Friday, September 25, 2009


IT’S IN THE BAG: Australian Consul General Lex Bartlem gets set to get his hands dirty along with the deputy mayor of Denpasar, I Gusti Ngurah Jaya Negara, Sanur village head Ida Agus Alit Surya Antara, Banjar Semawang chief Ida Gusti Made Suarna and hundreds of local school students, at a Sanur Beach clean-up last Saturday.

Strike a Light. They’ve Done it Again

PLN, euphemistically known as the public power utility, blacked out Bali in spectacular fashion on Sept. 16. Island-wide blackness lasted only 25 minutes – they say – but many places were in the dark for up to five hours, including most of the bits of southern Bali where international tourists come to contribute significant dollars to the economy.
As usual, it was impossible to get a straight answer from the chirpy chappies who want to put your electricity bills up by 30 percent (and will do so as soon as possible - count on it). They did allude to the fact that it had been raining at Gilimanuk at the time and that perhaps the undersea cable had been struck by lightning. They use the right logo, then (see it here).

That may have been a translation error – they do that with as much panache as transmission errors, their key incompetency – and we can probably safely say they meant that the cable had been struck at some point either side of the Bali Strait.
It may have been raining, of course. This dry season it seems to have been doing that a lot. But we don’t think any thunderstorms were showing up on the weather radar at the time.
One good friend of The Diary – a Balinese businessman from Nusa Dua, with whom we dined that very evening (in the dark) – said of the event: “One Nyepi a year is enough.”
PLN must have been trying to make a point, however. They pulled the plug on a lot of Bali the very next night too – but only for three-plus hours this time.

In the Bag

IT ISN’T very often you see one of Her (Aussie) Maj’s consul-generals getting down and dirty for beach clean-up. They call such things an emu bob in her Great South Land (for obvious reasons). But that’s what Lex Bartlem, consul-general in Bali, did last Saturday morning when the consulate sponsored a clean-up session at Sanur Beach.
The Australian Government is a strong supporter of the annual Clean Up the World campaign. This year the Consulate-General in Bali played its part in combating the worldwide problem of pollution by organising a Clean Up Sanur Beach event. Local civic leaders and a Sanur crowd, among them lots of school students, took part, while Eco Bali and Yayasan GUS demonstrated recycling methods and gave pointers to how everyone can help the environment in their daily lives.
Similar clean-up efforts were held elsewhere, including at Nusa Dua.
Clean Up the World grew from an initiative in 1989 by an Australian,
Ian Kiernan, who, motivated by the growing pollution of the city’s world famous waterway, organised a Clean Up Sydney Harbour event. The following year it became an annual Clean Up Australia Day. And in 1993 the initiative gained the support of the United Nations Environment Programme and became the Clean Up the World campaign.
Last Saturday’s Sanur event kicked off at 9am. That was Earthquake + 2 hours, as it turned out. That (and the prophylactic sounding of the tsunami klaxons) would have cleared the beach of people, if not the litter.

All A-Twitter

THE local twittersphere was all atremble last weekend, on Earthquake Day. It was such fun learning who among one’s friends and acquaintances had dashed in undies – or less – for the safety of open ground when the temblor struck at 7.06am. And fun too to work out from that volunteered intelligence, offered on Twitter and Facebook, who among them is by custom a late riser.
Hec was at his computer of course (memo to self, he says: Get a life). But Mrs Hec got a rude jolt out of slumberland, though she was dissuaded from joining the multitudes in a deshabille dash. Hec refuses to panic – well, visibly at least – and affects a sangfroid in the face of looming disaster that has long exasperated a great many people. They say it is thickheadedness. He says he hates headless chookery.
That said, Saturday’s jolt was an unpleasant reminder of the hair’s breadth that often separates self from destruction; and of the ephemeral and uncertain qualities of real life. In disasters, though, often the greatest risk to individual life and limb is panic.

Were They Switched On?

NOW that Idul Fitri and the Lebaran holiday are behind us, we wonder whether President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will ask for an audit of mobile phone use over the break by all those officials he told not to switch off.
He said they should keep their mobiles switched on at all times so that service to the community did not take a break as well. The presidential edict was issued in Jakarta when, looking at some locomotives, he told the media he had told key officials: “Do not let difficulties happen if there is a need to contact the official in charge when there are issues that must be overcome. Mobiles should remain enabled, in order to remain coordinated.”


RICO, from the Martini Appreciation Society, sent Hector a cheerio on his blog during the week, a result of last week’s item on the martinis and x-rated readings to take place at Naughty Nuri’s in Ubud during the Writers and Readers Festival, which starts on October 7.
He wanted the lazy buzzard to know that the society had nothing to do with the organising of the evening, which was all the work of the extra-mile crew at the UWRF. Well, we knew that, of course.
But just in case there’s anyone out there who would think for a moment that martini aficionados would waste valuable drinking time listening to smut instead of the gentle swizz of their wizened olive, let’s make it crystal clear: Naughty Nuri’s provides the venue. Martini appreciators will be there to drink martinis. And whatever else goes on is ... well, something else.
Rico did ask Hec if he’d like to join the society. Now there’s a thought.

For Two Pins

HECTOR had a call from an old Aussie mate the other day, a chap who – unlike Hec – has secured a financial inducement to return home to Queensland after a lengthy sojourn beyond the borders of Australia’s best state. He had a tale to tell, which is worth repeating.
It concerns the Queensland Club, an institution in Brisbane, the capital (and not without coincidence also Hector’s former refuge from the uncouth and the loudmouthed, and the former pipe-layers who seem to have taken over the world).
He popped in there the other day, he tells us, and breasted the bar. There were surprised looks all round. Someone eventually broke the silence to ask: “Where have you been?” Our chum replied: “I’ve been in jail.”
This is not the sort of rejoinder with which institutions such as the Queensland Club, or indeed its members, are either accustomed or can deal with very well. You could, our mate says, have heard a pin drop. There was a sudden shuffling of feet and instant body language which said plainly: “Let’s get away from him as quickly as we can.”
So he put them out of their misery. “Actually I’ve been living in Adelaide,” he said. “But I’m so ashamed of that, I thought I’d rather say I’d been to prison.”
Apparently everyone wanted to get him a drink on their bar chits then. Lucky fellow.

Dance of the Dills

THE unedifying recent row over stupidity, as in the attempted theft by some ignorant Singaporeans of Bali’s sacred Pendet dance as part of a promotion for “Malay” Malaysia, has produced an echo.
The Malaysia Star, which thankfully is not a newspaper of record, published this on its blog (apparently from a paid hack and headlined Dancing to the tune of Bali): “The dance in question was the ancient Balinese Pendet Dance of a Hindu community of Bali in the Indonesian state of Java.”

Empire Spreads

THE Laguna restaurant chain, a neat little operation with two outlets in Nusa Dua (in Jl Pantai Mengiat at Bualu and at Bali Collection) has started a third arm of the empire. Hector and friends dined there on Tuesday, the official opening night.
It’s at Tanjung Benoa, across the road from the time-sharers at the Peninsula.
In a tourism environment where critical mass often eludes local operators, for all sorts of reasons, not all of them connected with the power of imported big bucks to overrun competition, it is pleasing to record a truly local success.
The food’s good too. And it comes at a reasonable price.

Diary Date

MONDAY is World Rabies Day. It’s an annual event dedicated to eradicating rabies, a zoootic disease, in humans. At this time, in Bali, it is an apposite date on which officials most closely concerned with controlling the outbreak here could usefully reflect on what they really need to do to achieve that objective.

HECTOR'S DIARY appears, as Scratchings, in print edition of The Bali Times every Friday and on the newspaper's website at on Mondays.

Friday, September 18, 2009


MORAL TALE: Playwright Marco Calvani IMMORAL TAIL: Socialite Paris Hilton

No Pizzas for the Upper Crust

IT SEEMS that all may not be well out there in Dreams of Empire Land, aka the Canggu Club. The newly opened Trattoria pizzeria there has closed. Its prominent sign has gone from in front of the club, in a significant break with Bali tradition: the island is littered with direction signs to many deceased outlets of the White Elephant franchise network.
Trattoria does well enough in Jl Oberoi in Seminyak and elsewhere in Indonesia. It is also in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. But perhaps pizza is not the munch de jour of the favoured limelighters who frequent – though in decreasing numbers it seems – the exclusive grounds of the club.
It remains a mystery why the club was established in the first place. It offers Bali-based expatriates the opportunity to pay thousands of dollars to drink or dine – which they pay for anyway – with other expats.
Most foreigners here sensibly prefer to make friends among the local population. Bali is never going to be “New Empire” Rodeo Drive (thank goodness) and night deservedly fell on the old empires a little while ago now.
The club has a swimming pool and a fitness centre. But most of the plusher expats already have swimming pools at their own pads and the workout market is not overly strong here, given that a walk or the beach – or a jog if you must – is easily available.
It is, of course, co-located with the Canggu Community School, whose students use the club and playing field. Perhaps being overrun by unruly juniors is deemed deleterious to the sensibilities of the equally badly behaved grown-ups who are supposed to foregather in the vicinity for fun and frivolity of adult design.
The Canggu area is being rapidly built out. Oddly, therefore, the Canggu Deli, which opened around a year ago and with a restaurant (The Loop) beside it, is hardly ever overrun with patrons.
Can it be that people who live in the area prefer the more eclectic delights of Seminyak, just a short drive away?

Wizened Olive, Anyone?

IT’S AN odd thought that the martini should need an ode to it. It’s a pleasant enough kick in the butt, if that’s what you need, but vastly overplayed as an attraction. James Bond is to blame. He horribly misused that cocktail – and drowned far too many wizened olives on sticks – in pursuit of blondes, brunettes and Russian spies.
But never mind. A martini can make for a good party – just ask James – and good parties are desirable, even if the blondes and brunettes can be less so and the Russian spies nowadays are completely absent, having been replaced by the Russian mafia.
One particular martini party coming up soon – appropriately it is hosted by the Martini Appreciation Society – is the Ode to a Martini at Naughty Nuri’s in Ubud on October 9. The gig is associated with the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival and is free (apart from the martinis). Organisers promise a lethal line-up of poets and authors with late-night readings of the x-rated kind to honour one of Nuri’s iconic and most potent cocktails.
The Diary is still deciding whether it would be wise to go. The event’s Facebook page already lists some of Bali’s most febrile party-persons as attending.
Of course, if you can’t stand martinis (or turn a nastily contrasting pink at x-rated readings) you definitely shouldn’t go. But if that’s the case, you could instead try one of the three free play-readings on offer, or really break out and make it to all three of them. The Diary’s pick of the trio would be the October 10 reading of Marco Calvani’s The City Beneath, which examines the collapse of morality in the west – that itself is enough to drive you to drink – and is directed by the playwright himself.
That fellow who has nailed himself to the floor of the Bali scene (he’s such a fixture, you see), Jack Daniels, is on the reading panel too.
You can find all the details on UWRF 2009 (Oct. 7-11) at

It’s Party Time

GOSH, a year goes by quickly when you set your clock by the Kuta Karnival. The next one is upon us already. It starts tomorrow (Sept. 19) and offers a variety of colourful and noisy occasions until Sept. 27.
Led by the Kuta Small Business Association, the communities of Kuta, Legian and Seminyak, and Bali and Indonesia in general, have again come together to show they care and to contribute to world peace. This is the seventh such event, which began as a response to the 2002 bombings.
Activities are centred on Kuta Beach and include tomorrow’s opening ceremony, a kites festival (also tomorrow), the traditional sunset dance nightly, a bartender competition organised by the Bali Hotels Association on Sept. 23, “Arja Muani” presented by Surfer Girl on Sept. 24, the Bali Food Festival on Sept. 25-27, and much else besides.
The traditional closing ceremony and parade on Sept. 27 will clog the streets as usual.

An Embuggerance

THE fact that the vacuous Paris Hilton is said to be a socialite, reality TV star and a retailing phenomenon says a lot less about her – appropriately enough; the less said the better – than it does about the poverty of mind that now afflicts western civilisation.
The related fact, that her twittering has gained entry to the latest edition of the Oxford Book of Quotations, says a lot else. It chiefly says that the commercial imprints still permitted to use the moniker of what was once perhaps the Anglosphere’s greatest university – sorry Cambridge – have themselves become vacuities.
Ms Hilton may be a socialite – this classification of space-wasters has always been self-elected anyway – but she is not a reality TV star (the term is an oxymoron). And if she a retailing phenomenon, that’s because the consumer society, that western bane, is based on the principle that idiots will buy anything if winked at by something blonde and monosyllabic, and in a short enough skirt.
Her winning quote, now given the reward of association with printer’s ink in a publication that should know better, is: “Dress cute wherever you go – life is too short to blend in.” That’s it in a nutshell (or possibly a G-string). It’s ungrammatical, trite, wanton in the real sense of the term, and ... well, pathetic.
The British author Terry Pratchett also makes the new edition, with a useful word he uses to describe Alzheimer’s disease, from which he suffers. It is “embuggerance”. Now there’s word with great utility. It should be applied to Ms Hilton and many other empty vessels.

Giggle Monster

THE Australian actor Eric Bana started off in comedy before moving off to create mayhem in a series of firmly forgettable Hollywood action films – but now he has returned to his roots in Funny People, the latest movie by director Judd Apatow (The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up). It opened nationally in Australian cinemas last weekend.
It’s about a group of stand-up comedians. And apparently Bana found it such a laugh on the set that he earned a nickname: the Giggle Monster.
Bana is a favourite of The Diary. But less for his acting – although he’s good – than for his lifelong barracking for St Kilda in the Australian Football League. It’s nice to share the hope – they say it springs eternal – that despite the record of the past 43 years, the Saints will win a premiership. This could be the year. They play the Western Bulldogs tonight in the first preliminary final.

Snuggle Up

BRITISH researchers, well known to be killjoys, have come up with the suggestion that to get a good night’s sleep you should slumber in your own bed. They say that the sharing thing can be bad for you because of snoring, kicking and cover-hogging.
That might be the case in beds designed for one (we all remember our student days), but as that tuneful observer of social mores, Billy Joel, once noted in song, sooner or later you sleep in your own space anyway.
In Bali, one benefit of villa living – even in a modest villa – is that the beds tend to be really big. So you can snuggle up and sleep alone: truly the best of both worlds.
HECTOR'S DIARY appears, as Scratchings, in the print edition of The Bali Times every Friday and on the newspaper's website at each Monday.

Friday, September 11, 2009


PEEK-A-BOO: Janet DeNeefe and friend

Nightie-night! What a Great Party

JANET DeNeefe, a fixture in the Ubud firmament, had a birthday bash last Saturday night. The Diary was not among the jests present, being well served for laughs elsewhere that evening and sans invitation to boot, but we’re sure it was a success.
In fact we know it was, because we asked DeNeefe’s indefatigable executive assistant, Elizabeth Henzell, to spill the beans on the Great Affray. She tells us DeNeefe was duly surprised by her surprise party, which was catered by Dewi, her eldest daughter, in substantial finger-food mode, plus birthday cake. More than 100 guests were left licking their fingers, we hear.
And we’re also informed that there may be a number of people around Ubud sporting bruised ribs and kicked shins from nearly letting the cat out of the bag. That’s a surprise because Henzell, as readers of her Instinct column in The Bali Times know very well, is an animal liberationist. Normally she would insist that all cats be let out of bags.
People should be seen to have good birthdays – and fun parties to go with them. So that may be why DeNeefe placed a post-prandial note on her Facebook advising thus: “Life is full of surprises ... if you know what I mean.” Well, not exactly, no. We’re quite happy here on the third rock from the sun.
DeNeefe does a little travelling in her complex and multifaceted role as restaurateur to the stars, hotelier to the hordes, and literary agent-provocateur. On one of her peregrinations this year she visited Noosa, an Australian east coast resort town that is also a legend in its own al fresco lunchtime.
She went with a friend who was clearly cut out for just such an adventure, as our picture shows. It’s from her Facebook too. We’ll look for the party pix later.

Well Stay Home Then

FEW things are more irritating than people who arrive unannounced in your immediate vicinity and then get right in your face with a claim that because of their circumstances, including their presence, which of course they presume to be desirable, you must accommodate their special requirements. These are varied, but all of them involve you giving up any element or elements of your own elective behaviour that they find objectionable.
It is a phenomenon that has become all but ubiquitous among effete and over-serviced first-world people. We are nowadays assumed, by the recently empowered halt and lame, to have a duty towards them that enshrines their (presumptuous) “rights” at the cost of one’s own. We would do well to remember that each of us is halt and lame in some respect, perfection being found only in inventive advertising for cosmetics, and that special pleading is tedious.
But special pleading is in fact nowadays the main game. Premier performers in this intrusive and fundamentally rude way of behaving are those who assert, pejoratively, that they are non-smokers (as if anyone cares) and those with largely elective choices of chronic conditions, particularly asthma. In western societies – and it must be said, particularly in Australia – this latter ailment has become a veritable epidemic. In the old days you got hay fever and got on with life.
On that front, and noting that letters to the editor are always welcome, on whatever topic, those that begin “As a non-smoker and someone who suffers from asthma ...” sound alarm bells immediately they are spotted lurking in a page that may otherwise be a joy – or if not a joy, at least a pleasure – to peruse.
There was one in last week’s paper, from a gentleman in Semaphore, South Australia, who thought it his duty to signal to the world that he was very disappointed to experience people smoking cigarettes at adjacent restaurant tables when he visited Bali recently.
Worse, he opined, it appeared (to him) that some smokers who were visiting from overseas “are taking advantage of Bali’s lax laws and flouting their habit to the detriment of others.” He surely meant “flaunting”, but bad English comprehension is a separate matter of considerable concern.
There are many kinds of elective behaviour that potentially injure one’s health. Smoking is among them. Drinking excessively is too. Breathing in the poisonous emissions of badly maintained motor vehicles and motorbikes is another. To which, according to our correspondent who for some inexplicable reason decided to dice with death and temporarily vacate the über-safe and over-regulated environment of Semaphore, South Australia, one must now add travelling to Bali.
But there is another deleterious health depressant: constant belly-aching about things that are not to your personal taste, and the behaviour of other people. It creates stress, which cannot be a good thing.
The key, as always, is found in good manners. It is bad manners to smoke if you are with people (at your table) who dislike it. Equally, it is bad manners to insist that other people, total strangers, cannot enjoy themselves, or behave (lawfully) as they wish, just because you’ve got a bee in your bonnet.

A Swell Show

THERE was a lovely little soiree the other day, an informal affair hosted by Australian Consul-General Lex Bartlem for 75 Indonesian Australian Development Scholarship students who had been studying English in Bali before taking up post-graduate courses at Australian universities.
A highlight of the evening, on August 28, was the performances put on by each of the class groups from the language school. It reinforced how similar are the Australian and Indonesian sense of humour and delight in having a joke on yourself and your mates.
Bartlem invited a small number of locally resident Australians along for the evening. They had a heap of fun too.
The goal of the ADS programme is to assist in reducing poverty and achieving sustainable development through human resource development. It currently offers more than 300 scholarships a year at the post-graduate level to Indonesians in both the public and private sector, offered in fields of development priority for Indonesia, as agreed annually by the Australian and Indonesian governments. The fields of current choice are economic management, democratic institutions and practice, basic social services, and security and stability.
A very useful aspect of the scheme is that it draws students from outside the focus on Jakarta and other major centres that informs (or misinforms) much of the international effort to build links with Indonesia.
Another highlight of the evening: Bartlem – who as we have noted here before speaks Spanish and is thus a good bloke to have with you at the string of tapas establishments that have sprung up in the glitter zone – has been studying Bahasa. He did say a few words, but then said he was glad everyone there spoke English because it meant they wouldn’t have to listen to him mangling Indonesian.
Lex, you’re too hard on yourself, old son.

CAHILL: Time to unblock

In a Word

WRITER’S block is a painful ailment and one that unfortunately does not respond readily to laxatives. Not even to All-Bran. So the interesting Ubud Writers and Readers Festival workshop by the must-read Australian scribbler Michelle Cahill, “Writing as a Journey: How to Unblock,” caught The Diary’s eye.
It’s a half-day penance, on October 7 – the first day of the festival but before the official opening the following day sponsored by the Australia-Indonesia Institute.
Cahill, who clearly has fun doing what she does (so well), itself a great prophylactic against the dreaded block, says the process of writing is a journey. This can be one of memory; or through the body; it might be found in our ancestry; or could be a search to uncover the true voice or narrative shape.
The aim of the workshop is to take participants through techniques for deepening perspective and sense of location, show how to recognise psychological barriers – it helps to be able to bare the soul – and heighten sense of location. This helps banish block, says Cahill.
Participants are invited to bring along some of their own work: up to three pages of fiction, poetry or a non-fiction essay that they might be unsure about. Hey, good idea. There may be a few diary items Cahill could give advice on.
Details at

Eight Years On

WE ALL know where we are today (well, hopefully), but where were you eight years ago today when the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York were demolished by a pack of homicidal maniacs? The Diary was just driving out of Luton airport in the UK, but that’s a long story and beside the point.
The outrage that launched a thousand (unfulfilled) plans is now in the history books, where it should remain as a painful lesson about the basic inability of a great many people to comprehend that other people think differently from themselves, and have a perfect right to do so.
The terrible tragedy of September 11, 2001, must not be forgotten. But it shouldn’t get in the way of seeking a better and more inclusive future, either.
SCRATCHINGS appears as The Bali Times Diary in the print edition of the newspaper every Friday and on the newspaper's website at on Mondays.

Friday, September 04, 2009


ON TRACK: Julia Roberts is training in Rome for her Bali experience (see Hollywood Smile Alert, below).

PHOTO: Los Angeles Times

What a Silly Song and Dance

THOSE who have spent a lifetime closely observing politics – and your Diarist is one such poor creature – are surprised by very little. What is generally looked for is some tiny little shaft of light from the heavens, or at least a break in the horizon-to-horizon gloom.
Alas, such benefits are rare. So it is with the emerging row over Malaysia’s national anthem, a fixture at drum-beating parades and formal occasions since 1963, when the Brits took God Save the Queen back to Blighty and handed over power in their former south-east Asian colony.
Hot on the heels of the entirely reasonable Indonesian dyspepsia over some foolish promo-producing firm in Singapore using Bali’s sacred Pendet dance to promote Malaysia, we are now told the Malaysian anthem is suspiciously similar to a popular song created in Indonesia in 1957.
There is more than a whiff of opportunism in this manufactured “issue”. If it was a problem, why hadn’t someone said something about it before – like, for example, 46 years before? This is the thoroughly reasonable point put forward by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs – in sensible countries, the most sense is often spoken by foreign ministries, who dislike having to deal with the fallout of political or social clumsiness; or worse, opportunism – and it is one everyone should take on board.
Anthems are the signature tunes of national entities. Many have been borrowed from somewhere else – the United Kingdom’s God Save the Queen is a German dirge, after all – and the words that accompany them range from the hopeful to the frankly speculative. The East is Red springs to mind. Some are excessively long (Argentina’s goes on forever, with some very embarrassing breaks for the unwary).
Some have very funny words; and others geography lessons. At least one we know of combines these two amusing factors. Aussies – those who know the words at least – apparently feel the need to remind themselves, as the occupants of the world’s largest island (or smallest continent; take your pick) that they are girt by sea.

High-Pitch Wine

THREE Bali properties have won Wine Spectator awards of excellence – The Legian at Seminyak for the second consecutive year. That has pleased its efficiently decorative GM, Carla Petzold-Beck (photo), and deservedly so.
The other winner we know about is the new St Regis Bali Resort at Nusa Dua, which is proud to have won such an award in its first year of operation. It is indeed a feather in its cap.

The Legian’s signature restaurant – to avoid confusion, it’s called The Restaurant – won for its selection of 185 international wines, with a particular focus on the vineyards of Australia and France.
At the St Regis, signature restaurant Kayuputi (it means white wood in Indonesian) and its two-storey wine cellar have clearly benefited from the attention of resident sommelier Harald Wiesmann, a chap who has two previous awards to his credit at other establishments in Bali.
So well done all round, lads and lassies. We’ll let you know who the third Bali winner in the 2009 awards was, just as soon as they tell us that they wrote themselves a citation, have sufficient wine in the cellar, spelled all the names correctly, and got their application in on time, which seem to be the criteria.

Hollywood Smile Alert

WE hear that the comely Julia Roberts has commenced her long journey to Bali in pursuit of acting out the part of Elizabeth Gilbert in the movie of the book Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia.
The book has become a sort of primer for ladies of a certain age and predisposition on what you can do to lift your life beyond the banal, those who, like Gilbert, have to go away to find themselves. It’s also a great promotion of Bali, which is a good thing.
Roberts – who has built an acting career on being a sort of sage naïf who offers the prospect of sexual benefits for nice guys who treat her with respect – was in Rome this week, where Gilbert’s real-life journey began. It was hot in the Italian capital, we are told. This is not unusual in August and early September, but apparently noteworthy nonetheless.
In Italy (naturally) the focus of affairs is on the first part of the trilogy of delights offered in Gilbert’s book. Well, who would pass up the chance to savour the delights of spaghetti alla carbonara with a little pistachio gelato on the side, after all?
She co-stars with Javier Bardem and Billy Crudup in the movie. It is scheduled for release in 2011. Next stop for Roberts and crew is India – and then of course, Bali, where we expect the Bling Brigade will be out in force to welcome the pretty woman.
In her book, Gilbert said this about Rome, by the way: “I am inspired by the regal self-assurance of this town, so grounded and rounded, so amused and monumental, knowing that she is held securely in the palm of history. I would like to be like Rome when I am an old lady.”
Yes, yes, that’s all very fine; but so much for love, then – and nasi goreng.

Look, They’re Serious

IN South Australia, the state at the bottom of Australia’s largest river system, the Murray-Darling basin, they’ve been complaining for years that “upstream states” have been pinching all their water.
But some of the pinching takes place closer to home. In South Australia, corporations will soon face fines of up to Aus$2.2 million ($1.8 million) for water theft from the Murray. Fines of Aus$700,000 ($590,000) for individuals will be 20 times higher than before. The maximum fine for corporations until now was Aus$70,000 ($59,000).
Numbers of this magnitude would drain the blood from the faces of our own local water thieves.

Hey, Great Gear!

HERE’S a likely tale. It’s from America, of course, where strange things happen with astonishing frequency. Police in Detroit, Michigan, where they actually make cars – or did before the reality of economics caught up with American corporations – say a fellow on a first date with a local lady skipped out of the restaurant they had chosen for their tryst, leaving the bill unpaid, and then stole her car.

The Master at Work

ELIA Kazan, who died in 2003, remains a vast influence in American theatre and film. His life story too – aside from a peccadillo or two where women and their bedroom qualifications were concerned: he was a compulsive womaniser – is in many ways the American Dream. His parents were Anatolian Greeks who emigrated to America in 1915 with the four-year-old Elia in tow.
New York literary agent Robert Cornfield has now produced a book, Kazan on Directing, by editing the notebooks and other writings of the man who was at the centre of American theatre and film in the mid-20th century to give us a portrait of the artist in his own words as he planned and plotted – he was a natural conspirator - how best to bring a play or film to life.
It will surely be a must-read for the more cerebral of theatre and movie buffs. Kazan’s contribution to the world of American drama was immense. He was a principal of the Group Theatre and then the Actors Studio, which adapted Konstantin Stanislavsky’s “Method” notion that an actor will most naturally portray a character if he first has a psychological identification with the role.
The list of actors trained in this discipline would fill a block of marquees. Among them: Marlon Brando, James Dean, Lee J. Cobb, Robert De Niro, Jo Van Fleet, Julie Harris, Karl Malden, Paul Newman, Geraldine Page and Eva Marie Saint. (“You have to start from the actor, and you have to find out where the part is alive for him. Somewhere within them the part must exist,” Kazan wrote.)
The films he directed include A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945); Gentleman’s Agreement (1947); A Streetcar Named Desire (1951); On the Waterfront (1954); East of Eden (1955); Baby Doll (1956); A Face in the Crowd (1957); Wild River (1960); Splendour in the Grass (1961); and the autobiographical America America (1963).
He received five Oscar nominations for his directing, won twice (for On the Waterfront and Gentleman’s Agreement) and received an honorary award in 1999 for his “long, distinguished and unparalleled career during which he has influenced the very nature of filmmaking through his creation of cinematic masterpieces.”

Another Roar Deal

LION Air has stopped flying from Bali to Singapore. Or at least, it seems so. That’s what a woman at the airline’s ticket office at Ngurah Rai told a Diary spy the other day. She couldn’t tell him why. Not because she might be violating commercial confidence. It’s just that she didn’t know.
The route was launched in June last year. And Bali-Singapore is still listed on the company’s website (, or was earlier this week. At a great price too: Rp0. But you cannot complete a full booking.
Perhaps like many things Lion – like schedules, compliance, and so forth, for example – Bali-Singapore is “having a rest.”

SCRATCHINGS appears as The Bali Times Diary in the print edition of the newspaper every week (Fridays) and on the newspaper's website at