Friday, December 19, 2008


The Bali Times is at

It’s That Girl Again
SCHAPELLE Corby, who basks in the glory of being Bali’s celebrity convict and prime tenant at Kerobokan Jail, is back in the news again. She is a subject of a music video featuring what is touted as Tara Hack’s “highly acclaimed” song about the poor little Aussie girl’s predicament, titled “Saya Tidak Bersalah” (“I’m Not Guilty”).
Perhaps the second line of the ditty should go: “Maaf Sekali Saya Lupa Narkotika di Dalam Bagasi Saya” (“So Sorry I Forgot About the Drugs in My Baggage”).

The video features people in various places around the world “demonstrating their opposition to her continued incarceration”. The promoters say it illustrates how concern for Corby is now truly international as it includes representation from the United States, Australia, Britain, New Zealand, Europe and Canada, among other places.

The music bit was provided by “Artists for Schapelle”. A spokeswoman for this eclectic group of people without better causes to spruik, Rachel James, says: “The world is watching the Australian government doing nothing to help, with their media covering their tracks. The world is watching the appalling injustice and cruelty of this case. When the world hears her cries for help and learns of her story, national boundaries become absolutely irrelevant.”

If these guys really believe all of that nonsense, they must be smoking the same stuff Corby flew into Bali in her boogie-board bag. If they weren’t off with the fairies, they would be championing the causes of other less high profile prisoners who actually do have something to gripe about and don’t benefit from the sort of wall to wall, entry at will care (and care packages) Corby does. But if you’re interested, you can check for yourself at (we kid you not). Go straight to jail at

And that’s not all. We hear Corby’s sister, the far from publicity shy Mercedes, has posed nude for one of those Aussie rags that cater to the lower end of the food chain. Mercedes lives in Bali too, but not – as far as we know – at public expense. The Diary can think of all sorts of reasons to own a topless Mercedes. But that would be one with wheels.

‘Tis the Season for Much Folly
AS we head into Christmas and New Year, as always we head as well into what is commonly called the Silly Season. Originally this meant that the media – bereft of real stories because all their usual rich sources of copy, usually politicians, were off having a knees-up somewhere – found all sorts of non-stories to print instead. How fortunate we are in Indonesia that the silly season apparently affects politicians too.

First we have President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono signing into law the anti-pornography legislation that has Bali (and numerous other provinces fearing cultural oppression) up in arms. Mr President: What about unity in diversity? Then we have Culture and Tourism Minister Jero Wacik calling for everyone just to accept the new laws. Minister, it is abundantly clear that everyone is not just going to accept them. And then we have Trade Minister Mari Pangestu – normally a welcome voice of common sense – saying the tough new import laws that have cleared shelves of all sorts of products tourists like to buy and eat will be delayed. They “took effect” on Dec. 15, but shelves have been empty for weeks.

On the anti-pornography law, as The Diary has noted before, the way to proceed (if we must; and if the Constitutional Court rules in favour of the new law) is to make its implementation a matter for individual provinces. Blanket enforcement – which Minister Wacik apparently thinks everyone should just accept – would be a step towards an Islamic state, if not a Javanese empire. That’s the real political problem the President and others should be worrying about. On the imports law, again as The Diary has noted before, if the government wants to apply new national standards on imported foods, it should first work out what those standards should be, and then set up a checking system that can actually work.

A New Year resolution would seem to be in order: When having bright ideas, think about them first.

Lombok Gets its Aussie Connection
WE hear that IndoJet, the arm of Australian boutique airline OzJet that flies from Perth to Bali, is adding Lombok to its destinations, with a weekly service to Mataram from Perth on Sundays. Lombok has long sought direct input from Australia, and while the new service only connects it with Perth – on the opposite side of the country from the really big travelling populations – it’s a great start. It is good news for Lombok and something we here in Bali should applaud. Our neighbouring island is a great place for a holiday and it deserves more exposure – and more tourists – than it currently gets.

Until now only Silk Air – the Singapore Airlines subsidiary – has provided Lombok with direct (non-stop) international connections, with three flights a week between Singapore and Mataram. Other tourists arriving by air have to transit Bali and deliver themselves to the uncertain scheduling of the three airlines that operate the Denpasar-Mataram shuttle. Resorts on Lombok have never felt confident enough with these schedules to recommend guests feel safe about checking out on the day of their international flight home from Bali.

Lombok is getting a new airport – Mataram’s Selaparang runway is too short for big jets – in the south of the island. The Dubai-based Emar developers are preparing the ground in the south (it’s a fantastic ocean coast there with spectacular scenery) for a “tourism precinct” development. Hopes are high that Gulf-oriented tourism will eventually give the island a much needed boost.

That Gulf May Be Widening
THE world financial crisis may be having an effect on the global reach of the Gulf economies that could have an unfortunate flow-on effect here in Indonesia. Money is apparently getting a lot scarcer than it was. Anecdotal evidence from the Australian construction firm Leighton indicates the development bubble in Dubai – home of Emirate Airlines and of Emar, the development corporation heavily engaged in Lombok’s southern tourism project – has rather suddenly deflated.

We hear that about 50 hotel projects have been cancelled, that estimates of apartment construction for the next three years have been halved from 50,000 to 25,000, and that investors who bought apartments in Dubai off the plan have suddenly realised that the music has stopped.

The basic problem appears to be that with falling oil prices and the flood of red ink all over national and corporate balance sheets around the globe, surpluses in the hitherto golden Gulf States may soon turn to deficits of around 30 per cent of local GDPs. The word is that Dubai is the most vulnerable because it does not have much oil, its banks are heavily exposed to property, and its economy is reliant on tourism, financial services and trade.

Let’s hope the suggestion that the global recession will be short (and as un-sharp as possible) and that those who suggest the worst will be over by the time 2010 rolls around are on the money.

Meanwhile, Eagles Don’t Fly (Again)
IT SEEMS Garuda, which a little while ago announced it was resuming its lapsed Bali-Brisbane service, won’t in fact be starting any time soon. Apparently it has failed to attract sufficient bookings for its start-up services and is now saying it hopes to get off the ground to Brisbane some time in 2009. No doubt the presence of both Pacific Blue and Jetstar on that route has had an impact on Garuda’s prospects. It was last into the race for business from Brisbane – Australia’s third-largest city – playing tail-end Charlie to the new Aussie entrants.

Garuda stopped flying to Brisbane (and Auckland in New Zealand) in 2005. It had a useful monopoly on that route then, an advantage it rather foolishly lost. The ball game is now totally different.

All Set to Kill the Golden Goose?
THESE are difficult times for tourism, and likely to get more difficult in the near term, as the world slides into deeper economic difficulties. So it is interesting to look at new figures that show starkly the additional cost international hotels are putting on their accommodation at a time when most tourists have less money to spend.

Many in Bali have increased tariffs for 2009 by up to 25 per cent following strong occupancy levels for much of 2008. That might be sensible market pricing in normal times – if more people want access to a finite resource, prices should reflect that demand – but it takes on a different complexion when tariff rises are looked at in combination with shifts in foreign exchange rates. This is compounded in Bali where international hotels universally price in American dollars.

On this basis, in 2009 South Koreans will pay 88 per cent extra for their hotel accommodation, Britons 71 per cent extra, Australians 68 per cent extra, Indians 55 per cent extra, Euro-spending Europeans 41 per cent extra, and Malaysians 35 per cent extra. The Japanese, in contrast, are paying only 3.5 per cent extra.

At a time when employment uncertainty is the unwelcome guest at the family table, putting a wildly unreasonable premium on a Bali holiday is a good way to kill the goose that lays the golden egg. Or persuade even more potential hotel customers to choose villa accommodation instead.

What? No Haloumi!
VISITING Candi Dasa – which we see is being billed as “the jewel of the east” in local promotions – is always a pleasure. There’s all that inexpensive beachfront accommodation (without the actual beach of course, since they sold all that coral all those years ago). There are those great sea breezes. And then there’s Vincent’s, a restaurant that The Diary favours for its outrĂ© ambience – though it is sadly far less outrĂ© now the proprietors have removed much of the explicit art that used to adorn the walls and create conversation – and its menu.

But a recent visit proved, alas, that the “they shall not have their foreign foods” brigade has struck again. A highlight of the menu at Vincent’s is grilled Haloumi (a cheese from Cyprus that aficionados kill for). A request for this fine dish elicited the now boringly standard response diners get at eating establishments all over the island: “So sorry. No have.” They do a great Mie Goreng, though ... and Rocket Salad with Blue Cheese is a must.

Great Boots!
AUSTRALIAN Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, surely in the running for this year’s award for most trips to Bali by an Aussie, was here for the Bali Democracy Forum earlier this month. Perhaps he would have found time to ponder the perfection of democratic intent implicit in the new anti-pornography law. Naturally, that’s nothing to do with Australia – it is a purely domestic problem – but, well, you know, Kev’s a worrier.

On a brighter note, he did give President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono – who was also at the forum and hopefully also pondering democratic niceties – a very nice pair of RM Williams boots. RM’s are Aussie iconography at its best. The Diary happily owns a pair, slightly older than the set now in the possession of SBY.

Other footwear is available this season too (photo). It might come in handy if you’re prone to slips – Freudian or otherwise – or if you have a clumsy friend on your Christmas list.

A Lombok Mystery
WE happened upon a copy of the Lombok Times the other day, a rare enough event in any case but rarer still for its recycling in the December edition of a calumny perpetrated earlier this year by the International Herald Tribune, which alleged that local luminary Howard Singleton, proprietor of The Office at Senggigi, a fine watering hole, was an Aussie.

He wasn’t when The Diary was a regular at The Office, and as we reported at the time of his Unfortunate Mention, he seemed a little miffed at being fingered as a colonial. He’s a Brit; and not one of the obnoxious ones, either, though there are a few of those about both sides of the Wallace Line.

Either Howard has come out of the closet with some hitherto darkly kept secret, and is a secret Toegripper from Down Under, or the Lombok Times got it wrong. Inquiries will be made.

Have a Good Break
SINCE there’s no paper next week, The Diary is taking a break too. Season’s greetings to all readers and we’ll see you again when the little counter has clicked over to 2009.

Friday, December 12, 2008


The Bali Times is at

Dogs Collared in Bukit Job
THE rabies scare in the Bukit/Jimbaran area has had an interesting side effect. A lot more dogs these days are wearing collars. Some seem to do so proudly, as if proclaiming: “I’m a PET”. Others do it with very evident distaste, as you would expect of a hound hitherto free of any branding or restriction. And many others, whose owners apparently aren’t up for spending collar money, now appear wearing pretty little ribbons round their necks. These might look all right on poodles. On a pooch whose life is The Street, they look uncommonly comical. Some of the poor beribboned ones seem to carry an air of terminal embarrassment.

Much has been made of the fact that Bali is a “rabies-free” area. It’s a claim advanced much in the same way – and from the same delusional and self-serving direction – as the French like to pretend La Rage never makes it west of the Meuse. Rabies is a viral disease. It is impossible to conclusively test for it until it begins to affect a victim’s central nervous system. The only way anywhere is “rabies-free” is on the basis of no reported cases of the disease (in Bali until the present outbreak no cases had been recorded in more than a decade). Islands with strict quarantine laws, significantly distant from other landmasses, may indeed be free of rabies. Britain and Ireland are; Australia and New Zealand are; some remote Pacific islands are. It is very doubtful that anywhere in Indonesia falls in reality into the “100 per cent certainty of freedom from rabies” category.

But this is not necessarily a problem. A raft of diseases exists in the world that has been reduced – sometimes to virtual invisibility – by public health measures, preventive health infrastructure, and above-slum-level sanitation and rubbish disposal. That’s certainly the case in Bali. But it can never mean that such diseases no longer exist as a threat or that outbreaks will not occur. The action taken in Bali to control the rabies outbreak and prevent cases occurring outside the areas already affected has been swift – Governor Made Pastika deserves great credit for that – and (despite criticism that culling wild dog populations is no solution) effective. A proper preventive programme of vaccination for domestic dogs should be introduced on an ongoing basis and made compulsory, as should registration of animals. Public subsidies are needed to ensure local dog owners don’t face the prospect of spending a year’s salary on anti-rabies shots for their pets and working dogs (expatriates can bear the full cost and if necessary should be made to). Domestic pets should not be allowed to roam widely and any not required for licensed breeding should be sterilised so they do not add to the wild dog population. Wild dog packs should be regularly culled.

The rule must be: If you own a dog or care for it in any way – such as, say, using otherwise wild dogs to help you round up livestock and the like – then you are responsible for properly feeding it and, within your financial means, ensuring its health and welfare. This is expensive but within the mutual-responsibility culture of Balinese communities it would be manageable. All that is needed is the will to act – and education in why it is necessary. And it is necessary because no one, and no domestic animal, should die of rabies today. If the residual risk of contracting the disease is recognised by the authorities, if vaccine is readily available, if at-risk domestic animals are protected, if wild dog populations are minimised, and if quarantine laws are effectively enforced to permit entry only of vaccinated animals, the disease is a minimal threat.

Oh To Be in Ubud, Now the Rains Are Here
THE Diary has a day job in the VFR industry. That’s as in the strong travel and tourism market sector that involves “Visiting Friends and Relatives”. That’s as in, they visit you, if you live in a lovely place like Bali and they don’t. The Diary, in day job mode, has in consequence many friends who decide they would like to discover – or rediscover – the delights of Bali and that’s good. It means all sorts of opportunities to visit nice places like Ubud, Candi Dasa and others, that might not otherwise make it onto the everyday schedule.

A recent visit to Ubud brought a further benefit (and not only to the VFR party being shown around). A pleasant stay at Janet DeNeefe’s Honeymoon Guesthouse and the opportunity to sample some of the famed cuisine from Casa Luna was only part of this. OK, so it rained. You expect that in the rainy season. Indeed there are people to be found who would complain bitterly – not to mention wicker endlessly about climate change – if it didn’t. It makes everything lush and green, creates cleansing flows in some of the little streams, and leads to some remarkably fresh post-downpour evenings and early mornings. What fun it is to have one’s visitors from chillier climes wondering why, when they decided to travel to the tropics, they left their woollies behind.

A minor medical issue for one of the party on the trip in question – involving those strangely redundant and oddly named things, wisdom teeth – also demonstrated the efficiency of local medical services. The town has every reason to be the tourist drawcard it is. And those smiles on the street – ubiquitous everywhere in Bali – are a pleasant reminder indeed that the world is really a beautiful place.

No Hg Up Ovr Txtsm
U CN RLX: Mobile phone texting is not killing the English language. We hear this encouraging intelligence from an Australian researcher, Dr Nenagh Kemp (though should that, we wonder, be Nngh Kmp?), who presented her findings at the Research Network in Human Communication Science conference in Sydney. (It’s amazing what people will go to in Sydney when it’s not Mardi Gras season.) Dr Kemp apparently found 55 undergraduates with nothing better to do than read and write text messages using normal English and abbreviated text language (she calls this “textism”) and turned them into lab rats.

Surprise! She discovered that proficient texters are usually better at reading and using traditional spelling and grammar. It probably helps if you’re in a position to guess what the excised vowels might be in a sequence of consonantal gobbledegook. The prize for the bleeding obvious from this research, however, goes to the finding that while it is quicker to write in “textism” (txtsm, surely?), it can take twice as long to work out what the message says.

For many people in Bali, this difficulty is compounded. When your grasp of even the fully spelt-out version of Bahasa Indonesia is less than perfect, it’s a real bother trying to work out what on earth all those mobile telephone providers are trying to tell you or sell you in their annoying text messages that clog up your phone on Friday nights and weekends.

They Really Are a Weird Mob
AUNTY, as Australia’s national broadcaster the ABC is known, has been spreading her wings with audience participation. In collaboration with the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra (the notional capital) the ABC has commissioned 30 video portraits on the theme “My Favourite Australian”. A public vote last year produced a “Top Ten” list. Olivia Newton John, the 1970s pop singer, won top billing. John Farnham, another singer (he was Johnny Farnham, he of “Sadie the Cleaning Lady” fame, before he got all serious, message wise), made it in at No. 3. Tasmanian tree hugger Bob Brown, head of the Australian Greens, took No 4 spot. George Bush’s former Aussie Man of Steel John Howard (the ex-PM) scored No 5. Oddly, his GWB-anointed and self-proclaimed non-rusting successor, now known to the world as www.KevinPM, didn’t rate a mention. But the vote was last year, after all, when the unusual concept of Kevin the Great was still just a twinkle in a latte lapper’s eye.

This year the ABC ran a poll for “Most Inspiring Unsung Heroes”. Terry Hicks, father of Australian Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks, got an honourable mention in such a lengthy list of the unsung that most seem to have difficulty even popping up on Google. But you have to hand it to Terry Hicks for his cast-iron faith in the fact that his son, formerly a soldier of misfortune with Al Qaida’s feared strike force of formerly Infidel irregulars (he won’t say, but we think he served in the 1st Battalion The Regiment of Royally Useful Fools – “Osama’s Own”), would instantly revert to being just a regular guy if returned to Australia for a light slap on the wrist and a crash course in how to spread Vegemite.

Incidentally, 2008 has been the ABC’s most successful ratings year yet. It won a prime time free-to-air share of TV viewing of 17 per cent. Your Diarist declares an interest: is interested to note that one of the top programmes on ABC1 TV was “Australia: Land of Parrots”. Don’t think we’ve seen that on the ABC’s Australia Network satellite system yet. There’s been plenty about galahs though.

The ‘Bam’s Pointe Man: From Door Opener to Gate Keeper
RAHM Emanuel, named by President-elect Barack Obama as White House chief of staff, is a fellow for fancy footwork. Well he did train for ballet before deciding he could make a better Pointe in the financial world. He got his big start on the road to the political big time when, leaving the Clinton White House as a senior political adviser at the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal in 1998, he was picked up by big-time Wall Street operator Bruce Wasserstein, a major Democrat Party donor. It was a move that netted him a place in the then sunny world of hedge funds, earned him a US$18 million-plus fortune in two-and-a-half years and then – in the tried and true manner of welding political connections to the mega-bucks world of influence – facilitated a pirouette into national politics.

It’s interesting that the little known portion of his life before he was elected to a House of Representatives seat from Illinois has now attracted the attention of the American media, ever anxious to spot a mote in the eye of anyone but themselves. “I had this idea that this could work and that it had upside,” the New York Times reports Wasserstein, now chairman and chief executive of Lazard, the investment bank, as saying of Emanuel’s recruitment to the Gordon Gecko world of Wall Street. “It worked out better than I could have hoped.” And better than Emanuel could have imagined as well. It turned his White House contact book into paying clients and his renowned negotiating skills and famous intensity into a super-plus for lucrative mergers and acquisitions.

Since entering politics, however, it would seem Emanuel has been his own man on business and financial regulation. While friends of Emanuel’s from his private-sector days say he still keeps in touch to stay on top of business insights on economic issues, he voted with other Democrats last year on a bill that significantly increased the tax rate on profits earned by private equity firms and sponsored a bill to curb the ability of hedge fund managers to defer paying taxes on earnings held in offshore tax havens. He supported another measure that imposed new reporting requirements on financial firms for what investors pay on stocks and mutual funds. Emanuel gave the New York Times his side of the story: “I would say I’ve been as tough on my friends as others. I call it like I see it.”

Eye Contact? You Were Lucky!
YOUR Diarist’s rheumy old eye was caught by the item last week on a curious aspect of baby care. It was in the Health page of course, an area of journalism which is nowadays essential because everyone is afflicted by that horrific modern condition MIA. No, we don’t mean “missing in action”: we’re not talking bureaucrats out to lunch or policemen on excused bribes duty. It’s much more serious. It’s Medically Induced Angst.

The item was about how putting your baby in a forward-facing “buggy” is bad for it. Apparently it can cause those infant entities so abused to become stressed by the lack of eye contact they then have with the person pushing them along. In your Diarist’s younger days – when he not yet even a fledgling, merely a hatchling – this was the least of his worries. It was generally his Mum or his Gran pushing him along and the street scene, although hardly colourful, was at least interesting. At the time (read on) it must have been like trying to negotiate a Kuta walkway. Of course, he was in a pram – proper name perambulator, sometimes even more grandly known as a “baby carriage”. This was before buggies or strollers and certainly those ridiculous papoose-sling things had been invented.

But he cast his mind back, as he is wont to do when nothing current is attracting the cognitive processes, and he does remember being told the story of one traumatic event from his pram days. It was in early 1945, in London – which the fortunes of war had dictated would be his hatching place – and at the time when that murderous little curiosity Adolf Hitler was having his last rabid quiver and aiming his fire-and-forget V1 and V2 rockets at Winston Churchill. And missing him, of course, instead clobbering people whose only offence was a rather fierce belief that Winston was a better sort of chap than Adolf. These circumstances were just one of those things: In adversity, curse and carry on. That’s the spirit. None of that namby-pamby, touchy-feely stuff then.

Anyway, the incident is definitely an act of parental abandonment that today would not only cause recurrent episodes of MIA throughout one’s whole life, but also have whole squadrons of social workers descending upon one (most sensible people would favour the remote risk of a V1 or V2 over that outcome). In those stoic days, it simply became just another family tale.

It seems Mum had sauntered down to the post office – as you would with a three-month-old baby in a pram and a likely misguided missile threat in the air – and having done whatever it was she was doing there (it may have had something to do with posting a letter; or perhaps she was getting more ration coupons), the poor dear, so recently blessed by motherhood, completely forgot about the pram, the baby, and indeed, her proud new status, and sauntered back home.

Enter granny, never one to miss a beat or a baby. Where is the baby, she inquired sweetly, doubtless thinking the pram and its infant contents had been parked in the weak English spring sunshine under the apple tree in the back garden. Oh, um, well... [The rest is deleted on grounds of taste. Mums NEVER say things like that.]
Never mind. After the double sprint back to the post office, pram and contents were retrieved unharmed. Babies didn’t talk to strangers in those days either. Well, other than to coo, boo and gurgle of course – and wonder where the hell Mum is.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


The Bali Times is at

The Real Way to Beat Terrorism
THE frightful terrorist assault on the Indian city of Mumbai is – yet again – a case of everyone’s worst nightmare coming true. How unfair and irritating it would be to find that one’s earthly span was marked for precipitous foreclosure at the hands of some mindless little scumbag murderer armed with a gun he would be much better employed using on himself.

We here in Bali know that the best way to deal with the fact of murderous terrorism – that is after the fact of course – is to refuse to bend to the terrorists’ will: to get on with life; to strive to make it better; to attract again the visitors and their dollars that keep our economy growing; to build jobs and futures; and to keep the beneficence of the world spotlight shining upon us.

Mumbai is an astonishing and complex city (read Suketu Mehta’s book about it, “Maximum City”). In The New York Times last Sunday, Mehta had an important piece on how best to defeat the terrorists who attacked it, and why it is important not to run away. Here’s its key point:

[T]he best answer to the terrorists is to dream bigger, make even more money, and visit Mumbai more than ever. Dream of making a good home for all Mumbaikars, not just the denizens of $500-a-night hotel rooms. Dream not just of Bollywood stars like Aishwarya Rai or Shah Rukh Khan, but of clean running water, humane mass transit, better toilets, and a responsive government. Make a killing not in God’s name but in the stock market and then turn up the forbidden music and dance; work hard and play harder.

That’s fighting spirit, as we have seen in Bali and shall now see in Mumbai. It says to the terrorists: You will never win, you bastards.

Meanwhile, Aussies Want Mollycoddling
IN THESE days – from Bali to Mumbai via New York, London and Madrid – travellers must recognise that simply by exercising the right of freedom of movement they attract a measure of risk from the desperate and dangerous who roam the globe in pursuit of murderously foolish goals. Governments everywhere issue travel advice to their nationals (we here in Bali are subject to the downside of the long-standing Australian advice to “reconsider” the need to travel to Indonesia) and indeed an Australian advisory was in place for India prior to the murderous attack on that country’s financial capital. We note with interest that in the aftermath of the Mumbai mayhem, that advisory has been raised to equal that existing in relation to Bali and the rest of Indonesia.

The Indian emergency, however, proves the utility of such warnings from the point of view of officialdom (“Can’t say we didn’t warn you – take your lawsuit elsewhere”); and demonstrates the amazing capacity of some Australians to blame their own predicaments on anyone other than themselves. The tabloid media carries much of the responsibility for this. It seeks out “celebrities” – the quotation marks are an essential modifier in this instance – and should any such luminaries be handily available, acquires colourful first-person copy. One such person – apparently someone called Brooke Satchwell, a former mini-starlet in some mindless Oz soap opera, who it seems was confined to her bedroom with her boyfriend by the emergency – complained that she was unable to obtain immediate assistance from Australian consular officials while gunmen were in the building shooting people.

Get real! Contrary to Brooke’s – and many Australians’ – apparent belief that their country’s small consular corps should include commando units uniquely equipped with ESP (so they know where they’ll be needed) and handily sited in the immediate vicinity tasked to rush straight to their assistance (they will Brooke no delay), deal with any threat to Australians present and provide immediate rescue and evacuation, no such action is ever possible.

Bending Their Minds to Banning Yoga
YOGA is not something that normally fixes The Diary’s attention, other than as something to avoid (like, for example, examining one’s navel; or injury). The preference is for passive manipulation at the hands of a gentle Balinese or Javanese masseuse. Well there’s that, plus the risk of risibility from looking like a cross between a very raw Falun Gong recruit and someone trying to keep up with a Jane Fonda DVD.

At the same time, it’s hardly subversive, or for that matter necessarily an activity that would normally – one would think – offend the Prophet, who on most readings of the Koran is channelling the instructions of a remarkably open-minded deity. So it is something of a surprise that the Majelis Ulama Indonesia – Indonesia’s highest Islamic clerical authority – should have advised the faithful to suspend their yoga activities while it deliberates whether the practice is haram (religiously unlawful). If a fatwa is issued, MUI says, it would merely be advisory.

The decision follows a fatwa issued by the Dewan Fatwa Nasional Malaysia, proscribing yoga as a form of Hindu religious practice, because of its meditative elements. Hinduism in Malaysia is of the Indian variety, far removed from the Hinduism practised in Bali and bereft of the syncretism that so marks the universal practice of faith – in all its guises – in Indonesia.

Fine Music and all that Jazz
THE annual Jakarta jazz festival was held last weekend – it rained again, but it always does: that’s why they call it the blues, or maybe Jakarta – and this year’s gig (officially Jakjazz 2008) was better than ever. Among a stellar international and local line-up, it featured Michelle Nicolle, celebrated as Australia’s finest jazz singer.

She was there with the assistance of the Australia-Indonesia Institute which for two decades has been a prominent supporter of bilateral cultural links. It’s an element of the complex – and overwhelmingly productive – relationship between the two neighbouring countries that often doesn’t get the publicity it deserves.

We’re no strangers to jazz in Bali, of course. The Diary is a regular foot-tapper at the Jazz Cafe in Ubud, for instance, where they serve up great Indonesian performers along with yummy food. The guy with the sax on Wednesday nights is just out of this world. That celebrated free sax exponent, Bill Clinton, would lock himself in a cupboard (alone) if he was to hear him.

Please Mind Your Language
THE “classless” Britain that is said nowadays to exist has, among other things, reduced to a mere rump the number of Britons who can actually speak the Queen’s English; and apparently to even fewer the number who actually want to. It has done this by embarrassing the well-spoken and well behaved into silence while promoting the foul vowels and fractured syntax of the new masters, the inarticulate and uneducated (in the true sense of that latter term). The old “caste talk” has been outlawed by the uncultured who think nothing of murderin’ grammar (if they know what grammar is; or care).

It is of course no bad thing that Britain has disposed of the anachronistic division of society based on nicely rounded vowels and inherited worthlessness. It is far better that any society should freely promote its best and brightest, regardless of birth or other inheritance. No tears should be spilt over the demise of such upper-class put-downs as “HMG” – “home-made gent” – and we can with some equanimity (perhaps) accept that in English nowadays it is permissible to say “pardon” when you mean “sorry”; or even, though at a greater stretch, when you mean “what?”; or “serviette” instead of “napkin”, or “toilet” in place of “lavatory”.

All this has only curiosity value outside Britain itself, since English long ago ceased to be English at all. This is a factor that has still to become apparent to some English pundits, it seems, at least if recent expressions of distaste in journals such as The Spectator (continuously published since 1828 is its proud boast) are to be accepted as representative.

At the same time, as one of its erudite stable of writers recently noted, there’s no reason – beyond public pressure to do so – why it should be hip to be rude. To which The Diary would add: or coarse; or to think that nothing has impact unless prefixed by the copulatory adjective; or to accept swallowed vowels and truncated pronunciation. What happened to the letter “G”? For that matter, who let the Americans in the back door? (This last comment is made under advisement, given the preferred spelling style of the august journal in which The Diary appears.)

Very Nearly an Unpacific Blue
RICHARD Branson’s chummy little Aussie Virgin offshoot, Pacific Blue, has hung out its shingle at new premises on Jl By Pass I Gusti Ngurah Rai – a travel agent office, just north of the airport turnoff. Well, after a struggle: a Diary spy spotted the crew detailed to perform this complex task nearly dropping the whole show once, and then getting the thing up crooked before trying a third time and finally getting it right.

The presence of a Pacific Blue office will greatly assist Bali residents who want to fly the “reverse” route to that chosen by the airline’s customer base in Australia.

Fried rice, meatballs and hairy fruit
ACCORDING to an impeccable source – President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono – U.S. President-elect Barack (Barry to his old Jakarta school chums) Obama asked him in a recent telephone conversation “Apa kabar Bapak Presiden” and said he missed several fine Indonesian delicacies such as nasi goreng, bakso (meatballs in soup) and that wonderful fruit rambutan.

During his campaign for the presidency, Obama said that he would visit Indonesia within 100 days of taking office. President Yudhoyono has suggested he visit after attending the APEC meeting in Singapore next year. President-elect Obama drops that pesky suffix to his title on Jan. 20 when he becomes the real POTUS.

Obama is no stranger to Bali. He came here some years ago on a sabbatical with wife Michelle intending to finish his best-selling book. It was an audacious hope: like most tourists who visit us here at Sybarite Central, all that hard stuff apparently got shoved into the “do later” file.

But The Diary can recommend some great local places to eat nasi goreng, bakso and rambutan – or for an even spicier experience, some real Balinese food – if the presidential schedule permits a visit to our island, which we (of course) would rate as a “must”.

Andy Got a Jump on the Law
IN case you’re ever asked – well, you never know: you might find yourself at a trivial pursuit night, or have to sit in on one of those silly Aussie history for citizenship sessions; though they have managed to come quite a long way from the days when they used Gaelic as a language barrier to intending settlers – the jolly swagman in Australia’s unofficial anthem, “Waltzing Matilda”, was called Andy. The Diary learns this from yet another blonde joke that’s doing the rounds, concerning a test being applied to applicants for entry to heaven, since (heaven knows why) the place is apparently getting a little crowded.

The final question (it’s posed by St Peter as custodian of the gates) goes: What was the name of the swagman in “Waltzing Matilda”? The blonde gets it right first time. “It’s Andy,” she told St Peter. “Andy?” replied the saintly one, floored by the quick answer. And of course he had to ask why. “How did you arrive at that answer?”

“Easy,” said the blonde. “Andy sat, Andy watched, Andy waited til his Billy boiled.”

“Waltzing Matilda” was penned in the magic and frankly spooky Queensland bush in the late 19th century by the Australian bush poet and balladeer Banjo Paterson. It concerns a swagman (tramp, itinerant) who, having illegally purloined a passing jumbuck (sheep) to have with his billy tea (don’t try it!) for dinner and then, being bailed up by the squatter (grazier) and a troupe of troopers (mounted police), escaping justice by jumping into a billabong (water pool) and drowning. As the song goes on to lament, Andy’s ghost may be heard as you pass by that billabong. Paterson was a Scotsman, by the way. That could explain a lot.

Cliff Richard Might be a Better Bet
THE Australian Navy – known in acronym as the RAN, for Royal Australian Navy – has recently been in the news because the top brass announced proudly the fleet would stand down for two months over Christmas, in pursuit of the new “family friendly” image being promoted by the Senior Service. Well, it wasn’t quite true, of course, even though it was an absolute gift to those chuckleheads in the Oz media who like to have a laugh at the expense of people who actually do have productive jobs and apply their skills in the national interest. Operational deployments will continue. Specifically, the fairly intense offshore waters patrols in Australia’s north – that bit of water between them and us – will be unaffected by the holidays.

Meanwhile, we hear that the RAN has a new anthem – performed initially by an Aussie minstrel group called (not ominously we hope) New Empire – with which to launch its latest advertising campaign, due out next month. It’s called “Hero”. That’s funny, given the RAN’s extended Christmas-New Year break programme. Cliff Richard’s catchy little 1960s hit about how “we’re all going on a summer holiday” (Cliff sang and starred in the eponymously titled movie, an early teen flick) was surely tailor-made for instant success.

Blog It for Business
NOW here’s a project that catches the eye – the government is urging bloggers to promote Indonesia’s attractions. At The Bali Times we do that every week, of course, and happily, because the more people who know about what Indonesia offers visitors, the more of them are likely to turn up at the immigration desk in the arrivals hall at Ngurah Rai with hard currency to spend.

The government’s plan is to spark a creative craze among the country’s travel and tourism countries. To this end, teams of IT experts (a terrifying thought!) and travel writers have criss-crossed the archipelago urging people to start their own or corporate blogs to support Indonesia’s promotional effort, and giving lessons on how to do it successfully.

It’s a good idea. The Blogoshere is becoming a very highly populated space.