Susan Says: Seminyak, Centre of The Bali Universe

By Hector

IT’S really good (well, at a pinch) to see that Australia’s national newspaper – a Rupert Murdoch production unsurprisingly called The Australian and edited by a chap for whom your diarist once laboured, he (your diarist) thought mightily – has published a great come-on for Bali. It appeared last weekend from the cyber pen of Susan Kurosawa, doyenne of Australian travel writers.

It was a sponsored piece, as so much (too much) travel writing in the mainstream media is these days, in that Kurosawa was the guest of Space at Bali, some villas at Seminyak that were the brainchild of Swiss-born Roger Haumueller and which, we hear, opened last year. Unsurprisingly, therefore, something of a focus was placed upon that no doubt fine establishment and on the tiny and vastly overcrowded bit of Bali surrounding it, aka Seminyak.

This would be tiresome, were one to allow oneself to be tired by the in-your-face mewling of the Yakkers of this world. It is certainly tedious, however, because for every deep-pocket villa in Seminyak there is an equal – and much more valuable and authentic – Bali experience to be found in the 99.9 percent of the island that is too far (Ubud excepted, if by chauffeured limousine) from the shops and refreshment places for sponsored visitors to reach, unless by way of a once-over-lightly listing of a lot of locations (Tanah Lot among them) that, once mentioned, can be forgotten.

Seminyak, of course, is prime Tottie Territory (Scrubber Land is further south). It is there, apparently, that one can safely ignore the fact that you’re in Bali at all, and pretend that you’re having such fun, ha, ha, ha, on the Costa Lotta, or the Costa Blotto, or some other smudge on the landscape.

The thrust of Kurosawa’s piece – beyond giving Space at Bali and other freebie providers something to shove in their PR file – is that Seminyak is the place to be seen in. This may indeed be true. The herd instinct is very strong.

But there’s rather more to Bali than Seminyak. There’s Bali, for instance.

A Dangerous Road

VETERAN filmmaker Garin Nugroho believes there’s an awful lot of rubbish on television. Few among the sentient would argue with this thesis. It is a worldwide phenomenon. Soap operas (sinetron in Indonesia), so-called reality shows and the febrile nonsense of the “entertainment” world are all around, all after the market share that now comes from attracting the vacuous and the bored. It’s not a good look.

Nugroho, who was speaking at a seminar in Yogyakarta last weekend, says the way to deal with this is to get the national television service TVRI to provide quality programming that reflects the pluralism and multiculturalism of Indonesia and to take offending private TV stations off the air.

He is profoundly and dangerously wrong. Except perhaps in the biggest cities, and even then only among a minority, Indonesians seem to be much more robust than effete westerners in determinedly keeping a grip on reality. They might like to sit down and watch pap, but there’s no evidence that many of them are being poisoned by it.

The dangers that lie in prohibition (who decides what to prohibit?) and proscription (ditto) should be crystal clear to anyone, but especially to a filmmaker who has managed to both entertain and inform through his work. People need guidance – everyone does – but not through regulation.

Society’s task is to ensure that doors are open and to equip young people to walk through them so that, using their own inquiring intellects, they can make their own choices. This must involve all of a society’s elements, including the providers of popular TV programming, competing for mind-time. “Guiding” people by doing the equivalent of burning books has never worked and never will. As history shows, it leads to nasty defiles.

Nugroho might be better off making a new film. He could call it Sebuah Jalan Berbahaya (A Dangerous Road).

Rudd Alert

AS a general rule – a sensible one – convicted prisoners do not feature in the media with a frequency rivalling the similarly astounding spotlighting of Lil’ Aussie Icon Kylie Minogue or other denizens of that global blight, Planet Dangdut. That’s good. Their special pleadings are irritating; and not just because they are for the most part entirely self-serving.

Neither do they – generally – feature in the one-liners favoured by political leaders. Prima facie, then, it was something of a surprise to hear last weekend that that other ’lil Aussie icon, PM Kevin Rudd, had backed Schapelle Corby’s plea for clemency directed to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

This intelligence came via a spokesman for Australia’s Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, who said Canberra would support any application by Corby for clemency and that the minister had made this clear to her Queensland-based family. The statement would not have been made without benefit of a little twinkle of the green light from the PM’s office.

Corby’s plea, lodged recently, seeks to have her drug trafficking sentence reduced or quashed on the basis of mental illness. The plea to SBY came as prison authorities in Bali and Jakarta said a recent letter purporting to be an order to transfer Corby, 32, to a jail outside Bali was a fake. The fanciful existence of the movement order had formed the central part of yet another special plea for Corby from her biographer, Kathryn Bonella, in the Australian tittle-tattle magazine Woman’s Day.

It will not have escaped the attention of the Indonesian authorities that this is an election year in Australia, or that Queensland is PM Rudd’s home state.

His Faith Astounds

RICHARD Dawkins is an engaging writer. He argues his case for God’s inexistence with a faith he cannot deny, having persuaded himself that his finite knowledge of science (however extensive that finite is) proves that which by its very nature cannot be proved.

His is a great intellect. And whether you can accept what he says is irrelevant – for the most part – to the joy of reading an intellectual argument that truly challenges the mind.

But he has come unstuck – as many who are fixedly faithful to their preferred belief system do – by descending into risibility with his latest venture on to the public stage. He is reported as wishing to arrest the pope, for His Holiness’ less-than-honest approach to the sickening issue of sexual abuse committed by priests in the Catholic Church. (He later strenuously asserted that he had been misquoted, that he had only said he supported moves to deny the pope access to Britain, and that he had been interviewed out of the blue by the Murdoch press. What a chump.)

Perhaps in the light of all of this he should change his name to Dorkins. It has a mathematical link with another term for him that might be appropriate in these circumstances. We’d never print it, but it too has seven letters. It begins with an “f” and ends in “wit.”

Bob and Two Veg

DESA Seni, the alternative thinkers’ establishment at Canggu, had an evening not to be missed (though The Diary did due to late notice and a prior engagement) on Tuesday.

It was a free vegetarian buffet and an engaging lecture – also free – by Bobsy. Howard Klein of Desa Seni tells us Bobsy is the owner of Life Café in Hong Kong – the first organic food and health café in that very special Chinese metropolis.  He is also the publisher of The Positive News, a newspaper that apparently only publishes material of that limited and less-than-utilitarian genre.

Klein adds: “He is also one of the founders of the Save the Human foundation. He is articulate, passionate and full of ideas and knowledge.  It will definitely be an interesting evening. He has just done similar things in Beirut and Dubai.”

We’re sure it was a happy occasion.

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