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 

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