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?”

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