Wednesday, January 25, 2012

HECTOR'S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Jan. 25, 2012

Something in the Air

They’re always at it at Ubud, or so it seems; thinking about navel engagements, that is. A delightful piece by Marie Bee in the latest edition of La Gazette de Bali – the great French language monthly journal for the Francophone community – discusses what one can do when it is the saison des pluies and going out invariably involves getting wet.
     Bee, who is La Gazette’s Ubud scribbler, suggests that the answer is to study the Indonesian language rather than get out your poncho and rubber boots. And that seems fair enough to a dilettante like your diarist. Mlle Bee’s busy little voyage of discovery this time relates to the invisibility of the penis in the Indonesian-French dictionary of 1980 and its discovery (as an item of lexicographical interest at least) by 2001.
     These days, of course, they are ubiquitous in Bali. You can even open bottles with them, though why you’d want to is quite another thing.
     Anyone who reads French should definitely catch up with Mlle Bee’s engaging discourse in La Gazette.  It piques several of the senses. Among other observations, she notes that elements of the search for the lost penis would certainly have interested Proust. It’s on page 30 of the current edition and is headed En Quête du Pénis Perdu (it sounds much better in French, doesn’t it?).
     These are literary matters. And on that topic there’s a couple of interesting writers’ workshops on the books in Ubud. The first is a course, Write for Your Life, being held from February 5-11 with the participation of American penman Jeremiah Abrams. Details are available at
     The second is the work of Australian Jade Richardson, who should by now be well known to Diary readers, since she keeps popping up with revealing ideas.
     She’s offering four short courses for aspiring scribblers in February and March, under the broad subject heading Write Like an Angel: Creative Turbo-Boost is designed to inspire and energise beginners, blocked writers, stuck novelists, lazy poets and cathartic free-writers who want to learn finesse; Advanced Creative Writing in which participants will explore their own work for signs of genius; Travel Writing, for people who want to turn their notes, insights and adventures into travel stories fit for publication; and Erotica, where we assume the cerebral side of sex will get an outing.
     If you’re interested, contact Jade at or by phone on 0958 5727 0858. 

Surf’s Up

A friendly wave is certainly a long-standing part of Bali’s culture – along with the odd unfriendly one – and no more so than on the surfing scene, an invention (like so much else) of the faraway 1960s when the first waves of young riders appeared, appropriately from overseas.
     A whole industry has grown up from the first sprouts of mass foreign interest in the island and its culture planted by young people – like Hector, these pioneers were young in the 1960s – who flocked here to ride waves on bits of wood (they are now mostly artificial material).
     So the next exhibition at Ganesha Gallery (Four Seasons Jimbaran) is of particular interest. It features the work of Olli Fraenkel, the German aficionado of all things Bali. Like many others, he was attracted here by the surf and kept here by his fascination with the Balinese culture that he found when he wasn’t at the beach.
     His exhibition, entitled The 3-Dimensions of, demonstrates his power as an artist of graffiti – is his tag – and reminds us all, old fogeys and others, that art is a very broad church indeed and that the Renaissance painters, for example, were often the rebels of their  era.
     Fraenkel’s exhibition opens on February 9. It’s not to be missed.
     By happenstance Hector will be able a day or so later also to see the Bergamo collection (of originally outré and subversive Renaissance art) at the Australian National Gallery in Canberra. It is an opportunity not to be missed on a rare visit to the Australian capital.

Hey, Sucker!

A friend got a really interesting email the other day, from something called the Thailand Internet Lottery Organization of 88C Phetchamnork Avenue, Bangkok, Thailand. Director General Shompoo Prachapor sent his fonds regards – no, that’s not a misprint – and advised that the email address in question had drawn a prize of US$1,068,000.00 as one of two winners of the jackpot in the fifth category.
     Our friend was advised to contact lottery coordinator Prawatt Wensat, providing personal details etc (surprise!), to claim the money. Mr Wensat was expecting this response by the 30th of next month. Oh dear. February usually ends on the 28th though this year – apparently it’s supposed to be a Leap of Faith year – it stretches to the 29th. What a shame that’s still one day short of the notional deadline for the notional funds.
      Incidentally, shortly after this our friend got a much more interesting email. It came, it said, from the second wife – surely that should now be second widow – of the late and unlamented Libyan leader Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar Gaddafi. It offered to send US$40 million for investment and safekeeping because otherwise those who think unkindly of her hubby might seize the funds.
     This pitch was no surprise. What was a little surprising was the claim by Safia Farkash al-Baraasi, the said second widow, that she had found our friend’s contact details in Colonel Gaddafi’s email address list.

There You Go

One joy of the modern age – there are a few: digital music and books among them – is that you can keep abreast of your interests, of whatever provenance and in a timely way, and of the people who provide this essential life-preserving service. The Diary is a great fan of Sarah Crompton at the Daily Telegraph newspaper in the UK, for example. She writes a weekly email – you have to be on the DT’s list to get it – that is just as eclectic as she. In the fine newspaper for which she scribbles, Crompton writes about art, film and other cerebral matters; and she writes a sports column too.
     In  one recent weekly email – apart from reminding the Diary that leaving was a mixed blessing, by reference to all manner of things that could be enjoyed were it not for the fact that London got a goodbye wave in 1969 – Crompton noted that she loved an odd fact (don’t we all?) and mentioned a couple.
     Did you know that carrots – which as wortel are an important element of Indonesian cuisine – were originally purple and were turned orange by genetically manipulative Dutch growers to secretly show their support for William of Orange, the Protestant princeling who was instrumental in chucking the Papist Spaniards out of the Low Countries? Neither did Crompton; nor your diarist.
     But her favourite fact for that particular week was that the Alsatian film star Rin Tin Tin – a dog, not a Deutsch-Lautsprecher from the west bank of the middle Rhine  – died in the arms of the Hollywood star Jean Harlow.
     It surely cannot have been after this sad event that she famously said, “When you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.” But Harlow – who as we say in today’s tediously socially aware language was “sexually active” – was certainly no dummy, blonde or not. She also noted: “No one ever expects a great lay to pay all the bills.”

Keep Jogging

Lombok Hash, the fun running group of which Walter Jamieson of Windy Beach Resort – and originally from the Shetlands, magic islands off the north of Scotland whose inhabitants are more Norse than kilted caber-tossers – is a leading light of very long standing, celebrated a milestone on January 20. Its regular run that day was on the 27th anniversary of its first ever event and was held in the same area – scenic Batu Layar just south of Senggigi.

Holey Cake

We are indebted to something called, which alleges it has “The Most Complete Events and Listings in Bali!” – the initial capitals and the exclamation mark are apparently important – for a delicious little heads-up on the plush afternoon tea for those with fat wallets who fancy dropping in at the St Regis in Nusa Dua.
     It says, of this extravagance, that the Classic Afternoon Tea on offer at that establishment is born of a distinctive legacy, since afternoon tea was a hollowed tradition at the original St. Regis New York.

Pun Run

Hector has an old and dear friend, a former Australian senator who now lives in what passes for retirement (Stan is an active chap) in the delightful hinterland of Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.  In idle moments, he – like Hector – loves a pun. And the other day, being a fine fellow, he sent along a small compendium of them.
     Several had instant appeal. But this one, for some reason, struck your diarist as being particularly apt in present circumstances hereabouts.
     Here it is:
     An anthropologist was recording folk remedies with the assistance of an Amazonian tribal elder who indicated that the leaves of a particular fern were a sure cure for any case of constipation. When the anthropologist expressed doubts about this – apparently in South America it is important to be quizzical rather than gullible – the elder looked him in the eye and said:
    “Let me tell you, with fronds like these, you don't need enemas.”

Hector's Diary is in the print edition of the Bali Advertiser, out every second Wednesday, and on the newspaper's website . Hector is on Twitter (@ Scratchings) and Facebook: Hector McSquawky at

Monday, January 09, 2012

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser January 11, 2012

Super Idea

Proposals for a redenomination of the rupiah which have resurfaced from Bank Indonesia are essentially sensible and should be welcomed. There is however one difficulty with the proposal – insofar as the details are known – to knock three zeroes off the currency under which Rp1000, Rp2000, Rp5000, Rp10,000, Rp20,000, Rp50,000 and Rp100,000 would become Rp1, Rp2, Rp5, Rp10, Rp20, Rp50 and Rp100.
     This is because by reducing Rp1000 to Rp1 you lose the capacity to divide below the primary number. Rp1 would therefore become the minimum available currency value. It would mean no one could mark up prices by Rp500, for example. Or reduce a price by the same sub-unit amount (assuming there was ever a blue moon).
      The central bank could reintroduce the sen (cent) of course. But we have heard of no plans to do so. And in any case, it would then be better to strike four zeroes off the face value – converting the current Rp10,000 into the new Rp1, divisible into 100 sen.
      That’s complicated. There is another way to simplify things and reduce the confusion wrought by zero-overload. That is to superscript the zeroes on banknotes and the Rp1000 coin. Like this:  Rp1000; Rp2000 ;Rp5000; Rp10000; Rp20000 ; Rp50000; Rp100000. Leading retailers already do this in stock display signage. It would also need only a minor redesign of banknotes and existing lower denomination coins could remain in use.

Dig it, Dig it

According to Lombok Network, the online site that’s widely regarded as probably the best source of information on the island and its attractions, the forested slopes of 3726-metre Mt Rinjani, Indonesia’s second highest volcano, perform a vital task (hitherto unsuspected: read on).
     The website says that Mt Rinjani is so high it creates its own weather. They mean it rains a lot up there, in other words. This benefit is then multiplied because the well-timbered and therefore un-eroded slopes “act as water-collectors for the hole of Lombok.”
     We think Lombok’s a magic place. It’s not a hole at all.

Mopping Up

This is the time of year for whimsy. Well, Hector enjoys it anyway, even though what has been exercising his mind is more Stephen Donaldson than Tolkien. From the constant cacophony endured at The Cage over several long days (and even longer nights) recently, he speculates that Santa’s latest attempt to annex Bali has been defeated, a cheering thought for everyone who’s utterly over fat little men in silly red suits.
     But judging from the noise around the Bukit that began before Christmas, including what seemed to be a massive fire-fight on the night of December 31-January 1, mopping up the raiding parties of elves and Kris Kringle lookalikes that General Jollygent peppered the place with is proving to be a long and arduous process. It went on at full pelt well into the New Year and may indeed not yet be over by a long chalk.  Perhaps the new Dragon will manage to end it all on January 23.
     We’ve been a bit worried at The Cage, because some of the firing has seemed pretty close. We’ve been sending out our own patrols during lulls in the combat just to make sure the immediate surroundings are clear of elves. They have been so far; and no reindeer have been seen trying unlawfully to befriend the local cattle either.
     We made inquiries, of course, as we do every year, about this annual insurrection. The local Banjar tried to tell us it was only people letting off fireworks.  Yeah! As if anyone would believe that fairytale.

Top That

Being fair-minded, the Diary dropped back into Pepito Express at Bukit Jimbaran after writing an item (Hector’s Diary, Dec. 14) that rather castigated the place for having recently acquired the ambience of a trade store.  We wanted to check whether we’d been unkind.
     We hadn’t.  There was indeed insufficient room in the aisles to swing a tikus (rat), let alone a small cat, although it should be noted that on this occasion the fresh greens – which on the previous visit had been as limp (and as inviting) as dirty wet socks – actually were fresh.
     It was Christmas Eve, however, and our mood, already buoyant, was given an immediate lift when at the check-out we found that a very svelte young creature was present to relieve us of our money. She had managed – doubtless under management direction – to team her invitingly revealing Kebaya and very clingy sarong skirt with a lovely pair of antlers.
     Things looked up even more keenly when she blushed very prettily after we said: “Itulah topi yang indah yang Anda kenakan” (“That’s a lovely hat you’re wearing.”)
     We were being polite in our best dictionary-derived Indonesian, of course.  We could have just said “Phwaar!”

Do Drop In

We love wildlife. There’s so much of it at The Cage, for one thing. But there’s also too much of a good thing sometimes, and so it is with the geckos (big and small) that are quite deaf to suggestions that they should respect the space of the frighteningly huge creatures that also live in the house, play loud music and, even more scarily, seem to run around on two legs.
      These thoughts are currently at the forefront of the collective mind at The Cage, since some of the larger geckos seem to have adopted the habit of defecating from a great height upon the stairs linking the living level and the bedroom suites.  We don’t really mind if that’s their real opinion of us, and indeed might even be persuaded by reasoned argument that this is to be understood.
      But the results are tedious.  Lately Hector, normally a mild-mannered chap to whom an accusation that he was being uncouth would be tantamount to a death sentence, has been heard to mutter as he (again) gets out the brush and dustpan: “These geckos are giving me the shits.”


Another good reason to visit Ubud has emerged, traffic permitting. It’s the Chillout Lounge in Jl Sandat off Jl Raya Ubud in the middle of town. Lloyd Perry, chief chill person at the establishment, tells us it’s been open for business for three months. He has some theme nights on the go, including something called Giant Twister, on the first Tuesday of every month, which is for the yoga adherents of Ubud and involves them in trying to outstretch each other.
     This might not suit everyone, especially your diarist. It sounds more like a dead-set way to seriously dislocate oneself. But it suits the ambience of Ubud where – as the Diary’s favourite fun gal, globetrotter-blogger and passionfruit cowgirl Jade Richardson likes to remind us (please don’t stop, Jade) – the guruhood has its fingers firmly on the hot little go-buttons of a great many who are seeking satisfaction of one sort or another.
     There’s also a Who Wants to be a Millionaire night.  What a ridiculous question. And anyway such contests – even if only for a million rupiah – so often provide risible displays of the focused non-functionality of people who should not have got out of bed that day. And that’s fun.
     Thanks for the heads-up, Lloyd. We’ll drop in one day.


The idea of an annual all-expenses-paid tipplers’ trip to distant parts has a certain appeal. Perhaps the wine teams at the St Regis and Laguna resorts at Nusa Dua could find a vacancy for a superannuated cockatoo? No? Shame! But never mind, we can get a vicarious vigneron fix from Jack Daniels. That’s local identity John M., not the old guy from the distilled quietude of scenic Lynchburg, Tennessee – though some wits do say Lynchburg’s not such a great place to hang around – whose product rightly graces bar shelves everywhere.
     We learn from a recent item in Daniels’ Bali Update – which Jack likes to remind people was once dubbed the Pravda of Bali; apparently he has forgotten (or perhaps he’s never known) that while pravda is the Russian word for truth, the infamous Soviet-era newspaper of the same name retailed nothing of the sort – that this year the lads (and lassies we hope) toured some of Western Australia’s finest wine country, having last year plonked themselves down in France.
     The Diary read the latest report from the field with interest and not only because we do devoutly hope St Regis and Laguna understand the critical difference between Vin Ordinaire and Vin Very. Margaret River is an old stamping ground – almost ancestral territory in fact – so it was interesting to see some familiar names.
     A couple struck one as odd, however. We hadn’t heard of Moos Wood winery (perhaps it doubles as a dairy farm) though the products of Moss Wood, which by astonishing coincidence is in the same area, are excellent. And when we’re next down that way – it won’t be long – we’ll try to find Pimberton, even though it’s not on any maps.
     Pemberton is, though. It’s not all that far from Moss Wood, at least at Australian traffic speeds. We like to go there whenever we can, to visit some lovely people we know very well who in their lifetimes never moved from their pleasant little Karri forest timber town and now never will. 

Hector's Diary appears in the fortnightly print edition of the Bali Advertiser and on the newspaper's website Hec is on Twitter (@Scratchings) and on Facebook (Hector McSquawky)