Month: October 2008

The first and the last

Just a little whining on my personal life.

I have started my one-week intensive course on Aqueous System Technology. By intensive, I mean that this 15-credit module is taught in this whole week, from 9 to 5, with breaks which amount to 1.5 hour per day.

Of course, regardless of the module being very interesting, I just cannot stand sitting permanently in one small room with another 12 students for hours – it is just crazy. And yes, for the ever increasing possibility of me getting sleepy, I have decided to have my daily dose of caffeine increased. 3 cups per day, minimum.

And this is how my desk looks like:

That’s the free coffee we get – I have been a regular customer of Rock Cafe in Renold Building for days now.

So there goes my first lecture of the semester!

Last evening we had our MCOT meeting, the final one for this session which is supposed to end in 2 weeks (yes, AGM is coming, you Mancunians!)- and it was my last MCOT meeting after three years involved.

Happy of course, I won’t be attached to anything , a free one at last. But perhaps, there is a little sadness.

Maybe this is why some of the seniors described the relationship with MCOT : it is in the blood. MCOT mengalir dalam darah.

So there goes my last meeting!

Umbrella

The girls would be tormenting me with teasings and all if I ever sing this song again in my house, but you can’t deny that this one is just melodic. I love it, and after all that I have been through, maybe I should dedicate this song to my friends – every one of you , whom I have regarded as my family, my kins.

You can stand under my umbrella, don’t worry.

p.s. I love Vanilla Sky’s cover version though – it was the ringtone of my handphone, until it was taken away from me.

Feminist at work : Independent Means

I haven’t mention before that this year I have faithfully tried to attend as many as possible The Riveters, UMSU Women’s Right Group events. The first one I attended was on prostitution, which had a sexual worker (a euphemism for prostitute, or worse, whore) talking, as well some other representative including Vicky, a Religions and Theology student from the Marxist Radical Forum, and other speakers from the International Union of Sex Workers and the English Collective of Prostitutes in a forum entitled ‘Sex and the Revolution’. In case you’d like to know what was being discussed, proceed here.

I have always stressed this : attending doesn’t really mean that you agree on everything this group stand for, but it is a challenge for you, a chance and opportunity for us to dig deep into our conscience. And of course, Islam has put a special status from women, but of course there is still something to fight for, not beyond this limit, but to have these status applied (admit it that whatever we have in our society is yet to be aligned with what it should have been).

And rather interestingly, the first theatre I watched this semester is a feminist (and, how less proud I have to say, romantic) one – Independent Means, staged at the Library Theatre. I managed to grab two preview tickets for £1 each and I have to say, even if I have to pay the full, non-concessionary price, I’d be willing to do so – it worths it! Funny yet full of courage, old but still relevant.

I was not surprised to know that the play was considered groundbreaking at its time – it was written almost 100 years ago, and it was not usual for men to see themselves as the sole breadwinner and provider of his family (ok, ok, it is not that I don’t agree with this) and of course, cannot stand his wife being steps ahead of him – intelectually, financially and all.

Funny that all these issues still exist despite us claiming to be more open-minded and perhaps more driven towards providing gender equality. That is why relationship books like Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus might be a bestseller for the next 100 years, the gender conditioning has never ceased, or maybe because that the nature of men (as a gender, not mankind in general?) to resist changes?

By the way, if you are tempted to watch this piece, I am sorry to say that £1 ticket is no more available. But spending £7 or so might be worth, because here are another 5 reasons why you should head to the Library Theatre this month from whatonstage.com:

Distinguished actor Rupert Frazer makes his first appearance on the Manchester stage for 20 years as John Forsyth in Stanley Houghton’s Independent Means. His CV includes roles in Shackleton on BBC1 and Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun, and recently he appeared as Lord Drysdale in Roger Donaldson’s film The Bank Job.Chris Honer’s production of Independent Means is at the Library Theatre in Manchester between 24 October – 22 November. For more information, call 0161 236 7110 or visit www.librarytheatre.com

We caught up with Rupert to find out his five reasons to see him in the Library’s current season, following the success of their Glee Club.

1. For the shock and pleasure of discovering such a rarely performed gem of a play.

2. Because it was written and is set in Manchester almost exactly 100 years ago.

3. To witness a wealthy family pitched headlong into the class, gender and money wars that was to change the face of society for ever.

4. For the fun of seeing how all this relates to our lives today.

5: And for the wonderful cast: Olwen May as my beautiful wife, Geoff Breton as my doted-on son and heir, Ruth Gibson as his independent, newly-wed wife, Richard Albrecht as my wife’s chief admirer, and Sarah Parks as the family’s trusty – and surprising – mainstay.

-Rupert Frazer

Fidel Castro: My Life


I was reading the book I bought as soon as I reached Manchester a month ago, Fidel Castro:My Life when my reading was interrupted by the module I fondly and excitedly wrote about previously. It is such a shame that I have to put my reading on hold for the module (my leisure reading, that is) to give way for a book that is worth 10 credits. I will soon write about it, the book ‘Capitalism as If the World Matters’ by Jonathan Porritt I chose (and agreed by my supervisor who sensed my preference on this particular to the other 3 books I shortlisted), but for now, I would love to put some notes on interesting bits on this particular man’s biography.

I somehow wish that there were more books written this way. The truth is I am skeptical when I read biography, even autobiography to some extent. Biographies allow less transparency – the author would have to take side, now matter how neutral he or she is trying to be (recall that it is human nature to behave that way), and the person who writes his or her own life story would have choose what is to be written, and no matter what he or she chooses to include, be it good or bad things he or she has done, would give him/her a better image. If it is good, then that person will be perceived as good. If it is bad, one will be seen as honest and either way will just increase that person’s attractiveness (except for me who changed my mind about Rooney as soon as I found out that he don’t read newspapers and only watches sports channel). And most of autobiographies are co-written by someone else.

But this book is a compilation of 100 hours of interviews between Ignacio Ramonet and Fidel Castro himself. That means this is a primary source, though I have to admit that the questions asked were probably pretty much influenced by the interviewer’s view on the interviewee. You won’t ask killer questions to a mate who’s running for a parliamentary seat which will expose his weaknesses, will you? But at least this is book is the exact words of Castro himself, rather than interpretations of his words.

Most of what he said on how he turned to be a rebel answered my questions on why some people are just inclined towards activism while some could not care less. I wish i could explain it here, but here’s an excerpt of his answer on the question on whether his own personal history that pushes him to begin a political life, he said:
I told you that I sometimes went hungry; I told you a lot of things, the things I went through. It was very easy for me,then, to understand that we lived in a society of inequalities and injustices.

It is the upbringing and experience that perhaps shaped one person’s view on these things, on whether whatever that is happening worth fighting to have it changed or not.

An another thing that had me stopped and spent my time thinking how grateful I should be is his view on Marx and Lenin.
If Christopher Columbus hadn’t had a compass, he wouldn’t have got anywhere. but the compass existed. I had a compass; it was what I found in Marx and in Lenin. and the ethics – I repeat – that I found in Marti.

That is the second time he mentioned how he is very much influenced by Marx and Lenin and Marti, that these are his compass. That had me questioned myself : he is so thankful that he got Marx and Lenin and Marti to guide him in giving values to things :

From Marx I received the concept of what human society is ; otherwise someone who has not read about it, or to whom it has not been explained, it’s as though they were set down in the middle of a forest, at night, without knowing which way north is, or south, east or west.

And I, from whom or what I came to know my west, east, north and south? Is it from a human or some divine being above?

Islamic epistemology (or the origin of knowledge) told us that Quran and As-sunnah is the supreme (in the consequence written here) source of knowledge, which should help us to construct our worldview, or maybe tells us the concept of human society.

I am way far from having a worldview that is perfectly built on what Islam says, but I am still grateful that whenever I am torn between two I always believe that there will be a light showing me which one to choose.

The strangest example was when I was contemplating on the fundamental behind environmentalism. I read environmental philosophy during summer, well, the introduction to it, but then I started to question my stand on environmentalism, asking the nature of our relationship with nature; how far should we go utilizing it, and then upon balancing my view (so that I won’t jump into being an extremist and radical in this area – which might include choosing to be childfree or a vegetarian Muslim) I have this one last statement that comforted me : ‘Of course there is something that God have taught us regarding this’ and yes, indeed there is. That is when I figured out that studying the environmental philosophy according to Islam and other religions is a must – and of course there are good materials on these to be read.

Back to Castro.

Another thing that struck me is the story he mentioned on a guy named Chibas., described as ‘the leader of a popular party’ and ‘fiercely opposed to theft, speculation,corruption’ who denounced a minister of education as corrupted, having a farm in Guatemala. The man defied Chibas to prove it, and it turned out that the source Chibas had trusted gave him information without the necessary proof. He then came under terrible pressure of slandering and lying.

Here’s what wikipedia says about him:

On August 5, 1951, during the radio broadcast on which he was expected to present the evidence supporting his claim that education minister Aurelio Sanchez Aurango was embezzling money, he instead talked about other topics, warned that Fulgencio Batista might attempt a military coup, and made a farewell statement. Chibas, who was also a senator, killed himself during this broadcast as the congressmen who were going to give him the evidence in support of his claim refused to do so and Chibas believed that killing himself was the only way he could apologize for his inability to keep his promise. He was planning to have the radio listeners hear the gunshot that would kill him, but he was cut off the air because his speech was too long.

That is what I would call dignity and integrity, though it could not be the best thing to do. But to take a look on whatever that has happened (and happening, of course) in my very own country will only make me less proud; we have a deputy prime minister sent to jail, for a false accusation, while having the accuser set free and can’t stop talking for instance. Not that I am fond of the victim to take his side, but I can’t wait for the court to reach the verdict on the latest accusation of sodomy (again) – if it turns out that it is a false claim – should that 23-year-old guy do what Chibas have done?

And I bet Castro is impressive, on how he trained and recruited his army of 1200 young men for the assult he planned:

‘I spoke to each one of them; I strove assiduously to do that – hours and hours everyday’

That was the personal touch, knowing every single soul in your army. Perhaps that was why the won – every single man admitted in such an important, crucial action has been screened. A lesson to be learned of course.

Maybe I should continue reading this soon, bedtime reading perhaps – or else I will delay many other lessons from Castro!

p.s. I have bought a new laptop, alhamdulillah, half of the cost was funded by my friends. My prayers are with you, may Allah bless you and forgive you all.

 

Patah tumbuh, hilang..inshaAllah berganti!

Terima kasih kepada yang menyokong, yang membantu, yang memberi kata-kata semangat.
Terima kasih atas hujanan teks ringkas, mesej YM, emel,panggilan telefon juga kunjungan kalian.

Hanya Allah yang bisa membalas jasa anda semua.

Saya dan ahli bait elok-elok sahaja, tidak ada keluh-kesah kerana kami semua yakin bahawa kita adalah hamba, dan apa-apa sahaja yang diambil kembali, jika kita sabar dan redha maka Dia akan membalas dengan sesuatu yang lebih baik. Lebih baik dalam nilai erti yang kadang-kadang tidak tercapai dek akal.

Rumah kami dipecah masuk beberapa malam yang lalu; tiga komputer riba lesap, tiga telefon tangan juga dibawa lari beserta kamera digital teman serumah.

Telefon tangan saya (yang letaknya dua tiga inci dari kepala) berjaya dilarikan tanpa disedari. Memang mereka licik, atau saya yang tidur mati?

p.s. Telefon tangan saya diinsurankan, jadi pada hari itu juga saya mendapat gantinya. I am contactable, via the same old number.

Food and Books

Let me ask you one question:

What is the connection (whatever you can think of) between these two words – food and book?

Other than both have a double ‘o’ in them, these two things are related in such a harmonious and unexpected way in my life – at least for this coming six months.

Guess what, my final year research dissertation is on Carbon Footprinting of Food, and of course for such a module that worths 50 credits, I gotta read loads, indeed piles of books. OK, I didn’t manage to get the Nuclear Energy topic, but this one is equally interesting and guess what, it is challenging too. Since it is very, very new, all this carbon footprinting stuff, I expect to find fewer reading materials about it. Well, nobody really cares about how ethical or sustainable their eating habit is twenty years ago.

My supervisor was sorry that I could not get that title on nuclear energy (it goes to my ex-lab partner, just for your information) but to me, to get her to be my supervisor is the most important bit. Why not, she is totally impressive. With a research grant of 8.5 million pound, you cannot ask for a more knowledgeable supervisor in this area. And to continue my bragging about her- she’s invited to this environmental conference this December in Penang – to give the keynote lecture.

I guess I am so lucky.

So can you see the link? Food and book. A good combination.

Oh, yes. Include in that equation another module called ‘Book Module’ which requires me to choose a book (related to my project, or chemical engineering generally), read it, master it, write a review about it and later sit an exam in January.

Whoa.

The first part seems the hardest, and right now I am in the middle of choosing one book out of so many interesting titles! The list still goes on – and tomorrow I am off again to the library to borrow some other books which seem pretty good.

Dr Campbell is right – fourth year is extremely exciting!

p.s. I am going to work with a female supervisor and a female PhD student for this project. That is pretty cool.

p.p.s. My supervisor kindly asked me about the henna on the back of my left hand. My artwork seems to be noticeable eh?

p.p.p.s. Expect more entries on books after this. Books get me excited.

FUIYO

One of my housemates is going to Ireland this winter break.

And I, I’m going to London inshaAllah!

Not that I am so exciting about going to London – the truth is I don’t like London – I went there in my first year and the instance I reached that big city I realized that I missed Manchester so much, but this time it’s for ILuvIslam’s winter program – FUIYO.

I would probably be there a little early to have a trip around London since I am there – hopefully my cousin brother will cancel his plan to fly home this winter and be my tourist guide instead (which includes cooking for me).

Oh yeah, I have to cancel my plan to either Bosnia or Morocco this winter. My housemates agreed to go to Bosnia but everyone (including me) seems to be pretty occupied. Easter break, then.

Anyone interested to go to FUIYO with me, please don’t hesitate to buzz me.