HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Sep. 2, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Heading for the Hills

Last year an unavoidable detention in Australia – its cause was medical, not custodial, in case any among the Diary’s more liverish readers might snigger and wonder – meant we were not among the 126, 000-plus attendees reported to have crowded Bali’s cultural capital for the eleventh Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. There might have been a bit of creative mathematics in that figure (people attending multiple events and so forth) but never mind. A good number’s a good number. Nothing shall stand in the way of our getting to the twelfth (acts of the deity excepted) to be held from Oct. 28-Nov. 1. The line-up for UWRF 2015 is very fine indeed.

This intelligence reached us in the customary way, in a virtual billet-doux from festival founder and director Janet DeNeefe. There are 160 names, including leading authors from around the world, thinkers, artists, advocates and social commentators from more than 26 countries. All of this makes for a very big word fest. More than 200 separate events are on the schedule.

The headline act is American Michael Chabon, whose book The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay won the Pulitzer Prize; award-winning British foreign correspondent Christina Lamb; Tony and Maureen Wheeler who founded the Lonely Planet series; and Moshin Hamid, the celebrated Pakistani author of How to get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia.

Also in the line-up are Nigerian-born Chigozie Obioma, whose debut novel The Fishermen was recently long-listed for the Man Booker Prize; 2015 Miles Franklin Award winner Sofie Laguna; and Emily Bitto, winner of the 2015 Stella Prize for her debut novel The Strays. Other names worth noting are philanthropist Mpho Tutu, daughter of South African anti-apartheid churchman and activist Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Indonesian campaigner for Papuan social justice Andreas Harsono. Not to forget Australian academic Adrian Vickers, whose masterly contribution to and editing of the recent Lempad of Bali book flowed directly from his longstanding interest and expertise in Indonesian cultural history.

The theme of the festival this year is “17,000 Islands of Imagination”. Full details are on the UWRF website.

Murder Aforethought

One crucial element of Chaos Theory is that if something isn’t going to work, however hard you beat your head against a brick wall and however much advice you reject out of hand, you just keep at it. This murderously farcical nonsense is in full play in Bali over rabies and how (not) to deal with it. The provincial and local governments know best. Just don’t ask how. And if by any chance you hold the view that in fact they are talking out of an aperture remote from and somewhat south of their mouth, they’ll bash your ears forever until you run away to hide from the noise.

Never mind that Jakarta has given up on trying to get them to understand, or that the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization is wringing its hands in despair, or that animal welfare groups – overseas as well as in Bali – are roundly criticised for actually caring. Execution teams are fanning out across the island armed with strychnine darts to bring painful, sometimes cruelly lingering and completely unnecessary deaths to thousands of Bali dogs. Quite where karma fits into this dystopian picture is something for others far more qualified to say than the Diary. We’ve only read the world literature and standard practice on eradicating rabies, after all. It’s not as if we’ve wasted all the money on other things and have convinced ourselves, by applying the vacuous calculus of the Great Panjandrum equation, that up is down, black is white, and that anyway, we’re in charge so everyone else can just shut up.

In the city of Denpasar and in the regencies of Gianyar, Bangli and Tabanan, as well as in other parts of the island, teams from animal husbandry – that’s the outfit that’s supposedly responsible for animal management and welfare – are darting dogs willy-nilly as part of the government’s counterproductive anti-rabies campaign. Alongside this there’s a growing record of dogs being stolen – the disgusting dog-meat trade and rampant pet theft are clearly factors in this – and of associated beatings to death of dogs in public places. It’s a great tourism image, that.

Pets are being slain in front of weeping little children. Village communities that the government has failed to bother to educate about rabies or anything much else are signing up to culling programs they clearly do not understand will increase their exposure to rabies, not reduce it. We hear suggestions that the provincial authorities would like to coopt non-profit animal welfare agencies into their strategy. In the upside-down world of Bali administration, that would make them part of the problem rather than the solution. That’s the way things are done here. It might work, as a concept at least, if the Governor and other luminaries could work out that the smoggy blue bit up there is the sky and the litter-strewn vistas below are the land. But don’t wait up for that to happen.

There is a problem. There’s no doubt that rabies is on the rise again. But there’s another problem too. It is the provincial government and its blindness.

Splash Out

We had a fun evening at the 2016 Waterman’s Awards night, held at the Padma Resort in Legian on Aug. 14. This was despite not bidding high enough in the silent auction to score a plush holiday break in Goa and some glitches in the presentation and continuity (“run-sheet problems,” we said to ourselves sotto voce at several points). Those demerits aside it was a good show. It was particularly pleasing to see longstanding local benefactor and Surfer Girl proprietor Steve Palmer pick up the major award of the evening, the lifetime inspiration award. A good friend of the Diary, Delphine Robbe of Gili Eco Trust, picked up Water Lady of the Year.

Events like these are always works in progress. The Waterman’s is the brainchild of ROLE Foundation chief Mike O’Leary, who deserves credit for the initiative. We look forward to the 2016 awards.

That Sinking Feeling

News that Dubai’s grandiose interference with the hydrography of its bit of the Arabian Gulf has come to grief in the shape of artificial islands that are sinking into the sandy base of that chiefly enclosed but fiercely tidal waterway may or may not have caused a sinking feeling in the corporate court of Tomy Winata, self-made billionaire tycoon and friend of Sumatra’s tigers.

We’re betting “may not” since the practice here is to ignore the actuarial risk of what might happen tomorrow in favour of dollars (or any convenient convertible currency) today. Come on! Benoa Bay is nothing like the Arabian Gulf. It’s just a little, formerly beautiful, mangrove-swathed inlet. The Shatt al-Arab doesn’t empty the remains of Mesopotamia into it. It is the sludge pond only for a few of Bali’s little rivers and the filthy rubbish that clogs and despoils them. But artificial islands and shifting sands do not as a rule go together like peaches and cream, or for that matter like enormous horseless carriages and the mega-vroom that makes them go in a suitably rich boy-toy fashion.

Moreover, it’s a place that might make a mint for someone if it is eventually turned into an artificial eyesore. This outcome is the central objective of Pak Winata’s plan to build Excresence-sur-Mer. He will be long gone from the scene of that environmental crime before it turns into Excresence-sous-Mer.

It’s That Girl Again

Schapelle Corby, whose criminal notoriety was glibly turned into victim-celebrity by her family and the tabloid and lowbrow-glossy western media, is reported to be planning a baby. The reportage is third hand and gossipy, as much of that sort of dross tends to be. She did look rather wan in the photo of her that we saw. It was taken at the beach where the putative father of her apparently conceivable future baby has a business. She is not expectant, it seems, so her listless pallor cannot have been morning sickness. Perhaps it was ennui or irritation.

Nothing about this has anything to do with anyone other than Corby, high-profile Australian parolee, and the person who might one day impregnate her. It certainly has nothing to do with her sister Mercedes, one-time Ralph Magazine boob-barer and motor mouth for hire. In the report we saw she seemed to be attempting to reinvent herself in some sort of mother-superior role.

Give. Us. A. Break.

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

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Dec. 24, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Art with a Frisson

Two books recently given an Australian launch – at the University of Sydney – provide a more profound focus on the real Bali than any number of tourist-oriented creations. The real Bali is of course not found in performances of the Kecap Dance and other (wonderful) expressions of the live art presented for gawkers, moneyed or not, but in the heritage and still-practised and continuously renewed culture and lifestyle of the Balinese themselves. These are not seen in the KLS triangle (Kuta-Legian-Seminyak) or in multi-star international hotels where tourists spend the money that fuels Bali’s economy. They are found in the villages and are revealed to the fully interested and sentient through electively-sourced media, principally books.

Adrian Vickers, whose research at the University of Sydney itself constitutes an important body of work in Asian studies generally and (from our perspective) Bali in particular, has edited a book, Lempad of Bali, just published in Singapore by Editions Didier Millet. He describes it justifiably as probably the most important work yet published on a single Balinese artist. It is a collaborative effort with Bruce Carpenter, the late John Darling, Hedi Hinzler, Kaja McGowan and Soemantri Widagdo.

Vickers writes in his useful Australia in the Asian Century blog: “Gusti Nyoman Lempad was legendary not only as a radically different artist from the 1930s, but also as the architect who created Ubud, and for his longevity. While there are different estimates of his age, at his death in 1978 he was either 116 or 106. Two other books on Lempad have also come out this year. Although neither of these has much scholarly weight, they do illustrate the range of work of Lempad and his school, which mainly consisted of his family.

“I met with a more profound set of insights into Balinese perspectives on life than I had imagined … Lempad was concerned with gender, with attaining wisdom and power, and with moving between the world of the senses and the world beyond. In his art, the three are combined.”

It is the very real eroticism of the ancient Hindu and Buddhist cultures of the archipelago that piques the interest of many today, especially since these influences still inform cultural practice and, one suspects, rather more of daily life than is generally revealed.

Made Wijaya’s new book, Majapahit Style, also launched on the occasion, is attracting critical acclaim and rightly so. Few non-Balinese know more about the island’s true culture than he. In this instance he has cast his net much wider and lays bare the cultural DNA that binds together the many diverse peoples of the archipelago.

The Diary’s newly-appointed international cultural attaché, Philly Frisson, attended the launch. She tells us: “Not sure that I should quip! [Oh go on, don’t be a spoilsport – Hec] … but Wijaya was in his element at his old university and sold out of his books to an enthusiastic crowd. Vickers had everyone fascinated and quite agog with the exquisite and highly erotic Lempad drawings. Those frisky, risqué Balinese … they leave the Kama Sutra for dead with their dexterity and imagination.”

 

Out to Score Goals

The new British ambassador to Indonesia, Moazzam Malik, was in Surabaya on Dec. 11-13 as part of his round of provincial introductory calls. We certainly look forward to seeing him in Bali. He is still officially ambassador-designate since in the arcane form of legation-based diplomacy, he hasn’t yet formally presented his credentials. [See below – Hec.]

No matter. He’s clearly got straight down to business. In Surabaya – which is close enough to mention, we feel, since it is only about 45 minutes by air and just a horror of a day-and-a-night trek by road and ferry from here – Malik joined East Java Governor Soekarwo for Friday prayers and discussion; met the Mayor of Surabaya, Tri Rismaharini, a very feisty lady; visited Airlangga University; and joined an informal gathering of the Surabaya-based Big Reds, the Liverpool FC fan club. Despite being a Londoner, Malik is a Liverpool fan. Bali’s strong contingent of Liverpool supporters are doubtless also hoping that their team’s season improves.

In Surabaya, Malik announced that a new British Council learning centre  will open there in March 2015. In April, a “pop-up” British Embassy will also open. It will provide a full range of services. Surabaya has an interesting place in immediate post-World War II British history. It is where in 1946 some of the British troops sent to help re-impose Dutch colonial rule refused to advance on independence fighters’ positions. They argued, mutinously but with a fine grasp of historical determinism, that they hadn’t just finished fighting World War II so they could prop up the old order. Malik, whose background is in international aid and development and who is an active tweeter, is also ambassador to Timor-Leste and ASEAN.

There’s another new ambassadorial appointment to note: Paul Grigson is moving from the very senior position of head of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s SE Asia division in Canberra to take over from veteran diplomat Greg Moriarty in Jakarta. Grigson, who in an earlier life was a journalist, was Australia’s ambassador to Thailand 2008-10 and Burma 2003-04.

Update: Ambassador Malik presented his credentials on Dec. 18

 

Hey, We’re Eclectic

It’s really very nice of Rock Bar at the Ayana to host a special party for Eve Eve, Dec. 30. It’s our birthday. We don’t mind at all being Eve on the evening in question if it gets us a drink and some hot music. DJ Mr Best is flying in to pump out the decibels for the event. He’s offering an eclectic mix of House, Rock & Roll, R&B and Hip Hop to celebrate the year that was and set you up for 2015, which everyone hopes will be better.

Mr Best is said by Ayana’s decoratively efficient PR team to be the go-to man for A-list clients including Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Lauren Conrad, and Lenny Kravitz as well as the Emmy Awards and Golden Globe After Parties. We’re sure they’re right. He provides music, after all, not advice on dress sense, good taste and acceptable manners.

 

Their Garden Grows

Wiwik Pusparini’s and Peter Duncan’s Taman Restaurant in Senggigi, Lombok, is now not only home to a very decent menu, wine list and fine coffee – as well as a shop where you can buy bread and treats and pies and cakes, yum – but also to an accommodation house that is rapidly taking shape behind the premises. Sixteen rooms are under construction, with eight more to follow. They are aimed at budget travellers who want access to things such as universal power points (no more plug-in-plug-in-plug messiness) and a standard of service and accoutrements, including a swimming pool, that will reward guests for choosing to stay there.

Duncan, who has lived in Lombok since 2003, has a Big Birthday coming up, on Jan. 1. The Big Seven Zero looms. Like The Diary and others (including Ross Fitzgerald, the Australian historian, author of scholarly works, the autobiographical My Name is Ross – about alcoholism – and some interesting novels) he is a pre-Boomer. He’s the baby of the bunch. Fitzgerald is the senior of our trio, having chosen to arrive on Christmas Day. As noted above, the Diary’s attainment of septuagenarian status is on Eve Eve. Fitzgerald usually comes to Bali once a year, in the dry season, with his wife Lyndal Moor, an accomplished ceramicist. They are Ubud fans.

We should get together – the Diary will raise this with Duncan, a former minister in both the South Australian and Australian federal parliaments, at his big birthday bash set for Jan. 17 in Senggigi – to form the Pre Boomers’ Club and get some balance back into the ageist debate. Those retiring Boomer youngsters get all the attention.

 

Pouring In

Latest figures (they’re for October) show that Bali continues to shoehorn more and more tourists into its oversupply of private hotels and undersupply of public infrastructure. Bali accounted for more than 40 per cent of Indonesia’s international arrivals in October. The Central Statistics Agency (BPS) recorded 808,767 overseas visitors to Indonesia during the month, 12.3 per cent more than in October 2013.

This takes the total for the first 10 months of 2014 to 7.75 million, 8.7 per cent up month on month. Ngurah Rai recorded the highest increase in international arrivals, up 27.3 per cent to 339,200.  Jakarta’s main gateway, Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, went the other way. It recorded a decline of 7.4 per cent.

 

Happy Christmas

Rotary Club of Bali Kartika has a Christmas event on Dec. 27 featuring Angklung Daeng Udjo, the Bali Community Choir, a Fire Dance performance, Sing-a-Song and Dancing. It’s from 7pm to 10pm at Gereja Fransiskus Xaverius in Jl Kartika Plaza, Kuta. Season’s greetings – and we’ll be back when the logic of manmade mathematics has ticked us over to 2015.

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