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HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Feb. 18, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

No Time and High Tide

It’s always fun to read stories in the local press that relate to statistical information. The power of presentational representation (some people call that PR) is a skill that should never be undervalued in Indonesia. Thus we had a little smile when we read that Bali’s Department of Marine Affairs and Fisheries reported seaweed production in the regencies of Badung, Klungkung and Buleleng fell last year by 42 per cent on the 2013 figure. Official statistics show seaweed production was reduced from 145,597 tons to 84,320 tons.

A representative of the department, I Made Gunaja, said conversion of seaweed farms into tourist attractions had caused dramatic reductions in production at Pandawa and Kutuh beaches on the Bukit. Hello? How can that be? Who would have expected that to happen if you shooed off the seaweed farmers because their way of life and subsistence income was superfluous to Bali’s modern requirements to turn secret beaches and other lovely natural spots into resorts for the newly rich and wannabe famous?

The departmental spokesman added this hopeful line to his spin cycle:  “Because the land is used for tourists, the seaweed farmers are now switching professions to join the tourism sector.” It’s good to hear that all these displaced persons, casualties of the national struggle for plutocrat enrichment, are getting professional jobs in the tourism-related sector. Executive Manager, Leaf-Sweeping, with the prospect of eventual promotion to bag-carrier, sounds an absolutely ideal new career path.

Part of the problem, according to Dr Spin, is the weather. Apparently it has been inclemently unkind recently to the sort of seaweed that has populated the marine environment in the area forever. So they’re proposing to plant red seaweed, which the department asserts could promise a much bigger crop and which is supposedly rather more resistant to climate cycles (and possibly jet-skis, though Dr Spin didn’t say this).

It would be interesting to read the findings of the EIS on introducing red seaweed into the environment apparently vacated by the green variety and its harvesters. Did we just hear a hollow laugh?

Her Kitchen Rules

Janet DeNeefe of Fragrant Rice fame has added a food festival to her list of Ubud-centred Bali things. She says the idea flowed from feedback from patrons of the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival that suggested they’d enjoy the added benefit of exploration in the diverse culinary landscapes of Indonesia. Last year’s UWRF in Bali’s self-styled culinary and cultural capital included a Kitchen Program.

The first Ubud Food Festival is the result. From June 5-7 DeNeefe and others will run a three-day culinary extravaganza. She promises a festival that will bring together Indonesia’s and Southeast Asia’s most celebrated chefs, restaurateurs, producers and food professionals to serve up a program rich in food mythology, authenticity and taste.

Its tastes and sensations will be eclectic, ranging (in her words) from coffee to chocolate and tempe to turmeric. The UFF will include a range of free and ticketed events spanning cooking demonstrations, master-classes, panel discussions, night markets, farmers’ markets, food tours, wine tastings and film screenings.

We must get along to it.

Lost in the Myth

It’s something of a comfort to learn that the trade minister in the new Jokowi Cabinet, Rahmat Gobel, decided to ban the import of used clothes because they could spread HIV. Most of President Widodo’s ministers had seemed, up to that point, to be a serious-minded bunch, even if some of them were there for political rather than qualified reasons. The mirth was missing.

Pak Rahmat has bravely returned us to the comedy routine. There’s nothing quite like a torrent of tosh to get the belly-laughs going. So we all owe him a favour for lighting up our day. Far be it from us to suggest that his feeling for farce is in fact connected with appalling ignorance and morbid misconception.

We can safely leave that to Ayu Octariani of the Indonesia AIDS Coalition (IAC). She put the situation into its correct perspective. She said the minister’s statement was regrettable and reflected a lack of awareness in Indonesia regarding HIV and what it can lead to (AIDS) if not treated with appropriate drugs and qualified medical care.

She also said this: “Let’s not talk about educating the public just yet. Even in the cabinet, which consists of educated people, there’s still a misconception about HIV/AIDS.”

Indeed there is.

Phew – Made It!

When we sent this diary column in on deadline, we were in Brisbane, in the Australian state of Queensland, a place that is remarkable for many things, including having been abandoned yet again by serial schedule-changer Five Star Garuda.

In Queensland, as some may know, they’ve just had another of those “the voters have spoken – the bastards” elections. Attending scenes of chaos, political or otherwise, has been our lifelong work and it was amusing to be back in the thick of it, briefly. We were due to have a chat with the Diary’s international cultural attaché, Philly Frisson, on these and other matters, but other matters intervened. We’ll catch up later with the dear girl.

Being allowed into Queensland, though, was a damn close run thing, because the government just given its marching orders (despite winning the popular vote by a margin of nearly four percent) had enacted astonishingly anti-democratic bikie laws during its first (and as it turned out, only) term. Among the rules imposed by this inventive legislation, as noted in the Diary of Feb. 4, was a provision that any gathering is illegal if two or more members of bikie gangs are present.

We were carrying two lovely Bali “German-style” bike helmets for a friend who collects such cultural items to decorate his bar. Fortunately, though we of course declared the presence of more than one possibly bikie helmet to the seriously-minded lads and lassies of Customs and Border Protection at Brisbane Airport, we were told that whatever Queensland laws might suggest, they were not regarded under federal law as evidence of criminal intent.

Celebrity Support

Paris Hilton, whose favourite colour is pink and who recently holidayed in Bali yet again, is a fan of the efforts the Bali Animal Welfare Association makes on behalf of the island’s disadvantaged dogs and other animals.

She told her global fan club this in words and pictures on her Facebook page, which is essential reading for diarists who like to keep abreast of what the international glitterati does between breakfast and dinner. (What it does between dinner and breakfast is its own affair.)

On her latest Bali break, Hilton also found time to chat with the glitter-obsessed macaques of Ubud’s Monkey Forest. Good on her!

Evil Weed

It was very nice of Kerry Ball to invite us along to the Alan Bates Stop Smoking seminar held at Petitenget Restaurant & Bar on Feb. 7. We couldn’t attend since we had just the day before taken our personal pollution program off the island temporarily. But we do agree that people should be encouraged to stop smoking, if they are smokers who wish to stop doing so.

Bates claims to have helped thousands of people around the world give up the pernicious weed first identified as such by King James VI of Scotland – he was also King James I of England, something the untutored crowd south of that particular border are apt to forget – not long after Sir Walter Raleigh returned from the Americas with his first packet of Indian Rough. He wrote a famous treatise about it, in 1604, entitled A Counterblaste to Tobacco.

As Bates notes and as experience suggests, nicotine addiction is both a physical and a behavioural thing. Willpower can do the job if you really want to stop. But you have to really want to stop.

Being told you’re a social excrescence and a rude person of immense stupidity, constantly, is not as much of an inducement to cease smoking as some of the anti lobby apparently would like to believe. But smoking rates are falling sharply in many parts of the world. In Australia, where the Diary is temporarily hiding away behind bushes or toilet blocks to snatch a quick draught, only 13 per cent of people now smoke.

It’s a dying habit, as they say.

Four Play is Such Fun

Putri Wedasari, who used to make noise as an account executive for OZ Radio 101.2 Bali, has changed her style. She now heads Four Play Communication, an agency that operates within her skill sets of marketing and strategic communications, the latter being the field in which she obtained her master’s degree last year.

She lists Zumba dance among her recreational interests. That sounds like just the thing for a young lady on the move.

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

Categories
Australia Bali Indonesia Politics

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

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

 

Let’s Hear More from Her

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Apologies

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

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

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

We’ve been up and down this highway; 

haven’t seen a goddam thing.”

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

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

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

 

Jazz and All That

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

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

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

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

 

So Long

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter