of the MUI, Ma’ruf Amin, that women already choosing to wear the jilbab should not do so in a vulgar way. Vulgarity of any kind is offensive, after all; including the vulgarity of presuming rights to proscribe the elective and legal behaviour of others.

 

Blush Highlights

Sydney jazz singer and Villa Kitty ambassador Edwina Blush is back in Bali for her annual season of swingalongs. Through to September she’s playing the Three Monkeys Restaurant at Sanur between 6pm and 9pm every Tuesday and Sunday with her cool Blush Sextet (Yuri Mahatma on guitar,  Astrid Sulaiman on keys, Helmi Augustrian on bass, Pramono Abdi and sax and newcomer Wisnu Priambodo on drums; and Thursdays at Il Giardino in Ubud with the trio (7.30pm to 10pm).

Blush arrived in July with a program including four different combos and three different variations on a Jazz theme Classic Jazz, 20’s Swing and SkaJazz. Good stuff!

In her Villa Kitty hat she’ll have been pleased to see that Elizabeth Henzell’s Ubud establishment featured on the Australian TV series What Really Happens in Bali.

 

New Deal, Old System

The new management at Ngurah Rai International Airport has put a stop to the “VIP arrival services” that permit those unwilling to mix with the masses in the Visa on Arrival melee to pay to be fast-tracked around the bottleneck. Experience and an understanding of how things really work here suggest that normal service will be resumed shortly, if it hasn’t already.

If the new management is really interested in improving customer service at the airport it might like to look at a system that rosters porters (and provides luggage trolleys) when they’re needed and not simply at the porters’ convenience. We’re told by a traveller that mid-afternoon on Saturday, Aug. 9, neither porters nor trolleys were available in the arrivals hall.

Then there’s the piratical taxi monopoly. That warrants managerial examination too.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser Aug. 21, 2013


His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Dancing on an Ethereal Stage

It is always tragic when someone young and full of life is taken from us by that inevitable final caller, death. It is doubly so when the person concerned has been among the brightest talents around. So it is with Bali’s internationally acclaimed contemporary dancer and choreography, Nyoman Sura, who has died aged 37.

     Sura, who was born in the Denpasar village of Kesiman in 1976, was destined by the fates to be an interpretative dancer who dazzled at the very edge of the performance envelope. He failed the entrance exam for an accountancy degree course at Udayana University. So instead he fell back on his childhood attraction to traditional dance and enrolled at the Indonesian Institute of Fine Arts (ISI).

     In 1995, when he was 19, he was awarded Best Choreographer in a Java-Bali dance competition. When he graduated from ISI the next year he remained at the campus but on the faculty. He taught dance and movement.

     An exponent of both traditional and contemporary dance, he later studied at ISI Surakarta (Solo). But he remained committed to Bali traditional dance as his works Sri Tanjung (2009) and Ritus Legong (2002) amply demonstrate.

     He broke very new ground in 2002, however, when he danced nude at the premier of his work Waktu Itu (That Time) in Medan, North Sumatra. He caused a stir nationally, especially among the prudish, institutional and otherwise, but said the dance portrayed man’s transitions from birth to life to death and that being naked reflected the state of man at the end of life when he must face God free of all earthly accessories.

     It is the artist’s lot to be outré. The truly “out there” are dreadfully missed when they leave us.

     Sura is reported to have died of pancreatic cancer, a vicious disease.

     Jack Daniels of Bali Discovery and the weekly online briefing Bali Update wrote a very moving eulogy. It’s on the Web (posted on Aug. 12). You should read it.

 

Silent Night

There was supposed to be an item in the print edition of the diary this time, about jazz singer Edwina Blush’s benefit night for Villa Kitty, the Ubud establishment that does so much for our neglected feline friends.

     Sadly, it had to be pulled just after we’d sent the column along to the Bali Advertiser, for reasons that will shortly become shrilly clear.

     Faced with the difficulty of finding a venue in a rush since other things had complicated the long-settled option, the energetic Edwina did a deal with Rouge, an establishment in Jl Bisma, to stage a night primarily of performance poetry there on the planned date, Aug. 29.

    This plan too bit the dust swiftly. Unbeknown to Ms Blush (and for that matter the Diary) the exotic settlers who inhabit that part of Jl Bisma don’t like the joint. It plays music, you see, being a place of entertainment, and this discommodes the ambiance, or rattles the rattan, or disturbs the peace, or interrupts the evening navel-gazing; or possibly all these things.

    A solution involving the Jazz Café and Sept. 2 has been found. This extravaganza is billed as The Cat Fight Continues (love it!) and the dress code is said to be cat/combat. Slink along and you’ll find things meowing nicely. The view at the Jazz Café is that anyone who thinks Bali is NIMBY-Land is off with the fairies. We agree.

     Blush has two other gigs planned before she heads back to Sydney in early September. The details are below. But first, you should read the original item, for the full flavour of the moment:            

 

Sultry Night

 

Edwina Blush, the seriously sexy Sydney songstress known for bringing out the blushes of many who attend her sultry jazz sessions inadequately briefed, so to speak, is on a mission in Ubud on Aug. 29. She’s performing on behalf of Villa Kitty, the Lodtundah cat refuge for which she is an ambassador, at a benefit being staged at Rouge in Jl Bisma.

      So here’s the drill: Donation on arrival plus any contributions to “kitty” during the night that Blush and crew can squeeze out of you; raffles, door prizes, and auctions; prizes for best dressed (Dress code: Kitty Rouge).

      And the line-up’s definitely not to be missed: Edwina Blush, jazz cabaret vocalist and performance poet; Skid More, comedian; Alexa Bauer; and Mr Richard H Simorangkir, Rouge house pianist.

     Blush performed earlier this month in Ubud. We’ll do our damndest to get along to the Aug. 29 “cat” show, though. So far we’ve managed to miss all her Bali gigs. Can’t have her thinking we’re pussies.

     There’s a sad aspect to this one, by the way. Marcus Page, the Ubud identity who died unexpectedly this month, was a fervent supporter of Villa Kitty and will be missed, by Villa Kitty Ibu-in-Chief Elizabeth Henzell and many others.

     Besides the Jazz Café on Sept. 2, Blush is performing at Il Giardino in Ubud on Sept. 4 and staging her final Bali session of 2013 on Sept. 5 at Oazia in Kerobokan. This will feature an eight-piece band with a full horn section.

    Blow it! Can’t make the 2nd or the 5th, but we’ll get to Il Giardino by hook or by crook.

     

A Sad Mishap

It’s been a bad time for untimely deaths. New Zealand-born Australian surfing legend Allan Byrne – he of the iconic Byrning Spears board brand – died on Aug. 8 of injuries resulting from a motorbike accident on Aug. 2. He was treated at a Jimbaran hospital (for a broken arm) but later collapsed and at another hospital was diagnosed with a skull fracture.

     He had been in Bali for the Rip Curl surf championships.

 

Virtually Certain

We know we’re getting the big APEC jamboree in October. The Bigwigs have already said they’re going to close the airport for extended periods so they can gad about on it and have a gaggle at everyone else’s expense. What we weren’t certain of (actually we still aren’t) is whether Bali will host the annual World Internet Forum (IGF), which is – Was? May be? – scheduled for Nusa Dua on Oct. 22-25.

      There had been, it seems, a “period of uncertainty” over the fate of this particular gabfest, a hiatus that the top flack at the communication and information ministry, Gatot S. Dewa Broto, recently felt confident enough to say was at an end.

      Apparently “several obstacles” had puzzlingly stood in the way of getting the show on the road. These had to do with money. The IGF is budgeted to cost around Rp22 billion – a snip at only US$2.2 million after all – but funding components from Indonesia had been, shall we say, sadly though somewhat familiarly sub-par. IGF organizers raked up Rp9 billion, the communications ministry chipped in Rp2.5 billion, and other Indonesian stakeholders divvied up a dribble. Luckily Google and other interested private concerns have dropped in enough dollars to patch us back into the world.

       Thus Minister Tifatul Sembiring, who is most often seen in his self-appointed role as Censor of the Nation, was able to advise at the eleventh hour that the dog that ran away with his homework had been collared and the paperwork retrieved.

       He said this: “Right now, myself and the ranks of the ministry of communications and information  technology will take whatever action is necessary to immediately complete a Host Country Agreement signed by Indonesia and the UN, as this the most important foundation of the implementation of the IGF 2013.”  In this pronouncement he proved yet again the theory that, for a politician, 46 words will always beat four (“OK. We’ve fixed it.”)

       It’s not entirely clear why 2,500 hot-wired itinerants have to come to Bali to discuss the virtual world they inhabit. Surely if what they say works, works, they could do it all on Skype or something. Never mind. There may be a bonus. Internet speeds here would give any geek a conniption. They may be able to advise how to lift that sorry performance. That would be really good.

 

Oh, I See…

Lion Air, which made a splash in the world news in April when one of its (many) new Boeing 737-800s “landed” rather spectacularly short of the runway at Ngurah Rai airport, frightening the fish in Jimbaran Bay, seems to have a novel PR campaign under way.

     This month another of its lovely new jets ran into some cows while landing at Gorontalo in Sulawesi. We don’t know why there were cows on the runway (elsewhere the mind might boggle over this question, but not in Indonesia). We do know, though, that pilots of large passenger aircraft are generally thought to have a duty of care to the human souls strapped into the seats behind the flight deck that extends to taking care to avoid significant visible obstacles while landing.

      Apparently, the pilots reported seeing dogs on the runway.

      One thing you can count on in Indonesia is a laugh; sometimes it’s a hollow one, but beggars can’t be choosers. This particular little chuckle reminded us of the 1990s Irish TV comedy Father Ted.  On one occasion in that ecclesiastical funfest naive novitiate Fr Dougal McGuile, spotting a herd of cattle grazing in a paddock some distance away, mused aloud that they seemed very small.

      It’s OK to laugh when all you’re doing is watching a sit-com.  When you’re on a plane whose pilots are apparently as challenged as a fictional nincompoop, it’s a little more serious.

 

Get Along!

Mike O’Leary from the ROLE Foundation is expecting a good turn-out for his latest fundraiser, Blues for the Blue, at Tapeo Gastrobar, Kuta Beachwalk, on Aug. 31. It’s in aid of efforts to deal with the 5,000 to 20,000 tons of solid waste and unknown tonnage of liquid waste dumped illegally in Bali every day. As he notes, the people who are responsible for waste management here seem unable to act.

     The Island Sustainability Education Centre is working on long-term solutions to give Balinese and other Indonesians who really care the know-how, skills and assistance to meet this challenge.

     The inaugural Bali Waterman’s awards will honour water sportspeople and adventurers. It’s Rp300K to get into the gig, of which San Miguel Light is a Gold Sponsor.

 

N-Ergized

On Aug. 8 – the date was darkly apposite: Hiroshima day was Aug. 6 and Nagasaki day Aug. 9 – the good folk at The Guardian in Britain twittered: “Fukushima leaks: Japan PM steps in.”

     We do hope his minders made sure he was wearing his yellow wellies.

Hector tweets @scratchings

 

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, June 13, 2012

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Stir Slowly, Drink at Leisure

The May edition of the 2012 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival newsletter made it out with a week to go before it was June – it popped into the Diary’s in-box on May 26. And since it was leading off with a bit of a blurb about the Bali Emerging Writers Festival (which had been advertised as scheduled for May 25-27) one assumes deadlines in festival-land are as notional as any on this island.

But never mind. BEWF is beaut, even if acronyms are as prevalent as litter. This year’s was the second and organisers said it presented a more colourful line-up than the inaugural acronym last year. Said UWRF community development manager Kadek Sri Purnami, and we quote verbatim (it’s not our grammar): “We are trying to present as diverse and colourful voices as possible. These young writers, some write with words, some with lights and images, will take the audience into the kaleidoscopic world of contemporary Bali.”

We’re sure it was a blast – and we’re glad about that too. Perhaps the 2012 UWRF Newsletter for June, which apparently should reach us just before it is July, will give us some idea of how it actually went.

The festival took place (May 27-29) at Serambi Arts Antida, the hot Denpasar alternative art space.

Meanwhile, festival founder and fragrant coffee drinker Janet DeNeefe is being as shy as ever about the international programme for this year’s big show, scheduled for October 3-7. A little note in the aforementioned newsletter coyly states: “While the list of international authors for the UWRF 2012 is tightly embargoed, several of the authors on that list were featured at the Sydney Writers Festival, recently concluded.”

We do know of one author invited to participate: Uli Schmetzer, who lives half the year in Venice and half in Australia and the Philippines. He and his lovely Italian wife Tiziana, who cooks the most marvellous pasta, lent us their pushbikes in Beijing 20 years ago (we gave them back) as well as their driver, a redoubtable fellow called Fang who knew but one word of a language other than Mandarin. Unfortunately this was “nyet,” which did not get us very far. Well, only to the nearest bit of the Great Wall.

As to other internationals, well, just for fun, we’ll scribble out a list, blindfold ourselves, and play a literary version of pin the tail on the donkey.

Help the Cause: Buzz Off

As noted above, a diarist’s reading must be very wide. Or else you miss all sorts of things that give you a huge laugh. So we propose to share with you some other advice recently to hand – we found it online and it would be amusing to suggest this resulted from a tip-off – that urges women to select a vibrator that is eco-friendly

It notes – this was a surprise to the Diary – that there are more makes of vibrators on the market than there are models of cars on the roads. Gee, that intelligence hits the spot. It’s a wonder poor old Gaia hasn’t been knocked out of her orbit with all the under-the-counterpane buzzing that must be going on. And it says that choosing a brand, let alone a single product, can be daunting; it kindly offers to help narrow your search.

It suggests you choose a rechargeable vibrator for maximum sensation with minimum ecological footprint. Apparently a typical user can deplete up to four batteries a week on a battery operated vibrator – that’s more than 200 dead batteries a year. (How many extinct libidos, we wonder?)

Oh yes – and we’re thinking that would have to be the Big O – it also says that responsible manufacturing is important for your vibrator (they are sentient as well as sensory?) and suggests you seek out companies that share your values. Perhaps you should just look for one that gives you a nice warm buzz.

Or Otherwise…

A diarist also needs a quick eye, as well as a deep appreciation for delicious double entendres. LinkedIn’s handy People You May Know feature – which as we noted recently unearthed for us poor Angus McCaskill, who is no longer counted among our population – popped up another unknown name the other day. We won’t name the fellow, since he seems to be a Canadian and might therefore respond by saying “Eh?” or else entirely miss the joke.

But he’s the manager of a mining industry outfit whose name might cause an involuntary appreciative intake of breath among any number of distressed gentlewomen hereabouts: Cougar Drilling Solutions.

Fame à un Prix

Those among us who like to follow the risible side of Australian politics – it’s a broad field of study – have been transfixed of late at the thought of supersized Queensland mining magnate Clive Palmer running for parliament, though not for the Whirling Dervish Party, which is such a pity. He’d like to be a Liberal MP instead, which he’d surely find is absolutely no fun at all. Apparently he’s serious about it all but the idea went straight into our Too Silly file, along with some of Palmer’s other titanic ideas.

As well as desiring to pay no tax on his mines (paying tax is for wimps and non-whirling dervishes) Palmer wants to build an “unsinkable” modern version of the Titanic that some people – Céline Dion, Kate Winslett and Leonardo DiCaprio prominently among them, one imagines – will clearly remember was also unsinkable but which nevertheless sank on its maiden voyage in 1912 after running full-pelt into an eminently avoidable iceberg. He also wants to build a Zeppelin, though he promises it wouldn’t be a Hindenburg exploding one.

It was therefore fun to find in a recent edition of the fine French satirical newspaper Le Canard enchainé – it had been donated to The Cage by some kind French visitors – a little item by Jean-Luc Porquet, who writes a lovely column aptly named “Peouf!” It was headlined “Trésor national vivant” (“Living National Treasure”).

The piece primarily concerned the discarded Nicolas Sarkozy who was recently unelected as President of the Republic. It was Sarkozy’s titanic political misadventures which principally informed Porquet’s pointed prose. But unfortunately, while Palmer’s Australian national treasure feat may be recognised in France and be of some peripheral utility to satirists having a go at poor M. Sarkozy, his living clay is less well known.

Porquet called him Clive Barker. Perhaps he was thinking of Ronnie, the Brit comic who was nearly as round. But he could just have been joking. He seems to share the widely held view that Clive Palmer is barking mad.

More Sax Please

The delectable Edwina Blush will soon be back in Bali, which is good news for Villa Kitty at Ubud – of which she is an ambassador – and people, like your diarist, who love saxy jazz and the (unfortunately now largely notional) concept of smoky bars and attractively accommodating company.

She’ll be playing a six-week gig here with her Balinese sextet at Three Monkeys Sanur after the June 15 launch in Sydney of her latest album, Sea For Cats. We’ll get along to a session or two. The album’s available from various download sites including iTunes, the Diary’s preferred legal provider. Half the proceeds of sales go to Villa Kitty to provide veterinary care and – as Edwina unblushingly puts it – much needed population control measures (she adds: “Frisky little darlings”).

Villa Kitty is on Facebook, by the way. Founder and Chief Meow Elizabeth Grant Suttie would love to hear from you.

Fiesta Time

El Kabron, the cliff-top watering hole at Bingin on the Bukit where host David Iglesias Megias tempts patrons with all sorts of delights, including Catalan and other Spanish treats, celebrated its first birthday with a great little party on June 10.

It was a good chance to catch up with old friends – though none of them are old in the literal sense – including our Most Favoured Argentine, artist-architect Leticia Balacek, who has recently been in Shanghai. We buttonholed her at the do and asked if, as a result of her Sino experiences, her word was still her Bund. Sorry.

No Kidding

We hear from the delightful Alicia Budihardja, chief spruiker at Conrad Bali where Frenchman Jean-Sebastien Kling is now general manager that the property is going after the kids in a big way. It has launched a new family package that offers free meals and recreational and cultural activities to youngsters while their parents are enjoying the definitely more relaxing and possibly more cerebral aspects of the place.

Kling wants to help parents unwind on an ultimate getaway.  That’s a nice thought. They deserve a break.

Hector’s Diary appears in the print edition of the Bali Advertiser, published every second Wednesday, and on his Blog at http://wotthehec.blogspot.com. Hector is on Twitter (@scratchings) and Facebook (Hector McSquawky).

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).