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

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Heading for the Hills

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

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

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

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

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

Murder Aforethought

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

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

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

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

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

Splash Out

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

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

That Sinking Feeling

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

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

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

It’s That Girl Again

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

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

Give. Us. A. Break.

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

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, June 24, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Mama Mia!

We failed to wear pink for the occasion because – well, just because. But we were present at the June lunch of the indomitable DIVAS, who gathered at Slippery Stone in Jl Batu Belig, Kerobokan, for fun, frivolity, a clear absence of fasting as a practice any girl in her senses would endorse, and to raise money for the women’s empowerment group the ROLE Foundation.

We had promised chief Diva Christina Iskandar that we’d get along to the show, on Jun. 12. This was made easier by an arrangement to appear as Lizzie Love’s handbag. ROLE chief Mike O’Leary presented some interesting facts about his organization and the useful – actually essential – work it does to shift disadvantaged women out of poverty. Eva Scolaro sang some songs, sultry and otherwise, and ended with Mama Mia, that old ABBA staple. That created an amazing scene, at least in the view of superannuated diarists. Crowds of women from dowagers to dinky divas leapt up and began punching the air. It was quite alarming until Lizzie, dear creature, calmed our rising fears. Apparently it’s the done thing.

Lizzie, who didn’t do the punch-the-air thing, was in fetching Flapper-style pink but she had along with her for the show a lovely Sydney friend, Jocelyn Johinke, to whose presence we formed an immediate attraction. Like the Diary, she was wearing the “new pink” which is, well, basically white.

It was all good fun with no disappointments since we never win raffles anyway, and now we know it’s safe to be in the middle of a moderately raucous female crowd we’ll get along to the next one, in September. That’s if Lizzie will extend the handbag option.

Free For All

Well, not quite. But President Joko Widodo has issued a decree that suspends the effect of legislation to the contrary and lists 45 countries whose citizens will be able to visit Indonesia without the financial embarrassment and onerous queuing involved in first paying $US35 for a VOA and then lining up again to get a stamp in their passport.

Apparently the reciprocity rule doesn’t matter any more. If Indonesia wants to exempt certain aliens from paying for tourist visas, it’s no longer germane whether their own countries offer the same privilege to Indonesians. One of the President’s stated aims is to get 10 million tourists a year to Bali by 2019. That’s just four years away. Perhaps he hasn’t realized this, since mathematics is apparently a problem to him. Making the announcement in Denpasar he said that 10 million was nearly double the present 4 million a year.

Then again, maybe the idea is to prove the local theory that the availability of infrastructure to cope with such an influx really doesn’t matter a damn.

There might be a little confusion in the queues though. In the grand tradition of bureaucracies everywhere, which is of course played out in spades in Indonesia, the signs in the arrival hall at Ngurah Rai International are also, shall we say, to be decorous about it, not quite right. Never mind. Just mill around and marvel. That’s what Bali wants its tourists to do anyway, once they get out of the airport. So they can just start a little early.

The U.S., Canada and New Zealand are on the free list. Pointedly, though not surprisingly given the tedious you’ve-got-feet-of-clay two-way exchanges across the Timor Sea that have recommenced lately, Australia is not.

A Note for Scribblers

It popped into our in-box recently from Janet DeNeefe, doyenne of the literary tea set in Ubud and founder of the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. The twelfth rendition of this felicity takes place between Oct. 28 and Nov. 1. Do make a note in your diaries. It’s always worth getting along to the program of events DeNeefe and crew put on for the festival.

Having reached the halfway mark of the year, DeNeefe notes, there are only four short months until the 2015 festival. We’ll leave aside the fact that discounting June (now all but gone) only September is a short month in that timeframe. We know she meant.

More than 150 writers and creatures she calls creatives from Indonesia and beyond “will gather to discuss extraordinary stories and big ideas”. Gabfests are always fun, so we’ll certainly be planning to join the jamboree.

All the latest details, including the names of writers in the fields of fiction, human rights and research, are on the festival website. If you’re writing a book and would like to launch it at UWRF 2015, applications are now open. The Diary’s alter ego is engaged in just such a venture, but it may not be ready in time and in any case its genre might better suit a more outré venue.

Early Bird tickets go on sale in July.

Barking Mad: Latest Update

Some shocking figures have found their way into the local Bahasa press on rabies, which has been a feature of Bali, though not an attraction, since 2008. They show that in 2013 the percentage of dogs vaccinated against rabies – and therefore providing the vital screen between canine rabies and its transmission to humans – was 68 percent, just below the 70 percent level international standards say is necessary for effective herd immunity and suppression of the disease. (In 2010, at the end of the successful campaign led by the animal welfare NGO the government now loves to hate, the figure was 80 percent.)

It gets worse. In 2014 it was 44 percent. By June this year (without figures from Klungkung regency which is either playing silly beggars or has gone to sleep) it was 36 percent. That’s effectively half the optimum protection level. No wonder we’re seeing a procession of local animal husbandry worthies panicking while they do their repertory performances of Cpl. Jones in Dad’s Army, whose catch-cry was “Don’t Panic! Don’t Panic!”

And that’s not all the bad news, either. In 2013 the risk that a dog might be infected with rabies and thus likely to bite you and cause you to die an unnecessary and horrific death was 4.1 percent. In 2014 this figure had risen to 10.2 percent. In the middle of 2015 it is a shocking 20.8 percent – one in five dogs.

Another of Cpl. Jones’ favourite aphorisms was “They don’t like it up ’em”, and this too is a feature of Bali’s disgraceful failure to counter rabies. Animal husbandry authorities have warned that anyone interfering with their kill-at-will response to the disease they have allowed to become endemic is breaking the law and could be jailed. Animal welfare organizations could face closure if they pursue an activist agenda.

Bali’s authorities might win first prize for idiocy and short sightedness over this. They won’t win anything else, far less the battle to control rabies.

There are also problems with supply of human rabies post-exposure vaccine. It’s basically an argument over money (sigh) but it’s symptomatic of the deficient budgetary processes that are ubiquitous here and the vacuous policy of judging risk as functionally absent until something actually happens.

Indonesia Raya

Britain’s ambassador to Indonesia, Moazzam Malik, told a gathering in Jakarta to celebrate the birthday of Queen Elizabeth II that Indonesia, along with China and India, will dominate the global economy as the 21st century progresses, because of its large population. The proprietors of countless bengkels relying for their livelihood on perforated mufflers and wonky suspensions will be pleased to hear this.

No, seriously, British analysis of global trends clearly identifies population mass as a key driver of economies, and notes that Britain, with a medium population (it’s around 59 million) relies on partnerships or strong cooperation with larger countries. This factor alone argues against the developing tendency in Britain to view with favour an exit from the European Community, though that’s a separate issue in this context.

The Queen’s Birthday is celebrated in June – it’s not her actual birthday – so that the Brits have an outside chance of seeing the grand military parade in London called Trooping the Colour held in conditions rather more clement than the usual shivery temperatures and intermittent drizzle.

Tweet, Tweet 

The Japanese city of Yokohama – it’s Tokyo’s port city – is working with the Indonesian government to help conserve the endangered Bali Starling by donating birds for resettlement in the Bali Barat National Park. It’s the second three-year program. The first began in 2012.

The Bali Starling (Leucopsar Rothschildi) is locally known as the jalak or curik. In 2005 there were only five birds known to be survivors in their natural habitat, the national park in west Bali. Today the population is more than 100, including 40 that have been released in the park.

Hector is on Twitter and tweets @ scratchings. His diary appears in the print and online editions of the Bali Advertiser.