Hard Times

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

His regular diet of worms and other non-religious fare

The Cage, Bali, May. 6, 2017

 

IT’S Sigmund Freud’s birthday today. The thought occurred, just at random, that it would be fun to get his, and Zeno the Stoic’s, views on our own times. Unfortunately these proved to be chiefly unprintable. Their shared view, adduced through the ether of time, seems to be that we’ve all gone mad. Freud was more pleased than Zeno about this. There’s more business for psychiatrists these days; Zeno was stoic about most matters.

Of course, it is true that the political class anywhere is not in the least interested in learning any lessons from the past, or in broadening its collective grasp of the fact that there’s rather more to life than place and (in some instances, in the imperfect democracies) re-election. It was also the anniversary of Karl Marx’s birth this week. He was a theorist who, like so many, found that robber barons in disguise suborned his ideas and swiftly turned them to their own murderous advantage. There has never been a Marxist state. There have been plenty which styled themselves communist and weren’t.

A quotation from Das Kapital comes to mind. It’s one of my favourites and it is apposite for the times whichever side of the faux political divide it is that you sit on: “Capital is reckless of the health or length of life of the labourer, unless under compulsion from society.”

This weekend, the French will choose a new president, from a final field of two, one of whom is a banker-bureaucrat and self-assessed socialist and the other a rabid right-wing nationalist. Next month there’s an election in Britain in which the government that was formerly pro-EU but after the narrow (chiefly English) Brexit putsch in last year’s referendum now wants to give it the proper finger (and bugger vision and any chance of European leadership).

In America, the Trump regime, while continuing to claim leadership of the free world (whatever that is) carries on with its preferred business of the day: to destroy the country’s social infrastructure, to pick needless arguments with filthy foreigners, and to deflect reasonable questions about how it actually got into office. There’s more, in other places, of course, but we shouldn’t go on. It’s too tedious.

It’s as well not to ask life if it could get any worse. Tempting fate is a bad idea. And it seems pointless complaining after you’ve put the question that it was rhetorical and not a request.

Have a lovely weekend.

Wine for Two

FROM time to time we get along to the Friday afternoon party that the Legian Beach Hotel puts on for returning guests. It’s not that we are in that class of patron; it’s that general manager Arief Billah and his fine hotel are supporters of the Bali Animal Welfare Association, the leading non-profit charity here that fosters the interests of the island’s deprived dogs. It’s a cause that we wholeheartedly support.

The event yesterday was fun, as they always are, and one day The Diary will manage to pick up the steps required to perform the poco poco, an Indonesian dance that you could easily be excused for thinking was Portuguese. Think line dancing without the cowboy hats and the yee-hahs.

It was wine for two in our case yesterday because some special friends from the Netherlands, who come here every year and do things to benefit the doggies, have returned home after their holiday. We thought we should go along and drink their wine for them.

They were home in time for the Netherlands’ 1945 liberation day anniversary on May 5.

Not Helpful

WE are cleaning house ourselves, possibly temporarily, though that is moot. The Cage is not a palace, far from it in fact, for reasons both of penury and politics. Gross excess is not our bag. But we’ve lost our pembantu (house cleaner) which, if this were the first such instance might be defined as merely unfortunate. Sadly it is not the first, so as Oscar Wilde might observe, it begins to look rather more like a habit.

The problem is one that is often mumbled about here. Home help is at the lower end of the employment scale, naturally, and we recognise this and do not make demands on staff – such as others we know do – that would sit uneasily on our collective conscience.

The rule here is minimum effort. Your cleaner, without constant attention, will flick at the dust with a little feather-duster and move it around, preferably into darker corners where, apparently, employers are not supposed to look. She comes late and, unless apprehended, leaves early. Reasons not to be at work tomorrow are advised at the last moment. Most of these reasons appear on the Balinese calendar of feast days and, with a little forethought, might well be mentioned earlier. We understand that things are done differently here. We’re happy with that, for many reasons. Among them are the very reasons we choose to live here most of the time instead of in Australia, where the authorities insist that you comply with their ridiculous regulations.

But in the employment area, the principle of mutuality seems to be missing. We are apparently privileged to be in a position where we give our cleaner money and she skives off, and then gets antsy when this demerit is mentioned. And eventually buggers off, three days before pay day, with no notice, and the house keys dropped on the coffee table as you are quietly contemplating the wonders of the universe. The concept of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face is widely held, here, to be just the thing.

HectorR

Hector writes a monthly diary in the Bali Advertiser. The latest appears in the current edition (Apr. 26). The next will appear on May 24.

 

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Jan. 7, 2015

 

 

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

BAWA with a Bang

BAWA, the pre-eminent animal welfare organization on the island because of focused effort and the seminal role played by founder Janice Girardi in dealing with rabies when it broke out in Bali in 2008 – the disease is now endemic, but that’s Indonesian bureaucracy for you – ended 2014 with a bang, though not one that would frighten the doggies.

It held a Bridge to New Year fundraising dinner on Dec. 29 at Ubud’s Taksu Restaurant, an event at which the organization was able to brief guests on its plans for 2015 and beyond. It came complete with musical entertainment provided by BAWA staff members who, when they’re not doing their day jobs, sing and strum a guitar with enthusiastic aplomb.

Earlier in December BAWA announced a real coup. Ubud prince Cok De Piko (Tjokorda Gde Dharma Putra Sukawati) has become a BAWA ambassador and, because of his enduring love for dogs and particularly the very special Bali Dog, will be seen out and about with BAWA teams as they perform their daily work.

His favourite quote is from Mark Twain: “If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.” Cok De studied in Australia, where he did not adopt a dog because he wouldn’t have been able to leave it behind when he returned to Bali. That’s the sort of thinking casual pet owners the world over should get their heads around.

Ubud’s traditional royalty remains very influential in the local community and is extremely well connected where it matters.

On Jan. 3, BAWA hosted the third of its series of events at Kuta Beachwalk, themed around its Adopt-Learn-Chat with a Vet program. That came along with really good music that ran late into the evening; a selection of beautiful puppies; ready-to-chat veterinarians; and some lovely art from Urban Sketchers. The event was sponsored by Beachwalk, Legian Beach Hotel, and others including Scooby-Doo, the dog food-delivery people.

BAWA’s Christmas card was interesting, by the way. You might say it was highly traditional. There was snow everywhere. This did not bring to mind Snowing in Bali, Kathryn Bonella’s book about the drug scene. Instead, it reminded us that snow looks great on Christmas cards and is murder anywhere else. We did wonder what the lovely Bali dogs and the little monkey on the BAWA card were thinking.

Please, Do Amuse

Jade Richardson, the peripatetic scribbler, recommenced her writers’ workshops in Ubud this month. This is good to see. Her approach to the written word is unique and she has a mind that is fun to engage. It’s no surprise that in Bali, where Ozymandias still lives in self-nominated splendour and where so many have built glittering local reputations upon the geographically distant rubble of pasts imperfect, she’s not on everyone’s most-favoured list.

Her mission with The Write Path is to get intending authors of books, biographies, short stories, poetry and those with ideas for articles or scripts fictional or factual, to take that first bold step and release their inner muse. Richardson, who is not one with whom to trifle, says that her process with writers “releases a genie from the bottle – meaning that I can assist those who have the call to write to discover a genius for storytelling that they never knew they had.”

She started her workshops in Bali and they’ve since been to Ecuador, the Galapagos and Thailand and online. It’s good to see her home again. It’s worth looking at www.heartbookwriting.com too.

Play-tonic

Plato always gets a good rap at The Cage. He’s well up Hector’s Top Ten Thinkers list. So it’s a bit sad, as he is so anciently a posthumous source, that his engaging aphorisms, real or otherwise, get co-opted by the ignorant for all sorts of nefarious purposes.

A case in point: On Dec. 28 there was an event at Dragonfly Village in Denpasar billed as Sensual/Sexual PlayDay – Conscious pleasure with consent, organized by someone called Matthias Schwenteck. This gentleman purloined for his own purposes the Platonic observation (one of the many Plato didn’t actually utter) that “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation”.

The event seemed more suited to Ubud, where lots of people like to spend their time examining their navels while harbouring the intent to get a close-up glimpse of someone else’s.

Perhaps the fixation with things better organized privately, or which are undertaken singularly in darkened rooms with the doors locked, really is spreading beyond the confines of Loopville.

Alpha Mail

An item a fortnight ago noted that the new British envoy to Indonesia, Moazzam Malik, was still ambassador-designate because he had not yet presented his letters of credence to President Joko Widodo.

Well, he hadn’t engaged in this ancient formality when we sent the previous diary in by its deadline. He did shortly thereafter, it seems, though this was not without a little last-minute hitch. He tweeted on Dec. 18, the big day: “Almost forgot my letter from the Queen – had to run back to get it.”

Banzai!

We had a pleasant drive (we jest) one Saturday evening recently when the Distaff decided she’d like sukiyaki for dinner and suggested we journey to Seminyak to enjoy the table-top cooking at Kaizan. We hadn’t been there for a while, so a plausible excuse to avoid the trip did not spring to mind.

But Kaizan wasn’t there – perhaps the extortionate rents now demanded in the area had driven it away – so we dined instead at another favourite nearby, Kuni’s, on seaweed salad, Gyu asupara maki, Gohan, Sukiyaki Nabe, and a delightful green tea mousse. This was accompanied in order by “one large Bintang two glass”, some rather pleasant sake and a nice plum wine.

The Distaff has a thing for Japan. This dates from many years ago. And for sukiyaki, ditto, though it is more a home-cooking dish than a fine-dining experience. Her view on sukiyaki, as on many things, is “Doko ga warui no desuka?” It’s a colloquial Japanese transliteration of an interrogative “What’s wrong with that?” And we agree.

The drive from Ungasan was another matter. Large numbers of idiots were dangerously riding their motorbikes and the drivers of all the tourist buses were clearly on speed. Half the street lights were out on the by-pass. There were Hindu ceremonies everywhere that required fierce-looking village guards armed with Star Wars-style magic wands to stop the traffic so that scattered little groups of celebrants could wander at will across the thoroughfare.

The airport traffic circle was mayhem as a result. Northbound traffic had formed eight (we counted) “lanes” to force a way into the circus. The Distaff closed her eyes and thought of sukiyaki while her driver, whom we know as Perpendicular Pronoun, edged and all but nudged his way through. It helps, we think, to have been a lemming in a former life.

He’s Cooking

Vyt Karazija, the inveterate blogger, was thinking virtually out loud on Facebook on Boxing Day evening as to whether he should go out to eat or stay home and cook. Neither prospect amused him. We (and others) tendered advice. Ours was simple and direct: “Easy. Starve.” In the end he decided to cook and explained why:

“The prospect was get dressed, release security cobras, then quickly lock up premises, don wet weather gear, get bike outside, lock gates, ride to restaurant while trying not to skid, fall off, get hit by some moron, park bike somewhere where it won’t fall over/get stolen/get flattened by some blind idiot with a Hummer, order food, get accosted by friendly drunk, argue about the ++ charges on the bill and then do everything in reverse just to get home.

“Then having to round up the security cobras and put them back in their boxes and pacify them because I forgot to pick up their mice for dinner.

“Or alternatively, cook dinner and eat it.”

It’s a piece of cake, really.

Dance Class

A chance remark the other day, offered by an acquaintance who may have been concerned that some might have missed the module on delicious irony when they were majoring in epithet, prompts us to say that we know the iconic Bali dance that tourists have been going ga-ga about since it was invented in the antiquity of the 1930s is called Kecak.

Readers may have noticed a reference or two to Kecap dances in the diary in recent times.

It is often called Kecap by tourists and in many less than scholarly references on that global kindergarten primer, the world-wide web. Kecap is sauce. Though it must not be confused with ketchup, which is to piquant what semolina is to Bubur Injin.

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

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, May 14, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Intriguing Art

One measure of a country’s social maturity is how it responds to and interacts with those within its society whose culture is a minority expression. Most countries have minority populations. Mostly, let it be said, they do not demonstrate cultural maturity in their dealings with them.

Australia is by any measure an ethnically diverse nation. Even before the great post-World War II migration boom, its settler community included people of many different origins. Among these were large numbers of Chinese. But as with other settler societies within the Anglosphere – the United States, Canada and New Zealand – it is the descendants of the dispossessed aboriginal inhabitants who are most deserving of goodwill and a substantial helping hand.

Without canvassing colonial policy towards Australia’s Aborigines – about which the historical literature is excoriating – it is pleasing to note that today’s policies seek (though imperfectly) to return to Aborigines the self empowerment they lost when British settlers arrived two centuries ago.

Part of the problem is that much of today’s Aboriginal population is not in the same pre-bucolic hunter-gatherer circumstances as Bennelong, who is remembered in the name of a federal electorate in Sydney and whose place in history (as First Dupe, one might say) is assured.

Australia has long passed the point where it would Anglicize the name of its national animal symbol as “kangaroo”. Some sources assert that this means “I don’t know”, an early whitefella having asked a passing local what they called that strange animal. It has passed, too, the point where a future township (in Queensland) would be called Cunnamulla, which means midden.

It’s rather nice to think that while they were being harried out of their ancestral territories by a pack of uncouth and frequently murderous Brits, the Eighteenth and Nineteenth century Aborigines still found time to have a joke at the expense of those who were doing the harrying.

In the two centuries since British settlement and the beginnings of a distinct Australian culture and indeed ethnicity, the Aboriginal source of some of this identity has generally been left out of the narrative. That is a tragedy.

Complete redress remains a distant goal. But the Australians are actually trying rather hard across many areas of human endeavour. One such effort is the world-touring Message Stick exhibition. It portrays indigenous identity in urban Australia.

The art in the exhibition is challenging, in some instances because it itself perpetuates emergent myths about the principles and purposes of earlier policy towards Aborigines. Some is very striking, especially Christian Thompson’s three 2007 Hunting Ground works.

The exhibitions in Indonesia are the show’s last stop before it repatriates itself to the former Terra Australis Incognita. It was at the eclectic Maha Art Gallery in Renon, Denpasar, from May 4-14. New Consul-General Majell Hind did the honours at the opening assisted by Vicky Miller, First Secretary (Cultural) at Australia’s embassy in Jakarta.

 

Write On

Before we leave the Antipodes for other matters, one other thing deserves a mention. It is the Australia-Indonesia Emerging Writers Exchange organized through the Australian Embassy’s arts and cultural program.

Australia’s Luke Ryan took part in the Bali Emerging Writers Festival over the weekend of May 3-4 (it’s a useful spin-off from the annual Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, this year from Oct 1-5). He and his Indonesian counterpart, Ni Ketut Sudiani of Bali, will be at the Emerging Writers’ Festival in Melbourne (May 27-Jun 6) and the National Writers’ Conference (May 31 and Jun 1) where they will discuss the exchange and potential for Australia-Indonesia collaboration.

Ms Sudiani notes that being in Melbourne will provide a completely different experience from her home in Bali. True. For one thing, the city’s climate is apt to give you all four temperate zone seasons in one day.

But it’s a fabulous place. A representative taste of the city’s contribution to Australian culture should include seeing an AFL game at the MCG, a visit to the National Gallery of Victoria, a peek at St Kilda beach (or Brighton for a different ambience) and plenty of coffee and culinary treats in Lygon Street.

Enjoy, Sudiani.

 

ART-ful Plan

Delphine Robbe, the motivating force behind environmental efforts on land and under water in Lombok’s northern Gili islands, is promoting a new project to grow a coral reef off Senggigi on Lombok’s west coast.

There’s novelty in the project, which is similar in concept to the successful Biorock coral regeneration in the Gilis. It is using metal works of Teguh Ostenrik, one of only a few Indonesian artists in that genre who exhibit widely in galleries. He is the founder of the project.

Among the novelties is the name – ART-ificial Reef Park Lombok. Look it up on Facebook and if you’ve a mind to, join its growing list of fans.

 

Pink’s the Go

Anti-breast cancer campaigners Bali Pink Ribbon organized a breast screening road show this month, in which free screening is offered to Balinese women at various locations around Bali. This is essential preventive health work and a very valuable effort.

Bali Pink Ribbon founder Gaye Warren tells us Bali Pink Ribbon is working with volunteer doctors and nurses from FeM Surgery Singapore and led by Dr Felicia Tan. Two mobile ultrasound units were sent to Bali for the road show, on loan from Philips Singapore.

BPR volunteer doctors and nurses led by Dr Dian Ekawati from Prima Medika Hospital in Denpasar also took part. Prof. Tjakra Manuaba, head of oncology at Prima Medika and medical adviser to Bali Pink Ribbon, led a seminar at the Badung breast screening road show.

The annual Bali Pink Ribbon Walk is on Oct. 25 and will be held as usual in the Nusa Dua tourism precinct. It’s always fun and the money raised is essential to help keep breast cancer education programs and screening going.

Free screening will be available at the Oct. 25 walk and a three-day screening road show will follow.

On Oct. 17 BPR has an “In the Pink” lunch and fashion show planned. It’s in our diary, as is the walk. Advance purchase walk tickets are available from Pink Ribbon House, Bali Pink Ribbon Breast Cancer Support Centre, Jl. Dewi Sri IV/ No.1, Kuta. It’s off Sunset Road. Or check their website: balipinkribbon.com

 

Late Notice

There’s no stopping Nigel Mason, viewed by many as the undisputed king of adventure tourism in Bali. He celebrated turning 70 last month in spectacular style with a dazzling party at his Bali Adventure Tours Company’s headquarters at Ubud on Apr. 13.

According to Diana Shearin, of the aptly named DISH public relations outfit and who helped with the fiddly bits, Mason pulled out all stops with an evening of non-stop entertainment, decadent cocktails and an enormous buffet for 400-plus guests.

Mason’s Balinese wife of 31 years, Yanie, and their two sons Jian and Shan were present, as was Mason’s daughter Katia, who lives in Australia.

The proceedings were helped along by Australian comedian Kevin Bloody Wilson and a troupe of lissom young ladies who had delightfully forgotten (as so many do these days) that you’re supposed to wear something over your scanties. Still, this isn’t Aceh.

Shame we missed it. It’s also a shame that an accident in cyberspace prevented the appearance of our original brilliant report on the affray in last edition’s diary. The Great Cursor sent it to a galaxy far, far away. Or we hit the wrong button or something.

 

Won’t Work

Blogger Vyt Karazija posted a great little video on Facebook recently, relating to education about not dumping trash in waterways. He suggested – entirely reasonably – that it should be screened frequently on Bali television channels.

He’d found it while trawling Facebook, which despite its many demerits is a very useful social medium. The clip features a red truck dumping trash into a river near a sign that proclaims “No Dumping”.

So of course we had to rain on Vyt’s parade. We pointed out that while it was indeed a good idea, it just wouldn’t work. Most red truck drivers would simply assume the rule couldn’t possibly apply to them. And drivers of all the other trucks, the green, yellow and blue ones, could say without fear of contradiction that they don’t dump anything from red ones, so what’s the problem?

 

Swell Party

We dropped into the Legian Beach Hotel on Friday, May 9, to help celebrate the opening of the new Ole Beach Bar there. The LBH is a grand local success story. It celebrates its 40th birthday this year and is doing so with the assistance of its significant cadre of return guests, some of whom have been holidaying there for decades.

General Manager Arif Billah, who hails from Lombok, is rightly proud of his staff and the hotel’s place in Bali’s tourism sector.

The drinks at Ole Beach Bar are great too.

 

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter