Thursday, October 15, 2009


QUICK EXIT: Wole Soyinka BIG ENTRY: Barack Obama

Yes, We Have No Bananas (Well, Not at Your Price)

BALINESE culture, religious practice and tradition emphasises shared responsibility anchored in the concept that someone else’s pain is your pain and someone else’s joy is your joy. It’s a lovely idea, and for the most part – this is what sets Bali apart from much of the rapacious world – it works.
How then should we view the rampant profiteering at local markets that went on in the lead-up to Galungan (Oct. 14 with holidays the days either side)? Were market-goers in search of bananas – crucial for ceremonies – bamboo (ditto) and other necessary votive products supposed to be happy to share the joy of sellers in their significant grab for extra money at their expense?
It’s not something that impacts on expatriates or indeed on the non-Hindu population of the island. Neither is it unusual in a global setting. Prices always go up, everywhere, whenever merchants spot a captive market in search of must-buy items. Anand Krishna’s thoughtful piece in last week’s edition of The Bali Times discussed that issue rather well, in the context of a communal culture.
But the bottom line is that profiteering is just another way of seeking advantage. It does not sit well with the image of Bali as a place of harmony and good thinking. Conscience is such a malleable creature, isn’t it?

Peace Off

THE decision of the Nobel Peace Prize organisers to award it this year to Barack Obama demonstrates with stark – and disturbing – clarity the vacuous state of European politics and the increasing irrelevance of the remote north-western peninsula of Eurasia.
It was a clearly political decision, made for reasons that would only make sense to a crowd plainly pained by relevance deprivation syndrome. The poverty of the Nobel committee’s position is revealed in the fact that nominations for this year’s peace prize closed just two weeks after the Inauguration on January 20. It’s not a question of whether Barack’s a good guy, or even whether he’s not. He has caused no peace – yet. He is embroiled in American politics and – the “good thinkers” of the American left notwithstanding – is compelled by circumstances to proceed and behave much as he has.
He is not St Barry (something his barrackers in Indonesia would do well to remember, incidentally). It is profoundly unclear whether he has any answers to America’s deep problems, far less those of the world. He won the good press he did, prior to his election in 2008, largely because he was not George W. Bush. That in itself is a demonstration of the vacuity with which global politics is conducted these days. And now he is in office, with actual decisions to make rather than political messages to spin, things are rather different from those heady days on the campaign trail.
None of this is Obama’s fault. He was running for office. People do that in democracies. Idiots – we use the term deliberately – who convinced themselves that the Obama Age would instantly usher in an era of peace and social understanding are poor fools besotted by the messiah complex.
Sadly, it seems, we must count the Nobel committee among them. Equally sadly, they have embarrassed not only themselves but also President Obama, whose shoes have hardly had time to scuff the carpet under the desk in the Oval Office.

In a Lather

THE 2009 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival has come and gone. Now we have the delights of communing with actress Julia Roberts to deal with, while she’s here cycling through the Monkey Forest at Ubud for her new movie Eat, Pray, Love. Shooting was scheduled to start this week.
We hear some other shooting may be called for in Walter Spies’ lovely little hill town – metaphorically of course – in the wash-up of the Festival. We loved the photographed cancellations to the programme posted on the UWRF Facebook. Perhaps one of the events was cancelled because no one could find the venue: it was said to be in Hanoman Road.
Organising people is never easy, especially those whose untidy lives are lived in the arts area. Snafus happen. But they do need to be minimised. When great minds gather, we gather, the object is to be seen as well as heard. Star attraction Wole Soyinka, who nearly turned round at Singapore on his way in, self-perplexed over the time it was taking the Indonesians to stamp his visa on an incomplete application, then left last Saturday night instead of on Monday morning because the flight arrangements had been messed up.
That said, UWRF is an essential entry on Bali’s international calendar. This year’s festival brought together some great talent. And a lot of fun was had by a lot of people. That’s good.

All Go

DOWN Nusa Dua way, things are clicking. And it’s not just the light switches when PLN occasionally remembers that its job is to provide electricity. The Diary was there the other day – for a Balinese wedding reception which was immense fun – and spotted a new Japanese restaurant on Jl Raya Nusa Dua Selatan, just by the entrance to the manicured BTDC hotels and golf club precinct.
It is built in a style reminiscent of a Japanese country inn. When we called in, attracted by its ironwood timberwork and low lighting, it was having its “soft opening”. The grand one had been set for some time after Galungan, we gather. It looks a picture; and the menu is attractive.
Mushasi is now on The Diary’s lengthening list of Dining Places to Be Visited.

Eat Up

BALI has two entries in the list of Asia's top 10 restaurants in the latest issue of The Miele Guide, another of those interminable cycles of self-congratulation with which the glossy sector of the international and local media so concerns itself.
Mozaic and Ku De Ta ranked sixth and ninth in the second edition of The Miele Guide, which was launched recently – with all the desired bells and whistles and in the presence, assumed to be desirable, of the A List names deemed suitable for the plush ambience of The Fullerton Hotel in Singapore.
According to The Miele Guide, Asia’s two best restaurants are still L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Hong Kong and Iggy's in Singapore. This year, though, in another circular movement, they swapped places, with L'Atelier claiming pole position for the bragging race.
It would be nice to ignore these sorts of awards. But marketing being what it is, you can’t.

Gotta Giggle

WE all need a little laugh now and again. Newspaper readers are no different in that respect. Neither, for that matter, are newspaper diarists. The perils of becoming humourless, fixated on seriousness, of turning into yet another foot soldier in the regiments of Ernests and Ernestines who blight their lives and those of others by fixating on issues because this makes them feel important, are plain enough. Life gives you lines on your face. It’s better to make them laugh lines.
For this reason The Diary was happy to see a little tale the other day – it surfaced in the local Indonesian language media – about the septuagenarian grandpa caught in flagrante (well, nearly) in an Amlapura brothel. Gosh, The Diary has been to Amlapura many times – it’s a lovely little town – and has never yet seen a house of ill repute.
It seems the police decided on this particular day to pay a visit to a certain establishment. As you might imagine, persons on the premises for the activities offered therein fled helter-skelter. But one old chap stayed put. He was finally persuaded to emerge from behind a locked door, along with his companion in victimless crime. He had with him a condom, apparently coloured orange (for added zest, no doubt). It was, he told the law enforcers gathered at the lintel, unused.

Donkey Vote

IN poor, benighted Gaza, where Arab politics and Israeli bastardry have combined to create hell on earth, the zoos are doing it tough too. Many of the exotic animals have died – the result either of the violence associated with acts of war or of the general deprivation Israel’s blockade has produced – and among them, the zebras.
But one zoo, we hear, has come up with a novel way to present local school children with the famously striped horse-like creature of the African veldt. They’ve painted donkeys in zebra stripes – very well too, it seems – and trot these out when visitors come to experience the wild creatures of Elsewhere. Apparently not only the children are fooled. Some of their teachers make asses of themselves as well.

Hector's Diary appears, as Scratchings From the Cage Floor - The Bali Times Diary, in the print edition of the newspaper every Friday. The Bali Times is at

1 comment:

  1. Ha, mostly we residents of said isle would not be seen dead at the beautiful setting but depressing and depressingly over-priced KuDeTa. The drinks are average and the food, even the once attractive brunch leaves an awful lot to be desired, especially when placed next to so many better places in the higher end of Bali's culinary market. One wonders who judges these things, do they work off press relases or offers of free nights out at Bounty or Double Six. Have they been there? There are reason to doubt it, unless ones idea of joy is endless wannbe property developers from Perth or loud families from Jakarta sharing a single main and an iced tea.