Sunday, September 19, 2010

Response to: "Trauma Time: A Still Life"

Stewart, Kathleen. "Trauma Time: A Still Life." Histories of the Future. Eds. David Rosenberg and Susan Harding. Duke University Press, 2005, pp 321 - 338.

Just when I thought I couldn't top the obnoxious theorizing that I was reading about intellectualism earlier today, I just read something that did. The article: Trauma Time, by one Kathleen Stewart. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Malaysia Day

So before I run out of Malaysia Day, I should say something about it.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Body Issues: Conversations My Body Has

"We really should eat something before we go out," one half of the reasonable brain said, as we set out on our evening walk. "I know it's early, and by the time we get back it'll be dinner, but we really should eat." We'll call it Less-Conscious Brain, or LCB for short.

"We'll be fine," said the other half of the reasonable brain, the one actually in charge. We'll call it Conscious Brain, or CB for short.

"Peckish," said the stomach. 

"But not too hungry?" CB asked.

"Not yet," the stomach replied.

"Good, off we go then."

About 200 meters into running, everybody was complaining. 

"It's too hot in this sweater!" said the shoulders.

"I can't handle the burning!" cried the chest.

"Our knee pistons are knocking!" the legs complained. "It's been too long since we ran."

"We ran just a month ago," CB groused, but slowed down and we walked. We meant to hit Sanctuary Park before turning back. A little before we got there, we felt a drop of rain.

"Oh, look it's raining now. Now can we go home and eat?"

"Okay, fine."

We walked home in general silence, mostly contemplating tomorrow. When we got home, the complaints started again.

"Hungry!" the stomach piped up.

"We need to change," CB said, shrugging off the jacket. We sat at the computer, played a bit of Echo Bazaar, tweeted our return home, listened to a few more songs on the Walkman.

"This is ridiculous, we really need to eat. We just used precious calories!"

"And this is supposed to mean anything when we've been sitting on our ass all day?"

"Don't give me that," LCB sniffed. "You're the one that ignores us when we need to do stuff. Like finish editing that essay. Or laundry. Or call the telephone company."

"The food can still wait."

"Still! Hungry!" the stomach cried.

"Hang on, hang on. Do we even know what to eat yet?" CB said.

"What is there to decide on? There's corned beef and rice. That's what we've been eating the whole week."

"There's also a couple of eggs left. Shall we have fried rice? How about fried rice? That would be fun, wouldn't it?"

"Hungry!" the stomach roared, and released a bit of gastric acid to make its point.

"Okay!" CB wasn't stupid; it liked to ignore the stomach but not that much. "Okay, fine, we'll cut up some luncheon meat."

"One day, we'll get on some drugs that'll make you actually listen to us and do what we want rather than reason your way through what we don't want," LCB complained. "One day."

"Yes. But you know... that one day comes only when I feel like we want to."

"Yeah well, fuck you too."

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Malaysiana: Independence Day, or Lack Thereof

While in Canada, I tend to miss celebrations that I should be aware of, like the Lunar New Year, or Adilfitri, or Hungry Ghost Month (which is happening now, should be ending soon). August 31st was Merdeka Day, or Malaya's Independence Day. It's the day when the British left Malayan leadership roles after dicking around with us for a few hundred years. 

At the last Steampunk World's Fair, I kept referring to how the British colonizers left our shores, but left their mark behind. (Moniquill rightly put me in my place by reminding me that "the colonizers never left ours".) The thing is, I was being simplistic. After the British left, we had their parliament system, their education system. We were and are still dependent on business from the West. We still use the economic success of the West as a yardstick against which we measure our own growth. (Seriously, what is there to grow? In the West Peninsula we are a small small land, and hell no are we going to destroy the natural forests of East Malaysia to slake capitalist lust.)

When I was a child, I used to turn on the television to watch the Merdeka Day parade. It was the highlight of the year for me; I still love parades. For some reason, it registered in me that gaining independence was the highlight of my nation, the best thing we ever did. Then it was overshadowed by the building of the Petronas Twin Towers and being named piracy capital of the world. I thought we were doing okay for ourselves. And for most part, we kinda are. 

But time away from home, and my studies, have made me question what it means to be independent. Not as an individual - I don't understand that at all, because I'm still living on my parents' funds (hello privilege) and while I was supporting myself for a while, that quickly went down the drain. I mean, as a nation. In today's global village setup, it seems there is no single nation that is completely self-sufficient, unless it eschews systems of dominance and capitalism and refuses to participate in the race to improve their standing in international politics and protect their interests (which are probably as simple as "don't get fucked over by the big boys"). 

In today's world, what does independence mean? 

I want to say, it means that we have agency to act for ourselves, to speak for ourselves, to stand on our own accomplishments. Except, what does this mean? Why is this so important? And if it is, how good are we at it?

This is a hard post for me.

I've been talking about the aftereffects of colonialism on Malaysia, considering how badly hit we were, how we're coping. I went to visit an uncle who lived through WW II in Singapore, and when he referred to the British in pre-independence days, he called them "the colonial masters". He said it in a way that was sardonic, full of awareness of how bad and yet true the term was.

When I told my dad and brother this, my dad said, "yeah, I don't have a colonial mindset like that. Must be a generation thing."

And you know, I can't get behind that. I don't believe we've truly cut ourselves off from the old masters. If we did, we might not place so much focus on going to Western universities, because local universities aren't "recognized". We might not be so nice to white foreigners who come visiting, as opposed to the brown and black ones that come to work and help our economy. We might also not be so antagonizing in our desire to cut ourselves off from all Western influence, particularly more liberal values, which are perfectly compatible with our cultures but we say they aren't, we're Asian, we're not like them. Would we define ourselves so much against the West if we were truly free of the mindsets they imposed on us?

So, the fact is, there was no Merdeka Day post because I didn't feel in the spirit of national independence anymore. It's incongruous with how I feel inside, because I'm in such a good place in my life right now, I feel like I'm much closer to merdeka in my spirit, but that is because I've come to recognize and accept that my country's illusion of independence from the old colonial masters is just that: an illusion.

And I think, once we as a people come to accept that we have been indelibly marked, and once we stop defining ourselves against the West, and once we stop resisting ideas and values that we think are imported from the West, but really can be found in our own cultures, then I'll think it'll be more truthful to say we've achieved Merdeka.

Otherwise, it's all politics. 

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Magic Dolphin: "First Kiss", No Boundaries

This is a new series I'm starting and updating whenever I feel like fan-squeeing. In this series, I will share and analyse songs by Alexander Rybak, a Norwegian pop idol, with a folk-classical background, best known for winning Eurovision 2009 with a landslide victory. You can also find this series on my Tumblr, under the tag "Alexander Rybak is a magic dolphin from outer space". 


Deep in your heart
There's a small hidden room
And you know that I hold the key
You're gonna travel all over the world
Places where I'll never be

Someday you'll marry the man of your dreams
And I will be crying all night
But there is a secret that both of us know
That's why I'm feeling alright
Yes, there is a secret that both of us know
And that's why I'm feeling alright

There may be
Smart guys and tall guys - whose stronger than me
Ten times the charmer than I'll ever be
But one thing, Maria, I sure didn't miss
Your very first kiss

Need I say more?
The feeling is pure
And I felt the warmth of your lips
Though the time will go on
And the seasons will change
I'll allways think back on our kiss

Someday the runway will carry you home*
And I will be smiling all night
Cause there is a secret that both of us know
And that's why I'm feeling alright
Yes, there is a secret that both of us know
That secret belong in the night

There may be
Sharp girls and short girls - whose sweeter than you
Ten times the lady and one of a few
But one thing, Maria, you sure didn't miss
My very first kiss

Deep in my mind there's confusion and hope
And I know that you stole my thoughts
I'm gonna travel all over the world
Searching for someone to hold

Don't say it's over
When I'm underneath**
Let's see if our feelings unite
Oh, there is a secret that both of us know
And that's why we're smiling tonight
Yes, there is a secret that both of us know
And that's why we're smiling tonight

There may be
Someone who truly believes love is blind
But I beg to differ there's two of a kind
They will find each other
And that is a real bliss
Our very first kiss

In case you were wondering-

I'm in the midst of changing my template and overall blog design using Blogger's Template Designer. It's not the greatest, but the best I can do. Commentary is welcome. Unless you read this through a feed, in which case it probably doesn't affect you anyway. But comments would still be nice.