Friday, July 30, 2010

HECTOR'S BALI TIMES DIARY [for Jul. 30, 2010]

Well, We
All Had
A Good

The Diary generally avoids KLS (Kuta-Legian-Seminyak) on a Friday night, because of the parking difficulties, the overcrowded venues, the danger of running into a lot of loudmouths and the generalised distemper that inevitably follows this trio of woes.
There are exceptions to this rule. One is when Sophie Digby asks you out (we’ve always had a soft spot for Dorset girls). She did, last Friday night, for the annual bash put on by her Yak magazine at which the worthy are gonged for various things. That’s on the circular self-congratulatory wheel that is forever going round in the KLS cage waiting for this year’s white rats to jump on it.
That aside, The Yak and its little companion The Bud are very readable magazines and themselves worthy of note, in The Diary as in other places. The Diary’s choice for Yak Woman of the Year was yarn spinner Susi Johnson. We voted for her but she didn’t win, thereby keeping intact The Diary’s unbroken record on tipping winners. We were down the back yakking when the climactic occurrence occurred and missed it. So did all the other party-goers we asked in the days following the event. But Evi Sri Rezeki from the Yak was able to tell us on Tuesday that their Woman of the Year was Lucienne Anhar of Tugu Hotels. Well done, Lucienne.
We voted for Susi in the pre-party online poll because we relish honesty in all who offer themselves for office and Susi promised to yak all year if she won. She will anyway so even though her loss will be keenly felt here at The Bali Times - which Susi says is a rag that no one reads, which will surprise our many readers, but she said that after she wanted to write for us and was knocked back – she’ll still be at it; count on it.
We didn’t see Susi at the bash – she was just back from tripping round Europe, poor dear, and would have needed to spend lots of m’waah time with her preferred pals present, we expect – but we did run into one of our favourite hotel promoters, Marian Hinchliffe, who that night had left the Rock Bar at Ayana to its own devices (it’s a year old on August 5) to sample the comforts of the new Cocoon.
And we had a chance encounter with a new chum, the delightfully creative jewellery designer Tricia Kim, who engaged us in an impromptu after-several-drinks “where am I from” quiz. The Distaff ventured that Tricia might be displaying a slight American accent. The Diary suggested she might be from Taiwan. OK, so she’s New York Korean. We know that now.

Read All About It

Janet de Neefe had a puff-piece for the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in the Jakarta Post last weekend. It was her regular warm-up for the annual show on the hill, from October 6-10 this year, and just as breathless – we’re being kind – as ever. It may have reminded prospective patrons of her Casa Luna restaurant that she likes to eavesdrop on them, however, and there’s some cautionary utility in that.
The Diary did a cliché count. It’s the sort of thing you do on a lazy Sunday afternoon when the satellite TV’s on the blink and going out to run over a cat strikes you as a really bad idea. It turned out that doing the cliché count was also a bad idea, though. There must be other, more gratifying, ways to put your eyesight at risk. We got well into double digits (in a text of 858 words) before - like the Monty Python minstrels in their fine old song about induced ennui, Here Comes Another One - we uttered an imprecation to the deity and ceased enumerating.
There was one good laugh. In the piece, De Neefe criticised those who spend their time posting vacuous updates on their Facebook. Deliciously, the Diary got to this bit just after seeing a vacuity of precisely this valueless variety from Janet herself, who had felt obliged to tell everyone she was wearing a winter jacket and cuddling a hot-water bottle because it was cold in Ubud. Her Post piece also provided a travelogue, restaurant review, a plug for her piped Brazilian jazz and an accommodation guide. Perhaps she believes she lives on a very lonely planet. Maybe it’s somewhere in the Andromeda Galaxy?
The Post is one of her festival media partners and may have felt obliged to run it. We certainly hope it wasn’t that they didn’t notice, or care, that in a literary festival context something a little more literary might have been better.


American Roy Peter Clark is vice president of and senior scholar at America’s Poynter Institute and founding director of the National Writers Workshops, a body dedicated to teaching Americans how to write. He’s been doing it for more than 30 years and, apparently, is still sane. So he’s worth a gong on that account alone. Perhaps he should come along to the UWRF. He could give a talk on the banality of the cliché, offer a primer on the use of the possessive and launch a campaign for a worldwide ban on exclamation marks.
Clark is something of a fan of neologisms. That’s a fancy word for invented terms that sometimes have utility – and thus value – such as blog, for example, without which many who could never write to save themselves would nowadays be lost. It melds web and log, and is sensible.
He was in the news last week for defending the indefensible: Sarah Palin, John McCain’s biggest mistake apart from failing to realise that, after Dubya, not even the Archangel Gabriel could have kept the White House in Republican hands.
Palin apparently compares her own ingenuity with language with that of Shakespeare (in her ignorance of the formative nature of written English in those days, when most people were wholly illiterate rather than merely functionally so). She dropped the (non) word refudiate into one of her frequent and sickening stump speeches. Clark likes this (though he doesn’t like her politics). He says that Palin is in good company.
The Diary disagrees. A malapropism it might have been (after Mrs Malaprop in Richard Sheridan’s classic 1775 play The Rivals) but a cerebral invention it was not. It was just another palindrone. And yes, we meant to write it that way.

Can We Bribe You?

Martin Edwards, of the Australian web-based newsletter Travel Trends, wrote this week about the silly idea that Bali Safari and Marine Park have come up with to give journalists and bloggers a 10-day holiday for the best “positive published article” over the next six months. The more articles you write the more chances you have to win.
Edwards wrote: “The strategy is dangerous because it seriously comprises anything written about the tourist attraction. It will also alienate serious travel media. You can understand the motivation, but this is not PR – it is bribery.”
We couldn’t have put it better (except the bit about the motivation; and bribery is never acceptable). The problem is that with the exception of The Bali Times, the English-language media here would have great difficulty defining a journalistic ethic, at least as applied by objective publications, let alone applying one. That’s if it cared.
Park publicist Astrid Iswulandari tells us the scheme also involves its business partners, including Sushi Tei, Ifiori, AJ Hackett, Sobek and Vila Ombak. She said: “So if they call it bribery, we do not think about it that way. It's an appreciation for their writing.”
But things like this are the thin end of a very long wedge, for which in large part we can blame the perniciously ill-disciplined social media; and, apparently, some very thick heads indeed.

Flour of Passion

Three cheers to the traditional village council in Singaraja that recently fined a couple caught in adulterous passion 200 kilograms of rice. That’s far better than running off to the plods – as someone did in Tabanan the other week – to get them charged under the national law against unlicensed nookie.
The naughty fellow who was half of the action was also banished from the village. Chief Ida Bagus Kosala said the chap, who was himself married with two children, was guilty of “spiriting away another man’s wife.”
That seems a tad harsh. It takes two to tango, after all. Even to a traditional beat.

Porn Poser

Communications and Information Technology Minister Tifatul Sembiring proposes to block all internet porn sites from Indonesian eyes by Ramadhan – it starts on August 11 – in the interests of redirecting the country’s morals into clearer and much cleaner waters. Only the voyeurs will object, and in the long history of voyeurism they have never had much visibility. For all we know, they might form the silent majority. But you can bet they’ll stay silent.
As has been noted elsewhere, however, internet porn fans in Indonesia must be very patient people. Download speeds are so slow here that – should you be seeking your jollies – you have to be prepared for a very long wait.
That’s why – as also noted widely – most porn in this country comes via DVD. Hope they’re not afflicted with the same disease most movies you get here on DVD seem to have. They nearly always jam and obliterate the best bits.

Hector's Blog appears as The Diary in the print edition of The Bali Times, out every Friday, and on the newspaper's website at Print editions of the newspaper, Bali's leading English language publication, are available worldwide via NewspaperDirect.

Friday, July 23, 2010

HECTOR'S BALI TIMES DIARY [for Jul. 23, 2010]

Night Life
in Legian
Needs to be
(Yes, Really)

Last week a man died in yet another armed gang invasion of a Legian nightspot. Police said it was a security guard. The Bali Times was later approached by someone who said he was in the know and we were wrong (he suggested almost criminally so) in reporting half truths and – in the half-light, evasive way that such propositions tend to be advanced – wanted to tell us it wasn’t a security guard, it was a cook.
So what? The fact is Legian’s “nightspot war” has now claimed a fatal victim. There are those – our informant among them apparently – who would prefer such things were not reported and that media focus should remain on the entertainments available to the floods of tourists who keep coming and giving them money. But that’s the role (apparently) of the glitter-rags and advertising sheets that litter Bali. It’s no part of a newspaper’s job to run someone’s PR campaign, or to ignore news.
Police Chief Sutisna said after the latest incident that he wanted it stopped. That’s a sound policy. Not only would it correct a potentially negative public relations problem emerging in our tourist markets. It would also prevent security guards (or cooks) being killed by hooded criminals who burst into their workplaces and lay about the people therein with swords and other weapons.
It’s by no means clear who or what is behind the spate of dangerous (and now fatal) assaults on a variety of nightspots in the Legian area. What is abundantly clear, however, is that nightspot owners and operators – foreign and well as local – need to clean up their act. Or have it cleaned up for them. It’s Policing 101, really.

And Other Follies

The Ubud Writers and Readers Festival last weekend released a list of 96 invited writers for this year’s bout of navel gazing and reading of entrails. Australians make up the largest contingent by far – a fair proportion of them supported by public funds, which is fair enough – but what piqued the interest of The Bali Times was the presence on the list of Etgar Keret, the Israeli author of short stories and entertaining movies. Indonesia does not recognise Israeli passports.
It would be an act of cultural vandalism to deny him entry, of course, but governments everywhere commit such acts willy-nilly, when it suits them, for all sorts of reasons. It’s hard to see Jakarta being overly enamoured of the (reasonable) argument that Keret, a writer, is more a citizen of the world than of Israel – even if Israelis and his Palestinian friends already think that about him - given recent events in and about Gaza where Israel (shockingly) and Hamas between them have created and enforced a deprived ghetto. Then there’s the little matter of the formal ban to overcome.
We raised this with the UWRF folk. Oh, um. Could you not make an issue of that? It’s at a delicate stage. Well, we’d like to see Keret here – he and William Dalrymple, the British novelist-historian, would be The Diary’s pick of the crop for this year’s Gabblers – but, well, you know, it’s news. And it’s hardly our fault if it’s almost always amateur hour up there on Wudbee Hill.
It would have been better if UWRF had put out a list of 95 invited writers and – if they got their prized 96th through the Jakarta maze – announced the Israeli presence then.
Interestingly UWRF 2010 now has Bali “media partners” not only on its website but, in an innovation, highlighted by a special post on its website. That appeared last weekend. It doesn’t include The Bali Times. Our sponsorship proposal, put forward immediately after last year’s festival, died of neglect in Janet de Neefe’s in-tray.

We’ll Have That

It couldn’t have happened to a more deserving bloke (well, forgetting the platoons of other candidates Indonesia’s rapacious plutocracy throws up and who are still on the run). There would have been many smiles upon many dials last week (including, if he could have summoned the energy, on the emaciated face of the poor boy who is so starkly not to be numbered among the well fed and watered in Indonesia and who was featured in last Saturday’s Jakarta Globe) when the Supreme Court decided to overturn its own decision and take back Tommy Suharto’s multi-millions.
We’re not averse to business. It is necessary for businesses – and their proprietors – to make money so that everyone else does. That’s a fundamental law of economics at which only an unreconstructed Marxist would cavil.
Acquisitive natures are similarly beneficial, but given human nature and issues of public benefit, they too have to be regulated. And since we cannot count on individuals to do the right thing, they must be formally regulated, by taxation and if necessary the courts.

Sit and Fume

It’s jalan macet time again in Bali’s south, where by some sinister magic all 10 motorbikes owned by every single one of the three-million-plus riders who evidently inhabit this island all seem to get on the bypass at once to create mischief with the seasonal increase in tourist traffic.
It’s such fun in July and August. The other day it took someone we know quite well an hour and 10 minutes to travel from the McDonald’s lights at Jimbaran to Simpang Siur, aka Mayhem Central, at Kuta.
We all know the roads are crowded and chronically inadequate. But it would be great if someone could make the driving population understand that creating chaotic eight-lane queues at the lights at the airport turnoff just buggers it up for everyone, themselves included.
And at those McDonald’s lights, why aren’t the police – they’re always there, blowing their whistles and gesticulating – stepping on drivers who block half the through lane because they want to turn right? They must have spotted the fact that these selfish people, in their idiocy and rudeness, prevent more than one or two of the vehicles in the actual turn lane getting through on each change.

Here’s an Idea

A friend just back from Western Australia, where most drivers know the rules and largely obey them, reminds us that the police there have handy little highway signs placed at regular intervals, telling passing drivers what they’re targeting this week. Often it’s drink-driving (have our police even heard of that?). Sometimes it’s speeding (yes, speed limits are both signed and enforced). It can be seat belts, which, there, are actually rather than notionally compulsory.
It’s an idea our local constabulary might usefully copy. Here’s one suggestion. “This Week Police are Targeting: Foreigners.”

Oh, Yes

Readers may remember a lovely little news report carried in the print edition of the paper a month ago, about the brow-furrowing problem facing Klungkung Satpol over the big pile of sand dumped behind the regency offices in Semarapura.
The report said they didn’t know what to do with it, despite, apparently, having dumped it where it lay. They were waiting for a precise regulation they could apply. It’s contraband sand, you see, rescued by Klungkung’s finest from the teeth of thievery and turned instead into evidence.
Except it can’t be evidence unless someone is charged with lifting it illegally from the beach; and oddly enough, no one has come forward to claim that prize. But reader James Dell-Robb, who lives in Jembrana (another place where knavery with beach sand is a popular pursuit), has been doing some lateral thinking, and tells us:
“Surely it would be normal practice to restore stolen goods to the owner; in this case we might assume the rightful owner is the beach. Maybe this is a logical thought, and it is difficult to find either logic or thinking in the reglomaniacal mindsets in this part of the world. It is strange that Satpol needs a precise local regulation to advise it on its action in this matter.”

Must Try, Sometime

A little billet-doux popped into The Diary’s inbox this week - and not just another of the many that drop in from the increasingly intrusive electronic pigeons that seem to flock around the social media these days, and splatter unwanted deposits upon one’s statuary – promoting the delectable delights of the Alila Soori at Kerambitan on Tabanan’s surf coast.
It was spruiking the efforts of the establishment’s Executive Chef, Ashton Hall, in the property’s three restaurants. They do sound divine, in a secular and culinary sense. The Diary, reduced in the genteel poverty that eventually strikes a retiree who didn’t spend his former years robbing people to dining chiefly with mie, particularly likes the thought of the Ikan bakar dabu-dabu, grilled fish with tomatoes and chillies.
News of this sensation de jour came from Alila’s most delectable item, Devina Hindom, the plush property’s marketing and communications manager.

The Bali Times' weekly print edition is available worldwide via NewspaperDirect. Or visit its website at 

Friday, July 16, 2010

HECTOR'S BALI TIMES DIARY [for Jul. 16, 2010]

Our Core
Just to
Make a Point

It’s by no means clear that conservationists in search of a headline have any capacity for lateral thinking; or that they care about collateral damage; or that they understand that the term non sequitor (it means: it doesn’t follow) applies to logic as well as grammar.
We raise this thorny issue because, in pursuit of the thoroughly laudable goal of saving the orangutan from extinction, the feisty folk at Nature Alert, a UK-based confabulation of environmental worrywarts, and others, elsewhere in Indonesia, have had a bash at Bali. Well, at its core business sector, the international hotels, at least.
Sean Whyte, who heads Nature Alert, quite reasonably makes the point that having yet another gabfest won’t save the orangutan. You can read his sensible comments in the news pages in this edition. But at the same time, if there have to be gabfests – and we all know that politicians and bureaucrats, not to mention environmentalists and others in the burgeoning non-government sector, all love them to death – why not hold them in Bali?
It’s a great island with plenty of high-rated hotels and a lot of people dependant on people staying in them for their salaries.

Princely feast: Janet de Neefe with her star pupil.

In My News Again

Cereal provider (her restaurants do breakfasts) and serial limelighter Janet de Neefe certainly makes good use of her Facebook. It’s free of course, and unedited. Golly, you can post whatever you like.
As this year’s Ubud Writers and Readers Festival approaches - October 6-10 in the eponymous hill town famous as the last resort of that lost tribe, the Wudbees (the related Wannabees pitch their plush tepees at Seminyak) - it is therefore cheering to see that De Neefe still finds time to help out in the kitchen and post photos to prove it.
Well, that’s not quite the story. A Javanese prince had dropped by her cooking school and some TV people filmed it all. In our photo – acquired from the said Facebook – it appears De Neefe is being blinded by the light. Or perhaps it was all those cameras. Yet another Warhol moment; gosh, a girl can be so lucky.
It was her birthday last Saturday by the way (happy birthday Janet) and she did also tell the world – again via Facebook – that the thought of celebrating with bubbles for a week, out of a bottle, not in the bath, had crossed her mind. Perhaps the squint was for practice.

Spain’s Revenge

It’s been years coming. Well, centuries really. Spain’s revenge on the Dutch for being really nasty to them in the sixteenth century and tossing them out of the Netherlands. That really hurt them. It also – eventually – gave us Belgium as a singular demonstration of the deleterious effects of the law of unintended consequences. Historians still ponder whether imperial Spain’s retreat in the face of militant Protestantism in the land of dykes and windmills was a cause or an effect of its decline as a world power.
So we can understand the delirium that occurred when the soccer world cup finally made it to Madrid. It was also fun – in a sort of disconnected way – to see television coverage of the subsequent affrays in the Spanish capital.
One TV news caption we saw from telecasts of the celebrations especially amused, as evidence that the world has definitely dumbed down over the past 400 years. It was two lines. The first said: “King Juan Carlos.” The second informed: “Spanish King.”
There’s one other benefit of the end of the soccer world cup. Those frightful vuvuzelas can all be burnt.

Hello, John

You meet like-minded people in the most surprising places. The Diary, on its welcome relocation back to Bali’s warmth last weekend, dropped by the duty free stores at Perth airport – as you do, unless a squillionaire, if returning to Bule Price Land – for a modest bottle of premium Jack Daniel’s whisky (the 43 percent proof is the one to go for) and ran into Ann, at one of them, who was happy to serve a paying Sunday customer.
On hearing that The Diary was Bali-bound she asked if we could say Hi for her to John Fawcett, a lovely man. Well of course we could. We share Ann’s sentiments.
So, John, hello from Ann at Perth duty free. And Hi from us too; keep up the good work.

Volunteer Promoter

Also at Perth airport, we heard a chatty Australian immigration officer telling some departing Bali-bound travellers where to go: in a nice way, with lots of good information for first-time visitors. It was such a pleasant surprise that The Diary even forswore the customary distemper when held up in an unnecessary queue.
The delay was a useful warm-up for the situation at the other end of the plane ride where one harassed (but stoically pleasant) passport-stamper was manning the sole Temp Res desk.

Delicious Frisson

Aunty ABC, the Australian broadcaster, got into a tizzy this week when its new Facebook comment page was consumed by a vacuous “debate” about the fortunes – misfortunes, rather – of celebrity Kerobokan prisoner Schapelle Corby.
This delicious frisson of fracas led - naturally, given the provenance of much of that particular commentariat - to accusations of censorship. The ABC barred one of the fiercest contestants in that particular wrestling match; and a good thing too.
Corby and her voracious family and hangers on have done themselves no service over the past six years, by crying “No Fair” and selling their fictionalised accounts of disaster and derring-do to a credulous Australian media. Corby is in jail, having been convicted of a drug offence. It’s sad – we should all feel some empathy with those incarcerated, even if they don’t deserve it – but it’s a fact that will not be altered until those who can alter it do so. Those people are not the Corby lobby, which collectively doesn’t seem to have woken up to the fact that if they stopped mewling it’s more likely that something might happen.
Corby would have had much better results from this week’s visit to Kerobokan by the Bali International Women’s Association, led by Melly St Ange, on one of its regular essential supply runs. Now there’s a cause that’s actually worth supporting.

No, Don’t

Browsing through the Jakarta Globe is a mixed pleasure. It’s great to be informed on a daily basis, in a print product that can be read without getting round-shouldered and squinty-eyed over your computer screen. It’s not quite so great when you come across columnists who are looking forward to getting back to being bored now the soccer’s over.
But what caught The Diary’s eye this week was a front-page promo (it was in Monday’s paper) for someone’s über-today male fashion designs. It proclaimed: “Daring to Bare.”
Oh dear. It was so much better when only the ladies, and not the laddies, went out and about décolleté.

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

Sunday, July 11, 2010

HECTOR'S BALI TIMES DIARY [for July 9, 2010]

UWRF 2010:
Just the
Not the

It might seem a reasonable question to put to the organisers of this year’s Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. They seem to be in Melbourne, where the publicists reside, and Umalas, from where the energetic Bali-based but otherwise chiefly elsewhere-focused social media outfit water&stone operates. (It does so very well, incidentally.)
UWRF 2010 is themed Bhinneka Tunggal Ika: Harmony in Diversity, a quotation from an ancient Javanese poem (and not without coincidence, Indonesia’s national motto). Its sponsors are off-island, including all its media sponsors. Just after last year’s festival The Bali Times put a 2010 sponsorship proposal to Janet de Neefe, founder and chief functionary, after last year’s festival. She said she’d get back to us.
UWRF’s 15 “emerging Indonesian writers” selected for appearance at the festival include no Balinese. We asked to see the list of 105 applicants – we wanted to see if any Balinese had applied - but this was not possible; applicants, apart from those who make the cut, are confidential.
There are some reasonable established authors listed as participants, but not a major headline among them. And the star attraction appears to be Kate Adie, the yesteryear BBC specialist in look-at-me-I’m-in-the-line-of-fire reportage. News as voyeuristic entertainment, presented as the ultimate reality TV show, has no real function and little appeal to the sentient.
We think an annual literary festival for Bali is a great idea. But maybe the UWRF is getting a little off track, off message, and off the point.
It’s enough to make one want to go to a bar and cause an affray.

And No Mandolins

There was a tale around a little while ago that British writer Louis de Bernières would be a presence at this year’s UWRF. It was either that – a tale – or perhaps what those in the publicity trade know as a balloon, something that is sent aloft to attract notice when there’s nothing else to say, because the list of participants now circulated does not include him.
That’s a shame, because otherwise he might have been quite interesting on his 2008 novel A Partisan’s Daughter. It’s more introspective than much of his work – and certainly more dour than his signature piece, Corelli’s Mandolin (also published as Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, as which it was also made into a movie) – but more thought provoking as a result.
Just the trick for a navel-gazing exercise, we’d have thought.

Stand By for Chaos

There was a little news item in last week’s print edition of The Bali Times that would have brought a grimace to many faces. It said that work on the proposed flyover at Simpang Siur would commence next year so that it would be complete in time for the APEC jamboree at Nusa Dua in 2013.
The work is essential, of course. But it’s the two years of total chaos and additional traffic delays that comes first that will be the immediate problem.
Allow an additional two hours to get from anywhere south of the airport to anywhere north of the airport in the interim.

Caring Nation

Tourism doyenne Tuti Sunario, who puts out the useful and interesting Indonesia Digest update, had some interesting data in her latest digest about what makes Indonesians tick. Among Asia Pacific countries surveyed by the Neilsen organisation, Indonesian consumers stand out for caring most about the education of their children and the well being and happiness of parents. Neilsen’s consumer research executive director in Indonesia, Catherine Eddy, said the survey showed 14 percent of Indonesian consumers surveyed for the latest study cited their children’s education and wellbeing as their chief concern over the next six months, significantly higher than the average of 9 percent among Asia Pacific consumers as a whole.
Similarly ahead of the pack, 13 percent said their chief concern was the wellbeing and happiness of their parents. This compares with the 4 percent average among all Asia Pacific consumers, most of whom cited the economy as their chief concern. The first concern among most Indonesians is to find a balance between work and daily living.
The Survey also found that in the first quarter of 2010, 70 percent of Indonesians surveyed – on the internet – were very positive about their jobs, much higher than the average Asia-Pacific consumers which registered 57 percent.

Original Imagery

Australian indigenous culture is being celebrated in Jakarta to mark the annual NAIDOC (National Aboriginal and Islanders’ Day Observance Committee) Week from July 4-11. The Australian embassy is staging a photographic exhibition by one of Australia’s most prominent Aboriginal photographic artists, Wayne Quilliam, among other artistic expressions of the rich indigenous culture of the country.
Every year Australia celebrates NAIDOC Week as a way of promoting greater understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their culture. It is also a celebration of their people’s contributions to modern Australia. This year celebrates the theme of Unsung Heroes, acknowledging those who have made a significant but humble contribution to their community behind the scenes.
Contact between Australian Indigenous people and Indonesians dates back at least to the sixteenth century when Makassan traders and fishermen first visited northern Australia. They traded frequently and this interaction is still recorded and celebrated today in the music and dance of the Indigenous northern language groups.
The Quilliam exhibition runs at Galeri Foto Jurnalistik Antara until July 18 (it opened on July 5). Films and other presentations are also on the programme.

Lateral Thinking

Strategic Airlines, the new Australian player on the Perth-Bali route, has some big plans that prove the power of lateral thinking. From August 3, subject to regulatory approval, it will be flying to Bali from Port Hedland in Western Australia, bringing our island within two hours’ reach of the rich mining and resource industry workforce in the north of WA.
And it will tie this in with the first full-service transcontinental flights from Brisbane on Australia’s east coast to Port Hedland, providing people from the populous south-east Queensland area with a same-day, one stop service to Bali. Initially it will be a weekly service, on Tuesdays, but the airline says it plans to introduce a second flight, on Saturdays, from September.
Until now the money-to-spend workforce in WA’s north-west has had to fly south to Perth before heading north to Bali for some well-earned R&R. And Brisbane, while nowadays serviced by both Jetstar (via Darwin) and Virgin’s Pacific Blue direct, has been devoid of Garuda service since the notional airline had to “restructure” (cut) its network some time ago, after finding its plan to forget about making aircraft lease payments didn’t work. Some rather more productive lateral thinking on the part of our notional airline would also be in order.

Let There be Light

One of your diarist’s favourite memories is of his initial repositioning flight – from London but originating, via a short break, from Africa – to Australia in 1971. What amazed on that occasion was that no lights were seen between leaving Singapore and arriving in Perth; and precious few then. It was surreal. It was also 2am in Perth, so of course most of the good burghers of that ville were abed. Presumably the bad burghers were nefariously up to things without benefit of visible light.
This memorable and slightly discomfiting occasion was recalled last week when The Diary flew southwards to Perth aboard a Strategic Airbus A320, leaving Bali in the dark. This time, however, there were lights, not only in Perth but also, brightly, around the big oil and gas conurbations that have sprung up en route in the intervening 39 years. It’s amazing what a bit of time can do.

Simply Chilling

One of the best reasons for living in Bali is that you don’t get cold, unless – like The Diary – the faux chill of a June or July evening daringly spent in the bale (gazebo) out by the pool gives you the shivers. It’s pretty radical when the mercury dips below 25C.
One theory long held by your diarist, drawn from several wasted decades of weather sampling around the globe, is that unusual climatic occasions are designed to follow him. Thus with a trip to Perth (and even further south towards all that horrible Antarctic ice): on arrival on June 30 it was to a city that had just marked its longest cold spell in 13 years.
Of course, all these things are relative. Some people we know would swoon in the heat of a 3C winter night. But they don’t live in Bali, poor things.
Your diarist will be back in Bali, and warm again, this weekend.

Hector' Blog appears weekly, as The Bali Times Diary, in the the print edition of the newspaper, out Fridays, and on the newspaper's website at The Bali Times, Bali's only English language newspaper, is also available worldwide through NewspaperDirect.  

Thursday, July 01, 2010


Memo to All:
Aren’t Here
Just to Print
What You Like

There are, it is said, none as blind as those who will not see. To which one might add: And none so immune to the possibility of another point of view than one-eyed campaigners for high-profile causes. The cause of Schapelle Corby is one such minefield for any who suggest – reasonably – that whether one likes it or not, Indonesia’s justice system is something for Indonesia to control.
That there are problems with it is not the issue. That there are fractious and profoundly ill-informed critics of it in other countries is unsurprising. But it is also vexing. Laura Hart, who posted a comment on The Bali Times’ website on June 23, relating to the self-serving criticism advanced by that political scatty-cat Pauline Hanson, whose fish-and-chip dinners one hopes were better than her next venture as the misanthropic leader of the One Nation party in Australia, is perfectly at liberty to say, as she did:

No-one cares about Schapelle? Yeh, right. How about this women’s group which didn’t exist three months ago: The world is sick of this poor woman being tortured to death. Sick of monsters posting their support in places like this. Sick of governments hiding from this abuse. And yes, sick of The Bali Times printing hostile propaganda and damaging stories against her. (Our emphasis.)
 Laura is free to think that. And she’s free to post her thoughts on our website. Feedback pages are designed for people wanting to let off a little steam, after all. But like so many others in these days of “social media,” she completely misunderstands the role of the newspaper in the field of communications. It is not to print only material with which she agrees.

Super Symbol

When India opened up its economy in the 1990s people elsewhere began to realise that the rupee was not just some historical monetary unit in a rollicking Kipling adventure set in the Raj, but an actual currency that had (increasing) value. And since bureaucrats and politicians like to look busy and engaged, lots of work has been done lately on creating a symbol for India’s money that can stand with national pride alongside the $, ¥, £ and (more recently) the € as instantly recognisable symbols rather than the pick-a-box Rs, Re and INR used up to now.
Five possibilities for a stylised R have been shortlisted and will go to ministers for consideration.
This little flight of fancy prompted musing at The Diary, where the number of zeroes required to convert the Indonesian rupiah into anything you can actually buy stuff with is viewed with eye-glazing disfavour. It’s also confusing – perhaps this is deliberate, to assist money-changers in the business of turning a profit – because the Rp10,000 and Rp100,000 notes are so indelibly similar in hue.
Perhaps the next time Indonesian financial bureaucrats and their ministers have nothing better to do, they might look at redesigning bank notes to emphasise the thousand as the primary number and de-emphasise the string of useless noughts that follow, as many retailers already do in marking point-of-sale prices. That way we could have Rp100.000 and Rp10.000 notes that would not confuse, not to mention lovely new Rp1.000, Rp2.000, Rp5.000, Rp20.000 and Rp50.000 notes as well. It might even make it possible to have a Rp500.000 note to save carrying around a heap of paper change in your wallet.

Boom With a View

Happy travellers who might want to sample the fare at Klapa, the restaurant atop the despoiled remains of the cliff at the environmental excrescence once known as Dreamland Beach, should go well armed with significant readies. And not just for lunch.
Parking there costs Rp15K, surely among the highest boom-gate entry prices in Bali and possibly the country.

Tautology Rules

There’s a place for old curmudgeons. Well, this old curmudgeon thinks so, anyway. And even curmudgeons accept that language changes, and that this is often for the best. Most of us have long recovered from the disappointment of discovering that dilemna had overnight become dilemma, and much more logically so.
The modern delight in tautology, however, is another matter. An anniversary is just that – it’s an annual thing, you know, like a year has passed since you last marked whatever it is you’re celebrating, commemorating, commiserating, etc. Simple, really. Today, though, you don’t just mark, say, something’s tenth anniversary. It has become, in these times when the unlettered rule, a 10-year anniversary.
One such excrescence appeared in a headline in The Bali Times last week. It proclaimed the 10-year anniversary of the human genome. Well, it wasn’t of course, in any sense. It was the tenth anniversary of some very clever boffins first sequencing it.

Drink Up

The Diary had to pass up one otherwise difficult to refuse invitation this week, as a result of another engagement: temporary absence in wintry Western Australia. The missed otherwise unmissable was a dinner at the Ayana at Jimbaran on Thursday evening – it ended at the Rock Bar with post-prandial cocktails; it’s a good thing the Ayana’s Inclinator is there to return Rock Baristas to the cliff-top – at which thoroughly remarkable Chilean wine from Casa Lapostolle was explained by winemaker Diego Urra.
Even the benefit of being (temporarily) in a place with drinkable wine at affordable prices pales somewhat when it means missing out on a night at the Ayana (always fun, particularly in the cerebrally decorative presence of hotel publicist Marian Hinchliffe) at which the redoubtable products of one of Chile’s finest vineyards are on offer. Salud.

Elephant in Room

That selfless campaigner for Bali as it should be (according to him and sundry other got-here-first-so-go-suck whickerers), the Jakarta-resident kilt-tilter Alistair Speirs, must surely have a conflict of interest in his promotion of Bali’s hotel sector. And we don’t just mean the inadvisability of appearing in an udeng, as he and others did in a photo circulated after the Bali Hotels Association’s recent golf charity dinner.
International hotels, after all, like any other investments, including the villas he so hates, are built on Land Formerly Used for Much More Suitable Purposes. But while he rails against land grabs – and tells anyone within earshot that his little glitter-mag, NOW! Bali, won’t accept real estate advertising because it is a Bad Thing – he is one of the leading cerebrals behind the Bali Hotels Association’s flat non-come-on, Bali Is My Life.
Property development in Bali should of course be subject to controls and to proper planning procedures. We look forward to the national and provincial governments producing some and then ensuring they actually work and cannot be bribed away. But the Spear Carriers for Gaia and others (who seem also to want a no-jobs Bali), many of whom seem to be arguing for restraint now they’ve made their own pile, can’t have it both ways. By all means, let’s campaign for responsible development, sensitive architecture, even for Balinese gardens if Strangers like them, and all the rest.
We could start by finding some way for Balinese to capitalise on their only real asset (land) other than by selling it en masse to Jakarta plutocrats, other Indonesian robber barons, and disgracefully moneyed Bules. Perhaps Speirs could give his little Exclamation Mark a serious workout and ponder responsible answers to that conundrum.
Exclamatory Note: We see that another little canine appendage of a publication, FRV Travel, is now appearing without that idiotic ! between FRV and Travel.

Killer Chook

The Australian journalist Annabel Crabb, who used to scribble for the Fairfax newspaper group but flew the coop to national broadcaster the ABC last year, where she appears in The Drum, the ABC’s online political blog, and is a regular on the mustn’t-be-missed Sunday political show The Insiders, screened on Australia Network TV, has a delightful put-down style.
Her dissections of Australia’s political leaders, such as the (politically) late Kevin Rudd and his surprise immediate replacement, the magnificently Titian-headed Julia Gillard, are always required reading or viewing.
She’s great with a quick quip, too. Last year she told ABC radio in Adelaide her Dad had a chook called Julia. It had red feathers, attitude, bossed all the other chooks around and wouldn’t lay eggs.
We know now that it also possesses the killer instinct. Last week it assassinated the local rooster.

What a Treat

While we await the breathless cinema shortly to be presented by Hollywood’s interpretation of American self-discoverer Elizabeth Gilbert’s scribbling, Eat, Love, Pray (trumpets trill and strumpets swoon on August 13, we hear) The Diary has been viewing other movie fare, already available, drawn from screen interpretations.
These rarely work. Robert Kaplow’s 2003 novel Me and Orson Welles is a captivating word picture of New York in 1937 – how strange that that time now constitutes a “period piece” – and transports you, as all good writing should, to both the venue and the time. The 109-minute movie of the same is a true rarity in that it does work. Director Richard Linklater’s film, made in 2008, is very good indeed. And there were no superstars playing themselves, just actors (Claire Danes among them) who are a true tribute to their craft.
The Kuta-acquired DVD actually managed to run all the way without a hitch, too.

Hector's Blog is published, as The Diary, in the weekly print edition of The Bali Times, out Fridays, and at The Bali Times, Bali's only English-language newspaper, is available as a print product worldwide through NewspaperDirect.