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

 

 

 

 

 

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, March 7, 2012

Dolts Rule

It’s always fun visiting the Odd Zone; it’s the very best of your diarist’s former domiciles, for all sorts of reasons, most of them a cause for wry smiles or irritated grimaces. There’s the traffic, for one thing. It largely obeys the road rules and even stays in lane; what’s more, at traffic lights if there are, say, three lanes of traffic marked, none of the vehicles present attempts to create eight lanes. It’s very confusing for drivers accustomed to Bali’s road system (sic) and driver behaviour.

But the very worst of the Australian experience, for those citizens of the Odd Zone who have exchanged You’re Being Watched resident status for the significantly better benefits of Frequent Visitor, is the bureaucracy in general and the customs and quarantine and airport security you encounter in particular.

On our way back to Bali from Perth the weekend before last, for example, the Diary and Distaff lost some valuable soft cheeses – the finest products of Western Australia no less – on the risible grounds that they were “gels” and thus suspected of being potentially explosive.

We all value airport security and agree that mad shoe bombers and others of incomprehensibly suicidal intent should be detected and diverted from their proposed criminal acts. But a little common sense wouldn’t go astray among those whose daily duties arm them with bureaucratic instructions that an imbecile would instantly recognise as stupid.

If the two Aussie border control heroes who fished around in our cooler bag had exercised common sense when they detected brie and haloumi (we had to insist they dropped it down the disposal chute while we watched – we’re not in the business of providing free gourmet foods to anyone) they’d also have confiscated the prime soft Tasmanian blue with which we were also armed.

But they didn’t.  For that oversight they and their over-prescriptive masters should be shoe-ins for a Dumbo award.

There’s a serious side to this.  Frequent visitors have plenty of other places they can choose to go instead, where you’re much less likely to get cheesed off by doltish buffoons on food patrol.

Bit of a Stumble

It’s not always as much fun as it should be returning to Bali. This time The Diary stepped on a hidden road-level metal guardrail on alighting from the bus from the plane to the terminal and overstretched a hamstring.  Perhaps it is there to deter bus drivers from motoring up the terminal steps. But the embarrassing limp that resulted has not been a Favourite Moment.

In the terminal, we ran into some nattily dressed customs and excise officers who, while presumably present to clamp down on the informal system of paying under the counter for extra alcohol above the one-litre limit attempted to extort even more. Unfortunately for them they had to deal with the Distaff, who was not in the best of moods. We paid, but not on the basis of their aberrant and singularly profitable mathematical concept.

Flagging

By happenstance, the day after our return from the Odd Zone (Western Division) the Perth online newspaper WA Today ran an article headlined “Where the bloody hell are all the tourists?” Coarse language (along with bad grammar) is only one irritating element of life as it is lived in the continent of kangaroos.

We tweeted that, suggesting that perhaps all the tourists were in Bali. They’re not, of course – for some strange reason Aussies are also travelling elsewhere overseas on cheap holidays – but one of the reasons they’re not packing Western Australia’s many attractions is the cost of doing so. We sympathise with WA’s tourism marketers and agree there are a great many reasons to be a tourist on their patch, among them the beaches and the wineries. And beaches might be a mass market chance, except that most Australians already live within reach of perfectly adequate alternatives to flying 3000 kilometres to sit on one in WA.

Other tourism options are largely for niche markets. It’s a tough business, as Bali itself is finding out.  Pursuing quantum figures in tourism is fine if you’re only looking – in the Australian context and here – for the Yeh ‘n’ Neh crowd and big sales of “I Drink Beer and Have the Belly to Prove It” vests.

The Diary looks forward to regular trips to WA where, in the south-west particularly, there are many establishments offering prime potable products. On our recent visit to home territory we dined and drank at both Voyager (whose Girt by Sea pinot noir is fabulous and not only for its name, which comes from a memorably ridiculous line in the Australian national anthem) and Wise, a personal favourite because it looks over an expanse of generally calm north-facing ocean and has a Provencal air. Voyager affects a Cape Dutch architectural style (quite well) and has lovely roses – and perhaps the biggest flag in Australia apart from the double-decker bus-sized flutterer atop Parliament House in Canberra.

Quality Counts

On the question of looking for quality rather than quantity (and the higher per visitor spend that results) it’s cheering to hear that Bali proposes to shift its focus that way. We’re under siege here, after all, though not solely from foreign tourists: all those chaps who bring their cars with them on holiday from Jakarta and Bandung and Surabaya, and their road manners and driving skills too, are a nuisance.

It’s long overdue, even if we’re pitching for three million foreign tourists to write another record. Bali’s infrastructure – not just the roads and the pathetic power system – is literally cracking under the strain of the tourist load. Provincial second assistant secretary Ketut Wija recently pronounced upon this at a planning meeting on economic development held appropriately enough in Lombok (which should be taking a larger portion of the tourist load, except that Bali keeps putting rocks in the road of that endeavour) when he said: “We no longer will prioritise the quantity of tourist arrivals, but will now place the emphasis on quality of those visitors.”

Wija said Bali – an island of only 5632 square kilometres, 0.2 percent of Indonesian national territory – has between five and six million visitors annually. It is also a magnet for Indonesians from other islands seeking work, with about 400,000 arriving to settle each year.

Skippy’s a Winner

The Diary’s side trip on the Australian tour – mentioned in the Diary last issue – was by Qantas flying Perth-Canberra-Perth.  We’re now a mere bronze QFlyer (the halcyon days of pointy-end platinum status are long gone) but a happy confluence of an accommodating friend at head office and unoccupied seats in business class resulted in upgrades both ways. It was delightful to have space to stretch the legs, food to match the ambiance and actual metal cutlery to eat it with, and an unobstructed view out of the window.

Both flights were into the gloaming and then the night, affording the Diary an opportunity also long forgone to feast the eyes on the amazing light-hues off to the south in the stratospheric distance and to imagine all that ice-waste far away beyond the Southern Ocean. It stirs the Muse, that sort of thing.

Another stirring element of the flight was a dangerous confection, the work not of the Devil but of Maggie Beer, who may be one of his culinary agents but is certainly an Australian icon. Her burnt fig and honey ice cream is to die for, though one naturally hopes not immediately.

The Purser on the flight agreed, when we beckoned him over and said: “Maggie Beer is a bad, bad woman.” A big smile lit up his face and he replied: “Oh I know, I know. But I’m lucky. I live only 30 minutes up the road from her shop.”

It’s a Riot

It is the lot of the unlucky diarist to be elsewhere when something happens. We had to watch the unfolding drama of the Kerobokan prison riot through the imperfect prism of Australian television.  Matt Brown was measured – and by far the best – on ABC. The commercial stations were their usual breathlessly uniformed selves.  And that’s such a shame because most Australians get what passes for their news from tabloid TV.

The Kerobokan insurrection was hardly unexpected. It beggars belief that the custodial authorities are not provided with sufficient funds to properly house all those that their companions in crime, the police and the judicial system, insist on jailing.

A solution is more prison space so that at least the basics of human existence can be practised in clink. There are some useful human rights rules the government could read up on, in that regard, too.

Oh All Right Then

Last issue’s guarded reference to Titian and ladders – it was in the context of the Renaissance exhibition at the Australian National Gallery – brought a rash of requests to expand upon it. So OK, we were wrong to attempt to be decorous. Here’s the limerick in question:

While Titian was mixing Rose Madder

His model reclined on a ladder.

The position to Titian

Suggested coition,

So he ran up the ladder an’ ‘ad ‘er.

Hector’s Diary appears in the Bali Advertiser’s print edition, out every second Wednesday, and on the newspaper’s website http://www.baliadvertiser.biz. Hector is on Twitter (@scratchings) and on Facebook (Hector McSquawky).