Aug. 28-Sept. 3, 2009


WELL NO, NOT REALLY: Indie singer Tara Hack with her Free Schapelle pitch in NYC. See the item On and On, below.

Stephen Loves Kate: And That’s Official

KATE Greville, the Sydney-based Australian writer, has dropped out of this year’s Ubud Writers and Readers Festival line-up, citing security concerns. Presumably she has through this action won immediate promotion on Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith’s reading list. She can be assumed to have reacted as desired to the travel advisories his department keeps issuing urging Aussies to reconsider their travel plans here.

As we know, so many of her fellow citizens fail to reconsider their plans to enjoy themselves in Bali. They just keep on arriving in droves (G’day, good to see you). But at least Mr Smith’s legion of licensed worrywarts can now chalk up one high(ish) profile victory.

Another drop-out is Nobel prizewinning author J.M. Coetzee, the reclusive former South African who now lives in Australia. We hear he has told those who run his life for him: No travel until after October.

He’s on the list for this year’s Man Booker Prize – it’s announced in London on October 6, a day before the UWRF kicks off – and if he wins, will be the first author to win the Booker thrice.

But the writers’ list for this year’s UWRF is a very strong one, headed by Wole Soyinka, the Nigerian writer and also a Nobel prize-winner. The Indonesian contingent of talent is particularly strong. And also on the list are some laughs, including Australian hoax-humorist Tom Cho. Plus we shall be seeing a one-time media colleague of your Diarist, Bruce Dover.

Moral Obligations

IT WAS interesting to read the other day that Tommy Suharto, son of the inventor of the New Order, has put his hand up to lead Golkar, the functional body his father started to assist with ordering the New Order and which, in the post-Suharto decade, has tried – and significantly, has done so largely ineffectively – to transform itself into a real political party.

According to reports, wheeler-dealer businessman Tommy S feels he has a moral obligation to lead Golkar. Others may disagree – especially within Golkar, one might imagine – but he’s entitled to say what he said and to have his views considered. That’s what democracy’s all about, after all.

Speaking of moral obligations, however, given that Indonesia now has a robust and activist democracy as opposed to guidance from above, both Suharto and his party might be better to spend time on working out how a functional structure for apparatchiks can fully reform itself into a mainstream political party.

Indonesia’s political system does not employ the parliamentary system on the so-called Westminster model where there is a formal “loyal opposition” that is in fact the alternative government, a method that tends to keep political parties focused on achievable outcomes.

While parliamentary responsibility is simply not an option (it’s a cultural thing), Indonesian parties do need to devise practices and principles that promote practical decisions – in or out of office – and to forgo the political equivalent of the legal process, where the doors keep revolving forever and virtually no decision is ever final.

On the recent verdict of the ultimate judges, the voters, after all, that is what constitutes the strength of SBY’s historic re-election as President. Indonesians want a new order, not a New Order.

Hey, Great Candy Store

THE new star attraction at the spectacular Dava Restaurant at Ayana Resort and Spa at Jimbaran – apart from the cuisine itself, which we’ll get to in a moment – is new chef de cuisine William Gumport. He says of being a chef in Bali: “It’s like being a kid in a candy store.” Gee, we love the guy already!

Gumport – Chef William in the customary first-name fashion of Bali – joined Ayana, formerly the Ritz-Carlton, in July, and has been wowing diners at Dava with an eclectic new menu combining classic cooking techniques with natural, clean flavours. It includes a degustation menu, de rigueur in such establishments. Hec’s preference is for a good solid meal.

The new man says: “My style is simple and straightforward. I take the best ingredients, locally sourced wherever possible, to create a modern menu that is light, clean and full of flavour, and served with elegance and flair. I prefer classic combinations that are strongly grounded in quality ingredients and execution of technique.”

He came to Bali from three years in America’s casino capital, Las Vegas, after working with many of the leading lights of American fine dining, including Joel Atunes, he of the two Michelin stars, who was guest chef at Dava in July.

One highlight of Gumport’s new menu at Dava that caught your Diarist’s eye is Australian yabbies (fresh-water crayfish) served with baby leeks and seaweed butter.


CHEF WILLIAM GUMPORT: Keep it simple, make it tasty

Out of the Shadows

THE Americans are often unfairly unsung in cultural matters. So it is worth noting that on August 14 the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta formally handed over a US$46,000 (Rp456.5 million) grant to the Wayang Museum to help support the preservation of Indonesia’s Wayang puppetry culture. The embassy’s Counsellor for Public Affairs, Michael H. Anderson, symbolically turned over the award with a plaque to DKI Jakarta’s Deputy Governor for Tourism and Culture, Aurora Tambunan, at a ceremony marking the Museum’s 34th anniversary.

The word wayang simply means theatre in Indonesian and Malay, but is universally associated with the puppetry and shadow puppetry that is a wonderful highlight of Indonesia’s diverse culture.

On and On

THE very easy on the ear crooner Jack Johnson has an album and song titled On and On. It’s a great song and a fantastic album – especially on those “rooster nights” that people who live outside the smog zone have to put with.

But going on and on is also what the Schapelle lobby does. And then on and on, you might say. Their latest appearance in the e-media spam file includes a lovely photo (our main picture this week) which purports to say New York Says Free Schapelle. Doubt it. Unless something flies into one of their icons, Bernie Madoff does a bunk from pokey, or someone suggests NYC is a noisome place that you wouldn’t visit in a fit, the centre-of-the-universe creatures that colonise Manhattan Island tend not to give a damn. Tara Hack, an indie singer, does; and good for her, but so what?

The Schapelle lobbyists, who make nearly as much noise as the lady herself, appear to believe that the Australian government can organise Corby’s instant release from Kerobokan. Prime Minister Rudd just has to ring up SBY, have a neighbourly chat, and do the deal. This infantile – and ultimately cruel – misconception ignores all the facts and instead perpetuates all the fictions surrounding the Corby case.

Twenty years for smuggling ganja (grass, marijuana) is a stiff sentence by limp-wristed western standards. In Indonesia, where in this instance it has been imposed, it’s a fact of life.

We Feel For Them

CONSULAR officials everywhere have a hard life. Even British ones, the chaps who once spent their days dealing imperiously with the local effects of geopolitics and now find themselves fending off such cerebrally challenged subjects of Her Maj as have – unaccountably – been let free to wander the world and find a problem to bitch about.

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (there’s another post-imperial affection in the title) has recently given some details of the amazing requests for assistance its officials overseas tend to get from a Brit Cit in the (can’t print it, but you’ll get the idea).

Among them: Help! I’ve just had my breasts enlarged and I don’t like the new size. Another: A woman (in Britain) asked the local British consulate in Florida to help her teenage son pack his bags and give him a lift to the airport because he was feeling unwell.

Stone the crows!

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