Fahrenheit 9/11

After months of feeling frustrated at Dubya and Boneless Blair’s half truth and whole lies on why Iraq has to be invaded, this film finally restored my faith in the system of the United States of America, the garden where dissenting voices get a chance to bloom among stalks of mainstream viewpoints.

Right wing critics have labeled Michael Moore as the contemporary Leni Riefenstahl. And frankly, Moore’s an easier target than the content of the film itself, which could not be spun away that easily.

The basic premise of the film is that the Bush Administration has been duping the American public and the rest of the world to wage an unjust and unnecessary war in Iraq. The genius of this film is that it uses actual news clips of Bush, Rumsfield, Wolfowitz, Powell, Rice, Ashcroft and other cabinet members to discredit themselves. And that, my friend, is an ingenious stroke that brings to light the Bush Administration’s hypocrisy and its changing stand when it comes to the Iraq war

Bush’s (Last) Stand: “Well, Saddam has WMD and worse, has tied to Al-Qaeda, and there is an imminent threat to the homeland…well, maybe not WMD but he has shown that he has the means and the motive to use WMD…of course we didn’t say that they were involved in the 9/11 attacks with Al-Qaeda, we just said that they had a relationship with one or more of the principals of Al-Qaeda….Don’t misunderestimate what I have to say! Shut up and be a patriot! Danger, danger!!!”*

* This is not a quote from Bush. He didn’t really say those things- not in one sentence, of course…but he really did say:- “Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.” on 5th August 2004. It’s there as a transcript in whitehouse.gov.

Charlize Meets C.H.R.I.S.T.

Charlize didn’t know what to expect when the Man from C.H.R.I.S.T. arrived at her Sydney home one fine winter morning. She heard the familiar ring from her door bell and she sleepily walked to the front door to open it. She half expected Terrence or somebody else but what she saw was a Man in dark long coat sporting a similarly colored fedora, quite atypical of the latest Sydney fashion, standing patiently in front of her house.

The Man reached into his pocket and dished out a card, turned upright so that Charlize could clearly see it from where she stood. It read:-

‘The Man – Evangelist
Congregation of Holy and Reformed Individuals Seeking the Truth”

“Oh Christ!” Charlize muttered allowed once she realized who that person was. She had heard of this group and had tried in vain to avoid them. This time, however, it seemed that the Man had caught up with her.

“Actually, Man will do,” the Man replied sheepishly, “I’m not divine, you know.”

“What do you want?” she asked as she rubbed her eyes, trying to have a good look at the fashionably impaired individual.

“I would like to ask,” he said animatedly, “if you have an intimate relationship with God?”

“Huh?” Charlize said, eyeing one of the many elephant-on-mouse statues that she had around her house. The Man followed her gaze towards those statues and he regrettably shook his head.

“Tsk. Tsk. Tsk,” he said through a pained voice, “There is no salvation you if you worship false idols and do not accept C.H.R.I.S.T.”

“What do you want?” she said again, this time with more force. Charlize was getting a little irritated. Her morning routines had been rudely interrupted. An ideal morning such as that day would be well spent if she had the comfort of lying in bed for another hour, surfing the food channels on TV, chatting with Terrence and then- well, back to bed again.

“Actually, I am here to introduce you to C.H.R.I.S.T,” the Man said, as a smile exposing his white teeth formed when he let the last syllable of his sentence hanged in the air.

“Are you selling something? Whatever it is that you’re selling, I’m not interested,” Charlize said as she prepared to slam the door on the Man.

The Man quickly replied, “But if you could just give me 5 minutes, I could share something with you that may change your life and the lives of the people that you love!”

Charlize heard the part about love and she decided, for herself, to give this Man a few more moments to make his point. Else, she thought, it was back to bed with the Naked Chef.

Relieved that he had been given another opportunity, the Man removed his fedora, confidently adjusted his coat and began to speak in a hushed tone. “The secret is that God loves you. You see, he created the world, together with you and I and the wonderful creators around us. He blessed us with abundance and the faculty of thought and intelligence. But as we grow intellectually, so too did we grow apart from God. I’m here to tell you that by accepting C.H.R.I.S.T., we can bring you closer to God again. Never again will you be lonely and sad. With C.H.R.I.S.T. we can help you develop a personal relationship with God! –”

“What does that mean, personal relationship with God?” Charlize enquired. She had heard a lot about that from people who are embraced C.H.R.I.S.T. She wondered if the Man knew that she was imaging the words “personal relationship” to mean a direct toll free line to God, or maybe an instant messenger ID, or maybe even a God that lives in your spare closet so that you can let Him out once in a while to talk about your problems.

“It means that anytime you want, you can talk to God and God can work miracles for you through C.H.R.I.S.T. No more sacred texts, no more yogic exercises, no more worries,” the Man continued without missing a beat, obviously oblivious to the deliciously wicked thoughts that Charlize had running in her head on what she can do with a personal God.

The Man now looked at Charlize, realizing that it was now Decision Time, the crucial 30 seconds after the end of a sales pitch. This crucial moment in time, static and electrifying at the same time, determined if a person had bought the argument or that it was time to move on to another prospect.

Charlize was looking at the Man, trying to digest whatever he had said. There were a lot of truths in what the Man shared, she realized, truth that she had somethings thought that she had glimpsed as bright light during her meditation sessions. Truth about nature and about her place in the world. Truth that was —

— interrupted by the Man, now brandishing brochures and saying, in his best Shopping Network voice:- “And if you accept C.H.R.I.S.T. now and sign up for a one year membership, I’ll throw in this wonderful Saviour Doll that blinks in the night! Also, membership now entitles you to a free CD called, “Lower Than A Mountain, Higher Than A Mould Songs” jam packed with the latest evangelistic songs from–”

“ENOUGH!” Charlize screamed at the Man, who was shocked into silence.

The Man was still clutching on to a membership form, brochures, saviour dolls and audio CDs when Charlize continued calmly, “I’m was a pacifist Buddhist before you came here but now, I am convinced of what to do.”

“Pacifist? You said,” the Man mockingly asked. “That is so meek and weak. Our God will make you powerful so that you do not rely on mysticisms and rituals and all that rubbish.”

“Meek? Weak?” Charlize repeated, her temperature rising, “I sort of guess that you say something like that to me and my beliefs.”

“So you’ll join C.H.R.I.S.T. ?” the Man asked hopefully.

“Nope. I’ll start my own outfit. It’ll be called the Songs of the Himalayans and I’ll market it well and market it big. Then, we shall he who shall inherit the Earth!” Charlize said with a tinge of satisfaction. With a wave of her hand, she slammed the door shut and the Man from C.H.R.I.S.T was not seen in the neighborhood again.

(The names of the characters had been changed to protect me)

Jennifer’s Grandma

A phone call at 6.00 am woke me up this morning. It was Cheau Lin with news of her grandmother.

I recall with some amount of excitement when I first met Cheau Lin’s grandmother in Melaka. I’ve heard a lot about her from Cheau Lin and couldn’t wait to meet her. When I saw her, she struck me as someone who radiated an aura of kindness. Though she had a round and compassionate face, the drooping cheeks and heavy wrinkles bravely bore marks of hardship that she must have endured in her lifetime. She was the quintessential grandma that only a few lucky ones among us can testify to having and was a grandma that the majority of us wished we had.

During our first meeting, I was asked to shout whatever that I wanted to say to her because she had been deaf for quite sometime then. I suggested that Cheau Lin should get a hearing aid for her. I was then told that grandma had a hearing aid, but her vanity had put her off from using it in front of guess. She would made small talk but as she couldn’t hear my reply, our conversation was heavily one sided, mostly with her reminiscing about the good old days and complaining about growing old. It was a little odd to shout “AH MA! HO BO!” to a tiny old lady and I never gotten used to it.

As I visited her more often, she opened up and was less formal. Occasionally, I would observe her sitting in her favorite rattan chair, thinking of days long past. It was as if she was reliving them again in her head. And when she needed to move, she would use a special 4 legged walking cane that sported a front basket. The basket usually housed her handkerchief, an assortment of trinkets and packets of 555 cigarettes.

And how she would smoke those cigarettes!

She later moved to Shah Alam to stay in Cheau Lin’s brother’s house when she can be taken care of by Cheau Lin’s mom and sister-in-law. Around a year and a half ago, she suffered a stroke that left the left side of her body paralyzed. I rushed to the hospital to see her and even though she couldn’t speak coherently, she was grunting and pointing with her right hand. I saw her and I realized from her eyes that she recognized me. The doctors weren’t able to do much and suggested that the family brings her home.

She didn’t have the capability to chew solid food so liquid food, most of the time milk, would have to be pushed from a syringe down a tube that ran directed into her stomach. This must have caused tremendous discomfort and pain because she tried to pull it out ever so often. I was given packs of unopened 555s as she couldn’t smoke anymore. I tried lighting up a few sticks but it was like smoking needles that poked deep into my throat. I was thinking then that it took a tough lady to be able to smoke 2 packs of these everyday.

Her condition did not improve.

The last that I saw her alive was about a week and a half ago when I followed Cheau Lin to Shah Alam. Her once bubbly face was but a pale reflection of the image that still have with me when I first met her. Her muscles was wasted due to the lack of movement a result of being immobile for so long. She has also lost a tremendous amount of weight. When I called her and looked at her, blank eyes stared at me. It was too much to bear.

Earlier this week, I’ve heard from Cheau Lin that her grandmother had contracted pneumonia. Both she and I knew that the end would not be long and we told ourselves somehow, when the time comes, this would be a much wanted release from the months of pain she had endured.

Cheau Lin’s grandmother passed away this morning in her sleep and the world has lost a benevolent gentle soul.

John 14:1-3: “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”

Lizards and Rubberbands Reloaded

Rachel’s recent brush with death prompted me to write more about the hazards of the common house gecko.

11.30pm. With my eyes closed and my body totally drenched, I was lying in bed and drifting into the zone where sweet dreams take flight. Suddenly, my mobile phone rang. It was Rachel. When I put the phone near my ear, I could heard a spine chilling scream coming from the tiny speakers. She had dispensed with the pleasantries.

I pieced together the incoherent fragments of her one syllable shrieks and realized that she was trying to tell me that a gecko has landed on her wind screen. The trouble was that she was terrified of these creatures and would sooner prefer to have dental treatment without Novocain than to be in their company, albeit behind a protective sheet of shatterproof tempered glass. To make matters worse, she was driving, alone, in a highway from Shah Alam to KL.

Adrenaline pumped and my mind started to work. “Look,” I said, “you have to stop your car right now! Pull over before you crash into another car and hurt someone else!”

“I CAN’T!!!!” she screamed, “IT IS STARING RIGHT INTO MY EYES!!! ARGHHHHH!!!!”

I persuaded her further. To me, it was highly important that she pulled over and regain her composure before attempting to do anything. But the responses that I got were blood-curling screams. I knew that panic had gotten the better of her and there was no use in talking calmly anymore. I put on my authoritative voice and it boomed, “YOU’VE GOT TO PULL OVER NOW! FUCKIN’ PULL OVER BEFORE YOU KILL SOMEONE!”

Not my best moment but I had to do something to knock some senses into Rachel before she knocked into someone else on the road. Imagine how her police report of the accident would read.

In between sobs, she cried, “Call you back later”- and the phone went dead. I tried calling her- but I got the sickening recorded message saying that the number that I had dialed was currently unavailable and that if I wanted to leave a message, I can do it after the beep. Beep.

For 45 minutes, I stared at my mobile phone and wondered, really wondered, if I had done the right thing. Had she decided to drive off a cliff with the intention of killing the reptile on her windscreen? Did she suddenly put on a Hollywood-style bravado to “take down” the windscreen hugger even if it means paying the deed with the ultimate of her price of her life? Sweat began to form on my forehead. I dialed her number again.

There was a ringing tone.

“Hello, are you okay?” I inquired.

I head sobbing but I was relieved to hear that she was stationary and no longer in her car. “Ok, alreadylah,” she said.

“What happened to the lizard?” I asked.

“It took off-” a brief paused as I realized that she must have shuddered at the thought of the gecko- “It gave me a message.”

Puzzled, I asked what message did the lizard give.

“It told me to lay off exposing them. It told me to tell you to stop writing about them. It wanted me to know that it wasn’t kidding and it pissed on my windshield before it deployed it’s parachute and floated off somewhere along Jalan Tun Razak.”

I was amazed.

The Passion of the Christ

I may not be a theology student or Bible quoting expert but I do find Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ to be a good movie that is going to return lost sheep to the flock.

He (Mel Gibson, not God) wanted to make this as authentic and at the same time as entertaining as possible. But there are a few things that stood out as possibly inaccurate. Although Aramaic was one of the languages that was widely spoken then, the Gospels were written in Greek and there were evidence that Jesus spoke Greek (refer to this thread in an American Scientific Affiliation forum), in addition to 2 more languages that were used then- Latin and Hebrew. Another stretch is the implication that Mary Magdelene and the adulteress being stoned were one and the same person. Apart from these two examples, the movie is quite close to the Gospels. Of course, there is this one episode of flashback that involved Jesus inventing the dinette table, but then you have to give the film makers some artistic license…

Is it anti-Semitic?

My personal view is that there are no anti-Semitic messages that had been added by the filmmakers that were not already there in the Gospels. And even so, the Gospels are not anti-Semitic when taken into context. While the New Testament made reference to Jews who wanted to kill Jesus, in context, Jesus and His followers were Jewish too. It’s like saying that Chiang Kai Shek is anti-Chinese because he wants to kill Mao Zedong. Doesn’t make sense. I guess what irked some Jews is that the Bible claimed that 2000 years ago, some Jews, or specifically, the Pharisees, plotted to kill a person who claimed to be the Messiah.

Of course, it doesn’t help that a Pastor put up a sign in his Denver Lovingway United Pentecostal Church reading: “Jews killed the Lord Jesus”, taken wholly out of context from 1 Thessalonians 2:14-15. This really shows how dumb some purported Christians are because the message of Christ is one of love and understanding.

The reason why Christ died is more important than who killed Christ.

The 11th Malaysian General Elections

In a year that is devoid of any real issues, Malaysian will be going to the polls on the 21st of March 2004. Who then, to vote?

First off, the incumbents are looking very strong this time around. The opposition has to ditch their black book of old scores because the old Man has retired and the new man is doing an acceptable job so far. In Malaysian politics where forgiveness is divine, expect to see issues of the last administration falling flat with the voters (“Haiyaa, now PM also change already what, why bring up somemore?”). Scaling on a solid performance record (though I must say that without the cronyism and corruption we could have achieved so much more in a shorter period of time), there is no denying that this election will be a renewed endorsement for the incumbents. Only thing that I would like to see is old guards lose their seats to make way for new blood.

I’ll be rooting for my favorite social democratic (or democratic socialist) party whose absence and silence during the past 5 years makes one wonder if they had really suffered some rocket malfunctions as a result of NASA cuts. Worse still, are they on a path of orbit that will result in a spectacular fireworks-type disintegration during this election season? Questions that remain to be answered in a season that is devoid of any real social issues to be exploited.

Of course, if you speak to my friend, the Pakcik of my office- we should all vote fairly and free Anwar. To his credit, Anwar is a passionate politician who can summon up the spirits and command respect. He is strong and charismatic. He’s pro-business (another way of saying that he has his own personal business interests). So what if he’s a poof? I’ve no issues with his (allegedly proven) homosexuality but being naked in bed and getting jiggy with zealous mullahs is just plain immoral. My suggestion, cut the taliban ties and move to real issues instead of being another Aung Sun Suu Kyi.

Lastly, how can one not love our own made-in-Malaysia brand of Islamic extremists, whose declared goal is to change our constitutionally inshrined secular (okay, maybe moderately Islamic- but secular enough) Constitution so that they can set up an Islamic state. Their idea is to strip the country of all vices and to impose a code of morality that everyone should follow. Only problem is that their lifestyle might ensure them a place in heaven but what about the unbelievers? Besides, what fun would life be if some of us cannot chomp down on our favorite pork knuckles while guzzling down a pint or two?

I can’t wait to attend the campaign ceramahs!