September 4-9, 2009


ON TRACK: Julia Roberts is training in Rome for her Bali experience.

What a Silly Song and Dance

THOSE who have spent a lifetime closely observing politics – and your Diarist is one such poor creature – are surprised by very little. What is generally looked for is some tiny little shaft of light from the heavens, or at least a break in the horizon-to-horizon gloom.

Alas, such benefits are rare. So it is with the emerging row over Malaysia’s national anthem, a fixture at drum-beating parades and formal occasions since 1963, when the Brits took God Save the Queen back to Blighty and handed over power in their former Southeast Asian colony.

Hot on the heels of the entirely reasonable Indonesian dyspepsia over some foolish promo-producing firm in Singapore using Bali’s sacred Pendet dance to promote Malaysia, we are now told the Malaysian anthem is suspiciously similar to a popular song created in Indonesia in 1957.

There is more than a whiff of opportunism in this manufactured “issue.” If it was a problem, why hadn’t someone said something about it before – like, for example, 46 years before? This is the thoroughly reasonable point put forward by the Foreign Ministry – in sensible countries, the most sense is often spoken by foreign ministries, who dislike having to deal with the fallout of political or social clumsiness; or worse, opportunism – and it is one everyone should take on board.

Anthems are the signature tunes of national entities. Many have been borrowed from somewhere else – the United Kingdom’s God Save the Queen is a German dirge, after all – and the words that accompany them range from the hopeful to the frankly speculative. The East is Red springs to mind. Some are excessively long (Argentina’s goes on forever, with some very embarrassing breaks for the unwary).

Some have very funny words; and others geography lessons. At least one we know of combines these two amusing factors. Aussies – those who know the words at least – apparently feel the need to remind themselves, as the occupants of the world’s largest island (or smallest continent; take your pick) that they are girt by sea.

High – Pitch Wine

THREE Bali properties have won Wine Spectator awards of excellence – The Legian at Seminyak for the second consecutive year. That has pleased its efficiently decorative GM, Carla Petzold-Beck,(pictured here) and deservedly so.

The other winner we know about is the new St. Regis Bali Resort at Nusa Dua, which is proud to have won such an award in its first year of operation. It is indeed a feather in its cap.

The Legian’s signature restaurant – to avoid confusion, it’s called The Restaurant – won for its selection of 185 international wines, with a particular focus on the vineyards of Australia and France.

At the St. Regis, signature restaurant Kayuputi (it means white wood in Indonesian) and its two-storey wine cellar have clearly benefited from the attention of resident sommelier Harald Wiesmann, a chap who has two previous awards to his credit at other establishments in Bali.

So well done all round, lads and lassies. We’ll let you know who the third Bali winner in the 2009 awards was, just as soon as they tell us they wrote themselves a citation, have a long enough wine list, spelled the names of all their wines correctly, and got their application in on time, which seem to be the criteria.

Hollywood Smile Alert

WE hear that the comely Julia Roberts has commenced her long journey to Bali in pursuit of acting out the part of Elizabeth Gilbert in the movie of the book Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia.

The book has become a sort of primer for ladies of a certain age and predisposition on what you can do to lift your life beyond the banal, those who, like Gilbert, have to go away to find themselves. It’s also a great promotion of Bali, which is a good thing.

Roberts – who has built an acting career on being a sort of sage naïf who offers the prospect of sexual benefits for nice guys who treat her with respect – was in Rome this week, where Gilbert’s real-life journey began. It was hot in the Italian capital, we are told. This is not unusual in August and early September, but apparently noteworthy nonetheless.

In Italy (naturally) the focus of affairs is on the first part of the trilogy of delights offered in Gilbert’s book. Well, who would pass up the chance to savour the delights of spaghetti alla carbonara with a little pistachio gelato on the side, after all?

She co-stars with Javier Bardem and Billy Crudup in the movie. It is scheduled for release in 2011. Next stop for Roberts and crew is India – and then, of course, Bali, where we expect the Bling Brigade will be out in force to welcome the pretty woman.

In her book, Gilbert said this about Rome, by the way: “I am inspired by the regal self-assurance of this town, so grounded and rounded, so amused and monumental, knowing that she is held securely in the palm of history. I would like to be like Rome when I am an old lady.”

Yes, yes, that’s all very fine; but so much for love, then – and nasi goreng.

Look, They’re Serious

IN South Australia, the state at the bottom of Australia’s largest river system, the Murray-Darling basin, they’ve been complaining for years that “upstream states” have been pinching all their water.

But some of the pinching takes place closer to home. In South Australia, corporations will soon face fines of up to Aus$2.2 million (US$1.8 million) for water theft from the Murray. Fines of $700,000 ($590,000) for individuals will be 20 times higher than before. The maximum fine for corporations until now was $70,000 ($59,000).

Numbers of this magnitude would drain the blood from the faces of our own local water thieves.

Hey, Great Gear!

HERE’S a likely tale. It’s from America, of course, where strange things happen with astonishing frequency. Police in Detroit, Michigan, where they actually make cars – or did before the reality of economics caught up with American corporations – say a fellow on a first date with a local lady skipped out of the restaurant they had chosen for their tryst, leaving the bill unpaid, and then stole her car.

The Master at Work

ELIA Kazan, who died in 2003, remains a vast influence in American theatre and film. His life story too – aside from a peccadillo or two where women and their bedroom qualifications were concerned: he was a compulsive womaniser – is in many ways the American Dream. His parents were Anatolian Greeks who emigrated to America in 1915 with the four-year-old Elia in tow.

New York literary agent Robert Cornfield has now produced a book, Kazan on Directing, by editing the notebooks and other writings of the man who was at the centre of American theatre and film in the mid-20th century to give us a portrait of the artist in his own words as he planned and plotted – he was a natural conspirator –how best to bring a play or film to life.

It will surely be a must-read for the more cerebral of theatre and movie buffs. Kazan’s contribution to the world of American drama was immense. He was a principal of the Group Theatre and then the Actors Studio, which adapted Konstantin Stanislavsky’s “Method” notion that an actor will most naturally portray a character if he first has a psychological identification with the role.

The list of actors trained in this discipline would fill a block of marquees. Among them: Marlon Brando, James Dean, Lee J. Cobb, Robert De Niro, Jo Van Fleet, Julie Harris, Karl Malden, Paul Newman, Geraldine Page and Eva Marie Saint. (“You have to start from the actor, and you have to find out where the part is alive for him. Somewhere within them the part must exist,” Kazan wrote.)

The films he directed include A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945); Gentleman’s Agreement (1947); A Streetcar Named Desire (1951); On the Waterfront (1954); East of Eden (1955); Baby Doll (1956); A Face in the Crowd (1957); Wild River (1960); Splendour in the Grass (1961); and the autobiographical America America (1963).

He received five Oscar nominations for his directing, won twice (for On the Waterfront and Gentleman’s Agreement) and received an honorary award in 1999 for his “long, distinguished and unparalleled career during which he has influenced the very nature of filmmaking through his creation of cinematic masterpieces.”

Another Roar Deal

LION Air has stopped flying from Bali to Singapore. Or at least, it seems so. That’s what a woman at the airline’s ticket office at Ngurah Rai told a Diary spy the other day. She couldn’t tell him why. Not because she might be violating commercial confidence. It’s just that she didn’t know.

The route was launched in June last year. And Bali-Singapore is still listed on the company’s website (, or was earlier this week. At a great price too: Rp0. But you cannot complete a full booking.

Perhaps like many things Lion – like schedules, compliance and so forth, for example – Bali-Singapore is “having a rest.”

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