Tuesday, February 05, 2013

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Jan. 23, 2013

In the Swim

We hear that Celia Gregory, the underwater sculptress, will soon be back among us. She’s coming up for air after a longish sojourn in Britain. Gregory’s interest lies in the crisis of coral – everywhere but chiefly in our own interest in Bali and Lombok – and she has a novel way of applying a remedy for this destruction.
     She gave an interesting talk to Canggu Rotary last year on her underwater sculpture project, which is designed to give the little polyps something artistic to grow on. She’s done this in cooperation with the BioRock project in Lombok’s Gilis and plans to do more of the same in Bali: at Pemuteran, where she’s already done sterling work and where “The Underwater Goddess” now has a home; and at Amed, with Reef Check Indonesia and an international organisation, Coral. At Amed, in a depressingly common story, precious coral was destroyed in the 1980s when it was used for building material in place of cement.
     Gregory tells us that while in the UK she won funding from the far-seeing Roddick Foundation for development work on her project. She gave them this pitch, which it is impossible to gainsay:
     “It is clear that marine habitat around the world is in mass decline and a radical new creative approach is needed to halt the destruction. I believe using the lucrative economy of art mixed with the vital economy of tourism we can help re-inject a sense of value and awe of our oceans back into society, helping the world to once again revere the wonderful hidden underwater world that is so desperately in need of protecting.”
      The money will enable The Marine Foundation – which Gregory founded – to develop its website and profile so it is more accessible to both a wider audience and to greater funding support.  She tells us: “It is vital we place this within the context of tourism and contemporary art as a powerful way to support marine eco-system restoration and sustainable management.”
      Indeed. Apart from anything else, Indonesia’s (and Bali’s and Lombok’s) marine tourism sector needs to protect and nurture the living environment that gives it a commercial edge in the world market.

My Hatten! A Nice Drop

The lovely little MinYak’s regular Question Time column is always a must-read at The Cage, so when the latest edition cantered into our in-box the week before last, we grabbed it with glee. And with good reason, it turned out, because the subject was James Kalleske, Hatten Wines’ new blender extraordinaire.
     We’re into wine here at The Cage. And mostly Hatten, since the art of surviving a period of genteel decline undefined by any pre-disclosed end date to assist budgeting precludes the practices of former years, when such recurrent costs were not really a factor. It’s still outrageously expensive to drink wine in Indonesia, but if you’re prepared to quaff Chateau Cardboard and know the lie of the land well enough to find an emporium with the nous to understand that people will buy more if it’s cheaper, then Hatten’s products fit the bill. Forget Pepito.
     We drink Aga Red. So well do we do this that the people at the local store we buy ours from now get a box out of their locked display cabinet whenever they see us pulling up outside. For some months, Aga Red has even tasted like wine. Lolly water it no longer is. An Aussie gripe – yes that’s a pun, love ’em, not a mistype – seems to have got into the mix in significant quantity.
     Kalleske is a Barossa boy from a South Australian winemaking family. So we’re really glad he’s here and is putting his mark on a new range of locally produced wine blends. But he got here from Western Australia, proving yet again that WA is Bali’s leading source of expatriate settlers.
     He tells a lovely story about his most memorable wine occasion. This from the MinYak:
    “What's the funniest situation you've had to navigate so far as a wine-blender?
    “Not so much funny as embarrassing. During an interview for a position with a very exclusive winery in Margaret River, one of the questions the GM asked me was ‘What is your most memorable bottle of wine?’ 
   “I told him it was a bottle of 'X'. I said: ‘The wine was absolute rubbish, really hideous! But it was the first bottle of wine I drank with the girl who turned out being the love of my life, and that is why the wine was so memorable.’ The GM replied: ‘I made that wine! Under a label I created...’ Needless to say I didn't get the job.”
    In vino veritas, as they say. But Kalleske has a good mind for difficulties – that should help him through his developing Bali experience – and also told the MinYak he believes “it's always better to have a wine than a whinge.”
     Vintage, James. And puns help too.

A Special Day

Anand Krishna, the spiritual spruiker, scarcely needs introduction. He’s so well known that several people are still trying to put him in jail under the Trumped-Up Charges Act. You don’t have to try very hard here to get up someone’s nose.
     So it was nice to see that on Jan. 14, to mark the 22nd anniversary of the Anand Ashram Foundation in Ubud, the inauguration took place of Aadi Paraashakti Devi Mandir (The Mother Goddess Chapel). The proceedings were conducted in Bahasa Indonesia.

A Fine Legacy

This year’s winners of the Elizabeth O’Neill Journalism Award – it’s in honour of the public affairs counsellor at Australia’s embassy in Jakarta who was among 21 people tragically killed in the 2007 Garuda crash at Yogyakarta – are ABC journalist Amy Bainbridge and Indonesian online news editor Renne Kawilarang. 
     Australian foreign minister Bob Carr, who made the announcement on Jan. 15, said both winners were worthy recipients of the award with a strong commitment and interest in the relationship between Australia and Indonesia. The annual award goes to one journalist from Australia and one from Indonesia to visit each other’s country for up to three weeks on a fully-funded programme.
     Carr said in announcing this year’s winners: “The relationship between our two nations is fundamental and the Elizabeth O’Neill Award fosters greater understanding, leading to better informed media coverage of issues affecting both countries.”
     Bainbridge has worked on many of Australia’s flagship current affairs programmes including Lateline, PM and The World Today. While in Indonesia, she will focus on the representation of women in local politics and business, the Australian expatriate community and the role of Islam in modern Indonesian society.
     Kawilarang, a news editor with VIVAnews.com, has extensive international relations experience and has previously won the British Council’s Chevening Scholarship. He will use his time to research Indonesian links with Australia by interviewing Indonesians now living there and speaking to young Australians who have lived in Indonesia.

He’s got the Sheets

Steve Palmer, man about Bali, recently issued a plaintive plea on one of the Facebook groups he can be found on: “Does anyone know where to find the finest quality hand, bath, and face towels in Indonesia? Finest cotton... Super soft, super absorbent, nice colours [he spelt that without the “u” of course, but we forgive him – Hec]; even dye lots across all articles, not looking for a bargain, looking for the best... Two months ago I tried to get good sheets here and ended up getting Frette from New York as everything local available was too much of a compromise. Hope I don't have to suffer the same for towels.”
    There’s a lesson there for Bali suppliers of all sorts of products. It is that quality does count and that it has to be real rather than imaginary.

Poison Alley

Methanol, the poison of choice of criminally-minded liquor-adulterers in Indonesia whose consciences are apparently even more defective than their mental capacities, this month claimed the life of an Australian teenager who became ill after unwittingly consuming an adulterated drink on Gili Trawangan, Lombok.
    The young man, whose name was Liam Davies and who was 19, became sick after a New Year celebration with friends. He was flown home to Perth, on the advice of doctors, but died in hospital there.
     Methanol is a deadly killer. There have been numerous incidents in which people have drunk adulterated liquor – methanol is used to create larger quantities of alcohol (often arak) that they then sell to the unwitting – here in Bali, as well as Lombok, and of course elsewhere in Indonesia.
     Last year a well-known Perth rugby player, Michael Denton, died in Bali of methanol poisoning. In 2009 a total of 25 people died here – four of them foreign tourists –after drinking methanol-laced arak. An arak factory operator in Denpasar subsequently faced court and was convicted of breaching regulations regarding alcohol production.
    Kim Patra, who writes the Paradise in Sickness & in Health column in the Bali Advertiser, devoted an entire column before Christmas to the dangers of being unaware of risks to your health here.

Buzzing Off

Jennifer Bee, who markets Komodo and its diving and dragon attractions for Grand Komodo Tours at Sanur, is changing tack in February: she plans to set up her own home-based business that will offer an eclectic mix: business services, relocation assistance, a travel agency, house and villa maintenance and a window into the world of art.
     Bee (not her real name but she gets a buzz out of it) says she’s had enough of working for other people and wants to go it alone using the internet as her office. It’s the coming thing and we wish her good luck and good fortune.

Hector's Diary appears in the print edition of the Bali Advertiser, published fortnightly on Wednesdays, and on the newspaper's website www.baliadvertiser.biz. Hector tweets (@scratchings) and is on Facebook (Hector McSquawky).

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

HECTOR’S DIARY, Bali Advertiser, Jan. 9, 2013

In the Pink Again

There was a pleasant little soiree just before Christmas, at the plush new Marriott property The Stones at Legian, in favour of the worthwhile Bali Pink Ribbon cause. General manager Peter Brampton and his crew put on a great show for the crowd. Everything was pink: the complimentary mocktails and even many of the canapés, and certainly the staff.
     We managed to catch up with Gaye Warren, originator of the Bali Pink Ribbon Walks – this year’s is on April 28; put it in your diaries – for a quick briefing on how things are going with their plans for a breast cancer advisory service for Balinese women.
      She tells us: “After nearly four years of fundraising, thanks to the dedication of my Pink Team, I am delighted that we have raised enough funds to open our breast cancer support centre in Jl. Dewi Sri, off Sunset Road in Kuta, to be called Pink Ribbon House. It will be open to all those affected by breast cancer and their families, both Balinese and expatriate. Our medical advisers will endeavour to give free monthly seminars on women’s health at the centre.  We shall also be offering therapeutic courses and counselling by volunteers including breast cancer survivors.
     “All being well, we hope to open when the centre is more or less equipped by the end of January. However, we are still in urgent need of office equipment, up to date computers, etc. We shall also be planning a future fund raiser sometime in 2013 for a second-hand minibus to provide transportation to the centre for women from outside Denpasar.”
    They’re looking for an experienced office manager to run the new centre and take on some of their workload. And all this is in addition to the new breast cancer screening facility at Prima Medika Hospital in Denpasar, in which Pink Ribbon has been a major player.
      Gaye, who is herself a breast cancer survivor, has had a gruelling time lately. During her lengthy absence in the UK in 2012 the redoubtable Kathryn Bruce held the fort in her place. Gaye says of Kathryn: “I couldn’t possibly manage without her.”
     The Stones (one of Marriott’s upmarket Autograph Collection) opened late last year. It’s a great property.

Missing Link

It is to be hoped that Garuda will make it back to Darwin, as forecast, now it is apparently no longer just the notional airline. Proposals to resume the service from Bali to Australia’s “northern capital” this year have surfaced following a visit to Jakarta by Northern Territory Chief Minister Terry Mills, who took office last year following an election that saw the long-ruling Labor Party tossed into opposition.
     The north Australia connection is important to Bali and the eastern archipelago, and of course to Indonesia as a whole. Darwin implicitly understands the realities of living in the tropics, which most Australians do not. The city – it’s very small: 128,100 people on 2011 figures – is well serviced and makes a useful study centre for many Indonesian purposes; not least for storm drain technology that can deal properly with tropical intensity rain.
      The new government in Darwin has said it wants to continue and to expand the scope of the lifesaving connection between Royal Darwin Hospital and Sanglah in Denpasar (so see next item). This was an important and far-seeing initiative of the Territory’s former Labor government.  We will look with interest at performance versus promise on that front.
       Renewed air links are a boon. When Garuda dropped the ball – and Brisbane and Darwin – some years ago after it discovered to its horror that the corporations that owned its aircraft actually would like lease payments to be made, it did itself and the Australian connection immense damage. It had been flying to Darwin from Bali for 18 years. AirAsia took up the route but discontinued it because it couldn’t make it pay. That’s the commercial reality and AirAsia is (properly) ruthless in that regard. If it doesn’t make commercial sense, it won’t do it. Bali-Phuket was junked for the same reason, as were the Kuala Lumpur-Europe routes.
      The Qantas low-cost carrier Jetstar flies Bali-Darwin with services that originate from or fly on to other Australian cities, picking up payload as a result. Garuda has announced plans to fly Jakarta-Bali-Brisbane from later this year.

Nice Try, Fail

Sanglah General Hospital, Bali’s leading public hospital, will have to try again to win formally recognisable international accreditation. A year-long effort to obtain certification from the Joint Commission International (JCI) did not meet with success, since Sanglah failed on several significant tests: quality of the building, the hospital’s ability to control infection and the fit-out of bathroom facilities.
     JCI, which has been operating as a global standard-testing organisation since 1994 and is represented in more than 90 countries, sets rigorous standards of clinical care and managerial functions in acute care hospitals. It provides international accreditation, education and advisory services.
      Sanglah’s chief director, Dr Wayan Sutarga, says only 36 of 1218 separate JCI standards of service rate a fail at the hospital and 24 are non-medical in nature. He says therefore that it can be said that Sanglah General Hospital is “almost excellent.” Unfortunately that’s somewhat similar to hanging out a plaque above your office, as some Indians used to do in the old days, proclaiming oneself as B.A. (Oxon) (Failed).
      JCI will be back in three months. Dr Sutarga and his team need to be ready for excellence then.

Not that Rich

Governor Pastika has taken pains recently to reveal his salary and benefits. They are not excessive. He gets Rp 8,598,200 in take-home pay a month. He disclosed his emoluments, and those of his deputy, following a report published recently by the Indonesian Forum for Budget Transparency (FITRA), which set out salary levels among various provincial and regional heads in Indonesia.
     On the face of it, it seems they got something a little wrong. It may be that the monthly office expenses got confused with salaries, since FITRA said Pastika was taking home Rp 176,660,994 a month.
     Local newspaper NusaBali also reported the FITRA survey as indicating that the regent and vice regent of Badung were among Indonesia’s best-paid regional officials, receiving monthly salaries of Rp 129,596,905 and Rp 122,876,905 respectively. Those figures are probably wrong too. But Badung is certainly Bali’s wealthiest district. Many refer to it, not without reason, by another name: Rip-Off Central.

In the Way

While the regent of Badung is busy collecting money from developers, he might like to spare a thought for the seaweed farmers of Nusa Dua whose 30-year-old industry is just about dead. The farmers want the government to change the regulations to make it easier for farmers to remain viable producers in areas such as Geger Beach, where the massive Mulia development has delivered the coup de grace to the little people.
     Seaweed farmers can no longer dry their seaweed on the beach but must take it inland, reducing production (and incomes). They were promised jobs with hotels in the area but many, unqualified for such work, have not been employed.
     Today, only 30 families still farm seaweed at Nusa Dua. There used to be 100. Their situation would make an interesting study for delegates at the 2013 International Seaweed Symposium, the 21st and the first hosted by Indonesia. (We love irony here at the Diary.) Sixty countries are down to attend and delegates are set to discuss the latest research and industry conditions in the seaweed world.

Um, Yes

We dined on the evening of New Year’s Day at Trattoria near Padang Padang on the Bukit’s Labuan Sait coast. The menu’s great – there’s a lovely Japanese selection too – and the ambience captures the locality and its culture while managing to blend in the origins of the Italian style of informal dining.
     It was raining heavily on the Bukit that evening and because the front restaurant was full – outside dining being off – we were directed to the other dining area, just a few steps away across a rainy terrace. A delightfully lissom and well appointed young woman with a lovely smile and an umbrella took us there.
     We ordered, though with difficulty. This was because all the staff appeared to hold master’s degrees in eye-contact avoidance. They also seemed not to understand their own language. We had to ask for roti to go with the pre-pizza salad, but we only got it after the happy fellow we were trying to order with had a brainwave and said, “You want bread!”
     When we left, it was still raining kucings and anjings. But that was OK; we made use of an umbrella provided for diners who might otherwise get drenched. At the parking area, however, the attendant was determinedly sheltering from the ambient inclemency. He showed no interest in waving us out of the car park with the usual combination of magic wand, whistle and shouts of “terus”. Further, it was abundantly clear that he had no intention of getting himself wet in an effort to retrieve his employer’s umbrella.
     So to make the point, your Diarist trudged through the rain after the Distaff was safely sheltered in the car, to return it to the idle little gent. (“Gent” was not the actual word that was upon your Diarist’s lips, sotto voce, but the Bali Advertiser has rules that proscribe profanity.)

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

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Dec, 26. 2012

Way Not to Go

It was interesting to read recently in the Bali Daily, the local wraparound masthead of the Jakarta Post newspaper, that university students here are protesting over a national government plan to eliminate teaching of the Balinese language from the school curriculum.  It was worrying, too, because such a plan threatens the unique culture of Bali and undermines the diversity that makes Indonesia the vibrant nation it is. The students are worried – understandably and quite naturally – that committing such an act of cultural vandalism would place the future of the language at risk.
     An alliance of students from the State Hindu Dharma Institute, Dwijendra and Udayana universities and IKIP PGRI teachers college made this point – in Balinese dress – at a demonstration in Denpasar earlier this month. The Bali Daily reported alliance leader I Nyoman Suka Ardiyasa as saying:
     “We fear that one day the Balinese language will be forgotten because students will no longer learn the subject in school, and also an increasing number of people no longer use the language nowadays.”
      The critical interface between common sense and painful farce in policy development is often difficult to detect. But it is always vital to detect it and preferable that this beneficence takes place before someone steps in the do-do, rather than afterwards.
      Removing Balinese language teaching from the curriculum is in line with the Education and Culture Ministry’s most recent policy on a new teaching curriculum, which proposes to amalgamate several different subjects into one.  Unique local content subjects taught only in schools in specific regions will be integrated into “art and culture” classes.
      It would mean that learning the Balinese language – at present this is compulsory in elementary, junior and high schools – would be merged with art and culture, seriously limiting the opportunities for young Balinese to learn their traditional language.
      A 1992 Bali law on language, letters and literature clearly stipulates the need to teach, develop and preserve the Balinese language. The 2003 National Education System Law  provides
that the curriculums of basic and higher education should contain both art and culture and local content subjects.
      According to statistics the number of people who can speak Balinese drops by 1 percent each year on average. As the students say, removing the language’s study from the curriculum will only worsen this invidious decline.
       Bahasa Indonesia, the national language, is universally taught throughout the archipelago – from Sabang to Merauke, to borrow the title of President Sukarno’s 1950 speech on Independence Day that year and that of a very good 1995 travelogue by the British writer John Keay – and is naturally the lingua franca.  But the bottom line is that no language should ever be lost, or put at risk of being so. There’s still time for the national authorities to change their mind. They should do so.

See the Light

Speaking of cultural matters, we had a nice little Christmas and New Year message from the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival which was cheering on two counts: it indicated that the festival is now effectively a 12-month operation – there should be no peace for the wicked, or for organisers of important annual events – and it gave news of what the 2013 festival is shaping up to be.
    The 2013 festival will be the tenth (regrettably referred to by the festival scribbler as the 10-Year Anniversary: perhaps the UWRF should run a workshop on tautology avoidance) and this is of course an important milestone. The theme of the 2013 festival (from Oct. 2-6 – put it in your diaries) is Habis Gelap Terbitlah Terang: Through Darkness to Light. This honours Kartini – Raden Ayu Kartini (1879-1904) – who is one of Indonesia's designated national heroes. Since 1964, she has her own national day each year, on April 21.
     Kartini's concerns were not only in the area of the emancipation of women, but also other problems of her society. Kartini saw that the struggle for women to obtain their freedom, autonomy and legal equality was only a part of a wider movement.
     She married the Regency Chief of Rembang (who already had three wives) against her wishes but to appease her ailing father; her new husband allowed her to establish a school for women in the Rembang Regency Office. Kartini's only child, a boy, was born in September 1904 and she died of post-natal complications four days later, aged 25.
      Inspired by her example the Dutch Van Deventer family established the R.A. Kartini Foundation which later built “Kartini’s Schools” for women in Semarang, Surabaya, Yogyakarta, Malang, Madiun, Cirebon and other places.
     The UWRF says the 2013 theme will “open the floor” – we thought it was rayap that did that but never mind – to many global issues concerning women, education, gender equity, children and the human condition. The sub theme addresses heroes in society: in the banal and ungrammatical language of these times, “people who have, or are, making a difference.”
      The festival’s Indonesian programme has already begun receiving works from Indonesian writers from Java, Sumatra and Sulawesi vying to become one of the 15 designated emerging Indonesian writers to be sponsored participants in the 2013 event. In 2012, a total of 279 writers submitted their works to the selection committee.
      One interesting and sensible provision of the selection process is an independent curatorial board – its members are appointed for one year only to avoid favouritism and bring in new blood.
       Something else that might interest many is a competition to design a poster illustrating the 2013 theme. The winner, whose work will be seen on posters everywhere promoting the festival, and during the festival itself, will also receive more than Rp20 million in travel and prizes. Submissions close on Feb. 7 and details are available on the UWRF website.

A Bradman Knock

Veteran Australian journalist and notable Friend of Hector, Bob Howarth – Bob and Hector’s helper go back a long way in the media world – celebrated 50 years in journalism recently. He was fortunate to be able to do so at Gibson Saraji’s fine Gorgonzola restaurant and bar on Jl Raya Uluwatu, Bukit Jimbaran. Saraji is a great host and his menu is on the upside of great.
    Howarth, who started as a cadet journalist on the Brisbane Courier-Mail on Dec. 8, 1962 and went on to run newspapers in Papua New Guinea and Hong Kong, has been in Bali for three months working with the Institute for Peace and Democracy at Udayana University’s Jimbaran campus. He’s  had to go away for a spell – something about Christmas on his beloved Moreton Island in Queensland, it seems – but is due back in February to do some more work with institute executive director I Ketut Putra Erawan, who is a very engaging academic indeed.
     The Gorgonzola party, on Dec. 8, was made notable by the presence of several of Howarth’s Indonesian “granddaughters” – sweet (and formidably intelligent) young things he taught at Padjadjaran University in Bandung. It was a fun night.
     Also there for the celebrations was Brit author Tim Hannigan, whose new book Raffles and the British Invasion of Java has caused a few riparian ripples in the otherwise fairly placid waters of British imperial hagiography. He’d been in Bali to do book launches at Biku in Kerobokan (thanks for the excellent afternoon tea, Asri – and we’ll be back to try that new locally made apple cider) and at Janet DeNeefe’s Bar Luna Lit Club in Ubud.
      We know of no plans in this regard, but Hannigan would be a prize catch for this year’s Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. Over to you, Janet.

Wedding Belles

We were honoured to receive an invitation to attend the nuptials arranged at a house just up the road for some connections of our redoubtable pembantu. We missed the tooth-filing – always such fun – but were compensated for this by the opportunity to view the activities of several beautifully and traditionally attired young Balinese women flitting about taking pictures on their iPads and sundry other items of cutting-edge technology.
Not for Prophet

In our Christmas message in the Diary published on Dec. 12 we recalled that Jesus is important to Muslims. We wrote that he was the third most important of Islam’s prophets. This was an error: we should have written fifth.
     The point we were making is that while Muslims do not believe Jesus (Isa) was the son of God, he is revered as the 24th of Islam’s 25 prophets: Muhammad was the last. It is one of a number of interesting and powerful links between two of the great religions of The Book.
     There is no formal hierarchy of prophets in Islam, but as the Holy Qur’an records, there are five who are most important as “prophets with resolution.” Here’s the relevant verse (33.7): “And remember We took from the prophets their covenant: As (We did) from thee (Muhammad): from Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus the son of Mary: We took from them a solemn covenant.”
Hear Hear, Kitty

Facebook sometimes gives you a giggle, especially when friends post little primers on how they think life should be lived. We got one such recently, which advised that real men love cats. Our immediate thought was, well yes, unless they’re New Zealanders, probably. But we scratched that as thoroughly unworthy.
     Nonetheless, the advice is correct. Cats are wonderful animals and much smarter than humans. And anyway, these days it’s all about Meow! Meow! Meow!


A Happy New Year to all and every good wish for 2013.

Hector's Diary appears in the fortnightly print edition of the Bali Advertiser and on the newspaper's website www.baliadvertiser.biz. Hector tweets (@scratchings) and is on Facebook (Hector McSquawky).

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Dec. 12, 2012

What a Stinker

Sir Stamford Raffles is a footnote in history for having identified a swampy and malarial island at the bottom of the Malay Peninsula as the site of the future New Serenissima (Venice) nowadays known as Singapore. He is due that credit. He’s also a footnote in the bibliography of flora, having had his name attached to perhaps the most unpleasantly pungent plant on earth, the Rafflesia, characterised by Swedish scientist Eric Mjoberg in 1928 as possessing “a penetrating smell more repulsive than any buffalo carcass in an advanced stage of decomposition.”  It’s also known as the corpse flower, and is thus nicely emblematic of a dead empire.
     There was a bit of a stink about Raffles at the recent Singapore Literary Festival, where British authors Tim Hannigan (Raffles and the Invasion of Java) and Victoria Glendinning (Raffles and the Golden Opportunity) faced off in a firmly feisty manner.
     Hannigan was in Bali this month to promote his new book, which had its official Indonesian launch earlier in Jakarta – the Big Durian, a competitor for pungency perhaps – and then its Bali introduction at Periplus at Mal Bali Galeria, Kuta, on Dec. 1. Apparently the Periplus function was conducted entirely in Indonesian and Hannigan’s fine Java-accented Bahasa attracted good reviews.
     He conducted later speaking engagements, first at Biku in Kerobokan’s well-heeled Jl Petitinget and then at Bar Luna in Ubud, in a mix of languages. We were at Biku – no one should miss an opportunity for afternoon tea at Asri Kerthyasa’s bijou establishment – on Dec. 4 to catch up. Hannigan and your diarist formerly laboured together on Another Publication hereabouts, on a proprietor’s promise of possibly being favoured with a quick smell of a notionally oily rag.
     Hannigan’s secular hagiographies are worth reading. We enjoyed his first book (George Hayward and the Great Game). Hayward came a cropper while the Brits and the Russians were chest-thumping in Central Asia in the 19th century. Raffles, whose origins were relatively humble in the snooty (not to say snotty) Britain of his day, ended up ruined financially, perhaps because he was from the wrong side of the tracks.
     Check out Monsoon Books for Hannigan’s work. It’s worth it.

Pull the Other Plug

PLN, which makes congenital dysfunction seem like a desirable improvement to aim for, has hit new heights with its unannounced introduction of an innovative Bule Billing Plan. Last month’s bill – which failed to take account, as they always do, of serial blackouts and frequent delivery of 80V instead of the standard 220V – was away being paid, by your diarist, two days after it reached The Cage.
     Not long after the chariot had departed on this happy mission, two chirpy little chaps from the world’s worst public utility turned up at the gate to disconnect the power for non-payment. Fortunately our redoubtable pembantu was on the ball and sent them on their way with whatever is the local equivalent of a flea in the ear. That might be “sebuah loak di telinga,” but we’re not really sure.
     But it is good news, in a way, we suppose. It does seem that PLN has stumbled upon an accounting system that actually tells them whose bill is whose. Maybe, though, they should rework the bit about cutting people off before they’ve had a chance to pay.
    And while they’re at it, they might look at methods of delivering secure power, consistently, at the right voltage.  Repeatedly stubbing your toe while blundering around in the half-dark, courtesy of PLN’s brown-out policy, is not a desirable thing. It prompts intemperate thought and it’s not something that will be fixed by changing the wallpaper.  On that score, proposals to set up a Bali “subsidiary” of PLN on the Batam model should be viewed with caution.

Apple of Her Eye

The intriguing Marie Bee, who writes for the French monthly journal La Gazette de Bali (avec brio) from the deep recesses of the Ubud environment, was much excited in her latest published dispatch at having seen a reticulated python with two penises. She clearly didn’t major in ophiology at her university in Aix en Provence. These curious tandem arrangements are not altogether unusual among the descendants of the poor creature divinely sentenced to slither on his belly forever for getting Eve to bite that apple.
     Be that as it may, the Bee piece is a nice buzz, especially since it prompts agreeable speculation that a snake might possibly be able to comply with a pejorative suggestion that it go away and perform what would otherwise be an anatomical impracticality.


Once upon a time, your diarist played rugby. That’s the original Rugby Union version, not Rugby League which was invented to keep English labourers out of the ale houses of a weekend and then migrated to that working class haven, Australia. We played fly-half (No 10) until one too many “forget the scrum-half, get the next bloke” tactical plays by opposing sides encouraged the view that squash might be a safer sport.
     But love of the game lingers (you never really lose it) so we browse a number of rugby sites – the Wallabies, the Queensland Reds and Scotland are favourites, along with an historical affinity with the Springboks – including a Facebook page maintained by the Bali Rugby Club.
     There, the other day, we noticed a post by BRC president Nick Mesritz, who shapes surfboards for a living and is from the land of the magical Haka. It quoted All Black prop Owen Franks on his upcoming pre-season training: “The training programmes are brutal and lonely – the onus is on the individual to be responsible for their fitness and follow an aerobic and strength programme that will include sprint repeats, hill work, gym work and agility sessions.”
     We could suggest that’s not unlike the daily fitness regime here at The Cage. But we’d be straying a little too far from the literal truth.
All Abuzz

Brisbane in Queensland is a fine place to formerly call home. It’s Australia’s third largest capital city (population 2 million-plus) so it comes with all mod cons, and since it sits happily on 27 S its winters, while locally remarkable, barely pass even the fringe chill test. It’s a great place for Garuda to fly to from Bali – again, after its five-year bottom-line disappearing act – and those additional services from later next year will widen opportunities to stage brief returns, something The Diary has missed.
     But we’ve kept in touch, among other things by way of the vibrant Brisbane Institute, a body that commenced operations some years ago under the benevolent editorial gaze of your diarist. Thus we learned recently that with the appointment of its first Chief Digital Officer, the city joined New York as one of the few conurbations in the world to have its own local government digital champion. It’s part of the Brisbane City Council’s ambition to position Brisbane as Australia’s new world city.
      The Queensland capital, while still the butt of jealous jokes from effete southerners, has always been in the lead on technology. It had the first computer in the southern hemisphere, in 1962. In those pre-nano days, the monster had to arrive by ship.

Ties That Bind

Hector’s helper – the chap who’s not just a virtual cockatoo – spends a little time on Facebook, as some of his closer acquaintances have been known to note, on occasion testily. One of these, the Distaff, was recently further underwhelmed at finding herself newly in his profile picture. She won’t have a bar of Facebook, Herself.
     It’s a nice photo, one from the files from 1994, and it was placed there because while Facebook allows one to proclaim a marital state, it won’t allow any visual or verbal reference to the name of that propinquity unless they are also an FB user. When dealing with the many unknowns of cyberspace, there are sensible reasons to provide concrete evidence of the presence of a Significant Other.
     What’s really interesting, however, is that while selecting files for a series of down the years photos for possible profile use, the eye fell upon another, from 1996, only two years later. The Distaff had completely changed: she’d been to the gym or something, was clad in an outfit of a very outré hue, and had changed her hairstyle. But Hector’s helper, non-fashion statement that he remains, was still carrying the same old kilos and wearing the same blazer and tie.

Feasting Note

On Dec. 25, as every year, we mark the Christian anniversary of the birth of one of Islam’s important prophets, Isa al Mahdi, the Messiah. The birthday is notional, naturally, since the early Christians merely co-opted existing pagan feasts. Easter (from the Greek pagan god Oestre) was the old Northern Hemisphere Spring fertility celebration.  The midwinter stave-off-starvation feast became Christmas, marking the birth of Jesus. But myths and the complex liturgies that religious scholars spin from them are what make the world and its belief systems go round, after all.
     So Merry Christmas! We’ll save the “Happy New Year!” for the next edition.

Hector's Diary appears in the fortnightly print edition of the Bali Advertiser and on the newspaper's website www.baliadvertiser.biz. Hector tweets @scratchings and is on Facebook (Hector McSquawky). The lovely people at the brilliant Yak Magazine have a link to this blog at www.yakmag.com.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Nov. 28, 2012

By Jiminy, a GM

Ayana Resort and Spa, etc, which sits decorously back from the cliff at Jimbaran to which the iconic Rock Bar clings – and to which it is sometimes possible to gain access, if you have the inclinator – finally has a chief man at the helm. It’s been 10 months since Charles de Foucault departed for Mauritius where the ambience, not unlike some of the Caribbean islands also formerly ruled by the Brits, is a kind of eclectic Faux Français. It’s the sort of place where patrons can be heard intoning “Merde, I’d kill for a beer.” Unless they’re South Africans, in which case some of them might say, ”Shit, ek wil doodmaak vir 'n bier,” and completely fail to make themselves understood.
     The new man is Ed Linsley, who was selected in a process personally led by Horst Schulze, founder and chief executive of Capella Hotel Group.  Linsley has more than 22 years’ experience in hotels and resorts – 21 of them with the Four Seasons group – and was resort manager at 4S Bali Jimbaran (once home to the entertainingly enigmatic John O’Sullivan, who these days wears a sombrero having decamped to a plush 4S resort in Mexico) before going to Vietnam last year as general manager of The Nam Hai Resort.
      Linsley says he was drawn back to Bali by its people and the opportunity to join the Capella Hotel Group. He rides Harley-Davidsons and he’s from Pennsylvania. Ground Hog Days could be fun.

The Good, the Bad, and the Plain Ugly

The Bali-based Institute for Peace and Democracy has been busy lately, talking to delegations from Egypt and Myanmar and selling Indonesia’s proud record of democratic advance achieved by digging the military out of politics and business, and overseeing completion of its monumental premises on the Jimbaran campus of Udayana University.
    The institute is a project that carries the personal imprimaturs of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, and is supported through various elements of Australia’s foreign aid programme and those of other nations.  We’ll be hearing much more about it in the near future.
     The IPD was closely involved in the recent Bali Peace Forum, a recurring international gabfest that this time, and among many other (more valuable) things, provided yet another opportunity for Iran’s chief curiosity, President Ahmadinejad, to have a free shot at the Great Satan and sundry other lesser devils.
     For ordinary mortals, or at least those of them who were trying to use the roads between Kuta and Nusa Dua while troupes of rude police were shooing traffic out of the way so VVIPs and VIPs could get wherever it was they were going before their tea got cold, the forum was chiefly notable, as such things invariably are, for its disruption of normal life.
     It’s not over yet. Next year, when the APEC jamboree hits town with lots of HIPs (Hugely Important Persons) along with the VVIPs and the ordinary VIPs, it’ll be even worse. Note to self: Ensure you are away from Bali in November 2013.

She’s a Champ

Christina Iskandar, luminary of note on the glitter circuit (conscience division), has lost a lot of weight. This was deliberate – a girl likes to look trim, after all, though the Diary has never minded chunky if it comes along with brains, conversation and character – and this feat has also resulted in more than Rp 200 million in funds for YPAC, the children’s home at Jimbaran.
     She told the world proudly via Facebook:  “We did it! Over 200 million raised for YPAC & new van very soon for the kids, a 20 kilo weight loss for me & a new lease on life... a huge thanks to the dedicated supportive amazing bunch of friends that attended this event for such a worthy cause you are all stars, thank you Motion Fitness Team and all the sponsors.”
     Well done, Christina.

Fifty Shades of Bleh

It was amusing to see veteran British publisher Christopher MacLehose on Australia Network’s eminently watchable One-Plus-One programme recently. He was courteously perplexed as to how show host Jane Hutcheon could possibly refer to the blockbuster sex-romp novel Fifty Shades of Grey as a literary work. He said she was the first person he had heard make such a claim.
     (We hear from friends, anecdotally, that the expatriate husbands of Vietnam are passing the book around theirs and other’s expatriate wives for serious study, apparently with mutually satisfying results. That alone supports MacLehose’s reflective assessment of the book’s true value and titillating purpose.)
     MacLehose, a patrician Scot who reads in French – his wife is from l’Hexagone, as French people with an interest in cartography sometimes call their hexagonal patrie – made a late career change from mainstream publishing into publisher of foreign works in translation. He gave the world The Millennium Trilogy, a true work of literature.
     Originally written in Swedish by the late Stieg Larsson, the trilogy – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest – had been rejected by a series of publisher’s houses. Apparently this was because the author was Swedish (and so not an English language writer and therefore difficult to sell) and being unfortunately dead was not going to be writing any more books, which precluded creation of further career-enhancing income streams for publishers’ marketing people.
     Planet Earth has long been made a better place by farsighted Scotsmen (and women).

Fine Fare

Australia Network is always good value. On its summer schedule is a new Australian drama series, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. This is a period piece, set in Melbourne in the 1920s. The network suggests you should get yourself ready to sashay into the city’s back lanes as Phryne Fisher sleuths her way through jazz clubs and other shady spots armed with a pearl-handled pistol and a dagger-sharp wit.
    It sounds fun. The 13-part series will be on the viewing schedule at The Cage. It starts on Dec. 3 (at 9.30pm Bali time). Monday will be a stay-home night for the following three months.

And More Saxy Jazz

Sin City singer Edwina Blush is a regular feature of the saxier parts of Bali, as well as an ambassador for Villa Kitty cat refuge at Ubud, and we look forward to seeing her here again in the flesh –attractive portions of it at least – when next her schedule allows.
     She’s been keeping in form for her much desired reappearance here by playing cabaret style at the Camelot Lounge in Marrickville, Sydney (on Nov. 28) with a pared down quartet and guests. The finely named Blush (she doesn’t, but others have been known to) says of the show: “Refuse to run with the pack, take the cat to the beach, comfort a surf widow, have an affair with your barista and surf a tidal wave of love in the quirky comforts of the Camelot Lounge.” It would have been fun to be there, but we didn’t have enough Qantas points to spare for the trip.
     Blush launched her latest album, Sea for Cats, in June. She describes it as a lush retro cocktail with an over-proof kick and a hint of kitsch indulgence. Clearly, it should be listened to even though The Cage hasn’t done kitsch since ... well, forever. But Edwina says it’s saxy, so of course it must be. The album is available on iTunes or through the Edwina Blush website shop.

So Very Sad

Little Ani, the eight-year-old severely malnourished and physically challenged girl rescued from distressing conditions in Sideman in Karangasem earlier this year by Jimbaran-resident British nurse Sarah Chapman and her Balinese friend Yuni Putu, has died. She had been playing happily at her new home, YPAC, on the morning of Nov. 17 but later that day had to be taken to Sanglah Hospital with serious breathing difficulties. In spite of truly heroic efforts by the Sanglah team, she died a few hours later.
     Ani had become quite a Facebook presence – through a page called Friends of Ani – and touched the hearts of everyone who had contact with her actually or through the social media. Losing her is a tragedy, when she had been gaining much needed weight, was beginning the process of socialisation in an adequate setting, and was waiting for essential surgical correction of her cleft palate. It is particularly hard on her immediate carers and on people such as Robert Epstone of the charity Sole Men, who made strenuous efforts to win Ani a new (and proper) life.
     But Ani, like all who pass away, will live on in the hearts of those who were her family and friends. Her last months were full of fun and love. She was only eight, and could not speak, but she taught many people the real meaning of humanity.
     There’s a proposal to build a hospice in her name and in her memory.

Hector's Diary appears in the fortnightly print edition of the Bali Advertiser, out every second Wednesday, and on the newspaper's website www.baliadvertiser.biz. Hector tweets @scratchings and is on Facebook (Hector McSquawky).

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Bag brigade: Part of the rubbish cull at the inaugural clean-up in Tundun Penyu, Ungasan. (See DIY Clean-Up, below)

Water of Half-Life

It has not yet been raining on the Bukit this official wet season, in any appreciable way at least, up to deadline time for this edition. It has been hot and humid instead. We southern hill-dwellers have seen the clouds over places apparently more favoured by whichever committee of gods it is that controls precipitation. That this is more scientifically seen as a seasonal phenomenon – a variable one as all of them are – has been dismissed in the minds of some who prefer to believe that a laser being operated on the new Kuta-Nusa Dua highway construction is to blame. The theory goes that the contractors are using the laser to deter rain since getting wet would upset their work schedule.
     It’s a lovely story. It might even be worth believing, since all manner of people here seem to believe in all sorts of things.
    There’s an acute water shortage on the Bukit too. That is also a perennial issue. It might be solved – one day – if anyone here believed in practical things, like planning, or building efficient infrastructure. Or maybe they should look at laser-enhanced public water pipes? That might help get the stuff pumped up the tiny rusted and corroded pipes and if effective would certainly advance science, since it would prove the Indonesian theory that water runs uphill.
    On the other hand, there may now be a glimmer of hope that the authorities will notice there is a problem. The village chief of Pecatu, I Made Sumarta, has got into the act, complaining that local people are also being forced into buying expensive tanker water.  When it’s only “rich Bules” (hah!) and five-star hotels that quibble, well, frankly, no one gives a Rhett Butler.

DIY Clean-Up

Neighbouring Ungasan, where the village authorities have a proud record of ignoring essentials, presents a problem for people who really would like to live without rat, snake, dog and mosquito-attracting rubbish. They’re into you for general levy fees – which we have avoided here at The Cage, preferring instead to pay the local Banjar, since it does useful social welfare work – but outside Ungasan village itself, little activity has ever been detected.
      So it’s interesting to learn that in another part of Tundun Penyu Dipal – the top ridge, from where there are fine views of the litter-strewn Balangan road – the local staff from 27 villas have got together and formed an association to provide mutual self-help and security. They meet monthly (refreshments provided), have a New Year’s party planned, and are benefiting from having friends around them. Many domestic workers do not have the local family support base available to Balinese who work in their home areas.
      Backed by one foreign resident, owner of one of the villas in the project, the association is now also conducting monthly clean-ups in the area. At the first, on Nov. 5, 22 of the available 27 people turned out. A contractor has been appointed to take the rubbish to the refuse disposal centre at Suwung, whose operators will hopefully dispose of it properly.
      Since Ungasan village provides no rubbish collection in the area and there is as yet no appreciable decline in the cultural practice of just tossing your garbage over the fence – or dropping it on the road as you meander along on your motorbike – this is a significant measure to reduce the litter overburden. It’s an idea that is already practised elsewhere and should be copied in many other places.
      It’s self-help at its local best. Pity it puts the village authorities to shame, but there you go.

Jennifer Bee, who among other things markets Grand Komodo Tours & Diving and believes – so she tells us on her Facebook – that a glass is neither half empty for pessimists nor half full for optimists, but simply has room for vodka in it, alerts us to another astonishment. This year December has five Saturdays, five Sundays and five Mondays. Apparently this happens only once every 824 years and the Chinese have a term for it (well, they would). It’s the Money Bag.
     Bee, a Jakarta native who would look very fetching in a big red hat if only one were still in her possession (she gave it away), is also an aficionada of art. She might possibly be seen distant from her Sanur domain on Nov. 16, at the opening of the Bali Sumba Timor Photography Exhibition, featuring the work of Ari Saaski. The exhibition, which runs through to January, is at Cafe des Artistes in Jl Bisma, Ubud.
     The photos on show include landscape, nature and portraiture and probably should not be missed by The Diary, either.

Pumpkin Heads

It was Halloween on Oct. 31, as no one should need reminding since it occurs on that date every year. It’s the eve of All Saints’ Day, a Christian festival, and is traditionally a night when the spirits are abroad; rather like the night before Nyepi, really.
     But it’s chiefly an American thing, dating from when the fun-loving Pilgrim Fathers landed at the Kennedy Compound in Massachusetts and wondered what they could do with all those pumpkins, since it was plain they could do absolutely nothing with the Kennedys.
     Ever since, whimsy has been the American way. And we’re indebted to American Prospect’s daily news brief (of Nov. 1) for giving us a break from election year politics – that’s all over now too – and instead informing us that according to a leading polling outfit, PPP, 62 percent of US voters polled said chocolate was their Halloween poison of choice, and that if forced to turn into a monster, 22 percent would prefer being a vampire against 12 percent who’d like to be a werewolf.
      It seems that the Democrats are the Party Party. Thirty-three percent of registered Democratic respondents told the pollsters they would be dressing up for Halloween, against only 23 percent of Republicans.

Peaced Off

Perhaps Nick Way, of the Bali Peace Park Association, will have more time to devote to matters of importance now that he’s left Network Ten in Perth. We learned of his departure from the broadcaster, which is having a bit of a commercial struggle these days, through The Australian newspaper’s Strewth diary column.
     It reported that at this year’s West Australian Media Ball, held recently and like all such events an annual bash renowned for feats of alcoholic misadventure, job security was the talk of the tables among the lads and the frocked-up lassies. This was apparently given extra piquancy by the departure of veteran sound-recordist Way and The West Australian’s so-called super sleuth Sean Cowan from the benefits of paid employment.
     Way should now be able to Google bananas (hint: they’re a plant, not a tree) to avoid further horticultural and arboreal embarrassment at the former Sari club site, as well as look for practical ways to progress his association’s long-running sequel to Mission Impossible.

Hector's Diary appears in the fortnightly print edition of the Bali Advertiser, out every second Wednesday, and on the newspaper's website www.baliadvertiser.biz. Hector tweets @scratchings and is on Facebook (Hector McSquawky).

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

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

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, out every second Wednesday, and on the newspaper's website www.baliadvertiser.biz. Hector tweets @scratchings and is on Facebook (Hector McSquawky).