Monday, November 29, 2010


Off to Lombok
For a Thrash;
Not a Trash

This weekend The Diary is in Lombok. It’s a favourite place. We’re catching up with friends in Senggigi and spending a little time dangling the toes in the limpid waters surrounding Gili Trawangan. It’s not quite Robinson Crusoe territory, but the Gilis are a great getaway. And there will be a fun return to Bali: on a fast boat. Hopefully ours will be one that is not illegally overloaded and the seas will be prettily small.
    There is another side to Lombok, of course. It is a poisonous place where the small expatriate population contains a disproportionate number of acquisitive low-life specimens whose interests apparently lie in stirring up trouble and benefiting themselves in circumstances where anywhere else they’d end up behind bars. And that’s not the bars that serve beer.
    It is poisonous too among those indigenous to the island, and settler communities from elsewhere in Indonesia. Tolerance is consistently the missing ingredient. That is notably the case where expatriates are deemed by the mob to have transgressed some immutable law, which should for accuracy actually be spelled lore.
    You can’t complain about unnecessarily loud noise from a mosque or a prayer room without having your villa trashed and facing charges under ridiculous application of otherwise sensible laws meant to govern interfaith relations in this country of five constitutionally recognised religions. Neither can you can complain that someone had vandalised your statuary without a mob coming round to complete the job.
    And if they do it’s your fault and the police, whose standard operating procedure seems to be to do nothing, or at least as little as possible, will never prosecute the perpetrators for criminal damage.
    If you’re an Indonesian, if you are, say, a follower of Saudi-style Wahhabi Islam or you worship God according to the Ahmadiyah rites that others have declared heretical, you risk having your house burned and being run out of town. If you’re a villager around Tanak Awu, where the new international airport is being built, you’ll basically get nothing for your trouble (or your land) except the prospect of big aircraft flying low overhead sometime in the indeterminate future. These aircraft will then deposit (or remove) hordes of tourists whose Lombok adventure will begin and end with a shambolic and wholly inadequate road system that will have to get them – somehow – from out in the sticks where the new airport is going to be, to their distant holiday accommodation, which may or may not be idyllic.
    But don’t get us wrong. Lombok’s a lovely place. No. Really.

Bitten Again

There is no pleasure at all in recording that the 2012 date for Bali being rabies free (precisely October 28, 2012 according to the legend retailed by Chief Medical Officer Nyoman Sutedja) has now slipped back to 2013. We heard this news when the Bali authorities said that in the absence of promised funding for vaccination and other anti-rabies programmes from the national government, the provincial budget would wear whatever portion of the Rp15 billion needed to be spent ahead of the ministry of finance actually managing to energise itself enough to do its job. On that, we recommend that no one waits up, or worse, holds their breath.
    These funds were first promised last February and have been conspicuously absent by non-delivery ever since. They have been delayed by that ubiquitous Indonesian bureaucratic glue made from bumbling incompetence, wall to wall ennui and total lack of interest. If the funds were for road building, or paying for nice little study tours by sundry bureaucrats, it would be annoying. But it’s about saving lives. That makes it criminal.
    Also criminal, in the context of rabies, an entirely preventable disease, is the continuous litany of astonishing claims about progress when it is perfectly plain we’re all being had.

Singlet Land

A night out in Legian – especially a Saturday night – is not on The Diary’s list of regular Must Do’s. It’s tourist territory for one thing. While tourists are welcome to come and spend their money, they are not, generally speaking, living entities that should take up more than a nanosecond of a resident’s time. It’s different if you’re in the tourism business, of course, but The Diary has never believed in self-flagellation.
    Nonetheless, for a variety of reasons, last Saturday night saw us abroad – the double entendre is intended – in the crowded Jl Padma precinct. It was spectacular and not a little frightening. Ranks upon ranks of men in Bintang singlets, and women in very little at all, shuffled past our vantage point, scuffing their flip-flops and looking bored, lost, or merely vacant.
    The Diary observed to his companions at one point, sotto voce of course against the unlikely prospect that one of the passers-by might prove sentient, that thereabouts it would apparently be possible to conduct an entire conversation utilising only the two essential vocalisations employed by the mass of holidaying Australians; air, and nair. The first is an affirmative; the second a negative.  Fortunately the night was not a total loss. We decamped to a nearby Japanese restaurant, out of earshot of the hordes. The singlet brigade would never venture into such an establishment for fear of being made to use those funny little wooden stick things and to eat with their mouths closed.

No? Really?

It was Thanksgiving this week, the annual tribute Americans pay to the first-year survival of the Pilgrims on the Massachusetts shore, after they had departed Europe with their goods and chattels, and the plague bacillus and sundry other killer bugs, to colonise “English America.” Turkeys have been paying the price ever since.
    But The Diary is indebted to a Twitter friend – no stranger to Bali incidentally – who this week, ahead of the hols, advised that another essential ingredient of today’s Thanksgiving feast, the cranberry, bounces when ripe.
    There you go.

Nice Try

Anas Urbaningrum, chairman of the Democratic Party, has a novel view of the Gayus Tambunan case. He says it should not be brought into the political sphere. This is the “not my fault – my friend did it” approach to evading responsibility writ very large indeed.
    In a democratic state, nothing can be quarantined from politics. The people rule, not unaccountable bureaucrats or (in this case) the police. It might suit political leaders – even chairmen of parties that actually describe themselves as Democratic – to run for cover. But there’s nowhere to hide on this one. The fact that poor Gayus Tambunan felt so stressed facing all those corruption charges and didn’t like being locked up, and thought he deserved a little holiday break in Bali, and apparently bribed nine police to facilitate this amazing plan, is directly a responsibility of those who govern this country.
    So we can ignore – or better, have a hollow laugh at – the self-serving claims to the contrary voiced by the chairman of the Democratic Party in Bali last weekend.     

Hard Yards

Australia’s role in Afghanistan is very well understood regionally and by its major military allies. It is chiefly at home in the Special Biosphere that successive governments – from both sides of politics – have run into trouble. It’s a tough place and an even tougher call, Afghanistan, a situation not helped by the fact that President Karzai is a very slippery customer. It’s not advanced much, either, by astonishing oversights such as the absence of a Farsi interpreter at last weekend’s Lisbon NATO conference on Afghanistan. Since Karzai speaks Farsi, we must assume someone failed to tick all the boxes.
    But here’s comment Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard made at the conference – it was in the context of her statement that Australian troops might be among the last to end a combat role because Oruzgan province, where they chiefly operate, is significantly deprived – that puts the Afghanistan conundrum in sharp perspective:
    “The male literacy rate in Oruzgan is less than 10 percent and the female literacy rate is less than 1 percent - so in terms of the capacity-building work that needs to happen to support effective governance there is a lot to do.”
    Gillard’s statement also answers – or it should – the naysayers who claim everyone should just leave the Afghans alone to muddle on.

Author! Author!

The Diary continues to attract critical acclaim. We had a little note this week that said: “God, you’re boring.” Interestingly, it came from someone whose email address is

Hector's Blog appears as The Diary in the weekly print edition of The Bali Times and on the newspaper's website at The Bali Times is also available as a print product worldwide through NewspaperDirect.

Friday, November 19, 2010


Cheers, Mate: Australian war artist Tony Rafty (left) talks with Alit Bondan, son of Molly and Mohamad Bondan who Rafty met and befriended in 1945, at an Australian Embassy reception in Jakarta last week. See He’s a Hero, below.

Amed’s Great
For a Little
Weekend R and R:
Just Mind
The Buses

A weekend in Amed can never be a bad thing, even if it does take three and a half hours to drive there and much the same back. The place is pleasantly green – thank you, La Niňa – and there seemed to be plenty of tourists around last weekend. The Diary, there with visiting friends from Australia, did not find the time to drop into Baliku (next time, Donna, promise) but did renew connections with Marcel Luitze, who operates Bayu Cottages at Lipah.
    He related a story of interest to anyone who – like The Diary – wishes to keep a log of traffic idiocies. A day or so before the arrival of The Diary and Party a tourist bus had failed to make it up the steep cliff-front grade on the road outside Bayu and, slipping back without benefit of brakes (another frequent casualty of Indonesian driving skills) demolished a wall, narrowly avoiding a subsequent plunge into the inconveniently neighbouring abyss.
    Never mind. In the event no one was badly hurt, unless you count Mr Luitze’s wall, which his insurers will pay for. And so passes yet another colourful incident in the long history of Bali’s wholly inadequate road and traffic regulation.
    We dined at Sails, also at Lipah, on Sunday night, a double birthday celebration (visiting mother and daughter). Sadly the mahi-mahi was off – as in not available – but the lamb rissoles made up for this regrettable and (anywhere else) avoidable situation. And they organised a birthday cake, which was very nice of Anik and her crew.
    Mt Agung graced us with its presence, mostly a morning occurrence, and Mt Rinjani was a low, grey eminence on the eastern horizon at dusk at Sails. Of such inconsequential material is the best of life made up.

Club Class

Janet de Neefe appeared (elfin-like, again; it’s surely time for a photograph more reflective of the present-day Janet, especially as she wants to be taken seriously these days) in the Japan Times online recently. It was in a piece written by Jeff Kingston in which she discussed the regrettable absence of Japanese talent at Ubud Writers and Readers Festivals to date.
    That historic absence is indeed a pity. Japanese literature is a rich field that deserves much wider exposure. It’s not quite as hard to achieve this as some might suggest, though it does take a little effort.
    Never mind. Janet’s fixed this. Next year’s festival will have a Japanese writer – Mariko Nagai. She’s associate professor in English literature and creative writing at Temple University in Japan (and an accomplished poet and writer herself).
    Oddly enough, the author of the Introductory Life of Janet to Japan Times online readers is professor of Asian studies and history at the very same university.    
Another One

There was another rabies death last weekend, a 30-year-old man from Blahbatu, in Gianyar but basically on the north-eastern outskirts of Denpasar. That makes the official toll 105, assuming the various incompetent bureaucracies involved can get their numbers together. Doubtless Bali’s chief medical officer, Nyoman Sutedja, will view it as yet another opportunity to remind everyone not to panic or even to worry too much. Doubtless, too, the insouciant insurgents of the vaccinate-only front will say much the same thing.
    Yet it is unarguable that we are in the midst of a deadly shemozzle. The provincial government’s 2012 target for declaring Bali rabies free (Dr Sutedja has even put a precise date on this flight of fancy: October 28) is just another sick joke.
    So it was interesting to read this week a contribution to Unleashed, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s feisty blog, by Bob Gosford, who was in Bali to cover the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival last month but found a real story to write about instead.
    He sets out the rabies situation here rather well. He quoted from The Diary on same (like many people overseas, he reads The Bali Times) and stirred up something of a hornet’s nest. That’s good on one score – people need to be aware of the facts as opposed to the political fictions – but bad on another. Continued publicity about invisible vaccination teams and further rabies deaths won’t be good for tourism.
    It’s not good for Balinese who might contract rabies, either, but in the grand tradition of top-down government that seems to be rather beside the point.   

He’s a Hero

There’s a lovely exhibition of artistic memorabilia in Surabaya (it opened on November 10 and ends tomorrow, Saturday) organised by the Australian Embassy in Jakarta and starring both the work and the person of Tony Rafty, who spent the August 1945-January 1946 period in Indonesia and recorded this in illustrations and correspondence. He spent a lot of that time with founding president Sukarno.
    Regrettably, this is neither known nor cared about among the wider Anglo diaspora, especially the bit of it that still thinks Australia is chiefly notable for sporting prowess and deadly spiders. Equally sadly it is now ancient history even to most Indonesians, but it deserves to be remembered. Rafty was in Surabaya (on the right side of the argument) when British forces landed to reassert Dutch colonial control after World War II. Heroes’ Day, November 10, is celebrated to mark the Surabaya action, in which nationalists opposed the occupation of the city by force.
    It’s not generally remembered that the British forces deployed included imperial Indian troops – who were none too keen, with India’s inevitable independence pressing, to prosecute the invasion with any vigour – and it is probably widely forgotten that one British unit embarrassingly refused to open fire at all.
    What is more broadly understood, though far from widely, is that the Australians vehemently opposed the return of Dutch colonial rule here and actively encouraged and supported Indonesian national aspirations in the then fledgling United Nations and other forums.
    Rafty, who during World War II was a war artist with the Australian forces in Papua and in New Guinea – they were separate Australian-administered territories in those days – played a key role in informing Australian public opinion during the Indonesian struggle for independence.
    He’s now 95. But as the photo here shows (it was taken in Jakarta on November 8) he’s still got what it takes. In Surabaya he addressed a delegation of students from BRIDGE schools – Indonesian and Australian schools that have exchange arrangements, another very practical example of the enduring links between the two countries. 

Not a Prayer

Novar Caine, who as he relates in this week’s paper has been At Large with a DVD of Eat Pray Love, confesses to conversion on that score. It’s a good movie, he says. Well, Julia Roberts is a comely wench of matronly effect, and, OK, she has a smile to die for. It’s a shame that some other wench’s legs do the dishabille bits but never mind. Allan Ladd had to stand on an orange box to pucker up, after all. Tom Cruise uses modern cinematic technology to the same effect. In the movies, nothing is for real.
   So, Pretty Woman Does Italy, India and Bali may be a passable diversion. Being a curmudgeon, The Diary demurs. Julia’s publicity machine told us she had been so affected by the ambience of the role she was playing that she had turned Hindu. Frankly, that’s more of an embarrassment than good news, a sort of Californian thing to do. It might best be defined as an insult. Plus, it makes you wonder what she wanted to be after Pretty Woman.


We heard a lovely little tale while chatting with a young friend at Amed last weekend. She works as a flight attendant for a major overseas airline and was enjoying some well-deserved Bali downtime. The tale she told was of a cautionary nature, and came to light because – as you do – we were discussing massage and she said she personally preferred Thai massage because it was stronger and firmer: The Diary forbore to mention the very firm treatment you can get here from the right masseur or masseuse.
   Anyway, to the tale; it is delicious. On a Bangkok layover (sic) recently the captain of her ark of the skies appeared at the hotel checkout fresh, or perhaps not quite so fresh, from his hotel night, to be confronted by an angry young woman. “Mister, you no pay me!” was her rather public message.
   The moral of this immoral tale: If you contract personal services, remember to pay for them before you pass out from your exertions. 

Hector's Blog appears as The Diary in the weekly print edition of The Bali Times, Bali's only English-language newspaper and on the newspaper's website at Print editions of The Bali Times are available worldwide through NewspaperDirect.

Friday, November 12, 2010


Kiwi Deterrent: New Zealand has just produced a defence review. The fearsome Maori haka is apparently at centre stage in NZ’s new forward strategy. See item We'll See You Off, below

So They’ve
Seen Bali (in
EPL) and Want
Their Own

Openings at Ganesha Gallery, at the Four Seasons Jimbaran, are always good value – the latest, on Thursday last week, was an exhibition by American Bali resident Joanna Cutri; her works are well worth a look by serious art lovers by the way -  and not only for the art. General manager John O’Sullivan always makes sure guests sample some passable wine and taste his plush resort’s famed canapés and other goodies. Plus you get to talk to some people who really are interesting instead of just thinking they are.
    The Diary spent a little while chatting with Silvia Irani, Four Seasons sales manager (whose card tells you that in Russian too). She is from Sumatra but went to school in Singapore and speaks English with the attractive sing-song accent of those affiliated with the Lion City. We almost expected her to tell us to please mind the platform gap.
    Among other things, Irani said Four Seasons is experiencing an EPL rush. The movie starring Julia Roberts (the name is a universal cue for a swoon, it seems) is apparently all the rage among the moneyed travelling classes. Well, that can only be good.
    Artist Cutri, by the way, is also staging an exhibition in Melbourne. When we spoke at the Ganesha opening she was on the point of leaving for that other Four Seasons city – Melbourne is notorious for its habit of delivering winter, spring, summer and autumn all in one day – but will be back to enjoy the sybaritic warmth of tropical Bali later this month. We’ll catch up with her then.

Great Result

Some people seem to think that because The Diary (and The Bali Times) has a serious disagreement with the Bali Animal Welfare Association and others over how to suppress dog numbers (immediately) and thereby reduce the risk of rabies remaining endemic and therefore a threat to human life, that we don’t care about doggies at all.
    In part this misapprehension probably springs from the bubble effect hereabouts: the so-called leading lights in the expatriate community tend to live in their own artificial atmospheres (not to mention galaxies) and are not subjected to critical attention, except by The Bali Times, which is a newspaper.
    But just as life is a curate’s egg kind of thing – a mixed bag if you like, to scramble the metaphor – so too with individual and collective endeavours: BAWA does a great job in looking after Bali’s street dogs – which the local Balinese community completely fails to do, apparently on religious and cultural grounds (so convenient as another excuse for not bothering) – and deserves credit for doing so.
    It also needs money to finance its programmes and that’s why the annual Bali Nights cocktail party and fundraising auction held in Melbourne, Australia, is such a good thing.
    Sue Warren, surely an exemplar as a charity worker, tells us her 2010 event, held at the Melbourne InterContinental The Rialto (a swank hotel) on October 15, attended by 300 people and hosted by local TV personalities Pete Smith and Brodie Harper of the Nine Network, raised l A$44,625 – goodness, that’s US$44,875 in today’s depressed greenback values – which, as Warren says, is a great result.
    It will ensure that BAWA’s desexing team, paid for by the Bali Street Dog Fund, stays on the road for another year.  Warren notes: “More than ever we need to continue desexing as a very important part of rabies control.”
    This year’s event was the sixth annual Bali Nights function to raise desperately needed funds for Bali's street dogs. 

De Rig? De Rigueur

Susi Johnston, who seems to have added style adviser to her Jacob’s coat array of gifts, observed on her Facebook the other day that Janet de Neefe has great dress sense. She does. Elegance is a great thing.
    The comment related to the fetching rig De Neefe wore to the King of Peliatan’s huge cremation ceremony on November 2. Sanat Kumara’s enterprising travel-culture-accommodation website had posted a photo of her. Johnston’s point was that you should always ensure you know the dress code for whatever event it is that you’re going to, especially in a culture that is not your own.
    No one could fault De Neefe on couture; or Johnston, who notes that no one should go about looking like a wreck. Hear! Hear! To that advice The Diary would simply add this: It doesn’t do, either, for a gal to go around in public in something that looks as if it belongs in bed, from which the wearer must have just emerged or is about to leap into in hot company. If the latter’s the case, good luck to the lady concerned; but it’s nobody else’s business.

Oh d-d-dear

Some readers may have seen the line at the bottom of The Diary that says it can also been read on Hector’s Blog and giving the required URL. His site is frequently visited, chiefly by people who want to read his scribbling. This is sensible. There’s precious little point in going there if you don’t want to read it.
    It was therefore a matter of great mirth the other day to find a feedback comment at the bottom of The Diary of two weeks ago – which was otherwise uncontroversial but for a little snit about a Certain Luminary of Ubud’s illiterate activities – posted by Anonymous. After taking in vain the name of the deity it said “... you’re p-p-pathetic ...” (it said some other amusing things too).
    We sent back a cheery response to Anon: “D-d-do we know each other?”
    Of course, it is clear that Anon does know your Diarist, though slightly. Anon does not know him well enough to understand that he has always believed the staccato approach is a show-stopper. A moment from long ago is treasured and remembered with pride, when, on officer training in the army of a country not very far from here, he won a special award for finding a new and novel way to confuse the enemy’s attempts to intercept and interpret radio traffic.

We’ll See You Off

The life of an inveterate delver is never dull. A browsing session last weekend turned up a Lowy Institute commentary on New Zealand’s new defence posture – primarily of interest in these parts because it fails to mention Indonesia – and it ran with the lovely photo reproduced at the top of this week's column.
    Much of the world is familiar with the Maori haka. The Kiwis, whose rugby skills are second to none despite the fact that they let the Australians beat them occasionally, traditionally scare the daylights out of their opponents with their special pre-match warm-up.
    It might have a modern military application, too, it seems. The photo is of the New Zealand Army Band just prior to a (musical) performance at this year’s Edinburgh Tattoo in Scotland.

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

Friday, November 05, 2010


Give the
Banjars the
Job of
Fixing Our
Rabies Risk

Some semblance of common sense may at last be creeping into the Bali government’s shambolic response to the rabies outbreak, now of two years’ admitted duration. We don’t mean its commitment to a vaccination-only policy in regard to dealing with the unpleasant statistical fact that nearly 11.5 percent of Bali’s dogs must be assumed to be carrying the virus. That’s just idiocy if it’s not combined with real action to control both dogs themselves and their incontinent breeding, and the lackadaisical ownership customs that Governor Pastika has lately noted are social and religious questions of great magnitude. (By which he means they’re staying in the too-hard basket.)
    There was a meeting last week in the Ungasan area – that’s where the outbreak was first, criminally far too late in the piece, officially conceded in November 2008 after several unexplained deaths – at which, on the reported comments of officials present, the first tentative steps might have been taken to locate dog control – and therefore the fight against rabies – at banjar (local community) level.
    Of course, as in any society, there are good community governments and bad ones; energetic leaders and idle ones; courageous leaders and craven ones. But with a killer like rabies about – and there is no cure for the disease once its symptoms appear: it’s a death sentence – it makes good sense to give local communities the power and resources to deal with the problem at its source. Few banjar leaders would look with equanimity at unnecessary deaths among those who are their immediate neighbours. It’s not a political issue at that level. It’s not something you can just have a debate about (heated or otherwise) in the legislature and then go on to discussing increasing your lunch money.
    Formally giving banjars the job of controlling dogs might set Bali on the road to proper registration and veterinary control of domestic animals. Rabies control should be vaccine-based for registered domestic dogs, which as the animal rightists point out will keep strange dogs out of their neighbourhoods. It should also mandate culling – which is informally proceeding anyway – to reduce overall numbers.
    This of itself might go some way towards solving what the provincial authorities obviously regard as the chief impediment to their continued quiet life: the fact that so many people are turning up seeking post-exposure vaccination. They put out figures suggesting a large increase in the number of dog bites, but don’t have the wit (apparently) to realise that in a dog-ridden place like Bali, it’s not that the number of bites has necessarily increased. It’s just that when well over one in 10 of dogs must be regarded as a direct rabies risk, and there is as yet no mechanism – at any level – to deduce which among a pack of strange dogs might transmit the disease, it’s rather better to be safe than sorry (or in this case dead). If the risk was of catching some treatable disease, a measure of equanimity is feasible and may indeed be sensible in most instances. But you can’t wait until it’s obvious you have rabies. At that point you have two, three, maybe up to six, horrific days of life left in you.
    All this won’t please the ladies of the poor-little-doggies brigade or their attendant overseas conga line of softheads. But to take up that wonderful exit line of Clark Gable’s, as he went with the wind: Frankly my dears, we don’t give a damn. We have more than a hundred dead people on our collective conscience. That’s something we should all give a damn about.

Well, I Never

The Diary was quietly minding its own business one evening recently – dining with the Distaff and some friends – when a most unusual event took place. A fellow diner engaged us in conversation and on hearing that one of those present was Hector from The Bali Times became even more voluble and visibly excited.
    He then asked The Diary to stand up. The Diary did so, briefly pondering the wisdom of this. A handshake and a hug were administered. This, excusing the absence of sang-froid, which seems to have disappeared from western civilisation, is much better than a rusty fork up the nose. The unsought and undeserved accolade was accompanied by further kind words and a bottle of Two Islands cab sav, ordered in appreciation for telling it like it is.
    Well, it’s nice to be thought kindly of. We were not dining in Ubud, by the way. We were enjoying Thai fusion at the excellent Kat’s Kitchen in Ungasan.
Lights Out

PLN, which quite deliciously spells PLAN less an absolutely essential element, and which on its record you wouldn’t trust to acquire the candles for a child’s birthday cake and keep them alight long enough for the kids to have a party, seems to be up to its old tricks again.
    Inexplicable – not to mention unexplained and distressingly frequent – blackouts have been hitting various areas recently. We know that Canggu, Seminyak and Ungasan are particular favourites of PLN’s plug-puller squad, which seems to be the most active business unit in that shambles of a state-owned corporation. Perhaps there are others.
    PLN got new top-level management after 2009’s Bali shemozzle, though not because of that, Bali not rating an ephemeral flicker on Jakarta’s political light bulb. The lights had gone out once too often in Jakarta, you see, inconveniencing legislators and plutocrats in their plush vehicles and even plusher accommodations. It has apparently done us no good; well, not in Bali, anyway. We would waste our breath expressing surprise. State-owned corporations never work efficiently, anywhere. Here, they are universally public service rest homes.
    The new management got straight into the business of making heroic claims about its commitment to excellence. Unfortunately, the old Indonesian problem remains to the fore: it’s no good getting lots of lovely new equipment if you don’t look after it. (Hint: Repair and maintenance means “to repair and maintain.”)
    A Bali power utility would at least help to make blackouts a local political issue that provincial leaders could not then excuse as the fault of someone else (“My friend did it” is a refrain heard as often at lofty levels as anywhere) and who might therefore worry about keeping all those votes they won with their portmanteaux of promissory notes.

Lighten Up

The Diary is frequently called to account for spending far too long reading lots of earnest stuff (often late at night) that some believe is better left alone. Such correctives are always ignored. Someone’s got to read the earnest stuff, and anyway The Diary likes to do so. It is recreational in its own way.
    But last weekend The Diary took a break, in the wake of the departure of some lovely friends who, after a tropical sojourn, were returning to the rather more brisk delights of an Oregon autumn and winter and bequeathed their holiday reading material to the library at The Cage. Saturday afternoon - well, three hours of it - was thus passed, pleasantly, rereading an M.C. Beaton Hamish Macbeth mystery. It was Death of a Scriptwriter. The names of several scribblers worthy of this sanction flashed into The Diary’s mind during this exercise, which was taken, as all exercise should be, supine on the sofa. But it was a nice relaxing read. And we even forgot, after a while, to prop at the oddities of American spelling.

Budding Idea

The engaging Diana Darling, who among other things writes for The Bud, Sophie Digby’s lovely little Ubud quarterly glossy, has come out as an eavesdropper. She admits this by implication in her column in the latest issue, reporting on the musings of a tableful of folk (one of them a large handsome man according to darling Diana) about the state of the traffic in that self-proclaimed pearl of a burg.
    There was a passable idea, apparently. It was to erect a large sign on the southern side of Sukawati proclaiming “Ubud,” the thought being that all the tourist buses could stop there, their camera-ready contents could swarm out, take each other’s pictures a thousand times and then mob the attendant trinket stalls.
    There is a certain superficial attraction to this idea. Especially for people who live in the far south of Bali and find the nearly-two-hour transit time and traffic-on-arrival a little too much. But we must reject the concept. Those big buses may be a nuisance in Ubud’s streets, which are barely wide enough for a motorbike and a kaki lima (food cart) to pass each other with a reasonable margin for error, but they do serve a purpose: they remind the dysfunctional denizens of the place that Ubud’s part of Planet Earth.

Mango Madness

We were intrigued to read in The Bali Times last week that our near neighbours in Australia’s Northern Territory – capital city Darwin, a place once known to our notional flag-carrier Garuda – who produce, among many other things, large crops of mangoes, have come up with the idea of naming one variety after Kylie Minogue.
    Minogue, as we know, rose to fame by appearing in that tiresome Aussie TV series Neighbours (The Diary’s dear old mum was an addict even in faraway Britain) and then went on to warble widely, acquiring the vacuous status of superstar that is ordained by the Age of Inconsequence in which we live.
    Australian mangoes are all right, if you can’t get a real one. But they do tend to be a little tart.

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