I woke up in a strange place

By Marc Heiden, since 1997.
See also: a novel about a monkey.

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November 26, 2002

If your ex-girlfriend leaves a lot of tea at your apartment, and you are a student of history, and as an artist you are interested in the deliberate miscontextualization of dominant symbols and memes, and your ex-girlfriend lives down the lakefront from you, if that is the situation, is it mature and appropriate to re-enact the Boston Tea Party with that tea? My instinct is 'yes', but I thought I would ask.

With the first major snowfall of the season, holiday lights are up around town. In years past, the early appearance of Christmas decorations was mocked as a symbol of encroaching commercialism, but this year, as with 2001, I get the feeling that people have just had a shitty year and want to fall into the embrace of the holidays as soon as possible. The threat of war and the torrid, cynical decline in economic security has worn us out, as has the law passed by the Bush administration that every American over the age of 16 must be involved in the production of at least one (1) baby per ten month period and must then feed that baby to members of the Bush administration for undisclosed reasons relating to 'national security' and keep the law a secret from the rest of the world. Those, among other things, take a lot out of you. This year has worn me out.

But although people may be tired, monkeys have reason to celebrate. In Lopburi, Thailand, it is once again that special time of year known as monkey buffet fair:

In the words of Eumporn Jirigalwisul, regional tourism director for the Tourism Authority of Thailand, "it's like we have many, many friends." Other benefits, spiritual and tangible, accrue to the town. Spiritually, the monkeys offer the citizens of Lopburi wonderful opportunities to tum boon (make merit). According to Thai beliefs, donating food to the monkeys is a perfect way to accrue good karma. Judging from the hundreds of healthy monkeys scampering about, Lopburi residents are assured places in the highest levels of Buddhist heaven. As business grew, Yongyuth decided 11 years ago to show his gratitude and make merit by sponsoring an annual monkey feast. Employing three tonnes of food, four chefs, 30 food bearers, and 25 traditional Thai dancers, the monkey feast has grown into Lopburi's most lavish and photogenic spectacle. As spectators watched from the ground and monkeys watched from high up on the ruins, the town's high school students marched to the temple carrying brightly coloured banners. When the magic moment arrived, the single giant plate was unveiled to reveal a bounty of brightly coloured fruits arranged in enticing patterns around a centre of flavoured rice. The Thai dancers danced, the photographers photographed, and the monkeys seemed unsure of what to make of it all.

Photographs of monkeys chowing down at this year's buffet fair can be found here, here and here. The entire article above is, of course, tremendously important reading (and splendidly written, at that). A religion in which salvation is earned by feeding monkeys makes so much sense. I am aggrieved at how I was raised and I am now ready to declare the existence of an anti-monkey conspiracy at the highest levels of the world government based on the fact that a perfectly viable system of belief exists in Thailand and instead we are carrying on with this Jesus shit.

I am looking for trouble.

While the total amount of food was the same as the previous year, a single table is more symbolic of the continuing economic difficulties in Thailand. Another factor is monkey psychology. Tourism director Ms Eumporn notes that with smaller tables, larger monkeys take ownership of an entire table, refusing to share even though the table has more food than they can possibly eat. "Just like humans," she says, with a sigh.

Be careful, monkeys. Don't get mixed up in evolution. There is a downside to what we do.

If you have ever had a bullshit fatwa called against you, you can surely relate to this:

(news) "What we are saying is that the Holy Koran has clearly stated that whoever insults the Prophet of Islam, Mohammad, should be killed," Zamfara State Commissioner for Information Umar Dangaladima Magaji told Reuters. Asked to clarify the government's pronouncement, Magaji said the state had "passed a fatwa. It is based on the request of the people," he said, adding that this did not contradict the authority of Islamic clerics who have the powers to decree death sentences. "Being a leader you can pass a fatwa," Magaji said.

Can you call a fatwa on people who call flimsy fatwas? Because Magaji is flailing about for a fatwa worse than anyone I've ever seen. "Being a leader you can pass a fatwa", indeed. Raise your hand if you're buying into Magaji's ability to pass a fatwa. Because I'm not. You can't just blow right by the clerics, shithead. Being a guy who writes on a webpage you can pass a fatwa, that's what I say. Fatwa on you, Magaji. See how you like it.

One positive to ending a long-term relationship is that I can go back to my previous plan for what to do if I turn 25 and don't really having anything going on, which is to rob a bank and either make off with the money or get sent to jail and have some quiet time, write some memoirs or perhaps join the Nation of Islam. This, I think, is as flawless a plan as has ever been developed.

As I write this, I hear an imbecile across the way calling someone else a 'stinkerpot', and I wonder if I made a mistake blowing my fatwa on Magaji.

I woke up in a strange place is the work of Marc Heiden, born in 1978, author of two books (Chicago, Hiroshima) and some plays, and an occasional photographer.

Often discussed:

Antarctica, Beelzetron, Books, Chicago, College, Communism, Food, Internet, Japan, Manute Bol, Monkeys and Apes, North Korea, Oregon Trail, Outer Space, Panda Porn, Politics, RabbiTech, Shakespeare, Sports, Texas.


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Written by Marc Heiden, 1997-2011.