Monday, August 31, 2015



(with apologies to Allen Ginsburg’s ‘The Velocity of Money,”) 
by azly rahman

Weekend drive to Boston; here are my Joycean "screams of consciousness" thoughts all in semicolon; yes, the dreadful and overused semicolon; of Jamaica Kinchaid's "Girl"; I am riding the Prius semi-electric -- eco-friendly they say --  down Interstate-95 to the city of the beginning of the American colonial entity; of the Massachusetts Bay Colony of the original thirteen colonies; of the Boston Tea Party; today's Tea Party, awful awful Republicans; Donald Trump and his honest-to-god American dream of a hermit kingdom ala’ ancient Korea; all these flashes as I whiz down from New York; past Connecticut into Massachusetts thinking of Mark Twain's 'A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, of the celebrated jumping frog of Calavareas County; I am cruisin’ fast as in Al Pacino’s movie title, I am thinking of reading the lyric essay "How Literature Saved My Life"' and yes, looking out for an exit to Henry David Thoreau's Walden Pond; I wish I could pay not tax or live in some Arab country and not get taxed; I am thinking of the habitat of the dead Kennedy; of the American Camelot they say; of the plane crash near Martha's Vineyard; of the Catholic president; but rock radio station is playing great songs of the AWESOME EIGHTIES, another period of music I dig and if you feel me I feel you with these tunes; American prog-rock Night Ranger’s SISTER CHRISTIAN playing; and checking on Waze the App occasionally to see if State troopers hide behind some trees near Walden Pond or some bushes where Henry Wadsworth Longfellow slept; I wish I could write while I drive down the freeways, highways, country lanes; thinking of the Kennedy Presidential Library and what I saw there, display of the range of artifacts of the Cuban Missile Crisis, of the communication on the invasion of the Bay of Pigs; of Marilyn Monroe as the Prez's girlfriend they say; all Bostonian stories; of Harvard, MIT, Boston U, and of course the Red Sox, and never insult the Soxs while in Boston kind of thing; hang out in CHEERS, thinking of the TV series while I was growing up absurd looking for anti-heroes only essentially; as well; and these -- while the music of the awesome 80s play; while memories still fresh of the Boston bombing; and now, and now, and now, as I sit here in my library I read about the Bangkok bombing; AWFUL TODAY AWFUL TODAY; quaint Boston though; here I end this one stream of sentence; not to outdo the great Irish writer, James Joyce. -- azly rahman

Yes, my Sister Christian: THIS SONG WHILE THESE THOUGHTS COME A VISITIN'; I like the awesome eighties American rock, the guitar-work, phrasing, the licks, the reverb, the flanger, the chorus, the echoes, ... the multi-effect pedal, the Moog synthesizer and all, the eighties look of pop rock Americans and oh yes, the band BOSTON too I shall talk about later ... and here I am next thinking about an essay I once wrote about Boston” about Boston bombing revisited and it in is in a street in Malaysia.

and now

here is the bane of an open society and one that is moving down the ladder of a FAILING STATE .. in which the road to lawlessness is already paved. No-- I am not a pessimist and a "worst case scenario" analyst. Futuristics may be lens I am using now to look at trends, the movement of the "futures-wheels of society", karma of postmodernity, the impact of the evolution of complex systems, the view of Chaos Theory, the transcultural flow of ideas be they violent or peaceful as they travel instantaneously across time and space, and most importantly as Malaysians ... what we reap from what we sowed ... a karma of a global city.

"May we live in interesting times", Chairman Mao once said -- indeed the time is now with almost 30 million people living in a highly complex society that is still trying to mediate the contradictions of a capitalist system and a government that, not only tries to manage chaos out of order, meet the needs of the microbial-multitude of demands made by groups, but also this: a government that is becoming so corrupting and untouchable and prone to its own implosion and controlled internal demolition yet able to sustain itself by building rationale and structures of a defense system of a survival mode that imprisons its governors inter-generationally.

And we now have a classic problem of a hypermodern society, an open society threatened by its enemies, as Karl Popper would, say. The enemies are home grown, borne out a strange brew of an Oktoberfest of the excesses and the sane-ness of religious and cultural philosophies.

BUKIT BINTANG -- the Times Square of Cyber-Hyper-Malaya. Her Trafalgar Square. Her Hatyai Square. Her Jalan Wong Ah Fook Square in "Sin City Johor Bahru" (from a poem I once wrote that got the Johor government excited).

That glitzy, red-lightsy,
excitement inducing street of a global city,
and a clone of a clone of a Times Square if New York City --
that Bintang Walk of a semiotics of a city
of all kinds of future possibility:
culture of red lights gone crazy,
people worshiping neon gods unrepentendly,
scene of urban decay and homelessness of a consequence of a system of international slavery
and human trafficking framed as "progress" needed for Malaysia to be defined as a "high-income society"
aha .. these rhyme and I am happy.

BOMBS in BUKIT BINTANG. Bombs over Baghdad.

If it is gang-triad related, the Bukit Bintang we have got to do what Lee Kuan Yew did in the 1960s to round out all the triads and send them to jail mercilessly.

If it is Al Qaeda and IS-related, we have got a bigger problem that will have no end to the story of Malaysia -- of a 1001-Nights of a Rubaiyat of Wall-Street type of forthcoming city violence, urban terrorism, and religious-flavoured chaos of a magnitude a "foreign intervention" would be necessary when it comes to maintaining regional/Southeast Asian security in this Age of Neo-Pax-Americana of and "Asia-as-Pivot" ideology.

I don't know .. do you?
My morning-after complaint I think ... -- ar

And then there is the bombing in Sydney.
I am sharing these verses I wrote some time ago, in condemnation of what happened in the Australian city.

“The day Osama died.”

The day Obama put that Osama to sleep I saw a rainbow across the Manhattan sky
But why was it black?
with a darker cloud bursting at the end
of the rainbow?
The end of jihad and the last man could it be?
I do not know
Meditating upon a Manhattan bagel and a latte to begin my day
Watching bodies flow up and down Fifth Avenue
A man in three-piece suit at a news stand holding a daily
a front page photo
of that man Osama
a large caption reads ‘ROT IN HELL’
Meandering were my thoughts as those words danced frantically
Does not the Quran curse those who bring terror
in the name of Thy Lord who created thee and placed thee in an abode called ‘Love’?
Did not the Quran warn against false prophets and those who bring chaos into this world?
Did not the Quran asketh human beings to see and feel what the Path of Righteousness is about?
Did not the last verse of the Quran speak about holding on fast
to the brotherhood and sisterhood of humanity?
Is not the greatest jihad lie in the struggle against
intoxication of power,
the urge to plunder,
... in the name of religion too?
Why must those who believe in the Merciful and The Compassionate be apologists
to those who create terror and make false promises
to those who are trained to terrorise?
That Osama died for his own truth
In a world wherein there is none to hold on to
except that of one's evolving own
truth that matters lies not in how others have read the Scriptures for you
but how you have read them
and how the Scriptures in turn have read you
From Love Man hath come
Unto Love Man shall return
City. The city. The metaphysical spaces of our surrealistic entity. The city is my other mother. I leave you with these verse of my beloved city of the late seventies that rasied me well and groovy: the city of Jay Bee, a sinful city of piss-smelling streets and bong-smelling people walking like zombies ...

"Sin City, Jay Bee"
by Azly Rahman

Where have all those memories gone
Of the city that never sleeps
Sin-filled you are
... Offering life's panorama
A pandora box of a lushness of emotions
Jay Bee
You may be called a city of filth
Of gang wars and transvestite a galore
Of rock kapak geniuses conceived immaculately
From the womb of Papa Rock
Ahhh New Johor ... New York you may want to be
Thou shall never attain that notoriety
Sweet city sin city
Celebrating the velocity of money
It is there I knew love's inner beauty
As we walked up and down the Lido Beach
whose middle name is "filthy"
Ohh Jay Bee ... you are a soul that is one with me
Jay Bee
Sin city
where politics stink
where corruption gets a nice daily wink
where the power elites are the underground kings
where the poor are hoodwinked
where the children of the working class roam the streets in motorcycles with bilng bing
where the smell of ganja filled the air like a pissed-on fermented drink
Ahh Jay Bee
City of Sins
Your hunchback of Tanjung Puteri is dead and gone
Committed sepukku at the sight of what has become
Of you sin city Jay Bee
Si Bongkok died of a death he long-willed for
As the sight of the crooked bridge broke his heart that exploded with a roar
Ahhh... thanks to the Johor Corridor
And the Disney of Nusajaya Johoreans adore
Sin city
Jay Bee
Your economy, like a Segget River , stinks till eternity
Love is gone
Of the one my heart held on
As I walked countless miles
Along the Lido beach
Time has not been kind
To this city that never sleeps
To this sin city
That weeps
The yesteryears of the loss of pride that run deep
Love is gone
The deal is sealed
Sin city you are now sold
To the forked tongued nationalists grown old like ageing Disneys
Sin city
Jay Bee
You were once mine
You will no longer be

Happy birthday pretentious city! 

As a child of ten or twelve or thirteen, as in my profile photo this is what I rememeber about these two cities:

If Johor Baru is a gangsta city and da' bomb, Singapore in the sixties is the glitter city and da' bling bling. This is how I see it. This is how I am remembering things on the birthday of the latter; a city called "Singa Pura" whose origin I mistook as meaning "the city that pretends", (ber pura pura). It pretends to be a postmodern city architecturally but it houses its people in an Orwellian world of cultural insensibility; it pretends to be a city founded upon liberal democracy but it uses confucian ideals to confuse its citizens what it means to be free; it pretends to be a western country but it is a state and a city and therefore a city-state that lives and breathes on the hegemony of the ultra-clean-ultra-kiasu-ultra-controlling city run by ultra-men and women with, well arguably, altruistic motives.
Now, that is Singapore, da' bling bling city. Sin city JB, or Johor Baru is different. It is also a "pura pura city" back in the sixties; and a "kura kura city"; these two hybridity of concepts of a city makes Johor Baru, ironically and exciting "pura pura kura kura city"; a city that pretends to be like Singapura da' bling bling city but growms slow and slugging like a turtle carrying the weight of the universe ... making Johor Baru da' bomb trying to be da bling bling of a city.
Now folks and homies ... you dig me?

OTHER THAN THIS -- Gooooodddd Morning Amerika ! -- ar


The Stamp Act, The Intolerable Acts, and many other Acts imposed on the original 13 American colonies -- all culminating in the slogan "Taxation Without Representation", led to the the revolt of the Americans against the British, led by General George Washington aided by the French General Marquis de Lafayette, fueled by patriots and pamphleteers such as Paul Revere, Patrick Henry, and Thomas Paine .... a revolt against the regime of King George and the declaration of American Independence in 1776. 

Now in Bolehland ...

POTA, AUTA, CHOTA, DOSA, SANGSARA -- are the features of the Malaysian dissatisfaction that could lead to the fall of the ruling Barisan Nasional Regime ...if and only iff ... Pakatan Rakyat parliamentarians realized that they are not paid and voted into power by the people to be absent without leave when parliament is in session. POTA is an example of a chota (hard stick to beat people up) approved with the help of the absentee votes of the missing Pakatan species who chose to stay home and bake cookies past midnight

My years of living in rock
Azly Rahman
Dec 3, 07 1:55pm

Doesn't anybody remember laughter…? - from Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven

"Oh baby it's a wild world…" - Cat Stevens

This weekend I did not think deep profound thoughts about my column. I was thinking about rock and roll. Yes – that music that was part of the wave of "yellow culture" our parents warned us about. We have known "sin" through rock and roll, some wise men would conclude.

I want to share something about a passion I once had – about the passion of living in rock. So, I washed myself with the experience – through several YouTube videos on rock music. A visual of Queen's guitarist Brian May tormenting his Gibson Les Paul atop Buckingham Palace excites me. Imagine Hillary Ang of Malaysia's rock group Search or Man Kidal of Lefthanded playing a Jimi Hendrix-rendition of Negaraku atop the Istana Negara – that'll be the day when things have already runamuck! That'll be a serious latah-ization of this nation.

I wanted to feel how old ideas can teach me what newer realities mean. "Old school versus new school", as these say these days, I wanted to test how my perception of the present can be altered by the music of the past. I was experimenting with my own stream of consciousness, as the Irish poet James Joyce would term it. If this column is a stand up comedy, it would be a Seinfeld; if it were an artwork, it would be Andy Warhol's' Campbell soups. Or "Urination", perhaps.

No, I did not think about the three upcoming rallies, the government's accusation that the Hindraf leaders lied, the potential loss of GE-2008 seats by the ruling party, the UPM fiasco of the suspended student, the long term impact of mass protests and street rallies in relation to mass and democratized form of human rights education, the continuing intellectual saga of the UUCA and the Akujanji, my invitation to speak to students in Boston, Washington DC and Stamford, and the documentary on Jacques Derrida I am yet to watch.

I sought solace in rock music. I "chilled" with it. I had so much fun chilling - away from the "chilling" national issues of the day. I have "sinned" again, perhaps. It is said that the guitar is the instrument of the Devil. I went into nostalgia-mode - I felt that I had long hair, tight Levis blue jeans, smoking a Marlboro, had Fonzie's "Happy Days'" leather jacket, and felt 'groovy'. And I had "Fung Keong" sneakers on too. Yes, the language of the mid-1970s came back. "Fag" was for cigarettes", "stoned" and "steamed" was for the feeling drug abusers had after getting "high", as sung by the group Deep Purple in "Smoke on the Water". The song immediately brought me thinking of Frank Zappa and his Mothers of Invention. This auditory and visual experience further brought me to my growing up years in a kampong in Johor Bahru where I joined the elders in listening to an album called Rolling Stones' "Goat Head's Soup" - in my head the tune "We Are an American Band" by Grandfunk Railroad playing.

Energy and inspiration

And yes, the Malay youth then were smoking something that smelled strange. In between running around barefoot in the kampong I would stop by at the favourite hangout of the older "kutus" (wayward youth) in my kampong – to take a peek of what they were smoking. But boy – they really had good, fun, and they had uncomplicated and unpretentious album covers back then. "It's a wild, wild, world…" as Cat Stevens would say. I could have been one of them (the kutus) if not because of an "imaginary friend" I had with me, all the time. Western influence was so pervasive – so addictive. It takes a new paradigm of consciousness to break free of its shackle.

I drowned myself in the wave of old favourite music of "my generation". Raja Petra Kamaruddin of Malaysia-Today would say that The Who – Roger Daltry, Peter Townshed, and Keith Moon – is the band of his generation. Perhaps our most celebrated cartoonist Lat would choose Elvis Presley's "Jailhouse Rock" as his musical human semiosis.

My kind of music was the "Stairway to Heaven" genre. The music of Led Zeppelin, Yes, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Rolling Stones (now 'The Strolling Bones"), Carlos Santana, Rush, Queen, Genesis, Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, and Rainbow. And Eagles too. I explored "committed rock music" at one point in my life – the music of the Irish band U-2. Of late too I have been analysing the music and lyrics of the most celebrated Indonesian rocker Iwan Fals. These are the lyrical poets of my generation.

There is so much energy and inspiration in rock music of the mid-1970s that I had refused to listen to rock of this Rempit generation. I hope our generation is not practicing he strange dance of the death metallists. I would prefer to listen to the sound of the whispering wind and my heartbeat than listen to bands such as Linkin' Park, Korn and Peter Pan of Indonesia. My apologies to this generation for my confession. I think the global music capitalists have become too greedy to produce good, sensical, rock and roll music. The children of this generation I think are more stoned and are gathering more moss as an after effect of the over-consumption of today's junk rock and death metal music.

They do not know how to value the lyrics of the great rock and roll pieces such as "Stairway to Heaven", a three-part Led Zeppelin classic that every youngster of my age the were trying to learn to play on the old beaten Chinese-made "kapok" guitar. They have not listened to Queen's operatic masterpiece "Bohemian Rhapsody", Pink Floyd's simple yet profound "Wish You Were Here", or Yes' mystical magical "Turn of the Century" – or even Simon Garfunkel's lyrical poem "I am a Rock" to appreciate the philosophical messages behind the lyrics that are serenaded with, at times shrieking and Earth-shattering guitar riffs. The youth of Cybernetic Malaya need to go back to listening these classic and understand what freedom to think and explore means.

I do not know what the Mat and Minah Rempits and Mat and Minah Reformasis are listening to. I would assume that there is a difference – the rempits listen to death and thrash metal and maybe gangsta rap and the reformists listen to soft rock, and urban and alternative music. I might be wrong in labeling them. Readers may email me to enlighten me on this.

Back to Led Zeppelin - and what went into my head to shape my consciousness.

Hey, I wrote about something here – about my generation and how the spirit of rock music can also inspire one to embody and promote free speech. Now I am energised to continue with equally serious issues for my upcoming columns.

Long live rock and roll? Maybe

If the Americans had a Boston Tea Party to signify the protests leading to the Revolution, what do the Opposition coalition have? Bota Kanan Bota Kiri Teh Tarik Party ran by the Missing Opposition MPs. And therefore the revolution to stop POTA did not happen ... we now will be living with the Rule of the Chota, ran by a regime of the Autas, and given a few more decades of Sangsara, and can no longer differentiate between Dosa and Pahala .... Welcome to the Land of the Sangsara .. run by Duryodhanas ...

And thank you to the Missing Pakatan MPs who were lost at the junction of Bota Kanan, Bota Kiri ....
or what looks like notes on Chaos Theory

The CI3 -- of consciousness, individuals, institutions, ideology that dominates
" ... in that we live in a world demanding our understanding of the semiotics and cybernetics of the self; to understand how to read ourselves and the world within and outside of us; to construct, deconstruct, and reconstruct our inner and outer worldviews; to see life as a complex process of authoring of the self and re-authoring our world that is constantly shifting; to have a sense of what the "core" is if there is indeed one; to see linearity and multi-dimensionality of our invented realities as one; to see ourselves as an organic mechanism of a grand narrative with multiple subplots with no narrative structure and as a complex novel with no plot but a story begging to be told -- of joys and suffering and meaning and meaninglessness; to see chaos as a beautiful pattern of randomness; to master the art of being a metaphysical anarchist that t will use the sense of being to resist the hegemonizing power individuals, institutions, and ideology to dominate and destroy the self; .... and much more ... essentially: ... live free -- or die happy in the hands of the State and religious, cultural, or any ideology ... to LIVE, LOVE, LIBERATE and DIE LAUGHING at TYRANTS, TOTALITARIAN REGIMES, AND THEOCRACIES -- ar


In the Sejarah Melayu/Malay Annals ... the story began with the the genesis of the Hindu-Buddhist Java kingdom, a precursor of the Malay kingdom.

A complex genealogy of kings was presented and the narrator of the Annals is said to have "overheard" a conversation on the lineage. It traced back to Iskandar Dhulkarnain presumably Macedonian conqueror who married a woman from India and the story of "who begets what begets what begets what "begets what" ... like the Bawani Affair's "listen listen listen listen narrative ... adorned the this "world heritage classic" throughout".

But essentially it is about a skimpy and fast-paced mentioning of the process of "who-begets-what" laced with some illogical and fantasmagoric elements of magic and of "profound beauty of this or that princess", etc.

I suppose this is what the structure of Grand Narratives look like as opposed to the story framed in the Subaltern. The author must establish credibility of "what he heard" via Oral Tradition so that he could inscribe these into text (on papyrus, the "lontar", stones, rocks, boulders, caves walls, etc.) so that "subsequent generations will not forget where we come from".

The story of the first "founder" of Melakka is interesting. When he was still a Hindu prince, he is said to have dreamt of meeting Muhammad the prophet and when he woke up he was "already circumcized"!

Herein lies the claim of legitimacy not only to kingdom-hood but also to the purity of his soul that made it possible to "meet the prophet" -- although such as claim cannot be verified by any Sunni ulama who would say that one cannot possibly meet Muhammad (since Muhammad cannot manifest himself to anyone) and if one does it must be the Devil himself/herself he/she had a rendezvous with.
So --- was the first Melakka Sultan (Param-Iswara) ordained by the Devil?

I don't know ... historians out there ... do you?

On reading text as the text reads us 

-- texts are texts meant to be read logically hermeneutically as well based on the life and tines of the text; texts, even the religious ones are to be read critically and questioned and not simply to be recited, held in awe of grandiosity, even treated like a living being, held in highest esteem on the highest pedestal in some temple or house or worship; texts want to be read, not worshiped nor be existing and breathing and living as texts as long as they are not questioned; the human mind is a powerful tool and instrument and a world of cybernetic complexity to be used every cellular-second of one's life as an instrument of critical, creative and constructivist judgement so that what is read is not merely the text but the reader becomes the text and the text present itself as a context of shifting meaning, based on the idea of phenomenology and hermeneutics, and that socratic-platonic idea of constructivism in which even the text must be scrutinized of the nature of its authorship, rather than see it unquestionably as a set of ideas and concepts and injunctions handed down from the heavens.
I think.
But what do you think? -- ar

on being culturally groovy

and be a bit more "cultured" and groovy too ... -- ar
as exciting as acting maybe ..
making the strange familiar
and the familiar, strange
to suspend judgement,
it is a study of cultures,
whatever they may be
wherever their locations may be
whatever we make culture to be
of thick description,
of in-depth interviews,
of going into the field as participant
or non-participant observer
of describing cultures, not judging them (yet),
but most importantly to learn a bit more
of what it means to be human,
all too human
never buried under numbers
to understand variations,
of the tools we use to work and play
in the house that we and others inhabit
to write notes
to write memos
to code
to decode
to construct
to deconstruct
to un-ground theories
to construct patterns of meaning
and finally .. naturally .. to tell stories
in all their strangeness
and familiarity
-- all these ...
and the reward?
to help perhaps defend the culture studied
and to become "one of them"
albeit not entirely being in them
yet be able to return to laughter,
and finally, to have that honor
of having "the anthropological veto" ...
we are all, in our own way,
daily anthropologists trying to make sense
of phenomena around us
and discern patterns of meaning,
so that we will all not go bonkers/insane being aliens
and being hateful of things
we do not yet understand ...

-- azly rahman

Saturday, August 29, 2015


by Azly Rahman

I am beginning to believe that my life is structured to be lyrical; I get stimulated by songs I hear from my childhood and they become opening acts of my stories; an opening act of Kid Rock for Bon Jovi in a stadium in New Jersey; an orchestral symphonic orgasmic feel of musical sensibility; I supposed the idea of a lyric essay hits home; I cannot escape from finding rhymes even without reason, every time I think of a sentence; words from songs come a visitin’ in the cave of my contemplating abyssimality almost like some revelation of the Divine I cannot see because it is obviously all tattooed in me from cradle to the grave and from here till eternity in all its linguistic glory; and that even the last sentence is a rhyming non-dangling modifier that came out naturally; and that just last night I fell in love with the semi-colon and I wrote these words on my facebook page:

with the SEMI-COLON; a great way not to end a sentence quickly
a way to compete with James Joyce --- who will write the longest sentence in English Language history; I love you SEMI-COLON! ;;;;;;;;;;;; LOVE;;;;;;
-- ar 

Here is an example I just wrote on my facebook page; this is about Hang Kasturi and the problematique of Malay/Melakka history, concerning the argument of the fact and fiction surrounding the traditional heroes of the ancient kingdom of Melakka, circa 1400 A.D:
" ... some say Hang Kasturi is only real person and true blue Melakkan and not some Hang-clone-drone of the Ming Dynasty sent to hegemonize the region; some say the entire history of Melakka is a plausible fiction overblown for some vainglorious reasons; some say Melakka was nothing great except that Tun Sri Lanang the well-paid court writer made it too-great to be true; some say Melakka was just a small coastal town as big as my village in Sin City J.B.; we don't know: but the Malay Annals as a work of epic-historical-pulp fiction worked well as a literary propaganda tool up till today; but then again, who knows?; the winners write history, the losers study anthropology and write poetry; this entails the entire history of the Malay kingdom is suspect; one needs to read deconstructionism to test this theory; I don't know; but a good question you have asked; Kasturi is a Sanskrit word; Tuah, Jebat, Lekir, Lekiu sounded Bangladeshi and Vietnamese combined, and so Kasturi might be the real hero of them all. Or-- if we follow the theory of karmic cycles, Kasturi might be a reincarnation of all the four guys; Kasturi was a hero whose epic story started off with him hanging upside down, like a Melakka lemon, from a durian tree in Durian Tunggal. … “

On writing about memories 

To say that we are going back to the past and revisiting it;
that we are to journey into the world of yesteryears of the days of our life,
that we are to open again the doors to the dungeons
leading to the artifacts of the things we have kept only to ourselves,
to open the box of letters unopened and therefore unanswered,
to mount the white horse of our well-garnished glory
and to ride into the horizon of our childhood to confront the ghosts inside of us
demons Fate has bestowed upon us --
to say all these is to express meaningless utterance.
We are here -- past and present;
a wasteland of uncharted territories
of the child of wonder,
the old man and the sea,
and the weary and the mundane soul
pounded by the infinitesimality
of life's own doing.
We are it-- the amalgamation of fear and hope.
We are it. We are: the child, the being-in-this world,
the deteriorant, the decayed, the diseased, of death inevitable, of decomposition next
in the seasons of our lives.
--- A cycle of memories trying to forget and forgive each other
a speck of dust
we are, not yet --
in the wasteland of this canvas
of the colors of remembering

Of grandma’s gangsta chicken curry 

Circa 2005 it was. In a class of almost 100% American kids of the suburbia, of jersey shore, and the sopranos, and bon jovi - type and tatoo-displaying masculania... i shared this story of anatomy and chemistry and complexity of globalization of the american "chicken-run" global industry ...
told them that their life is cool and easy when it comes to eating Colonel Saunder's KFC ... all chickens are powered by batteries and of the same size and made to taste delicious with that perfect recipe of uniformity with the elements of calculability, profitability, and the aura of glorified global economy framing the lives of chickens globally ...
I grew up, borrowing a gangsta rapper’s high-school da’ Bronx lingo, “jumping chickens” (as in yo’ Jamaal I got jumped after school yo’ I was going to my crib’ in my hood’ in East Philly and they Jackie Chan’ed me yo’ … unlike that jump entirely) like a hunter and gatherer in a kampong that still had snakes like anacondas and tigers roaming like the "open zoo" down south in Singapore city...
i told them this in rhymes that is :
- grandpa told us boys to go after those chickens; we're going to have gangsta curry
so me and my bro and cousin and all; would get our gears ready;; this means changing from our sarong to a standard hot pants for males only  ...
and so we roam around the house that has no electricity; for thomas alva edison was still had 999 invention to go before he found out he had misplaced his batteries; and skinny-Gandhi-looking grandpa, like a godfather of chicken industry commanded us to hunt down that one chicken ripe for the that gangsta curry; and we run around the house and saw one that looked one from the movie Chicken Run fearful-looking of a bipolar pedigree
we strategized the arrest for a good many hours, till the sun and the moon from each other they broke free; the next day the mighty chicken was found finally; we all … brothers and cousins  jumped on it happily; and held it by the neck and the body as it struggled pleading amnesty ..

no mercy .. no mercy  ... said we …
(we think jazz; we drink gin; we play hooky; we groovy)
blesse grandpa, bless his soul  ...' i am sure he is smiling reading these gleefully..
and grandpa had his butcher's knife; me and my bros and my cousins aplenty held the chicken by the neck and prayed together in perfect harmony ... Ebony and Ivory  as the McCartney-Stevie Wonder tune of the Awesome 80s now playing in me …
“ we all know .. that chickens are the same wherever you go … there is good and bad  ... in every chook … learn to eat grandma’s gangsta chicken curry … la la la … what we do to survive … together we cry “
as grandpa uttered the golden words before the feast of this gangsta chicken curry ..
"O' God ... Merciful and Most Compassionate One ... bless thouest this chicken that will be today’s gift for my family ... and unto Thee shall this chicken too return ... as all of us shall return .. from then till eternity … " and the drama of the chicken dance was laid out already
and with that little mantra of Islamic spiritual ideology ... the sharpest part of the knife went straight across the jugular vein … a practice perhaps borrow from the Jewish rabbis who slaughtered goats with precision and humility …  downwards once ... upwards once get the poor soul’s great vein .... … go for the jugular as some American comedian down in New York city would say … and maybe one more time if resistance is  not yet futile as grandpa agreed; and we're done our job as tradition decreed ... as blood spurted and spouted and sprinkled out of the neck onto the ground that will too receive the body ... from dust to dust from ashes to ashes, from Earth we cometh unto Earth we shall return … interstellar beings we might be though unlike those conceived in the religion of Scientology … do not go gently into the night O’ Chicken and executioner and all … do not take the road not taken, for it will not make any difference … Mother Earth Mother Ganges … Father Sun O’ Jupiter .. O’ Deus Pater … O’ Mi To Fu , Ohm Ohm Ohm , from Nothingness that becometh a chicken back to Nothingness we do not know what its karma will be … many paths to truth, many doors to salvation … but this is a chicken right down there in the food chain … of the Man appearing in the eleventh hour of Creation to own and to administer whilst the chicken struggled in vain … ahhh .. grandma’s gangsta chicken curry we wait patiently
ahha .. we then threw the chicken onto the ground ... it did a bit of a dance move wobblingly like a bad groove of a James Brown move ... not like Ginger’s in that movie Chicken Run … as me and my bros and my cuz’ did all at once, and that poor chicken did like a funky chicken dance that might be ... play that funky music right on’ as the Black Panthers of the sixties would sing
and grandma was ready with big earthenware-pot of boiling water so that the chicken can then be ready to be stripped naked, feathers and all gone forever ...
and we would all... brothers and cousins sit around stripping those feathers ... while grandma would prepare the grounded spies for that gangsta curry better than anywhere served in a Malaysian  restaurant in Greenwich Village, NYC  ...
and when the chicken's ready ... and the gangsta curry's all served over white rice and we sat and ate quietly on the floor as if listening attentively to an interesting folklore ... as we prepare for the hours next, of playing football barefoot in the fields of grass and dandelions aplenty ... kicking the rubber ball barefoot imaging ourselves that famous Brazilian "Pele" …
Of Blackie’s death 

Way, way, way before there was this  Malaysian public square event to encourage people touch dogs" my grandfather had "Blackie" guarding our kampong house in Johor. Blackie, true to his name, was a black dog and not of any color, including white. Back in the day of the early 60s, the village was brand new and there were only a few houses. Grandpa "relocated" us from the fishing village of Stulang Laut near where the Johor causeway is now.

The new Malay village had tigers roaming. Yes, tigers! I did not recall any campaign to "touch a tiger" or "kiss a frog' by the then Prime Minster, Tunku Abdul Rahman. He was one happy man with his race horses; a first prime minister of Malaysia who drank and prayed as a Muslim and happy about it; his philosophy being: water and oil will not mix. 

Now—back to Blackie’s story.

I remember Blackie the faithful black dog who acted both like a border patrol and a national security dog against undesirable elements that will threaten our kampong house and us. All kinds of snake would come into the house and one day while I was bathing with a red plastic hand-held water container, when I was a little teeny weeny boy, a cobra crawled into the bathroom through an opening by the side of the huge dirty brown earthenware pot the size of a half Saudi oil barrel; it peeked its head into the opening and when it saw me gasped, I think, it went away- while I was bathing. I must have had magical powers to still be alive. I came back one day as I recall my grandfather was in the bathroom screaming and next I heard him shout to my grandmother to bring him a kettle of hot water he poured onto the black slithering reptile that again quickly went away. That must have been the cobra that had a battle with Blackie; that could have been the cobra’s wife or elder son or daughter or a distant cousin that went to combat with our faithful dog; that could have been the one that killed Blackie.  Hunger games of the slithering society. Mortal combat of the animal kingdom. 

Blackie was there maybe outside the bathroom when I was gasping and naked obviously and perhaps hiding behind the huge pot like the one you see in the New York Botanical Gardens, gripping that read plastic water container and perhaps cheap soap lather all over my body; soap, smelling of Jasmine or rose, my mother usually buy at a discount in that store in Singapore, across the causeway; and Blackie was there though I did not remember him helping me out that day. And Blackie our dog died after battling some wild animal, perhaps. I suspect it was a snake, as big as an anaconda of the Brazilian samba as I would have imagined when I was five or six; and I am sure like a Viking Black version of Lassie from the Black and White TV series of the shamed-Yankee-in-post-Vietnam seventies, Blackie fought it well and lost. Such a heroic struggle of Absurd Drama proportion.

We all woke up one day and saw him motionless inside the small monsoon drain right in front of our house. The morning was gloom; like the day’s weather that would perhaps not see the sun shine and happy as the last stanza of Wordsworths’ poem on wandering a cloud where he said: “ … My heart with pleasure  fills/And I dances with the daffodils” There were no daffodils in fact; just a monsoon drain and patches of tall grass partly covering the drain where Blackie lie; his eyes closed.
Grandpa sobbed, grandma sobbed; I sobbed too. We were very touched by Blackie's death. I call him a family martyr and I could still remember the day I cried while taking poor Blackie out of the drain, using a piece of wooden plank, to be buried with all the rights and honor of a fallen hero that died in the line of village duty. Honorable Blackie. And, like all dogs that went to heaven, like the 1001 Dalmatians, Blackie was the 102nd.

I become so emotional and touched every time I hear the word "Blackie" or derivatives of "Black". I was touched by the songs of the Singapore pop group Black Dog Bone, and Led Zeppelin's classic "Black Dog" and soundtrack from the movie Dog Day Afternoon in which there is a scene where Al Pacino’s boyfriend and lover wanted to fly out of the country to seek asylum, after robbing a bank to get a sex change surgery: in a place he blurted “Wyoming!” 

May you rest in peace, Blackie. As they say, all dogs go to heaven. But I hope Blackie will not be neighbors with those scriptural 72 hourries or virgins or “white raisins” as the correct Aramaic interpretation of a reward for jihadists should mean. Blackie is too good a soul for that.

So, reading about the Islamic campaign of "I want to touch a dog' bored me to (Blackie's) death. I was already touched by Blackie -- touch by his loyalty and the sacrifice he made to keep or family safe in a village where tigers roam and all kinds of Malay ghosts roam our neighbours.
Of an Alien invasion in my school

The country where I grew up in was given independence by her British colonial master, somewhat on a silver platter; a prince from the Malay royal court of the Northern state of Kedah became her first Prime Minister. It was on August 31, 1957 that shouts of “Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka! or Free at Last! Free at last Last! Free at Last! (Today it will be chanted O’ merde! O’ merde! O’ merde’, if you may excuse my French, as corruption murders the nation) were heard in the National Stadium; suddenly the country was free; I do not know what that means even today. Singapore, the island and city where I was born was then part of Malaysia and when there we a large population of ethnic Chinese, originally brought in as indentured serfs to work in the tin mines.

When I was a child in primary /elementary school back the mid-1970s, there was an alien invasion in my elementary school, Sekolah Temmengong Abdul Rahman, Johor Bahru. A spaceship landed, my friends said. It was a UFO, they said too; little people in strange suits the ones you see in the popular cartoon series from the Singaporean television running around shooting our legs and leaving red ant-bites all over, scaring the shit out of us kids. Yes, nobody saw what these unfriendly visitors look like but we all agree, based on images we saw on TV that they are invaders. Scary but exciting; this added to the excitement of the days at school

And so, that day sometime in the year 1969 or 70; circa the Apollo moon landing, during recess, hundreds of kids ran around the soccer field screaming as if they were hearing the last 10 minutes of the broadcast of Orson Welles' The War of the Worlds'. There was total chaos. Each little scream added up to become a symphony of a cacophony of some alien invasion mystery.
Kids were knocking each other; we were running as if we were out of gas; I am now thinking of Jackson Brown’s song “Running on Empty,” The scene of chaos was like the street where those rhinocerouses ran wild in Eugene Ionesco’s play “Rhinocerous”

I recall falling on my face as I jumped across the huge monsoon drain that separates the field from a building leading to the classrooms. I tried to run away from being attacked and taken into the spaceship, into a world of weightlessness in which teh tarik becomes teh terbang.

I almost fell into the drain and was helped by my best buddy, Fook Shiang, a bespectacled chap who would roam around with me even into the Chinese graveyard on the north side of the school. I was curious about what a Chinese ghost looked like, having been quite well-versed in how Malay ghosts are presented.

Years later I discovered that ghosts, supernatural beings, and aliens are actually big business in Corporate America. Halloween is a great celebration of spiritual awakening – wherein America danced it to the tune of Michael Jackson's 'Thriller'.

In the case of the Johor sighting, kids were talking about seeing a spaceship landing in the middle of the field and about children being shot with laser guns that left them with red spots, just like those you get when bitten by red ants.

The invasion and the attack by the aliens on the kingdom of Johor did not stop in the school field. Two of my classmates saw battalions of little creatures (actually not seen by the naked eyes), the size of red ants, marching across the classroom as we were ready to resume class. Some claimed to have been shot in the legs and thighs.

In broad daylight we were attacked - in an age when TV was still black and white. That was almost 10 years after Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, in a race with the Soviets. That was the beginning of technological fantasy - that we will one day colonize space when we have devastated the Earth enough.

The incident at my school, which I heard was reported by Utusan Melayu, happened almost 50 years before we sent our first space tourist/cosmonaut/space participant aboard the Russian rocket. A giant step for Malaysian but a small step in our understanding of spaces of knowledge and power. Here's why.

Outer space, inner spaces

We go in and out of spaces and create these as well. We let the entire nation become mesmerized by our ability to launch a man into space. This could be good education for our kids, so that they may get hooked on rocket science.

But science ought to also teach us how to think rationally, promote free inquiry, cultivate academic freedom, address economic disparities, solve our educational problems, haul corrupt leaders to justice easily, how to recognize the rise of totalitarianism, solve the issue of our dispossessed and violent youth, and most of all decolonize our minds and let us live a life free from being colonized by the spaces of knowledge and power.

Science ought to be democratized to teach citizens to live in republic that is founded upon scientific socialism and transcultural ethics. But we are still colonized.

We let aliens colonize our living rooms; through TV programmes we allow Hollywood to dictate how we should invent our reality. We saw the 1961 Apollo blast-off and thought that only when we have sent a native to the moon would we be recognized as an advanced nation.

We are misled by the notion of technological advancement. We have not learned what science for social purposes means and we have not delved into the philosophy of science for the advancement of the Third World nation.

We saw Pakistan triumphant in testing its nuclear bomb near Kashmir on May 28, 1998 through the achievement of Nobel Laureate in Physics Abdus Salam, and we thought that an Islamic nation had progressed.

Little did we know how Pakistan has evolved as evident in the rule of General Pervez Musharraf. The nation's Nobel Prize-winning scientific achievement has its contradiction. There is so much disparity in the national-cognitive evolution of Pakistan.

We must get Malaysia to come down to earth and look at the reality of empty spaces and the spaces in knowledge and power that we have created over the last 50 years.

At present we are looking at Outer Space as escapism and a national fascination and alteration of consciousness - so that we may be made to forget the harshness of the daily lives of the people. We create newer grounds for play and fantasy.

Now for example, the Johor Kingdom is heading towards another fantasy world - the Disney Project. It will become Johor Darul Disney and Sekolah Temmengong Abdul Rahman will become the Malaysian office of the American project called Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence.

Critical thinking is all the more needed to equip the next generation to 'come down' from space and through science and technology, build a socially meaningful paradigm of economic development that benefits all races so that to evolve into a nation that prides on bridging the gap between the filthy rich and the abject poor.

Who benefits?

The world around us and inside of us continues to become more complex. We continue to be given bread and circuses. We continue to be mesmerized by inventions, institutions, and installations that are slowly killing our critical sensibility and eroding our ability to analyze realities that have been invented by those in power.

We have been turned into alienated beings amused to death with things we do not need. Our economy has been transformed beyond our control - and we think that this is the only way to 'progress'.

We think 'progress' is linear, following what Walt Rostow suggests in his book 'The Stages of Growth'. The 1960s brought us the hippy movement and the World Bank formula, a precursor of the Reaganomics ethos of the 'magic of the marketplace'.

We were trapped into believing that modernization means liberation. Now that we are in the post-modern era, we cannot turn back unless we revolt against the rule of instrumental totalitarianism. It has to be a revolution of the mind and a reconstruction of our consciousness.

With those many little 'super corridors' being installed in major states, what will 'human development' mean to us? Where is the concept of 'development - of the people, by the people, and for the people'?

Let us come back to Earth and be grounded in the social reality of things.

Of Malay girls and mass hysteria in Pahang

And then there was this story of hysteria again; if there were kids screaming during the alien invasion in my school, there were also slightly bigger kids screaming in yet another school. This time it was girls screaming; there was a “mass hysteria” when I was in high that was psychologically designed as a hybrid of an ashram and a kibbutz, with a tinge of Americanism. It was then in the n the mid-70s, many girls were "possessed by demons" for a good two weeks as I recall... It started off with an American-Idol type of singing competition that night. 

The school had to call a famous bomoh from Pahang. The ustazs (Islamic Studies teacher) called him. He used chicken feathers to ask the evil spirits to get the hell out of the girl’s bodies. The ghosts were busted. The girls were cured of the strange illness. But a parent trained in modern psychology spoke up at a meeting upset that the bomohs were called in. She said that it was purely psychological and the demons possessed can be explained by Freudian theories of repression, the Electra and oedipal complex and that the girls were not possessed by were actually emotionally repressed perhaps because of girl-boy love.
I was fascinated by the debate between Tok-Bomoh-ism and Pop-Freudism. I started reading Freudian theories after my exams. Till now I don't know whether it was the bomoh with the chicken feathers dancing around with mantras that healed the girls and the evil spirits had repented or because of the ghost of Freud that released them and spoke to the girl's libido telling them that love is not real. 

If I had the chance today, I'd request for in-depth psycho-anthropological interviews with the girls (now grandmothers with Coach bags) and ask them what actually did they "see" in their heads. 

I don't know ... but that was an interesting debate I was closely listening to, and could still enjoy movies such as The Exorcist and Ghostbusters. 

Of watching men turning into horses

I grew up roaming around the Malay village exploring a world rich in cultural tradition, immersed in the sight, sound, and sensibilities of many worlds of tradition. One vivid memory was watching for hours till late midnight the Malay dance of trance called the "Kuda Kepang"; a mystically-inspired dance form of the Hindu-Buddhist tradition brought to Johor. I remembered being mesmerized by the dance form and psyched up and stoned by the trance music as well as the incense-smelling smoke that filled the air. The dancers, mostly male started the dance conscious and ended up sub-conscious, being possessed by the spirit of horses. Hence it was called "tarian kuda kepang" At the end of the dance, a few of them went really haywire and started to ram into the audience. The guru (chief trance-inducer) of the dance appeased the dancers by feeding the, with petals of different flowers. They devoured the petals like hungry horses.

In the Malay kampong where I grew up, there were enclaves of Javanese, Bugis, Bawean, and those of Indonesian origin. The kampong as I clearly remembered had houses that were far away from each other and I was told that there were also tigers roaming. It was a newly established Malay village; perhaps whose origin is as old as the days of British Malaya.

The place where I was born, Singapore was an exciting "other world" where in my later growing up years became another place of exploration of modernity

Of hanging out in “tuck” shops” 

When I was a child, the word "tuck" is supreme: your mom tucked in your shirt before going to school, Brylcreem is tucked to your hair, you eat at the school "tuck shop", you tuck a Malaysian hard candy bar in your waist, your mom tucked you to sleep in your sarong pelikat ... when you grow older you start watching movies of American gangsters with guns tucked in their pants robbing their tuck-shops while Third World countries are tucked to either the Western or the Eastern block.

Of a scouting childhood in Johor Bahru 

Late one night while googling songs from the forties I found this song “The Happy Wanderer,” that goes: 

I love to go a-wandering,
Along the mountain track,
And as I go, I love to sing,
My knapsack on my back.
My knapsack on my back.
I love to wander by the stream
That dances in the sun,
So joyously it calls to me,
"Come! Join my happy song!"
I wave my hat to all I meet,
And they wave back to me,
And blackbirds call so loud and sweet
From ev'ry green wood tree.
High overhead, the skylarks wing,
They never rest at home
But just like me, they love to sing,
As o'er the world we roam.
Oh, may I go a-wandering
Until the day I die!
Oh, may I always laugh and sing,
Beneath God's clear blue sky!

My Boy Scout song; from the late 60s. Remembered a painful walk from my school, Sekolah Temenggong Abdul Rahman in Jalan Abdul Rahman Andak with other kids. We walked along Jalan Sultan Ismail and I had forgotten which other road we took before ending up at a huge water pipe (that send clean Johor water to Singapore.) We almost died of exhaustion. I remember feeling as if my whole body was about to disappear from my soul; like a Gandhi on a hunger strike but for a scouting reason. We ate bread and sardine (cap Ayam/Chicken brand) and were rejuvenated. Felt like karma all over. "Scout curi ayam," was a popular phrase used against us; meaning "boy scouts steal chickens,". But happy wanderers we were. And Johor Bahru was "the city as educator. " Much safer than today.  

Of a conclusion—somewhat:

this child in me
there is this child in me
that is alive and well
roaming around the village
the neighbourhood
the city
the principalities
the world
alternate worlds
of other-than real- worlds
of the world of possibilities
in which each child of the other
has no color
no race
no religion
no hate
just a smile
or maybe a look of curiosity
of what our play would be
in our togetherness
beyond the screams and yells of those adults
given the voice to speak to many yet speak of building tallest towers, promising the most emptiness, scheming the best so that each race will fight the bloodiest, and triumph with the most money acquired out of the best way to steal for the poorest rest--
there is this child in me
whose dear friend
is the language he is most at ease with
like an alice in wonderland
a world of being
and becoming
of perfection
and contradictions
and wild imaginations
as thoughts race up and down the heavens
as the mind refuses
to bow down to neon gods
or man-made gods who called themselves
kings who rob others poor every time the world blinks
a child is the father of man as a sage once said
close to Nature as
close as to oneself as the vein they called 'jugular'
there is this child in me
that will live till the end of eternity
unless the adult running the country
slaughter him for trying to roam free
like abraham's sacrifice
in that moment of confusion in history
-- ar
# And at the end of this prelude to a child’s story I hereby present you readers a photo of me:

Lecture: Edward Said


Lecture: Noam Chomsky


Lecture: Jacques Derrida


Lecture: Jean Paul Sartre


Movie: 1984


Movie: Animal Farm


Movie: Chicken Run


Poems: Rumi


Dialogue on Religion: Karen Armstrong


Dailogue on Religion: Huston Smith


















The Bhagavad Gita


Jesus of Nazareth


Siddharta Gautama


Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh)