It Seems That
Last week’s demonstration by students outside Bali Police headquarters, protesting against the extraordinarily light penalty awarded to long-term resident Italian illegal pratima collector-distributor Roberto Gamba will doubtless be dealt with in the time-honoured way of things here. That is, the complaints may be noted; they could possibly be filed though this is doubtful (and if they are, will never be found in the filing system afterwards); and they will certainly be ignored.
The rash of temple thefts which began – by complete coincidence of course – in 2006 around the time Gamba arrived in Bali to set up shop in the already over-serviced “collector” sector, resulted in six Balinese gentlemen who robbed temples of their sacred objects being charged, excoriated by the giants of jurisprudence who dealt with their cases, and thrown in the slammer for six years.
Gamba, without whom we can safely assume the six local miscreants would have had difficulty finding a market for their stolen goods and most likely would not now all be in jail for a long stretch, acquired a top lawyer, or at least a loud and pushy one. This brought an immediate benefit: a basically closed court hearing (seemingly, money deflected the otherwise inevitable embarrassment of publicity widely fingering him as a felon). Another was that he got off with five months – an incarceration conveniently coincident with time he had already spent in jail on remand awaiting trial. He was out of pokey last week.
The Diary was pleased to hear that he was then taken straight to the airport. We hope he left our shores with his passport stamped as forever an undesirable alien.
People get weird ideas about Bali. So we are informed by Liam Fitzpatrick in TIME Magazine’s February 14 edition. He was giving a plug for John Stanmeyer’s photographs, and that’s fair enough. They’re really very good.
But Fitzpatrick clearly speaks from personal experience when he talks about weird ideas. He says of Bali that “the Eat, Pray, Love brigade likes to see it as a crazy occult isle, its sarong-clad populace in thrall to wraiths and babbling shamans.” Well, let’s not quibble with the grammar. He’s writing for a mag that likes to be hip in the modern, post-literate, American way. So it grates. So what?
But he goes on, and we do quibble. “Every other tourist who has drunk a lemongrasstini on Kuta Beach goes gaga for Bali, mysterious land of animist phantasms lurking behind every 7-Eleven, instead of Bali, a place of ordinary people preoccupied with workaday stuff like paying grocery bills and saving for a new scooter, who, in their spare time, don't always stand in front of the nearest shrine in a tongue-lolling trance but watch TV and check their Facebook just like the rest of us.”
That 77-word sentence captures every reason why some people shouldn’t be let out with a laptop. There are no 7-Elevens in Bali – they’re a global minimart franchise that’s only just started trying its luck in Jakarta. Animist phantasms do not by definition lurk behind any non-existent convenience store, let alone every one of them. Devout Hindus (and anyone with a brain) would be offended by the tongue-lolling put-down. And what on earth is a lemongrasstini? And whatever it is, would you want one?
Here’s a tip, Liam. Check out a few real Facebooks before you start your next electronic scribble.
Gone With the Wind
We had a good laugh the other day when we read that Malawi proposed to legislate to outlaw personal emissions in public. Well, it was just a giggle, really, not the sort of all-out laugh that might inadvertently lead to Malawi law being broken.
FBLs (full belly-laughs) are reserved in these parts for PLN excuses; the Governor’s Thomas the Tank Engine obsession; police explanations about why they can’t catch all those long-wanted criminals everyone else has seen daily, standing outside their headquarters thumbing their noses and sticking their tongues out; and for the ubiquitously visible but completely ineffectual traffic police who watch, apparently without even bothering to wonder, as everything whizzes past them any which way (and the red light).
But Malawi’s announcement was a useful reminder that politicians come up with really strange ideas. Not far from Malawi a psychotically deluded chap called Robert Mugabe seems still to believe that his people love him. Perhaps the Central African upland air is particularly strongly endowed with ether. (The Diary once lived in what is nowadays Mugabeland. Aha! So that explains it, some readers may think.)
More profitably, it also reminded us of a lovely old joke about the night the duke and duchess had really important company for dinner at the ducal seat. The duke, poor old fellow, being English, and a duke d’y’know, had a way of interpolating his personal emissions policy into any break in the conversation, and the duchess, of whom quite sensibly the duke was mortally fearful, had strictly enjoined him to avoid such an event during dinner that night.
He tried, dear chap, but in the end he failed himself (perhaps the cook’s consommé was not the best, again). An audible emission escaped. Terror gripped him. Then he had another instinctual moment, the sort of thing that has so nearly saved many a boy on a burning deck. He wheeled around, glared at the ancient retainer behind his chair, and commanded: “James, stop that!”
James, imperturbable as always, bowed his head in strict Old Retainer fashion, and replied: “Certainly, Your Grace. Which way did it go?”
A Sick Joke
Julian Assange is a witless cyber-freak who doctors stolen videos (the Apache helicopter murders for example – stupidly manipulated in the circumstances because on any test other than the Americans’ rules of engagement in Iraq it was murder anyway) and is so untutored in actualité that it surprises him (apparently) that diplomats make assessments of their foreign counterparts and report these to their superiors.
Mr Wikileaks is also of the opinion that the Australians, and Prime Minister Julia Gillard in particular, should now save him from himself. Why this should be so defies belief, unless you’re a lawyer looking for a brief or a politicised counsel or a journalist besotted by misconceptions of global conspiracy.
Warren Zevon, who famously sang “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” and is now doing just that, also gave us the song Lawyers, Guns and Money. It’s a great song. Its best line, one that Assange seems to have made his anthem, goes: “Send lawyers, guns and money, the s**t has hit the fan.”
At the same time the Swedish “rape” charges on which Assange is being held by fortuitous convenience are a sick joke. They probably are even to most Swedes. He might be a grub, or one of the many socially dysfunctional would-be sexual predators who litter the landscape of male failure, but seeking gratuitous sex from a promiscuous array of evidently willing partners who have morning-after regrets is not a crime.
And if the Americans don’t like him because the ever-ready capacity of their apparatus to perform pratfalls is a continuous embarrassment to them, well, that’s their problem.
Your diarist for the next two editions will be scribbling from Western Australia. We mention this not because The Diary’s content might appear oddly different – or even odder, some might say – because it won’t. In cyberspace not only can no one hear you scream, but they have no idea where you are.
We mention it merely because it is SEB time. That’s SEB as in short essential break. These are short because one wouldn’t wish to be away from home for too long; essential because those among us not genetically auto-immune to chaos get fidgety without an occasional infusion of Regulated Bland; and a break because, well, if you don’t get away now and then you start breaking things.
The Diary will be enjoying lengthy walks on long, clean beaches, unmolested by dogs or sunglass-sarong sellers; traffic that (predominantly) adheres to a widely understood and rigidly enforced highway code; and pavements that for the most part are wide enough to let two people pass each other (even grossly oversized Australians), that are out of bounds to motorbikes and generally don’t threaten the momentarily unwary with disabling injury or worse. Oh, and some decent wine at reasonable prices.
Then we’ll be back; which will be even better.
Hector's Blog is published in the weekly print edition of The Bali Times, out Fridays, and appears on the newspaper's website www.thebalitimes.com. Print editions of the newspaper are available worldwide through NewspaperDirect.