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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.