December 5-11, 2008

The Real Way to Beat Terrorism

THE frightful terrorist assault on the Indian city of Mumbai is – yet again – a case of everyone’s worst nightmare coming true. How unfair and irritating it would be to find that one’s earthly span was marked for precipitous foreclosure at the hands of some mindless little scumbag murderer armed with a gun he would be much better employed using on himself.

We here in Bali know that the best way to deal with the fact of murderous terrorism – that is after the fact, of course – is to refuse to bend to the terrorists’ will: to get on with life; to strive to make it better; to attract again the visitors and their dollars that keep our economy growing; to build jobs and futures; and to keep the beneficence of the world spotlight shining upon us.

Mumbai is an astonishing and complex city (read Suketu Mehta’s book about it, Maximum City). In The New York Times last Sunday, Mehta had an important piece on how best to defeat the terrorists who attacked it, and why it is important not to run away. Here’s its key point:

“[T]he best answer to the terrorists is to dream bigger, make even more money, and visit Mumbai more than ever. Dream of making a good home for all Mumbaikars, not just the denizens of $500-a-night hotel rooms. Dream not just of Bollywood stars like Aishwarya Rai or Shah Rukh Khan, but of clean running water, humane mass transit, better toilets, and a responsive government. Make a killing not in God’s name but in the stock market and then turn up the forbidden music and dance; work hard and play harder.”

That’s fighting spirit, as we have seen in Bali and shall now see in Mumbai. It says to the terrorists: You will never win, you bastards.

Meanwhile, Aussies Want Mollycoddling

IN THESE days – from Bali to Mumbai via New York, London and Madrid – travellers must recognize that simply by exercising the right of freedom of movement they attract a measure of risk from the desperate and dangerous who roam the globe in pursuit of murderously foolish goals. Governments everywhere issue travel advice to their nationals (we here in Bali are subject to the downside of the long-standing Australian advice to “reconsider” the need to travel to Indonesia) and indeed an Australian advisory was in place for India prior to the murderous attack on that country’s financial capital. We note with interest that in the aftermath of the Mumbai mayhem, that advisory has been raised to equal that existing in relation to Bali and the rest of Indonesia.

The Indian emergency, however, proves the utility of such warnings from the point of view of officialdom (“Can’t say we didn’t warn you – take your lawsuit elsewhere”); and demonstrates the amazing capacity of some Australians to blame their own predicaments on anyone other than themselves. The tabloid media carries much of the responsibility for this. It seeks out “celebrities” – the quotation marks are an essential modifier in this instance – and should any such luminaries be handily available, acquires colorful first-person copy. One such person – apparently someone called Brooke Satchwell, a former mini-starlet in some mindless Oz soap opera, who it seems was confined to her bedroom with her boyfriend by the emergency – complained that she was unable to obtain immediate assistance from Australian consular officials while gunmen were in the building shooting people.

Get real! Contrary to Brooke’s – and many Australians’ – apparent belief that their country’s small consular corps should include commando units uniquely equipped with ESP (so they know where they’ll be needed) and handily sited in the immediate vicinity tasked to rush straight to their assistance (they will Brooke no delay), deal with any threat to Australians present and provide immediate rescue and evacuation, no such action is ever possible.

Bending Their Minds to Banning Yoga

YOGA is not something that normally fixes The Diary’s attention, other than as something to avoid (like, for example, examining one’s navel; or injury). The preference is for passive manipulation at the hands of a gentle Balinese or Javanese masseuse. Well there’s that, plus the risk of risibility from looking like a cross between a very raw Falun Gong recruit and someone trying to keep up with a Jane Fonda DVD.

At the same time, it’s hardly subversive, or for that matter necessarily an activity that would normally – one would think – offend the Prophet, who on most readings of the Koran is channeling the instructions of a remarkably open-minded deity. So it is something of a surprise that the Majelis Ulama Indonesia – Indonesia’s highest Islamic clerical authority – should have advised the faithful to suspend their yoga activities while it deliberates whether the practice is haram (religiously unlawful). If a fatwa is issued, MUI says, it would merely be advisory.

The decision follows a fatwa issued by the Dewan Fatwa Nasional Malaysia, proscribing yoga as a form of Hindu religious practice, because of its meditative elements. Hinduism in Malaysia is of the Indian variety, far removed from the Hinduism practiced in Bali and bereft of the syncretism that so marks the universal practice of faith – in all its guises – in Indonesia.

Fine Music and all that Jazz

THE annual Jakarta jazz festival was held last weekend – it rained again, but it always does: that’s why they call it the blues, or maybe Jakarta – and this year’s gig (officially Jakjazz 2008) was better than ever. Among a stellar international and local lineup, it featured Michelle Nicolle, celebrated as Australia’s finest jazz singer.

She was there with the assistance of the Australia-Indonesia Institute which for two decades has been a prominent supporter of bilateral cultural links. It’s an element of the complex – and overwhelmingly productive – relationship between the two neighboring countries that often doesn’t get the publicity it deserves.

We’re no strangers to jazz in Bali, of course. The Diary is a regular foot-tapper at the Jazz Cafe in Ubud, for instance, where they serve up great Indonesian performers along with yummy food. The guy with the sax on Wednesday nights is just out of this world. That celebrated free sax exponent, Bill Clinton, would lock himself in a cupboard (alone) if he was to hear him.

Please Mind Your Language

THE “classless” Britain that is said nowadays to exist has, among other things, reduced to a mere rump the number of Britons who can actually speak the Queen’s English; and apparently to even fewer the number who actually want to. It has done this by embarrassing the well-spoken and well-behaved into silence while promoting the foul vowels and fractured syntax of the new masters, the inarticulate and uneducated (in the true sense of that latter term). The old “caste talk” has been outlawed by the uncultured, who think nothing of murderin’ grammar (if they know what grammar is; or care).

It is of course no bad thing that Britain has disposed of the anachronistic division of society based on nicely rounded vowels and inherited worthlessness. It is far better that any society should freely promote its best and brightest, regardless of birth or other inheritance. No tears should be spilt over the demise of such upper-class put-downs as “HMG” – “home-made gent” – and we can with some equanimity (perhaps) accept that in English nowadays, it is permissible to say “pardon” when you mean “sorry”; or even, though at a greater stretch, when you mean “what?”; or “serviette” instead of “napkin,” or “toilet” in place of “lavatory.”

All this has only curiosity value outside Britain itself, since English long ago ceased to be English at all. This is a factor that has still to become apparent to some English pundits, it seems, at least if recent expressions of distaste in journals such as The Spectator (continuously published since 1828 is its proud boast) are to be accepted as representative.

At the same time, as one of its erudite stable of writers recently noted, there’s no reason – beyond public pressure to do so – why it should be hip to be rude. To which The Diary would add: or coarse; or to think that nothing has impact unless prefixed by the copulatory adjective; or to accept swallowed vowels and truncated pronunciation. What happened to the letter “G”? For that matter, who let the Americans in the back door? (This last comment is made under advisement, given the preferred spelling style of the august journal in which The Diary appears.) (Well noted, Hector. Ed.)

Very Nearly an Unpacific Blue

RICHARD Branson’s chummy little Aussie Virgin offshoot, Pacific Blue, has hung out its shingle at new premises on Jl. By Pass I Gusti Ngurah Rai – a travel agent office, just north of the airport turnoff. Well, after a struggle: a Diary spy spotted the crew detailed to perform this complex task nearly dropping the whole show once, and then getting the thing up crooked before trying a third time and finally getting it right.

The presence of a Pacific Blue office will greatly assist Bali residents who want to fly the “reverse” route to that chosen by the airline’s customer base in Australia.

Fried Rice, Meatballs and Hairy Fruit

ACCORDING to an impeccable source – President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono – U.S. President-elect Barack (Barry to his old Jakarta school chums) Obama asked him in a recent telephone conversation, “Apa kabar, Bapak Presiden?” and said he missed several fine Indonesian delicacies such as nasi goreng, bakso (meatballs in soup) and that wonderful fruit rambutan.

During his campaign for the presidency, Obama said that he would visit Indonesia within 100 days of taking office. President Yudhoyono has suggested he visit after attending the APEC meeting in Singapore next year. President-elect Obama drops that pesky suffix to his title on Jan. 20 when he becomes the real POTUS.

Obama is no stranger to Bali. He came here some years ago on a sabbatical with wife Michelle, intending to finish his best-selling book. It was an audacious hope: like most tourists who visit us here at Sybarite Central, all that hard stuff apparently got shoved into the “do later” file.

But The Diary can recommend some great local places to eat nasi goreng, bakso and rambutan – or for an even spicier experience, some real Balinese food – if the presidential schedule permits a visit to our island, which we (of course) would rate as a “must.”

Andy Got a Jump on the Law

IN case you’re ever asked – well, you never know: you might find yourself at a trivial pursuit night, or have to sit in on one of those silly Aussie history-for-citizenship sessions; though they have managed to come quite a long way from the days when since they used Gaelic as a language barrier to intending settlers – the jolly swagman in Australia’s unofficial anthem, Waltzing Matilda, was called Andy. The Diary learns this from yet another blonde joke that’s doing the rounds, concerning a test being applied to applicants for entry to heaven, since (heaven knows why) the place is apparently getting a little crowded.

The final question (it’s posed by St Peter as custodian of the gates) goes: What was the name of the swagman in Waltzing Matilda? The blonde gets it right first time. “It’s Andy,” she tells St Peter. “Andy?” replies the saintly one, floored by the quick answer. And of course he has to ask why. “How did you arrive at that answer?”

“Easy,” says the blonde. “Andy sat, Andy watched, Andy waited til his Billy boiled.”

Waltzing Matilda was penned in the magic and frankly spooky Queensland bush in the late 19th century by the Australian bush poet and balladeer Banjo Paterson. It concerns a swagman (tramp, itinerant) who, having illegally purloined a passing jumbuck (sheep) to have with his billy tea (don’t try it!) for dinner and then, being bailed up by the squatter (grazier) and a troupe of troopers (mounted police), escaping justice by jumping into a billabong (water pool) and drowning. As the song goes on to lament, Andy’s ghost may be heard as you pass by that billabong. Paterson was a Scotsman, by the way. That could explain a lot.

Cliff Richard Might be a Better Bet

THE Australian Navy – known in acronym as the RAN, for Royal Australian Navy – has recently been in the news because the top brass announced proudly the fleet would stand down for two months over Christmas, in pursuit of the new “family friendly” image being promoted by the Senior Service. Well, it wasn’t quite true, of course, even though it was an absolute gift to those chuckleheads in the Oz media who like to have a laugh at the expense of people who actually do have productive jobs and apply their skills in the national interest. Operational deployments will continue. Specifically, the fairly intense offshore waters patrols in Australia’s north – that bit of water between them and us – will be unaffected by the holidays.

Meanwhile, we hear that the RAN has a new anthem – performed initially by an Aussie minstrel group called (not ominously, we hope) New Empire – with which to launch its latest advertising campaign, due out next month. It’s called Hero. That’s funny, given the RAN’s extended Christmas-New Year break program. Cliff Richard’s catchy little 1960s hit about how “we’re all going on a summer holiday” (Cliff sang and starred in the eponymously titled movie, an early teen flick) was surely tailor-made for instant success.

Blog It for Business

NOW here’s a project that catches the eye – the government is urging bloggers to promote Indonesia’s attractions. At The Bali Times we do that every week, of course, and happily, because the more people who know about what Indonesia offers visitors, the more of them are likely to turn up at the immigration desk in the arrivals hall at Ngurah Rai with hard currency to spend.

The government’s plan is to spark a creative craze among the country’s travel and tourism countries. To this end, teams of IT experts (a terrifying thought!) and travel writers have crisscrossed the archipelago urging people to start their own or corporate blogs to support Indonesia’s promotional effort, and giving lessons on how to do it successfully.

It’s a good idea. The blogosphere is becoming a very highly populated space.

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2 Responses to “December 5-11, 2008”

  1. Randee Amercanus Says:

    “toilet” in place of “lavatory.”

    If you hear an American accent asking for a “restroom”, they’re not looking for a sofa or a bed. In most cases they’re not looking to rest at all. Same with a request for the “ladies room” which is not a request for directions to the super-secret room with a shoe or handbag sale.

    I think we should come up with a world-wide word or phrase that could guide tourists in need and avoid any language barrier. Which eliminates the cutesy phrases such as “Dudes” and Dudettes”, “Standers” and “Sitters” or “Skins” and “Shirts”. All of which I’ve seen.

    I leave it up to you Dear Diarist to lead the charge. I’ll be standing in the long line to the ladies bog.

  2. Hector Says:

    Thanks Randee Americanus. Maybe we should look at standardizing on this idea, from an Aussie watering hole: Mangoes and No Mangoes. It conjures up very vivid visual and aural allusions, and presents very clear direction.