Saturday, July 09, 2005
I was disembarking at Heathrow the day New York burned.
I was in London to continue my studies in the final year, and I had my parents and my sister accompanying me — sending me off, they said, and let my sister see the city they called home for four years or so. Our first indication that there was something foul afoot in New York was this old lady behind us, who said that there was terrible news — someone had blown up the Empire State Building!
We thought she was nuts.
Four years, one failed and one successful attempt in getting a degree later, and I'm in Malaysia, on my way home from work, when the news breaks. Someone's blown up London.
It was terrifying. I really hate to admit this, but for two years, London was home to me. A wet, miserable, overpriced-but-grotty (I lived in North-East London, which explains everything) home, but home. I remembered my time there — not too many pleasant memories, but I made friends there.
Jennifer and I were close buddies, when I was in London. She drank like a fish, and thought me the differences between whiskey and whisky, between Americans and the yankees. She was from the South; I was from KL. She was a Republican, and thought Bush was doing the right thing. I was (and still am) a liberal, and thought Bush was a sub-sapient idiot.
We got along fine. And here I was, trying to call her.
She was the only person I kept in touch with after leaving London. But she wasn't the only one I remember. There was Socrates, my landlord — a sleazy Greek guy, but good and relatively honest. Adonis the kosher deli owner, at Oakwood. I don't think he knew I was Muslim; he just thought I was some crazy Asian guy who came in for the salt beef sandwiches he made (and they were great, I swear). Stratos, who shared the house with Gemma and I for six months, and probably going through London's gay population, making both me and Gemma somewhat jealous. He got more action than we both did, combined.
For two years, I lived in London, half-afraid of telling the world I was Muslim, not after what happened in New York, and the backlash. I shouldn't have worried, not after the way London's religious communities stood together after the attack. You only learn these things in hindsight, I suppose.
I remember falling down the stairs and smashing my arm through a glass door — and being rushed to the hospital, which was understaffed, and overcrowded. I remember the doctor looking at my wound and asking if I needed more local anaesthetic. I said, no, I was fine. I still have the scars. I remember Gemma wanting to scold me for using her bath rag to wipe tomato juice, until she found out it wasn't tomato juice, and didn't seem to mind when I apologized for bleeding over her coat.
Poor Gemma. I don't have her number, but I hope she's all right.
In some ways I'm proud of London, for what they're doing. I'm proud of what Ken Livingstone said, that this wasn't an attack towards the rich and powerful, but an assault on the working-class. I'm proud that London didn't flip out and lose it. I had forgotten that it had survived the Blitz and bombings in the IRA. I suppose flipping out is the American thing to do.
It's all in hindsight, but I'm glad I lived in London. And as sad and upset I am about the attacks, I'm happy to see that Londoners are coming together, not apart, after the attacks.
I don't need to talk about the people who were responsible for this. We know what they are. We know what they want. I sincerely doubt they'll get it. Their kind will be dead in a hundred years, and very possibly forgotten. They're monsters. Monsters and demons come and go.
Thursday, July 07, 2005
I Guess I Do Have Something To Say.
It's still unsubstantiated, but I guess it's made me want to say something about it.
“The Secret Organization Group of Al-Qa'idah of Jihad Organization in Europe (Jama'at al-Tanzim al-Sirri, Tanzim Qa'idat al-Jihad fi Urupa)
In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate, may peace be upon the cheerful one and the dauntless fighter, Prophet Muhammad, God's peace be upon him.
O nation of Islam and nation of Arabism: Rejoice for it is time to take revenge from the British Zionist Crusader government in retaliation for the massacres Britain is committing in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The heroic mujahidin have carried out a blessed raid in London. Britain is now burning with fear, terror and panic in its northern, southern, eastern and western quarters.
We have repeatedly warned the British government and people. We have fulfilled our promise and carried out our blessed military raid in Britain after our mujahidin exerted strenuous efforts over a long period of time to ensure the success of the raid.
We continue to warn the governments of Denmark and Italy and all the Crusader governments that they will be punished in the same way if they do not withdraw their troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. He who warns is excused.
God says: ‘(O ye who believe!) If ye will aid (the cause of) Allah, He will aid you, and plant your feet firmly.’”
All you've done is made me feel ashamed for my fellow Muslims.
Fuck you, you beasts in man's flesh. Fuck you.
Now Is The Time For Tea!
No more ill-advised and barely-researched posts that were done while waiting for the bog to clear up1! Enough Interacting With The Community, it's getting boring already. Break time!
More kudos! Found this one, it's a gem. We likes it. Enough to put him into our feed-reader, yes.
Go visit. Mmmm, it's good. Nice blogging.
- Well, it did take a while.
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
More Slagging Off Mister Sia!
…alah, not really lah. Kesian the poor bugger.
Actually, the whole brouhaha started from this one snippet:
We talked about the Singaporean blog culture, the upcoming Blogger's convention, the commercial aspect of blogging, among other things. One thing I realised from our conversation is how much more mature and serious the blog culture is in Singapore compared to the rest of Asia. Its evident from the facts. Mr brown, Miyagi are writing for Today; Wendy is writing for The New Paper, Maxim, endorsing LocalBrand; and most interestingly, commercial entities are APPROACHING the Bloggercon organizers for sponsorship, instead of the other way round.
All these are happening while Malaysian bloggers are still gloating over how they got their first cheques from Google Adsense.
Actually, Kenny has a point.
He's got a point when he says that Singaporean bloggers and Malaysian bloggers are different. Of course they are — there's a slew of differences between Malaysian and Singaporean culture that are remarkably evident, especially if you cross the Straits. There's nothing mysterious about that.
What Kenny flubs in his explanation is in his use of the word “mature”. You know, for a Big Name Blogger he sure made a poor choice in using that word.
Malaysian blogging aren't less mature than Singapore blogging — what Singapore blogging is that Malaysian blogging isn't is mainstream.
A medium's maturity isn't defined by how easily mainstream culture absorbs it. Examples that come to mind, at least for me, include comics (when don't they, when it comes to me talking about media?).
Comics enjoyed this remarkable spike in popularity in the popular conscience, way back in the early 20th century, with the works of Winsor McCay actually gracing the pages of newspapers, not in the strangled comic-strip syndication deals we get nowadays, but as full-blown works of art, as a feature.
Look at McCay's works, and compare it to Singapore bloggers writing appearing in print publications, and the wooing of bloggers by Singapore mainstream media. There are a few differences (McCay engaged with the news media as as himself, and not in their own terms), but the similarities are there, and can be made into pretty good comparisons.
But were comics in the early 20th century considered “mature” media? Hardly. That period showed an incredible proliferation of two kinds of work — experimental works ala Winsor McCay's Little Nemo in Slumberland, and imitatory works, ala Batman, Superman, and other early superhero works.
Seriously. Early Batman comics, for example, were straight (somewhat) translations of traditional detective fiction — the only difference being that the detective in this case wore spandex. Superman was modeled after mythical heroes, and its tales were straightforward morality plays that appealed to pulp fiction fans, who more often than made up the new audience for comic readers.
It's the same kind of tale for other kinds of media as well — early stories were more often than not transcribings of oral tales, early prose fiction were essentially epic poems forced into sequential text, early computer game efforts resembled board games and serious literature.
And ‘early blogs’ resemble… what? Diaries, made online? Editorials, made online? Journalistic pieces, made online? Academic dissertations, simplified and made online? Ranting, made online?
Dude, blogs and blog culture are nowhere near mature. I suspect, at any rate, that blogs and blog culture anywhere won't start becoming mature until years from now, when people finally know what to do with blogs and what blogs are best at, the way people know what to do with comics and what comics are good at.
Until then, wait with bated breath.
…hmm. Oh well. Their loss. I've got better things to do with my life. And besides, Hani wants my attention now.
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
The Bystander Effect.
There's been a lot of moralizing lately about the bystander effect. That the thing that causes large groups of people to… well, become bystanders.
“The bystander effect (also known as bystander apathy) is a psychological phenomenon where persons are less likely to intervene in an emergency situation when others are present than when they are alone.
Solitary individuals will typically intervene if another person is in need of help: this is known as bystander intervention. However, researchers were surprised to find that help is less likely to be given if more people are present. In some situations, a large group of bystanders may fail to help a person who obviously needs help.”
Fucked up, kan? Turns out it's something that happens a lot, nowadays, especially once we move into the disconnected po–industrial society we live in. We've had it since the murder of Kitty Genovese, and we'll continue having it. It's been studied extensively, and all that, and now we may know why….
“…with others present, observers all assume that someone else is going to intervene and so they each individually refrain from doing so…
People may also assume that other bystanders may be more qualified to help, such as being a doctor or police officer, and their intervention would thus be unneeded. People may also fear ‘losing face’ in front of the other bystanders, being superseded by a ‘superior’ helper, or offering unwanted assistance.
Another explanation is that bystanders monitor the reactions of other people in an emergency situation to see if others think that it is necessary to intervene. Since others are doing exactly the same, everyone concludes from the inaction of others that other people do not think that help is needed…”
The good news is, however, that it might be possible to counter this effect, by
“…picking a specific person in the crowd to appeal to for help rather than appealing to the larger group generally. [Doing so] places all responsibility on that specific person, instead of allowing it to diffuse… [it may also show] that all bystanders are indeed interested in helping; and it kicks in social proof when one or more of the crowd steps in to assist.”
Here's hoping you may never need to do this, but if you do find yourself in trouble and surrounded by a crowd of rubber–necking idiots, the best thing you can do is pick out someone, and appeal to them, not the crowd in general.
Maybe what we need are victim classes, in which ways to break that apathy barrier are thought. Hmm.
And This is Surprising How?
KUALA LUMPUR, July 4 (Bernama) — Information Minister Datuk Seri Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir has acknowledged difficulty in getting government messages across to the people because the public was more interested in entertainment matters.
He said the ministry's budget was increased every year but the messages it delivered lacked impact.
“Although the role of departments and agencies under the ministry appears comprehensive, there are still many people who have little understanding of issues and problems that are reported.
“This has resulted in the public often questioning and not supporting government policies,” he said at a briefing conducted by the ministry for Barisan Nasional Members of Parliament here Monday.
Ministry Secretary–General Datuk Seri Dr Arshad Hashim, in his briefing, said RTM faced tough competition on dissemination of information from VCDs and the internet.
He said the problem was compounded by the popularity in using SMS to convey information.
The Malaysian Government having a hard time trying to get their messages to the rakyat? Quelle Surprise! No, really? Wow, who'd have thunk?
It's amusing to see. How many of you feel as if you are working with the government, instead of working around or against it? Is it our fault that we perceive the government to be obscurantist, obstinate, dangerously mercurial and mostly irrational?
And we have high–ranking executive officers of the Law of the Land wondering why we won't listen to them — why, whenever they say something, they're met with indifferent silence or protest, protest, protest.
Well, the protesters are the newbies, the idealists — they're protesting because they don't know any better. The silent ones aren't silent because we're happy with what we're told — I don't think so. It's just that we've learnt, through trial and painful error, to not listen and work out ways to do what we want.
No one wants to listen to crap they don't have a stake in. Apart from the obvious, essential thing like Law and Order, and food, utilities and shelter, I don't think we really don't care what the government does, simply because no matter what is done, I'm pretty sure the rakyat don't get to give any kind of input, apart from the token, “speaking to the rakyat” kind of deal. Say what you want about policy, morality, religion or whatever.
No one pays attention because so few people have a say in this.
Contrast this with, say, Akademi Fantasia. With Akademi Fantasia, who wins, essentially, boils down to
how many idiots can vote for Mawi how many people will vote for your favourite character grinning nitwit helpless pawn of Corporate Malaysiana artiste. It doesn't matter if the judges call Mas your favourite artiste a talentless nincompoop! You just vote like a fucking lunatic and your artiste will win! And be subjected to hilariously stupid advertising deals!
That, ladies and gentlemen, is
mob rule democracy in action. If only the government could do something like this. Combine the dreaded SMS, villain of every governmental agency and washed-up and/or budding music superstar, with governmental policy, and watch people (at least some of us at any rate) take an interest.
Imagine! Proceedings of Dewan Rakyat, televised with live chat, with the requisite “MP PERMATANG PAUH POYO!!!!11” messages! SMS votes on the news, not only about important yet incredibly brain-damaged policy decisions, but also if Sharizat should continue talking to Rafidah, who's dissed her on ‘confession hour’! Fistfights in parliamentary debate! It'd be so disgraceful it'd bring the ratings up the roof!
It'll happen in Bizarro Malaysia first, I suspect.
Come to think of it….
Monday, July 04, 2005
Most-Abused Word in the Malay Language?
Let's first begin this session by declaring that, you know, I'm not exactly the world's best practitioner of Malay. Despite being born Malay. At least I'm better at it than my parents.
Okay. It's about a word. A Malay one. Ceria.
This has been bothering me for years — a single word used so often that people take its existence for granted. I mean, you see it in government and Malayo-corporate mission statements. You see it in advertisements. Youth movements designed to capture the Malay mind use it to a nauseating degree.
Occasionally our artistes are called it. Sometimes the foreign ones, too, especially the happy, perky ones. Siti Nurhaliza sometimes. You know, that kind of thing.
And yet, all these years, I still have no idea what it means, exactly.
I mean, okay, you know what it means, right? Think ceria, and think a procession of perky, happy, cheerful and sunny dispositions walking down the aisle. These are the New Malaysians — without a care in the world, cheerful, perky, with nary a care in the world.
I'm pretty sure that's what it means. That's why I have my trusty old friend here, Kamus Dewan (edisi 1994). Together we'll sort out this mess.
And when the sorting out happened, we were kind of disappointed. I mean, I read the definition to my mother and sister:
Seriously. Look into my dictionary, and not a single happy, perky, zesty and active word in it. You know what it says? My dad didn't believe me either when I read it to him:
“It isn't cheerful?”
“You're kidding me. Aren't there other definitions?”
“That's messed up.”
“What rubbish. Are you sure?”
Positive. Not a single word of it.
Here's the definition:
ceria I sl tidak bernoda, bersih, suci, murni; menceriakan membersihkan, memurnikan, menyucikan.
I don't get it. I think my Kamus Dewan is broken.
Though actually, it makes a sinister kind of sense.