Category Archives: Bali Skeptic

No City of Angels

“I’m tired of this dirty old city. Entirely too much work and never enough play. And I’m tired of these dirty old sidewalks. Think I’ll walk off my steady job today.” — Merle Haggard Jakarta does no favors for itself. It’s disheveled, mismanaged, clogged with traffic, and full of people so disconnected from any larger community that their own comfort and convenience trump any consideration of the needs of others or the common good. It is a brutal and fetid place. But like it or not – and some do like it – it is one of the    great cities ... [ Read More ]

Let It Be

“Essence may be taken as the very being of anything, whereby it is what it is.” “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding”  (1690), John Locke, in what may be the earliest use of a phrase that was to become much over used in the early 21st century I have never been a glass half-full or glass half-empty sort of a guy. What’s always mattered more to me is whether the glass is supposed to be half-full or half-empty, which is a fine distinction of perspective over volume. I am quite certain I would be happier with a quarter-full glass than with ... [ Read More ]

Toughen Up! It’s Earth Day

      “What I hate most are motorcars and aeroplanes; they have wrecked the world and robbed it of all its diversity. If I could’ve done my travels by car, what would’ve been the point?” Sir Wilfred Thesiger, the last great British explorer, in an interview in 2000 As we enter the Northern Hemisphere’s spring – we get the annual rash of events that are supposed to get everyone focused on saving the planet – Live Earth, Earth Hour, Earth Day, the Nyepi-inspired World Silent Day, and others, I am sure, where admonitions to live in moderation will be presented with ... [ Read More ]

Resurrection at the End of the Paper Trail

“It isn’t necessary to imagine the world ending in fire or ice. There are two other possibilities: one is paper work, and the other is nostalgia.” Frank Zappa       Paperwork, what joy! Anyone who lives overseas gets their double-fill of forms and filing requirements, which  often seem to necessitate pulling up and retrieving documentation on every significant career and educational milestone since kindergarten. I always feel like the powers that be want not only  information but also to see how people respond when made to jump through regulatory hoops, with additional procedures for the torture and pain of those who ... [ Read More ]

Monkey, Get Off’a My Back!

“Tobacco is a dirty weed, I like it. It satisfies no normal need, I like it. It makes you thin, it makes you lean, it takes the hair right off your bean. It’s the worst darn stuff I’ve ever seen. I like it.” Graham Lee Hemminger, November 1915 This is a dangerous undertaking. Whenever I have written to blow my horn about beating an addiction, there is something in the act that triggers a relapse. Way back in March of 2007 when I wrote for the first time about quitting the cigarette habit for a year … a week later ... [ Read More ]

Maybe There Is, Maybe There Isn’t

“The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” – Psalm 14:1 There comes a time in almost every religious ceremony or service I attend – be it Christian, Buddhist, Hindu or  Islamic – when my rational mind rebels and I start cursing the tyranny of belief. In this frame of mind it is near impossible for me to assume any tolerant live-and-let-live attitude. I can see in the most benign of pastors and priests only a “generation of vipers” who prey on the people, enslaving them to rites and rituals that are economic, psychological and spiritual burdens. ... [ Read More ]

Looking Life Straight in the Eye

“She exerts herself very much for Africa, sir.”  Esther Summerson of Mrs.Jellyby in “Bleak House” (1852) by Charles Dickens Travel is supposed to enlighten the mind, and someone once said that a person can never truly understand his own country unless he’s viewed it from the outside. True as those sentiments might be, it’s been my experience that travel and living outside of one’s native land are the surest ways to bring home the point that we are all eventually going to get what we deserve – diddly-squat. This is not a popular notion, and maybe that is why there ... [ Read More ]

Cash on the Barrelhead Gets You Anything

“Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different     from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand.” — “The Rich Boy” (1926), F. Scott Fitzgerald There is nothing wrong with my life that a few hundred thousand euros wouldn’t fix. I am not particularly venal, and don’t especially believe that money can buy happiness. But the extra cash would go a long ... [ Read More ]

Strutting Across the Stage of Wisdom

“To know that you do not know is the best. To pretend to know when you do not know is a disease.” Lao Tzu, Chinese philosopher Americans of a particular political persuasion – at least the Americans who live mostly north of Mexico, south of Canada, and who now and then do something beside play computer games, log Facebook time and follow the intrigues of Lady G, LiLo and Paris – would have found delicious irony in the July announcement that right-wing radio and TV jock Glenn Beck may go blind from macular dystrophy. I bear Beck no ill-will – ... [ Read More ]

Nice Guys Finish Last, Again

“Boldly they rode and well, Into the jaws of Death, Into the mouth of Hell …”  “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” 1854, Alfred, Lord Tennyson Sometimes, for no reason whatsoever, a man feels the need to gird his loins as best he can — preferably with Kevlar — and venture into the minefields of the gender wars, unmindful of the Bouncing Betties that might emasculate him. Walk with me. Not long ago I read an article on with the title, “Spiritual Women Have More Sex.” For many men, this succinct headline tells them all they need or want ... [ Read More ]