How High Can Everest Rise?

This appears in Quadrant magazine’s November 2019 issue, just out.

The Dizzying Heights

Ross Fitzgerald and Ian McFadyen

ISBN No: 978-1-925736-30-4

Hybrid Publishing : Melbourne

pp. 248, $24.99.

 

Review by Richard Laidlaw

It’s plainly very difficult being a political satirist these days, when the politicians seem to have cornered the market themselves and to have requisitioned all the best scripts, in the national interest, naturally. No matter. Those with the wit and the will to soldier on will scribble regardless. Someone will get a laugh, or a wry smile, or perhaps break down and sob uncontrollably at the hopelessness of it all, and give us all a giggle.

So it is with the indefatigable academic Ross Fitzgerald, teamed again with writer and actor Ian McFadyen, who has brought us a welcome glimpse of light from the heavens in the shape of ‘The Dizzying Heights’, the seventh book in the Grafton Everest saga.  Fitzgerald and McFadyen have penned an engaging yarn. By dint of supreme effort it manages – just, perhaps, and by the narrowest of squeaks in the view of some – to stay ahead of the tsunami of paradox and parody that threatens to submerge the embattled remnants of western liberal tradition and its totemic universal democracy with it.

As those who are familiar with his life and works know, Everest earned his stripes in the challenged academic environment of Mangoland. That alone is worth some sort of medal, surely? It’s not quite Texas (there are fewer assault rifles at large in the community for one thing) and is actually three times bigger and hosts a small town called Texas; but it’s certainly a place of wide-brimmed hats and a colourful antipathy to learning. To many, of course, that’s a plus. After all, as such people and their political or genetic descendants like to remind themselves, relatively few café latte liberationists or chardonnay socialists avoided official molestation or escaped punitive vigilantism in Mangoland in the early culture wars.

Yet as Gangajang so ably reminded us in ‘Sounds of Silence’, its 1984 debut pop anthem:

Out on the patio we’d sit,
And the humidity we’d breathe,
We’d watch the lightning crack over canefields
Laugh and think, this is Australia.

The block is awkward – it faces west,
With long diagonals, sloping too.
And in the distance, through the heat haze,
In convoys of silence the cattle graze.

No one with any sense of what Australia really is, beyond the end of the freeway out of town, would fail to sense a frisson – even if only ever so slightly – at the visceral, olfactory images those words evoke. Except, of course, farcically fictional fantasy figures like Professor Dr Grafton Everest, whose life’s work as been to avoid labour of any sort, physical or cerebral.

Grafton Everest is too good to lose.

In his six previous memoirs of the moment, Everest has touched every marker on the academic orienteering course and stumbled over, or kicked aside, most of the witches’ hats and police line tapes that these days impede progress on the roads of life. There are many who show one or two of the behavioural traits that Everest himself exhibits in spades. We are very fortunate that he is a work of fiction, a figment simply of very fertile imagination. (He would shudder at the word “work,” perhaps in the manner, as Saki once wrote in another context, of an Italian greyhound on contemplating the approach of an ice age of which he personally disapproved.)

The Dizzying Heights’ is a rollicking read.

Fitzgerald and McFadyen keep up the frenetic pace of previous Everest misadventures, in this latest volume of his saga. It wraps up some loose ends and brings other streams of consciousness to some sort of conclusion. It looks at times like a final curtain, though perhaps we’re looking only at the first of a series of Melba-like farewell tours. The latter would be best. Everest is too good to lose.

In a way, he is something of a modern Stoic, albeit from the modernist Frank Spencer school that perfectly stitches together stoicism and farce; he too makes an art form of drawing uncountable numbers of impossibly tangled strings together and then wondering why the cat’s cradle won’t hold. It’s a safe bet that the Stoic’s stoic, Marcus Aurelius, did not have university luminary, premier of Mangoland, inaugural president of the Republic of Australia and nearly President of the United States Professor Dr Grafton Everest in mind when he jotted down his ‘Meditations’ two millennia ago.

 

The Dizzying Heights’ is a quick read, a rollicking one; you could easily knock it over on a rainy day, between lunch and dinner with time off for afternoon tea. It is perhaps even more unbelievable than its predecessors, but that’s one of the results of serial farce, and not simply in the framework of literature. Certainly in this slim volume the good doctor-professor rises to dizzying heights indeed. Some Americans, bless them, even try to adopt him as a presidential candidate. But enough of plot giveaways; read the book, it tells the story much better.

++++++

Richard Laidlaw, who nowadays divides his time between Western Australia and Indonesia, was for many years a journalist in Queensland, and later a political adviser, including for National Party Premier Rob Borbidge in 1996-98. He has a blog at 8degrees0flatitude.com.

QUADRANT MAGAZINE, November 2019, pp 83-84.

Ross Fitzgerald & Ian McFadyen’s The Dizzying Heights  is currently available from the publishers:  https://www.hybridpublishers.com.au/

And from Booktopia:   https://www.booktopia.com.au/the-dizzying-heights-ross-fitzgerald/book/9781925736304.html

Gaia Waives the Rules

 Hector’s Bali Diary

HectorR

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

June 22, 2016

 

This seemed to be the consensus among the worriers, at least, those who observe ephemeral climatic events as a message from someone or other (and of course, themselves) about the dangers of human environmental iniquity.

But climate is cyclical as well as seasonal, warming and cooling in response to all sorts of things, even sunspots. That’s why people were able to grow grapes and make wine in England in the early Middle Ages and then a couple of centuries later could ice-skate on the Thames every winter. It’s why millions of years ago there was a natural episode of global warming – we call it the Carboniferous Period – that produced worldwide rainforests that later turned into the coal with which we are now polluting the atmosphere

The problem today is that you can’t say these things without being buried under a chorus of criticism because you’re denying global warming, or worse, are possibly one of those ghastly dinosaurs who hold that man has no influence on the atmosphere and the climates that result.

For the record, we are not among that challenged cohort.

We do need to stop polluting both the atmosphere and the planet’s surface, stop breeding millions of mouths we cannot adequately feed, and stop chasing economic growth as the be all and end all of human progress.

So, to the point at issue: The recent high tides and big ocean swells that hit Bali were unusual, though far from unknown. The coincidence of lunar cycle high water, the continuing effects of a powerful El Niño event, storms in the Indian Ocean and big Antarctic lows generating huge swells was spectacular. Tragically, as always with such events, there were human casualties. Despoilers of the beaches for profit found that indeed they had built upon the sand. Silly, shortsighted chumps will always collide with karma. It was the same in faraway Sydney.

The moral is that the ocean is for fish and the beach is to visit. We are a terrestrial species. Perhaps, eventually, Governor Pastika and Benoa Bay non-environmentalist Tomy Winata will note this and grasp the good sense of Tolak Reklamasi. Both should be familiar with that term by now.

Make a Splash

Waterman’s Week 2016, which is coming up in July, has many events at many venues designed to honour the marine environment and raise awareness of its human-made problems.

There’s fun to be had that’s not too energetic, as well. One of the sponsors of the week, Island Mermaids, is staging a Miss Mermaid Bali 2016 Photo Shoot Contest. So if you’ve ever dreamed of being a mermaid (and are female and over 13) this is your chance to become one of the mythical creatures and help save the oceans too.

The idea is that mermaids need clean oceans. Well, no one would argue with that. Doing so would certainly set the Sirens off. All funds raised from the contest will go to the new Zero Waste to Oceans Education and Demonstration Centre being built by ROLE Foundation at Nusa Dua.

Details are available at www.island-mermaids.com.

Tea and Sympathy

Ross Fitzgerald, professor of history and erotic writer, has just enjoyed a short sojourn in Bali. He was here with his wife Lyndal Moor and stayed at Puri Saraswati near the royal palace in Ubud.

He and the Diary repaired to The Melting Pot on the Queen’s Birthday Australian holiday (Jun. 13) via a nice light lunch at a nearby warung, to watch the Melbourne-Collingwood AFL match that day. Fitzgerald was a very disappointed man; his team Collingwood got thumped by 46 points. The Diary didn’t care. We get our own doses of disappointment from St Kilda.

But in between groans, and speculation about the very large rat we’d seen running along the top of the wall behind the bar, we had another chat about his candidacy for the Senate from the state of NSW for the Australian Sex Party. We’ve mentioned that before. There’s an outside chance that we could soon be chums with Senator Fitzgerald. The Sex Party’s not all about, um, that. It has some very progressively sensible social policies too.

Fitzgerald told us he had recently debated the Rev. Fred Nile, a NSW state MP of, shall we say, rather rigid Christian views, at a little soiree organized by The Sydney Institute which is run by another old friend, Gerard Henderson. It would have been fun to be there.

He told us another tale. On his Garuda flight up from Sydney the happy arrival video they screen included advice that you’d have to pay $US 35 for a visa on arrival. Um. That was scrapped a while ago. Perhaps the world’s best airline for cabin service would like to update its AV primers? They should also have a chat with their cabin staff. Those on Fitzgerald’s flight didn’t know either.

Ramandhan Special

The official thuggery visited upon a poor food seller in Semarang, Central Java, who dared to keep her little stall open during Ramadhan fasting hours, is a prize example of many things. The woman has debts she needs to pay, and apparently customers who wish to eat, presumably not being required by their religion to fast.

The incident caused a furore. President Joko Widodo, familiarly called Jokowi, gave the woman Rp10 million to compensate her for the food that overbearing religious instructors and heavy handed public order police had stolen from her. Regional police chiefs have now received advice that they should not allow this sort of vigilante action.

There’s a verse in the Holy Quran that seems apposite.

“Their [acceptance] of guidance is not your responsibility. It is Allah who awards guidance whom He wills. And whatever wealth you give away (as charity donation) goes to your own benefit. It is not appropriate for you to spend but for Allah’s pleasure alone. And whatever you spend of your wealth, [its reward] will be paid back to you in full and you shall not be treated unjustly.” (Al-Baqarah 2:272).

Festival Time

Among the panoply of festivals and celebrations that these days grace Bali – or otherwise, depending on individual taste – is the annual Bali Arts Festival, the doyen of the stable, which has been around now for 38 years.

This year’s, now under way, was officially opened on Jun. 10. President Jokowi dropped in for the show and the street parade of thousands of Bali artists. The annual month-long festival showcases Bali’s traditional arts. It coincides with the school holidays, which gives the kids something to do in their down time. That’s always a good idea.

The President made a speech. He began with greetings in Balinese, to loud cheers from the crowd. And then he said this, which is worth absorbing:

“I feel very happy this afternoon that I can be here, on the Island of the Gods, Bali. For me, the Bali Arts Festival is not merely a people’s party or an arts festival. It is an event that has not only cultural and educational functions, but also a function as a driving force for the economy, especially the Bali community.”

Indeed. Indonesia has a rich and hugely diverse cultural heritage. This deserves protection from those who would turn its cities into lookalike Legolands. And properly appreciated, facilitated and managed, it is itself an economic driver.

Up the Poll

Some may have noticed that Australia is having a federal election on Jul. 2. It’s a rare double-dissolution election for the House of Representatives and the full Senate. If you’re a registered Australian voter here you can cast a pre-poll vote in person at the consulate-general in Renon up to Friday, Jul. 1. You won’t be able to vote there on polling day itself.

You’ll need to show your Australian passport or your current Australian driver’s licence to get into the consulate to vote. They won’t let you in without it. The consulate is open Monday to Friday from 8am to 4pm.

Applications for postal votes, which are an alternative way of avoiding a fine for not being ticked off on the bean-counters’ defaulters’ list, close on Jun. 29 via the Australian Electoral Commission website.

Harley Man

Former Bali boy Ric Shreves, now firmly established in Portland, Oregon and working for a worldwide charity doing things that have recently seen him in Turkana, Kenya (that’s a little different from Bali) has acquired a new toy.

It’s a rather tough-looking Harley Davidson hog: Happy riding, Ric.

Surf to Save

The Bali Animal Welfare Association recently got a wonderful offer from visiting American surfer Tommy Michael – he would organize a fun surfing school, Surf2Save, and direct the proceeds to BAWA. The event, on June 4 at one of the Bukit’s famed surf beaches, went so well that BAWA is looking for someone to run another.

Michael’s inaugural event was strongly supported by the local surfing community, which has always been very community minded. He’s now returned to Costa Rica, where he lives and does similar things for local charities there.

Hector’s Diary, edited for newspaper publication, appears online and in print in the fortnightly Bali Advertiser.

Ordure of the Day

Hector’s Bali Diary

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

May 25, 2016

News that Bali’s beaches are the repositories of sewage is hardly novel, and it’s not by any means confined to the Legian beachfront, where the latest discovery by those who should ensure it doesn’t happen has stirred up a noisome furore.

There is hardly a pristine beach or sea swimming area left in Bali or indeed beyond. They have all been colonized to some degree or other by rubbish of very questionable provenance, not to mention the plastic and other detritus that surfs along with the board riders and wraps itself around the limbs of people splashing around on the waterline.

A story reported in  the Indonesian language newspaper NusaBali, said that on May 9 open sewers from Jl. Padma in the heart of Legian were draining black liquid into the sea and giving the popular bathing beach a terrible stink.

When this news broke (reporters really should stick to just reprinting media releases from the proper authorities, shouldn’t they?) there was the usual scurry of activity. Everyone ran for cover or off to find the bit of paper that says, “My friend did it”.

Legian district chief I Made Madya Surya Natha conceded that the problem of untreated sewage flowing on to the beach was a long-standing issue. But then he said that while efforts had been made to build sewage holding areas, heavy rains had caused these to overflow. Ah! When your friend who might have done it cannot be found, blame it on the weather. It’s not at all unreasonable, after all, in a place where torrential tropical rain is known to occur on a regular basis, to fail to provide adequate storm drainage. It’s so much easier that way. You have to maintain infrastructure, or so the notional SOPs go, if you’ve bothered to build it in the first place.

He said he hoped the environmental agency (BLH) would investigate and provide a long-term solution. (See above re building and maintaining required infrastructure.)

Beach Follies

We were at Pantai Bengiat at Nusa Dua one recent Saturday – it’s our weekend office quite often and we like it because it’s operated by the local cooperative, which tries really hard to look after visitors – and had an opportunity to observe the new demographics of Bali tourism. Our sojourn was punctuated by loud Chinese frivolity. We think these particular Chinese were from Taiwan, on the basis of the women’s nearly daring choice of beach attire and the class of juvenile bonhomie exhibited by the males of the party.

Brazilians were also present, speaking their incomprehensible variant of Portuguese; as well as, we thought, some Romanians.

It was an eclectic crowd, though the crowd was hardly a crowd. There was a brisk onshore breeze, which may have put off some. We briefly ventured into the sea for a splash, trying unsuccessfully to avoid being snared by passing plastic rubbish.

Goodabaya

Surabaya is Indonesia’s second largest city. It is a place with a significant non-Muslim population, an industrial centre, and a city where foreign business people, many of them highly sought-after Chinese with money to burn, visit to develop enterprises.

The city authorities have decided to ban the production, sale and consumption of alcohol. Muslims are forbidden alcohol – it is haram – and that’s fair enough, though many seem to overlook this behavioural proscription. Drinking intoxicating liquor is not compulsory anywhere. You don’t have to drink, or for that matter get plastered when you do.

It is a policy decision of amazing dull-headedness. Neither Surabaya nor East Java is Aceh. And this isn’t the Seventh Century.

No way, José

That’s not his name, of course. It’s Rodrigo Duterte, who has just been elected president of the Philippines. He has promised to reintroduce the death penalty for a range of crimes including drugs, rape, murder and robbery. At his first press conference after winning election in landslide on May 9, he said he favoured hanging to a firing squad because he did not want to waste bullets, and because he believed snapping a spine with a noose was more humane. Last year he said that he would like to see public hangings.

There are those who would tell you that it is wrong to overlook the varied ethnic, cultural and social imperatives in other countries, or the implied electoral endorsement of a “landslide” election win, when criticizing their policies. As a general principle, that’s sound. It is invidious, however, when what is being proposed is a return to Late Neolithic policies.

The death penalty was abolished in the Philippines in 2006, during the presidency of Gloria Arroyo.

Well Done, Champ

Sweania Betzeba Delisa, Bali’s up and coming young triathlete who is sponsored by the Rotary eClub and Solemen, won the under-18 title in the first 2016 race series of the Rottnest Island Surferfest in Western Australia on May 14-15. Rotary eClub sponsored her WA visit just completed.

The event includes a long swim. The ocean water there is not tropically warm. In fact the Diary wouldn’t touch it without several thermal layers between it and absolutely anything that matters, or used to. So congratulations, Sweania, and welcome back to warm water. The second race in the Rottnest series is in November.

The Surferfest series, with events also held in Victoria, is said to be over triathlon courses that are the toughest in Australia.

Sweania’s Perth trip was not all work, though. After the business bit was done, it included some downtime in the city and a visit to the Perth Zoo where she met her first kangaroo. That’s always a treat for visitors to Australia.

Faith, Hope and Clarity

We heard a lovely little story from a friend in Brisbane the other day. She’d been doing reading groups at her daughter’s school that morning and had been sitting chatting with some of the students. They were talking about animals, the next writing job on their list.

As she reports, the conversation went like this:

Child 1: I like bears.

Child 2: Did you know Jesus can run at 70km per hour?

Me: 70km per hour? That’s very fast. Are you sure?

Child 1: They’re furry.

Child 2: Yes, Jesus can run at 70km an hour.

Me: Look I know he could probably run fast, but 70km/h?

Child 2: Yes!

Me: I’d believe 15km/h but not 70.

Child 3: Bob would know! He skipped year 1! He’s smart.

Me: I’ve got no doubt Bob would know, but Jesus could not run at 70km/h.

Child 2: CHEETAHS not Jesus.

Overloaded? No!

The report on the capsize of a Bali to Java ferry earlier this year that resulted in the deaths of four people says the boat was overloaded by more than double its payload limit.

This is not just yet another example of the cavalier approach to rules and regulations, or sensible cautions, which pepper the avoidable disaster calendar here every year. It is nothing short of criminal.

One’s passage through life might be subject to fate, or karma if you prefer. But Indonesia’s creakingly supine bureaucracy should at least look as if it’s trying to do its job. Any bets on when it might start applying itself to what it’s paid to do, other than shutting the stable doors after the horses have bolted?

Twelfth Man

We’re looking forward to our annual Ubud meeting with old friend Ross Fitzgerald, which this year will be on Jun. 13, the Queen’s Birthday holiday in much of Australia. It’s also the official opening of the skiing season in the Australian Alps, but we won’t go there. We’ll be chatting with Fitzgerald,  a Sydneysider these days but a Melbourne boy at heart, over coffee at an establishment that is screening the AFL match in which Collingwood, his team, is playing Melbourne at the MCG.

But that’s not the extra frisson. What will give the conversation a buzz is that Fitzgerald is lead candidate on the Senate ticket for NSW in the Jul. 2 national elections for the Australian Sex Party. This a political party, not one of those indecorous affrays that take place regularly in the Glitter and Gutter Strip favoured by Aussie tourists out for a good time, yair.

Fitzgerald is a professor of history, a four-decade-plus veteran of Alcoholics Anonymous about which he wrote a book, and latterly the author of fictional tales featuring erotic material.

The Australian Sex Party is not a single-issue outfit. It promotes a more liberal view of sexual policy than mainstream political parties do, and no doubt gives the rabid right a nasty turn now and then (good), but it also espouses sensible reforms in euthanasia, recreational drug use, refugee policy, and other things.

It’s a double dissolution election on Jul. 2 so all 12 Senate seats in each state are up for grabs. We’ve suggested to Fitzgerald that he could end up being Twelfth Man. They play cricket at the MCG too.

Oh Deer

Police have arrested a man in Jembrana for looking after deer. The animals had apparently wandered away from the national park nearby and decided they liked his garden. Instead of shooing them away, or worse, he decided to make them feel at home.

It would probably have been difficult for him to establish their regular address, after all.

Hector’s Diary appears, edited for newspaper publication, in the fortnightly Bali Advertiser.

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

 

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser May 28, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Bad Burghers

A new Facebook group has appeared in cyberspace, dedicated to curbing crime in Ubud. This is an unpleasant sign of the times. Ubud may be where everyone goes to commune with the fairies, go Vegan, try to find anything that remotely resembles the purported revelations in Elizabeth Gilbert’s bodice-ripper book Eat, Pray, Love, and get in touch with their inner Pilates, but it’s also catching up with the modern world.

Some of the good burghers of Ubud, local and foreign, are upset by the intrusion of street crime and motorbike bandits bent on petty theft. The sexual predator is also present. It excuses nothing, of course, but those who suggest foreign visitors in particular should comply with local custom and dress respectfully are on the mark.

We recently saw a female tourist – she seemed to be Russian from the Slavic, not to say irritably strident, language in which she was chivvying along her oppressed male companion who in the global custom was carrying the bags – out shopping in a brief yellow bikini that was struggling to contain her bosom. Further, it was failing to hide much of her bottom. Clearly she hadn’t read the brief.  Or perhaps she thought she was in Malibu on her way to a porn shoot.

There are two fundamental rules to apply when travelling. The first is don’t be gross. The second is do not display wealth or otherwise draw spectacular attention upon you or your person.

Tourist areas in Bali are as much at risk of experiencing crime, petty or otherwise, as any other pleasure resort around the world. Community based policing and common sense help reduce the incidence.

There are bad burghers everywhere these days. And they don’t only target tourists. Locals are also at risk.

(Post-script: The death by strangulation, apparently during a break-in, of British woman Anne-Marie Drozdz at her villa near Ubud on May 22, adds a horrific dimension to Ubud’s problems.)

Get Weaving

We got a lovely invitation from the ROLE Foundation to attend Bali Living Colour (they spell it color in the American fashion, but these days even ancient Oxford English scribblers can live with that) on Thursday, Jun 5. It’s an open house for the Southern Bali Women Weavers Association and Bali WISE women’s business development.

It’s one of a number of grass-roots organizations in Bali that benefits from small grants from the Australian Consulate-General and operates from premises at Sawangan, an area of the southern Bukit where despite otherwise rampant development (that among other things has shut many locals out of seaweed farming) deprivation is a common factor.

The function will also formally inaugurate the Southern Bali Women Weavers Association and officially open the new weavers’ building, the natural dyes plant nursery and the colour sample display.

Since they’ll be serving organic juices, teas and snacks and providing music, we plan to be there. Especially since the Australian Consul-General, Majell Hind, is also scheduled to be present. It’s always nice to catch up with a Townsville girl.

 

Be Gentile, Now

Sydney-resident historian, wry wit and novelist Ross Fitzgerald, who will be coming to see us in June on his annual Bali pilgrimage with his wife Lyndal Moor – Fitzgerald and the Diary are due at Sambo’s Sports Bar at Bukit Jimbaran on Sunday, Jun. 15, to watch the Collingwood-Bulldogs game since he barracks for Collingwood and the Diary is still neutral since we’re still waiting for the Saints to come marching in – has an interesting engagement in Melbourne prior to that date.

He tells us he’s one of only two Gentiles speaking at the Melbourne Jewish Writers Festival. He’s on the dais for a chat on Jun. 1 with Dave Bloustein, John Safran and Howard Nathan (chairing the session). The topic: It’s Funny ’cos It’s Us.

Another friend of the Diary won’t be at the festival at all, even though he qualifies, since he’s Jewish and he writes. Journalist-blogger and sometime Ubud Writers and Readers Festival luminary Antony Loewenstein has views on Israel’s Palestinian policies that are regarded as unorthodox within the Australian Diaspora.

 

Favourite Mermaid

Everyone should have a favourite mermaid. Well, it’s a thought, anyway. And Celia Gregory of the World Marine Foundation is ours. We met her ages ago at a Rotary evening at Tugu Hotel at Batu Bolong and we were instantly captivated. She sculpts things and places them under water as an aid to coral regeneration, which is surely a lot more useful than many things a girl could do.

Gregory was speaking today (May 28) at yoga-focused Desa Seni at Canggu, on Living Sculptures in the Sea. Her work is already encrusted with polyps at Pemeruteran in North Bali and now she’s planning to do the same at Amed, with a work named Apsara, after the beautiful supernatural females in yoga mythology.

The structure is designed to create new homes for fish and coral at Jemaluk Bay.

The Desa Seni program Gregory is leading as creative director and founder of the marine foundation includes a special workshop on Jun. 4 with Angela Perez exploring and honouring the Apsara deities.

It ties in with World Oceans Day on Jun. 8.

On Jun. 7 there’s a kids’ workshop for children under 12 at which Gregory and Bali fixture Kayti Denham will explore the myth of the mermaid and her dolphin protectors.

Gregory’s foundation offers a visionary approach to one of the most pressing problems confronting the tropical and sub-tropical oceans. Coral regeneration is essential to the health of reefs around the world.

 

On the Rocks

It’s a shame the Australian government has pulled the plug on Australia Network, the satellite TV service that has been taking Australian culture (no that’s not an oxymoron) to the region for years under a special funding program from the foreign affairs budget.

The announcement came in the federal budget handed down on May 13 but had been long forecast.

Under the previous government it had been proposed to give the Australia Network contract to a commercial operator. This plan was then reversed in the face of argument from many that showing endless reality TV programs and titbits of tabloid “news” wouldn’t really work if the aim was to advance Australia’s interests. You need a public broadcaster with a commitment to cerebral thought to do that.

The budget had to sharply reduce spending, particularly in the forward years. Many people understand that fully. But the Australia Network contract was only worth $20 million (Australian) a year which is a drop in the bucket in comparison with much that appears in budget line items. The ABC has been progressing very well with its symbiosis of Radio Australia, Australia Network, partnerships with foreign networks (including one in Indonesia) and on line platforms and social media.

While it isn’t true that under the Abbott government advancing Australia’s interests overseas will in future be confined to dishing out free budgie-smugglers on a limited annual giveaway plan, there are some curiosities in the broader foreign policy area that worry a few people.

Australia Network runs – ran – on the budgetary equivalent of the smell of an oily rag and with proper direction was beginning to get some good runs on the board. It had just done a deal to get its service broadcast in China, for example.

The view in Australia seems to be that it’s primarily for expatriate Australians. They may constitute a sizeable portion of the existing audience demographic. It is a way to stay in touch with home after all. But that’s not the point. Unless some rabbit is pulled from a hat, “engaging with the region” may suffer a potentially serious and unnecessary blow.

It’s not clear (at time of writing) when the network will cease operating. A call to the Australian foreign minister’s office in Canberra elicited (after a little while on hold trying not to listen to some fairly offensive “rock” music) advice that discussions were under way with the ABC about the closure date and a suggestion that we should check the ABC website.

We’d already done that. Um, that’s why we called.

.

Marathon Event

This year’s Bali Marathon has deserted Jimbaran and its sheltered waters for Gianyar regency. It will be interesting to see where the organizers propose to stage the swimming part of the deal, given that the Gianyar coast is rather well known for having very dangerous beaches and offshore currents.

Registration for the Sep. 14 event opened on May 17. The marathon is sponsored by BII Maybank. Professional and amateur participants are expected from throughout Indonesia and overseas.

If you’re planning to stretch yourself, you can register on line at balimarathon.com.

 

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, June 27, 2012

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Raking it In

The lively Beat Daily, the online news update produced by the chaps behind the bi-weekly entertainment glossy, had an interesting item recently, sourced from the local Bahasa press, though not – read on – the Bali Post: the 2012 Top 10 corporate rich kids on the block, those earning between Rp100 billion and Rp1 trillion. It bears noting that this is corporate, not personal, wealth, lest anyone starts to get jealous, or overly socialistic, or is tempted to formulate invidious comparisons.

In any case, there is nothing wrong with having a lot of money, provided it has been acquired lawfully and is made fully available to comply with whatever tax law applies in the jurisdiction in which it is enjoyed. Though one might add that therein lies the rub.

It is no surprise that Kadek Wiranatha and his brother Gede Wiratha, the local success story writ large, again top the list. They own the Bounty Group and a diverse portfolio of companies operating taxis, food exports and property (and the newspaper in which this diary appears).

Also no surprise to the Diary is that the Ramayana group, headed by Putu Gde John Poets and owner among other things of Pepito supermarkets and the Mini Mart chain, comes in at No. 2. Given the mark-up on Nescafé Classic instant coffee at Pepito outlets – nearly 27 percent on the price of the product at other retailers and even more than that at, for example, Hypermarket – it’s no surprise they rake in the local shekels by the shovel-load. It’s a bit rich because Nescafé Classic, while modestly aromatic and fully satisfying, is hardly a premium brand; it’s just your regular kitchen jar of instant partial nirvana.

Wayan Kari’s Waka group was third; Ida Bagus Putra’s Santrian group fourth; and then in descending order Hadi Wirawan’s Suzuki empire, Ubud royal Cokde Tjok Oka Artha (Tjampuhan), Tomy Raka,  Kelompok Usaha Keluarga,  the Bali Post group, and Anak Agung Sukadhana (his AAA Kusemas group operates mines, petrol stations and a laundry business).

Such a Shame

Serambi Arts Antida, the great alternative art space in Denpasar, has closed its doors. Apparently the two joint owners of the premises had different ideas about how to capitalise on it. One wanted to sell the property and no compromise could be found.

It opened in 2010 and among other things hosted this year’s Bali Emerging Writers Festival – in late May – which is a spin-off from the annual Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. Organiser Antida Darsana used Facebook to tell everyone who’s going to miss the space created for artists, musicians and students how much he regretted “that a valuable space for creativity, art, and culture cannot be maintained in Denpasar.”
He added: “We will surely rise again to continue our idealism to develop arts and culture in Bali. We may, for the moment, be homeless, but we have not lost our spirit.”

Alternative arts need far-seeing sponsors. Are there any local fat-wallets around – the recent Rich List might point to a name or two – whose skill in acquiring billions of rupiah for their businesses could be turned (in a very minor way after all) to useful philanthropic effect?

Onya, Sonya

The excellent Strewth diary in The Australian – both it and the newspaper, which (disclosure) we should note is run by Hector’s former colleague Chris Mitchell, are required reading for those with an Aussie bent, albeit online if you live outside the Odd Zone – had a lovely little item the other day. It was headed Transporting Type and is worth reproducing unabridged, without further comment:

At an inner Sydney gig on Sunday night, musician Kim Sanders – a practitioner of world music, if you’ll allow the term – had just finished wowing the audience with a piece of Sufi music on his ney, a type of Turkish flute. It was beautiful, bordering on the ethereal, and when he stopped, there was a sense the audience was still suspended in mid-air, held by the coils of the ney’s voice. Careful not to break the mood, Sanders introduced the next piece in almost a whisper. One of his own compositions he explained, inspired by a poem whose intensity, longing and passion had moved his heart and his imagination profoundly. He’d read it only once, he explained, as it was written on the back of a passing bus – the 473, no less. He proceeded to recite it in its entirety: “Sonya, Sonya, let me onya.” Which makes haiku look long-winded in comparison. Sanders got a great tune out of it.

Old Friends

We had old friend Ross Fitzgerald to lunch at The Cage recently. He was staying in Ubud – he and his wife Lyndal Moor have been Bali visitors for 20 years or more and always stay in the attractively royal ambiance of the Pura Saraswati hotel right in the middle of town – and drove all the way down to the Bukit (and back) for a bite and chat. It takes a true friend to do that, given today’s traffic conditions.

Fitzgerald is a professor of history and author or co-author of 35 books, the most recent being Fool’s Paradise, a fictional rendition of political events in the Australian state of Queensland that was long in the making because when first written it was met with horror by publishers who didn’t want to be sued by the non-fictional moulds from which Fitzgerald formed his characters.

Among the several tales told over lunch – they mainly concerned mutual colleagues and friends – was one lovely little story. He had to get back to Ubud early because he was giving a talk to a group of Indonesians (only men and from Bali and Java chiefly) who had recognised that they were addicted to alcohol.

One of Fitzgerald’s books is My Name is Ross, the story of how he beat potentially lethal alcoholism. He hasn’t touched a drop in more than 40 years and still attends meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous regularly.

He was giving his talk, he said, because Indonesians here don’t attend AA meetings, or not in significant numbers, and the chap who organised the meeting got the idea from reading a review of Fitzgerald’s book written some time ago by none other than your diarist. It was in Another Newspaper.

We’re sure the talk went well. Fitzgerald is an amusing raconteur.

All A-buzz

Marie Bee, who writes for the French-language monthly journal La Gazette de Bali and continuously demonstrates that she made very good use of her university days in Aix-en-Provence, is not a person on whom it would be wise to waste a fallacy.

So it was interesting to read in the June edition of La Gazette, in her Ubud column, that she had been to Anand Krishna’s ashram there and found a lingam in residence. The busy little Bee pointed out immediately, lest Francophone readers get quite the wrong idea, that it is not there in the sexual sense that so fixates people today – lingam massage being billed as the art of penis worship – but in its original meaning: the creative power.

Cleaning Up

World Ocean Day on June 8 got a welcome boost worth US$10,000 – that’s around Rp90 million give or take an exchange slip or two – from Blue Season Bali’s effort on the day that helped clean up the Sanur beach and raised funds through a fun scheme (though perhaps not entirely novel in Indonesia) under which people could bribe their way out of jail. The jail operated at the evening BBQ and was guarded by a local police officer who played the role of jailer. Guests paid for their “friends” to be thrown into jail and they then had to raise money to “bribe” the jailer to be released.

Captain Who?

We were planning to end this edition’s diary with a little joke, just to give readers a giggle. We had one all set – don’t worry, it won’t date – when the thought occurred that there was a real joke we should tell instead. It concerns Captain Emad, real name Ali al-Abassi, the well known Iraqi people smuggler who when he arrived on one of the boats from Indonesia that he’d organised fooled the gullible Aussies into believing he was an asylum seeker. They gave him a visa (of course) and, not to gild the lily, a measure of public assistance.

But – shock, horror – the poor dears are now thinking of cancelling his refugee visa after he was outed by the ABC TV current affairs show Four Corners as still, shall we say, somewhat active in the illegal business of putting desperate people on leaky boats to Australia, land of plenty.

The day after the programme aired he left Australia, the plods conspicuously not in pursuit. Oddly, though, he was already a person of interest. Police had raided his home some time before armed with a drug warrant.

But we can tell them that well before the Four Corners exposé, he was seen in Senggigi, Lombok, with a group of fawning Iranians who seemed all to be hoping to pin little kangaroo badges on themselves soon, and that this was reported. Our source was not official and the sighting was reported through civilian contractor channels, not direct to the authorities. But we are confident the circumstances were as described. It is also clear no one in authority in Australia bothered to check effectively.

Hector’s Diary appears in the print edition of the Bali Advertiser, published every second Wednesday, and on his Blog at http://wotthehec.blogspot.com. Hector is on Twitter (@scratchings) and Facebook (Hector McSquawky).