Hector Gets a Makeover
THE Diary looks a little different this week. That’s because globally syndicated Australian cartoonist Sean Leahy – he has known your diarist for years, poor bloke! – kindly agreed to create a caricature to give the scratchy old bird a bit of a buff.
We like it. We hope you do.
Leahy (that's him in the "Leahy by Leahy" sketch here by the way) draws daily political cartoons for the Courier-Mail newspaper in Brisbane, Queensland, and other News Ltd papers and creates the Beyond the Black Stump cartoon strip that is syndicated Australia-wide. Originals of his cartoons are held in private collections including at the Vatican and by filmmaker Steven Spielberg.
But his best qualification from The Diary’s perspective is that he knows our island, has explored it in detail, and loves Bali’s friendly people. We look forward to seeing him back here. If you’d like to look at more of Leahy’s work, visit his website: www.leahy.com.au.
Psst ... Anyone Want to Buy an Airport?
IT’S fascinating to watch the developing dogfight over the future of Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport and the proposal to build a second airport in the north of the island. Vice President Yusuf Kalla has ordered that expansion of Ngurah Rai must move ahead and be completed by 2011. Well, he is one of Indonesia’s richest men. So perhaps he’s going to put some of his own money into the project. Governor Made Mangku Pastika, in contrast, has announced that development of a second airport – probably in Buleleng, handy to Lovina and the embryonic tourism prospects in the north and north-west of Bali.
The Veep – reasonably – is coming from the position that Ngurah Rai is at capacity and on growth forecasts needs to expand its terminal space. The larger problem is that the runway cannot handle fully loaded jumbos carrying full fuel loads. It isn’t long enough and cannot be extended. The Governor – also reasonably – suggests that tourism development and thus economic benefit is denied to north Bali because of the focus on the south.
It all needs money, of course. Maybe that’s not a problem? It also needs services – particularly power, PLN’s particularly special area of “inexpertise” – and infrastructure. Oddly enough, that needs money too. And everything depends on tourism growth. At least in the short term – we hope not for longer – things don’t look all that bright there. The Bali branch of the Indonesian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (ASITA) is tipping a drop of between 30 and 40 per cent in American and European visitors to Bali in 2009, because of the global financial crisis. In 2008, ASITA says, an average of up to 5000 Americans and 40,000 Europeans a month came here for holidays. Take 40 per cent off those figures and things look rather dicey. On the other hand, there is a silver lining. The vastly reduced supply of wine and spirits available under the Jakarta-inspired let’s-go-dry plan might be better able to cope in circumstances of lower demand.
The Bali Tourism Authority, by the way, has seen the red light. It has reduced its forecast total visitor numbers for 2009 from a super-optimistic 2.1 million to a merely optimistic 1.8 million. In 2008 total foreign visitors were a record 1,968,892.
Out on a Limb
THE more perceptive among the Bling and Bolly Brigade – as well as the more rat-cunning – will have experienced a shiver of something less than delight over the future of Bali multi-dwelling properties in the new global economic circumstances when they heard the new terms on which the Outrigger MC2 property at Seminyak is proposing to market its product.
It’s basically cutting entry prices to its timeshare condos by half, doubling the time owners can stay there each year, trimming charges for doing so, and still promising a return on investment rate that’s high (though no more so than others) and full ownership of condos in 10 years.
According to the property website Property Report Asia the developers are calling it the FIFTY50 Investment Opportunity, That’s a marketing ploy and good on them. As is the Hawaiian chain’s pitch that the time to buy is now because of price increases built into their development plans for both the MC2 project and the Outrigger Panorama Resort and Spa on the Bukit.
But they should not be surprised if some people decide it’s too good to be true. The sound rule of caveat emptor dictates that something that looks too good to be true probably is.
Cop an Eyeful for Life
THE Diary’s eye was caught the other day by a news report that suggested ogling women’s breasts was good for you. That’s in the medical sense, apparently. A survey indicates that staring at breasts improves men’s health and makes them live longer. And even better, a 10-minute ogle beats half an hour at the gym as a health improver. Indulging in this time-honoured practice lowers blood pressure, slows heart rates and reduces the risk of cardiac disease.
And that’s not all (it just keeps getting better!): if men do the ogle thing regularly, they can extend their life by up to five years. That’s according to the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine (not your usual voyeur’s newsstand pick), which reports results from a five-year study of 200 German men.
No word on whether having their breasts regularly ogled does anything for women, though.
THE Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders, whose objectionably peculiar right-wing sentiments apparently persuaded him there was value in making a short propaganda film accusing the Koran of inciting violence, faces prosecution after an Amsterdam court ruled he should be tried for inciting hatred and discrimination.
Wilders is one of those strangely blighted characters who can look at life only through shattered glasses. He’s not alone there. Many of the more intemperate Islamic critics of the west suffer the same affliction. Equally strangely, as a lawmaker, Wilders has expressed surprise that Dutch law provides for the prosecution of nut-headed hate mongers.
His film, Fitna (a Koranic term sometimes translated as strife), intersperses vision of the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington and other bombings with quotations from the Holy Koran. The Diary declares an absence of interest – in seeing the film or wasting time on hateful polemic masquerading as reasoned analysis – but it does seem extreme to prosecute someone for having a defective grasp of religious matters and a singularly divisive understanding of fundamental human values. But then, such sanctions are not unique to Dutch laws that mandate prosecution of silly politicians, are they?
On the Wrong Track
MICK Dodson, the affable Australian academic and Aboriginal activist who has been named Australian of the Year 2009, used the occasion of his award to call for his country’s national day – Australia Day, January 26 – to be moved to another date because for Aborigines it constitutes the anniversary of what he terms the end of their world. It celebrates the beginning of European settlement with the arrival of the First Fleet – that’s the one that carried the first load of transported convicts from Britain – at Sydney Cove in 1788.
There is no chance Australia Day will be moved; even less, probably, than there is of changing Australia’s national flag to remove residual confusion with that of Britain or misplaced assumptions that the land down under – where women glow and men chunder, as that old sing-along by the Australian rock group Men at Work delightfully puts it – somehow remains a British dependency, like the Falkland Islands, perhaps.
No one who reads history would fail to understand that the Aborigines were dispossessed, subjected to discrimination and worse, and that they remain the country’s most disadvantaged community. But Australia in recent years has made great strides in accommodating the Aboriginal presence – a movingly spiritual one in the ethos of the land – and in recognizing and honouring Aboriginal myth. There’s a lot of work to be done before the Aboriginal community as a whole can rightly be regarded as having an appropriate place in Australian society and in its economic and social future – but none of that will be advanced by fiddling with history.
A Bit of a Purple Moment
Mark Lynch, who blogs at the excellent Foreign Policy website, writes this of the Big Bunfight, Obama Day, in Washington last week:
A reported two million people watched Barack Obama's inauguration today. I, unfortunately, wasn't one of them ... See, I went to the show with a few friends who received excellent Purple tickets as a reward for untold hours volunteering as foreign policy advisers for the Obama campaign. We got down to the security checkpoint for the Purple section bright and early (I left home at 4am), and were guided into a long tunnel which had been closed to traffic. We waited in line for nearly four hours, in a claustrophobic tunnel with no porta-potties, no food or drink, and not a single official or volunteer in sight. Finally, we got within sight of the Purple Gate -- only to find that it had been closed. Thousands of people in front of us hadn't gotten in (not that anyone bothered to tell the people languishing in the tunnel that the gate had been closed, mind you). Thousands of purple ticket holders were behind us. It's remarkable that there wasn't a riot. I rode the metro home with a lot of people who had been turned away, including an elderly African-American woman muttering over and over to herself that it had been one of the worst experiences of her life.
Point of Ordure
AND here’s U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton making a useful point as she arrived for work on her first day at the State Department, about American foreign policy under the new regime: “There are three legs to the stool of American foreign policy: defence, diplomacy, and development. And we are responsible for two of the three legs. And we will make clear, as we go forward, that diplomacy and development are essential tools in achieving the long-term objectives of the United States. And I will do all that I can, working with you, to make it abundantly clear that robust diplomacy and effective development are the best long-term tools for securing America's future.”
That sounds good. But she might want to avoid stepping on that stool.
ALONGSIDE the high profile, high news value elements of the symbiotic relationship between Indonesia and Australia, many practical things bubble along nicely, essentially out to view to all except those directly involved. So it is with the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), which has just marked 25 years of engagement in improving Indonesia’s agricultural output and thus reducing poverty.
Indonesia is Australia’s largest partner in ACIAR. This year ACIAR is investing A$11 million (Rp 8.25 billion) in projects and training activities. On Jan. 19, Australian ambassador Bill Farmer hosted a reception to mark the 25 years of cooperation – and presented ACIAR Indonesia’s long-time stakeholder manager, Mirah Nuryati, with the Australian Public Service Medal. Ms Nuryati has been in the job for 17 years.
Just Too Handsome for His Shoes
CARICATURISTS are said to be worried. President Obama is judged too good looking to provide inspiration for cartoons in the way poor Dubya, who was democratically dethroned on Jan. 20, served as fodder for some of their most biting commentary. A Belgian caricaturist, Pierre Kroll, said this: “It's never a gift for a caricaturist to draw a handsome man.”
The Diary harbours no such doubts. We’re sure caricaturists everywhere – including in Belgium, home of comic book culture including the incomparable Tintin – will soon find a tall-poppy-chopping way to depict The Man. One we know of discovered the secret long ago: Australian cartoonist Sean Leahy (see item one) produced this cracker way back in August.