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 ├╝ber-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.

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