Saturday, June 27, 2009


CHOCS AWAY: We’re not quite sure how this spa, on the By-Pass between Kuta and Sanur, manages its treatment menu. Do they roll you in chocolate and throw you in a bath full red wine? Um ... could work!

On Having a Good Yak and
a Nice Round of Applause

THE Yak is found both in a wild and domesticated state in Tibet and the neighbouring mountains and plateaux, from the snow-line up to 6,000 metres. It is greatly prized by the inhabitants of the country in which it is found. Yaks do not low, or moo, as other cattle do; their voice is a kind of grunt. The animal is grotesque in appearance, but is not particularly savage in disposition.
Readers will quickly see that the animal above, a beast of burden and provider of ready-rancid dairy products, is quite distinct from the variety we know in Bali. Clearly, ours is related to Dr Doolittle’s famous Push-Me-Pull-You. In front it’s a Yak; at the back, it’s a Bud. But it too is a beast of burden – it can carry prodigious amounts of bling and other baggage – and interestingly, while exhibiting the herd mentality and stampede tendency common to cattle, is apt to jostle fiercely for individual primacy once in the collectively selected vantage point.
Of course, we jest. Some readers, especially those who frequent the American Dollar Menu Precincts of Seminyak and Ubud, will know immediately that it’s actually a glossy quarterly journal full of interesting and informative material.
It is of interest to The Diary at this time because it is in the middle of having its annual festival of mutual back-slapping, The Yak Awards. This curious rite involves lists. Apparently previous winners nominate new contenders. It’s one of those nicely circular self-congratulatory sequences, requiring only compliantly affirmative friends. The voting is simple, too. It’s online on The Yak’s website – the site’s a good one by the way – and anyone can tick their preferences in any of the many categories.
Among the Presences on this year’s list is Monte Monfore, the Californian swimathon fellow, whose website informs us he proposes to make a splash again next year, in Japan apparently, which he says is to raise money for Unicef’s anti-polio campaign in Indonesia.
Hector won’t be voting in The Yak Awards. He only votes for the best mie goreng murah. But he’s sure his special bling and bolly correspondent, Stella Kloster, will tick the boxes, if she can remember how to log in and overcomes the horrid shock of not actually being on the list herself. The dress code for the back-slapping awards party at Sentosa on July 18 has ameliorated her displeasure somewhat. It’s psychedelic chic. She says she’s a shoo-in for a door prize, being a psychedelic chick herself.

MW2 Has an Adventure
WE thought it had been a little quiet lately. And now we know why. MW2 – it saves so much ink when you don’t have to write Michael Made White Wijaya every time doesn’t it? – has been away in India. It’s lovely there in the hot weather just before the monsoon and they’ve really got the goods on landscaping too. Been doing it for years, it seems.
We checked with his blog this week – well, it is the absolute gospel for all things MW2, after all – and discovered that on June 15-16 he was in Ahmadabad where, among other things, he had a waspishly tongue-in-cheek run-in with the local monkeys.
He tells it thus: “This afternoon I was almost gang-banged by a tribe of militant gay languor monkeys against the art brut wall of a 1940s Le Corbusier mansion.”
Oh dear. Not a good look, MW2! It’s a good thing Bali’s macaques are much better behaved.

Ready, Marathon Man?
JACK Daniels, of and the online weekly Bali Update, will surely be getting into gear for the 2009 Bali Triathlon being held this weekend (it’s on Sunday, June 28). It’s a lovely social occasion, we hear, and ends in a few stiff drinks. This year, too, it costs only Rp 100,000 to enter, instead of the Rp 200,000 charged to people who wished to torture themselves last year. We’re sure Jack won’t want to miss any of it.
The organisers of the shindig, officially the MRA Bali International Triathlon 2009 – and try saying that after swimming, cycling and running for far too long – say it promises competitors a chance to be absorbed by the beauty and friendliness of Bali.
Competitors – set to exceed last year’s numbers according to the organisers, who aren’t being any more specific than that – will start with a swim, a 1,500m stretch from the Four Seasons Resorts to the Bali Intercontinental beach. Then the field switches to cycling, over a 40km course through Jimbaran and Nusa Dua, and Ungasan and Pecatu on the Bukit. The race ends with a 10km run through Jimbaran and back to the Four Seasons.
In case of emergency, BIMC Hospital will have medical and ambulance support on hand and Jari Menari Massage is offering free massages.
There’s a 5-kilometre fun run over part of the 10-kilometre triathlon course around Jimbaran for the fainter of heart and less limber of limb. And for anyone wanting to kill time during the event, the Coconut Grove at Four Seasons, local headquarters of the pink dollar, will again be Race Central.
All sorts of drinkable and chewable goodies will be available for purchase from stalls there; there’s some organised fun for the kids; and loud noise – de rigueur these days, it seems – will be offered by Ardo and Delights with their “Smart Pop” songs.
Coconut Grove is also the venue for the pre-event dinner the night before.
Alila Ubud Branches Out
BALI’S natural beauty is a big draw (developers please note) and, of course, essential to the maintenance of the island’s rich and unique culture. It should always be protected and extended – where possible – and enhanced if practicable.
So it’s good news to hear that Alila Ubud is an active and firm supporter of local programmes that aim to raise awareness of environmental issues, and that together with Garuda Orient Holidays, it has recently contributed 140 tree saplings to the Seeds for Bali programme, a non-profit enterprise initiated by PT. Bank Danamon and co-sponsored by Bali Tourism Development Corporation (BTDC). It was launched at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali in December 2007.
Of course, as Alila also recognises, ecological outreach is smart marketing too.

Wellness, California Yoga-Style
IF California were an independent nation, it would be the world’s tenth largest economy. Some say it is the world’s leading exporter of nuts. Well, we wouldn’t say that, of course … but we do note that a Los Angeles couple has been appointed to head Desa Seni Village Resort’s wellness and spa programmes.
So take some deep breaths now. The Canggu property tells us that husband-and-wife team Steve and Shirley O’Connor have been named Directors of Yoga & Wellness and that they “arrive from the yoga mecca of Los Angeles, having founded and nurtured a thriving yoga studio there for the past seven years.” Apparently cultural sensitivity isn’t exactly part of the California yoga thing, then, since Mecca is better referred to as the holiest centre of Islam and Bali – though Hindu – is part of the world’s most populous Muslim nation.
Steve, 42, is a Tantric Buddhist and Vinyasa Flow yoga instructor who, we’re told, began practising yoga and exploring spiritual life in his early twenties, while working as a professional actor in Los Angeles. Shirley, 41, is a Vinyasa Flow yoga instructor who spent her twenties as a radio show producer and then on-air celebrity (who told her that, we wonder) in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Then, having found themselves and each other, they set up and ran Black Dog Yoga in Los Angeles.
We hear the O’Connors bring “entrepreneurial, managerial, and teaching experience to their new charge of enhancing the yoga and fitness offerings at Desa Seni’s Trimurti Studio, developing the art and wellness programmes, and heightening the resort’s spa identity.” That will be fun.

Corby Kooks at It Again
THE Free Schapelle Lobby, that worldwide dream collective that won’t believe she did it, is out there again, spruiking a new song by New York indie-pop artist Tara Hack that quite unfairly tries to ping Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd for – apparently – not sending a SWAT team to invade Indonesia and rescue the fair lady from her cell at Kerobokan immediately after he won office in 2007.
The ditty, titled The Wizard Down Under, reminds Rudd that when he was opposition foreign affairs spokesman in 2005 he called for substantive support to bring about the release of Corby (the spruikers refer to her as the “imprisoned human rights abuse victim”) and of the fact that since he became Australia’s leader in 2007 she has quite unaccountably remained locked up in Bali.
Unfortunately for dreamers and other dysfunctional characters, the world doesn’t actually work in the way they would like. If it did, there would be anarchy. They might want that. It’s seriously doubtful than anyone sensible would.
The facts are these: Corby was convicted of a serious drug offence under the sovereign law of Indonesia, and sentenced under that law. She continues to proclaim her innocence – which is her right, which no one, least of all the Indonesians, would seek to remove from her – and up to now has not acceded to suggestions that she could seek a pardon, because to do so you need to admit guilt. A prisoner exchange treaty is being negotiated between Indonesia and Australia. Corby might be eligible under such a treaty to serve the rest of her sentence at home. But these things take time. They are not documents you scribble on post-it notes or incorporate in your latest indie warble.
Corby’s sentence seems excessive, yes, especially when viewed against penalties meted out to high-profile Indonesians found guilty of vastly lucrative graft and corruption. But, sadly for Corby and never-explain, always-exclaim indie singers, the law is the law.

Plus a Bit on the Side
WE note with interest that the MUSRO music and karaoke lounge at Discovery Mall, beachside in Kuta, offers special services. In May it was advertising Rp 2 million packages to (male) guests inclusive of guest hostesses – along with a “buy two, get one free” promotion that had our eyes popping until we saw it was for Chivas – but has now come right out of the closet.
No price is quoted, but its latest pitch says baldly: Escort Service is Available.

The Diary appears in the print edition of The Bali Times each Friday and on the newspaper's website

Friday, June 19, 2009


SIGNS OF OUR TIMES: So that’s why the traffic’s snarled.

On Being Alert But Not
(Necessarily) Alarmed

IT can have escaped few regular readers of The Diary that we are from time to time a tad antsy – such a lovely word, and it sounds so much more polite than “pissed off” – over the rigour with which the Australians insist on insisting that in Bali we live in a danger zone.
(Although of course we do if, as visitors, we don’t have travel insurance or foolishly do things that, if they injure us, are excluded from our cover. Doh!)
But back to Fave Topic No 1: These feelings are not vitiated in any discernible measure by the mellowing over time of the language Canberra’s alert-andalarmists use in their advisories. Actually, to the contrary: changing the tone from mummy knows best to maiden aunt advises is irritating in itself.
Laughter remains the best medicine. As a prophylactic against gloom it is unbeatable. And it is for this reason that this week we break all sorts of confidences and embargoes to reveal the real, top-secret, alarm ratings from around the world:
BRITAIN: The British have recently raised their security level from “Miffed” to “Peeved.” It may soon be raised yet again, to “Irritated” or even “A Bit Cross.” Brits have not been “A Bit Cross” since the blitz in 1940, when tea supplies nearly ran out. Terrorists have been recategorised from “Tiresome” to “A Bloody Nuisance.” The last time the British issued an alert at “A Bloody Nuisance” level was during the Great Fire of London in 1666.
FRANCE: Its alert level has been raised from “Run” to “Hide.” There are two higher levels: “Collaborate” and “Surrender.” The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed the national white flag factory, effectively paralysing the country’s military capability.
ITALY: Their alert level has also recently been raised – from “Shout Loudly and Excitedly” to “Elaborate Military Posturing.” Two more levels remain: “Ineffective Combat Operations” and “Change Sides.”
GERMANY: Also up – from “Disdainful Arrogance” to “Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs.” They also have two higher levels: “Invade a Neighbour” and “Lose.”
NEW ZEALAND: The Kiwis have raised their alert level from “baaa” to “BAAAA!” Only one higher level of alert is available: “Shut, I hope Austrulia will come end riscue us.” Because New Zealand’s air force consists of paper planes played with by spotty boys and its navy is a plastic duck or two in the prime minister’s bath, an evacuation plan is also in place. If implemented, New Zealanders will be asked to gather in a strategic defensive position called “Bondi.” (Bondi is a suburb in Sydney, Australia, where according to popular legend more New Zealanders live than in New Zealand itself.)
AUSTRALIA: The Aussies have also raised their alert status. It has gone up from “No worries” to “She’ll be right, mate.” Three more escalation levels remain: “Crikey!”; “I think we’ll need to cancel the barbie this weekend”; and “The barbie is cancelled.” There has never yet been a situation that has warranted use of the final escalation level.
Ce N’est Jamais le Bon Moment
BE prepared. It’s not only good scouts who should be. Sunday strollers also need to be alert to the unknown possibilities of fate. Hec (and Mrs Hec) were enjoying a stroll on Nusa Dua Beach last Sunday. It was a magnificently clear morning, with all of Bali’s mountains out to play – and even Lombok’s lofty Rinjani visible, a very unusual bonus – and seated briefly at one of those handy little out-on-the-water bales, for their mid-walk rest break, were approached by a gentleman who inquired: “Parlez-vous Anglais?” Well, yes, was the answer. So off he went – in French.
Hec and the Missus, minds firmly switched off and in both Sunday morning walk and English-language mode, worked out what he was asking: was that a mountain out there that he could see? They managed to transmit – they think – sufficient information (in Anglais and Franglais) to satisfy his curiosity.
It was only later, on the return half of the walk, that Hec muttered “Merde!” and remembered what he should have said, if only he had utilised his schoolboy French:
« Oui. C’est la montagne la plus sacrée au Bali, plus de trois mille mètres, le volcan Agung. »
As the headline notes, it’s never the right time: In any language.

Down Under for a Dekco
THREE young Muslim leaders from Jakarta, Yogyakarta and Kupang are in Australia on a two-week visit to explore its dynamic Islamic community – 400,000 people from more than 120 countries, around 2 percent of the nation’s population – and seek mutual understanding and cooperation among young leaders in both countries. They will be in Australia for about two weeks.
They are travelling under a government-sponsored bilateral exchange programme organised by the Australia-Indonesia Institute. It has run the exchanges (a young Australian Muslim delegation has just been here) every year since 2002. The present Australian visit is the third in this year’s series.

Now You See It, Now You Don’t
WHEN Kantor Kita – the business-advisory outfit whose principal, Esti Yuliani, also known as Julie Edmond, apparently forgot her principles and is now having a spell learning her principals from her principles in police custody pending court proceedings – announced a link-up a little while back with a Luxembourg “bespoke financing” outfit called SFM Group, a nice new sign was erected in honour of this nice little arrangement outside Kantor Kita’s offices on the By-Pass at Sanur.
Being a newspaper (rather than an advertising sheet), we thought we should take a photo of this new accoutrement for the files. You just never know when a photo might come in handy. For occasions, say, such as the principal grabbing the loot and doing a runner.
Alas. The sign appears to have disappeared. So does the office; at least as far as telephoning it is concerned. The phone rings, but no one answers. Are the lights on, we wonder? Is anyone home? Oh dear. Can the new partnership be in some difficulty? It was announced, as we recall, as having taken effect on April 1. Perhaps All Fool’s Day was apposite.
Incidentally, the giggle-a-minute Yahoo Questions website had one begging an answer for several days last week: Where is Julie Edmond of Kantor Kita? It was apparently posted by a plaintive (as opposed to plaintiff) seeker after this fundamental truth, on behalf of a client whose documents are (well, we hope) in Kantor Kita’s hands.

A Good Drop
IT’S not very often the less than excessively well-heeled here get the opportunity to taste some quality wine. That sorry circumstance is a function of the usurious level of duty the government insists is payable on infidel alcohol and – to put it politely – the astonishing level of uncertainty that surrounds the simple matter of supply.
So it was nice one evening this week to sample some lovely wines from Salitage, a vineyard in the Pemberton district of Western Australia (Hector has connections in the area; unfortunately not ones that actually produce wine) that has parlayed global experience and the benefits of microclimate into very drinkable products indeed.
This quality quaffing was provided by Salitage and Indowines – we had a pleasant chat with Juan Diaz of Indowines, assisted by a sampling of the cabernet blend, one of four premium wine styles produced – at a soiree held at the Australian Consulate-General. Consul-General Lex Bartlem, who in another life could surely have been a sommelier, played host. Among the guests were legal eagle Peter Johnson of Austrindo (don’t think his phone rang once during the evening) and Ubud luminary Janet DeNeefe, wearing, we think, her Writers and Readers Festival hat.
There may soon be some good news on the supply side, we hear. Don’t expect any drop in retail prices, however. The government likes the revenue too much to let that drop.

Fame Spreads
READERS who frequent Jl. Raya Uluwatu between GWK and Ungasan Simpang on the Bukit may have noticed a new establishment that has a famous name. It’s on the left as you struggle up the hill behind the undisciplined nose-to-tail convoys of dangerously overloaded yellow trucks that are always trying and invariably failing to make it to the top without stalling.
Hector’s is a Tex-Mex eatery and takeaway. Not tried yet by our Hec. He says he’s highly suspicious of jumping beans (you just never know which way they’ll jump, he points out) and that the worm thingy in tequila is a total turn-off. But we expect it will attract the surfer crowd. They can take a break while all those defective little trucks hold up the traffic.

THE DIARY appears each week in the print edition of The Bali Times (out Fridays) and on the newspaper's website where editions are posted on Mondays.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


WORTH NOTING: An unusual art exhibition at Ubud, in which one of the works on display, Doa Yang Terucapkan (Prayer to the Lord), a mixed media oncanvas creation by artist Syalabi Asya, is shown here. The exhibition, Underdoc, at the Hanna Art Space, features the work of 13 artists, is curated by Agus Koecink, and runs until June 30. The gallery is in Jl. Raya Pengosekan, at Peliatan.

Omni Present. And, It
Seems, That’s a Pity

WHATEVER the defective properties of Indonesia’s misdirected defamation laws, the actions of the Omni International Hospital in Tangerang (Jakarta) in persecuting Prita Mulyasari, a woman who had complained in an email about her experience of their service and attitude, are incomprehensible.
Leaving aside the linked issues of (1) the willingness of lawyers to prosecute beyond reasonable bounds if given enough money to do so and (2) whether it’s actually sensible to squash a fly with a pile-driver, all the hospital – and the corporate empire to which it belongs – has done through its preposterous overreaction is create an immense and hugely negative public relations
That’s a rather curious corporate policy. If anyone sentient had been involved, they would surely have worked out that it was the last thing a service-sector company – let alone one operating in the hospital and healthcare sector, which is supposed to be all about caring – should want.
What’s the pitch? Come to us; use our services, which will probably cost you an arm and a leg(not literally, we hope); and if you complain that we’re rude and the treatment wasn’t what you expected, we’ll sue you and have you thrown in jail? Stupid!
Tycoons who build profitable businesses have a moral duty to others. Wealth and power should be used for the benefit of many, not selfishly or as a means of trampling on the little people. Indonesia’s laws should reflect – and enforce – the communal focus and shared responsibilities that are the shining light of its true culture. Perhaps our febrile lawmakers and their leaders should use this appalling incident to reflect on that.

Stella Reports
TREE-hugger, historical fictionist and radical film scriptwriter Richard Flanagan, who fled both the damp chills of winter and what he would like to be the angst-ridden ambience of remembered British bitchiness in his home state of Tasmania in Australia last weekend for a literary dinner at Ubud, probably enjoyed the experience, as well as the unaccustomed warmth.
By all accounts he looked relaxed and comfortable dealing affably with the questions put to him at the event – the latest in the 2009 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival warm-up programme – by festival founder and Ubud entity Janet DeNeefe.
Stella Kloster, our undercover girl about town, reports that while corks didn’t exactly pop (a situation foreign to Stella’s experience) the crowd at DeNeefe’s Indus restaurant for the event seemed to enjoy the experience too. It included samplings of Tasmanian produce.
By perverse fate, these included products that would not be Tasmanian at all had history not first provided a British settlement upon which Flanagan and others could later heap ordure.
By happier coincidence, on this occasion transplanted delicacies drawn from events modern Australian historical novelists would prefer had not happened were at the same time both
upon the tables and on the podium. The edible ones were presented by a formerly leading chef of Sydney. Guests could consume modest servings of this post-colonial gourmet sampling with the assistance of wine at Rp 100,000 a glass. Or perhaps they drank water instead.
One fellow present, a chap who has something to do with a stellar but lately slimmed-down promotional product known to some as Hello Bolly, spent much of his time sending text messages on his phone.
He’s British apparently (golly, did Flanagan know there was an enemy infiltrator in the camp?). But ex-colonial oppressor or not, he’s evidently picked up at least one local habit.

Bolly and Bling Time
THE Bali villa party season seems to be getting into its swing. It always happens when the rain eases off. La Vie, at Seminyak, celebrated last weekend – well, to be strictly accurate, last Friday night; and if it was a good party perhaps few were celebrating on Saturday or Sunday – in the style to which local members of the stellar classes are accustomed. Heaps of teeth. Kilos of bling. Lots of noise. The Diary was quietly eating mie goreng elsewhere at the time.
They must have had a big invitation list. One chap we know got two. Don’t think he went twice. Actually, we’re not even sure he went once.


Exotic Threads
WE make a lot of good threads here in Bali, so it is nice to be able to applaud an honour awarded to a very leading seamstress indeed, Australian fashion designer Carla Zampatti, who scored a Companion (AC), the highest award, in her country’s Queen’s Birthday honours list announced last Monday.
The Companion became the highest available award, by the way, when the Aussies, shortly after devising their own system to take the place of the British imperial gongs previously handed around, decided they had made a mistake in including a Knight of Australia (AK) in the order. They sensibly shelved this as an invidiously archaic practice.
Zampatti migrated to Australia from Italy many years ago and painstakingly built a business and carved out a great role in public life. Also among those honoured was the pioneer head and neck surgeon Professor Chris O’Brien, a familiar face to viewers of Australia Network television, which screens the reality medical series RPA (Royal Prince Alfred, a leading Sydney
Tragically Professor O’Brien, who founded the pioneering Lifehouse cancer treatment facility at the hospital that his friend, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, opened in April, died of a brain tumour just days before his award of AO was publicly announced. He was only 57 and will be sorely missed.

Pressing Business
THERE is movement in the frenetic little world of Bali’s glossy mags. has moved from its ample Istana Kuta Galeria office into a small one on Jl.Laksmana at Seminyak – the legendary Oberoi Street, where, according to many legends in their own lunchtimes, all the Expat Action is.
It produces The Mag (well, we think it does; it’s certainly online) with lots of gloss and hidden cavities. Rather like a set of advertising teeth. Its latest edition has a lovely story on how you can take the ferry from Bali to Java – from Gilimanuk – and be really bored in Banyuwangi for a whole day. We’re sure a journalist with an eye trained to spot the curious and photograph the interesting would have had a much better time.
It’s run by a Dutchman who once told our editor there was a market for an English-language newspaper in Bali. Hey, great tip!
Another one is Bali Now (which from its remarkably low profile should perhaps be called Bali Now and Then, or even If You Can Find It (though we did spot a copy in Maccaroni, that place with the air curtain in Jl. Legian, the other day), which is said to operate from an office at the Pasifika Museum in Nusa Dua.
It is apparently the result of an unfriendly little to-and-fro between the chap who used to provide the flimflam to put in Hello Bali and those who were paying him to do so.

From Woe to Go
BALI’S a great place to visit. And this must be especially so, we think, if previously you should have been exposed to the remarkable standard of service and guest relations employed at one particularly lacklustre place in Croatia. The useful Travel Advisor website tells this story, supplied by some unhappy tourists who visited the resort town of Rovinj.
“Have you ever been thrown out from your own hotel room without a single warning? If not, go to Angelo d’Oro. We booked a suite together with two friends for two nights on the phone. After the first night, and a poor and ridiculously unprofessional breakfast, we left the hotel at noon. When we got back to the hotel at 8pm, our shuttle driver told us that our room had already been given to some other guests.”

Friday, June 05, 2009


PHOTO: Do you want friends with that?

Bingo! Or Perhaps That Should Be Doh!
PERHAPS at long last, finally having heard through the thickened glass and sound-proofing of its official limousines the howls of protest from the hospitality industry nationwide and particularly here in Bali – where there are tourists who want to spend money and boost the local economy (Doh!) – the central government is moving towards simplifying the complicated business of acquiring alcoholic beverages to sell.
It’s pretty simple, after all. It works like this: Alcoholic products attract duty (at a ruinous rate for imports but for the moment that’s another matter). Wholesalers and bulk purchases pay this. Bingo! The government makes money. The wholesale sector then on-sells to the retail sector, which in turn sells it to their customers at a mark-up. Double Bingo! The retailers make money. They pay tax on this money. Triple Bingo! The government makes more money. Over-the-counter and restaurant and bar customers then have access to products they would like to buy. If it’s available, they will buy it. If they buy it there will generally be a government and service tax applied to the sale. Quadruple Bingo! The government makes even more money.
Why this simple equation should have escaped the government’s attention thus far is strange. Some people hint at an Islamic conspiracy to deny unbelievers access to products legally obtainable (well, in theory) under the secular system of government enjoyed in Indonesia. That might be an immediate factor in this election season. But we think it has more to do with monopoly benefit – there is a single mandated importer – and bureaucratic turf wars (one department handles domestic alcohol, another imports). Then there is the Stumblebum Factor (SF, which should really be written into every economic equation). SF bamboozles bureaucracy everywhere; in Indonesia it is an art form.
The government is said to be considering a single (or at least a unified) set of rules for both domestic and imported alcohol. A turf war is expected between the director-general of foreign trade (who looks after imports) and his colleague the director-general of domestic trade. Any such foolishness could be pre-empted (should be!) by a short session of banging heads together. Whether that will happen, in a culture where massaging egos is the anodyne preference, is another matter.
Here at The Diary, we still think a better way to go would be to split the import licensing system so that Bali is able to directly import liquor. But anything would be better than the present shemozzle.

What a Downer
LAST week we published a commentary by former Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer suggesting it was long past time Australians accepted that they are responsible for themselves when they choose to travel overseas, and did not just expect their government to get them out of trouble. He cited some memorable instances of this syndrome.
It is of course a pity – as some in the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs undoubtedly think – that he did not say this when he was minister. Perhaps his successor, Stephen Smith, will step boldly and publicly up to the plate? Well, pigs might fly. Australian ministers are directly elected politicians. Mr Downer mentioned his email overload in office. Keeping a lid on that bumf – and the serial complainants who spam you – is actually a sound plan.
All this is pertinent – although peripherally – to the ongoing saga over Schapelle Corby, who until Wednesday night had been enjoying the well serviced surroundings of the international wing at Sanglah Hospital in Denpasar as a break from the more basic conditions of her usual digs at Kerobokan jail. Unfortunately for the lady, prison authorities insisted she return to her cell.
The Corby case, such as it is and whatever it is, will doubtless proceed according to whatever strange laws apply in Galaxy Schapelle. She and her loud family now want Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to answer their letters personally. They are well on the way to becoming serial nuisances at home as well as here. If Corby were to end up as a pioneer beneficiary of the forthcoming prisoner exchange treaty between Indonesia and Australia, or break even fresher ground by winning what looks like a bid for psychiatric repatriation, most Indonesians who know about her case or care (it’s a very exclusive club) would say good riddance.

Pirates Ahoy!
HERE’S a treat: The Bali School of Dramatic Arts is presenting the musical comedy Lady Pirates of the Caribbean at the Aston Denpasar Hotel and Convention Centre at four performances on June 12-14. In your Diarist’s younger days the only musical pirates available – CDs hadn’t been invented then – were the tuneful chappies performing Pirates of Penzance. Gilbert & Sullivan has never been a favourite.
Then many years later along came Catherine Zeta Jones, that comely Welsh lady, who invented lady pirates. (She also out-Zorroed Zorro, but that’s another story.)
Lady Pirates of the Caribbean, with music by Craig Sodaro and lyrics by Bill Francoeur, presents a cast of 13 women, eight men, a chorus, dancers and lots of extras. The storyline has the lady pirates outwitting and outfighting the chaps and recovering lost gold to feed needy orphans. Great: entertainment with a subliminal social message.
Details and timings by phone: (0361) 43 4701 or 0818 0435 2772.
ART LOVERS NOTE: This year’s Bali Arts Festival – the 31st – is from June 13 to July 11.

Not Big Enough
THE lovely promotion for San Miguel beer (our photo this week) is seen by some simple folk as just another spelling error. They are ubiquitous in Indonesia after all. But there may be another explanation. It could be saying “One Beer. One World of Fried Onions.”
We alert you to this possibility because of our experience of an establishment in Senggigi, Lombok – it caters for the passing tourist trade so it needs to point the way to its facilities rather than just have people follow their noses – that prominently displays a sign with an arrow pointing to “Ladies and Gent”.
The affable expat who used to run the place when The Diary was a regular drop-in – either for a nibble from the menu and a drink or, more often since the facilities at the office across the street were über-primitive, to follow the directions on the sign – explained it thus:
“I asked the sign-writer about that. I asked ‘why didn’t you paint Ladies and Gents?’ He said he didn’t have room for the ‘s’ at the end and if I had wanted an ‘s’ there I should have given him a longer bit of wood.”
It’s a bit like Indonesian stairs. There always seems to be a rush at one end (or the other) to cope with the unexpected complications of gradient.

All About Spiders
THE theatre of the absurd is a fine comedic principle. Today it is sustained not only by the trained misfits of the thespian world who deal in farce, but also by parliaments, or at least those in which some facsimile of ministerial responsibility continues to exist. In many places, ministers are beyond questioning. In those where they are within reach, they have created (and continually refine) the dark art of obfuscation.
Today’s instant access, our proximity to the Special Biosphere, the sheer laugh-a-minute vacuity of Australian politics, and the remote chance that something of direct interest to Indonesia might arise, makes keeping an ear and a eye on question time in Canberra worthwhile. Unless you’ve got something better to do, like plucking your nasal hair.
There is one welcome flash of light newly on the scene. Melbourne Age journalist Annabel Crabb – who could surely have been a trained misfit of the thespian world if she had not chosen instead to pursue farce through the printed word – is blogging question time for the Fairfax group. It’s called Twitsard (after Hansard). It’s worth a look. You can find it via
A highlight of Monday’s blog was a new hand sign apparently being employed by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd when he’s in animated automaton mode. Crabb calls it the “live spider” to distinguish it from a previous favourite of the PM, the “dead spider”. The dead spider, by the way, looked rather more like the scrotum-twist-and-pull manoeuvre favoured by the heavy squad in Labor Party factional politics. But Our Kev’s above all that. Perhaps he’s hoping for a spider-led recovery.

Great Feedback!
AS he does from time to time, Hector was browsing websites of businesses of interest this week and looked in briefly on Villa Kubu, one of the establishments in the Seminyak stellar cluster where they charge overindulged sybarites an arm and a plush leg – but all in such good taste, daahling – for the privilege of being allowed into the precocious artifice of their created environment.
There was a feedback area he thought looked promising. Someone was bound to saying something, probably nice or else it wouldn’t be there. The page asserts: “We would like to share with you just some of the comments of our guests who have found Villa Kubu to be Bali’s most charming villas.”
A fond hope, apparently. It lacked any feedback at all.

Ding Dong!
BIG Ben was 150 on May 31. The world’s most famous clock first chimed over London in the British spring of 1859, the signature of an empire that ironically had suffered the first of its long series of irreversible reverses – the Indian Mutiny – only two years before. Big Ben had been chiming for half a century before the Dutch finally succeeded in bringing Bali under direct colonial control (and only 83 years before the Japanese – with heinous motivation – effectively ended that ambiguous experience).
People with iPhones – this growing army of cyber-warriors does not include your diarist, who has a very nice four-year-old Motorola thank you very much – were offered the chance, on Big Ben’s birthday, to download his chimes free of charge.

A Fly-Buy with Real Value
HEC’S interest was piqued by a report recently that an enterprising New Zealand parrot – a kea, the world’s only alpine parrot, surely cousins of the McSquawky clan – had pinched a Scottish tourist’s passport while the fellow was transfixed by the glorious vista of Milford Sound in the South Island. Apparently the enterprising avian (clearly a credit to the parrot community, Hec notes with pride) swooped on the man’s British passport in a courier bag in the luggage compartment of the bus he and others had taken to the famous scenic spot.
The gent, who claimed that as a Scotsman he had a sense of humour, said he didn’t expect to see his passport again. No doubt, being a Scotsman, he’ll want his replacement at no cost to himself.
We hope the unknown parrot with wanderlust enjoys his travels.

The Diary is also at Current editions are online from Mondays.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Daily Scratchings (Latest Post 3 June 2009)

Daily - or maybe ephemeral - jottings as they come
to mind, and to hand

June 3, 2009

Rupert's World: NO organisation is immune from the need to revitalise, News Ltd perhaps least of all. It has been the personal fiefdom of Rupert Murdoch since its inception, after all. But it was a little odd to see his latest toy, The Punch, the new "News Blog", headlining a story today pointing out that Australia wasn't - well, technically and courtesy of Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan putting a massive bill on the people's bankcard - in recession. The headline asked: Why have we sacked all these people? Fair point (perhaps). It's clear no one is out of the woods yet, or likely to be for some little time. But Rupert Murdoch, faced with depressive figures in the News Ltd accounts that will surely impact on major shareholders (largely himself) has just engaged in one of his periodic raids on the futures of his employees. A lot of them have been bundled out of the door. Some of them probably deserved this treatment. All bureaucracies build up fat, and despite Murdoch's heroic claims to the contrary, News Ltd is nothing less than an overweening bureaucracy. Still, it might be a good question to ask the boss, if you were a more than usually courageous News Ltd employee. Or ex-employee.

All About Spiders: THE theatre of the absurd is a fine comedic principle. It is given life these days not only by the trained misfits of the thespian world but also by parliaments, at least those which permit some facsimile of direct responsibility to exist. In many places, ministers are beyond questioning. In those where they are within reach, they have created (and continually refine) the dark art of obfuscation. Today’s instant access, The Cage's proximity to the Special Biosphere, the sheer laugh-a-minute vacuity of Australian politics, and the remote chance that something of direct interest to Indonesia might arise, makes keeping an ear and a eye on question time in Canberra worthwhile. Unless you’ve got something better to do, like plucking your nasal hair. There is one welcome flash of light newly on the scene. Annabel Crabb – who could surely have been a trained misfit of the thespian world if she had not chosen instead to pursue farce through the printed word – is blogging question time for the Fairfax papers. It’s called Twitsard (after Hansard). It’s worth a look. You can find it via A highlight of Monday’s blog was the new hand sign being employed by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Annabel calls it the “live spider” to distinguish it from a previous favourite of the PM, the “dead spider”. The dead spider, by the way, looked rather more like the scrotum twist and pull manoeuvre favoured by some of the heavier enforcers in Labor Party factional politics. But Our Kev’s above all that. Perhaps he’s hoping for a spider-led recovery.

A Titanic Life: Last year a little old lady in England sold her last remaining memorabilia from the Titanic – the unsinkable (sic) British superliner of the day that hit an iceberg (and sank) on its maiden voyage in 1912. The sale was memorable because what was being auctioned belonged to Milvinia Dean, who was two months old at the time of the disaster. It raised around Rp 620 million which went towards her nursing home fees in Southampton, England. Sadly, Miss Dean – the last survivor among the few survivors of the disaster that, in the fashion of our times, Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio and Celine Dion turned into a movie and muzak nightmare – died on Sunday. The last American survivor died in 2006. Milvinia Dean was the ship’s youngest passenger. Although she had no memory of the disaster she always said it changed her life. She and her family were on their way to a new life in America but her father drowned – one of the 1,500 or so who did – and her mother took herself and her children back to Britain.

Ding Dong!:BIG Ben, the famous London clock, was 150 on May 31. He first started chiming in the British spring of 1859, the signature of an empire that ironically had suffered the first of its long series of irreversible reverses – the Indian Mutiny – only two years before. Big Ben had been chiming for 50 years before the Dutch finally succeeded in bring Bali under direct colonial control (and only 84 years before the Japanese effectively ended that vacuous experience). People with iPhones – that excludes me; I have a very nice four-year-old Motorola thank you very much – were offered the chance to download Ben’s big chimes as their call alert free of charge.