Tuesday, December 27, 2011

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Dec 28, 2011

A Beautiful Mind

Only the brightest get to Balliol, the cream of Oxford colleges. Christopher Hitchens, the British polemicist whose writing and advocacy put him at the forefront of political, social, religious and scientific debate, and who died in December (far too early at 62) was one of them and is a figure who will be sadly missed. His atheism angered many critics – one cannot imagine why, since if there is any existence after death Hitchens will now have proved himself wrong, though in common with all who have gone before he won’t be back to tell us about it – and his politics many others.
     Christopher Buckley, a friend and argument-foil of 30 years, wrote in a blog note on The Atlantic magazine site (Hitchens wrote for the magazine for years after moving to America in the late 1970s, saying later he jumped the pond because Britain was “like Weimar without the sex”) that Hitchens was “a feast of reason and a flow of soul, and, if the author of God Is Not Great did not himself believe in the concept of soul, he sure had one, and it was a great soul.”
     The television channel Al Jazeera posted some memorable quotes from Hitchens as part of its reportage of his death, including this one: “[George W. Bush] is lucky to be governor of Texas. He is unusually incurious, abnormally unintelligent, amazingly inarticulate, fantastically uncultured, extraordinarily uneducated, and apparently quite proud of all these things.”
      Hitchens said this in 1999, a year before Bush became US President. In 2003 Hitchens was a staunch supporter of the US-led invasion of Iraq.  He later railed against waterboarding, a torture technique favoured – until rightly banned – by the US military.
      He wrote 17 books, including The Trial of Henry Kissinger, God is Not Great, and a memoir, Hitch-22 (he was Hitch to his friends). His final publication of a collection of his essays, Arguably, was released this year.          
     It was perhaps apt – it is certainly poignant – that in the month of Hitchens’ death astronomers confirmed the existence of an Earth-like planet in the “habitable zone” around a star not unlike our own. The planet, Kepler 22-b, lies about 600 light-years away, is about 2.4 times the size of Earth, and has a temperature of about 22C (despite global warmists’ alarms, Earth’s mean surface temperature is still around 15C,where it’s been during the whole galactic nanosecond since homo sapiens discovered how to measure it).
     Kepler 22-b – named for the space telescope that is busy spotting distant parts of the neighbourhood – is the closest confirmed planet yet to one like Earth: a planet on which it is conceivable that advanced intelligent life could occur; such as, say, a life of Hitch.

Sun Don’t Shine

We tweet on Twitter (@Scratchings if you’re interested) to a select few who have chosen to follow Hector’s ephemeral flight paths and were thus pleased to see the other day that something called the Bali Sun – though its website and Twitter page call it Bali The Sun – had elected to follow us. It’s nice to have followers. No former leader writer should be without them.
     That day, there were only two tweets on its Twitter page. Both said it was an on-line tourist papper (sic). It’s “about us” page on its website was similarly uninformative. The single entry there said its popularity was 5 percent. It didn’t say what it was 5 percent popular with, but we couldn’t ask because the website doesn’t say who’s in charge.
     It is said that if you can’t say anything nice then don’t say anything at all. But diarists couldn’t possibly survive under such restrictive rules of engagement. A far better rule is that if something pops its head up above the parapet, shoot at it.
     Perhaps the Bali Sun will shine one day. But it will need to put a few more additions (oops, silly, we must mean editions) up on its site before any illuminating flashes of light reach us from the heavens.
     Speaking of illuminating moments, the other day we inadvertently bought a week-old copy of another local newspaper, the Bali Times. We’d parked outside a Circle K so the Distaff could negotiate some laundry next door and thought we’d better drop in to buy something at the convenience store, just to show goodwill. It was two days after the new edition should have been on the shelves, but sadly we weren’t paying attention and forked out Rp10K for an old fish-and-chip wrapper instead of a new one.
     It wasn’t all wasted effort, though. The Times, which continues to assert that it reveals the real Bali all the way from distant Ireland, turns out to be still on its inexplicable vendetta against the British novelist Will Self, whom, granted, some regard as tendentious and tedious, not to mention far too far up himself. Some time ago it reported “Man Throws Self off Cliff,” which surprised us no end because we had no idea he was even on the island. In the edition of the paper we just inadvertently bought is a story with this headline:  “Man Sets Self Alight Outside State Palace.” (He must have recovered from his Uluwatu plunge and gone to Jakarta.)
     Clearly someone’s out to get poor Will. We didn’t think his densely fantastical piece de resistance, Great Apes, was that bad. But should he be planning further Indonesian trips, he might consider doing so under an assumed name. We’d considered proposing Safe, since that suggests a measure of surety against unfortunate incident. But no, that wouldn’t do. The Bali Times would just report that robbers had blown him up.

She’s Our Hero

Robin Lim, who operates the Bumi Sehat foundation that provides health care and maternity and prenatal care to women in Bali who might otherwise not get it, was deservedly named CNN Hero of the Year 2011 this month, selected from among 10 finalists. She got US$250,000 for her win, having already received $50,000 for making it onto the finalists’ list.
     Lim is truly a hero.  She said at the awards (in Los Angeles on December 11): “Every baby's first breath on Earth could be one of peace and love. Every mother should be healthy and strong. Every birth could be safe and loving. But our world is not there yet.”
     Hear! Hear!

Kindling Thought

We had a lovely dinner party recently. Two people we got to know from their business activities but who are now friends – he’s a real estate broker, she is manicurist to the Distaff – joined us at The Cage for a western meal with Asian flavours, judged sufficiently Halal for mild Muslims, with background music by iPod, Hector’s  latest toy. He’s very proud of the playlists he has managed to create from a mix of iTunes and burned CDs and is in danger of becoming quite boring about it all.
     Amid the evening ambience – The Cage sports a sort of deep crimson light-pool at night, courtesy of some table lamps that inevitably propel one’s thoughts towards the more classy among Parisian and Chinese brothels (Hector is not at all unhappy about this) – talk turned among other things to the developing world of ebooks and specifically to the Kindles now on the inventory at our house.
     It will be great when a far larger body of literature in Bahasa Indonesia is available in electronic books, especially since bookshops in Bali are seriously deficient at the sentient end of literature’s envelope.
     The Diary is at present rereading (though perhaps that should be e-reading) James Joyce’s 1922 novel Ulysses, a long-time favourite as well as the spark for that grand old pub-crawl, Bloomsday. (It’s on June 16 every year, but you need to keep in training year round.)
     It is particularly memorable for Joyce’s use of some lines from William Butler Yeats’ 1892 poem Who Goes with Fergus? They include these two lines, sage advice in any vicissitude:

      And no more turn aside and brood
     Upon love’s bitter mystery

Santa in Seminyak

We expect Santa is now taking his customary well-earned rest after the oh-so-busy pre-Christmas period he and the reindeer, not to mention the elves, have to endure each year. One of the many spots he dropped in on in Bali in the lead-up to Present Day was The Cornerstore in Jl Oberoi at Seminyak.
     That was on Saturday, December 17. Informant Sean Cosgrove told us the red-suited gent would be there from 9am to noon. We do hope the sleigh didn’t get held up in the traditional traffic jam that gridlocks Kuta-Legian-Seminyak on a permanent basis.

Animal Capers

Someone kindly alerted us to a list of the most popular dog names this year – OK, it was in New York, which is one very self-absorbed apple – which lists Bella as No. 1. Presumably that’s for lady dogs. The Diary’s personal favourite was way down the list, at No. 49. We don’t have a dog, but we’re always calling “Oreo.”
     Guess there’ll be a new list next year.
     That’ll be 2012, which from January 23 is the Year of the Dragon.  We’re just leaving the Year of the Rabbit, in which some among us have found that we have been the bunnies. It can only get better.
     Happy New Year!

Hector's Diary appears in the fortnightly print edition of the Bali Advertiser and on the newspaper's website www.baliadvertiser.biz

On Twitter: @Scratchings. On Facebook: Hector McSquawky

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

HECTOR'S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Dec. 14, 2011

Pep Talk Required

When Pepito Express opened on Jl Raya Uluwatu near GWK on the Bukit a couple of years ago, the occupants of The Cage along with many other nearby residents rushed its doors. Inside there was not only a good range of products often otherwise unobtainable in Bali shops, but also aisles down which one could progress without first having to become bulimic to fit. It was a treat.
     Sadly, and no doubt in search of immediate feet through the door rather than a steady build-up of high-spending local consumers, things have changed. The place has become a calling point for huge buses which disgorge crowds of confused and apparently impecunious Taiwanese and Korean tourists (they never seem to understand the marked price or have the right money). The aisles have been stuffed with convenience foods (seaweed snacks seem to loom large) and there is no longer room to wheel your trolley down them with even the vague hope that you might find a regular Oreo as well as your normal range of western consumer products.
     One evening recently when The Diary and Distaff called in on a substantial resupply mission the place was impossible. The aisles had assumed trade store dimensions (and the assorted obstacle courses of cardboard cartons that goes with this genre of shopping); the staff apparently had better things to do than look after customers; and the salad shelves were full of listlessly limp post-greens.
     We may just have hit them on a particularly bad night, but the result of this un-Pepito-like experience was that the facilities of our formerly favourite emporium much further away, Lotus on the bypass at Jimbaran, suddenly looked rather attractive again.

Leap Before You Look

One of the more engaging of the local habits is the practice of walking out into the traffic and signalling a sort of pelan-pelan (slowly-slowly) instruction to oncoming drivers and riders. It’s a way of getting across an otherwise virtually gridlocked road, certainly.
     In many ways it is not dissimilar to the happy habit in Hanoi, Vietnam, where pedestrians wishing to cross the most frenetic of roads (and worse, intersections) simply plunge into the mayhem and walk steadily and on a fixed course in their chosen direction. They are confident the ubiquitous motorcycles will miss them. The buses sometimes don’t, though that’s another matter.
     But (that essential codicil!) you have to know what you’re doing. It helps, too, to know where you’re going.  If you are unsure of either of these things, and especially if unsure of both, do not attempt to tempt the traffic.
     Near Ungasan crossroads the other day there was a lovely little incident. A chap in a vehicle – a Bule of course; no fists would have been raised otherwise – who was (un)happily crawling along at 10kmh in the lengthy line of traffic behind yet another defective and overloaded yellow truck, was horribly surprised when a passing local gent suddenly leaped from the footpath (sic), put up his hand, and walked out straight in front of him. The vehicle’s driver slammed on the anchors: It’s so much easier than finding out the idiot you’ve just nudged happens to have 5,000 cousins in the immediate vicinity.
     In true Bali fashion, the incident was locally viewed as entirely the fault of the Bule.  After all, if he hadn’t been on the island, he wouldn’t have been involved.

Jingle Belles

The Diary got a lovely invitation from jewellery designer Tricia Kim – we go back such a long way, she and we, all the way back to the 2009 Yak awards where we ran into each other upon the steps at the then new Cocoon and didn’t know each other from a bar of soap, something now pleasantly rectified – to attend the launch of her 2012 collection on December 7.
     It would have been delightful to be there, for Tricia’s svelte and energetic company through a relaxing afternoon, the new collection of course, and the afternoon tea including cupcakes (can’t resist them) and sandwiches along with mojitos. A complimentary mani-pedi available on a first come, first served basis would have been good too. The claws could do with a buffing.
     And then there was the venue: Di Astana Villa at Kerobokan (it’s in Jl Batu Belig on the way down to the beach there).
     Unfortunately we were in Ubud on other duties at the time and couldn’t make it. But we’ll catch up with the collection later.

No Need to Duck

Sakinah Nauderer, the decorative and delightfully enigmatic proprietor of Senggigi’s Asmara Restaurant – a place of fine resort when in Lombok – tells us her Christmas plans this year include no more rubbery local ducks. Imported turkey will fill that role (and a lot of tummies) this season.
     She plans a Christmas Brunch Buffet on the day itself, starting from 12 noon, and at 1.30pm the children’s gospel choir from Ampenan will entertain guests with appropriate vocals. This Christmas treat costs Rp175K for adults and Rp50K for children aged six to 12. If you’re under six, you don’t pay at all. There’s a lucky draw after the turkey and the choir.
     Here’s the menu: Welcome drink and bruchetta; creamy lobster soup; stuffed turkey with gravy and cranberry sauce (prawns are available for non-turkey-eaters); spiced red cabbage; cauliflower and broccoli cheese; potato croquettes and roast potatoes. Desserts on offer are cheesecake, apple pie and chocolate cake with whipped cream. There’s coffee and tea to follow if by then you’re not as stuffed as your turkey.

Cook Up

Janet DeNeefe’s new book collecting recipes and photos of Bali and just published by Pan Macmillan Australia has been snapped up by a keen cook in Australia who – naturally enough – read about it in The Diary. He tells us he’ll be trying out his personal top choice from the menus when next he arranges a candlelight dinner.
     After our original item in The Diary last issue, DeNeefe told us copies of her book (Bali: The Food of my Island Home) were a little scarce hereabouts. They were “still in Surabaya.” We sympathise. So much that should be cleared through the wharves and customs in no time flat instead finds itself in limbo as a result of that pernicious and endemic disease, Surabaya Syndrome.

Hill Town Daze

We took some very special visitors to Ubud recently – The Diary’s sister and her husband, who spent a week with us just out of the UK via Bangkok on their way to two months in Australia. The Diary is a Wayan – so is the Distaff, which occasionally creates problems of precedence – and the Brit Sis is a Made. All this was made clear over a gin and tonic or three.
    Ubud was its usual self: spiritual, quaint, eclectic and jammed with huge charabancs quite unsuitable for the little town’s streets. We stayed at Beji Ubud Resort at Sanggingan, where sadly, this time, the internet connection was rather below par; we dined one night at Café des Artistes, refreshed ourselves at The Three Monkeys (de rigueur for diarists who die for pumpkin ravioli and who are now looking forward to trying out the new T3M at Sanur) and did a few other eating and musical things, including the new-look Jazz Café. Oh yes, and we made sure we walked right past Naughty Nuri’s. We like a little elbow room with our eating experience rather more than we like the in-crowd.
    Sister Made was on her way to see our other sister (she’s a Nyoman; there’s a Ketut brother who lives in the USA) who long ago made the chilly choice to reside in Canberra, the country’s notional capital 600 metres above sea level  in the frankly frigid Southern Tablelands. The Diary worked in that fair city for some years, on a FIFO basis, and was always glad his office was in Parliament House. It always has a plentiful supply of hot air.
     The travelling sister’s Australian itinerary does include more sensible parts of the country, including tropical – and thus truly warm – Queensland.

Merry Christmas

Christmas has long since been a global retail opportunity, a celebration of consumerism and a far cry indeed from its origins in the Christian faith and its belief that Jesus Christ was born in a cow byre in Bethlehem. Nonetheless, amid all the commercial pap, it does serve to remind you that charity and goodwill, along with forgiveness, are essential elements of life.
    So Merry Christmas to all. 

Hector's Diary appears in the Bali Advertiser print edition published every two weeks and on the newspaper's website www.baliadvertiser.biz

You can follow Hector on Twitter @Scratchings and join him on his Facebook (Hector McSquawky)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

HECTOR'S DIARY The Bali Advertiser, Nov. 30, 2011

Holiday Break

The Diary has just spent two weeks enjoying the pleasant ambience of the Nerang River in Queensland. It was, though not in the way Hyacinth Bucket (“It’s ‘Bouquet’”) achieved it, a riparian delight. We were well away from the faux glam glitter of the Gold Coast’s beachside tourist strip and – courtesy of some lovely friends of very long standing who courageously opened their home to Diary and Distaff – enjoyed all manner of domestic comforts.
     It gave us a chance to catch up with people we haven’t seen for many years (at least six, since we left Queensland for the sybaritic delights of Bali) and to reconnect with what for the Diary is truly home. We also spent a couple of days well inland, on a formerly frequently visited farm, the domicile of other dear friends. It is a place with plentiful cups of tea and long views of beautiful mountains:  the sort of landscape that the weather and Bali’s love affair with dysfunctional internal combustion engines so often conspire to deprive you of at home.
     We drove down into New South Wales to visit another old haunt, Byron Bay, and had a beer and some lunch, but were blown back from the beaches by a stiff northerly half-gale. Ah well, never mind; next time perhaps. We went up to the Gold Coast’s own special “mountain,” Mt Tamborine, a 500-metre high ridge nowadays littered with wineries, and sampled a few vintages. These are mostly from Queensland’s distant Granite Belt which is so high and so cold you actually can grow wine grapes there. We dropped in on a liqueur maker who was doing a roaring trade (the wattle myrtle vodka is a killer –Za vashe zdorovye!). Hector left a note in the visitor’s book.  We lunched at a Bavarian restaurant, far too well, and had to take the rest of the afternoon off.

Idiots’ Week

The peculiar Australian custom of “Schoolies Week” – an annual event during which young people who have just finished senior school go off and have a holiday with their mates – is a pernicious occurrence not only in Bali, where little idiots arrive and do foolish things, but also at the Gold Coast in Queensland. This year’s risk of choice there, among the mindless, was balcony jumping. That’s one way of bringing yourself down quickly from a party high, we suppose.
     But it was events in Bali that enraged the Diary; events as portrayed of course. A segment on tabloid television’s “current affairs show” ACA related the sad case of some other little idiot who had travelled to Bali to run amuck and had injured his foot in a motorbike accident. The enragement was less because the accident occurred – they do, with depressing regularity, though they mostly involve locals who are of no interest to visiting Aussie tabloid TV teams – than with the fellow’s determined refusal to acknowledge that he had been the author of his own misfortune because he was (a) drunk and (b) stupid.
     In that regard it was good to see BIMC chief Craig Beveridge on the programme explaining that his establishment sees plenty of such cases.  Perhaps some lapsed parents in Australia saw that and took it in. Well, just perhaps: sentience tends to be a genetic thing.

Blog for Health

High profile conferences and diplomacy are of course vital to the business of managing international relations and bringing assistance to countries and communities that need help (in whatever form) but it is at the lower, less visible, end of the equation that most of the practical work gets done.
     So it is with the Australian aid agency AusAID’s great Indonesian gig to get bloggers to help increase awareness of HIV/AIDS and of World AIDS Day (December 1). Active bloggers were invited to enter a dynamic online competition themed “HIV and Youth.” The competition called for young Indonesian bloggers to write about their own experiences or opinions on HIV/AIDS.
     Australia’s ambassador, Greg Moriarty, says of the competition: “Indonesia has one of the fastest growing HIV/AIDS epidemics in South East Asia. We need to do all we can to raise awareness of this disease.”
     The competition was aimed at tapping into Indonesia’s thriving social media scene – which has 38 million Facebook users and more than 3.2 million bloggers – to expose the country’s browsing community to inspiring and easy to read information about the disease. It was held by AusAID in partnership with Viva News, one of Indonesia’s leading news sites. Submissions closed on November 30.
     The winning blog entries will be announced on December 20. The top three bloggers will win computers, cameras and high-tech phones.
     In 2010, Australia’s $100 million Partnership for HIV provided services to 50,000 prisoners, helped 26,000 injecting drug users to gain access to clean needles, methadone maintenance programmes and harm reduction services, and improved access to medicines for people living with HIV.

Dream Road

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard was among the squadrons of international political leaders who attended the East Asia Summit in Bali two weeks ago. These jamborees are important – genuinely, they’re not just photo opportunities or occasions for grandstanding as some of the more jaded among us might sometimes think – even if, for most of the population under the flatfooted footprint of the attendant VIP protection effort, they are chiefly occasions for mass inconvenience.
     Gillard took the opportunity of the summit to visit the Bali Bombing Memorial in Legian on November 19. She described it as a moving experience. It always is, of course. The Diary visits the memorial at least once a year to read (silently) the 202 names listed.
     Amid tight security, including roof-top snipers, Gillard placed a wreath at the memorial site and chatted with Australian tourists.  She met Governor Made Mangku Pastika, who as Bali’s police chief in 2002 led the investigation into first bombing.
    But what caused the Diary a particularly dyspeptic sigh was the ABC report that said she then left to return to Nusa Dua “about 20 minutes drive from the memorial.” Yeah, right. That would be about the travel time, if you’re in a high-speed VIP motorcade and everyone else has been shoved rudely out of the way.
Great Idea

The big bash at the Westin Nusa Dua from November 16-19 included, as is the fashion with modern day international group navel-gazing events, a number of side events and bilateral meetings. These were conducted at the Bali International Convention Centre and at the Westin itself.
    One of them was a think-in about Women’s Empowerment, hosted by Indonesia’s Ministry of Same and chaired by First Lady Ani Yudhoyono. Now that’s an area where a lot of work is needed.

What’s Cooking?

Janet DeNeefe, Fragrant Ricist and Festival Founder, is back in print with another little tome on Bali cuisine. Bali: The food of my island home, runs to 272 pages and was published by Pan Macmillan Australia on November 8.
     It’s always a joy to read publisher’s blurbs. This one invites potential readers to follow Janet on a spice trail through Bali and its rich food culture, with chapters exploring sambals, rice dishes, curries and coconut, street food, ceremonial food, modern offerings and sweets.  It notes that each recipe is accompanied by an insight into the local culture, while key Balinese ingredients – such as kencur, candlenuts and shrimp paste – are explained in an extensive glossary.
     And it says the book is not only a cookbook but also an incredible photographic journey. It sounds like a dream.  Perhaps it will feature in 2012’s writers’ and readers’ festival.   

Artist in Residence

If the Diary ran to an artist in residence, then we should have to choose Leticia Balacek. This is not just because she’s a decorative Argentine, or even because her art is first rate. It has to do with vivacity, verve and vitality. You need all those to properly engage with people.
     So it was good to hear that more of Balacek’s work is on show at Black Sheep (Jl Drupadi 69, Seminyak). It’s a mix media collection that includes Textures (Life is Paradise – Bangkok; and Transformations - Buenos Aires) and a work she hasn’t shown before, For a Little Bit of Sun, from Berlin, in A4 size.  The show runs until Saturday (Dec. 3).
     Gaya at Ubud is also showing Balacek’s work in an exhibition to celebrate the Mother as the central point of human society.  The organisers say the concept was born of the desire to honour and connect to the Mother through creative expression.  It’s true that everyone has an individual story that relates to this theme, which has unquestionably created who we are.  Works scheduled to appear at Gaya from December 17-24, by various artists in many media, include painting, photography, ceramics, sculpture, drawing, written poetry, video projection, song, spoken word poetry, dance and music.
     We hear, by the way, that Balacek will be exhibiting in Jakarta next year.

Back Home

It’s great to have an alternative to Virgin Australia on the Bali-Brisbane route and Air Australia, formerly Strategic, is filling that role very well. The Diary flew both ways with them on the recent trip to the old home town.
    While the airline is using Airbus A320s on the route there is the little matter of the “technical stop” on the uphill leg – the 320 doesn’t have the range to fly Brisbane-Bali non-stop against the headwinds and lands at Darwin to refuel. The downhill leg is fine. Pushed along by a friendly tailwind the Diary made Brisbane in around five hours and twenty minutes on November 11. The return trip on November 25 was somewhat longer.
    When Air Australia (then Strategic) commenced its Brisbane-Bali service it was using an Airbus 330 which doesn’t need to drop in on the Northern Territory capital en route.  Maybe we’ll see the bigger aircraft back on the route sometime.
     Air Australia has big plans – and not just for Bali, from where one imagines it should pick up a good proportion of the Bali-originating Brisbane trade. We’ll be back on board.

Hector's Diary appears in the fortnightly print edition of the Bali Advertiser and on the newspaper's website www.baliadvertiser.biz.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser November 16, 2011

Mum-in-Law Says

Domestic order has been disturbed at The Cage, domicile of Diary and Distaff, by the departure of our prized pembantu. She was apparently prised from our grip by the iron grasp of her mother-in-law, who seemingly saw benefit in depriving her household of one of the two regular incomes it received.
     We think she didn’t want to go. She’d been with us as our housekeeper for four years; we all enjoyed a joke and a laugh together; we gave her extra money for additional tasks, and her husband too, for providing overnight security (and messing around with our TV) during any of our absences from home; her work schedule was regularly (or rather, irregularly) amended to meet her need to attend ceremonies and to the other, many, demands of local life; and there were other benefits, including a regular supply of clothing for herself and her child brought to our house by visitors from overseas who had heard about, and often met, our Wayan.
     It’s a shame. It points up the impossibility of applying here employment rules such as might exist in more formal economies (notice? what is notice?). It reinforces with stark clarity the single most significant fact of life in Bali for foreigners living here: that they are ATMs, nothing more, and rate only the label of Public Convenience.
     But worse than that, it demonstrates that those who promote the concept of women’s equality (or even basic rights) in Indonesia have a long and very hard row to hoe. In Indonesia generally, and in Bali’s iconoclastic and restrictive society particularly, a woman’s place is in her home. Doing what her husband and her mother-in-law tell her to do.

Just So You Know

We dined some little time ago at Dava, the signature restaurant at The Ayana Resort and Spa, the guests of Ayana’s chief spruiker Marian Hinchliffe, who couldn’t be with us on the night but had nonetheless arranged a complimentary glass of nice Chilean red.
     The occasion was to sample the degustation menu of Singapore chef Jusman So, over which Dava divas and other paying guests have been swooning. And so they should – it’s top tucker. We opted for a five-course sampling (the Distaff, who lately has been breaking out, chose two desserts) and added our own purchase of a bottle of said Chilean red (the Lapostalle merlot) to help the medicine go down. That cost a pembantu’s monthly salary plus extras, which is why Dava doesn’t see us all that often.
     For those with the readies, however, the degustation menu is just So ...  fabulous. Should a lottery win eventuate, the Diary might dine at Dava very regularly indeed. There was no lavosh among the complimentary breads, unfortunately, but Ottmar Leibert seemed to be providing the tunes to chomp to, which almost made up for its absence.
    The Diary had the gorgonzola, duck foie gras, purple potatoes, wagyu beef and fondant. The Distaff made it through a salad and fish (grouper) and beef dishes before hoeing into her two desserts.
     So is also now presenting his full a la carte menu, by the way.  We might come back to that. But you shouldn’t miss it, if your plastic stretches far enough.

 New Look:  Aussie colour in the air

Go Green and Gold

Strategic Airlines, the Brisbane-based carrier that serves Bali from the Queensland capital, changed its name and its livery on November 15. It became Air Australia and went green and gold – the country’s sporting colours – instead of red, white and blue.
     As well as this, it went low-cost, dispensing with cabin service included in ticket costs in favour of the buy-on-board option. It has big plans to become Australia’s true low-cost carrier – Virgin Australia long ago having junked that idea, preferring instead to reinvent the airline duopoly that served Australia in the past – and plans to expand its Bali services among many other developments.
     It will be retaining business class on its aircraft, however.

Rovers’ Return

Many years ago the Diary gave up on both the UK and southern Africa and moved to Australia, shortly thereafter adopting Brisbane – appropriately the city is named after a Scotsman – as his place of domicile. It served admirably in this capacity for some 35 years before the Distaff, herself from another extremity on the Australian continent, sold the house and contents, packed the remnants in her dilly-bag, and moved us to Bali.
     That was six years ago and was (and is) a move in no way regretted. It’s warmer here, for one thing. And Australia’s vast and uncontrollably growing regulatory environment wouldn’t thrive in Bali either. Since we prefer to live freely by our own (reasonable and lawful) rules, and hate the very thought of a nanny state, let alone Big Brother and all the other meddlers, Bali’s where we have to be.
      Nonetheless, thoughts of home drift into consciousness now and then, and we flew down to Brisbane on November 11 – on Strategic (Air Australia) as it happens – for a two-week fix, our first since the big move though we regularly go to Perth.  It’s only a short visit, and a busy one at that – so much to do, so little time – but it’s great to see old friends and old haunts, to smell the eucalyptus, to enjoy long, smog-free vistas of distant gum-blue mountains, and visit favourite places.
      These include the Queensland Museum of Modern Art (in Brisbane) where there is a photographic exhibition on that the Diary is going to see come hell or high water, and the thoroughly seductive Byron Bay, scene of many past delights.     

In the Pink: Organisers of the Bali Pink Ribbon Walk at this year’s event

In the Money

Gaye Warren, originator of the Bali Pink Ribbon Walk, tells us this year’s event – it was on October 22 – was highly successful. She didn’t mean that this was because Hector wore pink and wowed the crowd. She meant – and this is really good news – that fundraising here and in Jakarta, and in Australia and Britain, looked likely to bring on purchase of a mammogram machine in 2012.
     Breast screening is an essential element in detecting breast cancer early enough to make remedial treatment a viable option. At present most women in Bali who are found to have breast cancer have gone to the doctor only very late in the progress of the disease. Having a mobile mammogram unit will help the Bali International Women’s Association (BIWA), which supports the Bali Care Cancer Foundation set up by doctors at leading hospital Prima Medika, to ensure that more women receive treatment early.
     The Bali walk alone raised Rp200 million, bolstered by similar amounts raised in Britain and Australia and a quilt made by Jakarta quilters was auctioned, raising further funds. One woman in a wheelchair travelled from Jakarta and wheeled her way around the course. That’s dedication.
     Another breast cancer fundraising event, a charity lunch organised by the Rotary Club Bali Seminyak  at Metis in Seminyak on October 28 and attended by nearly 200, raised close to Rp110 million.

On Your Bike

We all owe a debt of gratitude to Nyoman Minta, the Bali Tourism Development Corporation gardener who made monkeys of the presidential security corps in Nusa Dua a couple of weeks ago. Minta pedalled his pushbike right through the middle of the select throng chosen to hear the latest presidential pronouncement on the occasion of some international conference or other. He did so because, as he later told police, he always rode through there.
     Medals are in order. For Minta, we suggest the Medal of Freedom (from thought and everything else). For the commander of the presidential security corps, who said everyone else was to blame, we recommend the Grand Star of the Order of My Friend Did It (with Inventive Excuse clasp), even if he doesn’t also get the JDS (Jangan Datang Senin, known in the English-speaking world as the DCM – Don’t Come Monday).  And clearly the three cordons of security goons through which Minta insouciantly perambulated while they were watching, rapt, as the Indonesian Air Force put on an aerial display, collectively and individually deserve conferment of the Dereliction of Duty Medal with Nincompoop clasp.
     Perhaps the president himself should get a gong. He is reported to have ordered police to treat Minta humanely. The change of policy – a welcome shift from beating every miscreant in sight with batons – is to be commended.

That’s the Spirit

You’ve got to hand it to Tom Hufnagel at JP’s Warungclub in Seminyak ... he gets all the big acts. Star of their Halloween Monday Night Special on October 31 was Amy Winehouse, who they said would dance again for you all. Well, she might have been there in spirit. The non-ethereal sound effects were by Sound Rebel. Revellers who wore a Halloween costume got a free drink. The late Amy would have liked that.

The Diary appears in the fortnightly print edition of the Bali Advertiser and on the newspaper's website at www.baliadvertiser.biz.id

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

HECTOR'S DIARY The Bali Advertiser, November 2, 2011

Island Interlude

A week in Lombok is not a long time, especially if most of it is spent on Gili Trawangan, aka the Party Island.  It’s always been an eclectic little community so far as expats go, strongly focused on accommodation and recreational diving.
    On a recent trip across the Wallace Line we stayed first in Senggigi, at the usefully central Puri Bunga, just across from the Art Market, where the tariff’s not a killer and waitress Novi, by now an old friend, remains as helpful as ever at breakfast.
    On Trawangan, we stayed at Gili Villas, the Manta Dive-linked operation just up the street from the Gili Deli next to the night market.  They are pleasant little villas and the cleaning, cooking and security staff members are enthusiastic, at least for the most part. And the limit-of-two-users free Wi-Fi was just manageable for a household of three heavy users.

New Experience

Flying into the new Lombok International Airport for the first time was an interesting experience. The tourism-oriented locals up Senggigi way call it Bandara Hutan (Forest Airport) since it is 47 kilometres and at least an hour and fifteen minutes away from where most tourists want to be. They’ll probably get over this angst if the airport begins to pick up additional international services.
    We flew Garuda (we have to keep adding a few unusable frequent flier points to the piggy-bank) and landed at Bandara Internasional Lombok, near Praya in the middle of the island, in the swiftly gathering gloom of post-sunset. By this time, 11 days after it had finally opened, its lighted signage was proclaiming “ANDARA IN-ERNASIONAL LOMBOK” and the “K” was looking as if it wouldn’t be around for long. Still, the runway lights seemed to be in place and working.
    The new highway that is supposed to speed honoured guests to the booming cash points in Senggigi and the boats to the Gilis so they can begin parting with their money to the greater glory of the island’s economy is, after the fashion of things in Indonesia, a cross between half-completed and notional work-in-progress.
    Our taxi driver skilfully negotiated his way through the narrow gap between two large signs clearly warning (in Indonesian) “road closed ahead” before he worked out he was on one of the work-in-progress bits and nearly drove us into the cavernous ditch at the end of this enterprise.

Fine Dining

A great highlight of our Trawangan visit was dinner with the delightful Diane Somerton, who markets The Beach House and the neighbouring Kokomo resort. Kokomo’s restaurant serves very fine fare indeed and the wine, chosen by Somerton, was a real prize.
    We saw her too at The Beach House for two of the Rugby World Cup finals series matches, including the one in which the All Blacks knocked the Wallabies out of their way while charging towards their first cup win in 24 years.
     This was hard for Hector, who’s been wobbly for years; especially since his travelling party on the trip included a Kiwi. Still, never mind; they do say rugby’s only a game.

Rock of Ages

Dream Divers, old friends from our own days in Lombok, took us to Gili Trawangan from Senggigi. The coastal road up to Teluk Nara/Kode and beyond must be Indonesia’s finest highway. It is really very good and some of the tighter bends have actually been engineered properly.
    While we were waiting at Dream Divers’ landside facility for our boat to Trawangan we went to pay our respects at Gerd’s Rock, the memorial stone placed there by Dream Divers staff after the death last year of founder Gerd Bunte.
    One of the workers on hand told us Gerd had chosen the rock himself. It seems that after his death last year they had been unsuccessfully looking for a suitable rock and, empty handed, were driving back to Senggigi, when the fine specimen now residing at Teluk Kode plunged down the hillside directly in front of their vehicle.

Taman Tales

Peter Duncan, Lombok resident, tells us the disputed ownership of Senggigi’s Taman restaurant has now been finally resolved. It was sold in a court ordered auction in mid-October; the buyer was Wiwik Pusparini, who is his wife.
    Taman, once a leading light along Senggigi’s restaurant row and former place of beneficial Duncan management, has been far from gleaming for a long time, after one of those interminable ownership rows that so afflict business in Lombok and elsewhere.  We’ll leave those details alone but it’s good to hear that the Duncan connection has triumphed and that Taman is likely soon to be spruced up and gleaming (and trading) profitably again.   

In the Pink

The Bali Pink Ribbon Walk on October 22 raised sums unspecified at diary deadline time to support breast cancer prevention programmes for local women, helped along by a wide range of generous commercial sponsors. Hector now has a pink T-shirt for his own effort in walking the allegedly five kilometre course around the manicured gardens and streets of Nusa Dua’s star hotels precinct (most of the walkers opted for their own shortened course) and also gained an insight into modern forms of entertainment.
     For some reason, the organisers thought a bunch of cross-dressing trans-gender boys acting the goat (well, the jenny perhaps) and pretending to (a) sing and (b) be Beyonce was just the thing. It’s certainly the nearest Hector has been to a raunchy nightclub performance in quite a while; probably since the days long ago when he might, unwisely perhaps, once or twice have worn a pink shirt.
     October is Breast Cancer Month globally. But the 2012 Bali Pink Ribbon Walk, organised by the Bali International Women’s Association (BIWA), will revert to May when the weather’s less likely to be humid. It’s on Saturday, May 26.

Growing better: The Sole Men collect a welcome donation from Banyan Tree Ungasan General Manager Reinhold Johann at the plush resort’s infant banyan tree.

Great Feat

Robert Epstone, originator of the barefoot Bukit Walk for a Sustainable Future which took place from September 22-25, tells us it raised around US$2,000 for the ROLE Foundation with more money still coming in. The walk promoted support for Homeless children in Indonesia, women’s and children's literacy and vocational skills training and environmental restoration projects in South Bali.
    Epstone, Rotarian Sole Man UK; Rotarian Sole Man French Daniel Chieppa; and Swiss Sole Man Beat Schmid de Gruneck presented to money to Mike O’Leary, ROLE Foundation’s founder; and the president of both charities, Mangku Ariawan, Hindu priest, politician, humanitarian and owner of Bali Island Home, who said: “It is great to have two important organisations combine their efforts and ‘go that extra mile’ to do good together. “
    Epstone tells us the walk presented a wonderful opportunity to share their story as well as hear the stories from people living on the Bukit. “Along our way we made many new friends, meeting with the local Balinese, hotels, owners of businesses, villas and restaurants; and the Uluwatu surf community,” he says. “We also discovered some inspirational 'silent heroes' actively trying to make our planet a better place.”
    Mike O’Leary adds this: “The Bukit peninsula and Badung regency is experiencing huge tourism development with new luxury resorts and world class waves attracting a global surf industry. Expansion is a given with progress but must also be sensitive to culture, social needs and the environment. When the coastline and land is being redeveloped we need to make sure simple communities such as seaweed farmers aren’t marginalised and people, women in particular, are given new opportunities to make a basic living.”


A little while ago the Diary dined at The Ayana’s great Dava restaurant, where Jusman So, Singapore culinary sensation, was presenting a six-course degustation menu. We’ll talk about that in the next edition.

Post Script

The Hong Kong Journal, an online effort that over 22 issues has sought to bring important issues into the public domain, is no longer being published.  A statement from editor Robert Keatley tells us the Smith Richardson Foundation, whose generosity brought the Journal into existence six years ago and has been its main funder ever since, is not renewing the grant that made its publication possible and that it has not been possible to find sufficient alternative funding. Although the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace will maintain the Hong Kong Journal’s archives on line for some time, there will be no future issues.
    Issue 22, posted some weeks ago at www.hkjournal.org, includes an analysis by Anthony Cheung, President of the Hong Kong Institute of Education, explaining why so many Hong Kong residents are unhappy with their government and current social trends. It also has a report by Louis Pauly of the University of Toronto that outlines the reasons why he believes the administration needs more aggressive economic policies if Hong Kong is to remain an affluent, global financial centre in the coming years.
    The demise of the Hong Kong Journal is a shame. We need to see free thought from China’s only really free city.

Hector's Diary appears in the fortnightly print edition of the Bali Advertiser and on the newspaper's website www.baliadvertiser.biz

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

HECTOR'S DIARY in the Bali Advertiser, October 19, 2011

Lights on the Hill Again

Ubud, known to Hector as Guruburg and to his friend, the blogger Vyt Karazija, as Literati Downs, has been agog this month, celebrating the annual writers’ and readers’ festival which threatens to conjoin the two entities with possibly far-reaching, not to say astonishing, results.
    Some people – among them the Bali-resident Australian QC Colin McDonald, whom we ran into at the airport recently while both on visitor pick-up missions – assert that Janet DeNeefe’s eclectic shindig has become too commercial. That’s easy to say, of course, but even navel-gazers have to eat, and ones from distant parts of the Lintosphere have to get here as well and are unlikely to pay for that travel themselves.
    So, as with much else in the modern world, sponsorship is a must. The UWRF was fortunate to have gained the assistance this year of the big Australian bank ANZ, through its local Panin subsidiary, to boost the substantial official Australian support it already gets. The festival’s overtly commercial pitch (as McDonald himself noted) was less intrusive than with last year’s no longer lamented naming sponsor Citibank. And ANZ had some lovely customer relations staff on hand at the festival to make you feel all warm and fuzzy. That can’t be bad, can it?
    A success: We look forward to UWRF 2012.

Bali revealed: Yellow Dog, one of the Leticia Balacek works on show at El Kabron this month

From the Art

Leticia Balacek’s art that’s been on show at El Kabron, the new chill-space on the Bukit above Bingin Beach that sybarites serious about cocina español and value for money should definitely check out, has both an attractive naivety and cerebral clout. It has élan. Some could even suggest chutzpah. Balacek, who is also an architect, might prefer to say energencia, since she comes from Buenos Aires; the Argentine capital is surely the New World’s classiest and most energised urban collective outside Manhattan and, anyway, in the Big Apple they too often forget about the essential first two letters of the word class.
    It was nice to see a lengthy Q and A with her in the latest Yak – Bali’s best glossy magazine by, oh, a Tibetan plateau or two, we’d suggest – though it was a shame they didn’t make her the subject of an interrogative and interpretive piece. It would be fun to draw her out.
    The Diary’s favourite work from the collection on show at El Kabron – for the SOLEMEN charity: deadlines beat us on this edition but we’ll get back to the outcome of the auction on October 15 and other action later – is Yellow Dog, reproduced here. Balacek tells us it’s her favourite too.    

Con Brio

The desirable Jade Richardson – who rates a major 7 on the Hector Modified Scent of a Woman Scale (that’s the one that measures brain power) – has recently penned a delightful polemic that describes, from a Jade’s eye view as it were, the pitfalls of seeking good karma through yoga courses and their not infrequent consequential outcomes, often sexual, among the guruhood in Ubud.
   It was such fun to read that Hector nearly spilled his precious sultanas while doing so. The beak and other bits were so much agiggle that keeping a firm grip on small wizened grapes between the claw and the maw was terribly difficult.
    She titled it The Excellent Death of Mr Happy. If you’re on Facebook and have a mind to read it, you can do so on Hector’s FB (friend him at Hector McSquawky). It’s highly recommended.
    Richardson tells us she was flitting around the scribblers’ fest earlier this month. She once had a connection there. Perhaps she was looking up old friends.

Go Pink

Don’t forget the Bali Pink Ribbon Walk at Nusa Dua on Saturday (October 22). It’s to benefit breast cancer prevention and treatment support, which is a very good cause indeed. Plus you’ll get the chance to see Hector in a pink shirt. It hasn’t been his colour – in shirts or anything else – since youthful days now long gone when he occasionally fancied himself a bit of a Beau Brummell.
    BIWA (the Bali International Women’s Association) has all the details. Visit www.biwa-bali.org/ or make them a friend on Facebook.
    It’s not the only breast cancer benefit on the calendar this month (Breast Cancer Month). Seminyak Rotary has a charity lunch at Métis in Seminyak on Friday, October 28. We heard about this from many people but also from old friend Melly St Ange, who now busies herself promoting Rotary. Melly, who is so energised that we believe she must plug herself into a power point daily, used to be president of BIWA.  

Welcome Ideas

The Murdoch University-based Australian Consortium for ‘In-Country’ Indonesian Studies (ACICIS) – it’s in Perth – has been given nearly A$400,000 by the Australian government to develop an innovative “Indonesia from the ground up!” programme. We’ll forgive the unnecessary exclamation mark in this instance.
    ACICIS founder and director Professor David T. Hill, Chair of South East Asian Studies at Murdoch, says the programme will give teachers a chance to immerse themselves in Indonesian culture on a 12-day study tour.
    “We know that if students are to have the best chance of learning a language, language instruction needs to be supported across all curriculum areas, with the involvement of non-language teaching staff,” Hill says.
     Teachers of history, geography, arts, business, environment, media and citizenship, who would not necessarily have Indonesian language skills, will be invited to participate and to become “Asia advocates” who can incorporate their new knowledge of Indonesia into their teaching and inspire their students. “They will have a dramatic impact on the teaching of Asian studies and make a substantial contribution to supporting language learning,” says Hill.
    Another sign of the increasingly deep relationship between Indonesia and Australia was the inaugural Indonesia-Australia Dialogue held in Jakarta on October 5. The dialogue – the Australians have dubbed its participants “Citizen Diplomats” – is designed to promote people-to-people links.
    The first talks were led by veteran diplomat John McCarthy as Australian co-convenor and Dr Rizal Sukma, executive director of the Indonesian Centre for Strategic and International Studies. Twenty Australians drawn from a wide cross-section of Australian society – from politics, business, academia, and media – visited Indonesia for the discussions.

Yellow Press

The Invisible Times, edited (if that’s the word) from Ireland, had a bit of a scoop at the end of September. We only saw it because we were at a loose end one cloudy afternoon and resorted to web-browsing, the preferred pursuit of those suffering terminal ennui.
     It breathlessly related that former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is seriously rich and doesn’t live in Thailand because, well, some people there think he’s a stinker, dropped in for a three-day stay in Bali. Readers were told “the Bali Times can reveal” Thaksin held a series of meetings during his stay, apparently also with his sister, who is the current Thai PM, after he arrived by private jet preceded by a posse of aides detailed to provide security for the billionaire runaway.
    The paper also reported that Thaksin stayed and held the meetings at the presidential villa of C151 Seminyak, a complex of luxury villas (his private security detail apparently took up five other villas).
     The sting in the tale was a quote from C151 Resorts owner Hanno Soth who said Thaksin felt at home in Bali. “He said he finds the Hindu culture of Bali similar to Thailand and the style of service like in Thailand. He said he plans to return.”
     The Invisible Times did not think it necessary to tell readers that Soth is its proprietor. And it still hasn’t reported that several C151 villa owners are suing him because, they allege, he cost them money.

Hector's Diary appears in the fortnightly print edition of the Bali Advertiser and on the newspaper's website www.baliadvertiser.biz

The item below was not published in Hector's Diary in the Bali Advertiser but followers of his blog might like to read it.

Made to Order

Many friends of Hector still remember, with just as much glee as Hector himself, that in the aforementioned Invisible Times long ago a little spat occurred with the guru of gardens and bad language, Made Wijaya, and that, as a result, Wijaya unfriended Hector’s helper on Facebook.
    Much water has passed under many bridges since that time, along with Hector’s involvement with the offending publication. Thus, recently, because Wijaya claims to possess a certain centrality to events of a peripheral nature in Bali, Hec’s helper sent a friend request with a nice little note suggesting they should try again. He did expect a polite refusal but, you know, one has to try.
    He got the refusal, but it wasn’t polite. It read: “Eat shit and die you twerp.”  He’s all class, Wijaya, and in this instance also disastrously misinformed, as he is so often.  Twerps are expectant goldfish. Neither Hector nor his helper is genetically equipped for pregnancy. And Hector might carp, but he’s a cockatoo.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

HECTOR’S DIARY in the Bali Advertiser, October 5, 2011

Great Event, But No Sex Thanks

We like to party, so it seemed like a good idea to bowl on out to El Kabron, which has a prime cliff-top position at Pantai Cemongkak on the Bukit, on October 1 for the first of three extravaganza afternoons – that’s what they said on their Facebook anyway – featuring art, food, dance and music.
    It was the Distaff’s latest 21st birthday next day, indicating a requirement for immodest celebration. And since Hector holds firmly to the belief that he is not a day over 30 – and with the assistance of a wig, a face-mask and a couple of uppers on the way there has occasionally managed to fool adjacent revellers until they have had to call an ambulance – frivolity seemed in order.         Considerable further appeal was added by these parties being well outside the so ho-hum beer-and-footy confines of the local Anglosphere, or even its upmarket offshoot that prefers wine and cheese.
    This one had tapas, as befits a Spanish restaurant, live music and the opening of an exhibition of art by Letitia Balacek on the theme “the dynamic lines and colour of Bali.” Organisers David Iglesias Megias and Hellen Sjuhada promised fun and frivolity. El Kabron apparently also offers something else, called Sex on the Cliff. But your diarist did not try this. He has never had a head for heights.
    Three events were scheduled on successive Saturdays. The October 1 opening, headlined Sunset Chillout, precedes an October 8 limited-seat dinner (yum!) and fundraising event to benefit the SoleMen project – the SoleMen have just completed the inaugural Bukit Walk associated with the ROLE Foundation. Last in the trio is an October 15 bash including an auction of Balacek’s art, also for charity.
    Over the three weekends, Balacek was geared up to adorn El Kabron’s sea-view veranda with her remarkable drawing and live-art. You’re invited to come along and engage, talk, or simply get inspired. Sounds fun! The opener certainly was.

Bank on a Good Show

This year’s Ubud Writers and Readers Festival (October 6-9) got under way this week, bolstered by some very nice funding from ANZ Bank via its local Panin Bank operation and, as always, Janet DeNeefe and her team put together a great programme.
    There’s one book launch on the programme that should attract lovers of poetry, especially if they are familiar with the nuances of Australia’s much misinterpreted working class culture. It’s Bearers of Fruit, by Nancy Inglis, whose CV includes nurse; mother; environmental and social activist; historian; winemaker; poet; and writer.
    The book contains 327 poems, documenting Inglis’s experience from her forties into her eighties. Its artwork is the work of Inglis’s daughter Linda Buller, herself a painter and known in Bali as the heroine for Ubud street dogs. Inglis and daughter put on their road show on October 7.
    On the music front there’s been something of a coup, with the acclaimed Al-Izhar High School Community Choir & Orchestra coming from Jakarta to join creative forces with the gamelan orchestra of SMAN 1 Ubud High School. That’s also on October 7. Festival organisers warn there’s a risk that audience members might catch Goosebumps.
     On a different intellectual plane the festival features two African writers in conversation at the Alila resort:  Nigerian born Chris Abani is a renowned contemporary novelist and poet, a man of huge talent who has been vilified, imprisoned and harmed for his outspoken words. Ugandan born Indian Mohezin Tejani has been roaming the world for four decades since being exiled from his home by that silly old despot Idi Amin. They will be sharing their stories with international journalist Hassan Ansah.  There’s plenty of food for thought in that, and food of the other sort will be provided in the form of a North African feast designed by foodie and mystery woman Peta Mathias.
    We should mention, for anyone feeling jaded by modern existence and apt to reminisce about their disgraceful former lives, that famous bad boy scribbler DBC Pierre is having a leisurely lunch at the Four Seasons Resort (the one near Ubud). He is offering some truths behind the tall tales that made headlines across the globe when he won the Man Booker Prize in 2003 for his acclaimed novel Vernon God Little. The fellow now lives in an isolated rural village in Ireland, a world away from his previous performance envelope. He’ll be chatting (audibly) with his good friend Salena Godden, billed as queen of Britain’s spoken word circuit and herself a literary bombshell.
    You can find full details of the 2011 UWRF programme on their website and Facebook.

Dogged by Rabies

Keen observers would have noted that September 28 was World Rabies Day. That’s something of intense interest in Bali, where upwards of 130 people have died of the disease since it broke out in 2008. The painful saga of the initial response is now history, and it does seem, on the latest carefully doctored reports to be released for public view, that it is on the way to being a controllable emergency.
    Australian consul-general in Bali Brett Farmer said this at the World Rabies Day function in Denpasar:  “Human deaths from rabies have now dropped by 68 percent compared to the same period last year, but we want to see this figure fall to zero.”
    Well, yes, that would be a good plan. There’s no need for anyone to die of rabies – it is untreatable and invariably fatal once symptoms appear – provided adequate human rabies vaccine is available (adequate in quantity and quality) and hugely expensive immunoglobulin can also be provided. Thus far, that hasn’t been the case. People who have had a full preventive vaccination course do not need the immunoglobulin, only the post-exposure vaccinations.
    Since 2008 Australia has provided a total of A$1.1 million towards combating the disease in Bali. Most of this has gone to the dog vaccination campaign.  So let’s all hope we hear even more cheering news next World Rabies Day.

He’s Our Star

We read in the estimable diary column in The Australian newspaper – it’s called Strewth, one of the lesser adjectives commonly heard in newspaper offices – that historian Ross Fitzgerald, a long-time friend of Hector (well, the guy who ghost-writes for the lazy buzzard at least) may soon be immortalising himself on the little screen as well as in print.
    Strewth reported on September 28 that fans of Larry David and Austen Tayshus (they’re Aussie icons; that’s all you need to know) would be pleased to hear of a new project. Fitzgerald, columnist with The Australian and co-author with Rick Murphy of the recent biography on Austen Tayshus (Sandy Gutman to his parents) titled Merchant of Menace, tells Strewth a pilot for a TV series based on the book is in the pipeline, starring the man many call the most controversial performer in Australia.
    “The show will be like Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, partly scripted but much improvised,” Fitzgerald told Strewth. “Five minutes of each episode will involve Sandy seeing a real female therapist who specialises in treating children of Holocaust survivors.” The working title is Standup. Plans are also being made for Gutman to play the character Grafton Everest in a TV series based on Fitzgerald’s novel Fools’ Paradise, co-authored with Trevor Jordan.
    Fitzgerald is a Bali regular. He and his wife Lyndal Moore prefer the sybaritic delights of Ubud to those offered elsewhere on the island.

The Far Queue No Longer

While musing about the products of Australia’s halls of academe, we should record that the government there has just announced it will loosen some visa requirements for international students in an effort to draw more people to Australian universities.
    It released a report that called for a shake-up of immigration requirements and said it would introduce a more streamlined visa process for overseas students who want to complete a tertiary degree in Australia.
    In a stunning reversal of traditional practice, the authorities say they will not now deal with International students planning to attend Australian universities as if they are all potential illegal over-stayers, regardless of which country they come from. The government will also relax some of the onerous financial requirements for student visas and issue a new work visa for foreign students who graduate in Australia.

Yak On

Hector couldn’t make the Yak Awards this year (a previous engagement intervened) but we’re sure it was the usual hoot, as befits affrays organised by super Sophie Digby and her crew. This year’s event was at Tugu Bali. Last year’s was at Cocoon and is remembered by your diarist, who at that time was scribbling for Another Newspaper (The Invisible Times, now edited from Ireland we understand) as the occasion on which he completely missed notable yakker Susie Johnston, who won Yak Woman of the Year 2010. Susie memorably said afterward this must have been because she was wearing the most eye-catching dress of the evening and flashy new specs, and was yakking nineteen to the dozen.

Hector's Diary appears in the Bali Advertiser's fortnightly print edition and on the newspaper's website www.baliadvertiser.biz