Sunday, July 23, 2006

Cultural Identity & Cultural Consumption

Why split hairs over rewriting history and defining cultural identity, when it's easier to just be a conspicuous or compulsive consumer, mah?
Quote of the Day
"We cannot swing up on a rope that is attached only to our own belt."
– William Ernest Hocking

William Ernest Hocking, the idealist American philosopher, wrote 17 books, mostly on the philosophy of religion in modern life, and taught philosophy at Harvard for 29 years. He was born in 1873 in Cleveland to devout parents of modest means, and it took him ten years to finish college while working. In his books, he explored mysticism and the nature of God as well as the conflict in the Middle East. He died in 1966.
Hocking was a member of the Society of Mayflower Descendents and the American Society of Puritan Descendents. His publications represent a Puritan-like range of concern: The Meaning of God in Human Experience, Human Nature and Its Remaking, The Lasting Elements of Individualism, Rethinking Missions, Types of Philosophy, A Free and Responsible Press, Science and the Idea of God, The Coming World Civilization, The Meaning of Immortality in Human Experience.

Cultural Purity or Cultural Hybridity?

Today's 'Horrorscope': Someone's stonewalling* you. Don't you think that this has gone on long enough? Prepare yourself, because the best course of action right now might be to walk away. Other opportunities await.
* stalling or delaying especially by refusing to answer questions or cooperate
While we're on the topic of re-writing or re-inventing histories, and by extension national and cultural identities, we're often confronted with the fallacy of 'cultural purity', that a certain culture can be 'untainted' by 'corrupting' external influences (The phrase "nilai-nilai murni budaya timur" rings clearly in our collective memories).
Just as historical 'texts' are 'sites of ideological struggles' or 'contested terrains', the meanings and interpretations of cultural 'texts' - 'bling bling', McDonald's, Barney, Top 40s Hit, 'bestselling' fiction and nonfiction, 'blockbuster' movies, etc - that define our everyday 'lived' culture/s and thus cultural identities are also 'sites of contestation'.
So, is Malaysia Truly Asia, mah?
To further delve on the notion of 'cultural hybridity', the following are excerpts from an 'intra-view':

Cinema Interval by Trinh T. Minh-ha*
"For me, there is no such thing as pure culture. Whether I deal with Africa or with Vietnam, my own culture, I would have to deal with the very hybridity of the culture itself...Hence, the necessity immediately to question my own position as outsider and as a 'hybrid insider' because, despite the differences, I recognize acutely the ethics and the experiences related to colonialism's aftermath, which I myself grew up with in Vietnam. If it was odd, as an insider, to read about oneself being offered up as a cultural entity by experts writing on Vietnamese culture, it was unsettling to look at oneself and others from the standpoint of an outside-insider in Senegal. The encounter with African cultures thus became a catalyst to think about questions of subjectivity and power relations."
"What is at stake is the problem of established power relationships. When this explanatory language becomes dominant, when it becomes so pervasive that the only way people can think about something is to think about it literally, then for me, that language also becomes dangerous, because its cultural centralization constitutes a form of impoverishment - the ways in which we think are reduced and homogenized - as it excludes or invalidates all other ways of communicating."
"This seems to be the case with a notion like 'hybridity', which has provided a strategic space for a range of new possibilities in identity struggles, but is being reappropriated in diverse milieus, such as the art milieu. Curators can continue to "collect cultures" from remote parts of the world, but rather than retrieving information and salvaging tradition, they now expertly stage and circulate the 'hybrid object'."
"Instead of going back to Kant and Heidegger, why not explore, for example, how Derrida's theories can meet Merce Cunningham's dances, or intersect with certain trends in contemporary performance arts? Why follow only the vertical and its hierarchies when the oblique and the horizontal in their multiplicities are no less relevant and no less fascinating for the quest of truth and knowledge? Why not first and foremost explore how any theory or writing speaks specifically to us - to our situated social and individual selves - from where we are, in our actualities, in our cultural differences, our circumstantial positionings and diversely mediated backgrounds?"
"I feel a great affinity with Marguerite Duras' remark that after the premiere of her film India Song, she had the impression of being dispossessed, not only of a given area, a place, her habitat, but even of her identity...It is through the politics of denationalizing the refugee and the émigré, that a person-who-leaves becomes normalized, being systematically compelled to undergo the process of giving up their home, their country, their language, their proper name. In order to be accepted, one has to abandon one's unwanted self. In order to belong anew, one has to take the oath of loyalty, which entails disloyalty to one's home nation and identity."
* Filmmaker, writer, poet, literary theorist, educator, musical composer, and (un/non)ethnographer, Trinh T. Minh-ha builds much of her work around the theme of the "other" (the persona one considers him/herself to be in relation to), challenging cultural theorists' traditional notions of the subject or/subjected duality. She performed three year's worth of ethnographic field research in West Africa the Research Expedition Program of the University of California, Berkeley. This fieldwork led in part to her first film, Reassemblage, which was filmed in Senegal and released in 1982.
Other Works:
Cinema Interval (1999)
Drawn From African Dwellings (1996)
Framer Framed (1992)
When the Moon Waxes Red: Representation, Gender, and Cultural Politics (1991)
Woman, Native, Other: Writing Postcoloniality and Feminism (1989)
En Miniscules (1987)
African Spaces: Designs for Living in Upper Volta (1985) (with Jean-Paul Bourdier)
Un Art Sans Oeuvre (1981)
A Tale of Love (1996)
Shoot for the Contents (1991)
Surname Viet, Given Name Nam (1989)
Naked Spaces: Living Is Round (1985)
Surname Viet, Given Name Nam
This documentary explores the lives of five women who have survived the Vietnam conflict to live in current (1989) Vietnam. It also underscores the inferior place of women in Vietnamese society both before and after the war, but nonetheless elicits the strong bond each woman feels for her country and society. The lives of all these women are structured by traditional views like the "four virtues" and the "three submissions." Vietnamese women's lives traditionally have three stages: before marriage, she must be a lady; during marriage, she is like a maid; after marriage, she is like a monkey. ~ Clarke Fountain, All Movie Guide

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Pontianak Harum Sundal Malam (PHSM)
"Pulangkan" (Return my 'stuff' to me) and "Ku Seru" (Hailing) are theme songs of PHSMI and PHSMII that remind me of some unpleasant episodes that still haunt me. In the avenging spirit of the Azurris, I would appreciate getting what is rightfully mine. Will whoever took my 'stuff' return them to me pls? TQ

Seharum bunga yang menggoda
Sekadar dipandang usah dipuja
Kau pasti tak percaya
Kasihku bukan untukmu sayang
Tiada kusangka kau sungguh kejam
Kau rampas segalanya yang kau dendam
Namun takkan bahgia kehidupanmu
Bila bunyi bersatu
Kau milikku
Pulangkan cinta hatiku
Oh hentikanlah menghantuiku
Oh pulangkan oh pulangkanlah padaku
Kupulangkan resah hidupmu
Yang dikau musnah tanpa relaku
Bebaskanlah maafkan daku oh kasih
Tiada kemaafan di sini
Kau ragut degupan hatiku ini
Akan ku jejakimu ke mana jua
Hingga akhir masa sayang

Ku Seru
Ku membayangi jiwa hati mu
Tapi perpisahan menunggu
Ku ingin membelaimu
Namun kasihku tiada restu
Diri begini kerna selalu
Ditinggalkan marah sengsara
Hingga hilang terlupa
Siapa aku sebenarnya
Oh dengarlah sayu tangisanku
Mengapa degupanmu ku seru
Kerna kesepian nan berlalu
Kembalikan hidup yang ku rindu
Oh dengarlah sunyi tangisanku
Kau tahu ku amat menyayangimu
Pergilah kau bukan milikku
Pulang pada yang mengasihi
Kesepian berlalu…
Maafkan daku…
Sampai di sini ku lepaskan pergi
Biar ku damai bersemadi
Lukamu ku mengerti
Kan ku hilangkan derita… ini
Kau ku seru…

Monday, July 10, 2006

Materazzi Crushed Zizou's Dream

Azurri trounced Allianz: "these boots are made for walkin' and I'm gonna walk all over you ...." or "I'll boot your butt, Frank!" and "I'll butt your chest, M!" Whatever ....
"Zizou remains a hero to the fans"
9 July 2006 by Reuters
Disappointed fans paid tribute to retiring France captain Zinedine Zidane on Sunday and refused to blame him for their team's FIFA World Cup™ Final defeat by Italy after he was sent off for head-butting an opponent.
The Avenue des Champs Elysees in Paris, the traditional theatre for displays of national joy, was cast as Heartache Avenue as thousands of sad Les Bleus fans milled around the celebrated thoroughfare in dazed silence.
Four women sat outside one bar in the capital's historic Latin Quarter with tears streaking the red, white and blue national flags painted on their faces as defeat, and the prospect of footballing life after Zidane, sank in.
"It's a very sad exit for Zidane," said Vincent Schneider, 24, after watching the game in Paris's Latin Quarter. "He was the major actor in the World Cup. He was under too much pressure."
Zidane's dismissal in extra-time for a head butt into the chest of Italy defender Marco Materazzi ensured he missed a tense penalty shootout which Italy won 5-3 and killed hopes of a fairytale ending to a glittering career.
However for his fans, from President Jacques Chirac downwards, the talismanic playmaker known as 'Zizou' remains a footballing icon.
"I don't know what happened, why he was punished," said Chirac, who was in Berlin for the Final. "But I would like to express all the respect that I have for a man who represents at the same time all the most beautiful values of sport, the greatest human qualities one can imagine, and who has honoured French sport and, simply, France."
Random football quote "It's the first time it's happened to me and maybe the last. It's a strange sensation, not normal for me. I can't remember scoring three goals, even when I was a kid." Zinedine Zidane, French player, after scoring three goals against Sevilla in 2005
Zinedine Zidane was born on the 23rd of June in 1972. His parents of Algerian descent had a total of five children. As a kid, school was not his strongest asset so he turned to football. By the age of 16, a scout by the name of Jean Varraud recruited the youngster to Cannes. One year later, Zizou made his debut in the French First Division. He was signed by Bordeaux in 1992. With his new club, Zidane reached the UEFA Cup final in 1995/96 and attracted the attention of European powerhouse Juventus. After his move to Italy, trophies started to to pour in. By 1996, Ziziou had the UEFA Cup, the European Supercup and the Intercontinental Cup under his belt. He also won the Italian Calcio twice in a row during 1997 and 1998. During the same two seasons, his club managed to reach the Champions League final twice.
When Real Madrid purchased Zinedine Zidane in the summer of 2001, he became the most expensive player of all time. The Spanish club paid a whopping $66 Million for his transfer. In the 2001/02 season, the Frenchman led Real to a Champions League title scoring a spectacular winning goal in the final.
In international competition, Zidane entered the spotlight after carrying his national team to their first World Cup title in 1998. He eventually helped them win their second European title at EURO 2000.
At World Cup 2002, France was eliminated in the first stage. Zizou was struggling with an injury at the time and watched most games from the sideline. Two years later, at EURO 2004, Zidane's country failed to impress again and were knocked out by tournament surprise Greece.
Individually, Zinedine Zidane has been given every major award that a player can achieve. He has won the precious Balon D'Or in 1998 and the FIFA World Player of the Year award in 1998, 2000 and 2003.
Currently, Zinedine Zidane is one of the most skillful players in the game. He can settle and distribute almost any ball thrown in his direction. In individual encounters, Zidane prefers to shield the ball and dribble away from pressure. A master technician, he can apply his skills in any situation and make it look effortless.
Quick Facts
Name Zinedine Zidane
Starting Number #5
Born 23 June 1972 in Marseilles, France
Nationality French
Height 185 cm / 6'2" feet
Weight 80 kg / 176 pounds
Family Status Married to a Spanish dancer named Veronique with two kids: Enzo (named after Enzo Francescoli) and Luca
Foot Both
Teams Cannes (France)
Bordeaux (France)
Juventus (Italy)
Real Madrid (Spain)
Nicknames Zizou
Skills All-round player, control, dribbling, passing, creativity

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Perempuan Melayu Terakhir (The Last Malay Woman?)

"Aku mahu buktikan pada dunia, masih wujud lagi kesucian dan kesetiaan..."
("I want to prove to the world that purity and loyalty still exists...")
PMT in a nutshell:
Haikal, a producer of western drama, travelled to the east coast in search of his identity. There, he encountered Mustika who practiced Malay tradition and culture. Although she is engaged to Engku Leh, a Muslim 'fundamentalist', Haikal finds himself strongly attracted to her.
PMT is one of the few Malay movies that really affected me, especially since I identified myself with the naive and innocent Mustika at the time of its release in 1999. And the haunting lyrics and melody of the theme song, Di Wajahmu Kulihat Bulan, moved me to tears. The analogy drawn from Ravana's abduction of Sita from Rama is also very touching.
Di Wajahmu Kulihat Bulan
Di wajahmu kulihat bulan
Yang mengintai di sudut kerlingan
Sadarkah tuan kau ditatap insan
Yang haus akan belaian
Di wajahmu kulihat bulan
Menerangi hati gelap rawan
Biarlah daku mencari naungan
Di wajah damai rupawan
Serasa tiada jauh dan mudah digapai tangan
Ingin hati menjangkau kiranya tinggi di awan
Di wajahmu kulihat bulan
Bersembunyi di balik senyuman
Jangan biarkan ku tiada berkawan
Hamba menanti kan tuan

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Storming of the Bastille?

"Vive la France!" or "Vive la ancien régime!"

The World Cup mean different things to different people, and for Idealists like ISA and I, it means the triumph of the Wretched of the Earth*, the ragged poor, the real dregs of society, the colored, improverished and struggling migrant generation of white European Union, the touching moments of Les Miserables*, the lively spirit of the Three Musketeers* and a reenactment of the Storming of the Bastille*.

Ironically though, the victorious Les Bleus is also known as "la ancien regime", Domeneche is sometimes portrayed as the Absolute Despot, who interestingly enlightened his team with visits to the museums, instead of the snooker pool.

Gotta log off. Below are excerpts of sterling summaries of Zidane's coup. Au revoir, mes amies!

World-Silent Zidane aims to say adieu with World Cup win
Thu Jul 6, 2006 12:09 AM BST
By Timothy Collings
MUNICH, July 5 (Reuters) - Zinedine Zidane will say farewell to football and end his extraordinary career at the very top on Sunday when he plays his final game for France against Italy in the World Cup final.
Another age-defying display by the 34-year-old midfield maestro in Wednesday's 1-0 semi-final victory over Portugal at the Allianz Arena secured him and France one more night of glory -- and a chance to repeat their 1998 triumph on home soil -- in Berlin.
Yet, typically, after a display that mixed gritty defending and sheer industry with moments of vision and great skill, he departed the Allianz Arena without comment, leaving coach Raymond Domenech and the memories of another fine performance to do his talking for him.
All for one as France go through to World Cup final
Portugal 0 France 1 (Zidane pen. 33)
Cards Yellow: Carvalho 82, Saha 87 Red:
90 minutes in 90 words
Portugal settle faster but the French discover their musketeer spirit and begin to play exhibition football, with Sagnol's pirouette playing like a homage to Zidane in the 22nd minute. Portugal attack well, but the French shepherd them harmlessly aside. Henry turns Carvalho inside-out in the box and is brought down in the 32nd minute. Zidane steps up to take the penalty, and slots the ball home. France then become somewhat complacent during the second-half, allowing Portugal to come at them. Although they live dangerously, the Portugeuse just cannot break through the French defence. Vive la ancien régime
"Zidane has final say for France"
FRANCE earned a place in the World Cup final for the second time in eight years when a penalty from Zinedine Zidane secured a 1-0 win against Portugal in Munich last night.
A tense semi-final failed to produce a clear winner, but France held on in the second half after Zidane had given them the lead in 33 minutes. The 34-year-old, who scored a hat-trick when France beat Brazil 3-0 to win the World Cup in 1998, converted a penalty when his strike partner Thierry Henry was tripped in the box by Portuguese defender Ricardo Carvalho.
"Zidane holds his nerve to book France spot in final" (
FRANCE'S renaissance has turned into another golden age, even if it may last only as long as it takes to play the World Cup final against Italy in Berlin on Sunday.
In a semi-final against Portugal in Munich that could not compete with the previous night's epic in Dortmund, it was Zinedine Zidane who produced the penalty-kick winner with as composed an execution as anyone would expect of an authentic giant of the game.
"Exit of fall guy Ronaldo leaves stage to Zidane" From George Caulkin in Munich (timesonline)
"Brazil 0 France 1: Zidane inspires French rebirth" (Independent Online)
"Rematch of 1998 final sees same result as South Americans falter again on European soil"
By Jason Burt in Munich
Published: 02 July 2006
The world came to kneel at the feet of one player at this tournament. Instead it is another, touched by the gods, but apparently deserted by them also as he has grown older, who may once again take that crown.
Zinedine Zidane inspired France into Wednesday's second World Cup semi-final against Portugal with a wonderful, mesmerising performance. In doing so the 34-year-old not only delayed his second international retirement for at least one more appearance but eclipsed Ronaldinho and, with him, Brazil.
THEY may have taken their leave from the World Cup in familiar, insipid fashion, but English football had cause to revel in the result of last night’s second semi-final. While France’s 1-0 victory over Portugal brought pleasure by proxy to followers of Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United, Wigan Athletic and Newcastle United, there was also grim satisfaction to be taken in the tears of the Premiership’s latest bête noire.
While there were self-inflicted wounds, the bitter circumstances of England’s departure from Germany ensured that support would never transfer to Cristiano Ronaldo or his Portugal team after his involvement in Wayne Rooney’s sending-off during Saturday’s quarter-final and the winking winger was booed to the rafters in Munich.
A final between Italy and France — who, in Thierry Henry, Claude Makélélé, William Gallas, Jean-Alain Boumsong, Louis Saha, Mikaël Silvestre and Pascal Chimbonda, maintain parochial interest — offers a fascinating confrontation between two of the summer’s most potent stories, one side raging against the end of an era and the other whose domestic game has been besmirched by accusations of corruption.
There was dismay for France in the shape of Saha’s suspension for Sunday’s showpiece in Berlin, for a foolish tackle on Luis Figo that earned a caution, but it is Zinédine Zidane who looms above the fixture. The 34-year-old galáctico, whose retirement will coincide with the conclusion of the tournament, mustered the game’s only goal, a first-half penalty. One of the oldest sides in World Cup history has another tilt at the trophy.
Winners in 1998 and champions of Europe two years later, France have surprised themselves with the scale of their achievement after the tame surrender of their crown in Japan and South Korea four years ago. Jeered at the end of their opening group game, a 0-0 draw with Switzerland, few had identified them as candidates to outlast Sven-Göran Eriksson’s serial underachievers, never mind 30 others, but they are on the verge of installing themselves as the greatest team of modern times.
“The quality of this team is its real capacity to suffer,” Raymond Domenech, the head coach, said. “The toughness, the solidarity — it’s extraordinary. After the Swiss, every match could have taken us home, so we played fully with that pressure. Sometimes you feel you’re going to get hanged, but you get through it.”
Portugal’s adventure ended in tears — Ronaldo’s — and tantrums. As Les Bleus celebrated their unlikely triumph, Luiz Felipe Scolari, Portugal’s volatile head coach, jabbed his fingers at their bench as well as the Fifa personnel on the touchline. Angered by the officials, Ronaldo complained of injustice — “It was a very bad referee and I should have had a penalty,” he said — but Scolari trained his ire elsewhere.
“If they (France) had acted more correctly, it would have been of greater consolation to me,” Scolari, who rejected the opportunity to succeed Eriksson, said. “They made some absurd comments about our country and our athletes, about Portugal and our players, using words I can’t repeat.”
At times, Scolari threatened to encroach upon the pitch and a water bottle was hurled on to the playing surface as a series of decisions conspired against them. Most were incontestable, although Zidane, the France captain, was fortunate to escape a caution for diving.
There would have been seismic consequences. A yellow card would have brought a hasty conclusion to Zidane’s illustrious career, which he has said will end when the trophy is lifted in Berlin. There would have been few more heart-wrenching bans since Paul Gascoigne dissolved into a puddle of tears in 1990.
“He’s a star,” Domenech said of Zidane, “but in a positive sense. He’s a champion, one who affords the French public dreams, real dreams. We’ve known for a while each game could be his last. Now we can say it definitively.”

*Franz Fanon was a distinguished Black psychiatrist and anticolonialist from Algeria. He published Wretched of the Earth in 1963, considered by many to be one of the canonical books on the worldwide black liberation struggles of the 1960’s. Written in anger because of the need of independence for his country, the book addressed the role of violence in decolonization and the challenges of political organization and class collisions and questions of cultural hegemony in the creation and maintenance of a new country’s national consciousness. His approach is by no means a settle approach, instead his attack is revolutionary. One of his main points is that the first will be last and the last will be the first. He also uses many other ideologies that support his beliefs and viewpoints.

*Hugo's Les Miserables has a mosaic of characters - police, prostitutes and pragmatic students - woven onto an automatically dramatic backdrop of tragic revolution in France where there is glory in death for a cause. Its protagonist is fugitive turned fighter Jean Valjean, who symbolises the passion - death, romance or obsession - in poignant moments such as policeman Javert’s search of the dead.

*Dumas' classic swashbuckling story of three swordsmen plus one of the disbanded French king's guard who seek to save their King from the scheming Cardinal Richelieu. Jokes and stunts are the expected fare in this light-hearted and jaunty adventure.

*Every year on July 14, France marks the 1789 storming of the Bastille. Festivities across the country honour liberté, egalité et fraternité, with the most spectacular celebrations taking place in Paris. A parade marches down the Champs Élysées by day and fireworks over the Eiffel Tower illuminate the city by night.