November 13-19, 2009

They Break the Plates, He Breaks the Rules

Diary36

GREEK businessman Christos Liokouras, who serves tzatziki and other Hellenic delicacies at his restaurant in Seminyak and apparently sings there – perhaps this encourages his customers to break their plates without bothering to dance first – has added to the in-your-face arrows in his quiver. Lio Square, another of his loud enterprises, at the intersection of Jl Raya Kerobokan and Jl Tangkuban Perahu at Kerobokan Kelod, would appear to have broken several of the seldom-enforced signage laws and to have renamed part of Bali in the process.

Well Briefed

THE new health minister, Endang Rahayu Sedyaningsih, is not without her critics. Politics is an unforgiving environment in any culture. And it’s not all that unusual for ministers – here or indeed anywhere – to be less than perfectly briefed on matters within their portfolios, especially if these are complex policy areas.

But it is extraordinary that Endang could come to Bali for a medical conference – it was held in Jimbaran, newly re-declared a red zone after a further rabies case in Kedonganan – and express ignorance about the presence of the disease on this island.

Where had she been since her appointment on October 24? And more importantly, what had she been reading? Not much in the way of briefing papers presumably – or for that matter, even the newspapers.

We recommend she takes out a subscription to The Bali Times – or buys it via Newspaper Direct, which readers in a great many places around the world can do – where she will quickly find a means of informing herself about the rabies situation here.

She said when queried about rabies that she would ask her officials. Maybe they need to be reading The Bali Times too.

Direct Mail

THE Alila chain, one of those upmarket retreats for Wudbees and Wannabees who like to trip around the globe expensively, pretending they’re having a cultural experience among the natives, doesn’t advertise its wares to the common herd. It doesn’t even think of them as wares: that would be much too down-market.

But we hear that, locally and in the Maldives at least, it has embraced the new world of “social media.” That’s the bit where you get all sorts of “information” from highly subjective – and frequently misinformed – sources and are encouraged to delude yourself that they’re telling you the facts.

Two Bali outfits – water&stone and ClearWhiteSpace – have been appointed, and we quote, to “manage the social media marketing for Alila’s two-product line, Alila Hotels and Alila Villas, and across two markets, Bali and the Maldives.” We are further advised that “water&stone and ClearWhiteSpace are charged with profile creation, channel management and social media monitoring and engagement.”

What this means, when you cut through the guff, is that they’ll Tweet marketing dross at you. It sounds like a great lurk. Perhaps they’ll throw in the free eye surgery that should soon be necessary.

Get Smart

JACK Daniels is a Twit. Well, lots of us are nowadays. It should be Tweeter, or possibly Twitterer, but Twit is shorter, more eye-catching, and in many cases (not in Jack’s case) soundly apt.

The Diary had some traffic with Jack on Twitter recently, after The Man Who Updates Himself had posted a sweet little tweet about a sign he said he had seen on his neighbour’s gate, saying “Salesmen Welcome. Dog Food is Expensive.” Hector, who says he doesn’t twitter (cockatoos screech after all), posted back: “You won’t be going there, then, Jack.”

Things then went downhill. Jack said he kept mace (spray) for journalists. Hec suggested pepper spray was a cheaper option. Jack said he’d really rather Taser them, but a Taser needed to be recharged and PLN was an ineffective source of power. He said Hec should not deny him freedom to lavish upon him the very best of ill winds. And on that, quite so: we’re all for freedom of screech here at The Bali Times.

Might it be that Jack’s distemper had arisen from last week’s Diary item that referred unkindly to cruel winds in the comfort zone? Surely he can’t have thought that the barb was aimed at him?

Yoo-hoo! It’s Me!

THE cult of vanity, so much a part of the YouTube Generation, is not very sensible. Aside from unpleasant hubris – there’s something distastefully odd about people who are convinced total strangers would actually be interested in seeing their mug – it can also be disadvantageous.

We note this point because, last weekend, we read a news report on a little toe rag in Britain who didn’t like the mug shot police asked a local newspaper run of him as part of a public appeal to track him down – they would like to talk to him about a burglary – and sent along a better likeness. He was standing in front of a police van.

South Wales Police had given the media a photo of Matthew Maynard, 23, as part of a crackdown on crime in Swansea. They have now thanked him for helping them in their appeal, saying: “Everyone in Swansea will know what he looks like now.” We’ll spare you the photo. He looks like any number of young thickheads of British provenance. It wouldn’t do to spark a flurry of fake sightings in Kuta.

Sound Advice

LEIGH Sales, who fronts the Australian TV current affairs show Lateline (unfortunately not seen on the Australia Network satellite service), has some very good advice for people who chair panels at writers’ festivals or bookshops. It should be required reading in certain parts of Ubud.

She wrote recently on her ABC blog – it’s called wellreadhead, Sales being attractively thus endowed – that she gives a standard spiel at the beginning of every event: “We’ll have time for questions at the end. And let me emphasise that we want questions, not statements.  If you stand up and make a statement, I will cut you off and publicly humiliate you.”

She says it usually gets a laugh; until they realise she means it.

Sales writes: “There’s always at least one person per event who uses the occasion to pontificate instead of just asking a question.  At any event for a book about refugees, for example, I can all but guarantee a sixtyish bloke in a flowing shirt, leather sandals and a silver bangle will leap to his feet and rail about the evils of the Howard government – even if the book is about North African asylum-seekers to Europe.”

She adds one anecdote that engaged The Diary’s attention, its genesis being an assault on sensibility from motor-mouth audience members at a Sydney Institute function (the institute and its executive director rank highly on Hector’s list of commonsense sources). It’s worth repeating in full:

“One of the funniest examples I’ve seen of somebody being cut off was at the Sydney Institute. Several people in a row had stood up and made statements. When it came time for the next question, the executive director, Gerard Henderson, gave a very sharply worded instruction that the audience was invited to ask questions, not deliver lectures. He then called on a woman who took to her feet. ‘When I was a young girl …’ she began. ‘That is NOT a promising start!’ Henderson cried.”

We sympathise. There are similarly self-obsessed folk around here who salivate at the sight of a soapbox.

Gong Day

AUSTRALIA’S newest Victoria Cross winner – and the first to be awarded the Victoria Cross for Australia, the separate but equal denomination of the highest award for military bravery instituted by Queen Victoria during the Crimean War of 1854-57 – met the present Queen this week, at Windsor Castle.

The occasion was the annual gathering of the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association, held the day before Remembrance Day (Nov. 11). Special Air Service (SAS) Trooper Mark Donaldson, VC, won his award in Afghanistan (he rescued his patrol’s wounded Afghan interpreter by dashing hundreds of metres over open ground under intense and well-aimed fire).

Unlucky for Some

TODAY is Black Friday (Friday the 13th). It is said by some who study such things that it gained its disquieting moniker from the fact that it was on a Friday the 13th that one of the more unpleasant of the medieval popes proscribed the Knights Templar and rounded them up. Many of them were later burned at the stake for heresy; or possibly banking.

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