April 17-23, 2009

Who Said Crime
Doesn’t Pay?

THE Corby sisters – Schapelle Behind-the-Wire and Mercedes On-the-Run – are back in the news. They just can’t keep out of the limelight however hard they try, poor things. Today, if you Google “Schapelle” you don’t get a friendly little query in response, asking “Did you mean Schlappers?” Oh no. You are instantly buried under an avalanche of cyber-guff that comes from everywhere, including from those twinks who are so convinced the moon is made of cheese (no, sorry, that’s the wrong fairytale; we mean the one where Schapelle didn’t do it) that they’ve set up websites to promote her cause and written songs about the injustice of jailing the dear, sweet girl. Ho bloody hum.

Cause of the latest outbreak of inventive publicity is that some dill-pickle Australian government lawyers weren’t quick enough to file suit and therefore serve the public interest by seizing the AUS$280,000 Schapelle got from that book she had ghosted in which she claimed little green men from Mars abducted her boogieboard bag inflight from Australia to Bali and that when it was examined by customs at Ngurah Rai it had been stuffed with significantly saleable quantities of that naughty weed Bob Marley used to sing about.

Because of this oversight and the place of precedent in Australian law, the courts there may now be disposed to order the hand-back of earlier proceeds of hard-luck stories. That could add up to an additional $196,000. It should all help make life (well, 20 years) in Kerobokan a little more bearable. Pay for a few hairdos. Buy a nice lunch out now and then. Fund a few more get-out-of-jail breakdowns. That sort of thing.

Meanwhile, it is reported that Mercedes drove away with $2 million from the Aussie tabloid TV current affairs show Today Tonight (she sued the Seven Network for broadcasting her former friend Jody Power saying her former friend Mercedes Corby was a manipulative liar), another $100,000 from various media outings, and $50,000 for appearing sans culottes and much else in Ralph, the magazine for sad little chaps who don’t get out much. We assume she showed the world her wares after she had spent a goodly proportion of her tittle-tattle-tale-telling take on a new set of boobs.

The Voters have Spoken. The Bastards!

ONE Bali candidate in last week’s legislative elections collapsed and died as the early results came in and she heard she had attracted only a handful of votes. It is not known whether this was a direct cause, but whatever the circumstances, it is a sad event.

Less sad – in fact, rather risibly not so – is the growing panic we hear is afflicting unsuccessful candidates who, having borrowed billions to finance their way into plush legislative office, now face the task of paying it back without the assistance of the salaries and other perks they were expecting. Democracy’s a pain, sometimes.

Nice to See You, Minister

HASSAN Wirayuda, who might otherwise have been heavily engaged in summiteering in Pattaya, Thailand, enjoyed a pleasant lunch in Ubud last weekend. He was between engagements – not in the thespian sense, which is when you go and serve beers in a bar for dosh – and dressed in batik.

Perhaps as our foreign minister dined quietly and peacefully, he found time to reflect that in Ubud, like everywhere else in Indonesia that his Australian counterpart, Stephen Smith, still advises people not to risk visiting, no one was actually shooting at anyone. They were in Bangkok, we think. Something to do with red shirts (perhaps the fashionistas are in insurrection?).

The Australians issued new advice for Thailand on April 12 (the last time we could be bothered checking). The advice does now suggest Aussies without compelling reasons to be in Bangkok and surrounding areas should reconsider why they are there. It maintains a “do not travel” status for southern Thailand (but not Phuket). But the overall level of advice for Thailand remains at a low-key “exercise caution” level. Just thought you should know that as you move about ultra-peaceful Bali.

‘Gloombusters’ Head for Bali

BACK in the days when the British had an empire – it’s just a blink in geological time but doesn’t it seem such a long time ago? – it used to be surmised by historians in their cups that the real driver of Cloudy Isles imperialism was the appalling weather you get there. In other words, the “British Diaspora” was the dispersal of people from their homelands because they wanted to see the sun and get a life. It’s a nice thought and might go some way towards explaining why Australia’s official religion is Hedonism. It also puts into an interesting perspective present-day western perception of economic refugees – you know who we mean, all those guys and gals, many of them Indonesians, who do the heavy lifting at the bottom of the food chain in the economies of Europe and North America, the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia, and to a lesser extent Australia.

There seems to be a similar, though of course smaller, movement to Bali. We hear that platoons of Irish, English and Scots are heading for Bali to escape the doom and gloom of the global economic downturn. That’s on the basis of a brisk trade in new enrolments at the Canggu Community School and – anecdotally – a surge in property acquisitions.

The big draw – apart from the weather, economic and climatologically – seems to be a less expensive lifestyle and education. What these people are doing here, as in earning a living, is unclear. But perhaps they are midlife refugees looking to kick back and enjoy some time on the remains of their formerly plush bank accounts.

They’re Looking For You

SHOULD any of the foregoing economic refugees be of a mind to earn a crust while resident here, they may find additional impediments in their way. The Department of Manpower and Transmigration has announced it will tighten up on permits for foreign workers in anticipation of a coming wave of foreigners seeking work during the GFC.

The minister of manpower and transmigration, Erman Suparno, told the Indonesian language newspaper Bisnis Indonesia last week closer scrutiny of foreign workers was necessary to preserve local job opportunities, particularly in management positions. Under the rules, foreigners on work permits can only hold “non-strategic” positions while they train Indonesians to take over their jobs. This accounts for the large number of people whose working permits, and frequently business cards, carry the legend T/A after their title (Technical Adviser). Pick up a spanner in anything other than an advisory fashion and you’re toast. Pick up a pencil and they’ll write you a summons.

This is sensible national policy, as long as it recognizes – and accommodates – exceptional circumstances. To achieve this, you need firm rules that are applied consistently. That’s a special skill for which, prima facie, a strong case exists for urgent further remedial training.

According to the Department of Manpower, there were 85,453 registered foreign workers in Indonesia at the end of 2008, an increase of 11.4 percent over 2007.

Blurred Indovision

HOW’S your TV picture? (The Diary’s is generally blank, by the way, by choice.) But if you’re with Indovision and you’ve got the wobbles, well, we hear this is because the satellite is running out of power (gosh, who switched off the sun?) and is wobbling in its orbit. That’s Indovision’s story anyway. They say the satellite needs replacing. Hang on! We’ll just shin up there with a new one, then, shall we?

Indovision’s solution for wobbling subscribers to the screen-obscuring multi-logoed programming they provide is to occasionally realign their receiver dishes.

Still, at least Indovision customers still get a picture. Astro subscribers are a bit in the dark at present, owing to a long-running argument over whether the Malaysian operators are legally entitled to broadcast within Indonesia.

It makes buying your own free-to-air satellite receiver set a much better prospect.

Celebrities Earn a Bad Rap

IT is not often that your Diarist finds himself agreeing with the editorial line of the leftist British weekly journal New Statesman – although this excellent magazine is required reading for its clear thinking and elegant English, as well as for the philosophical points of difference it illuminates. But praise where praise is due is always a good rule, and so it is with last week’s edition, which carried a small editorial on the musical achievements of Eminem, the rap musician.

It drew attention to his latest opus, Relapse, and commended it for the artist’s decision to have a go at a host of celebrities on the album. Eminem, real name Marshall Bruce Mathers III or otherwise Mr Shady (clearly he is a confused gentleman), won applause for his efforts to “deflate the froth of a culture that has elevated fame, earned or unearned, transient or enduring, to a virtue above all others.” The New Statesman, being nannyish, did note that his presentation might be considered as on the crude side – though this is surely no surprise: he could hardly be a rap artist otherwise – but pointed out that others of a more civil bent are joining him in this worthy cause. British journalist Marina Hyde, who writes for the Guardian (another lefty of the print world), has written a book titled Celebrity: How Entertainers Took Over the World and Why We Need an Exit Strategy.

The New Statesman’s view deserves wide exposure. It asks: “Is it too much to hope that such a strategy is already, miraculously, falling into place? And that the legions of those whose empty fame lasts barely 15 seconds, never mind 15 minutes, are beginning to be consigned to the margins? It has just been announced that Maxim, a magazine which mirrored the grotesque materialism that spawned celebrity culture, is to close its print edition.”

It is not a joy to record the passing of any print product – the free market in ideas is both advanced and protected by print, after all – but we might make an exception for Maxim. Depriving the in-your-face of even one opportunity to repeat their crude imposition of themselves on others is surely worthwhile?

Fancy a Little Chilean?

YOU betcha. Gracias, eso sería muy agradable. The Diary is very partial to the wines of Chile, thank you very much. They are a habit happily acquired many years ago when the chills of a Chilean winter, on a lengthy South American holiday, made it common sense to obtain frequent warming infusions. Besides, the reds are very palatable indeed. We’re sure the whites are too, but The Diary is a red drinker.

We are thus pleased to report that the Chilean night at the Laguna Resort and Spa at Nusa Dua last Saturday (April 11) seems to have gone off very well indeed, despite the fact that some guests mistook “resort chic” on the invitation to mean “come in yer scuffs.” Goodness, it’s precisely that unthinking acceptance of No-No Couture that helped drive The Diary into exile from Australia. The Aussies vie with the Brits as clanger-dressers. We noticed the other night, while enjoying the gnocchi gorgonzola at Un’s restaurant in Kuta, an old favorite, that a female person of British persuasion had apparently decided it was fine to dine out in the sort of tiny little bra top that might (if you were really, really lucky) briefly find a place in a bedroom warm-up act.

But we digress (we do that). At Laguna’s gourmet night, the subject of this item, it was a shame that the accomplished pianist was accompanied by a somewhat less tutored singer. And one other discordant note reached our ears. A guest who had gone to the trouble of advising the hotel of specific dietary requirements, and had been given assurances that this was in hand, was served the wrong meal.

Luckily for everyone it wasn’t Kevin “Air Rage” Rudd.

Run Out of Bread? You Twit

TWITTERY – or is that Tweetery? – continues to expand its influence. Hector is a convert, if only because the internet messaging system Twitter reveals the minutiae of life in the cyber age in all its ungrammatical glory and, since he loves being outraged by the outré and irritated by the imbecilic, he gets off on that.

He is tired of trekking up to his local “supermarket” – and what a misleading word that is, given that in Bali supermarkets are never super and rarely markets – to find there is not a loaf of bread to be had. (He long ago gave up on the Thou and the jug of wine.) Thus his gimlet eye was caught by a story on a London bakery that has started using Twitter to tell customers when the latest batches of bread hit the shelves.

The updates are sent using BakerTweet, a small, white bakery-proof wireless device that sends messages to subscribers on the internet, such as: “Lovely loaves just out of the oven. Hurry.”

Not Good Enough

IT is 10 years since Indonesia’s imperial misadventure in East Timor ended in bloodshed after the historic referendum that helped bring into being the independent state of Timor Leste. What remains of Indonesia’s quarter century in charge of the former Portuguese colony – and by the way, we should never forget that the Portuguese themselves created the conditions that led to Indonesian occupation by cravenly abandoning the place in 1974 when they couldn’t be bothered any longer – is mainly of a monumental nature. The crumbling concrete statue in Dili that still exhorts citizens to be loyal to Pancasila – the Five Principles – is a case in point.

More poignantly, and importantly, in the suburb of Balide the Indonesian military cemetery lies forlorn and overgrown by weeds. That is a disgrace. It would take relatively little to maintain the cemetery as a place of honor for soldiers of Indonesia who died away from home while serving their nation. Ten years after Timor Leste at last joined the community of free nations, and with trade, educational and social links binding the country to Indonesia far more effectively and profitably than was ever the case during the occupation, this can be fixed easily. An agreement could be made with the Timor Leste government and funds provided for rehabilitation and maintenance of the cemetery. Military misadventure may be an embarrassment, but the dead from such events are never so. They deserve a proper resting place.

You can catch up with Hector at http://wotthehec.blogspot.com and Tweet with him at Scratchings on Twitter

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One Response to “April 17-23, 2009”

  1. Chas Grandbois Says:

    Have just come back from a exceptional trip to Phuket, stayed at Rocky Beach in the northern part which is less busy than southerly areas, great hotel and awesome beaches. We rented a minibike for only 500 baht per day and would drive around the entire area. So many marvelous sites to eat, our favourite restaurant was Sweet n Spicy which had the most wonderful view over the beach, the faculty was quite nice and the food so delicious, we went for sunset drinks. My wife and I had a wonderful time in Phuket City and will be back for New Year.