Tuesday 27 December 2011

As Time Flew By

AsH will be closing shop for a week to spend a good end-of -2011 holiday with the Rainbow Band.

We have all been ravaged by time but the heart and spirit is still strong and sweet.    The old days and the present have been well woven into a mellow and mad tapestry.

It's now time for a laugh and a cry.

I hope you lot are prepared to look after Darby and Joan.  We usually have tea in bed in the morning, a kip in the afternoon - so you had better be quiet after lunch.  Do remember our bedtime is at 10 and a mug of  Milo is a must.

And for everyone else have a happy break and may you  enjoy your cups of  Milo for every night in 2012.

Saturday 24 December 2011

The Pot and the Kettle

Remember this bit of news in November 2008 when Malaysia banned Muslims from practising yoga?  Even the venerable Telegraph recorded the news.  Another stick to beat the Muslims with!

Read  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/malaysia/3509070/Malaysia-bans-Muslims-from-practicing-yoga.html

"The edict reflects the growing influence of conservative Islam in Malaysia, a multi-ethnic country of 27 million people."

According to the director of the Sivananda Ashram in Delhi, "chanting during yoga is to calm the mind and elevate our consciousness".

Well, on 25th November 2011 Father Gabriel Amorth, ..............

.................... the Vatican's Chief Exorcist (appointed by the late Pope John Paul II)  declared that 'Practising yoga brings evil as does reading Harry Potter.  They ......both deal with magic.

Yoga is the Devil's work.  You think you are doing it for stretching your mind and body but it leads to Hinduism.'

Vanda Vanni of the Italian Yoga Association  said, 'Yoga ia not a religion.  It is about freedom and a search to find one's inner self.'

'Giorgio Furian who runs the Yoga  Academy in Rome said:  There are some paths of yoga which do lead towards Hinduism but other paths are more philosophical but there is no direct link with religion and certainly no link with Satanism'

Read http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2066289/Yoga-work-devil-says-Vaticans-chief-exorcist-doesnt-like-Harry-Potter-either.html

Any sign of outrage from the liberals in our part of the world?

When I was in secondary school at Crescent Girls' School there was a lass whose English was superb and we were all in her shadow.  We were told this was because she was an avid reader of the Bible.  Well, for most of us fed on a diet of Beano and Dandy and Enid Blyton in our primary school years and romance writers like Denise Robins and Hermione Black and Georgette Heyer ( she's more pukka than the first two)  during secondary school, we hadn't a hope in hell of catching up with our Bible-reading classmate.  However I must confess I love Zane Grey's  'cowboy' books, but they cannot match the prowess of the Bible.

So I was astonished when on 26th November 2011 it was reported that 'The Prime Minister will send every school in Britain a copy of the King James Bible - complete with a foreword by the Education Secretary Michael Gove'

Mr  Gove .....
....... said the Bible was 'the most important book written in the English language'  and will be distributed to over 20,000 schools to mark the 400th anniversary of its translation.  A spokewoman from the Department of Education had this to say.  'We want all pupils to be able to access and understand the great literary and historical image of our nation...... It will help pupils - of any faith or none - understand and take pride in the history and culture of this country.'

What happened to William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens and Jane Austen and D.H. Lawrence and ......Enid Blyton (please!) ?

Here we are in Malaysia , taunted and accused of being an Islamist state.  We have Maznah Mohamad writing in the Guardian on 21 September 2006 ...

...... pondering if Malaysia is an Islamic state,  of  'efforts to islamicise the state'.   This topic is a hot issue both at home and abroad.

Yet, here's Britain, the mother of all secular states,  touting and giving away to children a free copy of the Christian Bible.  I wonder, can you still get Gideon's Bible in the hotels in Britain?

On this note I'd like to recall an incident some years ago.  At the Multiple Sclerosis Charity Shop at Evington Road Leicester I watched this Muslim lady volunteer worker (in fact she was the manager) picking up Bibles, big and small. from the boxes on the floor and placing them on the top shelf.  She turned to me and said, "This is a holy book and should be respected like the Quran."

Then a lady (native Brit) came in and blithely asked , "Can I take these bibles to my church?  After all they will never sell!'  And she was rewarded for her gumption and left with a stack of Bibles for free.

And go to most Charity shops, you can find plenty of secondhand Bibles for sale!   Or you could a few years ago.     Perhaps they have a system, like they have for old spectacles, of sending them to the poor coloured countries.

Sunday 18 December 2011

An Exercise

He has been described as an English author, poet, playwright, composer, linguist, translator, literary critic, librettist, broadcaster, autobiographer, reviewer, a sometime sergeant-major, a school teacher and Manchester's finest author.

It was said he spoke fluently in 8 languages - Malay, Russian, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Welsh and English  and some Hebrew, Japanese, Chinese, Swedish and Persian.

Just because he was a teacher in MCKK (Malay College Kuala Kangsar) and Kota Bharu Teachers' Training College from 1954 to 1957 and he wrote the 'Malayan Trilogy' after his 3 years sojourn in the Peninsula, he has been accorded quite a celebrity status by our literati class.

From 1958 to 1959 he was teaching in SOAS  (Sultan Omar Ali Saifudin) College - a very brief stint - because he 'collapsed' in his classroom and was sent home to England supposedly diagnosed with a brain tumour.  But he carried on living and writing for another 34 years and when he died he left behind quite a handsome property portfolio - a villa in Provence, in Callian of the Var, France and an apartment off Baker Street, London and some other locations.

When I was teaching in Brunei, I met an elderly English Language lecturer who worked with him when he was in Brunei.  She said the collapse in SOAS College was a ruse so that he could escape teaching on medical grounds, without losing his perks.  I checked on this.  In the late 1980s  he admitted that it was a "a willed collapse out of sheer boredom and frustration".

This 'contrarian' was John Burgess Wilson ( 1917-1993) otherwise known as Anthony Burgess, an illustrious son of English literature and culture.  In some circles he's regarded as a  20th century version of Byron.

I had heard of AB but I must admit I'm not too fond of fiction.  When I was doing my Masters in Leicester, I came across this article by AB,  "From Kampong to Computer" in the Sunday Observer of April 1984.  As part of my coursework I had to prepare a Comprehension Exercise for EL2 students and this was what I did.

My passage for the exercise was AB's article in the Sunday Observer.  Here is an extract from that article.

As the reproduction is not too clear - the script is after all 27 years old - I thought it would be best if I type it out.

The Malay for Malaysia,  Tanah Melayu, means 'Malay Land'.  It is Eurasian,  Sikh and Chinese land as well, and you can add to the deeds of proprietorship other, smaller races, including Buginese
and such aboriginals as the Temiars and Negritos.  But the Malays call themselves the  bumiputra or sons of the soil, and they call their language the bahasa negara or national tongue.  Malaysia is confirmed as the country of the Malays, and this is causing trouble among other Malaysians.

I served in Malaysia (which the British then called Malaya) in the 1950s, when what had been a British protectorate was moving towards independence.  I went back two years ago to make a television film.  I noted changes, and these had much to do with the new assertiveness of the Malays.  But the physical impact of that lovely country remained much what it had always been - hot, humid, green, jungly, fruity, snaky, the yodelling of the bilal on his minaret, punctuating loud pentatonic Chinese song on the radio, the ringing of the trishaw bells, the hawking and spitting of the long fasting day of Ramadan, the cry of the fever bird.

In the days of Somerset Maugham, Malaya relaxed in the warmth of a May afternoon that seemed likely to last forever.  It was wealthy then as it is now.  Rubber had been taken from Brazil to Kew Gardens, and from Kew Gardens to the state of Perak, where it flourished and bled endless latex to be processed into tyres and contraceptives.  In that same state of Perak (which means silver), tin proved more abundant than the costlier metal.  Tamil immigrants worked on the rubber plantations; the Chinese came to mine the tin.  Both industries supported a commercial structure which fed cultural transplantations from India and China.

The Malays had nothing to do with either industry or commerce: they stayed in their kampongs, growing rice, catching fish, training beroks or rhesus monkeys to hurl down coconuts.  The British took care of secular government for all the races.  The Malays, whom Arab traders had converted to Islam, gave sultans and rajas to oversee the administration of Muslim law.  Islam and British paternalism supported each other in a bizarre compromise which worked.

I divided my exercise into four parts.  Section A dealt with  "How are you going to read?",  Section B with "Language Work".  Section C looked at "Using and Deriving Information from the Passage",  and Section D with "Making Judgements about the Passage".

This Comprehension  exercise was meant for EL2 advanced learners at Sixth Form, University and Teachers' Training Colleges.  I stated in the Teacher's Notes that the purpose of the Exercise is to "develop critical reading skills ..... so that the student will be able to evaluate and make critical substantiated judgement about the quality, value, accuracy and truthfulness of what they read".

In Section B, I  inserted a part on 'The Use of  Words'.

A question  in Section C served to illustrate the relationship between statistics and statements and its interpretation.

The question :

3.  Look at the table below which shows the composition of the people living in Malaya.
     a.  What are the main races in Malaya according to (1) the writer's interpretations and  (2) the statistics?

For Section D, 'Evaluation'  I stated in the Teacher's Notes :  "This section deals with an analysis of the passage beyond the syntactical and semantical stage of comprehension, an aspect of reading which has not been given sufficient attention at the ESL (English as a Second Language) level.  The paralinguistic elements of any language that is used as a medium or object of instruction has to be included within the scope of reading, a level of reading  'between and beyond the lines' ........ to help the student to evaluate and understand the writer's intent, however noble or ignoble."

                                                      SECTION  D - EVALUATION
Making judgements about the passage.

Part I.  Recognising the difference between a  FACT and an OPINION.

A FACT reports what has happened or exists.  Its truth can be tested or verified.  Example : Tottenham Hotspurs beat Liverpool City 5-0.
An OPINION does not aim to report but to classify and persuade.  It expresses a feeling of approval or disapproval.  Whether the opinion is true or false cannot be demonstrated.  Example: John drinks too much.

Which of these statements are facts and which ones are opinions?  Write next to the sentence F for facts and O for opinions.

Paragraph 1
1. The Malay for Malaysia,  'Tanah Melayu' means Malay land.
2. Malaysia is confirmed as the country of the Malays and this is causing trouble among other Malaysians

Paragraph 2
3. I served in Malaysia in the 1950s.
4. I noted changes and these had much to do with the new assertiveness of the Malays.

Paragraph 3
5. In the days of Somerset Maugham, Malaya relaxed in the warmth of a May afternoon that seemed likely to last forever.
6. Rubber had been taken from Brazil to Kew Gardens and from Kew Gardens to the state of Perak.

Paragraph 4
7. The Malays had nothing to do with industry or commerce: they ........monkeys to hurl down coconuts.
8. Islam and British paternalism supported each other in a bizarre compromise, which worked.

Part II.  There are several ways by which a writer can give a slanted account of his subject.

1. By using emotionally-laden words, e.g. Yesterday, four brave and courageous policemen braved gunfire to capture the ruthless gangsters.  CLUE: look for the adjectives.
2. Implication by association so as to give his statement authority. e.g. A politician who never talks about his war experiences but makes certain that he tells stories about them to his audience.
3, By generalistion, e.g. To commit murder is wrong under all circumstances. CLUE: Ask yourself the question, "What is the evidence?"

Write down an example for each style of slanted writing from the passage.

1. Emotionally-laden words

2. By association

3. Generalisation

Part III.  You are a Malaysian Malay student. Write a letter to the author explaining why you disagree with some of his views.

Part IV.  You are a TV film producer and you want to make a short film about Malaysia with the intention of promoting tourism in the country.  Write brief notes about the scenes you would like to show after reading this passage.


1. As to the part about making 'critical substantiated judgement about the quality, value, accuracy and truthfulness of what they read',  Brian Harrison - my lecturer - commented,  "a tall order".  I disagreed with him then.  But 27 years later, looking at the unquestioning imbibement and imitation of material from the print, electronic and celluloid world I have to admit Brian was right.

2. We are very proud that literacy rates have improved tremendously.  Today, more people can write and read, not like some of our parents (like my mother) and especially our grandparents.  We claim that many of our youngsters are bilingual and trilingual.  But how many of them are capable of reading between and beyond the lines?  How many of our schoolkids are actually just 'barking at print' and getting more and more  mesmerised by electronic communication?

3. Anthony Burgess was described as " a man who loves and knows language so well he can twist and reinvent it to his own purposes."  There are now many wordsmiths like him - both local and foreign.

I shall end with AB's words:  It is one thing to use language; it is quite another to understand how it works.

Monday 5 December 2011

South of the Border

This will be our first  'overseas'  trip in nine months since we got back to KL.  It will be a well-deserved little holiday and would enable a  test drive of  the cobalt-titanium hip.

Come Wednesday we shall cross this strip of water at Selat Tebrau.....

..... to get to the island Republic of Singapore.
Oh dear this 1963 map is outdated because Singapore has grown to this.
Singapore circa 2010
Note the expansion especially in the south-west corner.

The Rainbow Gang ..... sans Irene.

.......  will treat us like royalty - I hope?

As usual Jai will put us up - or - have to put up with us.

We shall be feasting on mee rebus, rojak mamak, lontong, air batu kacang, cendol, murtabak from Arab Street cooked as only Singapore's hawkers can!

We hope to meet up with Canary aka Irene at Ruqxana's Saturday lunch date.  The last time we saw Irene was when she did this little art work on my name.  We miss you, you mad artist!

Getting about in Singapore will be easy.  Other than the buses and the MRT,  Singapore's taxis are especially reliable and efficient.  They will  - unlike KL taxis -take you in whether your journey is for 1km or 20kms!!!!

But we are spoilt for choice where transport is concerned.  We can pick up Jai's top-notch VW

or Ruqxana's grand old lady coffee percolator.

We hope to be back by Sunday - sated, satiated and satisfied.

Friday 2 December 2011

The Great and The Small

I've been caught up doing a room clearance - checking out dusty boxes and files - and found an article on the Great Mosque of Paris,  the first mosque to be built in Paris in 1926.
It's the largest mosque in France and the third largest in Europe.

However this ranking pales in comparison to its other credentials.

The Mosque was built to honour the soldiers from the French Arab Community (meaning those countries colonised by the French)  that perished in the First World War - sometimes called The Great War or what I prefer to term as the 'First European Tribal War" that engulfed the rest of the world.  Many of them died in the Battle of Verdun (in France) in what was considered the 'greatest and the lengthiest (battle) in world history'.  The battle covered less than 10 square kilometres and stretched for 10 months from February to December 1916.  Over 700,000 died, or were wounded or  missing in action.
The dead at Verdun
The Mosque also played a very significant role during the Second European Tribal War.  I wish some renowned Hollywood director like Spielberg would note this.  The Mosque provided shelter and safe passage and even fake Muslim birth certificates for Jewish children.  (Are you listening Netanyahu?)  It became a secret haven for those on the run from the Nazis.

And recently, Sarkozy, the French President of Jewish descent banned the right of Muslim women to don the burqa and the Hijab.  Sacre bleu!!

Sometime in the 1980s or 1990s (?) I attended a Conference on the Muslim Parliament of Britain in London.  I heard mention that London's Regent's Park Mosque .......
was built on land donated by King George VI in 1944  in exchange for a site in Central Cairo on which to build an Anglican Cathedral ( All Saints Cathedral).

 You see, 'there's no such thing as a free lunch'!  The British establishment regarded this as a tribute to the Muslim soldiers who died defending the Empire during the Second European Tribal War!

By the way what did we get in exchange for all the Cathedrals they constructed in Singapore and Malaya?

But there are also the little mosques - little havens of faith and peace.  I took this photograph .........
........in Penang last year, of a little mosque hemmed-in between two high buildings.  I regret I did not note the name of the mosque or  the street name.
This image is almost symbolic of the fate of  Malay-Muslims in DAP's Penang.

Two years ago, I went on a nostalgic trip to my old haunts in Singapore and was delighted to discover that this mosque, Masjid Hussein Sulaiman, had survived the onslaught of progress and development.
During my teen years I used to cycle to the Post Office........
.......... which was just next door to the Mosque - to buy stamps and to post letters for the family.  I would take this opportunity to cycle right to the end of Pasir Panjang Road - just for the fun of going at 'high speed' on top gear  on my trusty Rudge.  There was hardly any traffic and it was flat terrain all the way.  Wheeee!!!

As for this precious book written by Hadijah Rahmat ......
.......... it speaks for itself.  Geraldene Lowe, a good friend of Ruqxana, kindly gave me this book.  It's so poignant and sad to see the heart ripped out of the kampung.  Well, the kampung itself was dismembered.  Thank you Geraldene and Hadijah Rahmat.  This will be the only permanent  symbol of what we have lost.  I very much hope that Kuala Lumpur's Kampung Baru will not suffer the same fate.

And so, while we extol the grandeur and beauty of our grand mosques, let's remember and protect the little ones.