Saturday, April 28, 2007

Some overdue ramblings about The Shooting

I'm pissed off at Time magazine for printing so many electrifying pictures of the young Korean guy who brutally murdered random students at Virginia Tech. That guy deserved no fame, but that ghastly excuse for a news magazine has once again (remember the cover photo of the Columbine murderers?) given waaaaayyy more than 15 minutes of glory, yes, it was GLORY, to that stupid kid.

Fight Club screenwriter speaks in Tucson

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Yeah, I Liked Kurt Vonnegut, Too

Sorry to hear of Kurt Vonnegut's passing. When I think of the disastrous guest commencement speech by Chevy Chase at my son's college graduation weekend, I wonder why no one tried to get the demigod of every literate teen.

I'm not totally sure that Kurt Vonnegut was essentially a humanist, but he adored the foibles of humankind in the way that we all hope and pray that God up in Heaven might. He showed us failures, misfits, outcasts, and victims, but usually ones who miraculously had no self-pity. He knew the nobility of humility, and he could honor even ignorance. For if there is a God, we're all hoping against hope that He/She has a soft spot for us and will save us. ...Even though we consume too much, get caught up in silly vanities, and stumble along paths we scarcely trust (guilty, guilty, and probably guilty).

Vonnegut seemed to be all-seeing. He was outside our comfortable universe of grinding along like drones, getting older, stupider, sillier. He proposed outlandish ideas that blew our 13 year old minds.

I read Welcome to the Monkey House at about age 11, the beginning of a year when I first devoured Saki, Ray Bradbury, and Madeleine L'Engle. I was ripe for wonder, loved twists of fate, and held a fascination for a kind of cosmic cruelty. Vonnegut could give me all of that, but with an amicable tone I didn't find anywhere else in my 350 pages a week suggested by Mrs Van Buskirk for our reading for pleasure. I felt richer for these new amazements, discovering that I might actually have some cosmic connections with other earthlings.

It seems that we have to recognize the negative before we're ever going to reach the positive. My heart was not broken first by a pimply faced boy in my math class, but by Malachi Constant in Sirens of Titan. I discovered the love that comes not with valentines and hand-holding, but with suffering together and making it through to another side, wiser in the awareness that I knew next to nothing. Thanks to Vonnegut, I knew the agony of the soul that comes from seeing injustice, ill fate, and insignificance. He defined for me delusion, and yet showed me that there is hope, even if the true reality I've been missing is actually pretty awful. Heavy things for a kid, and no less important to me as I have aged. And then I read Cat's Cradle. I have never been able to get it out of my head these 35 years since. Slaughterhouse 5 is a bit slick, but certainly elegantly done, a work of genius.

I read a few of his later works, but they never meant as much to me as those above. Hard to say anything else at this time of great loss. A friend is gone, but he left me so much.

Thank you, Kilgore Trout.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter

I suppose the Pagan in me should find something lovely in the knowledge that it is Easter Sunday, but for now I just think about fond days with the kids when they were littler. See, outside it's the sultry weather of Bali's hottest month. If this is the beginning of something, I didn't see it. I got up this morning at the late time of 7:30. I mean, for years now, I've been rising at dawn. But since I got back from HK, I just can't shake half-seven.

I put laundry in the machine and walked right back to J's recording studio to do some stretches because that's the coolest part of the compound. No one to talk to, because the pembantu and cook both quit last week. Actually, it's a godsend on balance. The cook had a sh88ty attitude and the pembantu refused to learn ironing of clothes. I will miss the latter to some extent (he really looked after the place while I was away) and will not miss the former. Anyway, not answering to any kitchen staff is like this lovely vacation.

We popped over to our neighbor's house, because he was hosting two interesting house guests. Scientist from the Fisheries Dept in Darwin (soon to retire in Flores), and an Australian language teacher of Dutch ancestry who urged us to visit a relatively undeveloped snorkeling site in east Lombok. Noted, and thank you soooo much! The Scientist got right into questioning the tradition of Easter egg hunting, and we started talking about the controversial Chocolate Jesus sculpture, which I think is a proper (and even rather spiritual) question of the commercialization of Christian holidays. Of course, some dufus from an organization of Catholics got on CNN and railed against the thing. Art!

We then decided to go out front for a snorkel, and the water today was crystalline. School of 200 Unicorn fish (not an exaggeration) was out there. I swam back in and had to contend with a surprising set of waves that met me at the wrong time. Oh, well, made it back in eventually. Breakfast took me forever to make (french toast, papaya, coffee) because I've become a kitchen retard after years of being waited on.

More laundry. Sweeping, cutting flowers, insecticide bombing in the Chinese altar coffer, all in a morning's work. By the time I got started on lunch, it was already 1. By the time my tomato and pepper sauce for fettucine was done, it was nearly 3. I put the tv out on a little plastic stool and we watched an episode of 30 Rock (when it was funny, I guess). Kitchen cleanup, more laundry, a bath... holy cow, the sun's setting!

I never even ate chocolate. Never mind a chocolate Jesus. But now we will drive to Candidasa to check out the goods by the Rama Hotel's hot new chef.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Nancy Pelosi Goes To Syria

All I want to say is, Yeah!

President Bush, will you please read my blog? I say this to you, Dubya, and to anyone else who is reading.

Syria is a country, people! It's a place where ordinary people live and work. It's worth visiting.

It's a very interesting piece of our planet which looks after a few amazing old Roman ruins (Palmyra) and the oldest purpose-built Christian church that uses an arch. Syria is a pilgrimage destination for Christians, mainly because of Straight Street and St John, I believe. There are lots of Christians living in Damascus, and I don't mean a bunch of missionaries or something. I mean Arab Christians.

There are amazing souks (old covered marketplaces) and beautiful mosques and preserved forts, there are deserts and sea ports. The food is out of this world! Blood orange juice, roasted chicken, salads full of tasty fresh ingredients, lamb roasted to perfection on skewers, sweet sheets of dried apricot "leather", rich halvah, crunchy baklava, and the best yogurt I've ever eaten.

Okay, so the coffee is a bit bitter. But I love the damask fabric, the rugs, the olive oil soap, and the chocolate covered almonds.

I want to say THANK YOU, Nancy Pelosi, senator from my former state of California (wish I could say I voted for her, but I live in Asia and can only vote in Presidential elections... which gives me an idea). House Speaker Pelosi is merely doing what everyone ought to be doing, especially Condoleeza and W (ahem, you two): visiting a few folks to see if it's really such a good idea for them to be on the USofA SH*T list. I mean, isn't communication the universal solvent or something?

I hope Nancy picked up some plastic vats of that halvah to pass around her office at tea time. Her interns will love her forever, if she did. And I hope she stopped by the big souk at Aleppo to buy olive oil soap from the guy who looks exactly like Hank Azaria and speaks perfect English. But of course, I acknowledge that she was there for the serious business of talking world issues with President Assad. They appeared, on CNN, to be more than cordial with each other. Just America's most important working Grandma and the middle east's most intriguing former ophthalmologist, having a good chat. Probably not about eye charts and halvah, either. But someday, I hope that's all they have to discuss.