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.

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