Saturday, June 22, 2013

Assumption

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
So I read a book about babies, and the reaction I received was, "Ain, is it your turn now? Who is the lucky guy?" My friends went straight ahead to presuming that my maternal instinct had finally kicked in.

But I read Mario Puzo's The Godfather and Shirow Miwa's Dogs too. No one said I had violent trait or anything like that?

It is the same was with my drawing. Once I drew a newlywed as a congratulation for my friends who got married. The reaction was uproariously along the line, "We hear the sound of kompang". But I drew a lot of other things too, some of which actually revealed the state of chronic depression I was in. And everyone suddenly became blind.

I just want to say that people are more complex than you think. It is wrong to judge people only based on one single trait. And humans after all have the tendency to overlook things that discomfort them because it is the job of their brains to protect them from whatever that was perceived as harmful. And another reason to overlook thing is well, human brains are lazy. When we have judgement about something and suddenly a new information crops up that does not fit it, our brains tend to discard them away. To actually think things over and find explanation consume energy and human brains do not like that. Ever wonder why people rarely stop to think and prefer to go headlong into irrational decision? Human brains are lazy.

So no, I am not getting married. Not in the near future at least. I am just a curious human being who likes to discover things. Stop those assumption, you are scaring me.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

On the reversion of Mr van Doorn

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Remember Geert Wilders? He was that Dutch anti-Islam politician who made the controversial movie Fitna. Well, apparently a member of his (of course) equally anti-Islam Party for Freedom, Arnoud van Doorn had reverted to Islam on 27 February this year. Or at least that was when he made a public declaration by tweeting the syahadah and saying that it was his 'nieuwe start' (new start in Dutch). Yep, he got tweeter account. You can check it out for yourself and since he does not tweet 1000 tweets per day you don't have to spend your whole weekend looking for the aforementioned tweets.

You can google the news about him but since you are already here, I don't have any problem giving you a summary. I know some of you can be too lazy to google, just like me. Anyhow, there is yet to be an official story as to how or why he chose to become Muslim after spending a chunk of his adult life as Wilders' 'henchman'. He just said that he was not the type who followed without asking and when he heard all the bad things about Islam he was compelled to make his own investigation. His reversion might be shock to the public world but those who were close to him might have seen it coming.

The reaction is mixed but Muslims had been welcoming. I think he got a surge of new followers on tweeters because he said he was going to start to tweet in English instead of Dutch. As a politician though, it is inevitable that his motif is questioned. Is it just a political stunt or is he sincere? If it is just a stunt then why would he pull he and how can he profit from it? There is no doubt that politics is prone to being dirty and many politicians are twisted.

As a student of politics myself, I cannot help having that flicker of doubt about Mr van Doorn. And I am a pessimist, I see the worst in... Well, not people, but mostly situations. But I do not think his reversion and the 180 degree turn he took was something impossible. Remember Umar al-Khattab r.a? He was one of the strongest opponent of Islam before his reversion, and strong here did not just mean the one who spoke the loudest and complained the most. Oh, no. He was hot-tempered and aggressive. But when the call of hidayah from Allah came... He had just slapped her sister for reading the Holy Qur'an a few seconds ago and now he was reading it himself, the chill ran down his spine and he went straight to look for Rasulullah s.a.w. Such was the 'magic' of hidayah.

So I hope and I pray that Mr van Doorn will be our next Umar. This is not just one man converting, this is a man of quality, with education and influence and knowledge of the world. As the Prophet s.a.w said, "The best among you during jahiliyyah are the best in Islam, provided they undestand it [Islam]." May Allah give him and us his guidance and may Allah maintain His guidance to each one of us, until the day we die and beyond it. Amen...

Friday, January 11, 2013

Why reviewing is hard

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Why I find reviewing a book so hard?

I am lazy. End of story.

...

Okay, let us not push our luck here and stop being precocious. I am an avid reader who is capable of reading at least 50 books a year, but when it comes to reviewing them I am almost as hopeless as ... I cannot think of a good enough metaphor but let us just leave it at I am hopeless.

But why? Ironically I am a decent enough writer and I actually love writing. I even have a dream to become a published writer. So obviously "I cannot write" is not a factor, or even "I have no idea", because writers always have ideas (even during writer's block, some if not all have ideas but cannot translate them into sentences and write them down). I am too busy? Maybe, but telling you about my daily routine for the past year is not going to make this blog post interesting. To make this post more reader-worthy I need something not so mundane...

Let us pretend to be smart. *wear glasses. wait, I am already wearing glasses*

There are so many books in this world and human does not live so long. Let us assume that one particular human being can read 200 books a year (which we know is beyond capability for most people) and that he lives for 100 years (which age most of us probably will not reach) and he started reading since he was five. That will bring the total number of books this man read all his life to 19000 books. US publishes an average of 328,259 books a year and UK publishes 206,00. Even Malaysia has an average of 17,923. That man's lifelong reading does not even reach the total number of books published in one year for US; what if, as many people do, he does not restrict his reading choice to only one country? Just imagine how many books he cannot read or misses. Just imagine how many books I CANNOT READ?

So I understand Hippocrate's feeling when he said "Ars longa, vita brevis." Life is so short.

So in the world of information overflow, we have to depend on credibility. We ask which writer is good, which publishing house produce reliable books; we use reviews and critics as short cuts to help us make decisions, we have friends whose opinion we believe. We also have preferences to shield us from the paradox of plenty. Do not trust a reader when he says "I read everything" because darn well, he does not. It only means his choice of books come from a wide range of varieties and is not limited to only one genre. He may read science but he also reads who-dun-it. I, for example, used to say I read everything but now I realise that there are some things that I do not like (law, romance, chick-lit, paranormal fictions) thus avoid touching. The rest of them are safe zone but I do like some genres more than other (historical fiction, history, zoology, steampunk, Victorian era, crime and mystery, etc). These preferences are what guided me when I decide which book I am going to read next.

Back to the question: why reviewing is so hard for me? Writing a good review requires some effort and takes time. But I do not even have enough time to read more books, how can I 'waste' it on writing while I can use that time to start on a new book? My readings are not limited to newly published books. I read novels from past centuries and I read not only books in English but also Malay, and once I am proficient enough in Japanese maybe even Japanese books. It is just maddening when I think about all those books that I have not read, books that I may like and enjoy raeding but which existence I do not know. And what if I die suddenly? ARGHHH!!! It does not help that I am also a perfectionist. If I am going to write a review I will make sure I write it well, or I may as well not write it at all. I actually go around deleting past reviews which I consider are not up to my current standard or no longer agrees with my current view. Foolish girl. (I have stopped doing this since I learned that one step to loving myself is to love my past. Or have I?)

Apart from the effort required, there are also times when I just cannot find words that are good enough to describe my feelings about some books. Yes, my reviews are just a depiction of my feelings rather than a judgement on whether or not a book is good or bad. I think all reviews are. And feelings are not as easy to decipher as say, the weather yesterday or the food you eat. Most of the books that I give five-star ratings on Goodreads, I do not review because the feelings were too overwhelming, they stunned me. Usually when I finished these books I would utter "Wow!" and stare and stare into space. I even gave some times for the feelings to settle down before I started on a new book. Else the emotions could get mixed and I would become unfair to the new book. This is also true for some books which my friends and many other people find much to their liking, but which I cannot find within my heart to enjoy. I just do not like them. For example Marcus Zusak's 'The Book Thief' and Jonathan Safran Foer's 'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close' (I think the latter was irritating and boringggg). To be honest, if you still insist on me reviewing them I will somehow squeezed something out of my brain for them, but it will require more effort on my part. Even the usual amount of work is a nuisance for me, so meh.

I also found that there are differences between reviewing fiction as compared to non-fiction. Fiction, when I review them, involve mostly my feelings. What I feel about the characters, what I feel about the protagonist, do I like him or her or do I find him or her annoying; what I feel about the way the writer describe the setting, do I find it realistic, do I think the writer have not done sufficient research and background reading; what I feel about the plot and the way things turn out, do I like the ending, do I want the hero to be with the heroine, do I guess the murderer correctly and easily. Non-fiction to me, however, is about what I learned from the book as much as how neatly it is delivered to me. As hard it is to analyse mixed emotions and write them into separate feelings, I find writing about a non-fiction is even harder. I just do not think I am smart enough to be criticising these books that were written with the intention to educate readers. It is even harder if the book is descriptive rather than argumentative. For the latter I can say I agree or do not agree or I agree with the writer but there are some parts that I don't, but for the former... Ah, umm, err. No.

So that was basically it. I am sure there are some things that I miss but these are on top of my head, so all the rest of them, if I think are good enough to deserve a post for themselves then maybe I will write a continuation for this post. So what about you? Do you suffer from I-don't-wanna-review syndrome as I do, or are you a perfectly hardworking reviewer? If you do, are the reasons same as mine?

Till then.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Bukan fiksyen 2012, 2011

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Saya kembali dan tanpa segan silu atau penjelasan kenapa blog ini terbiar begitu lama, saya mencatatkan buku bukan fiksyen yang telah saya baca sepanjang tahun 2012.

1. Daily Life in Elizabethan England - Jeffrey L. Forgeng
2. In Defense of Food - Michael Pollan
3. The Diary of Virginia Woolf, vol. 2 - Virginia Woolf
4. Not in Front of the Servants - Frank Dawes
5. The Most Powerful Idea in the World - William Rosen
6. Di Hamparan Shamrock Ku Seru Nama-Mu - Hasrizal Abdul Jamil
7. Aku, Buku dan Cinta - 'Aidh Abdullah al-Qarni
8. The Angry Aztecs - Terry Deary
9. You Wouldn't Want to be a Samurai - Fiona McDonald
10.Origins of Chinese Food Culture - Fu Chunjian
11.A Sand Country Almanac - Aldo Leopold
12.The Book of Blood - H.P Newquist
13.A Country House at Work - Pamela Sambrook
14.At Home in Japan - Rebecca Otowa
15.The Emerald Plant - David Beerling
16.Too Big to Fail - Andrew Ross Sorkin
17.The Geeks shall Inherit the Earth - Alexandra Robbins
18.Time to Spare in Victorian England - John Lowerson
19.A Perfect Red - Amy Butler Greenfield
20.Inside the Victorian House - Judith Flanders
21.23 Things They don't Tell You about Capitalism - Chang Ha-Joon
22.The 47 Ronin - Barry Till

Daripada lebih kurang 116 buah buku, 22 satu daripadanya adalah bukan fiksyen. Macam mana pula dengan tahun sebelumnya, 2011?

1. Our Old Town - Thomas Miller
2. Brothers in War - Michael Walsh
3. The Victorian Age - Peter Chrisp
4. The Country House Servant - Pamela Sambrook
5. Misquoting Jesus - Bart Ehrman
6. Moab is My Washpot - Stephen Fry
7. Terrible Tudors - Terry Deary
8. Travelog Syahadah - Muhammad Rashidi Abdullah
9. The Disastrous History of London - John Whitington
10.Life Below Stairs - Allison Maloney
11.Mayfair Madams - Maria Perry
12.Who's Horrible in History - Terry Deary
13.Villainous Victorians - Terry Deary
14.Black Gold - Antony Wild
15.Victorian Farm - Alex Langlands
16.A Daily Life in Victorian London - Lee Jackson
17.What the Butler Saw - E.S. Turner
18.Tea - Sarina Jacobson
19.The Good End - Abdullah ibn Muhammad al-Mutlaq
20.Sandwiches - Sarah Rorer
21.High Society - Pamela Horn
22.Japan, Funny Side Up - Amy Chavez
23.How Sherlock Holmes Lived - Charles Mills
24.Fifty Things You Need to Know about British History - Hugh Williams
25.The Butterfly Mosque - G. Willow Wilson
26.F in Exams - Richard Benson
27.Inside Madness - Melissa Sweet
28.Bats Sing, Mice Giggle - Karen Shanor
29.The Victorian Governess - Kathryn Hughes
30.The Crossing of Antarctica - Vivian Fuchs
31.The Emptiness of Japanese Affluence - Govin McCormack
32.The Diaries of Hannah Cullwick - Hannah Cullwick
33.Six Feet Under or Up in Smoke - Jim Eames
34.The Diary of a Lady's Maid - Helen Vellacott
35.The Voice of Asia - Mahathir Mohamad
36.The Diary of Virgina Woolf, vol. 1 - Virginia Woolf
37.Apple of My Eye - Helene Hanff
38.Life Below Stairs - Frank Edward Huggett
39.Duchess of Bloomsbury Steet - Helene Hanff
40.Kimonos - Sophie Milenovich
41.The Three Women of Herat - Veronica Doubleday
42.The Library at Night - Alberto Manguel
43.Folk Legends of Japan - Richard Dorson
44.English Breakfast - Kaori O'Connor
45.The World for a Shilling - Michael Leapman
46.Cakes and Ale - Judy Spours
47.84,Charing Cross - Helene Hanff
48.The Story behind Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist - Brian Williams
49.Everyday Life in Traditional Japan - Charles Dunn
50.Shogun - A.L Sadler
51.The Glamour of Grammar - Roy Peter Clark
52.Secangkir Teh Pengubat Letih - Hasrizal Abdul Jamil
53.Consuming Passion - Judith Flanders

53 daripada lebih kurang 165 buah buku yang saya baca adalah bukan fiksyen. Uik! Bukan saja tahun lepas kurang membaca, tapi buku bukan fiksyen pun tak banyak? Teruk?

Sebenarnya tahun 2011 saya baru memiliki e-reader. Laporan yang pernah saya baca mengatakan orang yang memiliki e-reader meningkat pembacaannya berbanding sebelum memiliki e-reader. Saya rasa ini sebabnya pembacaan bagi tahun 2011 mencanak-canak naik berbanding tahun sebelumnya, juga ditambah faktor keterujaan. Tapi 2012 pembacaan berkurangan atas beberapa faktor seperti masalah kesihatan serta buku-buku pilihan yang jauh lebih tebal dan berat isinya berbanding buku tahun 2011 (Pillars of the Earth memakan 900 muka surat manakala Casual Vacancy sangat sukar dihadam).

Tapi secara jujur walaupun saya kurang membaca pada tahun lalu berbanding tahun 2011, saya tetap berpuas hati. Saya telah belajar banyak benda. Bukan melalui pembacaan sahaja, tapi dari proses pemilihan buku, pembahagian masa, perbincangan dengan kawan-kawan. Saya yang pada hujung 2012 adalah jauh berbeza dengan saya pada awal 2011, seperti mana saya yang berusia 20 tahun dan baru menjejakkan kaki ke universiti berbeza dengan saya yang 17 tahun dan sedang bergelut dengan SPM. Saya rasakan ada pertambahan dari segi kematangan. Maka pendapat saya hari ini lebih mapan berbanding saya setahun yang lalu, insya-Allah.

Tahun 2013, saya jangkakan tidak akan seberjaya tahun 2012 apatah lagi 2011. Jadual tahun akhir universiti terlalu padat sehingga nak bernafas pun saya takut tak sempat. Tapi insya-Allah saya istiqamah membaca sekurang-kurangnya 50 atau mungkin 100 buku pada tahun ini. Juga meningkatkan purata membaca buku bukan fiksyen berbanding buku fiksyen. Dan saya akan berusaha untuk menulis lebih banyak review bermutu agar follower di Goodreads tidak lari kerana hilang sabar.

がんばります!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Selamat jalan. Lagi.

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Today, exactly one year. And I have to say good-bye again.

7 Zulhijjah, 1432. 6.25 pm waktu Malaysia.

Al-Fatihah.

[Belajar di negara orang, bagiku inilah hempedunya.]


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

So?

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم


You have talent, then what?

Islamic? That depends on how you want to see it.

Yes, I draw. So?

Sorry sis. I can't. Not now. What you and they called lukisan tarbawi and fikrah and whatnot, I can't. It is easy for you and them to say but I am the one doing it so I am the one who knows how hard it is. That is just not my level yet, do not force me.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Keluar asap

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم


Selamat datang musim dingin!

Setelah tiga bulan musim luruh yang cuacanya pelik-pelik, hari ini panas langit biru tak berawan esok tiba-tiba sejuk ketar hujan turun tak berhenti tiga hari, maka tibalah waktunya rumah kami yang beralamatkan 7 Attrill Ave menghidupkan sistem pemanas. Syukur Allah memanjangkan hayat ini untuk menikmati musim dingin yang kedua di bumi empat musim Australia yang taklah nampak sangat empat musimnya ini. Waktu siang menjadi semakin pendek dan malam pula semakin lewat. Waktu Isyak masuk seawal 6:30 petang tetapi Subuhnya lebih kurang waktu Malaysia. Waktu solat ringkas dan padat, rasa macam baru saja ambil wuduk untuk solat Zuhur dah kena solat Asar pula. Inilah masanya nak rasa warak sebab kejap-kejap solat, kejap-kejap solat, kejap lagi solat lagi.

Satu salah faham yang perlu dijelaskan kepada orang Malaysia tentang Australia, winter di sini hanya boleh diterjemahkan kepada musim dingin dan tidak kepada musim salji. Di sini ada salji tapi bukan di kawasan paras laut sebaliknya di kawasan tanah tinggi Victoria, Australian Capital Territory, NSW dan Tasmania (salji ada direkodkan turun di bukit-bukit di Adelaide tapi sangat-sangat jarang, lebih baik tak payah bazir masa bermimpi nak tengok). Kalau pun salji turun di kawasan aras laut, turunnya bukan semasa musim dingin sebaliknya musim panas! Jadi, musim salji di sini adalah summer? Tiada pula yang memperedebatkannya, tapi yang pasti Santa Claus kalau datang Australia untuk hantar hadiah pada hari Krismas terpaksa pakai singlet sajalah sebab Christmas is in summer. Poor Saint Nick, I pity the reindeer.

Tapi walaupun tiada salji, jika suhu cukup rendah kami di Australia tetap boleh buat apa yang orang di London boleh iaitu hembus nafas keluar asap.

Tak, bukan keluar dari sini. Ini namanya pencemaran.

Tapi dari sini, smoky breath. [Copyright of mattfarra on flickr]

Pelajar kita memang teruja bab keluar asap, keluar asap ni. Malaysia mana ada. Hari ini, hari keenam musim dingin, langit cerah dan matahari bersinar terang, tapi hanya menghembus seperti bernafas biasa, kepul-kepul bagai awan terapung di depan wajah. Wah, apa lagi, dari rumah sampai ke bus stop la dok "Fuh! Fuh!" Kemudian senyum sendiri. Insya-Allah, kalau sambung Honours ada dua tahun lagi nak buat macam ni.

Sebenarnya apa yang buat kita rasa salji tu best, smoky breath tu cool? Biasalah, media massa. Drama dan filem-filem Barat begitu bijak sekali menyajikan pemandangan-pemadangan indah salji memutih di kota klasik London dan metropolitan New York. Lebih bijak lagi adalah filem-filem Hari Natal yang menarik perhatian anak-anak yang tidak tahu apa-apa, menggoda mereka dengan paparan orang tua berbaju merah, pokok Krismas dengan bintang di puncaknya dan amalan bertukar-tukar hadiah. Sekali imbas macam tidak bahaya, tiada apa-apa untuk dirisaukan, tapi ramai ibu bapa Muslim yang tidak sedar bahawa anak-anak mereka bermain dengan imaginasi salji, Krismas dan a flying chariot drawn by reindeer. Mereka mula rasa suasana sekeliling, negara mereka yang panas dan hujan sepanjang tahun tu, malah Islam senagai membosankan, dan produk-produk Barat itulah yang menarik. Mentaliti dibawa sampai remaja kemudian dewasa, merasakan dan mengakui bawah sedar bahawa West is superior. Nak belajar pun mesti di negara yang ada salji supaya orang tak kata dia ambil gambar di UTP Tronoh untuk Salam Perantauan, maka dimohonlah tajaan MARA atau JPA luar negara. Tapi kemudian dapat Australia, tak ada salji, padan muka.

Winter Trip ISMA tahun lepas, Perisher Valley.

Tahun sebelumnya salji turun semasa lawatan tapi tahun lepas gitulah rupa dia.

Brothers nak main toboggan. Saya tak ada dalam gambar, tak payah cari.

Salji separa tipu. Salji juga, syukurlah dapat jumpa...

Tahun ni I pergi Sydney, jadi tahun depan insya-Allah ada gambar Opera House di sini. Tahun lagi satulah agaknya gambar salji akan muncul semula. (Oleh: orang yang upload gambar setahun selepas setiap peristiwa.)


Kali ini saya malas nak ceramah panjang (assignment ada tiga lagi belum siap). Hembuslah, tiuplah sebanyak mana kalian nak, hal budaya consumerism kita bincang lain kali insya-Allah. Yang penting kalian bersyukur. Ya, walau untuk perkara sekecil ini, besryukurlah. Sebab orang yang tidak tahu mensyukuri nikmat kecil, sukar untuk dia bersyukur dengan nikmat yang besar.

Akhir kata, salam imtihan nihaie untuk pelajar University of Adelaide dan UniSA khususnya dan lain-lain universiti di seluruh Australia dan dunia amnya. Bittaufiq wan najah.


You may think we are silly for being excited over smoky breaths...

At least we are not so stupid to continue doing something that we know as haram.

Tetamu itu rahmat

Books I have read recently

I, RobotThe Bible, The Quran and Science.Harry Potter and the Deathly HallowsHarry Potter and the Half-Blood PrinceThe Chronicles of NarniaSon of Black Beauty

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Norain MT

Third year
Bachelor of International Studies
University of Adelaide

Batu Pahat, Johor + Tanjong Karang, Selangor
> kini: 3 Wakelin St, Glynde, SA, Australian, 5070

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To put it simply I am a shattered soul residing inside a broken shell.

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