Sunday, February 28, 2021


I was sleeping soundly this midday hour, which I don't like to do but which seems to be the customary drill in these elder years of mine, when I was awakened by voices from somewhere nearby. 

Waking gradually, inch by inch, the voices seemed at first somehow to be coming from the sky itself and I thought, Well, okay, it's just voices in the sky, nothing to be concerned about. Fully awakening, however, I realized that the voices were coming from the maid, her husband, my 'personal assistant' Destu, and the yard worker, and that they were in my house. 

Dry-mouthed, bleary-eyed and stupid, I staggered to my feet to discover what this sudden house party could be about. As it turns out, they were arranging things in the driveway so that they could fit Louis' car into the space that is usually occupied by my outdoor table, my motorbike, and various large potted plants. 

"What's going on?" I asked. 

"We bring Louis car." 


"Two days, Louis here." 

"Yes, but isn't she living in Sawangan?" 

"She live next door, Om. Sawangan not ready." 



"But there's no water next door." 

"Iya, Om. She use your water." 

Good grief. 

So in this manner I find out that Louis is moving in next door, that her car will be parked in my driveway, and that she will shower and otherwise probably do pretty much everything in my house, which has a functioning shower, toilet, sinks, and so on. 

But oh well, this is after all her house, as is the one next door. I'm just the renter. 

Saturday, February 27, 2021


 One hell of a storm last night, like World War III in the heavens, night shattering flashes of lightening, ear shattering explosions of thunder, rain pouring down like the days of Noah. But the good news is that the new work done at the back of my house held back the waters such that there was no flood on the floor when I awoke this morning. Good job, guys! 

The rain continues today, so it will be another day of watching movies, watching the American news, and gazing numbly at the grey skies. In fact, "gazing numbly" is an accurate expression of my reaction to the news these days. I really cannot understand what the Republican party stands for nowadays. Mere obstinance? Should they change the name to the 'Contrarians'? Their only message seems to be 'We don't want to do anything that seventy percent of the American people want to see done.' And what to make of Mitch McConnell's statement, following his earlier trashing of Trump, the big election lie, the fomenting of a violent takeover of the capital, that he would nonetheless support Trump if he ran in 2024. What? How can this be? Is this not total madness? 

Well, the world has passed me by. I am out of touch. I'm still operating in a time when democracy was 'a thing'. What we have now is merely a commitment to opposing the other party lock, stock, and barrel. That's not government. It is the destruction of government. 

And it's tiring. 

So I've been diverting myself by watching the Netflix series Scream. It's not bad, really, for what it is--you know, generally unsupervised teens chased about and terrorized by a masked murderer who seems to know all their mortifying teen secrets. At least the teens are in general agreement about what is right and what is wrong. And that is refreshing. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Really? Teeth Again?

 Thankfully, I did not have to endure a throbbing pain in my mouth last night, sleeping peacefully throughout. I had taken two particular measures to combat this problem, at least one of which seems to have been effective (fingers crossed). The first as to start a course of antibiotics. The second to rub mint oil on the lower gum. 

I have long used mint oil to alleviate headache, and it occurred to me that it might help on toothache as well (or gum ache, there being no teeth to ache). I googled the idea and indeed was informed that mint oil may be used for this purpose, both for numbing and for antibiotic/anti-inflammatory benefits. 

I still have ten days to go (at least) before the dentist can fit me for the new upper dentures, and to tell the truth, I'm kind of afraid to aware the dentures at all at this point. I suspect that it was a mistake to wear them after the root extractions, as they have have been an irritant in the healing process. So I'm just gonna stick with soup and various soft, gummable foods for the next ten days, because that problem I had developed on the lower gum hurt like an SOB. I'm also gonna run out later and buy some more mint oil, because although it is damned expensive stuff, it does seem to work rather well.  

Monday, February 22, 2021

Sleepless Nights

For the last two nights, I have awoken at about 1 a.m. with exquisite pain in my mouth, actually in my entire face. The funny thing is that the pain is not localized in the area where the three teeth (or rather tooth roots) were recently extracted (on the top gum), but rather at the center of the lower gum line, where there are no teeth or roots at all. It's an intense, throbbing pain, as one would have with an abscess, and the gum even seems swollen. Of course, sleep is impossible under these conditions, so I get up and walk around and swish warm water in my mouth and smoke cigarettes until the pain seems to have receded enough to lie down again, which I do only to wake up a couple hours later with the same throbbing pain. Ugh. I'm something of an old hand now at teeth extractions, and I've never before experienced pain this intense. 

It occurred to me (better late than never) to look up possible effects of tooth extractions on MS. Nothing better to do anyway while one is pacing and swizzling and smoking. To my surprise, the article that I find states that a person with MS ought to think carefully before going forward with a tooth extraction as this may cause trigeminal neuropathy or even facial paralysis. Yikes! Who knew? 

And I must say that when I finally sleep and wake again in the morning, my face does feel rather stiff and immovable, and there is a general sort of ache extending from between my eyes to the tip of my chin. I have to kind of work my mouth and massage my jaw before the function begins to seem more normal. Is this trigeminal neuralgia or some other sort of neuralgia? Who knows? In any case, the treatment stated online is anticonvulsant meds such as the one I already take (Pregabalin). So perhaps I should take one of those before going to bed? 

During the day, the pain recedes significantly. So why does it become so intense at night? The supine position? Increased blood flow to the area? I dunno. 

I bought some antibiotics this morning, just to cover that angle, and it will be at least three weeks before I can get my modified set of dentures--which is okay, as I can't imagine trying to cram them into this painful area anyway at present. Nor do I mind not eating much of anything aside from broth, because eating, too, is basically unpleasant under the circumstances.  

Sunday, February 21, 2021


 I'm reading the Indonesian COVID report this morning, which seems to show a daily total of 10,614. The report takes care to share the information that medical masks won't make you breathe in too little oxygen or too much carbon dioxide, that drinking alcohol won't prevent or cure COVID, and that consuming bleach or disinfectant is dangerous and won't prevent COVID. Yes, it is necessary, even on the far side of the world, to reject the prescription of 'the former guy' in America in no uncertain terms. The new vaccination plan here in Indonesia appears now to include rather than disqualify people over the age of 65, which seems quite reasonable indeed. Although if you have been feeling that the response in America was slow, you ain't seen nothing compared to Indonesia. In fact, the written protocol for actually signing up for a vaccine seems tangled in complexity beyond compare. 

In other news, there are two men digging in my wall garden area this morning, their task being to create a way for the flooding rain waters to escape before running into the house. The usual way, of course, to create this drainage would be to have done it before putting the house on top of the property, but hey it's Bali and Balinese building standards. Put up the house first, take care of the preliminary measures later. Moreover, the well water, which the house uses, is now so full of dirt, perhaps because of the constant rains, that I'm having to remove the shower head every day and clean out the filter before I can take a shower. 

Someone said recently, after about twenty houses had been erected on this particular sector of land, that the land was never meant to hose dwellings. It is a 'natural area', and had been used heretofore mostly for rice fields and other green crops. Nonetheless ....

I hope all this digging and banging will not bother the wall garden ghost, who herself was probably a rice farmer in past times and may even have felt more at home lately in the ankle deep water that had  gathered each day at the back of my house. 

The leaks in the wall have now been stopped, it appears, after the outer wall was patched and water-proofed by the workers Louis was compelled to hire when it was found that the original builder had skipped this job (as he had done with many others). Here, you build a house, then you fix all the mistakes and omissions as best as can.

Here at the Starbucks outdoor patio, a mother has just released her two little girls, lugging baskets filled with packets of Kleenex, to see what sort of money they can collect. I don't need any Kleenex, but I did have a pocket heavy with coins of all denominations, so I just gave the little girl the coins, like a human slot machine. Bingo!

Friday, February 19, 2021


 I saw two truly shocking, truly sickening news clips last night of two separate, unrelated attacks on two elderly Asian men by young white men. The poor old guys were just going about their business, walking peacefully on the sidewalk as anyone ought to be able to do, when the young men ran up and violently shoved them to the ground. One of the elderly men (90 years old, if I recall) died a couple days later of a resulting head injury. 

Of course, why and how this happened is no mystery. We know that attacks on Asian Americans have risen sharply since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, and we know that Trump and his enablers encouraged these assaults by pointing the finger at the Chinese in particular, by making a point of calling it the "Chinese flu" or "Kung Flu". It's that good old freedom of speech again, the favorite shield of careless cowards. 

For me, an old man living in Asia among Asians, it is impossible to imagine being suddenly assaulted simply for being an American or for being white or for whatever. I have never in ten years been the target of any sort of racial hatred or insult here. If anything, I have been treated more kindly than I deserve just because I am a foreigner. What the hell is wrong with Americans!?

I do hope that these young men, who are after all on video tape, are quickly identified and imprisoned, for they do not deserve to walk among the other human beings on this planet. We do not need them. Not at all.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

The Dog Who Wants Nothing

 There is a rather odd brown dog in my neighborhood. Pretty much every day, he stops by my house on his way around here and there, and the odd thing about him is that he doesn't want anything. Many of the dogs stop by because they know I always have treats at hand, but this dog just walks in the house, walks right past me, pays no attention to my movement or my voice, looks around here and there, and then walks back out again. I've tried to give him a treat in the past, which he took, held in his mouth for a while, then dropped unchewed on the floor. Today I was sitting outside in the wall garden area when he walked in. He came directly to where I was sitting, never really looking at me in particular, pushed past my legs so that he could examine the narrow space of the wall garden, then simply turned and walked out the door again. He doesn't want to be talked to, he avoids being touched, he does not want a treat, he does not want anything at all. So why has he entered? That's what I don't get. Maybe he's a Republican. You know--nothing to see here, move on. 

Louis is scheduled to return to Bali next Wednesday, but is concerned that her flight may be cancelled, as Melbourne has once again locked down due COVID and it is uncertain whether they will reopen by Wednesday. Poor Louis has been stuck for one reason and another (for the most part due to COVID) for nearly a year in Australia and she is missing Bali pretty badly now, even though here the pandemic, compared to in Australia, is nothing short of rampant. 

I was talking to an old friend this morning, who owns one of the cafes on the beach, about the frequency of Australian lock downs. "If there are four cases, they lock down," he said. "Here in Bali you need four hundred." 

That's just about right, I reckon. 

Sunday, February 14, 2021


 Today's acquittal of Donald Trump in the senate impeachment trial was a foregone conclusion. That's politics. At the same time, however, I do believe that Trump is ruined as a national political figure, and it was, of all people, Mitch McConnell who placed the final black rose on the grave. In the words of one news commentator, the condemnation expressed by McConnell exceeded in force even that of senate majority leader Chuck Schumer. Of course, McConnell proceeded to make a weak, apologetic defense of his vote to acquit, but even then took care to add (and one might say to "advise") that Trump could and should be held accountable by the legal processes outside the senate, such as those controlled by the new attorney general and by the individual states. It was an acquittal, in short, only on narrow constitutional terms--a dishonest argument, but the only one he had. It is of course encouraging as well that the vote in the senate was the most bipartisan impeachment vote in US history, both in the house of representatives and in the senate. It was appropriate as well, I think, to point out, as Mitch did, that 74 million Trump voters did not come to capital, but only a relatively small group of extremists, some of whom, as was discovered in the days following the event, hadn't voted at all. These people will be with us no matter how the senate happens to vote on anything, because they are essentially opposed to democratic government itself. So, overall, although disappointed by the vote to acquit, I cannot help but see a silver lining here in that it was quite clear that almost no one, including those who voted for acquittal, thought Trump innocent in the matter of the insurrection.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

The Weather

Everyone complains about the weather, but no one does anything about it, Mark Twain once wrote. 

Well, I was chatting with a neighbor yesterday, a woman whom Louis used to work with and who now lives in my neighborhood, and when I complained about the unusual amount of rainfall this year, she told me that this was actually a normal amount of rainfall for Bali, the only difference this year being that 'they' (the government, I assume), given the presence of COVID and the absence of tourists, had chosen not to suppress the rain.

Hmm. How interesting! I had no idea that this could even be done. I have to suppose that they seed the clouds (or whatever) as they come our way and cause them to drop their rainy louds before they float over Bali, for rain is not conducive to tourism or to attendance of the many international events that are held here. 

So the one thing I found 'good' about COVID--that is, the absence of tourists and the thinning of the crowds (not to mention the traffic)--has lost its appeal. It's not worth the daily soaking, the house floodings, the wall leakings and so on. Just yesterday, I had headed out for a coffee, just a short distance away, only to be caught in a flash rainstorm. Sure, I had my rain smock in my bike seat, but by the time one stops to retrieve his coat, he may as well have already jumped in a lake. As it happened, I had to just turn around and go home, peel off my soggy clothing, take a shower, dress again, and forget about getting out of the house for the rest of the day. 

I guess this is what happens when no one actually does anything about the weather. 

And In The End ...

 As we approach the end of the senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump, there is the acknowledgment on the one hand that there will be a generally partisan vote and that Trump will again be acquitted, and yet there is that small whisper within oneself that tells us that somehow this time our representatives will choose simple truth over partisan politics. We know that the latter will not happen, and yet the whisper persists, the callow voice of common decency, of hope in the face of rank hypocrisy and obstinate denial. And so we will be disappointed. We will shrug and say that they truly are merely a gang of political hacks, willing not only to stomach any offense but to force the offense on us as well. Donald will do his victory parade and the white supremacists, the Proud Boys, the bigots, the nuts, the shrill, deluded conspiracy enthusiasts, the neo-Nazis, the cop killers, the violent, gun-loving, filthy-mouthed insurrectionists will be at the front of the parade. What is to love about America anymore other than a memory of what it might have been? But then again, I suppose it has always been that way, hasn't it? We have always loved and hoped for what we might be, and have always been faced with what we really are. 

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Slouching Toward the Capital

I was watching the impeachment trial this morning on YouTube, still in my sarung, when Nengah, the maid, suddenly motored into the driveway, conveying on her bike, as usual, her little boy, Ajus. I was surprised to see her and thought that perhaps she was stopping by to pick something up or do some brief errand. 

"What's up?" I asked, meeting her at the door. 


"I mean ... do you need something? What's going on?"

"Nothing, Om. Just the usual." 

"But this is Wednesday."

"This is Thursday." 

"Hah? This is Thursday? What happened to Wednesday?"

"Wednesday happened yesterday," she said, giggling. 

Good grief. So anyway, I'm out at Starbucks now while Nengah does her usual house cleaning, listening to the trial with my earphones, and surprised to find myself unexpectedly in tears. 

I mean, it's not like I have been unaware of everything that happened on and up to January 6th. I guess it's just the relentless compilation of narrative and film, detailing one sad incident atop another. What in God's name has happened to my country? How have we allowed such a crass and clamorous violence to overcome us? And how have we come to the point where it all means nothing to more than half of our senate members? The case for Donald Trump's incitement of the capital riot is so terribly clear, so irrefutably present, and yet careless, bald-faced hypocrisy is slated to win the day. And that victory will constitute the greatest defeat in American history, and one from which we may never recover. 

It is depressing. It is heartbreaking. It is an irredeemable violation of truth and decency. Can we just move on? Of course we can, but only as a different country altogether, belonging now to the violent, undemocratic few.

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood dimmed tide is loosed, and
The ceremony of innocence is drowned; 
The best lack all conviction, while the
Are full of passionate intensity.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

More News

 This week's Sanur Weekly tells the story of a traditional dance ceremony gone terribly wrong, although perhaps not so terribly surprisingly so. The incident took place during a traditional ritual called Napak Pertiwi, also known as the Rangda Dance. The Rangda is the terrifying demon queen of the Leyaks in Balinese mythology, a child eating monster who leads an army of evil witches against the forces of good. 

Now, the participants in these rituals are very serious about their roles indeed, known even to go into a trance while performing their parts. The young man, only 16 years old, performing the part of the Rangda was said to have been in just such a trance during the height of the performance, and his counterpart, holding a ritual knife called a keris, thrust the knife into the Rangda's chest. The boy was rushed to a nearby hospital but was declared dead on arrival.                          

Was the boy with the keris in a trance as well, or was the first boy's performance of the Rangda simply so authentic that his counterpart overreacted? This is not reported. 

The psychologist Carl G. Jung tells the story of a certain witch doctor in an African tribe who had inspired such fear in the tribe that a member could actually fall dead at the point of his finger. Faith is powerful indeed, but not always in a positive way. 

I know a girl here in Bali who was once attending one of these Rangda ceremonies, and when the man playing the Rangda crept up behind her as a joke, the poor girl shrieked wildly in utter fear and ran headlong perhaps a half mile before stopping to catch her breath. And she is still terrified of the Rangda to this day. Of course she knows that this was merely a man in a costume. And yet, part of her doesn't know this at all. 

Other news of the day described the ongoing COVID vaccine plans, this being the Chinese vaccine approved in Indonesia. Oddly, as it will seem to we Americans, elderly people and/or people with preexisting conditions have been judged not eligible to receive the vaccine. A bit counterintuitive, it would seem, and the direct opposite of the western programs, but there you have it. In any case, given the extraordinarily low vaccination rate in Indonesia, nothing much is likely to happen before the middle or the end of this year. 

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Super Week

 Exciting week of TV coming up, right? Kicking off with the Super Bowl and then sliding right into Impeachment Bowl II, wherein the Democrats will present irrefutable evidence for Trump's guilt and then the Republicans will summarily dismiss it. Clearly, the Super Bowl will provide the more engaging experience. Sure, the Chiefs are favored, but only by three points, whereas Trump is favored for acquittal according to the yawning margin accorded by mass dishonesty and rank partisanship. The only point of tension really is whether one or two or a half dozen Republicans will vote to convict, and then face eviction from their own party for having the gall to hold Donald Trump responsible for his actions. 

Saturday, February 6, 2021


 My house, which has been leaking rather liberally from the roof down for the past few weeks, is finally under repair, although I'm a bit concerned about how effective this is going to be, given that the rain continues with little pause. Hopefully, the patching they did on the roof will have dried before the downpour proceeds again. After insuring that the leaks are staunched, they will need to scrape and repaint the inside wall, which is currently spotted with a black mold. Everything here is damp and soggy, and a couple of nights ago we had a sort of miniature hurricane, which was pretty exciting--trees going sideways, garbage flying down the street, along with garbage bins. When too much rain falls in the back garden area, the water level actually rises above the level of the ground floor of the house and simply flows in under the sliding doors. On a positive note, however, things like electricity and wifi service have been holding up rather well compared to some years ago--in fact, we have not lost electricity even once--a vast difference from the daily outages we used to experience in the past. 

Friday, February 5, 2021

A Mystery Partially Resolved

 I have finally solved the mystery of the frogs! 

Those who follow along may remember that I occasionally wonder at the presence of frogs either in my house or in my garden which is surrounded by ten foot walls on all sides. I don't mind frogs at all. I'm simply perplexed at how they got there. The other day, when I got up in the morning, I found a rather large frog sitting near my bed, just inside the garden door which had been shut all night, as it had been raining hard. I can understand that he may have wanted to get out of the rain, but how had he done it? Had he drooled under the door in the form of a puddle and only become a frog upon arriving inside? It is a mystery, you see? This, and many other incidents. 

Well, yesterday morning I was taking a shower and I noticed something on the wall, which I took, through somewhat shower clouded eyes, to be a moth. Upon turning the shower stream in its direction, however, I found this to be not a moth but a small frog. Moreover, there was a companion frog nearby, also on the wall. Not on the floor, mind you, or in the seam between floor and wall, but a quarter of the way up the wall! 

And so that's it! These Indonesian frogs can climb up and down walls--and not just any walls, but even ceramic tile walls (wet ceramic tile being the most slippery surface known to man, having thrown me on my ass many times in the past).

Apparently, these frogs have sticky little feet, like the cicak lizards one often sees running about the walls and ceiling. These particular frogs, I presume, had descended from the vented window near the ceiling and, having found nothing but a boring bathroom floor, had begun to ascend again. In the same way, the frogs which appear in the wall garden area must climb in from the outside, up one side of the wall and down the other. 

Although, come to think of it, a mystery remains regarding the large frog who had not only scaled the wall during the night but had somehow found himself inside my closed door as well. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Hopeless Oscar Hopefuls

 Yesterday, I watched two movies that are said to be likely Oscar nominees for best picture: Nomadland and News of the World. 

The first is an interesting education in an uncommon American lifestyle. People for varying reasons depart from the common road in life--a family, a regular job, a home--and take to the road, some because they have no other option due to economic hard times, unemployment and such-like, and some because they are simply uncomfortable with the common scheme in life and desire what would seem, I suppose, freedom, from ties, from obligations, from that familiar old rut. Some see themselves as being involved in a sort of ideological experiment, a rebellion against a system that seems to require endless debt and struggle. Some just don't fit in very well with the general society. Some have been injured by their pasts and have been unable to recover, to rejoin. All take to the road in motor homes or in vans and migrate from camp to camp, picking up odd jobs along the way, outfitting their movable motor paradises with the bare essentials. In each sitting, temporary communities are formed wherein on the one hand residents are faithfully committed to one another while on the other making it understood that they are each, if nothing else, impermanent, in the sense that leaving is as easy as starting one's engine and rolling away. 

It's an engaging film for its educative value--but is it an appropriate choice for the best picture category? I think not. Documentary, yes. But the problem is that in Nomadland there is not much of any story to speak of. It is a depiction, not a drama, and in that sense more like a still photo than a movie. It is well acted in the main roles, but then again many of the people in the movie are just the real people playing themselves. Again, in the form of a documentary. In short, while I would say that Nomadland is worth watching, it is misplaced in the role of the best picture category. 

News of the World, on the other hand, is much easier to judge. It is simply bad. What would it be doing in the best picture category? Well, I can only guess that it is there because Tom Hanks stars in the picture, and it would be impossible for Hanks to be involved in anything short of Oscar material right? No, apparently wrong. Dead wrong. In fact, he should have known better than to make this picture because it is so glaringly bad, a B western at best, and not even good for a B western at that. 

The story is set in 1870 Texas, only five years after the end of the Civil War, and Hanks plays an ex-Confederate captain who travels about the wild Texan plains "reading the news of the world" to curious town folk who either don't have the time to read or don't know how to read. One day, he comes upon a little white girl who is wandering about in the forest. She had been captured and spirited away in infancy by Indians who had slaughtered her family and so speaks no English. Hanks seeks to help the waif, who resists with violent ferocity (of course she's violent, she's an Indian). Well, the point is that Hanks now, being a good man (of course, being as he is Tom Hanks) must return the child to her natural society--specifically to German relatives living somewhere in south Texas. The remainder of the movie concerns a hilariously hazardous journey through the various levels of hell (otherwise known as Texas in those days)--a gauntlet of cartoonish bad guys, runaway horses, natural disasters, and evils at every bend in the road that ultimately had me giggling uncontrollably. 

Hanks himself, as it seems to me, rather bluntly sleepwalks through the entirety of the movie, really portraying no individual character at all other than himself, and not even doing very well at that, for he seems quite hopelessly out of place in this setting and in this plot. It is a wholly disappointing, laughable, terrible film and certainly more meritorious for most likely to disappear than for best picture of the year.