We will be at the annual Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia from October 3-7, 2012. Haven’t attended a literary festival in ages—the last time, we were still using the first person singular—so we have no idea what to expect. Technically we’re there for panel discussions on October 5 and 6, but our real agenda is to interview as many writers as we can.
This year’s featured writers includes Nick Cave, Helen Oyeyemi, Anna Funder, Chang-rae Lee, Jeffrey Eugenides, Colson Whitehead, Romesh Gunesekera, Justin Torres, the full line-up is here. For information on tickets, workshops, readings, book launches etc, visit the UWRF website. Thanks to Miguel Syjuco for suggesting us to the organizers.
The taxi ride to Bonifacio Global City took less than ten minutes, but in that short span our cabbie managed to cram current events, corruption, religion, and thought police into his spiel.
“There should be a computer that monitors what people are thinking!” he declared while AM radio announcers discussed the search for a replacement for the late Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo. (We wondered if he’d seen Minority Report.) “So when a politician accepts a bribe, everyone will know about it, and he will be shamed.”
“If they are capable of shame,” we pointed out. “The corrupt seem pretty proud of themselves.”
“Then they should be assassinated!” the taxi driver said. “We finally get an honest official and he dies.”
“If only he’d taken the bus,” we mused.
“You know what happened?” He proceeded without waiting for an answer. “Robredo was a good man and devoutly religious so he had no fear. He put his life in his god’s hands and accepted his fate. He didn’t recognize danger, he thought he would be protected.” The taxi driver shook his head vehemently. “It’s bad people who worry about their safety. Because they have reason to! That’s why they’re always surrounded by security guards.”
In a snap the cabbie had solved the mystery of why the good die young and the bad live long.
“If they ask me to become President of the Philippines I’d say yes immediately,” he went on. “I would sign a contract. For six years everyone has to do exactly what I say. If at the end of those six years I haven’t fixed the Philippines, they should cut off my head!”
What a radical idea. Then he went on about how only a dictatorship would work in the Philippines because we are an insubordinate, hard-headed people who will break the rules if we can get away with it. We reached our destination before he could tell us how to establish a fascist state. He gave us the exact change, though, unlike many cabbies who claim to be nice.
PEOPLE explode. One minute they may be relaxing in a chair, the next they erupt into a fireball. Jets of blue fire shoot from their bodies like flames from a blowtorch, and within half an hour they are reduced to a pile of ash. Typically, the legs remain unscathed, sticking out grotesquely from the smoking cinders. Nearby objects (a pile of newspapers on the armrest, for example) are untouched. Greasy fat lies on the floor. For centuries, this gruesome way of death has been debated, with many people discounting it as a myth. But spontaneous human combustion is real and we think we can show how it happens.
The first accounts date from 1641, when Danish doctor and mathematician Thomas Bartholin described the death of Polonus Vorstius – who drank wine at home in Milan, Italy, one evening in 1470 before bursting into flames. In 1663, Bartholin wrote of a Parisian woman who burned, leaving the mattress on which she lay unscathed. And in the Philosophical Transactions of 1745, Paul Rolli told how 62-year-old Countess Cornelia Bandi of Ceséna, Italy, said she felt “dull and heavy” after dining and went to bed. Next morning, her maid found a pile of ash with her legs protruding from the smouldering remains.