Friday, June 25, 2010

HECTOR'S BALI TIMES DIARY [for Jun. 25, 2010]

So How Do
the Nation?

One might argue that a lot of things are a risk to Indonesia. The vacuity of much of modern politics would be high on The Diary’s list. Then there are the robber barons, who remain active and minimally taxed even though the country is now a fully fledged democracy. The hopelessness of Indonesian bureaucracy is an enervating and fundamentally dangerous condition that needs urgent remedy. The special pleadings of placemen, not to mention the disgraceful rush to accommodate them, similarly demand exculpation. Ditto, too, on the barriers hastily erected by the apparatus whenever it seems the common people might get a real break.
In the face of these clear and present dangers to the health – political and social – of the Indonesian state, both President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his minister for communications, Tifatul Sembiring – he of the Muslim-based Prosperous Justice Party – have a plan. Naturally enough, it has nothing to do with those actualities. Instead, they want to censor the Internet because some tastelessly immature idiots filmed themselves having sex and – this is the YouTube Generation after all – scenes of this commonplace occurrence have reached the World Wide Web. This is apparently a threat to the nation. The President and his Minister have vowed to unplug the genitally-focused parts of the Internet because of this.
This is worrying, for several reasons. We can only guess at why Indonesia should veil itself from the modern world by unplugging technology or why this would be a benefit. But both Yudhoyono and Sembiring have shown a commendable grasp of modern politics by seizing on a non-issue – the immature idiocy of juvenile entertainers and others who should be ignored as irrelevant until they grow up – to progress whatever the present populist agenda is.
It is not the Internet that is the threat. Censoring it – like China does, for its own controlling purposes – won’t stop mental midgets turning the cameras on when they have sex. It will not lead inexorably to a quantum leap in morality; far less in moral fibre, unarguably the more important commodity. The authors of the regressive anti-pornography law, passed in 2008, should similarly consider their proper options: repealing the legislation would be a good starting point.
There’s also the immutable law that every legislator and morals campaigner should never forget: the law of unintended consequences. And there’s another: never assume, arrogantly, that you have the only answer. The best way to avoid smut, if it is not to your personal taste, though there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be if that’s your bag, is not to watch it. That doesn’t require a presidential decree or a ministerial directive (which given human nature would have a directly opposite effect in any case). It requires the exercise of independent judgment informed by common sense.

Well I Never

Regular readers of The Diary will understand that between your diarist and Bali’s leading provider of gratuitous advice, Jack Daniels, a mutually exclusive space exists. But in relation to the critically important issue of internet censorship, we have a symbiosis that might astonish.
Daniels, who spends an awful lot of time twittering (business must be down) was running a febrile Twitter campaign the other day on that very topic. In one (laudably to the point) tweet he wrote: “The only valid censorship of ideas is the right of people not to listen.” It’s not an original thought, which by contrast should not surprise. It is most commonly cited as having sprung from Tommy Smothers, best known as half of the American musical comedy team the Smothers Brothers. The other half was his younger brother Dick. Smothers should be listened to, however. He’s older and much wiser than your diarist.
But The Diary’s pick for best quote on censorship is this, from Mark Twain: “Nature knows no indecencies; man invents them.”

Yak, Yak, Yak

Well, that’s not all they do. They also do parties. And this year’s Yak Awards – promoted by the magazine as the Yak Awards VI – are set for the Cocoon Beach Club in Legian, scene of many such affrays, on July 23.
Chief Yakmagger Sophie Digby is such a dear, and her quarterly publication (with its now re-separated stable-mate The Bud) such a standout for quality among the dross of the glossies hereabouts, that The Diary is tempted to attend and has listed its representative as a “possible” on the event’s Facebook page. Well, we had an idle moment while browsing the web – you know how it is – and it all looked such fun.
There are two slightly off-putting aspects to the show, however. One is the Rp400K entry cost (goodness, that’s more than four great 90-minute massages with Ana at The Diary’s favourite spa). The other is the dress theme, which is apparently Shanghai Chic. Whether any such thing exists, given the tastelessness for which modern China is renowned when it comes to spinning off the Western motif, is questionable. Gentlemen attending are recommended to impress the ladies in Chang Shan. Somehow that reminds us of a very rude (and very old) joke about Smirnoff vodka, but we won’t go there.
The Yak Awards are a treat. Such circular occasions for mutual back-slapping always are. But if cocktails, bubbles (bring out the Bolly!), beer, Bloody Mary oysters – now you’re yakking, Sophie – and canap├ęs presented by Bali’s best chefs are your bag, along with what your modern DJ considers to be music, and you’ve got a spare chang shang (if you’re a bloke or a reasonable facsimile of same) or qi pao (if not), it might be a date.
When last we checked, there were 201 definite guests. We’re sure this odd number will be many times bigger by bash-time.

A Bit Batured

We hear a sad tale from a young Jakarta friend who has just spent two weeks holidaying in Bali. She was here with her boyfriend and they had a lovely time in Kuta; on a motorcycle tour of southern portions of Bali (including Uluwatu temple, a must for any first-time visitors); on a hiking trip; and then with a hire car to Amed (they loved it).
They also drove themselves up to Batur, where the locals say they want to encourage visitors to see a cool, highland part of Bali that is very different from most of what tourists see and experience on the island. Unfortunately, for our visitors, the Batur experience wasn’t cool at all (except for the ambient temperature). In fact, they didn’t love Batur in the least. The locals scared them, our friend told us, and they left after a day. That’s really sad – for tourists and Batur locals alike.
There was however another highlight of the trip that has apparently left a positive lasting impression. They spent some time on Nusa Lembongan. Now that is a magical place to take a break. And it comes with a lovely (virtually guaranteed) view of Mt Agung as a bonus.

Wait a Minute, Man

It seems America’s favourite party, the Fourth of July, won’t take place in Bali after all. Apparently the private organisers of this year’s proposed bash have had to call it off because there was a problem with the venue. What? In Bali, where venues are two a penny?
Ah well, so much for history. It’s amusing to think that if the lads back in 1775 hadn’t managed to get their venue – Bunker Hill – for a face-off with the Redcoats, there might never have been an American revolution to celebrate. So much for tea parties and Minutemen, then; not to mention poor old Paul Revere, who would (had he managed to book a horse) have ridden in vain.

Monkey Business

Something’s afoot. The Diary’s domicile, The Cage, was recently visited by a serpent of some sort (it was chased away by your intrepid Diarist armed with a short broom) and a day or so later by a local macaque that was evidently angry enough with its lot in life to climb atop the roof and throw down a corner tile. It crashed into a fortunately vacant outside shower.
No help on identification of the snake – precisely described to them in plain Indo-English – was forthcoming from the staff, when later approached for advice.
It was just an ular. The level of disquiet about this hopefully now departed presence can always be judged by the number of r’s trilled onto the end of the Bahasa word for snake.

He Got the Needle

Last week The Diary wrote, in the context of the little local difficulty Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd was in over opinion polling ahead of this year’s national elections, that there were no tumbrels within earshot and Madame Defarge was not ready to knit.
A week, however, is a long time in politics – an aphorism your diarist, a practitioner (as an adviser) for years, should surely have remembered – as yesterday’s sudden leadership ballot in Canberra amply demonstrated.
The tumbrel was indeed rolling and Madame Defarge – aka Julia Gillard, the new PM, the first female PM in Australia’s history, a double rarity in that she rolled a first-term prime minister in a party room coup, and evidently not someone you’d want to play poker with – was not only knitting; she was getting new patterns printed too.

The Bali Times, Bali's leading English-language publication, appears weekly in print (on Fridays) and at The print edition of the newspaper is available worldwide via NewspaperDirect.

Friday, June 18, 2010

HECTOR'S BALI TIMES DIARY [for June 18, 2010]

Blots on the
Noise is Not
A Cultural

From Ungasan to Canggu, and from Kuta to Sanur, via much of Denpasar and scattered blots about Ubud, the Blight of Bali grows ever worse. That’s noise we’re talking about. It’s an issue of absolutely central concern. It comes from dogs – you’d think they’d keep a bit quiet at the moment, given the risk of a quick rabies-scare cull – as well as from aberrant motorbikes and other man-made outrages. A letter from correspondent Carl Valiquet in this week’s paper (see page 8) relates a tale of woe about his sleeplessness and a loud (and undoubtedly vulgar) karaoke establishment apparently intent on making everyone’s life a misery in pursuit of big bucks (well, rupiahs with zillions of zeroes, at least).
Valiquet’s problem lies in a Sanur precinct – from where, understandably, he and his wife are moving – and his letter is an essential primer for anyone considering relocation: to anywhere; but especially to anywhere in South Bali.
It’s not just the complete absence of noise abatement laws, or the lofty lack of interest among those who govern us about the wellbeing of the aural environment. It’s also the similar absence of any meaningful regulation of businesses whose business is to get lots of people through their doors by making loud noises.
Complaints are dismissed with distain and arrogant disinterest. And not just in Sanur. Where this rude behaviour fits into the liturgy of Bali’s delightful culture is rather unclear.
It’s also strange. We mightn’t particularly like the reprise of the Bali Is My Life slogan, just relaunched by tourism minister Jero Wacik. But it has one benefit: it is unlikely ever to make any noise. Bali Where’s My Earplugs has quite the wrong ring to it.

Bali Revealed (Again)

There’s a new book out – Secrets of Bali: it’s reviewed in today’s Life section by Roy Thompson – that re-reveals the real Bali. That’s the bit that hasn’t been bolly’d out by the bling brigade or reduced to risibility by writers of pap.
It’s written by Jonathan Copeland with the collaboration of Ubud identity Ni Wayan Murni. According to Thompson, it’s the best book about Bali since Fred Eiseman’s 1990 classic. It might need to be, at Rp370K a copy at Times Bookshops, but never mind.
What is a little odd, however, is that one of the authorities cited in its pages is Andrew Charles, who was briefly editor of Hello Bali (better known as Hello Bolly) and who used to pen editorial notices wondering why readers never sent him any mail. He was also, famously, irritated by Bali being described as the Island of the Gods. Another citation comes from Rob Goodfellow, an Australian writer of invisible talent.
Perhaps a better read, especially for anyone fixated on Aussie royalty residing in Ubud, would be journalist Deborah Cassrels’ lovely feature in The Weekend Australian magazine out last Saturday. See if you can get hold of a copy. Cassrels is a good lateralist. Few would think to reference the impact of fado – Portuguese folk music – on Indonesian musical tradition. She delightfully retells the story of Jero Asri Kerthyasa, once Jane Gillespie, the Sydney preschool teacher who became Ubud’s premier princess by marriage.
The princess also runs Biku, the lovely Seminyak eatery.

Strategic Move

Your diarist will shortly be taking off for Australia. Hold those cheers, luminous and/or phosphorescent ones, and any among the chatterers who still define argument as having only one point of view: I’ll be back. It’s just a quick trip to look after some necessary business in the Great South Land.
It will be quick because Bali’s the place to be; and also because it’s winter in Terra Incognita and chill winds around the nether regions anywhere really should not be on anyone’s agenda.
This trip, Diary and Distaff are flying with Strategic Airlines, which has recently commenced Perth-Bali services. New players deserve support, and Strategic was also quite a bit cheaper than the other low-cost carriers on Bali’s primary tourist route. We also found them a delight to deal with on bookings. They had no trouble with separate names or with different return dates on one booking.

Sting in the Tale

It’s always notable when Australian politics get interesting, which they do from time to time, on a cycle not too dissimilar to the elliptical adventures of Halley’s Comet.
In this instance it has become interesting because Prime Minister Kevin Rudd – who, we are advised by another super-endowed brain, the Sydney journalist David Marr, invariably regards himself as the smartest guy in the room (a conversation between Rudd and Marr would be an interesting standoff, then) – has signed off on a Treasury sting that proposes to collect a 40 percent premium in tax from miners judged to have made super profits.
This has led to extraordinary sights: Twiggy Forrest, for example, a very rich man indeed, turning up at a Perth press club meeting looking like one of the workers and annoying the prime minister with a question or two. The shrieks of the big miners, Forrest among them but including the South African head of Rio Tinto, Marius Kloppers, that they’ll all be ruined by this move and may indeed move – and take their money with them – need to be taken with a pinch of salt. We all know they’d really like to be paying no tax at all. That’s why, among other things, the feisty Australian online journal The Punch has invented the Rich Bastards Club for them.
But Rudd is not a popular chap. This is not just because he’s prime minister. It’s a historic fact. His Labor Party, which must go to the polls this year and is discomfited by the sudden presence of an actual opposition, is said to be worried that Kevin 24/7 may turn in a bad result. That’s not the sort of bottom line any collective of parliamentary seat-warmers looks to with equanimity. Suggestions that a tumbrel may soon be sent to take Rudd off to the guillotine can be dismissed, however. Madame Defarge is not quite ready to knit.
There was, though, in this context, a delightful echo a few days ago from Rudd’s famous rise to fame period (in Queensland in the 1990s). The state treasurer (finance minister) of that era, Keith De Lacy, a pleasant dinner companion and fellow bon vivant well known to your diarist, gave out that Rudd was not a good prime minister.
Given that Rudd, when he thought he was running Queensland as head of the state cabinet office, was continually at loggerheads with ministers, Treasurer De Lacy among them, that’s a delicious pay-back that’s been a long time coming.


The St Regis Bali, that upmarket retreat of the etymologically challenged where until recent times the butlers were Bob or Bertie rather that Wayan or Made, is branching out in another unusual cultural direction. On Monday (June 21) the Yale Whiffenpoofs will be singing for their supper in the Astor Ballroom there.
Certain collegiate proclivities of old-world, east coast America have always amazed. There’s a sort of undergraduate enthusiasm for curious hobbies. No wonder it remains prime recruitment territory for the CIA. The Skull & Bones club, also a Yale entity, comes to mind. It thought nothing of making an illegal souvenir of Geronimo’s remains after he died bereft and sad in US Army detention in Oklahoma, miles away from his Arizona homeland and 20 years after he capitulated to Washington in the late 1880s, ending the Apache Wars. He was duped (also by old-world, east coast America) and was detained instead of being repatriated to his people as promised.
The Whiffenpoofs, however, though also curious, only sing a cappella. They do that very well, by the way. On Monday at the St Regis – where they’re not only singing for their own suppers, but for others’ – they’ll be filling the restricted confines of the Astor Ballroom with two 30-minute sessions of non-discount descant in favour of Guna Tuna Rungu (for deaf and mute children) and Udyana Wiguna. These are two charities recently adopted by St Regis which both require money for schooling and general living needs of children aged between six and 16.
The Whiffenpoofs will warble after cocktails at 6pm and before something described as a cocktail dinner buffet at 8.15pm. You can drop in for Rp950K net. Of course, you have to book. It’s that sort of place.

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

Friday, June 11, 2010

HECTOR'S BALI TIMES DIARY [for Jun. 11, 2010]

Here’s Why
Most Bali
Cabs are

It is not exactly clear why the deficient and frankly sometimes criminally inclined Not Blue Bird Group taxi companies and cooperatives in Bali think they have a licence to wreck the island’s only user-friendly service. It would be unfair to tar all the non-Blue Birds with the same brush, since they are not strictly speaking birds of a feather – the Kowinu cooperative at Nusa Dua does a good job – but as a generality, if you can’t get a Blue Bird (Bali Taxi) cab that comes with a meter and an honest driver, you’re better off walking. And not just on the streets, either. It’s such a shame you can’t easily walk out of Ngurah Rai airport and away from the grasping collective that has the taxi monopoly there.
The gist of the complaints from the other companies appears to be that Blue Bird Group cabs get all the business. See paragraph one for why this is so. This is not a view formed only by The Diary. We noticed columnist Vyt Karazija was tweeting during the week along much the same lines. And he has written about that very problem before, anyway.
Strange as the concept may be, customers generally want a clean taxi, a visible and verifiable meter, a driver who knows where the clutch is and when to take his foot off the accelerator, and no irritating and enervating arguments at the destination over why you should now magnificently support the driver’s personal retirement fund, or risk assault for non-compliance.
To combat their inability to attract custom other than by running fares down in the street or going out in torrential downpours when people are inclined, sans parapluie so to speak, to throw normal caution to the wind and take a chance on entering a Dodgem cab, Blue Bird’s rivals seem to have decided to wreck as many clean and decent (Blue Bird) taxis as possible and set fire to rubbish outside the governor’s offices in Renon, Denpasar.
We gather from reading reports in the local Indonesian-language press that the police are closely monitoring the situation. One report we read seemed to be saying they were acting as interested bystanders. Oh, and they’re collecting the damaged vehicles as well, which is probably very kind of them. But it was not until Tuesday, the day after the “riot,” that police were directed to arrest people. This needed an order from Police Chief Sutisno apparently. It not clear why. Wilful criminal damage is just that (wilful damage); it’s not some kind of unauthorised street protest. Perhaps the police prefer not to attend to multiple scratchings and windscreen breakings? Not really their job? Well, it must get in the way of striding out into the traffic with your whistle at gridlocked intersections and causing even greater chaos; or even pursuing sword-wielding criminals and intrepid cable-stealing gangs, 50 percent of whose members apparently have no trouble outrunning the plods who, it seems, are apt to ambush their own ambushes.
So here’s the gen: Criminal damage is criminal damage whether or not there is a commercial dispute about licensing or anything else; Blue Bird taxis are the safest bet for passengers (by a country mile); and if Blue Bird’s sorry collection of “competitors” for business want to get ahead, they could do worse than look up “service,” “customer value” and “vehicle maintenance” in any good dictionary.

How Delicious

We noted two weeks ago that this year’s Ubud Writers and Readers Festival was a little less than four months away and nothing much apart from out-of-date advices had appeared on the festival website. Well, nothing has changed, except that the big show is now two weeks closer.
Even closer than that, deliciously, is a proposed writers’ school to be run by Barbara Turner-Vessalago, who is both an author and an academic and who has been running these things for ages. This is the first time she has put Bali on her programme. Her course – which comes at a cost, though less if you’re a Bali resident – is on from September 29 to October 5. UWRF 2010 commences on October 6.
Jade Richardson, a friend of Ubud (and now, delightfully, of The Diary) but somewhat distant from the stellar cluster that has convinced itself it runs the place, tells us she’s been on the waiting list to get on one of the courses for two years. Lending a hand to the embryonic Ubud writing experience seemed to her to be a good way of getting off the waiting list and back to Fun Central.
She notes, in a lovely little billet-doux that came our way from Sydney – thoughtfully defined as “boring as...” – that Ubud is defined by many as a place of fragrant rice. There are other alliterative variants of this moniker and certainly The Diary has always thought of it as more a place that is all about mie, mie, mie. Never mind. A writing course might address the imbalance. It could also assist many who are strangers to syntax. Perhaps Turner-Vessalago could include a session on the inadvisability (indeed inadmissibility) of exclamation marks in plague proportions.
The Diary has a date with Richardson, who communicates with the world from a website which engagingly calls itself girlsontop, when she gets here in a little while. We’re always up for a decent glass of wine, especially in pleasant company and if this indulgence is consumed in decorous quantity and with no police in attendance.
Anyone interested in the course can find out more at

Oh, I See

There has been merriment at The Cage, domicile of The Diary atop the Bukit at Ungasan. It’s not because it has finally stopped raining (evidently it hasn’t). It’s not because two massages at our Favourite Spa were on the schedule this week, instead of the usual measly one allowed by the household budget controller (bless her heart).
It is because we were treated to the Indonesian version of painting yourself into a corner. Our resident handyman – well, he’s not actually resident but he seems to spend an awful lot of time around the place – has lately been employed on “renovasi kayu.” Refurbishing timber products and window and door frames is no easy task, especially for the trade-challenged, which is why our resident handyman is such a frequent visitor.
Our man was going very well until he started on the bale (gazebo). It was, he assured us, a one-day job. And so it would have been if he had not assiduously attended to the railings and the floor before remembering that he had also to do the interior of the roof.
And that the roof would remain out of bounds until the floor had dried.

Chattel Class

We feel for Pollyanna, an Australian woman who wrote to one of those expat on-line forums the other day relating her experience in trying to get household goods through customs.
She reported thus:
“We thought we had our situation under control. Our Australian movers are responsible on the Oz side and guarantee door-to-door delivery service of our goods at the Bali side in conjunction with Santa Fe Movers in Indonesia. But then Santa Fe wanted a copy of our work permit. We don't have a work permit and aren't allowed to have one because we're coming to Bali on a retirement visa, which prohibits working.
“The Indonesian authorities insist our goods cannot enter the country without the work permit. Apparently there is no legal way around this absurd situation. Santa Fe says it is a problem of two bureaucratic departments not coordinating with each other.”
Ah yes. How sad. But Pollyanna – who we look forward to welcoming as a reader of The Bali Times when she (and hopefully her goods and chattels) gets here to enjoy retirement and discovers it’s best to read the real news in a proper newspaper – is still on a steep learning curve.
It’s not just that two bureaucratic departments do not coordinate with each other, Polly. No one in Indonesia’s creaking bureaucracies, at any level, coordinates anything with anyone.

Nice Try; Fail

The low-fare options now available to overseas visitors who might want to give Bali a try are great. From places close at hand – specifically we’re thinking Singapore, Perth and Darwin, where discretionary spending is the norm and getaway weekends the go – these make a long weekend break here an attractive option.
Some chums did that (from Perth) last weekend. They noted it was actually cheaper than weekending at Margaret River, in the wine country a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Perth. They hopped on a plane (AirAsia in their case) for 3.5 hours instead.
Shame that on arrival they spent something approaching two hours getting through arrivals and customs at Ngurah Rai.

THE DIARY is published in The Bali Times, Bali's only English language newspaper, every Friday. The Bali Times is also available as a print product worldwide through NewspaperDirect.

Friday, June 04, 2010

HECTOR'S BALI TIMES DIARY [for June 4, 2010]

Some Advice
For Jailbird
Go Bag
Your Head

Our many web readers, like The Diary, no doubt breathed a sigh of relief on reading earlier this week that the drugs-in-socks man, Robert Paul McJannett, had ceased being a drain on local resources and had gone home. We have the story in this week’s print edition too, for readers who prefer newsprint. It was a shame, though no surprise, that when he got home to Perth McJannett then set about immediately bagging Indonesia and its justice system, claiming basically that we’re all a bunch of crooks.
Pathetic individuals such as he so often seek the limelight in a vacuous attempt to justify, or at least excuse, their own bad behaviour. It’s always someone else’s fault if they’re caught – whether with their hands in the lolly jar or in risible Robert’s case, marijuana in his socks – and of course they never get the sort of real justice they’d get at home, do they? Let me off with a caution, M’lud.
McJannett also leaped on that other perennially running bandwagon, the Schapelle circus, by calling for the little Aussie battler to be sent home immediately and saying Australia’s elected leaders should see to this before the country went to the polls later this year. Such is McJannett’s fine grasp of diplomacy, international politics and the need for balance in intergovernmental relations, and such is his intellect, that he saw no problem with achieving this, on his just-off-the-plane (“look, no handcuffs”) timetable.
We have some advice for McJannett, who when he left Bali last Friday did so on a passport stamped with a year’s ban (reviewable in terms of extension) on re-entry to Indonesia.
Our advice is a colourful bit of Australian colloquial terminology: Go bag your head. It should be clear to anyone what this means, but in case it isn’t, it means shut up and go away. He may actually have done us all a favour and taken this advice on board pre-emptively. When he was finally let out of Kerobokan last Friday he caused immense mirth to his jailers by pulling a cotton shopping bag over his head to avoid any lurking paparazzi.
We didn’t want to bother with a final holiday happy-snap anyway.

She Was a Riot

The Diary assiduously reads the Strewth column in The Australian newspaper. It’s always worth a look and there’s generally a giggle in it somewhere. There certainly was last week, when diarist Caroline Overington served up a very special dish as part of her Sydney Writers Festival coverage.
We have our own writers’ (well, writers’ and readers’) festival here in Bali, of course, the annual extravaganza laid on by Ubud luminary Janet De Neefe with a little help from official Australia, which customarily doles out some readies to worthy literary causes at home and abroad.(The 2010 dates are October 6-10.)
And that’s the delicious part of this week’s tale. De Neefe was attending the Sydney show – perhaps she was trying to pick up some tips, or a participant or two – and at the hugely popular Sebel Pier One an affray of some sort ensued. It can be so difficult getting a drink at a busy bar, especially if the barkeep has no idea you’re the queen of Ubud – and the hotel called the police. Five of New South Wales’s finest duly appeared.
De Neefe was reported by Strewth as saying she “was made to feel awful. I have restaurants, and my whole thing is about treating people beautifully. I love to enjoy a festival and I was so excited on the night, and then it happened, and it tainted the whole festival for me.”
She told The Diary this week she was tired, her flight to Sydney having been delayed, that she had already attended the Sydney Writers Festival opening party, and the barmaid at the Sebel was far too far up herself. But it must have been quite a floorshow. Getting five New South Wales policemen to turn out all at once usually takes at least a Cronulla riot.

Riady, Set, Go

We weren’t at the do – the machinations of high finance and the property market are zed territory for diarists – but an old chum was, and he tells us James Riady, businessman extraordinaire, was a big hit at a Q&A session at the 61st world congress of the International Real Estate Federation at the Bali Grand Hyatt last Thursday. He was meant to give a short presentation and then – with a panel including our chum – answer questions from the assembled multitude.
He spoke off the cuff, we’re told, and for some little while beyond the time limit organisers had set. But he was the star of the show. They don’t actually do foot-stomping at such decorous affairs, but if they did, we hear, the crowd might well have outperformed Michael Flatley.
Perhaps the audience was feeling slightly deflated and needed a lift after Vice President Boediono turned up and gave an opening speech that said very little indeed, and specifically nothing of any substance about foreign property ownership. On that issue, he basically said don’t wait up.
We’ll take his advice.

A Robust Little Bill

Lunch at Breeze, The Samaya’s pleasant beachside restaurant at Seminyak, is generally a treat. It was especially so last Friday when an old chum (see the previous item) we hadn’t seen for 20 years was in Bali between appointments and thought we should catch up. It’s amazing how people you haven’t seen for ages seem nonetheless to have worn the intervening years at around the same sort of depreciation rate as yourself. A jest, of course: the party universally looked like the spring lambs they’ve always been.
We talked of many things, as old chums do when fate arranges a brief conjoining of life paths, most of them pleasant. There were two clouds on the horizon, however (and it being a rainy Friday, masses of them overhead, though that’s another matter); they were the inadvisability of doing business in Indonesia, since no one ever does what they say they’re going to do; and the horrendous price of wine.
The party enjoyed a nice little Chilean pinot noir (with the fish and chips, in the Diary’s case) which was a snip at only an arm and a leg. We amused ourselves while selecting the vintage by reading the lovely little note at the front of the wine list, placed there by the courageous management of the establishment, which is rather plainly forthcoming on the perfidy and idiocy of Indonesia’s luxury tax and other daylight robbery laws, and the usurious cost thereof to patrons who order wine.

Brave New World

Clearly, Bali is Conference Island. There was another one on this week, to do with reinventing the consumer society, or something equally navel-gazing. Oh dear, how ho-hum; though perhaps it provides something to do for those among us who would otherwise be flat out erecting a Lego set.
One of the speakers apparently has something to do with ice cream. Wonder if that drips all over your social media?

No Easy Ride

It’s always sad when someone who was seminal to one’s youth shuffles off this mortal coil. Your diarist had barely breasted a quarter century when Dennis Hopper made Easy Rider in 1969. It is said that Hopper was a dreadful man to work for. Well, a lot are. The intervening four decades have certainly made that clear to your diarist. And for that matter, quite a few women have proved less than easy, too.
Easy Rider is a wonderful movie. Like Hopper’s talent, it stood the test of time. Hopper rose to fame – rather rapidly in fact – after directing and starring in the cult dropout film. He was defined as a hell-raiser, renowned for his hard living and drug-taking. He had five wives, one of whom, poor dear, lasted eight days and described the experience as profoundly unfriendly. He was, in that sense, a man of his times. Today’s world is – thankfully – rather more open to the sensible concepts of non-western lifestyles and communal responsibilities.
Hopper began acting in the 1950s and starred alongside James Dean in the classic teenage movie Rebel Without a Cause and Giant. His co-stars in Easy Rider were Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson. Fonda, until then a friend, broke with Hopper under the strain of making the movie under his direction, and described him as “a little fascist freak.”
A tad tart, perhaps. But being insulted by Peter Fonda is surely an honour rather than a demerit.

Hector's Blog appears, as The Diary, in the weekly print edition of The Bali Times, out Fridays, and online at The Bali Times is also available worldwide via NewspaperDirect.