Saturday, January 27, 2007


How I remembered prof syed hussein

It’s true that you’ll only realize that something is really precious when you lost it. Such is the case with Prof syed Hussein al atas who passed away last wednesday. He was 78. don’t want to regurgitate anything about him as he was relatively well known and here is a good orbituary of sort. He was one of our great intellectuals (which we have precious few) and to put him side by side with our current prime minister say, would make our Abdullah badawi looks like… well, a village idiot…but I for one have never been influenced much by him or his ideas although I knew well that he has a correct view about what Malaysian politic should be (multiculturalism and all that) because me being an ‘islamist’ (as people these days pejoratively referred to the muslims who used to be perjoratively called ‘fundamentalists’) in my intellectual make up (at least theoretically) are more attuned and influenced by his younger brother Syed Naquib al-atas’ writings in my younger university days especially his ‘islam and secularism’ and his translations of some works of the great sufi master imam al-ghazalli.

But for the past couple of years I kept bumping into Prof syed Hussein in book sales especially at the Sunday flea market at armcorp mall pj. I usually meet him at the stall in the basement where this Indian couple have stacks of cheap paperbacks and smaller mixbag of old non fictions on various topics, references, an occasional art book, biographies , the usual self help books and other stuff…and what I like doing was to observe him poring over all these crappy books and see what he chooses. He didn’t know me of course and will never notice a crabby mouse beside him anyway but I would pretend to browse alongside him and I feel a nice warmth of kindered spirit of book lovers secretly transmitted between me and him (without him realizing it) much like a horny guy fantasizing about having sex with that sensuous young girl standing beside him in a lift or some such place with her completely oblivious to his existence. I see his frail body bending over the books and noticed that his skin tone was exactly as described in that lovely little book the house of paper by carlos maria Dominguez for book addicts (or that’s what I imagined anyway, and I imagine I’m developing that kind of sickly skin tone now too…)

And I always noticed he hardly glanced over the fiction stack ( make sense too as this is mostly all those airport type paperbacks and pulp fictions) but would choose one or two non fictions after carefully looking at all the stacks for a long time before he moved slowly away like a turtle to somewhere else. One time the Indian guy asked me if I was with him together and I said “no” and he asked “are you a writer like him?” and I said “no , but I like to collect books too” and he said “the prof had many thousands of books” and I said “ me too, but not as much as him but one day I’ll have may be as much as him” …but now he’s gone… I shall miss observing him poring over all those crappy books….

Monday, January 22, 2007


virgins in go go bars in angeles...

me and jj my pilipino friend were bar hopping in angeles near clark which used to be the american base before it was covered with lahar from pinatubo explosion many years ago and can't believe that the whole place is still as lively as ever... saw the same old haggard and bloated old western geezers with sometimes one and sometimes two young filipinas hanging on to each arm...and sometimes ridicilously mismatched in size... wonder how they do it...old giants of sixty or seventy with tiny young things of may be early twenties.... still must be some way to do it right... and you've no shortage of old ladies harrassing anybody looking over fifty to buy cialis and viagra...and that reminds me about that ridiculous shots of that gay sucking himself off in the beginning of shortbus a crazy film i saw in the hotel last night which i bought -a pirated copy- from a market in santiago in isabella province about 800km or so north east of manila, from the maguindanao mulsims who seems to be everywhere selling all kinds of things in any central markets in provincial towns...

and can't believe that you would ever meet virgins in go go bars ...but we met a couple of young ones who are really virgins shaking their booties to crappy techno tunes in this big ' blue nile' bar which have may be a hundred go go dancers on several floors... crazy place but these young ones would not go out with anybody and won't let anybody pay bar fines but just drinks to get a small commissions... goes to show that there are some really honest girls trying to make honest living in these unfortunate places...and they probably have better morality than those real girls you meet on the street or in office... only hope that they will not be 'sold' to dirty old western geezers... but may be it'd be a losing battle... but anyway...

and another thing... on the way down from the middle of ocean of ricefields near the la paz town at the bondary of neuva ecija and tarlac province, you'll see a whole row of small bamboo hut karaoke bars that service all those lorry drivers and local farmers during their harvest time may be... depressing'll see this kind of bars with may be ten or twenty girls in each all over the philippines... same thing in vietnam and thailand too i notice but that's for another time....

Sunday, January 14, 2007


anwar revisited

whenever anybody outside Malaysia wants to impress you how much they are in the know about Malaysian political scene , the one thing they never fail to ask is ‘now, what happens to that deputy who fight with mahathir? Did he really do it?...all that sodomy thing is it true?’

my answer to the later part of the question is always this: I don’t even care if he sodomises a goat, if that’s his sexual preference…and we then go on speculating and jabbering on things that neither of us have any hard facts to base our arguments on…

Watched an interesting al jazeera interview with anwar ibrahim on 101 east asia program today. I’m not a terribly big fan of his as I think he has lost much of his credibility. despite all his explanations to the contrary he’s just like any other politicians that sing one tune when they are in one party and blabber the complete opposite when, for whatever reasons they suddenly find themselves on the other side of the fence. Yes, dollah badawi’s administration doesn’t change things much apart from the style of administration which is more open and less dictatorial (or non-administration more like), yes, most of the senior party leaders and ministers are millionaire tens of times over and most likely achieve this by questionable and probably corrupt means…(without the position of power , these senior leaders can’t even sell bananas to monkeys so to speak), yes the country corruption index has worsen significantly, etc…but all these cancers aren’t new & what has he done when he was the second most powerful man in Malaysia??

But there is one interesting comment he made when asked about what he did in those six years of solitary confinement in the sungai buloh jail. He apparently ‘memorized half of the Quran’ , read the whole works of Shakespeare ‘four times over’ and read many classics and books on economics. Pity he did not name any of those classics…I’d be interested to know? which ones? Dostoyevsky’s crime and punishment may be? Gogol? Zola? The count of monte cristo?

The irony of anwar’s shameful fall from grace was that it started from a ‘book’…the infamous “50 dalil mengapa anwar tidak boleh jadi PM” , a book of list of reasons why he was not fit to be Malaysian Prime minister by one khalid jefri an unknown writer that has now passed away. It was not even a proper book but a dalca of cut and paste job comprising of the said fifty reasons and various articles to support these. Ironic because anwar was probably malaysia’s most well read minister ever and he was felled by one of the most ridiculous books ever written….

Sunday, January 07, 2007



….in July last year Gibson got pulled over by a cop for driving under the influence of vino and promptly let rip with the veritas: "Fucking Jews. Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world. Are you a Jew?"

that excerpt was taken from peter bradshaw’s brilliant review of the latest mel gibson’s film ‘apocalypto’. Mr gibson’s tirade against jews to me was one of the funniest quotes of 2006. I don’t understand why so many people pretended to be rankled by this outburst. My only theory is – as I’ve said it before - because the (western) world is effectively grabbed by the balls by these fascinating race of human kind. They call the shot. If the great big US of A and George w bush is sucking up to them, what hope is there for the rest of the world? Nobody can touch and hurt the jews’ feelings in any way it seems. They’ve suffered enough. Leave them alone. That seems to be the western attitude towards the jewish people. This sympathy - but probably in reality merely a kind of a quasi-sympathy - towards jews at the expanse of others (the muslim arabs in particular) is incomprehensible to me. Yes of course the western people feel this deep guilt for the nazi crimes of shoving six million jews into the oven but if anybody it’s the germans that need to really feel it rather than this guilt being transferred as a collective guilt to the whole of the western world like the christian’s original sin. In contrast you don’t see as much feeling of guilt (if any at all) towards the Japanese for the American crime of incinerating the whole of Nagasaki and Hiroshima….

Ironically these westerners, these gentiles are in fact far from being enamored by jews. After a few drinks most westerners that I came across will show their true colors and it soon turns out they are really as anti-semitic (and anti everything else but themselves) and hate the jews as much as an average Nazi. But in public they will bend over backward to please the jews, with catastrophic consequences as shown by the debacles in Palestine and the middle east and also in one swipe affecting the whole one and a half billion or so muslims of the world, and not to mention making the whole world unsafe for everybody by the reaction and antics of some of the more hot blooded sector of the muslim community . So, in a sense gibson’s outburst wasn’t far off the mark and somewhat justified in a macabre sort of way.

Coming back to apocalypto, it would be interesting to find out why Gibson made his latest film , this blood fest - a historical action-adventure set in the 16th-century Mayan civilisation of South and Central America, featuring tribesmen with bones through their noses, speaking Mayan dialect with subtitles as the same review described it. What connection is there between this film and his last one on jesus and gibson’s deep Christian faith and his hatred towards the jews? - as amply shown by his unfortunate Freudian slip. But whatever it is, this is an example of a good review that make you want to go and see the film for yourself.

And it also make me want to go back and resume my reading of a very fascinating book “the conquest of new spain” by bernal diaz about the conquest and defeat of the Aztecs by hernan cortez which also include the first hand description of the grisly human sacrifices.

And on a related subject and talking about the human sacrifices , here is the lyric to “cortez the killer” with one of the moodiest guitar intro of any English songs ever and this to me is one of the best songs by Neil Young

Cortez the killer
Niel young, 1977

He came dancing across the water
With his galleons and guns
Looking for the new world
In that palace in the sun.

On the shore lay montezuma
With his coca leaves and pearls
In his halls he often wondered
With the secrets of the worlds.

And his subjects gathered round him
Like the leaves around a tree
In their clothes of many colors
For the angry gods to see.

And the women all were beautiful
And the men stood straight and strong
They offered life in sacrifice
So that others could go on.

Hate was just a legend
And war was never known
The people worked together
And they lifted many stones.

And they carried them to the flatlands
But they died along the way
And they built up with their bare hands
What we still can’t do today.

And I know she’s living there
And she loves me to this day
I still can’t remember when
Or how I lost my way.

He came dancing across the water
Cortez, cortez

What a killer.

Saturday, January 06, 2007


do the right thing

A few days back I came across a small but interesting news in our local newspaper about how lately the garbage dump somewhere here have been visited by more people than usual looking for “treasures”, and I don’t mean that old sofa with torn out fabrics, three legged chairs and other usual odds and ends that they can fashion into something useful but all because someone found RM80,000 in a bag in this dump a few days before that. Until this time I never realize that we have human scavengers mucking about in our garbage dump sites unlike in some countries , which we always see in the news, like that infamous one somewhere in the Philippines say. The reason for my ignorance is that we have this huge garbage dump less than a km from my parents’ house and we’ve NEVER seen even one person want to go near there let alone rummaging among the mountain of trash like some house rats.

But that’s not my point. What I’m interested in is this. What did that someone do with the 80,000 that he found?

He obviously didn’t keep it a secret since we now know about this but did he keep all this money to himself?…my guess is any self respecting dumpsite scavenger would do exactly this. But here is a classic case that attracts me to those discussions on kantian ethics and moral responsibility . there you are, not looking for anything and expecting nothing but out of the blue is presented with some precious gift lying there in the dumpsite which obviously belonged to someone who in his right mind would never thrown it out to rot away. and what is the moral and ethical responsibility for you to do in this situation?

If you are always ‘short of money’ (as 99.9% of us seem to be- no matter how much we already have-) my bet is we count our blessing and keep it to ourselves and use it in countless permutations to sooth our conscience a bit, say donate a bit to charities, family and friends etc but I bet not too many will send it to the authority…and why should we? after all the authority may not find the real owner, or worse knowing how corrupt and inefficient they are, the money would surely come to a worse end. And so we justify ourselves to keep all these money. but is this the right thing to do?

I’ve always grappled with this question. What is ‘do the right thing’?…I guess nobody knows the real answer to this big question otherwise the world will be a lot happier place. Osama thinks he’s doing the right thing. George w think his way is ‘the do right thing’ and in the mean time Palestine Afghanistan, iraq is burning and now Somalia is being raped by “American slaves” – the Ethiopians.

When I was in my late teens one of the books that really affect and influence me was Dostoevsky’s crime and punishment and I came to identify with raskolnikov’s delimma so much that for a long while my hotmail address was under the name of raskolnikov. But then I grew up, become weak, less idealistic more cynical, cowardly , grumpy and a little bit sadder and probably madder…I guess this is the usual process of getting older …

And oh, do the right thing is the film that makes me discover and love spike lee films….but that’s for another time , may be.

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