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.

1 comment:

  1. “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.”

    And what an understatement THAT is!

    No doubt in my mind that I could read your blog for the next decade and see no closure in that gap either.

    You might consider giving “brother” Jack a little respect, as after all, he has earned it, whereas you are trying to catch up, which being Australian, is virtually impossible. Moreover, he has three times the single decade you consider Indonesia and Bali home, which we all know, isn’t really isn’t your home.

    But yes, ular and monyet, they can be temporarily problematical here in Bali.