Thursday, September 30, 2004

Growing Up In Trengganu #37056 

Written entirely in the Trengganu tongue.

Wala pong di Teganung dulu takdok banyok tepak nak gi, maklong saje lah, dulu mane ade panggong wayang canggih macang le ning. Komputer pong takdok, ape lagi mainang-mainang laing hak ade le ning tu.

Tapi orang Teganung adelah jugok benda-benda nak buat tiak-taik hari. Budok-budok dak lah nde poteng, nde poteng ke hulu ke hilir tiak-tiak hari, sebab ade bende yang boleh buak. Ada yang pegi panjak bukik — bukik Puteri (Tteri), biasanya — ada yang pegi jjalang di tepi Pata Teluk atau tepi lauk Hujung Tanjung. Di Pata Teluk tu kenalah jage-jage sikik sebab banyok ikang belukang. Kalu ppijok ikang belukang ni sakit bedo'oh, sapa tubek air mate, sebab bise sunggoh duri dia. Satu lagi, kalu jjalang di Pata Hujung Tanjung, kena bbaik sikik sebab banyok orang naka yang pegi dudok ccakong ssitu, selok kaing je, terus buak kerje, buak dok pulok tu. Bila kita ppijok baru sedor apa yang dia buak tu: kalau penyu ttelor, orang pong ttelor jugok. Satu hari saya jjalang ttepi lauk dengang sorang kawang, tibe-tibe dia jjerit, mmaki besor panjang. Rupanya dia ppijok benda tu, dah nak buak guane, sebab di pata tu rama sunggoh orang hak dok jjuruh.

Gete Teganung. Batu dia ada ddalang kocek Wé.Atas Bukit Tteri ada loceng besar sebutir, nama dia Geta. Barangkali Genta kok, tapi kami panggil Gete. Gete ning bbunyilah bulang Puasa — teng! teng! — waktu bbuka denge waktu sahur. Saya kenallah budok yang puko Gete ni, name die Wé, orang panggil Wé Puko Gete. Wé ni berani sungguh sebak dia buleh naik bukit tu ssorang je, dalang gelak gelemak, dak takut setarang. Di atah Bukit Tteri tu dia buak keluar batu Gete tu dari kocek dia, dia pasang ke Gete, dan bile sapa mase dia pukul kuak-kuak sapa habis reng. Teng! Teng!

Pada masa tu Bukit Tteri ni bukang nye ceroh, takdok lapu setabok ssitu. Tamboh lagi, atas Bukit tu ada kubor, bedil beranok, tepak Tuang Puteri duduk, macang-macang. Bila gelak dang sunyi tu seria jugok. Budak-budak, kalu naik ssitu, bbunying sikik je, tupa ke, ayang hutang ke, habih tembor lari, kecik ppale. Sebenarnya takdok hatu pong ssitu, sebak Wé kite ni masih ada lagi le ning, sihak walafiak, molek-molek ade. Saya rasa dia dudok ccokoh di Tanjong lagi le ning.

Satu masa saya dengor Mufti Teganung dak benor orang puko Gete sebak kate dia macang orang ugama Keristiang. Jadi Gete pong dak bbunyi lah. Cuma yang dengor nye bedil dari Bukit Besor je. Bedil tu bbunyi, dung! dung! waktu ggarib dua tiga kali, waktu sahur dua tiga kali. Dung! Dung! bising bbangor, habis kkejuk kelecak barat orang-orang Bukit Besor.

Nati satu hari saye cerita pulok pasa bedil beranok.


Growing Up In Trengganu #37056

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Man To Remember 

Photo of Edward Said and sister, taken in Jerusalem, 1946

I am greatly moved by this picture, taken in Jerusalem in 1946, showing the young Edward Said in Palestinian garb, standing beside his sister. It moves me because Said, a Palestinian, and one of the most brilliant minds of this and the last century, died just over a year ago, on 25th September. I'm saddened because it depicts a wish unfulfilled, a lost innocence, a forgotten people. Said fought most of his life to be a Palestinian, and for the Palestinians. As an Arab, a Palestinian, he was pushed to the wall by the humiliation of the 1967 war, during which almost the entire Egyptian air force was destroyed on the ground — and they say Egypt started the war — Palestinian lands were seized, and following which an Ivy League university in the States made students who wore Arab dress for a pre-arranged occasion march with their hands raised in surrender.

Said was brilliant as a spokesperson for the Palestinians as he was as an academic. The response from the other side was predictable, they rubbished him, as they still do with people and things they fear. This was their sharpest, bluntest weapon that was all too familiar. I once read with great amusement a short tract written by an Israeli academic rubbishing Ibn Khaldun; then, another time, while on a flight to Kuala Lumpur, a European man sitting beside me asked what I was reading. I told him it was the Decadence of Judaism in Our Time. "You don't want to read something so tatty as that, it's anti-semitic propaganda," he said. I told him it was written by Moshe Menuhin, a Jewish Rabbi and the father of the famous violinist Yehudi. He left his seat and never came back.

This photograph above is poignant because it reminds me of their other dismissal of the Palestinian born Said: they called him a fake Palestinian because he grew up and studied in Cairo before going to America. How crass the voice of the usurper!

Now there are European-American Jews coming in large numbers to Palestine-Israel. They seize Palestinian villages, drive farmers from their land, place them under siege, and have them expelled. These settlers are people with the most tenuous links with Palestine-Israel, they were born Europeans, yet they have the right to settle in the land where Said was born and from which he was exiled. And whose identity he was denied. There are millions of Palestinians who're denied return to Palestine-Israel, yet these settlers are able to bully their way into tracts of territory.

Rubbishing and lying are the common weapons they use to claim their right. They say that the land was unpopulated, and they do so blatantly as witness the factoid creation of Joan Peters in her notorious book From Time Immemorial. They say they have a 2000 year old claim to the land of Israel, as if the Palestinians cannot also lay a claim that's as old. It would've been comic had it not been so tragic: Europeans (some say they're Khazars) coming down en masse to drive out people whose connection to the land had been from time, well, immemorial.
Indeed the birth of Israel continues to be an almost mythological story and it will always be intricately connected to the world's guilt over the Holocaust. That collective guilt continues to be so great it seems the Palestinians will pay the price. And, the Palestinian people do pay. Another Israeli tactic is the "Separation Fence." This fence which is currently being built around the West Bank daily causes widespread confiscation of Palestinian fields and olive groves and the demolition of houses will turn villages and towns into isolated enclaves. Similar to the ghetto walls built by the Nazis, an entire culture is being surrounded and guarded by an army. — Confessions, by Ilanna Sharon Mandel, in the Jewish Friends of Palestine website.

This does not deter them in the least of course. They may be the Biblical people as they claim, and for delicious irony, their claims are supported by European intellectuals who pride themselves in being secular. It's guilt mostly, my dear. Hitler was a Church going European hater of Jews.

So who has the right to be in Palestine-Israel? Those mentioned in the BIble, who've been there from time immemorial? Consider this for a while. The cave dwellers of Jinba, a small Palestinian village, have been there from time immemorial, from Biblical times to be sure. And they number only a few hundred. They graze sheep, plough their fields, and go back to their caves for the night. That is the way of life they've led for a few thousand years.

And you guessed it: now those opportunity grabbing, right-to-the-land settlers want them out too. They've harrassed them, intimidated them, and made them prisoners in their own area. These people who presumably still have the dust of Brooklyn in their boots or the winds of the steppes blowing still in their ears. These people aren't interested to ask if you were there or not, or if you in fact belong there — they just want them out to make way for their own people. Israel is, in fact, one of the most racist states in the world.

This underpins what Said had said all along, that the Palestinians are an invisible people. People who scream and shout about the absue of rights everywhere in the world seem to be blind to the sufferings of the Palestinian people. It is all right for those Palestinian Arabs to be deprived and marginalised and humiliated as long as it is for the good. And the good is of Israel.

It has been a year now since Said's passing, and he is very much missed. Still.

§For a Fistful of Dust §Edward Said remembered §Writing to the moment
§To see how Palestine is suffering now, I urge you to go to this compilation by Lawrence of Cyberia


Man To Remember

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Growing Up In Trengganu #29036 

It's been a week of topsy-turvy. I saw a pontianak, but only on celluloid, and she turned out to be a real banshee. Why don't pontianaks fly properly, I wonder. The one I saw came down vertical and went for the jugular; but I'm happy that this Malaysian film's raked in 3 awards in Estapona, Spain, and another in Tokyo. Respect, as they say in hip-hop circles. Since seeing this banshee I've not wronged ladies nor trod their painted toes. I can't bear to think what they'd come back as if wronged by me.

There weren't many pontianaks in Trengganu, but pelesits seemed to roam quite free. Pelesits were creatures apart and were kept mostly by some crones of the community. I remember my mother telling me one day that so and so had a pelesit handy. Only a few days ago I met a Captain with the Malaysian airlines who said that when he was growing up in Trengganu he'd lived in a house in Hiliran with his parents and brothers and a few other things that did the bump thing in the nocturnal hour. Istana Maziah, 1920s. Source:Surauladang.netOh, I said, I know the house because my cousin lived there when it was still painted yellow, and there was a lady who never looked you in the eye who used to do the chores for the wife that he'd just wed. This was before the Captain grew up in the house of course, and what's interesting about elderly ladies who didn't look you in the eye was that in Trengganu they were believed to be harbouring little companions beside themselves to do the chores. And of the many things I heard when I too was little was that this lady had kept a pelesit which she was anxious to be rid of. Pelesits came to you in many ways but I shall not bore you with that right now.

Do you think that was the same thing that was bothering us? The Capt asked. Funny you asked, but I don't know.

I've not seen ghouls but many fools on my way to where I'm now. All the ghouls I've seen are made on celluloid, and the fools they go where wise men fear. There weren't many ghosts in the Trengganu that I grew up in and the ones I knew I never saw. This pelesit of the little lady was the whispering type that kept whispering this and that to her ear. That's from what my cousin told my mother one day. My cousin was a religious man who spent many a year in the al-Azhar of Cairo, so he must've exorcised the little lady of her trouble. Funny that the little fellow chose to stay on to visit the man who'd one day fly our national carrier.

There was another ghost that we heard of vaguely but never got to know as we were never allowed to roam about in the bewitching hour. That was the hantu kangkang of the gateway to the Istana Maziah in the Kuala Trengganu harbour. The Istana Maziah was the ceremonial palace that sat in the back of a sloping span of green that was known to us as Padang Malaya, but later it became the Padang Maziah. It had a couple of flaming trees of the forest — the delonix regia — as I remember, and a row of tall palm-like trees that we called the pinang gatal. The pinang gatal was a handy tree for pranksters who were so enamoured of the fruits they bore. They were small pellet-like seeds covered in soft reddish skins that made your friend itch badly if you rubbed one hard enough on his exposed parts. Well, you wouldn't do it on your enemy, would you, or on a total stranger. So there we were, returning from a day in Padang Malaya, cheering and jeering while a friend scratched and scratched the back of his neck, which was the favourite spot for an attack with the pinang gatal..

But back to the ghost of the Palace gateway now, the hantu kangkang of the late hour. To do the kangkang on the palace gate was a feat even for ghosts, as it involved the parking of one foot on a foothold on one side of the gate and another on the other, a span of at least four or five yards I dare say. It was said too that the hantu kangkang came out at midnight and bestrode the gate in this curious and rude way for no reason that I know.

One day someone came and told my mother that so and so the pelesit keeper had died, but my mother, a woman who never missed a funeral, simply made don't know as we English speakers used to say in Trengganu. You just don't go to the funeral of a pelesit keeper.


Growing Up In Trengganu #29036

Monday, September 27, 2004

Gap-Toothed Glitches 

Apologies for the absence of pictures in various places — in many places, in fact — due to some hosting problems that I'm experiencing right now. I'm now moving my images to a new place, but this will take time, so please be patient.


Gap-Toothed Glitches

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Facce di Londra #336 

Slouching Caryatids

Parish Church of St Pancras, Londra

Young Pancras was an orphan brought up in the Court of the Roman Emperor. He was executed at the age of 14 for refusing to renounce his Christian faith. In 1819, when they built a new church on the Euston Road in this parish that bears his name — St Pancras — it was a grand building with two imposing caryatid porches modelled on the Ionic Temple of the Erectheum on the Acropolis. Caryatid leftCaryatid of St Pancras ChurchIt was an ironic construction to say the least, as St Pancras was now commemorated in a church that was modelled on the glory of a pagan religion that he despised and against which he died. The octagonal tower of the church was an enlarged copy of the Tower of Winds of Andronicus Cyrrhestes that stood in the Athens marketplace in the first century B.C.

Irony struck more than once for St Pancras. The caryatids, the supporting female figures carved for the porches by Rossi, were too tall, so had to have their waists partially chopped off so the foreshortened body would fit into the porches. Pancras had to have his head lopped off because his Christian faith didn't fit with the diktats of the Roman Emperor.

The cost of building the St Pancras Parish Church, at £89296, made it then the most expensive church to be built in London since St Paul's Cathedral about a mile away. It was designed by local architect William Inwood and his son Henry. During WW II, the crypt — guarded by those foreshortened caryatids on the two porches — was used as a bomb shelter. The crypt was closed for burials when the new St Pancras cemetery opened in 1854.


Facce di Londra #336

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Terrorist Appeal 

As events are becoming more bizarre and brutal in Iraq, two Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) members are on their way there to negotiate for the release of British hostage Ken Bigley. Bigley's mum appeared on television yesterday to appeal for clemency for her son, and was rushed to hospital afterwards in a state of collapse.

It is a hard ordeal for an 86 year old .Hostage in Iraq,Ken Bigleymother to bear , and Bigley, at 62, is himself no youngster.

What's striking about this new development, even in the Iraq so dehumanised by war, is the ruthlessness of these so-called Muslim kidnappers who have no qualms at all about beheading hostages on video, and they do so with a chilling swagger. Who are these people anyhow?

By all accounts in the media, they are from the Tawhid and Jihad Group of Abu Musa'ab al-Zarqawi, a man also known as Ahmad Fadeel Nazal al-Khalayleh. There's no evidence of course that the man behind this is really Abu Musa or who is he, beyond what's been touted already in the media. What we know now is that Abu Musa is an associate of our Osama, who is a shorthand for everything and anything that you despise about those bearded men living next door. And as things get more nebulous in Iraq, more and more grand-sounding Muslim kidnappers begin to creep out of the woodwork.

Things are becoming very complicated as we know, especially in this election year for America. And guilt by association is also making things very difficult for Muslims everywhere, and Muslims are as angry by this new barbarism as their average Muslim hating tormentor, whose tribe seems to be on the increase right now. Already the MCB has received more than 2000 hate emails. Elsewhere, the renowned Muslim academic Tariq Ramadhan was barred from taking up a job in the States, and Yusuf Islam (the former singer Cat Stevens) was turned back from the US of A yesterday. Muslims are now the global pariah, the persona non grata everywhere.

Appeal leaflet distributed in Iraq for release of BIgley.Who stands to gain from all that? Not Iraq certainly, nor Muslims. As it stands now, being a follower of Islam itself is an issue as many, many Muslims are finding out now at airport gates, in the employment bazaar, in their social life everywhere. Whatever this so-called Abu Mus'ab the Zarqawi and his cohorts are seeking out to achieve, they are achieving it very well.

But what's this about not negotiating with terrorists? Well, terrorism is a pretty tangly thing, as proven by two Israeli Prime Ministers who rose form the ashes of Jerusalem's King David hotel. And in Britain, where Blair is sticking close to his hallowed principle of not negotiating with terrorists, why, they've just been negotiating with the IRA (Irish Republican Army) fellows, once their own terrorists of the day.

And what are the demands of these new army of the Abu Mus'abers? Well, in the past they wanted the anti-hijab rule in France lifted. But we've heard no more of that. Now they want 2 women prisoners in Iraq released. These 2 women are, by a surprising turn of fate, the Chemical ladies of Saddam Hussein (who?), and — wait for it — the release of one of them has already been ordered by the powers that be in Iraq, you know, those people now so effectively running the ruling Council.
And What happened next is where our friends form the US of A hold sway. Release the woman by judicial order of Iraq? No way, they say, this woman is in our custody and we're holding her come what may. That's how the rule of law works in this New Babylonia run by the Neocon powers, in an Iraq where they're trying to install democracy.

Maybe democracy and the rule of law don't work very well where the released prisoners have tales to tell, presumably about those phantom WMDs.


Terrorist Appeal

Friday, September 24, 2004

Facce di Londra #213 

Sorry Gallery, Russell Square

The Brunei Gallery stands opposite the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) of the University of London in Russell Square. The Brunei Gallery, Russell Square It was built in 1995 from the munificence of the Sultan of Brunei, and now takes its place of pride in front of the School building in the northwestern corner of the Square. It is a place for talks, exhibitions, student resource, and public facilities.

Viewed from the Square, the Gallery's light brown brickwork and square windows make an unremarkable sight, it jars even with the general tone of this Georgian Square where even the use of fluorescent lighting is prohibited to retain its 'residential' air. Little wonder then that once the Brunei Gallery was completed, the Russells, an old family which still has an interest in the area and whose interests once extended to Covent Garden (the Bedford Russells actually ordered it built) at once flipped and demanded an apology.

This was duly given and is immortalised in a plaque that is placed in the façade of the building facing east —

Coming Next: Slouch At Work


Facce di Londra #213

Monday, September 20, 2004

Goats At War 

The US army are sedating goats, injuring them, and treating them as if they're wounded in war. That's what's happening in Fort Carson as reported in The Gazette of Colorado Springs. These goats provide "very important training," says Ben Abel, spokesman for the Army Special Forces Command. Goats are being shot at in Fort Carson to save the lives of US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, apparently.

The goats aren't only being shot at but also pushed off a cliff, according to an informant at Fort Carson. This goat abuse has alarmed the Humane Society of America which has written a letter of protest to DefenceSecretary Donald Rumsfeld, the man who found the tortures in Abu Ghreib par for the course in war.

Goats have taken an unexpectedly high profile in this battle against terrorism. First there was the Pet Goat story that so engrossed Bush while the attacks were taking place on the Twin Towers, now the role of goats in preparing soldiers for war.

So thank you freewaybloggers, from all the goats, for the following freeway banner —


Goats At War

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Occasional People #1 

William "Bill" Moylon lives in the Royal Chelsea Hospital, and speaks of Changi and Burma like the nearside of yesteryear. He was there alright, he said, on a troopship from Bombay to Singapore, Bill Moylon, Chelsea Pensioner.then got bombed by Japanese planes, got picked up by an Indian sloop, then landed in Singapore. Only to be met by the Japanese who were already amassing there. And so began his short "visit" to Changi and a long trek to Burma.

I left Changi end of May 1942, he said, we were the first party to go, to start the railway. Come and sit there and I'll tell you my story.

We moved to a bench in the burning sun in the quadrangle of the Royal Chelsea Hospital. The Hospital was built in the style of Les Invalides in Paris, by Charles II, for his supporting soldiers in wresting the throne back from Cromwell. It took ten years to build, from 1862 to 1692, by which time the King had died. In the interim years, Charles' brother William II added on to it, and William and Mary put the finishing touches to it. And the architect is said to be Christopher Wren, builder of St Paul's Cathedral.

Bill was the forward party to clear the jungle, to build the transit camps for forced labourers who'd be making their way on foot to the Three Pagodas Pass in Burma. The transit camps were set up at 20-mile intervals.

The party of workers had to march 20 miles a day with all the kits, he said, they stopped one night at the transit camps, were fed sloppy rice, then the next morning, they had to march some more, until they reached their workplace. A lot of them dropped dead, he said.

Oh I remember Singapore alright, he said. I remember the row of Chinese heads placed by the Japanese on poles outside the Raffles Hotel. The Japanese are a good people, he said, it was the soldiers who mistreated us. What they did in Burma was a feat of engineering, he said, all done without machinery.

But you and all those forced labourers were the machinery, I said. Yes, he said matter-of-factly, we were the machinery.

The Royal Chelsea Hospital is more barracks than hospital, for retired soldiers who forego their army pension for the privilege of living there. There're 320 men in total here, the oldest in their late 90s. Bill himself is 89, and is fit as a fiddle. I go dancing, he said, and I do my workout, and at every weekend I go and see my girl.

You may have seen the Chelsea Pensioners walking in the Kings Road, in their red regulation coats, and their twinkly, rheumy eyes.

We have to wear the coat, Bill said, if we go more than 2 miles from here.


Occasional People #1

Friday, September 17, 2004

Remember, Remember 

Sabra after the massacre. Source:littleredbutton.com

On a grim day, 16 September 1982, Israeli invaders of Lebanon under a person named Ariel Sharon allowed Falangist militias to enter the Palestinian camps of Sabra and Chatilla. The orgy of killing went on for two days. Some 800 unarmed men, women and children were slaughtered.

Remember, remember Sabra and Chatilla.

§Read Lawrence of Cyberia on Sabra and Chatilla.


Remember, Remember

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Growing Up In Trengganu #51732 

The dah-dah-dum man peddled apam balik in the far end of the market, close to the smelly bay. The apam bailk was a thick pancake in a roundish brass tray, put to heat on a coal fire. The dah-dah-dum man sprinkled sugar, raisins and sweetcorn into the simmering goo as the sweet smell wafted over the heads of children passing through. By the dah-dah-dum man was a huge cauldron made of hefty metal, it rose about knee-level, and in it he'd pour his apam balik ingredients: flour maybe, some yellowing material, an egg or two perhaps. He'd stir it and beat it with a stiff brush specially made from lengths of thin rattan — eight or ten pieces together — folded midway in two. Just under the folded loop he'd wrap a length of twine to hold the bundle together, then he'd place his striring hand there, and he'd stir and stir and sang his merry song, dah-dah-dum, dah-dah-dum, dah-dah-dum. Mother came home one day and told us of that, and so he became, to us, the dah-dah-dum man of the Tanjong Market.

There was more to this jolly man in mother's amusing story. One day, said mother, as she was moving about the shops, the dah-dah-dum man was stirring and singing and stirring, when a billy goat took an interest in his cauldron of liquid goo. But the dah-dah-dah man continued stirring as he fixed the billy goat in his sight. When the goat finally approached to sample the raw and sweetly stuff, the dah-dah-dum man swung his hand aloft and beat it with a whack! With his stirring bundle of sticks, of course, that dripped liquid apam balik onto the Billy's hairy coat. Then back he went, unperturbed, to his stirring job of work, dah-dah-dum, dah-dah-dum, goat beater beating the apam balik mix.

Mother had an eye for comedies like that whenever she'd gad about. She walked with face covered in a long and broad headcloth, quite in the manner of the chador nowadays worn by women of Iran. She was in Makkah in her teens with her parents whom we never met, but little details of Makkah life sprang up in our daily lives. Clumsiness in our household work? We became, to her, the Orang Judah, the rough and ready labourers of the Jeddah port who must've spilled things in their daily, labouring wake. Sometimes when we grew careless with the sarong around our waist, we'd be the dhow Arabs who were ever displaying their wares. Mother's Hajj visit must've been filled traumas like that. She must've seen many things, many troublesome sights.

But mother never bought the dah-dah-dum apam balik, nor the comestibles sold by the stallholders who came out in the night. She cast no aspersions on anyone, but she wanted things to be right, by her own rigorous marks. If unsure, she wouldn't patronise a food shop, because she'd want to know if the shopowner was an observer of the solat.

I'd sometimes slip out in the night to look at the rows of lights dancing around the wicks of the oil burning lamps, in the stalls that were heaving with this presentation of Trengganu delights: cakes, and fried noodles, and specially prepared rice. There was nasi ulam, and nasi dagang, hati sukma and lompat tikam, and beronok and Cik Abas demam, puteri mandi and perut ayam, and piles of fried noodles thick and thin, and hasidah; savouries galore and sweetmeat. They came piping hot on wide, flowery trays, soon after dusk. Then, as their quantities began to diminish with the night, the lights of the kerosene lamps — the pelita ayam as they were called — were also beginning to fade, and slowly the vendors would pull away, back to the kampung, into the deep of night.


Growing Up In Trengganu #51732

Singalong Man 

We've gone past another 9-11, of course we rued the day. I had a little tiff with a man from Singapura-pura in the portals of a department store, and how he came at me (well, not me personally, but my tribal family) because we loved virgins, he was beginning to say. Look at that big hole in Bali, his voice went up a register, all for your love of virgins in heaven; there's this man in Indonesia [name supplied], peddling wicked acrimony. And he said there're virgins awaiting thee.

If only life were that simple. Blow yourself up, virgins in another place. He seemed to be all worked up, this man from Singapura-pura, against this quick-fix-to-heaven theology.

What is heaven like? Is it body or mind, sensual or metaphysical? I asked my daytime guru. Don't really know, he said, but it's there for sure, alright. I kinda like it a lot, virgins to every sheet, I said, much better take than the other side, where there're rooms in their Father's house, all seemingly empty. But still, I wouldn't blast myself dead, to be put together again on the other side, in a highly orgasmic state.

A whiff of something odd?

Look, I said to my tormentor from Singapura-pura, have you not thought of it another way? Don't you think there's something odd in this not the best of all possible worlds, at this precise day and date? Well egad, he said, it's you who're making it bad. Look at the Talibans and Osama bin so and so.

Uncle Sam was dancing the dance, and talking to the Talibs, and was pretty well disposed to them before the big blow-out. And as for the O man bin so, how many family members were airlifted, after the Twin Towers? Then again look at Atta and friends, did they look like Fundamentals, wining and dining and frauleining before the flight take-off? Well, they were looking for virgins alright, but in a German pub? Before the big blast off? Nothing there quite so odd?

You people are all mad, he said, the man from Pura-Pura, blood-thirsting for kaffir blood for your own sexual pleasure. And this man in Indonesia [name supplied] he was teaching the kids all that.

But I too grieved for Beslan, I said, and Ossetia's half Muslim, you know. And look over there in Iraq, who kills, who dies, who lives in misery? Don't you want to know that?

Conspiracy theorist, he said, the man from Singapura — so good they've named it twice, Singapura-pura — you're a conspiracy theorist you know.


Singalong Man

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Bush Consumed By Goat 

This is World Reading Week, Bush thinking of his Pet Goat. and I've just launched it. I'm inspired no doubt by the picture of our President [left] and the touching slogan just behind his head: "Reading Makes A Country Great." (Or is that Goat?) Bush is a reading man, sometimes obsessively so. When news of 9-11 came in, he was visiting a school and was told of the deed. But he continued reading, and he was reading The Pet Goat, a beast with a voracious appetite. It ate everything: canes, cans, pans, panes, capes, hats. I seem to remember a goat in Trengganu just like that; it ate our neighbour Pak Yik. But Pak Yik was a loner and a grump, so nobody missed him much.

But back to Bush and his pet goat which you too may want to read. To yourself maybe, or to your kids [geddit?]. Here's a page of it for you to read, with helpful diacritical marks, in case you miss a trick:
Text of The Pet Goat, an animal that ate everything with diacritical marks.

If you enjoyed that and wish to read more adventures of Goat, especially about the day it met Madeline Albright in her Transylvanian cape, place an order for the book. Here's a couple of reviews that I've gathered, "It's to me like what the fiddle was to Nero." — G.Bush. "Hornier than a Viking's hat shop." — M. Albright. "Er, it's eaten my notes. That's alright, I'll improvise." — D. Rumsfeld.

§ Get Your Goat


Bush Consumed By Goat

Growing Up In Trengganu #50742 

Delonix regia. Flame of the Forest. Source:floridata.comIn front of our house stood a Flamboyant tree, also known as the Flame of the Forest. It was a barren tree that never flamed for us, but goats loved to feast on its bipinnate leaves. One day men came with tools and spades and dug a deep, wide trench just a few feet form the tree, so we braced ourselves for a suprise.

I looked down from our window to see men working hard, nailing together planks to line its sides, and then another wall of planks within, with a gap of some six inches in between. When the cement mixer arrived, they laid a hard floor on the trench bed, then poured molten concrete into the gaps between wood and wood. When it set all around, the planks were stripped, and the trench was a wide, open tank, an impermeable layer of concrete in its bottom and on the sides. They came back and covered the top again in thick cement, leaving two square openings in that, covered by two heavy slabs that lifted by two stout metal rings.

The lorries arrived again and men laid underground pipes to another site four or five yards from the vault, just by the main road, and back to back with the fish market. There, a narrow concrete structure soon rose, some sixteen feet long. In it were cubicles, covered by wooden doors. And behind these doors were holes in the ground, with footpads for the squatting position, and an overhead tank with a chain that pulled and flushed the detritus along the pipes that were now laid in the ground, to the innards of the concrete tank by the tree that never flamed for us.

Delonix regia. Flame of the Forest. Source:floridata.comA good day for folks with loose bowels, but a very bad day for us. Our house now overlooked a septic tank, and the fish market had an additional whiff, all wrapped in tarffic noise. About a mile from us, towards the roundabout which later housed an erstaz greenback turtle, they'd already built another jamban, — the toilet — of a more period build; mostly corrugated iron sheets, I think, standing there, squat by the roadside, and they painted it a ghastly green. Folk soon began to call the locality by its jamban. They called the place Jamban Hijau, Place of the Green Convenience. We were slightly more fortunate, our place name remained intact, noise and nose notwithstanding.

So there it stood, our public jamban, mute, I'd rather not say, because oftentimes there came from within, a loud report. And it became a public monument, a privy and private place, unkempt and uncared for by the fisherfolk, by all the passers by who were caught short, and by users of the fish market. I shall not venture into its interior for fear you're still enjoying a snack.

That then was a stinking gesture by the Town Council for visitors to our parts. It wasn't for the folks of the neighbourhood, of course, for we had our own private places which I shall not talk about just now as you may still be munching a repast. But suffice it to say that for most of us it was an outhouse, normally placed in the back of the premises. Ours was a large, tall, family house built on hefty wooden stilts, probably twenty of them, standing some ten feet apart. We had to walk between them, with torch in hand if the call of nature came after dark, to go to the back for some business. For a small child it was a terrifying walk, then a quick dash back again after that, to the upstairs comfort of the house, relieved that there was no chance meeting with ghouls or ghosts that lurked behind each pillar and post.

Ghosts, as you know, lived in the depths of darkness, and had their own special scents to counteract the stench of the outhouse. But better the latter than roses in the dark, was our uppermost thought, as we ran, and ran back to the house. But once upstairs, as the clock struck one, there came a swishing, swishing noise, and an overwhelming aroma that made us giggle in the dark. It was the unmistakable hour of the night soil man.

Delonix regia. Flame of the Forest. Source:floridata.comThe night soil man wore a pith helmet, and carried a little tank in the back of his bicycle, into which he'd empty the slops. And the slops came in the bucket that lay beneath the hole in the floor of the outhouse. Poor, little night soil man as he went swish, swish, with his brush of coconut leaf spines, pouring water into the bucket to make it clean for users who would fill it up again for another time.

The night soil man, with a little torch in his helmet, then moved again as mysteriously as he came, sometimes muttering a little something to himself, decrying the residents of the house for inconsiderate use. And he left, and he muttered, and we'd be pinching our noses.


Growing Up In Trengganu #50742

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Scary Skully 

Screaming Mummy

Bush or Kerry, the winner will be a Bonesman, and a Bonesman has little to say. Ask anyone who's asked Bonesmen — and that's most of those who're in important posts in the military-political-industrial establishment in the US of A — s/he'll tell you they just stonewalled. The facts as far as we know, are that the Skull and Bones is a society with secrets, headquartered in an imposing, windowless building in the campus of Yale, and that membership is by invitation only. If you look like a potential Bonesman, you'll soon be tapped, and once tapped, you'll have far to go.

What else do we know about Boners, their initiation rites, and their proclivity? Very little, but some allege involvement in a hair-raising scream, being laid out in a coffin, and a bout of no holds barred confessional. And for an introduction, maybe some ritualistic sexual shenanigans to make your blood curdle.

What on earth are they about? How on earth can we know? — the door's closed, the Tomb's windowless, and there're far too many Boners holding to power in the States than their proportion in Society.

I have blogged about this skulduggery before in Skeletons In The Closet but now here's something quite interesting from BBC Radio 4. Click on the image below if you wish to sit back and listen to it, for which you'll need RealPlayer, and maybe even a warm blanket and a hot toddy, to keep out the chill.

§ Everything you Ever Wanted To Know, But Were Afraid to Ask


Scary Skully

Friday, September 10, 2004

Tits, Politics, and Tat 

The political rule of thumb used to be that Labour politicians fell for the seduction of money, and Conservative ones fell by the seduction of women. For a long time this remained true, when Labour had their John Poulsons, and the Tories, their Profumo scandals, and their Lord Lambtons. The Liberals had a predilection of their own too, of course, when Lloyd George started to save fallen women.

Now, things are beginning to equalise: the Conservatives with their weakness for women and money; and the Labourites, with their penchant for money and women. I was once a great admirer of a northern Labour MP named Dennis Skinner, the Beast of Bolsover, an acid-tongued street fighter who gave his posh House mates from both the Labour and Conservative camps as good as he got, then he was caught with a mistress. Then it began to wane for him politically, as personally it began to rise. Then came Robin Cook, a man greatly admired for his intelligence and wit, his consummate skills in the House. He too had a mistress, though the rest of his ethical outlook remains intact. Then, for a while it looked like the Rev. Tony Blair too was on the verge of being discovered of doing the Dick, but it turned out to be no more than his wife's over-fondness for mystic massages and good-vibration pendants as sold to her by a New Age mistress.

Labour was still very much a party of discipline otherwise, tough on crime, and tough on the causes of crime and all that. Tough on asylum seekers too, why, for this they had the Law and Order-ish Home Secretary David Blunkett, a blind man who rose and rose after taking over the leadership of Sheffield Council; Sheffield being a city once famous for its steel knives and forks. Blunkett too became famous when he insisted that those wanting British nationality ought to speak at least the minimum standard of English as she is spoke, for which I am now attending night classes.

But soon our tough guy family value worshipping Blunkett was also found to be wanting and groping. I came back after being a short time away from base to discover that our Blunkie had been trysting with a married woman, and was presumably making love to her in Nationality-test approved English and in his fluent command of Braille. I'm still unsure now whether my admiration for him should be going down or up.

Meanwhile, the Tories are carrying on as well they should. Big spenders Amiel and Black. Source: canoe.caThey're still after money — which they have plenty of — and they're still after the women, whom they get by dint of their stash. And there's no shortage of men or women for us to choose from to illustrate this: there's John Major the former Prime Minister who sighed longingly for the full-bottomed matron cycling through the village as the green resounded to the thud of leather on willow, and there's Edwina Curry, the Thatcherite minister who resigned on the issue of eggs. There are many others of course, but the one who takes the biscuit for Tory values these days is Lord Conrad Black who once rode high in the Hollinger empire and was chairman of the Telegraph. Black, married to rabid right-wing columnist Barbara Amiel, is an interesting case.

As the Telegraph, the newspaper he once owned put it, "he used his American publishing company as a 'piggy bank' to fund the personal life of himself and his wife, Barbara Amiel." It was alleged, of course, by investigators of the ailing Hollinger empire.

And this is what the investigators had to say in their report, now submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission, New York—
"The company was run as a "corporate kleptocracy", feeding the "ravenous appetite for cash" exhibited by Lord Black and David Radler, his principal business partner, it claimed.

"Not once or twice but on dozens of occasions Hollinger was victimised by its controlling shareholders as they transferred to themselves and their affiliates more than $400 million [£222 million] in the last seven years.

"The aggregate cash taken by Hollinger's former chief executive officer, Conrad M Black and its former chief operating officer, F David Radler and their associates, represented 95.2 per cent of Hollinger's entire adjusted net income during 1997-2003."

Lady "Barbara Amiel" Black, as is well known, is a shopaholic, and one with expensive taste. Black once allegedly took $42,370 from the Hollinger kitty to make her a happy wife, and her birthday, happiest. She's an attractive, seductive, woman with an unattractive political taste, perhaps lying somewhere to the right of Ariel Sharon. So now, caught in this mess, what has she got to say for that? She blames her penchant for shopping and high-spending on the broken home she grew up in, and the poor family she was born into in Watford.

Ah right, there's the cause of it, being born into a deprived, Labour-voting class.

§ Barbara Amiel profile §The Black Lord Black


Tits, Politics, and Tat

Diabolus Ex Machina 

When they took the man out and showed him to the world, this is what he kept saying, "By Allah I did not...by Allah I didn't shoot, by Allah I did feel sorry for them, By Allah I have children too..." Didn't the mantra strike you as odd?

It was a sad, bad thing that the children had to die, in Beslan, anywhere. Anyone who saw the terrified faces of children scattering out to freedom in various states of distress, anyone who saw them dead in the coffins would've been sad, Muslims especially, Prayer, by Van Der Ouderaa; Belgium;1894.as we've been to too many funerals of our own kids — bombed, blasted, made sick with Depleted Uranium, shot at — to understand the distress. What feeling did we have when we heard that the perpetrators of this Beslan were 'Muslim' terrorists? Did we have reason to rejoice? Or aren't we all grieving parents now because they've died?

I sense something odd about the man who kept protesting his 'innocence' in the name of Allah, again and again, as if he was trying to underline something that'd trigger hate against what he was claiming to espouse. Muslim scum is the tone of much that's already out on the internet, and now here's one waving the red flag to the bull that's already agitated.

Where are these ruthless, child-grabbing hostage-takers now that the bodies have been laid out? Even their identities are still a matter of surmise: Arabs? Chechen? Or What? It's Doku Umarov, said one; then another said it's Magomed Evolev. Their skins were white, no, slightly on the dark side, like southern Arabs, from Yemen or Sudan, or maybe further south.

These were videomakers all, making handy video footage for prime time TV, in documentary style, albeit shaky, production. The first time they committed atrocities, they cannily sent their passports flying to another street, found intact. Then, in Spain, they left documentation in a handy place.

A man was brutally beheaded in Iraq, by 'Muslims' of course, just when Abu Ghreib was hot; then men were kidnapped, again in Iraq, and for what? For the cause of the hijab in France, for goodness sake! It looks like Islam is now suffering a barrage of designer-hatred brought about by assorted 'Muslims' we've never heard of. This latest outrage in Beslan was by a group calling themselves the Islambouli Brigade, or something like that. Islambouli, remember that.

There're Muslims now whenever it's handy to rent a mob. As soon as the word 'elections' was uttered in Russia, Muslims appeared in the sky who brought two aircrafts down in a heap of carnage. Elections in spain? Bomb blasts on trains, done by Muslims of course. The role of Muslims in that tragic event of 9-11 is still now being hotly debated, but that was of course the first time Muslims received such heavy flak. And then in Britain, whenever tempers run high and the government feeling a bit wobbly, Muslim threats loom in the horizon. The Daily Express of 16 August of course went to town on that: "Al Qaeda plot to target Tony Blair's home foiled." Only to be rubbished by the Durham police; the men arrested had nothing to do with anything like that.

The troubling thing is that Muslims are ever ready to invite the accusing finger at them whenever it is required. Which raises legitimate questions about Muslims. Are they —
[ ] Suicidal idiots
[ ] Clueless about timing?
[ ] Blathering lunatics?
[ ] Just gagging for it?
[ ] Without a heart?
[ ] All of the above?

Tick whichever you like, but this sure is a difficult time to be Muslim in the crowd. I'm not trying to suggest by this rhetorical line of questioning that we Muslims are a real goody-goody lot. Why, there're Muslims out there who, if seen in the street, I'd not hesitate to stretch my hands out and go straight for their throats. There's one Sheikh Omar Bakri, for instance, the self-styled leader of the al-Mouhajiroun, the Muslim baiters' favourite man from rent-a-quote. Children held hostage? Muslims strapped to the teeth with explosive device? Why Not? Or something like that. So he was quoted to have said. Then, for the 9-11 anniversary, he's even now making preparations for a conference — at an address to be disclosed — to commemorate this cry for Jihad.

This diabolus ex machina thing is becoming deeply suspicious; time to give it serious thought. See also With friends like brothers

§ Taking orders from abroad § Russia's Muslims become targets.


Diabolus Ex Machina

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Trengganu Redux 

A few people revelled in my being thrown into the kolah, albeit a long time ago. [Growing Up in Trengganu #38952]. A fellow blogger phoned in from Lancaster to say that in Kelantan it's called the kolah too; and another asked me to translate the little ditty of Pak Leh that I used to hear.

Pak Leh was an itinerant Imam who moved from one surau to another on a weekly rota and probably sang his doleful tune wherever he went. I heard it many times, as he taught it to female members of his congregation who sang it out loud while waiting for the 'isha prayer, the last one in the day. This is how it'd translate —
Remember o remember and think it daily
You will in your grave be lying so lonely
Your big house and your estate's vast spread
Will all leave you once you're in the ground dead

I have also realised that the man in the blog that I'd placed in Kuala Lumpur, the one who made asam gumpal that's simply wicked, to use today's parlance, isn't Pak Leh's son, but a fellow villager. So I've now taken him out of the story, but he'll probably return someday, in another, with his asam gumpal still intact, still piping hot in a sea of coconut milk and everyday ingredients concocted in a secret family recipe.

Kuala Trengganu was a village, and we were all villagers. The area I lived in was a kampung, and my kith and kin lived in other kampungs in this little, big kampung by the sea. There was once a turtle on a mini roundabout perhaps a mile and a bit from the shop of Abdullah al-Yunani (yes, many remember it as Kedai Pak Loh Yunang), now I'm told it's been replaced by a replica of the Batu Bersurat, the Trengganu Inscribed Stone, as a reminder of Trengganu's history and introduction to Islam many centuries ago. If only the chengal could talk, it'd tell us many tales.

And it'd be able to tell us if Trengganu was indeed Taring Anu in the beginning of history.


Trengganu Redux

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Growing In Terengganu 

When I was still a weedy lad, trying to grow up, a chengal tree was quietly growing old in the forests of Trengganu. The chengal, or the Neobalanocarpus heimii, is a hefty, resistant, hardwood tree that grows in Malaysia as well as in India, Malaysia's biggest chengal tree.Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, and is a much revered tree in Terengganu where it is used in house-construction and boat-making.

The Trengganu chengal, believed to be 1,300 years old, is in the district of Dungun, and now ranks with the Jomon Sugi in Japan and the Giant Sequoia in California as one of the giant wonders of nature. It stands 65m tall; requiring 13 people linking hands spread out if the state of Terengganu (as it is now spelt) were to pass a law requiring citizens to be thankful and proud and go and hug this tree daily. They'd also be under the watchful eyes of the guards of the Pasir Raja Forest Reserve who now think that this is undoubtedly the biggest chengal tree in Malaysia if not the world. The forest reserve is located in the romantically named Gunung Mandi Angin — Mountain Bathed by the Wind — in Terengganu. The tree was discovered by forester Omar Mohammad in 1999.

"This is a big tree, "he said," rubbing his aching neck, "if this were to be felled, it'd require 27 lorries to transport the timber, and it'd be worth RM1 million."

But perish the thought, because that's not what he's got, for our old chengal tree.

Giant Terengganu Alocasia, biggest in the peninsula. Source: terengganutourism.com.Then, while everything else was still and quiet, and the old chengal tree was dozing dreamily, came a great flapping noise from the forest of the Mountain bathed in the Windy-dee-dee. It's the flapping noise of elephants' ears, no a tree, also called Elephant's Ears, or the Giant Alocasia of Terengganu (as it is now spelt).

Another Forestry officer spotted something so big and quickly informed the Museum Board (strange people they answer to, these foresters of Terengganu) who soon sent not one but 150 researchers to examine these great, big flapping leaves of Gunung Mandi Angin.

Soon a pronouncement was made, and Terengganu (as it now is) was well on the way again to another record. The biggest Alocasia plants in the Malaysian peninsula.

"I've not seen the Alocasia grow this tall," said Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Mohammad of Malaysia's National University. "They're normally about 1m high."

The Terengganu Alocasias are more than 2.4 m tall, a growth attributed to the fertile soil of the Mount of the Windy-dee-dee.


Growing In Terengganu

Growing Up In Trengganu #38952 

One day, caught in a mood of merriment, I was thrown into a kolah in our neighbourhood madrasah or surau. A surau is a devotional place, much smaller than a mosque, and in the kampungs of Trengganu it served as more than a prayer hall. It was the centre of activity, the meeting place of young and old, and was, more often than not, built of wood, with a prayer chamber and a narrow ante-chamber in the rear where old folk would sit outside prayer times to doze off, or to chat about the price of fish, or merely to nod and gape at all and sundry. The youth of the village would gather there too for a puff of the rokok daun taken and rolled from the pouches of the old, and the rokok daun, if you must know, is a tough dry leaf, rolled into a long thin smoke after it's been filled with a string of tobacco.

Like most Malay houses, our surau was built on stilts, raised some five feet above the ground, and in the ante-chamber, the floor planks were nailed with gaps in between, about half an inch maybe, so they could spit through them easily. To engage in the solat or Muslim prayer one had to be pure in body and soul, hence the pre-prayer ablution, with plenty of water; and before making supplications to one's Maker, the mouth, like the heart, had to be be pure and true. So there'd be hemming and hoiking in the back chamber just before the start of prayer, by men spitting out impurities from their mouths, of some tiny bits of curried chicken, or the ikan singgang, stuck between their teeth, or a pleasant after-taste lingering still in their throats of the gulai. Before finally going in for prayers, all these sediments were spat out through the gaps in the floor. The ones who chewed betel nuts were the most accomplished in this endeavour, of course, for their spits were of the brightest hue.

I've mentioned the ablution, so I must turn now to the kolah. which every little surau had in those days. It was an open topped water-tank, normally quadrandgular in shape, though they could also be shaped like a square. The four sides, built up to the level of an adult's waist, were of concrete, and from what I remember, the kolah was always placed by the steps of the surau.

Our kolah was medium-sized, about four feet deep, and had interesting mosses and lichens lurking beneath the surface of the water. Worshippers would dip their hands and arms into it, and wash their face, and then scoop the water in a large tin can to wash their feet before finally going up to the surau. My father always warned me about using the kolah, which, he said, contained the remnants of sleep from the eyes of early-morning worshippers. I never could make out if he was saying this in jest or for real, but I always, always religiously avoided the kolah outside a surau.

So it was for my thoughts perhaps that I was one day thrown in there with a great big splash and a lot of joy from bystanders and passers-by. They were two big boys, who threw me in, so there wasn't much I could do but walk home with my clothes thoroughly drenched, and little expectation of similar merriment from my mother or father. But unbeknown to me, my father was watching the proceedings — and my humiliation — from a window which looked down on the surau, and he'd already prepared some encapsulated wisdom for his returning son from the water. "Familiarity breeds contempt," he said to me, from on high. Well, I was a little lad then, and he was looking down at me and talking about those lads who'd chucked me into the kolah of our little surau.

Those words of his jolted me more than my unexpected meeting with the aqua surau, remnants of worshippers' sleep, green moss, and all. I don't hear the expression much any more, but whenever I see it or hear it uttered, I'm reminded of my dear, late father and the surau.

Our surau was a merry place and a lively centre. It had a large communal well where gathered the lads and lasses of the village and their mothers and fathers every day at dusk for the communal shower. In the surau was a grand geduk or beduk, an elongated drum covered taut with cow-hide at its business end, and left open in the other. It was hung horizontally in the back chamber of the prayer hall, by the stairs, and at prayer time, someone would hit the drum so hard in a prescribed rhythm so that the faithful would all come to prayer.

Pak Leh was Imam of our surau, a pious man of quiet authority; who passed on last year at an age that must've been close to ninety. Sometimes, from between the thunderous sounds of the old geduk and of men hoicking and retching through the gaps in the floor, I can still hear the voice of Pak Leh, sending up to our house the lilt of that melancholic tune that he'd perhaps devised himself from inside that old surau. It was a reminder of fleeting time, and our mortality, and it's playing in my head right now —
Ingat, ingat, serta fikir sehari hari
Kamu duduk dalam kubur seorang diri;
Rumah besar, kampung luas, itu ia
Akan tinggal itu juga akan dia...

§The day it rained Beleda

Growing Up In Trengganu #38952

Monday, September 06, 2004

Picking Up A Book 

Last Saturday, while walking in the Portobello Road area in West Londra, I picked up a book which appeals to me tremendously. It's a gentle treatise on time, yet it's actually a novella where time is central, and watchmaking, obsessional.

As I was walking back from the al-Manar Centre which is just a stone's throw from the street market, I saw a woman and her male companion looking down at something at their feet. The man was in fact rummaging through some books with his foot — such disrepect — so I hurried along as I'd seen those books strewn on the sidewalk on my way in and had made a mental note to look through them before departing.

Luckily for me, the lady was more interested in books on travel, so I very quickly picked up the first two I could, Christoper Wilkins' The Horizontal Instrument, and Lilian Faschinger's Woman With Three Aeroplanes, which promises to be a 'memorably eerie and erotic novel' (— The Times).

I am now in The Horizontal Instrument, which I find throroughly absorbing, and have been reading and re-reading it like the author did his clockwork, to examine the mechanisms that make it tick. The central character Robert Garrett, a product of many generations of watchmakers, started life as a mathematician. He's a time-obsessed man with an encyclopaedic knowldge of time's history, the nebulous and the physical. He begins the story with this short treatise on time and memory which I find thoroughly appealing:
"Time is memory, simple as that. Without memory, there can be no time. No before and after, no sooner or later, no now and then. After all, how do we detect what we call the passage of time except by perceiving change? But without memory all change would be imperceptible."

Time bends, people die, clocks tick, the hour draws near: but how near, how far? To the medieval Muslims the hour as the Europeans saw it was perfectly useless, as they were more concerend with the time for prayers which worked on a different rota; even hourly time as sliced by European time-watchers varied tremendously, in summer as in winter. The atomic clock claims to lose only a second every million years, but apparently it indicates the correct time only once in 86.4 billion years! So, observes Garrett, even the old 'horological's conceit' that only the dead watch shows correct time at least twice a day is more illusory than real.

This is time that is thoroughly absorbing, beautifully written into a novella of a chance meeting, tragic consequences, and time and again, a surprise for the reader. There's time everywhere in memory, there can't be time without it. This fascination with it is complete — the woman, the wife, the time she died, time as both mathematics and philosophy. And time dissected as clockwork, relying on anything so delicate as a hairspring, and the quest for a perfect, horizontal instrument.

Thank you, whoever left all those books there. I hope I shall be lucky again in the Portobello Road. Next time I'm there.

The Horizontal Instrument, by Christopher Wilkins; Anchor paperback, 2000; ISBN 1-862-30071-2
The Woman With Three Aeroplanes, by Lilian Faschunger (tr. from the German by Shaun Whiteside); Review paperback, ISBN 0-7472-5849-X


Picking Up A Book

National Day Memory 

Malaysian children waving flags over the memorial plaque to those lost at sea during WWII.

A group of ageing sailors and a gaggle of bositerous kids waving flags of the country. Grown ups with the slenderest threads of memory, students from the home of their fathers all huddled together, making solemn references to the sea, raising hands in solemn prayer perhaps for the first time in memory. Names moulded in metal on the bank of the Mersey.

I spent Malaysia's National Day, Tuesday 31 August, with an assorted group that spanned four generations, one long dead, one petering out by the sweep of mortality, another just arrived to this town of Liverpool as a far-flung educational outreach, the youngest of them all, their children, were singing a paean to our country, Negaraku, in a lilt oftentimes out of tune, but never wavering in gusto. They waved little flags, some made speeches, and the old sailors — just a handful of them left — looked on misty eyed, in memory of predecessors and seafaring colleagues lost at sea.

There're names there on the plaque, among those of other nationalities, there's Abdullah bin Badrom, Arshad Bin Ambi, Din bin Ali, Junid Bin Isa, Adnan Bin Hahran, Madar Bin Bakong, Minsuri Bin Malik, Jantan Bin Repin, and that's just from one ship, the HMS Banka. There're many more names of sons of Malaya who left home in the 1940s, went to work on ships of the merchant navy, then were gone forever, These are our forefathers, lost at sea.torpedoed at sea. (There're Chinese names too, but I don't know if they were Malayan, maybe I'll look into this someday.)Passers-by in this once thriving metropolis must've gawped at them, made note of their foreign sounding names, then thought of them no more. Students from the mother country, passing through this way, must've muttered them silently to themselves, then walked away to do what they came to do.

There's a group here still of old Malaysian sailors who came after the generation that died; and a couple still maybe, who are friends of those who did. They got together with a group of Malaysian students who're here now, and they decided to honour the memory — of those who died and are now just names on the metal plates. A group of middle aged folk came too, children of Malayan sailors and Liverpudlian mothers, and they brought with them their parents' war medals, and newspaper clippings of memory. One of them, with the surname Lates, recently went to Malaysia looking for his family tree but was unsuccessful. "My father could've been Latif, " he said, "but he was illiterate, and the immigration officer must've spelt it this way for him. He was from Johore Baru."

It was a rousing, moving ceremony. It was far removed from the Carnival that was organised by another crowd in London for our National Day, but it was well worth it, I'm glad I was there too.


National Day Memory

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Getting My Goat 

Sometimes you're so engrossed in a book you're oblivious of the bigger picture. Imagine yourself sitting there reading a book, say it's called My Pet Goat, then things go wham! Bam! Kapow! around you, but the book's so good you continue reading for a full five minutes before you realise what's happening to the Twin Towers.

That in fact was what George W Bush was doing on the morning of September 11, 2001, he was reading My Pet Goat to a classroom of children and continued reading even after he was told that things were happening in the Big Apple. And I don't blame him for that, as a kid I too was besotted by a goat called Mr Grunt that lived with Percy the Bad Chick and Dobbins the shire horse, all on a farm run by the amiable Old Lob.

Bush Reading My Pet Goat.It's time to look again at the old goat now that September 11 is coming yet again, when minds will be focussed on Islamic terrorism. A lot of research has been done, by the way on My Pet Goat, and the most impressive is by someone called Juggler-ga who's traced it to Lesson 60, page 153 in a school textbook called Reading Mastery, published by SRA/McGraw Hill.

As we all now know, Bush was told about the first attack just as he was about to enter the school, but he decided to continue his visit. Then he was told of the second attack on the Tower when he was reading the Goat story to the schoolkids in a classroom, he paused awhile, then continued reading. What's the urgency eh, just two towers burning in New York, and this goat's really beginning to grip me. You'll also remember the official story, that he left soon as the news got to him; but the official version had to be changed when video footage of that Goat reading was obtained by the Memory Hole website, then shown later in Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11.

Meantime, research on 9/11 hasn't been as impressive as that on My Pet Goat. There're still many things we do not know about 9/11: how, for instance, did the buildings collapse so devastatingly? How did the 'hijackers' gain entry to the airspace unimpeded? Why the indecent haste to dispose of the rubble? Who were the hijackers really? And now, another mystery has come to light, how did the passengers make those mobile phone-calls to their relatives from the doomed plane when even Bush pleaded poor connection when asked why he didn't get in touch with Dick Cheney?

I think I can answer that last poser for those Doubting Dianas: Mobile phone masts aren't allowed near schools because of radiation danger you see, so there wasn't a click when our man Bush went on the dial; but from a plane...

§For more mysteries of 9/11, look HERE. §Bush projects strength by reading


Getting My Goat

Friday, September 03, 2004

La Recherche du Temps Perdu 

You couldn't get lost in Kuala Trengganu, but memory casts strange shadows and foreshortens everything. Dali's The Persistence of MemoryI am extremely grateful to fellow-blogger TMA Bustaman of Di Bawah Rang Ikang Kering who's written to me many kind notes and brought back many memories. I'd like to thank him especially for taking me back to the real Kedai Yamada which I'd wrongly placed at the shop of Mr Fernandez the last time I grew up in Trengganu [Growing Up In Trengganu #28401, also, Jalang-Jalang Makang Ikang]. This is what he wrote:
"Kedai Yamada became Redi Photo Studio. I am not sure what it is now. It is the last shop at the corner of Jalan Banggol/Jalan Kedai Payang. There used to be a round red pillar box there. In my time, there used to be an 'orang timun' on the pavement.

"Kedai Fernandez was next to Pok Loh Yunan's [Abdullah al-Yunani's] shop. I remember him selling patent medicine and other stuffs.

"Pok Ali Yunan's shop was nearer to the mosque. He was an alchemist alright. He stocked sulphurs and also hardware."

The orang timun had no arms or legs. I remember him now, begging on the pavement in front of Redi Photo Studio which had many loving couples in it, posing to the backdrop of the moon in bloom.

Also thanks RO who wrote in to point out to that Trengganu now has another 'E' added to it. So Terengganu it is now, but I hope Terengganuers will not mind my sticking to the old form as that's the Trengganu I know and love. I grew up in the Trengganu of Pak Loh Yunang, and Mak Mek and Pak Awang, and kerepok lekor and the festival of main pantai and all that. It had a road that seemed endless and led to Besut which promised little but gave me much. My grandparents lived there, and so did I during school holidays, despatched to the Besut of long, dark nights and even longer days of great stillness.

In So Birds Will Always Fly, my reflection and prayer on the Malaysian National Day, I mentioned a swallow that flies in everyone's heart, and the peasant who spoke defiantly to the Padishah Sultan Murat. I am now able to trace the story to a poem that moved me greatly when I first read it, and still does, Sultan Murat and the Albanian, (Sulltan Murati dhe Shqiptari) by the Albanian poet Fatos Arapi (b.1930), here translated by Robert Elsie:
Sultan Murat sat astride his steed
And observed the prisoner bound hand and foot:
His advanced age, his wounds, his chains...
'Albanian,' he inquired, 'Why do you fight
When you could live differently?'
'Because, Padishah,' replied the prisoner,
'Every man has a piece of the sky in his breast,
And in it flies a swallow.'

Thanks MZ, who asked, and thanks everyone who dropped a note.


La Recherche du Temps Perdu

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Anwar Free 

First news I heard today was that Malaysia's former deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim is free after the Federal Court sitting as Abdul Hamid Mohamad, Rahman Hussein and Tengku Baharudin Shah Tengku Mahmud decided that his conviction on sodomy charges was unsafe, that the evidence of the main prosecution witness Azizan Abu Bakar lacked corroboration.

Anwar supporter holding aloft his picture during his court Appeal, August 22nd. Source: YahooAnwar has already served a six year sentence for corruption. He is now said to be preparing to fly out to Munich for treatment for his back injury

This decision brings an end to a shameful saga in Malaysian judicial history, regardless of what you may or may not think of Anwar as a politician and soi-disant leader of emergent Islam. The charges against him were, to say the least, bizarre, and the treatement given to him rather more excessive than usual. I do not know what the truth is behind those charges, but based on the scrawny evidence produced by the prosecution in court — a matress and a building that wasn't yet there during the time of the alleged offence, samples inexplicably destroyed by the chemistry department even before conclusion of the case — his trial was a complete farce, and his sentence vindictive in nature. That he was given consecutive, not concurrent sentence, was, to say the least, unusual.

The case did no one any credit, least of all the then Prime Minister of Malaysia. It showed the judge to be a buffoon, and those associated with the paraphernalia of justice a mere bunch of headless chicken, scattering aimlessly in the courtyard of their political masters.

Yet Anwar the man was and still is an enigmatic character. He supported the IMF and the World Bank when to do so would've been fatal to Malaysia, he was a popinjay with an Islamist hat, and he was largely ineffective as a minister. But he had charisma, and charisma was what he touted to the people.

The conviction of Anwar was damaging to Malaysia, especially to the Malay Muslim community. Now that Malaysia's with a new Prime Minister and Anwar Ibrahim's free to go, it's time to look anew. I wish him well and I wish him better, and hope that while receiving treatment he will have time to reflect and think of forgiveness, and reconciliation and hope.

Thanks to all who emailed me early with the news today.


Anwar Free

With Friends Like Brothers 

Now that any desperado with a camcorder can make a video and any fool a fandangle, I'm becoming more and more troubled by the sight of mirrors. But now what? They're threatening to slaughter sons of mothers in the cause of hijabs in la belle Cheesemaker! Who are these people? I don't know, but they've already behaded Nick Berg after making him sit through a video shoot sitting on a chair that looked remarkably similar to the ones used in Abu Gharieb, and they've done everything to convince the world that they — and therefore Muslims — are really despicable.

Now, Knee-Jerkers United have turned their attention to France and the hijab ban. Never mind what's happening in Iraq folks, let's do one for our sisters in France. Who are these people? We don't know, but perhaps we should leave the business of identifying them to those folks on the hill. After all, even when they were covered head to toe in Arab style kefiyyeh, the CIA could still say with certainty that that man over there, kalashnikov in hand and head wrapped in tea towel, was Zarqawi.

So what should our troubled sisters in France do now that help is coming from an unexpected quarter? Excuse my French but this is what they should all say: "Just piss off folks, just go away and pull the other."


With Friends Like Brothers

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?