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 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

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