Monday, August 31, 2015

THE VELOCITY OF MY MEMORY



THE VELOCITY OF MY MEMORY

(with apologies to Allen Ginsburg’s ‘The Velocity of Money,”) 
by azly rahman

Weekend drive to Boston; here are my Joycean "screams of consciousness" thoughts all in semicolon; yes, the dreadful and overused semicolon; of Jamaica Kinchaid's "Girl"; I am riding the Prius semi-electric -- eco-friendly they say --  down Interstate-95 to the city of the beginning of the American colonial entity; of the Massachusetts Bay Colony of the original thirteen colonies; of the Boston Tea Party; today's Tea Party, awful awful Republicans; Donald Trump and his honest-to-god American dream of a hermit kingdom ala’ ancient Korea; all these flashes as I whiz down from New York; past Connecticut into Massachusetts thinking of Mark Twain's 'A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, of the celebrated jumping frog of Calavareas County; I am cruisin’ fast as in Al Pacino’s movie title, I am thinking of reading the lyric essay "How Literature Saved My Life"' and yes, looking out for an exit to Henry David Thoreau's Walden Pond; I wish I could pay not tax or live in some Arab country and not get taxed; I am thinking of the habitat of the dead Kennedy; of the American Camelot they say; of the plane crash near Martha's Vineyard; of the Catholic president; but rock radio station is playing great songs of the AWESOME EIGHTIES, another period of music I dig and if you feel me I feel you with these tunes; American prog-rock Night Ranger’s SISTER CHRISTIAN playing; and checking on Waze the App occasionally to see if State troopers hide behind some trees near Walden Pond or some bushes where Henry Wadsworth Longfellow slept; I wish I could write while I drive down the freeways, highways, country lanes; thinking of the Kennedy Presidential Library and what I saw there, display of the range of artifacts of the Cuban Missile Crisis, of the communication on the invasion of the Bay of Pigs; of Marilyn Monroe as the Prez's girlfriend they say; all Bostonian stories; of Harvard, MIT, Boston U, and of course the Red Sox, and never insult the Soxs while in Boston kind of thing; hang out in CHEERS, thinking of the TV series while I was growing up absurd looking for anti-heroes only essentially; as well; and these -- while the music of the awesome 80s play; while memories still fresh of the Boston bombing; and now, and now, and now, as I sit here in my library I read about the Bangkok bombing; AWFUL TODAY AWFUL TODAY; quaint Boston though; here I end this one stream of sentence; not to outdo the great Irish writer, James Joyce. -- azly rahman

Yes, my Sister Christian: THIS SONG WHILE THESE THOUGHTS COME A VISITIN'; I like the awesome eighties American rock, the guitar-work, phrasing, the licks, the reverb, the flanger, the chorus, the echoes, ... the multi-effect pedal, the Moog synthesizer and all, the eighties look of pop rock Americans and oh yes, the band BOSTON too I shall talk about later ... and here I am next thinking about an essay I once wrote about Boston” about Boston bombing revisited and it in is in a street in Malaysia.

BARCELONA BOMBING
BAGHDAD BOMBING
BEGHAZI BOMBING
BALI BOMBING
BOSTON BOMBING
and now
BUKIT BINTANG BOMBING ...

here is the bane of an open society and one that is moving down the ladder of a FAILING STATE .. in which the road to lawlessness is already paved. No-- I am not a pessimist and a "worst case scenario" analyst. Futuristics may be lens I am using now to look at trends, the movement of the "futures-wheels of society", karma of postmodernity, the impact of the evolution of complex systems, the view of Chaos Theory, the transcultural flow of ideas be they violent or peaceful as they travel instantaneously across time and space, and most importantly as Malaysians ... what we reap from what we sowed ... a karma of a global city.

"May we live in interesting times", Chairman Mao once said -- indeed the time is now with almost 30 million people living in a highly complex society that is still trying to mediate the contradictions of a capitalist system and a government that, not only tries to manage chaos out of order, meet the needs of the microbial-multitude of demands made by groups, but also this: a government that is becoming so corrupting and untouchable and prone to its own implosion and controlled internal demolition yet able to sustain itself by building rationale and structures of a defense system of a survival mode that imprisons its governors inter-generationally.

And we now have a classic problem of a hypermodern society, an open society threatened by its enemies, as Karl Popper would, say. The enemies are home grown, borne out a strange brew of an Oktoberfest of the excesses and the sane-ness of religious and cultural philosophies.

BUKIT BINTANG -- the Times Square of Cyber-Hyper-Malaya. Her Trafalgar Square. Her Hatyai Square. Her Jalan Wong Ah Fook Square in "Sin City Johor Bahru" (from a poem I once wrote that got the Johor government excited).

That glitzy, red-lightsy,
excitement inducing street of a global city,
and a clone of a clone of a Times Square if New York City --
that Bintang Walk of a semiotics of a city
of all kinds of future possibility:
culture of red lights gone crazy,
people worshiping neon gods unrepentendly,
scene of urban decay and homelessness of a consequence of a system of international slavery
and human trafficking framed as "progress" needed for Malaysia to be defined as a "high-income society"
aha .. these rhyme and I am happy.

BOMBS in BUKIT BINTANG. Bombs over Baghdad.

If it is gang-triad related, the Bukit Bintang we have got to do what Lee Kuan Yew did in the 1960s to round out all the triads and send them to jail mercilessly.

If it is Al Qaeda and IS-related, we have got a bigger problem that will have no end to the story of Malaysia -- of a 1001-Nights of a Rubaiyat of Wall-Street type of forthcoming city violence, urban terrorism, and religious-flavoured chaos of a magnitude a "foreign intervention" would be necessary when it comes to maintaining regional/Southeast Asian security in this Age of Neo-Pax-Americana of and "Asia-as-Pivot" ideology.

I don't know .. do you?
My morning-after complaint I think ... -- ar

And then there is the bombing in Sydney.
I am sharing these verses I wrote some time ago, in condemnation of what happened in the Australian city.

“The day Osama died.”

The day Obama put that Osama to sleep I saw a rainbow across the Manhattan sky
But why was it black?
with a darker cloud bursting at the end
of the rainbow?
The end of jihad and the last man could it be?
I do not know
Meditating upon a Manhattan bagel and a latte to begin my day
Watching bodies flow up and down Fifth Avenue
A man in three-piece suit at a news stand holding a daily
a front page photo
of that man Osama
a large caption reads ‘ROT IN HELL’
Meandering were my thoughts as those words danced frantically
Does not the Quran curse those who bring terror
in the name of Thy Lord who created thee and placed thee in an abode called ‘Love’?
Did not the Quran warn against false prophets and those who bring chaos into this world?
Did not the Quran asketh human beings to see and feel what the Path of Righteousness is about?
Did not the last verse of the Quran speak about holding on fast
to the brotherhood and sisterhood of humanity?
Is not the greatest jihad lie in the struggle against
arrogance,
intoxication of power,
selfishness,
gluttony,
the urge to plunder,
murder
... in the name of religion too?
Why must those who believe in the Merciful and The Compassionate be apologists
to those who create terror and make false promises
to those who are trained to terrorise?
That Osama died for his own truth
In a world wherein there is none to hold on to
except that of one's evolving own
truth that matters lies not in how others have read the Scriptures for you
but how you have read them
and how the Scriptures in turn have read you
From Love Man hath come
Unto Love Man shall return
City. The city. The metaphysical spaces of our surrealistic entity. The city is my other mother. I leave you with these verse of my beloved city of the late seventies that rasied me well and groovy: the city of Jay Bee, a sinful city of piss-smelling streets and bong-smelling people walking like zombies ...

"Sin City, Jay Bee"
by Azly Rahman

Where have all those memories gone
Of the city that never sleeps
Sin-filled you are
... Offering life's panorama
A pandora box of a lushness of emotions
Jay Bee
You may be called a city of filth
Of gang wars and transvestite a galore
Of rock kapak geniuses conceived immaculately
From the womb of Papa Rock
Ahhh New Johor ... New York you may want to be
Thou shall never attain that notoriety
Sweet city sin city
Celebrating the velocity of money
It is there I knew love's inner beauty
As we walked up and down the Lido Beach
whose middle name is "filthy"
Ohh Jay Bee ... you are a soul that is one with me
Jay Bee
Sin city
where politics stink
where corruption gets a nice daily wink
where the power elites are the underground kings
where the poor are hoodwinked
where the children of the working class roam the streets in motorcycles with bilng bing
where the smell of ganja filled the air like a pissed-on fermented drink
Ahh Jay Bee
City of Sins
Your hunchback of Tanjung Puteri is dead and gone
Committed sepukku at the sight of what has become
Of you sin city Jay Bee
Si Bongkok died of a death he long-willed for
As the sight of the crooked bridge broke his heart that exploded with a roar
Ahhh... thanks to the Johor Corridor
And the Disney of Nusajaya Johoreans adore
Sin city
Jay Bee
Your economy, like a Segget River , stinks till eternity
Love is gone
Of the one my heart held on
As I walked countless miles
Along the Lido beach
Time has not been kind
To this city that never sleeps
To this sin city
That weeps
The yesteryears of the loss of pride that run deep
Love is gone
The deal is sealed
Sin city you are now sold
To the forked tongued nationalists grown old like ageing Disneys
Sin city
Jay Bee
You were once mine
You will no longer be

Happy birthday pretentious city! 

As a child of ten or twelve or thirteen, as in my profile photo this is what I rememeber about these two cities:

If Johor Baru is a gangsta city and da' bomb, Singapore in the sixties is the glitter city and da' bling bling. This is how I see it. This is how I am remembering things on the birthday of the latter; a city called "Singa Pura" whose origin I mistook as meaning "the city that pretends", (ber pura pura). It pretends to be a postmodern city architecturally but it houses its people in an Orwellian world of cultural insensibility; it pretends to be a city founded upon liberal democracy but it uses confucian ideals to confuse its citizens what it means to be free; it pretends to be a western country but it is a state and a city and therefore a city-state that lives and breathes on the hegemony of the ultra-clean-ultra-kiasu-ultra-controlling city run by ultra-men and women with, well arguably, altruistic motives.
Now, that is Singapore, da' bling bling city. Sin city JB, or Johor Baru is different. It is also a "pura pura city" back in the sixties; and a "kura kura city"; these two hybridity of concepts of a city makes Johor Baru, ironically and exciting "pura pura kura kura city"; a city that pretends to be like Singapura da' bling bling city but growms slow and slugging like a turtle carrying the weight of the universe ... making Johor Baru da' bomb trying to be da bling bling of a city.
Now folks and homies ... you dig me?



OTHER THAN THIS -- Gooooodddd Morning Amerika ! -- ar

ACTS and REVOLUTIONS in BOLEHLAND

The Stamp Act, The Intolerable Acts, and many other Acts imposed on the original 13 American colonies -- all culminating in the slogan "Taxation Without Representation", led to the the revolt of the Americans against the British, led by General George Washington aided by the French General Marquis de Lafayette, fueled by patriots and pamphleteers such as Paul Revere, Patrick Henry, and Thomas Paine .... a revolt against the regime of King George and the declaration of American Independence in 1776. 

Now in Bolehland ...

POTA, AUTA, CHOTA, DOSA, SANGSARA -- are the features of the Malaysian dissatisfaction that could lead to the fall of the ruling Barisan Nasional Regime ...if and only iff ... Pakatan Rakyat parliamentarians realized that they are not paid and voted into power by the people to be absent without leave when parliament is in session. POTA is an example of a chota (hard stick to beat people up) approved with the help of the absentee votes of the missing Pakatan species who chose to stay home and bake cookies past midnight

My years of living in rock
Azly Rahman
Dec 3, 07 1:55pm

Doesn't anybody remember laughter…? - from Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven

"Oh baby it's a wild world…" - Cat Stevens

This weekend I did not think deep profound thoughts about my column. I was thinking about rock and roll. Yes – that music that was part of the wave of "yellow culture" our parents warned us about. We have known "sin" through rock and roll, some wise men would conclude.

I want to share something about a passion I once had – about the passion of living in rock. So, I washed myself with the experience – through several YouTube videos on rock music. A visual of Queen's guitarist Brian May tormenting his Gibson Les Paul atop Buckingham Palace excites me. Imagine Hillary Ang of Malaysia's rock group Search or Man Kidal of Lefthanded playing a Jimi Hendrix-rendition of Negaraku atop the Istana Negara – that'll be the day when things have already runamuck! That'll be a serious latah-ization of this nation.

I wanted to feel how old ideas can teach me what newer realities mean. "Old school versus new school", as these say these days, I wanted to test how my perception of the present can be altered by the music of the past. I was experimenting with my own stream of consciousness, as the Irish poet James Joyce would term it. If this column is a stand up comedy, it would be a Seinfeld; if it were an artwork, it would be Andy Warhol's' Campbell soups. Or "Urination", perhaps.

No, I did not think about the three upcoming rallies, the government's accusation that the Hindraf leaders lied, the potential loss of GE-2008 seats by the ruling party, the UPM fiasco of the suspended student, the long term impact of mass protests and street rallies in relation to mass and democratized form of human rights education, the continuing intellectual saga of the UUCA and the Akujanji, my invitation to speak to students in Boston, Washington DC and Stamford, and the documentary on Jacques Derrida I am yet to watch.

I sought solace in rock music. I "chilled" with it. I had so much fun chilling - away from the "chilling" national issues of the day. I have "sinned" again, perhaps. It is said that the guitar is the instrument of the Devil. I went into nostalgia-mode - I felt that I had long hair, tight Levis blue jeans, smoking a Marlboro, had Fonzie's "Happy Days'" leather jacket, and felt 'groovy'. And I had "Fung Keong" sneakers on too. Yes, the language of the mid-1970s came back. "Fag" was for cigarettes", "stoned" and "steamed" was for the feeling drug abusers had after getting "high", as sung by the group Deep Purple in "Smoke on the Water". The song immediately brought me thinking of Frank Zappa and his Mothers of Invention. This auditory and visual experience further brought me to my growing up years in a kampong in Johor Bahru where I joined the elders in listening to an album called Rolling Stones' "Goat Head's Soup" - in my head the tune "We Are an American Band" by Grandfunk Railroad playing.

Energy and inspiration

And yes, the Malay youth then were smoking something that smelled strange. In between running around barefoot in the kampong I would stop by at the favourite hangout of the older "kutus" (wayward youth) in my kampong – to take a peek of what they were smoking. But boy – they really had good, fun, and they had uncomplicated and unpretentious album covers back then. "It's a wild, wild, world…" as Cat Stevens would say. I could have been one of them (the kutus) if not because of an "imaginary friend" I had with me, all the time. Western influence was so pervasive – so addictive. It takes a new paradigm of consciousness to break free of its shackle.

I drowned myself in the wave of old favourite music of "my generation". Raja Petra Kamaruddin of Malaysia-Today would say that The Who – Roger Daltry, Peter Townshed, and Keith Moon – is the band of his generation. Perhaps our most celebrated cartoonist Lat would choose Elvis Presley's "Jailhouse Rock" as his musical human semiosis.

My kind of music was the "Stairway to Heaven" genre. The music of Led Zeppelin, Yes, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Rolling Stones (now 'The Strolling Bones"), Carlos Santana, Rush, Queen, Genesis, Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, and Rainbow. And Eagles too. I explored "committed rock music" at one point in my life – the music of the Irish band U-2. Of late too I have been analysing the music and lyrics of the most celebrated Indonesian rocker Iwan Fals. These are the lyrical poets of my generation.

There is so much energy and inspiration in rock music of the mid-1970s that I had refused to listen to rock of this Rempit generation. I hope our generation is not practicing he strange dance of the death metallists. I would prefer to listen to the sound of the whispering wind and my heartbeat than listen to bands such as Linkin' Park, Korn and Peter Pan of Indonesia. My apologies to this generation for my confession. I think the global music capitalists have become too greedy to produce good, sensical, rock and roll music. The children of this generation I think are more stoned and are gathering more moss as an after effect of the over-consumption of today's junk rock and death metal music.

They do not know how to value the lyrics of the great rock and roll pieces such as "Stairway to Heaven", a three-part Led Zeppelin classic that every youngster of my age the were trying to learn to play on the old beaten Chinese-made "kapok" guitar. They have not listened to Queen's operatic masterpiece "Bohemian Rhapsody", Pink Floyd's simple yet profound "Wish You Were Here", or Yes' mystical magical "Turn of the Century" – or even Simon Garfunkel's lyrical poem "I am a Rock" to appreciate the philosophical messages behind the lyrics that are serenaded with, at times shrieking and Earth-shattering guitar riffs. The youth of Cybernetic Malaya need to go back to listening these classic and understand what freedom to think and explore means.

I do not know what the Mat and Minah Rempits and Mat and Minah Reformasis are listening to. I would assume that there is a difference – the rempits listen to death and thrash metal and maybe gangsta rap and the reformists listen to soft rock, and urban and alternative music. I might be wrong in labeling them. Readers may email me to enlighten me on this.

Back to Led Zeppelin - and what went into my head to shape my consciousness.

Hey, I wrote about something here – about my generation and how the spirit of rock music can also inspire one to embody and promote free speech. Now I am energised to continue with equally serious issues for my upcoming columns.

Long live rock and roll? Maybe

If the Americans had a Boston Tea Party to signify the protests leading to the Revolution, what do the Opposition coalition have? Bota Kanan Bota Kiri Teh Tarik Party ran by the Missing Opposition MPs. And therefore the revolution to stop POTA did not happen ... we now will be living with the Rule of the Chota, ran by a regime of the Autas, and given a few more decades of Sangsara, and can no longer differentiate between Dosa and Pahala .... Welcome to the Land of the Sangsara .. run by Duryodhanas ...

And thank you to the Missing Pakatan MPs who were lost at the junction of Bota Kanan, Bota Kiri ....
MY LECTURE NOTES
or what looks like notes on Chaos Theory

The CI3 -- of consciousness, individuals, institutions, ideology that dominates
" ... in that we live in a world demanding our understanding of the semiotics and cybernetics of the self; to understand how to read ourselves and the world within and outside of us; to construct, deconstruct, and reconstruct our inner and outer worldviews; to see life as a complex process of authoring of the self and re-authoring our world that is constantly shifting; to have a sense of what the "core" is if there is indeed one; to see linearity and multi-dimensionality of our invented realities as one; to see ourselves as an organic mechanism of a grand narrative with multiple subplots with no narrative structure and as a complex novel with no plot but a story begging to be told -- of joys and suffering and meaning and meaninglessness; to see chaos as a beautiful pattern of randomness; to master the art of being a metaphysical anarchist that t will use the sense of being to resist the hegemonizing power individuals, institutions, and ideology to dominate and destroy the self; .... and much more ... essentially: ... live free -- or die happy in the hands of the State and religious, cultural, or any ideology ... to LIVE, LOVE, LIBERATE and DIE LAUGHING at TYRANTS, TOTALITARIAN REGIMES, AND THEOCRACIES -- ar

MALAY HISTORY X...

In the Sejarah Melayu/Malay Annals ... the story began with the the genesis of the Hindu-Buddhist Java kingdom, a precursor of the Malay kingdom.

A complex genealogy of kings was presented and the narrator of the Annals is said to have "overheard" a conversation on the lineage. It traced back to Iskandar Dhulkarnain presumably Macedonian conqueror who married a woman from India and the story of "who begets what begets what begets what "begets what" ... like the Bawani Affair's "listen listen listen listen narrative ... adorned the this "world heritage classic" throughout".

But essentially it is about a skimpy and fast-paced mentioning of the process of "who-begets-what" laced with some illogical and fantasmagoric elements of magic and of "profound beauty of this or that princess", etc.

I suppose this is what the structure of Grand Narratives look like as opposed to the story framed in the Subaltern. The author must establish credibility of "what he heard" via Oral Tradition so that he could inscribe these into text (on papyrus, the "lontar", stones, rocks, boulders, caves walls, etc.) so that "subsequent generations will not forget where we come from".

The story of the first "founder" of Melakka is interesting. When he was still a Hindu prince, he is said to have dreamt of meeting Muhammad the prophet and when he woke up he was "already circumcized"!

Herein lies the claim of legitimacy not only to kingdom-hood but also to the purity of his soul that made it possible to "meet the prophet" -- although such as claim cannot be verified by any Sunni ulama who would say that one cannot possibly meet Muhammad (since Muhammad cannot manifest himself to anyone) and if one does it must be the Devil himself/herself he/she had a rendezvous with.
So --- was the first Melakka Sultan (Param-Iswara) ordained by the Devil?

I don't know ... historians out there ... do you?

On reading text as the text reads us 

-- texts are texts meant to be read logically hermeneutically as well based on the life and tines of the text; texts, even the religious ones are to be read critically and questioned and not simply to be recited, held in awe of grandiosity, even treated like a living being, held in highest esteem on the highest pedestal in some temple or house or worship; texts want to be read, not worshiped nor be existing and breathing and living as texts as long as they are not questioned; the human mind is a powerful tool and instrument and a world of cybernetic complexity to be used every cellular-second of one's life as an instrument of critical, creative and constructivist judgement so that what is read is not merely the text but the reader becomes the text and the text present itself as a context of shifting meaning, based on the idea of phenomenology and hermeneutics, and that socratic-platonic idea of constructivism in which even the text must be scrutinized of the nature of its authorship, rather than see it unquestionably as a set of ideas and concepts and injunctions handed down from the heavens.
I think.
But what do you think? -- ar

NEO-GEERTZIAN NOTES
on being culturally groovy

IF YOU MUST LEARN TO APPRECIATE and RESPECT OTHERS
and be a bit more "cultured" and groovy too ... -- ar
GROOVY is DOING ETHNOGRAPHY
ETHNOGRAPHY ...
as exciting as acting maybe ..
making the strange familiar
and the familiar, strange
to suspend judgement,
it is a study of cultures,
whatever they may be
wherever their locations may be
whatever we make culture to be
perspectives,
meaning-making,
rites,
rituals,
of thick description,
of in-depth interviews,
of going into the field as participant
or non-participant observer
of describing cultures, not judging them (yet),
but most importantly to learn a bit more
of what it means to be human,
all too human
never buried under numbers
to understand variations,
of the tools we use to work and play
in the house that we and others inhabit
to write notes
to write memos
to code
to decode
to construct
to deconstruct
to un-ground theories
to construct patterns of meaning
and finally .. naturally .. to tell stories
in all their strangeness
and familiarity
-- all these ...
and the reward?
to help perhaps defend the culture studied
and to become "one of them"
albeit not entirely being in them
yet be able to return to laughter,
and finally, to have that honor
of having "the anthropological veto" ...
we are all, in our own way,
daily anthropologists trying to make sense
of phenomena around us
and discern patterns of meaning,
so that we will all not go bonkers/insane being aliens
and being hateful of things
we do not yet understand ...

-- azly rahman

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