His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences
Golly! It’s Scribbler Time Again
Coming up soon are several jamborees – including Miss World, see below – that are set to put Bali (however briefly) in the world spotlight. The primary one is the APEC summit, of which we have written before. But shortly after the last APEC delegates buzz off and allow the rest of us to access our airport normally and drive around unmolested by rude police motorcade marshals, this year’s Ubud Writers & Readers Festival will be upon us.
The 2013 festival brings with it the spirit of coming home, and presents the best Indonesian, South East Asian and international voices as it celebrates its tenth anniversary from Oct.11-15.
This year it features more than 170 writers, performers, artists, musicians and visionaries to Ubud, navel-gazing centre of the universe, to talk about all forms of storytelling – from travel writing to song-writing, plays, poetry, comedy and graphic novels.
Joining the line-up – and in his first festival appearance in the region – is bestselling British author Sebastian Faulks (Birdsong, Devil May Care), Lionel Shriver (We Need to Talk about Kevin), publishing entrepreneur and Lonely Planet co-founder Tony Wheeler, legendary Australian cartoonist Michael Leunig, and festival favourite Richard Flanagan, back for a welcome encore.
The festival also welcomes 2013 Man Booker long-listed authors Ruth Ozeki (A Tale for the Time Being) and Tash Aw (Five Star Billionaire) as well as India’s “first literary pop star”, Amish Tripathi. Among other international guests are David Vann (Legend of a Suicide), double Miles Franklin winner Kim Scott (That Deadman Dance), American talent Nami Mun, and one of France’s most prolific writers Alain Mabanckou.
They will be joined by a top line-up of Indonesia’s finest and most successful writers and thinkers. Pre-eminent Indonesian poet and man-of-letters Goenawan Mohamad, award-winning writer Ayu Utami, bestselling writer and celebrity singer Dewi Lestari, celebrated filmmaker Garin Nugroho, Laksmi Pamuntjak, Ahmad Fuadi and more than 45 others.
We caught up a few days ago with Lian Monley, who some time ago was here for a stretch – among other things she ran a fitness centre in Seminyak – and who tells us she was back in Bali again recently in pursuit of another of her current ventures, this one involving the social media.
Monley runs a juice company in Sydney that delivers cold-pressed organic juice to client’s doorsteps, probably an essential in Australia’s biggest city where the pace of life can be frantic and the traffic a challenge. She says of this venture: “The business extends to restaurants bars and cafes. It’s a very modern American juicing concept which is going nuts here.”
Her other business – the one that brought her to Bali – is building up and involves using social media to promote businesses. It’s the big thing at the moment. Monley’s efforts here are directed towards presentations on behalf of clients about where social media is going and what leverage a business can get from it if done correctly.
Clearly she’s a busy lady. We’ll try to catch up with her again, sometime when schedules permit.
We hear that a “winged “spy” has been found dead in Egypt and that a local conservation group is crying foul. It seems Egyptian police detained a stork in August when someone in Qena province, 350 kilometres southeast of Cairo, became suspicious after noticing a European wildlife tracker on the bird, According to news agency reports authorities suspected the bird may have been linked to foreign espionage. (Memo self: Add Egypt to the Risibility Alert List.)
The authorities eventually set the stork free, but it didn’t get far, apparently falling victim to the local custom of catching and killing – and eating – anything that happens to flutter past. The Diary sympathizes. From time to time we’ve been so hungry ourselves that we could have eaten the ass out of a low-flying duck. We might, though, draw the line at storks.
Nature Conservation of Egypt – now there’s an organization that clearly deserves a medal for trying – which had named the stork Mendes and argued for its release, said in an understatement: “Storks have been part of the Nubian diet for thousands of years, so the actual act of eating storks is not in itself a unique practice.”
Moving on from the sad demise of Mendes, we note that the unfortunate stork is one of several animals Egyptian authorities have suspected of sinister plotting in recent years. In January, police in the Nile Delta sent a pigeon to a criminal investigation unit because when found it had microfilm and paper tied to its feet bearing a message that read “Islam Egypt.”
In 2010, the governor of a province in Egyptian Sinai was reported as blaming a series of shark attacks on an Israeli plot to stunt Egyptian tourism.
On Your Camel (Again)
Speaking of the Risibility Alert List (see previous item) it’s depressing to find that the FPI, the staunch defender of democracy, is still making an ass of itself over the Miss World Pageant that was to be staged in Jakarta and Bali at the end of the month and is now only going ahead in Bali.
Apparently Bali is the focus of evil, having agreed to go ahead with the pageant in the face of advice from this self-elected group of funsters that to do so would contravene religious and social norms that are (sorry, fellas) profoundly irrelevant to Hindu Bali.
It’s not at all clear to the Diary why staging the Miss World event is directly relevant to Bali’s image, but heck, if relevance – to say nothing of good taste – were the rule, we’d probably stage nothing much at all. The FPI represents no one except itself. It should be free to do so since Indonesia has grasped democracy and presumably the principles that underpin it, but that is hardly the point. For the benefit of the camel corps, then, this is the point: Indonesia is a multicultural and multi-ethnic society which does not begin and end with the island of Java.
Of course it is a shame the political apparatus is so supine but that, again, is as it is. Our advice to the FPI, repeated: Back on your camels, Bali’s not for you.
We see that the convenient belief among Indonesia’s powerful personages that they should not be asked awkward questions has spread to forests minister Zulkifli Hassan, who didn’t like what American actor Harrison Ford said to him in a filmed interview about climate change.
He thought the interview was rude and, according to presidential adviser Andi Arief this had left him shocked. Suggestions were heard that Ford, star of the Indiana Jones adventure movies, could be deported. He was leaving Indonesia the day after the interview anyway, but apparently a tin drum was available for ministerial beating and could not be ignored.
Minister Zulkifli is also said to have taken the view that Ford and his crew were “harassing state institutions” and added (this is tedious, if not ominous, even if it is only hot air) that “his crew and those who were helping him in Indonesia must be questioned to find out their motives for harassing a state institution.”
Ford also interviewed President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, though not shockingly, it seems. He was in Indonesia to film for an upcoming TV series on climate change called Years of Living Dangerously, related to national forestry policy that permits large-scale forest clearing across the archipelago to make way for paper and palm oil plantations, as well as for mining and agriculture.
Indonesia hand Geoffrey Gold recently had some happy news to tell a popular LinkedIn group, Australians in Indonesia. August was a record month for the Indonesia Australia Report, a documentary website. Visits to the website that month exceeded 3000, followers of its Twitter news service approached 500 and views of its Indonesia Australia Weekly online compilation of links to recent newspaper articles topped 1000.
Gold also said the number of Australians resident in Indonesia who had joined the LinkedIn discussion group had doubled and noted they had just started a Facebook Page for others to keep up with our latest articles and conversations.
It’s well worth visiting www.indonesia-australia.com . Newly on the site is an overview of the new Australian government’s policies on engagement with Indonesia.
Hector tweets @ scratchings