Friday, October 29, 2010


It’s Driving Us
Batik, But
In a Very
Good Cause

We’ve heard a lot in recent times about the benefits of batik and its place in Indonesia’s panoply of cultures. This has been bolstered by United Nations recognition of batik as a symbol of Indonesia and by the enthusiasm for wearing it that has sprung into new life as a result.
    Of course, there is batik; and then there is batik. But one firm lesson of history is that tradition actually changes with time. This may surprise those who seem to believe things are set in stone, or at least fixed in amber; or indeed that they can be. The human story, for any with the wit to comprehend it, is one of redefinition and mediation.
    It was therefore very interesting to read the other day, in the excellent Inside Indonesia online magazine produced in Australia, a lengthy article on how the surge in batik’s popularity is fuelling modernisation of the art and the process of production. It’s by Amalinda Savirani who is completing her PhD as part of the Middle Indonesia Research Group at Leiden University in the Netherlands.
    Savirani examines not only the new direction of batik as a pop culture item, but also the far-reaching economic effects of the new market for the product. It’s not just about vibrant designs and colours. It’s about economics and politics too. Inside Indonesia is at

String Us Along

It’s good to see classical music making its reappearance in those parts of Bali’s expatriate commune from which it has long been banished by the boom box age, a dreadful sanction reinforced by resulting deafness. True, we’ve missed both the recent occasions of which we were belatedly aware – Memo Diary: keep a diary – but this should most certainly not be taken by the organisers as in any way indicating lack of interest.
    Far from it: we’re polishing our Stradivarius even as we speak. No, we jest. The Diary played a little piano once upon a time, and the clarinet – both of them with a degree of inexpertness that frustrated the series of unfortunates who were the music teachers of our youth: they’re probably dead now, poor things, but that would by passage of time, not a fatal quaver from long ago. Not wishing to be the cause of a collection being taken up to pay for tuition in Vienna ... or anywhere, as the old joke puts it, a redirection into the acquired skill of listening (to music, and to others) proved a timely move.
    So cheers to Tom Hufnagel at JP’s Warung in Legian and Ryoshi at Seminyak, where even The Diary can play Chopsticks, for dusting off some real music.
    DISCLAIMER: The Diary really likes rock, too.
It’s a Miracle

Louis de Bernières apparently describes this year’s Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, held earlier this month, as a logistical miracle. We’re sure he drew on his deep research into the logistical and other skills of the Italian wartime army in reaching this conclusion. That was the outfit Captain Corelli and his mandolin served with, wasn’t it?
    For this intelligence we are indebted to Sarah Tooth, co-director of the festival, who recently offered – in one of Bali’s many advertising publications – a “festival wrap” which reduced the literary riches of the world assembled in Ubud to an 884-word post-party report.
    From it we also learn that De Bernières’ visit was valuable in another way: he became reacquainted with the first woman who ever slapped him and went shopping with her. She now lives in Ubud, apparently. We do hope she didn’t feel the need to repeat the cathartic benefits of her original performance.
    Thomas Kenneally, the Australian author of Schindler’s Ark (later Schindler’s List for movie purposes) turned up to the final big bash in full Balinese rig; so much for cultural sensitivity, then. And engagingly comic Etgar Keret evidently forgot all about having to waste his time in Bangkok for five days while festival organisers found someone they could to persuade to stamp his Israeli passport, and the lizards, lounge and others, upon which he lately wrote for an international audience (The Diary, last week). He thought the festival was the best in the world. And British TV live news dramatist Kate Adie wasn’t worried that it might rain.
    Ubud blogger Rio Helmi did better. He apparently has lately discovered that everything is not quite right in paradise, or in the rest of Indonesia. He takes photographs (good ones) and was doing so at the scribblers’ fest. But we think it’s more likely that Helmi – like a growing number of people – has been reading The Bali Times and has found the real Bali revealed.
    Next year’s Scribblers and Gabblers will take place, fragrant rice harvests and acts of demigods permitting, from October 5-9. Make a note of that in the back of your cookbook.
Post It Note

On the subjects of notes, we hear that Janet de Neefe posted an odd little one on her Facebook page the other day. It said: “Something is rotting in the state of a certain newspaper ... ewww.” This is distressing news, and not only because (predictably) the comment seems to owe its inspiration to Wigglestick, the unsuccessful English playwright of several centuries ago who could never quite get his quotations on the mark. Shakespeare, who could, wrote: “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”
    An officer of the palace guard says this after the ghost of the dead king appears, walking over the palace walls. That was in Hamlet, which is not, at least as far as we know, a pressed meat and lettuce concoction on the menu at one of other De Neefe’s Ubud eateries. There may be ghosts at Indus, one supposes. There might be a role for some ghost-writers.
    But we do wonder which newspaper it is that she meant. It can’t be The Bali Times, because on all the evidence she doesn’t know that Bali has an English-language newspaper. There is only one, of course. It’s just so hard to keep count, isn’t it?

Pick a Box

Smiling girl-about-town Lian Monley, who makes people wince for a living (she runs a fitness gym, the sort of establishment that Diarists advise themselves to avoid) has branched out with something called Detox in a Box. It even has its own website. This healthful helpfulness can even be delivered to your door, it seems, if your deepest desire is to have someone else provide you with a nutritious, satisfying and, Monley says, delicious 10-day eating plan.
    Monley says her detox regime is not a fad but a specifically designed programme to help kick start a healthier and a fresher diet and lifestyle. She offers a variety of Detoxes in Boxes, to suit your particular needs and circumstances. It all sounds like a great idea and will probably sell like hotcakes (perish the thought!) in the KLS quarter, where such things are probably viewed as de rigueur. And good luck to Monley, who is a lively soul.
    Down here in Diary Land, we just tend to raid the fruit and veg tray in the fridge. 

Old School Thai

Thailand’s education minister has a singular grasp of his job – and of the importance of tourism to his country. Chinnaworn Boonyakiat is reported to have vetoed a cabinet move to declare English the second official language of Thailand, on the grounds that this might lead people to believe Thailand had once been a colony, like other English-speaking countries in the region.
   Well, there’s no escaping the ignorance of people, foreign tourists or not (as we know only too well in Bali). But dumbos don’t care anyway. They’re just out for a good time. Cultural matters and history are of zero interest.
   However, tourism destination countries seek to attract tourists to pour money into their economies. Given the global prevalence of English it might be thought, though not if you’re the Thai education minister it seems, that providing a wide understanding of the language would be an advantage.

A Good Mate

There was a big turnout for the multi-faith funerary rites in Lombok of dive pioneer Gerd Bunte last week. The mourners included his competitors in the now booming Lombok dive industry, a sure mark of a good friend, a fair businessman, and a bloke you’d always want to have a beer with.
   Bunte and his wife Astrid Huber founded Dream Divers on Gili Air, one of Lombok’s lovely threesome of north-western islands, in 1996. The company now operates widely throughout Lombok and has a bright future we’re sure, even without Bunte’s resident guiding hand.
   We weren’t at the funeral, which was followed by a cremation in Mataram and a scattering of his ashes in places he loved, though we should have been. We did have a chance to see Huber and their son Simon in Bali afterwards, as they made their way back to Germany, where Simon is at school. It was lovely to see them (they are friends too) despite the sad circumstances; and to play a small, if slightly removed, part in the celebration of Bunte’s life, which ended far too early.
   Auf Weidersehen, alter Freund.

Hector's Blog appears as The Diary in The Bali Times, published on Fridays, and on the newspaper's website The Bali Times is available worldwide through NewspaperDirect.

Friday, October 22, 2010


Good for a Laugh,
But Not When
People Are Dying

Bali exists, as a modern polity, on heroic claims and Walter Mitty propositions. It is also the world headquarters of the White Elephant Corporation, many of whose defunct premises litter the island. That doesn’t make it a bad place to live – far from it; laughter is the best medicine, after all – but it does get tedious when the “joke” costs lives. Thus, we have an unregulated traffic system that permits uncaring people to own and operate overloaded trucks that anywhere else would be off the road – and their owners in jail most likely – and allows madmen to drive them. Last week six people paid with their lives in the latest example of road conditions in the Kingdom of Killer Trucks.
    Thus, we have a tragic comedy of a response to rabies, that so far has killed 101 Balinese - in a horrible and wholly avoidable way – but which, according to the head of the animal husbandry department, Putu Sumantra, who clearly wouldn’t get a job elsewhere and certainly shouldn’t have one here, is now on the point of being controlled. He later changed his story (the work is just beginning) but that’s precious little comfort to people who need their top bureaucrats to be thinking.
    The crass impossibility of his original claim - upon which he then dodged further questions by being, according to his staff, “away at a ceremony” for a long time – starkly shows the inadequacy both of himself and the “programme” of which he is putatively in charge. Not even Mitty, or even Maxwell Smart, would expect to be believed in such circumstances. Sumantra, however, would have liked us to believe that in three short weeks his teams, assisted by an animal welfare organisation run by ladies who take afternoon tea, could even by remote possibility have vaccinated 70 percent of the latest estimate of 400,000-plus stray dogs, every one of them adept at making themselves scarce, in every one of the approximately 5,000 local communities in Bali bar two in Tabanan.
    Memo Governor Pastika: It’s time to get real.

Sticky Sit

Etgar Keret, the engaging Israeli writer and filmmaker, had a lovely piece in The Tablet the other day – the New York-based online daily magazine. He wrote about lizards – of both the real and the lounge variety – at UWRF HQ (Janet de Neefe’s Indus restaurant at Ubud, where the views are great) and other things, not actually connected with the 2010 festival just ended, or for that matter what it’s supposed to do. Or what most people would suppose a literary festival is supposed to do.
    It was a good antidote to the De Neefe Facebook posts of last weekend and later about the piles of praise that had been cascading in since the doors closed on her last cancellation.
    Keret spent five days cooling his heels in Bangkok on his way to Bali, because every time he took his Israeli passport to the Indonesian embassy visa section there they told him he wouldn’t be getting a visa (Indonesia does not have diplomatic relations with Israel) and he should go home. Janet’s crew kept telling him to stay put. They must have been having difficulty tracking down the preferred recipient for their brown envelope full of facilitating currency.
    Still, all credit to Keret for sticking it out. That’s the Sabra spirit. He may think about it for longer if he gets another invitation. His reward on this occasion apparently was to observe one of those unsuccessful mating games of alcohol-fuelled males (hopes up, prospects down) that can be fascinating if you’ve got nothing better to watch on sticky evenings in faraway places.
    There’s a letter on Page 8 this week that puts the writers’ festival in rather better perspective.

Ditz Lit

Now that the annual week of fun pudding and re-heated gravitas has been shoved back in the bain-marie, pending 2011, the Bar Luna Lit Club has reassumed its focus as the centre of Things Lit in Ubud. There was an evening do on Thursday at which, according to the invitation, there was a UWRF Round Table. Someone was reading, apparently. We should be pleased; that appears to be an advance.
    The invitation to the evening also advised that there would be a display of “Neal Harrison's Photo's of 2010 Festival.” It’s strange that a literary crowd would be ignorant of the proper place and actual purpose of an apostrophe.

See You, Anon

Diarists don’t usually get plaudits. Most people – quite rightly – only bother to bang on at you if you’ve committed some faux pas. They assume, again rightly, that a diarist is meant to entertain and sometimes inform, in a readable way, and think of this as really rather normal and therefore unremarkable.
    So it was nice to see, the other day, a feedback item on The Bali Times website from someone who clearly shares the Diary’s view that every Aussie or other idiot who falls foul of Indonesia’s laws is not necessarily worth the expense and trouble of dispatching an SAS snatch squad to rescue.
    The fellow – it could have been a fellowess, but we think not – didn’t leave a name. He (or she) preferred the anonymity of Anon. That’s probably sensible, given that anyone suggesting that people who arrive here, find to their complete surprise that their luggage is stuffed full of illegal drugs, and claim to have been set up, might just be having us all on, is instantly set upon by the Schapelle Sidewinder Squad. Diarists get paid (well, in theory) to take flak. Most of them enjoy it anyway.
    Anon said, of last week’s Diary: “Hilarious as usual ... perhaps the auditions for new episodes of Banged Up Abroad are being held in Oz? It sure seems that way given how many of them continue to show up here firmly believing in the ignorance of local authorities.” By the way, we hear – from Anon – that a great new book is finally out: The Monster That Ate Ubud. Don’t think the authors were invited to the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival either.

The End

Local identity Susi Johnston strongly dislikes a lot of property development hereabouts – and elsewhere, we hear, specifically a wedding-cake excrescence of a “Hindu Temple” construction Michael Made White Wijaya has recently created for some exponent of American tastelessness in Florida – and has been blogging about something called The Seminyak.
    This is a property on the beach at Seminyak, between The Legian (a Diary favourite) and that overpriced café whose (Australian) owner recently told us had no plans to move off island (“Why would we leave?”) and which has recently mushroomed in Singapore, and which, like W further up the trash line, has been built in the spray zone on grandfathered Suharto-era dictator-title. In those days the only beach set-back was if you ran into the wrong general.
    Susi says of this latest endeavour to crowd in the In Crowd that it is due to open in December but that, rubber time being what it is, this galactic event is more likely to take place in June next year. Ah, well. What’s a target if you can’t miss it?
    It’s being built by Tata, a thoroughly reputable construction firm, but it is of course being built in Bali. In a previous life the land was occupied by the Resor Seminyak. Apparently this was later defined as not quite development to a t. Susi says The Seminyak will include a spa. This will be called The Spa. There will be a waterside restaurant. This will be called The Waterside. Susi adds (love her!) that there will be a wedding chapel (yes, another one) and wonders whether this will be called The Chapel.

Off to St Nick’s

Marian Hinchliffe, chief funster down at the Ayana, on those big rocks at the Bukit end of Jimbaran, tells us they’re all set up for Christmas. The resort’s festive season programme is certainly extensive. It’s got everything; even something for the kids.
    She’d like you to put the jolly back into Christmas, along with Santa Claus (St Nicholas), with New Year thrown in. Well, The Diary doesn’t object to jollity. It’s a jolly good thing. We don’t do that western stuff-yourself-silly feasting routine, but the New Year bash at the Rock Bar – the place is our fave for a rave – sounds fun. But memo self: Must remember the dark glasses to ward off those strobe lights.
    Christmas is nowadays a secular occasion – globally, all but – that has been re-created as a celebration of consumerism’s Buy Buy World. It is not, primarily, a religious experience, unless (like The Diary) you like that old Elton John song Religion.
    Only the truly hardy and committed seem to remember that it actually celebrates the birth of one among the most important of Islam’s 25 named prophets.

HECTOR'S BLOG appears as The Diary in the weekly print edition of The Bali Times, out Fridays, and on the newspaper's website at Print copies of The Bali Times are available worldwide via NewspaperDirect.

Friday, October 15, 2010


An Archibald
Prize Would
Have Done
The Night

The thoroughly un-thespian Diary, having been black-listed by the organisers for failing to ring the bell on their weight-o-meter or to perform the required grade of kow-tow, made it to only one Ubud Writers and Readers Festival function this year. It was a reception for Australian writers last Saturday evening and the invitation came from the acting deputy head of mission at the Australian embassy in Jakarta, Michael Bliss, and the acting Australian consul-general in Bali, Brent Hall.
    It was an interesting occasion on more than one count. We said hello to Aussie electronic pamphleteer Antony Lowenstein, who blogs furiously on many matters, including on why he blogs; to Australian QC Colin McDonald, late of the Scott Rush case and – in this case – an Ubud local; to Miranda Brown, the festival’s Melbourne-based international publicist, who asked if we thought the UWRF was a good idea (we do); to lawyer and journalist Bob Gosford, who contributes (from Alice Springs generally) to that deliciously scandal-mongering Australian e-paper Crikey!; and (of course; we wuz brung up proper) to Janet de Neefe and her executive assistant Liz Henzell. We spied former Australian ambassador Bill Farmer and his wife Elaine in the crowd (they were here on holiday); but we saw neither hide nor hair of festival associate director Sarah Tooth, so the footballers’-style mouth guard we wore for the occasion was not required. We’d taken it along just in case; you can’t be too careful.
    There was one chap who perhaps should have been wearing a mouth guard, or a restraint of some kind. Festival performer Omar Musa, an Aussie hip-hopper with a post-rap penchant for scatology and the copulatory adjective, was put on display as the evening’s stand-up entertainment. In Omar’s defence, he is from Queanbeyan (it’s just outside Canberra; say no more) and gets rave reviews from youthful – and not so youthful – admirers who have been suborned by rap’s defective meter and seem to believe you just have to be coarse to be an intellectual force.
    Bliss had his moment, too, in saying his words of welcome. He observed that diplomats were in their own way rather like writers, since they spent their lives scribbling marginal notes for their own readership (their departmental superiors and, in exalted circumstances, their ministers).
    The Diary, in a former life, saw a little of this sort of correspondence. Thus, the thought occurred during Saturday evening’s blissful moment that it’s a shame no one nowadays has the cojones (or the humour) to attempt something as to the point as a famously brief but wondrous report from Moscow in 1943, by the British ambassador of the day, Sir Archibald Clark Kerr. (This is entirely beside the point, but Clark Kerr was born in Australia.) In his note, Clark Kerr advised his old chum Lord Pembroke, then head of the British foreign office, of the arrival in the wartime Soviet capital of a new Turkish envoy with an eye-catching name card. A tip: It’s worth Googling Archibald Clark Kerr.
    We have a copy of Clark Kerr’s original note, grabbed with glee years ago when it was finally released from 50 years of close detention in the files at the FO. It invariably thrusts a very firm chortle into the greyest of days.
    Sadly, it prompts reminiscence of humour past and reminds you that, where popular comedy is concerned, the caravan long ago moved on and all we’re left with is the dogs, barking.

She’s a Fan

Writer Deepika Shetty believes that literary festivals don't have to be big to be beautiful. Well, we’d agree with that. It’s not the size of the serving that’s important, whether in a restaurant or at a book meet; it’s whether it’s digestible.
    Shetty, one among the large collective of authors at UWRF 2010, posted a note on her Facebook last Friday saying: “Head to the Ubud Writers Festival in Bali this weekend to find out for yourself. If the words aren't enough, the settings will seduce you. That's my guarantee.”
    There’s no doubt Ubud is a seductive setting; especially if the mountains come out to join in the fun.

Clean Them Out

It seems that words are to be followed by action in the little matter of cleaning up the nightspot scene in Kuta and Legian. This novelty, ordered by Bali Police chief Hadiatmoko, is thoroughly commendable. If it achieves its stated object, which is to produce something resembling order after dark in the biff ‘n’ bother precinct, then Hadiatmoko will have performed a significant public service.
    He proposes to do so by organising a locally enforced permit system designed to weed out the fly-by-nights and the hard men, and create an environment in which (again a novelty) operators will have to abide by a code of conduct and also keep their ill-tempered toughs who masquerade as security men under control.
    It may be a tall order, given the predisposition of many in the nightspot sector to act like unskilled extras in a bad Mob movie. But we shall see. And we can certainly take heart, on the evidence to hand thus far, from the fact that Hadiatmoko says what he means – and means what he says.

Under Wraps

The detention in Bali last week of Erwin Arnanda, editor of Indonesian Playboy (the world’s only version of the smutty mag for sad old adolescents that you actually have to buy for the articles, there being no photographs to speak of) is a sorry comment on many things, including the risible – and unfortunately also dangerously divisive - anti-pornography law.
    Not only does it represent a victory (pray that it shall be Pyrrhic) for the meddlesome minority of Wahhabi-fuelled Islamists who want to put all of Indonesia in Purdah and who number in their ranks antediluvian men who apparently believe women are not actually fully functioning people. It is also a victory (ditto) for creaking and fearfully acquiescent police-state bureaucracy.
    Playboy (in any of its versions) is not a magazine The Diary would ever bother buying. But that’s not the point. Columnist Novar Caine has more to say on the Perspective page, Pg 9.

Such a Treat

A very dear friend brought The Diary a lovely gift when she came to stay at The Cage last week as a school holiday refugee from Perth. (The escape was entirely understandable: she’s a school principal.) It was a CD of Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu’s 2008 solo album.
   The Diary had been after a copy for ages, but sadly acquisition had always proved elusive. Gurrumul’s music might be pigeonholed as folk in the false convenience of today’s one-size-fits-all computer-driven archive, but it’s much more than that. When he sings – in his own Yolngu language or in English, which he barely understands – he evokes the spiritual substance of Australia. This has almost physical form, as if an ectoplasm, and is not often captured even by the most attuned of visitors; shamefully it is still denied, or ignored, by most Australians.
   It’s the sort of thing that pulls powerfully at the heart of any sentient exile, even one who lives away by choice. Listening to Gurrumul transports you instantly to the warm, flavoursome and slightly scary essence of the Australian bush; it sends you searing, imagined olfactory waves of hot eucalyptus and baked red earth; it evokes the intensely mystic nature of the land; and it makes you cry.
   Gurrumul, who was born on Galiwin’ku Island (it’s on the maps as Elcho Island) off the Arnhem Land coast in the Northern Territory and has been blind since birth, used to perform with the fabulous Yothu Yindi. The name means Mother and Child in the Yolngu language. The band included balanda players.
   That word might pique the interest of Bahasa speakers. Balanda in Yolngu means non-Aboriginal. Its origin in a likely adaptation of Belanda (Dutch) from Indonesian languages long after Europeans reached the archipelago and long before any of them “found” Australia has always been a fascination, at least to your Diarist.
   There’s a Facebook campaign to get Gurrumul on Oprah when she’s in Australia in December. Hope it happens: That’s one YouTube item The Diary would definitely download.

A House in Brooklyn

Colin McPhee’s homage to Bali, now created as an opera by the American clarinettist and composer Evan Ziporyn, has just had an outing in New York City – well, Brooklyn, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival. It played in Boston earlier this month.
   McPhee’s 1946 memoir A House in Bali helped put the island on the post-war map, drawing as it did on a rich melange of experiences, artistic and otherwise, that befell McPhee, a Canadian, on the island in pre-war years.
   New York Times writer Matthew Gurewitsch, reviewing the Ziporyn opera (which “premiered” in Ubud in June last year and then went to California), repeats the argument that without McPhee it is possible the world would have forever lost the Balinese gamelan. Perhaps the Balinese would argue with that. But it cannot be denied that its wonderfully discordant harmony – fundamentally inimical to “western” composition – is now a major force in world music.
   Dancers Kadek Dewi Aryani and Desak Made Suarti Laksmi have the leading roles in A House in Bali, produced by Jay Scheib.

Hector's Blog appears as The Diary in The Bali Times print edition, out Fridays, and on the newspaper's website Print edition copies are available worldwide through NewspapersDirect.

Friday, October 08, 2010

THE BALI TIMES DIARY October 8, 2010

Oh Dear! It’s
a Shame
Sacatides is
no Socrates

Anyone who might wonder why the Australians have such a substantial consular presence in Bali need look no further than the media – the bit of it that reports news that is, like The Bali Times in English and a wide range of daily newspapers in Bahasa – for the reasons. One of them is the constant drizzle of dumbos who fall out of the sky with illegal drugs in their baggage or on their persons and consequently fall foul of Indonesia’s well publicised (and we think, though this is peripheral to the case, overly draconian) anti-narcotics laws.
    It’s getting to the point where, as already noted by our new columnist Novar Caine (he’s in Perspective today, on Page 9), the prison authorities will surely have to consider building a special Pelaku Australia wing at Kerobokan: there are so many Australians confined therein, some of them with highly fanciful defence arguments withering away to yellowed dust in their “nice try, fail” legal portfolios, that ordinary Indonesian criminals are clearly being unfairly squeezed.
    The latest Aussie to have his photo taken in his new Bali t-shirt – the one with “Pelaku” (“Actor”) emblazoned across the front – is a chap originally from Sydney called Michael Sacatides, who is 43 and apparently a kick-boxing instructor in Bangkok. Perhaps he specialises in particularly clumsy students and they’ve kicked him in the head too often.
    He was detained last Friday when he arrived on an AirAsia flight from the Thai capital for a short holiday – three days, now indefinitely extended – toting a bag he says an Indian man in Bangkok lent him for the trip. Surprise! It had 1.7 kilos of crystal meth – we know it as shabu-shabu here – which is, um, well, illegal.
    We won’t canvass the case beyond that point, in deference to a preference for justice administered by reasoned argument and the fine principle that an accused is innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt. That’s not the Indonesian system, or indeed that of any country with an accusatory legal system based on Roman law, but it’s fair.
    But we do note Sacatides is reported to have retained Schapelle Corby’s lawyer, Erwin Siregar, to make his defence that he knew nothing about what was in his luggage. Those yellowing case notes might come in handy yet.

He No Likee

Michael White, who long ago, famously, jumped ship and changed his name, thereby inventing himself as a locally prominent person and setting a trend for others inside Bali’s blowhard expat bubble, doesn’t like The Diary. No one should be surprised. It isn’t written for people who are convinced they are indispensible to Bali and absolutely vital to the local ambience, culture and economy. Such creatures write their own diaries, where they can murder their own syntax and waste their own time.
    So it was no surprise the other day to find him saying – via a little email Michael (Made) White (Wijaya) sent to his secretary and his circle and thoughtfully blind-copied to your Diarist - “HECTOR musuh nusa dan rakyat”: “HECTOR enemy of the island and the people.” Were he to have been grammatical – apparently this is a challenge for him in all his languages – he might have written “musuh Bali dan rakyatnya”: “enemy of Bali and its people.” He’d still have been wrong, but that’s his right. You never argue with memproklamirkan diri ahli (a self-proclaimed expert) though, let alone a chap who is convinced he’s the biggest blowfish in the pool.
    The cause of this petulant flurry from Sanur was an inquiry as to which of the Bali peace park proposals Wijaya now regarded as carrying his imprimatur, given that his concept sketches for same appear on two rival websites that promote construction of such a park. We thought that in these circumstances the Man in the Udeng would answer. Sadly, we were wrong. Apparently the public interest is only of concern when coincident with his.
    The Diary, however, is pleased as punch. We’ve made it onto two prominent blacklists within days: clearly we’re doing something right. We noted last week that Janet de Neefe – who this week will be busy chopping up the tofu for her Rp3 million-a-head nosh with the finest writers at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival – has blacklisted us too.

Poor Susi

White Wijaya spreads his disfavours around, you have to hand him that. There was an anguished squeak last weekend from collector and purveyor about town Susi Johnson – a squawk in jest, of course, and The Diary knows about it because in another life we’re Facebook friends with the delightful Ms Johnson – who had been “unfriended” by the Udenged One.
    We’re not really sure why. Maybe Michael Made isn’t either. But take heart, Susi. You’re in good company (see next item).

They’re Barking

Liz Henzell, formerly a columnist in The Bali Times and one of fiercest proponents of the Bali Animal Welfare Association’s grand strategy of vaccinating every dog in sight – which won’t be close to BAWA’s “international target” of 70 percent of them, count on it – as an alternative to reducing numbers first as a means of controlling rabies, “unfriended” someone very well known to The Diary this week.
    That’s a pity, he tells us. He’d been enjoying Liz’s recently posted come-on photo on her Facebook page. The unfriending took place shortly after he engaged Liz, who lives in the Wudbees (aka Ubud) and barks at people who have ideas she considers strange, on the issue of the most effective strategy to combat rabies.
    Our friend (the unfriended one) had noted that BAWA’s pilot vaccination-only programme in Gianyar, the one that’s apparently piloted the provincial government towards taking foreigners’ money and letting them take over the island’s number one public health crisis, hadn’t saved the life of poor Wayan Leges of Tegallalang, who contracted rabies and recently died, in the same horribly cruel and unnecessary way that, on the official count, 93 of his fellow Balinese had previously.
    Her last riposte, before slamming down the shutters and shouting the Facebook equivalent of something we won’t print here, was to write: “You don’t give a toss about poor Pak Wayan.”
    In that crass and idiotic response, we know, she is very, very wrong.
Three Up

The Wall Street Journal has mentioned Bali. Don't get too excited. It's nothing to do with the sort of big business that goes on here in the nightspot sector or the emergence of a Ku De Ta in Singapore (we're still trying to get to the bottom of that story). It's all about spas: the big, plush, expensive one where the rich - or the merely spendthrift - can indulge themselves and lie back, close their eyes and think they're having a spiritual experience.
   The newspaper's Life & Style section, in a potted summation of Asia's best spas in its October 1 edition, named Alila Villas Uluwatu, Bulgari and Como Shambala at Ubud in their Top Spas list. 

Sound Move

We've always known there had to be something good about the Big Durian, a hidden compensation that makes life in Jakarta bearable; a little breeze that from time to time, even if only metaphorically, clears away some of the hot air and carcinogenic smog that are the city's chief products.
    All great cities provide residents and visitors alike with prizes, especially in access to performing arts. These are less easily available in Bali – although the jazz at Ryoshi in Seminyak, among other places, makes it worth putting up with the horrendous traffic and parking problems you get in the KLS strip - and one recent Jakarta treat (which The Diary missed, being in Bali) was the visit there by the Australian quintet Topology. They were at the city's Salihara Festival as part of the month-long OzFest 2010 presented by the Australian embassy.
    Topology, which has been making fine contemporary music since 1996 and is renowned for its energetic and full-bodied sound, presented two programmes (Lucid Dreaming and Corridors of Power) on October 3 and 4 and workshops for Indonesian musicians and students.
    Wish we could have been there.

In the Pink

Adam Lambert would like everyone to know he has been reborn in Bali. (The Diary had to check, on hearing this piece of essential intelligence last weekend, as to exactly who Lambert was, his presence among us Earthlings having formerly gone unnoticed.) He’s a singer, it seems, who warbles for the world, or at least for Generation Why, whose untutored musical tastes are not The Diary’s, who wouldn’t know a minim or a quaver, far less an adagio, even if by some miracle one did manage to tickle their fancy, and who probably think a viola is something a traffic cop might half threaten to cite you for.
    Lambert is also an American Idol, or nearly was or something, and has recently – between engagements – indulged himself at the Four Seasons Jimbaran. It is there, we gather, that he was reborn. That’s what his Twitter said, anyway. Well, we love Bali, and Jimbaran, and Four Seasons as well; especially the eclectic art that goes on show at the Ganesha gallery there. Perhaps we’ve been reborn too? Maybe we should tweet about it.
    In June 2009 Lambert felt the need to inform the world that he’s gay. Why this is important eludes us – a lot of people bat for the other team and always have; and so what – but perhaps, since he’s in showbiz, it has promotional value.

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

Friday, October 01, 2010


They Want to
Be Friends
(With Your

It used to be said, before we all got namby-pamby and opted out of making public observations of others’ idiocy, lest we hurt their feelings, that there’s a fool born every minute. Such appears to be the case among some of the unwary who visit Kuta and fall foul of what, in the delightful transformation of language one finds here, are “hypnotist” gangs.
    Sundry poor sufferers have been thus, criminally, suborned and their wallets significantly lightened, by this curious alchemy. They fall in with people they’ve never seen before (and never will again), have a chat and a laugh and a drink, become lifelong pals, and then become – again in delightful transformation – “confused.”
    Their new chums have spiked their drink, the better to access funds to which in everyday, ordinary circumstances they would be denied access.
    It is a fundamental truth that you cannot protect people from their own stupidity (it is possible to educate them out of ignorance and more should be done there) and unfortunately tourists are among the groups most likely to lose all sense of reality when they land in a strange place.
    The cautionary tale for policemen whose job it is to catch criminals if they cannot first deter them, as we know from Bali Police chief Hadiatmoko’s abrupt recent declaration on same, is that lack of performance can lead to the sack. Yes, really. Apparently even in Bali.
    The similar alert for foolish tourists (if “alert” is a functional status within their capabilities) is that strangers who accost you in the street are most likely not your long-lost family and could just possibly be looking out for their own (nefarious) interests rather than those of the hapless mug they’ve just managed to leg-rope.


“The Bali peace park project was foundered by Australian, Dallas Finn...”
    Well, things are a little rocky, it seems, not to mention even more confused than ever, where the future status of the Sari Club bomb site is concerned. But we do hope the statement above, from the “fact file” on the website of the “balipeacepark”, a rival organisation lately invented by Finn, apparently without funds or any plans to raise them and with an invisible membership, is just a mistake and not a prescient remark.
    Meanwhile the “official” Bali Peace Park Association will release details of its “benefits analysis” of a Sari Club site peace park at a function in Bali on October 11. That should be an interesting document.


In a range of cases before Bali’s courts lately prosecutors – in demanding fire and brimstone, which arguably is their job – and more worryingly judges, for some of whom the prudence part of jurisprudence apparently takes unscheduled days off, have made much play of a defendant’s crimes being injurious to Bali’s international standing.
    They may be. But that should have no bearing on the severity of a sentence. There are prescribed penalties – within a range which gives judges plenty of scope to award extra demerits for moral turpitude or whatever – and these are codified. Not one of them includes a clause specifying a penalty for embarrassing Bali or, in that precise set of circumstances, potentially harming its economy.
    They shouldn’t, of course. But it is particularly despicable to hear – as we did this week from the prosecutor in the appeal hearing of Scott Rush, the little oaf who at 19 (he’s now 24) apparently didn’t have the brains to realise smuggling heroin was morally wrong, let alone that it was dangerous and a crime – that Rush should die because drug smuggling was a serious threat to the image of Bali.
    Prosecutor Ida Bagus Made Argitha Chandra should find a mirror and take a long, hard look at himself: and he should ask, is that an image worth dying for?  

Another Mote

We thought long and hard about this before deciding to commit it to a communion with printer’s ink. And we shan’t name the hospital, even though on the facts as known it richly deserves the opprobrium, because the circumstances of its dereliction of duty are sadly common nowadays, everywhere, not just here.
    Readers will remember an item we ran on September 10 about a tragic road accident near Uluwatu, when a vehicle-load of Brazilian party boyos returning from an all-nighter in the fleshpots of Kuta wiped out a motorbike ridden by a young mum from Uluwatu, Made was her name, and injured her daughter Cindy.
    Information at the time was that Made was killed instantly. Later information is that she wasn’t. She may have been fatally injured but that point is now moot. She and her daughter were rushed to Denpasar where the intended destination was Sanglah Hospital. En route Made’s condition deteriorated (she had a deep neck wound) and they diverted to another – “international standard” - hospital as that was closer.
    The hospital would not lift a finger to help until someone fronted with Rp7 million (US$782). That took some time, as you would expect in a place where Rp7 represents multiple months’ salary for most people and that’s if you’ve got a job.
    Eventually someone found the money. The hospital was then happy to afford treatment to Made and Cindy. Its first job was to declare Made DOA (dead on arrival).
    No doubt the hospital has financial control rules. No doubt it does not regard itself as a charity (nor should it). No doubt the health legislation in Bali is severely deficient in that – apparently – there is no provision for the state to pick up the unavoidable costs of emergency treatment in life or death situations.
    But what of the doctors and the Hippocratic Oath? Was that in the litter bin too, along with humanity and simple compassion?

Watch the Chooks

The visit here this week of elements of Australia’s Special Air Service Regiment to train with Kopassus in an anti-terrorism exercise afforded few opportunities to observe Her Australian Majesty’s Chicken Stranglers at play. This is understandable. The lads would have been a bit busy.
    It did remind The Diary of a wonderful tale from the early days of George W. Bush’s war on terror, when Dubya and the coalition of the willing targeted Iraq on the grounds that Saddam Hussein was a chemical warrior and not just a chap who’d have difficulty managing a henhouse.
    The world’s press was vitally interested in a rumour that the Australian SAS was involved. They couldn’t find them. Until some bright spark noticed a few chaps running around in shorts. Only an Aussie would do that in the desert between the Jordanian border and the Euphrates.     

Titanic Error

Our eye was caught by the little come-on the Jakarta Globe had in its page one plugs last Thursday, asking if a simple steering error sank the Titanic. We think the answer’s obvious (and obviously yes). The unsinkable ship steamed full-pelt into the consequently unavoidable iceberg on April 15, 1912.
    The same edition carried a story about a very heavy Golkar personage becoming chairman of the Lippo Group, which bankrolls the Globe. Metaphorical unsinkable ships and icebergs are surely just as risky.

Soft Bash

Another of Janet de Neefe’s little ventures – no, not A Certain Bank’s Scribblers and Gabblers 2010, that’s next week – had a soft opening this week, up in the hills at Ubud where hopefully the not-so-soft rain was taking a break.
    This one was at De Neefe’s new Bar Luna, in Jl Gootama, which celebrated softly on Tuesday with a sampling of its new menu including tapas and sangria for invited guests from 6-7.30pm. A full dinner menu was apparently available from 7pm. Wonder if it had soft-shell crab for the occasion?
    The affray – Janet does those so well, as we know – was also a celebration of the shared birthdays of two lads who are apparently so widely known that they only needed to be identified as Andy and Michael, connections we assume of Janet de Neefe Enterprises, Inc.
    We’re sure it was a good night. The Diary didn’t get an invitation, or indeed a response to a query about the names of the birthday boys. Well, we’ve always known we’re not in Janet’s little black book. Never mind. There are significant compensations: Apparently we’ve made it onto Janet’s little black list.

Kupang Slap

There was a pleasant occasion last Friday, at the Australian Consulate-General in Renon: the annual barbecue for this year’s crop of scholarship students from Bali and points east going (next year) to study in Australia.
    New consul-general Brent Hall – no, that’s not true: he’s the old consul-general (he’s been here before) and he’s only acting in the position until a new permanent appointee is in place; he’s on loan from the Australia-Indonesia Institute – was an affable host and also had the job, along with others, of marking the post-dinner entertainment provided by the two groups of students attending.
    Our personal choice – though this was academic, since The Diary, very sensibly, was not on the voting panel – was a stirring performance by one group of By The Rivers of Babylon, that wonderful Boney M song. It would have won our vote for the fine grasp of the syncretism that links the three great religions that sprang from the Middle East, exhibited by the dancing party, some of it wearing the jilbab.
    But the other group was the winner, with a folkloric little number that features what acting consul-general Hall advises The Diary is known as a Kupang Slap. It’s a sharply playful tap on the bum administered by a passing partner.

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