HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Oct. 28, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Peace Off

There is a debate under way over Bali’s branding as a destination. It’s probably less tiring to whicker about that than to act firmly to curb the growing list of demerits that stand in the way of Bali being any sort of destination: rampant and uncontrolled development in the crowded south; official and corporate corruption (“Brown Envelope Island” might be a suitable slogan there); public administration that is a sick joke where it’s not simply absent; environmental degradation and woefully inadequate infrastructure; the disastrous failure to apply common sense (not to mention internationally proven remedies) to the business of suppressing rabies. The list is practically endless.

In that regard, a suggestion from former provincial politician Wayan Puspa Negara reported in the local newspaper Bisnis Bali that “Bali: Endless of Unique” would be an apposite slogan seems worthy of critical examination. As Jack Daniels noted in a recent edition of his Bali Update, the syntax is questionable. We might suggest a modest rewording to correct both the grammar and its accuracy. “Bali: End of Unique” would certainly sum up both the current situation and the banal, continuing march towards despoliation that is a feature of today’s “tourist Bali”. There is nothing unique in cheek-by-jowl hotel developments, the proliferation of trinket megastores designed to relieve low-cost package tourists of the last of their money, the winked-at sex trade, or the shockingly inadequate infrastructure through which we expect tourists to struggle and still have a good time.

Bali’s longstanding slogan is Shanti Shanti Shanti (shanti is a Sanskrit word meaning peace). This properly reflects the island’s unique Hindu culture and the uniqueness of Bali within Indonesia and in the world. But that’s the very thing – the vitally important thing – that is now directly under threat from the tsunami of mismanaged, greed-driven, hubris-laden drives for more and more tourists. It’s not the raw numbers that are necessarily the problem, provided the facilities are there to handle a mass-market approach. It’s the vacuous pursuit of more and more paying guests in the absence of infrastructure to support them that is the poison chalice. Kuta-Legian-Seminyak (and now beyond) is unmanageable. It should never take two hours to travel the 15 kilometres from Canggu to Kuta by road. That it regularly does so is testament to the stupidity of putting the cart before the horse and expecting anything to work.

Slogans are only one part of the equation, of course. They are a double-edged sword and open to abuse. One such slogan, a delightful double entendre that thankfully failed to see the light of day is said to have been once offered (by an Englishman, in distempered jest) to the Scottish tourism authorities. It said “Scotland: You’re Welcome to It”. Bali might need some better marketing, but what it needs even more is better, more sensitive (and sensible) Balinese management. Stay unique is good advice.

Whistle-Blower 

Speaking of Scotland, your diarist recently had the benefit of watching a rugby match in which whoever was the victor he had a rare opportunity to come out a winner. The Australia-Scotland quarterfinal in the 2015 World Rugby Cup was a nail-biter from start to finish, perhaps the best edge-of-the-seat game in years. The margin (to the Scots) at half time was one point. The margin at the final whistle was one point (to the Australians). The Wallabies – on recent form more pointedly known colloquially as the Wobblies – got through to the semi-finals and created a situation in which the semis and the final would be completely a southern hemisphere affair, Argentina’s feisty Pumas having just seen off the Irish.

The circumstances of the Australian win were regrettable however. Two minutes before fulltime Scotland were ahead by two points. There was a Scottish infringement in the scrimmage taking place just out from their try-line. It was penalized, as it should have been, by South African referee Craig Joubert. Except that he awarded a penalty kick to the Australians where a scrum would plainly have been more appropriate. The Australians kicked the goal (worth three points) and won the match.

From a scrum, if Joubert had pondered for a second or two more and decided on that course instead of a penalty, the Australians would have been ideally placed to throw the ball well back, to their best backline kicker, for a field goal attempt. If successful that would have earned them three points and won them the match.

Joubert’s hesitation before awarding the penalty kick was telling – he was clearly very undecided about the level of infringement by the Scots – and he left the field at rather more than a brisk canter when he blew the final whistle as the Australian ball from the place kick flew straight and true through the unmissable uprights. It was a sorry end to a great match.

But hey, rant over. One of the Diary’s sides on the field won.

Heads in the Sand

It’s hard to be an optimist, sometimes. Icarus has always served as an exemplar in that regard. It never does to soar to such lofty heights, even on terrific flights of fancy, that your carefully constructed wings of wax are melted by the sun. Cautious optimism has always seemed a better bet even though this policy should be underpinned by the certainty that neither does it pay to be a pessimist, since that would never work.

We did allow ourselves one little flight of fancy recently, however, when we heard that Governor Zainul Majdi of West Nusa Tenggara had come out against a plan to acquire sand from Lombok to fill in Benoa Bay for private profit. His assertion that he and his generation held the environment of Lombok and Sumbawa in trust for future generations sounded really good. We penciled him in as worthy of note among an exclusive – read: very small – group of Indonesian leaders whose visionary capacity stretched beyond immediate benefit.

Sadly, we have now had to use the eraser. We were mistaken in our assessment. The private profiteer in question, Tomy Winata, tried another tactic when he found himself and his blandishments banished from the Governor’s Palace in Mataram. He took his plans for the exploitative acquisition of massive quantities of West Nusa Tenggara’s environment-in-trust offshore, into the aptly named Alas Strait, where what he wants lies out of sight under water and is protected – if that’s the word – by the much more malleable provisions of national mining regulations. Governor Zainul apparently supports this environmental rape and as a result has lost a large portion of his local hero status. Those who care about the environment and the livelihoods of local fishermen have told him this. They can be counted on to repeat that message at every opportunity.

That’s good news. Ruining one environment so that another one somewhere else may also be ruined might typify the developmental impulse to build undesirable and unnecessary private infrastructure complete with extra kitsch, but that doesn’t make it right. The marine environment of the Alas Strait is worth protecting from all manner of threats. Among these must now be numbered Tomy Winata and Zainul Majdi.

Fragrant Rise

The 2015 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival gets under way today (Oct. 28) with the panache, eclecticism and variety of writers, pundits and performers we have come to expect from Janet DeNeefe’s literary baby, which began life in 2003 as a response to the 2002 Bali bombings and has grown with every annual edition. The UWRF now has a baby sibling, the Ubud Food Festival, which has just announced its dates for 2016. Mark your diaries for May 27-29.

DeNeefe, who operates two restaurants, a bakery and a cooking school in Ubud and who writes about food (her famous foray is a little tome called Fragrant Rice) was recently at the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany, where Indonesia was a special guest and at which she was one of the chefs invited to represent Indonesian cuisine.

This year’s inaugural food festival attracted 6,500 palates seeking temptation. Now that the word has got around, we can be sure there will be more next year. The festival is looking for a fulltime manager whose role would be to coordinate festival staff, look after programming, and handle stakeholders (and of course founders). Applications are open until Nov. 11.

If the job comes with a daily chocolate ration, we might even be tempted to apply.

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

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Oct. 31, 2012

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

It’s a Scream

Anyone who travels by plane – and who doesn’t these days – would be sure to get a giggle out of Indonesia AirAsia’s pre-takeoff briefing for passengers on the Bali-Perth run. The Diary had a sample on the latest SEB flit to the world’s most isolated capital city.

    Try this: “Everybody should know how to buckle and unbuckle a seat-belt. If you don’t, you should probably not be travelling unsupervised.” Or this: “If oxygen is required during the flight, a mask like this will drop from the panel above your head. Stop screaming and fit your own mask before assisting children or adults behaving like children.” Or this: “If there is smoke in the cabin, stop screaming, keep low and follow the floor lights to the nearest exit.”

     And then the killer: “This is a non-smoking flight. Should you feel an irresistible urge to smoke later in the flight, you’re welcome to smoke outside the aircraft at your own risk.”    

Tender Trap

Redevelopment of Bali’s Ngurah Rai Airport will necessarily change the way its tenants do business. This is seemingly not clear to hundreds of traders from the airport who protested outside Bali’s provincial legislature in Denpasar on Oct. 16. They are protesting over the decision by airport operator Angkasa Pura I to re-tender airport trade booths. Ngurah Rai Traders Association chairman Wayan Sukses said the airport expansion would displace traders who have made a livelihood at the airport for years.

     The issue is complex. But the bottom line – it’s one not often visibly present in complaints about changing times here or anywhere – is that business is business and trading concessions and rules-in-place cannot be assumed to be forever. The politicians who nominally have charge of the matter need to publicly acknowledge this singular, if uncomfortable, fact of life too. Commission I chairman Made Arjaya, who would like Angkasa Pura to postpone any tenders until after talks with existing traders, should note this.

     Tenders should be open and the process transparent. And of course a proportion of traders at Bali’s airport should present local products and services for selection by airport users.

     Several things are wrong with the way the airport has operated. The redevelopment is an opportunity to correct them. The extortionate taxi monopoly should go for a start.

Dish Update

Diana “The Dish” Shearin, who is hobbling and will be for a while after an accident in the shower – now recorded in history as The Mandi Incident – tells us she attended the Helen Reddy charity benefit at Anantara in Seminyak in mid-October as forecast and that she enjoyed the audience sing-along when Reddy performed the anthem of the 1970s women’s lib movement.

     The Dish tells us, and we’re sure she’s not joking, that she made up her own words: “I am Woman. My knees are sore. I went arse-up on a wet terrazzo floor…”

Zero Sum

Uli Schmetzer, globetrotter, author and journalist, was at this year’s Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. He had been invited to launch his latest book, on payment of US$500, but decided against allowing himself that privilege. He did however attend many of the events, noting that some of the panel sessions were good value, if you could sneak in without a tag.

      He wrote on his website about his experiences, saying that three methods always worked: 
             “Number One:  You clutch the Festival brochure against your chest and smile as you join the throng squeezing past the ushers at the entrance. The ushers are young volunteers, untrained, unpaid lovable local Balinese who would never ask you to show your (non-existent) tag beneath the brochure. That wouldn’t be polite in Balinese culture. 
              “Number Two: Rush in once the debate has started. Squeeze yourself into a seat. No usher has the courage to meander through the audience to challenge you for your credential. (Keep that brochure tugged against your chest). 
              “Number Three: Seat yourself on a balustrade, under a banyan tree or in a café on the premises where you can clearly hear the loudspeakers. 
              “This way one managed to attend everything worthwhile – with one exception. On the last day a beanstalk of a young Australian female usher kept signalling me across the audience to remove the brochure from my chest so she could see the tag. I kept smiling back at her which made her signal more frantically. Eventually I blew her a kiss which disconcerted her so much she dispatched one of her underlings, a young Balinese, to investigate. The guy knew I didn’t have a tag but he obviously thought I was entitled to listen all the same. ‘This is an important discussion about democracy in the Middle East,’ he whispered: ‘Everyone should hear this. Stay and enjoy.’ He was about one third of my age, but the boy has a bright future, though perhaps not as a sniffer dog at the W&R Fest. “

     Schmetzer these days divides his time between Venice in Italy and Torquay in Australia. He is the author of Times of Terror, Gaza, The Chinese Juggernaut – and The Lama’s Lover, 10 short stories from around the world. 

Big Screen

We missed the fun, of course, since we were enjoying the distinctly chillier ambience of south-western Australia’s allegedly spring-like beach weather, but it was good to hear that the 2012 Balinale International Film Festival, the sixth, went off well in its new venue – the Beachwalk cinema at Kuta – from Oct. 22-28. Co-founder Deborah Gabinetti and co-founder actress Christine Hakim announced the programme earlier in the month in Jakarta. In the absence of an international film festival in Indonesia, the Balinale has become the leading film event in the country.  Perhaps this might eventually prompt remedial, or at least catch-up, thinking elsewhere.

      The festival opened with the latest movie by director Salman Aristo, Jakarta Heart. As with his earlier film, Jakarta Maghrib, Salman’s latest offering consists of six short stories about the city of Jakarta from different perspectives.

      The movie will be released nationally on Nov. 8.

      Balinale also staged the international world premiere of the film Alex Cross from director Rob Cohen, whose work includes the box office The Fast and the Furious, xXx (Triple X), and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. His latest movie, a crime thriller, features some scenes shot in Karangasem, East Bali. A total of 34 films from 34 countries were screened at this year’s event.

     That other Hollywood movie, Eat Pray Love, premiered at Balinale 2010.

     Until this year the Balinale has been held at the Cinema 21 complex at Bali Mal Galeria at Simpang Siur. But that’s virtually a no-go zone while the lengthy Planners’ Nightmare Festival takes place around Dewa Ruci.

Spot of Lunch

On this Australian trip we had a very pleasant lunch at Bunkers Beach Cafe – it’s at Bunker Bay near Cape Naturaliste in WA, where the breakers on the ocean side come all the way from Africa if not beyond – that deserves being put on the record for several reasons.

     First, it’s right on the beach giving patrons a fine view of the crystal clear water and splendid surf, and of the magnificent sweep of the beach itself. It’s amazing what a clean beach and a litter-free wave line can do for the ambience. Not to mention the tourist trade: the place was packed.

     The Diary’s second delight was his choice of dish for lunch – a lovely tempeh with sweet potato and cherry tomatoes, spiced just right for the Asian palate.  Compliments were sent to the chef. They had earlier asked if the Diary was familiar with tempeh and warned that the dish was rather spicy. That’s probably sound policy in Australia, where there are sure to be lawyers around who’d offer to sue if you went to them with a tale of woe, or a lightly spiced tongue.

A Good Show

They’re raising funds for diabetes research in Australia and on Sunday, Oct. 21, we did the de rigueur five kilometres of fundraising walk that was staged in Busselton that day. It was a brisk walk – the breeze was a tad chilly though many of the locals apparently thought it was high summer – of just under 55 minutes. We were, we decided, the tail-enders in the breakaway serious walker cohort that led the way throughout. About 120 people walked and a substantial sum was raised for this vital cause.

     The beachside pathway (also a cycleway) system in Busselton features miniature road markings, possibly in an attempt to remind cyclists that their machines do have brakes. They also feature dinky little walking-figures and colourful feet impressed into the paving. It makes life interesting. It almost makes you want to go “vroom“as you step up your pace after slowing at a Give Way sign.

     We considered trying it on our morning walks here at home, after getting back on Oct. 29. But we thought better of it in the end. We don’t want to give the locals any more reasons to think we’re raving mad.

Hector’s Diary appears in the fortnightly print edition of the Bali Advertiser and on the newspaper’s website http://www.baliadvertiser.biz. Hector tweets (@scratchings) and is on Facebook (Hector McSquawky). He blogs at http://www.wotthehec.blogspot.com.

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, July 25, 2012


His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Oh Yes, It’s Paradise Here

Some days you just want to sit down and cry. It’s not the crowded crassness of mass tourism that does this, or even the mindless self-absorption of the Rave ‘n’ Groove sector; though both can cause intense irritation if you let them. No, it’s the fragile, deadly, outer fringe of Bali’s already marginalised rural life that stings your eyes and makes you feel like a helpless fool.

We heard a dreadful story the other day from a new chum, Englishwoman Sarah Chapman, who now lives here after many years of visiting as a tourist – a common provenance – and who has found a little girl in east Bali who she calls Annie.  She found her via a Balinese friend, Putu Yuni, who read about Annie in the local Bahasa press and told her the story. Yuni also went round her own friends and raised money to buy a mattress and some food for the family, and left the cash residue with them as well.

Rotary Seminyak has come to the party too, we hear, by arranging for Annie to have a full suite of medical assessments. Rotary does such a lot of good work that is often unheralded.

Annie is eight. She weighs – at last report – eight kilos, and that was after a three-week stay in Amlapura hospital. She may be deaf, since Chapman – an experienced nurse – tells us Annie seems not to respond to aural stimulus; she is given to screaming fits and tends to hit out at people. She lives in a hut in the Karangasem district of Sideman with her granny, another elderly woman who is apparently an aunt, an undersized (but otherwise OK) older brother who is 14, her grandfather, and her father, who is mentally ill. Her mother left the home when Annie was six months old, apparently because Annie’s father was violent.

The family basically has no income and care for Annie – whom they love – as best they can. The little girl now has a mattress to sleep on – it was old newspapers before – and a few other things. More help is on the way, courtesy of a small but growing army of people who want to help – including, belatedly, the authorities.

But there are questions here.  Where was the local Banjar on this? Why wasn’t it helping the family? Where were the village authorities? Had they been doing anything? What about the regency social welfare people? Did they care, before the story broke in the local press? What about the provincial authorities and Governor Pastika’s programme to assist the very poor? And for that matter, what about the central government’s duty of care to all Indonesians?

We’ll keep you posted on Annie, who at last report was beginning to progress. If any reader would like to join Annie’s Army, drop Hector a line at reachme61@yahoo.com and we’ll pass the details on.

High Road

And now for some brighter news. We hear from two impeccable Bali-resident sources – Belgian travel and business adviser Marc Jacobs and Australian blogger Vyt Karazija – that the new IB Mantra Highway linking the crowded south with the less crowded east (the road provides travellers with a good idea of the extent of erosion on the Gianyar and Klungkung coasts) is now complete. Well, Jacobs told us 99 percent complete, and all the way to Goa Lawah. It’s long been a work in progress, funded by Australian aid, muddied by the truly Byzantine politics of this island, and doubtless bedevilled by the snafu factor and the ongoing belief hereabouts that making a road is just a matter of slapping a couple of centimetres of blacktop on some crushed rock.

According to Jacobs it’s now just an hour from Sanur to Padang Bai. That would be if the trucks and the motorbikes kept left, presumably. We’ve avoided expeditions to the remote east for several long months, not having a tent in which to camp out while they made the highway, but we’ll take a look soon. We certainly need to check out Vincent’s at Candi Dasa again, and we do hope the Haloumi has been getting through to the restaurant.

Karazija, by the way, was also able to advise us why the traffic signs telling trucks and motorcycles to keep left are universally ignored, on the new highway as elsewhere. We’re greatly indebted to him, because we hadn’t realised that Indonesian traffic signs use subliminal shorthand. Those KEEP LEFT signs actually say “KEEP doing what you’ve always done or you’ll be LEFT behind.”

Airport Alert

The things you see: Angus McCaskill ,the Melbourne travel industry figure who used to double as Willie Ra’re, Bali party guy and drug convict, recently told a Facebook friend who posted a picture of her lunch at Kuta‘s Little Green Cafe (it did look good): “I so miss LGC and their delicious taste sensations… but I’ll be back!”

No Jumping

The things you don’t see. On July 11 we noted the presence on Gili Trawangan of a revitalised AJ Hackett private retreat, Pondok Santi, now open to paying guests, and said AJ had a bungee operation in Bali.

Oops: For has, read had. A little e-billet-doux from Nigel Hobbs in Cairns, Australia, where he markets Hackett’s operations, told us the Kuta venue was closed last year as the land lease was not being renewed. Apparently the landowner wanted to build a resort on it. So Kuta is down one unique tourist attraction and up yet another resort property.

So, we’re sorry about that. If only we were into leaps of faith we might have joined up all the developmental dots and noticed that Hackett’s big plunger was no more.

Weaving a Tale

Textile-inclined bookworms  at this year’s Ubud Writers and Readers Festival  (October 3-7, don’t miss it) will have a chance to add another five days to their experience and join a tour of traditional weavers that UWRF and local not-for-profit outfit Threads of Life have organised.

Ubud-based Threads of Life uses culture and conservation to alleviate poverty in rural Indonesia. The heirloom-quality textiles and baskets are made with local materials and natural dyes. With the proceeds from the Threads of Life gallery, they help weavers to form independent cooperatives and to manage their resources sustainably.

The five-day sojourn takes in homes, studios and cooperatives in the Seraya area on Bali’s dry north-eastern tip, the lush rice fields of Sideman and the ancient village of Tenganan Pegeringsingan. Participants will be based at the rather-better-than-basic Alila Manggis, near Candi Dasa.

That all sounds fun and could be a powerful restorative agent following the diet of pious platitudes likely to be served up at the writers’ festival itself by veteran scribbler John Pilger, the Australian-born journalist who has made a stellar career out of bashing PHIABs (People He’s Identified As Bastards) and who is the headline attraction this year.

Incidentally, Janet DeNeefe who – when she’s not being determinedly insouciant about which well-moneyed corporation might agree to part with substantial readies and be tagged as this year’s UWRF naming sponsor – is officer in charge of coffee etc at a number of Ubud destinations for degustation, had a swish knees-up at Casa Luna on July 22 in honour of the establishment’s 20th birthday. Guests enjoyed fruits of the vine and canapés from 5pm-11pm.

Ethereal Tip

Australia Network, the visual voice of Oz in the region and rated required watching by the Diary, has joined the iPhone App revolution. Now, wherever you are on regional terra firma, you can get news updates and all that other gizmo stuff out of the ether as well as programme information; and you can fool around on Facebook and make a twit of yourself tweeting on the go.

It also links you to AussieFunk. No, we’re only joking: we mean the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s emergency information service, which is a sensible must for travellers and overseas residents alike. The free application is available via iPhone download and at the itunes online store.

Seriously, it’s good news. Perhaps we should get ourselves an iPhone.

Blight is Right

Poor old Blighty! The London Olympics are upon us and the Misty Isles’ summer (that’s the northern hemisphere summer, which is what happens when the important bit of the world is having its winter) is being its usual self: abominable.  We’re indebted – yet again – to James Jeffrey’s admirable Strewth diary in The Australian newspaper, which recently found time to report what one exasperated Brit said about it in the pages of the Guardian, a British newspaper for the meddling classes.

Charlie Brooker’s tirade – published on July 16 – ended thus:  “It’s got to the point where pulling back the curtains each morning feels like waking up in jail. No, worse: like waking up inside a monochrome Czechoslovakian cartoon about waking up in jail. The outdoor world is illuminated by a weak, grey, diseased form of light that has fatally exhausted itself crawling through the gloomy stratospheric miasma before perishing feebly on your retinas.”

Well, that’s tough on the Brits, but it’s oddly comforting. It precisely describes the sort of weather that drove your diarist to desert hearth and home way back in 1969.

Easy, Now…

Suggestions that Tantric practices were first thought up by Buddhists – this ephemera surfaced recently in the chatterverse – prompt the thought that, properly considered, this could have led to someone writing the Calmer Sutra.

Hector’s Diary appears in the Bali Advertiser, published fortnightly. Hector is on Twitter (@scratchings) and Facebook (Hector McSquawky).

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, June 13, 2012

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Stir Slowly, Drink at Leisure

The May edition of the 2012 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival newsletter made it out with a week to go before it was June – it popped into the Diary’s in-box on May 26. And since it was leading off with a bit of a blurb about the Bali Emerging Writers Festival (which had been advertised as scheduled for May 25-27) one assumes deadlines in festival-land are as notional as any on this island.

But never mind. BEWF is beaut, even if acronyms are as prevalent as litter. This year’s was the second and organisers said it presented a more colourful line-up than the inaugural acronym last year. Said UWRF community development manager Kadek Sri Purnami, and we quote verbatim (it’s not our grammar): “We are trying to present as diverse and colourful voices as possible. These young writers, some write with words, some with lights and images, will take the audience into the kaleidoscopic world of contemporary Bali.”

We’re sure it was a blast – and we’re glad about that too. Perhaps the 2012 UWRF Newsletter for June, which apparently should reach us just before it is July, will give us some idea of how it actually went.

The festival took place (May 27-29) at Serambi Arts Antida, the hot Denpasar alternative art space.

Meanwhile, festival founder and fragrant coffee drinker Janet DeNeefe is being as shy as ever about the international programme for this year’s big show, scheduled for October 3-7. A little note in the aforementioned newsletter coyly states: “While the list of international authors for the UWRF 2012 is tightly embargoed, several of the authors on that list were featured at the Sydney Writers Festival, recently concluded.”

We do know of one author invited to participate: Uli Schmetzer, who lives half the year in Venice and half in Australia and the Philippines. He and his lovely Italian wife Tiziana, who cooks the most marvellous pasta, lent us their pushbikes in Beijing 20 years ago (we gave them back) as well as their driver, a redoubtable fellow called Fang who knew but one word of a language other than Mandarin. Unfortunately this was “nyet,” which did not get us very far. Well, only to the nearest bit of the Great Wall.

As to other internationals, well, just for fun, we’ll scribble out a list, blindfold ourselves, and play a literary version of pin the tail on the donkey.

Help the Cause: Buzz Off

As noted above, a diarist’s reading must be very wide. Or else you miss all sorts of things that give you a huge laugh. So we propose to share with you some other advice recently to hand – we found it online and it would be amusing to suggest this resulted from a tip-off – that urges women to select a vibrator that is eco-friendly

It notes – this was a surprise to the Diary – that there are more makes of vibrators on the market than there are models of cars on the roads. Gee, that intelligence hits the spot. It’s a wonder poor old Gaia hasn’t been knocked out of her orbit with all the under-the-counterpane buzzing that must be going on. And it says that choosing a brand, let alone a single product, can be daunting; it kindly offers to help narrow your search.

It suggests you choose a rechargeable vibrator for maximum sensation with minimum ecological footprint. Apparently a typical user can deplete up to four batteries a week on a battery operated vibrator – that’s more than 200 dead batteries a year. (How many extinct libidos, we wonder?)

Oh yes – and we’re thinking that would have to be the Big O – it also says that responsible manufacturing is important for your vibrator (they are sentient as well as sensory?) and suggests you seek out companies that share your values. Perhaps you should just look for one that gives you a nice warm buzz.

Or Otherwise…

A diarist also needs a quick eye, as well as a deep appreciation for delicious double entendres. LinkedIn’s handy People You May Know feature – which as we noted recently unearthed for us poor Angus McCaskill, who is no longer counted among our population – popped up another unknown name the other day. We won’t name the fellow, since he seems to be a Canadian and might therefore respond by saying “Eh?” or else entirely miss the joke.

But he’s the manager of a mining industry outfit whose name might cause an involuntary appreciative intake of breath among any number of distressed gentlewomen hereabouts: Cougar Drilling Solutions.

Fame à un Prix

Those among us who like to follow the risible side of Australian politics – it’s a broad field of study – have been transfixed of late at the thought of supersized Queensland mining magnate Clive Palmer running for parliament, though not for the Whirling Dervish Party, which is such a pity. He’d like to be a Liberal MP instead, which he’d surely find is absolutely no fun at all. Apparently he’s serious about it all but the idea went straight into our Too Silly file, along with some of Palmer’s other titanic ideas.

As well as desiring to pay no tax on his mines (paying tax is for wimps and non-whirling dervishes) Palmer wants to build an “unsinkable” modern version of the Titanic that some people – Céline Dion, Kate Winslett and Leonardo DiCaprio prominently among them, one imagines – will clearly remember was also unsinkable but which nevertheless sank on its maiden voyage in 1912 after running full-pelt into an eminently avoidable iceberg. He also wants to build a Zeppelin, though he promises it wouldn’t be a Hindenburg exploding one.

It was therefore fun to find in a recent edition of the fine French satirical newspaper Le Canard enchainé – it had been donated to The Cage by some kind French visitors – a little item by Jean-Luc Porquet, who writes a lovely column aptly named “Peouf!” It was headlined “Trésor national vivant” (“Living National Treasure”).

The piece primarily concerned the discarded Nicolas Sarkozy who was recently unelected as President of the Republic. It was Sarkozy’s titanic political misadventures which principally informed Porquet’s pointed prose. But unfortunately, while Palmer’s Australian national treasure feat may be recognised in France and be of some peripheral utility to satirists having a go at poor M. Sarkozy, his living clay is less well known.

Porquet called him Clive Barker. Perhaps he was thinking of Ronnie, the Brit comic who was nearly as round. But he could just have been joking. He seems to share the widely held view that Clive Palmer is barking mad.

More Sax Please

The delectable Edwina Blush will soon be back in Bali, which is good news for Villa Kitty at Ubud – of which she is an ambassador – and people, like your diarist, who love saxy jazz and the (unfortunately now largely notional) concept of smoky bars and attractively accommodating company.

She’ll be playing a six-week gig here with her Balinese sextet at Three Monkeys Sanur after the June 15 launch in Sydney of her latest album, Sea For Cats. We’ll get along to a session or two. The album’s available from various download sites including iTunes, the Diary’s preferred legal provider. Half the proceeds of sales go to Villa Kitty to provide veterinary care and – as Edwina unblushingly puts it – much needed population control measures (she adds: “Frisky little darlings”).

Villa Kitty is on Facebook, by the way. Founder and Chief Meow Elizabeth Grant Suttie would love to hear from you.

Fiesta Time

El Kabron, the cliff-top watering hole at Bingin on the Bukit where host David Iglesias Megias tempts patrons with all sorts of delights, including Catalan and other Spanish treats, celebrated its first birthday with a great little party on June 10.

It was a good chance to catch up with old friends – though none of them are old in the literal sense – including our Most Favoured Argentine, artist-architect Leticia Balacek, who has recently been in Shanghai. We buttonholed her at the do and asked if, as a result of her Sino experiences, her word was still her Bund. Sorry.

No Kidding

We hear from the delightful Alicia Budihardja, chief spruiker at Conrad Bali where Frenchman Jean-Sebastien Kling is now general manager that the property is going after the kids in a big way. It has launched a new family package that offers free meals and recreational and cultural activities to youngsters while their parents are enjoying the definitely more relaxing and possibly more cerebral aspects of the place.

Kling wants to help parents unwind on an ultimate getaway.  That’s a nice thought. They deserve a break.

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).