Ahem! So All
The Bali Times proudly says, at the top of page one in every print edition, that it reveals the real Bali. This is not the Bali of the glossy magazines, the travel brochures, or of hyperbolic travel agents and dodgy realtors. Such entities and people have their place, of course. But reality is ... well, reality.
It has been the custom not to advertise the several faults of Balinese society. It worries the tourists (or the Balinese think it might) and it could reduce the quantum of those lovely dollars that come pouring in through the door.
The fiction is thus created, and is enforced by the wall of silence that greets any gainsaying, that Bali is a place of universal love and peace, etc, etc. It can be argued that tourists don’t care (or that they don’t matter since most are here and gone again in a flash) but that’s not the point.
Bali is unique. It has its own special magic. But as news reporting shows, not every miscreant here who comes to attention – i.e., astonishingly, gets caught – is from Java or someplace else. The temple theft ring (see below) was of Balinese invention, helped along by Italian inventiveness (or stupidity). The prison drug ring just exposed has a similar local provenance.
The Muse of Mengwi, otherwise known as Susi Johnston, has had it with Ubud apparently. Or at least her friends have. The ones she said on Facebook she’d taken there the other day and who quickly said they needed to leave because it was just like Kuta.
Well, it isn’t of course. There are no beach touts; and, we fancy, there are rather fewer very friendly massages. There are however lots of oversized buses – allowed back into Bali we hear at the emolument-aided suggestion of one Tommy Suharto, who wanted impossibly big charabancs that are far too big for Bali’s funny little roads to convey victims to and from his noisy and noisome excrescence at Pecatu – and a lot else that’s not to taste.
Mass tourism does have its downsides. Among these are the greedy and unthinking destruction of the environments that attracted visitors in the first place.
We hear that Roberto Gamba, recently frog-marched to the airport and put on a plane back to Italy as a criminal alien, has been bothering people here who he believes have been characterising him in quite the wrong way.
That’s strange. The Diary hasn’t heard a peep out of him and we’ve had a word or three to say about his case. We know he’s in Milan, or at least that that’s where he went when he got a sentence that magically matched the time he’d spent awaiting trial - that magically wasn’t reported - on charges relating to the rash of thefts of sacred temple relics that magically commenced in 2006, the year that particular sorry signor came to Bali to set up shop. But we haven’t tried to chase him up. Why would we? Good riddance.
If he thinks he’s been grievously misrepresented, however, he’s welcome to get in touch.
What a fabulous night it was last Saturday. No, we didn’t go to a party. We turned out most of the lights – an early contribution to Earth Day, now being promoted as the global Nyepi, which is on April 22 – so we could enjoy the full blue luminescence of the full moon.
It was, as various breathless advisers told us around the world, the biggest and brightest full moon since 1992. It was wheeled out for our enjoyment by the Soros Cycle. This is not a two-wheel pedalled conveyance. It describes the wobbly orbit of Earth’s natural satellite created by its client position within the gravitational pull of our insignificant little planetary orb.
So while it was a phenomenon, it was neither unnatural nor a surprise. Except to werewolves, who yet again learned that despite all the legends, a big Purnama is no help at all to any of their lunatic antics.
Over the Bukit, the light was so bright – and for once, astonishingly, the clouds so scarce – that the frangipani shadows on the terrace were as sharply defined as most noondays and even the sea looked blue at midnight. Truly we live in a beautiful world.
The Diary long ago learned that it is far better to own up than to stay silent in the hope that no one will notice – even here, where the universal miscreant is “my friend.”
Two weeks ago, in a little item on the to-die-for benefits of the Conrad Suites at Tanjung Benoa, we said they – and the Conrad resort generally – were well run by David Burchett. Only one reader found time to alert us to this grievous error. And she was the delectable Alicia Budihardja, who happens to be Burchett’s in-house flack.
No matter. We erred and we should say so. Can’t think how Michael became David, apart from idiocy or inattention. But something must have provided the spark for our little flash-in-the-pan nonsense. It could be that the Conrad’s elegant lobby sports some (shall we say) fairly outré art. The Diary did spend a little time looking at it. It’s very good. Perhaps that’s why: the mind wanders, as we all know; in this instance to other historical exponents of eroticism.
We rejected Titian (there wasn’t a ladder or a limerick in sight) in favour of Michelangelo. That must be it. In addition to spreading Renaissance proto-gouache around the place liberally, he gave us David. A later Pope cocked it up by attaching that fig leaf.
The Diary and Distaff have never been to Budapest. The Diary, when he was but a midget ring-binder and chiefly resident in the western promontory of Eurasia, couldn’t go there. The Russians – self-fictionalised as Soviets – were in post-war colonial control of the place and didn’t like Brits unless they were called Donald Maclean, Kim Philby, Guy Burgess or Anthony Blunt.
A formative view of Budapest, Hungary, the courage of the descendants of the Magyars and of the regressive perfidy of the Soviet system was gained from seeing the bloody result of the Hungarian uprising on television newsreels in 1956. (At least it overshadowed the last feeble twitch of European imperialism the same year, the Suez debacle.)
So come August we shall be off to Heroes Square to pay homage to those who – along with the Poles the same year, the East Germans in 1953 and the Czechs and Slovaks in 1968 – put the first fatal cracks in Russian-dominated Soviet imperialism.
Along the way, during our week in Budapest, where we shall be staying in a very plush but walk-up fourth-floor bed and breakfast place right in the middle of the city, we’ve got our daily lunch programme sorted out already. The Distaff has identified an allotment of early afternoon wine tastings with cheese, fruit and other goodies that should see us right, over eight days, for that otherwise empty space between breakfast on the terrace and dinner somewhere or other.
It will be a treat.
Now that the www seems set to get an xxx, to cater for those sad souls who can’t get by without their virtual jollies, perhaps Indonesia’s minister for religiously filtered information, Tifatul Sembiring, can turn his mind to things other than the Sisyphean task of weaning Indonesians off porn. Painfully unfortunate confluence of frontal lobes and brick walls comes to mind on that one, given Indonesia’s world ranking as porn-viewer central.
It’s a good idea (the dot xxx, not porn) especially since it would provide an automatic filter against under-age access, reduce the opportunities for vile paedophiles, and relieve Tifatul (and meddlers everywhere) of their self-appointed and thoroughly unnecessary duty as our moral guardians.
To assist the minister in reaching the conclusion that he’d really be better employed doing the bits of his job that matter, as well as brushing up on Democracy 101, here’s a comment from an American computer scientist, George Sadowsky (it's not supportive but it should be read).
“I believe that the creation of .xxx would mark the first instance of an action by this board that may directly encourage such filtering,” he said last week.
“In my judgment, the [American regulatory] board should not be taking actions that encourage filtering or blocking of a domain at the top level. Further, I believe that the filtering of so-called offensive material can provide a convenient excuse for political regimes interested in and intent on limiting civic rights and freedom of speech.”
Hector's Blog appears as The Diary in the weekly print edition of The Bali Times, out Fridays. Print copies of the paper are available worldwide through NewspaperDirect.