Saturday, February 27, 2010

HECTOR'S BALI TIMES DIARY [for Feb. 26, 2010]

Their Bark is
Loud and
and Wide of
the Mark

THE be-nice-to-doggies lobby has been chewing our ear again over what you should and shouldn’t do in the face of a dangerous outbreak of rabies that – for whatever reason – seems to be running well outside the norms of what sensible people would assess as effective control. Last week’s editorial comment, which asserted that one of the sensible things to do is to reduce the stray dog population, was immediately countered by advice that culling is not the way to remove rabies as a threat to human populations.
The silly thing about all this is that we agree. It is obviously ineffective just to kill dogs that might be rabid (now or at some time in the future) if that is the sole – or even chief – practical application of an anti-rabies campaign. It is not necessarily ineffective however, if you are in the middle of an actual outbreak that has killed upwards of 30 people (and an unknown number of dogs) and the animals targeted live near the focus of a clinically verifiable incidence of the disease.
World experience shows clearly that rabies can be eliminated as a threat (that qualification is important; it won’t eradicate rabies) if 70 percent of dogs regularly in contact with humans are vaccinated against the disease. This is not just a theory. It is a statistical fact demonstrated by anti-rabies programmes in India and South America and experience in Western countries. The Bali Times has editorialised on precisely this point on a number of occasions. We have said numerous times – in editorials, in The Diary (which also takes a close interest) and in commentaries – that everyone’s interests are best served by a vaccination programme.
There is a rider, however. Such a programme needs to be fully resourced, run effectively, repeated as necessary (and that means according to the medical and veterinary science of the issue, not local politics), and to be backed by enforced (and enforceable) penalties on people who fail to care for the dogs under their control.
In any circumstances short of these non-negotiable requirements, it does make sense to cull stray dogs in urban or closely settled rural areas if it is known that rabies in present. That is a sensible immediate response to an outbreak. It is not a replacement for longer-term responses from the authorities; it simply removes numbers of dogs from the local “likely-to-bite-you” list. It isn’t a solution. It’s a measure of immediate protective utility.
The best protection against rabies is a predominantly vaccinated canine population (vaccinated on a programme that provides full protection against the disease and the necessary booster vaccinations to maintain that protection); a strict registration system for pet or working dogs; and a sharply significant change in Balinese social attitudes to dogs. Stray dog populations need to be reduced. That is best done by creating a society that accepts real (as opposed to notional) responsibility for animals; that promotes (and pays for) sterilisation campaigns to naturally reduce the number of strays; and which shows an active (not to say actual) interest in improving the living conditions of both people and animals.
The mangy and other diseased and deprived strays you see everywhere on Bali are a blight – on the island and on a culture that acquiesces in blindingly obvious communal irresponsibility.

Well, Hello

ONE of Bali’s more decoratively exotic birds, Sarah-Jane Scrase, lately a promoter of Paradise Property, the expat realtors, has surfaced in a new role. She is now promoting a new online service for people thinking about visiting Bali and who might, as a result, have one or two questions (well actually three, it would seem) prior to departure.
We wish her luck around that particular feeding tray. It’s pretty crowded territory.

Land of Footy

THE Diary has just spent a little over a week in Western Australia. As always, this is a wondrous thing. It provides a unique perspective on what really matters in the world, or at least the bit of it that covers the western third of the Australian continent. It is apparent from the media there – both print and electronic – and from discourse with the natives that the West Australian year is divided into two seasons: the football season and the pre-football season. It’s not even football, of course. It’s that curious form of aerial ping-pong called Australian Rules, which long before it became both a central expression of Australian nationalism and a way of getting a bit of legal biff into one’s weekends, was invented to keep antipodean cricketers out of trouble in the winter off-season. That’s why it’s played on an oval.
To the uninitiated its rules appear to mandate complete anarchy. It is unsurprising therefore that they were loosely developed from those of Gaelic football, which is played in Ireland, though with a round ball. The Australians prefer a sub-size oval ball. Some people play Australian Rules football in Bali. They’re known as the Bali Geckos. It is therefore strange that you hear so little from them.

Feeling Crabby

THERE are other delights available in the Odd Zone. One of them is crabbing, another rite of passage of Australians who live within cooee of the ocean. You can do this from a boat – though this is not recommended for people whose equilibriums are apt to be upset by anarchic wave action, such as The Diary, whose dear old Gran achieved family fame long, long ago by suffering seasickness in a rowboat on the Serpentine, that tiny little lake in Hyde Park, London – or from the beach. The latter is fun if you fancy getting your feet wet in none-too-warm water, trailing sand through everything forever afterwards, and probably not catching any crabs, a chill being more likely.
The Diary indulged in a token outing in pursuit of consumable crustaceans last week, an expedition in the company of Mrs Diary and her sister conducted at dusk with two crabbing scoops – they look like the shells of destroyed hair salon driers on sticks – a bucket and a torch. The wind over the beach at Busselton, the setting for this littoral delight, was cool. The beach looks directly north and thus precisely at where Bali lies, tropical and temptingly clement, well over the horizon and temporarily quite out of reach. The little waves were surprisingly destabilising – Mrs Diary got a bit wet tripping over one, it seems – and the crabs were conspicuously absent.
But the remains of the day were brilliantly red in the west, in the way only Australian sunsets can be; the crescent moon was artist’s heaven hanging low over the ocean; and the prominence of the Southern Cross in the inky blue sky of just dark enabled The Diary finally to persuade his two directionally challenged distaff companions that south was indeed in that direction.

Next Stop, Freezerland

FAMILY business – of the sadly inevitable kind – has taken The Diary to England, briefly. All clans have patriarchs to whom honour accrues and is due. England – and indeed Britain, of which England is merely a part, Little Englanders please note – is no longer what it was. In the four decades since separation – that is, of the singular, personal kind – much has changed in that old country. Visits over the years have been instructive on that score, especially as to the wisdom of a decision to leave its shores and seek more clement climes. There are no regrets. But one’s roots remain in one’s native soil; and at certain times in life’s journey, they cling more tightly than usual: whatever the weather.

HECTOR'S SCRATCHINGS appear, as The Bali Times Diary, in the print edition of the weekly newspaper every Friday, and on the newspaper's website at The Bali Times is also available worldwide via Newspaper Direct.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

HECTOR'S BALI TIMES DIARY [for Feb. 19, 2010]

Home the

THE Diary stepped aboard AirAsia from Denpasar to Perth last Friday, en route to a necessary reconnection with the residual Australian elements of life that seem mandatory for expatriates from the Great Southern Land. It’s not so much the Vegemite – now Indonesia has worked out that it is not actually something that should be on the poisons register you can get it in Bali easily enough, though at a price – as other things. Such as reminding oneself why it is so much better living in Bali, where you can pass your time for the most part unmolested by do-gooders who demand you do not smoke or otherwise engage in elected self-abuse; where a meal out doesn’t automatically cost you an arm and leg; and where the nightly television news is not all about the latest collection of tattooed angry beards and similarly tattooed fierce-faced women protesting about something or other that is, on any objective analysis, of absolutely no consequence whatever.
    Bali traffic is missed on these trips. On our little island, driving conditions better match the colourful and essential anarchy and mischance of life. In Australia, in contrast, people stop at stop signs. They look right – for oncoming traffic – at intersections. They don’t honk their horns five seconds before the traffic lights turn green. They keep in lane. They even do so at traffic lights, never thinking to create eight lanes out of the two marked on the road surface. They (mostly) observe the speed limits. It’s all very unsettling. And there’s virtually no drama. Being able to drive 200 kilometres in two-and-half hours is a novelty, granted, although a little unsettling when at home a 40-kilometre round trip into Denpasar and back, with a short stop in the middle to conduct the business you went there for, can take you longer.
    But we digress. AirAsia’s Bali-Perth services are very popular and rightly so. If the seats are little narrow for the Western build and the pitch of them such that if one is more than 150cm tall one’s knees tend to spend the flight time up around one’s ears, there is consolation in the fact that one has paid only a low fare. And it’s only a short flight (it too can take less time than a “quick” trip into Denpasar and back, see above).
    The Diary’s trip this time was not without adventure. We boarded, on time, and were pulled out from the parking bay. But then the aircraft wouldn’t go. It made some horrible noises – rather like one’s water pump at home after the latest PLN power outage – and remained stationary on the apron for rather a long time while the pilots worked out what was wrong. A helpful (Australian) woman behind the Diary – in row 23 – said it was strange it wouldn’t go forward since it had been able to reverse (away from the aerobridge) quite easily. Doh! Some Aussies really shouldn’t be let out without a minder.
    Clearly it was the hydraulics. The cabin staff said it was the air conditioning. But never mind. They’re trained not to frighten the horses, or even the passengers. We returned to the aerobridge and were offloaded. Five hours later, and in a different aircraft, we took off for Perth. These things happen. This was handled very well. And it is really rather better that such problems become apparent on the ground before you fly rather than afterwards, especially as this one involved the flaps. As in those little gizmos that go up and down behind the wings to assist with all sorts of importing things, like lift (essentially for takeoff), for example.
    Then on arrival in Perth, a lovely thing happened. The cabin announcement welcomed all passengers to Perth – all airlines do that – but then added, “And to all Australians on board, welcome home.” AirAsia is not an Australian airline. So that’s great PR. And it’s a great airline.

Bit of a stink

IT will not be long before The Diary is back enjoying Bali days. In the meantime, our island-wide network of spies – including the strangely silent Stella Kloster, our bling-and-bolly girl, who must surely have been to a party or two at which we wouldn’t even bother being a fly on the wall – is hard at work spotting for us.
    Thus it is that we hear that reports of the large puddle at Double Six – it’s a seasonal thing – have surfaced in the Indonesian language press. Apparently it has been noticed that this water is (1) deep; (2) stagnant; and (3) smelly. It has even been identified that the problem flows – so to speak – from drainage, or rather, the lack of such facilities.
    This significant absence of infrastructure has been spotted by local legislator I Wayan Puspa Negara, who told the Bali Post last Saturday the problem was that the drainage channels do not have good elevation. We think he meant they were not provided with the necessary downhill slope (it only needs to be one degree to recruit the magic of gravity to its purpose) to ensure the water ran away rather than gathered in large unruly pools. If knowledge of this element of engineering is now is wide circulation in Bali, it’s a good thing. A curriculum change must soon be upcoming at the civil engineering faculty at Udayana University. And it means we may be able to look forward to drains that drain in due course.
    Lawmaker Puspa, a member of the Badung legislature, worries that problems such as the noisome super-puddle at Double Six, where tourists go, might have an adverse impact on our island’s attractiveness. He could be right, of course. Unaccountably, many tourists take the view that places they go to are better off without stinky pools of water from unidentified and therefore suspect sources. To be fair, the Balinese themselves think this. They know, too, that uncontrolled stagnant water provides mosquitoes with breeding areas.
    But unlike tourists, however, most of them seem content with the concept of drains and other facilities that fail to work only for half the year. That is, only during the rainy season. When it’s dry, as they will point out (often with an air of exasperation), the drainage system copes more than adequately with the work it is required to perform.

Pickled Again

SPEAKING of bolly, we can report that reader James Watling, the Hello Bolly man, wonders – seemingly via that curious little BlackBerry communicator matrix we now run on Page 1 of the paper and which, The Diary is assured by people who (1) are convinced it does in fact work and (2) apparently care – whether in the light of the newspaper’s grasp of today’s technology Hector will be withdrawing his several calumnies against such technology. We think he was speaking tongue in cheek (should that be “interfacing,” we wonder; or even “matrixing”?).
    Way back on July 10 last year, when Watling apparently was similarly devoid of anything useful to do, he sent a note to William Furney of this newspaper who had, in his Once in a Bali Lifetime column, canvassed the idiocies of the BlackBerry age.
    The item reported as follows:
    James Watling (who signs himself off thus: Hello Bali The Island Key Powered by Matrix BlackBerryR) and is remarkable for having been written - on his BlackBerry, natch - while supposedly at a dinner. James disagrees with William. On Blackberries and other associated gizmo-gear. He says he would find it hard to live in Bali without his, since he can email and browse and even post to Twitter upon the little object, and that this is good because Indonesia's cyber world infrastructure is less than perfect.
    Among much else, he tells us (well, William) that in "a fit of peak boredom during this dinner function" - was this boredom at its height, we wonder, or was he just piqued? - he found himself scanning the latest edition of The Bali Times (it's a sterling read he says; we agree) and chanced upon the "Mobile Moan" article, to which, he further advises, "I must put finger-to-button in response."
    But, sadly for reader Watling, Hector’s view of over-supplied technology and its results (BlackBerries, PickleBerries and any other Berries; and the terminal decline in good manners these things have facilitated) has not changed.
    The presence of a little BlackBerry matrix on Page One is an irritation of the sort felt by the Picts when that fellow Hadrian turned up to build his wall in Britannia to keep them out. And Hector is not a chap tangle with in such arguments. As he is apt to say, himself, when pressed on such matters: Watch out chum or I’ll pull your plug.

Back to Front

JANET DeNeefe, Ubud restaurateur, cooking school chief and Luminary at Large at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, will by now – surely? – be turning her mind to this year’s festival. It’s on in less than eight months. Perhaps her long Australian sojourn over the southern summer and her further peregrinations on the Indian sub-continent thereafter were not entirely recreational and will provide some input for the big bash.
    It would be good to hear what’s planned, though, since URWF is such a central element of Bali’s crowded cultural calendar.

HECTOR'S SCRATCHINGS appear as The Diary in the The Bali Times, in the print edition (out Fridays) and at The Bali Times is available worldwide through Newspaper Direct.

Friday, February 12, 2010

HECTOR'S BALI TIMES DIARY [for Feb. 12, 2010]

What’s in a Name (1)?
Well, a Nice Little Row,
For One Thing

MANY of the entrepreneurial types you see around Bali – and in Lombok, similarly enthused by the prospect of selling something to a bule – have given themselves “English” names. Sunglass sellers are among these, most ubiquitously; though buying a set of ready-to-fracture frames from John (or Matthew, Mark or Luke) is no more a good idea than buying them from Wayan, Made, Nyoman or Kadek. Or for that matter from any of the poor migrant workers from Java and elsewhere in Indonesia who try – desperately – to scratch a marginal living from itinerant selling.
Similarly, should your fancy turn that way, you may avail yourselves of massage services – not necessarily of a questionable variety – from an assortment of ladies who will tell you their names are Sara (or Sarah), Sally, Anna, Lily, and so forth.
So, outrage in many quarters notwithstanding, some measure of objectivity needs to be retained in the delicious little row over the practice of that place for plutocrats, the St. Regis, to “encourage” its butlers to adopt names with which its well-heeled guests may feel more comfortable. It is, in short, more of a risibility than a risk; it says far more about the shallow proclivities of St. Regis, its American corporate bosses, its management and its guests (apparently) than it does about the sanguinity with which Indonesians interested in earning a living view the business of coping with the strange habits of Westerners.
To illustrate the real point – which isn’t the asinine policy of presenting butlers as thespian characters but the difficulty the St. Regis apparently has with falling revenues worldwide – we made strenuous efforts, as the publisher of the original story about Nusa Dua’s sudden crop of Edgars, Edwards and others, to give the hotel and its corporate controllers their say.
They didn’t want to say, apparently. Communications from the news desk of The Bali Times were met with ethereal silence. It is good to see, therefore, that common sense (and something resembling a grip on cultural awareness) has come to the St. Regis, with its decision, disclosed this week in the teeth of a growing row, to junk the whole silly idea. And good to see that its management now concedes that corporate presence needs to conform to the locality in which it is present.
We seriously doubt that many of its guests at its Bali property will be in any way disturbed by their canapés and bubbly being served by the hand of someone whose name plate says he is another Wayan. And if any of them were to be, our advice would be: You’re in the wrong country; go somewhere else.

What’s in a Name (2)

WE hear that 300 islands in East Nusa Tenggara which are yet to be blessed with an official moniker may soon be wiped from the map due to conflicts regarding their names.
Ricard Djami, head of the provincial secretariat administrative office in Kupang, says residents differ over the right names for unnamed islands. “Some want islands named after their ancestors, but others want them named after certain animals,” he said last week. Probably he said this with a sigh. “These differences slow down the process of naming the islands.”
Wonder if St. Regis could help resolve the difficulty? Canapé Cay has a certain ring to it. Or Bloody Mary Reef.

Statue of Limitations

IT wasn’t quite a Warhol moment – the idea lasted more than 15 minutes, after all – but Indonesia’s most publicised adopted son, US President Barack Obama, apparently isn’t acceptable for fully public display in statue form in Jakarta. The 10-year-old “Barry” Obama, complete with outstretched hand and passing butterfly, is being moved from a Menteng park to the close confines of his former primary school in the area.
A Facebook group – Turunkan Patung Barack Obama di Taman Menteng (Take Down the Barack Obama Statue in Menteng Park), which last time we looked had 56,541 members – has claimed victory. Critics had said that a public park should be for a real Indonesian hero, not someone who says he’d love a really good nasi goreng.
In the time-honoured Indonesian tradition there is also a lawsuit floating around, filed on January 22 against the city administration. We hear this may stay in place because it has already been filed. Or perhaps it’s because platoons of lawyers were expecting to get fat fees out of the argument and won’t let go.
The Diary always felt the idea was something of a misjudgement. But perhaps it had some merit. Hector spent (nearly) four of his formative years living in Nicosia, Cyprus, and is astonished that no one has suggested that this involuntary, though immensely enjoyable, childhood event should be commemorated in post-modern kitsch.
That’s a shame. There’s a lovely little spot right on the Green Line (which divides the city between Turkish North Cyprus and Greek Cypriot Cyprus Cyprus, a geographical addendum whose worrisome birth post-dated Hector’s period of official residence by two decades) that would admirably augment the options available to local pigeons.
Or, if the people objected to a public commemoration, then the fine Venetian quadrangle of what may by now be the former Terra Santa College, in Hector’s day the domain of particularly fierce Capuchin monk-teachers, would do very nicely.

Life in a Bubble

IN recent weeks business matters in Denpasar have taken The Diary several times into the fun and games of Jl Imam Bonjol. Most tourists probably never get the chance to enjoy that particular celebration of Indonesian traffic. It is not for the faint-hearted. There has been a rewarding compensation lately, though. At one particularly fine traffic jam, aka intersection, there’s been a chap selling bubbles.
He darts in and out of the stalled vehicular mass, carrying his wares and cheerily blowing little soapy bubbles into the fumes. Not sure if he ever sells anything. But it has caused Hector to go on his way chirruping that lovely old song: I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles.

Fine Fare

SADLY, it seems, Hector’s (no relation) Tex-Mex eatery on Jl Raya Uluwatu at Ungasan has closed its doors. The premises is shuttered and the sign has fallen over; though oddly, it was still illuminated last time we passed by. Perhaps the beans just wouldn’t jump.
But a little way up the road, just over the manic crossroads where you can continue to Pecatu, turn left to Bali Cliff or Nusa Dua, or right to Balangan – or not, as the traffic gods, grossly oversized tourist buses and Killer Yellow trucks dictate – we’ve found Waroeng Ungasan, spelled thus, in the attractive older style.
It is run by Wayan (are we surprised?), who offers her own style of home cooking in a nice low-cost and comfortable ambience. The place has Wi-Fi too, a boon to local residents when their own ISPs decide to take the day off. The menu is eclectic and includes ayam goreng lalapan, described this way in what must be that newly emerging language, BalEngTxt (Balinese-English-Text): Fried chicken served with a Balinese vegetable salad of thin sliced raw cabbage, green bean, cucumber, tomato oh yeah sambal setan (evil hot) but ask 4 the mild if ur a chicken.
Sounds fun. But The Diary had the mie goreng. It was very nice.

Turning Turtle

SOMETIMES you read a story that really warms the heart. So it was recently when ABC Online – essential reading for those with any interest in the Odd Zone – posted a report that police had cordoned off an entire beachside road in the Queensland city of Redcliffe to accommodate a turtle rescue. (Redcliffe is just north of the state capital, Brisbane – that big place that Garuda still can’t manage to fly to from Bali.)
It seems that masses of little loggerhead turtles, newly hatched in the dark of the evening, had taken a wrong turn and headed along the highway instead of into the ocean. So local residents and staff from the nearby Australia Zoo, which but for a misguided stingray would still be the domain of the quintessential Aussie, the “Crikey!” man, Steve Irwin, turned out in force for the lengthy operation necessary to gather them up and send on their way in the proper direction.

Dead Letter

IN The Diary last week we ran an item headed We Get a Rev-Up. It related to a letter to The Bali Times from Dewi Hadi of Tuban, who was taking The Diary to task over what she believed was unfair treatment of Schapelle Corby and her sister Mercedes.
It was a well-written letter, received early in the week and judged – properly – to be a missive the newspaper should publish. The diary, also written early in the week, said it appeared in the letters column in that edition. Then the Fates intervened. A mass of comment on another issue – the St. Regis butlers who masquerade as Edgar and such (is there a Jeeves?) and which is the subject of this week’s lead item – was similarly judged worthy of publication; in the production phase of the weekly graft and grind, other letters were then left out of the edition, including Ms Hadi’s.
It appears this week, late but still eminently readable. And we’ve given ourselves a rev-up about it.

Hector's Diary appears in the print edition of The Bali Times every Friday and online at the newspaper's website, www,, every Monday. The Bali Times is available worldwide via Newspaper Direct.

Friday, February 05, 2010

HECTOR'S BALI TIMES DIARY [for Feb. 5, 2010]

How the West
Was Lost and
Why Stoicism
Would be
Best Regained

THE Australian journal Quadrant is required reading at The Diary. Last year it was in the news as the victim of a cosy little leftist hoax from Academe, where the good thinkers are said to reside: those who believe themselves and their indulgent self-views to be undeniable, and who continually wicker at us from the lofty summits which they would have us believe are theirs by right.
The January-February double issue - just read in print, courtesy of some new drop-in guests at The Cage; it’s so much better than online because you can sit back in comfort and balance a whisky and a quarto-size publication at the same time – carries a thoughtful article on the benefits of the Stoic tradition.
It is by Michael Evans, a Fellow at the Australian Defence College in Canberra, and is based on a Veterans’ Day Address he gave to staff and students of the US Marine Corps University at Quantico, Virginia, last November. Evans reminds us that the Roman Stoics – among them the slave-philosopher Epictetus; Seneca; Cicero; and everyone’s favourite emperor, Marcus Aurelius – created true virtue out of steadfastness in the face of disaster. Seneca wrote, in his essay On Providence, that “the only safe harbour from the seething storms of this life is scorn of the future, a firm stand in the present, and readiness to receive Fortune’s arrows, full in the breast, without skulking or turning one’s back.”
Evans’s theory (and the pity is, he may not have been preaching to the converted) is that the West has lost its way; that it has become a weakened shadow of its former self by shifting from honouring valour to rewarding self-pity. It is a view – as Evans notes – that the Islamic scholar Akbar S. Ahmed supports in characterising the West today as a “post-honour” society.
As Albert Camus wrote in his 1957 novel, The Fall:

I sometimes think of what future historians will say of us. A single sentence will suffice for modern man: He fornicated and read the papers. After that vigorous definition, the subject will be, if I may say so, exhausted.

Evans notes: “If one replaces Camus’s papers with today’s screens, then we have an accurate picture of the cultural detritus that has largely succeeded in replacing refined taste and honourable purpose in the West.”

We Get a Rev-Up

BALI Times reader Putu Hadi of Tuban – she says ex-reader, but her correspondence clearly indicates she reads paper, as of course she should – takes The Diary to task for what she says is unfair treatment of Schapelle Corby and her sister Mercedes.
It may be true that many readers of the non-Bahasa press in Bali are not yet accustomed to seeing points made strongly, or with a touch of acid. Perhaps these people still prefer the anodyne comforts of the glitzy zone, in those glossy things are people produce here and purport to promote as vehicles for objective information. Some others, who value dissent as much as we, get their kicks from some of the great blogs people here write – one thinks of Susi Johnston’s, for example (loved her piece on Dreamland and Mr T. Suharto recently) or our own Vyt Karazija, who weekly gives readers of The Bali Times a giggle as well as those who read him on line. The Diary has issues with Made Wijaya (Michael White) but – his grammatical challenge overlooked in this instance – he too is fairly far from shy about making a point.
It is a newspaper diarist’s job to be a pain in the butt. There is no expectation that every reader will agree with what is written. Were they to do so, any editor worth his salt would sack his diarist and find someone else to stir the pot.
The Corbys, whatever the merits or demerits of Schapelle Corby’s distressing circumstances, have made themselves a cause celebre, in the manner of many Westerners who, faced with something they can portray as someone else’s fault, run to a vacuous media and rush into print or scream at a camera . That’s their right, of course. It is the right of others to prick balloons, however.
Ms Hadi says Mercedes Corby is a good friend. That’s great. Everyone needs good friends. She also says it is unfair to describe her as garrulous – though it seemed a kinder term at the time of writing than motor-mouth – and to suggest that she’ll be in any media as long as they pay her.
We can assume on the basis of this information, then, that Mercedes appeared half naked in Ralph, a disgusting magazine for sad little men who favour solitary pursuits in darkened privacy, out of the goodness of her heart and for no monetary return.
If that is the case, she is indeed unique.

Catcher in the Wry

THE death last weekend of the American author JD Salinger removes from this mortal coil a man who was the hero of many who write to entertain, annoy or inform others, and do so with a measure of detachment that – in your diarist’s view – is essential armour against the faux pomp and ridiculous circumstance that many luminosities of the art world affect.
Jerome David Salinger was an indifferent student and yet brought to his work an insight that was truly paradigm-shifting. The Catcher in the Rye (1951), his most famous work (though arguably others were better) was one of those celebrated modifiers of language and culture for which lesser mortals can be thankful and should be appreciative. When such felicities are delivered with a wry wit and illuminating prose, it is even better.

Don’t Wait Up

BALI’S busway system will not be calling at a halte (bus stop) near you any time soon. Like many things in Indonesia, it was announced with a fanfare, forced into the starting stalls – and then reality intervened. It was to be in operation later this year, according to Governor I Made Mangku Pastika. Now, also according to the Governor, on later advice, or perhaps after a reality check, it will along in about a year.
It seems a little matter of planning got in the way of the scheduled start. This is no surprise. It’s great to have a plan, as in a concept. But you also need a plan, as in an implementation plan. That requires resources, infrastructure, and a whole lot of other things.

Well, They Love It

WE should not, perhaps, be surprised that the urbanisation of Canggu is viewed not only with a sense of acquiescence by the local Balinese population of the area, but also with a keen sense of urgency. Our page one report last week on the latest blot on the landscape was devoid of criticism. This is not because we didn’t try to find any (we’re not that sort of publication). It is because development spells money – in sales of precious family rice fields and forthcoming small business opportunities – and that is the singular focus of most Balinese.
Tomorrow will take care of itself. Well, that’s the theory. Today, the target is rupiah.

It’s Madness All Right

HERE at The Diary we love the Jakarta Globe. It brings to the business of reporting Indonesia a fresh approach that is a very welcome antidote to the self-absorbed flatulence of that other Jakarta English-language daily.
But one quibble: Why does it persist with the Metro Madness column? It isn’t funny; it doesn’t break news (wind being more its style apparently); and it is always a struggle to read. The latest offering, last weekend, attempted to sum up the health food supplement industry – inaccurately and ruinously blending it with the pharmaceutical industry – while bombarding readers with clichés and branding the Indonesian “underclass” as credulous.
The Metro bit of the title is debatable. The Madness bit is beyond question.

Blackberry Tarts

THOSE among you who wonder about such things – as The Diary and certain others do, in quiet moments – might like to be reminded about how the now nearly ubiquitous Blackberry got its name. Not the fruit (though that’s an interesting question too, since they are more deep purple than black) but the communications tool. It is in such wide use that The Diary – still in the Stone Age with a perfectly serviceable e-mail capable little mobile phone that fits snuggly in the smallest pocket – has taken to calling those who insist on chirruping into them incessantly blackberry tarts.
It seems that when the prototype was produced, one of the executives concerned remarked that the keys looked like seeds from a strawberry. Others present (who might perhaps have more usefully been somewhere else, getting on with their day) agreed but thought strawberry was too fruity (weak) for the business market they were aiming at. So they chose the stronger blackberry.
So now you know.

Hector's Diary appears as The Diary in The Bali Times weekly, out Fridays, and on the newspaper's website at The Bali Times is also available as a print product via Newspaper Direct.