Friday, April 24, 2009


The Bali Times is at and on Facebook

MOVE inside and age a little: Tattler magazine in its March issue featured Investment Coordination Board chief Muhammad Lutfi as its cover story. On the magazine cover (top) he’s a youthful fellow. Inside (right) he seems to have turned into his older brother.

Garuda Flops Out,
Where Others Fly In

GARUDA’S decision to drop out of Darwin is unwelcome. It demonstrates the continued inability of the national airline to capitalize on its natural advantage. Announcing suspension of the Darwin service from April 24 on the route it has flown for 28 years, it cited the difficulty it faces as a “full service airline” competing with low-cost carriers.

Those difficulties are understandable, but ceding the field to the competition seems a strange way of expanding business. In fact, it sounds like another lame excuse for non-performance. The Qantas offshoot Jetstar has been gifted the route as solo operator – unless the Darwin-based Air North returns to the sector with its Brazilian compact jets, which we hear is a possibility – and Indonesia’s flag-carrier disappears from view.

Indonesia’s national airline – although “notional” again seems more appropriate in the context – will however make two post-suspension flights to and from Darwin, on May 8 and May 18, to accommodate traffic generated by the Arafura Games.

There’s no doubt that the era of low-fare flying presents full service airlines with a significant challenge. Qantas has met this in part by creating its own low-fare airline (Jetstar). But Garuda, which has official benefits no longer available to Qantas (such as government ownership) and a lower cost structure, should critically examine its own performance when asked to justify precisely why it has to pull out of a destination immediately in our neighbourhood and which it has served continuously for more than enough time to have created a sustainable market presence.

One relative newcomer to the challenge of providing air services that people actually want on the Australia-Bali route – Pacific Blue, the energetic Virgin regional international brand that flies from Australia to Bali from capital cities from Brisbane to Perth, though not from Darwin – is hardly looking backwards either.

Spokesman Colin Lippiatt told The Diary this week: “In recent times we have increased capacity on existing routes and we will soon be adding new direct services to Denpasar from both Sydney and Melbourne. This in itself speaks to the strength of demand we are seeing for air travel between Australia and Bali right now and the confidence we have in the popularity of the destination for Australian travellers.”

Heartthrob Alert
JULIA Roberts, who has parlayed her EQ (eye quotient) into Hollywood über-bankability over an extended screen career, is going round again in the naïf-turns-seer role she plays so well – and this time in Bali. According to the Hollywood newssheet Variety, she and actor Richard Jenkins have signed to film Elizabeth Gilbert's international bestseller, Eat, Pray, Love.

The Paramount movie, to be directed by Ryan Murphy and produced by Brad Pitt, will put into visual form the story of the recently divorced author's search for self-discovery during a journey that takes her to Italy and India and finally (best of all) to Bali. Roberts will portray Gilbert, while Jenkins will appear as a Texan spiritual seeker Roberts/Gilbert meets in an Indian ashram. The Bali portion of the story takes place in Ubud – surely the epicentre of the seeking-guru set – where Roberts/Gilbert finds love, healing and the mentoring of an aging Balinese guru.

We hear filming is scheduled to begin later this year. But the real question is: Who will get the role of leg-double for the lovely Julia this time?

Away With the Fairies
JUST a reminder that the Bali Spirit Festival – in Ubud (of course) – offers the chance for a six-day communion involving music, dance, yoga and a whole lot else to anyone with nothing better to do between April 28 and May 3.

The Festival schedule and everything else you could possibly want for a fulfilling experience is available at Do have fun, now. Sadly, there’s no word whether Julia Roberts will be flying in for some pre-movie fieldwork.

Nasty Case of Gastro
THE Diary, on Seminyak-bound trips up Sunset Road, has frequently chuckled when passing the big sign marking the commercial outlet of Gastro kitchen equipment. It’s a visual double-entendre – unintended of course – that temporarily lightens the brain overload you get when driving in Bali, if out of a need for self-preservation you concentrate the mind fully on the fact that for most drivers here the brain is the last gear engaged.

In similar vein, a giggle was forthcoming when we heard that Foul-Mouth Former Celeb Chef Gordon Ramsay's London “gastropubs” have been accused of serving up readymade, delivered, cheap dishes – and whacking massive mark-ups on them while claiming they are largely cooked in-house. We hear he is also selling his prized Ferrari in a bid to raise cash.

Our joy at this intelligence is spoiled a little by the fact that it appeared in the London Sun newspaper, the Rupert Murdoch blot on the landscape that found commercial success by ignoring the sentient and pandering to the insensate requirements of the Dumkopfs.

In the Firing Line
SEAN Dorney, the veteran Australian correspondent who got thrown out of Fiji by Commodore Tinpot Dictator recently, is no stranger to conflict. He is a veteran also of Papua New Guinea, which once expelled him and once, also, gave him a gong for services rendered – an imperial MBE, since PNG is about the last place left, other than the homeland of Queen Elizabeth II (Happy Birthday for April 21, Ma’am), that still hands out these relics of empire.

Given that April 25 is ANZAC Day – Australia and New Zealand’s national day of remembrance – it seems appropriate to relay a lovely story about Dorney told by one of The Diary’s affable mates from Australian military circles. It was during the Bougainville “troubles”. Dorney was sent to the island from Port Moresby by the ABC and our mate was the Aussie escorting officer. A stand-up to camera in front of something burning at the abandoned copper mine on the island was called for. While this was in progress, two shots whistled overhead, unheard by Dorney. His escort officer (and we think the camera man, who had some prior experience of shots whistling overhead elsewhere) kept silent.

Dorney, told later, asked his escort why he hadn’t told him (“Didn’t want to put you off”), then laid into the ale at the Aussie-run hotel he was staying at. Later – much later – the phone rang and it was the ABC seeking a live cross with their man on the spot. Uh-oh, thought our military chap. But what a trouper Dorney was! Up he sprang, from full sprawl position, and gave a first-class, no glitches, on air report. Call over, he resumed full sprawl.

Dorney’s father, by the way, won a DSO as a World War II medical officer.

Sun Sets on a Personal EmpireTHE British writer J.G. Ballard is most famous for his novel Empire of the Sun, in which he vividly portrayed his childhood in a Japanese internment camp in Shanghai during World War II. It was a novel that brought the East Asian element of that gigantic conflict into new light and helped underline the crucial importance of children’s memories of great events in the complex process of defining narrative history.

In these days of facile and often self-serving analysis, too many writers are described as giants on the world’s literary scene. But Ballard deserves the accolade. And it is therefore doubly sad to record his passing on Sunday last at his quiet riverside home in the country west of London, where he had lived since the 1960s. He was 78 and had been suffering prostate cancer.

In a career spanning for than half a century, Ballard became a cult figure for a series of dystopian science fiction novels such as The Drowned World. One of his most controversial works was Crash, a novel about people who are sexually aroused by car accidents. It was later turned into a film directed by David Cronenberg.

His agent, Margaret Hanbury, said of him: “His acute and visionary observation of contemporary life was distilled into a number of brilliant, powerful novels.” Empire of the Sun, which Steven Spielberg adapted into a Hollywood film, was by most accounts the best. It was based on his privileged childhood with his expatriate parents in China and, following the entry of Japan into the global conflict in 1941 and the Japanese occupation of the international concession in Shanghai, his experiences as an internee.

Japan’s militarism and expansionary imperialism brought misery to millions and is a dark spot on that nation’s record. But history will one day record – with a measure of equanimity brought by time and perspective – that it was the single most important factor in ending the age of European imperialism, certainly in Asia and most likely globally.

Ballard wrote in his memoirs that his early, often violent, experiences – “I remember a lot of the casual brutality and beatings-up that went on, but at the same time we children were playing a hundred and one games” – that in many ways his entire fiction was the dissection of a deep pathology that he had witnessed in Shanghai and later in the post-World War II world that had been irrevocably changed by that conflict.

His youthful experience, revealed in fictional form in Empire of the Sun, showed an understanding of the Japanese and Chinese that until recent times was sadly absent in the Caucasian cultures of the west. For that alone we owe him thanks.

Don’t Torture Us, Jeff
CNN, the once ubiquitous 24-hour satellite news channel now challenged by both reality and competition, continues to surprise. A reader tells us he heard leading network talking head Jeff Tubin tell viewers (well, we know there was at least one, don’t we?) on April 17 that “the US does not engage in water-boarding, unlike some countries, like Indonesia...”

Er, Jeff ... mate ... Read anything out of the Guantanamo embarrassment lately?

Got Something to Tell Us?
WE’RE sure you have, and Hector would love to hear from you. To make this easier, we’ve set him up with his own email address: Feel free to tell tales there, or pass on useful little snippets of information that otherwise might not see the light of day.

Friday, April 17, 2009


The Bali Times is at www.thebalitimes and on Facebook

THE CORBY SISTERS: Schapelle evidently finds life a bit of a drag, but for Mercedes, there’s no cover-up at all.

Who Said Crime
Doesn’t Pay?

THE Corby sisters – Schapelle Behind-the-Wire and Mercedes On-the-Run – are back in the news. They just can’t keep out of the limelight however hard they try, poor things. Today, if you Google “Schapelle” you don’t get a friendly little query in response, asking “Did you mean Schlappers?” Oh no. You are instantly buried under an avalanche of cyber-guff that comes from everywhere, including from those twinks who are so convinced the moon is made of cheese (no sorry, that’s the wrong fairytale; we mean the one where Schapelle didn’t do it) that they’ve set up web sites to promote her cause and written songs about the injustice of jailing the dear, sweet girl. Ho bloody hum.

Cause of the latest outbreak of inventive publicity is that some dill-pickle Australian government lawyers weren’t quick enough to file suit and therefore serve the public interest by seizing the A$280, 000 Schapelle got from that book she had ghosted in which she claimed little green men from Mars abducted her boogie board bag in flight from Australia to Bali and that when it was examined by customs at Ngurah Rai it had been stuffed with significantly saleable quantities of that naughty weed Bob Marley used to sing about.

Because of this oversight and the place of precedent in Australian law, the courts there may now be disposed to order the hand-back of earlier proceeds of hard-luck stories. That could add up to an additional A$196, 000. It should all help make life (well, 20 years) in Kerobokan a little more bearable. Pay for a few hair-dos. Buy a nice lunch out now and then. Fund a few more get-out-of-jail breakdowns. That sort of thing.

Meanwhile, it is reported that Mercedes drove away with A$2 million from the Aussie tabloid TV current affairs show Today Tonight (she sued the Seven Network for broadcasting her former friend Jody Power saying her former friend Mercedes Corby was a manipulative liar), another A$100, 000 from various media outings, and A$50, 000 for appearing sans culottes and much else in Ralph, the magazine for sad little chaps who don’t get out much. We assume she showed the world her wares after she had spent a goodly proportion of her tittle-tattle-tale-telling take on a new set of boobs.

The Voters have Spoken. The Bastards!
ONE Bali candidate in last week’s legislative elections collapsed and died as the early results came in and she heard she had attracted only a handful of votes. It is not known whether this was a direct cause, but whatever the circumstances, it is a sad event.

Less sad – in fact, rather risibly not so – is the growing panic we hear is afflicting unsuccessful candidates who, having borrowed billions of rupiah to finance their way into plush legislative office, now face the task of paying their loans back without the assistance of the salaries and other perks they were expecting. Democracy’s a pain, sometimes.

Nice to See You, Minister
HASSAN Wirayuda, who might otherwise have been heavily engaged in summiteering in Pattaya, Thailand, enjoyed a pleasant lunch in Ubud last weekend. He was between engagements – not in the thespian sense, which is when you go and serve beers in a bar for dosh – and wearing batik.

Perhaps as our Foreign Minister dined quietly and peacefully he found time to reflect that in Ubud, which like everywhere else in Indonesia that his Australian counterpart, Stephen Smith, still advises people not to risk visiting, no one was actually shooting at anyone. They were in Bangkok, we think. Something to do with red shirts (perhaps the fashionistas are in insurrection?).

The Australians issued new advice for Thailand on April 12 (the last time we could be bothered checking). The advice does now suggest Aussies without compelling reasons to be in Bangkok and surrounding areas should reconsider why they are there. It maintains a “do not travel” status for southern Thailand (but not Phuket). But the overall level of advice for Thailand remains at a low-key “exercise caution” level. Just thought you should know that as you move about ultra-peaceful Bali.

‘Gloombusters’ Head for Bali
BACK in the days when the British had an empire – it’s just a blink in geological time but doesn’t it seem such a long time ago? – it used to be surmised by historians in their cups that the real driver of Cloudy Isles imperialism was the appalling weather you get there. In other words, the “British Diaspora” was the dispersal of people from their homelands because they wanted to see the sun and get a life.

It’s a nice thought and might go some way towards explaining why Australia’s official religion is Hedonism. It also puts into an interesting perspective present-day western perception of economic refugees – you know who we mean, all those guys and gals, many of them Indonesians, who do the heavy lifting at the bottom of the food chain in the economies of Europe and North America, the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia, and to a lesser extent Australia.

There seems to be a similar, though of course smaller, movement to Bali. We hear that platoons of Irish, English and Scots are heading for Bali escape the doom and gloom of the global economic downturn. That’s on the basis of a brisk trade in new enrolments at the Canggu Community School and – anecdotally – a surge in property acquisitions.

The big draw – apart from the weather, economic and climatologically – seems to be a less expensive lifestyle and education. What these people are doing here, as in earning a living, is unclear. But perhaps they are midlife refugees looking to kick back and enjoy some time on the remains of their formerly plush bank accounts.

They’re Looking For You
SHOULD any of the foregoing economic refugees be of a mind to earn a crust while resident here, they may find additional impediments in their way. The Department of Manpower and Transmigration has announced it will tighten up on permits for foreign workers in anticipation of a coming wave of foreigners seeking work during the GFC.

The Minister of Manpower and Transmigration, Erman Suparno, told the Indonesian language newspaper Bisnis Indonesia last week closer scrutiny of foreign workers was necessary to preserve local job opportunities, particularly in management positions.

Under the rules, foreigners on work permits can only hold “non-strategic” positions while they train Indonesians to take over their jobs. This accounts for the large number of people whose working permits, and frequently business cards, carry the legend T/A after their title (Technical Adviser). Pick up a spanner in anything other than an advisory fashion and you’re toast. Pick up a pencil and they’ll write you a summons.

This is sensible national policy, as long as it recognizes – and accommodates – exceptional circumstances. To achieve this, you need firm rules that are applied consistently. That’s a special skill for which, prima facie, a strong case exists for urgent further remedial training.

According to the Department of Manpower, there were 85,453 registered foreign workers in Indonesia at the end of 2008, an increase of 11.4 per cent over 2007.

Blurred Indovision
HOW’S your TV picture? (The Diary’s is generally blank by the way, by choice.) But if you’re with Indovision and you’ve got the wobbles, well, we hear this is because the satellite is running out of power (gosh, who switched off the sun?) and is wobbling in its orbit. That’s Indovision’s story anyway. They say the satellite needs replacing. Hang on! We’ll just shin up there with a new one, then, shall we?

Indovision’s solution for wobbling subscribers to the screen-obscuring multi-logoed programming they provide is to occasionally realign their receiver dishes.

Still, at least Indovision customers still get a picture. Astro subscribers are a bit in the dark at present, owing to a long-running argument over whether the Malaysian operators are legally entitled to broadcast within Indonesia.

It makes buying your own free-to-air satellite receiver set a much better prospect.

Celebrities Earn a Bad Rap
IT is not often that your Diarist finds himself agreeing with the editorial line of the leftist British weekly journal New Statesman – although this excellent magazine is required reading for its clear thinking and elegant English, as well as for the philosophical points of difference it illuminates. But praise where praise is due is always a good rule, and so it is with last week’s edition, which carried a small editorial on the musical achievements of Eminem, the rap musician.

It drew attention to his latest opus, Relapse, and commended it for the artist’s decision to have a go at a host of celebrities on the album. Eminem, real name Marshall Bruce Mathers III or otherwise Mr Shady (clearly he is a confused gentleman), won applause for his efforts to “deflate the froth of a culture that has elevated fame, earned or unearned, transient or enduring, to a virtue above all others.” The New Statesman, being nannyish, did note that his presentation might be considered as on the crude side – though this is surely no surprise: he could hardly be a rap artist otherwise – but pointed out that others of a more civil bent are joining him in this worthy cause. British journalist Marina Hyde, who writes for the Guardian (another lefty of the print world), has written a book titled Celebrity: How Entertainers Took Over the World and Why We Need an Exit Strategy.

The New Statesman’s view deserves wide exposure. It asks: “Is it too much to hope that such a strategy is already, miraculously, falling into place? And that the legions of those whose empty fame lasts barely 15 seconds, never mind 15 minutes, are beginning to be consigned to the margins? It has just been announced that Maxim, a magazine which mirrored the grotesque materialism that spawned celebrity culture, is to close its print edition.”

It is not a joy to record the passing of any print product – the free market in ideas is both advanced and protected by print, after all – but we might make an exception for Maxim. Depriving the in-your-face of even one opportunity to repeat their crude imposition of themselves on others is surely worthwhile?

Fancy a Little Chilean?
YOU betcha. Gracias, eso sería muy agradable. The Diary is very partial to the wines of Chile, thank you very much. They are a habit happily acquired many years ago when the chills of a Chilean winter, on a lengthy South American holiday, made it common sense to obtain frequent warming infusions. Besides, the reds are very palatable indeed. We’re sure the whites are too, but The Diary is a red drinker.

We are thus pleased to report that the Chilean night at the Laguna Resort and Spa at Nusa Dua last Saturday (April 11) seems to have gone off very well indeed, despite the fact that some of guests mistook “resort chic” on the invitation to mean “come in yer scuffs”. Goodness, it’s precisely that unthinking acceptance of No-No Couture that helped drive The Diary into exile from Australia. The Aussies vie with the Brits as clanger-dressers. We noticed the other night, while enjoying the gnocchi gorgonzola at Un’s restaurant in Kuta, an old favourite, that a female person of British persuasion had apparently decided it was fine to dine out in the sort of tiny little bra top that might (if you were really, really lucky) briefly find a place in a bedroom warm-up act.

But we digress (we do that). At Laguna’s gourmet night, the subject of this item, it was a shame that the accomplished pianist was accompanied by a somewhat less tutored singer. And one other discordant note reached our ears. A guest who had gone to the trouble of advising the hotel of specific dietary requirements, and had been given assurances that this was in hand, was served the wrong meal.

Luckily for everyone it wasn’t Kevin “Air Rage” Rudd.

Run Out of Bread? You Twit
TWITTERY – or is that Tweetery? – continues to expand its influence. Hector is a convert, if only because the internet messaging system Twitter reveals the minutiae of life in the cyber age in all its ungrammatical glory and, since he loves being outraged by the outré and irritated by the imbecilic, he gets off on that.

He is tired of trekking up to his local “supermarket” – and what a misleading word that is, given that in Bali supermarkets are never super and rarely markets – to find there is not a loaf of bread to be had. (He long ago gave up on the Thou and the jug of wine.) Thus his gimlet eye was caught by a story on a London bakery that has started using Twitter to tell customers when the latest batches of bread hit the shelves.

The updates are sent using BakerTweet, a small, white bakery-proof wireless device that sends messages to subscribers on the Internet, such as: “Lovely loaves just out of the oven. Hurry.”

Not Good Enough
IT is 10 years since Indonesia’s imperial misadventure in East Timor ended in bloodshed after the historic referendum that helped bring into being the independent state of Timor Leste. What remains of Indonesia’s quarter century in charge of the former Portuguese colony – and by the way, we should never forget that the Portuguese themselves created the conditions that led to Indonesian occupation by cravenly abandoning the place in 1974 when they couldn’t be bothered any longer – is mainly of a monumental nature. The crumbling concrete statue in Dili that still exhorts citizens to be loyal to Pancasila – the Five Principles – is a case in point.

More poignantly, and importantly, in the suburb of Balide the Indonesian military cemetery lies forlorn and overgrown by weeds. That is a disgrace. It would take relatively little to maintain the cemetery as a place of honour for soldiers of Indonesia who died away from home while serving their nation. Ten years after Timor Leste at last joined the community of free nations, and with trade, educational and social links binding the country to Indonesia far more effectively and profitably than was ever the case during the occupation, this can be fixed easily. An agreement could be made with the Timor Leste government and funds provided for rehabilitation and maintenance of the cemetery. Military misadventure may be an embarrassment, but the dead from such events are never so. They deserve a proper resting place.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


The Bali Times is at and on FACEBOOK

First it was Obama cookies, now it’s the Obama Pizza. Is there no end to Indonesian inventiveness where favourite national stepson Barack Obama is concerned? The latest dish, seen being promoted in Jakarta, is the idea of a pizza chain.

Relax, This Train’s Not
Going to Armageddon

PERHAPS it was inevitable, though it is nonetheless dispiriting, that the Back to Ground Zero nuts came out in force while the G20 meeting was being held in London. This fractious and informal TWT collective – of Thinkers, Winkers and Twinkers – has been emboldened by fantasies of a world without finance and proclaims the end of capitalism and a whole lot more besides.

They need to get a grip on themselves (no, not like that!) and consider the facts. These are not clement. The dereliction of duty by governments everywhere – and, memo TWT, it really is everywhere and not just in the financial driving seats of the west – has been astonishing. The failure of American regulation and the criminal conduct of leading financiers on Wall Street and elsewhere is a rich indictment of the practice of politics and abandonment of social responsibility in the Land of the Free – let alone the principles of governance – and will result in pain for everyone. The supine nature of the much vaunted European Union (a “political” entity without political clout; an “economic” entity without a definably cohesive economy but with a defective common currency) is a warning to all who espouse the alleged benefits of enmeshed collaboration. Equal blame accrues to leading Asian economies which kept producing ever increasing quantities of consumer goods that could be sold only if credit kept expanding willy-nilly.

But this is not the end of the world. What went wrong with the development of credit markets was not that doing so would never work (the theory put forward by some who like to pretend that lending money should not be viewed as being advanced at an interest rate against an actuarial risk), but that its development was largely left unchecked in America and government there left a regulatory vacuum which the stupid and the criminal were only too happy to fill. Of course we need better regulation (that is the sensible position put forward consistently by Australia, for example, the “western” outpost in this part of the world). Of course we need careful coordination of necessarily disparate national policies to achieve this. Of course the Americans must understand that if they propose to remain the world’s chief financial clearing house, then they actually need to make it work, or at least help to do so. (There are hopeful signs that the Obama administration does understand this.)

Governor Kevin M. Warsh of the U.S. Federal Reserve, in a speech on April 5, set out the history of financial panics rather well, and offered lengthy advice as to where we go from here. In essence he said the panic would end before the recession did. Well, it will need to. But what he’s saying is that the next boom is rather a long way off.

That there will be pain for us all, for an extended period, as we all work through the wreckage and rebuild, is inevitable. But we are not seeing the end of capitalism – any more than we saw the “end of history” when the Soviet empire collapsed 20 years ago – and the sooner we start being sensible about this, the better. The bubble that has now deconstructed leaving such a nasty mess is but the latest in a lengthy list of financial implosions. It may be the most complex, but that’s less a function of its stature than of the necessary complexities of modern existence. Time out, people!

A Rose by Any Other Name
ROSES – lovely blooms – have been in the news lately. Michelle Obama was presented with a bouquet of Hillary roses in the Netherlands on her recent visit with Barack in tow. They were named after Hillary Clinton of course – when she was First Lady.

We await the Michelle with keen anticipation. But The Diary’s favorite rose quote of all time comes from Eleanor Roosevelt (there’s another name in the news at the moment, courtesy of FDR, who it is claimed drove a stake through the Dracula heart of an earlier result of excess). Mrs. Roosevelt once memorably stated: “I had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalog: “No good in a bed, but fine against a wall.”

Stephen’s Really Cunning Plan
STEPHEN Fry, who surprised us all the other week by turning up at Ngurah Rai International Airport, was here with a BBC film crew (he left again on Sunday, by the way, and, we hear, had not a wink of sleep on his 14-hour Singapore-London flight thereafter, poor chap). He did all sorts of things. He talked to the turtles at Serangan Island, went to Temple (a Hindu temple as he pointed out to his friends on Twitter, some of whom apparently thought he was off to the synagogue), saw a puppet show (he Tweeted to his friends: “Wayang Kulit – sounds like a Geordie trying to break up a fight”); got dressed up in Balinese gear for a lark; and then disappeared eastward for more fun and jollity around Komodo.

The Diary, being a Black Adder addict, has a theory. Fry may officially have been here to film Komodo dragons for the BBC series “Last Chance to See”, on endangered animals, but we conclude that what was really under way was the visible portion of a Really Cunning Plan. Of course, Baldrick didn’t come along – well, not that we know of, but he would never travel with Lord Melchett anyway – and that puts a bit of a dampener on cunning plans, but nonetheless, we suspect plots were afoot.

So Here’s The Diary’s take: Black Adder fans will recall the Elizabethan episode in which Edmund Blackadder, the craven coward who nevertheless sometimes comes to the party in moments of stress, sailed off with Lord Percy (and Baldrick of course; someone had to do the thinking) and a legless sea captain, having been directed by Queenie to do something amazing, or else.

Eventually, they returned, not knowing where they had been (or where they had arrived, until someone looked out of a window and saw Southampton docks). They were minus the sea captain, who had gone into the pot somewhere on a cannibal island.

They went post-haste to London to see the Queen, where Percy demonstrated the funny angular stick they had picked up from somewhere along their route. Edmund explained that it came back if you threw it away. Percy threw it away. Much later in the episode it returned and knocked him flat. It was Europe’s first experience of the boomerang (though not, we fancy, one of those now made on Lombok for the export trade – wonder if they ever come back?).

We believe that Fry/Melchett was actually here at Queenie’s command – she probably told him in one of her fits of pique that if he didn’t do something useful instead of just mooching around being boringly bombastic she’d cut off his head – with the job of filling in some of those appalling gaps on the Europeans’ dreadfully deficient Medieval maps. You know, the ones with “Here Be Dragons” inscribed on inconveniently vacant space.

We reckon there’s a secret new Black Adder episode in the works. In this, Melchett will return from his own voyage of discovery with a map carrying additional detail, including from the mysterious islands east of Java. This portion of the map will carry an amended advisory: “Here Be Dragons ... REALLY!”

Remember: You read it here first.

It’s So Important to Spell
HORSES need spelling (as presidential contender for the Greater Indonesia Movement – Gerindra – and patrician horse and goat farmer, ex-general and ex-Suharto son-in-law Prabowo Subianto can tell us). People need to be able to spell too, even in junior school. Here’s a classic effort by a young fellow – sent to us by an avid reader of The Bali Times in Australia by the way – that shows exactly why.

The Media and Cannonball Kev
AUSTRALIA’S Prime Minister Kevin Rudd makes many rods for his own back. He’s not alone there of course. Being rude to an air force cabin attendant on his VIP plane – will prime ministerial flights henceforth be call-signed Air Rage One? – is one thing. Doing so petulantly because his preferred meal wasn’t available (out of Port Moresby, where a lot isn’t available) was just plain thick.

Similarly, throwing taxpayers’ money back at them as a recession corrective may be good politics (though the point is moot and the economics of it are plainly stupid). And being granted space on the outer edge of great events such as the G20 Save the World conference in London must be galling for a chap whose intellect and argument got the whole thing rolling in the first place.

However, it is hard to disagree with veteran Australian pundit Mungo MacCallum, who in the online scandal sheet Crikey this week observed rather tartly that the travails of St Kevin are now being written up by the country’s media with the same zeal that they showed in creating his secular sainthood.

Just Answer the Question
PREDICTABLY for such anarchic occasions, quiz nights have an Irish origin. We think they preceded Guinness, so that can’t be the reason. They owe their existence, and indeed the word quiz owes its existence, to James Daley and Richard Brinsley Sheridan, some warming drinks, and a Dublin pub called The Bleeding Horse, more than 200 years ago. We assume the pub’s name describes the situation of the unfortunate animal and is not just a blindingly obvious pejorative.

On Saturday (Apr. 18) you have a chance to engage in this fine old Irish tradition at the inaugural 2009 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival Quiz Night. There are some really great raffle prizes, some surprise guests (we suspect they will probably read things, it being that sort of ambience), a tapas menu – no need to speak Spanish though – and a chance to shine if your team of up to six can run the literary race faster than the others in the field. These will be fairly mainstream questions, we gather: for literary buffs, not literary profs.

Entry to the affray, at Indus Restaurant in Ubud (6.30 for 7pm start), is free. Raffle tickets cost Rp 50,000 and since the main prize is two nights at a plush resort, and others involve food, spas and books, it could be a good investment. Details are available from UWRF at or phone (0361) 7808932.

Stella Is Just Beside Herself
STELLA is beside herself. (Well, she just thought she was until someone told her she’d walked past a mirror. Now that’s not something a girl would normally do, she tells us, with a giggle.) Her little galaxy is in ferment. An opportunity to drink lots and lots of lovely wines including bubbly is about to come upon her. And there’s a chance to be disgusting. Oh no, sorry, that’s degustation. It’s something to do with it not being finger food, she thinks. It’s all courtesy of a three-day course (Hector thinks three-day benders are much more fun) being held at the St Regis Resort and Spa at Nusa Dua from April 16-18.

From Stella’s breathless reporting of this upcoming opportunity to flash the bling and bat the eyelids at passing prospects, it should be such fun. There are two and half hours for lunch each day, for starters. And you get to find out all about what it takes to be a sommelier. That’s a long French word for someone who really knows their wine. Stella thinks she could be a sommelier – she has a soft spot for French, after all – especially since you get to taste all that lovely wine and then pretend to spit it out. How good is that!
What’s more, the whole bash ends up with a fabulous party. That’s the disgusting, sorry, degustation thingy, where you get to eat all sorts of lovely nibbles and show off even more of your bling and bat your eyelids at even more talent. Plus it’s a snip at only Rp 4,950,000. Goodness, even if you do grossly overpay your housemaid, that’s still only about seven months’ salary for the poor dear thing.

Stella is slightly concerned at one of the premium wines listed on the invitation, however. It’s described as a Devil’s Liar chardonnay from that smart little Margaret River wine growing area in Western Australia. Stella doesn’t like people who tell fibbies; well, not unless they’re teeny-weeny fibbies, or unless it’s herself.

It’s a shame it would never occur to her that the Devil, although of course he’s such a big liar, might actually be making his wine in his lair. Hector’s personally preferred fermentation of the grape isn’t listed, by the way, surely a significant oversight. The Misprint red is nicely robust, comes in a handy cardboard cask that doesn’t dribble away to nothing – bar residue – after a couple of quaffs, and goes well with any disgusting menu.

By the way, the Laguna Resort and Spa – St Regis’ partner in the Jamie Cullum Starwood reward points programme – has also gone into the wine business. It had a Chilean experience scheduled for Saturday (Apr. 11) complete with gourmet food (what else?) and just a snip at Rp 990,000 a pop.

Saturday, April 04, 2009


The Bali Times is at

NO, it’s not Lord Melchett. And there’s not a Black Adder in sight. It’s Stephen Fry, British actor and comedian, snapped on arrival at Ngurah Rai International Airport last Saturday. He was in pursuit of other reptiles – Bali’s famous turtles – to capture on film.

A Comic Turn With
Our Fine Turtles

STEPHEN Fry, the British actor and comedian, has been filming turtles in Bali, from a temporary base in Sanur, where he arrived on Saturday last. Good for him. A lot of foreign visitors film turtles while they’re enjoying Bali’s famous opportunities for relaxation. Fry was doing so professionally and doubtless the commercial result will grace various television screens in due course. We do hope that while under water he forswore any of those Lord Melchett skits with which he peppered the fabulous Black Adder series. It would be a shame to put the turtles off their laying.

He was, we understand, somewhat disconsolate on Monday, after Cambridge lost yet another boat race to Oxford in their historic annual rowing meet on the River Thames in London at the weekend. It’s just a lot of rollocks, really, but fun. Your Diarist is an Oxford man, however, and was thus somewhat more chipper at the start of the week. It all went downhill from there, of course; the week, that is, but isn’t that just typical?

Fry Tweets, by the way: as in, he’s on Twitter. It’s something else Hector shares with him, albeit vicariously, having but only recently succumbed to the fad himself. Unusually, Fry also tweets in person, unlike other celebrities – Demi Moore among them, we understand from other twittering – who employ ghosts to scribble for them. Moore did star in the 1990 movie “Ghost”. Perhaps that’s where she got the idea. Or maybe it’s because she was born in Roswell, New Mexico, where all those scary early Cold War-era intergalactic aliens were discovered. But we digress.

A lesser known side of the incomparable Fry, who is 51 and thus judged (by some uppity young proto-adults) as too old to Tweet, is that he has been a manic-depressive for years. This aspect of his character – and his courageous fight against the condition – has just featured in a compelling two-part series on Australia Network, the Aussie satellite television service presented through the national broadcaster, the ABC, that is required viewing in Bali (and other places) for people who can’t cope with CNN, don’t want to be badgered by Bloomberg, and are bored by the Beeb.

Sultana Wars: Latest
WHILE in Sanur last Sunday – no, we were not catching up with Stephen Fry – a visit to The Pantry, the upmarket deli across the road from Hardy’s in fashionable Jalan Danau Tamblingan, brought forth the discovery of sultanas.

These were not purchased, however. The little packets were on sale for Rp 37, 000 (let’s just say that’s a very generous mark-up on retail prices at most other outlets, unless you’re in Ubud, where the market is even more captive) and moreover were labeled “per kilo”. This was queried, since the packets weighed in at around 250 grams. The explanation: So sorry, our machine can only label per kilo. That, to be polite, is bovine manure. Or if it is true, they should buy a better computer system and labeler. And at the prices they charge, they could afford both.

Vote 1 for Road Hog
AN interesting take on electioneering, Indonesian style: On the Kusamba bypass on Sunday, in a crowded little section of the highway (the usual cause: two yellow trucks in close convoy and occasionally tandem, struggling through clouds of black exhaust fumes up gentle inclines at 20kmh), chaos was caused and accidents nearly created by a PDI candidate’s plush people-mover and escort pick-up truck, when the people-mover set off its flashing roof lights and let’s-play-policemen siren and pushed past the traffic.

On the wrong side of the road, in the face of oncoming vehicles, and hotly pursued by its escort that looked as if it was manned by a party of pirates rushing off to a fortuitous and unexpected rape and pillage opportunity.

It may be that the van driver couldn’t see. The vehicle was so heavily plastered with PDI symbols and slogans that the windscreen – along with everything else, including the candidate if he was on board – was probably completely obscured. In other democracies, all this would be illegal: the bumf, the scary lights, and the get-out-of-the-way-we’re-important siren.

The mysterious ways of Indonesian voting patterns have long shone a strange light on politics in the archipelago. But in most ballot boxes, that sort of bugger off, I’m the boss behavior would lose you votes, not gain them.

Speaking of Bumf
IT’S not only in Bali that election material is blotting out sections of the landscape – and indeed in several places totally obscuring it. On Lombok next door – next rock to the right, you might say – they’re also doing things in style. As in, lack of style. Here’s a photo snapped by a Lombok correspondent anxious to alert the world to the polluting potential of legislative contests. The display is matched by many in Bali, and doubtless elsewhere, but it’s good to see that we’re not alone in our predicament and that the electoral plague is upon us all. Sharing a great distemper provides some kind of consolation.

Incidentally, as campaigning peaks ahead of the elections on April 9, party flags are spreading like an uncontrolled infestation of noxious weeds. One chap we know, who had been away from home for four days, was driving back to his Des Res on the Bukit this week and almost got lost at his local this-is-an-intersection-let’s-ignore-the-traffic-lights fun spot. He says he couldn’t see it for the forest of flags that had sprouted there since he left.

My Emails are Read!
NEWS that the Chinese are spying on everyone’s emails – well, and their websites and all the other guff that goes around – is actually cheering intelligence. It means that someone is reading our emails and may even be reacting to them. This can only be a good thing. It leaves us feeling less lonely for a start; and certainly much less ignored. And there’s an additional bonus. It might finally convince the Chinese that absolutely no one is a threat to them in any way at all other than in terms of cyber-babble overload.

There might be a further benefit. Perhaps Beijing’s gigabyte boffins can tell The Diary why its private email addresses have been penetrated by people who appear to have formed the wholly erroneous view that we are even remotely interested in things dumb blondes allegedly do with animals (or in dumb blondes for that matter).

Governments are always alarmed at allegations of spying, of course, cyber or otherwise. It’s a great chance to appear important. And they must “be” something, we guess. Alarmed is at least indicative of a greater application to duty than silence. We note that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jakarta bravely claims its computer network is safe from hackers. Such touching faith deserves applause, in much the same way as General Custer won praise from the foolhardy for rejecting those Gatling guns when he was going off to get butchered by Crazy Horse.

For our part, we are sure that the Chinese, if they really are spying on governments and private organizations in 103countries, including Indonesia, as the honest toilers at the Internet based research group Information Warfare Monitor assert, will have found a Bahasa speaker or two to sort out the terigu from the ampas gergaji (that’s the wheat from the chaff, except Bahasa doesn’t really do chaff in the natural product sense; ampas gergaji is sawdust).

According to foreign ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah, however, the ministry’s official network is designed to quickly monitor intrusions. Presumably, if an intrusion is monitored, all sorts of people in the ministry’s employ then run around shouting “Intruder! Intruder!” Well, it would liven up the lunch break.

It is in fact very doubtful that any Indonesian government IT system is as secure as is claimed. A Culture and Tourism Ministry official recently told The Bali Times to email him on his Yahoo address since the ministry email system, like its IT network, was never operational. On the other hand, that’s a protective measure in itself. After all, if it’s mati (dead), it won’t be telling any tales at all.

Travel Warning
HERE’S something we’ve seen around recently. It’s a really useful sticker that puts the Aussie travel warning in its proper perspective. It was on the back of a motorcyclist’s helmet. It showed a map of Indonesia with “Travel Warning” above it and “Dangerously Beautiful” underneath.

Perhaps Stephen Smith, who as Australia’s Foreign Minister has ultimate political responsibility for his country’s continued travel advisory suggesting Australians, unlike Americans and Canadians, still need to reconsider their need to travel here, should have a look at it.

Maybe he could arrange for it to be issued to all the official travelers he keeps sending here, apparently after reading and rejecting his own advice.

Stella’s All-A-Fluster
HAVING introduced our new ephemeral contributor Stella Kloster to you last week, we didn’t expect to hear from her again quite so soon. Her motto is Ennui Forever. But she got back on to us this week, all of a fluster over the fact that those beastly people at The Onion (that essential non-dietary cerebral supplement obtainable on the web at have listed the six Most Popular Barbies. In a horrendous oversight, the list does not include Media Star Barbie.

But putting aside such pettiness, she says, she believes readers of The Diary should know that in order of precedence – Stella goes weak at the knees just at the mention of the word – the most popular Barbies are: High Holidays Barbie (30 per cent of the vote – it’s so good to see Barbie still has reality firmly in her sights); Former Child Star Barbie (25 per cent – well, a girl’s gotta dream); Obsessive-Compulsive Outfit-Changing Barbie (15 per cent – but décolleté is just so difficult, isn’t it?); Whatever Responsible View of Women Currently Exists Barbie (11 per cent); Reece Witherspoon (10 per cent); and Employable Barbie (9 per cent – but we think this voting figure has been grossly inflated).

The Diary’s most popular Barbie comes with a Bintang, steak, sausages and a nice salad, by the way. Oh, and onion rings.