Thursday, July 11, 2024

The Late Great National Freak Out

 Naturally, I have been watching the ongoing self-inflicted insanity in the Democratic party and the liberal press as they go about undoing President Biden's election campaign. And what a sorry sight it is. Biden has been the most active, most productive president in the last 50 years, in my estimation, and this is the thanks he gets: calls from his own party members encouraging him to step down, to bend over, rollover, wimp out, or whatever it is they are doing and step aside for a different candidate. Like who? Kamala Harris, who is more generally disliked than Biden himself? Or maybe one of these senators calling for Biden to step down thinks that he himself is up to the job. That's a laugh. This is the least popular senate in the history of the country, with an approval rating nearly as low as that of the farce that we call the Supreme Court. And why are they so certain that Biden will lose? Polls, they say, polls. But hold on, didn't the polls say that Biden would lose in 2020? In fact, didn't they say that Clinton would win in 2016? And how about that red wave they predicted in 2022? It's just about like believing the sky is going to fall because Chicken Little said so, ain't it? He is 82 years old, they say. He will be 86 by the end of a second term they fret, employing their marvelous powers of mathematical figuring. What happens if he can't last that long? What happens then? Well, what would happen would be that his very able vice president would take over the job and continue the successful agenda that is already in place. Isn't that what a vice president is for? Ah, but on they go, day after day turning into week after week. More like weak, I say. Weak-kneed, weak-minded, weak-willed. A bunch of pussies. Fearing what? Trump? I cannot believe, and will not believe that Americans will vote for a convicted felon, 34 times convicted, a fraud, a man found liable for sexual assault, and a man who is very obviously far more addled than Joe Biden will ever be. Electric airplanes that cannot fly because the sun is not out? Electric boats, sharks, the late great Hannibal Lecter? Come on now, folks. I know that Americans are not this stupid. Or God knows I hope they're not.

Saturday, June 29, 2024

Biden's Bad Day

 My goodness what a frenetic frenzied flood of hyperbole we have had to endure from the press and TV commentators since Biden's bad day on the debate stage. Oh dear, all is lost! Sure, he has given us a first term of astounding achievements, the strongest economy in the world, the lowest unemployment rate since the 1950s, a booming stock market, a bipartisan infrastructure plan guaranteeing new, high paying jobs for the next decade, an inflation rate post worldwide pandemic that is lower than that in any other major country, a strong united NATO alliance that is standing firm against Russia's aggression in Ukraine ... But gosh, he didn't perform well in that debate. It's all over now. I guess we'll have to just roll over and face another four felonious years of the chief insurrectionist, Trump.

Give me a break. 

And while we are talking about bad performances, let's not forget to consider Trump's bad performance, not only in this self-same debate, but ever since the day he came down the golden escalator, nearly a decade ago. The press seems to have little or nothing to say about that, and I suppose that is because people are used to it now. We are used to the lies, repeated over and over and over. If a talent for projectile vomiting of falsehoods is a debate winner, then Trump certainly does get the prize.

You know, perhaps we should learn something from the Republican party. No matter how bad their candidate has been, no matter how many stupid things he has said, no matter how many women he has sexually molested, no matter how many people he has ripped off, no matter how many felonies he has been found guilty of, the Republican party has stood unashamedly behind him. 

But oooooh dear, oh dear, Biden did poorly in one debate. It's a catastrophe! A disaster! Clearly, despite the the overwhelming evidence of his achievements, he should stand down.

My God. Wake the fuck up, folks!

Tuesday, June 25, 2024


 I prefer to sit near Indonesians at the coffee cafe. Well, let me tweak that just a bit - - I prefer to sit near no one at all, but given no choice, I will choose Indonesians over English speaking foreigners every time. This has nothing to do with some kind of preferential prejudice for one nationality over another. Rather, it is about sound. It is about frequency. It is about white noise. 

Maybe you are familiar with these frequencies that you can look up on YouTube. Probably you are. I am always several years behind everyone else. Anyway, a frequency is a constant tone which when listened to while resting or even while asleep confers amazing properties. You might choose 423 hz, for instance, or 528, or 888. These specific tones, it is said, resonate deep down in the soul of the person with nothing better to do and are effective for healing illness or building self-confidence or even repairing DNA. That last is called the miracle frequency, I believe, which in and of itself is vague enough to cover just about everything. 

Combined with the frequency, whatever three digit number it happens to be, you can choose selections wherein natural sounds will mask the tone itself (which, honestly, is rather annoying on its own and not something I could ever bear to listen to). One may choose river sounds, for example, or rain and thunder sounds. The magical tone is there, but hidden beneath the nature sounds so that it doesn't bug you to the point where you turn it off.

I've been listening to 528 hz with river sounds (although I've forgotten what it is supposed to cure. Apparently not memory loss).

Returning now to my choice of cafe companions, I am saying that Indonesians speaking common Indonesian language to one another is like nothing more than a frequency to me. It is white noise. It is just a sort of babble, like a babbling brook one might say. It is non-obtrusive background and does not interrupt my train of thought at all as I read whatever book I happen to be reading. 

On the other hand, English immediately intrudes, and divides my attention. Especially English spoken by an American. 

Such was the case at the cafe this morning. A young American woman was talking by phone link up on her laptop with a faraway friend. Try as I might to avoid it, I soon find myself pulled into the conversation and away from the page. 

Who? the woman is saying. Oh Shirley? Yes I know Shirley. I've known her for years. And then what? She did WHAT? Oh my God! No way!

What? What?, my brain chimes in. What did Shirley do???

But while the woman's words on this end are perfectly clear, I cannot make out what the faraway voice is saying. This is frustrating, because now I will never know what Shirley has done. 

What goes around comes around, the woman is saying. I keep my distance from toxic people. Wait, what? Pregnant? At her age?!

OMG, poor Shirley.  Poor well-deserving toxic Shirley. But wait... What is meant by at her age? It may be that Shirley is 16, and then again it may be that she is 60. I have no way of knowing. Is Shirley truly toxic, or is she merely elderly? Would asking the woman to fill me and be too creepy?

To make things worse, the young woman now begins speaking in broken, really bad Indonesian. Oh my god, is Shirley Indonesian? And pregnant? At her age?

The trouble now is that although I cannot easily understand Indonesian as it is commonly and fluently spoken by Indonesians, I can understand bad Indonesian very well because I, like this woman, speak bad Indonesian quite fluently. It's like listening to the naked frequency tone without the pleasant babbling of the natural sounds.

And it is ultimately too much for me. This frequency is not a healing frequency. It is a fingernails on chalkboard frequency, and it has proven to be sufficiently toxic to drive me away.

Saturday, June 22, 2024

The Bee Sting

 Today, in the developed world, the great threat to political order is that people will pay attention to their surroundings. Thus, even slaves have access to entertainment. You could even say we are paid in entertainment. The novel was the first instance of what in the 21st century has become a vast and proliferating entertainment industry, an almost infinite machine designed to distract us and disempower us. We are presented with a virtual world powered, literally, by the incineration of the real.

Or so says Paul Murray in The Bee Sting--a novelist, oh by the way, and thus culpable by his own word 😉. But he is right, isn't he? Like it or not. 

I began my reading of this novel with, I will admit, a prejudice against it, despite the handful of impressive awards it had won. That doesn't always mean much, these awards, I mean. And the title seemed somehow insufficient, fuzzy. Moreover, I gathered from the blurbs on the book jacket that this was a family saga sort of thing, and that is not generally my cup of tea. 

But this novel is good. Well okay, it is more than good. It is brilliant. And it is in many ways, both concrete and implicite, about the incineration of the real, the triumph of the inessential, a tragicomedy that will keep you reading obsessively from page one to page 643 (in my paperback edition). I meant to dislike it; instead I loved it. It is quite simply one of the best novels I've read in the last 10 years.

Monday, June 17, 2024

Three Boys and a Monkey

 At the traffic light where Jalan Tamblingan meets the Bypass a boy sits on the concrete traffic divider strumming a toy guitar. When the traffic stops, the drivers give him money sometimes. Coins or small bills. His face lights up when he receives the money and he looks each benefactor straight in the eye, convinced perhaps that it is they who have benefitted. And perhaps he is right. The bills he stuffs into his tiny pockets and he uses one thin coin to turn the plastic screw in the neck of the guitar and tighten one of the threadlike strings. The light turns and the cars and motorbikes move on, his toes an inch away from the tires. He returns to his strumming. Who can say what tune plays in his head? 

Two other boys I see on the beach, same day, same morning, same island, same town. These boys are fishing side by side, sitting on the rocks of a jetty. I know these boys from more than a half century ago for I am they and they are me, all the same in a different time in a different place in a different world. But the peace is the same. And here we all are, all on the same island, nearly as close as a stone's throw, as distant as unnamed galaxies. A camaraderie of utter strangers. 

And then there was a monkey too, and monkeys, when present, must be mentioned. It was an unusually large monkey and it was walking along the top of a wall between the beach path and the wild unused land on the other side. Monkeys are not seen in Sanur anymore. You see them in the higher places, in the jungle. Yet here it was. Tourists stopped, they pointed, delighted, took photos. Here it was, at home out of place, both native and alien.

And so here are we all. 

Monday, June 10, 2024


 Unbearable. What an unbearable thing is life. 

--The Bee Sting, Paul Murray

Well and so it is, at different times and in different ways, in the different phases of life, from the angst of youth, to the pain of child bearing and child rearing, to the sense of loss and the reality of dissipation in old age. The unbearable, in one guise or another, is built into life. There is no way around it. And yet we are surprised, and somehow betrayed--aghast, angry, crestfallen at the seeming cruelty of it all. How can it be, in a good world, that the brother has died before his time, that the child has suffered, that the marriage has failed, that evil has prevailed. That heartbreak has befallen us though we gave it no cause. We conclude that the world is wrong. And so it is, and has always been. We forget that we are only sojourners here, passing through, headed for another place, that proper place we are missing during this brief moment known as life on earth. As through fire, so the scripture says; as through purifying flame.

Thursday, June 6, 2024

On The Long March

 My cousin's piece on illness and the end, followed by my reply... 

Dear Richard:

The thing is, the degradation is so slow as to be imperceptible.  I get up in the morning feeling like crap, but do I feel any the worse for wear than yesterday morning?  It’s not incremental like the dates on the calendar, in fact it feels about they same and yet one knows the clock is ticking the sand is dropping into the bottom of the glass and if one could leap forward five or ten years it would be obvious that the shit destruction has  deepened its grip.  Funny that way too, in that tomorrow is not promised.  And so the final monstrosity of feeble assisted care living someone changing the diaper or turning you over in bed may not happen.  One could have a stroke and drop dead today. Or mistake the gas pedal for the brake and run over the curb into a grocery store.  Self checkout ha ha ha. A morbid sense of humor is a monstrosity that hovers like the grim reaper, or that guy who flips a coin to decide if he’s going to end you to today.  Call it, my man, heads or tails.  This is no country for old men.  I was in a medical waiting room yesterday and the music they were piping in was so inane.  It wasn't the tranquil woo woo stuff of past days, it was unrecognizable, pleasantly upbeat garbage that I’d never heard before and hopefully never again but I suppose these sorts of visits are gonna pile up.  If I’m lucky and don't just drop. It was such a relief to get back in the car and play some, you know Beatles and stones and jimi and all my heroes of youth half of whom or more have moved on to the next world don’t be late. But hey that’s real music not the swill that spills out onto the airwaves these days.  The major agrees wholecuppedly and he knows how to titillate my palate in ways that temporarily improve my countenance and overall performance as well as my outlook on the extant day ahead.  And with that dear readers most of whom, if any are also looking down over the yawning precipice of corporal disintegration, I bid you a fond farewell, au revoir or adieu God only knows:

Dear David:

Yep. For me, the decline is perceptible from day to day. The days of thinking 'I'll get on top of this and then be back in business' are gone. On the contrary, they are on top of me. My efforts to blockade the doors with medicine are in vain for now they are coming through the windows instead, bursting through the floorboards. I do not want to be controlled by the ending. I guess no one does. I am both ready and unready. Yes, Grim Reaper, I understand--but not right now! I'm right in the middle of something. But you are correct: the Beatles help. Simon and Garfunkel. Chopin. And here in Indonesia the music is not interrupted by the chirping of Muzak, because they don't have it here. Only the roar of the madding crowd.