December 11-17, 2009

How to Swan Around and Be Disappointed

THERE’S a British lass around – or there was recently – who says she got to Bali on her way to Australia and was underwhelmed, silly girl; she blogged about it on an English newspaper’s website. And so it is that The Diary is apprised both of her disappointment and of her naive and dismissive assumption that you serve your travelling interests best by not bothering to do any pre-arrival research.

From her we hear that Kuta is an unpleasant surprise; that its pavements are not all they might be; that fast food is everywhere; and that Ku De Ta – in which Bali’s prominent business coup d’état man, Kadek Wiranatha, has an interest and a Jaguar-sized parking spot – is not worth the whacking great bill you get at the end of an otherwise thoroughly forgettable experience. The girl was apparently expecting to be immersed in traditional Balinese culture in the midst of the predominantly tawdry sun-sand-and-sin cycle for which KLS (Kuta-Legian-Seminyak) is globally renowned.

The real Bali is easily accessible to anyone with the time to explore and an interest in finding out a few of the crucial details first. It is a wholly absorbing and wonderful place. It is not to be missed: unless, that is, your name is Jo Thompson, you’re on something called the Oz Bus, you’re out of sorts and you’ve got a blog at the London Daily Telegraph that needs to be fed.

Oh, Not Again!

AUSTRALIA Network, the satellite television service run with government money to present an Australian face to the region, serves up some reasonable fare to its viewers. Its news coverage is good. Well, it is if you want to get up really early to catch the breakfast stuff, because its flagship show, News Hour, struggles sometimes at 10pm.

Insiders – or those who may once have been and occasionally wish they still were – like to watch Insiders: it provides a pleasantly political Sunday morning interlude. Some of Australia Network’s drama is a bit gritty. The occasional Kiwi stuff needs subtitles. And as a general rule, you’d think that if much of the dialogue needs to be bleeped out, it might be better not to screen the thing at all.

But these are mere quibbles. There is one irritant of exceptional virulence: the number and frequency of repeats of little cameo spots. These might have been interesting the first time (although often the point is moot) but by the tenth or so rendition they have lost any redeeming qualities they might once have possessed.

If The Diary sees Tobias making his ridiculous matchstick models in Kuala Lumpur on some incomprehensible art scholarship one more time, or Willow, who buys sticky buns and plays the saxophone in Shanghai (and buys and buys; and plays and plays) there is likely to be an explosion.

Similarly, although Maggie Beer’s a dear and Simon Bryant a mild amusement, one more visit by the cook part of The Cook & The Chef to the lustily ersatz Germans of the Adelaide Hills or that truffle farm in Western Australia may bring on sudden, involuntary projectile vomiting.

In the same vein, Simon’s asinine astonishment that the climate and vegetation of tropical North Queensland are a teensy bit different from those of Adelaide, where he chefs, is entirely enervating when repeatedly replayed.

Then there’s Global Treasures, a European buy-in by the ABC, which presents politically correct travelogues. The Diary has been to Ha Long Bay in Vietnam. It’s beautiful and should be on everyone’s bucket list. It’s nice to see it again on television; if you can ignore the unctuous voiceover. But even the astonishing limestone formations that produce its exquisite vistas get a bit passé when served up in surfeit.

Guys, buy some new material … please.

Life’s a Beach

THE delectable Devina Hindom, a fixture in the marketing communications efforts of the Ritz-Carlton-now-Ayana at Jimbaran for seven years, has changed her sea-view perspective. At Ayana, unless you’re at the Rock Bar – yum – or the Spa or that jetty thing where your food must surely come with real sea salt, the ocean perspective from atop its substantial cliff is rather lofty.

Hindom, who latterly has been number two to communications director Marian Hinchliffe, has moved on to the Alila Soori, near Tanah Lot in Tabanan, where the sea view tends to be the surf and not Madagascar. She started there, we understand, on December 1, as a new part of the small but perfectly formed executive team. And we wish her all the best.

Her new property is much smaller, more intimate in a very svelte way, and, we’re sure, a lot of fun for people whose shoes are not scuffed, down at the heel or not worn at all.

Alila does not advertise its wares to the common herd. But it does Tweet them nowadays – The Diary had an item on that a little while ago – by employing contracted marketing twits to do so. It’s a growing thing. Whole swathes of expensive rooming houses have adopted the practice. They still expect the media to swoon over the glossy puffery they occasionally send out in lieu of advertising, of course.

And So to Bed

NEWS that a South Korean court has revoked a law under which men could be jailed for tricking women into bed with false promises of marriage is certainly cheering. Jurists and the law should stay well away from the bedchamber.

That’s not to say the firm belief of many women that all men are bastards is necessarily over-cautious as an approach to life. Trickery is ubiquitous where that thing we all think about but if sensible never write about is concerned.

The South Korean constitutional court was responding to petitions from two men imprisoned for the offence. It passes understanding that in any free society anyone should be in jail for breach of promise or, more accurately, for successfully pressing a case for unmarried sexual congress.

The court ruled that the 56-year-old law placed unnecessary restrictions on individual rights and ignored a woman’s right to make her own decisions about who to have sex with.

It also said it forced “traditional, male-chauvinistic morals” on women by protecting only those of that gender the law deemed had “no penchant for debauchery” and that the law had also been exploited by women who used it to blackmail men, threatening to sue after sex, claiming they had only gone to bed with the men after they had proposed.

There you go. No matter whose slippers are hotly kicked under the bed, life is not only a cabaret: it’s also a two-way street.

Thanks, Guys

THE Australian Consulate-General, which does these things very well, organised a get-together on Thursday night for 60-70 guests, most of them the 20 AusAID volunteers currently working around Bali and representatives of the community organisations with which they work. It was to mark International Volunteers Day, which is on Saturday.

The volunteers work in a range of fields, including education, environmental management and health services. The event was to support and show appreciation of the work done by volunteers in the community and to underline their importance in the close Indonesia-Australia relationship.

Hear, hear. Unsung heroes are almost always the best.

Well-Deserved Honour

INDONESIAN jurist and Islamic scholar Siti Musdah Mulia has been named Woman of the Year in the annual award made by the Aosta region of Italy since 1998. It recognises recipients as women who have really made a difference in their own communities and hence to the world.

Siti-Musdah-Mulia

On top of the world: Siti Musdah Mulia

Mulia is no stranger to controversy – though she advocates a moderate view of Islam than is far more cerebral and much less newsworthy than others that attract the attention of the West and, sadly, some of its politicians – but this makes her more worthy of recognition.

In 2007 she said of the Malaysian style headscarf she chooses to wear that she wore it because she was comfortable doing so and not because it was mandated by Sharia rules or anything else. Mulia views Islam as a faith and a way of life that embraces diversity and encompasses pluralism. So it does, of course, as the truly sentient have always understood.

The 2009 award was made in Italy last Friday night. There were 36 candidates for the honour.

Charity Work

IN most mythology and tradition, angels are charity workers. So it is unsurprising that a jewellery exhibition at Celuk, organised by designer Irwan of California, opened last Friday and proposing to share some of its proceeds with charity, should have been titled Paintings by Angels.

Among the many works on show and for sale at the exhibition – which runs until January 14 – is a necklace, named Blessings Upon the World, formed from chrysacolla and 24 carat gold plate on sterling silver.

To mark the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, proceeds from the exhibition will support the continued advocacy on children’s rights by UNICEF Indonesia.

You can see it all at Prapen, Jl Jagaraga 66, Celuk, Sukawati, daily from 9am-5pm.

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