Sunday, March 28, 2021


 With so many things happening in government--COVID relief, mass inoculations, money going out to 85 percent of Americans, voting rights being suppressed and voting rights bills struggling for success in the senate, etc. and etc.--can you guess what the big news is these days? It's Biden tripping up the steps of Airforce One. Good Lord. An embarrassment around the world, they say. Incompetent, senile, unwell. Dude! He was trying to run up the steps, for God's sake! Lol. I, at a younger age than Biden, haven't tried to run at all in the past few years. 

So anyway, I decided to look this silly sort of shit up, and of course I found that most of our recent presidents have tripped on one occasion or another--and that the steps of Airforce One seem to be a bit of a special tradition in presidential trips. Ford, Reagan, Clinton, Pence, Obama--all have tripped up or down those steps. 

I mean, how very, very foolish this is. Speaking of an embarrassment around the world. The real embarrassment is this all-American focus on meaningless trivia at the expense of somewhat more important matters--you know, like addressing real issues, solving real problems, doing something for the American people, listening, learning, comprehending. Are Americans really this empty-headed? Yes, apparently, they are. 

It's sad. It's discouraging. And it's getting worse every year. Moreover, the congress, and the senate--this 'most deliberative body in the world'--is wallowing in the same childish antics. Perhaps Trump was more suited after all as a representative of this kindergarten country of ours. 

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Yearly Permit

Finally, I got my call this morning to present myself at the immigration office and go through the usual drill to receive my yearly foreign resident permit, which consists in the main part of waiting. One then has his photo taken, his fingerprints taken, and that's it. 

I was beginning to worry a bit, as I noticed the other day that my previous permit (called a KITAS) had already expired. No worries, my agent told me. It is still in process. It had occurred to me that I would no doubt need this for seeking the COVID vaccine, although I have learned since then that it's not that simple. A foreign resident, as it turns out, needs a number of documents, which must be requested from a number of offices (all for a fee, I suspect). One would then present these proofs, along with the KITAS itself, to whoever is administering the vaccine. 

This morning, Louis went to get her vaccine at the local Banjar, while most of the neighborhood residents had done so yesterday. All, it seems, ended up with flu-like symptoms for a brief time afterwards, and one poor woman is still suffering these symptoms today. Given that I always kind of feel like I have the flu 24 hours a day, I'm not excited about the idea of making it worse yet. But oh well. Louis tells me to 'wait for now', which I'm happy to do. 

Sunday, March 21, 2021


 Yesterday, the workers completed about a quarter of the road in front of my house, which I guess means that they will be here for some days to come. I was told that I could go out this morning, but must be off the road by afternoon. 

It's kind of interesting to watch them work. The whole thing is done in the "primitive way", of course. First they build a wood fire beneath a large barrel of tar.] While the tar is "cooking", they spread fine gravel across the road from edge to edge. Once the tar is cooked, a worker dips a bucket with holes in it into the the vat of boiling tar, then sprinkles the tar across the gravel on the road, which had previously been flattened by a little steamroller. The road is then raked for evenness and the steamroller returns to flatten the new tar and gravel surface. This, one worker tells us, will expand and swell under the sun. Holes may form, which will be repaired as they go. 

All of this is done under the beating afternoon sun and the workers are inundated from head to foot with oily smoke, their skin, their clothing, their hair. It is the classic "dirty job". They take their breaks in my driveway, get some water, smoke a cigarette, joke and laugh. In the evening, they douse the fire and black smoke wafts along the street and through the grasses of the field like a ground-level thunder cloud. 

In the meantime, and at the same time, the work on my patio covering, or "canopy", has been finished. This consists of a whole bunch of long sticks set into a frame and then covered by a clear plastic top. I suppose it's supposed to have a natural dwelling sort of look, and I reckon it's okay. Would be nice, however, if I had more of a stylish wooden table beneath it rather than the square white plastic thing that I have, along with its white plastic chairs. In any case, it will be nice to have a place in front to sit, and a much larger space at that, as the wall garden area in the back is just a narrow corridor, suited only to one occupant, and then not even that many when the maid happens to be doing gardening out there. 

This canopy in the front would seem to be the end of the renovations at my place and things should return to more of a quiet, peaceful atmosphere soon--although they have just now embarked on the same project for the unit next door to mine. 

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Road Work

 Looks like I'm trapped in the house for the day today as they are paving the road and it's the only road in and out of this place. A brief inconvenience, I suppose, and the end result should be preferable to the the obstacle course of pits and hills we have had up to this time. 

I've been able to catch one more Oscar nominee, Judas and the Black Messiah, but cannot seem to find a viewable option for The Father or Sound of Metal. Regarding the latter of those two, I can't say that I really care or would be inclined to watch it anyway, as I cannot bear the idea of listening to two hours or even two minutes of heavy metal music. 

I found Judas and the Black Messiah quite good, at least among those movies offered up this year. It is essentially about the rise of the Black Panther movement in the late 60s/early 70s--another blast from the past for me, as I remember those times very well. I thought the movie was particularly well acted, and of course meaningful for its relation to events of the present day. 

Coincidentally, I also saw a movie called Welcome to Marwen, and this I liked very much indeed. Set in the late 50s, this is the story of a World War II veteran, an army air force pilot, who was beaten to a coma by a neo-nazi-like group of young men for mentioning that he occasionally liked to wear women's high-heels. When the victim awoke from the coma, he could not remember most of his past and he had lost his ability to perform the mechanical skills of an artist, which had previously been his employment. Nonetheless, he retains an artist's temperament and need to create and so ends up fashioning and photographing dramatic scenes using dolls and other miniatures along with a miniature town he has constructed and called Marwen. It is his way of dealing with the trauma he has experienced, the brain damage he suffered, and to fashion a stable and bearable world in which to live, albeit a pretend world.  

It is an offbeat movie about an offbeat story, at times hilarious and at times heartbreaking, with a job well done by Steve Carell, who, as you will know, is not usually associated with dramatic roles. 

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Oscars 2020

 It's Oscar time again, and as usual I am watching all the Best Picture nominees. So far, I have seen five of them and come to the conclusion that there were really no very good movies made this year. 

I've already written about Nomadland. I found the movie sufficiently engaging to be watched through, but it seemed more fitting for the documentary category (if there is one) rather than a Best Picture option. 

Last night I suffered through Promising Young Woman, which strikes me as more worthy of the Dumbest Movie of the Year category. No need to say more. 

The Trial of the Chicago Seven is a good little movie, interesting, well-acted, and rather nostalgic for those of us who were living at the time. But we kind of know the story, don't we--how it begins and how it ends. I really prefer originality and inventiveness in a Best Picture film. 

Mank was 'meh', I thought. I don't really care about the lives of Hollywood folks, nearly as much as Hollywood folks do, anyway). 

I also watched Minari yesterday, which I thought was quite good for its central message and for the "real people" sort of feeling imparted by the lead roles and those who acted them. It was also surprisingly refreshing to see a movie about a minority family living in America that did not focus on racist whites and racial violence. In fact, it did not touch on this subject at all. It was about people of all colors who are generally good, generally friendly, generally well meaning--whom, if we watch too much of the news, may seem totally absent from society these days. For me, this movie (another South Korean film, btw, with subtitles) is easily the winner among the options I've seen so far. 

Those I have yet to see are Sound of Metal, The Father, and Judas and the Black Messiah. 

Sunday, March 14, 2021

The Kindness of Strangers

 Well Nyepi Day just flow by this year, hardly knew that it happened. Not sure what I did all day, but now it is already evening and beginning to get dark again. No lights and so on until 6 o'clock tomorrow morning. As it turns out, they left the wifi on this year, presuming, I reckon, that internet silence this time around would have been cruel and unusual punishment after these year long trials and restrictions due to COVID. I will try to stay up late enough tonight to see the stars, if indeed the sky is still clear by nighttime. With no lights reflecting at all in the city, it's a pretty amazing sight under a clear night sky. 

Although we are not supposed to go outside of the house during Nyepi, the young man from next door showed up at my gate this morning with a plate of food for breakfast, yellow rice with a spicy bean soup. This was a total surprise. What a nice guy, right? Moreover, he showed up again at dinner time with yet another plate, while a second neighbor offered to bring me some chicken. Gosh, it's nice to feel cared for, isn't it? 

Louis escaped to a resort in Ubud for Nyepi, were the restrictions are less severe. Lights and other appliances allowed, given that the resort is enclosed, and of course there is a swimming pool and a restaurant and such-like. Louis has never, in all these years, spent an authentic Nyepi in Bali, because the silence and isolation would be sure to drive her mad. 

Speaking of Ubud, which is a popular tourist area up-country from the beaches, I read in the latest issue of the Sanur Weekly that an "orgasm retreat" scheduled to take place there--specifically, The Tantric Full Body Energy Orgasm Retreat--has been cancelled after being castigated by the local populace and authorities as tainting the dignity of the island. Participants were to pay a fee of 600 dollars apiece "to go deeper into their energetic sexual expansion" and to "open tantric energy pathways to support heightened states of sexual ecstatic full-bodied orgasmic bliss". Lol. Yeah, that's Ubud. 

Ubud, by the way, is the town featured in the novel Eat Pray Love. 

Well, I'm typing now by candlelight and it has begun to rain outside. Tomorrow the island will be back to bustling and one will never even know that Silent day had happened until it comes again next year. 

Friday, March 12, 2021

Nyepi--Both the Same and Different

 Nyepi Day is upon us again. Silent Day in Bali. Sunday, March 14th. The word is that the internet will once again be killed for the duration of the day, same as last year. This seriously limits entertainment on a day when one can otherwise do nothing--no lights, no noise, no going outside of the house. And for me there will not even be any eating to speak of, which is the activity chosen by most in the face of nothing else to do, because, you see, I still don't have my teeth. 

But as the day approaches, I am thinking of last year and realizing that this was the first that we really understood the seriousness of the COVID pandemic. Last year, Silent Day was extended for some days beyond Nyepi (I've forgotten how many), and even after that, a partial shutdown continued, with many businesses closed completely and others operating only in a limited manner. At Starbucks, for instance, one could only get takeaway coffee. All the tables and chairs were stacked in corners. The beaches were closed as well, as were, of course, the beachfront establishments. We suddenly understood that this was a major threat and that indeed many people would die. And there was really nothing we could do about it. Nor did we imagine that it could possibly last for more than a year. 

Happily, the situation looks much better this year. Businesses are open again--those that did not go out of business altogether, anyway. The beaches are open. People are out and about, pretty much as normal, although of course masks are required. Tourists will begin to come back in come early April--the brave, anyway; the careless. It's not a destination I would chose, given that recovery, vaccine distribution here will no doubt be a slow process. 

In any case, I am as usual trying to think of what I can do on Sunday, and this is actually more perplexing than usual, as I spend most of day these days watching YouTube and movies on the laptop. And eating. 

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

The Blowout

 The general confusion at my house, what with garden roof workers and front patio roof workers and washing machine installers and various assistants and their children and Louis running here and there issuing orders, became more confusing yet when the electricity suddenly died and could not be restored. 

The electricity in my house has always been iffy. One cannot use too many devices at once. For example, one cannot use the air conditioning and also take a shower, for the strain proves too great and the breaker switch flips off. In the case of yesterday, the maid was doing laundry in the machine, I was using my electric fan, the workers were using their power tools, and then when the maid turned on the rice cooker, the electricity blew. Or so it seemed at the time. 

The problem was that flipping the breakers back on resulted in no result at all. Still dead. Frantic calls were made to the power company, who said that they could come tomorrow, until Louis screamed at them and they changed their minds in favor of now. 

For a time, the loss of the electricity was a mystery to the electrician, as the usual measures did not restore it. It was decided that there must be a sort somewhere in the wiring. 

Climbing into the crawlspace above the ceiling, the electrician found that the wires, which in a normal house should be reachable through the crawlspace (that's kind of what crawlspaces are for), could not be reached, as the original builder, responsible already for a great multitude of fuck-ups, had committed yet another in hiding the wires beyond access. 

This resulted in the need to take a hammer and pound a hole in the ceiling. 

After some experimentation, the cause of the entire kerfuffle was finally found to have been a nail that had gone through one of the cables. 

Now, where had this nail come from? Hmm. 

Well, of course the nail had come from the men working outside on the front patio canopy. The only mystery remaining is why we did not think of this from the beginning. It's only logical, right? These things happen when you're pounding nails into a house. 

In any case, the problem is finally solved--almost. The electrician must return today and make the new connections secure and permanent. and, I assume, close up the hole in the ceiling. He will also increase the electricity allotment to the house, as it is found as well that the original builder installed less than Louis had asked for (therefore saving funds for himself). 

Louis is talking now about yet another project: digging up the driveway, resurfacing it, constructing a garden, and who knows what-all. Perhaps we can put a nail through the septic tank this time. 

Sunday, March 7, 2021

This And That

Mask-less in Bali 

The little Sanur newspaper reports again about recalcitrant foreigners in Canggu who refuse to wear masks. Previously, the fine for not wearing a mask had been 100.000 rupiah, or about seven dollars. It has now been increased to one million rupiah (70 dollars), with an additional option to deport for repeat or combative offenders. Canggu, as I may have mentioned previously, is a popular locale for foreigners of the generally wealthy and/or irresponsible, arrogant sort. Why are they not wearing masks? Well, who knows? Maybe for the same reasons many Americans are refusing to wear masks or choosing to reject the science behind mask wear. There is a certain disregard by some for the laws and culture of this little island that is hosting them, and I find this distinctly repugnant. They seem to believe that living outside their home countries releases them from obedience to laws of any sort. At the same time, Bali depends on tourism and foreign money for its very existence, and so there is no doubt some reticence to actually impose these fines, especially during this COVID season when the island economy has shriveled on the vine. The news is that Bali will be opening again to foreign entry in early April, but we will see if anyone actually wants to come, given that the rollout of vaccine response is naturally far less efficient than in wealthy countries and as a result COVID will persevere here for some time to come. 


A veritable storm of hammering and sawing and drilling and pounding has ended, rather swiftly, actually, in the erection of a roof over my wall garden area, which is really pretty nifty. Beforehand, one could not possibly sit outside in the back if it was raining, or at midday with the sun beating down, but now we have a cozy little covered area complete with hanging plants and electricity, perfect for a relaxing smoke in any weather. Next, I am told, will come the erection of a covered area at the front of the house, which will also feature a garden. That should be nice too, once it's accomplished, as the front area has been previously uninhabitable in any sort of weather, being either way too hot or way to wet. 

The final addition (as far as I know) is a washing machine in the back area, which Nengah will now be able to use to wash my clothes at the house rather than take them to the neighborhood laundry. In truth, Louis, who will be living in the house next door for some months, insists that the clothes done at the neighborhood laundry come out smelling bad, and so the main point, for the time being anyway, is that she wants her own clothes washed at my place. I personally have never noticed any bad smell from from laundered clothes, but Louis' nose has always been very sensitive (or perhaps her imagination simply more active). This will no doubt extend Nengah's time at my place (still on Tuesday and Thursday), but oh well.  I guess I'll just have two coffees when I go out rather than one. 

Friday, March 5, 2021


 My quiet, peaceful, uneventful life has been turned upside down with the arrival of Louis in Bali. Long imprisoned in Australia by the COVID restrictions, she has now been loosed. "Cry 'Havoc!', and let slip the dogs of war!" As I write this, a platoon of various sorts of workers is passing in and out through the house, drills buzzing, hammers banging, jack saws sawing (or jacking?). It appears that some are installing a washing machine, while others are erecting a roof over the wall garden area and still others are beginning on a canopy area in the driveway. I personally have a headache. 

Ah but well I guess it's all for the good. Eventually. I simply had not known that my house was lacking in so many ways (and I'm still not quite sure that it was). Last night, they brought in a new water dispenser, one of them state-of-the-art things, you know, that makes hot water and cold water and very hot water and very cold water and self cleans and has a clock and a timer and an LCD display that lights up the room at night as if it were day (reminding me last night of why I put duct tape over the display on my old water dispenser). The trouble is that impressive as this thing is, it doesn't work. Apparently it is suffering from a factory defect. So that's sitting in a corner as of the moment and the old water dispenser has triumphantly returned, although this will no doubt be a brief return, as with Napoleon's from Elba. The old dispenser has the unfortunate name Denpoo, but it always did its job, so to speak, and I had nothing against it. 

Louis herself has moved into the place next door, which did not have running water to begin with (the pump being broken). This has now been corrected, as she quickly discovered that living without running water, a shower, a faucet, a toilet, is an untenable proposition. 

In short, everything here is suddenly extremely active, extremely busy, extremely loud. Louis will be here in Sanur, in fact next door, for some months, she says, before moving down to Nusa Dua. Gosh, it's just like being married again! Sort of.