Saturday, October 24, 2009


MY HAT, What a Picture!: Michael White in his Made Wijaya Outfit.

TOP: MANY HATS: AirAsia Chief Tony Fernandes is noted as being in tune with the market.

How to be a Pain in the Udeng

OUR old friend Michael Made White Wijaya (MW2 for short) got himself in a bit of a stew at the weekend. He didn’t like our report on the ceremonies to mark the seventh anniversary of the terrorist outrages of 2002. He didn’t like the Balinale. He didn’t like the Julia Roberts film crew, or apparently the film the pretty woman and others are visiting upon us. And naturally, being MW2, he told us so – in the style (we use the term advisedly) to which he has become accustomed and to which most of his remaining readers surely must have become inured.
We were not surprised. But then we were far from disappointed. It’s good to see that the self-proclaimed Leading Conscience of Bali reads The Bali Times. It is, after all, the only newspaper here that publishes real Bali news, in English, every week. We understand, too, that English or a facsimile of it is one of the languages in which White Wijaya allegedly conducts his life, in his own fashion. That fashion seems to be to prove that he is indeed a stranger in paradise; but that’s his bag.
And he’s entitled to his view, of course. It’s just that when you are constantly informed that there is only one view, and that that one is his own view, it becomes a little tedious. We do understand, though. When you’ve lived here since 1973 (when you colourfully “jumped ship” and swam ashore) and have been a legend in your own udeng ever since, it must be difficult to keep up with the times.
Doubtless when he got here he was a novelty; instantly luminous, or at least phosphorescent. Some would suggest he still is, though perhaps not in the way he would like to think. In the intervening 36 years he has been joined on our island by an increasing number of “local experts” (let it be said that many of them can be trying too) and now has to compete for air time.
This must be galling. But it is not a problem that will be solved by promoting oneself as in some way Balinese; by publishing self-promotional photos in a range of situations that demonstrate that good taste and yourself are apt to be mutually exclusive; by affecting a presence on the camp edge of the party scene; or by being rude about – and to – people who cross your path and whose views, unaccountably no doubt, are not by this involuntary act of consanguinity instantly adjusted to your own.
MW2 has many critics. There is no doubt that, along with others of lengthy establishment in the expatriate quarter, he affects an air not far removed from the foolish predilection of Sun Kings and others to presume L’Etat c’est Moi. Such people add colour to one’s daily life, as long as one is not taken in by them. Each to his own is a good view: Provided, of course, those who so assiduously promote themselves do so with some connection to actualit√©.

It’s All Go

GALAXIES may be about to collide up Ubud way, we hear, home of the Stellar Cluster. And we don’t just mean that MW2 (see his other list of pet hates, above) doesn’t like the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival either. Janet DeNeefe, who apparently eats, prays and loves in the area, posted this little warning note to Hollywood star Julia Roberts on her Facebook the other day: move ova Julia.....eatin' prayin' and lervin' is my department in ubud... (It’s so cheering to see literary activists scribbling in today’s ungrammatical and misspelled txt style.)
Never mind, Julia. Have a happy birthday on the 28th. Bali’s a great place to celebrate good times.

Soft in the Head

IS there a traffic law (hah!) that permits temple-bound folk to ride their motorcycles in their ceremonial udeng (headdress) instead of helmets? If there is, it should be scrapped. And the police could try enforcing the helmet rule generally, too, instead of just using it an unofficial income stream. As we report in this edition, nine people died on Bali’s roads over last week’s three-day Galungan festival, one of them a 15-year-old. What a tragic waste.
They weren’t all wearing udeng rather than helmets, of course. But Balinese attitudes to road safety – along with the similarly cavalier approaches to road behaviour everywhere else in Indonesia – need correction. The informal udeng rule for temple travel is just one example of collective stupidity. A fellow we know tells us he asked his houseman the other day why Balinese don’t put on their udeng on arrival at the temple or wherever. He got the usual answer: it’s too much trouble.
It seems to be in the bulky list of things in the too-hard basket at the Malaise Department, which plainly has overall control of public policy in Bali. (It extends to dealing properly with rabies, not without coincidence.)
But it only takes a few seconds to wrap an udeng around your head: just as it takes only a few seconds to become another road statistic.

A Good Result

IT’S good to see a friend win a well-deserved accolade. AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes has just received the 2009 Frost & Sullivan Excellence in Leadership Award.
The award was presented for exemplary leadership and presented at the recent GIL 2009: Asia Pacific, A Growth, Innovation and Leadership Congress in Kuala Lumpur. Frost & Sullivan, a US-based consulting firm, makes the award annually.
AirAsia, which chose Bali as one of eight regional hubs in South-East Asia, flies 80 Airbus A320 aircraft on 113 routes to nearly 60 destinations in Asia and has a staff of 6,500. Its Indonesian arm, AirAsia Indonesia, flies from Bali to Perth.
Fernandes also heads the rapidly expanding Tune Group, which includes Tune Hotels, a no-frills chain soon to open in Bali.

Phoenix Rising

WE like to keep an eye on the activities of Balisiders, those whose business is so often elsewhere and for whom, it can seem, Bali is a sort of weekend retreat; in the manner of a house in the country. And an inspiration: as batik is to John Hardy’s Kawung Collection jewellery, for example.
So we were interested to get a note via Facebook (if Lenin were still around, he would surely number it among his useful tools) advising that on Saturday last John Hardy’s head designer and creative director, Guy Bedarida, would be in Scottsdale, Arizona (it’s basically “Greater Phoenix”) for a special event. He was the star of a presentation at the Neiman Marcus store there “to present unique pieces of John Hardy jewellery” and his inspirations of the 2009 Fall Collection.
Don’t know if John H got to the gig. We didn’t.

Woof, Woof!

THIS year’s Bali Night cocktails do at the Rialto in Melbourne, Australia, held last Friday night (last week’s Diary not) raised a little over Aus$37,000 for the Bali Street Dogs Fund.
Indefatigable organiser Sue Warren tells us this figure isn’t final (some things that didn’t sell at auction on the night are still in play), and although down around $10,000 on last year, they’re very pleased. Given Australia’s little local difficulties with the economy – government propaganda to the contrary notwithstanding – and Victoria’s own urgent imperatives, it’s certainly a creditable result.
The Bali Street Dogs Fund helps BAWA – the Bali Animal Welfare Association – with its desexing and (now) anti-rabies campaigns. We expect Janice Girardi of BAWA is pleased, too, then.

Come Dancing

THEY like to make a song and dance of things in Ubud, in some cases, literally. And it’s true that people come to Bali for all sorts of reasons. Jen Richardson, of that hill town that so many view as the centre of the universe, is hoping some of them have come to learn modern dance, because from October 27 to November 14 there’s a chance to learn the ins and outs of jive and other styles with Jen’s son Davis, a dance teacher who is here for a month.
Apparently Jen & Son are particularly looking for “leads” (traditionally males but these days either gender is acceptable apparently) since these are somewhat rare here. If you’re interested, call Jen on 0813 3729 0712.

Call Back Later

THE things you see. The famous first-name style of Bali (Pak Hec at your service) occasionally gives you a laugh. There’s an advertisement running – somewhere or other, in one of those advertising-only rags that prove the veracity of advertising by claiming to be newspapers – for the Bali Geckos Australian Rules Football team.
They are always looking for new players of any standard, apparently. Perhaps St Kilda, who play well anywhere except within earshot of the grand final siren, could help out. But what caught our eye was that those interested were asked to call President Lincoln.
Hmm. Think he was detained at the theatre some little time back.

SCRATCHINGS FROM THE CAGE FLOOR appears as The Bali Times Diary in the weekly edition of Bali's only English-language newspaper, published every Friday. The Bali Times is at

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