November 6-12, 2009

Brighten Your Day, Get Into That Cell!

Diary35

CELL PHONE: Just the job for brightening your day … or that cell. The new Samsung Corby hand phone, now being advertised in Bali, should find a ready market at Kerobokan Jail, Des Res of the richly infamous.

Cruel winds in the Comfort Zone

APPARENTLY there are people out there who think that Hector is a particularly crusty old curmudgeon, with insufficient knowledge of anything much, and certainly not enough to pen critical comment of secular, self-appointed deities who nowadays blight life at every turn. Last week’s little flurry of distressed correspondence points delightfully to the discomfiting nature of criticism to such people and their acolytes when previously unchallenged comfort zones have been cruelly disturbed.

There is a view, it seems, that a public newspaper – mark that word: newspaper – is not the place to say such things: Much better to gather around the back of the bike shed and mutter, then? Well, it’s not of course. Bike-shed muttering is best avoided under any circumstances.

In this edition of Bali’s only real English-language newspaper, you can among many other things read the thoughts of veteran Indonesian observer Max Lane – so fluent in Indonesian that he actually translates complex texts fully, taking nuance and changing usage into account, in other words doing it properly, for a living – on what he sees as the real imperatives facing Bali.

These are not the sort of thoughts one finds given space in a tabloid. But then The Bali Times is a tabloid neither in content nor in context; or in fact. We are not for big photos and disingenuous short text.    Neither are we authors and photographers, nor for that matter that curious modern amalgam of the two, author-photographers. We are not self-publishing self-publicists, either.

In this edition – as in every edition – readers of The Bali Times are presented with real news, of and about the island on which they live, of a size and scope that nothing else published in English even tries to approach. We have fun doing this, just as a bulk of our readers – those who appreciate that value can be found in others, even if their views differ from their own – enjoy reading the paper.

Hector may be a curmudgeon. He hates trendy, after all. He also abjures self-abuse and he has never worked for a tabloid newspaper.

Good Chums

CORDIAL relations have been established between Hector of The Cage and James of Jembrana – goodness, it sounds like something out of Rob Roy when you put it like that – as a result, curiously, of a shared sense of wonderment that That Book, about which they are making That Film, should be thought worthy of much attention at all.

Reader James writes: “I was beginning to think I was the only person in the world who could not see why the book was such an apparent raving success and film-worthy. It was quite a relief to read in your column that there is at least one other person who ponders its worthiness.  I found it weird to wander through summary descriptions of the orgasmic delights of Italian gelato, wrestle with descriptions of chants and mantras and learn that her boyfriend had a vasectomy and she got a urinary infection.”

Well, James, we sympathise; although we do like gelato. These days, in order to become a celebrity author, all you have to do is to write about yourself. Once upon a time people left such maundering to their private diaries, and kept them under lock and key lest anyone should actually read them.

In the past, in those halcyon days when private quests for relevance were sensibly kept private, for fear of embarrassment, and grammar and syntax and plain good taste were thought important, novelists created whole plots around the horrid circumstances that were apt to unfold when private diaries were by mischance discovered.  Today we live in the Age of Prurience where Ignoramus is king.

James adds, by the way, in his welcome and thoughtful missive: “While on the topic of the filming, the governor was ‘embarrassed’ by the monetary demands of the locals: I wonder if he gets embarrassed at the monetary demands made on arriving and departing tourists? I think they spend more money per annum than a film company.”

Still Looking

FRIENDS from a place where there are bookshops at more than very scattered intervals and which offer more than big picture-and-little text coffee table dross from the universal self-publisher Figjam and opportunistic rush-reprints of Eat, Pray, Love, left The Diary a present the other day, when they went home after a lovely Bali break.

It was their copy of Dan Brown’s latest fanciful excursion into the world of myth and mayhem that we are encouraged to believe exists in the various sects of Christianity and the mobs of enforcers, liturgical and otherwise, that are said to have held such sway within that community of faith; and still do, if you believe people like Dan Brown.

The Lost Symbol, which must be something unaccountably overlooked in the exhaustively febrile pages of The Da Vinci Code and that other hysterical tale about papal chamberlains who in an excess of faith and self-belief painfully brand themselves between committing vile murders, has joined the hardback section in The Diary’s modest library.

The Alexandria Quartet it’s not (got that anyway). But it’s welcome nonetheless. It be will fun to read in the circumstances in which PLN requires you to feed your mind these days – by flickering candlelight. So atmospheric!

So There! Too!

A FELLOW of The Diary’s acquaintance – a valued professional acquaintance in fact – has been having a little problem lately (well, for several eons, according to him) with a succession of noisy roosters his Balinese neighbour at Canggu keeps in cages for cock-fighting, one among the many formally illegal activities that thrive here by reason of custom and official ennui.

But he tells us he no longer feels quite so alone in his distress, having read of the troubles one Dan Harper, occasional columnist for the Santa Cruz Sentinel in the USA, experiences with pets in his neighbourhood. Dan lives in California, where pampering has been mandated as a human right – one extended to pets of the house nowadays – and where, inevitably, the unforeseen costs of this collective stupidity must be paid.

Dan, who we think may be a little desperate, as well as – in the American fashion – a little ill-informed (he referred to the yapping dogs in the “little kingdom of Bali”), wrote on November 1 that if you want to love your neighbours, you’d better love their pets. He notes that this is in fact rather hard, since some them (the pets, but subliminally, we’re sure, he means the neighbours too) are pretty hard to take.

They make a lot of noise, you see. Though none of them, apparently, are roosters. But our friend this side of the ocean would surely sympathise with the sentiment: unsolicited 4am alarm wake-ups are a universal bane.

Timely Change

EVER one for a genuine cultural experience, as an antidote to the un-genuine, of which there is an oversupply, The Diary dropped into the Four Seasons at Jimbaran on Thursday evening for the opening of Timeless Change, Ganesha Gallery’s latest exhibition. Adriaan and Runi Palar are an engaging couple and the astonishing mix of painting and jewellery that their collaborative art produces is certainly worth the long walk from the upper lot, where Gallery visitors are required to park if self-drivers.

John O’Sullivan’s crew at the Four Seasons also turn on a good circulation of passable wines by the glass, too, on these occasions. Another reason to skip sundowners elsewhere!

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