Friday, May 28, 2010

HECTOR'S BALI TIMES DIARY [for May 28, 2010]

Our New
Highway to
Heaven Has
Its (Awful)

A DRIVE to Candi Dasa is always interesting; in recent months – and judging by progress identified thus far, and the scarcity of scenes of actual work taking place, for many more months to come – this interest level has been heightened further by the Australian funded duplication of the splendidly named Prof Ida Bagus Mantra By-Pass, which ordinary mortals know as the Sanur-Kusamba by-pass. So it was last weekend, when The Diary made a trip up that way (so much better than the alternative destination, alternative in both senses, of Ubud).
It’s a relaxing drive. Between narrowly missing oncoming wrong-side driving and maniacal Killer Yellow trucks emitting the screams of differentials in their death throes and self-evidently driven by complete idiots, and jigging bunches of closely following motorbikes from your exhaust pipe, you get to look at the lovely countryside. Those little knocking shops masquerading as cafés lining the highway are great, aren’t they? Still, last Friday’s trip eastbound was only 1hr45min door to door from Ungasan to the chosen beachside digs at Candi. Coming back on Sunday was only 1hr50min. That’s not bad for a 73km drive. Heavens, it’s a trip speed of around 30km/h. It would be much lower than that, of course, if not for the new 200km/h dual carriageway strip of the bypass that actually bypasses Kusamba.
What’s more, this creditable trip speed was attained while coping with all the diversions at the towards-Denpasar end on to the other carriageway, over thoughtfully thrown together all-terrain-vehicle testing surfaces. Imagine what the trip would take if there was a proper road. It would be helped if a proper road contained proper drivers, of course. People who won’t make eight lanes of traffic out of one in a devil-take-the-hindmost push and shove attempt to get to be first to the back of the next queue of traffic; truck drivers (and motorcyclists) who can read (specifically, the signs saying trucks and motorcycles keep left); non-colour blind drivers who can tell the difference between red traffic lights and green ones; and intelligent ones who know what the colours actually mean; that sort of thing.

Warming Moments

CANDI Dasa is a quiet little spot. That is, between tailgating posses of traffic roaring through town oblivious to everything, especially other road users and the big yellow sign at the entrance to the “Obyek Wisata” that advises 40km/h would be a good speed.
It passes understanding why mandatory speed limits aren’t applied to urban streets, and are then enforced. It should be patently obvious that there is no point advising Indonesia’s drivers (foreigners among them) about anything much at all. Even the natty new time-display counters at traffic lights – which tell you in green how long you’ve got before they go red and you’re notionally required to stop; or, in red, how long you’ve got to wait (especially at the airport turnout in Tuban) before your red light flicks back to 99 more seconds – seem merely to be an unmissable invitation to scream through well after the change.
At Candi Dasa on Sunday there was a nicely turned out policeman at the side of the road, chatting with his mates, and – perhaps, though this is a stretch - idly noticing from time to time the traffic screaming past the temple at double the advisory speed. We’re not sure he saw the Idiot Blue truck that flew past him on the wrong side of the road and did at least 500 metres of personal contra-flow to get past some slowcoaches whose flat-to-the-floor gas pedal performance was obviously deficient. Some of them, blast them, had actually slowed to around 70km/h. No wonder Pak Gila in the blue truck was impatient. The pity of it is that idiots like him so often turn out to have a date with someone else’s destiny.

Girl Heaven

VINCENT’S, the Candi Dasa eating establishment that has grilled Haloumi in pastry and thus The Diary’s unquestioned patronage, has whacked up its prices and downsized its portions. Ah, the evils of economics. It also seems to have gone into the girl business, at least vicariously, in a sharp break with its historic practice of having no females on the premises unless legitimate paying guests. The boys are all very nice, and generally helpful, but – well – it’s that sort of place.
At the weekend, however, there appeared to be two ladies in the lounge bar area of the establishment (they were accompanied by a mobile-phone equipped gentleman in an up-market T-shirt, slacks and proper shoes) whose concept of resort wear was singularly brief and high-heeled and whose purpose was just as blatantly plain. Another chica de la noche had apparently acquired a punter – it’s not clear whether this was actually on the premises – and was struggling through dinner with her night’s wages at a neighbouring table in a skirt the size of a modest belt. It was probably designed for something, but the something wasn’t sitting down.
The Diary is an accommodating entity. Sadly for accusative moralists everywhere, prostitution has never been something to get het up about. It happens. It will never not happen. It’s better therefore to accept its inevitability and, if this gives you the vapours, to lie back and think of England or something of equally useless utility.
At the same time, it would seem to be a new element in quiet and hitherto decorous Candi Dasa. Perhaps it was a holiday special?

Anyone Around?

THE Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, an annual jamboree that takes its chief medium, English, so lightly that it forgoes bothering with possessives (it should be the Ubud Writers’ and Readers’ Festival), will be with us again, in its 2010 guise, before we know it. It’s on from October 6-10 with the theme “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika: Harmony in Diversity.”
Unfortunately, only just over four months out from its start date, that’s about all we can tell you. That and the fact that its website this week is still headlining a night of words and music to warm up the space (nature abhors a vacuum after all) on April 9.
Perhaps its founder and chief inspiration, Janet DeNeefe, has been so busy trying to ensure that the umbilical cord connecting her event with vital Australian funding will not be completely severed with the departure next month of longstanding Australian ambassador Bill Farmer that she has quite forgotten the importance of getting something on the board, even if it’s not actually runs.
It’s unlikely the Aussies will cut her off without a penny, of course, even if Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has spent all the money he can expect for several years on technically avoiding a technical recession. They are commendably generous with arts funding to worthy causes both at home and overseas. And in the bigger scheme of things, the UWRF is pretty small beer.

A Rare Treat

EXPATRIATES of Scottish provenance or heritage are served pretty well in the Anglosphere, where men in skirts wielding instruments of torture are a commonplace. But not so outside the boundaries of that global diaspora, for example in Indonesia, where, were they asked, the bulk of the population would probably agree that the kilt is a Victorian fiction, the creature of novelists such as Walter Scott and poor, sad old Queen Vic herself, and that bagpipes are best heard (very faintly) from a safe distance, say over at least three substantial hills.
Nonetheless, it was a treat to get the Jakarta Globe on Monday and see on page one a mass of kilted gentlemen and accoutrements. On such occasions your Diarist’s residual Scottishness tugs on the heart strings and tweaks the conscience.
The occasion was the 31st Jakarta Highland Gathering. It was at Tangerang (they should have held the festivities at Bogor; you can see hills from there). Cabers were tossed and hammers thrown, as is usual on such occasions.
The Diary’s personal favourite, in the Globe photo, was the Sikh piper in the middle. Sensibly, he preferred a turban and a tunic to a bonnet and a skirt. But never let it be said that the essential and overwhelmingly Scottish flavour of Britain’s former empire was completely wasted.

Don’t Go There

LAST week in our Island pages we featured Vladimir Karpov as our subject in the popular series The Big Questions. He is a creative consultant from Russia. He is not The Diary’s favourite creative consultant from Russia (that honour having been bestowed on Edo Botkunov, mentioned in The Diary two weeks ago).
It would be a surprise, in fact, if Karpov were anyone’s favourite creative consultant. He creatively consults for Wisata Media Komunika in Denpasar, whose website is to be avoided. It has a Trojan virus on it that no one there has apparently bothered to fix. Or perhaps they themselves never visit their site. It’s been the same for ages.
You have been warned: Beware of geeks bearing gifts.

Hector's Blog appears as The Diary in The Bali Times, Bali's leading English-language newspaper, in its print edition out on Fridays, and on the newspaper's website at The Bali Times is also  available as a print product worldwide via NewspaperDirect.

Friday, May 21, 2010

HECTOR'S BALI TIMES DIARY [for May 21, 2010]

How it should be done: Not all cheap-flight Aussies are immune to advice or anything but desirous of doing the right thing. Ungasan resident Wayan Sarson (she’s in the middle of the photo here) is hosting some of her Australian family by marriage here at the moment and took them to Uluwatu temple to see the real Bali. The lads, who are in full regalia in the photograph because they visited Uluwatu on the day of important ceremonies, are here to surf (good on ’em) and, it seems, to dress up a treat.

We’ve Been
No, That’s
Not How
It Works

WHAT a delightful story The Bali Times reported on its web site during the week (it’s in this week’s print edition too) about the Ngurah Rai International Airport VIP scheme having been suspended but one of the operators of same saying yes, it had been suspended, but they could still offer the service and indeed were doing so. That’s Bali – and Indonesia – in a nutshell: Rules mean nothing; decisions are ignored.
We don’t think the VIP fast-track system is necessarily a bad thing. If you’ve got the spare readies, why stand in a disorganised muddle when in exchange for some currency you can be through and out the door in no time flat? But it leaves several important questions not only open but writhing on the floor in what should be, anywhere else, considerable pain.
The visa-on-arrival queues at Ngurah Rai are a shambles. Actually, they’re a disgrace. Processing is slow, not helped by the fact that many desks supposed to house a helpful – if naturally and sensibly cautious – immigration officer are unattended at peak times. If this is a roster problem (if not enough officers are detailed for duty) then those responsible for immigration at the airport aren’t doing their job.
That’s no surprise of course. Hardly anyone in official posts here actually does their job, at least in a recognisable fashion. For some visitors, perhaps, this is just part of the ambience of the place. It’s laid-back, right? For others – and we would suggest this is probably the vast majority – it is an unnecessary and unpleasant initial experience of our island.
If the authorities wish to abolish the VIP fast-track private system – other than for genuine VIPs who of course should be accommodated specially, as they are anywhere else – then fair enough. But then they must ensure it is actually abolished. And before they do that, they should get their act together to clear the cattle-crush in the arrivals hall.
The new biometrics checks were suspended because – like other Indonesian impediments such as customs clearance on the wharves and cargo handling generally – new rules just make for more chaos. That’s not necessarily because the rules are bad; it’s because implementation and command and control are foreign to the lexicon of Indonesian administration.
Get with it, guys. If tourists have to stand in line for hours just to get into the country, sooner or later, a lot of them are going to decide it’s not worth the effort.

Sign of the Times

NOW that hordes of Cyrillic characters are going to be pouring off planes direct from Mother Russia on a scheduled basis – with Aeroflot and Transaero winning traffic rights to Bali and due to start flying here regularly from December – we must all brace for an epidemic of indecipherable text on signage and restaurant menus.
A minor outbreak of hieroglyphic disease has been present in Bali for a while. Like many other places, The Diary’s favourite Nusa Dua restaurant – it’s in Bualu, where the prices are reasonable, the food’s great, and the staff are friendly because they want to be – already has Russian on the menu along with English and German. It makes for a sizeable menu, but maybe one day The Diary will be able to order ikan pepes in three languages without making a borsht of the whole thing.
All this is probably very good news for a new chum of The Diary, Edo Botkunov, who has set up hereabouts as a native Russian speaker who can be of service; he is a web designer and originator of a new internet social network. He could end up being a very busy chap indeed.

Gee, I’m Wonderful

WE don’t usually bother, especially since it costs Rp30,000 (more than US$3) if you actually buy a copy, but the May issue of NOW! Bali, the glossy non-real estate advertising vehicle put out by former insurance broker Alistair G. Speirs, caught our eye while dining out recently. We’d already exhausted the supply of actual reading material available at the establishment.
The exclamation mark is a no-no, an excrescence (we mentioned that last week in another media context). But what got your Diarist’s goat – as a really old media hand – was Publisher Speirs’ public exercise of self-gratification in what one assumes is an “Editorial.” Complete with photo. It’s classic whickering by the whacky worriers stuff.
It’s also a bit rich claiming the glory for not taking real estate advertisements (and gallantly forgoing this revenue) on the grounds that by doing so you’re somehow protecting Bali, when your front cover (a promotional shot provided by a spa, picture perfect for an issue devoted to sponsored exposure of this sector of Bali’s service economy) is a view of Ubud rice terraces taken from a structure that profits from standing on what were once rice terraces.
Speirs’ little mag is home to Made Wijaya’s strangely ruminant offerings, of course. We are reminded that while Stranger is a noun, it is also an adjective.

Well, Hello

SPEAKING of adjectives, the unseemly behaviour of some Australian louts, who forgot common sense (if they ever had any) and their manners (ditto), and drank and smoked and generally made noise at Uluwatu Temple a couple of weeks ago, an incident that attracted the attention of The Bali Times, also attracted a lot of feedback on its website. A selection of those comments appeared in last week’s print edition of the newspaper.
One that wasn't published came from Wijaya (the former Michael White), who is clearly intent on being ever stranger in paradise. Here’s his post, verbatim:
“Md Wijaya B.A. (Bule Aga) Says: The tourists are not to blame: These are a new breed of genetic mutations born at the Royal Freemantle Hospital in Perth in Bir Bintang T-shirts with a beer bottle fused biologically to their hands. The bottle is periodically filled up during ‘pub-crawls’ (pit stops) called ries de passage. The promotion of bali as a ‘cheap exotic getaway’ has attracted them to these shores.”
Thanks, Michael. Good to see you keep up with The Times. It’s Fremantle, by the way.

Hector's Blog appears as The Bali Times Diary in the weekly print edition of the newspaper, out Fridays, and online at The Bali Times, Bali's leading English-language publication, is also available as a print product worldwide via NewspaperDirect.

Friday, May 14, 2010

HECTOR'S BALI TIMES DIARY [for May 14, 2010]

Here’s a Thought:
We Don’t Need
We Need Ethics
and Morals

DESI Anwar, who writes a weekend column in the Jakarta Globe, is always worth reading. She’s to the point; she challenges the mind; she writes concisely; and – allowing for small arguments about some of her conclusions – she’s generally on the money. That’s a comparative rarity these days, in the print media anywhere, and especially in the navel-gazing, post-modern macramé set that spends its time looking deeply into the gilded but distorted mirror of Bali’s glossy advertorial media, the bit that says let’s not bother with news, it’s all so vulgar.
Anwar’s column last weekend is therefore a talking point. She wrote, in the context of Indonesia losing the services of finance minister Sri Mulyani (folks, chill; it’s not a Shakespearian tragedy, really it isn’t) that politics in a democracy is somewhat difficult to manage. Well, it is. It’s a very bad system. It’s just that it’s better than any visible alternative. It’s not clear at all how the people would benefit, in Indonesia or anywhere else, by being governed by a lot of super-qualified boffins who don’t have to compete for a popular vote.
There’s no evidence, either, that astronomical IQs or strings of highfalutin degrees do any good. If you’ve got a crooked mind, or define ethics and morals as things that are only the concern of others and are best ignored when considering your own advantage, high qualifications could arguably make you a worse public enemy than otherwise. The key is not to have a crooked or corrupt mind in the first place. That doesn’t – per se – require higher education. It requires an unimpeachable character.
So arguments that candidates for elected office should be subject to some kind of qualification test must be rejected. The voters in a democracy are the arbiters of who gets into office. The voters are not dumb. They might be ill-educated, terminally lazy, or all sorts of things. But “qualifying” voters – even if only by implying they’re a bunch of mugs - is even worse than suggesting legislators should have paper qualifications.
Indonesia certainly needs a corruption-free civil service. It needs political parties that have platforms rather than wish-lists. It needs politicians who seek to serve the people before they help themselves. It needs a state enterprise and private business sector that does likewise – and foreign investors, large or small, who also have a natural and unshakeable commitment to ethical behaviour.
It also needs media commentators who – like Anwar and others – will call it as they see it.

Hear, Hear

MADE Wijaya (Michael White), the long-term ex-expatriate landscape gardener, makes an interesting point in his online blog – The Diary reads it assiduously for signs of insurrection in the community of good thinkers; of mutterings among the chatterers, and vice versa, that sort of thing – about landscaping Bali gardens. He remarked that he viewed with extreme prejudice the Dutch suburban style of garden favoured in crowded parts of Indonesian metropolises, including by inference the more populated parts of South Bali, and instead favoured Balinese gardens along with Balinese-influenced architecture.
We agree. Dutch suburbia is bad enough in Dutch suburbs, and last time we looked, there were none of those hereabouts. Thank goodness. There is a lot that is magic about Bali and the local variants of architecture and landscaping are two essential elements of this special alchemy.
It is not necessary, of course, to join wholly with the chatterers and mutterers in mewling about how latecomers are doing to Bali what many of their predecessors, among them the mutterers and chatterers, have been doing for years to their significant advantage, and that this is now a bad thing.
Architecture changes; influences extend. It’s far more important to ensure that there are proper planning laws – and that these are enforced – than to hold funerary rites for imagined cultural bereavements.
Nonetheless, Wijaya is right. Bali needs to be Bali.


STRANGE things are happening at – or at least emerging from – Bali Update, the online heads-up produced by another of the high-volume expatriates among us, Jack Daniels, who we believe was in Singapore on a What If trip this week. He said that fingerprinting and photographing of arriving passengers at Ngurah Rai International Airport had been scrapped. It hasn’t. It has only been suspended. It’s been suspended because, like so many things here, it was introduced by the department of bright ideas before any visible thought had gone into it. But this additional security measure is national policy and is being introduced nationally, so it will be back. Hopefully this will be in a workable form.
Daniels retailed another strange pronouncement too: about a proposal, un-sourced except to an unnamed Japanese tourist group, that Japanese tourists should have access to three-year tourist visas instead of the 30-day, extendable once, visas now offered.
It wasn’t explained why they should be afforded the privilege. Perhaps they think it will take that long for JAL to realise the silly mistake it’s made in dropping Bali from its schedules. Bali Tourism Board chairman Ida Bagus Ngurah Wijaya somehow got drawn into the act, though he had a sensible response: If any such thing did eventuate, it would have to be clear it was for tourists only and not for people to work.
The Diary’s own assessment: Eggbeaters ran amok.

Now Hear This

IF you’re anywhere near Discovery Mall at Kuta between 8pm on Friday, May 28, and 5am the following morning, you probably won’t be able to avoid hearing it. The Beat magazine is celebrating its 10th birthday. It’s a full moon on the 27th, which seems appropriate in the western culture that The Beat tirelessly imposes upon us all. In the west, at full moon, traditionally you look warily for signs of mad hair growing out of your palms. (If you find any, you’ve probably been reading The Beat.)
It will be a grand bash, in the way such public entertainments are defined these days. We expect a sizeable crowd will turn out for the event. There were four confirmed guests when last we looked. But these things tend to be turn-up-on-the-night affrays.

Put a Sock in It

THE pathetic saga of Robert Paul Mcjannett (yes, with the “little j”) is nearly over, it seems. His five-month sentence for using drugs – which he didn’t use, because customs officers at Ngurah Rai International Airport found and removed them from their hiding place inside a pair of Bonds socks in his baggage – will see him out of here by month’s end.
He has been in police detention or in Kerobokan Jail ever since his arrest on December 28. So on the basis of time served, the end of May should see him back on the bus.
Good riddance. We’re sick of sad little nutcases turning up in Bali, getting clocked with drugs they didn’t know they had (hah), and then going through their sorry little list of lies before (some of them) finally confessing, before the Beak, “Yes, M’lud, I done it.”
Queensland-born West Australian resident Mcjannett has – well, had is perhaps more accurate – pretensions to leadership at the fractious heavy-arm end of the dinosaur Australian trade union movement. He is a bother-boy from way back. He fancied himself a player. Perhaps now he’ll find enough common sense to blow the whistle on himself.
There was, by the way, a delightfully apposite misspelling in one Australian report we saw of his conviction and sentencing hearing in Denpasar District Court (it was last Thursday). It said Mcjannett was “a crane operator and leading trade unionist who once challenged heavyweight Joe McDonald for the assistant state (West Australian) secretary position of the Constriction Forestry Mining and Energy Union.”
No argument there. It is undeniable that the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union is constricting.

Search Over

IN the decade or so that has passed since your diarist first came to Bali and began compiling a hit list of the top 100 songs most murdered by Bali minstrels, the Eagles’ iconic Hotel California has been a constant No 1. It used to be closely pursued by Take Me Home (Country Road), but some little while ago John Denver took a plunge.
However, recently at Waroeng Ungasan, The Diary’s favourite local eat, greet and groove place, two gentlemen appeared at the regular Thursday session and played magic guitar. And sang the best rendition of Hotel California The Diary has so far heard on Bali. Only the churlish would say that since it is universally slain in a most horrible way, not committing this crime should be easy enough for anyone with a modicum of singing talent. This excludes The Diary, whose rendition of song has forever been a vicarious acquisition. So here’s a heartfelt round of applause to Prast and Erick.
They also sing Tracy Chapman tracks, by the way. We’ve yet to try them on Chapman’s seminal Talking About a Revolution. Here in kneejerk land, talking about that might be considered a downside risk.

Think Pink

DON’T forget the Pink Ribbon Walk to raise funds for the fight against breast cancer – it’s on tomorrow (Saturday, May 15) at Nusa Dua. Tickets are Rp250,000 (US$27.50) or Rp100,000 ($11) if you’re aged 12 or under.
Start and finish is at the island at Nusa Dua (the temple promontory near Bali Collection and the Convention Centre). Registration is from 2pm; the 5km walk starts at 4pm. If you’ve still to sign up, contact organiser Gaye Warren: mobile 0816 966 251 or email See you there.

Hector's Blog appears as The Diary in The Bali Times, the island's leading English-language publication, on Fridays and on the newspaper's website at The Bali Times print edition, published weekly, is available worldwide via NewspaperDirect.

Friday, May 07, 2010


Memo Police:
Are Best
Left Alone

THE folly of the Kuta Cowboys imbroglio deepens daily. For the police, who really have more important things to do, the task of the moment appears to be filling in enough forms to ensure they can declare the Singaporean filmmaker a suspect for having failed to obtain a licence to film. That, they say, is secondary to the thorny question of whether they’ll actually be able to arrest him.
Last week’s Editorial (in The Bali Times print edition) put the counter argument with exceptional clarity. On top of that, while there is an extradition treaty in place between Indonesia and Singapore – where the gentleman concerns happens to live – it is not enforceable because Indonesia’s legislature has held up ratification. Perhaps neighbouring Singapore is seen by legislators as too convenient a bolthole to be suitable as an extradition partner.
Meanwhile, in the wake of this silly row – and while police patrol nightly to ensure that the sex trade can carry on unmolested in the Kuta party precinct – all sorts of foolish bit players are getting caught in the mesh. Even Ketut Suardana, confused spouse of “queen of Ubud” Janet DeNeefe, has got into trouble. He says, so reports put it, that handycam filmmaker Amit Virmani told him he wanted to talk about HIV/AIDS. But some pretty basic research might have forewarned the good Ketut about the likely real purpose of the interview.
There is, from The Diary’s perspective, nothing particularly wrong with gigolos. They provide, generally without the stone blind commercial purpose of a female prostitute, companionship and consensual sexual services. It may not be moral, but frankly in today’s world, a lot more is even less so. Indonesia makes a huge song and dance about sexual morality, but it’s no more enforceable here than anywhere else.
Women nowadays are much more open about sex. Young (and not so young) women actively seek sexual encounters, hopefully protected by common sense, especially when out of their home environments. The gigolo market exists chiefly for the Shirley Valentines of this world, those seekers of special comforts who – to put it at its most basic – are no longer lamb but mutton. If it is a crime it is victimless one.

Party Hard!

EXCLAMATION marks are best avoided. Sensible publishing circles regard them as things to be used with extreme rarity. They are known to those in the trade by an indelicate slang term for the male canine endowment. And it’s really not good to make a dick of yourself.
On the face of it then, it is surprising that the bimonthly glossy Fine Restaurants and Villas has had an appendicktomy, apparently in the course of adding Travel to its masthead. We wonder whether FRV Travel! (Sic) is having some sort of identity crisis. Perhaps chief editorial adviser Stuart Wilford, who also oversees FVRT!’s stable mate, The Beat, but not holding the sort of office from which as Nero showed us it is possible to make one’s horse a Consul, has opted instead for a typographical expression of equal if not equine utility.
It may be that things are not so good at the glossy end of the property market, at least so far as those no longer with the readies to spend in the look-at-the-lovely-pictures advertising sector are concerned. And as for the compliant words that wrap around these extravagances, well there’s only so much you can say about buildings and their contents, even if you do only publish once every two months.
Anyway, it’s something to have a good yak about.

Kampai (Sort Of)

JAPAN Air Lines has been a fixture in Bali’s skies – and those of many other destinations – for many, many moons indeed. It is sad, therefore, that from September 30 JAL will not be gliding in – company practice – to Ngurah Rai International Airport.
The pride of Nippon has fallen on very hard times; that this is largely its own fault is no consolation. Its corporate shemozzle (it filed for bankruptcy protection this year) comes at a time when Japanese tourist traffic to Bali is in something of a slump. But it will miss the chance to capitalise on growth when this felicity returns.
JAL announced last October that it would be making swingeing cuts to its services and route network. It wasn’t publicly announced at the time that Bali – a prime destination – would be one of the casualties. But Ngurah Rai’s management was told at the time (setting a first along the way by managing to keep this confidential; unless of course they clean forgot about it or decided it was too early to bother with).
Hopefully, in the months between the private announcement, public acknowledgement, and suspension of service, other airlines have been preparing to take up the slack. Garuda comes to mind. Well, sort of. For that matter Japan’s second major airline, ANA, is expanding. Maybe – just maybe – All Nippon’s livery will grace the runway and taxiways of Ngurah Rai some time. That would be nice.

Fair Go

YOU’RE forgiven if you hadn’t noticed – these “special days” are two a penny nowadays – but tomorrow (May 8) is World Fair Trade Day. If this sounds like an oxymoron, or an unreachable dream, remember that since Don Quixote, tilting at windmills has been all the rage.
It is of course a good idea to think about fair trade. The inventively acquisitive tax and excise departments of many countries – Indonesia’s among them – could pause for thought, and wonder how they can learn to lie straight in bed. In the private sector, the rapacious gougers who run import operations on the wharves in Surabaya and Tanjung Priok could similarly seek a Pauline conversion. Customs officers might get off their ass in the same places and enforce the law rather than making things up as they go. We shan’t hold our breath.
Most of the hot air about free trade comes for politicians (who are seeking to avoid any actual impact on the rent-seeking objectives of their paying constituents in the business community or among farmers, who worldwide are notoriously the worst special pleaders of all) and poor Pascal Lamy of the World Trade Organisation. He holds the global prize for getting the biggest hospital pass ever. Doh, Ha.
It is the ubiquitous NGO (non-government organisations) sector that gets most of the popular media on matters they declare to be of seminal importance. Who would really give a fig, for example, about the Japanese spending chilly summers just off the Antarctic ice shelves in pursuit of meat from inoffensive and wondrous sea creatures were it not for the loonies of the Sea Shepherd sort who ignore maritime law and the sensible prohibition of piracy, and make high-profile clowns of themselves?
Thus, this weekend, the energetic crew at the Pekerti Foundation, an organisation that bills itself as concerned with development through fair trade in Indonesia, will join in global celebrations of World Fair Trade Day.
Its event will be held at a property at Tampak Siring – the Gianyar hill town that just last month starred as the centre of Indonesian internal summitry – to showcase its suggestions for reducing poverty and controlling climate change. The place is owned by a relative of Pekerti’s long-time handicraft producer, I Made Sujana.
We hear a tree-planting activity will take place to add to the more than 300 albasia trees Pekerti has already planted on the property. This planting, we also hear, is additional to Pekerti’s promise to plant one tree for every US$1,500 in orders received for its producers.
The tree replacement campaign helps to replace wood used by Pekerti’s producers during handicraft production, encouraging sustainability in Indonesia’s trade industry.
If you’d like more information get in touch with Yolita Ainun Rahmawati at or call (021) 478 630 08.

It Never Reines

NORMALLY the ins and outs – such as they are – of the Australian glossy mag world would rate an interest level significantly likely to be outpaced by the attractions of watching paint dry. But from time to time a little gleam of light flashes from heaven, where the denizens of this overhyped medium apparently believe they live and work, and is worthy of comment rather than just another sigh. These are the people who bring us interminable – and frequently wrong – tales of the desperate straits of ‘lil Aussie convicts in dreadful places like Indonesia.
It is a fearsome world of huge competition to see who can produce the most ennui per edition. It is enlivened, in the Odd Zone, by the fact that some of these regrettable publications are within the Rupert Empire and some are not.
Thus we read with interest this week a veritable pool of poison from Ros Reines – unknown personally to The Diary but notable for having once been married to a good friend from many years ago and another continent – in the Rupert Empire’s Sydney tabloid, the Daily Telegraph, about the overreaching demerits of Woman’s Day editor Fiona Connolly. It was Connolly and her mag – it’s jocularly known as Womb & Sty, from how the title sounds in the keep-your-mouth-shut-the-flies-are-coming Australian dialect – who recently brought us the fictionalised version of Schapelle Corby’s impending life-threatening move to a prison facility in East Java. (She isn’t moving.)
Who cares? Well, no one really. Corporately inspired spats between scribblers for rival media empires are tedious. But Reines, a Rupert princess, is no stranger to the eggbeater, either. Connolly, who not at all by coincidence crossed the Rubicon (well, the Rupert) some time ago, might be queen of the trash magazines. But Murdoch tabloids are haemorrhoidal.

Hector's Blog appears weekly, as The Diary, in The Bali Times, Bali's leading English-language print and online newspaper. The Bali Times is at The print edition, out Fridays, can be obtained worldwide through NewspaperDirect.