Saturday, January 31, 2004

Eve of Eid 

Today while trawling through Google for Moroccan calligraphy, I was surprised to find two references to my comments Moroccan bowl. Source:maroque.co.ukon the Reader's blog on the Jawi script. Jawi is the Malay adaptation of the Arabic script, and into which the hard 'g' letter, and the 'ch' have been added. I started reading in Jawi aeons ago in Trengganu, when my father brought home every night the Utusan Melayu as well as the English language New Straits Times. For some reason I was attracted more to the Utusan than to the Times, it was perhaps those cursive letters that took my fancy and caught my imagination. I was a fluent Jawi reader and writer before I set foot in the local English primary school, which then was the preserve of kids of well-heeled parents from the more prosperous West Coast. These parents were in Trengganu to take on jobs we native Trengganuers couldn't do, like running the Post Office, or seeing that the Public Works Department (PWD as was), or the Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID as was) were running smoothly as they should, or that the trains of Bukit Besi were pulling out on time.

My father started life as a telephone operator at the local Exchange when telephone calls still had to go through the operator and telephone numbers were no more than three or four digits long. He was a man I greatly admired, even if his job wasn't something I'd brag about in the school playground where my posh classmates had parents who were State Engineers and State Surveyors-in-Chief or some such suitably named panjandrum. Later, for reasons I couldn't fathom, my father became a telegraph operator with many dots and as many dashes in his head. He once brought home a man who sat with him all night in the front of our house, playing with a little toy which produced the dits and the dahs of the telegraph key machine; so they went on all night doing the dit-dit-dits, and the dah-dah-dahs to my utter wonderment. The following morning, with the sounds still ringing in my head, my father explained that he was helping his friend who was taking the amateur radio (radio ham) licence.

But Kuala Trengganu where my life began remained - for a long time - a sleepy hollow, a one clock-tower town where the daily newspapers arrived late in the afternoon, or early evening when folks in the more advanced West Coast were already bracing themselves for the next day's headlines. I remained, for a long time, a Jawi reader unabashed, immersed in the politics of the Jawi world, and familiar with the comic strips of people who spoke in curly-whirly writing.

Later, while studying in another clime, I received a letter - written in Jawi, of course - from my late brother, a proficient self-taught Arabic speaker, asking me to look up an obscure Moroccan manuscript in the British Library (which was then housed in the famous Round Reading room of the British Museum). I got the manuscript copy of the book, paid for the photo-copying of it, and discovered to my consternation that it was hard to read. The book, as expected, was in Arabic, but it was the way this Arabic was written that gave me a problem. It was in Moroccan script, with the exaggerated whorls and the whirls, curling out like fingernails left unclipped.

The Moroccan script, though not as popular outside the Maghrib, is thoroughly impressive. I recently tried to look for a teacher of Moroccan calligraphy but was everywhere rebuffed, and so the subject of my grouse in my comments to the Reader's blog. I am still none the wiser now, but following that, another blogger, Atok, very kindly sent me a digital file of a page from a Moroccan manuscript he'd photographed from a friend's collection. And a further protent that my search for a teacher of Moroccan calligraphy may soon come to fruition came today when, while looking thorugh an illlustrated study of Islamic Science by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, I came across this beautifully written verse from the Qur'an, in Moroccan calligraphy of course, which I reproduce below with Nasr's translation:

Allah is the Light of the heaven and the earth.The similitude of his light is as a niche wherein is a lamp.
The lamp is in a glass. The glass is as it were a shining star.
(This lamp) is kindled from a blessed tree, an olive neither of the East nor of the West,
whose oil would almost glow forth (of itself) though no fire touched it.
Light upon light. Allah guideth unto His light whom He will.
And Allah speaketh to mankind in allegories for Allah is Knower of all things.

It also came at a fortuitous time to glorify and exalt His name, on the eve of a special day to commemorate a great event. So with this I wish all my Muslim readers a blessed Eid al-adha!

§ More beautiful Moroccan manuscripts § Arabic calligraphy page


Eve of Eid

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Ice Over Londra 

Yesterday, late afternoon, while I was drinking tea in a Students Union cafe in a university college in central Londra, a group of students walked in with snow all over their backs, heads, beards and boots, just like a scene from Dr Zhivago.

This isn't a snow prone city, and the last time they skated on the Thames the Beatles were still there on the charts, I'm told. But there was a big chill in the eighties, and we do get a reasonably good snowfall every few years or so. When snow falls, especially in the night, when the sky is glistening blue and the moon flooding a silvery beam down on everything below, the effect can be quite devastating. I remember looking at this from the window of my students hostel, many years ago, the first time I saw this shimmering whiteness of snow blanketing, beckoning, in the deathly quiet of the moonbeam.

The Malays have a word for this: sayu. It encompasses many things, but mostly it describes a longing, brooding sentimentality, a yearning for something that's lost, out of reach, or well nigh impossible. It's both expectation and nostalgia, but heartbreakingly, heartrendingly so. Looking at all that snow bathed in moonlight in a foreign clime for the first time then - in all that quiet - I felt a sayuness that is impossible to describe.

Routemasters in the snow. Source:routemaster50.org
The Routemaster buses will soon disappear,
but more snow in our lifetime here?

But back to the here and now, soon everything will change here they say: there'll be more snow in Britain in our lifetime. In fact, there's an ice age coming:

A study, which is being taken seriously by top government scientists, has uncovered a change "of remarkable amplitude" in the circulation of the waters of the North Atlantic.

Similar events in pre-history are known to have caused sudden "flips" of the climate, bringing ice ages to northern Europe within a few decades. The development - described as "the largest and most dramatic oceanic change ever measured in the era of modern instruments", by the US Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, which led the research - threatens to turn off the Gulf Stream, which keeps Europe's weather mild.

So soon perhaps, we'll be skating once again over the Thames, or watch the proceedings from a little igloo. Read more...

Ice Over Londra

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Poetry Corner 

A few people have written in asking about the bit of poetry quoted in the sidebar. It's a much quoted piece of Auden, of course, especially in Christian web sites, and it came from Whitsunday in Kirchstetten which Auden wrote in 1962 (and dedicated to H.A.Reinhold). Whitsunday ends Auden's collection in About the House, which begins with another popular poem, Thanksgiving for a Habitat.

Auden and Auden photo by Cecil Beaton. Source: www.bl.ukWhitsunday is a longish work which speaks of worship, in church as well as in the world outside, of material things. The part that I quote comes from the following passage:

Down a Gothic nave
Comes our Pfarrer now, blessing the West with water:
we may go. There is no Queen's English
in any context for Geist or Esprit: about
catastrophe or how to behave in one
what do I know, except what everyone knows —
if there when Grace dances, I should dance.

In his epigraph Auden acknowledged the source of his Grace dancing: "Grace dances. I could pipe. Dance ye all. — Acts of John." Yet as a non Christian I can quite comfortably identify myself with the sentiment, that Grace comes to us in the darkest of moments, in myriad ways, for little or bigger things; and we can only be thankful to Him who provides for us in countless ways.

The mystery of this much quoted extract is that it's often quoted like this: "I know nothing, except what everyone knows - if there when Grace dances, I should dance." Yet in his Collected Works [Faber Paperback] it begins "What do I know..." It's true that after rediscovering his religion, Auden went back to his old works and made alterations to suit the rebirth of his belief, but did he really change that? Can anyone help?

In life Wystan Hugh Auden was a wandering poet, travelling from his native Britain to Europe, then to a long exile in America. Towards the end of his life he returned to Oxford, but died in Vienna in 1973 at the age of 66, and was buried in the Kirchstetten of that Whitsunday. He was a man always filled with a longing for a hearth and home, and for that much desired gemütlichkeit, a word I first came across in Munich, and which I'm told is untranslatable. But it may have the following attributes: cosiness, comfort, neighbourliness and warmth.

Auden is a favourite for his readability, and for his wit. What brought me to him in my student days was a caricature of the man in Private Eye magazine, drawn by Nicholas Bentley - I think - which showed his face with all the craggy lines, that lived-in look. I think the magazine also ran a series of Audenesque clerihews during that time.

He was acclaimed as an American poet because of his long stay there but in behaviour he was very much the eccentric Englishman, although he claimed Icelandic descent. One writer recalled being at a party in his flat, and discovering that he had kept the jelly for dessert in the toilet. Well, didn't he - in a work I can't now remember - also wonder aloud how the English, a people not noted for cleanliness, could ever have invented the claim that it is next to godliness?

He's been dead more than two decades now, but his works still amuse us, enlighten and gladden us, and bring joy and foreboding. Now his poem September 1, 1939 is read again especially in the context of 9-11, and the people in Auden's works, politicians especially, are no different from the people now. He wrote this many years ago:

When Statesmen gravely say 'We must be realistic',
The chances are they're weak and, therefore, pacifistic,
But when they speak of Principles, look out: perhaps
Their generals are already poring over maps.

— "Shorts," in Collected Shorter Poems 1927-1957

§ Hear Auden reading his poems § Auden in the British Library


Poetry Corner

The Way We Are 

Controversial Greek playboy Taki Theodoracopulos organised a "high class stripper" to visit the Manhattan bar where his son was celebrating his 22nd birthday. When the stripper began to undress, a burly man at the bar objected: "I'm a Muslim and this is against my religion." After Taki junior told him that Muslims shouldn't drink, the man threatened violence. "The boys caved in, as did the barman," says Taki, High Life columnist of the Spectator. "The stripper fled. End of party."
— Londoner's Diary, Evening Standard

The Way We Are

Monday, January 26, 2004

Harry Lime Theme 

In Vienna many years ago, the only thing I wanted to see was the great big Ferris Wheel, the Riesenrad in the Praterau.

The Third Man, Source:hetnet.nlToday, as I switched on the television mid-morning, I was in Vienna again, to the twinging twanging of the zither by Anton Karas. Yes, you've guessed it, it's The Third Man yet again, to that monochromatic uncertainty of those gloomy times that were so like now...

The Third Man is my all time favourite: a superbly crafted work of film noir, in the Hitchcockian style that encapsulated the seediness and shiftiness, the gloom and the darkness of post-war Vienna. A cat mewling in a deserted street, the twang, twang, twanging of the zither so hauntingly, penetratingly creepingly into the soul of the celluloid; and Harry Lime who was lost and then found, and then lost again forever.

And of course the ferris wheel - the Riesenrad - opened by the Emperor Joseph II in 1766, but made famous by The Third Man in 1949. And who will forget what Harry Lime the racketeer said by this ferris wheel, to justify himself:

"In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed - they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love, five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did they produce? - the cuckoo clock."

The Ferris Wheel, Vienna.  Sourve: technologystudent.comBut who said it, Graham Greene or Orson Wells? Green, who wrote the screenplay, said it was the contribution of Wells himself, so to him goes the credit, and Switzerland condemned forever to that uncertain realm of mindless efficiency.

The post-war periods in the last century and then the Cold War era must've produced some of the most remarkable film settings in memory.

The Third Man was a product of the Second Great War, in decadent, corrupt, crumbling Vienna where everyone had a certain shiftiness, and the all permeating pessimism, everywhere. What memorable characters, and think how the film would've developed if the initial plans had been adopted - with Noel Coward instead of Orson Wells as Harry Lme, and Cary Grant as the co-star novelist Holly Martins instead of Joseph Cotten. It would have been a very different film, and a lesser one too for that, I'm sure.

I've only just recently discovered that there are two versions of The Third Man, the British version, and the slightly longer American one. And in the American version, the anonymous narrator at the beggining of the film ("I never knew the old Vienna before the war, with its Strauss music, its glamour and easy charm...") did indeed identify himself as a racketeer.

Filmed entirely on location - the first time for a British film - the setting and the characters so complemented each other - decadence of place, decadence of spirit and soul. It ended as it began, in the cemetery, to grief, to earth, to dust...

§ Carol Reed: The Third Man


Harry Lime Theme

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Chirac Bans Display of Religion +Update+ 

In a new bold statement to reassert France's leading position among secular nations, President Jacques Chiraq has announced his government's intention to ban Muslims and Jews from communal showers in State schools and government offices.

Explaining this bold move in his State of the Republic address, Chirac said:

"We must preserve secularism as the foundation of our Republic. We have already announced our intention to ban the hijab, turbans, kippahs, crucifixes and broomsticks from classrooms and post offices and other public places.

Citoyens et citoyennes de France!

As you know, the broomstick is the symbol of the Wiccan religion, just like the crucifix, turban, kippah and the hijab. Mon ami M. Luc Ferry, minister for education, has also recently announced the banning of beards and bandanas from schools. Besides being a religious symbol, beards get in the bouillabaisse and are provocative to people who are secular and clean-shaven. And bandanas are also a repulsive reminder of religious oppression. So we in France would like to discourage our primary school kids from growing beards and neglecting their homework. And most of all, we are against bearded cowboys flaunting their bandanas. This is gross Americanism, which as you know, is a religion.

French School inspectors examining students in shower room. Source: jackinworld.comNow, in another bold move, we in France will now ban Muslims and Jews from communal baths and showers in schools and public premises. We have nothing against naked Jews and Muslims sharing a shower with us, or enjoying the occasional Turkish bath, but citoyens et citoyennes de France, as you know, these people are circumcised under orders of their religion. So we must extend this ban on the display of religious symbolism to our public baths and showers too for the integrity of our nation. We cannot allow them to flaunt their religion in front of our face. We must ban their private parts from our public parts! Our Republic must be preserved!

Vive la France! L'état c'est mwahaah! Chacun a sont halal-kosher viande! etc."


France Bans Croissants Shock Horror

The Republic of France, continuing apace its reinforcement of the laicite element of the Republic has announced the banning of croissants from state schools and public places.

Declaring this new move today, French Minister for comestibles M. Leonard du Pain said that with immediate effect croissants will be banned from state schools, and any students caught with croissants in their lunch box will be sent home.

This measure is necessary to bring into line discordant elements in the Republic and to reinforce the division between Church and State as spelt out in the preamble to the French Constitution, the minister added.

"The croissant is a Muslim symbol acknowledged worldwide and we cannot tolerate another flaunting of religiously charged symbols in schools and public places. We are already planning to ban crucifixes, kippahs, hijabs, and sikh turbans," he declared.

He said he had no plans to extend the scope of the ban to other non-secular foods like hot cross buns, but added that he had been asked by many patriotic French citizens to change the name of the croisssant, dunked by millions into their breakfast coffee in France, to pain du laicite to follow the American example of renaming French Fries to Freedom Fries.

"We are also looking at changing the shape of this very popular breakfast fare to something not so religious or controversial, maybe something like the Fleur de Lys," he said.

When asked what message he had for those French students in state schools who will miss their favourite bread, he replied:

"Qu'ils mangent de la brioche."


Chirac Bans Display of Religion +Update+

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Real State Of The Nation 

We have just obtained the first draft of President Dubya Bush's State Of The Nation speech:

Dubya. Source:interventionmag.com My Fellow Americans:

As you know, this is a crucial year for us because we have a lot of fighting to do. As you also know, we have caught this man who was my father's, and Donald Rumsfeld's friend the biggest dictator in the world sleeping in a hole with bits of Bounty bar stuck to his disgusting beard. They were caught by the Kurds brave American forces, and the Kurts Cruds Kurds are happy for that because they can now sleep safely in their beds without any fear that Saddam would release any gas that we sold him he had been making in his labs, threatening us all freedom loving, peaceful people.

This has been a very successful year for us. My friend President Blair and I was just talking the other day about this and he said: "You know Dubya, I feel so safe and free walking the face of this earth with my wife Cherie, who is the best human rights lawyers in the land." And I told him, yes of course, and you have to thank me for that. He also suggested that perhaps Cherie and I should talk about those British citizens now costing a lot of our taxpayers' money - your money - in that Guantanamo Bay place in the sugar Cube. "They have rights too, you know, we cannot carry on like this. What will all those Frogs French say, what with their egalite, fraternite and all that." I said, Tony Mr President, don't come all French on me like that. Besides, what rights do they have under the Fairport Geneva Convention? Don't let them fool you Tone, my friend, they're all Quakers Quaker OatsQaeda and TroubadorsTalibans coming from those Pakistanland. They have no right to be British if they don't shave their beards which is also bad for the free trade of blades. And with their loose trousers and headscarved women they can't fool you they're British. Remember that. If we send them back your Courts will only miss the point that they're guilty anyway.

My Fellow Americans: Awake!

Listen to what the dwarf Gimli has said. We in Middle Earth are different from those in the Middle East. Gimli. Source:lordofthering.netI quote from John Rhys-Davis who told me this is what his father Dai Rhys-Davis said when he looked over the Welsh mountains:
"Look, boyo! There is not going to be a World War between Russia and the United States. The next World War will be between Islam and the West."

Always listen to your father, like I do. And listen to this Rhys-Davis guy who knows something about Mahometans Muslims. Some of you may have seen Indiana Jones and all his explodesexploits, and the man beside him all the way was an Ay-rab, named Sallah. See? That was an Ay-rab, make no mistakes, and he was our John Rhys-Davis who played him. So he knows about Ay-rabs and Muslims, you listen to him d'ya hear? This is what you call the Clash In Concert of Civilisations which I am now trying to read. But it's hard reading a book with big words without moving my lips and while eating my pretzels.

And these Ay-rabs remind me of a conversation I had the other day with my dear friend, a good Ay-rab the Saudi Ambassador. (I can't remember his name. Someone fill this in before my speech to the nation!) So I said to him, "Please, your Excellency, anything I can do to help you in your fight against the axes hexes Axis of Weevil Evil, or El Al Qatar Qaeda. So he said: "My son watches Star Trek movies and in them are Russians, Black people, Asians, but never any Ay-rabs. He is very upset. He doesn't understand why there are never any Towelheads Ay-rabs in Star Trek."

I had to give it straight, My Fellow Americans. I said to him:"Your Excellentest Man, that's because Star Trek takes place in the future."

.....[See CNN for the rest of this address]

§ Read interview with the dwarf Gimli


Real State Of The Nation

A Spirit Writes 

Dear Beta Blogger,

You are lost. Zvi Mazel did not destroy human lives like the suicide bomber that the artist grotesquely called Snow White. No one died, just a trash work of so-called art wrecked. The Israeli Consul General in Montreal was also expressing his view. The Muslim speaker abused his privilege to speak in memory of a great and good man. He was just putting terrorist propaganda across. I hope next time you will be able to tell truth from propaganda. If you think what they did was wrong, how many people were killed by Mazel or Aran[sic]? You were comparing them to the deranged violence of the Talibans and the Muslim grave destroyers. Shame on you! Think before you write next time.
- Dybbuk

Dear Dybbuk,

Mazel Tov!

You're right. This is real destruction:

Woman cries by rubble of demolished home, East Jerusalem. Source: alkhilafah.info

This took place in the Rafah camp in Gaza yesterday, probably just as you were sitiing down to write your mail. Fifty Palestinians lost their homes, and unlike the vandalism of Mazel, real people were involved, real homes destroyed, real hopes of real flesh and blood. You of course will come back to me to say that Mazel was angered because the art installation trivialised the deaths of Israelis by the suicide attack of the person he sought to glorify. But were the artists trivialising all that? As a Jew, Dror Feiler must have felt the pains of all his people who died violent deaths. But as he said: Snow White and the Mystery of Death was an examination of what's behind it all. Why the self-destruction of the suicide bomber? Why inflict death on other people? Is it acceptable? Whose sea of blood? Why? Why? Why?

I was perhaps wrong in attacking Mazel because, looking back, I can see it now that he was part of the work that the Feilers sought to portray. Mazel was himself part of this anger and destruction, this whole question of violence in Israel/Palestine. Can the Feilers arrange for Mazel to perform regularly at his installation? I now feel that the impact of this work of art will be lost without Mazel's regular appearance like a man possessed by you, the dybbuk, unhinged and unrepentant in destruction.

Yes, there are myths and facts in this whole business. Palestine was a land without a people for a people without a land. Myth. Palestinians are a people gone insane, carrying out their campaign of destruction for no rhyme or reason. Myth. All Palestinian dead in the Occupied Territories are either terrorists or are caught in cross-fire. Myth. All critics of Israel or Zionism are anti-semitic. Myth. All examinations of this whole Middle Eastern problem have to begin from the starting point of this 'dastardly' behaviour of Palestinians, all talks of peace must begin with the ending of violence. False. Contrary to all the news-reporting slant in the West, all the off-hand remarks of the majority of news reporters standing there doing their dramatic stand-uppers, the problem is deeper than just the bombing-reprisal-more bombing-more reprisal loop. You cannot be entirely right just as they cannot be entirely wrong.

Recently, to remember Martin Luther King, Jr., former Prime Minister, former FBI informer Benjamin Netanyahu - a man to the right of Attila the Hun - quoted King's declaration that anti-zionism was anti-semitism. Hoax.

It was appropriate that Tom Hurndall was remembered with King, as a man who stood up for the oppressed. O what harm did the Israeli Consul General do to the people around him, what harm the anger of Zvi Mazel? Maybe that's the point you're trying to make. I'd like to invite you to see the Palestinians now living in tents, in makeshift huts in the cold because their homes have been bulldozed, I'd like to take you to Abu Dis, a town riven by the Wall - your Wall of apartheid, the Palestinian's Wall of wailing - that is as much an act of violence against the people as the daily attacks on their daily lives, against their children walking to school. It is as brutal as the uprooting of their ancient olive trees that are their livelihood, that are the history of their land. I see it like this: the disruption of the King memorial meeting in the Church, the ambassador going berserk are extensions of this arrogance, this brutal streak that you are now drawing across the land.

I brought in the Talibans and the would-be attackers of Dante's grave because there is something running through those acts - whether by Jews or Muslims - that is disturbing. It is this necessity to be violent to make a point, this disregard for the view points of others and of things that they hold sacred. And a feeling that what you disagree with have to be destroyed.

I hope you will spend some time to think about that. Shalom. Salam. Peace.

* * *

Happy New Year! Gung Xi Fa Cai!


A Spirit Writes

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Le Monde Diplomatique 

Two tales of madness:

When the Talibans blasted the statues of Buddha in Bamiyan to make a religious statement, the world was suitably outraged. Before that, some Muslims read this canto from Dante's Inferno:

Mentre che tutto in lui veder m'attacco,
guardommi e con le man s'aperse il petto,
dicendo: "Or vedi com' io mi dilacco!

vedi come storpiato è Mäometto!
Dinanzi a me sen va piangendo Alì,
fesso nel volto dal mento al ciuffetto.

E tutti li altri che tu vedi qui,
seminator di scandalo e di scisma
fuor vivi, e però son fessi così...

then made straight for his tomb to blast it open, in rage. And the world wasn't well pleased. The man's dead for goodness sake; let him just smoulder in his grave.

But what reasons for their acts?

Well, Islam is uncompromisingly non-idolatorus; and Dante had insulted the Prophet Muhammad and his son-in-law 'Ali by first calling them schismatics, and then consigning them to hell. The loud, universal chorus is still ringing in our heads: that's not the way to behave; uncivilised behaviour; freedom of thought, religion and speech. And amen to all that.

Snow White and the Madness of Truth; authors in bckgrd. Source: newciv.orgAnd then two more:

In Stockholm, Israeli ambassador Zvi Mazel went berserk in front of guests assembled at a prestigious conference on genocide. And this is what he did: he unplugged a lamp, threw it at an art exhibit, and caused consternation and a near short-circuit. The reason for his going mental was a work of art called Snow White and the Madness of Truth which depicted a boat sailing in a pool of blood. On the sail was the photo of a smiling Hanadi Jaradat who blew herself up in a crowd in Haifa last October, killing herself and 21 bystanders.

The work of art was meant to raise cogent questions about death, suicide bombing, rage, genocide. Some thought, some work of art. But was it legitimate work? Was it art? Apparently not. The Israeli ambassador Mazel rated it as unacceptable, it was anti-semitic.

And then yesterday, in Montreal, at the Union United Church of Montreal, another Israeli ambassador flipped.

It was an interfaith service to remember Dr Martin Luther King, Jr, so another guest, Muslim journalist Yahya Abdul Rahman rose to speak about King as a defender of the oppressed. Then he mentioned Tom Hurndall who recently died from a bullet in his head, despatched from the gun of a soldier while he was protecting some Palestinian children from Israeli army attack in the West Bank. Hurndall embodied the spirit of non-violent resistance espoused by King, Yahya said.

At which point David Birmbaum, Executive Director of the Canadian Jewsih Congress went ballistic, and started heckling Yahya and making a lot of abusive noise. Then the Israeli Consul General in Montreal, Marc Attali, who was also there, took matters into his hands; he grabbed the microphone in fact. He began to denounce Yahya with words like "Shame on You!" and worse.

* * *

These four incidents are of course unacceptable behaviour by civilised norms. But which ones were condemned, and which ones won praise. You guess.

* * *

Anti-semitism Note: Snow White and the Madness of Truth was in fact the work of former Israeli artist Dror Feiler and his Swedish wife Gunilla. Feiler, now a Swedish citizen, commented:
"The display itself is against violence. It can be summed up by a biblical quote: 'He who spills human blood shall have his own blood spilled by man,' and this is exactly what we need to put an end to. The Israeli ambassador caused diplomatic and political damage to Israel, and since he is an intellectual midget, his actions were similar to those of a stall owner in a third world country."

Now, now little Feiler, criticise Israel if you wish, but go easy on our Mamaks.

* * *
§ Zvi Mazel, ambassador of death § Yahya's report on the Montreal incident
§ Bomber art attack furore spreads § See the art attack on video
§ Anti-Zionism vs. Anti-semitism: A Practical Manual


Le Monde Diplomatique

Monday, January 19, 2004

Black Kept Right Then Left 

In its heyday, the Daily Telegraph stood next door to the Daily Express, two conservative bulldogs in the Fleet Street thoroughfare that became the metonym for newspaper journalism. The Express, in its Black Lubianka of a building, was the crusading stalwart with its emblem of a knight with sword drawn, while the Telegraph was the more stiff-upper lipped, gruff voice of middle Britain.

This was in the Berry family days when newspapers were run by people who were - in the main - bowler-hatted men of vision with printing ink coursing in their veins. The Telegraph was bold but blimpish, and read by retired lieutenant colonels and Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells. It isn't difficult to conjure a mental image of Disgusted the man, living in the stock broker belt, travelling daily by train to and from work, bowler hat resting on jaunty head, and with the Telegraph and brolly in hand. He was forever disgusted with the drift of England, while remaining still God's own Englishman.

These were days before newspapers became part of the world empire of international business barons, the Murdochs, the Barclays and the Blacks. There were actually people then pacing the floors of the Telegraph and the Express who were the Honourable so and so, and heirs to some ancient baronetcy tucked in the deepest folds of the land. Conversations were opinionated and loud, topics were grasped with certainty, and the the empire - like the world - was pink and round. Well, the pink may have ben fading a little by then, but the colour still glowed loudly in their minds.

These were times so succintly described by the writer Edmund White [Over There, in the current Granta magazine] when English intellectuals were combative in style - "What utter rubbish!" - and were sceptical of most everything. There were denizens of England, little and large, and England covered all the bits and parts of this green and pleasant land.

Then those robber barons arrived in Fleet Street and in other places. (One, who later became Sir Robert Maxwell at the Daily Mirror, actually robbed his own company of its pension funds. These were men with visions of conquest of everything on earth - property, industry, finance, and a few newspapers to massage their tried egos or to espouse some causes dear to them. Most were money-making conservatives. Most, like the Canadian Conrad Black who crossed the pond and bought both the Telegraph and the Spectator magazine, were rabidly committed. In the case of Black, it was capitalism and Zionism. His wife Barbara Amiel writes a column in the Telegraph that has a shrill tone of Israel uber alles and damnation to Arabs. Another newspaper in Black's world empire, the Jerusalem Post, advocated the murder of Arafat last year, and his friend Ariel Sharon nodded in agreement.

But from being Black the Telegraph went into the red. Some say the Telegraph was already suffering from newsprint fatigue when Black took over because it lacked a younger readership; but wasn't about to go broke. They blame its present plight on the spendthrift ways of Conrad Black who has just been unseated from his Hollinger group, the troubled parent company of the Telegraph. An inquiry is being conducted into Hollinger in the States, the shareholders are up in arms, while Black remains adamant that he did nothing wrong.

And then, over the weekend in Britain, came news that the reclusive Barclay brothers - owners of the Scotsman and a few other newspapers up north - have bought Black's share of the Telegraph, for which they paid £250 million. How this will work out we still do not know, as among others waiting to make a bid for the Telegraph are Richard Desmond - present owner of the Daily Express and a host of magazines referred to politely in Britain as 'top shelf', and Harrods owner Mohammad Fayed. Fayed has never owned a newspaper, but a magazine he bought, the venerable Punch, died from boredom, though it stlll exists on-line.

The Barclays are tax exiles in the feudal island of Sark, and are as cryptic as the Telegraph crossword. But they are well qualified to own the Telegraph, being right-wingers of the Thatcherite school. So all hail then to the Telegraph, let snow fall on their house.

§ Hollinger tops bad news league § The ascendancy of Conrad Black


Black Kept Right Then Left

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Day of Solidarity Against the Ban 

Photo Courtesy: muslimwakeup.comFirst they banned the hijab
But not being a wearer of one:
I did not go;
Then they banned the solat as illiberal
But being no doer of the solat myself,
I felt not the need to move;
Then they stopped my brothers and sisters
From being themselves
But having always regarded myself
As a modern cosmopolitan
I was never freer to move;
Then they branded them as too dangerous for learning
In areas that were deemed too dangerous
Confining them only to ghettoes for culture
And studies on past glories of Islam, and inane things
To keep them quiet and pacified -
But I was successful in my own right
So I did not care nor fret very much on that;
But now brothers and sisters
We're walking in chains in prison pyjamas
With the yellow Crescent stuck to our chest
As a badge of vilification and shame
And railroaded to the concentration camps;
But it's too late brothers and sisters,
Too late to wish
That I'd cared about the ban on the hijab
The very first time it came...

* * *

If you wear the hijab, it's your choice. If you don't wear the hijab, it's still your choice. But those who choose to wear one believing it a necessary part of their religious practise should be free to do so.
Otherwise freedom is selective, and does not make sense.
Jews should be free to wear their yarmulkes, and Sikhs their turbans.
So why deny the Muslimah their hijab?

Day of solidarity with the hijab.
Picket A French Embassy Near You!

§ Muslims in France
§ Hijab in France § La guerre du hijab a commencé!
§ Headscarves and the Secularism of fools § Je Blog: Pour un Etat Laïc et des citoyens libres.


Day of Solidarity Against the Ban

Thursday, January 15, 2004

No Splendour In The G***s 

"He's not the Messiah. He's a very naughty boy!" —Monty Python's Life of Brian

Dreaming In The Grasses I, by Raya. Source: //allposters.comNever thought the day would come, but a 14-year old boy in Manchester, Zachary Tutin, has been banned form saying 'grass' at any time anywhere in these green and pleasant England and Wales for six years, I kid you not.

What's he done to receive such severe punishment? Imagine going to the library and not being able to read aloud Whitman's splendid Leaves of Grass, or roll in some for fear of saying it out loud, or - and this takes me back to the school I went to in Malaysia where this type of thing became a daily lookout - to warn friends of the forbidden patch: Keep off the G* * * s! Keep off the G* * * s!

Oh drat, I wish I could say it. But I can say F**k!

And for six years, mind. What's he done?

Well, according to reports, he's a very naughty boy. He's been going around calling his neighbours that word, because they're allegedly police informers.

Said Manchester councillor Basil Curley, (and he's a fine bit of herbage too come to that): "Tutin has acted in a thoroughly nasty and dangerous manner. This order is intended to prohibit his terrible behaviour and to protect defenceless people, especially women, against his foul-mouthed attacks."

Foul mouthed? Nasty and dangerous? Grass? Oh sod it man, keep off!

Let him read Whitman if he wants, and here's some of it:

(...The dirge and desolation of mankind)
Now the great organ sounds,
Tremulous, while underneath, (as the hid footholds of the earth,
On which arising rest, and leaping forth depend,
All shapes of beauty, grace and strength, all hues we know,
Green blades of grass and warbling birds, children that gambol and
play, the clouds of heaven above,)
The strong base stands, and its pulsations intermits not,
Bathing, supporting, merging all the rest, maternity of all the rest,
And with it every instrument in multitudes,
The players playing, all the world's musicians,
The solemn hymns and masses rousing adoration,
All passionate heart-chants, sorrowful appeals,
The measureless sweet vocalists of ages,
And for their solvent setting earth's own diapason,
Of winds and woods and mighty ocean waves,
A new composite orchestra, binder of years and climes, ten-fold renewer,
As of the far-back days the poets tell, the Paradiso,
The straying thence, the separation long, but now the wandering done,
The journey done, the journeyman come home,
And man and art with Nature fused again

§ Walt Whitman, 1819 - 1892 § Kids Learn Vocabulary By Talking Dirty


No Splendour In The G***s

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Bird In The Bush 

The recent revelation by former treasury secretary Paul O'Neill that Bush had wanted to invade Iraq from day one of his presidency certainly strikes a chord. September 11 was used as a convenient justification O'Neill said, Iraq had been the bird in Bush's mind all along:
"It was all about finding a way to do it. The President saying 'Go find me a way to do this' "

There's nothing new there you might say, though coming from a former insider certainly helps to silence the cynics awhile. But looking at it for what it's worth, it may be just another aspect of a picture that is bigger. To Bush it may have looked just like something fortuitous, but he came to power on the back of the Neocons, whose life started even before Bush fils or pére. The clash of civilizations was a self-fulfilling prophecy, and began to be touted as an attractive academic idea long before the present lot took power.But of course from out of the woods comes a familiar squeal:

It still took September 11 to provide the catalyst that turned the invasion of Iraq from thinkthank dream into on-the-ground reality, which is why conspiracy theorists should handle O'Neill's remarks with some care. The Iraq war had little or no direct connection with 9/11, but 9/11 made it possible. The war came because many in the administration had prepared for this opportunity. When the moment came, they had an answer that pre-empted the question. O'Neill was a witness to a crucial phase in that process." —Martin Kettle, The Guardian, Jan 13, 2004

Well, if you want to put it that way, yes. But if the Iraq invasion was part of anything at all, it was part of the Neocon war against the only resistance left to their idea of a bigger global picture which includes the taking of the Middle East - their Middle East - into this compliant fold. And while Bush and his coterie were pacing the floor in the White House like some characters from Pirandello, up popped this Iraqi deux ex machina. How's that for a phrase for the rabid fundamentalist Neoconners!

And how did 9-11 come about, pray? We don't know, even if the al-Qaeda are the main suspects.

Even if those dreaded conspiracy theorists have gone to town with a barrelful of ideas. But as I've said before about conspiracy theorists - and David Icke notwithstanding - the movement against conspiracy theorists has become as insidious as the thing they've set out to negate in the first place. In short it is beginning to look like a conspiracy itself.

See how the argument runs? Worthless people aren't capable of anything credible. Worthless Arabs - as Robert Kilroy-Silk is now actually saying in this Blighty - don't deserve our time of day, never mind if their mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters are being made homeless, walled in, shot at, dispossessed every single day of the year. Similarly, conspiracy theorists are worthless, and don't deserve to be looked at. Same thread running through those arguments, sewn with the same needle.

So the conspiracy theorists have many bats in their belfry. But how many official investigations have been conducted into the 9-11 tragedy? Dancing and cheering though some of those Arabs - Muslims and Christians too I dare say - may have been, many throughout the Muslim world are still puzzled and saddened by this whole September 11 deed. In fact, many Muslims died in there too as a result. So why this reluctance to bring things out into broad daylight? Yes, of course there are questions: Why did the buildings collapse so completely from the impact? Why was the entire Air Force caught napping? Why the rush to dispose of the Twin Towers rubble? Who were those 'Israelis' videoing and dancing from the rooftops? What happened to them? Where is the passenger manifest for those planes? Well, while we're at it, who were those Arabs who hijacked those planes? Why were 'devout' Muslims drinking and attracting attention to themselves in the bar?

The 9-11 incident, it is often said, was the true start of the 21st century. In fact, it was the start of the New American Century and of full spectrum control of everything, from press coverage of the two Iraqi 'wars' to the much touted globalisation of the world (as if it isn't a globe already), to the affairs of your daily life. Just watch, it'll soon come to a doorstep near you.

Something convenient that just happened? I'd like to think so. Conspiracy theory? Maybe. But I'd be more comfortable if we're allowed to look at all the evidence to see how those murderous Arabs were able to pull such a spectacular plot in the glaring light of day. We owe it to this shocked and awed world. At the very least we owe this one to the families of all those who tragically died.

Find Neocons here:
§ Empire Builders: Neocons 101 § What A Tangled Web...
§Neo Conservatism: Hardcore

Bird In The Bush

Friday, January 09, 2004

More Deadly Than Gas

When this war ends, George Bush will have caused the
poisoning of hundreds of thousands more humans than he
said Saddam Hussein poisoned.


Thursday, January 08, 2004

Cat Nap 

Cat Nap. Source:http://jalanjalan@textamerica.com

Too much to read,

Too tired to blog

Perchance to sleep...

Tabby the Cat. Sleeping like a blog. ß

Cat Nap

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

More Tea, Sir Jack? 

Yesterday Monday 5th was effectively the first day of the year in this rain-sodden Blighty. I was awoken feeling not too bright, but early nevertheless, by the delivery man bearing bundles of things that pieced together into a new desktop computer that I'd been promising myself for months and years as replacement for the wonky old laptop. So I awoke delighted and surprised because I'd expected them to come from a more exotic place, not just an old a warehouse around the corner from where we are.

At the close of last year I spoke to a polite but pushy man from Hyderabad about a new computer, a possiblity that he pursued with vehemence by calling me 3 times the following Friday (I wasn't in), and twice the following Saturday. "Hello Surr," he said, picking up the phone at the other end of a UK telephone number. Taking him to be a Welshman geek, I was mildly surprised to hear him correcting me. "No surr, I'm in Hyderabad." Well, mildly suprised as I said because this global village thing has really reached the full McLuhan extent nowadays what with my banking enquiries answered by young men and women of Bangalore, and criminal records of Blighty being keyed in by dainty hands in the Philippines. The workers in Bangalore are being trained into Blighty ways, I'm told, by watching East Enders, a popular, long-running soap opera about a mythical community in East Londra whose daily shenanigans I find altogether too ridiculous and too depressing.Dali's Persistence of Memory; Source:www.usc.edu

By 10 am on the first working day of the New Year I was sitting before a new computer, flat screen an' all as they'd probably say in East Enders, with more gigahertz than I'd seen at the end of a sagging stick. An insignificant step by the yardstick of you lot who surf the web on the vehicle of a fast moving everything, but a giant leap for me after years of tinkering on an old reconditioned laptop bought on a whim for RM1000 from a cousin in Malaysia some years ago. Yes, I've seen the world through Windows XP wading through a mere 64 megabytes, and I know how slow the data flow like time gone floppy on branches and things in a Dali painting. Time, like treacle, has stuck to me so unrelentingly, but jeez how fast the year went by to throw before us the beginning of yet another one!

And thirty thousand dead already in Iran before we even started counting. And though not on the same scale, but a portent still of what's to come, there was chaos at Heathrow airport with one flight after another cancelled at the behest of this authority or that, and rail and road passengers throughout Londra awoke to continued chaos and increased fares that in some parts rose by a hefty 40 per cent from last year's. And as predicted by Professor Shastri Teropongdua who wrote my last blog, many parts of Blighty saw this year in under umbrellas, under heavy bluster.

Not a good start I'm afraid; the world moving from a bad place into one that's worse. And a stranger place too. And just as I was about to raise my head above the parapet, the Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar University in Cairo, that once august centre of learning, pronounced that French authorities had every right to ban the hejab. It said little about the French or the hejab but a lot about the university - one of the oldest if not the oldest in the world - which started to creak under pressure from Nasser, and is now groaning even more pathetically under the weight of Mubarak. It is a political statement to match the mood of the oppressive governnment at home, not one that respects individual needs or other considerations.

But no use moaning and walking under a cloud of gloom; something of good cheer will perhaps still turn up sooner or later, and when it does we'll appreciate it for that. As happened to Malaysian parking attendant Mr Ng, as reported by the Sarawak Tribune and re-written in the style of that delightful magazine Private Eye:

"When the patient came in, complaining of an eye infection, we thought we were conducting another routine surgery," Dr Gurdeep Singh Mann told a press conference at Ipoh Hospital in Malaysia. "We got quite a shock when we found a chopstick and part of a spare rib embedded between his eyes and nose, and were even more astonished when we discovered that they had been there for five years."

The case of parking attendant Ng Keng Choon has aroused great interest amongst the Malaysian medical fraternity, who believe the case to be unique. "Ng is very lucky to be alive, because one part of the chopstick was touching his brain, and could easily have killed him. He told us that he could not move his right eye, and when we put him through a scanner, we detected a 6cm length of chopstick and the spare rib lodged behind his eyes. After we had operated to remove them, we asked him how they got there, and he recalled being attacked five years ago by a deranged waiter who took exception at his complaints about the spare ribs. The waiter attacked him with a chopstick, but he had no idea that part of it had remained inside his head.

"We have checked the medical journals, and think that this is the first recorded case of a chopstick and a spare rib being found inside a patient's face. So this is a proud day for the Malaysian medical profession."
(Sarawak Tribune, 18/11/03. Spotter: Darren Ingram)

Things do turn up eventually to reassure you, even if they do take time. Another proof here from the Guardian, a newspaper so excellent yet so accident prone that according to legend it once even got its own name wrong (spelling it Grauniad). Here's something from its Corrections Column:

"In an article about adverse health effects of certain kinds of clothing, pages 8 and 9 of G2, August 5, we omitted a decimal point when quoting a doctor on the optimum temperature of testicles. They should be 2.2 degrees celsius below core body temperature, not 22 degrees lower."

Phew! To be able to breathe again, but all the money I've spent on ice cubes!

And I can't resist another one, also from the Corrections column of the said Grauniad:

"In our interview with Sir Jack Hayward, the chairman of Wolverhampton Wanderers [August 11], we mistakenly attributed to him the following comment: "Our team was the worst in the First Division and I'm sure it'll be the worst in the Premier League." Sir Jack had just declined the offer of a hot drink, What he actually said was: "Our tea was the worst in the First Division and I'm sure it'll be the worst in the Premier League." Profuse apologies."

And if you're Greek Orthodox, Happy Christmas! ß

More Tea, Sir Jack?

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