Visits

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Eggs

So I'm at the new mall in Denpasar this morning and, remembering that we are out of eggs, I decide to stop by the little market inside before heading home. I can't find the eggs, so I ask.

"Mbak, mana telur?"

"Telur?"

"Ya, telur."

"Telur?"

"Ya?"

"Apa itu, telur?"

"Well, you know, telur. Eggs."

"Agz?"

"No agz. Eggs. Telur."

Suddenly, I spot them myself, in a refrigerated section to my left.

"Ini dia!"

"Ohhh!" the woman exclaims. "Te-LOOR!"

Iya.  😂😂

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Bottoms Up

On stopping by the neighborhood Circle K this afternoon, I met two young men sitting at a table with 12 empty bottles of Bintang, large. They were the happiest Balinese dudes I have ever seen, and Balinese dudes are generally pretty happy to begin with. After learning all of the usual details about me - where am I going, where am I from, how long have I been here - both insisted on shaking my hand at great length - molesting it, really - and wondered if I would share the next 2 bottles with them (making the count 14 for them). No, my drinking days are over, I explained; at which point they explained that they are brothers, although I'm not sure how the one thing relates to the other. In any case, they decided that I could be their brother as well. A rare honor, I suspect. After a pleasant, hilarious conversation, very little of which I understood, I took my leave, warning them beforehand not to drive after 14 bottles of beer. No, they certainly would not, they promised, glancing sideways at their nearby motorbikes. Riiiight.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Fifth Wave

I'm not a big fan of science fiction novels. And I'm definitely not a big fan of teen dystopian novels. But, having read and very much enjoyed Rick Yancey's The Monstrumologist, I was tempted to pick up his novel The Fifth Wave - and I'm glad I did.  This novel was so well done, with such fine plot and character development, that it was a pure pleasure to read. Basically, aliens from a faraway planet have launched a five phase invasion of the earth - not with giant spaceships, or lazer-firing robots or armies of monstrous creatures. No, Yancey has come up with a wonderfully inventive invasion scheme - and I'm not gonna tell you what it is 😅. What I will say is Don't see the movie. Read the book. It is a fairly long book, some 500 pages in my Indonesian language version, and the careful development of characters and methodical arrangement of plot elements just doesn't work in a 2 hour film fomat. I did watch the film, after reading the book, and found that it just had to cut too many corners and skip over important developments. No fun.

A Chance Meeting

Felt cheered this morning by the music from A Charlie Brown Christmas, playing at Starbucks. Brought a smile to my face, lifted my dark mood, so long oppressed by fucking Donald Trump. While enjoying my coffee, I happened to meet a Canadian tourist. She was having trouble connecting to the internet and wondered whether I could help. After sharing the full extent of my knowledge of these sorts of things, which took perhaps 4 minutes, we proceeded to talk about all sorts of other things, and her husband also showed up and joined us. They live in British Columbia (I knew it had to be west, because their accents were no different than mine), and their son, coincidentally enough, lives in Portland, Oregon, my home town, where my son also lives. And so we talked about Portland, and about the riots, which the son had told them about. They shared about how shocked, how stunned they were with the election of this un-American sort of President, and seemed to expect, or at least hope, that I could somehow say what had gone wrong. What could I do? I apologized. What else can I do? So we switched to the weather back home, which would be cold and rainy by now, and their family, and my family, and Bali, and so on. My goodness, what a delightful old couple they were. This sort of music has a way of showing up just when you need it most.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

It Could be Worse

For those of my fellow Americans suffering from the general malaise of this election season (which would be pretty much all of you, I would guess), allow me to offer some relief (perhaps), although only of the misery loves company sort. In Indonesia, where I live, religious extremists from all over the country are converging on Jakarta to demand the removal and arrest of the governor there, a Christian of Chinese/Indonesian descent. His crime? Well, in criticising the violent misuse of certain verses from the Koran, it is said that he has blasphemed against and insulted Islam. Do they really believe this? Probably not. Does it have more to do with a longstanding predjudice against the Chinese and a religious intolerance of Christians? You bet it does. So, the Indonesian Army is on alert, awaiting the arrival of this army of extremists on November 4th. An ugly situation indeed, and maybe, just maybe, hopefully, uglier than that which faces America. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Monstrumologist

Why The Monstrumologist, by Rick Yancey, is categorized as a ‘young adult novel’, I do not know. But that’s nothing new. I have often felt confused by this categorization, as, often enough, the best among these works will satisfy every qualification that would be associated with the ‘adult’ novel, from the density of the prose to the demands of vocabulary to the complexity of narrative, and so on. The one element that may be missing is specific sexual content – lengthy descriptions of those things that only grown people do. If this is the case, the divide is both shallow and unfortunate and the reader may find himself robbed of a fine work of fiction because it had been sentenced to the young folks’ aisle in the bookstore.

For that matter, I can’t help but think that The Monstrumologist is a bit demanding for the younger reader, especially those who have suckled on the usual fare of handsome angels and mythical kingdoms and the ever popular teen dystopia novel (what the hell is wrong with kids these days?) – formula fiction that is about as intellectually demanding as an episode of Batman or Supergirl. I can’t really picture the majority of young readers having the patience to follow along with Yancey’s development of his story or the knowledge that would be required to appreciate the genre traditions he is drawing upon – Poe, Hawthorne, Charles Brockden Brown, and so on – and which greatly enrich the narrative throughout.

So, I’m going to say that this is not a young adult novel at all. It is simply a damn good book.

Monsters are loose in New Jerusalem, Massachusetts. They are the Anthropophagi, described in the writings of antiquity, Herodotus, Pliny, Shakespeare. Huge and headless, having eyes and mouth (and a whole lot of blade-like teeth) in the chest, between where the shoulders would be, these creatures live to eat, and eat only people. Monstrumologist and man of science, Dr. Pellinore Warthrop, has long studied these creatures through travel and literature, and now comes face to face with them in an increasingly intense and truly bloody series of encounters. The doctor is accompanied by newly orphaned Will Henry, whose father had faithfully served Warthrop before dying in a tragic fire.

But there are more monsters in this story than the Anthropophagi alone, for there is a monstrous side to science itself, an unfeeling, unknowing chill; there is a monstrous side to life and accident and loss; a monstrous side to passion and to lack of passion.

Yancey develops his tale carefully and artfully, and then once he has gotten up a full head of steam, the thing races downhill like a runaway locomotive. I thought the ride was rewarding great fun. But I would caution the squeamish, for there are some truly intense, truly gory episodes herein that might make your skin crawl and cause a few nightmares. Reader beware.