Friday, October 30, 2020

Holy Fire

 Every year in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem - where Christ was crucified, entombed and then believed by Christians to have risen from the dead - a holy fire is said to erupt spontaneously, lighting candles which eventually spread a flame that is carried around the world.

--Apeirogon, Colum McCann

This is another story that I have heard before, somewhere in the dim and distant past. Once a year, on the day before Orthodox Easter, a priest enters the tomb alone to observe the miraculous igniting of the candles by a shaft of blue light that rises from the stone slab whereupon the Lord had lain, and then to carry one candle out, bearing the holy flame, so that it might be shared to countless other candles. In olden times, the flame was transported throughout Jerusalem. In modern times, it is transferred all over the world, preserved in special vacuum globes. Before entering the tomb, the priest is thoroughly searched to make sure that he is not carrying any fire starting devices. Nonetheless, as with the mystery of the holy Shroud of Turin, this story is doubted by many and many have forwarded various explanations, which generally suggest dishonesty on the part of the monks who administer this ritual, as well as the priest of course. It is said, for instance, that the priest has a BIC lighter secreted in his beard, or that he is carrying some kind of flammable chemical, or that a flint or some such implement is hidden within the tomb itself, perhaps beneath the floor. Similarly, those who doubt the Shroud of Turin have "scientifically" proven it to be a fake, produced not at the time of Christ's death and resurrection, but in the Middle Ages. This was done by careful microscope examination of a bit of cloth from the shroud itself. The problem is, as it turned out, that the piece of cloth examined had been taken from a corner that had been damaged long ago in a fire. In the Middle Ages, curiously enough. What they examined was not the shroud, but a patch applied by nuns after the incident that had damaged it. Well, that's neither here nor there, the scientists say. The shroud is a fake. The holy fire is also a fake. 

Who knows? I guess it is a matter of faith. It's a matter of what we believe.

Annabelle the Dog

 A couple nights ago the little white dog showed up at my door, as she often does in the evening, only this time I noted something unusual about her as she entered. Couldn't put my finger on it for a time, as the lights were low, but as she came nearer to receive her dog treat I realized that someone had painted her cheeks with rouge and applied eye shadow to her eyes! Far from beautified, the poor little critter looked distinctly monstrous, like a canine version of the Annabelle doll in the popular horror series. Moreover, she herself seemed shyly aware of the disfigurement. How this might have happened, however, is no mystery. There is a little girl living nearby, perhaps 10 years of age, who is attached to the little white dog to the point of obsession. Wherever the dog goes, the little girl seeks her, and has several times tailed her to my own gate, calling "Holly, Holly, Holly." Apparently the mutt's name is Holly. Holly came dashing in one evening, closely followed by the girl, and hid beneath the outdoor chair I was sitting in. Holly said, very quietly, "Help me!" So I am assuming that it was this little girl who applied the unfortunate cosmetics. The thing is, they just don't work well on a dog, unless you're going for a Halloween effect--though this would not work well either for Holly, for there is no such thing as Halloween in Indonesia. 

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Another Screw Up

 So we found out what the problem was with the septic tank mentioned in an earlier post. As it turns out, the original builder, a man by the name of Edi, infamous now for his many screw ups as well as for owing money to everyone he has worked for, routed ALL of the water from the house into the septic tank, which should be only for containing sewage from the toilet. No wonder then that the septic tank had swiftly filled up, receiving as it was water from the shower and the sinks as well as the toilet. This was the situation in my neighbor's apartment and will soon be the situation in mine as well. It will mean eventually that Louis will have to hire someone to dig down to the tank and reroute the inappropriate piping. It will also mean that I will need to stay somewhere else while this is being accomplished. Damn you, Edi! 

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Bat Bombs

 Rami had heard the story once that, during World War II, a series of bombs filled with live bats were designed to make Japan burn. Each of the bombs, developed first by the US military, had thousands of compartments, a vast metallic honeycomb. 

--Apeirogon, Colum McCann

Here is one of those stranger than fiction true stories. I had actually heard of this before, but reread it just now in Colum McCann's fascinating novel. The bat bombs were tested on a manufactured Japanese-like town in Utah, dubbed 'Nip Town' by the American soldiers. As in Japan, the structures were made of wood, paper, and bamboo. The thought was that the bombs encasing the bats would be released high above a city and in their descent would burst open and release the bats, each with a tiny incendiary bomb attached to its body. The bats would then swoop down to the earth and nest in eaves and other nooks and crannies of the dwellings. After a set period of time, the bombs, and the bats, would explode, setting fire to the highly flammable cities. In 1943, after the expenditure of millions of dollars, the project was shelved in favor of what was thought to be potentially a better idea--the Manhattan Project and the atomic bomb. The two atomic bombs dropped on Japan killed between 129,000 and 226,000 people. It will never be known how many the explosive bats might have killed, nor quite why the first idea sounds more sinister than the last.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Critical Syllables

The boy comes into the corner warung with what I take to be his mother and his sister. The two women take their seats and withdraw their phones from their purses but the boy remains standing and kind of ping-pongs from table to table around the warung. Occasionally he stops, folds his arms as if he is about to strike up a conversation, but then quickly drifts onward. I note that the boy has an odd facial affect, sometimes appearing to ruminate, sometimes lifting his eyes toward the ceiling, lips moving silently, not as if he were speaking words but as if he were chewing on words. Like a moth, he flutters about the warung, completely unattended to by mother and sister, and then lands behind his mother. He reaches into her purse and pulls out a hair clip, grabs his mother's hair from behind and begins to fashion it into a bun atop her head. She scans her phone while the boy styles her hair. I note then that this is not so much a boy as a young man, for he has a light mustache. The mother finally reaches to the back of her head to undo the hair bun and the boy settles for a ponytail. He rushes to the front of the warung, folds his arms, sways from foot to foot, looks at the sky, and then returns to the table and picks up his mother's phone, which he holds very close to his eyes, tilted at an angle, seeming to look not so much at the screen or what's on the screen but upon the greenish light of the screen. He holds it very close to one eye as if the light itself were somehow pleasurable. I have not heard him speak even once, but then neither has the mother or sister spoken. I wonder if this boy is autistic. Some of the movements and attitudes are familiar to me. He is lively in his environment and yet somehow completely at odds with his environment. It is as if he is trying to find a place to fit in. Again and again he returns to the constant flame of his mother and sister.


A friend of mine in Java, a child psychologist, was recently instructing me on how to remember an experience. You must note five things associated with the setting, she said. People or things or sights or smells. Whatever. I was thinking about that when I awoke in the morning, and then realized that I had completely forgotten the woman's name. 

Yesterday, the maid showed up unexpectedly at my house. The neighbor's toilet would not flush and she brought two plungers, one for me, one for him. Mampet, she kept saying, but I couldn't understand what she meant, because I had never heard this word before. The plunger itself made the matter clear. 

"Did you already try it?" I asked.

"No, Om."

"Why not?" 


Scared. She was scared to use the plunger. 

"Do you want me to do it?"

"Yes, please." 

But the plunger, as it turned out, was ineffective. The septic tank itself is backed up. 

"Well, I guess we need to call Mayo," I said. Mayo is the builder. 



"I don't know Mayo." 

"Sure you do. He's the boss here. He's Ibu Dency's huband." 

"Oh! MaYO!" 

The stress on two letters, one syllable, can make all the difference in the world.

Every long once in a while, I check in with my face in the mirror--and I noticed this morning that I have developed hooded eyes. Hooded eyes are when you have excess skin folding down from the brow bone to the lash line. Hooded eyes are hereditary and tend to be more marked in old age. Notable people with hooded eyes include Taylor Swift, Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, and Jennifer Lawrence. Hooded eyes are also known as bedroom eyes.  

Sunday, October 25, 2020

A Humorous Little Thing That Didn't Happen

I was just about to write a humorous little piece about an acquaintance of mine, had just barely gotten started on this, when I realized that this person may well be aware of this blog, and may actually even read it, which meant of course that I had to discard the idea of writing the piece. Damn! This happens with ever increasing regularity, such that it begins to feel as if I will need to create an anonymous blog under an alias, in no way associated with my real name, so that I may be free to write whatever comes into my head. Not that this piece was going to be insulting or anything. But the thing is, humor depends on the art of taking things and people, most of all oneself, lightly, and this in itself may strike the subject as automatically disparaging, especially if one is talking about someone who takes him- or herself pretty damn seriously to begin with. 

So I guess this is a long way of saying that I have nothing to say today; or that I do but I don't, or won't, because I feel that I can't. 

Friday, October 23, 2020

Debate #2-1/2

Well, I guess the best thing that can be said about the second face-to-face debate is that it was at least watchable and both candidates were able to speak (although there was still a slight problem with restricting Trump to his own time and to the dictates of the format). In any case, it's a bit of a meaningless exercise, as people have long since decided who they will vote for and of course both sides have declared clear victory in this second debate. I guess if you have no problem with hearing the same lies, you will vote for Trump. If you want to see some serious changes and a refocusing on the actual concerns of the common American people, you will vote for Biden. I personally am hoping that we can depart from the general sleaziness of the last four years and turn back toward a more familiar national reality.