Friday, January 28, 2011

THE BALI TIMES DIARY Jan. 28, 2011

Put a Sock
in it, Sue,
There’s
a Good Girl


According to Sue Holder, one among that febrile international collective known as the Schapelle lobby, bad karma is headed The Bali Times’ way because we’re mean and spiteful and write headlines (such as “Corby ‘Home Detention’ Plan a Step Closer”) that are disrespectful to the lady. They’re not, and no one who took an objective view would suggest they are.
    In fact there’s one word for the constant mewling of the Holders of this world. It begins with b and ends in t and for readers challenged by colloquial and coarse terminology, there are six letters between the b and the t. The fifth letter in the word is s. Corby herself, and her family and the international supporters’ groups that have coalesced around her cause celebre have milked the world media for years, promoting the view that Corby is an innocent victim of a Balinese scam.
    We learn from our feedback line, from Holder herself, that she hates The Bali Times. Well, that’s her choice. She still reads us, apparently. Perhaps this is so she can get into a tizzy now and then and believe that by doing so her life acquires meaning. Good for her.
    For the record (we restate this – again – for the benefit of ephemeral readers and Holder): Both The Diary and The Bali Times editorially believe Corby’s sentence was manifestly excessive and that part of the reason for this is that her loud family and her worldwide groupies made such a fuss about the legal process. Indonesian law is just that: Indonesian law. And in any jurisdiction, public reticence and private representation together generally provide a far better route to a solution.
    A prisoner exchange agreement between Indonesia and Australia has been in the works for a long time. If it eventuates – and it should, and soon – it would, or could, have benefits in both directions.
    Corby and the other Australians currently cluttering up Indonesian jails could go home to detention in the Special Biosphere. And dirt-poor Indonesian fishermen who are only trying to scratch a desperate living from waters in Australia’s economic zone could be sent home instead of winding up in Australian jails because they have no hope of paying multi-million-rupiah equivalent fines such as those imposed (as they must be under Australian law) by Darwin magistrates, as we reported last week.

They’re Everywhere

We saw a sad little post on Facebook last weekend, from Ric Shreves, leading light at the excellent web design and social media operation Water & Stone. He said he was disappointed with the ethics – lack of – and performance of business in Bali.
    Well, we’ve all been there. It’s a familiar scenario – not only in Indonesia but everywhere – and we do sympathise if Shreves has had some recent experiences that took his exposure to the malfeasance of others beyond the norm.
    In business especially, and we should note that this is particularly so in Bali, the landscape overflows with people who exist on plausibility, profit from resultant gullibility among those they gull, and who invent all sorts of reasons why other people should meet the expenses they themselves so assiduously avoid.
    But it prompts consideration of a curiosity of human nature. If malefactors spent as much time doing their day jobs as they apparently do conniving and scheming to unfairly (and often unlawfully) advantage themselves at the expense of others, the world would be a better place. And profits might even be higher.
    It’s not solely a modern phenomenon. Gougers and rogues have been among us forever and will always be underfoot. Morality and ethics come from within an individual’s character. In the Age of the Dolt, you don’t have to be bright to get in the limelight or line your pocket.

Simple Simon

Speaking of dolts, there’s a chap down at Margaret River in Western Australia – it’s the heart of the whine country, it seems – who has forgotten his manners as well as his brains in some recent comments about Bali.
    He’s Simon Ambrose, who is apparently the CEO of the otherwise invisible Augusta and Margaret River Tourism Association (in acronym the AMRTA: it sounds like a collective of South American Guevara groupies) and who says Australians shouldn’t holiday in Bali because it’s a nasty and dangerous place where, if nothing else gets you, the bugs will.
    Most of the time the best way to deal with idiot blowhards is to ignore them (Jack Daniels, who in his own search for relevance presented a polemic in response this week, please note) and we shan’t canvass the detail of this little fellow’s complaints, beyond saying that he is clearly playing out of his league.
    It’s interesting though that the “vision” through which the 400-odd member enterprises of the AMRTA propose to advance their interests and (putatively) those of their little bit of south-western Australia is a bunch of words that could most kindly be described as Standard Waffle.
    “How will we get there... We recognise the most critical success factors will be in our leadership, our people, our planning and our performance. We know the importance of ensuring the ‘right’ product and service for visitors which requires commitment to our Vision from members and support from the wider community. We know we must continue to invest in our assets, be financially sustainable and espouse high standards of corporate governance procedures. We will get there by not losing sight of these imperatives and being focused on our Mission, Vision and Values.”
    The Diary will be in Ambrose Land soon. We might have a vintage whine or two while we’re there; but not with Simon.

Raw Nirvana

One of the more tedious elements of modern life is the constant search by so many people to retain the full bloom of youth forever (well, nothing’s forever but you know what we mean). This quest has spawned a global industry – chiefly in the advanced economies as we now know them: they’re the ones that live on tick – and a succession of medical practitioners and scientists, not to mention glossy magazines, who would like you to think that their whole being is devoted to keeping you in your teens your whole life.
    So it was nice to read in the American magazine Newsweek, in an idle moment of web browsing, that almost everything you hear about medicine is wrong. Sometimes, even on the greyest of days, a little shaft of light illuminates the gloom. It gave us a hearty chuckle that enriched our day when we read a warning by writer Sharon Begley that alerted us to the danger of whiplash if you follow the news about health research.
    Begley noted that according to medical research garlic first lowered bad cholesterol, then — after more study — it didn’t. That hormone replacement reduced the risk of heart disease in postmenopausal women, until a huge study found it didn’t (and that it raised the risk of breast cancer as well). That eating a big breakfast cut your total daily calories, but then didn’t, at least according to a study released last week.
    Healthy, tasty eating, sensible exercise (mental as well as physical) and a determination to avoid fads of every kind, and the blandishments of those who make money out of you by promoting them, are surely more life-friendly options. We’re all going to the same destination. It’s far better just to enjoy the journey.

Good On Ya

Among all the gongs handed out on Australia Day (it was on Wednesday) one stood out as of especial interest to The Diary. It was the award of Officer of Order of Australia (AO) to John Dauth, Australia’s high commissioner in London.
    Officially he got it for distinguished service to international relations through the advancement of Australia's diplomatic, trade and cultural relationships, particularly with the United Kingdom and New Zealand, and through contributions to the United Nations.
    The Diary would add a further excellent reason: He’s a good bloke.
    Dauth was consul-general in Noumea, New Caledonia, in 1986-87, and it was in that French-ruled territory that his and The Diary’s paths first crossed. We’ve maintained an ephemeral connection since, fuelled by mutual interests (Dauth’s being official, ours professional) and a shared view that tedious things, and tedious people, are best avoided.
    He was once assistant press secretary to Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace, the London pad maintained by Australia’s monarch, and press secretary to Prince Charles. For that, a little later, HM gave him an LVO – Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order, one of the few gongs still within the Queen’s personal gift.

diary@thebalitimes.com

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

Friday, January 21, 2011

THE BALI TIMES DIARY Jan. 21, 2011

New-Deal PLN
Has Started
So Well
With Its
‘Only Nine’
Blackouts

It’s very brave of PLN to promise Bali that it will have no more than nine unfortunate blackouts this year. You’ll know what we’re talking about: when it suddenly goes black and PLN’s surprised; and the customers affected are, to be polite, exasperated. Apparently it’s all part of the new-look PLN, the brand spanking-new and shiny exemplar of public utilities. The one that says it will now do maintenance on a needs basis, not on a timetable. There are, we are assured, to be no more instances such as: “This connection’s faulty? No, it can’t be. It’s not due for inspection for another four months.”
    Or perhaps they’re just thinking no one will keep count. Perhaps few will, inured as people here are to the sorry fact that the 220 volts PLN is mandated to supply is often more like 80 and may not be delivered anyway. But The Diary encourages counting: it seems essential, really, in so many areas of life. And we’re keeping count here at The Cage.
    PLN, adept at inventiveness in public comment – “Our undersea cable was struck by lightning” is still the stand-out best; it comes from the farcical 2009-2010 round of extraordinary excuses for inexplicable service failures – so they’re no doubt already primed to go and scripted with another astonishing list of things “my friend did.”
    But just so they know: We’re two thirds of the way through the first month of 2011 and Ungasan has already had three little surprises from the gallant lads at the power monopoly. At that rate they’ll have blown their “budget” by the end of March. But that’s no surprise, either.

Sore Point

The Diary watched, fascinated, the other day when a cast of several turned up in the little park across from The Cage and set about a lovely Flamboyant, in full bloom, with a mixture of gesticulation, shouted advice, and one little saw.
    By happenstance, or possibly the curious fact that the Balinese always seem to know about a lot of things they don’t actually ever mention to foreign devils (sorry, guests), it was just before tropical storm Vince, late of Australian waters, sailed past well to the south of Bali but none the less gave us (or at least the Bukit) a full gale and driving rain experience
    The little saw, we saw, was wielded by our handyman, who moonlights for The Diary and others when not doing his day job. He was chiefly assisted by another nice chap we know, who is employed as caretaker at one of the White Elephant Corporation’s many nearby establishments. There were several housemaids about, apparently to add descant to the chorus of shouted advice, though ours, who sensibly works half days – two non-demanding Bules are hardly worth a full shift, after all – had long gone home. Even the neighbouring Balinese family compound sent along a party of observers.
    The lovely little flamboyant’s offence was that some of its branches were entangled with the sagging PLN power cable. And of course the tree should be kept trimmed – as PLN now advises, having itself lately discovered that wriggly little branches and its pathetic power cables don’t mix. Especially when your power cable is such a total sap that it will fall down if hit with a wet twig. But why you should wait to doctor a tree until it is in beautiful full bloom is a conundrum, or would be, if this were not the country it is.
    Our Man climbed the tree. He sawed. Limbs – tree limbs luckily – one by one became subject to the inexorable process of gravitational force. Thus impelled they fell, unimpeded by corrective human action, into the power cable. Luckily, but only just, the poor thing survived this assault. And our power stayed on until later that night (see above).

Doggone It

We were surprised to read that Klungkung, with the assistance of six provincial officials among an army of others, had conducted a mass cull of wild dogs on Nusa Penida, the iconoclastic little island off East Bali’s southern coast that is part of Bali’s smallest regency.
    They did this in response to the first rabies death on the island. It is terrible to think that 1,000 dogs were killed, but even more terrible to consider that if the available reservoir for the rabies virus is not savagely reduced more people might die of the horrific but entirely preventable disease.
    Bali’s government did have a policy of culling – though too late, it having dithered too long when it became apparent rabies was present on the Bukit way back in 2008 – but just after Governor I Made Mangku Pastika restated the policy, last September, the international doggy lobby got in his ear and waved sheaves of promissory notes. Shortly afterwards, Bali’s official policy for not effectively dealing with rabies was changed to find-the-mutts-and-vaccinate-them.
    Readers will be aware that The Bali Times views the present policy as madness; a lot of our readers do too. Nusa Penida is an isolated island – that’s a point made in this week’s ILAND column on Page 9 by the way, which we recommend you read – and maybe (just maybe) a quarantine and extermination policy would work there. It needs strict, no exceptions, enforcement, however. And that’s a tall order here, as we know.
    There’s been a further rabies death on Bali’s mainland too – a man from Tanjung Bungkak Satu in Denpasar, just off Jl Hayam Wuruk. He had been bitten by a neighbour’s pet four months before he became ill and hadn’t got the post-exposure vaccine. The Klungkung victim hadn’t either.
    The death toll from rabies is now 121.

Treat in Store

If it pleases the gods, The Diary may get a chance to indulge the senses in the fine Perth Festival, which is on now and runs through to the beginning of March. A visit to Western Australia is on the cards. It’s a private visit, so no questions please.
    Should this occur, and time in Perth is allowed in the schedule, the festival programme is a winner. It includes films, one of The Diary’s great loves, and other entertainments.
    Sadly, on the proposed schedule, the final element of the programme – the Writers Festival on the University of Western Australia’s lovely Claremont campus – will be missed. That’s a real shame. We love a good writers’ festival.  
     
Pin-Up Girl

Janet de Neefe’s 2011 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, from October 5-9, is themed Nandurin Karang Awak - Cultivate the Land Within. To plough the first furrow, organisers have put on a poster design competition that offers prizes worth more than Rp20 million (that’s around US$2,200 at the moment).
    Thanks Citibank. The competition closes on February 20. Details are available from UWRF on www.ubudwritersfestival.com.
    Get painting!

Say Cheese

A new place to eat at Bukit Jimbaran has caught The Diary’s eye. It’s called Gorgonzola. It does great thin-crust pizzas – try the Blues – and fabulous pasta. What more could a hungry Diarist want? Well, maybe the mousse ...
   Officially it’s also a wine bar, but to The Diary’s mind the place better suits a cold beer (make mine a Bintang) which seems to go with the ambience. There is wine available, however, which is always a bonus; and great espresso, which is even better.
   The place is doing a roaring trade. Last Sunday night when The Diary dropped in (for the Blues pizza, natch) the roofed but open-air section was packed with diners, as were the comfortable sofa settings outside on the terrace. We squeezed onto a sofa setting. Then it rained (again – surprise!) and the under-the-roof section became suddenly a lot more crowded.
   But owner and Maitre d’ Gibson Saragi – he’s from Sumatra – had things under control in no time. There’s an air-conditioned dining room as well. It’s usually where the Indonesian diners go. That may be where the mahi mahi gets eaten as well.
   Gorgonzola’s been open for around six weeks and does takeaway. The new immigration detention centre is just up the road – Gorgonzola is on Jl Raya Uluwatu, on the left as you head uphill – but we haven’t yet suggested to Gibson that he should add qabili pilau, Afghanistan’s yummy national dish of baked brown rice with lamb and raisins, to the menu to cater for the absconding Afghan trade.
    Perhaps we should. We hear this trade could from time to time be quite brisk. The last lot to do a bunk, courtesy of the four sleeping immigration officers on duty, said their official digs and the food they got were just not up to scratch.

diary@thebalitimes.com

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

Friday, January 14, 2011

THE BALI TIMES DIARY Jan. 14, 2011

Thanks a
Million!
Like a Dog's
Breakfast?


It’s tough being not quite in charge of vaccinating dogs against rabies. You go to all the trouble of alerting the worldwide be-nice-to-doggies lobby and – even more difficult – waking up the Bali and Indonesian governments, and then the bureaucrats and politicians get under foot and it all ends up being like a dog’s breakfast.
    This is not, to be fair, wholly or far less exclusively an Indonesian issue. Governments everywhere get under foot, closely followed by stumbling politicians. Witness the successions of close-but-no-cigar outcomes in other democracies. But at the same time the let’s not mention it, perhaps they won’t notice policy option is particularly popular here, helped along by the top-down nature of leadership.
    The significant failure of the Bali and national governments to address the rabies crisis here in any substantive way, unless you count rhetoric, in which case everyone’s a champion, is a case in point. The money arrived, from overseas of course; and then the flat-foot bureaucracy stood on it. There’d be a decent PhD or two in a study of Indonesia’s astonishing capacity to deliver non-outcomes, if anyone were game to do them.
     Meanwhile, up at Ubud, in the Wudbees where such people thrive, Janice Girardi and the Bali Animal Welfare Association battle on, against the odds, continuing to cite international benchmarks that plainly mean nothing here.
     We hear that Girardi said the other day – it may have been a quip, or a nice rounding of the numbers, of course – that she could use a million dollars for her charity of choice. Looking after dogs that the Balinese, by undeserved reputation dog lovers themselves, won’t bother with is a great cause and should be supported. BAWA’s sterilisation-immunisation-find them homes programme is great. It may need a million dollars (the people who reported that accounting to The Diary were donating a rather more modest sum) but in itself that won’t cure rabies.
     Sadly, 118 Balinese are no longer around to make a comment on that. If the government, and BAWA, are looking for a bottom line – that’s it. 

Conrad Jaunt

We were at The Conrad at Tanjung Benoa on Tuesday night for a decorous little bash that enabled GM Michael Burchett to introduce his new sales team at the plush property, serve some very fine canap├ęs and other delights along with a very palatable cabernet merlot among other products of the vine, and say farewell to long-standing media flack Ruth Zuckerman.
    It’s sad to see Ruth go (after eight years she has a redecorating date with her Sydney apartment, we hear, and some very worthwhile charitable PR to do in Sin City) but there’s a silver lining: the lovely Alicia Budihardja steps up to the plate to hit some home runs for the place. We look forward to keeping score.
    The usual crowd was about, some of it looking for updates. We chatted with Sophie Digby, whose latest little mid-term Yak is freshly on the electronic newsstands (the MinYak always has the good oil), about, among other things, the bad-word fund at her house. We shan’t be going there, then. An evening chez Sophie could be very expensive, especially since Canggu can be several hours driving time from Ungasan up the Manic Motorway.
    And we met a very flamboyant fellow called Ray, who said he was trying to stay out of the limelight. Ray, it didn’t work; you were brighter than the fireworks, mate.
    It was a special night in another way. We were able to see our good friend Wayan, who works for Conrad and who set up the venue for Tuesday’s function. We missed seeing another favourite person. Ayu works in the Lobby Bar but had gone home by the time Michael Burchett allowed us to leave.

Show-Stopper

A little while back Reinhold Johann, GM at the Banyan Tree at Ungasan, put on a very svelte soiree for the media at his resort’s fine cliff-top dining experience, Ju-Ma-Na. It was a lovely evening, even though the weather wasn’t kind at all.
    Ju-Ma-Na's chef de cuisine Mandif Warokka has introduced a revitalised French-Japanese menu that fully complements the stunning cliff-top and ocean views the restaurant provides (excusing the quarry the neighbouring village has gouged out of the nearby crag, proving yet again that the bulk of Balinese care not a jot for the environment).
    The Banyan Tree has been open for a year. It will have its official grand opening soon.  

Grate Idea

Way back in 1952, at the beginning of the frightful fifties – goodness, that’s 59 years ago; doesn’t time fly when you take a historical perspective – one of the those dreadful quasi-musicals that in those days were Hollywood’s de rigueur fare came out to entertain children and (in those days) probably also their parents.
     It was an excrescence called Hans Christian Andersen and starred Danny Kaye, among others. Truly there are some childhood memories that deserve to remain repressed. It featured a dreadful ditty, Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen, rendered with long “aah” instead of the Danish short “a” either to ease the minstrels on their way or to help Hollywood, fresh from arrogantly and ignorantly inventing the Wild West, redesign ancient Nordic languages.
     None of this would matter, and should indeed have remained repressed, if it were not for the fact that some clown collective has decided that Indonesia – a place of wondrous eclecticism and superb ethnic and cultural variety – should promote itself as Wonderful Indonesia. It’s such a shame Danny and his crew aren’t still around to make a movie about it.
    It would be invidious, perhaps, to suggest some rather more workable alternatives, since the clowns have done their work. So heck, we in The World’s Archipelago will just have to make do as always.

Cultural Moment

The Diary can’t be there of course (that Wallace Line thingy is a real nuisance sometimes) but this Friday Asmara Restaurant in Senggigi on Lombok has a bit of a treat for lovers of monologues. It should certainly appeal to politicians, budding or retired, and we wouldn’t be surprised if it attracted representatives of each class. One of the latter was certainly on the acceptance list, according to Asmara’s Facebook. Enjoy the evening, Peter!
    Performer Adam Cranfield scheduled four contemporary monologues: Cornelius from The Matchmaker by Thornton Wilder; David from Ortenga by Oscar Birbeck; Andrew Gomez from The Laramie Project by Moises Kaufman; and Boesman from Boesman & Lena by Athol Fugard.
    The evening features some music as well, and Sakinah Nauderer’s fine cuisine.

Kev’s Fault

The very engaging Strewth column in The Australian newspaper reminded us on Wednesday that there are nutcases everywhere who are convinced by the strange voices they hear in their heads that disasters (of any magnitude or provenance) are some sort of divine retribution and concoct suitably theological rhetoric to prove it.
    It reported the view of one such self-illuminated prophet of doom, Pastor Danny Nalliah of Catch the Fire Ministries – he’s from Queensland, naturally, where they do Doh! so well – who apparently believes his flood-hit state is being punished for local lad Kevin Rudd, once prime minister, now foreign minister, speaking out against Israel.
    Wonder if Pastor Danny is available on Twitter like so many other farcical seers are today? That could be fun. Someone really should organise a global Twit-Off competition to keep them all amused. First prize: an all expenses paid trip to the retribution of your choice.

Flood Trauma

It has been so sad in recent days to watch television reporting the terrifying and devastating floods that have hit Queensland, wrecking places and taking lives in an area that was The Diary’s home for so many years. Apart from that, it brought back memories of the devastating 1974 Brisbane flood, a direct reference that brings additional poignancy to today’s vision and reporting of the events.
    It’s important to keep things in perspective, of course. Australia is a well serviced nation that, however difficult the situation, quickly rolls out public funded support measures for people affected. But while speaking of perspective, people accustomed to Indonesian population numbers might like to reflect that 12 Australian dead (the running death toll on Wednesday) equates to 120 here; that 20,000 homes inundated and effectively destroyed equates to 200,000; and that around 5,000 people in emergency shelters (not counting the thousands who have taken refuge with family or friends) equates to 50,000.
    There is a huge economic cost too: the virtual closure of the Queensland mining industry, which supplies half the world’s coking coal, and the destruction of food crops, could bring the cost above US$10 billion and depress Australia’s $924.84 billion economy by at least 0.3 percent this year (about $2.7 billion). Try those numbers in rupiah.

diary@thebalitimes.com

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


Friday, January 07, 2011

THE BALI TIMES DIARY Jan. 7, 2011


*** HAPPY NEW YEAR ***

All Aboard the
Pipedream
Express for
Your Trip of
a Lifetime

Unless something was lost in the translation – like evidence of an appreciation of the engineering involved, the planning and community consultation that will have to be done, and a few other commonsense agenda items – Governor I Made Mangku Pastika has now promised Bali a train that will chug all round the island, following the roads and depositing locals and tourists alike at their destinations of choice, in 2015.
    It seems he’s done this on the basis of having signed a memorandum of understanding (the magic MoU without which any thoroughly modern major leader cannot even eat his breakfast) with the state railway company. Earlier, of course, the Japanese had signalled their interest in participating in the Bali Choo-Choo Project.
    Governor Pastika is a sensible fellow. He saw off the taxi rabble the other week by telling them he’d be happy to chat whenever they came up with a reasonable argument. Since he meant one that did not involve shutting down Bali’s only worthwhile taxi company so that all the other dysfunctional ones could have free rein and shut down competition which might otherwise mean having to improve services and train their drivers, we can assume they won’t be back any time soon.
    Logic would indicate therefore that he might know a timeframe of five years to get a 500-kilometre railway up and running in crowded and adat-ruled Bali – even his preferred “slow train” around the littoral limits of the island – is (not to be unkind) ever so slightly on the heroic side of wondrously optimistic. It would – or should – also indicate that his public belief that such a railway could defray land acquisition costs and argument by following the road system and all its ridiculous little kinks and defiles (no wonder he’s thinking of a slow train) is also heroic.
    What gauge of track is it proposed to run on? It would need to be a very narrow gauge indeed to manage right-angle turns. How are the trains to be powered? If the railway line is located within the COCOOTZ (that’s the Careering Out-of-Control Overturning Overloaded Truck Zone) on or near any road, what about public liability? Not to mention safety.
    The Diary did a double-take when the story emerged in the hiatus between Christmas and New Year. Perhaps the Governor’s office had put it aside for April 1 and inadvertently released it early.

Seeing Stars

The Diary is a Capricorn, one of that class of person whose childhoods were made a misery by the proximity of their birthdays to Christmas and thus being with depressing frequency the recipients of seasonal gifts “for your birthday as well.” It marks you, you know, that kind of thing. It almost makes it possible to envy a Leo.
    In later stages of life’s cycle one tends to overlook birthdays, or laugh them off as inconsequential things. Or you start counting backwards. But this season was a little more fraught than most and the reason for this became plain when – via the estimable Jonathan Cainer, who contributes the weekly horoscopes interested readers may find on Page 15 – it was discovered that Mars and Saturn were about to create a right-angle smack bang in the middle of Capricorn’s little bit of the heavens.
    Goodness, no wonder things have been a bit iffy lately. It makes you want to retire to the bedchamber and cover your head with the can’t-see-me blanket until it’s all over. But that wouldn’t work. Capricorns are never pessimists (we’re positive people, people) but we are realists. Someone or something would be sure to spot the big lump in the bed and then it would all be over anyway.
    Better to face your daemons with a whisky in your hand and look them straight in the eye. Pip-Pip!

Cursed Indeed

Hugo Rifkind, a reasonable thinker, noted in The Times (of London) on December 21 that the curse of modern life is the impatience that comes with being within reach of information all the time. The Diary only read an extract of his article – via the New Statesman, our favourite English-language leftwing journal (Le Monde does La Gauche rather better) - because nowadays you have to pay to access the full horror of the former Thunderer. The Diary, having once been a Rupert Murdoch wage slave, sees no reason to return any of the man’s money.
    Rifkind, spinning a tale drawn from the exceptional cold and snow that afflicted his misty little islands off the north-west coast of Europe just before Christmas, wrote that it is not the cold, the hard floors or the prospect of a lost holiday that anybody particularly seems to mind when travel delays occur. It is the waiting born of a lack of information that is exasperating.
    He noted: “People crave information because it gives them the illusion of control. But knowing exactly how long one is going to be stuck at an airport does nothing to change the fact that the individual is stuck there. Yesterday [Dec. 20], Lord Judge allowed the use of Twitter in court - proof that it is becoming almost unthinkable in modern life that people should have to wait for anything. The downside is that people are getting worse at coping on the rare occasions that they have to.”
    Well, we agree; on both counts. There are quite enough twits in courts everywhere without allowing electronic versions in there as well.

Levantine Treat

A friend not long out of Bali spent Christmas at Byblos, in the northern stretch of Lebanon not far from where the Mediterranean’s Levantine coast becomes briefly Syrian before turning into Turkey. He was there, he said, with his IPad, and planned to do some reading.
    It’s a magic spot, and not just because the fabled eastern Mediterranean is at one’s doorstep (though a tad chill for dipping into at this time of the year). The Levant has always fascinated anyone with a sense of history, and Byblos, though now a forgotten corner to most people, more than most. It’s certainly a great place for bibliophiles.
    It was a bastion of the Hellenised Middle East of the Ancient World and – though He is not recorded as ever having been there while he walked upon the Earth; it’s a bit of a trudge from Judea – has an important place in the story of Jesus Christ, known to most Indonesians as Isa al Mahdi. It was a centre of learning with a magnificent set of libraries and it gave its name to the Bible.
    We would have disturbed our friend and his Christmas peace had we been along for the trip. But yes, it would have been a treat to be there among the better lettered spirits.

Deserted

Our newly more accessible neighbour Darwin, capital of Australia’s Northern Territory and just a little under three hours away by AirAsia (nightly) or Jetstar, was apparently all but deserted over Christmas and the New Year. The ABC, Australia’s national broadcaster, screened a lovely little news report just before Christmas that showed what passes for queues at Darwin’s airport (some of them seemed to be about four people long – oh joy) and included the intelligence that no one from the airport or the airlines was available for comment because they’d all disappeared on holidays.
    As Northern Territory Chief Minister Paul Henderson told the camera it’s a long Top End tradition to vacate the place over Australia’s long Christmas-New Year-Summer Holiday break. One such evacuee who has been spending some time in Bali is the territory’s health minister, Kon Vatskalis, who as well as relaxing – as he should – was pushing forward an innovative health plan we’ll be hearing more of soon.
    Henderson himself is heading this way. He’s coming to Bali for a week’s break mid-month. Have a good one Paul. We hope Darwin’s traditional Big Wet, another reason for quitting the place in December-January-February, is not still having a holiday in Bali when you get here.

Jack, You’re a Dork

The tragic deaths of a young French couple shortly after they checked into their small (and on the evidence fatally dysfunctional) holiday hotel in Banjar, Buleleng, over Christmas, remind us all of the fragility of life and demonstrate the power of love: the man apparently died when he tried to save his wife who (it appears) had been electrocuted in the shower.
    So we didn’t need the disgustingly inappropriate and demeaning illustration that went out with Jack Daniels’ “report” on the incident in his weekly Bali Update on December 28. A photo of two sets of feet poking out from the end of a blanket is not funny in the circumstances. It is a gross slur for which he should thoroughly ashamed. 

It’s Janet

Just for the record, The Diary’s most mentioned name in 2010 was Ubud culinary delight and literary entrepreneur Janet de Neefe, with 14. Governor I Made Mangku Pastika was second, with 11 mentions. He may do better this year of course, as we keep you up to speed with the Pipedream Express and other luminous examples of government by bright idea.

diary@thebalitimes.com

Hector's Blog appears as The Diary in the weekly print edition of The Bali Times, published on Fridays and available worldwide through NewspaperDirect, and on the newspaper's website at www.thebalitimes.com