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The Doolally Squad

HECTOR’S DIARY

Titbits from his regular diet of worms

 

The Cage, Bali

Sunday, May 20, 2018

 

 

IT’S hard to know what to write about the Surabaya bombings. Doubtless there are those who would advise against writing anything about them. But that won’t do. Perhaps we could start by saying that at least the suicide bombers did everyone a favour by exiting the gene pool. It’s a shame hell doesn’t exist except as a human notion. They’d look good rotting there forever.

There are, however, some practical things worth noting about the events of the past week in East Java and elsewhere. First, let’s consider this: it is all but impossible to live a secluded, unnoticed life in Indonesia, the more so within the majority Muslim community, where the mosque is not only the prayer room but also the community centre and the focal point of guidance. The archipelago is in any case communal by cultural history, social preference and force of habit. In Surabaya, someone must have worked out that the mad father and mother of the sacrificial children seemed a bit bent, if not actually murderously doolally. Perhaps they decided it would be better, or safer, not to have worked that out, and that if the local prayer leader wanted to do so, he would; there’s a sort of communal blindness too. The substantial cache of pipe bombs found after the church attacks would have been difficult to pass off as spare motorbike mufflers, even to the thickest of casual observers. Did anyone say anything, to anyone? If they did, to whom was it said?

The second thing to be said is that the police did a good job after the events, both in Surabaya and in Pekenbaru, though clearly more needs to be done in the intelligence gathering area by both the police and the national intelligence body. A good rule of engagement for any police is one that states that if you see a terrorist, shoot him dead instantly, or her, since it seems women are taking up the profession of mass murder. Going some way back to Densus 88’s previous tactics, as has now been authorised, is also a sensible protective measure. There’s an argument too for reviving the military’s tri-service special forces, also now under way, though they should stay out of it unless the situation is truly dire. Densus 88 is the best policing anti-terrorist tool in the kit.

The third, and most important, thing to say is that Indonesia should not allow itself to be spooked by terrorism into retreating from the democratic norms that it has courageously and progressively put in place since the Suharto era. It shouldn’t worry, either, about the longer-term effects on tourism of an uptick in terrorist activity ahead of next year’s presidential election. There may be short-term dip, primarily in western source markets. Leaders, especially in Bali, need to develop a responsive and responsible narrative on that front.

Taking Fire

AN old friend, Ross Eastgate, a former Australian army officer who now writes (in Australia) on military issues, got into trouble for a column he wrote after the Israeli army employed snipers to pick off selected targets on the “front line” between Israel and Gaza. As he noted, snipers are legitimate military assets when they are used to target enemy military personnel (or important insurrectionists or terrorists). Using them against a crowd of protesters chiefly armed with slingshots, whether or not they have been organised by Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist outfit, is not. It’s a war crime, plain and simple.

Hamas in Gaza took advantage of the Trump decision to shift the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, to drum up more anti-Israeli action. Given the conditions that exist in Gaza under Hamas’s control, we can safely assume that the interests of the common people there are not its primary concern. But the modern State of Israel, originally the product of a European Jewish plantation in the Levant two millennia after the Romans threw them out, has a duty to abide by international law. It’s a legal state and it must behave lawfully, particularly if it proclaims its democratic credentials.

The trouble is, the global Israel lobby has turned into an art form the idea that anti-Zionism is the same as anti-Semitism. It isn’t.

A Lovely Man

WE left Queensland 13 years ago and headed to the west coast. Not in the Billy Joel sense. We’re not doing a stand-up routine in LA. Who’d bother in Perth anyway? And we retain east coast connections and lots of old friends, some of whom come to see us from time to time, though that’s in Bali, our Fat Controller-proof bolthole.

Sadly, we lost another of our old friends recently, former Queensland treasurer and Labor Party strongman Terry Mackenroth. He died, far too early, and unexpectedly, soon after the lung cancer that he’d beaten 20 years ago had been diagnosed again. They gave him a state funeral (in non-Toff Australia that’s without the trinkets and baubles). It would have been good to be there (it was in Brisbane on May 8) but like so many things these days that was not to be.

Mackenroth was a hard-fighting politician but straight as a die. If he said he’d do something, you knew he’d do it. If he said he wouldn’t, all you could do was shut your briefcase and go away. He was also a very lovely man.

When people leave us, we pause for thought. There are always anecdotes that spring to mind. They can be a comfort. After he saw off his first bout of the Big C two decades ago he got into the annual shave heads for cancer fundraising effort. At that time, for his sins, Hector’s amanuensis was working in politics, having given up on Rupert Murdoch. It was the opposite side of politics from Mackenroth’s.

The annual tribute visit to the minister’s parliamentary office, to deposit that year’s personal contribution to the razor gang, was always a treat. We’d stay for a brief chat and then return to our own quarters. The funny looks and pursed lips of our own little troupe of flacks when we got back from enemy territory were fun to observe.

Name Games

THERE’S another of those curious Facebook-focused phishing exercises going around at the moment. It purports to list the 20 people most important to you. That’s on Facebook, of course, which isn’t real life at all and your best friends (who are also your worst enemies) are actually those two chaps called Cursor and Autocorrect.

We’re very happy that we haven’t appeared on anyone’s virtual nearest and dearest list. At least, we hadn’t when we last checked. To appear on one would bring to mind Groucho Marx’s sensible injunction against joining any club that would see fit to invite him.

Big Wedding

SINCE we were in Bali, where big weddings are all the go, we felt no pain in missing out on that other sizeable celebration in Windsor, U.K. Well, we wouldn’t have anyway, but let’s not spoil a good story.

On Friday evening we were at the Nusa Dua nuptials of a couple whose connections, from our perspective, are some lovely friends we’ve known for years. Nyoman Sueta is a community leader in Nusa Dua and his wife Made Siri is too. She also makes fabulous pancakes.

We ran into other old friends there, Made Winarsa – who is now sommelier at the St Regis Bali – and his wife Ayu Trisna, whose hospitality records run right back to the Conrad Bali years ago and both of whom we’ve known since they were students. There were lots of speeches – it helped that they were all in Balinese and Indonesian of course – and between times, opportunities to chat.

The setting was Peninsula Island, which will be familiar to many Australian and other visitors. It didn’t rain (it’s the dry season now) and the south-easterly breeze from the ocean was pleasantly cool.

It was a great night all round, and it was an honour to be present. We had our photo taken with the bride and groom, an obligatory thing. Possibly we jumped the queue for that. But nobody seemed to mind.

MEOWvellous

IT’S without question the purrfect way to spend a Saturday evening in Ubud. There will be no yoga, for one thing. The occasion is the inaugural Villa Kitty ACATemy Awards, an invitation only soiree at Indus Restaurant. It’s on May 26.

Elizabeth Henzell, hostess with the mostest on the night and the inspiration for Villa Kitty, tells us we should be dressed up as much as we like and be prepared to dance the night away. Yes, um. Good. Make mine tonic water with ice so it looks like a G&T (an old trick from our flack days).

Villa Kitty does marvellous work for Bali’s feline community and is worth support every time. Its sponsors are great people.

Elizabeth recently lost Maya, the light of her life. She arrived six years ago as a hairless waif and became a silken black tortoiseshell with the love and proper food and care she found with Elizabeth, along with the 10 other cats who shared her domain. She had a good life and was loved. There’s nothing to beat that.

Chin-chin!

Something’s Missing

HECTOR’S DIARY

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

HectorR

Bali, Aug. 3, 2016

Young Australians and alcohol have a habit of not mixing very well. It’s a part of the national kaleidoscope that fractures the preferred public image of the land down under and reveals the reality of Australia today. It’s not only the blokes, though it seems to be mostly them, perhaps a tedious product of the testosterone to brain imbalance that marks certain kinds of young men everywhere. Young women on a blinder are an ugly sight as well.

It’s not just an Australian problem, though that’s the bit of it that’s most visible in Bali. It is a Western or Western-influenced phenomenon, fuelled by relative wealth – relatively, that is, against global means – and these societies’ inability or unwillingness to insist on individual common sense, or to instil a sense that obligation is the necessary obverse of entitlement. You don’t have to be a reactionary neo-con to press that point. Karl Marx puts it nicely.

Hedonism as such is valuable, since it reflects the fact that all life is not necessarily solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short in the Hobbesian sense. There’s nothing wrong with having fun. But you do need a functioning conscience and a degree of social awareness to enjoy yourself sensibly; and as we too frequently see, these attributes are often missing in those infantile idiots who come to notice.

We are all apt to be foolish at times, particularly when not fully formed. There’s a week in London in 1965, for example, that your diarist simply has never been able to remember, though it certainly didn’t involve brawling on a plane. But even unremembered, it is a continuing once-only lesson. It’s better not to be a bloody idiot.

There was an altercation on a Jetstar flight from Australia to Phuket in Thailand recently. It was one of such blind stupidity that the aircraft captain felt compelled to divert his flight to Bali, where the miscreants were offloaded and handed over to the authorities.

One of this dopey collective later told his friends on Facebook of the events, in a way that clearly showed he hadn’t learned a thing from the booze-fuelled affray, which even if not a participant he had failed to stop. He possibly doesn’t know what contrition is and probably couldn’t spell the word anyway. It was a lol, he said, that they’d been taken off the plane at Ngurah Rai at gunpoint. Yair, mate, lots of laughs! Did your conscience prick you over the expense and inconvenience you caused? Nah; didn’t think so.

Come back and see Bali properly when you and your friends have grown up. That’s if you ever do.

Meowvellous

Villa Kitty at Lodtundah near Ubud is Rp35 million better off – essential funds needed to refurbish the premises – after a very successful benefit night on Jul. 21. That’s good news. Elizabeth Henzell at VK does a great job in a much-needed area of animal welfare. Villa Kitty is now just Rp10 million short of the total it needs to complete its refurbishment.

By all accounts it was a great night at Indus, the Janet DeNeefe eatery with the great view of the green spaces around Ubud. The night was marked by the first appearance in Ubud of chief VK benefactor Robert Elliot, who has been funding the NGO from Queensland’s Sunshine Coast since 2009. He got a loud collective purr for his presence.

Villa Kitty’s Facebook page has the full honours list from the night, but we’d like to especially mention Marta Valbuena, who not only donates a percentage of sales of her designer clothes – the girls say they’re fabulous – to Villa Kitty but is also frequently seen around Ubud on her motorbike on street feeding missions for needy dogs and cats. These days she rescues kittens as well as puppies.

Henzell has had extra volunteer support recently, which also bears mention as an example of people’s kindness. She tells us a young woman named Nancy appeared out of the blue one day and asked if she could help. She then spent three days doing just that. Henzell notes: “It was so much fun to have someone to chat to in my ‘office’.”

Regular VK supporter Lyn Dargan has made a new range of Villa Kitty T-shirts, by the way. They’re available at Villa Kitty.

SMILES

Above: One of the images in Michael Johnsey’s photographic exhibition at Odd, Canggu

Time Traveller

It used to be said that photographs never lie. This was never the case, of course; it was merely another example of the multitude of ways humans can find to fool themselves or others. The point at the time was that while words may be crafted to obscure truth, and frequently are, a photograph is as close to the actuality of something as it is possible to get.

Then along came Photoshop and other means of altering digital data. Two digits instantly went up to veracity. Don’t believe everything you read (or by extension see) on the Internet, as several funny memes claim Abraham Lincoln once advised. From this we must presume he did so only some time after his fatal meeting with the actor John Wilkes Booth at the Ford Theater in Washington on the night of Apr. 15, 1865. We must assume further, one supposes, that there is an afterlife in which the dearly departed actually bother about us at all. That is something that requires additional suspension of belief. But no matter: all that’s for many more millennia of debate; or, perhaps, the return of the prodigal souls.

On a more immediate and essentially temporal level, it is said that Bali is a place of vastly different parallel realities. This is certainly true. There is the “real Bali”, which tourists and enthusiasts are invited to explore among the peasants of the rice fields and woodlands. If in the party crowd in another “real Bali” – the party Bali – there are individuals who care, the ancient rites of Balinese Hinduism can still be experienced in the traditional villages and banjars of the overrun south.

There’s a third “real Bali”. That’s the real Bali of developers and their publicly employed facilitators, that acquisitive cabal whose privileged and protected members will bend any rule they can’t just ignore so that like Ozymandias they can put up things that the elements and deficient engineering will then destroy. Though in Bali this tends to take rather less time than monumental self-statuary in the Egyptian desert would consider anywhere near acceptable.

Happily, there are opportunities to escape from immediate reality, even if only temporarily, and to immerse oneself in the art and skill of photographers whose craft permits them to magically capture moments in time. There are many such moments in Bali and some of these have been depicted in the work of Bali-based British photographer Michael Johnsey.

He has an exhibition at Odd, a gallery in Canggu. It’s titled Moments, opened on Jul. 29, and runs through to Aug. 11. Johnsey says that photographs are not only images but also soulful. They capture the moment and invite reflection on all manner of things. The works are stunning. Do get along to the show if you can.

Best Practice

BIMC Hospital Nusa Dua, which in October 2014 won international accreditation from the Australian Council on Healthcare Standards International, has just passed (with flying colours) its mandatory periodic review by the ACHSI. When it won initial endorsement two years ago it was one of only two hospitals in Southeast Asia to hold that status, and the only one in Indonesia.

In the latest review, done by the ACHS’s assessors, Dr Maria Strickland and Professor Marc Tennant, the hospital achieved “mastery” level from the initial survey. The review is an on-site analysis and survey aimed at maintaining the accreditation standards for continuous improvement in quality, safety and service. The ACHSI provides a range of accreditation services applying to the specific needs of each organization, using internationally recognized standards that are focused on key health care attributes.

The Australian Council on Healthcare Standards is recognized as the leading health care accreditation body in Australia and now provides an overseas quality healthcare accreditation program through ACHSI, which was established in 2005.

We Break a Rule

Back in the old, dim, distant days, when self-promotion was viewed as vulgar, journalists wrote about the news rather than insisting on being part of it, and editors’ names were hardly never known and, if they were, were almost never mentioned, an event such as this might never have occurred.

We make an additional appearance in the Aug. 3 edition of the Bali Advertiser, in the excellent Siapa column, where locally based persons judged to be of interest appear and answer questions about their life and times. It is Hector’s first such outing in half a century of scribbling. He generally prefers the quiet calm of The Cage and almost always insists on someone placing his nighty-night cloth over it when anything resembling limelight is judged an imminent risk.

HectorR Hector’s Diary appears in the fortnightly newspaper the Bali Advertiser