Monday, February 27, 2012

HECTOR'S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Feb. 22, 2012

A Fine Weekend

Brad and Siska Little’s Bali Life Foundation is getting a giant helping hand from Karma Kandara Resort at Ungasan on the Bukit.  On the weekend of February 24-26 the resort is hosting its first Bali Life Foundation Weekend in support of a children’s home – founded by Australian surfer Brad and his Indonesian wife Siska – that provides a nurturing environment for 20 children guided by the founders’ pledge to give hope, dignity and purpose to those under their care.
     Karma has designed what it calls a unique weekend stay experience February 24-26, 2012, including cuisine prepared by celebrity chef Luke Mangan, from which 100 percent of the weekend-stay package revenue will go to the Bali Life Foundation. Mangan will be in Bali for the occasion. Details are available from Karma Kandara resort at http://www.karmakandara.com/ or phone 0361 84 82200.
     You can find out more about the Bali Life Foundation and its work at
http://www.balilife.org.

Capital Capers

A visit to Canberra is an unusual treat for your diarist. The Australian capital is an interesting city that is wholly artificial – the only imperatives that created it being the petty rivalries of Sydney and Melbourne over which was the country’s leading city and the fractious competition between the sovereign states that make up the Commonwealth of Australia – but is also a wonderful parable of Australia’s development. Its original design was American; its central purpose is bureaucracy; and its people are almost all individuals whose original homes were elsewhere.
    This visit, the first in six years, had a very special purpose. Three-day residence of the capital was also taken up by your diarist’s four-year-old granddaughter, a thoroughly delightful little Canadian who was visiting down under with her dad to meet her Australian family.
    Canberra’s a lovely place (no really – some people love it) but it’s very small. On a brief visit to the Qantas Club lounge there your diarist saw four people he knew.
     The visit also allowed time to renew acquaintance with several favourite Renaissance painters whose works are on show at the Australian National Gallery. Much of the work, a product of its time half a millennium ago, is of a devotional nature. But none of it is to be missed. It is all magnificent. There’s a Titian on show. But lovers of limericks will be disappointed to hear it is not the one with the ladder in it.

Business as Usual

Local travel agents have a good point when they complain, as they have recently done, that Bali airport operator PT Angkasa Pura I is apparently in the business of gouging its customers. The surprise is that they have bothered to lodge a complaint, since the official Indonesian practice is to charge people an extortionate fee for products and services of very little value and limited utility.
     Two things in particular are exercising their minds. First, that there is no means of driving into and out of the airport to pick up or drop off visitors without paying for the dubious privilege of joining the chaotic traffic within. And second, that PT Angkasa Pura I – again in the fine tradition of feather-bedded public corporations everywhere – has done another monopoly deal, this time with a florist, PT Penata Sarana, and now charges a substantial fee for VIP welcome leis along with another hefty impost for welcome banners.
     Al Purwa, head of the Indonesian Association of Travel Agents (ASITA) in Bali, complains that the airport operator is unprofessional and arbitrary in its business practices. Few would argue with that assessment. He is a man whose optimism is boundless, however. He says he hopes that once the airport makeover is completed PT Angkasa Pura I will truly operate the air gateway to Bali to an international standard.
     Unfortunately, a contrary view seems less likely to disappoint: that nothing will change beyond an opportunistic grab for higher and higher charges for traffic access and parking among much else. Continuing porter problems and the taxi monopoly are among many issues the airport operator needs to address.

Island Hopping

New Zealanders who can spare the money for all the get-out-of-the-airport extras on arrival will soon be able to hop right over the Big Island – the one with all those kangaroos and koalas on it – and fly direct to Bali, for the first time since the 1990s. Air New Zealand is finalising arrangements for twice-weekly flights between Auckland and Bali between June and October with 228-seat Boeing 767s. Flight time is eight and a half hours compared with the 14 to 24 hours available on other carriers that fly services via Australia.
      The service is awaiting government and regulatory approval.

Sing Us a Song

Ambassadors generally present a world view that, publicly anyway, is informed by the political directions received from their governments. This doesn’t mean they are dull bods. Quite the reverse: people lucky enough to have working lives that bring them into contact with the servants of other national interests are richly rewarded by their fellowship and by countless opportunities to observe their dextrous diplomatic pirouettes when caught between a rock and a hard place.
     These days, your thoroughly modern major envoy is often to be found in the Blogosphere, and such is the case with the engagingly personable Mark Channing, HM’s ambassador to Indonesia and Timor-Leste. He recently blogged that suspicions that the British economy has been behaving for years in ways one might expect of a dead parrot are unfounded.
     He’s quite right. Bits of it perform like a cuckoo on steroids. No, seriously – Channing cites one of Britain’s more engaging invisible exports. It’s an audible one. The Brits might no longer be ruling anything much (not even Scotland for long, perhaps) far less making widgets or grummets or whatever, but they do make music.
     He blogs:    
     Wherever in the world you go, and no more so than here, one hears British music – some of it new, some old. At the same time, one often also hears people comment that Britain ‘no longer makes things’. Yet, one of the reasons that the UK economy is one of the largest in the world is its success in ‘invisible’ areas like music ... British music remains a staggering money-spinner ... worth around US$6 billion each year, with UK artists accounting for almost 12 percent of global sales in 2010.
     It’s good news week, it seems; though we should note that the singer-songwriter-producer Jonathan King – he is yet another fatally flawed genius on the music scene – who wrote the song of that title in 1965, was being satirical rather than promotional: it then says “someone dropped a bomb somewhere.” At least he was accurate. His other 1965 song, Everyone's Gone to the Moon, sadly proved to be over-optimistic.
     Channing was in Bali last October – it was bomb memorial time – in part as part of Britain’s new push to re-engage fulsomely with Indonesia and the rest of Southeast Asia.  We had a cuppa and a chat about that. Sometime, somewhere, soon, your diarist must find a forum in which to publish his unauthorised view of this clement – and long overdue – development.

A Lively Little Drop

Sometimes, just when you think all is lost and that ennui has won the final battle, the heavens send you a little pearl to remind you – it’s always at the eleventh hour, dammit – that the forces of risible liberation are not yet quite beaten.
     One such occasion enlivened opportunistic affogatos for two recently taken at Grocer and Grind’s Jimbaran Corner premises (it’s where you turn off Jl Uluwatu to go to the fish caf├ęs and – if you’re lucky enough to scrape through the defile – on to Karma, the Four Seasons, the Ayana and other plush places).
     Idling while awaiting our espresso and vanilla ice cream – that being what the totally decadent and irredeemably orgasmic affogato actually is – we perused the wine list. The prices always stun you, but that’s Bali. On this occasion, however, something else piqued the senses.
    The little pearl in question hid coyly among the red wines. It was a Naked Range product (that name itself prompts illicit thought) from Victoria, Australia. It was a pinot noir – something else the Diary regards as orgasmic – and the chaps at Grocer and Grind evidently agree.  A lovely word transposition had listed it as Naked Duet Range pinot noir.
     They say a picture paints a thousand words. In this case, if we are to believe the Kama Sutra, five words paint 64 pictures. Only a handful of these depict activity that is not athletically difficult or downright dangerous.

Trying Hard

We’re not sure whether this is actually real, since Australian bureaucrats like any others are not widely known for their public humour. But we’re not going to check, either, because this is too good to miss.
     A list of questions and answers on the Australian Tourism Commission website recently made it our way and included this little beauty from someone in the USA. Q: I have developed a new product that is the fountain of youth. Can you tell me where I can sell it in Australia?  A: Anywhere significant numbers of Americans gather.
    And we can’t resist this one either (unfortunately also from an American): Q: Will I be able to see kangaroos in the street? A: Depends how much you've been drinking.
Hector's Diary appears in the fortnightly print edition of the Bali Advertiser and on the newspaper's webiste www.baliadvertiser.biz. Hector tweets @Scratchings and is on Facebook (Hector McSquawky).

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

HECTOR'S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Feb. 8, 2012

Give Me Some Lava

Big Apple expat, Nagacia jewellery designer and FOH (Friend of Hector) Tricia Kim has added an enterprising string to her bow. She has designed some specially branded logo charms for a new snip, clip and stick salon in Johannesburg, South Africa.  We’ve seen photographs of them and they’re beautiful.
     The new establishment is SoHo Salon – SoHo as in “South of Houston [street]” in Manhattan, New York, not central London’s Soho, which generations of British mothers warned their sons was dangerous (they never said it was also fun) – and according to its American operators it brings the first New York-style full-service salon to South Africa. It opened in January. We hear there are plans for a dozen more such places, which one assumes would translate into many more charms for the delightful Kim.
      She tells us the charm she designed for SoHo is of white wood beads dyed red and lava stones. Lava has shamanistic power. It was used by First American nations, known as Indians or Red Indians in the days before the Sioux discovered they were homonyms for profitable litigation, to give warriors strength and clarity when entering battle. It has similarly shamanistic qualities in many other cultures. 
      Kim has also designed lava stone totems for upmarket Bali spa retreat Desa Seni. Lava’s fiery origin is said to be good for people who might suffer from indecision. That could be useful in yoga class.

The Good Oil

When the latest lovely little MinYak trotted into our inbox in mid-January, our inner spelling policeman woke up – he should have done so earlier, but we won’t develop that line of criticism – to the fact that its content is rendered in the American fashion. You know, with the twenty-first letter of the alphabet prominent by its absence.
     We asked the friendly chaps at The Yak and The Bud, which are run with thoroughly British aplomb, whether this apparent addiction to Eng (US) was by design or by default. In other words, had the mellifluous benefits of Eng (UK) ceded the field to the shorter-form forces of the Non-U push? One of them got back to us – like the MinYak and the print magazines it supports they are timely and generally pertinent, which in Bali is truly a blessing – and said this: “The man who does the MinYak is American. And so is my spellchecker.”
     So that would be a “yes,” then.
     There is a serious side to this. At last report, Indonesia officially uses Eng (UK) and it is this form that is supposed to be taught in schools, yet increasingly the English-language media – particularly and spectacularly the electronic media, which can’t spell anyway and wouldn’t know a past participle if it bit them on the bum – opts for American English.
     It’s not something for which one would choose to die in a ditch and indeed the American preference might be the better way for Indonesia. But it does pose questions. There’s an interesting – and very valuable – English language teaching programme getting under way here that’s being jointly run by the Australians and the Americans. The Aussies (those who can spell; a dwindling number) use British-derived English. Like the Singaporeans, Malaysians, Indians, Canadians, South Africans, New Zealanders and sundry others, they are “U” people. The Americans, of course, as we know, are defiantly Non-U. The programme’s internal correspondence might make interesting comparative reading.  
     Moreover, American English is terse and truncated – some may define it as crisper, and that’s by no means an unwinnable argument – and does away with much of the colourful flourish that makes British English such a delight.

But Not From Canggu

We found a little internet gem the other day, an online newspaper that calls itself The Hibernia Times – it does so in a delightfully unreadable ancient script, by the way, which oddly seems both apt and ironic – and claims it is Ireland’s web-connected newspaper. This singularity will surprise long-established journals such as The Irish Times (and others) that cover local, national and global news and events on the web as well as in print.
     Its web-blurb says the HT (do not confuse this with the Hindustan Times, which is an eminently readable journal) has an editorial policy that is to always be fair, impartial and balanced in news coverage. It says it would “love to hear your thoughts and views on this newspaper” and to email these, should such inspiration occur, to editor@thehiberniatimes.com.
     Its editor, like that of the near-comatose C151 Bali Times hereabouts, is unnamed; but we believe we know him well.  We dropped him a line. It wasn’t just for old time’s sake. We’d still like to know (even if this is the age of instant communication, blah, blah, blah, etc, etc: see the HT website for the full dissertation) how William Furney – who Houdini-like departed Canggu for unknown locations in the Emerald Isle 15 months ago – finds it possible to seriously edit a Bali newspaper from half a world and eight time zones away; especially if you’re apparently also rattling out an allegedly round-the-clock e-sheet there. Still, a man’s got to earn a quiet crust, we suppose.

Meghan’s Moment

It’s nearly Bali Spirit Festival time again – it’s from March 28-April 1, safely after Nyepi on March 23, if you’d like to diarise the opportunity for yet another spirited Ubud opportunity – so it was no surprise to see the ubiquitous Meghan Pappenheim popping up in the previously mentioned MinYak. She’s a good sort, so it’s always a pleasure to see her.
     Pappenheim appeared as January’s colourful character, gave her standard responses to who-what-why-when and a nice little promo for the event she founded as a cathartic comeback – like that other Ubud love-in, Janet DeNeefe’s annual writers’ and readers’ festival – after the first Bali bombings in 2002, and then told us what we all wanted to know: What’s she’s listening to on her iPod.
      It turned out to be Lady Gaga. That would be a point of difference between us. The Diary long ago formed the view that only the Gaga bit accurately describes that particular unchained melody. But one should not be churlish. Perhaps Pappenheim doesn’t like to listen to Warren Zevon being prescient about his future at high volume, as he often is on the iPod at The Cage. I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead is rollicking rock, but it’s not for everyone.
      The Bali Spirit Festival does great work in the environmental and health fields, and particularly in countering the threat of HIV/AIDS. It also entertains mightily well, so good luck with this year’s, Meghan.
     There’s a free Spirit Festival-backed outdoor concert in Ubud on February 18, by the way. Details are at http://balispiritfestival.com/ayobicarahivaids.html. For more information about the Bali Spirit Festival itself, visit www.balispiritfestival.com.

Up For It

We’ll be looking in on Jade Richardson’s writing course on erotica being held in Ubud in March. It should be fun as well as instructional. Too many people in these dumb days of post-literacy mistakenly conflate eroticism and pornography and assume you need continuous – goodness, we almost wrote “rolling” – pictorial assistance, when in fact all you need is a brain.
     It’s the fourth element of a quartet of courses the Ubud-resident Richardson has on the go. The first is Unlocking Creativity (Feb. 22, 23 and 25); next up is Travel Writing (Feb. 28, 29); then comes Advanced Creative Writing (Mar. 1, 2, 4; we’ll look in on that one as well); and then Erotica (Mar. 8, 9, 11). Email her at passionfruitcowgirl@rocketmail.com or call 0958 5727 0858 if you’d like to Write Like an Angel too.      
           
Still Trying

Here at The Cage we’ve been customers of Telkomsel’s Kartu Halo mobile phone system since 2006. Until last October, it worked well enough. There were one or two of the little stumbles that one becomes accustomed to in Indonesian public bureaucracy, but it more or less functioned.
     Since October, however, it has been impossible to pay. Telkomsel’s successive monthly bills have not been accessible, because they are not ready. The wonderful term here is “in process,” which of course means nothing of the sort.
     In November we were in Australia, where using an Indonesian mobile phone can be quite expensive. So we’d dearly like to pay the outstanding accounts, especially as another Australia trip is looming. But the “all calls” function on our phones continues to be unhelpful. On January 26, for example, unhelpfulness came with a new message:  “Mohon maaf, system sedang sibuk. Silahkan ulangi berberapa saat lagi.” ( “We're sorry, the system is busy. Please try a couple of times again.”)
     Gosh! It must be all those irritated customers trying to find out how much they have to pay before they get cut off that’s gummed up the works.  There’s a simple solution. Telkomsel could employ some people who can keep accounts.

Carp a Diem

Among the thickets of inspirational sites that now litter the internet is one that calls itself Brainy Quotes. It recently featured this thought from Christopher Fry – he died in 2005 – whose thoughts are considered worthy since he was one of the most celebrated playwrights of the 20th century: “I want to look at life – at the commonplaces of existence – as if we had just turned a corner and run into it for the first time.”
     Goldfish have it made then. They habitually do that.

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