Tuesday, April 19, 2005


Alan Hollinghurst ...and my visit to Jerusalem

I’m just starting the first chapter of “The Spell” by Alan Hollinghurst last night but kept on falling asleep. It must be me as this guy is rated very highly and even won the booker Prize for his latest book “The line of Beauty” in 2004. I have no doubt about his skillful and beautiful writing and I admired and love his earlier book “The Folding star” which was also shortlisted for the Booker Prize several years earlier.Personally I find homosexuality repugnant but I do not mind it much in books such as these novels by this gay writer. The Folding Star (Vintage International) hold a special place in my heart not only because it’s such a good read but also because I read it while I was on a visit to Jordan and Jerusalem.

I went to Beitulmuqaddis (Jerusalem) in 2002....ostensibly to attend a professional conference on Weed Science but in reality it has been my lifelong dream to visit this holiest of site for the three major religions of the world. It is the most explosive, politically charged and the most expensive real estate on Earth….If the world has a crotch…this is it…the center of the world ...no doubt about it…

I won’t bore you with all the details and hassle in getting the Visa to Israel bearing in mind that the only country in the world that Malaysian passport forbid it’s citizen to enter is Israel

…...first I flew to Jordan…stayed in Jordan and visited several famous places there including Amman, some prophets tombs,the great Roman ruins of Jerash and the obligatory visit to the dead sea ... and then I travelled by a beat up mercedes taxi to Jordan/Israel Border at Allenby Bridge checkpoint …Along the way the Arab driver played great Arabian Pop music by Amr Diab , Diana Hadad and Samira Said…...the check at the entry point was very thorough and strict as expected …but the funny thing is I did not even need to stamp my passport. They just stamped on a piece of paper...I guess the Israel authority already knows that not too many countries are friendly with them so they had this system where they check your visa and if everything is OK they just stamp on a special paper so that no record is left on your passport...

While waiting in a long line for entry I got to talking to an old shriveled Arab lady...She wanted to go and see her relatives in Haifa or somewhere...she mentioned to me that her husband used to have a big cigarette factory in what used to be Palestine once but when the country became Israel they were chased out and all their properties were taken by the Israelis... a very common and sad story ...

Right on the Israeli side of border after the entry checkpoint there were lines of beat up mercedes taxis again with Arab drivers waiting for passengers.. I took one and while driving to Jerusalem which is only about an hour away we got to talking and I asked if there is any chance of them getting back their land… he was really pessimistic about Arab future the way he said it..."the only way Beitulmuqaddis can be taken back by muslims is when Imam Mahdi comes down and help the muslims!!"...

Just right near the border we passed by an abandoned oasis with a few rundown buildings. Some with what looked like bullet marks and one destroyed mosque...and along the way you'll see the usual semi desert scenes with clumps of thorn bushes here and there ..and strangely to me some beduin camps...When I reached the city I did not check into my hotel right away but went straight to the old city to visit As Sakhra...the Dome of Rock...where our Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven in Isra' and mikraj...with my bag and all (I travelled light)...the thing is the entry to the compound is guarded by a couple of old Arabs and if you're not a muslim you had to buy tickets to enter… and during prayers only muslims can enter...I found this demeaning as they make it like a tourist spot which it actually has become unfortunately .. I went in and very anxious to see the alleged hanging stone which was supposed to follow the Prophet when he ascended to heaven....there is nothing of the sort of course... no hanging stone but the place where the prophet was supposed to ascend to heaven was directly under the famous gold dome and this rocky site is fenced and around it are laid fine carpets for prayers...the interior of this dome of rock is very magnificently decorated with intricate arabesques and there is a small grotto, a niche underneath this rock where we can also say prayers...

Outside the dome of rock there were young innocent looking Israeli soldiers standing guard and you immediately know who's running the show and if they want to take over the holy sites they can do it anytime... the only reason Israel do not do this (yet) is simply because of the world political sensitivity...

Not a hundred meters away is the Al Aqsa mosque and again I was stopped at the entry and I had to recite sura al Ikhlas before they were convinced that I'm a muslim and allowed me to enter and say my prayers...The mosque and the interior is not as magnificent as the dome of rock and you can still see some remnants of dark smoke stains on some of the roof beams when that crazy Australian tried to burn down this place in the sixties...both the dome of Rock and Al Aqsa mosque are within one compound and it is a very serene place to be but I can't help feeling sad because you can see infidel tourists all over the place and rows of Israeli soldiers standing by the compound wall...you know that you're not in a free zone...

The retaining wall of the Al Aqsa mosque is of course the famous wailing wall…the last remaining part of the old Jewish Temple . Like the Muslims the Jews separate the women from men areas but on that day I saw no women worshipers but a few Jewish men bobbing their heads in prayers almost touching the wall surface. I noticed some white prayer papers shoved in holes and nooks in the wall and I had this urge to pick a few and see what was written on it but I naturally refrained from doing so...Fifty meters or so from this place there was a group of young American Christian pilgrims sitting under an old olive tree listening to a young preacher discoursing on some Christian topics….It’s a bizarre scene to see all these pious people worshipping the same god in three different ways and hating each others’ guts vehemently….If god has a sense of humor nothing can give better proof than this….

The old city is an Ali Baba of a place ..the Arab quarter is crowded and chock a block with souvernir shops and all kinds of other shops...complete with donkey carts and old picturesque Arabs selling all kinds of stuff….and fat white ladies and assorted tourists to balance the picture…I even heard some hindustani music coming out of some music shops beside the Damascus gate...

Just a walking distance away is the holy sites for the Christians...with the main attraction being Via Dolorosa a narrow lane complete with 14 or so stations of the cross…where Jesus was supposed to walk to his crucifixion and ended at the most holy site of all...the Church of holy sepulchre...I joined a crowd milling about and some were in a queue to enter the holy of holy… I struck a conversation with a professorial looking guy with gray beard who was also in the queue and wondered if I, being a Muslim can join the queue and see what is at the end there…He couldn’t see why not and intimated that he isn’t Christian himself but a Jew… I went in there behind a very solemn procession of nuns…. into the holiest sanctuary of all...the grotto where Jesus was supposed to ascend to heaven during resurrection...I did not know what the nuns were mumbling in their solemn prayers, heavy with tears as they passed the marble slab that marked the holiest spot , but the only thing I can think of when I arrived at this very holy spot was to recite a Muslim prayer for the dead...From Allah we come and to Allah we go....Innalillah hiwainnahirajiun...

Sunday, April 17, 2005


Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy

Great news!....The Film version is out now!!
I'm looking forward to see it very soon...

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Details: 2005, UK/USA, Adventure/Comedy/Sci-fi, cert PG, 110 mins, Dir: Garth Jennings
UK release: 28 April 2005

….here’s what one film reviewer says about this film.

…..If you've never encountered The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy before then this is as good a version as any to use as your introduction, and you're in for a treat. And if you love this film as much as you should, then go out and track down the original radio show, because there's more, much more, where this film came from.

And here’s how The GUARDIAN newspaper describe the main characters…

Arthur Dent ( Martin Freeman)

Humble little Arthur Dent is a lot like you or me. That is to say, he's a lot like we would be if our home planet was obliterated to make way for an intergalactic expressway and our best friend turned out to be a space alien and we then found ourselves bounced about the galaxy in a towelling dressing-gown. In other words he's mad as hell, but too polite and perplexed to do much about it.

Ford Prefect (Mos Def)

Always be suspicious of men who sport an American accent, claim to be from Guildford and attempt to shake hands with speeding motor vehicles. Chances are they're actually from outer-space. But Ford is not such a bad egg, really. For a start he has saved Arthur from an untimely vapourisation, and whisked him off on the trip of a lifetime. As extra-terrestrials go, he's light years better than ...

Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell)

... aka "the president of the galaxy", and a strutting, preening, copper-bottomed cock of the first order. Zaphod has two heads and an ego the size of Jupiter. OK, so his favoured chat-up line ("Do you wanna see my space-ship?") might have a certain novelty value, but seriously: what self-respecting Earth girl would ever fall for such a bozo?

Tricia McMillan (Zooey Deschanel)

Sad to report, one Earth girl did, which makes her a horrid, feckless and shallow little tart ... as well as being clever and pretty and really rather wonderful. If only Tricia had stuck with Arthur everything would be all right (apart from the world being blown up and all). Instead, her thirst for adventure has led her to change her name to "Trillian" and start flaunting herself in a figure-hugging space-suit, the cow.

Marvin (Alan Rickman, voice)

Every space gang needs a robot sidekick and the hitchhikers are no exception. But it seems unlikely that they needed one as gloomy as Marvin, with his pessimist outlook and twinkling catch-phrase ("I'm so depressed"). Robot sidekicks should be cute R2D2 types, full of flashing lights and beeping noises, not downcast little domestics like this. What's the matter, don't they have Prozac in outer-space?

Humma Kavula (John Malkovich)

It goes without saying that in a perfect universe there would be no place for a Billy Graham-esque religious megalomaniac with no legs and silly spectacles. But this is not a perfect universe.

Slatibartfast (Billy Nighy)

Oh, so you thought that the world was created by the Big Bang, or by some old bloke with a beard? Think again. Most of it (well, the coastlines anyway) came courtesy of Slartibartfast, a lugubrious "planetary construction engineer" with a penchant for fjords and an award for designing Norway. "So what?" you might think. "That world's all blown up anyway." And yet Slartibartfast has clung on to the original plans ... and might just be able to knock together another one.

Thursday, April 14, 2005


Tetrasomy Two

My criteria for good books are firstly they shouldn't feel faked, affected and above all stupid and formulaic. Good books should be non judgemental , non proselytising, have humor, (very dark preferably) great wit and it's own style of writing...I don't particularly care about what the contents are as long as they fall under those broad criteria and they are fine with me...

Don't read much Science Fiction...but from the few that I have, Kurt Vonnegut's Cats Cradle, Galapagos and the rest of his ouvre are great reading. Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy by Douglas Adam are good if you happen to read them when you're at the right age...much like yes...catcher in the rye (which is not SF of course)...

Phillip K Dick's short stories are rather pedesterian to my taste... But what I really like to talk a bit is about this book that I read a very long long time ago...I've completely forgotten about what it's all about but I remembered what caught my attention was the blurb which mentioned that one of the main characters who is comatose passed his stool at exactly the same time and exactly the same amount (weight) every time....I could be wrong but that's how I remembered it...It's a kind of Science Fiction...

On checking amazon.com it only has one reviewer who obviously gave 5 stars and the there are 71 new and used books available from $0.01 which to me sounds very funny...and this reviewer sounds like an interesting fellow too...he has quite a few other science fiction reviews too...The book is called TETRASOMY TWO....


From amazon.com

Tetrasomy two (Doubleday science fiction)by Oscar Rossiter
71 used and new from $0.01
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Average Customer Review: based on 1 review
5 stars

extreem intelligence and madness, December 6, 2000
"mathilde_de_gardin" (Netherlands) - See all my reviews
Would a truly extreem intelligent person bother to interact with people?
Tetrasomy two is the name for the extra chromosome pair that the protagonist (a young psychiatrist) discovers in his vegetable patient. A patient that seems to have much more influence on his environment than one would expect from someone who hasn't spoken or moved for nearly 50 years. Rositter describes the search for answers of the doctor, and how he tries to walk the very fine line between sanity and madness in discovering the disturbing thruth.
The book has well rounded characters. It's a good read, has tension and speed, and really gets to you. Though this book is classified as science fiction, I'm sure people who like books on psychology, ESP, hospitals or horror would also really appriciate this book.
About mathilde de gardin

What should I tell about myself? I'm a curious person, interested in almost anything. Well, accept for sports, cars, wars, and the like. The like? Well whatever.
I especially like science-fiction, because more then any other genre it can make me change my mind, and see things in a new perspective. And I do enjoy the what-if-questions SF raises. Themes I liked to explore are utopias, high intelligence, conceptual breakthroughs, reincarnation, cloning. I'm currently working my way through the Nebula and Hugo Awards.
I'm also interested in IT, partly because it's a way to create a furture, partly because it is so very much funded on hard logic thinking. Topics that are high on my IT reading list are hackers and artificial intelligence. I intend to be my own Pygmalion sometime...(grin)
Of course history is among my main daily activities. Foremost medieaval and ancient history. I like the mystery in it, and the tales. But also the atmosphere, the culture. If you only could percieve the way they believed in their God(s) and Heaven. Amazing.
I collect books. I've been a starting writer once, and I suppose I still am, but on a (long) sabattical. My writing main drive was that I couldn't find the books I wanted to read. That's why I started to create them myself. Of course that was way before I discovered Amazon. Talking about Heavens. (no, no, no, they don't pay me for writting this)
This must be it for now.
Have fun.It's your life, you know

Another review from a search in msn.com

Tetrasomy Twoby Oscar RossiterFirst published 1974

Dr. Stephen Boyd is doing his internship in a nondescript urban hospital, and inherits a patient who is in a catatonic state and has been so for years. He becomes strangely interested in Mr. Peckham and learns some unusual things. For one, Mr. Peckham should be in a nursing home, not taking up valuable space in a hospital bed; but it is impossible to remove him. For another, the medical records don't show Mr. Peckham ever having been ill a day in his life, nor has his blood pressure ever fluctuated.
Dr. Boyd begins getting intimations that Mr. Peckham is sending him secret messages. He also discovers that every time he has contact with alcohol, his memory is enhanced.

Who is this writer?

A physician named Vernon H. Skeels. A relative writes:

My uncle Vernon is/was one of those captivating personalities who took up various hobbies during his lifetime, like collecting hundreds of antique magazines on one binge and hundreds of fountain pens during another. When he became fascinated by energetic fiction writing, it became inevitable that he would try his hand at writing and that it would be entertaining. For built-in criticism, his three brothers were all lit scholars.
Dr. Skeels started another novel but didn't finish it, and never returned to writing. In the early 1990s, he was in a severe accident, and was in therapy for years.
Although he has substantially recovered, his command of complex medical terminology, diagnostics, etc., do not allow him to return to serious writing.

Who does this writer remind me of?

A hybrid of medical thriller and science fiction novel, it isn't really comparable to anything else I've read. The writer used his professional background to good advantage; the settings and the medical detective work were convincing.
Skeels/Rossiter didn't write anything like Murray Leinster, but Leinster's famous story "The Strange Case of John Kingman" shares a few themes with this novel.

Could this writer offend delicate sensibilities?

Well, Dr. Boyd has some heavy-duty fantasies about a nurse who works on his ward. This rich sexual dreamworld gets worked appropriately enough into the story, but it may not be for everyone.
Dr. Boyd is also a geek. His interpersonal style echoes Dostoyevsky's less well-adjusted characters (A Disgraceful Affair comes to mind) – or those excruciating sitcoms that are built upon humiliation.
I couldn't help wondering if the writer was working out a few personal and professional issues; besides personal inadequacy and beauteous nurses, there are some thinly veiled, and pretty spiky, opinions about the internship system and the distribution of medical services.

Would I support this writer's career by buying his books new?

This novel was published as "A Frederik Pohl Selection" by Bantam, but did not make an impact on the SF world despite its originality and the Pohl imprimatur. As related above, he did not return to writing.
Which is a shame. This was by no means a perfect book, and it was tough going in places, but I'd read something else by him if something else ever arrived.


Tuesday, April 12, 2005


Georges Bataille the pornographer

Read a few chapters from The Story of the Eye an amazing book by George Bataille last night.
Amazing because I haven't read such porn for a long long time. In fact come to think of it, I've never read anything like it.... It's absolutely gross but like most porn you're transfixed and hypnotised by graphic description of depravity...the plus side is that this book is so well written that you don't really feel offended....I wish Peter Greenaway could make a film out of this book http://http://www.egs.edu/faculty/greenaway.html

Saturday, April 09, 2005



Read a chapter on Akbar in a fascinating book "Emperors of the Peacock Throne: The saga of the great Mughals" by Abraham Eraly a few days back and was struck by how interesting Akbar is. This great Mughal ruler was a very inquisitive man ...a renaissance man of mughal kings....His interests were not limited to the usual conquests , political intrigues and debauchery which were the usual norms of kings and rulers all over the world but extended to Art (mughal miniature paintings were at it's height at this time and he also loved western art deeply), philosophical, religious and even scientific things....he at one time bought 20 babies and raised them with specific orders for the babies not to hear a single human words to prove his belief that humans have innate ability in some things including speech...but after four years the babies did not produce a single coherent word and he stopped the experiment....to me, it's a pity he did not bring up these babies like normal but preventing them from any mention about RELIGION or GOD and see whether they'll come up with their own specific religion or moral codes....

His infamous creation of a fusion of religions...principally Islam and Hinduism... (Din Ilahi) was another interesting read.... He was deeply interested in religions and created a special hall in his palace (Fatehpur Sikri) where invited religious experts and holymen from all the major religions were invited to have discourse there and arguments went all night long..presided by him ....these discussions went on for years and in the end although he did not totally renounce Islam he somehow lost interest in Islam and got more attracted to some aspects of Hinduism (esp transmigration of soul) and Jainism.... he did not think very highly of Christian religion though despite having Jesuit preists at his court for more than twenty years....

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