Friday, October 17, 2008


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!

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