Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Israel Times

Israel... aah, just the mention of it sets my heart a skippin' and my lips a smilin'... I love Israel, even if I have only been there once, for 10 good days, in June 2004.

Was doing research on sports on the net and was surprised to see mentions of Israel in an online sporting magazine from Florida, "Competitor Southeast Online".

The first image that caught my eye was the magnificent Dome in the city of Jerusalem, and as I read on, discovered myself an interesting blog. Here's the first paragraph to the blog by the editor of the magazine, Mr. Greg Pressler:
I’m always amazed at what I see during an early morning run, and I’ve found that these journeys help to solve a lot of problems. Maybe an early morning run is a way that our world can start to help bring peace among nations.
Do check out the rest of his blogs. If you haven't been to Israel, this may be a nice introduction. ;)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The people's President

Hailed as one of the greatest and kindest President Americans have had, the legacy and memories of Ronald Reagan live on as he lived his life in submission to God and love for people.

From The White House Biographies and Wikipedia:

He was born Ronald Wilson Reagan on February 6, 1911. He attended high school in nearby Dixon and then worked his way through Eureka College. There, he studied economics and sociology, played on the football team, and acted in school plays. Upon graduation, he became a radio sports announcer. A screen test in 1937 won him a contract in Hollywood. During the next two decades he appeared in 53 films.

As president of the Screen Actors Guild, Reagan became embroiled in disputes over the issue of Communism in the film industry; his political views shifted from liberal to conservative. He toured the country as a television host, becoming a spokesman for conservatism. In 1966 he was elected Governor of California by a margin of a million votes; he was re-elected in 1970.

On January 20, 1981, Reagan took office. Only 69 days later he was shot by a would-be assassin, but quickly recovered and returned to duty. His grace and wit during the dangerous incident caused his popularity to soar.

Reagan had an easy-going but deep Christian faith. Reagan's mother, an active Protestant, taught Reagan lasting values at an early age, such as a strong sense of personal responsibility and Christian tolerance for other people. Reagan recalled in his autobiography An American Life that "my mother always taught us: 'Treat thy neighbor as you would want your neighbor to treat you,' and 'Judge everyone by how they act, not what they are.'" He was appalled when he witnessed discrimination and was taught repeatedly that racism and was one of the worst sins possible. "My parents constantly drummed into me the importance of judging people as individuals", Reagan recalled.

By the time he became president, Reagan held a few simple but firm convictions about God and life, and he believed that living by these basic principles would solve many personal and society problems. Reagan warmly looked back to his childhood in Dixon where "you prayed side by side with your neighbors, and if things were going wrong for them, you prayed for them - and knew they'd pray for you if things went wrong for you", he wrote in An American Life. "Every individual is unique, but we all want freedom and liberty, peace, love and security, a good home, and a chance to worship God in our own way; we all want the chance to get ahead and make our children's lives better than our own."

Reagan formed his general policies around these views and then left the details to others to handle. Reagan believed that his presidency had a higher meaning to be treated as a temporary gift of responsibility. As president, Reagan spoke to numerous Christian groups and naturally attracted voters with traditional values. However, his son Ron Reagan said at his father's memorial service that he did not blatantly "wear his faith on his sleeve to gain political advantage".

Numerous people reflected in their memoirs that President Ronald Reagan was personally one of the kindest men they had ever met. Even his political enemies found it hard to hate him, since he was so sincere and charming.

Reagan's burial site is inscribed with words that President Reagan said at the opening of his presidential library:
I know in my heart that man is good. That what is right will always eventually triumph. And there’s purpose and worth to each and every life."

Top left:
From the trailer for Cowboy from Brooklyn (1938), one of Reagan's earliest films.

Ronald Reagan on the cover of Time as "Man of the Year", 1980.

Bottom right:
Vice President Bush, and President Ronald Reagan and Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev in New York City in 1988

Bottom most centre:
Speaking in front of the Berlin Wall on June 12, 1987 Ronald Reagan challenged reformist Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to go further with his reforms and "tear down this wall"

Afghan - Innocence Lost & Found

What's currently adorning my desktop is this picture of a pair of Afghan children. It serves as a reminder that there is much beauty and innocence in children - whether they are born and raised in a land torn by political, social and national strife does not eliminate the fact that they are fully entitled to an upbringing of love, warmth, peace & hope.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Robert Mapplethorpe - Art & Sensuality

When does provocative art become educational? When society liberates itself to accept the freedom of expression in a talented individual enough to recognise his/her giftings in a particular field of art. For example, Robert Mapplethorpe (1946 - 1989), the famous New Yorker photographer who created much controversies with his choice of photography. The purpose of this post is not to promote undesired art/images, rather it is written and published with the view to encourage an open, adaptable and unrestricted worldview.

The long article below is entirely plucked from a unique site (

Gifted American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe brought rigorously formal composition and design, and an objectifying "cool" eye, to extreme subject matter. In so doing, he sparked a firestorm of outrage that led to debate about the public funding of art in the United States.

Born into a Catholic family in Queens, New York on November 4, 1946, Mapplethorpe grew up in suburban Long Island. He studied painting, sculpture, and drawing at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn from 1963 until 1969, when he moved to the Chelsea Hotel with the singer and poet Patti Smith, who was to become one of his favorite models.

In the early 1970s, Mapplethorpe began making black and white photographs. In 1972, he began a long-term intimate relationship with Sam Wagstaff, former curator of the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford and the Detroit Institute of Arts, who served as his mentor as well as his lover.

Wagstaff encouraged Mapplethorpe's photography and helped arrange for his first solo show, "Polaroids," at the Light Gallery in 1973. Subsequently, Mapplethorpe began exhibiting widely and quickly earned a reputation as an extraordinarily accomplished photographer.

In 1978, Mapplethorpe published the X Portfolio and the Y Portfolio in limited editions. X centers around photographic images of S&M behavior, while Y focuses on flowers and still lifes. In 1981, Mapplethorpe published the Z Portfolio, which focuses on black men, also in a limited edition.

Together, these three portfolios represent his best known work and his persistent themes. His photographs typically combine rigorously formal composition and design with extreme - often explicitly sexual - subject matter. Even his still lifes and other non-sexual images convey a strong sexual aura.

Mapplethorpe's gaze is particularly noteworthy for its cool detachment even when recording scenes of intense sexual activity. The artist typically presents masculine bodies as objectified icons of desire.

Mapplethorpe's objectification and fetishization of the black male body has been particularly controversial, especially since the publication of The Black Book in 1986. The controversial photograph "Man in a Polyester Suit" (1980), for example, features a black man in a slightly wrinkled three-piece suit. The image is cropped both at the chest and above the knees. Hanging from the suit's fly is a large, semi-erect, uncircumcised penis.

In another image, "Philip Prioleau" (1979), a naked black man is seated on a wooden pedestal, his back facing the viewer, a paper backdrop in the background.

But the accusations of objectification and exploitation have been countered by readings of these images that point out the artist's practice of naming his sitters and that emphasize the erotic balance between sitter and photographer. As a gay photographer, Mapplethorpe was frequently implicated in his own, sometimes transgressive, sometimes idyllic, desire.

In 1986, Mapplethorpe was diagnosed with AIDS. The following year his companion and mentor Sam Wagstaff died of complications resulting from AIDS.

In 1988, the artist established a charitable foundation to support AIDS Research and photography projects.

In 1988, Mapplethorpe's first American retrospective was presented at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. However, the following year, shortly after the artist's death on March 9, the traveling exhibition, "Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Moment," begun at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, created a fire-storm of controversy.

Senator Jesse Helms actually destroyed an exhibition catalogue on the floor of the United States Senate, igniting a debate that ultimately decimated public funding for the arts and challenged First Amendment rights. In a shocking capitulation to political pressure, the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D. C. cancelled the show just prior to its opening.

Some of the controversies sparked by Mapplethorpe's photographs have settled, but his work continues to remind us that the perfect moment may be as fleeting as the click of the camera's shutter.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Postmodern Painting

A project on postmodernism got me and my friend on a research spree. Here's one on a painting by postmodernist painter, Francisco Clemente. Below's our synopsis of the painting in light of our understanding of postmodernism.

Title of the painting: Play
Artist: Francisco Clemente

Synopsis: A young boy entangled in the game of love and confusion. There’s a saying that warns us not to play with fire. Falling in love at a young age, without the maturity to handle the commitment and complexity of love, throws the boy into a state of total confusion. He wants to escape but is chained to “love”. He loses his mind and is in a wreck.

Moral: Dabble not in love without the heart to commit.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Cultural Differences

Cultural and societal differences are pertinent everywhere. The very essence of culture is that it forms, shapes and dictates differences among people of different groups, ethnicity, interests, nations, etc.

My sis has been living in UK for slightly more than 7 months now, and here are some of her observations of what you get in UK that you don't here in Asia:

1. Romantic Passion: There's no white fluorescent or bulb lights here. They are all dim orange lights.

2. Public Emphasis: All the room doors can't be locked. There's no latch or keyhole to the doors.

3. Generous Acts: You can bring the hangers home when you buy clothes from the shops.

4. Fresh & Green Campaign: All the plastic bags from the supermarkets have holes in them.

5. Self- service is the best service: You have to pack your food into the plastic bags in supermarkets unless you request the staff to do it for you.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Ethnic Cleansing

No one should be ashamed of anybody, especially when evil and injustice haven’t been done. No one has a right to ethnic cleansing. What is ethnic cleansing, anyway, if not the devil’s tool for the extension of his destruction upon mankind? What kind of demonic ideology is it to rid a race/group different or supposedly inferior to yours? Who decides on such atrocities anyway? Certainly no man ought so.

This morning I saw a thin old man walking closely behind his equally frail wife. She had difficulty walking, for I saw a walking aid nearby at the corner where it was left on purpose so she could learn to exercise her leg muscles. He stood close behind her not only to encourage her to take forward steps, but to assure her that he is just behind and should she fall, she need not fear because he is right behind for support. That is the kind of love that should be shared abroad. Not hate and discrimination and certainly not ethnic cleansing.

I’m reminded of the year 1991, the year my thirteen year old mind understood ethnic cleansing and inhumanity. Sitting in the living room of my JB house, watching the grim scenes on the television with my dad and sis. I think mom was there too, but she couldn’t bear the brutality and left the room for household chores. I remembered how my tears rolled and my heart bled a thousand times over. I kept asking my dad why can’t the US or UN, or anyone, for that matter, do anything to stop the Bosnian annihilation. Despite the grave tone in which I queried my dad, he took my seriousness in wanting to help lightly and said to my dismay, what can we do? I remembered my resolute reply which I believed with all my heart then – that I will grow up to fight for justice. Maybe not then in 1991, for I was yet young, but someday when I grow up I will. I have not yet found my cause to fight for, but up till then I thank God I have found an outlet in writing.

Afghan Children

The beautiful children of Afghanistan. Look at the innocence and hope engraved in their eyes. I do not understand and certainly abhor the atrocities of ethnic cleasing in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Middle East, in times past and present. God I pray for protection, peace & harmony upon the land.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

To Mr. Khaled Hosseini

Questions I'd like to ask and thoughts I'd like to share with Mr. Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner:

How do you write like that given that your profession is a doctor?

Have you always written stories growing up like Amir?

How did you come up with such a gripping plot?

Do you write with the end in mind or do you weave the characters and plot into your story as you go along?

Really, I dread reaching the last page of the book because I’m so enraptured I can’t let go. Not a middle easterner myself yet I could identify so closely with the characters that my heart bled as though their grief were mine.

How do you capture the readers’ hearts and minds the way you do?

I have never been this inspired to work on my passion before. Thank you for bringing to surface what has been brewing in my heart and dream machine for so long – a desire to write a great story.


Dec 31st 2006 saw me and Jason’s family at KLCC for the New Year countdown fireworks display and gave me a bad brush with a Malay punk amidst a throng of people. He asked for money and I kept silent. I looked around for safety but saw nonchalant faces oblivious to the predicament that I was in. I felt cornered and replied I have none. That pissed him off and he raised his voice a little asking me how much I could give him. Once more I replied I had none, became angry because I got no help and summoning an equally pissed and angered look to match his, I walked off. Thankfully he pursued no more and I saw him no more.

I was mad because I was nearly extorted money in my own country. I was mad at the social decadence I saw in the capital city. Young punks harrowing the streets like mafias with drugs, weapons and women in tow. It makes me mad that I am not safe in my own country, while I’m breathing the same air and living the same culture as my fellow citizens. It makes me mad that much as I love my country and wish to step foot more often than I do, I fear for my safety and that of my family remaining and loved ones I bring to journey with me each time. I wish to bring about a change. I wish I could do something.