Saturday, June 30, 2007
god is not great- according to christopher hitchens
and according to christopher hitchens god and religion are the biggest nonsense of all...his latest book god is not great is yet another assault on organized religions that seems to be the rage lately. I don't have the opportunity to read it yet but sounds mouth watering enough if this review in NYT is anything to go by. It is selling well although not yet nearly as well as the other great prophet of atheism Richard dawkin's god delusion which apparently has to date sold over 500,000 in the US and 300,000 in the UK alone. I've not seen hitchens' book but saw a few copies of dawkin's at borders the curve a few weeks back.
i don't know very much about christopher hitchens though this excerpt from the NYT review above i think gave a pretty good idea about this guy and he sounds like my kind of writer.
Hitchens is an old-fashioned village atheist, standing in the square trying to pick arguments with the good citizens on their way to church. The book is full of logical flourishes and conundrums, many of them entertaining to the nonbeliever
and this amusing the digested read on the book gives a good idea about the book too i suppose.Definitely will look up for the book one of these days.
but at the end of the day i think i'll find it difficult to take this guy seriously. for one thing as the NYT review mentioned ...
...and recently, he became the most (possibly the only) intellectually serious non-neocon supporter of George W. Bush's Iraq war.
any thinking guy who support iraq war can't possibly think straight and is a right bloody bastard in my book. and he is besotted with salman rushdie too and consider the guy his great friend but of course nobody should fault anybody whom he chooses to be his friends and obviously these two guys have a lot in common in terms of their outlook and regard towards religions.
but interestingly as this article showed, as much as he is opposed to god and religions he did at least pray once ...
Have you ever prayed in your life?
I probably once did pray for an erection, but not addressed to anyone in particular. Nor completely addressed to my cock. You’re too polite to ask if the prayer was answered.
No. There was an answer, but I don’t think it was the result of the prayer. After all, if one was not a mammal, and could get erections on demand, there’d be no need for prayer in the first place.
ah yes, make sense...perhaps the only way to make an athiest turn to god is if they have problems with their er johnsons...
but like richard dawkin says...
... On a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 is certitude that God exists and 7 is certitude that God does not exist, Dawkins rates himself a 6: “I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable....
and so, although many are absolutely clueless about god and will never be certain about absolute truth of any religion a great many people are not as brave as the richard dawkin or christopher hitchens of the world and they rather choose to believe in any one of the multitude of kooky religions of the world than nothing at all... as for me my sympathy lies squarely on the side of my fellow muslim extremists....
Monday, June 25, 2007
my idea of a writer
but seems that in this age of celebrity worship everybody seems to be anxious to get their 15 minutes of fame which even writers are not immune to. seems that there is quite a lively public reading scenes locally here which i have no problem whatsoever with , except that it rather perplexed me a bit as to why some budding or aspiring writers want to go and expose themselves to quite possibly an excruciating time reading snippets of their work in front of may be twenty or so audience (which is usually the case for an average reading) who probably come because it's free and don't particularly care too much about the poor readers' work in the first place.
as i say, i'm not really against any of these events and i would make an effort to attend if some famous writers or those i love come to this shore . i would even say that if salman rushdie is to come to malaysia (not very likely ) i'd be the first person to reserve a seat and i'd bring my satanic verses, midnight children, moor's last sigh and fury for him to sign. (and i won't be too unhappy if somebody breaks his fingers after that)....
i guess public reading is a good entertainment too in its own way although from a few local readings i attended i find it distracting and difficult to concentrate. and i guess there are many writers who love to be in the limelight these days and like to be treated like film stars and salman rushdie is one of them, the fatwa hanging on his neck notwitstanding.
but i must say that the writers i really find fascinating are those that shun publicity to the extent of being recluse and hermitic. can't think of too many writers who shun publicity and hence i was very pleasantly surprised to discover that cormac mcCarthy is one of the few living authors who avoid publicity and keep his life very private . in fact the only three famously reclusive authors that i'm aware of are american - the other two are JD Salinger and Thomas pynchon
i do not know anything about mcCarthy although i've heard about his pullitzer winner all the pretty horses . i only get interested in this author since a few months ago after reading that his book no country for old men was filmed by the great coen brothers to great critical acclaim (as most coen brothers films were) and selected as one of the best film nominees in 2007 cannes film festival (which unfortunately it didn't win). but even then it did not move me to read any of his books but today i read in bibliobibuli that he was interviewed by oprah !
oprah! i'm speechless! cormac mcCarthy coming out of recluse to be interviewed by that woman oprah! it gives me a very bad taste in my mouth...yes oprah is hugely popular and influential but what was mcCarthy doing messing about with an airhead? i detest oprah...she's the epitome of what is wrong with america...i can't stand watching her programme for two minutes without puking...but i could be wrong the last time i saw a few minutes of her show was probably fifteen years ago...yes she is very influential and hugely popular (in the US) , but so is fucking SHREK or yes, sophie fucking kinsella...
to think that he came out in public after all these years and after such a great write up from his last interview in the NYT in 1992 ! and to be hanging about with oprah? what was he thinking? (money?)
anyway, about that NYT piece. that's another example what great writing can do to you. after reading it , it moved me so, i immediately went to payless and bought suttree and child of god and would have bought other titles too if they were available...
excerpt from the NYT interview piece above...
McCarthy appreciates wildness -- in animals, landscapes and people -- and although he is a well-born, well-spoken, well-read man of 58 years, he has spent most of his adult life outside the ring of the campfire. It would be hard to think of a major American writer who has participated less in literary life. He has never taught or written journalism, given readings, blurbed a book, granted an interview.
McCarthy estimates that he owns about 7,000 books, nearly all of them in storage lockers. "He has more intellectual interests than anyone I've ever met,"
Child of God," published in 1973 after he and DeLisle returned to Tennessee, tested new extremes. The main character, Lester Ballard -- a mass murderer and necrophiliac -- lives with his victims in a series of underground caves.....
McCarthy has never shown interest in a steady job, a trait that seems to have annoyed both his ex-wives. "We lived in total poverty," says the second, Annie DeLisle, now a restaurateur in Florida. For nearly eight years they lived in a dairy barn outside Knoxville. "We were bathing in the lake," she says with some nostalgia. "Someone would call up and offer him $2,000 to come speak at a university about his books. And he would tell them that everything he had to say was there on the page. So we would eat beans for another week."
Thursday, June 21, 2007
not very hard to imagine what the response is, i'm sure. conversely it is rather stupid of the british government pretending to be surprised with the backlash & furore from some muslim countries by that decision to confer knighthood to rushdie.
it is good to see that apart from Iran and Pakistan the response from other muslim countries (so far) has been rather mute but still, we never know. things may pick up and it's going to be interesting time again for the newly honoured sir dickhead. the wonder of it all is that as micheal white in the guardian recently wrote, why did rushdie bother to accept it at all? him being a leftie and having said rather bad things about britain when he absconded to live in NYC? my guess is that the old pompous dickhead like anyone else is not immune being feted and honoured like anyone else - even at the expense of turning his back to his principles.
Pleasantly surprised to see that Will Self seems to be one of those that has the sensible attitude to this. but perhaps it's not too surprising. He once called the anti islam michel Houellebecq a little prick that that deon't have enough sex ...or something to that effect.
"Given the furore that The Satanic Verses occasioned, it does strike me that any responsible writer might ask himself whether the fallout from accepting such an honour was really worth the bauble ... it is surely better that writers decline any form of honour."
and unfortunately it's the like of hari kunzru (who is not a westerner) is the one we can depend on to give stupid comments typical of a wog and a coconut. this guy doesn't know shit about muslim world view.
"The idea that it is some kind of calculated insult is an absurdity. The real insult - to the intelligence and decency of 'the world's 1.5 billion Muslims', for whom people such as Mohammed Ejaz ul-Haq presume to speak - comes from the ignorance and paranoia of leaders who feel so threatened by a novelist that they'll call for him to be killed
Tuesday 26 June
a little update.
a guardian blog discussion on sir salman knighthood can be read here.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
it has been a particularly bad month for me this month...i've been spending way too much on books and pirated dvds and the month is only just into the third week... several days back the pirate sent an sms 'new **** stock has arrived'... and i ended up spending about RM300 on movies which i could easily get from my fav beijing dvd store near holiday inn lido for less then half the price...and i'll be going there again this october too but no, i can't wait... so i ended up with ok let me count them here... (among others).
1: Satantango - the hungarian bela tarr's seven and a half hour masterpiece (so they say).
2:Ma mere - bought this solely because it is based on a novel by that pornographer georges bataille
3:Lacombe Lucien - an old louis malle film which has been in my little list since i was in school days yonks ago
4: schindler's list - missed this one out when it first came out and my interest was reignited after reading tom keneally's piece in GRANTA on how he discovered the story; Watched it and what a harrowing story it was. Well deserved the oscar for an amazing potrayal of oskar(schindler) and his jews
5: Ivan the terrible - sergei eisenstein's masterpiece (so they say)
6: The Tin Drum - the great adaptation of gunther grass novel by volker schlondorff. I've bought this TWICE already. Once from
7: No direction home Bob dylan - a film by martin scorsese
8: the name of the rose - adaptation of umberto eco's novel by jean jaques annaud
9: boccaccio '70 -4 segments from de sica, fellini, monicelli and visconti
10: sid and nancy - an old film on the notorious (and dead) sid vicious of the sex pistol and his gal nancy spungen
11: the mission - the film that won the palme d'Or at cannes in 1986 dir by roland joffe - about those pests... the missionaries in the brazillian jungle
12: the conformist - Bernado bertolucci adaptation of alberto moravia's novel
13: hara kiri - a film by masaki kobayashi which i never heard off but highly recommended by the pirate . apparently also won an award at cannes in 1963
14: the big lebowski.- what can i say. coen brothers!
i've seen this film several times already but my prev copy was so crappy i hope this one is a lot better.
15: an inconvenient truth- al gore's documentary about global warming....but in truth i don't give a fuck about global warming... the way we're hating and killing each other it's about time human species gets extinct i say...
but anyway, here's a surprise (to me). the pirate has a collection of all the films by , shall we say the brat pack of the new generation film makers of malaysia...all yasmin ahmad's films are there, amir muhammad's the last communist is there, so are James lee's 'the beautiful washing machine', yuhuang's rain dogs etc. and so i bought james lee's and amir's communist and rain dogs.
i've watched the washing maschine and i must say although the film moved like a turtle the cinematography is very good and it had , what's the word...yes, atmosphere. reminds me a bit of wong kar wai's in the mood for love...and also finally get to see amir's communist. and my verdict? ok, there're little glimpses of amir's trademark humor which is er amirisque, but it looked so damned amateurish and reminds me of RTM1 or TV3 documentary . cinematograpy is terrible...i give it a D.
oh my...i think i've spent over RM 400 already. and today i came across anthony burgess's autobiography "little wilson and big god" at payless. now, i've never been interested in this writer before. but lately we get to hear quite a bit about him in some book buff circles so it kind of rub on to me too and when i read the preface and read ...as far as acknowledgements of help are concerned , i have none to make... i immediately know that he's my kind of writer. i mean he's certainly no sophie fucking kinsella...
and so i bought the book and when i came back home i did some serious research on him, which basically means i do the google and as always ended up with wiki...and my, what interesting infor i uncovered...
don't know that after he was kicked out of MCKK - the eton of the east- he ended up teaching inthe teacher's training college in KB which is actually only 1.5 miles from my home. will now go and hunt for his first novel the long day wanes the so called malayan trilogy comprising of times for a tiger, the enemy in the blanket (which is of course a direct translation of the welknown malay proverb musuh dalam selimut) and beds in the east.
a few interesting exerpts from the great wiki..
- Anthony Burgess, known in Argentina as the British Borges, and Jorge Luis Borges, known in Britain as the Argentine Burgess, each spoke both English and Spanish fluently. But when Burgess and Borges met, each decided it would be unequal and unfair to the other, and inappropriate, to plump for either of the two languages when conversing. So the polyglot pair forged a compromise, deciding to conduct their lengthy, wide-ranging philological and literary conversations in Old Norse.
- Burgess admits in his autobiography that his first act on arriving by ship in Singapore in 1954 was to visit a Chinese brothel while his wife slept in a room in the Raffles Hotel
- He enjoyed a miscellany of sexual partners from other lands, however, including Buginese, Japanese, Welsh, Malay, Chinese, Siamese, Italian and Singhalese women. And he wrote in the first volume of his autobiography, Little Wilson and Big God (p. 386 of the Penguin edition), that he had had sexual encounters "with Tamil women blacker than Africans, including a girl who could not have been older than twelve, but none with Bengalis and Punjabis". The vast majority of the liaisons had been, as he put it, "sadly commercial".
well that moved me to check my newly bought book and so there it was and i flipped to earlier page 385 and here's a little excerpt...
i was deeply sorry for rahimah who had a small wage, scant tips, and a small son named mat to look after (mat being malay short form of mohamad). i gave her what money i could , and we made love in her tiny cell that smelt of curry and himalayan bouquet while mat was at the junior koran school.
...a malay female body , musky, shapely , golden-brown, was always a delight. malay women rarely ran to fat, which was reserved to the wives of chinese towkays and was an index of prosperity...
or this (page 386)
my experience with chinese girls was mostly, alas, commercial....
it's going to be a good read.....
Saturday, June 16, 2007
karen armstrong lecture...peace, man...
and the point of the story i guess karen wanted to convey was that if mortal enemies could come and sit down and try to put themselves in each others' shoes, we may start to understand each other and good things will ensue from there.
Well, i'd love to see president bush coming into osama ben laden's cave and both weeping for all the mayhem that they have caused. osama for killing two thousand or so souls on american soil and bush responding by raping afghanistan and iraq and killing perhaps a thousand fold of that and continuing to do so at this very moment. them coming together and forgive and forget isn't likely to happen in the very near future. that,i am very certain.
and there lies the problem with the admirable idealism that karen armstrong is trying to convey.
much of her talk was about one aspect that is universal in all the major religions and this is what usually understood to be one of the central teachings of jesus based on his saying "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" only for her to inform that this exact conscept was in fact first preached- to her knowledge- by the great chinese sage confucious about half century before and also by rabbi hillel , a contemporary of jesus who when asked to explain the torah in one sentense uttered the famous saying That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary...so in a sense one of the most beautiful christian idealism is based on er...plagiarism...but as she said, this is universal and a common thread to all , but she was rather at a lost to explain exactly where this concept is stated in islam apart from saying ..."dr chandra muzzafar mentioned to me yesterday that there is also a hadith about this ..." well, of course this is central to islam too...i very much admire her quest to make people understand both sides of the coin, be non judgemental and see the universalism of compassion and striving for peace in all religions - but as she put it, not the form of peace, man as the flower people of the sixties adopted in ther drug addled state.
it is interesting for me to note that she ended the lecture with a myth and started her lecture with how various religions view god, a concept which is unfanthomable and beyond comprehension of human intelect which no religion can satisfactorily explained. well, if you put it to Richard dawkin, the answer is very simple, because religion is bunkum, plain and simple. Seems to me it doesn't really matter whether you take the bible (which is full of contradictions as she mentioned), or the mahabarata or thr illiad, or tolkien's lord of the rings as our religious texts... if we want to pick and choose each one is equally valid or ridiculous. for that's what she seemed to suggest. We have to pick and choose what is relevant to our times. will not sit well with my fellow taliban brothers, this.
i was really looking forward to this lecture as we don't get to see and hear too many celebrated thinkers coming our way and seemed like many were of the same opinion and the big emerald ball room where the lecture was held was full and when i came in at exactly 10 .00 am, the time of the lecture to start the room was already standing room only. there were many big heads in attendance including from the political parties, noticed hamid albar the minister of something or other was there and there were a few big brains too, dr m and his wife were in the front row sitting beside mr albar. it was a healthy mix of muslims and non muslims with a sprinkle of what looked like my fellow taliban brothers.
the audience was almost reverential and lapped every word ms armstrong said and her delivery was very confident and she spoke without the need to look at notes, the way i like the presenter to do. which was not the case with some people who posed questions in Q&A who came with a piece of paper and read from there which i always find distracting. but on the whole the Q&A which i always look forward to was very lively . perhaps one of the most interesting questions to me was the first one which i couldn't catch too well ,from one muslim lady who perhaps in response to ms armstrong position that all religions' aim is peace commented something about the dalai lama once mentioned that the reason why tibet was colonised was because the tibetan people were too peaceful (due to their religious belief) but unfortunately this was lost and inexplicably not answered , perhaps because she was distracted by a taliban looking guy who asked another question before she could address the first, and his' sounded like a harangue for people to read the holy book and act on it rather than just talk. that was the closest to a nut case for the day.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
another haul at the book sale
several months back somebody mentioned he found a rhyzard kapuscinski at atria bigbookshop sale and i was there several days before but didn't see any and as I'm always very fascinated by kapuscinski's writings i ended up going there almost everyday after that poring over every single title on sales until i get sore neck but failed to find the bloody thing.
but happily and unexpectedly i did find one rhyzad kapuscinski ( the shadow of the sun: my african life) in the current book sale at atria. and here's another thing. in addition to kapuscinski , there are quite a few other names that i'll not hesitate to buy on the spot and in case of fictions will self is one of them and quite surprised to see his latest the book of dave in hardback already in the sales . if i'm an author i'd feel very depressed to see my book in remainder bins less than a year it's out in the market...i understand if it's sophie fucking kinsella but no, these are real books... by authors like julian barnes, zadie smith etc who are presumably writing because they want to say something, not like sophie fucking kinsella who i don't know what fuck all she's writing for... apart for money that is...
and i'm crazy about travel writings but here i am not too sure of myself... i'll just go by gut feeling and instinct though a few authors like paul theroux i'll buy on the spot. the rest i depend on my nose so to speak though if the writer has written for say harper's magazine, new yorker or good newspapers (NYT, guardian for examples) helps....and any classic travel writings from centuries back i'll buy on the spot too...
and i like to collect essays and reviews and hence this time I am very happy to get the world according to Clarkson, Jeremy clarkson's compilation of his mad writings in the sunday times (UK) 2001-2003. He's the maddest writer if there ever is one...probably the brit's answer to P J O'Rourke , the other crazy guy across the atlantic.
although book sales here are very much lacking in art books, another craze of mine, you sometimes can get some unexpected finds. This time I had matisse :The master by Hilary Spurling , and two renaissance masters, a Phiadon's series on Piero della francesca and a coffee table book Carpaccio by Peter Humfrey. There was a very good book on renoir but i don't like him very much so i did not buy this one. one time i bought a very good book on the russian cubist popova from thor kar hong's skoob at unbelievably cheap price and over the years i've collected quite a respectable collections of art books and perhaps i have around 500 or so volumes now and growing...
and my cracked imitation tang celadons this time were a couple of travel books by authors I never heard of and this humongous book of a thousand pages or so and weigh about a kilo ...it's on one of my favorite subjects the crusades and it's God's war: a history of the crusades by Christopher Tyerman. and unexpected find also is May 13 a book by kua kia soong that created a little ripple in some quarters here recently.
i truly don't know when i will ever read any of these books and at the snail pace i'm going it'll take may be more than a hundred years for me to do justice to my books but that's not the issue. and i'm happy that my worse half completely understands me and don't really mind all my books lying everywhere although as women are wont to do she'll grumble a bit sometimes and can't understand why i need to buy so much but i can understand her not understanding me perfectly and it's simply because she doesn't read! well it could be worse - thank god she doesn't know who the hell sophie fucking kinsella is....
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
how to make a lady love you forever
and today i learn a surprising thing from the kamasutra....
if a man mixes the powder of of the milk hedge plant and the kantaka plant with the excrement of a monkey and the powdered root of the lanjalika plant, and throws this mixture on a woman, she will not love anybody else afterword.
sounds scientific enough to me. i think i'm gonna get myself some monkey shit and see if it works...where to get all those exotic plants would be a problem though, but i guess i can subtitute these with local plants like kangkong, kacip fatimah or even cabbage...should work at least on malaysian women i think...