Monday, December 4, 2023

Bats in thd Belfry

 Did I forget to mention here the bat that flew into my house the other night? It's the second time this has happened during my residence in Bali. Different house, and different bat, I assume. Have I mentioned that I hate bats, along with rats, and cockroaches, and spiders. And what could be worse, after all, that a flying rat?

So this bat flew in and then of course started flying in circles kind of around the light fixture, like he's some kind of huge moth or something. Once they get in, they don't know how to get back out. I gathered my courage and showed him the way out with a broom. Eventually, he got the message.

Sunday, December 3, 2023


 I'm still here, if anyone is wondering, spending my days in a sometimes painful, sometimes aching, sometimes nauseating fog. And mostly inside the house with the air conditioning on, because after one day of welcome clouds and wind and rain, we have returned again to the hellish heat wave.

I do seem to be adapting to the blood thinner, clopidogrel, but I'm still having plenty of trouble with the cholesterol lowering agent, which has now been switched to rosuvastatin. Even so, I can only bear this if I take Xanax at the same time and put myself to sleep. 

I watch a lot of TV at home, but I often find that I have missed half of whatever show I'm watching, as my brain has decided to go somewhere else. Where it goes nobody knows.

I sleep a lot.

The other day, I dreamed of my old dog Smokey. My goodness, how I loved that dog, and he loved me too. But in the dream he was back again and all was well and we were so filled with joy to be with each other again. Other people were there too. People I miss. People I love. It is indeed heaven, my friends. I have seen it.

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Impractical Paradise

 After talking things over, my doctor and I decided on a change in my cholesterol reducing agent from atorvastatin to something called rosuvastatin, along with a decrease in the dosage. I'm hoping that this will be at least somewhat more tolerable. More tolerable then the nightly near death experience of atorvastatin, I mean.

In the meantime, I have discovered that I have become super sensitive to tropical heat. This of course is unfortunate, given that I live in the tropics. So if anyone out there has a little place in Alaska for instance, or maybe North Dakota, that they can rent me for about $300 a month, I'm willing. A little snow just now sounds like heaven.

It's such a strange thing to have happened. Among the many strange things that appear to come along with stroke. I remember a time when I used to go to the beach here everyday, no matter the temperature, and swim in the ocean, and lie on the beach, and think nothing of it at all. 

Ah, the good old days.

As it is, paradise has become pretty damn impractical. Guess I'd better change the blog name.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

The Smoker's Paradox

 Smoking induces cytochrome P450 1A2 (CYP1A2), a hepatic enzyme involved in the metabolism of clopidogrel. Clopidogrel shows better inhibition of platelet aggregation in smokers than nonsmokers,8) and smokers are less likely to be hyporesponders than nonsmokers.

In plain language, this means that clopidogrel, the blood thinning drug typically used after a stroke, works more effectively in smokers than in non-smokers. Thus we call this the smoker's paradox, in that we all know that something that is bad for you cannot be good for you and yet in this case the thing that is bad for you is good for you, while still being bad for you. Got it?

Well I'm learning all sorts of fun facts as I study up on medicine, having become aware that the doctors here certainly aren't going to do it for me. Good thing we have the internet these days.

Another thing I have discovered is that the main odious symptoms I am suffering come not after all from the effects of medication but from the effects of the stroke itself. Severe headache, dizziness, vertigo, mild nausea. This is due to damage in the cerebellum, the area of the brain responsible for regulating senses such as sight and hearing, along with balance and so on. Even though I am using voice typing on my phone, it is still necessary to look at the screen and read the text and this has instantly given me a bloody bad headache. So I'm going to call it a night, and give it another shot tomorrow.

Friday, November 24, 2023

Facing It

 Having a stroke is a real drag. I do not recommend it. It's one of those things that shows you, much to your surprise, that ultimately you are not in control of your own body, you are not in control of your own life. Suddenly your body decides to do its own thing. One eye stops seeing, for example. Both eyes go blurry. One leg becomes paralyzed. Suddenly your neck freezes and you feel as if you're going to pass out and you experience a temporary incontinence of bladder. You did not plan this and there's nothing you can do about this. You are at the mercy of your own body. When I lie down at night, or indeed increasingly in the middle of the day, I can feel my own brain trying and failing to think. I can feel my brain being stuck in place, not being able to move forward with whatever thought I might have intended. It's very hard to describe, and it is very unpleasant. It seems that the longer I take this medicine the doctors have put me on--the high cholesterol agent and the blood thinner--the worse I feel, and the farther away I am from being well. It's depressing. And so one begins to face some things. Such as the fact that one is no longer young. In 2 months I will be 70. What time, after all, have I in which to recover? And what would recovery even look like at this age? Yes, one begins to face some things. Like it or not. There is no choice.

Sunday, November 19, 2023

It Sucks and So Do I

For a while now, I've been using voice type instead of typing with my fingers in the normal manner, which is because my fingers don't really work properly anymore, especially those on the right hand. Hard to imagine now that I used to play Mozart and Debussey and Chopin with these fingers of mine. Oh well, Time Marches On.

For the first time in some 20 years I smoked less than 20 cigarettes in a day. In fact I smoked less than one. Yes, today I smoked not a single cigarette. Although I missed it like hell, I also sure as hell don't want to have another stroke, and if that means, in part, stopping smoking, I intend to do so. I had not been aware in the past (for who looks into the various causes of stroke except for people studying to be doctors) that smoking causes cholesterol to be especially sticky, making it even more problematic as a clogger of arteries and thus a causation of stroke. As a replacement, I have been sucking air through a straw cut down to be the size of a cigarette. Lol. Not quite the same thing. I thought of purchasing some nicotine gum online, but the fact is I have done that in the past and I know that one tends to end up both chewing the gum and smoking cigarettes anyway.

I started smoking when I was 18 years old, just after entering college. For a period of time during the 1990s, I stopped smoking. And then after the divorce from my second wife, I began again. I had stopped for perhaps 9 years, although I do remember sneaking a cigarette here and there. The thing is, aside from the addiction to the nicotine, smoking becomes wrapped up in so many activities that one does. It becomes, for instance, a part of reading a book. It becomes a part of writing. It becomes a part of thinking or working. It becomes what one does on a break from work. It becomes a part of one's life.

In short, it is very difficult indeed to stop. But at the same time, it is very unpleasant indeed to suffer from a stroke.

I have felt today, for the first time since the stroke event, almost human again, and as if I might actually recover. I managed to go most of the day without a severe headache, and for part of the day without any headache at all, which has certainly been a relief. So I am hoping that things will march on in a positive direction for the next month until I see the doctor again and we can take a look at my blood check and cholesterol levels and whatever else doctors look at. In any case, I will keep my fingers crossed, and keep sucking on my straw.

Friday, November 17, 2023


 The story of My Life, or rather of my general ill health, is moving faster these days then I can keep up with on this blog.

Let's see now, where were we ...

Ah yes, the MRI ordered by Dr Yoanes at Kasih Ibu Hospital. Predictably enough, this showed multiple small lacunar strokes over a period of time. With great brevity, the doctor pointed out these highlights on the MRI picture, wrote a prescription for three medications, and said goodbye. His next patient was waiting.

These meds were 1) atorvastatin, to lower my cholesterol, 2) clopidogrel, to thin my blood and 3) Xanax, for fun, I guess. Well that's not true. The Xanax is to interrupt the severe headaches I am having and allow me to sleep.

So in brief, I was feeling like shit when I went to the doctor and after I left him I felt even more like shit.

I spent the next day wondering about all of the things that the doctor did not have time to speak with me about. Such as how long will I feel like shit? How long is the recovery period from these strokes? To what extent will I recover?

As I have said all along, Dr Yoanes is competent in his field, as far as knowledge goes, but I'll be damned if he ain't the worst I've ever seen at doctor/patient communication. And remember, I worked for 25 years in an American Hospital.

So after stewing about this for some time and scanning around on the internet trying to get my own information, I talked to my girlfriend and she insisted that I try a different doctor at a different hospital. Smart girl. She looked up some numbers for me and put me in touch with a number for the international wing at Sanglah Hospital. And boy am I glad she did.

Dr. Angga, a young Indian fellow, could not be more different from Dr. Yoanes. He led me patiently through a thorough explanation of the MRI, exactly what it showed, where the problems were located. He proceeded to answer each and every question of mine, again with patience and thoroughness, and even good humor. He told me that he knows Dr. Yoanes and that he considers him quite able and intelligent. But when I mentioned the doctor's lack of communication skills, Dr. Angga just smiled and kept politely quiet. 

So anyway I came away with the same medications that Yoanes had prescribed plus two additional medications, both intended to address the headaches, which may, according to the good doctor, be caused by the atorvastatin. I will see him again in about a month after getting another blood panel. To be certain, I still feel like shit, but a little better sort of shit now.

Tuesday, November 14, 2023


 So yesterday I finally got around to going to see the doctor. I made an appointment with my usual neurologist at the hospital and showed up early in the morning with only one patient in line before me. That patient, happily for me, did not appear for his or her appointment and so I went in first.

The doctor seemed more communicative this time around. Maybe he found my complaints, of which there were three, more interesting than usual.

The first, as I have earlier mentioned, was losing the sight in my right eye temporarily on two occasions. The second was the near fainting incident and the painful stiff leg that went along with it while I was having a coffee sometime last week.

A third, which I don't think I've mentioned here, has been a 3 week long headache, sometimes quite severe, along with a tense feeling of pressure in my forehead and behind my eyes and nose.

In any case, the doctor seemed to take these complaints seriously and felt that an MRI would be necessary and perhaps and echocardiogram as well. Not good news for me, because of course these things cost money. Nonetheless, these recent troubles had kind of spooked me so I thought I'd better agree to the tests and see if anything serious is going on, other than old age I mean.

Therefore, I returned to the hospital the next morning to have my MRI. As far as I can recollect, it has been perhaps 10 years since I last had an MRI. It turns out that they are just as annoying and uncomfortable as ever they were. So now this MRI must be sent to the doctor and then I will see the doctor once again. Apparently the MRI scans are sent to an outside facility and so I have to wait for 2 days.

In the meantime, my headache went away for about 3 hours today, which was purely wonderful! It's back now, but it was nice to briefly feel human again.

Thursday, November 9, 2023

This Last Week's 'Entertainments'

Another delightful week with Evelyn has come to an end here in Bali, but the heat wave has not, nor have my weird health problems.

In the latest incident, just yesterday, I was sitting at The Daily Baguette cafe, enjoying my usual cappuccino and slice of banana bread while reading a book, when suddenly I felt very light-headed, lost visual focus, and experienced a painful paralysis of my left leg, especially the thigh. I felt myself involuntarily leaning to the left while reaching to the left with a hand that did not seem to be functioning normally. My great fear at that moment was that I was having some kind of seizure and would soon pass out and tumble from my chair onto the ground. This would have been greatly embarrassing, so I struggled to stay conscious and began to massage my upper thigh. My vision cleared within 30 seconds or so, I would estimate, but the muscular pain continued for some time longer.

After this, I was unable to return to reading for fear that the symptoms would recur.

So what the hell was that all about? A small stroke? A small seizure? Who knows? I thought about rushing out to the hospital, but then I remembered how fruitless my last visit there had been just a week before. So I just gave up on the banana bread and the coffee and drove myself back home, or rather to Louis' Villa where I have been staying again while she is on vacation.

Although I have not had any further notable disturbances since that time, which was only yesterday, I have continued to feel very tired and vaguely unwell since. If nothing else, I have learned that it is unwise to venture out as long as this heat wave persists. So, I'm spending a rather boring time here, with Etta the dog, until the 12th, when I will return home to my own little house in Sanur. If I live that long.

In fact, the extreme heat kept me and Evelyn in the house most of the time she was here (unlike me, she is smart enough to know better than to go outside in this sort of heat and humidity). During the day, we watched movies and cooked meals, and then sometimes ventured out in the evening when the temperatures had cooled somewhat.

I suppose that eventually I will go back to the hospital and report these occurrences (and who knows, maybe new ones by the time I act). Or in any case, I suppose that I should.

Friday, October 27, 2023

Don't Panic!

This last week in south Bali has been so hellishly hot and so fiendishly humid that I suddenly found myself short of breath a few days ago. I mean gasping for breath whenever I was outside. Of course, I was not sure that this was the actual problem (given the widening array of actual problems that I have), but it was becoming clear that something seemed way wrong and that I should probably address it. Therefore, I did one of my most personally hated things and headed for the hospital. I was thinking that perhaps they would give me an inhaler or something like that. I chose Sanglah Hospital as an alternative to the usually highly annoying and incompetent Kasih Ibu, where I had once been diagnosed with an infection that I did not have and on another occasion erroneously told that part of my right ear would have to be removed because of skin cancer (and I got that close to actually doing it!).

So anyway, I headed for Sanglah, only to find that the parking lot was full. More than full. Full two times over. As I drove around in circles, baked to a blistering crisp, and gasping for breath, I finally gave up, said F-it, and wedged my bike eventually back out of the superfluous parking area.

What now?

Well, I decided to go to the Prodia blood lab instead. Maybe my borderline diabetes had finally crossed the border. Air hunger, after all, is one symptom of high blood sugar. Or maybe my blood pressure was high. It had been so one time in the past. In any case, I figured I could get a few basic lab tests and present these later to some doctor somewhere who worked in a facility that had a parking lot with at least one open space in it.

Using the trusty navigator app on my hand phone, along with earphones, I was straightaway led into a maze of backstreets and alleys that did not in fact end up at the Prodia lab. It turned out that one had to do this by turning off ones navigator and finding the place for oneself.

Having gotten the blood draw, I gasped my way home to wait for the results.

The results showed, as has been the case for the last 3 years, borderline high blood glucose and high cholesterol. I had succeeded so far in spending 650.000 rupiah to find what I already knew. Knowing this result, did not decrease my shortness of breath. It had gotten worse.

Okay then, Kasih Ibu. It is fate. It is a curse. 

Off I go.

At Kasih Ibu they tell me that no doctors are available and send me to the emergency department, which constitutes an insult to language, actually. It is one small room with two beds and one curtain. The emergency department. The department itself is clearly in need of emergent care.

A resident comes in, I tell her my story, and she decides I need an EKG and a chest x-ray.

Oh my God! See, I knew I was dying!

And so we wait. Tick, tick, tick.

And then a lot more ticks.

At last, the tests are done. And they reveal the worst. They are normal.

Could it be, I suggest, as I suggested in the first place, that my problem with breathing has something to do with the unusually extreme heat and humidity?


They place an oxygen tube in my nostrils and go away. About an hour later, an Indian doctor shows up. She wants to talk about blood sugar and cholesterol. In general. I steer her back to heat and humidity.

In this kind of heat, people need to be less active, I think, she tells me. What are your daily activities?


Yes, what kind of physical activities do you do in a typical day.

Umm ... Drink coffee and watch TV.

Thr end result of this emergent visit is that they do not prescribe any medication and they do not cure me of my shortness of breath. They suggest that I see a doctor at some future time. If I'm still breathing.

Dejected, I return to my house. I have not been there 5 minutes when I realize that I have left all of my documentation on a table at the hospital. My ekg, my x-ray, my patient billing information, and so on.


My breathing grows worse yet.

Back to Kasih Ibu.

Not absolutely necessary. But they had told me in the emergency department that my usual doctor, the astoundingly incommunicative Dr. Yoanes, would be working this evening from 6:00 until 9:00. Heck why not pop in and see him after picking up my paperwork? Not that I miss him, but damn, if I'm going back anyway, why not?

It is my good fortune to find that apparently no one else cares to see Dr. Yoanes. At 6 o'clock, I am the lone patient outside his door, something unheard of in Indonesia, where the hallway outside a doctor's door looks something like the parking lots. 

I tell the doctor about my shortness of breath. But he wants to talk about blood sugar and cholesterol. He is irritated that I did not get a full laboratory panel. If you do not get a fasting blood sugar and the complete cholesterol panel, we cannot see where your levels have been.

Okay, sure. Now how about this shortness of breath?

He motions for me to get onto the examination table. As a rule, Dr. Yoanes does not speak. He motions with one hand. He proceeds to perform a cursory neurologic exam.

I pass with flying colors, I think, at least for a neurologically compromised person. Yay.

I begin again to describe my earlier experience in the ER and what brought me there.

What is your typical activity level, he asks?

Oh God. 

This started like 3 days ago, I tell him. I started to feel like I couldn't get enough air. Each day it got worse. As soon as I go outdoors, I can't breathe. I struggle to get a breath. I start to feel panicked.

Ah, the doctor says. 

That could be it!

Mm, he says. 

He gives me two prescriptions. One for atorvastatin, a cholesterol lowering agent. A second for something called clobazam. And says goodbye.

On arriving home, I look up the med.

Clobazam: A benzodiazepine, typically given for panic disorder. 

Patient, heal thyself.

Saturday, October 21, 2023

The Bostonian

 I happened to meet a Bostonian the other day, which is something I understood with the first words he spoke. How pleasant to meet a Bostonian, I thought. I have never met one before. I have never been to Boston. Funny how one would need to come to the other side of the world to meet a Bostonian.

The first thing this man said to me was "Are you a truck driver?"

Interesting. Not a common opening to conversation.

"No," I answered. "Why?"

"You walk like a truck driver."

Interesting as well. How does a truck driver walk? I have no idea. I'm thinking maybe slow and kind of bent over. Or maybe kind of like a sailor who is used to the rolling of a ship over waves. 

The next thing I noticed about the Bostonian is that his eyes were reddened, as if he had been smoking some weed. That would be a dangerous thing to do here in Indonesia, an inadvisable thing to do given the strict laws against drug use and the harsh punishment if caught. Still, he did for all the world appear to be stoned, and the more I talked to him, the more stoned he seemed.

Having exchanged these few simple words and observations, we sat quietly for a time. My coffee arrived at the table and I took out my novel.

"What are you reading?" he asked.

I showed him the book cover. The Poppy War, book one of a trilogy by R.F. Kuang.

"Oh, I don't read that kind of shit," he said.

"Yeah, I don't generally read this kind of shit either," I agreed. "But I've read and admired this author's other work and so I wanted to try this one as well. But to be honest, I don't like fantasy sort of stuff, you know swords and arrows and magic powers and all that."

"Don't blame you," said the Bostonian. "I don't read that shit."

With this understood, we proceeded to talk about various other things, such as the city of Boston and what he is doing here in Indonesia and what I am doing here in Indonesia, and about Oregon and the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

"I love Portland," he said. "I have friends there. They grow the best pot in Oregon. It's not like in Boston. The pot in Oregon is fresh. The pot in Boston grows out of sewers."

Good to know, I guess. Not that I'll be sampling any Boston pot. Nor Portland pot either for that matter. Personally, I never did like pot, although of course I have tried it long ago, like everyone else in my generation.

He began to tell me then about a book he would like to show me, but someone stole the book, so he can't. The book had something to do with how nobody gives a fuck. In fact. That seems to be more or less the title of the book, from what I could understand. It was not clear whether this was a book someone stole from him in an airport or a cafe or wherever, or whether he himself had written such a book and then somebody either stole his book or stole his idea for this book.

"What are you eating? he asked.

"Lemon cake."

The Bostonian went inside the cafe for a moment, and then returned with a slice of lemon cake. We ate in silence.

"I've got to go soon," he said.

"Ah. Well, pleasure to meet you."

 Do you know what time it is?"

"Just about 11:30."

"Is it really?"


The Bostonian nods, looking both at me and past me.

"One more thing, bud. Is this Sunday?"

Friday, October 13, 2023

BABEL, An Arcane History

 'Betrayal. Translation means doing violence upon the original, means warping and distorting it for foreign, unintended eyes. So then where does that leave us? How can we conclude, except by acknowledging that an act of translation is then necessarily always an act of betrayal?'

'But that's the great contradiction of colonialism. ... It's built to destroy that which it prizes most.'

BABEL, An Arcane History, R.F. Kuang

It has long been a habit of mine, when stumbling upon writing that stands out from the dross of literature, to proceed through everything that writer has written. So it has been for me with R.F. Kuang, whose novel Yellowface I reviewed here at an earlier date.

I've just finished reading her long novel BABEL, An Arcane History. Babel, which of course refers back to the biblical Tower of Babel, becomes as well, in Kuang's hand, the all powerful, though fictional, school of translation at Oxford college in the 1830s. Students at Babel are tasked with wielding the power of words, and that power is employed in the transfer to silver, which, here, is not only the the coin of the realm but an element possessing magical potentialities brought out by the power of words etched into silver bars. Endowed with such power, the silver becomes the engine of the industrial revolution, putting England far in advance of any other country. It's all about money, or rather silver, and silver is all about power, over individuals and over countries of individuals.

It is also all about betrayal, all kinds of betrayal, betrayal of ideals, betrayal of the nation, the nation's betrayal of its populace, the betrayal embodied in colonialism, the betrayal of beloved friends. Translation itself, as the quote it tells us, is a betrayal of language.

And I guess what I've said so far is a betrayal of the cogency one would expect in a book review. Lol. 

BABEL will be particularly fascinating to nerds such as myself who are especially interested in linguistics and etymology. Lovers of words. At the same time, it may be tedious for those not interested in such things (especially at 500 pages of small print). Nonetheless, the novel establishes a good pace and keeps it up for the most part throughout. It has the flavor of Dickens, not only for the early 19th century setting, but for the style of the writing and the drawing of the characters. Oliver Twist goes to college and ultimately finds himself in A Tale of Two Cities.

Monday, October 2, 2023


 Last week I suddenly lost the sight in my right eye for a minute or two. I had just taken a shower, as I recall, and I had come out to the dining room for a cup of coffee when a sort of gray curtain descended over my eye and I could see nothing but gray. It was brief, as I have said, and yet quite frightening. Of course at the time I had no idea whether my sight would come back at all, in a minute or in 2 minutes or in 2 hours. Since that time, I have experienced a number of other strange symptoms. One has been the return of the intense inner heat that I have long had a problem with but which has been generally controlled by medication (pregabalin). Suddenly, the medication was ineffective. Another was a feeling like the skin on my legs and feet was on fire. Really uncomfortable. Yet another has been extreme fatigue, such that I have been falling asleep two or three times a day. What all this means to me is that MS has reared its ugly head once again and gone into an active phase. Relapsing / remitting, right? So this is a relapse. At best. I have read that most MS eventually becomes progressive, especially with age or with the length of time that one has had the disease. Naturally, I'm hoping for relapsing rather than progressive.

Monday, September 25, 2023


 In reading R.F. Kuang's novel BABEL today, I noted the mention of dreaming in more than one language. I found this interesting because I have been aware for some time now that I often dream in Indonesian, or rather that I am often speaking Indonesian in my dreams rather than English. Why, I wonder, do I choose Indonesian rather than English? Is it merely because I am using Indonesian about half of the time in my daily life, or is there something about expressions in the language being more suitable to specific dreams? I don't know. I suppose that I am addressing in the dreams, or in a particular dream, Indonesian people. And so it makes perfect sense that I would be using the Indonesian language. I have the feeling that it deepens the dream life in that it is calling upon the dynamics of language as well as the dynamics of symbols. Although English is a particularly rich and robust language, there are nonetheless certain things in certain situations that are better expressed in Indonesian, especially if we are talking about a dream subject that is focused on life and experience here. Anyway I had noticed this in my dreams, but I hadn't really thought about it before.

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Bats and Rats

Just saw a couple of young men, teens I suppose, carrying a bat that had apparently fallen from a tree outside Bread Basket Cafe. They kept trying to put it back on the tree but it kept falling. Then they tried placing it in the crook of two trunks of the tree, but it fell from there as well. 

The whole thing became quite comical, because if it wasnt dead before they  tried to save it, it likely would be after they had finished with saving it. Ultimately, they wedged it into the crook and covered it with a large leaf, just to keep it warm during the night, I guess.

Speaking of bats, we were surprised during our stay at Louis' villa to find their wingless cousin, the rat, inside the place. On the one hand, one would not expect to find rats inside a luxurious villa, but on the other hand, I couldn't help but wonder why there wouldn't be, given that the property is alive with plenty of nifty rat hiding spots such as bushes and plants and bamboo and what not. In fact, I had asked Nengah, the maid, whether she hadn't seen a rat in all the time she had been working there. No, she answered, she had not.

Well, on our second day at the Villa, Evelyn found what appeared to be rat poop in the kitchen sink. I really didn't understand how a rat would get up onto the counter and into the sink; nonetheless, I purchased some sticky traps at the nearby mini market and set one out that night. Sure enough, in the morning we had captured a small rat, not in the sink but on the counter where we prepare food.

Now how would they get on to the counter? It's not as if there are any ladders for them to climb. We found no evidence of grappling hooks, or parachutes. How can it be?

We once again set a trap that night, and lo and behold, in the morning we had a second rat, this one much bigger than the first.

By this time, Etta, their dog, had become intensely interested in this situation as well, to the point of obsession, really. Although for Etta, this was a fruitless obsession, because of course she, being a short little dog, could not get up onto the counter even if the rats somehow could.

We caught one rat per night for the next three nights, each seemingly larger than the former, and each on the countertop.

Needless to say, after receiving this news, Louise and Wayne are looking into buying some of these electronic rat repulsor devices. I've never had one, because they're rather expensive, but I hear from friends that they do a bang-up job.

I've mentioned that I hate rats, right? Yes, I'm sure I have.

Strangely, aside from rats, we didn't see any other kind of wildlife at the Villa, not even the gecko type creatures which are usually ever present in any other house here, including my own. But they are just small little guys and don't bother anybody. One hardly even notices them as they run up and down the wall or on the ceiling or wherever.

But as if I hadn't had enough of rats, as soon as I got home to my little house yesterday evening, I saw a big rat climb up the bougainvillea tree in the yard and then run along a ledge under my bathroom window. As I watched, the rat suddenly disappeared. Where did he go? Well, on inspection the next day I found that there  is a hole in the wall just big enough for this rat to squeeze into. Happily however, as far as I can tell anyway, there is no way for it to actually enter the house. So it turns out that my one room house is rodent free whereas their sprawling spanking new villa is not. Something to be said for simple living.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Villa Stay

 Evelyn was here in Bali this past week, and as it turned out, her visit coincided with my ex-wife's request that I stay in her Villa while she was in Norway and Iceland. So we enjoyed luxurious living in Louis and Wayne's new Villa, to watch over the place and to take care of their dog, Etta.

Evelyn had in mind that she wanted to explore how to take the bus in Bali, as at some later date she and her sister have a plan to take the bus to Ubud and possibly to Jimbaran. 

We found that the buses here run in really a pretty inconvenient way. There seems no such thing as a bus that takes a direct route to where one intends to go, but each bus must go around in various circles, traveling in the exact opposite direction one wants, then turning around and heading in the direction one does want. The long and short of it is that bus travel requires an unusually long time and some  discomfort. Definitely not my cup of tea, but I guess that Evelyn and her sister won't mind so much as I. So they will take their trip without me. Or at least the one to Ubud, which took pretty much the entire day, with two transfers, and not even getting off the bus other than that.

In any case, with that out of the way, we enjoyed ourselves around the villa and with touring around Sanur as we usually do. As always, we enjoyed each other's company very much. I swear, I like this girl more every time I see her. She may be back again in late October or early November, and Louise has once again offered the villa for our use.

Saturday, September 9, 2023


 I was tickled this morning to find a reply from a Facebook user to a comment I made in defense of Biden policies. "Lie!" he said. "How do you even get news in Indonesia?!" 🤣🤣🤣

 I thought of telling the guy that we do have one TV, which the whole village gathers around on Sunday when there is electricity. But I suspect he would have taken this quite seriously.

Friday, September 8, 2023


 I first came to Yellowface, a novel by Rebecca Kuang, through a Facebook site called Literary Fiction Lovers, or some such thing, which features fiction that for the most part is literally not literary fiction. It was just the name and the book cover art that piqued my interest. I had never heard of this author before and I had not read any reviews of the novel. In general I avoid reading reviews as they tend to color ones expectations and judgments. I read first, and then look at the reviews if the book itself has inspired further interest. Most of the comments on the book on this Facebook site were banal, vaguely negative, and purely suggestive that the commenters had failed to understand the text. Therefore, this became a book that I just had to read😉 There was just something in the nature of the cranky dissatisfaction that told me I might find a rare treasure here.

And I did! I absolutely loved Yellowface. I don't know whether everyone would, but certainly anyone familiar with the practice of fiction writing and the world of publishing will find this novel delicious. How might one describe it: a satirical horror story? A study in literary hypocrisy? An embittered comedy? Well, there are plenty of laughs for those who know when to laugh. And there is much to find familiar, sometimes painfully so, sometimes nostalgically so.

I guess the ultimate question is What is truth? And the answer is, as so  sharply pointed out by Ms. Kuang, that there is no truth. Or rather, there are many truths fashioned by their own set of alternative facts, each answered by yet another truth, purely subjective and self-justifying. It is all quite endless. I see your truth, and I raise you mine. We see this mechanic at work every day on social media--and indeed this author's lampooning of the same is spot on. 

This is certainly a novel I will read again when it has begun to fade from memory, and I do not have to wonder whether I will find even more of delight in the rereading, because it is just that kind of novel--literally!

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Convenience Store Woman

 Convenience store woman, by Japanese author Sayaka Murata, which I just finished reading this morning, is a quiet little novel (brief indeed at 159 pages), and yet one of deceptive depth. Murata's style is carefully understated, even blunt, which fits well with her main character, Keiko Furukura, an oddball in the eyes of society as well as her own family, a misfit, a square peg in a world of square holes, whose only option, as Keiko herself sees it, is to somehow learn to function as if she were actually a part of that world such that she can please her family and be acceptable to the people around her. She lands in a job as a part-time convenience store clerk, and as it turns out this becomes a perfect vehicle for becoming just like a human being, or as close as possible, for the next 18 years. But the world of "normal people" is not easily pleased or satisfied. So much more than simplicity and her own personal comfort is demanded of her. Which leads to a series of well-intentioned mistakes.

I really liked this novel, or novella. There is just something about it that echoes, resonates, a sort of poetry hidden beneath the plain language. The nature of Keiko's oddity is not described, but I can't help being reminded of high-functioning autism, familiar to me through my own experience with my son. There is something not right about Keiko, but there is definitely something not right about the world too. Where is the proper balance to be found?

Thursday, August 31, 2023

The Accidental Cafe

 I happened today upon a place I had kind of been keeping my eye out for since probably some six months ago. My American neighbor, Jason, had mentioned it to me--a cozy little coffee spot, he said, with great breakfasts, grilled cheese sandwiches, croissants and so on. It sounded like my kind of spot, but I couldn't remember the name, only that it was next door to a florist.

So, stopping today at a dark and dusty little used bookstore where I figured I could unload some of the dusty little books sitting around on my bookshelf, I spied, upon exiting, the aforementioned florist just close by, and yes indeed, the fabled cafe. Moreover, upon entering, I found also the selfsame American friend and his wife. Now how about that! 

Having already had a coffee and a pastry at another spot that morning, I ordered simply a coffee and sat down to visit with Jason and Komang. 

After some small talk about the usual things we small talk about when we pass each other on our street, Jason ventured into the subject of American politics. The dreaded subject bound to come up between Americans, even those living on the far side of the world. 

"How about all this stuff going on in America!" 

"Umm ... stuff?" 

"Well you know all these millions and millions going into Biden's bank account."


"Yeah, haven't you heard?"

"Well ..." 

"I can't believe it. He's a straight up criminal. What the hell is going on in our country?" 

Oh dear. Good Lord. Here we go.

Or not. 

I reckon maybe vagueness is the better part of valor. Or of any political discussion between Americans, anyway. 

And so I say, "Well, yeah, what indeed?"

"Unbelievable," Jason says. "I just saw it on Fox this morning."

That's why it's unbelievable, I want to say, but I say instead "Ah, Fox, yeah. But you know, Jason, these news providers are making it very hard to know what is real these days. Everything is exaggerated, on both sides. Fox says one thing, CNN says the exact opposite. What's the truth? 

Ah, what is truth? The immortal words of Pilate. 

"And I was watching a Tucker Carlson episode--

I snort at this point and politely turn it into a cough.

"--where he's interviewing what's his name--that guy in Hungary--"


"Yeah him. He made a lot of sense, you know? Like what America needs to do to restore itself, to get back on track. Basically, we need Trump back. That's basically what he said." 

Oh dear. Good Lord. 

"Gee, this coffee is good," I comment.

"And in the meantime they keep indicting Trump, just hoping that somehow that one thing will stick if they come up with enough indictments."

You realize that these are all independent courts, right? In several jurisdictions. With both Democratic and Republican judges. Brought before the courts on the unanimous decisions of several grand juries composed of both Democratic and Republican jurors. Wherein the vast majority of witnesses testifying for the prosecution were and will be Republican lawyers and officials in the Trump administration.

These are the things I do not say. 

Luckily two motorbikes crash on the street. Everyone turns to look out the window. Happily, no one is hurt. 

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Desert Island Music

 I was reading a short story this morning by Haruki Murakami titled "Carnival" from his collection First Person Singular. In the story, a man meets a woman regularly and though they develop no romantic interest in one another, they discover a keen mutual interest in classical music. At one point, the question arises as to which classical piece of music you would want to bring along with you if you were stranded on a deserted island. They arrive at the same answer: a piano composition called Carnival, by Robert Schumann.

When I came home after reading this, I looked up Carnival on YouTube and played the piece, or at least some of the peace. My conclusion was that I would never choose this piece to have with me on a deserted island. Now I suppose that if one had nothing else to do and nothing else to hear in the way of music, this piece would be certainly better than nothing, and though it is a boring piece, to my ear anyway, I suppose that it could become quite entertaining as compared with silence.

That said, however, I determined for myself that when and if I should ever be stranded on a deserted island, I would much rather bring along a piece by Ravel called Scarbo, from his suite Gaspard de la nuit. This is known to be among the most difficult pieces to perform, and indeed so is Schumann's Carnival. But Scarbo is just much more to my taste. Its swift, captivating phrases catch you off guard, its range of rhythms and moods. Moreover, I would insist of the performance of Katie Liu.

It's something to keep in mind just in case. 

Monday, August 21, 2023

Snow White

 One of the latest firestorms of outrage from the anti-woke folks on Facebook concerns Disney's latest film version of Snow White, which, though I haven't personally seen the film, would seem to have had the audacity to suggest that a young woman does not necessarily need a handsome prince in order to fulfill her own potential. That's what I gather anyway. Oh, and apparently there are far too many people of color in the movie 🤪 The surprising thing to me is that these people seem blissfully unaware that Snow White is not an original Disney creation. Why have you made these changes to the original? they shriek. Some do seem marginally aware that this tale came from the Grimm's Brothers, and yet all together unaware that the Grimms Brothers got the material from their review of pre-existing folklore. In fact, the Snow White story has been presented in any number of variations over the centuries, each telling being tailored to the attitudes and sensitivities of its time, including the Grimms' retelling of the tale. They do not know that the seven dwarves had no names in the Grimms version and they do not know that in earlier versions the dwarves were not dwarves at all but malnourished children who worked in the mines. There is much these folks do not know, but lack of knowledge does not appear to bother them in the least. Which is actually not surprising.

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Little Russia

I read the other day that the town of Canggu, which has grown by leaps and bounds over the past decade, is now being called Little Russia, or Little Moscow, this due to the large influx of Russians, and Ukrainians, who have immigrated to Bali since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. My ex-wife tells me as well that part of Ubud, up in the hills to the north, is also now being called Little Russia. Of course, these folks have come because of the war - - the Russians to escape being pressed into military service and the Ukrainians to escape being killed by Russia's random missile attacks on their country.

It is also true that the greatest number of deportations lately have been of Russian nationals. These have been carried out for a number of reasons, from overstaying visas to disregard/disrespect of the culture and figures of authority, such as the police, and downright criminal activities. I'm sure that not all Russians misbehave, but those who do certainly are giving a bad name to Russian immigrants and tourists in general.

Sanur, happily, seems a bit too quiet and tame for the Russian appetite, and I am glad of it. We don't have the popular bars or any nightclubs at all, mostly just older people, like me, and young families. So not much to see, not much to do, I guess. Hopefully things will stay that way. But for those who predicted the death of the tourist industry in Bali after the pandemic, boy were they wrong! Bali is booming.

Thursday, August 10, 2023


 As August has come to south Bali, so has the sun. And it's about time! It's been a weird year, for the full-fledged dry season has come several months late. Of course, if it extends several months longer than usual, that'll be fine, but I doubt whether we will have such luck. Be that as it may, I am enjoying it while I can--sunny days, barely a cloud in the sky, sunny but mild, breezy, the perfect weather, really, as far as I'm concerned anyway. On days such as these, I miss my old practice of swimming in the ocean, but I just don't seem to have the energy anymore. As it is, I content myself with visiting the beach in the morning or evening, or both, chilling at an outdoor cafe with a coffee and a good book, watching others swim, or walk the paths, or ride by on bikes. And sometimes in the evening it can actually get just a tiny bit chilly. In shorts and tee shirt, I mean. 

Sunday, August 6, 2023

Cigarette Terrorist

 This morning I went to the little cafe just across the way from Bread Basket, where I had had just the day before my unpleasant encounter with the man who likes to pick up another person's burning cigarette and drop it in that person's cup of coffee, and I'll be damned if the same cigarette dunking nitwit didn't show up again! This time he was without his family and stood leaning forward with his hands on the back of a nearby bench, just staring at me. I didn't even notice him at first, engrossed as usual in my book, but finally glanced up to see what the yellow dog who also frequents the cafe was incessantly barking at. What the hell? This guy again? Unbelievable. Does he just roam around terrorizing smokers or what? 🤣 I mean, yesterday was odd, but two days in a row is downright creepy. Well, I shook my head and returned to my book, but I  can tell you I kept a close eye on my cigarette and coffee this time!

Friday, August 4, 2023

No Smoking in the Smoking Area

 First off, the patio out front of Bread Basket cafe is a smoking patio. That's why it is outdoors. That's why there are ashtrays on the tables. 

So, a fat bule and his fat wife are sitting at the table to my left. I am happily reading my book and smoking a cigarette. The fat people finish their breakfast, rise to walk behind me, and as the fat man passes, he reaches over my shoulder, picks up my cigarette from the lip of the ashtray and drops it in my coffee. As he walks away and down the steps, he continually turns to challenge me with his eyes and, I suppose, his morbid obesity. 

I begin to laugh. I light a fresh cigarette. 

Clearly not the kind of people we need in Bali, or, really, anywhere in the world.

I should add that in cases where someone has asked me, more or less politely, to put out my cigarette (and there have been such cases), I have done so without complaint. It's not a big deal. There is, after all, a civil way of interacting with others--although, sadly,  this is more in theory than in practice these days. 

Astounding, isn't it, how one can live among foreign people in a foreign culture for thirteen years and never have a problem until a western tourist shows up at the next table?

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Liberation Day

 I've just finished reading Liberation Day, a collection of short stories by George Saunders, touted as being 'the best short story writer in English'. Umm, no, I don't think so. Sure, a few of the offerings in this collection are well done little pieces--sketches, really, more than short stories--but even these can hardly represent the best writing being done in English. Others, and unfortunately the longer ones in the collection, range from downright bad to downright unreadable. Yes, folks, I was fooled, once again, by the hype. But what can you do? Live and learn, I suppose. And avoid Saunders in the future. I mean Jeeze I'm an old man, I don't have this much time to waste. Nor do I like wasting my money. Pisses me off. So, I have for the time being taken a safe step for the near future and have purchased a history of the Market Garden Campaign of World War II, by Anthony Beevor, a historian with whom I am familiar and can trust for a good read. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2023


 I've had to change my profile name on Facebook and Instagram due to harassment by someone known to me only as Allen. It seems that Allen feels somehow personally injured by political opinions that are at odds with his own--not that I imagine he has so much of a political opinion per se as simply a personal prejudice and a particular axe to grind. He seems, in short, a very angry person, and very likely a fairly deranged person as well. I mean, who spends this much time on such an activity? Allen began with sending messages to my Facebook Messenger in the form of message requests, wherein one can type a brief statement to accompany the request. Allen used this space to express various profanities as well as to level accusations of pedophilia (strangely quite a favorite accusation among the MAGA crowd, as I have heard it multiple times already). Allen then began to contact me on Instagram as well, this time attempting to pen a foul letter to my girlfriend, whom he had seen on my profile picture. So, anyway I've changed my name and have further fine-tuned the parameters of my FB and IG accounts to prohibit being contacted in any way by anyone other than friends and friends of friends. One is almost inclined to delete these apps altogether and save oneself any further trouble, but then I suppose that people like Allen would be free to ruin social media for everyone. For some of my friends, this is the only media by which we communicate, and of course I also enjoy putting up my own photos. I guess it's just the world we live in nowadays.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

The True Monster

 There is one monster that stalks every one of us. Death, you'll say, yes, of course, death is his brother, but old age is the monster. 

     --Time Shelter, Georgi Gospodinov 

Here is a quote that unsettles me, for it is quite true. Death itself is neither monstrous nor fearsome. It is the run up to death that is. Death is quite natural, we are doing it from the time we are born. It is our inescapable destination and will be followed either by new life or nothing, neither of which is dreadful, for the one is continuum and the other is simple oblivion (one cannot dread a thing if one is oblivious). But what must we go through to get to the other side of life in the body? That's the dreadful thing to contemplate.

What happens when memory begins to withdraw? First you forget individual words, then faces, rooms. You search for the bathroom in your own home. You forget what you've learned in this life. It's not much anyway and will run out soon. And then, in the dark phase, as Gaustine calls it, comes the forgetting of that which accumulated before you even existed, that which the body knows by nature, without even suspecting it. Now, that's what will turn out to be fatal.

                 Time Shelter, Georgi Gospodinov

 The gradual loss of language. Yes, I know. Searching for the elusive word that balances forever out of reach on the edge of one's own tongue. Where can it have gone? I know the meaning of the word that I want, the general shape of the word, and yet I cannot utter the word. Once was the time when I would flip through a thesaurus in search of more sophisticated choices for a simple word. Now I search for the simple word itself by pouring through a series of possible approximations. I've not yet misplaced my own bathroom. But after all, I live in a one room apartment. I have, however, dreamed of forgetting where the bathroom is in some other house, some home of mine in the past. 

In the final stage of Alzheimer's disease, my mother finally expired when she forgot how to breathe. That's the way the doctor put it. She simply forgot how to breathe. 

But really, hadn't she left, for all practical purposes, long beforehand? 

Sunday, July 23, 2023

The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida

You know why the battle of good vs evil is so one-sided, Malin? Because evil is better organized, better equipped and better paid. It is not monsters or yakas or demons we should fear. Organized collectors of evil doers who think they are performing the work of the righteous. That is what should make us shudder.

--The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida, Shehan Karunatilaka

This the post-mortem narrative of Maali Almeida from author Shehan Karunatilaka is grim, gruesome, gory, gloomy, brutally funny and sublimely written. Maali is dead: to begin with, to echo one of literature's famous first lines, and learns straightaway that he will have seven moons to decide his eternal fate. He can go to the light, he can go to the dark, or he can linger forever in the In-Between, a sort of endless purgatory, the realm of lost ghosts, sadistic ghouls and hungry demons. We don't remember entering the world, although we suspect that it wasn't easy. But it is more difficult yet to leave the world for we are tied by a thousand-and-one strings of multitudinous natures--love, regret, anger, worry, revenge, lust, unforgiveness, and so on ad infinitum. Maali is dead, and yet he has undone things to do, scores to settle, wrongs to set right, loves to honor, though he has always known deep down that neither the world nor his own Sri Lanken part of the world can ever be set right. Not in this world, as it were. In Maali Almeida we have a protagonist that is both cynic and optimist, thick-skinned observer and fellow sufferer, villain and hero. The usual sort of messy life that most of us lead. The novel is dense with Sri Lankan politics and warring factions, which can be daunting for those unfamiliar with Sri Lanka (which will be most of us), but one fairly easily falls in step with the basic conflicts and the familiar patterns of corruption and betrayal. I was not sure at first whether I was going to be able to persist through this relentlessly violent narrative, but I was soon captive to the uniqueness, to the compelling virtuosity of this writer's voice. Part Dante's Inferno, part Dickens' A Christmas Carol and part Beetlejuice--Marvelous!

Friday, July 21, 2023

Peter, Peter

 One recent evening at the Indonesian Specialty Coffee Cafe, I meet Peter passing by on his bicycle. I am surprised, because the last time I saw Peter, some months ago, he was leaving Bali forever. He said. And indeed, I had seen his Facebook posts from The Netherlands. Nonetheless, here he is, big as day. Or evening, rather. 

"Hey, Peter! I always pictured forever being a longer period of time." 

He turns this over in his mind, thinking first of English, I suspect. Peter does speak English, but haltingly. 

"Oh! Ha ha. Yes, I thought so too. But, you know, there's nothing there. Holland, I mean. Nothing there. Oh, beautiful houses, beautiful buildings for sure. But the women? Nah. They won't have me." 

"So you came back to Bali for the women?"

"You could say that. Well, one woman, pretty much. You see, I'm going to try to get back together with my ex-girlfriend."


"But, you see, there are problems. I mean, we got along very well. Very well. We talked very easy, you know. We just ... what do you say? Clicked?"


"But there were problems."

"You mentioned this."

It does not surprise me to hear that there were problems. I have always known Peter as a problematic sort of guy. And so has everyone else. That's the Dutch for you, people always say. That's the stereotype anyway. Problematic, complainers, fussy. And pelit, which means cheap.

"Well--" I begin. 

"Here's the thing," Peter says. "I mean to say, for one thing, she is kind of significantly younger than me." 

"Younger? How much younger? Twenty years?" I suppose this comes to mind because my own girlfriend is nineteen years younger than I. 

"Oh, ha ha, no." Peter laughs. "That's not young."

"My goodness, how old is this girl, Peter." 


Peter, I must note here, is seventy-two.

I do some quick math in my head.

"That is a bit of an age difference," I comment. 

"Ya," Peter agrees. But that's not all. There's more. I mean, there are some problems. I will tell you the whole story when I see you next, ya? It's a long story. We need more time."

We don't make a date or anything, but I know it will not be long before I see Peter again, for when Peter is in Bali, he just happens to show up at whatever cafe I happen to be in on any given day. I don't think he pedals back and forth looking for me, but on the other hand I can't prove that he doesn't. Heck, on this very evening he has shown up when he wasn't even supposed to be in the country! 

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

The Invisible Fleet

I read today that the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan is in the waters off Sanur. Went down to see what I could see, but unfortunately that was nothing. Perhaps it has already gone into port. I did however see one of the escort cruisers. I think. A ship Navy gray in color, rather than the rich tourist white of yachts. These US ships are part of a task force that operates in the Indian Ocean.

The funny thing is that a scad of users on the Sanur community site began to make the most ridiculous comments. Why are the Americans here? Trying to start another war? Spying on Indonesia? (as if). And so on. These were mostly bules, but also a few Indonesians. Rather discouraging, to say the least. I made a few comments of my own and was roundly attacked for my trouble. Called a blind fool, a propagandized libtard, a pedophile, and so on. The usual stuff. I was hoping this sort of hatefulness was only an American MAGA phenomenon, but apparently it is not. In any case, my 50 year old girlfriend feels once again flattered by appearing young enough to be the target of a pedophile🤣.

I think, in light of all this, that I may delete the Sanur community site. Not the kind of people I want to know.

Sunday, July 16, 2023

A Manageable Annoyance

 Atypically, I've been logging on here every day this week and occasionally typing something in, not because I have anything interesting to say but because I don't want my poor tortured laptop to lose communication with my bank in the States. It has been the case for some time now that every time I try to log in to the bank site, my username is not recognized and the only way to restore a connection has been to call the bank in America and get a rep on the phone who can fix the problem. This is a significant bother for me as bank hours there are late nighttime hours here, and because it is not exactly cheap to make a call to America. I am not able to fix the problem by myself online because the bank runs a security check and as part of this check wants to send a code to my phone, which I would then input to the laptop. Unfortunately, the only option given is for the code to be sent to my phone and the Indonesian system is not set up to receive such codes. Thus, the call to America is necessitated. This has been happening every time on my laptop and because of this my ex-wife has been handling my bank account in order to transfer money to my Indonesian bank account. However, the log in is not working now on her computer either. So the point is that I have been logging in every day (once I called, once again, to reset the account) in hopes that my fried, burned out, next-thing-to-worthless laptop will retain the cookies and allow future log in attempts. So far so good, although one can never tell when the laptop will forget everything again. Just one of the penalties associated with living in a foreign country.

Saturday, July 15, 2023

New Reading List

 Coincidentally, I've finished the two novels I have currently been reading at roughly the same time--Either/Or, which I wrote about yesterday, which I read in English language, and now Maria Beetle, by Kotaro Isaka, in Indonesian translation. This is a sort of comedy of errors type story that is both grim and comical, and also quite fun to read. The 600 pages of this running duel of professional criminals and killers rush by like a two-hour movie as each character strives to come to grips with what is actually happening before whatever it is does him in first. It's a wonderfully offbeat story, a bit reminiscent of Pulp Fiction.

So now I'm moving on to something called The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida, by a Sri Lanka author with an unpronounceable name (winner of the Booker Prize 2022) and another thing called Angsa dan Kelelawar, by Keigo Higashino.

Friday, July 14, 2023

Either/Or, or How to Assassinate Your Own Protagonist

 I've just finished reading Either/Or, which is part two of what is so far a two-part story by novelist Elif Batuman, in which the protagonist, a young woman named Senin who is now a sophomore at Harvard, continues her often perplexing journey into adulthood. Her crush on Ivan--developed in the course of the first novel of the series, The Idiot--a fourth-year student who is both exceptionally gifted and fairly exceptionally odd, persists into the first part of Either/Or but gradually peters out for lack of interest on Ivan's part, who is now on the opposite coast at Stanford in any case, leaving Senin even more at sea than usual, both emotionally and intellectually. Nothing seems to be making sense. 

Perhaps we all reach this point as young adults, this feeling of being adrift, of seeming unformed but not being sure of how we should be formed. Or perhaps I'm just making excuses for Batuman, who seems as the novel proceeds beyond the halfway point to have allowed the character we had come to know in book one to wander away, to suddenly become who she isn't. Is it Batuman who has lost focus, or is it Senin? I'm not sure. It seems to depend on whether there is a book three to come. Because, frankly, book two needs an explanation. As it is, we have merely witnessed a pointless assassination of the delightful, though somewhat innocent and naive young woman we had come to know in book one. Senin, previously a virgin, begins to engage in casual, one might say careless sexual encounters, which I must say sometimes seem absurd as well. We are told, for example, on two occasions that Senin, meeting with one or another perfect stranger, suddenly finds the man's tongue in her mouth. I mean, not after some talking or kissing or some passage of time, but just while they're still standing on the sidewalk five minutes after meeting. Which strikes me as absurd and unbelievable. Is Senin merely excusing herself, being dishonest, or is this just bad writing? I must prefer the former explanation, because Batuman has otherwise proven herself to be an accomplished practitioner of the language. Nonetheless, it just strikes us as weird and 'un-Senin-like'. 

The end of the novel does seem to be floating in midair, and so I am hoping that this is the lead-in to a third part and a proper finishing of the story this author has started. We'll see. 

Saturday, July 8, 2023


 Very strange weather in Bali this past week and more said to be on the way. At a time when we should be in the height of our dry season, it has been raining cats and dogs, and consistently throughout the day. It has been a good time to catch the flu, which I have managed to do, and this has made me not want to do anything or go anywhere anyway. If ever there could be said to be a fortuitous time for the flu, this has been it. Coincidentally, this inclement weather started the day after Eveline flew back to Java. Talk about a woman taking the sunshine with her.

So it has been a week of watching TV and reading books and rushing out between rainstorms, though sometimes unsuccessfully, in order to buy cold pills or aspirin or food (mostly of the comfort variety). I am nearing the end of Elif Batuman's novel Either/Or, and have also been reading, in the Indonesian translation, a long novel called Maria Beetle, by Kotaro Isaka. It was from this novel that the film Bullet Train derived. I saw the film but, as is usual for me, I remember almost nothing of it. I am finding this story of multiple comical hitmen and other low sorts of shady characters all coincidentally on the same train and at various cross-purposes to be quite quirky and entertaining, even at 600 pages. 

In the meantime, I have noted down a title that I want to purchase in the near future--Science After Babel, by David Berlinski. I've heard several of Berlinski's lectures over the years and appreciate his keen intellect and provocative viewpoints. He is the consummate doubter--not of those things we have been intellectually trained in our time to doubt, but of the things that are in need of doubting, such as science, because we have really taken too much for granted, by faith as it were. 

Friday, June 30, 2023


 I had the pleasure over the last three days, during which time my girlfriend and her sister visited, of taking longer excursions around south Bali than I am accustomed to doing. The observant reader will have noticed that I've placed the word pleasure in italics. This is not to say that their company was not a pleasure. It was. It was the excursions themselves that were less than pleasurable. 

The first was to the Kuta area, where we visited a mall, went to the beach, returned to the mall, and then walked through the driving storm of traffic and crowds and drunkards and blaring music to finally arrive at the monument to the 2002 Bali bombing, lit up in bright flashing lights just like the streetside bars. For some reason. 

Of course, I've seen all this before--but the thing is, I was younger then, seemingly fifty years younger, yet somehow only ten at most. In short, these boots are no longer made for walking. They are made for sitting peacefully in a corner. My ability to walk has deteriorated greatly, and I did not realize just how greatly until called on to do much more of it than usual. At one point, as we stumbled (or rather as I stumbled) past a mini market, Eveline ushered me to a chair outside the door (by ushered, I mean that she acted as a human crutch to convey me to the table and lower me into the chair). At this point, a man in the bar next door, leering over his pint of beer, said "Look at the old man. Ha-ha, that's right honey, you take care of the poor old fella." 

The poor fella would have loved to throw the man's beer in his face and then break the glass over his head, but that would have required the strength and energy to rise from his seat. Instead, he merely became silent and sullen, which did not hurt the man in the bar at all.

On the next day, we took a Grab Car to Bali Safari, out somewhere in the neighborhood of Kingdom Come. Now Bali Safari offers its own exhausting walking experience, and I found my skills unenhanced from the day before, although my right foot managed to display a superb talent for finding and tripping over the slightest cracks in the safari pavement. 

I found this zoo--for it is essentially a zoo, and an incomparably inferior one at that--equally as depressing as any other zoo. The animals lay listlessly in the dust, bored by this miniature world where they had so unnaturally found themselves. Poor old fellas. 

And that was that. A very short visit but a very active one. (I almost said exhausting again, but I don't want to be redundant). They have returned now to Java, and I have returned to writing, which, if nothing else, is less exh-, umm taxing than walking. 

Saturday, June 10, 2023

The Idiot

 "Whenever I'm worried about anything," said this guy Ben, "I like to think about China. China has a population of like two billion people, and not one of them even remotely cares about whatever you think is so important." I acknowledged that this was a great comfort. 

The Idiot, Elif Batuman

Well there's a good thing to keep in mind whenever we start feeling too important. Lol. Really, whenever we start thinking anything is especially important, in the grand scheme of things.

I have often found myself feeling surprised, although I don't know why, upon finding that Indonesians have only the vaguest idea about things that are going on in America. I mean, why should they, right? Take our tumultuous political drama, for instance. They are in general quite unaware of it. Nor do they care very much if you attempt to explain it. Why should they? What does it have to do with them?

How aware are we of events and issues in Indonesia? (It's a rhetorical question. No need to compose an answer).

Anyway, as noted above, the quote is from Elif Batuman's unusual novel, The Idiot. I guess it's unusual in the first place that she chose this title, because of course anyone will think first of Dostoyevky's work by the same name. Perhaps Batuman's novel does have some parallel to Doskoyevsky's. I don't know yet. Then again, I have not read the idiot by Dostoyevsky. This may be why I have not seen the relationship between the two 🤪

And speaking of books I haven't read ... As it happens, I first purchased Batuman's novel entitled Either/Or. Here again, this title itself has been taken from another famous book by the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard. Hmm. The plot thickens. The evidence mounts. Perhaps the one has something to do with the other? (I have read Kierkegaard, but it was a long time ago and I'm sure it was gibberish to me at the time. I was a university student then, and university students specialize in gibberish).

That aside, I meant to say that I bought and started to read the second Batuman book before I realized there was a first and that the second was a sequel to the first. Therefore, I stopped reading the second and purchased the first on Kindle. (The second I have in paperback, which I prefer-I mean paperback books, not the book itself, which I cannot know whether I prefer because I have only read a few pages of it). 

The first novel, The Idiot, concerns the career of a young Harvard student named Senin. One does not know precisely what she is studying because neither does she. You might say that she is testing the waters. It is difficult at first to "get" what Batuman is doing. You have read that this is supposed to be funny, but you are not sure why ... until, that is, you begin to remember your own university days and the curious and careful education in nothing that was inflicted upon you. It all becomes clear, or, rather, unclear all over again.

I am reminded here of a quote from Mark Twain: "All schools, all colleges have two great functions: to confer, and to conceal, valuable knowledge". Or this: "Education: the path from cocky ignorance to miserable uncertainty". 

But certain things are expected, not to mention important, in the real world, such as living a meaningful life, making friends, seeking out a love, and so on, and this Senin does in her own faltering, uncertain way, wondering perhaps, as we all do, how she is supposed to know so much when she knows so little. 

Once you get your feet in the water of this book, you suddenly realize that it is quite delightful--as when we say 'Come on in, the water's fine!' 

I'm looking forward finishing this one and diving into the next. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Atlas Beach Fest

Near the last part of May, Eveline, also known as my girlfriend, visited Bali from Jogyakarta and we spent the last day of her vacation in Canggu at a place called Atlas Beach Fest. I had not been to Canggu in years and found myself gobsmacked all over again. Canggu along with Kuta and Seminyak are what I would call the tourist traps of Bali and indeed they trap hundreds of thousands of tourists every year. The Atlas Beach Fest itself is an enormous commercial complex of restaurants, bars, live entertainment, swimming pools, a shopping center, and God knows what else. Give me peaceful little Sanur any day. That said, we had a pleasant time, along with Wayne and Louis, who drove us there and very kindly paid our way as well. So here are some photos.