October 2-8, 2009


A Day for Sartorial Splendour

TODAY is Batik Day, following the United Nations’ decision to recognise Indonesian batik as one of the world’s most important cultural traditions.

And among the many hotels in Bali and throughout the country making a sartorial statement is the Ayana Resort and Spa. Staff will support an appeal from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for all citizens to wear batik to commemorate the news that it would be added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list. (Only a world-class bureaucracy could have come up with a colourless name like that.)

Ayana has its own batik – see our photo – but today, according to sales and marketing director Haryadi Satriono, all 950 employees are planning to don their own finest batik instead.

Says Haryadi: “Our uniforms already feature a signature batik print, but we are encouraging our staff to wear their own batik garments to celebrate this occasion. It’s not every day that a centuries-old tradition is recognised by the United Nations, so it is something we want the world to know about.”

The Indonesian government lobbied for several years for the United Nations to recognise Indonesian batik’s cultural heritage.

Ayana’s own signature print, the work of renowned fashion designer Ghea Panggabean and introduced to mark the resort’s rebranding on April 1 this year, is featured on buckles, sashes, sarongs and shirts, and was inspired by an ancient weaving technique from the village of Tenganan, near Candi Dasa in Karangasem.

The ritzy cliff-top property at Jimbaran is making a statement in other ways too. Its new Rock Bar is now featuring live music on many more days than Sunday.

Meanwhile, across the other side of the Bukit, the glitzy St. Regis is getting set to celebrate the 75th birthday of the Bloody Mary (so delightfully rendered on many Balinese restaurant menus as Bloddy Marry). This wonderful pick-me-up was named after Mary Astor, who was fond of a drop. And the claimant in chief to the honour of being the first place to serve the vodka and tomato juice spine-stiffener is the original Astor-owned St. Regis Hotel in New York City.

What the Schapelle?

YOU’RE never safe. One moment you’re sitting quietly in your lounge room watching the evening news – thereby proving you’re a glutton for punishment, of course – and the next, some ditzy woman wanders in, plonks herself down on your settee, and abuses you over the incomprehensible continuing incarceration of former boogieboard carrier Schapelle Corby.

That’s if you’re Alexander Downer, of course, who retired as Australia’s longest-serving foreign minister when the Howard government was defeated at elections in November 2007 and has since left politics altogether.

Out at Kook Central, though, relativities such as the facts (of anything) are rarely considered. They get in the way of a good psychosis.

Downer told the media he was perplexed by this astonishing home invasion.

He said he was watching the news when the unlocked front door of his secluded Adelaide Hills home swung open. “I thought it was the dog,” he said, “then suddenly, an elderly woman walked straight into the living room and sat down on the couch next to me. It was nobody I recognised, so I said: ‘Excuse me, who are you?’ She started attacking me verbally over Schapelle Corby, blaming me for her being in jail, saying that I had to get her out and that God will damn me if I don’t get her out of jail.”

Downer asked the woman to leave and when she didn’t, he called the police. But – as he puts it – she had wandered out into the garden by the time the local plods raced round to his Des Res and a search-by-torchlight failed to find her.

It sounds like something from that wonderful 1960s sci-fi series The Twilight Zone. She certainly missed the fact that for nearly two years, Stephen Smith has been Australia’s foreign minister. But he lives in Perth, a little way from Adelaide. Perhaps it’s just that she missed the bus.

Eat, Prey, Love

ELIZABETH Gilbert’s book Eat, Pray, Love, the account of her search for meaning and good nasi goreng, is understandably something of a focus of attention at present. After all, actress Julia Roberts will shortly be here – fresh from India where, among other things, she foreclosed on temple worship at one location shoot and visited the wettest place on earth (Cherapunji) so she could get filmed in the rain – to portray Gilbert in the Balinese phase of her odyssey.

So it was amusing to read, this week, two comments on the book from which the movie is being made. First, this one from businessman, entrepreneur and social activist Sanat Kumara:

“All right, I finally finished reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s book … Almost everywhere I turned, people were reading this book, and a good friend of mine, literally, ordered me to read. So, I did it! I must say I still don’t get the reason for its HUGE success. It is a well-written book and in fact funny and thoughtful! But it amazes me the degree that it has resonated with so many people! Does this mean that many are searching for their spiritual path or many are unhappy in their marriages and looking for a way out gracefully? Hmmm.”

And this Facebook post, from the Australian academic, writer and long-term Indonesia hand Adrian Vickers:

“Wondering whether I should make a fuss about the misattribution to my book in Eat, Pray, Love (it’s heavily referred to, but as ‘Paradise Invented’! argh); or is it too embarrassing to be associated with such a book?”

Option Two’s the go, Adrian.

Chinese Takeaway

TWO Australian sailors – those of the private yacht variety, the guys who prefer not to just stand in the shower tearing up $50 notes – have just got back from the trip of a lifetime. On a slow boat to China, no less.

Jim Grierson and Col Wilesmith were heading back to Australia in July after winning handicap honours in this year’s Darwin to Ambon race when fate intervened. Their catamaran began to break up in rough seas and they were rescued by a bulk carrier.

“We said something like, ‘Hey mate, thanks for picking us up, you want to drop us off at Singapore,’ and he goes: ‘No mate, we’re going to China,’” said Grierson, a friendly fellow from the linguistically challenged Northern Territory.

Grierson and Wilesmith spent 12 days on board their rescue ship and say the Chinese authorities were a bit confused when they turned up. “They were bemused that we didn’t have a visa,” says Grierson.

“We showed them our ship’s papers saying we stamped out of Australia, stamped into Indonesia, stamped out of Ambon bound for Australia. So our paperwork was up [to date], our passports were clear. And when they found that we were rescued, they were just great.”

O Canada

DIARY readers will recall the item we ran a while ago on the Ubud performance of the Evan Ziporyn dance-opera A House in Bali. We can report that it had its American premiere at the University of California at Berkley last weekend. Presumably without the endless chattering and photo-flashes that so rudely disturbed the show in Ubud.

We know this because we spotted a piece in the San Francisco Chronicle, by the newspaper’s music critic, Joshua Kosman, previewing the performance.

Kosman gets full marks (from us at least) for his summation of the global impact of gamelan – “The music of the Indonesian gamelan, with its clangourous sonorities and intricate, smoothly interlocking rhythms, has exerted its allure on countless composers and listeners over the past century,” he writes.

But then, like most Lower 48 Americans when faced with a geography challenge, or the strange notion that someone other than an American might have done something useful, he goes off the rails. He writes: “One – perhaps the most influential – was the American composer Colin McPhee, who did more than anyone to introduce gamelan music to Westerners.”

Well, McPhee certainly did that. But he was a Canadian. One of those chaps from that place above the world’s longest undefended border of which Chicago gangster-bootlegger Al Capone, who got most of his prohibition era liquor supplies there, famously said: “I don’t even know what street Canada is on.”

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