Monthly Archives: March 2012

Norwegian Wood

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I’ve recently been intrigued by the work of Haruki Murakami. He writes books that works more powerfully than a magnet drawn to each other. The cleverly written plots and twists develops like an addiction that you cannot get enough of, let alone put the book down. Being a huge Beatles fan, it was impossible to resist Norwegian Wood. If you don’t’ already know, Norwegian Wood is a song by The Beatles released from their album Rubber Soul. It is also the title of  a Murakami novel titled Noruwei no Mori, that was directly translated to Norwegian Wood. The track was written by John Lennon, intended to symbolize the affair he was hiding from his then wife, Cynthia. As I write this, Norwegian Wood serenades me.

Although the book started off a little too slowly for me, it involved a whirlpool of emotions.  The lead character, Toru Watanabe reminded me so much of Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye. For one, they both loved reading especially their favourite books, they both had a way with words, they both had a womanizer friend and had many  drunken nights. In fact, I was surprised when Reiko, one of the characters in the book asked Toru if he was trying to imitate Holden when she first met him somewhere in the middle of the book.

Now the part that most intrigued me was how the song Norwegian Wood came to life through the characters in the story. When John sang, “I once had a girl or should I say she once had me” at the beginning of Norwegian Wood, it reminded me of how Toru developed a somewhat unstable romantic relationship with Naoko. It was too complicated to define but they always ‘had’ each other.  “She showed me her room, isn’t it good, Norwegian Wood? She asked me to stay and she told me to sit anywhere, So I looked around and I noticed there wasn’t a chair .I sat on a rug, biding my time, drinking her wine We talked until two and then she said, “It’s time for bed” – When Toru visited Naoko in the sanatorium, her roommate Reiko takes him up and shows him the place. Although he did not quite end up in the bathtub, they did however unwind to some wine and talked for hours while Reiko played Naoko’s favourite song Norwegian Wood . In the book Naoko says whenever she heard the song, it made her sad as she imagines herself wandering into the woods, cold dark and lonely and nobody comes to save her.

John ends with “And when I awoke, I was alone, this bird had flown, So I lit a fire, isn’t it good, Norwegian Wood”. This line reminded me of the time Naoko was found dead, a metaphor of the life she had chosen, the wings she had spread and how she had finally flown and preferred death as her destiny and have been reunited with Kizuki,( her ex-bf and Toru’s best friend).

This novel was no typical Murakami, if you’re familiar with his work but it sure was an interesting read. I for one could never be accustomed to death and the grief of loss. As I read the book, I somehow could relate to each character, including Naoko the unstable one perhaps due to a background in Psychology. The best part for me was the heavy Beatles elements that unfolded throughout the novel, Norwegian Wood not being the only song talked about. The detailed sexual narration that was heavily emphasized was pleasant to the eyes. It was deep, it was raw, and it was real. Norwegian Wood is not one of those novels that keeps you guessing, it is the one that  has all the answers, it is the one that needed you to relate and  feel the emotions that unfolded as  you grasps every word and sentence through each page. My verdict – Read it!

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And no religion too…..

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Religion should not be confused with anything else. Period. Because when you do, you get Malaysian politics. I’ve grown in many ways with my country, and over time, I’ve grown to despise my country.  Apart from the ridiculous people who supposedly run the country, the gutter politics that not only makes me feel like shooting someone in the head, I feel that under the constitution I’m supposed to be entitled to some form of freedom.  So where’s my freedom?

Being a Malaysian, we’ve compromised and continue to compromise. But being a music junkie, take away our music and be prepared to suffer the consequences. As a common Malaysian student, I went to government schools.  And if you are a common Malaysian student like me, you’ll be familiar with the daily morning assembly prayers. While the Muslims recite their prayers using the microphone, the rest of us stood in line in silence. It was a form of respect. Because being a Malaysian, we respect the faith of the others, and we don’t impose our religion onto others. I’ve heard the same prayers for 5 days  a week since I was 7 till I was 17. Although I am now able to read the prayer myself after having memorized it over 10 years, It did not weaken my faith as a Hindu.

I come from a small school that was developing at that time. The Muslim girls enjoyed the occasional Nasyid choirs. Some days, they did not have enough choir singers and would request some of us non-muslims to join them. We did,  because we knew that even though we were singing along to these songs, our faith, spirit and religion will not be dampened.

My first tattoo was a mark to symbolize a significant moment of my life. It was personal, it was symbolic, it was artistic. It was what I needed to remind myself that I am strong and able, confident and patient. Some carry the rosary, some the Quran, some may even wear their lucky underwear when they need to, I believed in a tattoo(s). It was personal; it was between me and my body. After all my body is MY TEMPLE.

So after 10 years of compromising in school, and a continuous compromise of an in-exhaustive list of things I cannot possibly pen down,  I do not think that you are given the divine right to take away my freedom in music just because you are not strong in your faith. If so help you god you are afraid, don’t impose your weakness onto others because that is not the freedom I am entitled to. That is not the freedom that is Malaysia, at least not the way i remember it.

A Spaniard in the Works: The Writing Beatle

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To Madan Theertha Pathy who has inspired my world of music.

My brother had explained to me earlier that day that he had planned on skipping school. Sensing urgency in his voice, I asked him why. He said, he had to record HELP,  for safekeeping purposes, and yes it was the VCR days. Of course a clueless me did not pay much attention to his ramblings but I was intrigued.

I knew who The Beatles were. That’s all we grew up to while we were prancing around the backseat of the car. But I guess I was too young to wonder what they looked like.So I found time to sit down with him and watch the recorded version of  HELP! which i believe is still lying around somewhere.  I remember it so vividly, The Beatles were recording ‘The Night Before’ and’ I Need You’ before they were rudely interrupted by attacks by a priest who was determined to sacrifice a helpless Ringo to goddess Kali. A clumsy John crumbles on his knees while the fab four was on the run from the deadly tank that was headed directly for them.  I made up my mind, purely on looks alone, John was my favorite Beatle. I did not know why, I just knew it felt right.

The rest of the years of my life were devoted to learning why I had loved John  even before I knew him. Apart from his looks, it was his sarcastic sense of humor that stood out. He had a sheepish look of innocence on his face yet a tongue that was tangled with a cauldron of sarcasm waiting to overflow. He was rebellious, defensive and vulnerable all at the same time. Some called him a possessed man who was starting to lose it but none of those mattered to his fans.

As I was reading John’s ramblings in his self-written book titled “In his Own Write” and “A Spaniard in the Works”, I found myself laughing at every turn of the page. To think about it, it was mostly gibberish, mostly John. But I wasn’t sure if it was my talent for making sense of something nonsensical or John’s unique wittiness that kept me intrigued throughout my reading.  It was raw. It was John Lennon written all over it.

You see, John was never perfect. He was as human as you and I. He was determined and passionate and took the leap of faith.  He was an enraged kid who found pacifism in music.  He founded The Beatles with Paul who grew to change and influence music history.

The Beatles started off as any ordinary band. But the break that made the fab four revolutionize music history was as Malcolm Gladwell explained in ‘Outliers’;

As a rock and roll band, they were invited to play in a strip club district in Hamburg, Germany to catch the passing traffic into the clubs. All they had to do is put on a non-stop tease, in other words play till their fingers bleed. Although sex and alcohol might have been a contributing factor, it was the amount of time The Beatles had played in Hamburg alone that made them better and  famous.The technicality of it is explained as such: The Beatles had played for a total of 270 nights in just over a year and a half making the total number of estimated live performances 1,200 times. Every time they played, they got more confident, more practice, more experienced, more stamina, more creative and more innovative.  They invaded the 60’s and became the greatest rock and roll band that ever lived.

John started drifting from The Beatles when Yoko emerged and found love, purpose and a cause. Although Yoko is a grey area to talk about, whatever it is she did, she did John good. He believed in love once again, the man was inseparable from Yoko. He moved into experimental music, art and with the power he possessed, became a pretty darn good political activist. From peace movements, emphasizing power to the people and freedom speeches, John transformed from the enraged young boy into a man with a vision, who with whatever influence he had, made a difference to the world.

John was murdered in front of his apartment building,The Dakota on December 8,1980 by Mark David Chapman, a deranged fan. After 31 years, John still lives. His dreams became our dream.  He is an inspiration, a fearless writer, a simple lyricist, a peace ambassador and a believer. The reason why it felt right, right from the start.


Food for Thought – Turgid Truth

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“The great source of both the misery and disorders of human life, seems to arise from over-rating the difference between one permanent situation and another…. Some of those situations may, no doubt, deserve to be preferred to others: but none of them can deserve to be pursued with that passionate ardour which drives us to violate the rules either of prudence or of justice; or to corrupt the future tranquillity of our minds, either by shame from the remembrance of our own folly, or by remorse from the horror of our own injustice.” Adam Smith

 

Dan Gilbert:

In other words, Yes somethings are better than others. We should have preferences that lead us into one future over another. But when those preferences drive us too hard and too fast, because we have overrated the difference between these futures, we are at risk. When our ambition is bounded it leads us to work joyfully, when our ambition is unbounded it leads us to lie, cheat, steal, hurt others, and  to sacrifice things of real values. When our fears are bounded, we are prudent, cautious, thoughtful and when our fears are unbounded and overblown, we are reckless and more cowardly.

 

Our longings and our worries are to some degree overblown because we have the capacity to manufacture the very commodity we are constantly chasing when we choose experience.

 

My Insights:

The human race is flooded with too many options and choices so much so the simplicity in life is undermined. If simplicity was the basis of all decisions we make in life, knowing what we want in life would not be hard. And when you are honest in what you want in life, life gives it to you.

Funeral for a Friend

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Most people dread funerals. But, it is inevitable, and it’s best to come to terms with it. Perhaps there is more to be discovered on the other side. Perhaps there is another universe. Perhaps there’s no heaven and hell but we are thrown into the cosmic void, left to wander aimlessly. But whatever it is, life on earth should be celebrated. I’d love to celebrate it with music and memories. So here’s putting together a playlist, should that day come, you know what to do. Oh and don’t forget the beers. 😉

Nirvana: About a girl

Neil Young: Hey hey, my my

The Cure: Just like heaven

Tool: Disposition

Funeral for a friend: Red is the new black

Coldplay: Shiver

David Bowie: Let me sleep beside you

Dire Straits: Romeo and Juliet

Editors: Lullaby

Foo Fighters: Best of Me

Foo Fighters: All My Life

Fuel: Leave the Memories behind

Greenday: Time of your life

Goo Goo Dolls: Name

Slash: By the Sword

Iron and Wine: Naked as We Come

John Lennon: Imagine

Marty Casey: Trees

Michael Jackson: Dirty Diana

New Radiant Storm King The Winding Staircase

Nine Inch Nails: Something I can Never Have

Oasis: The Importance of being idle

The Beatles: In my life

Peter Gabriel: Sledgehammer

Pete Yorn: For Us

Semisonic: Secret Smile

Smashing Pumpkins: Disarm

Slash: Ain’t Life grand

The Who: My Generation

AC/DC: You Shook Me All Night Long

The Pogues: Ireland’s Call

 Pearl Jam: Given to fly 

Prince: Purple Rain

U2: With or without you 

Bob Dylan: Mr Tambourine Man

Ryan Bigham- The Weary Kind

Ryan Adams – Come pick me up

Flogging Molly: If I Ever Leave this World Alive

 

Malaysia, the way we remember it.

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Okay, so the country is corrupted, filled with discrimination, run by morons and well you know the drill. Approaching Malaysia’s 53rd Independence Day I still will declare myself a proud Malaysian any given day. Because the politicians, corruption, stupidity and mockery of the system doesn’t define me. I define myself and this is my story.

Born on 31st of August 1988, I take pride every year the country turns a year older. I began to realize the significance of my birthday when I was about 5 and couldn’t celebrate with other kindergarten children because it always fell on a public holiday. But of course, me being my stubborn self, I still got my way.

When I was 7, I realized that the country put together a National Parade every year on my birthday of course in honor of the country. My grandfather being the military man he was, found it mandatory to watch the parade every year. As i gradually grew older, I started watching it with him. Well, that was until  I got old enough to wake up the next morning with a hangover. Now that he’s no longer around, I remember him the most on my birthdays.

Now, tell me you where you can find a friendly  Ice Kacang or Cendol vendor by the roadside that gives you the taste of heaven in a bowl with a minimal wage if it ain’t Malaysia? Yes, we Malaysians love our food the most. The food defines our culture in most ways. The more thought you put into it, the more you appreciate the historical background, art,museums and most importantly the diversity you find in the  people of Malaysia, the very core that defines Malaysia, the way I remember it.

Children racing through the kampung houses to get to the river to cool off from the extensive heat, the lion dance and chinese crackers come Chinese New Year that goes on for weeks raping you off your sleep and the piercings and chanting of the Indians during Thaipusam that still scares me and most Malaysians are some of the  festivals that we take pride in. Best part? We’re in it together.

You see, Malaysia to me is still my country, my home regardless of the shit we have to put up with sometimes. Like how I was watching The Simpsons yesterday and everything was censored. Or how one moment Castle was leaning forward to give Alyssa Milano a well deserved smooch and the next moment they’re done! Believe me, my list is in-exhaustive.

Nevertheless, this country shaped me and the person I have become, my values and my principles. Like it or not, this is a love hate relationship.

So Happy 53rd Independence Day, Malaysia.

I hope someday you will join us, and the world will live together as one

John Lennon

10 things we hate about Men.

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It’s only natural for a group of women to engage in a casual conversation about men (without Cosmopolitans as much as we’d like to) whenever or wherever they are. So there we were, a group of us, who had it bad at some point in our lives talking senselessly about men.

While unwrapping our fresh Subway salads and listening to one who said, “I’m still in love with him despite his casual physical attacks”, we concluded that sometimes, we Indian women like the stereotypical Indian men who gets drunk and gives us the occasional bruise or the black eye. To hell with the smokey eye effect, we get one that lasts for 3 months and we’re good to go! Well at least one of us likes that idea.

Well, anyway half way through the meal we concluded that all of us, at some point in our lives were given a crappy break-up reason. Of course, now looking back we laughed our hearts out. But I for one remembered at 18, I wasn’t sure what to believe. So here’s to the women who had their hearts shattered and to men who have a good sense of humor. Like it or not, we love you, but do you really think we’re that stupid?

So here are 10 hilarious and rather painful break-up reasons we sure hope you don’t have to go through.

1. I’m done hiding, i’m gay.

2. I’m going to war.

3. I’m married, yes at 18.

4. I had an epiphany. I’m going to take on a religious path. No sex or wife for me.

5. I’m migrating.

6. She’s pregnant. I’m the father.

7. We’re soul mates, but soul mates don’t end up together.

8.  I’m sorry, It’s not you, it’s me. I suffer from premature ejaculation.

9. You saw me with whom? That wasn’t me, that was my identical twin brother.

10. I’ve got a brain tumor. I’d be dead in 2 months. The symptoms, they don’t show.