Feb. 27-Mar. 5, 2009

All A-Glitter

IT’S the biggest event to happen on or near Nusa Dua’s great Geger Beach since the local banjars decided to demolish all the independent beach cafes and set up a single cooperative in their place (that was a really bad move, guys). The official opening of The St. Regis property had The Diary in a tizz all week. Would there be oysters for the “official” crowd? Would they be compliant, as in softly opening? Would they, in that case, be leftovers from the soft opening last September? We hoped not. We also hoped that they would not just be complacent, as so many oysters are these days. And just who was Jamie Cullum, listed as the entertainment for the evening. (The Diary, being one of your crustier curmudgeons, admits previous grievous ignorance on this essential point.)

On the oyster front, we shall have to wait for reports back from those famous or important enough to score an invite to the bash. On the matter of Jamie Cullum, however, much information has come to hand. This week his website listed his next gig as live at Q The Music Club at the Hard Rock Cafe in London on April 30. Not a mention of Bali, where the gig’s going down the whole time. Or for that matter The St. Regis. Perhaps his appearance at the grand opening on Feb. 28 is more in the mode of a private performance. Good thing he’s not a dancer.

Cullum’s website is certainly an interesting landscape to explore. While doing our cyber version of Henry Morgan Stanley beating around the African bush in search of an improbable handshake delivered with a well-rehearsed line, The Diary noted that according to his blog, on Feb. 20, 2007 Cullum amused himself by shaving all the hair from his body. Now that’s just the sort of thing you don’t put in your “Dear Diary” notes.

Seriously, Cullum (photo) is a big hit with many, plays jazz and crossover genre and his music is noteworthy enough to score him a nomination in this year’s Golden Globes for best original song. We’re sure he’ll leave the glitterati gobsmacked at the “Diamonds and Pearls” St. Regis show. It will certainly be a pearler, according to the invitation.

A feature of the property is the King Cole Bar, a tribute to the Astor family of New York and the brand’s flagship NYC property. It was also one of the places which claims to have invented the Bloody Mary (another was Harry’s Bar in Paris). But whatever its provenance, invention of the Bloody Mary is certainly worth celebrating.

Big Medicine Moments

ONE of the curiosities of Bali is the interest local woodcarvers have in Native American culture, as seen in the oversupply of “Red Indian” heads complete with feathers on display for unwary tourists. It’s a bit like all those “Australian” boomerangs they make in Lombok. In relation to the Native American fixation, we assume it is yet another example of the supremacy of Hollywood’s take on history.

At the same time the Native American story is a fascinating one. A new chum of The Diary, American-born Australian resident Glenn Orr – he lives in Albany, Western Australia, visits Bali every year and is a fellow we’ll be hearing more of later – very kindly lent us his holiday-reading copy of The Spirit of Indian Women, a book that showcases parts of the tribal religious, traditional and cultural liturgies of several Native American peoples.

It also places in firm context – and rightful place – the central role of women in those cultures. The true place of womanhood has been too long obscured by the remnant settler mentality of American governance, the prevalence of Hollywood myth and the grossly misogynist proclivities that the European peoples are only now beginning to reject. Merde! Late again!

The Diary, long a fan of Native American culture and history – and firmly of the belief that if you need a good general you should recruit Crazy Horse rather than George Armstrong Custer – was thus interested to read last weekend that 20 descendants of the famed Apache chief Geronimo have filed suit in the US Federal Court in Washington seeking return of his remains to New Mexico for traditional Apache burial, without which, the suit says, his spirit cannot be free.

Geronimo and his dwindling band of skilled guerrilla warriors periodically led up to 5,000 American troops a merry dance in the desert southwest of the US and northern Mexico over nearly two decades in the late 19th century.

He died in 1909 at Fort Sill in Oklahoma – in exile in the sere grasslands of the southern prairies many moons distant from his magical desert homeland – at the age of nearly 90, after 20 years as a prisoner. He had surrendered to the US military during the final phases of “pacification” of the American West, on the understanding that he would be allowed to return to his homeland and his people.

One of the appellants in the suit, Geronimo’s great-grandson Harlyn Geronimo, says he hopes the people named as respondents will take the matter seriously. These include President Barack Obama and US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

In around 1918 the Yale secret society the Order of the Skull and Bones stole Geronimo’s remains and possessions from Fort Sill – surely the Gitmo of its day – and is believed still to hold them at its premises on the campus of the prestigious Ivy League university. Among those thought to be responsible was Prescott Bush, father of President George H.W. Bush (Bush 41) and grandfather of President George W. Bush (Bush 43).

Harlyn Geronimo wrote to the most recently former president requesting return of his great-grandfather’s remains but did not receive a reply. Doubtless he is hoping for a more positive response (or at least a response), from Obama 44. Barack’s ancestors weren’t among them, of course – they were in East Africa – but the proud heritage of America’s Buffalo Soldiers, blacks in US military service in frontier days, is surely close to his heart. Bob Marley is a good source of anecdotal material on that score. And Bali’s just the place to buy the CD, too.

Guys, Do Us a Favor

AT the Indonesia-Australia gabfest held in Sydney this month. Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda put in the standard pitch for the Aussies to rescind – or at least downgrade to “alert but not very alarmed” – the travel advisory still in place for Indonesia, including Bali. Minister Wirayuda noted that the Americans and Canadians have removed their advisories given the significant progress Indonesian authorities have made against Islamic terrorists since the 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings.

We loved Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith’s response which, stripped of the elegant language employed, basically said the advice to reconsider travel still existed but no one was taking any notice of it. Mr Smith noted Australian tourists have returned to Bali in large numbers, having read the government’s advice. Doubtless on departmental advice, he forbore to mention that they must therefore have rejected it.

Two points for Canberra to consider: One, if everyone’s ignoring the advice, doesn’t that of itself indicate a need to change? And two, we’re still missing out on educational and corporate visits because the existence of the advice basically shuts down organized travel for insurance reasons. It really is time for a rethink.

Back to Burning Beds

AUSTRALIA’S environment minister, Peter Garrett, who (silly fellow) left his day job as the ultra-athletic front-man of the rock group Midnight Oil for the life of a Labor parliamentarian, is going back to the concert stage. It’s only for a special gig, on March 14, for a flood and bushfire benefit show the music industry says should be the biggest rock concerts ever held down under. But it isn’t very often you see a cabinet-rank minister swallowing a rock concert microphone. Organizers are hoping to raise at least AUS$4 million from the shows, to be held simultaneously in Melbourne – at the famous Melbourne Cricket Ground – and Sydney, at the SCG. Midnight Oil – seen here in a 1997 photo which prompts the response “Good question, Pete!” – will perform in Melbourne.

One of Midnight Oil’s greatest hits was the Aboriginal protest song Beds are Burning. Garrett’s problem ever since he foreswore singing in favor of squawking has been that politics involves burning bridges.

Russian Flag Gets a Lift

WE’VE all grown accustomed to looking out for guys (and gals) with snow on their boots, the traditional way you are supposed to be able to spot a Russian at 50 paces. (The joke stems from an English keep-smiling line of World War Two vintage.) It’s been quite easy of late. In 2008 a total of 58,233 Russians visited Bali. Though actually, none of them had snow on their boots – perhaps it melted while they were queuing up to pay for their visas on entry.

In honor of this invasion from the steppes, or perhaps to cope with it, the Russian ambassador to Indonesia, Alexander A. Ivanov, has now appointed an honorary consul in Bali. The lucky honorary Ivan is Chairul Nuku Karnika, a Bali-based tour operator. Hon Con Karnika expects the number of Russians tourists to grow dramatically in 2009, citing the Indonesian government’s agreement to underwrite the cost of a “Visit Indonesia” exhibition in Moscow in March and a steady increase in the number of Russian charter flights.

The new consul was officially inducted at a ceremony held at The St. Regis Hotel at Nusa Dua and welcomed by entertainers specially flown in from Russia.

Tuneless Wonders?

WHAT would you do if I sang out of tune? No, this isn’t karaoke quiz night. Even though karaoke is a tuneless Japanese invention named by creating a compound noun conjoining kara (empty) and oke (orchestra). It relates instead to the fast-developing plans of the Malaysian hotel chain Tune to build two outlets in Bali.

These are hotels built to a formula – a concept capitalized on globally by the French Formule chain – and feature pay-as-you-go facilities. They also feature distinctly un-Balinese architecture. The Diary is all for cheap hotels. But not if they sing out of tune; from memory, even the Beatles seemed a little concerned about the effect that might have on the environment.

Hollywood Daze

THE annual Academy Awards have just been held in Los Angeles, amid the usual hoopla and fake glitter that the old burg does so well. It was a success, as far as it went. And of course, it went too far as usual. There’s nothing like Tinsel Town when it comes to hype.

Australian actor Heath Ledger was unable to present in person to pick up his best supporting award. Another Australian, Hugh Jackman, host of this year’s event, was subjected to YouTube hate-vid in the lead-up to the event. He was seen on the video making fun of previous Oscar hosts. That’s celluloid treason, isn’t it?

The Diary’s interest in the Oscars is close to minimal. We hate the era of self-congratulation that Hollywood and the tabloid media – print and TV – have foisted on the world. And as a student of American history – see the item above on the cruel fate of Geronimo – we’ve long been astounded that Hollywood’s taste for scenery over substance and fiction over fact placed so much Wild West cavalry action in the scenic setting of Monument Valley (don’t you just love those stove-pipe mesas). In fact the U.S. Cavalry was never within a hundred miles of the place during the so-called pacification of the frontier.

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