there is video floating around the blogosphere of the last few moments of saddam hussein‘s life. the quality is probably that of a mobile phone camera. it is taken at a different angle from that of the official sanitized version all the major news network have been airing since yesterday. as usual the images are blurry and the camera man seems to be in the throes of an epileptic fit.
the settings are a long way from those that hollywood would have us believe. the walls are pock-marked and dank. a narrow steel staircase leads up to the hanging platform. the lighting is decidedly drab and gloomy and not very far from those employed in ‘the blair witch project’. a group of ski-masked men surround a heavily-coated saddam. they politely nudge him towards the platform all the while explaining to him the steps involved. the man in front of him demonstrates how the noose will go around his neck through a series of hand gestures and indecipherable arabic words (at least to me). in the background there is a voice chanting what sounds like a prayer. it is unclear if it belongs to saddam.
the man at the center of it all is a picture of calm and steadfastness. occasionally his lips move but the words are lost in a sea of shuffling feet, gruff voices and background hiss. whatever you say about him, the man had balls of steel. even in death his conviction is rock solid. a ridiculously big noose appears and is strung around his neck. the view drops momentarily and sways from side to side as the camera man gives in to his own emotions. there is a crash and the next focussed shot is of saddam’s face in a horizontal position. his eyes wide open and glassy, still staring straight ahead.
my 100th post! and i am doing it in a starbucks. late yesterday afternoon my internet connection at home gave up the ghost and a small part of my world died. called up my internet provider and they told me that due to the new year weekend nobody would be working on my problem. do technicians deserve days off? i guess they do.
anyways my big move is just 18 hours away. plan to start the 4 hour drive tomorrow morning if nothing crops up. finally packed all my personal effects this morning within an hour. must be a record of sorts. somebody notify the malaysian guinness! i might get my 15 minutes of fame yet in between the biggest mooncake and the tallest flagpost.
for the last few days i have been amazed at my calm in the face of the imminent change. my coping mechanism has been impeccable and i even find myself sleeping better than ever before. oh well, only time will tell. the human spirit is well known for its resilience. lets hope this one holds up as well. happy new year people!
do i dare? yes i do.
new year resolutions :
1. not to second guess myself
2. to stick to decisions and go through with it
3. to finish the numerous books that i left unfinished in 2006
4. to be less obsessive with blog stats (que sera sera)
5. to nurture my other blog ‘positive‘
6. to steel myself against disappointments that are bound to crop up this year
7. to be more receptive and positive towards criticisms
8. to take on responsibilities in a sensible way within my capabilities
9. to be less judgmental of others
10. to do work that i can be proud of at the end of each day
A few fellow bloggers have recently pointed out to me that I have too long a list of labels. This confirms my own suspicion which has been plaguing me for the longest time. Hence I have decided to do away with the list. You can still see the labels at the end of each entry where they are tucked away unobtrusively. Click on any of them and you will be miraculously transported to similar posts. For the more adventurous, you can expand the monthly archives and scan through the entries one by one. This is tedious but who knows? You may find something that you like. This suggestion stems from the fact that I blog about anything and everything.
I have elected only to present the reader with 10 posts per page and as a result he or she might not find anything of particular interest and move on. Even if I put 20 posts per page, they may not represent all the subject matters that I write about. I am just a few posts away from the big 100 and hence there are a lot to go through should you choose to. I want to thank every single soul that has clapped eyes on this blog and hope that in some small way I have managed to ‘productively’ while away a few minutes of your life.
for all the acknowledgment that he gets from the passing crowd he may as well be invisible. he stands in the middle of the tiled corridor dragging a dirty and malodorous mop backwards across the floor. there is a trail of shiny wetness before him. a man walks pass him leaving dirty footprints where he had just cleaned seconds ago. with dead eyes he goes over those spots again and mops them up. minutes later a young couple walks pass leaving more prints. his shoulders sag and drawing a deep breath, he retraces his steps to try to clean the marks away.
a man leaves his home and everything familiar to try to make a decent living in a strange land. a man armed only with a dream to alter the hand that life has given him. at the start of his journey he is a pioneer full of wild energies and improbable hopes. in the end he is a shadow of himself, a sad empty husk, a dried dead leaf floating which ever way the wind blows. the story of the immigrant is one of despair and dashed hopes.
“I sacrifice myself. If God wills it, he will place me among the true men and martyrs”
saddam hussein (from his prison cell)
the above was written by a soon-to-be executed former dictator fallen on hard times. it struck me as a very distinct and infinitely interesting take on life and death. by invoking a higher power, he attempts to justify his past actions to himself and also to others who are still loyal to his cause. i wonder if he really believes it and if he does what kind of thought process he has gone through to arrive at that belief.
if the western media is to be trusted, this man has been party to untold atrocities to the very people that he vowed to protect as leader of his country. lets assume for a moment that the reports are true. how does he look himself in the mirror every morning and how does he sleep at night? he must have stripped the last bit of conscience off his soul in order to do what he does. is he capable of guilt? if not how and why did he lose it? these are some questions that he will likely take to his final resting place.
when he realizes that his end is nigh, he absolves himself of all responsibility by dressing his actions in a coat of divinity. he becomes the victim, a selfless being sent down for the betterment of humankind. is it the last gasp of a political career on life support or the true mindset of a deluded man?
on the other hand if the media has been knowingly vilifying him for their own nefarious ends, and he is indeed the man that he proclaims himself to be, are we losing one of the real heroes of the 21st century? either way he has booked his place in history and will be remembered for as long as there are politicians in this world. he will forever be used as a yardstick by which to measure the integrity and stance of any aspiring statesmen.
if you think the recent entry about my holidays in cameron highlands sounded a bit insipid, i would totally agree. thats what holidays do to me. being pulled out of my natural environment and pace i become a bunny frozen in the headlights of an oncoming vehicle. strange sights, smells, temperature and beds all conspire to pull the rug from under my senses.
in my own defense, things did really go down the way i described them. the car did not skid off the road into a ravine where we were left stranded for days subsisting on the surrounding foliage. we were not accosted by a group of bandits from whom we managed to escape using our wits and macgyver-like mechanical ingenuity. our hotel weren’t the target of alien abductions and we were not anal-probed in a spaceship. the only thing that happened was real life.
i live in a house of cards. or an island. as of 4 am this morning major internet service providers in different countries in asia experienced major disruptions to their services. this is a result of the earth quake in taiwan late yesterday afternoon. the underwater cables connecting us to the rest of the world sustained damage during the quake.
woke up this morning to snail paced broadband and inability to access certain sites. my initial reaction was to check things on my side. everything was as it should be with ubuntu. since i was running late, i went to the office and ran into the same thing with winxp. well at least it was nothing to do with my pc.
came home and things were the same. tried my backup dial-up account and read about the outage from a local tech forum. suddenly i was thrown unceremoniously back to my pre-broadband days of surfing the web at 5.0 kb/s. worse still was the fact that some sites were just inaccessible. if i was distressed think of what major corporations were up to their necks in. i can’t imagine the amount of money they are losing every minute without internet access. this outage will have far-reaching implications that they may take years to recover from.
this brings to light the frailty of this modern age. it only takes one natural hissy fit to bring the world to its knees. a result of living in an accelerated society of quick fixes and instant gratification. we are so obsessed with high speeds that the concepts of longevity and sustainability are left behind on the wayside. when was the last time you took a leisurely stroll through a garden of flowers? when was last time you stopped to listen to the birds sing in the trees? the flowers and birds will probably outlive us all.
i am sitting in a wood-panelled room done up to look like an old english reading room that would not look out of place in a dickens story. the shelves are lined with leather bound books and there is a real fireplace with actual burning logs crackling away merrily. if you sidle up to it, the warmth soaks you in a toasty, homey feel. christmas stockings adorn the wooden mantle piece above it. the smell of cigar smoke creeps into everything and takes root. the carolers were here a minute ago and had just trooped out to spread more christmas cheer to some other party. a thinner than usual and suspiciously oriental santa claus makes his rounds with a bell and ho-ho-ho’s
all this in cameron highlands, malaysia. it about makes the gruelling 5 hour drive up here worthwhile. the morning started off with trying to organize everyone and everything into the family car. as usual tempers were riled but were just as quickly tamed. nothing like a holiday to soothe the beast. the drive was interrupted by a road accident and we waited in the jam for about 45 minutes. everyone was on edge but the mood lightened considerably when the bottleneck was overcome. the traffic was at standstill a number of times on the way up as a result of out-of-towners parking their vehicles on both shoulders of the narrow winding road and thronging the many retail shops littered along the way. the folks were disillusioned by how commercialized the whole place is compared to 10 years ago.
arrived at the hotel and was pleasantly surprised that our rooms have been upgraded due to some difficulty i had earlier making reservations prior to the trip. apparently the room we got is the most expensive room that they have. ho hum. after some overpriced afternoon tea and snacks in the hotel we decided to take in the sights. the temperature was a pleasant 20 degrees celcius and we drove around the area. traffic was quite chaotic at times. this town is just not ready for big crowds but then which town is?
one thing that crops up again and again are strawberries. farm after farm dot the landscape and the locals do brisk business selling them to the tourists. there is something about the redness of strawberries that defines freshness and rejuvenation. they are always bright and cheery especially the ripe ones. there is also something inherently foreign and hence appealing about it.
coming back to the hotel we tried to make dinner arrangements and was informed that the christmas eve dinner set was a whooping RM 250 ++ per person. with the 5 of us the bill would have eaten into a significant portion of my salary. even if we had wanted to, the place was fully booked. ever mindful of the traffic congestion outside, we opted for the in house japanese restaurant instead and the total bill came up to only a fraction of what we would have spent for the crazy christmas dinner.
and the reason why i am sitting in the mock reading room all alone? free wifi of course. a dash of modernity that seems to throw all attempts at authenticity out the window. dickens would have never imagined groups of people sitting with their laptops in a victorian-era smoking parlor bathed in the unearthly glow of their screens. well dickens never imagined how wildly popular his books would be as well.
went back to the room and found brightly packaged presents sitting on the coffee table and on the beds courtesy of the hotel. nothing expensive (well one can dream) and mainly christmas candies, cakes and fruits. what a nice touch! kudos to the hotel staff. ‘the attack of the clones’ was playing on tv and we all marveled at the wooden acting and stilted dialog. half way through the movie, the clock struck 12 and we all went to bed amidst the sound of revelers from the streets below.
the next day we woke up real early and went in search of food before the crowds started to stir. nothing to start off christmas morning like a breakfast of ‘roti canai‘ (a leavened indian bread) served with chicken curry. hot and spicy food tastes extra special when the temperature outside is a chilly 14 degress celcius. made our way back to the hotel and packed. checked out and took the long and winding road back down to sea level. it was distressing to see the temperature indicator on the dashboard rising from 14 to 31 in the short span of 2 hours. arrived home and immediately went to sleep dreaming of snow-capped mountains.