Friday, May 29, 2009


WHAT A BASH: Hard Rock Hotel Bali celebrated its 11th birthday on May 15 with a huge party. There was lots of loud music. And apparently there was also someone on a big swing.

Cursors! Those Twits Have Got My Number

TECHNOLOGY is a mixed blessing, as many Indonesians who Tweet – otherwise happily, as consenting apprentice adults are supposed to do – have discovered, now that presidential election season has opened in earnest and mud is being thrown willy-nilly. Megawati Sukarnoputri and Suharto-era enforcer-general Prabowo, together forming the unlikely PDI-Gerindra team that would like to get its feet under those big desks at that big building in Jakarta, are following lots of Indonesians via the internet messaging service Twitter.

Hector is a bit of a twit himself – so many people have told him this for so many years that he now believes, still against his better judgment, that this is true – and follows many who Tweet, out of interest and a penchant for silly gossip, political or otherwise. Sadly for Indonesian politicians tweeting for votes (which of course Hector cannot provide, since he votes in Another Place) it seems most of their targets can spot an overly adventurous spruik a mile off, and switch off.

HRH Swings into Gear

BEING an old curmudgeon of originally British provenance, your diarist thought the Editor was handing him a real scoop the other day when he mentioned HRH. To a Brit, former or current, HRH can only mean one thing: His (or Her) Royal Highness.

Thus, for a delicious moment, we thought when we were alerted to “those HRH pictures” that we had a “Prince Charles Swings with the Orangutans” item to run this week. Of dreams such as this are many London Suns made.

Sadly, however, it was not that the heir to the British throne had completely lost his marbles. The HRH in question was the Hard Rock Hotel Bali, which on May 15 celebrated its 11th anniversary.

It would be nice to suggest that it did so in style. But as our picture this week shows, this was not the case. We’re sure everyone present made General Manager Darryl Marsden beam with pleasure by having a fabulous time. Life’s nothing without a party, after all, however outré (dare one say crass?) it might be.

Schapelle’s Bad Hair Day

BALI’S famous “most unfairly imprisoned” prisoner, Schapelle Corby, has had another hissy-fit and vacated her cell at Kerobokan jail last week, apparently believing someone was spying on her through a hole in the ceiling, in favour of psychiatric care in the police hospital in Denpasar.

On Wednesday – the fourth anniversary of her conviction on drugs charges and following news that jail chiefs had decided she should be returned to Kerobokan – she was taken on the advice of her new psychiatrist to the international wing of Sanglah hospital. She made that short trip in an Australian consular car.

It’s no surprise that she should suffer recurrent bouts of cabin fever. It’s really not nice being locked up in jail – anywhere, but for molly-coddled Australians, especially not in Indonesia – and understandable that, were one find oneself in such circumstances, one’s thoughts, such as they are, might occasionally run to dreams of life on the outside.

According to her psychiatrist and her family – Bali-resident sister Mercedes and their fiercely voluble Australia-based mum, who made an immediate mercy dash here – Schapelle is suffering depression. Her doctor thinks she should be accommodated in the psychiatric hospital in Bangli but is doubtful this is a practical proposition given her status as a convicted and incarcerated person. Perhaps those plans for that remedial hair salon “jail side” at Kerobokan are proving problematical.

We know one thing though. Her new status as psychiatric prisoner of conscience will bring out again the battalions of people worldwide – who would clearly fall for fool’s gold were it to be accompanied by a promisingly batted eyelid – who have allowed themselves to be convinced that 4.1kg of cannabis in a boogyboard bag cannot be construed as contraband or as evidence of criminality. Never mind the law. We’re talking about Schapelle.

They’ll Never Learn

WE should neither tut-tut too loudly, nor laugh too hard, over the expenses rorts that are bringing down British legislators like pins in a bowling alley. Rorts are an unpleasant fact of life in all political systems – and we should remember that it is only in a democracy, memorably defined by Winston Churchill as the worst of political systems, except all the others, that they come to light before bloody revolution removes the perpetrators – and indeed in all areas of human interaction. Here in Indonesia the graspers, political or otherwise, are constantly in the news, being nabbed for illegally acquiring something or other to which they were not entitled. It is an axiom of public policy (or it should be) that if you create an allowance, it will be abused.

Nevertheless, we could not suppress a wry smile at the confession of British opposition legislator Sir Peter Viggers, who last week announced his resignation because he had spent Rp20 million on an appalling duck house to put in his garden pond and tried to claim the money back from parliament. As a focus of irritated risibility, he joins another clown, who claimed on expenses for cleaning the moat at his castle.

Viggers not only broke the parliamentary rules (though his claim was actually rejected: he fell on his sword for being fool enough to put the claim in). He broke the rules of good taste – as our photo shows. As he said, the ducks refused to use it. Who could blame them?

Expert Alert

IT’S that man again! We saw him on satellite TV the other day: We refer (of course) to the FMW, aka Made Wijaya. He was wearing Balinese dress, including a flower in the udeng (ooh!) and gave the world his unique overview of modern Bali via the BBC TV series Around the World in 80 Gardens. In the Asian section, his lovely garden at Sanur was one of them.

As is his wont, Mr Wijaya had a rhetorical question for his audience. “Bali has survived Islamification and mass tourism, but will it survive the building boom?” We think Bali is a bit more robust than sarong-clad long-term expatriates with curious architectural fetishes and personal takes on social issues would like you to believe.

But by the way, if you missed the programme, and care about that, don’t worry: it’s bound to be repeated.

Bali Not-Quite-Update

JACK Daniels (not the one found in the bottle) is an institution in Bali. Or so we gather; most recently from the interviews that he gives himself and the colourful feedback that these seem to produce. But we should not be churlish. His Bali Update is a popular and useful medium for informing friends of Bali everywhere of what’s going down around here. His lengthy and ongoing endeavour is to be applauded and nurtured.

But there was one glitch in this week’s Update (it pops into subscribers’ in-boxes on Mondays). Recording the fact that OzJet, which flies – or rather, it seems, flew – two services a week from Perth to Bali, did not operate last week, Update proclaimed: We’ll Tell You Why. Well, actually it didn’t. What it did – properly – was to report the claims and counter-claims of the protagonists in an unseemly little commercial spat. And anyway, The Bali Times had the full story in last week’s edition.

More Aussie Numbskulls

BALI is now the temporary home of one Reni Maitua – apparently a rugby league player in Sydney – who left his struggling club (Cronulla) and a positive drug test behind when he stepped aboard a Pacific Blue flight from Brisbane to Denpasar on May 22. He’s here for a spot of surfing, according to breathless Aussie reporting of this amazing non-story. Presumably his break in the Bali sunshine is of undetermined length, its end dependent on lack of furore back home.

Meanwhile, another Aussie has made a name for herself in Thailand, by stealing a bar mat from a pub in Phuket, screaming blue murder when the owners of the said mat and the police treated the case as a crime, and telling the world – well, the Aussie part of it at least – after she was let off with a fine that she “felt like Schapelle”. Why? Did she smuggle 4.1kg of bar mats into Thailand from Melbourne? If so, would this be an offence? It sounds more like idiocy. And if she did, why did she bother to steal one there? It’s true that illegally taking possession of a bar mat while in flagrante ambrosia is a minor offence, venial if not profoundly trivial. Our guess is that the Thais sensibly decided to send her home to avoid the trouble and expense of keeping her.

A Nobel Gesture

IT’S so good to see the 2009 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival out there selling itself to the world, as with its latest newsletter, posted on its website. From it we learn that a Nobel prizewinning author (should that be prosewinning?) from Nigeria is the top draw this year.

Shame that until – oops, sorry, a teensy error – it was corrected, this alleged that someone who was a Noble prize-winner would be in attendance. Ah well, these things happen. We’re sure the world-renowned Nobel organisation won’t really mind that someone in Ubud hadn’t heard of them.

There’s still time to arrange to get along to the next UWRF literary dinner with Richard Flanagan, Australian activist-author and tree enthusiast. That’s unless you’d like to ring-bark him. Under those circumstances, you probably wouldn’t be welcome. He’s in Ubud on June 6. He’ll be in conversation on the night with Janet DeNeefe. Visit for details.

Not Coming Soon

THE Starwood member W, which officially is still planning a 2010 opening at Seminyak, with all the trimmings you expect of a pub that would rather you drank whisky than beer, may not be a starter after all. We hear a rumour that it’s off. Maybe someone should update that big billboard (photo).

The Diary appears in The Bali Times every week and online at

Saturday, May 23, 2009


HECTOR was scratching for a picture this week, but
nothing came to hand. So here’s a lovely shot of his favourite peaceful view at
The Cage. He calls it Sybarite Central and says it helps him cope with
situations such as those described in items four and five this week.

Would Knocking Off Some Zeroes Fit the Bill?
A READER from Bangkok – yes, The Bali Times is very well read indeed – suggests it may be time to reorganise Indonesia’s currency. Of course, he has to deal with the baht, which has only slightly fewer zeroes than the rupiah and is often rendered here, on Bali’s many inventive exchange rate boards, as either bat or bath.

He suggests there are too many zeroes involved with the rupiah and that knocking four of them off would create a currency unit roughly at par with the US dollar. He says this would simplify business transactions, ease in-head conversions for tourists, and make it possible for Indonesians to use pocket calculators for currency conversions instead of the monsters they have to drag around at present.

We agree. The plan has merit. Plus it would mean replacing the paper currency in circulation. Those dirty banknotes are a disgrace. The Diary has pondered the point over a lengthy period, though not in print.

Our thought was that to avoid having to reinvent the sen (cent) it might be better just to knock off three zeroes. But four would work. It would mean you could get a decent nasi goreng at a local warung for around Rp1.50 tourist price. And British bovver boys (read more below about these particularly pernicious UK exports) could sample the merchandise at any of the many Lillo Lil knocking shops in the back alleys of Kuta for only around Rp60. What a bargain!

Such a plan could also spark an art-design-led economic recovery, given that the new notes would require fresh impressions of Indonesia’s pantheon of national heroes. The coins could feature Indonesian fauna: tuna might go well and the orang-utan would be a shoo-in.

There would be a lot of artistic work in creating eye-catching spend-me-now designs for the new notes, which should be plastic (so much is nowadays). We suggest notes in one, five, 10, 20, 50 and 100 rupiah denominations; and coins at the one, five, 10, 25 and 50 sen value.

If SBY gets his wish and sweeps back into office in July (or September) with – we presume by then former – central banker Boediono in tow as his Veep, it might be one proposal that could usefully land on that big desk in Jakarta.

There is one downside. You would no longer be able to eat your small change.

Tick for a Tipple
WE’D love to hear from any readers who think a petition to get regular, required rations of alcoholic beverages delivered to Bali would be a good thing. And from any who think it would be a bad thing.

So tell us what you think. Give us a tick, or tick us off, via an email to Hec at

They Know We’re Here
WE are indebted to the London Daily Telegraph for rediscovering Bali and alerting Brits to the ongoing presence of our island, via a nice little feature, recently published, by one of its perambulatory pedagogues, a chap by the name of Johnny Morris.

It was nice too that Johnny went marching home after his sojourn among us with the good news that there was really nothing wrong with Bali at all. Except for the crowds of drunken Aussies in Kuta, that is. Apparently he failed to see the crowds of drunken Brit bovver boys in the same area. You can tell them apart – the tattoos are different – but of course you can understand neither.

Perhaps Johnny doesn’t speak Bovver and thought they were Scandiwegians. You see a lot of them at the breakfast buffet. They say things like: F U N E X? OK. I F D M N X. But then Hec doesn’t speak Strine and finds many of his countrymen as linguistically improbable as the Kiwis. Though he can, when in the Godzone, just manage to ask for an Airman Pickle semmich. (And at book signings he can also have fun by fooling the author into scribbling a flyleaf dedication to Emma Chizzitt.)

Johnny, of course, being a representative of the only British newspaper that still thinks class exists (and apparently that it should), didn’t rough it. He stayed at the St Regis. He was there for its grand opening bash, at which as The Diary recorded, Jamie (Will Play for Starwood Reward Points) Cullum performed, and at which, from Johnny, we now learn that no one touched a bit of the huge iced cake the pub put on for its big bash except the fellow who fell through it in the rush to the bar for the party after the formal bit. And how we wish we’d known all those details then! Johnny stayed at various other plush and multi-starred establishments. He had a great time, in his own cool way.

Along the way, he discovered – a little research goes such a long way, after all – that Bali burst into the international spotlight in the 1920s, having been adopted by the then exclusive travelling market. He records its success in adding the term Goona-Goona to American slang (it’s the Balinese term for magic, which America’s below-the-navel focus turned into one meaning sexual allure) and the island’s further fame in the post-war Hollywood musical South Pacific, where the cast’s mythical island of dreams was Bali-Hai.

Most Americans, and especially the ones who make films, are geographically challenged. We would like to forget, after all, but regrettably cannot, the misplaced natural-disaster movie Krakatoa East of Java.

Wow! That was a literally terrific tectonic shift.

Dead-Letter Office
ONE of those firms that makes money out of running other people’s businesses for them, known by its double initial logo from the front portion of the alphabet – but let’s call it “SS”, since this can stand for Salah Sangka (misinterpretation, a slightly less confronting word than misappropriation, which is a litigious matter from which lawyers have been known to make lots of dosh) – has just done itself proud.

(It has lately been in a little local difficulty, in that delightful term. Some of its former clients are apt to suggest that a metaphor for its singular approach to doing business would be a profound inability to organise certain activities otherwise conducted with easy facility, for a fee, in houses of ill repute.)

Last week, when our reader called at the office on another matter, he was handed a collection of mail dating from mid-2008. Since “SS” had always been the postal delivery point for this particular client, and since very little was ever said to have arrived, he had by late last year given up asking for his mail.

He is taking his postal – and all his other – business elsewhere.

Now You Mention It
A LITTLE while ago, while your Diarist was living on Lombok, he had a bit of a run-in with one of few residents actually in residence at the upscale hilltop development near Senggigi where he and Mrs Hec had bought a nice plot with a view. The issue was access. As in, the Resident Resident said he did not know who Hec was, suspected him and his party of being opportunistic and unwarranted sightseers (and probably litterers to boot) and therefore proposed to deny him access.

A forthright discussion ensued, during which – belatedly – the chap briefly remembered both his manners and his name. “Ah,” said, Hec, “You’re the Belgian!” (The gentleman is well known for his attitudinal perspective.) “Is there anything wrong with being a Belgian?” was the response.

Hec recalls that he pondered this delicious conundrum for several moments, mentally enumerating Belgian demerits on what promised to turn into a lengthy list. From memory it excluded only Poirot (an English fiction in any case) and chocolate. Otherwise it extended to everything from the unintended consequences of Spanish departure from the Low Countries long ago; the not entirely unblemished outcomes of the Battle of Waterloo, also long ago but a little more recently; and everything from the oppressive colonial Congo onwards (you’ve all read Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, or should have).

But he sensibly opted for the negotiator’s position: When dealing with the wild-eyed, back away carefully. “No, nothing,” he said mildly. Of course, this was not true. It was an expedient made necessary by the circumstances, similar to those you sometimes find locally when cultural norms dictate that you apologise for allowing some inattentive clown to impact your vehicle with his car, other conveyance, or a motorcycle.

But the worm turns. A news report last weekend brought a smile to Hec’s eye and reminded him of Belgium’s capacity for vacuous risibility. A potty posse of Belgian cyclists had ridden naked through a crowd engaged in a similarly pointless ritual, the film festival at Cannes, a banal annual rite at the French Riviera resort that is famous for being overpriced, over-hyped, oversexed (and thankfully, over there).

Stop the World, They Want to Get Off
WEST Australians changed their little world last weekend. They have always thought of it as a very special world. Perth is planet Earth’s most remote capital city, after all.

First, the electors of the “safe” Labor seat of Fremantle voted in a Green candidate, who made history by beating Labor on the primary count. And West Australians throughout the state rejected daylight saving at a referendum, the fourth such plebiscite on the local sleight-of-hand ruse widely used around the world, in which the clocks are advanced an hour during “summer time” to create the illusion of extra daylight and the means to enjoy additional recreational opportunities in the evening (it’s a boon for golfers).

Perhaps the Westies will give up trying to catch the bus now. Clearly it is going nowhere near their stop. Never mind that daylight saving provides many people in a lot of countries with longer evening daylight for recreation during the warmer months. The silly burghers of WA say they just don’t need it.

We don’t need it in Indonesia either, but not because we’re silly burghers. It’s because it’s always nice and warm and daylight is of a more or less uniform length year round.

Plus, the business of scratching a living rather takes the edge off thoughts of recreation.

A Sterling Effort
HECTOR enjoys the little flashes of light that sometimes fall upon him from above, and was therefore particularly pleased to receive an email recently from a gentleman named D.A. Benton, apparently in the UK, promising him £4,257,000.17. All Mr Benton required was a letter of acceptance, current phone and fax numbers, and a forwarding address, in order to fulfil his promise to deliver this manna from heaven via probate granted in an unspecified high court.

Apparently this beneficence was about to come Hector’s way because his name matches the identity required to acquire this substantial sum – far too many rupiah to even contemplate when you’re a sadly superannuated parrot – on the basis that there was no written will attached to the said bequest.

Mr Benton must have received at least some of his education in Nigeria, we’re sure.
Hector's Diary is also at and on Facebook

Friday, May 15, 2009


The Bali Times is at and on Facebook

Australian author and tree hugger Richard Flanagan is Ubud-bound and late emerging songbird Susan Boyle excused herself from a date with The Man (President Obama) because she had to stay home to wash her hair.

You Could Pop Your
Cork for This Idea

REGULAR readers of The Diary – not to mention regular drinkers, or those who would regularly drink if only they could – might find attractive an idea that has been put to Hector by a concerned reader. It relates to the miserable state of the liquor supply in Bali, where (apparently unknown to revenue collectors in Jakarta, or at least uncared about) lots of people who drink in conformity with their own cultural habits come to spend their money.

The suggestion is that there should be a petition to the national government to regulate alcohol imports, distribution and consumption on a basis that provides Bali with access to required supplies.

Tourists who drink would probably spend a bit more money – and indeed, more of them might come here to spend it – if the national government could only get over the dialogue of the deaf it is having with itself over alcohol. There are several things to be said about this situation. Not quite all of them are rude.

First and foremost, Bali is Indonesia’s only mass tourism destination. Balinese culture has so far managed to survive the alleged onset of western decadence and immorality that apparently exercises the pious minds of public servants and commercial venture managers elsewhere. That is not to say that changes are not occurring in the island’s culture as a result of exposure to foreign influence. But it seems clear that Balinese Hinduism is up to the present more than a match for such external threats. In any case, it is primarily an issue for the Balinese community itself and the island’s provincial-level government.

The idea of such a petition would be to restrict the present sole importer of alcohol into Indonesia, Sarinah, to operations in the rest of Indonesia and to license another operator to manage Bali’s separate requirements. These should be regulated through the provincial government. Arrangements could be made to forward (hopefully growing) excise income to the national government.

Such an arrangement would recognise three important facts that apparently elude officials in Jakarta. These are that Bali has a distinct and unique culture within Indonesia; that the island is effectively the country’s sole mass tourism market; and that the policy of regionalism which the government supports would be advanced (and the country strengthened economically and socially) by devolving real cultural and economic authority to the provinces.

Given the difficulties Bali’s hotel and resort and restaurant sectors have in servicing the demands of customers, it would surely also be in their interest to get behind such a proposal. The Governor’s office and the provincial legislature might also take an interest – in the interests of Bali’s primary economic driver.

Any takers?

Read All About It
AUSTRALIA’S increasingly tabloid press – and we refer to the mindless genre rather than mere page size, since, really, size doesn’t matter – just can’t get enough of poor Schapelle Behind-the-Wire or, it seems, her sister Mercedes On-the-Run. Jakarta based Murdoch press reporter Cindy Wockner has lately brought readers of Rupert’s lesser tomes more on that front.

She tells us that while Corby may have resigned herself to being locked up (not happy but not expecting a miracle release) she could be a step closer to fulfilling her ambition to become a beautician (Wockner uses the term beauty therapist) through an innovative idea to assist female prisoners at Chateau Schapelle, aka Kerobokan jail. Along the way to this dream, she is – in the words of Wockner – “teaching other prisoners the art she studied before her arrest on drug smuggling charges.”

Wockner’s readers learn that Corby and other female prisoners have proposed to jail authorities that they set up a beauty salon on the grounds, where Corby and perhaps some outsiders would teach beauty therapy, provide beauty treatments for prisoners, and perhaps open a small shop to sell handicrafts made by inmates.

The plan was proposed last year. It has won support from the prison doctor. Jail conditions are not ideal at Kerobokan – well, nowhere is ideal if you’ve been locked up because you were naughty, we guess – and keeping inmates occupied is a constant problem in places where they care about such things and have spare taxpayer cash to fund rehab and work programmes. It consistently escapes the attention of most western critics of Indonesian and other prison systems that the plush facilities of the west are not affordable elsewhere. Oddly, too, western received wisdom that criminals are just poor misunderstood victims of society doesn’t wash here either.

Nonetheless, as Mercedes Corby tells Wockner, there is an argument worth having about the need for special efforts to look after female prisoners in Kerobokan, who for cultural reasons cannot use the jail’s recreational facilities – such as they are – and literally have nothing to do.

So learning the snip and clip trade is probably a good thing. Schapelle turns 32 in July. Maybe she’ll get a hairdo for the occasion.

Off the Boyle
SPEAKING of hairdos, Britain’s latest bad hair lady, late emerging singing superstar Susan Boyle, stirred up an ant’s nest when she said no, she’d rather not go to Washington to attend a dinner (put on by the press) at which The Prez, The Bam, was guest of honour. Susan, who shot to fame in a British TV talent quest, is evidently a sensible girl. The Diary can think of few things less worth doing than having a US$200-a-head dinner with a pack of Obama worshippers – particularly since they included not only boringly opinionated pundits but also luminous beings from the world of entertainment such as Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Eva Longoria Parker, Ashton Kutcher, Alicia Keys, Jimmy Fallon, Samuel L. Jackson and Jon Bon Jovi.

President Obama is in a tough job. He’s already attracting criticism for some policy decisions and his unique approach to the problems of his office. He deserves some sympathy – but songbird Susan was far better staying away because she had to wash her hair.

They Hung Out for a Win
THE former British icon store Marks & Spencer has changed its pricing policy on larger-size bras following a Facebook campaign by a group calling itself Busts 4 Justice. Nearly 13,000 people signed an online protest against its policy of charging customers more for oversized bras.

The campaign was started by Beckie Williams, a comely 26-year-old who wears a 30G bra (what this actually means is a mystery to your diarist, whose now historic interest in the garments began and ended with whether what was in them was available at the time and how easy they were to unclip) and was fed up with being charged the equivalent of Rp30, 000 extra on bras bigger than a DD cup. According to Busts 4 Justice this policy was criminally unfair.

A spokesman for Marks & Spencer was quoted as saying: “Basically we boobed.”

Post-Colonial Blarney Alert
WHILE Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the 81-year-old Colombian doyen of Latin American literature says he is still too busy writing to talk to the media, Australian former enfant terrible of post-modern storytelling, Richard Flanagan, 48 this year, is happy to chat. And he’s coming to Bali to do so, at an Ubud Writers and Readers Festival literary dinner on June 6.

Flanagan is a tree hugger – he’s from Tasmania, after all, where there’s not a lot else with which to reassure yourself you’re relevant – and from the long tradition of Irish Australian antipathy to anything colonial or imperial. Such people dislike the Brits even more than the Brits dislike themselves.

Although his writing is sometimes as dense as the wonderful and unique cool temperate rainforest of his island home, Flanagan is masterly in his craft. He is sure to bring some lively colour to the June 6 event. His work – his debut novel in 1997, Death of a River Guide, is particularly compelling – is a two-fingered salute to the imperial origins of modern Australia and the Brits he met and didn’t like as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. He’s very good at that modern bane, fictionalising history. His latest book, Wanting, published in 2008 and shortlisted for this year’s Miles Franklin Award, is yet another rendition of colonial oppression. His 2002 novel, Gould’s Book of Fish, won the Commonwealth Writers Prize that year.

This year’s festival is from Oct. 7-11. Visit the UWRF website at for information.

Oh the Shame!
WE hear disturbing news that those ever-cautious Aussie border controllers – you’ll know them if you ever go there, because they’ll take you to a darkened room and ask you at least 200 questions about whether you have any peanuts on your person or foreign laxatives in your luggage – have taken a set against that most Australian of icons, Vegemite.

Or so it seems. Ubud foodie and festival girl Janet DeNeefe tells us a friend of hers tried to take a jar of Vegemite into the Godzone the other day. This criminally negligent act evidently excited a beagle of the anti-food patrol or something. The contraband was taken away for destruction. Well, that’s what they said. We reckon it ended up on someone’s savoury cracker at little lunch.

Vegemite, while now at home in the big bickie tin owned by the US conglomerate Kraft, has been “proudly made in Australia since 1923” and is famous for its original advertising pitch that it put a rose on every cheek.

Apparently that blush should now be one of embarrassment.

Fast Food for Thought
THE American fast food giant McDonald's is hoping to offer PhDs, after receiving approval to award its own nationally recognised qualifications in Britain, according to the company's “chief people officer”. We don’t know whether he cleared it with the Big Mac first, but David Fairhurst told the London Financial Times newspaper the company's new power to award qualifications made it “a university in its own right”. He said the company wanted to award qualifications equivalent to university degrees.

They’ll offer fries with that, naturally.

Saturday, May 09, 2009


The Bali Times is at and on Facebook

Saved! By Yet Another
Jakarta Smokescreen

IT’S SO good to read that Jakarta’s civic authorities are taking a lead in a great national endeavour and finally getting to grips with the central issue of pollution and ubiquitous environmental health risk that confront the people of their under-serviced metropolis. And after so long! The law on which they are finally acting is one passed in 2005. Ahem, that’s four years ago.

But never mind. They’re on the job now, sending squadrons of eager-beaver Botherers out to catch the miscreants red-handed and subject them to criminal sanction. These people are a fundamental threat to life and limb, after all. They pollute the atmosphere. They create poisonous rubbish. Even worse, they ignore regulations (and here we were thinking that doing so was a way of life in Indonesia; silly us). These days they even tend to gather in seditious little groups, which always alarms the authorities, who respond – as authorities always do – by creating even more opportunities for ticket-issuers to make a nuisance of themselves.

And these people? Are they the ones who block the drains (Drains? What are they?) and waterways with mountains of dumped rubbish, helping to spread disease, kill wildlife and create floods? Are they the people whose concept of efficient internal combustion is an engine that avoids by the narrowest of squeaks creating quite enough smoke to kill you immediately and just fails to completely obscure your view of the road? Are they factory owners who prefer not to spend money on plant and equipment and instead to run it dangerously into the ground, and who might fake a tear, as long as it doesn’t put a brake on profit, if one of their employees is injured or killed on the job? Are they people who allow pools of stagnant water to offer prime breeding grounds for dengue and other disease carrying mosquitoes and for waterborne killers like typhoid and diphtheria, or leave rotting refuse around to help the rats along with their daily round of vectoring various diseases?

Well no. These baleful people, this baneful collective, are smokers: ordinary folk who use a legal product and contribute such a lot to tax revenue.

He’s Their Man
LEX Bartlem, Australia’s newish man on the spot in Bali and points east, is quite a hit in Lombok, we hear. They view him there as the very model of a modern consul-general, following a visit he made to the island just after ANZAC Day. Australian (and by treaty arrangement, Canadian) expats on Lombok and Sumbawa are counted in his flock for consular purposes.

His message to them was that he wants them to feel assured that despite the strip of water between them and us – and that Wallace Line thing that changes the flora and fauna among other environments – they’re a top priority of his office.


A Celestial Occasion
OUR favourite party duo – Lord Quaffalot of Poteen and Baron Graf von Spee-Kiezy – were unaccountably left off the jest list (oops, guest list) for the latest glit lit event in Ubud, a bolly and bling thing arranged for a select sighting of Warwick Purser who, we hear, may be joining that stellar cluster residence-wise. Thus we have to rely on our very own Stella Kloster, ever a girl to gather when bubbles are about, for a report on last Thursday evening’s celestial event.

Purser, who is now an Indonesian citizen (though he seems to have managed to live with his Anglo name throughout all his years here), duly put in an appearance. So did the former Michael White, who hasn’t managed to live with his Anglo name at all, who is said to believe that The Bali Times is a “white supremacist paper,” and whose contribution to Balinese culture on the night in question was to appear in something hideously green and red. (Memo FMW: You don’t actually get IN the cocktails.)

Stella reports – from behind the third bougainvillea on the right, because, unusually, she was seriously out-blinged on this occasion, though there was a silver lining because her hidey-hole was conveniently close to the ice box where the bubbly was – that Purser wowed the small crowd. Decorously, of course: this event was not for the great unwashed who might get visibly over-enthusiastic and among whom designer stubble is not designer stubble at all, but merely evidence of lack of hygiene.

We’ve Got the Screaming Abdabs
BALI, in case you hadn’t noticed, played host this week to the Asian Development Bank conference. What a jamboree! It began with a 4000-seat entertainment extravaganza at GWK on Sunday night. We hear the logistics of moving the Favoured from their hotels to GWK and back again were a very useful primer for delegates’ first item of business on Monday morning. They all attended an interesting seminar on Measures to Ensure the Common Herd Gets Out of the Way When We’ve Got Important Business to Do. (There was also an interesting panel discussion later in the week on the theme “How to Extend Your Use-By Date”.)

Jimbaran-Bukit residents tell us they think the headline act at Sunday’s funfest must have been the Screaming Abdabs. They could be heard far and wide, we’re told. Ah well, maybe it kept the possibly rabid dogs at bay.

We shall read the final communiqu̩ Рand any media guff the ADB bureaucracy deigns to put out Рwith close attention. Promise.

Des Res, At a Cost
THE Diary’s resident Lombok spy tells us a delightful story about long-term resident Don Storen – now a permanent guest of the Indonesian people at Mataram jail where he’s serving a lengthy sentence for crimes he, like around 90 per cent of convicts, claims he did not commit – and a new chum. The new chum is an expat fellow who made the grievous error of expressing irritation with a fractious local by waving a military sword in his general direction. He is being accommodated in Mataram jail for 11 months while he works out that being quietly irritated by asinine idiocy and frightful sloth is a better policy.

Inmate Storen – an Aussie of notoriety who has a plausible story for every infraction you could think of (and others you can’t or wouldn’t want to) and a remarkable facility for liberating money from people who express the merest hint of concern about his welfare – apparently having heard that he was about to acquire a new companion, offered to sort out a nice cell and get it painted and cleaned for him. A snip at Rp 3 million, we hear.

The new chum duly appeared and settled into his newly painted, buffed and polished place of confinement. A day or so later he had a visit from a little chap who said it had been he who had done him this favour. Oh thanks, said our man, and it was good of Mr Don to organise it too. Ah yes, came the response, but now you owe me money. Why so? Ah well, it seems Mr Don had handed over significantly less than the full money-bag of smackeroos he had requested from his new chum to have the work performed.

Ah, It’s 2009!
GOOD to see that the 2009 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival now has a website that (like the rest of us) recognises that 2009 is upon us. Well, actually well under way. 2008 was last year. Not that 2008 was much of year, of course, apart from the UWRF, which was magic. This year is shaping up as an even better one for the Festival – it’s on in October – and Hec is keeping an eye out for little flashes of light that may fall from heaven (or at least from Guru Central).

They’re LOHFE-ing Again
FANCY a glass of Aga Red, Hatten Wines’ “Balinese” red? Well, tough. And that’s not because Aga Red is a taste you could easily un-acquire if any alternatives were affordable. It’s because you can’t get it at the moment. A reader’s intelligence to this effect is supported by Hector’s own assiduous analysis of the local wine market. It’s dry. And we don’t even mean as in dry whites. We mean as in “nada”; nothing; none; kosong; habis. Finished. All gone.

The problem shouldn’t be a problem. The Australians have plenty of spare products of the grape just waiting to be put into differently labelled bottles. Or even a cask. So wine joins whisky and sundry other products, not all of them alcoholic by any means, on the LOHFE manifest. The list of hard to find essentials just gets longer and longer. (Has anyone seen any Jack Daniel’s around lately? And no, we don’t mean the friendly fellow who puts out Bali Update or any of the other Daniels he hates being confused with, preferring to be the only Daniel in the lion’s den.)

Oh dear, life in paradise does have its difficulties.

A Big Welcome
WE say hello this week to another keen competitor on the Bali-Perth route – Air Asia Indonesia.

As the GFC bites deeper, and begins to impact heavily on European and North Asian tourist travel, the Australian market is likely to gain in relative strength. We are such close neighbours, after all.

Kylie’s Other Handicap
HECTOR would like to thank Cassie White, otherwise a person unknown, for taking the trouble to post an item on ABC Online’s must-read blog The Shallow End the other day, advising that Kylie Minogue and her boyfriend Andres Velencoso apparently spent Aus$82,000 on golf gear in England.

It seems the little Aussie crooner, who long ago parlayed a part in a TV soapie (Neighbours, to which, to his continuing bemusement, Hec’s dear old mum was addicted) into a “singing” career, got the taste for the game while holidaying in Queensland over Christmas.

Later, on returning to the UK where she has non-Aussie neighbours who haven’t a clue where Ramsay Street actually is, Kylie and her current squeeze reportedly spent hours buying made-to-order equipment and being specially fitted.

We hope her golf is better than her singing.

Friday, May 01, 2009


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ALL SMILES: Cliff Hahn and his class of keen young Bali kids in Ubud last weekend.

Gearing Up to Face the Future
AMERICAN journalism teacher Cliff Hahn tells us he had a really lovely time in Ubud last weekend, working with 35 local kids to introduce them to the principle and practice of journalism. It was a workshop sponsored by the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival – The Bali Times is media sponsor of that annual extravaganza – and is a productive example of how events such as the UWRF can help the next generation.

Hahn, who is a youth development consultant and former New York Director of Children’s Express, an award-winning not-for-profit agency that created youth media programmes in the United States, Britain and Japan, says youth media can help young people make a difference in their communities.

He told The Diary of his Ubud experience: “The workshop went really well and we had 35 Balinese kids attend both days. They practised working on stories they thought of: the problem of garbage in their communities, the quality of village education, orphans and child labour.

“My goal was to share with local kids my experience and knowledge from teaching media skills to other kids all over the world and what I found exceeded all my hopes. Balinese children have great ideas, enthusiasm, and a real hunger for knowledge and having their voices heard.”

Hahn’s website is at UWRF is at

Another Myth in the Making
GARUDA, the notional airline named for Indonesia’s mythical ancient eagle, fresh from dumping Darwin as a destination after 28 years, has announced with a fanfare that it is to return to Bali-Brisbane service in November. It’s a “prospective market” at present, according to CEO Emirsyah Satar, who told reporters in Jakarta on April 24 that he hoped everything went to plan. Now that would be a good idea.

We remember an earlier plan that was apparently deficient in that crucial area. That was when Garuda late last year announced a return to Brisbane – which it had had to let go when its creative let’s-not-pay-our-leases bookkeeping scheme resulted in the not unexpected disappearance from service of several of those strange bits of equipment that airlines need to do business (aircraft). It then failed to do so because no one bought any tickets. We’re sure that wasn’t the plan. It may have had rather more to do with lack of planning.

As to Darwin, where the future of a local soccer team is up in the air after its sponsor took its ball away and went home (yes, Garuda!), we are assured by CEO Emirsyah Satar that everyone else has given Australia’s northernmost city the flick too: Silk Air, Qantas “and even Royal Brunei.” So sad, too bad, then. Never mind that Darwin, while not a big market, is such a long-term fixture in Bali’s tourism market? Or was.

Garuda has just announced a substantial profit growth, by the way. Perhaps they’re doing something no other airline around the world can manage at the moment. We just hope it’s not that they’ve inadvertently confused their revenue and expenditure columns.

WING AND A PRAYER NOTE: We see Lion Air is still flying people around in the MD-90s the government banned them from operating for safety reasons. Apparently they just make sure they’re not on Jakarta flights, where someone that matters might notice them.

See Guys, It’s Like This
THE Jakarta Globe – great paper by the way, especially now you can find it same-day in Bali – reported this week that air workers are threatening to strike over the conviction of a Garuda pilot for negligence leading to death. Survivors of his negligence will remember that Marwoto Kumar was the pilot of the Garuda 737 that landed far too fast at Yogyakarta airport in March 2007 and crashed, killing 21 people. They may remember that in a great PR coup for his by then former employer, Garuda, he wore his airline uniform at his trial. We’re sure they will be sympathetic to his displeasure at the verdict, which unaccountably showed that even though he was a pilot, he was unable to fly above the law. Undoubtedly they will agree that it was unfair that, despite wearing a pilot’s uniform to demonstrate his skill level, he should then be sent to jail.

The Indonesian Pilots Association is certain that this is a bad thing. It will make pilots worry that if they do something negligent they may be held responsible. The Garuda pilots’ association is similarly concerned that an uncomfortable precedent has been set. They see it as a clear threat to pilots involved in unfortunate accidents that have nothing to do with them if you overlook that they were flying the plane at the time.

Not good enough! In fact it’s outrageous. That’s not why they paid all that money to buy their way into pilot school.

May Day? Or Mayday?
MAY 1 is May Day. That’s the day when the workers of the world are supposed to unite in solidarity (originally with the illusory benefits of a Marxist approach to life, but we won’t go there) and celebrate the victories of organized labour.

It’s sometimes known as Labour Day. The Australians, being ... well, Australians ... celebrate the day on different dates in different states and territories, and some under different names, and honour the principle of labour by taking the day off. In other places, less focused on leisure and of a more martial bent, they celebrate with big military parades. You know, with tanks and things that, the not so subliminal message goes, could be brought out again later if the workers are revolting.

In certain countries, it is a traditional day for rioting. The French have been known to tear up the cobblestones of Paris on such occasions. In England, they get merry and dance round the Maypole. But that’s with a pre-industrial spring in their step and not with the factory floor in mind.

This year, given the GFC, we might more aptly call it Mayday. It is the international distress call, after all. But then, we’re all up the same fast-flowing creek, in the same canoe, and we’re all still arguing over who exactly it was who put the axe through the bottom of the boat and which clown threw the paddles overboard.

In these chaotic circumstances, we might more usefully take our text from the French (not with the cobblestones, though, they’re too expensive to replace). We should all shout “Merde! Merde! Merde!” instead of “Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!”

ANZAC Day a Big Draw in Bali
THE annual Australian and New Zealand ritual of ANZAC Day – the two countries’ shared national day of remembrance, held on April 25, the anniversary of the Gallipoli landing in World War I – was marked as usual by a traditional Dawn Service, presided over by Australian Consul-General Lex Bartlem.

It was as always a solemn affair, one not to be missed by nationals of either country who can possibly make it along. This year around 230 turned up – about half of them holidaying Australians, even people here only for a few days.

Bartlem’s efficient crew of official Australians had catered for 200 (the number responding to the invitation). The Diary (and Mrs Diary), who always attends, opted not to pick up the votive candle and red poppy, leaving the few that remained for other, later arrivals.

The Seraphim Choir sang the hymn Be Still My Soul and the Australian and New Zealand national anthems. Students from Dyatmika School and Canggu Community School attended to the lowering of the flags to half-mast.

Cold Cuts for Kev?
AUSTRALIA’S Treasurer (finance minister) Wayne Swan has taken to circulating little primers on the parlous state of things financial down under as a result of everyone else in the world being very, very selfish and terribly, terribly bad and dragging the Godzone into this dreadful GFC thing.

One that popped up last Monday, datelined Washington where he had been contributing a valuable Aussie perspective to the IMF’s WTF debate, provides a handy little pointer to the slash-and-burn 2009 national budget he’s due to deliver on May 12: “This global recession means that we will have to do more, but with far less. I’m sure Australians will understand there’s only room for money to go where it’s really needed.”

Um, Wayne, shouldn’t that always be the rule? But, never mind, there is a silver-service lining. We’re sure one well deserved victim of the fat-trimming will be the expensive requirements of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s special dietary requirements on all his VIP flights. At present a full meal service is provided – even on his 30-minute Canberra-Sydney shuttle flights; Kev, mate, suck on a sav – as a prophylactic against PMT (that’s prime ministerial tension, aka air rage). Cold cuts perhaps?

Read This: You’ll Croak Up
HECTOR got this in the mail from a friend. He considered passing it along to the editor for the jokes column. But ... Nah! It’s too good not to put in the Diary. Besides, there might be a moral in it somewhere given the present parlous state of the world banking industry and the flood tide of toxic assets and bad loans out there.

So here goes:

A frog goes into a bank and approaches the teller. He can see from her nameplate that her name is Patricia Whack; she’s known to her friends as Patty. He says to her: “Miss Whack, I’d like to get a $60, 000 loan to take a holiday.”

She looks at him in disbelief and asks his name. The frog says his name is Kermit Jagger, his dad is Mick Jagger, and that it’s OK, he knows the bank manager. She explains that to get a loan he will need to secure it with some collateral.

The frog says: “Sure. I have this,” and produces a tiny porcelain elephant about 2cm tall, bright pink, and perfectly formed.

Patty is very confused and explains that she’ll have to consult the bank manager. She disappears into a back office. There, she finds the manager and tells him:

“There’s a frog called Kermit Jagger out there who claims to know you and wants to borrow $60, 000 and wants to use this as collateral.” She holds up the tiny pink elephant. And adds: “I mean, what in the world is this?”

The manager looks at her and says: “It’s a knickknack, Patty Whack. Give the frog a loan. His old man’s a Rolling Stone.”

We bet some of you sang that. We did!)

Not Me Writes In
JOHN (Jack) M. Daniels, of Bali Discovery Tours, tells us he would like it to be known that he is not John Daniel, who recently wrote to The Bali Times about rabies. Consider yourselves advised.

GOT SOMETHING TO TELL HECTOR? You can email him at Want to Tweet? See him @scratchings on Twitter. Or visit his blog at