Friday, 14 December 2007

Save Planet Earth!

After traveling to ancient China, I'm returning back to the present time in my home island Bali, where the CoP (Conference of the Parties) 13 of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) has been taking place since last December 3. Lots of news about it, I will not reiterate it now. I just want to post a link to a very amazing speech by Al Gore, my environmental guru, made in Nusa Dua Bali, last night.

Read also some news from and (among many others), to have a complimentary idea of what Al Gore said, for the YouTube video lasts for only 4 minutes (sob-sob-sob!). I will try to get a longer recording later and post the transcribe of his Bali speech here. This is the excerpt of Time's report on what Al Gore said about US's unwise moves to block the climate change talk:

"My own country, the United States, is principally responsible for obstructing progress here," he told a packed audience at the U.N. climate change summit in Bali. "We all know that."

The Nobel laureate, in fact, urged delegates to push ahead despite U.S. opposition, even to the point of drafting a negotiating document with blank spaces where American participation should be. But while Gore's public criticism of his own country's delegation — and implicitly, of the President who controls it — electrified his audience, what he said next was even more important. "Over the next two years, the United States is going to be somewhere it is not right now," said Gore. "We are going to change in the U.S."

That the U.S. leadership is deeply divided on climate change has been patently obvious to even the most casual observer here. Washington's official delegation has emerged as the chief spoiler in moves to take meaningful action on climate change. But among the most vocal critics of the official delegation has been an array of American environmentalists, legislators and state and local government officials. Carl Pope, president of the Sierra Club, called the U.S. performance "the most explicitly irresponsible action that any American Administration has taken in any of our lifetimes."

But the purpose of the shadow U.S. delegation here — spiritually led by Gore and including the likes of Sen. John Kerry, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and dozens of officials from California (Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had planned to attend, but budget negotiations kept him at home) — is to signal the world that the Bush Administration no longer represents the views of most Americans on climate change. They point to the fact that U.S. cities, states and, now, the Congress have taken steps to combat global warming, and that next year's election will likely accelerate that momentum. "The message here is that help is on the way," says Mike Chrisman, California's Secretary of Resources.

Amen for that. And I said that for Dear Mother Earth.

Before going to Bali, Al Gore was also interviewed by BBC Hardtalk, available at YouTube. And on 10 December 2007 in Oslo, just before going to Bali, he received a Nobel Prize for his works on climate change. The speech text is available at the Nobel Prize website, and the excerpt video is available at YouTube with part 1 :

and part 2:

And what can we, individuals, do to save Mother Earth? Simple life style. Cut short your electricity use, plant more trees, save the water... Many ways we can do to save the Planet. As my spiritual guru Mr. Anand Krishna said, ‘Check your needs, check your greed.’ Similar to what Venerable Mahatma Gandhi said half a century ago, ‘The Earth is enough for human’s need, but not for human’s greed’. We all can save Mother Earth, the only planet that supports us human species, if we have the will to do so.

And I believe, we do.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Li Hou Zhu yu Zhao Kuang Yin: the life of Li Yu the Poet

If you also like Michael Miu and Barbara Yung classic wuxia series, click here for my new Jianghu blog...

What happens when your heart desires to do one thing, but your role gives you absolute responsibility to do another thing altogether? Could you accommodate your heart’s desire while at the same time fulfil your celestial duties? This is, I find, a hard question to answer. Naturally in many circumstances, we have to choose our duties, while at the same time stealing some precious moments for our heart’s passion, if we’re wise and lucky enough. But living the duties that are not your true nature is hard. Such was the situation with Li Yu, a born poet who was dragged to become the last king of the Southern Tang Dynasty, whose kingdom was annexed by the Song Dynasty in 976 AD.

I found out about Li Yu, a.k.a. Li Hou Zhu (literally ‘The Latter Lord Li’) when I watched a wuxia (traditional Chinese martial arts series/movie) last week. The title itself was in Mandarin, and almost put me off merely because of its length. The original title is Li Hou Zhu yu Zhao Kuang Yin’. I did not know what it meant; let alone thinking of the nature of the series. To tell you the truth, I originally watched it because I wanted to see another performance of Nicky Wu Qi Long, a talented Taiwanese actor & singer (plus black belt holder of Taekwondo), and because some reviews said that ‘Li Hou Zhu’ was a good TV series, I took the DVD set home. I did not regret it, despite my reduced sleeping hours.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Sweet HRH Sir Richard Armitage...

I am very aware that some particular friends of mine will giggle and display silly grins as she reads this, for we are SO fond of deconstructing the cravat of HRH (His Royal Hotness) Sir Richard Armitage. And with the upcoming Robin Hood Season 2 - sometimes I feel that the show should be renamed 'Guy of Gisborne' instead :-D - I feel the need to upload links to some of my favourite Armitage YouTube videos. Sigh... I AM an Armitage Army...

Sunday, 9 September 2007

North & South: Love and Hate under the Snowy Cotton Rain

That’s it. I’m doomed. DOOMED. It seems that tall, dark, handsome brooding men are my type. First, Bruce Wayne a.k.a. the Batman that has left a many young heroines broken hearted (though in my universe, I pair him with Diana of Themyscira, the Wonder Woman, to many fans’ approval!). Then, before I even finish with a sensitive Irish rake/pious young lad (depends on which version of Tom Lefroy you prefer: James McAvoy’s in Becoming Jane or the real one), I bumped into another tall, dark, handsome brooding gentleman. This time, he’s John Thornton, a Milton mill owner, up in the north industrialised side of England. And boy oh boy, was he not delicious?!

Perhaps, I should start from the beginning. Ehm. Neglecting the fact that I should be doing some works for the weekend (and that I should save my account from bankruptcy), I walked into Angus & Robertson (yes, the very place I bought my Shakespeare Retold: Macbeth, in which my dear tall-dark-handsome-brooding Thornton played as Peter MacDuff) and, after starring at a Wolverine-like gentleman in Victorian clothing on a DVD cover, I snatched that said DVD and brought it home, feeling rather sorry for myself for spending an extra $30.

Still thinking of my unplanned purchase, I placed the North & South (2004) DVD. After a few scenes of green English countryside, the film moved towards grey areas of Milton, one of the centres for cotton industry in England. There, I saw the tall dark handsome brooding John Thornton (Richard Armitage) chasing his worker and pummelled him into half stew. I began to have a mixed feeling of distaste and sensations towards the ‘nasty’ mill owner, the way Miss Margaret Hale (Daniela Denby-Ashe) saw him for the first time.

Miss Hale was in fact the Victorian Elizabeth Bennet with less sharp tongue (but not less opinionated mind) with much smaller family (with a cute brave brother, but thank God: no senseless, idiotic sisters) who moved from Helstone in Hampshire (!) to a fictional town called Milton, somewhere in northern England, closer to Scotland. I cannot blame her for her negative opinions towards Thornton, for she did saw him beating his employee and also did not show empathy towards the workers’ life. Moreover, when a strike truly happened (in demand of a payroll rise), Thornton imported Irish workers to replace his workers. He even criticised Margaret for giving food to the children of the strikers on the argument that it would prolong the strike, and hence did the workers no good. What a rude, heartless rake! And his unsustainable factory that polluted the Milton river! Environmental crime!

But we, Margaret and I, were wrong. It turned out that Thornton punched his worker for smoking inside the cotton mill; whereas smoking was strictly prohibited due to incidental fire in the mill several years ago that killed many workers (this scene was not in the original novel, but I think it was a bloody brilliant idea!). Plus, Thornton’s Marlborough Mills was not in a good shape; hence salary raise was not an effective choice at that time. In the mid of Episode One, Margaret learned that Thornton was not a rich man by birth; he had to climb his way up the ladder not without bruises and cuts. Margaret (and I) began to respect him and saw him in a different light. By the half of the first BBC episode (there are 4 of them), as my hero visited my dosing heroine at her new home in Milton… and saw how he brushed her slender fingers (accidentally, of course) as he received the tea she offered, my heart melted. And all the way, all along the episodes… I cannot help falling in love with Richard Armitage’s John Thornton. As for the pollutions caused by cotton mills... well, John Thornton was not the only guilty Victorian men in this case...

But of course, as in all love stories, things did not go smoothly between Thornton and me... I mean, Margaret. Almost the Victorian Pride & Prejudice in the rocky love story between a lady and a gentleman, North & SouthThornton could not easily snug Margaret. Granted, he was interested in her the first time he saw her (Heh… how could he not? I think Daniela was the perfect Miss Hale). But she saw him for the first time not in his best light, and that image ruined her initial interest in him. Thornton’s attitudes during the strike also did not please Margaret (despite him being so worried after she took a blow during the riot to save him). The climax of Episode Two was Thornton’s proposal to Margaret, driven by his love for him (and believing that she protected him due to her love for him). Like PP’s Lizzy Bennet, Margaret refused Thornton’s proposal. And like PP’s Darcy, the stupid Thornton just got angry and ‘chased’ Margaret around the table, demanding explanation. You would have though Thornton read Pride & Prejudice… but oh well…Episode Two ended with sorrow to our lover birds.

Episode Three came with Mrs. Hale’s worse condition. To lessen her mother’s anxiety, Margaret had invited Brother Frederick secretly from Spain. He came one night in secret and stayed in Milton for several days. Mrs. Hale eventually passed away, but before her funeral, Fred ought to leave the country again, lest someone would recognise him. Margaret took Fred to the station before midnight, and as a farewell, of course they embraced. Alas, handsome and jealous Mr. Thornton was in sight. He was very surprised to see the utter show of impropriety, but chose not to say anything and left. A worse thing happened as a man (Leonard) recognised Frederick. Fred and Leonard fought; the drunken Leonard fell and Fred got away. Bye bye. Not.

For Leonard died, and an investigation was done to examine the cause of death. Someone else saw Margaret during the Leonard fight, hence , Police Inspector Mason, had to interrogate Margaret who of course denied her presence at the station. Consequently, Mason consulted the local magistrate, who was none other than John Thornton. Though surprised that Margaret concealed the fact that she had been at the station with ‘a stranger’, Thornton helped her by closing down the investigation, under the argument of insufficient medical evidence. He did not reduce his bitterness towards Margaret though, and that made her suffer, for she had changed her opinions on Thornton and did not wish him to think bad of her.

Many interesting things happened in Episode Four, the last episode of the excellent BBC miniseries. First, about Nicholas Higgins (Brendan Coyle), a good friend of Margaret, also the father of Bessy Higgins, Margaret’s close friend in Milton (Bessy died in Episode Three; Anna Maxwell Martin played her well, just as she played Cassandra Austen in Becoming Jane). Nicholas had been adamant not to work again at any mills, but upon the death of Boucher (one of the workers), he felt responsible and took Boucher’s six children. Thus, Nicholas needed fresh cash. And, after being persuaded by Margaret, he swallowed his pride and asked for Thornton to give him job. Of course, Thornton refused him. But upon several inquiries, the mill owner realised that Nicholas was telling the truth. After a touchy visit to Nicholas’ shabby house, Thornton agreed to give him a job. The tall, dark, handsome brooding Thornton also finally realised that Margaret was the one who persuaded Nicholas to ask for job.

Nicholas and Thornton experienced interesting shifts in their relationship. First: enemies. Second: master-worker. Then, after Thornton took extra attention to one of Nick’s adopted son, Nick started to change his opinions. After Thornton suggested a food scheme that enabled workers to have their food together in a factory canteen, their relationship steered towards friendship. It was Nicholas who told Thornton of Mr. Hale’s death (Mr. Hale was visiting Oxford). It was also Nicholas who told Thornton of Margaret’s brother. In fact, Nicholas-Thornton association was one of the best relationships I enjoy in NS (The other one was Thornton-Mrs. Thornton and, of course, Thornton-Margaret). When Nicholas bade Thornton farewell (after the down of the Mill), they parted as good friends. I like to think that Thornton would later take Nicholas under his wing again, and very likely to offer him a better position.

And what of Margaret? Well, her mother passed away, also later her father. She was left an orphan, but a rich one nonetheless, for Mr. Bell (her godfather) left her a huge amount of money. In the end, she was the one who saved Thornton’s mill from bankruptcy, but not before a painful farewell under the falling snow (for she would need to move to London first), and not before Thornton’s romantic visit to Helstone, just to inhale the breeze of Margaret’s childhood place and accidentally picked her favourite yellow rose. The last scene at the Midland Central Station was the one of the most romantic scenes, where our hero and heroine accidentally met and shared a sweet tender kiss on the platform. Who says that a tender kiss is not sexy?! It’s effectively making you wanting for more, not unlike the scene where Jane Austen (Anne Hathaway) and Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy) almost shared a kiss under the candle light in London.

Authoress Elizabeth Gaskell (who eerily looked like Mrs. Hale) might have based Margaret on Jane Austen’s Lizzy Bennet (and Thornton on Fitzwilliam Darcy), but North & South (1854) is considerably a different story from Pride & Prejudice (1813) altogether. PP is much more merry and shiny than NS, and I have to admit that, though I love Lizzy Bennet (Jennifer Ehle’s version), I never truly enjoyed Mr. Darcy (not even the combination of Colin Firth’s brooding and Matthew Macfayden’s sensitivity). I guess, Darcy is not my brooding type after all.

But John Thornton! Gosh… if I’m falling head over knee like this over Richard Armitage’s Thornton (what a name… Armitage, Thornton…), what will I do if I watch the 1975 version where Patrick Steward (of all people!) was Thornton? Swoon. Plus, Thornton was shown to care for his workers. I know that Darcy’s friends, family and servants said that he was a very good master (don’t kill me Jane friends!), but watching Thornton caring for Nicholas, the poor little girl at the alley, and little Tom as the kid read a book on a comical an-i-mal just melts my heart…

Did I say that I spent AUD 30 for the four episodes, double DVD? Though I had felt rather sorry for spending money in the first place, in the end I did not regret it. Never, never, never. NS 2004 is one of the best costume dramas I’ve ever seen. I have to say that it’s on par with Becoming Jane. Yes, even the intense chemistry between Margaret & Thornton, though not in the same speed and turbulence with Jane/Tom... the Margaret/Thornton chemistry was certainly very intense, and I could not think of another Margaret other than Daniela's. God knows how many tissues I needed last night (and this morning for the replay) to clean my face from the tears that ran erratically during the four-hours show. Conclusion: watch it if you have not, and if you can, buy the DVD. Never a bad decision. In fact, like Becoming Jane, I might buy the second copy myself for precaution!

See also: Foolish Passion, a cool North & South fansite! And don't forget to read this very hilarious imaginary conversation between Darcy and Thornton. I laughed out loud as I read it. Too funny!

PS2: Thanks to Montevideana for this link of a cheeky virtual conversation between Lizzy Bennet and Margaret Hale. I agree with the writer that Lizzy/Darcy should double date with Margaret/Thornton!

Pic 1: John Thornton (Richard Armitage), from Richard Armitage Online

Pic 2: DVD cover to North & South 2004, Sofa Cinema UK

Pic 3: John Thornton amidst the snowy cotton, from Richard Armitage Online

Pic 4: Margaret Hale (Daniela Denby-Ashe), from Wikipedia

Pic 5: North & South BBC banner, from BBC UK

Pic 6: Nicholas Higgins (Brendan Coyle) and John Thornton. From Richard Armitage Online

Pic 7: Farewell under the snow fall, from Richard Armitage Online

Pic 8: Prelude to the final kiss, from Richard Armitage Online

Pic 9: The final KISS at the station! From Richard Armitage Online

Pic 10: Going back to Milton together. From Richard Armitage Online

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Mr. and Mrs. Iyer: love and compassion across religious differences

At least once in your lifetime, many of you must have experienced what I experienced last night. A dear friend of mine lent me a DVD 1-2 months ago, and I have not the chance to see it (shame on me!). And when she asked me of the movie, I went, shit! I have not seen it yet! So, last night I put Mr. and Mrs. Iyer into my DVD player and watched it while making myself a fish curry.

And I was blown away by the sheer beauty of the movie. The curry almost forgotten, I immersed myself in the beautiful story of Meenakshi Iyer, an orthodox Hindu married woman (played by Konkona Sen Sharma) and Raja Chowdhary (played by the gorgeous Rahul Bose), a Moslem Bengali wildlife photographer. Both were trapped in a bus that traveled through a chaotic part of Himalayan India when the Hindus were very much in favour of killing the Moslems, and vice versa.

Being an orthodox, Meenakshi was shocked to learn that the man who had helped her nursing her child Santhanam (or ‘Santa’ as Raja called the baby boy) was actually a Moslem. Initially, she was disgusted (and I wanted to slap her for that!), but when the fanatic Hindus barged into the bus to look for Moslems, she protected Raja by claiming him as Mani Iyer, her husband. As the result, throughout the journey to get out of the conflict area, Meenakshi and Raja had to play husband and wife (sans the sleeping together, duh!), and consequently developed an understanding and bond they never had thought to share before.

The ending was beautifully painful, for of course Mrs. Iyer needed to go back to her true Mr. Iyer, an okay guy but so pale in comparison to Raja’s silent charm. In the end, Raja walked away from Meenakshi, Santa and her husband, but not before giving her a roll of film containing pictures of them together he had taken during the journey.

Mr. and Mrs. Iyer is in my DVD purchase list, and the fact that the movie had been nominated for ten awards and won oh God nine of them made me busy blaming myself for not watching the DVD sooner!

To close the post, I would like to give you gentle readers a poem by Devara Dasimayya, a 10th century Indian poet and saint. The poem was made into a song that was beautifully performed in the movie as Raja took photographs of people in the conflict zone. The song was titled Gustakh Ankhiyan; and perhaps the poem as well. Though I know zilch Hindi, Tamil or Bengali, after listening to the song and paying attention to the translation, I suspect that the title means 'Sinful Eyes'. The poem was so powerful, I shed myself some tears.

Sinful Eyes

Where, O where are You, O merciful Lord
Where is Your abode?
These my sinful eyes
When my sinful eyes
Cast their beseeching gaze

Where, O where are You, O merciful Lord
Where is Your abode?
For what shall I wield this dagger O Lord?
What can I pluck it out of
Or plunge it into
When You are all the world?

To behold You
I will give up my life, my whole world
Your glory illumines everything with light
When my sinful eyes
Cast their beseeching gaze

And this is the Indonesian translation for my fellow Indonesians, for we need to contemplate the real meaning of Unity in Diversity, Bhinneka Tunggal Ika.

Mata yang penuh dosa

Di manakah Engkau, Tuhanku
Di manakah rumahMu?
Saat mataku yang penuh dosa
Menatap dan memohon

Di manakah Engkau, Tuhanku
Di manakah rumahMu?
Untuk apa kutikamkan belati ini Tuhanku?
Dari mana harus kutarik belati ini,
Ke mana harus kutikam dia

Saat kusadar Engkaulah seluruh dunia ini?

Untuk memelukMu
Ku akan berikan seluruh hidupku, seluruh duniaku
Cahaya terangMu menyinari seluruh dunia
Saat mataku yang penuh dosa
Menatap dan memohon padaMu

Pic 1: DVD cover to Mr. and Mrs. Iyer, from Wikipedia

Pic 2: Raja and Meenakhsi photographing the deer, from

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

A bottlenose dolphin carrying a dead calf

I was again reminded of my passion towards marine mammals, particularly whales and dolphins (though I also adore dugongs and seals &c) when I read this article by Giovanni Bearzi and Joan Gonzalvo Villegas from the Tethys Research Institute in Italy:

Bottlenose dolphin interactions with a dead calf in the Amvrakikos Gulf, Greece

On the 3rd and 4th of July, 2007, a bottlenose dolphin was observed interacting with a dead newborn for several hours in the semi-closed waters of the Amvrakikos Gulf, Greece.

The observations were documented by 532 digital photos taken on the first day, and 138 photos taken on the second day. A selection of 48 photos has been posted HERE.

We are considering writing a note to report this event, and would be interested in receiving information and comments from those of you who have had similar experiences.

We are aware of the following scientific articles published on the subject (see below). We would be grateful if you could help us make this literature list as comprehensive as possible.

Anyway, I dare only attach one photograph taken by Joan Gonzalvo (I have reduced the resolution) from the Tethys website, which of course belongs to the Tethys Research Institute (so please don’t sue me, Tethys)… I long to read those papers they mentioned, for I am again reminded of one of the main factors for my admirations towards the marine mammals: their strong social ties. I think we humankind should learn more from other species, particularly in these dire years of the Earth (what with global climate change &c…).

Friday, 17 August 2007

I salute Thee, my dearest Motherland

Dear friends,

Today is the 62th Independence Day of Indonesia, celebrated annually every 17th of August, since the year 1945 when we the Indonesians declared ourselves as a free nation, the Republic of Indonesia. I miss my country so much, the colours, the fragrance, the songs... the legends, the people. Granted, it's not a perfect country to live in, with lots of problems going on now. But I still miss her, and I promise to go back home for her when the time comes.

Hence, to commemorate the efforts of our Founding Fathers (who, no doubt, had our Founding Mothers standing next to them) in liberating the nation, here's a song from the deceased Gombloh, one of our pop singers.

Bende Mataram, Vande Mataram, I salute Thee, my dearest Motherland.

Gebyar-gebyar, by Gombloh

Merah darahku, putih tulangku (the red of my blood, the white of my bones)
Bersatu dalam semangatmu (united in your spirit)

Debar jantungku, getar nadiku (the flutter of my heart, the tremble of my vein)
Berbaur dalam angan-anganmu (merged in your dreams)

Gebyar-gebyar, pelangi jingga (Shine, oh shine, the orange rainbow!)

Biarpun bumi bergoncang (Even though the earth shatters)
Kau tetap Indonesiaku (You are still my Indonesia)
Andaikan matahari terbit dari barat (Even though the sun shines from the west)
Kaupun tetap indonesiaku (You are still my Indonesia)
Tak sebilah pedang yang tajam (No sharp swords)
Dapat palingkan daku darimu (can take me away from you)
Kusingsingkan lengan (I raise my arms)
Rawe-rawe rantas
Malang-malang tuntas
Denganmu … (for you)

Merah darahku, putih tulangku (the red of my blood, the white of my bones)
Bersatu dalam semangatmu (united in your spirit)

Debar jantungku, getar nadiku (the flutter of my heart, the tremble of my vein)
Berbaur dalam angan-anganmu (merged in your dreams)

Gebyar-gebyar, pelangi jingga (Shine, oh shine, the orange rainbow!)

Merah darahku, putih tulangku (the red of my blood, the white of my bones)
Bersatu dalam semangatmu (united in your spirit)

Nada laguku, symphoni perteguh (the rhythm of my song, the symphony)
Selaras dengan symphonimu (is in line with your symphony)

Gebyar-gebyar, pelangi jingga (Shine, oh shine, the orange rainbow!)

Picture of Merah Putih is taken from the photobucket here.

Saturday, 4 August 2007

Amazing Grace, Amazing Movie!

If I have to vote for my movie of the year, I would be torn between Becoming Jane and Amazing Grace (and if Elizabeth: the Golden Age comes, I might be torn as well. Or maybe not, for Amazing Grace is officially a 2006 movie). Hence, to sort it out, my romantic movie of the year is Becoming Jane. My historic movie of the year so far is Amazing Grace. And, as BJ is loaded with many evidence of her grandeur of pure love, so is Amazing Grace, which is loaded with concerns and hopes for a better humanity.

Amazing Grace is actually the title of a famous song written by British Evangelist John Newton circa 1772. It’s such a soulful song that you can shed your tears just listening to it. And it was more moving because Newton himself was once a captain of a slave ship as written by the U.S. Official Site:

John Newton (played by Albert Finney in Amazing Grace) wrote the words to one of the most beloved hymns of all time between 1760 and 1770, while working as an evangelical pastor. Son of the commander of a merchant ship, Newton was captain of a slave ship for many years, until he underwent a dramatic religious conversion while steering his vessel through a storm.

Repenting and regretting the misery he had inflicted on the thousands of human cargo he had transported across the Middle Passage for many years, he devoted his life to the Church, and wrote the lyrics to many hymns which are still popular today.

In 1780 Newton left Olney to become rector of St. Mary Woolnoth, St. Mary Woolchurch, in London. There he drew large congregations and influenced many, among them William Wilberforce. Newton continued to preach until the last year of life, although he was blind by that time. He died in London December 21, 1807.

Thank God that Newton still lived to see the efforts to abolish the slave trade in England finally produced the 1807 Slave Trade Act on 25 March 1807, after twenty years of struggles. I am sure he died peacefully.

The movie Amazing Grace focuses on the efforts of one of John Newton’s friends, i.e. William Wilberforce. Played exquisitely by Ioan Gruffudd, Wilberforce was indeed the symbol of freedom and liberty in Great Britain, one of the greatest Anglo-Saxon men that had worked relentlessly to free African slaves and to stop slavery in England. I’m proud to know this great man, albeit a bit late. I’m also glad to see Ioan at his best. Well, I cannot say that, for I only saw him as Mr. Fantastic in Fantastic Four, and I think he completely wasted his fantastic talent by doing such a mundane movie like FF (not to mention pairing up with Jessica Alba, who – with all due respect – cannot make me feel for Invisible Woman). But anyway, Ioan was the great William Wilberforce. His acting was superb, I feared that he would have a heart attack during the Parliamentary hearing sessions; the stupid old blokes were so stubborn and heartless, and he was so passionate. Attempts to make other Amazing Grace movies will have to find a better Wilberforce, which will be hard to do, for it’s rather hard to see other Wilberforces other than Ioan’s Wilberforce.

The movie had many excellent actors/actresses, e.g. Albert Finney as John Newton, Youssou N'Dour as Olaudah Equiano, Michael Gambon (Dumbledore in Harry Potter series) as Lord Charles Fox, Benedict Cumberbath (Stephen Hawking in Hawking, Patrick Watts in Starter for Ten) as Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger (the William Pitt as said), Rufus Sewell as Thomas Clarkson, and the 1995 Persuasion’s Ciaran Hinds as the pro-slavery Sir Banastre Tarleton.

The beautiful Romola Garai (Vanity Fair, Inside I’m Dancing, Atonement) played as Barbara Ann Spooner, Wilberforce’s wife; a lovely smart young lady, about the same age as Jane Austen, but with much more money – no offense. It is interesting to note that William Wilberforce and Barbara were married in Bath on May 30th, 1797, only a fortnight after their first meeting (I should really visit Bath, eh?). Having scouring down many Austen facts these few months, I have learned that Jane Austen visited Bath in November/December 1797. Would Jane know of Barbara? She definitely heard of Wilberforce, and I am sure that Jane admired his work (Austen’s Mansfield Park is a critique to slavery in plantation). If Jane Austen knew about Barbara Wilberforce, I bet she would envy her freedom and opportunities, in a good way.

The movie has such a profound effect on me; I’ve decided to watch it for the second time, this time dragging my female friends (they were a bit afraid the movie would be gruesome). I regret to report that the major cinema in my city fails to screen this amazing movie. Instead, they focus on more mundane movies that I would rather not elaborate; movies that do not inspire you to do things for greater good.

Here’s the powerful lyric of Amazing Grace (listen with a capella or bagpipe and let the tears fall down…)

Amazing Grace (How sweet the sound)
That sav'd a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears reliev'd;
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believ'd!

Thro' many dangers, toils and snare,
I have already come;
'Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease;
I shall profess, within the vail,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who call'd me here below,
Will be for ever mine.

Read this for a great interview of with Ioan Gruffudd. Click this for a YouTube music video of Amazing Grace with the same song.

Pic 1: movie poster of Amazing Grace

Pic 2: the real William Wilberforce, from Wikipedia

Pic 3: Ioan Gruffudd as Wilberforce during a rough Parliamentary hearing, from Hollywood Jesus

Pic 4: Wilberforce (Gruffudd) and Barbara (Romola Garai), from

Pic 5: Wilberforce contemplating, from Amazing Grace

Sunday, 29 July 2007

I love Mr. Knightley!

I feel like an outcast sometimes in the Jane Austen world, for I do NOT swoon over Fitzwilliam Darcy. I have watched the Pride & Prejudice 1995 and 2005 several times, coming out with the conclusion that I love Jennifer Ehle's Lizzy Bennet (THE Lizzy Bennet!) and I am swaying over Matthew Macfayden's Darcy (for he was so sensitive)... instead of Collin Firth's Darcy... but I'm not really into the saga of Lizzy and Darcy.

There, I've said that. Now sue me.

But on the other hand, I just recently realised how I love Mr. Knightley. The Jeremy Northam Knightley... the one in Emma 1996 (with the witty Gwyneth Palthrow). Not the Mark Strong one (many women would love Strong's Knightley... they can have him...). Jeremy's Knightley is such a sensitive person, but funny as well in his own right, and don't give the impression of someone with a toothache when you talk to him.

And here's some of my fave scenes in Emma 1996, involving Knightley:

1. When Knightley and Emma was talking in the Christmas party, and suddenly Mr. Elton just sat down between them... Jeremy's expression was too funny! And he also stifled his laughter when Mr. Elton tried to talk to Emma, though Emma obviously did not want to.

2. When Frank Churchill and Emma sang together... Knightley's jealousy was palpable, though he tried to hide it.

3. When Emma and Knightley was in the green house, and K said that he had news and that 'I know how you love news', and Emma wittily said, 'Oh yes, I always love news!' Their interaction is so cute!

4. Another ball, and that Mrs. Elton was 'taking care' of Jane Fairfax. And then Augusta Elton barked, 'Knightley!' and asked him to tell Jane how silly she was to walk in the rain. Knightley's expressions are sooo cute! I can watch the scene again and again just to see him there!

5. The ball again, where Harriet Smith did not have any partners at all... and Knightley swung over to take her to dance. He was such a genteel person there...

I just came to realise this... but I think I know why I think Knightley better than Darcy. I mean, Darcy helped tracking down Lydia... very honourable of him. But he partly did that for Elizabeth, which is of course understandable. But Knightley stood against Emma for Miss Bates (and for Emma's good as well), and he also helped Harriet without any agenda. Mr. Knightley is more down to earth to me...

Colonel Brandon is my other Austen hero. The Alan Rickman Brandon (Sense & Sensibility 1995). He's this sensitive soul, yet again... (and makes me love Severus Snape as well!).

As for Frank Churchill... let's face it. I love his voice. The Ewan McGregor one, I mean. His duet with Emma (Saw You Not My Lady) was superb!

Pic: Jeremy Northam as Mr. Knightley (Emma, 1996)
Pic 2: Emma (Gwyneth Palthrow) and Mr. Knightley (Jeremy Northam)

Monday, 23 July 2007

Hogwarts won!

As a fellow Hogwartian, I am proud to report to my blog readers of the victory we achieved last night after the gruesome yet valiant Battle of Hogwarts. Of course, with this message I am revealing to my Muggle friends that I am actually a witch! And one of the reasons for my absence from my private blog was that I had been helping Lee Jordan organizing the Potterwatch programme. Managing the underground resistance against You-Know-Who (oh, well, VOLDERMORT!) was proven tricky, but I managed to transport myself to Regency Era to find some useful spells, jinxes and charms around Hampshire and Limerick. In addition, upon examining Jane Austen’s Emma, I found some hidden incantations that were proven useful for my personal safety last night as I fought the hideous Death Eaters.
I am so sad to report that Fred Weasley was one of the first battle casualties (though we had lost Hedwig, Mad-Eye and dearest Dobby prior to the battle), followed by Remus Lupin, Nymphadora Tonks and more than fifty other heroes and heroines of Hogwarts. I cried a lot when I learned that Dobby had died, plus when Fred died (though not for long, for several Death Eaters were blocking us – they did not know what they were doing!). But Harry Potter’s ‘camping’ adventure throughout England was apparently effective; Gringgott was breached, Horcruxes were destroyed (including the seventh, hidden one) and I also heard that Harry finally learned the truth behind the questionable acts of Dumbledore during his youth. It did not change the fact that Albus Dumbledore was one of the best Headmasters in Hogwarts. 

Speaking of headmaster, I was very surprised to learn that Professor Snape was actually on our side! I was shocked last year to learn that he had really killed Dumbledore (never believed that he was that evil... must be something behind the murder), but I am glad to find out the real plan behind it. Severus Snape, after all, was a valiant hero; I salute him.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Galungan: the real meaning of Victory

So, today is the Galungan Day in Bali, where the Hindu believers on the Island of Paradise celebrate the victory of good over evil. I am, of course, not in Bali, hence I could not absorb the enjoyment of Galungan typically experienced by Balinese and other inhabitants of the island.

I don't regret it, though. I mean, I have to be here, in the sunny day of Townsville (an atypical day, considering the pouring down rainfall for the last two weeks), trying to write my thesis (oops!). But I actually miss the fragrance of incense mixed with frangipani and other offerings... the sound of the gamelan... and the crowds. Yes, the godawful crowds that sometimes think more of the suckling pigs than the meaning of victory. Yes... that's the truth. Sometimes, like many people might forget what Christmas really means beyond the glittering trees and presents... the Balinese sometimes forget the real meaning of victory.

Okay, for a student like me, victory might mean achieving scholarship and research funding (!), submitting my review in-time and with considerable quality... not procrastinating with blogs and fanfictions when you're supposed to write a chapter (oops! - seems I am still defeated here...)... conducting your research in timely manner, etc.

But the true meaning of victory for me is the victory over oneself. Over one's greediness, laziness (ahem!), anger, jealousy, prejudice... those negative things that makes you unhappy. That makes the world unhappy. For, as Buddha, Krishna, Dalai Lama, Anand Krishna, Mother Theresa, etc say (yes, 'say', present tense), peace and happiness is found within. And it can only be found by overcoming those negative feelings and walking the journey within.

That is the true personal victory for me.

Well, if I can submit my translation this afternoon to my friend, that is yet another victory to be celebrated!

Pic: Galungan Penjor in Bali. I miss that sight...

Sunday, 17 June 2007

STOP PRESS! John Howard finally met Dalai Lama!

It seemed that John Howard (and opposition leader Kevin Rudd) listened to all the rants and complaints of the Australians and non-Australians (like myself) who love Dalai Lama upon the leaders' indecisiveness of meeting His Holiness.

Thus, after Rudd finally met Dalai Lama on June 12, John Howard followed the very wise step to meet His Holiness on June 15. No news was out on the result of the meeting, but both leaders did a cute doorway dance together. The meetings were of course applauded by Dalai Lama fans in Australia, for His Holiness is an important figure for the Australians.

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark also 'had the opportunity' to talk with Dalai Lama in the lounge of Brisbane airport on June 14. Miss Clark was on her way to Sydney, and the officials said that the meeting was unplanned. However, to me it was delicately arranged to avoid China's anger but also to pay tribute to one of the greatest spiritual leaders of the 21st century. Works for me!

Saturday, 9 June 2007

A blessed afternoon with Dalai Lama

I still could not believe my luck today as I saw His Holiness Dalai Lama crossing the stage to the microphone and greeting the audience. I mean, last January I was watching a video about Tibet and Dalai Lama and was thinking of how lucky I would be if I could meet him.
And this afternoon in the chilly Melbourne afternoon I saw him. A beautiful soul who becomes the very symbol of peace and hope for this planet. A great leader of a great nation that is not officially recognized by the United Nations (heh…) but continues to strive for a better fate and life of Tibet and the Tibetans. Not only that; he also relentlessly works for a better world by spreading messages of love and peace. A beacon of hope and love that always reminds us that peace and happiness is found within, and you cannot make a peaceful world unless you are in peace with yourself.

Topic of the day in the MC Labour Park, Princess Park Stadium was ‘Universal Responsibility’. Now, as my blog space is limited, I can only spoil myself with a summary of His Holiness’ point of thoughts in this very blessed public speech attended by at least 10,000 people, which I believe were not only local Melbournians. I should first say that Dalai Lama asked us to see him as a human being, not as Dalai Lama. For him, we are also fellow human beings, not people from different cultural, religious, or geographical backgrounds. Then, and only then we can begin our dialogs and understanding.
I think it’s rather impossible for me to see him ‘just’ as a human being; but I understand what he meant. And that only made me love him more.

Monday, 4 June 2007

My icon

I think I will use this picture as my icon now. It's the picture of Goddess Gangga, the caretaker of the Great Gangga River in India. I love her so much, as well as many other goddesses. But because I could not find the picture of Parvati, Tara, Durga, Diana, Gaea or other goddesses that suits the purpose, I will 'use' this one.

As a second thought, I think I will use this 'eye' instead. Clearer. But really, I love Goddess Gangga, so I will just let her be here. The 'eye' is actually a colour-composite of a nebula called 'Helix Nebula'.

Thursday, 31 May 2007

Little Women Sountrack

It finally arrived yesterday: Original Soundtrack of Little Women (1994)! And my oh my... how I love it! I especially love the main theme, of course, with the lovely orchestra. But I also love the Spring/Amy Abroad, Meg's Hair, La Fayette's Welcome (Frank Johnson), Port Royal Gallop (Claudio Grafulla, 1810-1880)... and my favourite: Maria Redowa (Gaetano Donizetti, 1797-1848). The last three tracks are from the 19th century classical scores, by the way, so it added to the beauty.

This post reminds me that I have to add Becoming Jane and Sense & Sensibility OST reviews, all of which I love as well!

Now, where's my Emma and English Country Dance? I hope it arrives before I go to Melbourne next week...

Monday, 28 May 2007

Looking for Your Face

From the beginning of my life
I have been looking for your face
but today I have seen it.

Today I have seen
the charm, the beauty,
the unfathomable grace
of the face
that I was looking for.

Today I have found you
and those that laughed
and scorned me yesterday
are sorry that they were not looking
as I did.

I am bewildered by the magnificence
of your beauty
and wish to see you with a hundred eyes.

My heart has burned with passion
and has searched forever
for this wondrous beauty
that I now behold.

I am ashamed
to call this love human
and afraid of God
to call it divine.

Your fragrant breath
like the morning breeze
has come to the stillness of the garden
You have breathed new life into me
I have become your sunshine
and also your shadow.

My soul is screaming in ecstasy
Every fiber of my being
is in love with you

Your effulgence
has lit a fire in my heart
and you have made radiant
for me
the earth and sky.

My arrow of love
has arrived at the target
I am in the house of mercy
and my heart
is a place of prayer.

Poetry by Jalaluddin Rumi, 13th century

Love's Nationality

Okay, I've just 'met' Rumi on the web, and I was again reminded how great this sage was. This is a poetry from Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi who graced us with his wisdom in the 13th century.

Love's nationality is separate from all other religions
The lover's religion and nationality is the Beloved (God)
The lover's cause is separate from all other causes
Love is the astrolabe of God's mysteries

I have a Sufi painting at home in Bali, by the way. One day, I will post the beautiful painting here. It's one of my precious treasures, and is actually the first painting I've ever bought!

By and by, the year 2007 is the 'International Rumi Year'. Go, Rumi! And this is the text from Wikipedia:

International Rumi Year

Upon a proposal by Culture and Tourism Ministry of Turkey, the year 2007 was declared as the "International Rumi Year" by UNESCO in March 2006. This is intended for the commemoration of Rumi's 800th birthday anniversary and will be celebrated all over the world. On this occasion Iranian musician Shahram Nazeri was awarded Légion d'honneur and Iran's House of Music Award for his renowned works on Rumi masterpieces. 2006 was declared as the "International Mozart Year" by UNESCO.

In honour of Jalal-ud-Din Balkhi-Rumi, one of the great humanists, philosophers and poets who belong to humanity in its entirety, UNESCO issued a UNESCO Medal in his name in association with the 800th anniversary of his birth in 2007 in the hope that this medal will prove an encouragement to those who are engaged in a deep and scholarly dissemination of his ideas and ideals, which in turn would in fact enhance the diffusion of the ideals of UNESCO.

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Girl with a pearl earring

I first saw this famous painting of Jan Vermeer van Delft, ironically enough, as a cover of the novel with the same title. Then, yesterday I was intrigued to learn that the book (a 1999 production - I first thought it was a 19th century production or something) had been made into a movie, again with the same title. Ergo, I rented the DVD to see what it was like.

And I love it. I love the colour, the light... the compositions... everything. Colin Firth was amazing there as Vermeer... (Firth is good in playing cool, seemingly heartless, characters), and Scarlett Johanson who played Griet, the fictional model for Girl with a Pearl Earring. Cillian Murphy, who played as the Scarecrow in Batman Begins was also there, as Griet's boyfriend. Poor boy, he did not know that Griet loved master Vermeer more than him... Or did he?

Pic: Girl with a pearl earring, Jan Vermeer van Delft, circa 1665

Friday, 25 May 2007

Jane Austen was very witty!

She was! I have yet to finish Sense and Sensibility the novel, but I have chuckled, smirked and laughed at how she wrote the scenes. My, oh my… she indeed had a very good sense of humour. Listen to these passages, all taken from SS Penguin Edition:

Mrs. Palmer’s eye was now caught by the drawings which hung round the room. She got up to examine them.

‘Oh! Dear, how beautiful these are! Well! How delightful! Do but look, mama, how sweet! I declare they are quite charming; I could look at them for ever.’ And then sitting down again, she very soon forgot that there were any such things in the room. (p. 105)

Austen’s satire is very apparent here:

‘Oh! My love,’ cried Mrs. Palmer to her husband, who just then entered the room – ‘You must help me persuade the Miss Dashwoods to go to town this winter.’

Her love made no answer; and after slightly bowing to the ladies, began complaining of the weather. (p. 107)

This one is so funny; I might have to ‘steal’ it in my fictions, for I often depicted a character muttering something incomprehensible.

Poor Edward [Ferrars] muttered something, but what it was, nobody knew, not even himself. (p. 228)

By and by, what about these Charlotte or ‘-t’ characters? Charlotte Lucas was silly, Charlotte Palmer was twice as silly as Mrs. Lucas, and Harriet Smith was exceedingly naïve. Something about ‘-t’ characters that JA did not particularly fond of? :-D

PS: I know admirers of Pride & Prejudice will not consent to my opinion here, but I find that SS is a more amusing book than PP. Perhaps the premise of two rather poor Dashwood sisters (well, three – but Margaret was still a teenage, so she did not count) with near zilch romantic prospect has more appeal to me than the plight of five rather rich Bennet girls. Elizabeth Bennet was an interesting, sensible character though. A mixture of Marianne and Elinor.

Becoming Jane Fansite!

Okay, due to the risk of stuffing too much of Becoming Jane facts and funs here, I've decided to create another blog with the sole reason to immortalise the beauty of the movie (and all facts, fan fictions, etc) related to it. I need a beta-moderator, and I will ask Rachel as soon as she's not busy. I'm pretty excited, and have to remind myself that my primary reason to be here is actually NOT to do anything BJ related... But well... that's what fandom means. The site is still in development, but it has the YouTube and Google News links, so it's pretty cool, dare I say.

So, welcome to Becoming Jane Fansite and roll on, Jane!

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Hilda Boswell - my first love

I have to reprimand myself for writing this while I have to finish my review, but I can't help it. I was somehow reminded again of how beautiful the works of Hilda Boswell were, and I have to say, it was first love for me, at the first sight. I came across Boswell's artworks when I was about... uh, 10, at the most? And I immediately fell in love with the rosy-cheek characters.

Hitherto, Boswell's Treasury of Children's Stories is still my favourite children book - beating up Cinderella and Snow White (well, she did illustrated an edition of Snow White...). Boswell did not write her stories; she picked them from Charles Dickens' David Copperfield, C.J. Lewis' Chronicle of Narnia and Mary de Morgan's 'Through the Fire'. Boswell hoped that the readers would not forget the stories easily, and you know what?

She was right. Treasury of Children's Stories is my utmost beloved children book. Ever. Period.

It is a great dismay that Boswell's books are out of print now (can you imagine such a hideous crime?!), and thus I enlist myself in the fans of Hilda Boswell who begs the re-print of her books. Collins? Oxford? Anyone? Gramedia, even, because my first copy (of which I lost now...) was printed and published by Gramedia Indonesia, in Indonesian language, naturally.

Pic 1: Lucy in Narnia
Pic 2: Cover to 'Treasury of Children's Stories'