Thursday, September 20, 2007


Gross! Pigged out last night on sautéed escargot and spinach.

"Gleen tea vely good for bad stomach," says Sinseh Ch'ng.

"Rather have peppermint," says Noseless Ned the Nerd.

"'Ere, mon, 'ave a spliff!" drawls Rufus da Rastaman.

"Thanks, bro! It's illegal in some places, y'know."

"Friend of mine got caught with a stash in Sing-Singapoo."

"Kids these days prefer to pop pills. They think it's cool."

"I'll stick with the chicks..."

"The Church does not condom premarital sects, you fornicators!"

"It's okay... I've been baptized!"

"My only sin is gluttony."

"Harro, my name... Lambo!"


"Oh, give me a break!"

Photos by Bayat aka Berge Gazen, a Turkish photographer whose versatile middle finger has a cult following. View more of his ingenious "Middleman" images here!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The War Works Hard ~ Dunya Mikhail

War is a recurring theme for poet Dunya Mikhail, an Iraqi exile who fled her country after being placed on Saddam Hussein's enemies list. She wrote her first poems as a teenager in Baghdad, just as the slaughter of the Iran-Iraq War began. Subsequent wars offered more to write about.

One of Mikhail's collections is called The War Works Hard. It's also the name of a poem with an ironic take on the meaning and consequence of war.

Mikhail, who now lives in the United States, wrote that poem in response to the Persian Gulf war of 1991.

"When I think of war, for me, it's by default a ... lose-lose case," the poet says. "I believe there's no winner in the war because, you know, the killed one dies physically and the killer dies morally. So they are both dead."

For Mikhail, writing about war is not necessarily a way to heal wounds, she says.

"On the contrary, it keeps [them] open forever," Mikhail adds. "Poems are like X-rays. It makes you see the wound and understand it."

Three Poems by Dunya Mikhail (from The War Works Hard)


How magnificent the war is!
How eager
and efficient!
Early in the morning,
it wakes up the sirens
and dispatches ambulances
to various places,
swings corpses through the air,
rolls stretchers to the wounded,
summons rain
from the eyes of mothers,
digs into the earth
dislodging many things
from under the ruins…
Some are lifeless and glistening,
others are pale and still throbbing…
It produces the most questions
in the minds of children,
entertains the gods
by shooting fireworks and missiles
into the sky,
sows mines in the fields
and reaps punctures and blisters,
urges families to emigrate,
stands beside the clergymen
as they curse the devil
(poor devil, he remains
with one hand in the searing fire)…
The war continues working, day and night.
It inspires tyrants
to deliver long speeches,
awards medals to generals
and themes to poets.
It contributes to the industry
of artificial limbs,
provides food for flies,
adds pages to the history books,
achieves equality
between killer and killed,
teaches lovers to write letters,
accustoms young women to waiting,
fills the newspapers
with articles and pictures,
builds new houses
for the orphans,
invigorates the coffin makers,
gives grave diggers
a pat on the back
and paints a smile on the leader's face.
The war works with unparalleled diligence!
Yet no one gives it
a word of praise.


What good luck!
She has found his bones.
The skull is also in the bag
the bag in her hand
like all other bags
in all other trembling hands.
His bones, like thousands of bones
in the mass graveyard,
his skull, not like any other skull.
Two eyes or holes
with which he listened to music
that told his own story,
a nose
that never knew clean air,
a mouth, open like a chasm,
was not like that when he kissed her
there, quietly,
not in this place
noisy with skulls and bones and dust
dug up with questions:
What does it mean to die all this death
in a place where the darkness plays all this silence?
What does it mean to meet your loved ones now
with all of these hollow places?
To give back to your mother
on the occasion of death
a handful of bones
she had given to you
on the occasion of birth?
To depart without death or birth certificates
because the dictator does not give receipts
when he takes your life?
The dictator has a heart, too,
a balloon that never pops.
He has a skull, too, a huge one
not like any other skull.
It solved by itself a math problem
That multiplied the one death by millions
to equal homeland
The dictator is the director of a great tragedy.
He has an audience, too,
an audience that claps
until the bones begin to rattle—
the bones in bags,
the full bag finally in her hand,
unlike her disappointed neighbor
who has not yet found her own.


Yesterday I lost a country.
I was in a hurry,
and didn't notice when it fell from me
like a broken branch from a forgetful tree.
Please, if anyone passes by
and stumbles across it,
perhaps in a suitcase
open to the sky,
or engraved on a rock
like a gaping wound,
or wrapped
in the blankets of emigrants,
or canceled
like a losing lottery ticket,
or helplessly forgotten
in Purgatory,
or rushing forward without a goal
like the questions of children,
or rising with the smoke of war,
or rolling in a helmet on the sand,
or stolen in Ali Baba's jar,
or disguised in the uniform of a policeman
who stirred up the prisoners
and fled,
or squatting in the mind of a woman
who tries to smile,
or scattered
like the dreams
of new immigrants in America.
If anyone stumbles across it,
return it to me please.
Please return it, sir.
Please return it, madam.
It is my country…
I was in a hurry
when I lost it yesterday.

From The War Works Hard, published 2005 by New Directions. Copyright © 2005 by Dunya Mikhail. Translation copyright © 2005 by Elizabeth Winslow. Used by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.

CONNIE TALBOT: 6-Year-Old Finalist on "Britain's Got Talent"

Connie's charm and talent alone are enough to restore one's optimism about the ultimate value of the human experiment!

Anand Krishna: Lessons from Bali


Features - August 29, 2006
The Jakarta Post

Michele Lee, Contributor, Bali

TO SIT in the cool tranquil space of the new Anand Krishna center in Bali with the man himself is to be in the company of one of the most renowned spiritual leaders in Indonesia.

His talk the night before had been inspirational so The Jakarta Post took the opportunity to meet him to explore further his beliefs about love, religion and peace.

His Indian accent was undeniable, yet he was born and raised in Surakarta, Indonesia.

Jakarta Post: You said last night in your talk that love is the only solution. Why is it the only solution?

Anand Krishna: I would say that love is the deepest emotion in human beings. It is the deepest part of our inner selves. When the solution is deep enough, then the result is also quite long-term.

It's just like when you have a tree. If the roots grow deep into the earth, then you will have a big tree. So this is the same thing, we should have a solution that is deep within our being and then we can expect a result which is long term.

That's a beautiful metaphor. You also said that when we practice consciousness, this is love. Do you have any suggestions as to how we can become more conscious in our lives?

In Bali, especially, they have a beautiful tradition of dedicating oneself to the environment, to another human being and to God.

I would say that the generic word for God is love. When you do that you are being conscious. You are being conscious of your environment and you are being conscious of anything that you do.

How you sit. How you behave. How you converse with people and interact with them. Consciousness is not something that you can achieve from an hour of meditation every day; it's a full-time job.

It's how you practice meditation in your daily life - from moment to moment. And consciousness also means that it is important to let go of a part of your body in order to save the rest of your body.

So, to let go of part of your body as you say, is a form of sacrifice. So you do feel that there must be some sacrifices made?

I think so. We are sacrificing every minute, every moment actually. We are sacrificing certain things which we feel have lesser value. If you have a better vision, then you let go of the smaller vision of the vision that you no longer have anything to do with now. So actually we are sacrificing every moment.

It was quite enjoyable to hear your views on Gandhi. You said last night that you didn't agree with his methods of fasting because that was a form of hurting himself and love is not about hurting yourself. What do you think, then, is a better way to achieve peace?

Bring about awareness. This is why I started admiring Martin Luther King recently. He was so inspired by Gandhi but he didn't use Gandhi's methods. He would go into the street and make his point clear; he would let himself be imprisoned, but he wouldn't fight back or retaliate.

This is the way, I think. You make your point clear and you think about awareness and you make people aware of the cause you are fighting for. This is exactly what I'm trying to do ... trying to put these two great people together - Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

This is what is needed in Indonesia to bring about awareness that we are a great nation. Once upon a time we used to export spices to Madagascar and Africa. We used our own ships.

So where is that greatness? That greatness is still there within us. Why do we have to adopt something that is not suitable for us?

What I see in Indonesia is that one part of Indonesia is adapting to the Western way of life, which is quite good; I don't have any problem with this, but the whole culture from the West may not be suitable for this country.

The other part of Indonesia is adapting to the Arabic way of life and this is going to create two societies within one. That's not good because we will bring the fights, the battles and the wars to our side - to our country.

Your views on religion are very interesting. As you said, we all have many different religions, such as Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, etc, but you feel that we can all come together, because even though we may all have different methods of worshiping God, there is still that one God and one truth that we are all trying to realize.

How can we overcome our prejudices about religion and become more open and less narrow-minded about the whole concept of what God is?

That's why I like to use the word love, because when you speak of love you talk about love. You can even accept the ideas of those who don't believe in God.

There was a Sufi who met someone who said, "I don't believe in God." The Sufi asked him, "Do you believe in yourself?" The man said, "Yes, I do."

As long as you believe in something - that something can be God, love, or self. In the Indian tradition God is your higher self - so I think we have to create this awareness about love.

There are many people who may think to themselves, "I have nothing to do with God." But all of us have got something to do with love.

So the state of creating a dialog between religions, what has been done especially by Christians and Muslims for the last 2,000 years, has been going on for centuries, yet we are heading nowhere because they are talking about God, yet God is not appearing before us.

When a Christian loves a Muslim or a Buddhist loves a Hindu or a Hindu loves a Muslim and if they are really deeply in love - just two human beings, then they forget about all these barriers.

Instead of talking about God - this is wrong I think - let's talk about love.

Once you talk about love and you develop that feeling of oneness with each other then God is present; then you will have no problems at all.

[recommended by Olivia de Haulleville]

Sunday, September 16, 2007


Views from Bukit Jambul, en route to Besakih where the Mother Temple is located.
Bali's biggest temple at Besakih was acrawl with pilgrims when I arrived,
so I chatted with a couple of luminously beautiful vendors and rode off into the sunset.

I GOT AS FAR AS the side entrance to Tirta Empul hotsprings but decided to give it a miss. Too many day-trippers there, it felt like Batu Caves. I figured, the hot springs may be “holy” but, heck, all springs are – and I don’t like humans building a fence (and bureaucracy) around them and charging admission for Nature’s gift of healing.

Fifteen minutes later I was feeling exhilarated as the road’s gradient subtly began to increase and I knew I was heading into the highlands. Guess my lungs have acquired a taste for crisp mountain air from fifteen years of living at the foot of the Titiwangsa Range. Stopped to buy half a kilo of heavenly marquisas (“the famous Indonesian passion fruit”) and snapped this portrait of a fresh-faced highland girl (I was charmed by the way the fruits were displayed in elegant pyramids).

Village girl at fruit stall 20 minutes from Gunung Batur
As my 5-day tour of Bali progressed I became acutely aware of the fractal nature of reality. My handy desktop dictionary puts it this way: “Fractals are useful in modeling structures (such as eroded coastlines or snowflakes) in which similar patterns recur at progressively smaller scales, and in describing partly random or chaotic phenomena such as crystal growth, fluid turbulence, and galaxy formation.” The key phrase in this instance is “similar patterns.” The holographic architecture of Creation is fractal, and this is hinted at in the Hermetic notion of “as above, so below” (more accurately rendered as “as within, so without”) which suggests that Nature works through repetitive geometric patterns, on micro as well as macro levels.

The volcanic Gunung Batur, reminiscent of Mount Doom in Mordor, its western slope still black, barren and baking hot, while its eastern slope facing Batur Lake is starting to green out beautifully.

Just as you will meet Wayans, Mades, Nyomans, and Ketuts in every family wherever you go in Bali, the same rule applies to cultural forms and human behavior. Put another way: one fruit stall (like a fresh-faced, smiling village girl) is pretty much the same as another, with minor variations that allow for a degree of diversity – yet, in essence, it is a repeat pattern of a particular motif which generates a dynamic interplay between uniqueness and universality.

The fractal principle holds true whether in the case of homestays, bakso stands, pirate DVD outlets, surfer beaches, winding mountain roads, dusty and noisy urban streets, night markets, or busloads of daytrippers. However, on an island the size of Bali, the micro- and macrocosmic dance is clearly visible – just as it’s easier to understand the behavior of a small group of individuals rather than that of a mass of faceless statistics.

When one begins to notice the fractal forms at the core of all structures, whether man-made or natural, the effect is somewhat psychotropic. Sensory impressions begin to interlock like pieces of an immense, multi-dimensional jigsaw and the concept of morphogenetic fields suddenly becomes a vivid reality.

You could say the web of life that has been there all the while spontaneously comes into sharp focus, and it seems totally incredible that you never noticed it before. Indeed, this sort of epiphany is akin to the enhanced perception triggered by consciousness-altering substances like psilocybin or lysergic acid diethylamide.

In Bali, the boundary between the secular and the spiritual is blurry to the extreme. Science can be found living happily next door to mysticism. Indeed, I know of no other place where simplicity and sophistication get along so well.

The friendliness and warmth of people you encounter wherever you go is offset - and complemented - by the savvy and sophistication of the Balinese mind.

A pair of mammoths guard the 372 steps leading to the royal pura of Gunung Kawi
By corraling the hedonistic budget tourists in the Kuta-Legian area near the airport, the Balinese have successfully found a way to capture a staggering amount of foreign revenue without getting overly contaminated by it.

The entire world is drawn to the ultimate theme park that is Bali – and the locals who work in tourism have swiftly learnt how to keep the vacationers coming back year after year and bringing along more friends.

In Bali you don’t get the sense of pseudo-morality and fuddy-duddy judgmentalism that puts a damper on folks having fun any way they want – young Aussies who blow their wad going from beach to beach in quest of the ultimate wave, consuming beer by the crate in the process, are as welcome as earnest ethnomusicologists, culture vultures, or the rich and retired. Wherever I stopped for coffee or a bakso fix, some old chap would question why I was traveling solo instead of with a nice chewet (Balinese for "girl"; boys are called chowok). "Don't be putting ideas in my head," I'd quip and this would generate a fair bit of mirth and merriment. How refreshingly unprudish the Balinese are!

You feel welcome in Bali, regardless of your holiday budget. And the range of options is vast – you can spend anything from 30,000 to 3,000,000 rupiahs on a night’s accommodation. Chances are you’ll have a great time either way.

How did the Balinese accomplish this extraordinary feat of embracing modernity with a broad grin while retaining traditions that sustain social cohesiveness? Perhaps a significant clue can be found in the nature and personality of their prime deity, an emanation of Shiva-Natarajah they call Tintya, usually portrayed as an agile and elvish figure – sometimes painted with energy bolts shooting from every joint, often supported on a spinning chakra (disc or wheel), but invariably dancing the cosmic dance of primordial energy.

Studying images of Tintya through modern eyes, one might be tempted to speculate that the supreme deity of the Balinese was modeled after a visiting ET!

Consider the descriptive names the Balinese have for Tintya: he’s also known as Sangyang Widi (The Wise One), Sangyang Licin (The Elusive One), and Sangyang Tunggal (The Absolute One). Interestingly, Tintya represents the Supreme Embodiment and Manifestation of Life Itself in its unfathomable entirety and infinite diversity. Tintya is revered in Bali above the trinity of the exoteric Hindu pantheon, viz., Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.

Exploring the outskirts of Ubud on my motorbike, I stopped by another sacred fig tree and entered the small pura beside it. The stone walls and floor of the pura were green with ancient slime and the place looked fairly unvisited. Then I spotted an incongruously modern steel ladder bolted to the central candi (or shrine). Ascending the ladder between a pair of guardian dragons carved in stone, I came face to face with a Tintya icon, freshly gilded and radiant in the bright sunshine.

This was truly an unexpected epiphany which triggered a flood of long-buried genetic memories, too complex and mysterious to elaborate upon in a blogpost. Someday I may find a way to express these antediluvian flashbacks in words. But for now, suffice to say that I remembered the origins of the gods and the beginnings of religious indoctrination on this exquisite (and soon, soon to be liberated) holographic planet.

Terima kasih, Bali. I thank you with all my heart for staying true to yourself.
Text & photos © Antares