8degreesoflatitude

THINGS THAT INTEREST, ENGAGE AND ENRAGE

Tag: Susi Johnston

Barely Aware

 

HECTOR’S DIARY

Titbits from his regular diet of worms

 

THE CAGE

Bali, Monday, Jun. 4, 2018

 

THE practice among some western tourists here of going around in their beachwear well away from the beach has caused comment before, among the Balinese themselves though they are polite people and chiefly keep silent, and among some of the more sensitively inclined resident foreigners.

Contrary to the exhibitionist argument, it is not prudish to suggest that riding around clad only in a little string bikini is rude. It is not an elective option that anyone would choose who is not either dotty or self-obsessed or both. The Diary is not a prude, or exempted from the proclivity of that half of the human population in possession of an extra chromosome, to look at the sights. We do understand that this can alarm persons who are not thus genetically equipped, especially these days when you’re not really supposed to notice something lissom and very nearly naked.

But, thank goodness, boys are still boys even these days, or are for the most part, and those with good manners don’t make a nuisance of themselves.

There’s a general acceptance that in tourist areas, practically anything passes muster. Bars and nightclubs are where people misbehave, after all. That’s their purpose. A beachside bar is fine if you want to be cheeky and to let it all hang out. But the “tourist areas” are fairly closely defined, or should be. Sitting on a scooter on a traffic-jammed road wearing less than most Balinese would consider decent for underwear is simply rude. It’s also very stupid, because if you’re in an accident your two tiny little scraps of fabric won’t protect you from anything.

The same principle applies to men. Riding around bare-chested or in budgie-smugglers isn’t a good look anywhere, unless you’re a narcissist or are being paid to do a photo shoot. Despite the claims of some westerners that Bali’s unique culture is licentious and sexually explicit, an argument that is banally bolstered by references to bare-breasted village grannies, it’s not like that all. The culture does embrace a measure of eroticism and is the richer for this. But it is stylised in public performances and otherwise kept for the village or the home.

It has nothing to do with westerners who like to think Bali is just the place to come and get your gear off.

PHOTO: Snapped in a By-Pass traffic jam last week.

Er, Yer

IT was amusing to read recently that Bali’s legislators have turned their querulous collective minds to the matter of culturally appropriate architecture. Well, it would have been amusing, if, as usual and in the way of politicians everywhere, they hadn’t mistaken their target and fired a fusillade in the wrong direction.

They called on the state-owned operator of Ngurah Rai airport to ensure that infrastructure to be built largely on reclaimed land at the seaward end of the airport was culturally appropriate. Stuff with Balinese touches, they mean. It’s a utility area and moreover an airport, so architectural flourishes are probably unnecessary anyway. And they haven’t said a word about local opposition to further interfering with the tide line, which those with any acquired memories will remember was fairly disastrous in the area in the 1960s.

More to the point, if the legislators wish to ensure the future of Balinese glimpses in local architecture, they should turn their attention to the built environment outside the airport. It may be too late, which would be a pity, but for our money it would be really good if visitors exiting the airport on arrival were not encouraged to assume, by the vistas that confront them in the vast unplanned metropolis that is South Bali, that they’ve just landed in Jakarta; or back in it.

Read, Weep, Smile

AT the other end of Bali’s demographic, where real people live, or try to, and which sadly is a slide-rule and not a spirit level, the peripheral details that bother politicians and those who advise them are of little importance. This is something of which the writer and private spiritualist Jade Richardson reminds us in the latest post on her blog.

It’s about Made, who lives at Amed and whose commercial life is collapsing around him because his little beach hut hire point is ignored by the sort of tourists who chiefly come to Bali today. You should read it and weep. Then you should smile. Made would like that.

A thought reoccurs: It’s such a shame that theoretical Marxism and original Christianity long before it never really got off their starting blocks.

Island Life

THE former muse of Mengwi, the remarkable Susi Johnston, has resurfaced.  Remarkable is one adjective, ours; another is marvellous, a third indomitable and a fourth fabulous, for all of which references we are indebted to our spotter of ephemera, Philly Frisson, currently in Sydney. Johnston is living on another island. It’s smaller than Bali (and cooler) but it’s one where the right to occupy or dispose of property for which you have paid is a legal certainty. It also has properly engineered roads, effective policing, a functioning local government, and a few other benefits. It’s called Vashon Island and it’s in Puget Sound just off Seattle, on the northwest coast of the continental USA. It’s virtually within hailing distance of Canada, that pleasant country that is home to unarmed North Americans with health insurance.

Johnston is opening a gallery, Aspidistra, on Vashon Island, where her skills in interior design development and details, custom masterpiece furniture, furniture design, as an art advisor, and in art acquisition and specialist sourcing will surely be much sought. What a great outlet for quality Indonesian art and other cultural elements.

The grand opening is tentatively set for Jun. 16. We wish we could be there.

A Little Seasoning

THE Mulia, the concrete hotel and resort complex at the southern end of Geger Beach at Nusa Dua with occupancy rates that would make a confirmed recluse feel lonely, seems not to know in which hemisphere it is situated. It’s planning a huge adults-only party on Sep. 1, apparently to be called Rapture (will partygoers get beamed up?) and says it is destined to be an annual “end of summer” signature event.

The seasons don’t really matter in the tropical zone, especially to tourists, except insofar as to whether they’re wet or dry, but Bali is south of the equator. If anything, Sep. 1 would be the calendar start of spring and hence the end of winter.

Maybe we should pass the hat around and buy the Mulia a big globe as a decorative presence and educational tool. Perhaps they don’t care, but that big line round the middle of it is a dead giveaway.

So There!

A LITTLE game was going around Facebook recently, in which it was claimed the No. 1 song on the charts on your fourteenth birthday describes your life to come. We think it works.

The Diary’s song was It’s Only Make Believe. We’ve always believed that.

 

Chin-chin!

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, May 13, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

The Full Farce of the Law

Sometimes a diarist in the Pancasila Archipelago finds himself wishing he were Archie Clark-Kerr, the British ambassador in wartime Moscow famous for finding himself grateful for any little shafts of light that came his way from heaven. He memorialized one such rarity in 1943 in a rather outré note he typed himself. It reported to the Foreign Office in London the arrival in the beleaguered Soviet capital of a new Turkish envoy called Mustapha Kunt.

There are precious few shafts of light from heaven or anywhere else around here at the moment. Instead, clouds of judicial and political imprudence (readers may wish to regard the ‘r’ as silent) darken the scene.

Susi Johnston, the long-time American resident of Bali whose home was serially invaded by thugs plainly connected with a bid by a woman who was not the nominee to acquire the property at Johnston’s expense, has had many days in court. None of them have been productive of anything except unintelligible bumf and rulings more suited to fictional Ruritania than to factional Indonesia, which aspires to leadership in South-East Asia.

The nominee system is of course outside the law. Lots of lawyers are driving expensively shiny black motor cars on the back of this winked-at illegality. The new Minister of Land Law (who is also director-general of the department) is conducting an audit of foreign-owned residential property to ensure that none continues to be held under this acquisitive fiction, on pain of confiscation to the financial detriment of any foreigners who haven’t regularized their titles prior to seizure. Possibly a lot more lawyers are planning to acquire expensively shiny black motor cars given this latest opportunity to charge outrageous fees to achieve nil result.

That aside, Johnston’s experience with home invasions and ex-nominees is highly instructive. A panel of judges in Denpasar District Court recently heard a criminal case brought by the police against three miscreants alleged to have thrice smashed up Johnston’s home at Mengwi, removed its contents to a handily waiting truck, and terrorized her for two years in the home she and her late husband built.

The judges – two of whom then immediately departed Denpasar for judicial posts elsewhere in Indonesia – found all three not guilty of any crime. They are, therefore, innocent, at least in the judicial meaning of that word. Most of us would be happy, granted, if we were in fact innocent of the charges on which we had been arraigned in court. Some of us might even celebrate that fact, judiciously, a little later, outside the precincts of the court in question.

Not these three however, who attended on the day the judges’ decision was to be handed down and sentences (if any) were to be meted out. They were supported by a group of male persons whom some have described as thugs. We were not in court and can make no assessment ourselves of their thuggish nature. They did however engage in scenes of fist-pumping and shouted approbation when their three friends were cleared, took group selfies, and threatened a female journalist covering the case.  Anywhere else this disgraceful display would have been seen as contempt of court worthy of reprimand if not penalty.

If all this leaves a foul taste in your mouth, then while it may not take the taste away, be assured it is a sensation that is fully shared by your diarist – and by anyone else, anywhere, who would prefer not to have to regard the law as a complete farce.

Bright Ideas Department

Perhaps President Joko Widodo is under even more pressure to perform to someone else’s prescription than has been evident thus far. He has now appeared publicly in populist mode promoting a threat to revoke the licences of private hospitals that refuse to treat people on their government issued health cards.

He’s missing the point. No hospital worthy of licensing would turn away an emergency case, but private hospitals are not bits of the health infrastructure that government doesn’t have to bother funding. “Socialisme” is, well, rather passé. Just ask China.

A more reasonable view is that private hospitals should participate in and support government programs to provide health care for the poor. The President would most likely find the private hospital sector keen to play a role in raising the standard of health of the population.

This would necessarily come at a price. The government could (and arguably it should) support private hospital programs for health card holders by allowing them to access the affordable medication, consumables and other incentives that are afforded to public hospitals.

Shot in the Dark

A lot of people have said quite a lot about the executions of six convicted drug traffickers at Nusa Kambangan Island in Central Java on Apr. 29. More will be said in coming months as the law of unintended consequences catches up with President Widodo. The executions – and those which preceded them as well as any that may follow – will not stop trafficking.

The drug problem that the President says he will stop by ignoring his commitment to human rights and instead having people routinely shot dead just after midnight is a modern phenomenon of cities and tourist centres found around the globe. And while international trafficking is a serious problem, the real problem and the real criminal organizers of it are home-grown.

It will not be countered by risible circuses demonstrating state power, such as the deployment of Sukhoi fighters to Bali to fly cover for the chartered aircraft transporting Bali Nine prisoners Myuran Sukumaran, who became an artist in jail, and Andrew Chan, who took holy orders while incarcerated, to their place of death. Or by the contingents of armed police that were also, astonishingly, deemed necessary.

Transporting two convicts can be done, with the assistance of handcuffs if necessary, by police and prison officers. Barnum & Bailey three-ring circuses are superfluous. Both men had become model prisoners who had contributed to rehabilitation programs at Kerobokan that are a tribute both to them and to the prison authorities.

We’re aware of certain darker elements in Sukumaran’s post-conviction behaviour that are not to his credit, but that’s rather beside the point now and in any case predated his obvious rehabilitation. Neither he nor Chan was going to attempt to escape. The Australian SAS was not going to swoop from the sky and snatch them away.

The President’s predecessor, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and members of the new government from the vice-president down seem to have understood this very well. They offered advice that it was possible to look at things on a case by case basis – and at the execution orders when these were slipped across the presidential desk for signature. They advised that Indonesia’s real interests would be better served by pulling back from the “kill everyone” formula. Even Prabowo Subianto, Jokowi’s strongman rival last year when the President was running on a human rights ticket, said so.

There is now a revitalized push among Indonesians to abolish capital punishment. It’s unlikely to go anywhere fast; but things are moving – and that’s forward, not backwards.

Ah, Daylight!

And now for some light relief: the Bali program of the 2015 Europe on Screen festival in Indonesia. This was at Pan Pacific Nirwana at Tanah Lot on May 2-3. It’s a great location to watch a movie. The waves rolling into the beach almost seem part of the film set.

The film on May 3 was Daglicht (Daylight) made by Eyeworks in the Netherlands in 2013 and directed by Diederik van Rooijen. It was adapted from the 2008 book by Marion Pauw that won the Golden Noose Dutch Crime award. The film stars Angela Schijf and is a little noir (it also has a different ending). But it deals in a compelling way with autism and the plot keeps you on your toes. The English subtitling was very good. Perhaps for Indonesian screenings subtitling should also be in Bahasa.

We had a chat with producer Judith Hees about films in the works. That was another highlight of the evening. Eyeworks, whose main work is in TV, made the series What Really Happens in Bali. We didn’t chat about that.

The film on May 2 was the British production Rush (2013) portraying the merciless 1970s rivalry between Formula One rivals James Hunt and Niki Lauda. The Europe on Screen Bali program was supported by the charity SoleMen, whose best foot forward Robert Epstone was present. He was shoeless but in fine form as always.

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, Nov. 12, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

She’s Off Her Face (Book)

Susi Johnston, the long-term American expatriate whose situation in regard to the property she lives in at Mengwi is as disgraceful as it is well known, has dropped off the social medium preferred by gazillions of virtual chatterers. She has deactivated her Facebook. She told us, when we inquired, that she was fed up with her situation (who could blame her?) and was upset by what she sees as abandonment by former friends. It is all very sad.

Her legal argument over title to her villa, which she shared with her late Italian husband, Bruno Piazza, remains unresolved. Some local grub, name known to police, decided that she should have it instead. Johnston’s house has been invaded. She has been threatened with violent harm. Her personal space has been violated. She has been the target of people who have planted illegal products in her home so she would be charged with a crime. But she is the victim and because of this has been a virtual prisoner in her villa for three years. She can’t even find a pembantu willing in the circumstances to be paid (very well) to keep house.

The police have done little except camp at her place 24/7 to “protect” her. In the process they have destroyed her life. The courts have done nothing except shuffle bumf. That’s no surprise but excuse us if we duck around a corner to vomit in disgust. The American consular system apparently cannot help her (or perhaps it will not).

In Johnston’s view the invidious situation of “nominee ownership” of property here means no one is safe unless everyone stands together. Foreigners cannot own freehold residential property in Indonesia. There is apparently still the quaint belief – though this is not a peculiarly Indonesian thing – that if filthy foreigners own land they might dig it up and steal away with it in the night. In fact it is Jakarta and Surabaya money – some of it black – that is the chief agency of land theft and the egregious despoliation that inevitably follows. But the unofficial and legally unsound nominee system which stands in the stead of outright foreign freehold ownership can work quite well if there is goodwill on each side.

Of course, it also enriches a lot of lawyers in Bali, among them practitioners whose acquisitive origins lie elsewhere, via the labyrinthine nature of Indonesian law and the fat brown envelope culture that underpins it.

Haunting Echoes

It would have been lovely to be at the Makassar Jazz Festival on the first weekend in November. Australian singer Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu was performing there, for the first time. He sings in the Gumatj dialect of Yolngu Matha, as did the Aboriginal rock group Yothu Yindi. Greg Moriarty, the Australian ambassador to Indonesia, had the good fortune to be in the audience.

Gurrumul’s music often enlivens The Cage and offers a spiritual lift. Particularly the haunting tracks Wiyathul and Bapa from his debut 2008 album Gurrumul, both of which on a hot, still night, remain capable of dampening an eye even after years of listening to them. He has done a lot of work since 2008, including last year’s collaboration with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. He has immensely strengthened cross-cultural links with the Balanda (the Australian settler community) through his music.

It’s entirely appropriate that Gurrumul should perform in Makassar. His traditional country on northern Australia’s littoral has links with Makassar that stretch back four hundred years, from the time in the 17th century when traders from Sulawesi first made contact. His own language contains modified words from Makassar now used in Bahasa Indonesia.

Moriarty was in South Sulawesi at the start of a visit to eastern Indonesia. Among other things on his schedule was a visit to an Australian-funded water project at Bantimurung that will increase the number of low-income households with access to piped water and sewerage.

He then went on to visit Papua province as part of Australia’s long-term support for economic development in eastern Indonesia.

In Aid of a Better Life

Among the lesser known things that Australian diplomatic and consular missions do is fund low-level self-help projects generally at community level to help local people have a better life. It’s not the sort of thing that often gets noticed. Actually that’s a good thing, because otherwise some whingeing so-and-sos in the Special Biosphere would inevitably assert that “their” government was wasting their money.

The consulate-general in Bali – which also looks after Australian interests in West Nusa Tenggara (Lombok and Sumbawa) – has an active annual program in which development grants go to local not-for-profit organizations to support projects and ideas that would not be possible without that assistance. Grants range from $2,500 to $15,000 (Australian).

It’s a lengthy list (which really deserves wide publicity, despite the caution noted in the first paragraph) but there are three that caught our eye as brightly illuminating both the principle and the practice of local assistance.

One is Dria-Raba, a government school for the blind in Denpasar. The Australians provided musical instruments and the fit-out for a music room. Like most government schools in Indonesia Dria-Raba needs to find the bulk of its funding from elsewhere than the public purse. Because of its special needs it is heavily reliant on volunteers.

In East Bali the Direct Aid Program funded the building of three early childhood learning centres. This enabled women employed at the new East Bali Cashews factory to continue to work as their children could be looked after during the day.

In Ubud, where several organizations are trying to get on top of the growing pile of garbage created by tourism and development, the Australians funded building of an environmental waste management facility (it’s a Rotary Club Ubud project) at the Monkey Forest whose product also feeds the monkeys, eliminating the expensive need to purchase feed.

 

Salam, Shalom

There’s an interesting book launch at Bar Luna, Ubud, on Sunday (Nov. 16): Sons of Abraham: A Candid Conversation about the Issues that Divide and Unite Muslims and Jews by Rabbi Marc Schneier and Imam Shamsi Ali.

Rabbi Schneier, president of The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, is the eighteenth generation of a distinguished rabbinical dynasty. He grew up deeply suspicious of Muslims, believing them all to be anti-Semitic (though that would be difficult for many Muslims who, being Arab, are Semites themselves). Imam Shamsi Ali, Imam of the Jamaica Muslim Center in New York, spent his childhood in a small Indonesian village, studied in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, and believed that all Jews wanted to destroy Muslims. Coming from positions of mutual mistrust, it seemed unthinkable that these orthodox religious leaders would ever see eye to eye.

But in Sons of Abraham (Random House) – and the Bahasa Indonesia version Anak-Anak Ibrahim (Noura Book Publishing) – Rabbi Schneier and Imam Ali tell the story of how they became friends. They offer a candid look at the contentious theological and political issues that so often divide Muslims and Jews and clarify erroneous ideas that extremists in each religion use to justify harmful behaviour.

Ah, Souls

Another warning about overdevelopment has surfaced, this time in Bali Discovery and the online Surf Life journal. It reports that the Bali chapter of the Association of Tourism Intellectuals (this is not necessarily an oxymoron) is alarmed that accommodation development in Bali is following an unclear path. As a deflective  euphemism, that’s almost up there with the Japanese Emperor advising his people in a national radio broadcast in August 1945 that he was surrendering because the war had developed in ways not necessarily to Japan’s advantage.

Association chairman Putu Anom said that while new starred hotels were once confined to a specific area, these days inexpensive city hotels stood side-by-side with them, resulting in unhealthy price competition. Well, there’s always a protectionist argument that can be advanced, even if it should be ignored. It’s certainly true that Bali’s greed-first policy is creating an ever-spreading rash of significantly sub-iconic blots on the landscape.

The Surf Life piece had a photo captioned to indicate the particular blot on the landscape depicted was another hotel. It isn’t. It’s actually worse. Someone with a ready supply of facilitation funds is wrecking the cliff just east of the Banyan Tree on the southern Bukit to create a jet-ski centre where Generation Vroom can disturb the peace, frighten the local fish, and damage the coral.

Killer at Large

A nine-year-old girl from Kubu in Karangasem, East Bali, has died of rabies. This is a shocking and unnecessary tragedy. It is also a bleak indictment of the Bali authorities’ condign failure, now of six years’ duration, to act effectively to control the outbreak to prevent the disease becoming endemic. It’s not that they’ve been short of advice, expert assistance, or funds, after all.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter. His diary appears in the Bali Advertiser newspaper and online at baliadvertiser.biz

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Aug. 20, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Trash Can be Beautiful

A month or so back we dropped in on a Green Drinks meeting in Ubud organized by organic food guru and long-time Ubud luminary Darsih Gede. It was an interesting and inspiring occasion. The presentation was on the then forthcoming Bali Creative Reuse Centre and its plans to engage children, their parents and their communities in finding innovative ways to recycle trash.

The centre opened in late July (it’s at Jl Bisma 53). Its goal is to collect waste from local businesses, schools and families and package these in activity kits or sold in bulk to teachers and families. The message is that trash is a valuable resource to reuse for art and as learning materials.

That message is being delivered by Eka, a local teacher who is running the centre, and American volunteer Renee. The centre supports local Indonesian artists and organizations with workshops on the artistic and practical value of recycled trash and acts as a resource centre. It supports local schools and community programs offering arts programs reusing their trash and helping them find resources to support environmentally safer ways to dispose of their waste.

A website is being developed. They have also just finished their first teacher workshop at Dyatmika and are designing a recycled materials space for them.  The aim is for this to become a model to replicate in other schools and villages to promote creativity and inspiration to use trash as a medium to produce useful products and eye-catching art.

Eka has augmented her teacher qualifications by training at the Bali Environmental Training Centre (PPLH) in Denpasar and is teaching children in villages to use plastic for weaving and crocheting to make bags and other functional products they can sell.  She has also met Bali Recycling to inform local villagers about ways they can recycle and get money for their trash.

An open day is planned for Sep. 7. This would be a great opportunity for all segments of the community to have a look at the innovative programs the centre offers. Trash is everyone’s business, after all.

It would be good to see other not-for-profit organizations in Ubud getting aboard this great civic and educational initiative. There’s nothing to beat cooperative engagement.

 

In General, Not a Good Idea

Former General Prabowo Subianto has made a bit of a mess of losing the presidential election. It seems that everyone other than himself is to blame for the fact that he failed to win the support of more Indonesians than his opponent, president-elect Joko Widodo.

Perhaps on Aug. 17, Independence Day, he might have found time to reflect on reality. In a democratic election the candidate who wins most votes is elected. Prabowo either can’t add up or doesn’t want to. It’s not as if he was beaten narrowly. The margin was wide enough to make a declaration of a result beyond the reach of anything other than a most inventive challenge.

Independence Day celebrates Indonesia’s nationhood and the 69 years of history that now stands on the record. Prabowo played a small part in some of that history, as a military man. He’s entitled to run for civil office. He’s not entitled to claim he was robbed of a victory that he plainly didn’t win. Civil society and democratic elections do not run on a military command basis.

He can try again next time, if he wants. A sensible appreciation of Indonesian politics and the voting figures this time shows clearly that Joko Widodo will have to accommodate a spectrum of views and policy positions, including those espoused by Prabowo’s party, which says it seeks a greater Indonesia.

That’s practical democracy. It is also the Indonesian way. It’s just not a good idea to ignore facts, even if (actually, especially if) you’re a retired general who was drummed out of the army under a cloud.

 

We Are Not Amused

American Bali muse Susi Johnston, who lives at Mengwi in a villa someone else has been trying to seize for their own enrichment, is in more trouble. This time someone has poisoned her pet dog and beloved cat in – on the evidence she presents – a carefully planned and deliberate manner. It might just be a case of VBS – Vindictive Bastard Syndrome, which like dengue and a lot of other avoidable endemic disorders is widespread in Bali – but given the history of her case that seems unlikely.

There are several aspects of her situation that are profoundly disturbing. They are worrisome for other long-term expatriate residents who contribute to the wider life of the island and whose presence directly benefits the Balinese and other Indonesians they pay or otherwise support.

Johnston has endured a lengthy campaign to remove her from the villa she shared with her Italian husband Bruno Piazza, who died in 2011 and whose name was on the nominee agreement. It has involved threats, break-ins and raids by thugs on the premises; detention by police pending “investigations”; a court process that has been stymied at every turn; and sundry other molestations that only the truly mean-spirited or graspingly acquisitive would visit on a widow. She assumes, with what seems to be good reason, that the pet poisoning is the latest incident in this lengthy round of bastardry.

In such circumstances the fainter of heart might simply mutter “this is not to be borne” and move someplace else where the rule of law, the principles of basic justice and common sense apply. But Johnston’s not a quitter. Bali is where she has made her life. The “system”, such as it is, should recognize that.

 

Revealing Fatwa

The roving eye was caught the other day by news that the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) has issued a fatwa against women teaming the jilbab with “tight” clothing below the neck. Apparently its fatwa proscribing pornography (as defined by Islamic leaders) also means Muslim women should not show the shape of the body.

It’s true – as we’ve noted before – that some of the more excessive revelations made possible by modern western fashions are over the top. It’s not quite clear how or why painted-on jeans and bust-enhancing tops are pornographic, though we concede they must be dreadfully uncomfortable to wear.

Modern Islamic fashion for women is in its own way highly decorative, and that’s good. Seeing women primarily as sexual objects is a male disease, a genetic disposition that should have dropped off the scope very shortly after Urk, Gurk and the crew vacated their cave dwellings and got a bit civilized. It’s a shame that it hasn’t.

We agree with the vice-chairman of the MUI, Ma’ruf Amin, that women already choosing to wear the jilbab should not do so in a vulgar way. Vulgarity of any kind is offensive, after all; including the vulgarity of presuming rights to proscribe the elective and legal behaviour of others.

 

Blush Highlights

Sydney jazz singer and Villa Kitty ambassador Edwina Blush is back in Bali for her annual season of swingalongs. Through to September she’s playing the Three Monkeys Restaurant at Sanur between 6pm and 9pm every Tuesday and Sunday with her cool Blush Sextet (Yuri Mahatma on guitar,  Astrid Sulaiman on keys, Helmi Augustrian on bass, Pramono Abdi and sax and newcomer Wisnu Priambodo on drums; and Thursdays at Il Giardino in Ubud with the trio (7.30pm to 10pm).

Blush arrived in July with a program including four different combos and three different variations on a Jazz theme Classic Jazz, 20’s Swing and SkaJazz. Good stuff!

In her Villa Kitty hat she’ll have been pleased to see that Elizabeth Henzell’s Ubud establishment featured on the Australian TV series What Really Happens in Bali.

 

New Deal, Old System

The new management at Ngurah Rai International Airport has put a stop to the “VIP arrival services” that permit those unwilling to mix with the masses in the Visa on Arrival melee to pay to be fast-tracked around the bottleneck. Experience and an understanding of how things really work here suggest that normal service will be resumed shortly, if it hasn’t already.

If the new management is really interested in improving customer service at the airport it might like to look at a system that rosters porters (and provides luggage trolleys) when they’re needed and not simply at the porters’ convenience. We’re told by a traveller that mid-afternoon on Saturday, Aug. 9, neither porters nor trolleys were available in the arrivals hall.

Then there’s the piratical taxi monopoly. That warrants managerial examination too.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Feb 5, 2014

 

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

New ROLE for Netball

Netballers have always been vaguely worrying. Their skill at stopping dead when they get the ball – since unlike basketball you can’t run with it – is a complete mystery to people (such as your diarist) whose own sport is of a different sort entirely and requires you to run with the ball until a lot of very hefty boys push you into the mud and sit on you. Furthermore, netballers are all but exclusively girls who (lovely creatures though they may be) you wouldn’t want to risk putting offside.

So of course we snapped to attention the other day when Bec Hamer of the Bali Flames netball club got on to us about a new fundraising scheme the club’s put together to support the ROLE Foundation.

The Flames have been going from strength to strength. Last year’s annual international invitational attracted 10 teams from Singapore, Thailand, Australia and Indonesia. This year 16 teams are down to compete including interest from New Zealand. That Auckland-Bali Air NZ service is clearly paying dividends.

The club, like many in Bali, has a strong commitment to community service. The Flames chose the ROLE Foundation, whose founder is social entrepreneur Mike O’Leary, because it focuses on empowering and educating disadvantaged Balinese women.  

Bec tells us the Flames have handed over a donation of Rp5.2 million from their netball tournament last year. She visited ROLE and spoke with O’Leary recently and is impressed with its training program that teaches young women aged 18-21 computer and hospitality skills in cooperation with the international hotel sector.

“It is truly an amazing place where it is wonderful seeing people making a difference,” she says. We agree. This is also one instance in which you could permit your latent pyromania a brief outing and say may the Flames get higher and higher.

Must catch a game sometime, too.

 

Sing Along with Pete and Susi

It was sad, though of course the event was inevitable at some near date, that American song-master Pete Seeger played his final chord on Jan. 27. He was 94. His was the voice of the American and global protest movement. He sang conscience. He raised consciousness. He played great banjo. He wrote great songs.

Susi Johnston opened her villa at Pererenan on Sunday, Feb. 2, for a celebration of Seeger’s life and performing art. Along with the music she offered marshmallows. It’s people like Susi who put a shine into your life, if you let them.

As Susi herself noted, Feb. 2 was also Groundhog Day, the date when Punxsutawney Phil either casts a shadow or doesn’t when he emerges from his burrow in Pennsylvania to predict an early spring or rather a lot more winter.

They made a movie of the same name, which we’ve seen countless times. Here in Bali it often seems like the movie version of Groundhog Day.

 

General Salute

Australia’s new de facto head of state is a military man whose command role in the international intervention in East Timor in 1999 brought him to Indonesian attention. Among some in the Australian media, the fact that General Peter Cosgrove had been given this gig poses a risk of reigniting disagreement between Jakarta and Canberra.

Why this should be thought to be so is a mystery. The Governor-General of Australia has no political role. As in Canada, New Zealand and a few other places that were once imperial and are still monarchies, the G-G formally represents The Queen and signs all the bits of paper that heads of state get to sign. The prime minister is head of government.

This and next year are significant commemorative and ceremonial occasions for Australia. This year marks 100 years since the outbreak of World War I and 2015 is the Centenary of ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) that is understood, through the landing at Gallipoli and the ensuing months of fighting the Turks, to be the defining moment in forming Australian nationhood.

Having a real general as Chief Nob at ANZAC Cove at Gallipoli on that and other flag-waving occasions is a great idea. In the meantime, if by chance any of Australia’s neighbours notice that Cosgrove’s appointment highlights the social benefit of democratic generals committed to public service rather than strutting autocrats interested in political power and private enrichment, then that too will be a good thing.

Cosgrove takes over next month when incumbent G-G Quentin Bryce’s five-year term ends. Bryce, who is the Australian leader of the opposition’s mother-in-law, has done a good job.

 

Erk! Irked by an Urk

We witnessed an intemperate occasion one day recently outside the Circle K shop near the Puri Gading intersection at Bukit Jimbaran. A people-mover had stopped roadside to let one of its passengers out for a purchase within and – in the nature of parking practice here – had blocked vehicles in the parking area that might wish to leave.

One vehicle did. Its driver did what you do here, which is lightly and politely toot the horn twice and by sign language suggest that moving the other vehicle forward – in this case by about a metre, a manoeuvre for which there was ample space – would allow the other car to leave.

From the front passenger door of the offending conveyance then leapt a Bule of fierce demeanour and disastrously unkempt hair, aged in his late forties (at a guess). He advanced on the tooter and rapped on the window. The tooter lowered his window. “We’re not moving!” was the message delivered to him, in one of those razor-wire Australian accents from which strong and brave people all over the world run away and lock their doors. “We’ll be five minutes.”

Fortunately the driver of his conveyance was Indonesian and had readily understood the request. While the “we’re-not-moving (so go and get…)” message was being delivered, the little bus was in fact moving forward by just the required distance.

The tooter smiled and pointed this out to his unwelcome visitor, offered a short suggestion to the effect that the visitor should depart and precisely how he should do so, and pushed the up button on the window as he reversed away.

 

That’s Karma

We have always believed that when one errs, the thing to do is to stand up and admit it. This is what used to be called doing the honourable thing. Conscience does not permit evasion. Such practices are nowadays much less readily found. Especially here in Bali where any defaulter can apparently reasonably advance a claim that it was his or her friend who did it.

But it’s not just here. Across the western world, where once you took things on the chin, if not like a man, excuse has become the preferred option. Perhaps you have stolen something? Not your fault. Your father used to yell at you, your mother denied you the comforts of custard, and you were bullied in the school yard.

Thus we must report that karma is ever watchful and a horrid thing. It loves delicious irony. In an item on Jan. 8 we playfully took Morgana of Cocoon to task for saying (in print, elsewhere) that she didn’t know where the year had gone. We suggested it was all a matter of mathematics. So it is. But we then wrote, “It’s the Year of the Monkey in 2014.”

It’s not, of course. It’s the Year of the Horse. The Monkey’s next appearance on the 12-year cycle is in 2016. Our maths is defective too. Doh!

 

So Sad

Late in January a sad little post popped up on Facebook from Dian and Barbara Cahyadi, who publish the useful fortnightly Lombok Guide.

It asked this: “Does anyone know anything about an Italian tourist (named Ginevra) who died in Lombok early December 2013 (apparently between 8-13 Dec)? Possibly drowned? Family in Italy are asking. Thank you.”

It was a reminder, should any be needed, that Lombok (along with other parts of Indonesia) is missing many of the markers in matters of policing, public safety and administration.

It’s true that this benefits many people, foreigners among them, who come here to get lost for all sorts of reasons. It’s possible that this one wanted to get lost. But it beggars belief that the authorities haven’t advised the grieving parents of a tourist, whose name and possible manner of death are apparently known, of the results of any investigation.

 

That Other Cocoon

Louise Cogan’s Cocoon Spa in Seminyak has just celebrated two years in business in the broadly defined cosmetic medicine tourism sector. In any business, the setting up period is likely to present little problems. The cautious among us remember the old adage, that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. The wrinkles must all be ironed out, then. Good. Congratulations! 

 

Hector is on Twitter @scratchings 

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, December 11, 2013

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Our Changing Face

New figures that show the rapid growth of domestic investment in Bali’s tourism sector and the skyrocketing numbers of domestic tourists here are very interesting for future-watchers. They show without a shadow of doubt that the characters of Bali’s leading industries – tourism and the related commercial and residential property sector – are changing in ways that ultimately might not suit Australian and European residents or holidaymakers.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Nothing in human history has ever been set in stone forever: Just ask Ozymandias, the real-life Barney Rubble of antiquity. Communities that readily adjust to change thrive. Those that fail to do so find at first that they are losing influence, then impetus; they become curiosities; and then they become extinct.

Bali’s exposure to tourism in meaningful mass-market formats is of relatively recent date.  The island has managed this impact remarkably well, at the human interface level, by parlaying a natural friendliness into an international reputation for being a nice place. It has done this in fact with consummate skill since the Balinese have no real interest in anyone else’s culture (see next item). It’s the money that matters – and that’s fair enough.

Statistics reported in the Jakarta Post’s Bali Daily wraparound on Nov. 29 show that 80 percent of commercial or high-value residential and resort property transactions in Bali are now by Indonesians and that foreign tourists make up only 30 percent of the total visitor footprint. Cheap airfares and low-cost accommodation heftily boost growth in the tourism sector but have also brought substantial change to it.

There will always be a navel-gazing niche market in Bali – centred on Ubud, where people organize ecstatic dances and other shamanistic things for the find-yourself set – but the bulk of tourism in Bali is the sort of stuff you can find anywhere. Booze and pick-up parties (for either gender) and pay-by-the-hour sex for those (ditto) who can’t score even at a party cater for a broad market. The family holiday is still the major sector but increasingly mum arrives wearing a jilbab and stays in it for the duration. And that too is fair enough.

Off the Wall

Made Wijaya, whose public invective has been of only a whispered or rumoured nature lately for those not numbered among his favoured courtiers, offered a rare public utterance the other day that had a bit more value than usual. He popped up on the Sanur Group page on Facebook to tell us this: “If you don’t know [scatological expletive deleted] because your Bali runs from the Arena to the Golden Snail, better to shut up and talk about the price of beer. I mean that in a caring way.”

Many expats know a lot about Bali well beyond those limits. True, none of them are world famous for jumping ship and swimming ashore through the phosphorescent surf decades ago to find that their shining presence has been eagerly awaited for eons by locals keen to see them set up shop as a landscape gardener.

The more modest among them do not regard themselves as legends even in their own lunchtimes. But be that as it may, many do actually agree with Wijaya on a lot of things. This shouldn’t surprise him, though apparently it does.

His advice in this particular instance is chiefly sound: He proffered it in this form:

“Last night at a popular beachside pizzaria (sic) I listened to a nice affable expat telling his Balinese girlfriend how ‘Australia has become like America and Bali has become like Australia’.  Now, while agreeing that certain corners of South Bali/Nusa Lembongan have become Boganville, there is a lesson to be learned here by those wishing to ‘integrate into Balinese society’. Advice: Do be warned that the radical Kuta Rightwing Nationalist movement has today launched a new logo ‘Love Indonesia or Leave it’ and soon will be hunting down sexpat bores on horseback. And note: Balinese only fake interest in our worldviews.”

Now that is a considered worldview. Bogans, bar owners, predatory business types and terminologically inexact real estate promoters should take special care to note it. But there are two other points that should also be noted, which Wijaya as usual ignores as irrelevant to the gospel according to Made.

One is that strong-arm “rightwing nationalist” movements anywhere, including in Kuta, are in fact the Bogans of their own communities. The second is that while the Balinese may not give a deleted scatological expletive about Australians or any other foreigners, they’re in the process of finding out that the Wegotalldamoney tribe from Java cares even less about them or their island home.

So Sad

It was very sad to hear that Kerry Prendergast, the Australian-born artist and singer who was a fixture in the Bali firmament, had died suddenly at a Sanur hotel on Nov. 25. She had been giving a singing performance. This was shortly after she returned with her husband Pranoto from two months in Western Australia, her home.

They had been showing their art in Perth – including in King’s Park, a favourite spot of the Diary’s – and were due to go back to WA in January for another show.

It is often said that only the good die young. No, that’s not Billy Joel (though his 1977 anthem to lust is very good). It’s the Greek historian Herodotus, writing in 445 BCE. Kerry Prendergast was only in her middle 50s. That’s far too young.

On Dec. 1 there was a gathering at Pranato’s Gallery at Teges Goa Gajah, Ubud, in her memory. Her art stays with us all as a mark of a life lived fully and well. It’s often said that you are not truly gone until everyone who knew you, or of you, has also departed. So she’ll be with her family and the rest of us in a very tangible sense for a long time yet.

Go, Socrates!

This is not about Socrate Georgiades of the delightful monthly Francophone journal La Gazette de Bali that is required reading at The Cage. It’s about the other one, the very ancient Greek. Specifically it is about his reported views, unquestionably soundly based, on the children of his day in Athens. This was that “children nowadays are tyrants. They contradict their parents, gobble their food, and tyrannise their teachers”.

A tweet about this fundamental truth on Twitter recently – it came from the U.S., where children are even more badly behaved – brought a riposte from Susi Johnston, who muses from Mengwi on many matters. Susi, who was once an American child herself though we’re sure a very well behaved one, said that was exactly what many Balinese parents were saying these days.

Those who read the adduced views of Socrates learn much. Plato’s Republic has many benefits. There was no fast food in ancient Greece, for starters.

Takes the Cake

We dropped by Biku tea lounge in Seminyak the other day – well virtually, via its Facebook page; it’s quicker than driving there from the windswept southern extremities where we live – and found a nice little message posted by fan Heidi Parkie.

Clearly Heidi is not one for controversy even though she’s from Lancashire in England, where they love an argument. She made this simple point: Marble cake makes everything better. Absolutely no one could disagree.

Biku, which recently celebrated its fifth birthday, is a Diary destination of choice. Asri Kerthyasa’s eclectic establishment began life virtually marooned in the rice fields. Today it is slap-bang in the middle of the ever-expanding urban sprawl.

But like its marble cake, it cannot be missed. Next time we trek up that way we’ll leave the packed lunch behind and starve ourselves for Biku instead.

Sting in the Tail

Every year ABC TV’s Insiders program, the essential weekly political centrefold show hosted by veteran scribe Barrie Cassidy and seen here on Australia Network, names its Matt Price Moment. The final Insiders show of 2013 – the silly season is now in full swing Down Under – went to air on Dec. 1.

And this year’s Moment is a classic. Tony Abbott (now prime minister but at the time opposition leader in the 2013 election campaign) at a press conference: “No one, no matter how smart, no matter how well educated, no matter however experienced, is the suppository of all wisdom.”

At least that’s one Abbott statement with which no one could possibly argue.

The Moment is in memory of journalist Matt Price, a lovely character from Western Australia who had a fine grasp of the completely ridiculous and hideously risible. This served him well because he worked in the press gallery at Parliament House in Canberra. Legislatures everywhere are places where you need to overdose on humour just to get by. He would have loved that one. Price died of a brain tumour in 2007, aged 46.

Hector tweets @scratchings

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Mar. 20, 2013

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences 

Parodi or Parody: You Choose

Anyone expecting considered application of justice – as in court decisions based on fair assessments and police arresting people on the basis of tip-offs rather than because of tips – would be well advised to forgo the dubious delights of attempting resolution in Indonesia.

Spiritual guru Anand Krishna was arrested in 2010 and charged with sexual harassment on the basis of a complaint from one of his former students. He was first convicted in the South Jakarta Supreme Court and was then, after one of the original trial judges was removed for inappropriate contact with the prosecution, exonerated and freed by a bench headed by another judge. She subsequently found herself transferred to Bangka Island, by the way.

The prosecutors then contrived to get Krishna retried via one of the convenient cart-and-horse-size loopholes that pepper Indonesia’s criminal code for the benefit of prosecutors whose premier skills lie in own-goals. He was sentenced to two-and-a-half years’ jail.  He was arrested at his Ubud ashram amid a near riot on February 13.

Krishna’s Hindu-based teachings are very liberal about the essential freedoms of life.

Another curious incident that relates to the law and its stewardship has recently come to notice. It involves Susi Johnston, an American who has lived here for years, is a true friend of the Balinese people, is a lovely person, and is relatively recently widowed. She is also in trouble, and prima facie this seems to be for highly questionable reasons.

Eighteen months ago she lost her Italian husband, Bruno Piazza, to cancer. She believed that on his death continued occupancy of their villa at Mengwi would pass to her in his will and that it would remain her home as he would have wished and under the nominee he had assigned. Unfortunately it seems the nominee – as the legal title holder – had other ideas. Equally unfortunately for Johnston she appears to have what might euphemistically be called very powerful connections. That’s the way things work here.

We do not know the full facts of the property issue. But we do know that the nominee system, farce though it may be, is not directly designed to facilitate avaricious property acquisition by a nominee who has been paid to lend his name to a legal fiction, or to facilitate its profitable transfer to others of his acquaintance.

The full circumstances of Johnston’s situation are not clear either. It does appear she was advised to reach some compromise in regard to her villa but chose not to do so. As a result she has been monstered – there’s really no other word for it – by hired thugs and others.

Earlier this month Johnston posted her version of the story of three home invasions she suffered in February. It appeared on a Facebook group page engagingly called Mugged in Bali. It quickly disappeared, though not before The Diary took the precaution of cutting and pasting a copy. A few days later she was arrested when police found drugs in her car.  It is remarkably easy to find drugs in someone’s possession if they’ve been planted. We know this happens. Everyone knows this happens. Fortunately, she was released after only a few days of detention for investigation – and we heard shortly afterwards that the police were now interested in talking to the perpetrators of the plot to incarcerate her. Some clouds do have silver linings, then.

But the essential lesson remains: In both the Krishna and Johnston cases the word “travesty” comes to mind. In Bahasa Indonesia travesty is “parodi”. How apt!

Something smells. And it’s not the roses.

Ah, rack off

Hector’s helper had a robust exchange with an Ubud bien-pensant the other day over the little matter of adulteration of drinks (including arak) for sale in bars in Bali and Lombok. It arose because said helper had posted a comment about criminality. In response, Nyoman Wen scribbled to the effect that Hector’s helper was unread and ignorant.

The Good Wen is another former Sydney personage who has transmigrated, apparently in almost every sense. He acquired the essence of guruhood on Mangrove Mt, New South Wales, and these days dispenses advice and does not take kindly to the bleeding obvious disturbing his personal karma.

So for the record: Whatever foolish village youths do in the matter of adulterating the arak they get drunk on, people who sell drinks over the counter anywhere are engaged in commercial practices that are – or would be if anyone bothered – licensed, regulated and subject to excise and tax laws. Bar owners who doctor drinks know what they’re doing and that what they’re doing is wrong: Especially when it kills people, which far too often it does.

 

8 Million’s a Crowd

According to figures recently released by the government, 8,044,462 tourists visited Indonesia last year, around 5 percent more than in 2011. And according to Retno Sulistyaningsih, director of tourism development at the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy, the increase is due to the better quality and variety of tourism products offered in Indonesia.

He cited in particular one of the ministry’s flagship programmes, the Destination Management Organization (DMO), which manages sustainable tourism destinations in 15 locations around Indonesia, including “regional Bali”.

We don’t know whether to be happy or sad about this news. We thought there were more tourists about, possibly even 8 million of them. But it seemed to us that they’d all come to Bali and hired cars so they could relax in paradise by crawling up and down the Ngurah Rai Bypass.

English as she is Broke

The English language is under pressure everywhere: Even the dullest amongst us would have realised this by now. Its functional demise is being hastened by the internet and the illiterate clowns who inhabit it. (We saw something recently in which some cyber-world lunatic wrote that emails would be better restricted to 50 words or less. Unfortunately it didn’t say these should be correctly spelt and rendered in something resembling a grammatical structure.)

One would not, of course, expect Tolstoy to produce War and Peace for Twitter. Though it is amusing to speculate on what he might suggest as an alternative use for his quill to anyone who put such a proposal to him. Nowadays we are not believed likely to read much beyond a beer coaster, either in word count or cerebral content. Instead we are considered to have the attention spans of dead ants.

All sorts of people want to blog nowadays. One popped up the other day saying he (or possibly she) would really like to get into travel blogging and adding: “Been blogging about life and travel in SE Asia fir a few years now but really don’t know anything about blogging per say.”

Sadly this indicates that the writer actually knows very little about anything much at all, per se.

It’s a Breeze

How nice it was to see The Samaya Seminyak coming in at No. 3 on the Trip Advisor top 10 list of the most luxurious hotels in Asia, released recently. We’ve always had a soft spot for the property, and especially for its lovely beachside bar and restaurant (Breeze, named for its prevailing ambience). We go there occasionally to remember when we were to be counted among the spending classes.

It really is a great spot, the more so for having Ray Clark as general manager; and for being the place of favourite resort of some lovely Sydney friends.

The property has recently been remodelled and is now even better than ever. No. 1 next year, guys!

Two other Bali properties made it into the top 10: The Chedi Club Tanah Gajah at Ubud came in at No. 4 and The Samaya Ubud was in seventh spot. A third Ubud property, Komaneka at Monkey Forest, was 13th.

Full House

Australian wellness person Hayley Lawrence, who operates the Radiant Being centre at Albany on the bracing southernmost coast of Western Australia is – understandably, given that our breezes are generally balmy – something of a Bali fan. She reports almost a full house for her next “follow your bliss retreat” involving yoga and other delights at Batu Karang Resort and Spa on Nusa Lembongan on April 15-20. One held last year attracted very favourable comment from participants. There’s a second retreat planned for October this year.

There is still (just, be quick) space to get on the programme if you’re interested. Full details are at www.radiantbeing.com.au or you can email info@radiantbeing.com.au.  And Lawrence says you can have 10 percent off if you read about it here and mention that fact when you book.

It’s good to see the deepening development of mutually profitable West Australian-Bali business relations. And a bit of pampering never goes astray.

Hector’s Diary is published in the Bali Advertiser, out fortnightly in print, and on the newspaper’s website http://www.baliadvertiser.biz. Hector tweets @scratchings and is on Facebook (Hector McSquawky)