Saturday, December 13, 2014

"Ass" post

I'm singing in my brain the David Bowie song ch-ch-ch-ch changes... I'm sure there are a few who know the Yes song called "Changes" too. Those are both rolling around in my head. But to illustrate a point, if someone from a younger era was thinking about how things are in a constant state of flux, they might have a Carrie Underwood or Taylor Swift song running through their grey matter. (Both of them have songs entitled "Change." I looked it up.)

The youngsters are really changing the world. And now I understand the oldsters that I couldn't understand when I was a youngster. Cuz a lot of the changes are hard to get used to. Some folks my age just refuse to even try. A good example, one close to my heart, is language. It's my bread and butter. This whole sentence would be written differently by a person younger than myself. For instance they have a new structure denoting emphasis. It's when you take any adjective and attach the word "ass" to it. So I should have said something like "Now I understand the old-ass people I couldn't understand a long-ass time ago when I was a young-ass person." I'm not too sure if I mind THIS change in the language so much. Sometimes I think it's a cool-ass change but sometimes it doesn't work. Other changes, the kind of things I used to notice and encorporate almost without hesitation, I am hesitant-ass to use. There's an example of the ass emphasis not working.

Young people, you can't MEAN something until you've said something, okay? So when someone sees you for the first time today, crosses over the street and says, "Hey how's it going?" don't say, "I mean... it's okay." What do you mean, you mean?!?! You haven't said anything! This lame-ass language trait is annoying. I used to have a teacher named Mr. Sarbadhikari. He was Indian. Probably still is. He liberally sprinkled "I mean" throughout his language. It made him fun to immitate. "The Canturbury Tales is, I mean, E-Chaucer's, contribution to, I mean, the canon." We used to waste entire classes counting the "I means." I remember triple digits! But for him it was like, "Um," or "Like," it wasn't as annoying to me. Plus English was his second or third language. "Who do you think will be voted out tonight?" asks Jeff Probst. "I meaaannnn... Dennis looked bad in today's challenge but I'll be voting with my alliance." Just say "um" or "uh" or "duh," for crying out loud.

But some things stay the same too. I still get asked regularly why I'm not married. Often, and most recently, by a Korean. I've even been told I'm selfish for not having a wife and kids. Me and Doug Stanhope beg to differ. Hey, next time you and your wide-ass, 12 baby making hips are standing in line waiting to use the women's washroom, don't complain because it's folks like you who have kids like they're collectables that are partly responsible for overpopulation, starvation, malnutrition, fresh water shortages, ozone depletion, high prices of scarce non-renewable resources, and bathroom line-ups. Don't be honking your horn at ME in traffic either. I have zero kids, (that I know of). I am contributing to population DEcrease. Meanwhile you have more than made up for me and you have the clackers to blow your horn at ME? Just sit back and enjoy the fourth time you've played "Frozen" today on your newly indebting minivan TV screens. Try to block out the screaming of the youngest and the arguing of your third and fourth. Don't pay any attention to that seatbelt click, or UNclick, or that mysterious smell. Remember YOU got yourself into this because they're cute for a short time, they kinda look like you and once in a while they say or do adorable things. The rest of the time you have this, but you signed on for it so don't complain and DON'T take it out on me by hammering on your horn like the steering column is going to go through the Astrovan's floorboards and punch a hole in the ground that you can just dive into and disappear.

If you knew me you might do it out of jealousy. I'd get that. This morning, well, more accurately a little after noon when I slowly got out of bed, got a piece of pizza and a beer from the fridge, took them and my laptop to the toilet, ate brunch, I guess, while surfing porn on my laptop on my lap on the toilet with the bathroom door wide open I thought to myself, "It's times like these I need to remind myself of how lucky I really am." You can't do that because you have a wife and kids. You have a role to play. You have a life to star in. The question is not why I made the choices I made, is it?

Don't get me wrong, I sometimes feel a twinge of envy at couples who kiss on New Year's Eve at midnight, or families who have big Christmas dinners and piles of gifts under the tree. But they're nothing compared to the Hunger Games bow TWANGS every nerve in my body gets simultaneously when I am in the supermarket and a kid is knocking stuff off the shelves and his mother is trying to keep her cool saying, "Jeffery that's not how we behave in public." (nervous laugh and glance at fellow grocery shoppers). "Shut up, Mom!" screams Jeffery, grinning like Damien the anti-Christ, continuing to knock products off the shelves. Some break open and will need to be paid for by Mommy. "Jeffery, please stop doing this. You are embarrassing yourself." "I'm not embarrassed, YOU are!" screams the demonic little brat. "Am I going to have to give you a time-out?" "Time-outs don't scare me you bitch!"

Remember when we were young? Oh sure Mom might behave like this in the grocery store but when we got out of public we were in for it! So WE didn't behave like Jeffery. In our changing world it seems like everyone is more violent except parents and teachers. The ones raising the larger and larger numbers of kids in the world. They're the people who need a little MORE power behind their disapproval and society is allowing them less and less. Of course there are limits. I believe most of us are naturally provided with the ability to have kids and the ability to know when one of those kids could use a patt on the butt or a smack in the head. And when we were young parents were still allowed to use corporal punishment. You know what I'm talking about, Dad comes at you, takes off his belt, ties your hands behind your back, strips you naked, butts out cigars on your skin, maybe a little waterboarding, you remember that. (that's Doug Stanhope. I just watched him last night. lol)

Seriously though, any parent, teacher, babysitter who even LOOKED like he/she might not be afraid to employ some REAL physical discipline rarely had to use it. Just the threat was enough. And, BLAMMO, limit established. Okay, now we know and we will behave accordingly. I don't think I want the all too difficult responsibility of creatively establishing and reinforcing behavioural guidelines on kids with the insane limitations society and laws made by young folks have provided. "Okay any student who is caught fighting, torturing, maiming, murdering or bringing any harm to another student will have his or her Xbox priveleges revoked. FOR A WHOLE WEEK!" That's why I don't teach kids. Well, not young ones anyways. And that, coupled with the lack of the necessary partner, is a big reason why I don't have any kids of my own.
To quote the great Don Henley, "Freedom, oh freedom... well that's just some people talkin'." These days when these words ring truer and truer; when cost of living rises every day and wages stay the same or go down; when you take off hats, belts, shoes, empty your pockets, produce three pieces of photo I.D., a retinal scan, a stool sample, and a fingerprint-based criminal record check to order a pizza, I think another big reason I stay single is the relative freedom I have in comparison to the Orwellian lives I see friends and family living. We have to snatch our little freedoms everywhere we can these days because it seems the time is coming when they'll all be gone.

Right now sunlight and rain are free but give our owners a few years to figure out ways of owning the sun and the rain and renting them to us and they will. It's so much about ownership nowadays. Moreso than when I was a kid. And getting worse. I think that's the inherent gambler in all of us. There are a VERY few people in our world who own pretty much everything, and don't kid yourself, they own me and you too. But we don't mind! We're cool with that! For the same reason we're fine with paying money for a lottery ticket or a visit to the casino. Because we know there is a miniscule chance that the bet might pay off and WE coud become one of the owners. Unlike a lot of people, I have no desire to be one of the owners. I don't want to be rich, own a big house, a wife and three kids. I want to own a vehicle someday maybe but that's it. And when I'm old, a small shack, a small piece of property and a blazing fast internet connection. Try to find a gal that thinks that living the rest of her life with me, cranking out some kids and having one vehicle, a small shack and a small piece of property is worth it. The blazing internet connection doesn't sweeten the deal much. She knows she can do better. This may not be a big change but I have noticed over my lifetime that it has changed in degree. The ladies of my youth were more satisfied with less. Now that might have something to do with my having more hair, less belly and better looks back then. Maybe. Or maybe it might have had more to do with having more years left in the work force, and more drive to get that job that will lead to the bigger house, multiple cars and so on.

I'm even finding that employers have the same prejudice. This is WHY wages are going down while the cost of living goes up. Like in China where factories pay so little the workers MUST work hundreds of hours of overtime just to keep from starving, the model has expanded into what we call "western" cultures too. Businesses want workers who will work for the company knowing that they won't make very much money unless they DO the overtime hours. This way the company has a larger stake in your life. They OWN a bigger piece of your life. Like everything in the world, this benefits the owners and it's by design. This is how we've ended up with upper classes making more money than ever and the other 99% making less than ever. Higher numbers on the paycheck don't mean you're earning more money.

Bust your ass your whole life and if you're lucky you get a decade of retirement when you're body and mind are too worn out from the years of hard work to enjoy it. I want to make enough money now and work few enough hours to enjoy that money. While I'm young. Golfing, travelling, sightseeing, sure I can do these when I am older but they're not as much fun. Right now I want to go sightseeing at the Great Barrier Reef, Soy Cowboy, catch a tiger shark, not have tea at an emperor's palace or stroll the batanical gardens. Snorkelling, diving, dancing, drinking, whitewater rafting, hiking up volcanoes, catching big fish, there are long lists of things you can't, or probably shouldn't do after retirement. I'm just trying to scratch these off my bucket list while I'm relatively young. Can't do it if the company you work for OWNS you. And if you have 4 kids and mountains of debt trying to give them the kind of life society mandates, then you are STILL owned by the owners. Maybe not just the ones who own the company you work for.

The way I see it, I'm a bit more free than the average guy. I am leaving less of a footprint on an overtrampled Earth. And though I'm not free, I am not so beholden to my owners. And I always reserve the right to tell them to kiss my big-ass ass if they start getting too possessive of me. It's nice to have that ability, but in my opinion, things are changing in this world so fast that this ability won't be around much longer. I might be a dying breed. So take advantage of the time you have with my single-ass, free-ass ass! I, and others like me, will soon be extinct.

EASILY the highest "ass" count of any post ever by me.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

I Don't Care, I Love It!

"Hey hey hey just think while you've been getting down and out about all the liars and the dirty dirty cheats of the world you could have been getting down to this sick beat." Taylor Swift from her song "Shake it Off."

Well, I am a fella who no longer has hella good hair but I DO have somethin' in my brain so when the fakers fake fake fake and the haters hate hate hate, I'm not just gonna shake shake shake. But thanks for the advice anyway, girl younger than the underwear I have on right now.

"You're on a different road, I'm in the Milky Way. You want me down on earth, but I am up in space. You're so damn hard to please, we gotta kill this switch. You're from the 70's, but I'm a 90's bitch." "I crashed my car into a bridge. I watched, I let it burn. I crashed my car into a bridge. I don't care. I love it." Icona Pop's song "I Love It."

"You're like a drug that's killing me. I'd cut you out entirely. But I get so high when I'm inside you." Maroon 5 from the number one song on Billboard as I type, "Animals."

"Staying in my play pretend Where the fun ain't got no end Ooh Can't go home alone again Need someone to numb the pain You're gone and I gotta stay High all the time To keep you off my mind." Tove Lo's song "Habits (Stay High)"

Anybody else see a theme here or am I out on that all too familiar limb of the tree all by myself again?

I have been on a bit of an ethical, philosophical, spiritual mission since I got out of the mindless euphoria of youth to try to find some joy in the suffering of life. That's been my goal for quite some time now. Not going well, but thanks for asking. But am I seeing here what could be my problem? Am I too busy trying to find GENUINE joy in the pain that is life? And "Life IS pain, highness! Anyone who tells you different is selling something." Westley/The Dread Pirate Roberts. Such a quotable movie!!!

The first noble truth of Buddhism is that life is suffering. You're gonna get lemons. But maybe I've been struggling so much because I am trying to make lemonade out of lemons instead of saying, "Screw it, I'll just go dancing, crash my car and watch it burn like a pyro, have some hate sex or alter my mind synthetically to get to a play pretend place where I'll forget about those uncooperative lemons." Don't fix the problem, settle, shake it off, get stoned or just repeat I love it I love it I love it I love it I love it until you love it.

Does this sound like unhealthy autohypnosis or phony escapism to anyone else out there or am I from the 70's and damn hard to please? I guess I DO want people more down to earth instead of walking around with their heads in the clouds, (or the Milky Way). How else are we going to make the world a better place? Or at least keep the world from being run by liars and dirty, dirty cheats?

But then again, maybe the younger generation is finding in their crappy music, a way to empty their heads of all thoughts so that what is important becomes clear. Having hella good hair, a smile on your beautiful face, youthful body and the ability to move that body to a throbbing techno beat. I admit that is an insanely envious and dismissive statement, but seriously, are they so different from Mevlevi twirlers who "sama" dance to experience the ecstasy of total surrender? Are the flashing strobes in the club welcome luminosity to Daoists in deep meditation? Is the sweat from dancing caused just from exercise or is it the result of what the Hindus call "siddhi" which is a(n) hallucinatory state marked by excessive body heat? Are these young whippersnappers practicing Tantric "hot" yoga at the clubs characterized by the intense heat of the kundalini ascending the spine? Is Friday or Saturday night raving essentially the same as the Namibian San tribe trance dancing with the goal of heat ascending the spine culminating in an out of body experience? Are they so different from natives smoking herb in sweatlodges to gain communication with the spirits? Or the Cora, Huichol, and Tarahumara Indians dancind their peyote dance all night long so that they can have visions of the future?

I'm a believer in trying to DO positive things, not just, as they say, "act as if." If I don't like my situation, I do something about changing it. I don't settle for artificially self-programming my brain to accept things the way they are. Especially when I know they are absolutely wrong. The Buddha, Gautama Siddhartha started his life as a rich boy with no idea of the suffering of the world. All the people around him acted as though it didn't exist. He then left his cozy home and was exposed to the real world. He didicated his life to finding enlightenment. That is, a way to take joy in th suffering of life. I just find it hard to believe that his "enlightenment" was to go back to the happy pretenses of his younger days. Could it be that easy?

It's not supposed to be if we believe the Bible verse, "Straight is the gate and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life and few there be who find it." This verse was practically the sole inspiration for one of the very few epic poems, The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser in which the Redcrosse Knight struggles literally with what we all struggle with figuratively. He fights many battles for Una, or truth and fends off the evil womanly wiles of Duessa and the two-faced, wicked harlot almost defeats him. To me that would seem to be the opposite of what these young, hedonistic songsters are advocating.

But is the truth overrated? Wouldn't it have been infinitely easier for me to just do what I was supposed to do, get married, work a job I don't like, crank out two point five kids, smile at people I want to punch in the face then go drink scotch till it feels better... I don't know if that WOULD have been easier, would it? A lot of people I know did pretty much that and when I ask them "How are you?" do they not say they are fine? I've been called selfish many times for not having a wife and kids. Am I? Oh geez, major crisis!

But, I DON'T CARE, I LOVE IT! This is the way life is supposed to be. Difficult. Otherwise you're doing something wrong I reckon. And I'm not going to go out and crash my car, get laid, spike up and shoot some forget into my veins, I'm just going to figure it out, fix it up and keep plugging all the leaks until I die. Youngsters sage advice notwithstanding, I think it might be too late for this dog to learn the trick of just acting like my troubles are not there.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Get Smart

Read this.

Now take a look at this:

Now PLEASE watch THIS.

I'm tempted to just leave this post at that. But you know I can't. Let's start with the supermarket scene. It says it may have been in a different country or it may have been totally fabricated. I have a hard time accepting that in Canada, which I have read is the "most educated country in the world," (whatever that means), this could ever happen. If Canadians really ARE educated they'd take the hour or two of research time it would take, (the vid is an hour and a half actually), and realize that the Iraq invasion and occupation had absolutely jack-shit-diddly to do with ANY rights and freedoms we have in Canada. It was Operation Iraqi Liberation - O.I.L. Period.

Ostensibly it was about weapons of mass destruction. ZERO were found. But how many were USED? Watch the doc. They talk about cluster bombs used on the general population. Cluster bombs are weapons. They are intended for indiscriminate destruction of large amounts of people. Perhaps these are the bombs the lady in the burka was referring to. Incidentally to add drama, the average age of the population of Iraq that were being indiscriminately cluster bombed was 15. How many were used in Iraq? Impossible to know because despite the hundreds of "embedded" reporters we saw giving reports from the ground with soldiers drinking beer and kicking a football around behind them, the Iraqi operation was mostly done from the air and I don't remember a single reporter embedded in a bomber. They weren't allowed to see that part of the war, the documentary reports. And if they were they might have lots their hooowah comradery that built up when spending time with the amiable troops and actually been journalists instead of jingoists. Now I know that the article points out most of the cluster bombs were launched from the ground but if any reporter had seen that or any of the air bombings, they'd probably have lost some of their patriotic support and possibly the contents of their stomach.

This report gives an unconfirmed number of about 10,800 cluster bombs used by the U.S. and 2,200 used by the U.K. Watch the video. Read the article. People died and children were sent to the hospital because of cluster bombing. The video shows some. It also talks about an Agent Orange, napalm-type substance also used in Iraq.

Afghanistan, Syria, Gaza, the Ukraine, pretty much anywhere there is conflict the cause is oil, natural gas, or some form of corporation-enriching commodity. This is not conspiracy theory. In so many cases the people who do the research are, in my experience, the ones who believe the "conspiracies" and the dummies who believe the corporate and political media doublespeak are the ones laughing at them for being so stupid. Like the cartoon. Laughing, bullying, taking away their jobs, or worse.

The Muslim shopper had a point. When ARE we going to stop bombing people, or in Canada's case, when are we going to stop supporting with our tax dollars, the greedy, violent tactics of western corporate global Manifest Destiny? When are we going to face facts and admit to ourselves that if we saw this kind of killing in our countries, we would want revenge too? When are we going to stop blaming these things on religion? Yes, the woman was Muslim. Yes, she has more rights and freedoms in Canada than she had in Iraq. But precious little if any of the fighting done by Canadian soldiers since WWII has had anything to do with either.

I have met a hundred soldiers here in Asia if I've met one and amongst them I have yet to hear a single freedom fighter slogan or emotional mantra such as "freedom ain't free" or "fighting for our way of life." Those are skillful emotional manipulation used on civilians to build the fighting forces into heroes they don't want to be. They're doing a job and collecting a paycheck, most of them. And when I talked to soldiers, male and female, during the Iraq operations every one of them said they wanted to go over there. I asked if it was to "defend the liberty of Americans" and they all said, "Nope, it's better pay." I have even heard stories from protesters protesting for peace and being guarded or even arrested by soldiers and/or police, that they were secretly told by the soldiers to keep doing what they're doing.

Look at the little girl in the article. Shahad Thaer Mustafa. Just saying the name connotates something negative in my mind and I hate the fact that somehow I've gotten that anti-Muslim name sentiment into my head. It sounds like a religious extremist or terrorist, right? How do you suppose that happened? She's a little girl whose uncle was killed by actions that could very accurately be described as "terrorist." If she grows up and joins ISIS or ISIL or whatever organization they might morph onto by then she will be called a terrorist. But is that accurate? Or is she just a person who has seen friends and relatives killed by a force and she is doing everything within her power to weaken or eliminate that force? Even if it unfortunately involves killing innocents. Her uncle was innocent. Maybe some other friends and family she lost were too.

If this becomes the case there is no doubt little Shahad would be labelled a terrorist. You see when she allows for the killing of innocent people in the name of her cause, it's called terrorism. When the allied forces use cluster bombs that they know will kill innocent people, it's called collateral damage. The same goes for a lot of other types of warfare that has been used including drone strikes. When an attack in retaliation for murders perpetrated by evil corporate warmongers is arranged and carried out the spin-doctors in the media always pretend like it was completely unexpected, out of left field, unwarranted, cowardly and without justification. Terrorism. This aggression will not stand. This aggression will not stand. We must redouble our efforts to combat such unwarranted and evil attacks. It's all skillful, emotional manipulation. And if your brain is small enough, it's so easy to jump right on that bandwagon of violence!

But smart people question things. Smart people don't get carried away with emotional calls to arms against people who are subjugated by our foreign policies. Smart people need to object to people using, "It's just business," or "It's my job," to try to justify taking human lives. Smart people know that this is why there are more and more emotionally messed up soldiers and former soldiers. Read this story of one soldier who was wounded in Iraq. Was he a hero or an unappreciated pawn in the global game of Monopoly or Risk or Oil Grab being played by the true psychopathic terrorists of the world? Smart people need to stop sitting down and taking the brainless abuse that dumbasses such as the two in the cartoon or the person who wrote the fake supermarket story dish out. Smart people understand that the people bombing Iraq are not WWII veterans and they're not doing it for Iraqi, U.S. or Canadian freedom. Smart people need to say some smart things and educate those people even if they don't want to be educated and they might punch you in the face if you try. Smart people need to show the same support for corporate/military killing as they do for retaliatory killing or if you prefer, "terrorism" being committed by ISIS and other such groups: NONE.

The Koran does not support killing unless in self-defence. I doubt there is a single member of any ISIS-type organization who doesn't believe that this is what they are doing. The simple solution is to remove the perceived need for self defence. Stop with the extremist economics. Don't just kill more people and further solidify their resolve. I don't even think a person has to be smart to figure this out, but it's getting to the point in our world where we must either get smart or get dead. We're not there yet but I sure hope we don't leave it until it's too late!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Harpy Egg Wasting No Time Building His Legacy: Chinada

Well now I know how the U.S. must feel. HERE'S a wonderful article by the CBC, Canada's national(ly owned) news broadcasting corporation. It is absolutely hilarious how positive they are making this sound. The deal is expected to "dramatically boost exports..." of Canadian money and resources back to China. "The signing of the deal was announced in Beijing today..." because while Harpy Egg is there he won't have to field questions like, "Why the hell are you making all these massive deals that Canadians only find out about after they are done and while you are not in the country to explain them?"

And look who the quotes are from. "Great boon for Canada..." says Stewart Beck, of Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada. "Great news for Canada..." says Jason Henderson of HSBC Canada. Two white sounding names working for Asian companies. Probably eggs like the crime minister. An "egg" is a person who is white on the outside and yellow on the inside. Though most eggs in Asia eggs are well tanned, but my N. American readers will get the analogy. And there might just be a little bit of profit in this for their workplaces so talk about the WRONG people to get unbiased comments from! Jason at HSBC must know that the Canadian bank that will take care of the "hub" transactions, (gozillions of dollars worth of them), has still not been chosen. So of oourse he loves the deal and will do anything to help facilitate and expedite the proceedings for whoever is in charge of choosing the bank... wink wink ANYthing!

But the article isn't all bad. I like articles like this actually. It's the most dependable way to find out how many Chinese actually ARE in Canada. Let's see... "Trade between China and Canada supports 470,000 jobs in Canada." 470,000. There are 470,000 Chinese citizens in Canada. Because the Chinese DON'T hire Canadians. They're too expensive! Well except for guys like Stew and Jason above who are kept around to make quotes and appearances so people think Chinese companies hire non-Chinese. In all seriousness HSBC was established in the UK and probably has a few non-Chinese holdovers after the Hong Kong handover. The other company is just figuring out how to "trade" with Asia things like oil, natural gas, and whatever else Canada can handover, I mean trade to China. And those other countries over there.

I'm exaggerating. Sometimes Chinese companies hire Canadians, or Chinese people who have, (somehow), qualified for Canadian citizenship. These are valuable people to politicians because they allow statements like, "Chinese companies employ Canadians," to ALMOST be true. At last count more than half of the people in Canada were not born in Canada and the Chinese are by far the biggest group of these new Canadians. They've just been hanging around in Canada for years to be the future labour force for Chinese companies to start pillaging Canadian resources once the sale of Canada to China has been finalized. Chinese have been filing into Canada for years and systematically deteriorating Canadian laws to allow them to do so. For example the Canadian government knows there are lots of Chinese in the country on student visas who not only breach those visas by not attending classes, they are illegally working in their uncle's tire store or dim sum restaurant. And they are working for illegally low wages. I did not pull this out of my ass, people, this is an example taken from many years ago when I lived in Vancouver. Two of my students told me they were working for their Uncle for less than minimum wage. Less than minimum wage in Canada is still way more than they can make in China. That was I think in the early 2000's and I found out first hand from the government agencies that they knew about it and there was nothing they could do about it.

You can't just sell Canada to the Chinese overnight. It takes many years apparently.

At least this article isn't like most of the past articles I've read about Harper's traitorious reign as a PM loved about as well as a hockey lock out. Most of the articles I've read preceeding this one did not allow for comments. This one, they believe, might fool a few Canadians into saying something positive I guess. But I read through the comments. Nope.

This will be great for Chinese business in Canada! The ones already in Canada and the future businesses. This may actually inspire MORE Chinese businesses to set up in Canada. So now the businesses and all the Chinese workers they employ can avoid the hassle and expense of exchange rates while they are sucking dollars out of Canada and back to their beloved homeland. I don't see the benefits for Canadians though there are those knuckleheads blinded by inexplicable loyalty to the Conservative Party of Canada I suppose, who are trying to tell us this is a good thing.

But even though this won't help the average Canadian, even though this will contribute to a tide of new businesses in Canada that aren't hiring Canadians, even though the Chinese will eventually do to Canada what they did to China and take every drop of oil, stick of wood, gallon of water and anything else they can sell out of the country, take heart, my fellow Canadians because Harper is taking care of you. Well, your kids anyway. So since you won't be working, why not crank out about 20 kids? They'll be worth about 160 bucks a month each. That'll keep you in Kraft Dinner and maybe even hot dogs with it once in a while. I don't know if the Chinese will be nice enough to put Canadians on reservations while they invade but who knows? We might have that to look forward to.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The ISIS Crisis

There’s a part in the movie, “Her,” when the guy played by Joaquin, (Johnny Cash), Phoenix, says that sometimes he thinks he’s felt everything he’s ever going to feel. It’s after a failed computer set up with a girl that was really pretty, very nice, easy to talk to and the night went well, but it just didn’t work out. She ends up calling him a creepy guy. He argues and says, “No. Really I’m not.” But that’s just what you’d expect a creepy guy to say, isn’t it?

A couple of things that might give you some idea where I’m going with this: 1. I wasn’t sure if he was creepy or not. I kinda took both their sides on that one. Because the guy, what’s his name, (Google), Theodore, is a very nice guy. He’s NOT abnormal, he’s just past the point in life where he’s no longer able to get into character for some of the social situations that make up our youths. At least not without more alcohol than they drank on that evening. He may have replaced too much of his emotions with wisdom and when he gets to the point in the date that everything is strategically set up to come to, and he opens up the emotional floodgates, it’s more of a trickle than a flood. And maybe, like myself, he starts employing the brain where it’s really not wanted and questioning the stagecraft of the entire evening and losing the seduction supplied by the suspension of disbelief and while he’s moving in for the all-important first kiss he’s thinking of scenes in a movie or TV show he has seen lately. “Should I do the clich├ęd hesitant kiss like Twilight, or should I just make a strong statement and then grab her like in Divergent, or should I start the hesitant kiss, hope she asks, “Do you want to kiss me now?” then say, “Yes, please,” then go for it like in the Flight of the Conchords?
2. I didn’t make it all the way to the end of “Her,” or any romantic movie lately. If it’s got comedy with it or adventure I’ll hang in there but romances do zilch for me. In fact I’m to the point in my movie watching career where I absolutely hate the requisite love interest that is thrown into movies habitually. It usually ruins comedies, adventures, dramas, well pretty much any kind of movie but a romance. If I want romance, I’ll go watch one of them. Now get back to the car chase. Actually car chases and explosions are powerless to me as well. Blood and gore. Funny. I just laugh at how they have just gotten more and more absurd as I’ve gotten older. EVERY movie has become a comedy to me!

And not only that, to carry on the above description of the kiss, I’m the guy that’s thinking, “Okay now should I do fast head movements or slow; should I do the head grab or a hair touch; full tongue or just probing darts here and there; eyes closed, of course eyes closed, that’s right isn’t it; how can I make this the most romantic kiss she’s ever had so that we will talk about this when people ask if we remember our first kiss; oh why didn’t I drink more; but wait if I had drunk more then she might not have allowed me to get to this point; but at least I might score; if I can make this memorably romantic… Then I totally lose character and burst out laughing because I picked this girl up at a bar, have known her for all of two hours and because of the loud, thumping, crap dance music have yet to have a conversation with her, I want her body and she wants my money, who the hell are we kidding? HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!

And after that she looks at me strangely and says, (can you guess what she says?), “You’re a weirdo!” Weirdo and creep, do we have synonyms? Let’s check with the judges…. Ding ding ding! I think instead of challenging the assertion that he’s a creep, Theodore could very easily have said something like, “Yeah well at least I’m not a big phony.”

And there you have it! Phoniness. A common theme that has coloured the literature, (that is the ADULT stories), of many a great. My favourite is probably Salinger. The irony of Holden Caulfield flunking out or getting kicked out of so many schools as a result of already having done what their purpose it was to teach him, that being to reach intellectual adulthood and the bittersweet moment of sad clarity when the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus and “you can do anything you put your mind to,” are gone forever.

What puzzles me is that I was young once and I remember so well flinging myself into love fully and completely trusting that it was worth the risk. It was a fantastic feeling! Maybe the best feeling there is! My question is was it all genuine or was I then just a better actor than now? More able and willing to throw myself entirely into the roll. Or maybe it’s just a physiological explanation. After all it could have just been all those raging hormones that made life tingle so much every time I looked into her eyes and saw that she was right there with me on this ride, real or imagined. Another question is pretty obvious: does it really matter? It was something I will never forget and it was absolutely wonderful. Who cares if we were just stupid kids who had built up a fallacy of our own to a point where we both fully believed it? We weren’t hurting anyone but ourselves. And holy shit did it hurt! Probably worse than anything else! After saying the stupid things we say about forever and always and realizing that wasn’t going to happen. For me they weren’t lies. I found the one for me, genuinely told her so, and watched in helpless horror as we proved incompatible. About fifteen times. I don’t think it was the vain disappointment of having been proved wrong that caused the heartache, it was the gut-wrenching jolt of adulthood knowing that she WAS the one and still she was wrong.

Now don’t go thinking I’m going to run out and kill myself here, I realize that my idyllic expectations for a woman who never looks like she just woke up even when she just woke up; who thinks everything I say is clever and agrees with it; who will never blow a smelly fart let alone take a stinky dump; never look at another man or like a sexy actor; have no problem with me looking at other women or liking sexy actresses; never love me any less than a kitten or puppy; and so on and so forth. NO girl is the right girl with those expectations. With age my expectations have really lowered. It doesn’t mean I will date or marry any less a person, it just means I will be fully aware that anyone I choose to be with now is not perfect. And one of the new expectations is that she know that about me. But in a realistic relationship such as that we lose the fantasy and the emotion of those foolishly optimistic and hopeful relationships of our youth. Like most things in life, love is not just about play, it requires some work too. Said the reluctant grown-up.

So, sorta like Theodore, I’ve felt all I can feel as far as unrealistic, heart-bursting, super tingly feelings. The best things in life are fake I guess. Now I’m perfectly content with the satisfyingly simple, realistic happinesses life has left in store for me.
However, I still maintain that in my youth I was more capable of greater love than I am now. And forget about the cloudy, vague, mysteries of romantic love, I’m talking about REAL love here. Love that still endures. I loved the music back then more than I can ever love the music of today! No question. I still love that music too! And, much like romantic love, if I have a beer or two and suddenly somebody puts on some 80’s rock, 80’s hits or even some old 80’s hair band, I can still get emotionally cranked up. But even this reminds me of the movies. That scene from “The Wrestler” when they were doing EXACTLY the play acting I’ve described above and suddenly some Ratt comes on the box. This is genuine love and unlike the phony romance they were awkwardly trying to prod along, in that song they shared some real love.

I get none of that over here. Not just because the only girls I have dated are from the 90’s music generation, (or on a good night the 2000’s), and I’m with the Wrestler when he says, “The 90’s sucked.” And before I go on I’d like to point out that I was in my TEENS in the 80’s and am dating girls who were in their TEENS in the 90’s and 2000’s. Nobody remembers the music of the decade when they were born. But not only do girls here in their 30’s and 40’s like music from a different generation than me, (like my Halloween honey last night), they like music from a different continent, sung in a different language! So it’s tough to relate on a musical level. I’m afraid I’ll have to start dating 20 year olds since all the best music of the late 2000’s and the 2010’s is remixed 80’s tunes. Hee hee hee!

But I’m going off the rails, (on a Crazy Train), here. Stop that! When I think about the 80’s when I was young and foolish, ERR verything was better! I think it’s like that because I just put more emotion into everything. I liked TV shows better. Video games were lame but better. My friends were better. Movies were better. Snack food, fast food, candy, FOOD was better. Nature was better. Fishing, camping, just walking outside was better. Cars were better. School was better. Hairstyles and fashion… okay I got carried away there. I’m not sure that all of this stuff was better but what I think is true is that I put far more emotion into those days so all of this stuff SEEMS like it was better. Even hair and fashion. I liked a good mullet when I still had the hair to have one. And big, feathered hair on a girl? Oh yeah. And what about terrycloth shorts? The yoga pants of my generation. I used to love watching girls’ volleyball! Not like, LOVE.

Okay, so whether you agree with me on that or not I have to get to my point. There was one other thing I was into on a very emotional level back in the 80’s that I’m not now. The churches I went to back then benefitted from my wholehearted participation in all the various programs. And I certainly don’t regret it. My spiritual walk figured largely in who I am today. And in the curiosity in the prospect of God that leads me to do things like investigate other religions and read the Koran. Long before I taught in Canadian, Korean, Chinese, Japanese or Indonesian schools I was a Sunday School teacher in Ignace and Thunder Bay. I loved it! And just like hearing an old 80’s tune or meeting up with a friend from high school, if I heard an old gospel music song from the 80’s or met up with someone I knew from church back then I’m sure I’d get just as emotional. But with more reason and less emotion I will say that my expectations of God, much like those of a girlfriend, have significantly lowered.

But I know the feeling of being emotionally revved up for the God you believe in. I know how it feels to believe you are invincible with God on your side. I know how attractive and persuasive that can be. And I know that there are people in religious places who will take advantage of the vigour and foolhardy emotion of youth. In fact it’s not ONLY the youth, it’s just commonly the youth who are so more emotional. As we age we can reign in our emotions and discern the difference between right and wrong more often but not always. Sigmund Freud had one of the greatest all time quotes about this. “The people are not moved by fact or reason, but the skillful manipulation of emotion.”

What do you reckon the average age of a member of ISIS is? Or whatever acronym they’re going by these days. I’ve read, (and there’s really no way of knowing how accurate this is but), that the average age of recruitment is between 16 and 25. Coincidence? I think not. And how skillful do you think an ISIS leader needs to be to manipulate the emotions of a force so young. Is it that much different from ANY military really? The comradery, the common purposes and beliefs, the common code, the common suffering, spending all their time together, these people get very close and given their ages there is going to naturally be a massive buildup of emotions amongst them. If you remember back to your youth, (assuming my readers have all passed it by), what would the result be if someone tried to take away something you felt a strong emotional attachment to? Not gonna happen, right?

Well what about if someone KILLED someone you had become emotionally attached to? Or what if you were told that someone was trying to put an end to the religion and the way of life you had become emotionally attached to? That’s a whole other level of commitment. The soldiers of ISIS are highly motivated to say the least. If we could talk to them all individually I bet we would discover a world foreign to most of us. If you listen to Christ Hedges, a guy who has been there, he has seen what contributes to the mindsets of the member of ISIS and states from a position of superior closeness to almost anyone but the actual members of ISIS, that it is not shocking in the least to see them join a faction based on revenge. They don’t see a couple of military member killed by some whacked out nut jobs with some tenuous connections to a newly espoused religion. They see killings regularly for long periods of time. More than two. And most, if not all of them, have seen people killed that they know or are related to. There is very little doubt as to who has committed the killings or why. And there is a convenient organization recruiting people to fight against the killers. Hedges, in a couple of talks he gives that are available to watch on Youtube, says that almost anyone would do the exact same thing.

There really should be no surprise at all that ISIS or the Taliban or Hezbollah or whatever the name is the revenge fighters are going by, are very successful at recruiting. And there should really be no surprise, (but there always is), in places like the U.S., U.K., Canada, any of the countries who are dropping bombs on these people or supporting the attacks on them, when they commit acts that are considered by the so-called “terrorists” as the only way to fight back. These acts are always described as TOTALLY unprovoked, shocking, senseless acts of “terrorism.”

"But wait," you may say, "THEY started it!" Well, two things: firstly, is that really a legitimate foreign policy? Are the world leaders 5 years old? And secondly, did they really start it? If terrorism IS senseless, unprovoked acts of violence on innocent people then why aren’t illegal occupations of Iraq or Afghanistan described that way? What about indiscriminate drone bombing of Pakistan and Somalia? The 35 years of well-funded war between Israel and Palestine: anti-terrorism or terrorist war crimes? Slaughter of Kurds in S.E. Turkey? Syria, Sudan…

How about something that happened in Indonesia where I am now and where the largest portion, (about 13%), of the Muslims of the world call home: the East Timor massacre. Not a lot of people have heard about it. Well what do you know about that? Even though it’s described in a C.I.A. report as “one of the worst massacres in the 20th century,” we didn’t really hear much about it… I will use this, because it happened in the 70’s and 80’s during the Suharto reign of terror and we have damning evidence against the greedy warmongers who financed and fortified it, as a model that most likely applies to most or all of the above.

Indonesia. 95% Muslim and I went out to a Halloween party last night dressed as death and carrying a toilet brush. I’ll give you a second… I was, ahem, a brush with Death. Thank you very much. Anyway, as you may have surmised, I didn’t get my head cut off though I am an infidel and an enemy of Islam. Maybe, just maybe, there might be something other than religion that influences the goings on in this country. Do you think?

Back before the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to two guys fighting for, no scratch that, uh, peacefully working toward the independence of E. Timor, before Suharto was exposed as the black mark on Indonesia he is now considered, there was an Australian ambassador named Richard, (ever notice how many truly bad people are named Dick?), Woolcott who recommended a “pragmatic” course of “Kissingerian realism” in E. Timor because it might be easier to deal with Indonesia rather than an independent E. Timor on, (I’ll give you three guesses…), its oil reserves. Valuable resources in E. Timor – fighting in E. Timor. We’ve seen that pattern re-emerge many times since, haven’t we? Another pattern that goes along with that: the U.S. supplied Indonesia with 90% of their arms to go in and kick some E. Timorian ass. For 24 years Indonesian military forces exposed E. Timor to a wide variety of tortures, executions, deliberate starvation, even rape. The numbers vary but around 200,000 people, about a quarter of the population, was killed. You can bet 100 percent of the population was affected.

Now, there isn’t much of a “terrorism” threat in Indonesia, but not surprisingly, any stories in the news with links to ISIS or terrorism I hear around here often mention E. Timor.

I am not saying that the U.S. or any of the countries that profit from wars in resource rich countries deserve things like the 9/11 attack or suicide bombs or car bombs or any of the things labelled “terrorism” by our beloved media. I don’t condone ANY killing unless it is in self-defence. Which brings us to the next subject that needs to be dealt with in the ISIS crisis: Islam. Interestingly, there are people who would say that Islam does not condone any killing except that in self-defence. It’s not very popular to believe that right now and as our friend Wild Bill points out, the evidence against that is “overwhelming” and it is only people who do not understand Islam, (unlike himself presumably), who believe this. Wild Bill waves his coffee at us and tells us that we should not mindlessly believe guys like “President Pee Wee,” who said that ISIS does not represent the Muslim faith and a majority of the people they are killing are Muslims. Wild Bill prefers that we mindlessly believe HIS totally unsupported fear/hate cultivation. He gives some interesting stats that he claims infallibly quantify the Muslim violence throughout the world quoting an unsourced rule of Mohammed, (or maybe just one he made up), to be a friend until you can crush the enemy. So apparently in Wild Bill’s research he has found that when the Muslim population reaches 20% there is war, violence, burning of religious buildings, rape, assassination, absolute may ham! And it is observed in EVERY nation that is nice to Muslims EVERY time!

Indonesia has the largest concentration of Muslims anywhere in the world. It’s 95% Muslim and has roughly 13% of the world’s Muslims. I guess that little known rule of Mohammed is more accurately, “Be a friend until you can crush the enemy, and then be a friend again.”

Religion! I don’t think it has a lot to do with the ISIS crisis myself being that there are many variant sects of Islam, many who hate and fight each other. Not just the well know Shia and Sunni sects but historical sects like the Sufi who believed, as the Koran says, that religious pluralism is God’s will. Well they were replaced in the 18th century by the less accepting, and, yes, more violent Wahhabism. Wahhabists believe that they are the only true sect and all others are “apostate.” They also believe the Koran should be read literally. Well herein lies a massive problem. It is unlikely that all the churches and/or religions ever met and agreed upon anything but if they did it almost certainly was to make their beliefs and the written records thereof, the holy books, completely undecipherable. So much so that the casual observer would call them contradictory.

Unlike our buddy Bill, I am not going to make that statement without some backing. As evidence that the attempt to characterize the entire religion of Islam as either violent or peaceful is a futile exercise in ignorant reductionism, I will present verses from their holy book, the Koran, which seem to support both sides. These are all going to be written here completely without context.

But before I do that, let me caution the reader that I brought up Mohammed, Wahhabism, and the Sufis as historical information. To believe the Muslim of today is violent, or peaceful based on the distant past is a slippery slope. I would probably not need to, though I will, remind you, dear reader, of the many acts of brutality committed historically by the “Western” nations that we could unjustly use to condemn their religions as well. For instance, the world wars, the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades, European colonization and ravaging of various parts of Asia and Africa, or the decimation of North American natives to name a few. If we are going to declare modern behaviour of violent, extreme sects like ISIS to be related to Islam, I think we should concentrate on the relation to the religion and the Koran, not the history. So without further ado, let’s see how much more confusing I can make the situation with some Koran verses.

To those against whom war is made, permission is given (to fight), because they are wronged;- and verily, Allah is most powerful for their aid;

(They are) those who have been expelled from their homes in defiance of right,- (for no cause) except that they say, "our Lord is Allah". Did not Allah check one set of people by means of another, there would surely have been pulled down monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, in which the name of Allah is commemorated in abundant measure. Allah will certainly aid those who aid his (cause);- for verily Allah is full of Strength, Exalted in Might, (able to enforce His Will). [Quran 22:39-40]

Fight in the Way of God against those who fight you, but do not go beyond the limits. God does not love those who go beyond the limits. {Quran 2:190]

"O you who believe! stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest you swerve, and if you distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well acquainted with all that you do." [Quran 4:135]

Here are a few that would seem to support the self-defence argument I mentioned earlier. Islam is not a “turn the other cheek” religion and I think I kind of respect them for that. There is a great deal of difference between a violent religion and one that takes no shit. But you can see how these verses might be distorted. For instance the one that warns AGAINST distorting justice could be interpreted as a call to take action and avenge parents or kin who may have been unjustly killed or tortured or whatever. If you decline to do justice, (i.e. violent revenge), Allah is watching.

"But if the enemy inclines towards peace, you (also) incline towards peace, and trust in Allah" [Quran 9:61].

There are also those verses in the Cow at the very beginning of the Koran that I quoted before that say there will be non-believers. Allah has made them this way and Allah will deal with them. Leave them alone. I’m paraphrasing obviously but don’t wish to directly quote them again.

This all seems okay to me. Where are people getting the idea that the Koran is promoting violence? Well there IS one that is the overwhelming favourite of Muslim bashers. And I’m not going to offer anything in the way of explanation. It certainly does seem to contradict all of the other verses. See if you feel any differently.

"Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush." [Quran 9:5]

But for every verse like that there are many like this:

"...if any one slew a person unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land, it would be as if he slew the whole people; and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people." [Quran 5:35]
But I have saved the best for last. The one that I believe is most to the point and may actually on its own explain the whole ISIS crisis.

"Let there be no hostility except to those who practice oppression." [Quran 2:193]

Look at the militant actions taken by capitalist nations in the name of corporate profits all around the world including in nations peopled with Muslims. Are they not oppression? If the religion of Islam is a contributing factor to the actions of ISIS, this may be the most persuasive Koran verse. We are told by most Muslims that ISIS represents an extreme sect that is not representative of most Muslims and I believe them. But if ISIS follows the Koran at all it would seem that the best course of action to end the violence they are committing would be to stop the oppression. Stop the hostile takeover of oil-rich nations. Stop promoting proxy wars within strategic or resource-rich nations to weaken the country and make them vulnerable to cheap economic domination, or oppression. Pretty much throw out the blueprint for Western economics. Yeah fat chance of that happening!

No, instead the West has decided that the best course of action is to demonize Islam and convince the world that these groups putting up resistance are terrorists and they need to be bombed. I’ll remind you again, so you don’t have to scroll back, of that quote by Freud, “The people are not moved by fact or reason, but the skillful manipulation of emotion.” Look what happened when those two girls from Austria who joined ISIS. When they realized that they had made a foolish, youthful, massive mistake I could not believe the internet reaction. It was with violent vitriol to the effect of “Let them be raped and abused by the scumbags they joined. It’s their own fault.” People, not just teenagers, can have their emotions aroused to such a point that we can get pretty feral and dumb as teenagers.

And what about the instant reaction of the Crime Minister of Canada after the shootings? He saw a perfect opportunity to promote hate/fear with the possible purpose of eroding constitutional rights. As Russel Brand put it, “Right, Canada, give us your computers.” It is already happening too! And he blathered on to propose investing more tax payers’ money into the violent PROMOTION of groups like ISIS. Yes the bombings. He said efforts will be redoubled. Harper's shameful reaction to the tragedies in Canada was totally about economics, not some honourable cause of protection of Canada and the Canadian way. I didn’t find him any more credible than old Wild Bill, did you? I was proud of Trudeau's speech about the events and VERY proud of THIS: social experiment. It shows me that Canadians are not yet falling for the fearmongers' salesmanship.

Talking about a problem without proposing a solution is called whining. So what can we do to end the ISIS crisis? It certainly has NOTHING to do with killing ISIS members.
This will only perpetuate the steady stream of capital flowing into the Western war profiteers’ coffers. Nothing else. What we need to do is cut off that and many other flows of capital by opposing, non-violently, our government and corporate terrorism worldwide. Root out bad corporations, (won’t be hard), and don’t buy their products. Support taxation of those corporations. If the government won’t stop supporting the violent business tactics, don’t support the government. Easy peasy Japanesey. But how many of us will even try? We’re too busy working in our punitive consumer societies. Gotta stop typing now, gotta go to work.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Indonesian Frustration Chains

You know if I were on a tropical island with plenty of everything I could ever want to eat, free and fast internet, gorgeous women who love old, bald, fat guys, a high paying job teaching English to underpriveleged and well behaved kids, a nice place with a pool, a hammock and a yard for my dogs, I'd probably complain about never having to shovel snow. That's just the way I am. If there's nothing to complain about I'll make something up. What else would I blog about?

This is not to say Indonesia is paradise. I've had lots to complain about. It's just that for some reason the things I could complain about seem easier to laugh about here. I guess because when I'm driving in an air conditioned taxi fuming at the traffic that will probably make me a few minutes late for my class, trying to call someone to tell them I'll be late and getting no cell phone signal and I look out the window at a 5-year-old kid in bare feet wearing pajamas and just wandering along the sidewalk at 9 PM playing with a stick, and that kid is much happier than me, I get brought back to earth. The shame of it all is I seem to need this grounding on a daily basis. Or I start whimpering, whining and whinging in my excess. I just can't seem to take joy in what I have even though it would bring abundant joy to I'd say half the people on the planet to have all that I have.

But, being the incorrigible bitcher that I am, (fake well), here I go again... At least I can take a tiny bit of pride in the fact that here in Indonesia the things that bug me the most tend to be amalgamations of little things chained together in logic-defying strings of bad fortune that combine to make me lose my shit, albeit, momentarily. Perfect storms of niggling annoyances that snowball into a pissy mood or a nasty, (but humourous), blog post. I'll give you two examples. One from just today.

I'll do that one first. It all started, you guessed it, today. Well, no, that's not true it actually started last night. Well, but the reason I was annoyed last night was caused by two days ago. See what I mean by chains? Well I guess you DON'T see yet cuz I haven't said anything. Okay two days ago the wifi at my kost, (rooming house), was out. Being Sunday, the day I plan all my lessons for the week, I needed the internet more than ever. But as good fortune would have it, my student Herry had given me a Bolt. This is a little gizmo that creates your own private wifi channel when you turn it on. I paid about 40 bucks for two months of service. You see the wifi going down is a pretty regular occurrence at my kost. At least a couple times a week. So I got the Bolt home, turned it on, set it up and, BAM, NUTHIN'! It was explained to me that the signal wasn't strong enough for the BOLT to pick up. I thought that was why I had bought the damn thing. But, oh well, it was a freebie. Other than the 40 bucks for what they call "pulsa" here, and the 10 bucks taxi fare to go get that pulsa. And the two hours stuck in traffic in that taxi. And the two hours of sleep that cost me because there were mosquitos in my room and I couldn't sleep the night before... See? Chains.

So anyway, I have this Bolt and am using it as a paper weight for almost two months and one of the other tennants here tells me that you need to put it as close to the window as you can, sometimes OUT the window, before it will pick up a signal. So I DID this Sunday. It was a hot, sunny day and I opened the window, put the Bolt on the sill and lo and behold the internet worked! I was happily bangin' away at my computer finally getting a little use out of my 40 bucks worth of pulsa when suddenly the internet was down again. I checked my Bolt and the lights on it were all flashing wildly! I picked it up and it was as hot as just popped toast. Mmmmmmm... I need a toaster. Probably next paycheck. Anyway, the thing was fried, (mmmmm.... fried...), because I had left it on the window sill in the hot sun. I tried to turn it off but it wouldn't turn off. It just kept flashing and not turning off! So I took the back off and took out the battery. Then I put the battery back in and it was fine. But the back piece, being plastic, was warped and wouldn't go back on. After trying about a hundred times to put the back piece on, and failing, trying and failing, trying and failing, trying and failing, I chucked it across the room to deal with later. I had almost finished everything I needed to do anyway so I called it quits for the computer. Sunday is also a good day for grocery shopping. I needed some exercise too so I hoofed it into Kemang and went to the Ranch Market there. It was night by the time I got home with my groceries. It's about a 30 minute walk to Ranch Market and a 20 minute walk back. Longer there so I don't sweat so much that they won't allow me into the store.

I had some supper and sat at my computer watching some NFL games I had downloaded while the internet was up. Just as I finished watching the disappointing Detroit Lions vs. New Orleans Saints game in which the Saints, my team, managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, the internet came back on! Yeehaw! So I began catching up on my facebook games and commenting on people's stuff and reading other people's posts and even studying my first lesson of Indonesian. Yup, I'm finally taking Indonesian classes! Soon I'll be able to bitch in THAT language too!

While doing my computer stuff I started noticing an awful lot of itchy spots on my feet and back and seeing some mosquitos in my room. Now you have to picture the scene. I DIDN'T walk home slowly, plus I was carrying a few bags of groceries with me. Sweating like the guy on Airplane! So I got home and stripped down to my gotch immediately. Even before putting away the groceries. Now I had to turn on BOTH of my main ceiling lights so that I could better see the mosquitos. Thing is they are very glare-y lights so I need to shade my eyes from that glare somehow. So I put on a ball cap. I haven't yet been able to find any fly swatters here so I use what I have: a grey, plastic, pancake flipping spatula. Oh yeah, another link in the chain: If you remember my last post I talked about the skimpy male panties here in Indonesia. I guess I went a little too long before bringing my laundry in to be washed. And it takes them at least four days to wash it. So, down to my last pair of underwear, I broke down and bought three pairs of these plum-smugglers that would look ridiculous if they were big enough, but look absolutely obscene because even though they are size XXXXL they are STILL too small! Imagine if you will, (dare), the fat, sweaty, milky-white bule wearing only these and a Canucks ball cap, brandishing, (and occasionally drumstick twirling), a spatula stalking around the room like Kato or Clouseau senses honed to a fine point just waiting to spot that next bloodsucker and HHHHEEEEAAAYYYYYAAAUUUUGGGGHHHH!!!

Deep into the night. I mean hours and hours. I tried probably five times to turn out the lights and get some sleep thinking that surely I had just killed the last mosquito but as soon as the lights were out, bzzzzzzzzzzzz. On with the lights and into offense. But there was no end to the buggers! I covered up the drains in the bathroom, closed the bathroom door, put some clothes into the crack between the bottom of the door and the floor, but more mosquitos kept coming. Finally I pulled back the curtains and there it was! The window I had opened to get a better wifi signal for my Bolt. It was still open and with the glaring lights on attracting the mosquitos it was no wonder I was so busy! So I closed the window and didn't really finish killing all the mosquitos before I finally dozed off. It was starting to get light outside. About 5 o'clock. I could tell by the banging on the pipe. I had to get up at 7 o'clock to call Herry and see if he wanted his class at 8. Two hours later the alarm went off. I woke up with mosquito bites on my hands, feet, legs, back, front, one on my cheek and one on my right EYELID! I texted Herry and, bless his heart, he cancelled. Said he's going on a trip. YES! I could try to get back to sleep. No class till 4 PM. So I did. For like an hour. Then my phone message alert sounded. Message from Matthew, the boss. "No Herry today. He's going on a trip." It's now 8 o'clock. I've had a couple hours of sleep. But I see another mosquito. Up out of bed and on the offense!

After killing a couple more mosquitos and feeling pretty sure I had them all I sat down at the computer to check emails and facebook and news and whatnot. Also had my cup o' tea. My usual morning ritual. Not feeling very tired, later I ate some breakfast and although I knew it wasn't going to be very healthy, I went to sleep right after eating from about 11:00 to 1:00 and woke up with NO mosquito bites, but some terrible acid reflux. I jumped on the computer to update my facebook games and such. I hadn't been on for much more than 10 minutes when, BAM, power outage. Another regular occurrence here. Once a week or so. I had to shower, shave, and get ready for work in the dark! So I opened up my curtains and since the mosquitos don't come in when I'm gone and the lights are out, I opened up the window to get fresh air. I didn't do a very good job of shaving. Missed a spot on my chin that was noticeable when I looked into a mirror when I got to the building where I teach my first class. Other than that it wasn't too big a deal. I got to work on time and taught my classes from 4-8:30. It was a little after 9 PM when I got home. Window open, lights on and room full of mosquitos. You see, I had forgotten to turn the lights off. Because of the power outage I thought they WERE off. When the power came back on sometime during the day, the air conditioner and all the lights came on and stayed on wasting all that power for the whole day. Then when it got dark, the window was still open and the lights were on. I got home and looked up at my window and swore. Fairly loudly. A couple of the workers at the kost asked me what was wrong. They don't speak a lick of English between them and with my ONE lesson of Bahasa Indonesia and body language I tried to explain what was wrong. Tried and failed, tried and failed, tried and failed. Then I just said, "Never mind!" I stormed up to my room. Now THOSE guys think I'm a dick and there's no way I'll be able to explain to them what happened or get them to read this. They are the guys who do laundry, call for cabs, open the gate after hours, clean the rooms etc. What do you want to bet the next time a taxi comes one of them says, "Cab for David? Nope. Never heard of him."

Frustration chains. But I gotta admit, it's pretty funny. In fact I could see Jerry Lewis winning a French movie award acting this out. I can't make myself feel better getting angry about it so I'll complain here for a while and someday way in the future read this and have a good laugh. Which will make it worth it. Maybe.

Frustration chain number two: This one started quite some time ago. And it's a longer, more complex chain. But on the plus side, I'm just glad it takes a long, complex chain to make me lose my cool here. Hopefully this is all improving my patience. Okay, I guess I should begin with my long lost, and missed, Samsung Galaxy. I bought it in Canada when I lived there and it was a good phone. There were a few minor problems with it when I got to Indonesia but it was still a good phone. I managed to find some dead spots around Jakarta, actually lived in one for a few weeks, and this somehow completely reset my Galaxy. I mean the time, the messages, calls, alarm, NOTHING would work. I didn't know dead spots like that were even possible. I have explained it many times to many people and nobody can figure it out. A couple times I got the message, "Emergency calls only" when it was totally dead. It was spooky. But it created some big problems for me. When your schedule can change from day to day, you need your phone to work every day. Sometimes the phone would be dead for a whole day and I wouldn't notice it. Then I'd go somewhere and get a signal and suddenly text messages, call alerts and stuff would all flood the phone at the same time. Messages like, "I need you to start a new class at 2 o'clock today. I would get that at 1 o'clock. But anyway, those of you who are following my escapades here in Jakarta will know that my beloved Galaxy was pickpocketed on Jakarta's Birthday on the busway. Again, the freakish confluence of events. You'll have to read it. The upshot of the whole thing, after getting pickpocketed, standing up my boss and his wife, walking for six hours around Jakarta looking for my new apartment and ending up sunburned and blistered, I had to buy a new phone. I got a little Nokia. It was fine. No camera and no internet or apps of any kind but it was good for keeping in touch. Usually. Sometimes though, with no warning or explanation, it would switch into this mode in which I would just get the message, "Emergency calls only." Nobody could reach me and I wouldn't notice until I tried to call somebody. Again Herry to the rescue. He noticed one time when the phone shut itself off so he got me a Blackberry. I have been using that until just recently.

A Blackberry is no Galaxy. Far from it. But it had a camera and I was able to use What's App and Blackberry Messenger and some other things that were convenient. It wasn't too bad. Until just recently. It started to get crackly sounding. Really suddenly. One day the sound was fine and the next it sounded like 1950's television. But it wouldn't have bothered me so much if it hadn't combined with another long time building frustration: that of the morning taxi. I had classes Wed. and Fri. at 7:30 AM. They were an hour's drive from home so I had tried and failed, tried and failed, tried and failed, tried and failed, tried and failed to get just ONCE a taxi to come to my place at 6:30 AM. I tried calling and ordering but they'd come at 6:00 and leave or not come at all. I tried waking up at 5:00 and telling them to come at 6:30 but that didn't work either. I tried getting a standing order for a taxi two times a week for 6:30 AM. That didn't work. I tried with Bluebird and Express, the two, (supposedly), best taxi companies in Jakarta. Neither could do this. Not once!

So one fateful day I thought I'd try something else. I got up early and called Express Taxi at a little before 6 AM and just said I wanted a taxi to come as soon as they could get one. They knew my number and name and address because of all the times I had called, and failed, and called, and so on... So the girl says, "Okay I will look for a taxi in your area now. Your PIN number is 0815. It should take about 20 minutes." Perfect! When they say 20 minutes, I had learned that it means about 30-40 minutes. They should be at my house at 6:30, or so I thought. That's how they get you. They make you foolishly BELIEVE they're coming, the heartless BASTARDS!!! 6:40 rolls around and I call back asking what happened. It's a dude this time and asks if I want to order a taxi. I say that I already ordered one and want to know what happened to it. I waste a lot of time giving him my name, address, pin number all over again and he says, "Okay we will look for a taxi in your area now. It will take about 30 minutes. Your PIN number is 8855" I ask again what happened to my first order and he appologizes and says he doesn't know. The communication is rough due to a language barrier but also my phone has a newly developed crackling and several times I had to try to say something, fail, try to say something, fail, you get the pic. But I figured I'd be in the cab before the class started anyway. I'd be late but what choice did I have? At 7:30 the taxi hadn't come. An hour and a half after I ordered my first taxi. I receive a call from Express Taxi, this time from a girl. She says, "This is Express Taxi confirming your order. Mr. David? PIN number 8855? Okay we will search for a taxi in your area. It should take about 40 minutes." Well I tell the girl that I don't want the taxi any more and ask her what the hell they had been doing for the last half hour since they told me they'd be looking for a taxi in my area. She says, "Sir? I can't hear you. Could you call again?" So I talk louder and the crackling in my Blackberry gets louder, "I ASKED WHAT YOU HAVE BEEN DOING FO-" "Mr. David? Hello? Again say? Could you call again?" So even louder now yelling into the phone like a walkie-talkie I scream, "I HAVE BEEN WAITING ALL MORNING AND -" the crackling gets even louder but I hear her saying, "Could you call again? I'm sorry, could you call again?" So I absolutely lose it and slam the Blackberry down on the ground. The cover goes one way, the phone goes another and the battery goes a third way. One of the workers saw me and was shocked. He tried to help me pick up my phone but I wouldn't let him. I'm sure he thinks I'm a psychotic. Again I just storm back to my room.

My Blackberry is dead but I take out the sim card and put it into my old Nokia. Then I try to call the student whose class I am going to miss. I get a message on my Nokia, "Emergency calls only." I take the battery out and put it back in and still get the message, "Emergency calls only." I try again, fail, try again, fail, try again fail. I am pretty close to slam dunking my NOKIA too when I decide to unpack my computer and just send emails to the student and my boss explaining why I couldn't make it to the class and that I am going to spend the morning at the Nokia shop getting them to explain to me the "Emergency calls only" BS. Finally, I get another idea. I take the phone apart and put the sim card in the other sim slot and try it. Success! The Nokia works again! So I call my student who I'm sure is wondering what happened. He's very forgiving and calm. He has heard me explain the taxi troubles many times before. Then, I am absolutely not kidding you, at 8 o'clock or so my taxi arrives! I get a knock on my door from the kost worker who thinks I'm psycho, "Mr. David? Taxi?" "What the FUCK!?!?!" I stomp down the stairs and this taxi driver is coming toward me saying something. All I could understand was "PIN number, PIN number?" I felt like Bruce Leeing the guy but I just waved him off VERY rudely saying, "Cancel!" then turned around to avoid a homocide and returned to my room.

As luck would have it, that student has cancelled and I no longer have that massive stressor in my life so now I can laugh at it all. But that won't bring back my Blackberry. Seriously though, I don't think I behaved as I should have but if you know the whole story I think it at least makes my behaviour understandable if not acceptible. Doesn't it? And all of the little annoyances taken one at a time I am okay with. It's just a more enlightened incarnation of me that will be able to deal with these frustration chains with any poise. But I'm working on it, I'm working on it. This helps.

It's now 2:16 AM and I'm still bangin' away here because I have seen a mosquito and I'm not going to bed till she's dead. MAN I'm glad I don't have to teach Herry early in the morning tomorrow!

Addendum: It's now the next day. I stayed up till 4 AM chasing that one bloodsucker around but finally got her and went to sleep. Today I went to work and evidently was offered a new teaching gig by text message and missed the text because my phone was in that Nokia Narcolepsy mode I described in the blog post of that name. I got to my class and my room was full of people so I had to call the contact to see what was up. "Emergency calls only." So I took out the batt and put it back in and called her. After 30 seconds of talking she said, "Your class has been moved to room -" It cut out. RIGHT THEN!!! I tried to call back and got "Emergency calls only." THREE times we had to call each other to communicate where my class had been moved to and three times I had to take out my battery and put it back in. After class I tried to call my boss and "Emergency calls only." I was finally able to call him from home and talk for more than 30 seconds to find out the info about this new student. But I don't trust my "trusty" Nokia any more. So now I have to hunt down the receipt for it and take it back to the place I bought it to see if they can do anything. If not I might have to look into phone number 5 already in this country. Almost one every month! Unbelievable!

Friday, October 10, 2014

A Few Indonesian Oddities

While I wait for the Canucks game to download I reckon it'd be a good time to blog. I was doing a lesson this past week on overseas business and the dangers of not knowing a little bit about the culture you are dealing with. We had a lot of fun talking about cultural body language like the Bulgarians who shake their heads for yes and nod their heads for no; the Balkan head toss back and tongue click meaning no; and the Indians who are like human bobble heads combining eyes, eyebrows, nods, shakes, wobbles and whatever else they can throw in. I'm sure even THEY don't understand their head gestures sometimes. We talked about the okay sign, spitting, throwing up the horns, thumbs up, crossing your legs, come here/go away, touching, sticking out your tongue, pointing, left hand/right hand, all the things that could get you into trouble or lose you a deal because some cultures' insults are another cultures' courtesies. Member that scene in Ace Ventura II where they spit on each other? This is accurate, folks. It's a blessing to spit on a person's head in some parts of Africa.

I often wonder if, after receiving many odd reactions to uncommon courtesy like horking a loogie on a person's noggin, the horker might clue in that the horkee doesn't appreciate the gesture. But I don't wanna be anything but accepting and tolerant of other cultures, so here just give me a list of all the shots you've recently had, malaria zones you've visited in the last 6 months, Ebola and AIDS checks, a clean bill of health and by all means let the saliva fly! You know what, on second thought, let me inho-spit-ably, (nice one!), impose my culture upon you, shake your hand and take my chances on losing the multi-million dollar bat guano deal because I didn't feel like being your spitoon in a suit. If that costs me the deal, I'm good with that.

Believe it or not this IS the way I have been, generally, while traveling. And nobody has gotten overly offended. If you appologize and claim ignorance, then explain your own culture, you're fine. Still, there have been things that I haven't been able to, and things that I just plain refused to, develop any kind of appreciation or tolerance for. The first thing that comes to mind is the Korean "hello." I've explained it before so won't again. I also won't cite the article I read last week about the U.N., which has a Korean leader, (Ban Ki Moon I think), making a concerted effort to do something about the excessive xenophobia and racism consistently exhibited by Koreans. But since this is going to be an article on my new country of residence, I'll just say that they have somthing similar here. The thing is I just haven't found it anywhere near as offensive. I suppose I've been here ten fewer years, but still... Let me explain. In Indonesia I am a bule, (pronounced boo-LAY), which translates, quite insultingly, into "albino." lol I have heard others refer to me in this way and self-applied the term on occasion. It just isn't that offensive to me. Yet. It's like the Thai word "falang" or "farang." As in, "Hey sexy falang you buy me drink?" She, (presumably, although one never knows in Thailand), called me sexy so she could have called me puppy-killer after that and I'da been flattered. That's the way bule's usually used in Indonesia. Not with sexy but just not with any negative tones or words.

Then you have "Hey bule!" Or the more innocent, "Hey Meesterrrr!" I like the way they roll their r's. I think I can tell when there's malicious intent and when there isn't and I haven't yet heard anyone using it to impress their friends by mooing to the foreign cow the way the little Korean shits do. Nor have I yet had a whole group burst into laughter after I replied. That's usually a dead giveaway. For now I choose to believe the Indonesians are just being friendly. And I think they are. Funnily enough I've seen kids say, "Hey Meesterrrr," to women. So my response up to this point has always been a friendly, "Hello."

I think the biggest shocker to me so far has been the Muslim people. Like many a pilgrim from Western cultures, (unfortunately), I think hijab and taqiya and I think no fun at all. But I have met cool people here who are Muslims! Friendly, smiley, smart, absolutely normal people who are Muslims. I am actually ashamed that that has been the most shocking thing to me. But I never saw THIS video!

Another interesting thing to me has been the cultural significance of the scooter. Now I had seen the families of 5 riding scooters before,
the impossible loads packed onto them before,
but I've seen something here that's new: people sleeping on their scooters! Check it out!

That was new to me. The scooter is also, as near as I can tell, the thing that makes the infamous Jakarta traffic so indescribably brutal. I spend a great deal of my time in it so I am getting to the point where I might come close to being able to successfully describe it. In the hands of a lesser writer this would be a fruitless and demoralizing undertaking but I believe I can give an inkling of the traffic in this city as follows: imagine the worst traffic you have ever seen, witnessed or thought of. Traffic between which newspapers and refreshments are sold. Traffic that is stationary long enough for beggars to give you the sad face or sometimes sing a song long enough for you to dig into your wallet and get something for them. Traffic that is motionless for long enough at a time that motorists can get out, walk to the vehicle in front of them, ask for directions, get them, get back into their car and not get a horn blown at them because nobody moved in all that time. Happened to me this morning. I'm not kidding. Where cars and trucks, when they FINALLY get a chance to move are making up for motionlessness with speed and are brushing so close to the vehicle you're in that you don't know how you haven't lost a mirror. You've taken a quick breath and braced yourself numerous times for collisions that were narrowly avoided by your taxi driver. So many times that now, like a person realizing their fear of flight is not going to stop the plane from crashing into the side of a mountain and bursting into flames, you've said a little prayer and surrendered your life to the pilot/driver's skills. Then, just when you think that truck beside you could not possibly get any closer... a scooter passes in between the two vehicles tilting one way then the other to avoid the side-view mirrors of the two vehicles. THAT is Jakarta traffic. The very first day I was here a scooter actually HIT the mirror of a taxi I was in. I've since had three or four other minor fender benders. In every case they were ignored by both drivers. You won't find a car here without a scratch or a ding or two.

Staying with taxis, sort of, I have had about 5 taxi drivers, ALSO including today, fall asleep while driving me. Luckily none while in motion. Yet. It's also pretty uncommon to find a taxi driver, who conducts cash-only transactions all day long, with change. I don't know how many times they've committed to the scam so fully that the drivers have gotten out of the car, gone to a nearby store or even asked people on the street for change. I don't care. I'm not paying them 100,000 for a 50,000 Rupiah cab ride. That's the equivalent of a 5 dollar cab ride and a 5 dollar tip. Sounds like nothing by Canadian taxi standards but you just can't think that way here. I wait until the whole production comes to a conclusion and don't tip. otherwise I ALWAYS tip the taxi driver. Like the barber or hairdresser. They could kill you so I think they should be tipped. And depending on how good the performance was, I've even tipped when they tried the no change scam on me.

The weirdest one though was the taxi driver who kept missing shifts because his fingernails were too long. Not all of them, just one or two. I have seen a lot of dudes with one or two long fingernails around Jakarta.
I asked about it and the story goes that it's to demonstrate that they don't do manual labour. Like the preference, (again I don't get it), for women with really light, untanned skin. Indonesians constantly marvel at the bule men, who have such lovely, white skin, choosing the ugliest, dark skinned, buck toothed, high foreheaded, Indonesian peasant girls. But if I showed you a pic of that girl it would look something like this

Isn't she hideous?

Just one more about the taxis and I'll stop. I have noticed a bit of an obsession over here with mothballs. There are mothballs used in urinals, in houses as air "fresheners" in all sorts of places that just seem tacky if you ask me. I once got into a taxi with a young guy driving. The taxi had a really good stereo and some extra work done to make the interior more plush but the smell of mothballs was overpowering. I actually had about an hour in that cab and it was all I could take. I absolutely hate the smell of mothballs if it's just noticeable but this was something more. This was like putting the contents of Gramma's closet into a blender, pureeing them and then snorting them. I actually got out a couple blocks before my place just so I could get out of that smell.

And speaking of mothballs and Gramma's closet, you'd likely find some shirts in there like this:

These are the 1970's Saturday night disco going shirts known as Batik around these here parts. They are traditional Indonesian clothing. And I DIG them! I have three! They come in big sizes. This leads me to another curiosity. For people who wear such, um, shall we say, "throwback" clothing, and when they're not they're wearing their Muslim garb, and when they're not they're wearing something fairly old man respectable looking for the most part, the underwear is a WHOLE NUTHA STORY! There's not enough material in these things to call them underwear. I hate to do it but I gotta call Indonesian male underwer "panties." I gotta. Nobody over here heard of tighty whities? Or boxers? Or even briefs? You know with the little triangle trap doors in the front? No, they call these things "briefs" but the undies here are wildly inconsistent with the conservative vibe I'm getting from most guys. And for a fat ass like me who can't even find a shirt that fits, oh the horror! Oh the horror! I recently went to a place where I found the largest selection of men's undergarments I could find. It means nothing to my readers but it was Mall Kota Kasablanka. "Kokas" they call it. I found heaps of them! There were even boxers and some tighties. Not whities but tighties. However none were my size. The store girl showed me to the only pair with the waist size I was looking for. They looked when she took them out the box and showed them to me, like shorts that would stretch all the way down to the upper thigh. Like tighty whities only blue and black. I had to buy a two pack. 20 bucks! Never have I spent so much for so little! But I had a class in half an hour and the store girl assured me they were the only gotch in my size and they were "Western size." I got home and tried them on and let me just say this: nobody, western or not, with my size waist, could fit into these things. The waist was fine. It WAS the right size. But the manufacturer, (I checked and sure enough NOT Western, "Made in China"), must have been saving on material because there was no way to pull the waist up to the waist. It reached the upper arse at its highest point and STILL lower arse was leaking out. Along with other parts. And you can't take underwear back after trying them on can you? Uh uh. Nope. Not even gonna try.

Which is a brilliant segue into the final cultural oddity I am dealing with here. At least the last one I can think of. I just said, or wrote, uh uh. That means no. Here uh uh, mmm mmm or any of its equivalents are used to mean yes. Now I get that in the Philippines where oh oh means yes. But here yes is ya. How do they get two sounds outta that? It has caused some confusion for me. But nothing major. I have met a few high foreheaded, buck toothed, dark skinned beauties since coming here who didn't smell like mothballs or have one or two long nails. When I asked them if they wanted to talk or dance or get to know me they all said the same thing: "Mmm mmm."


Actually there is one more but I don't know a lot about it. I think it's similar to something that blew my mind, (and the minds of many in Korea), called fan death. Here they believe you sometimes get sick because of ill winds. Masuk angin, which literally translates to "entrance wind" is when a bad wind blows into your body and makes you sick. Not dead but sick. So they go to a healer who uses a coin and rubs it, sometimes hard enough to leave marks, on your body to get rid of the ailment. I have a cold right now. Maybe I'll go get a coin rubbed on me.

Anyway, all of these things have added colour to the country and made my stay all the more interesting to blog about. I'm sure I'll come across more. And when I do, you'll hear about them.

This is an addendum: A couple das after I wrote this a few more things came to mind so I figured I'd add them. I was awakened this morning, like many a morning, by the Muslim prayers. I don't find prayer to God odd in the least, but prayer to God broadcast over loudspeakers... yeah, that's odd. I mean what if the guy needs to ask God to please heal that nasty rash or please make Fahtima like me, or please let Chelsea cover the spread tomorrow or Lord won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz... I'm not so sure I'd want my private prayers broadcast all over the neighbourhood. However, I'm told, by my crazy Iranian friend, Mehdi, who understands Arabic, that they're really not saying much in these prayers. Just, "Come pray, wakey wakey, everybody pray to Allah," and things like that only in multi-MULTI-syllabic nasal tuning wails that would be absolutely perfect as an alarm clock sound. There seems to be one prayer time every morning at 4:30. That's the annoying one. But I've almost gotten used to it. And I have my ways of getting my revenge. I actually JUST finished a bowl of Kraft Dinner and two juicy pork chops. Cooked in the communal kitchen. You force me to listen to your prayers, you WILL smell my bacon! Now, I'm not as nasty as I could be, I used my own frying pan and cooking utensils so as not to contaminate the other tenants' but I have to admit, the meat is a touch more savoury when the eating of it is a great big nose thumbing to those who besmirch the noble pig and call it filthy and unclean. And those who wake me up at 4:30 in the morning. To all of you, mmmmmmm MMMMMM that's a tasty chop! Marinated in beer! ha ha ha. I'd be a terrible Muslim.

But that's not the only noise early in the morning. There are noises all night actually. Somebody is always out there hammering on something or other announcing an item they are selling, the time, communicating with morse code, I don't even know. Oddly enough I actually don't mind most of them. It is kind of nice to hear the pipe hammerer whose hammerings end with three hits at 3 o'clock, 4 at 4 o'clock etc. Especially when you have to wake up at 5 AM and you're sure it's almost time and he hits the pipe three times. "Yes! Two more hours to sleep!" Then there are the sewing guys who knock on the coconut shells, the fruit guy who bangs two blocks of wood together, the chicken porridge man who taps a spoon on a bowl and all that with guy knocking on the pipe, it's like, (I'm sorry), a Tony Orlando song at dawn.