July 3-9, 2009


MARKETING OPPORTUNITY: Matahari at Kuta has this great idea – customers can relax at the doctor’s. The fish in the tank are doctor fish. The toes being nibbled belong to people who apparently like to have their toes nibbled by strangers, or at least, by strange fish. But here’s an idea: Why not set up a chip stall close by? Then they could have fish ’n chips.

Watch Out for the Flu Bomb, Aussies Told

IT’S good to see the Aussies are right up to the mark with their travel warnings. And we find it especially pleasing – in an amused way: they’re all now supposed to run around shouting “Don’t Panic! Don’t Panic!” about swine flu – to see that at long last the threat of annihilation at the hands of bomb-crazed terrorists has taken second place.

The latest warning, posted on the Australian Foreign Affairs Department website on Monday and in the in-boxes of all the online registered worrywarts that same day, alerts travelling Aussies to the fact that H1N1 flu is abroad. Well, it’s actually at home – for Aussies – in rather larger quantity than in many places, Indonesia included, but never mind.

People who now read the advisories and despite this still decide to travel are advised that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed cases of H1N1 Influenza 09 in a number of countries throughout the world, including Indonesia, and are told: “For further information and advice to Australians, including on possible quarantine measures overseas, see our travel bulletin on H1N1 Influenza 09.”

Because Aussies hold the lame belief that if they get into strife overseas it’s the government’s job to rescue them, it also suggests that intending travellers first obtain comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, confirm that their insurance covers them for the whole time they will be outside the Protected Biosphere and check what circumstances and activities are not included in their policy.

It notes that the Australian government will not pay for a traveller’s medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs (and quite right too) and includes this really sensible advice: “Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.”

The bit about possible quarantine measures is apt. Last week the bunch of dysfunctional funsters who apparently run health matters here decided they would make all arriving international travellers have blood tests on arrival. By Sunday someone sentient had managed to work out that this was (1) unworkable and (2) ridiculous. Plus it would kill Bali’s tourist industry overnight. That plan down the drain, Health Minister Siti Fahdilah Supari came up with another lulu: giving new arrivals a face mask and telling them to wear them for three days.

Some cogitative reflection is called for on swine flu. On all the evidence it is a mild disease, exotic only for its origins and unlikely to be fatal unless in someone with unrelated health problems. Naturally its spread should be limited as far as possible by preventive health measures. Electing to wear a mask is one thing. Being told to by a pack of panic merchants is quite another.

The air of officially (and we suspect politically) inspired panic here over foreigners bringing in the disease is a bit rich, anyway, given that Indonesia is the world capital of H5N1 avian influenza, a far greater risk to human life.

You’re So Behind the Times, Jack

IT was good to see, in this week’s breathless Bali Update – well, editor Jack Daniels had been at the triathlon over the weekend (see below) – that the row over the future of the Sari Club site has finally rung a bell on Planet JD.

It was reported in The Australian, he says. So it was. But Jack, it was in The Bali Times two weeks running before that. Please tell us you’re not really missing out on the best news you’ll get all week.

As so often in Bali, where the actuality of any given issue is difficult to determine, due to the principals’ preference for obfuscation or hanging up on inquirers, the Sari situation is up in the air. We’ll get to the bottom of it one day. Bali Update might too, especially if it’s back on the ball instead of doodling on the sidelines.

For the record, Kadek Wiranatha denies he is building a restaurant, bar and club on the site, in Jl. Legian opposite the bomb memorial.

We expect he has other things on his mind at the moment, seeing that his moribund enterprise Air Paradise has lost its operating licence, making any phoenix attempts even more unlikely.

America’s Big Day

IT’S an annual event, of course, so it shouldn’t surprise us – but it’s suddenly the Fourth of July again, the day when Uncle Sam celebrates from sea to shining sea. This is his 233rd birthday.

In an age when it is fashionable to decry history and spit on achievement, this is a good time to make the point that the world’s oldest continuous democracy has a proud record of global citizenship.

Bali will very soon be welcoming a new US Consular Agent, we hear, to replace incumbent Joshua Finch.

Long Weekend at Bernie’s

CHEERS could be heard all round the world this week, when beastly Bernie Madoff, the man who really put the Big P in the Ponzi, was sentenced to 150 years in jail for his massive, globe-shattering Wall Street fraud.

He won’t be able to serve all his term of course. That’s one of the curiosities of the American justice system – it keeps sentencing people to prison for longer than nature will allow.

But we can afford a little smile at the thought that Bernie, who lived so high off the hog for so long on money stolen from other people, started his thoroughly deserved incarceration with possibly the longest and most boring weekend of his life.

It Was a Riot

TRIATHLONS are trying; there’s no doubt about that. The 326 athletes from 26 countries who swam, cycled and ran in Bali last Sunday, in the third MRA Bali International Triathlon, would attest to that.

First-place honours again went to professional triathlete Luke McKenzie, who covered the 1,500m swim, 750m beach run, 40km bike ride and 10km run in 2hr, 10min, 15sec. Since he spends his professional life taking part in triathlons and winning them, it was probably a doddle. The top Indonesian time was produced by Kadri Regar: he came in eighth at 2hr, 29min, 31sec.

Hector had a minor part in the big race. He and Mrs Hec were on the TBA2 (Trans Bukit Arterial/To Be Arranged) behind a police car which appeared to be sounding its lovely little siren to help a cycle-stage straggler make it up the hill to Ungasan.

Friendly Aussie Eyes on Indonesia

AMONG the several Australian think-tanks, the Lowy Institute stands tall as an enterprise that precisely and professional dissects issues of importance to Australia and the region.

It has been led for six years by the energetic senior seeker after truth Alan Gyngell, whose analytical skills are second to none. It is no surprise then he has left to head the Office of National Assessments (ONA) in Canberra – lovely city: it had a maximum temperature of 4C the other day, and thick fog – where he can apply his skills again in government service.

Equally of interest is that he has been replaced at Lowy as executive director by Dr. Michael Wesley, who has been professor of international relations at Griffith University in Queensland and director of the equally up-front Griffith Asia Institute. His pedigree includes the ONA – which reports directly to the prime minister, incidentally – so he and ONA’s new director-general should find lots to talk about. Both Lowy and the Griffith Asia Institute give great weight to Indonesia’s crucial role in regional affairs.

The Lowy Institute was established and seed-funded by Frank Lowy – boss of the giant Westfield property and shopping centre group and as a European migrant a huge fan of football (the one with the round ball) – as a service to his adopted nation.

Its philanthropic partners today include The Myer Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – and the MacArthur Foundation, the organisation named for the American general who led the allied effort against the Japanese in the south-west Pacific in World War II.

Lunch? You Want Lunch?

IF the idea of lunch on a quiet Saturday appeals, you can forget about trying to find a bite on Jl. Laksmana (the otherwise legendary Jl. Oberoi) at Seminyak. Pickings are few since most places only seem to open for dinner.

One place that does do lunch is Chandi. Thus it attracted recent attempted custom because of this and its rather lovely menu, but was last Saturday displaying a sign reading “due to renovations we are not open for lunch.” Pity they didn’t think to place the same notice on their website. Our diners could have skipped the no hors d’ouevres and gone straight to Breeze at the Samaya…

Not So Good, That’s the Rumah

THE Ubud premiere of A House in Bali – The Opera, last Saturday, was a mixed bag, according to The Diary’s part-time opera buff, who attended. The setting was beautiful. The Balinese part was graceful and engaging, with wonderful dancers, especially the lead Balinese boy.

The “western” part was a very literal interpretation of the book, including an extraordinarily abrupt ending.

Our spy reports that the lead role of Colin McPhee was played in perspiration. Perhaps this was because it was hot, or perhaps the poor actor found it difficult to compete against the horribly drunk and voluble woman at the back and the fact that 99 percent of the audience seemed to be more interested in taking flash photos than watching the performance.

Born to Bellow

VETERAN American rocker Bruce Springsteen caused Britain’s Glastonbury music festival to fork out more than Rp60 million as a fine for playing past curfew time at the annual bash in south-western England. But the organisers are happy: The Boss, whose iconic anthem Born to Run is still running, wowed the crowd; as did Neil Young.

Apparently the untimely demise of the freaky Michael Jackson might otherwise have lowered the tempo somewhat. Springsteen’s 2hr, 40min set went nine minutes past the 12:30am curfew the noise police set for the giant music festival, a fixture since 1970.

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