Friday, October 31, 2008


The Bali Times is at

We Have a Big Job Ahead
THIS is the “Asian Century”, we are told by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who said so in his address officially opening the first Asian Beach Games, as reported in last week’s paper. Quite so. The trick will be to ensure that this is achieved by virtue of effort, and not acquired by default. There’s probably little point – especially for a place like Bali that depends on global tourism – in being at the top of a vastly reduced pile, the bottom of which is a still-smouldering pyre, the remains of institutional theft, bureaucratic indolence, wrecked lives and crushed hopes that these create.

This is now a fully interlocking world, one in which cooperation and consensus is even more crucial to beneficial outcomes. It will do Asia no good if during the first quarter of its century the rest of the world is in the poor-house. We need – to make one regrettably necessary reference only to that pontificating term so beloved of economists and historians – a new paradigm. In this new world, Indonesia and other countries will have to work hard to construct truly open economies that are both rational and in a real sense expansionary; and build a regulatory framework that is consistent, rational, not subject to whim or to under-the-table transactions, and that is fair to all concerned.

While it is true that the kleptocratic predilections of rampantly unrestrained capitalism have been dampened by necessary state action to control the bonfires it created, it is by no means clear either that this curb on greed will be permanent or that pandemic kleptomania will not break out elsewhere.

A Straw Poll in the Wind
INTERESTING to see a poll – published in the Indonesian language Bali Post newspaper – showing widespread community support for action to rein in the freewheeling activities of local leaders who ignore environmental restrictions and issue building permits and licences outside provincial rules. The poll (of 375 people) showed 80.6 per cent believed offending bupatis (regents) had no commitment to protecting Bali and backed legal action to bring them to heel.

Clearly, Balinese do not want to see lower ranking politicians thumbing their noses at the Provincial Governor and the legislature; nor do they want to see Bali’s still recent regional autonomy used as an excuse for sub-regional governments to do just as they please. Protecting our island’s unique cultural and natural environments is essential. Governor Pastika certainly knows this – he campaigned on that platform and won a resounding victory in the July elections – and that’s a constituency regents who might want to profit by bending the rules cannot ignore either.

A Welcome Vote of Confidence
IT’S good to see that more Americans are choosing to holiday in Bali, as last week’s edition of The Bali Times reported. Uncle Sam’s brood are generally dreadful wusses when it comes to visiting places that are in fact far less dangerous than the no-go zones in many U.S. cities. And it’s good, too, to see that Australians have returned to their time-honoured practice of coming to Bali in droves, helped along by increased capacity from Jetstar (which has taken over Qantas’ Perth-Bali route and added a third service to the old QF schedule – its inaugural flight was full, by the way – and will add a fourth from December). This input will be boosted even further by Pacific Blue’s entry to the lists from Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide, also from December.

In that regard, then, we can look at the latest revision of the Australian government travel advisory on Indonesia with some sanguinity. Issued on Oct. 24, it notes that the announcement that the Bali bombers will – finally – meet their end may add to the risk to travellers through possible criminal revenge for this felicitation, perpetrated by as yet unknown terrorists.

One Aussie institution that annually adds to the influx of pleasure seekers to our island from that other, bigger, one to the south is Schoolies Week. This is a period of celebration; a rite of passage for school leavers defined by consumption of alcohol and other substances, licentious behaviour of other kinds, and assorted – generally harmless – mayhem that in the Australian custom occurs on a sort of roster basis around the various states. It’s the West Australian one that has the biggest impact here, because island revelry is only a short plane ride from Perth.

It is said by some of the Australian punditry – ever anxious to make mountains out of molehills and foster frightened gloom among its readership – that the latest travel advisory may foreclose on some Schoolies Week plans to invade Bali for a good time. Doesn’t look like it. Not on the basis of travel bookings, at least. And that’s as it should be. The Australian authorities, in their wisdom or perhaps their self interest (don’t want any “you didn’t tell us” compensation claims, do they?), have reissued their advisory. It is not new, beyond noting that the execution of terrorist mass-murderers may cause anguish and thoughts of retribution among some people of similar mind. As always, the best rule is: Be sensible; be aware; stay out of trouble. Oh yes, and remember: You’re actually responsible for yourself.

That, sensibly, seems to be the gist of Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith’s comments last Sunday, when he said that people had to make up their own minds where and when they chose to travel. “All I can do is to say to people there is a travel advice so far as Indonesia and Bali is concerned, they should contemplate that, they should think about that, they should take that advice,” he said. “In the end what Australians do is a matter for them; we give them the best advice that we can.”

It’s Official, We Live in the Obama Sector
AUSSIES and Japanese have found something else to agree about (beyond the benefits of shared security, parliamentary democracy and the rule of law, that is; lethal whale “research” remains another matter): Two-thirds of them prefer Barack Obama over John McCain as the next president of the United States.

That’s a massive endorsement (shared by The Bali Times, which backed Obama in its Editorial last week). It will not necessarily be reflected in the election on Nov. 4, since the U.S. has not yet given the vote to nationals of foreign countries (this may be something else America-haters could protest about). The preference, by the way is mirrored throughout the world: if the rest of the world could take part in the US presidential election, Democrat Obama would win four times more votes than Republican McCain.

Regionally, in Singapore and South Korea, also close U.S. allies, opinion polling by the Gallup organisation showed the “vote” going to Obama by around two to one. In Australia and Japan, McCain was favoured by only 15 per cent of those polled.
Globally, Gallup polling in 70 countries representing nearly half the world's population showed 30 per cent of people choosing Obama against 8 per cent who preferred McCain. A substantial majority of Europeans want an Obama victory. The Arab world is strongly pro-Obama. In contrast, Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis have no preference and Latin Americans are similarly disinclined to care. But in Kenya, homeland of Barack Obama’s father, nearly 90 per cent of people polled said they wanted an Obama victory.

All this should make for an interesting day at Sector Bar and Restaurant in Sanur on Nov. 5 when Bali Discovery Events hosts its U.S. Election Day Open House Party, a huge bash co-sponsored by the restaurant, BIMC Hospital and Lotus Distribution, and supported by The Bali Times. Call Bali Discovery Tours on 0361 28 6283 or email for details of the event.

A Crime of Virtual Passion
THERE’S hope for us all yet, even amongst the wall to wall doom and gloom generated by the global financial crisis and the weeping and wailing of all those dirt poor (formerly filthy rich) Gordon Geckos who, since their houses of cards collapsed, are running around in a panic crying about how they didn’t know their greed, stupidity and general crassness would bring about the end of the (financial) world as they preferred it.

In such times, a laugh is an essential antidote. And happily the Diary found one just the other day. It came in a story about a Japanese woman – a 43-year-old piano teacher, oddly enough, whose bite is evidently much worse than her Bach – who is in jail for killing her virtual husband in one of those “virtual life” computer games that far too many people waste their real lives playing these days.

She logged on with her playing partner’s password and killed his digital persona. Police said she told them: “I was suddenly divorced, without a word of warning. That made me so angry.” She used information gained from the man, a 33-year-old office worker, while their avatars were happily married, to log on to his computer with his ID and password. She was arrested when he complained to police that his online avatar was dead.

If she is formally charged and then convicted (of computer crime: apparently it’s not yet an offence to murder an avatar, though the world is now such a kooky place we can sure global jurists are working on just such a law) the woman could be jailed for up to five years or fined up to Rp50 million. She has already had one real life experience as a result of her activity: a trip (under arrest) from her home in mild Miyazaki in southern Japan to her playing partner’s home of city of Sapporo in northern, now autumnal Hokkaido, where she is in custody during police investigations. The Diary does not know how the avatar was killed: With a blunt cursor perhaps?

LOHFE File Update
SULTANAS, that dietary essential for elderly parrots who are no longer all they’re cracked up to be (and anyway, sultanas are ace in oatmeal), are temporarily off Hector’s menu again. The shelves of several favourite emporiums have been bereft of the little sun-dried grapes for quite a little while. Hopefully it’s just the LOHFE factor – LOHFE as in List of Hard-to-Find Essentials – and not yet another unintended side-effect of the global market collapse, the consequent disappearance of essential shipping letters of credit, and the resultant lengthening list of ships in port with nowhere to go.

Geologists dig the dirt on Sidoarjo
THE celebrated East Java “mud volcano”, that erupted in 2006 wrecking farmland and destroying houses near Surabaya, has come under scrutiny from world renowned geologists and academics, who have held a two-day conference in London to dig into the reasons for the disaster.

They are curious to know why the subsurface sediment became reactive and flowed out, and the conference was a way they could all get together and chat about this. Geologists are no stick-in-the-muds. They are lateral thinkers of the first order – especially when discussing laterite, your Diarist remembers from a spell years ago when he temporarily abandoned the work of digging the dirt for the yellow press and took up technical editing – and the East Java mud flow has caused extensive twittering around the world, in geological circles. That’s why they had this conference with a really sexy title: “Subsurface Sediment Remobilization and Fluid Flow in Sedimentary Basins.”

The discussions, headlined by leading academic geologist Richard Davies from Durham University in the UK were sponsored by oil companies BP, Chevron, ConocoPhilips, DONG Energy, Oilexco, Shell and StatoilHydro.

In poll position
VETERAN Aussie pollster Gary Morgan has announced he will run for office as lord mayor of Melbourne in the November civic elections in that Big Car Race city. He says he wants to give the people a chance to vote for a mayor who will change the way things are done – though not at the Australian Grand Prix presumably – and who will actually turn up to all council meetings.

This is a laudable ambition. But we do wonder who will be doing the voter sampling in the run-up to the poll.

Kath and Kim Kultur doesn’t translate
THE Americans, who heaven knows need all the comic relief they can get at the moment, apparently don’t want this therapy to be delivered by the Americanized version of Australia’s hit series “Kath and Kim”. The show bombed on its second outing on the NBC Network.

Should we be surprised? The Aussie Kath and Kim are icons. The show’s a riot. Who could forget Kim’s forced concession, while trying to be a Corporate Wife at an office party, that the “h” coming after “c” was not in fact silent, as she asserted, because it’s French, in her preferred wine style; and that therefore she would have a “chardonnay, you pack of shunts”. Aussie humour is something that instantly resonates with Brits, and vice versa. The social and cultural links between Britain and Australia are symbiotic, after all. The two peoples share a two-fingered, innuendo-laden and belly-laugh approach to life and the pomposity and cant constantly inflicted on it, whereas most American popular entertainments either get out the trowel and lay on the schmaltz or go all dewy eyed and wrap themselves in the flag. In the Anglosphere, American humour is a second cousin, not part of the immediate family.

Oddly, the concept for the show was panned by the New York Post – a tabloid in the worst of the Murdoch tradition, indeed owned by that very gentleman and not without coincidence sporting a strong Australian presence in its editorial and management ranks – as the worst imported idea since Vegemite. Most Americans haven’t heard of Vegemite (even though like many Australian products it is now American-owned). They’ve all heard of Rupert Murdoch and many – albeit quite unfairly – might pick him, rather than a sandwich spread derived from yeast extract, as most deserving of that citation.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


The Bali Times is at

It’s not just hoopla

THE delights of Western Australia – and now it’s stopped being unseasonably cold and wet there and become seasonally hot and dry, like it should be, they are many – have been sampled by 24 young Indonesian student basketballers from the Deteksi Basketball League, a high school competition, who flew to Perth on Oct. 12 for a week of coaching clinics with West Australian teams.

The boys and girls played against several Perth sports school teams and then Basketball WA’s combined Under-16 State sides in the main international event on Oct. 18, took part (with their coaches) in a Basketball WA high performance coaching clinic, and attended both Perth Wildcat and Perth Lynx training sessions and their scheduled NBL and WNBL games. They were also hosted by the Perth Glory at their A-League (soccer as the Aussies and Americans call it, football to the rest of the world) match against Sydney FC on Oct. 19 – and also found time to visit some of Western Australia’s finest beaches, tourist attractions, universities and schools.

Sports relations between Indonesia and Western Australia have grown significantly. In June, Football West’s state soccer team and the A-League’s Perth Glory attracted huge public and media interest by playing against top ranking sides in East Java.

What a great name!

IT took a year, but a final decision has been reached on a new name for Sanglah General Hospital in Denpasar. It is to be known as Sanglah General Hospital. No, we kid you not. Apparently the authorities had two possible new names narrowed down at the end of their 12 months of consultative process, and both were good. Really good. So to avoid having to choose between two good new names, they’re sticking with the old one after all. Who said watching the activities of government and bureaucracy was as boring as watching paint dry?

Down the drain with Joe the Plumber

ONE watches the unfolding last stages of the American presidential election campaign with closely fixed attention, especially now former Republican secretary of state Colin Powell has come out barracking for Barack Obama, who he says is a “transformational figure”. One watches, also, rather as one might keep a wary eye on a snake in the grass, and with a not dissimilar frisson of terror. Whoever wins on Nov. 4 will inherit a thoroughly poisoned chalice. Thanks Wall Street. What a pack of bankers!

It is of course entirely a matter for Americans who they choose as their next president. According to John McCain, the Republican nominee, if they choose Barack Obama they’ll have plumped for the scary guy. According to Democratic Party nominee Obama ... well, you get the drift.

What is interesting to otherwise uninvolved observers is the increasing desperation of the Republican machine and its self-coopted auxiliaries in the blogosphere, people like those who scribble at American Thinker (go to if your browsing preference is for conspiracy theory over virtually accommodating blondes).

These are the fellows who want us to believe that Obama can’t possibly have written his own book (“Memories from my Father”), that this actually matters, and that it was most probably ghost-written by that certifiable numb-chuck Bill Ayers, whose contribution to American proto-terrorism four decades ago was to blow up his own girlfriend.

If Ayers did ghost-write it after Obama failed to do the hard yards he’d said he would, on a Bali sojourn with wife Michelle – and outside Desperation Central, aka the Republican National Committee, who cares? – we could profit more by feeling thankful, because Ayres writes extraordinarily well, whereas Obama is a lawyer.

McCain – whose best line in the third and final candidates’ debate last week was to tell Obama “I’m not President Bush. If you wanted to run against George Bush you should have run four years ago” – has now made Joe the Plumber a national celebrity.

Joe is from Toledo (the “friendly business city of the future” in Ohio, not the historic centre of European medieval culture in Spain) and is the guy who fronted Obama on one of those tiresome meet-and-greets that pollies running for office inflict on the populace – with a query about his tax policies. Joe does it tough, you see. He’s an honest Joe. He’s a John Doe kind of Joe. He’s your average American Joe. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, as Deborah Kerr and Yul Brynner repeatedly said to each other in that 1956 movie “The King and I”.

Joe says he fears he’ll go down the drain if he’s taxed more than he is at present, because it will foreclose on the Joe version of the American Dream. McCain for his part, staring at profoundly uncomfortable polling margins, perhaps suddenly senses that it might actually matter to Americans that he’s a septuagenarian and Obama is, well, rather a lot younger, really; and that he’s been around forever and therefore owns some of the blame for the abyss into which American leaders have taken their nation.

He seems to be clinging to Joe as you would if, on your way to being flushed down the drain, happy fate provided you with a helpful fire hydrant to seize and save yourself. We’ll see soon enough whether it works.

Up the spout with Kev and Malcolm?
THE Australians had their big show last year – a year ago on Nov. 24 – so election fever, except at various sub-national levels, is far from their minds. But as the latest opinion polling shows, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd – the man who ran for office last year as Kevin 07 and affects such a rate of activity that pundits have taken to calling him Kevin 24/7 – has soared, like Icarus (stay out of the sun, Kev), as the global financial crisis envelops his country.

He’s rated most popular since 1980s Prime Minister Bob Hawke, with his rating rocketing 10 per cent (to 71 per cent) just in the month since he unveiled his SA10 billion recession-busting mega handout plan (that’s too many rupes to even think about converting).

What partisan pundits in the Aussie media don’t seem to want to highlight is that the new Opposition Leader, former merchant banker and lawyer Malcolm Turnbull, has similarly shot skywards – with a 55 per cent satisfaction rating among electors. The man he replaced two months ago, Brendan Nelson, had been languishing in the low teens.

The poll, released on Oct. 20, also showed 58 per cent of the 1400 people surveyed were optimistic about the direction of the Australian economy over the next two to three years. So if everything’s up the spout down under, apparently Aussies are happy to be up it with Kev and Malcolm.

Ayam the Greatest

EXPAT couple we know – one of the many expat households that lives quietly in Bali on its own money, without pretensions, no taste for Walter Mittyism, and in perfect (and perfectly normal) harmony with its Balinese neighbours; the sort, in short, that does not attract abuse from columnist Mark Ulyseas who rightly expresses distaste for annoying expats – had a surprise the other day.

Opening the fridge to get an egg from the egg container to boil to put in the salad – it’s an old, quiet expat thing – they found it was already boiled. “How’s that for Bali magic?” they thought. They might even have exclaimed “Hallelujah”, except that they don’t go in for that sort of thing.

They did think: “We have found a really clever hen: Ayam the Greatest.” Sadly for legend, and seekers after ready-made hard-boiled eggs, the explanation was a little more prosaic. Their housekeeper had broken an egg – these things happen and it wouldn’t have been a problem of course – and so brought one from her home to replace it.

Unbeknown to her, her mother-in-law had been busy in the kitchen too, and had placed a cooked egg in the fridge among all the fresh ones.

First, a history lesson?

THIS year’s Man Booker Prize winner and Ubud Writers and Readers Festival drawcard, debutant Australian Indian novelist Aravind Adiga, is reported to have dedicated his award (for his novel The White Tiger) when it was announced in London on Oct. 14 to “the people of New Delhi,” saying New Delhi was the most important city in the world 300 years ago and would be again.

If Adiga did say this, then Sir Edwin Lutyens, who started work as an architect in 1889 when he was in his twentieth year, might be posthumously surprised to hear that he performed his great work of imperial homage centuries before he was born and long before the British Raj was even a dream, far less a nightmare.

Lutyens designed New Delhi as the new capital of the Raj in the latter part of the now departed imperial age when mad dogs and Englishmen still enjoyed going out in the midday sun, a practice that later amused playwright and ditty doodler Noël Coward, and decided that Calcutta – now Kolkata – was just too cloudy, or perhaps too Bengali.

And if Adiga did in fact say “New Delhi”, and was not simply misreported by some ignorant Pommy scribbler, perhaps he meant Delhi, the neighbouring city of venerable Mughal antecedent. The author, 33, who was born in Madras in 1974 (the city didn’t exist before the British era but later became Chennai for some curious Indian reason) is only the third debut novelist to win the prestigious literary award in its 40-year history. He got a fat sterling cheque for his trouble, the equivalent of Rp 850 million, and can expect a handy spike in his sales over the forthcoming Christmas gift-giving season, when “what do we get for so-and-so?” becomes the question de jour.

Judging panel chairman Michael Portillo, a veteran British politician, praised Adiga's book for tackling important social and political issues in modern-day India that rarely win notice beyond its borders. The Man Booker Prize is awarded each year to a novelist who is a citizen of a Commonwealth country or the Republic of Ireland (which quit the Commonwealth in 1949 and hasn’t looked back since).

You can bank on it

THOSE few optimists still around after the Great Bonfire of the Vanities ignited with a whoosh on Wall Street and burned us all, those who apparently believe that the present condition of world markets is just one of those funny little temporary glitches that pepper business history, are kidding themselves. As that old the saying puts it: It ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings.

The shakeout is probably about half way there, many of the more lucid observers say. This means that there are still trillions of primary dollars and zillions of postscript zeros still to be washed out of the global money system. That’s an unhappy thought, especially for those who seriously doubt that governments or banks will genuinely change their mind-set. Their strategy historically, when in strife, has been to collateralise another loan, print a few million more banknotes, steal the family silver, or – much worse – further restrict what the common people may do.

We all need banks and their derivative financial institutions. We all need them to work. And sadly for free marketers everywhere, we need them to be regulated so that their robber baron proclivities can be limited. Unfortunately that regulation must be done by government, which as an entity is just as inclined to spin along oblivious to reality or risk until the train hits them.

This is not a new problem. In 1802 Thomas Jefferson, one of the more prescient of America’s founding fathers, and thus one of the most quoted as well most ignored, gave this warning: “I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around the banks will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.”

Bikini Bother

NEWS that national legislators, weighing up the pros and cons of the so-called anti-pornography bill, are apparently ready to recognise the bikini as a small part – indeed frequently a micro-part – of modern life will come as a relief to a great many women. The alternative is just too gross to consider, as The Diary well remembers from a long-ago incident on the Mediterranean island of Malta.

That historic island, the only landmass to be decorated for gallantry in World War Two (the Brits gave it the George Cross for enduring Italian and German air raids), is Roman Catholic, not Muslim, but four decades ago the civil authorities there – properly left by the British, then in control, to run local affairs – decided that the bikini, at that time a relative newcomer to the world’s beaches, was unacceptable.

Pity, then, the poor policeman who, spying a naughty two-piece at the beach, approached the wearer with the warning: “Only one-piece allowed here, madam.” Her brisk response: “Oh, OK then. Which bit shall I take off?”

Friday, October 17, 2008


The Bali Times is at

Roll on the revolution

THE economist Paul Krugman, who is far from unique in criticising U.S. President George W. Bush but generally does so from a rational perspective, which makes him close to unique among global chatterers, and who has just won the 2008 Nobel Prize for economics, believes the worldwide rescue of battered banks now under way, may have been a turning point.

Without it, he says, we could have been facing another Great Depression. You get a Nobel for reaching that conclusion? No, seriously ... Krugman is quite right. But the Diary wonders whether even he fully comprehends the fundamental change that has taken place. It is now crystal clear – even to those whose embrace of the free market was assisted by blindness, cupidity, stupidity, or Gordon Gecko-type greed – that unrestrained capitalism is as dangerous as the unrestrained versions of any political or economic movement.

Wall St’s excesses, and the kleptocratic nature of America’s super rich (the people former leading klepto Henry Paulson, now U.S. Treasury Secretary, tried to bail out with the initial Wall St rescue package that Congress rightfully spat out), show how desperately needed is sensible, socially responsive, regulation. It shows just how crucial it is to curb the greedy excesses of those who care naught for the common welfare, who desire only to enrich themselves at others’ expense, and whose humanity is self-evidently deficient. If this has echoes of the theories of Karl Marx, not to mention the tenets of the world’s great religions, this should be no surprise. Humanity’s great test has always been to turn good theory into sound policy. So far, we’ve failed.

We should all reflect that, if indeed the world has been saved (and America saved from itself), it has had to be done by measures that must – if they are to work – eliminate unpaid-for excess and properly punish those who break the natural law. That is, robber barons should be subject to the same penalties as common criminals, because that is what they are. (This has application, on a smaller scale, here at home in Indonesia.)

Further, we have seen where the great experiment in creating “wealth” out of valueless paper has brought us: to the edge of the abyss. The world doesn’t want to go there again – and doesn’t deserve to be pushed there by a cabal of dangerously deluded self-proclaimed masters of the universe. This has been a true bonfire of the vanities indeed.

Life is a beach game

WHILE all those chatterers are at it in Ubud, at the annual Writers and Readers Festival, lots of other more ambulatory people are making for Bali’s beaches – for the Asian Beach Games. They run (or volley, or surf-ski, etc) from Oct. 18 until Oct. 26.

The whole shebang starts with a grand opening at the Garuda Wisnu Kencana monument (GWK, on the Bukit above Jimbaran) on Oct. 18, at which 1200 students from eight local high schools will perform dances in tribute to the 45 participating countries. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will officiate. The Games themselves are being held at Kuta, Nusa Dua-Benoa and Sanur beaches, with sailing and windsurfing off Serangan Island.

It should be a great show.

The last drop

POSITIVELY the last Diary reference to wine (well, for a while): the West Australian Geographe region, which is not at all without coincidence where the Diary has just spent a month off for R&R, has been flagged as a “standout” area for Shiraz wines, ahead of the far better known Margaret River region. Some wine experts are reported to be remarking on its rare “voluptuous” flavour. The Diary, a much simpler being, prefers “Oh, yum”.

Geographe – well south of Perth and stretching from Harvey (source of the great beef you find at Rudi Giusti’s Lotus emporium at Jimbaran) to Busselton and recognised as a distinct wine region only nine years ago – hit more than 2300 tonnes in the 2008 vintage, a major proportion of shiraz grape production in Western Australia.

Shiraz from the region is now so popular that some wineries sell only to an exclusive list of buyers. You could try to get on the Black Dog list: Willow Bridge Estate sells its $A60 a bottle 2005 Black Dog Shiraz only the favoured few. Mind you, $A60 a bottle would give you the black dog, even at its heavily discounted rupiah equivalent (Rp. 408,000) temporarily in vogue because of the inevitable consequences of the global greed glut.

Shiraz is said to thrive in the area because its Mediterranean-style climate, with warm mornings and afternoon sea breezes, gives the rich red grapes an opportunity to reach full flavour. Margaret River by contrast, say the experts, is more your Bordeaux kind of place (think cold Atlantic gales), and should stick with cabernet merlot.

Is that a stain on your escutcheon?

HOWARD Singleton, the rather obviously Pommy proprietor of The Office, an attractive waterside watering hole in Lombok’s scenic Senggigi (the bangers and mash are worth the trip), is smarting a little. That august journal, The International Herald Tribune, in a recent article on Lombok, called him an Australian. The writer even had the cheek to allude to a beer gut. Everyone knows only Aussies are afflicted with that complaint. Englishmen are simply amply proportioned.

Howard is an active (and forward thinking) Rotarian and is far from being a stranger to Bali. He regularly crosses the Wallace Line in our direction. But perhaps that’s just because he needs to escape all those eucalyptus trees over there on the other side.

The demerits of the IHT article aside, it’s good to see a global newspaper taking a real interest in Lombok. Our neighbouring island deserves to have a fully recognised image all its own. It’s never been Bali (and never wanted to be) and it never will be. Lombok’s history, culture, scenery and draw as a travel destination are unique.

The IHT, by the way, is making media history in the digital age: it is to close its web site but keep its print edition. Online readers will now have to navigate the New York Times website to get to their favourite reads.

Cursors! I’ve done it again...

WELL, you may never need to say that again, now that Google Goggles are available to rescue you from embarrassment (or worse) if you are ill-advised about your emails after a little too much of the sauce. The Diary notes with interest that an altruistic Google employee, Gmail engineer Jon Perlow, has invented a system that will block – or at least offer people an opportunity to reconsider – an ill-conceived drunken email to their boss or an ex-Flame.

Mail Goggles, which can be set to spring into action late at night and at weekends, asks emailers to answer some mathematical questions before sending a message. The basic addition and multiplication sums have to be completed within a time limit. That could be a snag. The Diary’s intrinsic grasp of mathematics has never managed to rise above Very Basic.

Late-night emailing is a trap for everyone, even for the silly twits who populate the world’s powerful places and think their enormous egos give them the right to be rude. Three years ago Leading Brit Ego Alastair Campbell, who parlayed a noisy media career into a Goebbels-like position in former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair’s office, was forced to make what passed for an apology – boy, that must have hurt – after accidentally using his Blackberry to tell the BBC: “Fxxk off and cover something important you twats!” He said he had actually meant to be rude to the ruling Labour Party’s advertising advisers.

They’d be big on banana daiquiris

ABC Online, a source of much useful information, is also good for a laugh now and then. It reported recently – with a classic news video clip to support the voiceover – that a Japanese tavern was using two macaques to serve its customers. The tavern owner said he realised his pets could be used as waiters when the older of the pair started aping him at work. The monkeys, Yat-chan and Fuku-chan, work in shifts of up to two hours a day due to Japanese animal rights regulations.

The Diary, by the way, is on very good terms with another highly-skilled macaque. Lulu lives on Gili Trawangan, off Lombok, with her Italian owner Angelo Sanfillipo, and is popular with guests at Angelo’s Dream Village cottages there. He once gave her some goggles and taught her to swim. “Lulu, she look at fish!” he said at the time, with fatherly pride and his singular interpretation of English grammar.

Well, they would, wouldn’t they?

BRITAIN is rich in amusements. Some of them live in Bali ... but we digress. Among the Diary’s hysterical favourites is the high-class call-girl Mandy Rice-Davies, who famously said (of an ennobled punter of her intimately profitable acquaintance who was strenuously denying any such malarkey) at the height of the legendary 1960s Profumo affair, a veritable feast of a British sex scandal, “Well, he would, wouldn’t he?”

Last week Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown partially nationalised the banks in response to the growing global economic crisis, apparently unaware of the irony given his party’s socialist history. Or maybe he’s a secret thespian and was quietly auditioning for the role of the little Dutch boy who saved his country by sticking his finger in the dyke? Now we hear – from Axa, one of the world’s biggest insurers of wandering souls – that as many as 500,000 Brits are planning to leave their homeland to become international misfits by the end of the year.

There is, by the way, a delightful regional connection to the Mandy Rice-Davies story. The first Prime Minister of Malaya (now Malaysia), Tunku Abdul Rahman, arriving in Britain for a visit at the time of the scandal, was asked by his official airport reception committee what he wanted to do first. “I want mandi,” was his thoroughly reasonable response.

Unfortunately, the word for bath in Bahasa Melayu (and Bahasa Indonesia) was not at that time thoroughly understood by the Brits, apparently even those detailed to meet and greet (and be shocked by) a Melayu-speaking foreign leader.

Just round the bend

THE sport of internet dating has turned up another interesting statistic: a British couple who met on a dating website turned out to be neighbours who had lived only a few houses apart for 17 years. Teacher Julie McIlroy, 46, began emailing electrician Allan Donnelly after seeing his picture on a dating website, an increasingly common way for Brits (and others with broadband internet access and time on their hands) to meet people.

It was only after several weeks of online contact that Ms McIlroy phoned him – and realised they lived seven houses apart on the same street in the Welsh capital, Cardiff. “While we were chatting I said I'd just been to the shop. He said that was the shop he always went to,” she said. “When he told me he lived in the same street, I thought it was a wind-up. I was stunned. He asked me over for a cup of tea, and that was that.” Mr Donnelly, 53, said: “We've got the perfect compatibility. I’m a very lucky man.”

The pair now plans to marry.


The Bali Times is at

Oh no, not an adverse event...

A CHAP of our acquaintance, a spritely young fellow of only 63, has just returned from his annual trip to the doctor with disturbing news that he is in fact mortal, something he has hitherto felt no reason to acknowledge.

Moreover, in the euphemistic patois of the medical New Age, from which we all suffer, he has been warned that he is at risk of experiencing an adverse event. You know, like falling over in a dead faint and not being able to get up again; or any one of a number of similar strokes of ill-fortune.

He is therefore disconsolate, having, as he points out, managed to attain six decades without the aid of any medication, to find he must now be placed on tablets, to be taken regularly, to reduce cholesterol and hence his likelihood of meeting with an adverse event (or even better, a doctor).

Apparently, on the actuarial tables that doctors now produce to show you statistical accounting that purports to be medically researched fact, he occupies a yellow square on the pretty little colour chart he was shown (and allowed to keep, doubtless to increase the incidence of nightmares about adverse events) that indicates he now falls into that class of person of senior years upon whom medication must be showered as if manna from heaven.

Of course, he’s a smoker. Indeed that’s one of the reasons he chooses to live in Indonesia rather than in his homeland where everyone’s a wuss (as well as overweight, which he is not). This single fact is taken – for no verified causative reason he can convince him, but merely statistical, rather like human-caused global warming – as reason to place him on a risky yellow square instead of a pleasant green one where the risk of experiencing an adverse event (see above) is assessed as less.

He has decided it’s a bit like playing Monopoly. Anyone want to buy Bond Street?

Ubud for kids

AS a palliative against the effects of all the Ernests and Ernestines who will clog Ubud from Oct. 14-19 for their annual literary navel-gazing exercise – the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival which is described by Harper’s Bazaar as among the top six literary festivals in the world – there’s a good programme for children. This is a blessing, as well as a good idea, since children today are hardly the best of readers and the written word is the lifeblood of any culture.

But seriously... this year’s festival is set to be a great showcase for the global appeal of good literature. American writer John Berendt, author of “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” (“A must-read” – The Bali Times Diary) and Australian 2007 Miles Franklin Award-winner Alexis Wright – she wrote “Carpentaria” – are the Diary’s chief drawcards.

As usual, the real trick will be finding a seat in one of Ubud’s great cafes; and time to enjoy a quiet coffee.

The festival programme is online at

The right call on Bali bombers

THERE has been a fluttering of feathers in Australia over the alleged dichotomy between the Australian government’s position on the fate of the Bali bombers (that they should be executed in accordance with Indonesian law) and the stand it has adopted over the death sentences facing three of the Bali Nine drug couriers (that it will continue to advocate clemency).

Australia is opposed to capital punishment. The last execution in the country was in Victoria in 1967. But that’s in Australia, of course. One can oppose capital punishment as a concept and a practice – and ban it at home – without necessarily being hypocritical in failing to rail against it when it is a sentence imposed under the law of a foreign country.

That’s why, despite the arguments of defence lawyers to the contrary, Australian attorney-general Robert McClelland is quite correct to state that his country will limit calls for clemency in criminal cases to situations overseas directly involving Australian citizens.

It may be true, as has been asserted by lawyers for the Bali Nine trio on death row, that this position effectively weakens Australian calls for clemency in that case. That argument goes: unless we do so for the Bali bombers, we devalue the force of our appeals on behalf of the Bali drug couriers.

But things are never as simple as high profile lawyers and other publicity seeking advocates would like us to think. The bottom line in the present situation is that the Bali bombers committed mass murder, for which the penalty in Indonesia is death; and that the Bali Nine drug couriers committed offences that under Indonesian law also attract the death penalty.

The bombers are delusional self-proclaimed “warriors” for a cause the vast majority of Indonesians regard with disgust and horror; even the many Indonesians who are offended by the lax moral licence of the western world overwhelmingly view terrorism as a threat to the state and as an affront to the strict principles of their religion. That they are celebrities as well is more a comment on Indonesia’s curious open-door prison policy and the willingness of modern media to make celebrities out of murderers than on their actual appeal to the people. If the bombers were to be “revenged” post-firing squad, as they assert with condign mental distemper from their condemned cells, then that “revenge” would also be perpetrated by delusional fanatics who would deserve the same fate.

The drug couriers are either stupid or criminally acquisitive individuals for whose crimes there can be no sympathy whatever their age; and specifically not for any reasons of nationality: an Australian drug courier is not a protected species. Both the Bali Nine and the Bali bombers are between a rock and a hard place because of their own actions.

Election Day special

IF you’re stuck with nothing better to do on Nov. 5 – by which we mean you avoided all the Melbourne Cup parties in town the previous day, didn’t do your dough on a non-performing nag, and are still in the land of the living – you still don’t have to walk alone: the Sector Bar and Restaurant in Sanur has an 8am-8pm American Election Day party.

Election Day is Nov. 4, but due to the curious effect of the International Date Line, it’s Nov. 5 in Bali by the time the action gets under way.

Sector is even promising you a vote in the election. It’s a special, Bali-only vote, of course. And anyone can cast a ballot. This facility comes with wall-to-wall eating opportunities – another American invention – and an all-day cash bar so you can celebrate or perhaps drown your sorrows.

For true political tragics, there’s continuous CNN coverage of the results as they flow in, hanging chads and all. There will be a final results party when the victor emerges.

The menu is interesting: Hamburgers, hot dogs, nachos, sandwiches, ice cream, cheesecake, apple pie and more. The Diary is disappointed to note the absence of Alaskan moose pie and salmon pate, with a side order of Coupe Palin, but perhaps the Cholesterol Special might be the way to go...

If you want to put together a table of celebrants, it might be an idea to book early. Our friends at Bali Discovery Tours have the goods on that at 0361 286283; or email them at

So good to be home

YOUR Diarist has returned from his annual pilgrimage to the Odd Zone, that place a little to the south of Bali where the celebrated British novelist Nevil Shute chose to set his 1950’s book about the end of the world, “On The Beach”.

It’s still a bit like that (not that one would actually want to take the death pill: far better just to book a ticket back to Bali). The Diary had a strange experience on this trip, deep in the wine country of Western Australia, driving for miles on real roads – there’s a treat! – but seeing very little evidence of an extant human presence.

One road junction in particular prompted thoughts of Shute’s novelistic end-game: Two major roads, a well signposted intersection, and not another soul in sight. Well, not quite. There was a dog. But it didn’t bark at the unusual sight of humans in a vehicle. Spooky!