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.
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