Here Thar Be Monsters!

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4.7.16

Some Holiday Thoughts

It's 16C (that's 61F for the metrically impaired) as we sit huddled by the warmth of the laptop on a crystal blue morning in what passes for winter here on the flank of the largest volcano in Java at the Far Side World Headquarters - Java Branch.  We gathered up all our wives and made a bee-line for the hills south of Jakarta for the Big Holiday.

No, not Fourth of July, Eid al-Fitri, silly.  The 4th means even less here than it does in the States, and by that I mean almost nothing, except that it is the eve of the biggest commercial holiday in all of Islam.

Oh, sure.  The Fourth is a holiday in the US.  It used to be Independence Day, but the country is no longer free and has little, if anything, to do with democracy.  More meaningful to folks there is the convenient three-day weekend with the three Bs - beer, barbeque and bullets.

On this side of the planet, though, today is one of the last shopping days before Eid al-Fitri, the big party at the and of Ramadhan.  As with all major religions that originate in the Middle East, it is an orgy of commericalism, with folks buying elaborate food baskets and handing out envelopes full of crispy new bills and kids getting shiny new bicycles from Santakesh, who flies around the world in one night, delivering gifts in his caravan pulled by eight magic camels.

Yes, it's more of the same, prompting us to bug out of the big city and hide out in the mountains until the madness passes over.

Eid al-Fitri, Idul Fitri as it's known here, starts the Lebaran holiday (lit. wideness).  It is a roughly one to two week holiday that starts with everyone in the entire country going mudik.  Mudik can translate as "scattering," "exodus," or "diaspora," depending on how much you are willing to pay for vocabulary.

In effect, one of the most densely packed cities on Earth empties out and becomes almost livable for a time, as folks slowly filter back from hometowns around the country.  Places that normally take an hour to an hour and a half to reach can suddenly fall within a 20-minute ride.  Only problem is, everything is closed, so there's really no point to going anywhere.  All the more reason to hold up in the hills until the madness blows over.

Eid al-Fitri is a combination of the feasting and travel of the US Thanksgiving holiday, along with the commercial aspects of Christmas and the religious fervor of Easter, all rolled into one.  It follows the month of fasting, during which restaurants cover the windows to hide non-Muslim diners, while placing photo adverts in the windows.  This is known as "cagnitive dissonance" in the communications biz.

Amidst all this felicity, we too have something to celebrate: all the damn drumming at 3a will now cease until next year.  Don't ask, you just have to experience it.

We are also joyful that food and eating will no longer be the center of every...single....damn....conversation.  And you may not be aware of this, but not eating or drinking (or even swallowing if you are hardcore) gives folks a wicked case of halitosis.  As a matter of social graces, it is quite pleasant when the fasting month ends.

So, after all that, there's really no point in talking about the Fourth of July.  No one here gives a good spit, and most Americans don't even remember what it's about.  Besides, at this point, the former foe (Britain) that the US cast off is now a bit freer after BREXIT.

So, as we sit here shivering in the tropical cold, we note once again that ritual has shot the air out of meaning, and that commercialism trumps (pun alert) the sacred with the profane.

Yes, folks, it's all about spending money, no matter how holy or sacred or important dates are.  In the end, they are nothing more than an excuse to dig in your pocket and extract the loose change that government and necessities left behind.

Just goes to show you that nothing is so special that commerce can't take a big steaming dump all over it.

Have a great holiday, regardless of race, creed, color, national origin, or sexual orientation.  Because we're all special till the money runs out.


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