HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, July 8, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Nice Little Ding-Dong

Australian Consul-General Majell Hind’s residence at Sanur was transformed on the evening of Jul. 2 into a micro-gallery to showcase cultural synergy between Indonesia and Australia. The show was curated by Micro Galleries, which works with artists globally to create visual art that crosses boundaries and helps change communities. It is bringing its work to Denpasar for a full-scale exhibition in October, but the Jul. 2 event gave a sneak preview into the magic that they weave in visual arts, dance and music. It was also a prime example of the deep links between the two countries.

A feature of the evening was a performance by traditional dancers from West Bali and Dayak dancers from Kalimantan, presented by leading Australian photographer David Metcalf. He is heavily involved in promoting and preserving Dayak culture as well as traditional dance throughout Indonesia.

The main event was a musical collaboration between leading Australian jazz saxophonist Sandy Evans and a group of university students from the University of New South Wales playing Gamelan. The university group has been studying Balinese Gamelan for several years and performed at the annual Bali Arts Festival.

Incidentally the 2014-2015 Direct Assistance Program run by the Consulate-General had double the previous year’s funding. The DAP funds local level projects. There were some very interesting projects in Bali in the Australian financial year just ended (Jun. 30) and we’ll look at some of those in a due course.

Time to Splash Out

A committee formed by Mike O’Leary of ROLE Foundation – ROLE does sterling work to empower and educate local women who otherwise would miss out on life’s opportunities – is hard at work on this year’s Waterman’s Awards, another O’Leary project.

The focus of the awards is the marine and river environment. Since both the ocean and the rivers are prime dumping sites for throwaway rubbish in Bali, that’s a critical focus.   Efforts to clean up these environments – and then keep them clean – are worth rewarding with recognition.

At a time when five-plus star properties, in East Bali for example, are experiencing reductions in guest numbers because however much the beaches are cleaned the rubbish in the ocean keeps coming ashore, it’s clear that urgent action is needed. A little further afield, who would want to dive to look at the iconic mola mola (sunfish) whose peak season is nearly upon us, when what you also see in even more spectacular quantity is plastic rubbish?

The Waterman’s this year is at the Padma Resort in Legian on Aug. 14. A range of awards will be presented. It’s worth making a note of the date in your diary, and getting along to the show if you can.

Tittle Tattle

Tomy Winata, the rich entrepreneur who with the Governor’s help would like to fill in Benoa Bay so he can build Port Excrescence under the Ngurah Rai airport landing and take-off flight-paths, made it onto the front cover of the latest Indonesian Tatler. He saves tigers, you see, in Sumatra. It’s a worthy cause.

He also funds anti-drugs and anti-poverty programs, which are worthy causes too. Shame the turtles and other marine life forms in Benoa Bay aren’t big and colourfully striped, and that the fishermen of the bay are poor and therefore of no consequence.

Indonesia Tatler has a fine place in the field of journalistic puffery.  No hard questions asked.

Gianyar Gets it Right

Animal husbandry authorities in Gianyar regency recently vaccinated 147 dogs in the village of Buruan and around 200 at Manukaya in Tampak Siring instead of killing them, in their ongoing campaign to reduce the rabies threat in Bali. They deserve congratulations for this action, which conforms to world best practice in the face of a rabies outbreak: if you vaccinate the dogs, they won’t get rabies and will not therefore transmit the disease to humans.

That simple formula escapes many here, including unfortunately many of the local governments which respond to human rabies cases – there have been at least 10 deaths this year, up from the official two last year – by going on dog-killing sprees. They kill vaccinated dogs too, in this dangerously vacuous non-answer to a problem they themselves are perpetuating.

The regency of Klungkung seems to be particularly thick about this. As we noted recently, they’re the guys who either couldn’t or wouldn’t provide health authorities with their rabies figures up to June this year. Perhaps someone filched the office ballpoint?

They recently vaccinated dogs on Nusa Lembongan but the same day poisoned a large number of them. The barbarity is sickening. The stupidity is tedious. You’d think it must be something in the water. Only a madman would drink that here, after all.

(UPDATE: Unfortunately Gianyar has also joined the killing spree, telling residents of Batu Bulan (Jul. 6)  that this week it will poison dogs found outside their homes or in the streets.)

He’s Our Hero

A little family of street dogs in Seminyak has been adopted by the proprietor of Kendi Kuning restaurant, Putu Mahayana, and is now assured of care and attention. That’s lovely to hear in the circumstances that prevail in Bali today.

The dogs, a mother and two pups, live in the laneway near the restaurant. They have now been sterilized and vaccinated, a project paid for by the Bali Animal Welfare Association. BAWA acted when alerted to the situation by visitors to the island who, like many, were shocked by the conditions in which street dogs live. Visitors come and go, but disadvantaged dogs remain.

So here’s a big thank-you to Pak Putu. We note his restaurant gets good reviews on Trip Advisor. He and that establishment are worthy of good review on humanitarian grounds too.

A Beachwalk Treat

There’s a little gem at Kuta Beachwalk, the shopping centre on Jl Pantai Kuta, that’s well worth a visit if you’re interested in the rich traditions of Indonesia’s batik.

It’s Museum Kain, which the Diary discovered by accident the other day and in which it would surely be possible to spend hours immersed in the colourful history of traditionally woven cloth. That process is a ritual drawing together the people and the land and spiritual and physical lives.

Modern technology displays and explains the design and purpose of cloth on show. The museum is an initiative of the cloth and batik retailer BINHouse.

It’s on Level 3 at Beachwalk. Entry costs Rp 100K.

Touché, Toupee

We hear that American billionaire toupee magnet and presidential candidate Donald Trump may be buying the Nirwana golf resort near Tanah Lot in Tabanan. He has such a fine grasp of culture that this proposal can only be applauded, though it’s a pity in the circumstances that it’s not on Sunset Road. But perhaps he could stage his upcoming TV series My Kitsch Rules at the venue.

In that regard it was nice to read in the American online journal Wonkette – the gals there do irony and satire very well and are adept at puncturing pomposity – that Trump has been fired from the NBC channel in the US. Not because his taste in everything induces nausea, but because he’s a racist chump.

NBC won’t be showing Trump-produced shows after his recent outburst about Mexican immigrants. It said in a statement: “At NBC, respect and dignity for all people are cornerstones of our values.”

Strasbourg Prize

Singapadu sculptor Ongky Wijana, whose memorial to the miners of Laxey in the Isle of Man was unveiled there on May 23, stayed on after these festivities to make his own version of the grand tour of Europe.

He does advise that this involved quite a lot of drinking. This is commendable, since the cultures of continental Europe encourage such pursuits. They are certainly much more fun than sitting around moping about how the rest of the world has failed to get it right so far.

He visited Strasbourg, the French city where the inhabitants speak German. It’s in Alsace, where those dogs come from. While he was there he picked up first prize at the 2015 European Stone Festival.

That’s another feather in his cap. His wife Hannah Black Wijana tells us she is very proud of him. We all are.

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

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Feb. 4, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

A Tale of Two Statues

The new style of Bali’s fixation with monumental ornamentation, as seen in the grossly huge and garishly illuminated nightly by circus-style flashing lights “monkey mountain” that has been erected at the junction of Prof Ida Bagus Mantra Bypass and I Gusti Ngurah Rai Bypass just south of Tohpati, is certainly a distraction to drivers. That’s about the kindest thing you could say about it.

It’s true that after a while it fails to totally shock – the brain is adept at repressing all manners of vast unpleasantness – but we can personally attest that for the first several times this visionary excrescence comes suddenly into view one is auto-prompted to utter loudly a crudely pejorative four-letter word before asking (audibly or otherwise, and rhetorically of course) “What on earth is that?”

Fortunately the future of world-class Balinese stone craftsmanship is in safe hands in other areas. Gianyar regency sculptor Ongky Wijana, for instance, has recently completed a work that will honour the mining heritage of the little town of Laxey in the Isle of Man, one among the Queen’s possessions that has never been incorporated into the United Kingdom.

Wijana’s wife Hannah Black, an art editor and designer, is from the Isle of Man, which is in the Irish Sea roughly equidistant from the Irish and Scottish coasts and a little further from the nearest bits of England and Wales. That’s the connection. He has spent quite a lot of time there (he tells us he loves the weather; but he is a very polite gentleman) and got the commission after he was spotted practising his art amid the chill gales of winter as a good way of keeping warm.

It was a nearly year-long task – thankfully this was performed warmly in Bali – to create the statue from a 5000kg block of stone from Ireland and four pieces of Welsh slate. The finished work left Bali in early January and is due to be unveiled at Laxey on May 23.

A Hundred Shades of Grey

We’re not sure of the actual numbers (we were having far too much fun to count heads) but it’s in the nature of seventieth birthday parties to produce fields of grey wherever the eye might fall. And this was the case at The Santosa in Senggigi, Lombok, on Jan. 17, when former leading South Australian and federal Labor politician Peter Duncan had his big bash.

We flew over for the occasion and caught up with some old friends, including Barbara Cahyadi of the Lombok Guide who, because she’s a she, can legitimately crawl away and dye. She didn’t look grey at all. But then she’s nowhere near seventy either. Septuagenarian status in this context is a privilege shared only by itinerant scribblers and former politicians.

Duncan says it was not his idea, and we believe him, but The Santosa had erected a very visible backdrop behind the music stage that loudly (in the visual sense) congratulated “Mr Peter Owner of Taman Restaurant” on his birthday, which was on Jan. 1. It displayed a photographic representation of the present Mr Peter and another of the former political artist as a young man. Well, a very much younger man. This is why we keep our family album under virtual lock and key.

Duncan wore white for the night. His lovely wife Wiwik Pusparini had given him the outfit for his birthday. It was the evening’s one disappointment. Duncan had hinted earlier that he might, in his opening remarks, say that this was a great moment to appear in his birthday suit. Sadly, he flaked on that.

He did make an excellent point in his little address, however. He noted that if he’d held his big bash in Queensland, Australia, all his guests would have risked arrest. Among them were two members of bikie gangs. The Queensland government has outlawed any gathering at which more than one bikie is present. They like their paranoia by the shovelful in Bananaland.

Hang on a Tic!

The endemic political Tourette’s syndrome and OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) that afflict Indonesia can be entertaining. Or they would be if they weren’t simply revealing ubiquitous dysfunction and the fact that those creating it would rather play silly games than do any serious work.

The real Tourette’s, a debilitating and limiting neurological condition, and OCB, an anxiety disorder, are involuntary medical conditions. The non-medical and characteristically self-inflicted political variants of these sad conditions are not. They are elective and risible.

It needs to be noted that while Indonesia has pervasive exposure to these syndromes – most lately demonstrated in the Keystone Kops tit-for-tat farce involving the national police and the anti-corruption commission which would be hilarious if it weren’t so dangerous – they are not unique to the archipelago. They are prevalent in many places, globally, including within the Australian political class.

Last year the government announced that five countries would get visa-free entry for short-term visitors. These countries were Australia, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia.

In 2014 Australian arrivals to Bali, totalled 991,024, which was 26.3 percent of all visitors. Among the countries awarded free visa status from 2015, China last year sent us 586,197 tourists, a more than 50 percent increase; South Korea 106,774 (to Sep.), making it our sixth largest market; Japan, once our biggest market, fell to fourth place with not much hope of any marked improvement in the short term; and Russian arrivals fell 10 percent (to Sep.) due to unfortunate circumstances at home and the collapse of the rouble. Malaysia, which is on the ASEAN free visa list, was our third-largest market in 2014 with 224,962 arrivals.

Now Australia has been dumped from the list of those countries whose travelling citizenry is to be excused the tedious business of being tickled for US$35 on arrival. Officially this is because the free visa arrangements require reciprocity (and that would certainly be sensible on the basis of a short-stay holiday and a return ticket, should anyone in Canberra feel interested enough to notice). But since Australia was on the original list and now isn’t, it seems safe to assume that the move is political.

In the words of Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Indroyono Soesilo: “For Australians, the visa on arrival is enough.” Perhaps he means that US$34,685,840 is nice pocket-money.

But what Indonesia has just said to its potential one-million-plus-a-year Australian tourists, its largest market, is, “Welcome to Bali. Sod off.”  What needs to be understood in Jakarta and Denpasar is that there are now many other places in the region which offer Australian tourists holiday experiences with free visas, less expense, less inconvenience, and better facilities. As blogger of note Vyt Karazija observed, it’s that shoot first, shout later thing: Ready! Fire! Aim!

Move Along Now…

No doubt Bali will give its famous blank stare response to the recent decision of the Supreme Court of India to uphold a ban on cock-fighting in the Hindu state of Andhra Pradesh. An action to overturn the ban on cultural grounds was opposed by Humane Society International, which told the court: “These cruel practices are against the law and should not be conducted under the garb of tradition. These events are nothing but gambling events.”

In Bali, cock-fighting is ubiquitous. Only the blind or the beneficially suborned would suggest gambling is not. Blood sacrifice is integral to both Balinese and Indian Hindu rites but the question is whether a religious validation of cruelty extends to death sports for gain. Animal activists are working (in the case of the Bali Animal Welfare Association, with IFAW, the International Fund for Animal Welfare) to educate communities in animal welfare and animal rights.

Interesting Thought

Waiting for a delayed flight can have benefits, not the least of them the chance to drink even more coffee. So it was when we flew back from Lombok to Bali on Jan. 18 after a weekend visit for a party (see above) and two lovely nights at Sudamala Suites and Villas on the beach at Mangsit north of Senggigi.

The benefit in this case came at our second coffee stop, after we discovered by the sort of osmosis required to obtain accurate information from anyone in Indonesia, that our Wings Air flight would be leaving 90 minutes late.

We were at the Dante’s outlet in the departure area and had switched off the smart phone to conserve its pathetic battery capacity. In an effort to delay terminal boredom, the eye wandered around the establishment’s many promotional billboards and found a reward.

One of these colourful eye-catchers was offering Brazilian Lemon. We wondered, briefly and indelicately, if that was a lemon with the zest shaved off.

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