Sunday, August 31, 2008


This happened so near to where I live - Denver, Colorado. I took a trip down to Denver this weekend to see and absorb it. The evidence is still all around Denver.

It was such a great speech that I need to put up this post for those who may not have the chance to hear it. If I am an American, I know clearly where my vote will go. Hear it.

My Bike

For those who are not in my Facebook link, I have a transportation update:

After the walking up and down and everywhere, I did what almost every Boulderians did: I bought a bike within the 3rd day I was in Boulder. And it has been such a blessing. Now, I cycle up and down and everywhere - and I even contemplated bringing my bike along to my trip down to Denver this long Labour's Day weekend. It takes me less than 5 minutes to reach school even - and it is a beautiful path along the creek.

Now I began to see what those gym sessions I was doing back in Singapore were for: the running of 20km every week, the cycling, the steps ... it was like my trainer was 'kashaf' - I needed all these to venture Boulder, to cycle to school, to go up and down the hills (oh ... where do you think the name 'boulder' came from?) So, Alhamdulillah ... it seemed that I have been well-prepared and everything now makes perfect sense to me :)

God Speaks To Each OF Us...

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don't let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousnes.

Give me your hand.

... Rainer Maria Rilke

Friday, August 29, 2008

Ramadhan Re-runs

Ramadhan Mubarak!


My favourite DJ. He has been on my iPod wherever I go - flying, walking, cycling, studying, reading ... So I wish to introduce you to Tiësto!

Tiësto is a Grammy-nominated Dutch trance DJ and record producer. He has become one of the world's most famous people in the trance and electronic dance music scenes. Although he has used many aliases in the past, he is best known for his work as DJ Tiësto. On his latest productions, however, he has dropped the "DJ" label and is now known simply as "Tiësto", an alias which is a twist on his childhood nickname.

As his popularity rose in the early 2000's, he became the first DJ to perform to a large crowd following his six-hour "Tiësto Solo" sets which he performed without other DJs or opening acts. This idea, of one DJ playing alone to a large crowd, was brought to its pinnacle when Tiësto was the first DJ to hold a solo concert in a stadium; on May 10, 2003, he performed for over 25,000 people in Arnhem's Gelredome. This concert was later called "Tiësto in Concert", the event was an enormous success. He repeated the same type of concert the following year during two consecutive nights in late October. In addition to holding these two concerts for 35,000 of his fans, he held another concert for a crowd of 20,000 in Hasselt, Belgium the following week. He is also noted for being the first DJ to play live on stage at an Olympic Games at the 2004 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony in Athens. In addition to receiving numerous awards for his work he was crowned "World’s No.1 DJ" three consecutive times by DJ Magazine from 2002 through 2004 and received a nomination for a Grammy Award in 2008, for his album Elements of Life.

He has also made a number of charitable contributions. In April 2006, Tiësto was named the official worldwide ambassador for the Dance4Life foundation, fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS, for which he recorded the track "Dance4life." In December 2007, Tiësto and Giorgio Armani collaborated together on a limited edition Tiesto T-shirt available at Armani Exchange stores. His single "Sweet Things" includes the shirt with the proceeds from the sale of this T-shirt benefiting the Mercy Corps.

The following clip is from my favourite song of his 2004 album entitled "Just Be" called "Forever Today". I love the orchestral instrumentation build-up and then bang! The original song is 12 minutes ... this version has only 10 minutes to it. Anyway, enjoy... and just be :)

And another, from the Grammy nominated album "Elements of Life."

And to get the real atmosphere of his concert and see why he is the maestro DJ, this is the Opening of Tiësto in Concert 2004 at the Arnhem Gelredome with the familiar Forever Today and Olympic Flame tracks. As commented, this is how one should open a concert!


Whilst it was nice that almost everybody here knows about Singapore (as opposed to it being in China or only about the Michael Fay incident) ... one thing kept creeping in my conversations with the Americans: 

"How is it that you speak English so well? Did you study here in the US before?" Even the director of my graduate school thought I studied in the UK. And this fact seemed to marvel most of them.

Well guys, English is the language of instruction in Singapore. We speak it here ... and you know what - our command of the language is probably (well, most well-travelled Americans will say it definitely) better than most Americans :)

Being the very few Singaporeans in Boulder (that was one of my considerations to come here), we normally proceed to an oral introduction of Singapore. Usually, at the end of the conversation, enough interest are garnered for people to visit our island-city.

Can I get the Mr. Tourism Award, Singapore?

But yeah ... I was also doing my duty as a Fulbright scholar :)

Monday, August 25, 2008


I just had to make this entry - to remind myself of how I was not like this before and how I have now changed. Close friends would know how this is a world of difference for me:

I walked and walked and walked and walked and walked ...

I walked from point to point.

I never thought of cabs, and bus ride is free here.

I have never walked so much in a day in my life.

But walking with an iPod in your ears and a haversack on your bag with my trusted Adidas shoes ... it grows on you.

This is the surprise guys: I am beginning to enjoy it :)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Into The Wild

My super-long flights from Changi Airport, Singapore to Narita Airport, Tokyo and then to Tacoma Airport, Seattle followed by Portland International Airport, Oregon before finally reaching Denver International Airport, Denver - required a multitude of activities to kill off boredom. I watched about 10 movies in all and slept. But I brought along with me 2 great books: 1001 Nights and Into The Wild.

I felt in love. I felt in love with Into The Wild. Go read it. You will travel along with it - you may die or live stronger after it. There is a movie out there based on this book directed by the talented Sean Pean.

"In April 1992, a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandles. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. He took up residence at the ragged margin of our society, wandering across North America in search of raw, transcendent experience. His family had no idea where he was or what had become of him until his remains turned up in Alaska.

For most of the sixteen-week ordeal, nevertheless, McCandles more than held his own. Indeed, were it not for one or two seemingly insignificant blunders, he would have walked out of the woods in August 1992 as anonymously as he had walked into them in April. Instead, his innocent mistakes turned out to be headlines, and his bewildered family was left clutching the shards of a fierce and painful love."

Adjustment in Boulder

One major adjustment which I have to make since arriving at beautiful Boulder, Colorado is the massive space, greens and mountains. It is huge compared to Singapore, or even Seattle and Portland where I came from. And the University of Colorado, Boulder is National University of Singapore multiplied by 5 - over a higher altitude. You can see how massive it is from the pictures. I will be buying a bike soon enough :)

Where And Whom

"There are no events but thoughts and the heart's hard turning, the heart's slow learning where to love and whom. The rest is merely gossip, and tales for other times."

... Holy The Firm, Annie Dillard

Our Common Humanity

Whilst enjoying the beautiful and charming International Rose Garden at Portland, Oregon, I came across this inscription at the Holocaust Memorial. Such powerful words therein:

"Our precious life rests not on our ability to see what makes us different, one from another, but rather on our ability to recognize what makes us the same. What ultimately defines us is the moral strength to believe in our common humanity and to act upon this belief."


"I wanted movement and not a calm course of existence. I wanted excitement and danger and the chance to sacrifice myself for my love. I felt in myself a superabundance of energy which found no outlet in our quiet life."

... Family Happiness, Leo Tolstoy

The Journey of Life

And I, with faltering footsteps, journey on,
Watching the stars that roll the hours away,
Till the faint light that guides me now is gone,
And, like another life, the glorious day
Shall open o'er me from the empyreal height,
With warmth, and certainty, and boundless light.

... The Journey of Life, William Cullen Bryant

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Dream A Little Dream

Summarised Summary

There were BIG and HUGE plans of writing entries upon entries of my journeys these past 2 weeks. As many plans go by, they remained as beautiful plans :)

I never expected to be so busy - so far, the "being busy" has got nothing to do with school yet. Was in Seattle, Washington for a couple of days (and boy - do I love that vibrant musical city. I will definitely go there again :) and then was at Portland, Oregon (this city grows on you) for a week. The Fulbright scholars were all gathered at Portland State University for an induction to the American system etc - but most importantly, it was to enlarge our circle of networks with people from about 38 countries! And if you think that we are all nerdy guys, think again. That week was such a blast! 

I am now finally in Boulder, Colorado. Managed to secure a nice apartment here (my balcony overlooks a river!) and a mobile. Have this weekend to discover Boulder before reporting to school on Monday. It has been so exciting and busy here in Colorado - the Democratic Convention is going on here as I am making this entry...

So, as a summarised summary of my 2 weeks in the US, this is a list of observations or adjustments that I have experienced. There are many, but I think 10 would suffice for this entry:

1) whatever you may have heard about the US, its people, its culture or its immigration, leave it at the door. You have got to be here to experience how warm and helpful they are. It is a big place - and they do have all sorts. But, my experience have been nothing but awesome.

2) the food - they are all served in triple the size of what you get in Singapore. So, don't order too much food. I can't even finish a salad for lunch! And they pack their unfinished food to prevent waste.

3) the service you get at the stores/restaurants - you think the waitress is your best bud from school - they take care of you! But there is the element of tips which you decide how much she gets. But the level of service - seriously, Singapore cannot match up.

4) if a cab costs $28, you pay $35 (tips). For that matter, if you see a price tag of $10, you always pay more for tips.

5) cabs here are expensive! People walk or take a bus (I would have to adjust to this).

6) don't be afraid to ask - anything, from finding directions, bus no, etc

7) keep your receipts for whatever you buy. You can always return if it is faulty - or return if you suddenly realised that you actually have that thing at home already. No questions asked!

8) all their stores are Huge ... if you think a store is just one Unit within a mall in Singapore, then a store here is one Building! Shopping is therefore tiring ... you will loose weight. (I already did ... with the walking and walking and walking).

9) most people here (if not all that I have met) take pride in their jobs - and you reciprocate accordingly. It brings pleasure to interface with people.

10) you can always customize your needs here - just ask. For example, you are with a group of 20 people - but you want the bill for only 3 of you, they can do that. Or you want to separate the bills for food and another for drinks, they can do it. The keyword: just ask!

Btw, the pictures above were taken by me on a boat from Brementon to downtown Seattle, Washington. I was personally there at the Space Needle in Seattle. The second picture was taken from the observation deck. It was where "Sleepless In Seattle" was shot.

Another time for other stories :)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Leaving On A Jetplane

The day has finally come: I will be leaving early this morning to the US. Most people have been asking for details so here it is:

My port of entry will be via Seattle - so after a short transit at Narita Airport, I will be staying in Seattle with a friend for a couple of days. It will be an interesting adjustment. I have a list of places to go - and to visit the very first Starbucks is a must! And you may never know: I might just bump into Death Cab For Cuties :)

I then have a pre-academic assignment with the other Fulbright scholars from all over at Portland, Oregon for a week. There will be lots of networking. I heard that Portland is beautiful.

Finally, I will reach Boulder, Colorado before the end of the month to start my school term and my life as a full-time student again. Can't wait :)

I wish to thank all friends who had graciously hosted me for breakfast, brunch, lunch, tea, dinner, supper etc ... for the last month and a half. My family was lamenting about how busy I was everyday being out and about, but I was indeed grateful for the many wonderful friends I have who wished to spend private moments with me. There are still those whom I did not manage to fit into my schedule, and I deeply apologise.

As with many journeys in life, this is not a goodbye or the end of our paths together. It is just a temporary separation of physical time, distance and place whilst I traverse on my own personal journey towards Him. We remain close as long as we remain in each other's prayers. I hope this journey will make me, and us, even stronger.

Forgive me for the things which I did, which I should not.
Forgive me for the things which I should have done, but did not.

"And these my mariners, who have heard the choir of the greater sea, they too have heard me patiently.
Now they shall wait no longer.
I am ready.

The stream has reached the sea, and once more the great mother holds her son against her breast.
Fare you well, people of Orphalese.
This day has ended.

It is closing upon us even as the water-lily upon its own tomorrow.
What was given us here we shall keep,
And if it suffices not, then again must we come together and together stretch our hands unto the giver.

Forget not that I shall come back to you.
A little while, and my longing shall gather dust and foam for another body.
A little while, a moment of rest upon the wind, and another woman shall bear me.

Farewell to you and the youth I have spent with you.
It was but yesterday we met in a dream.
You have sung to me in my aloneness, and I of your longings have built a tower in the sky.

But now our sleep has fled and our dream is over, and it is no longer dawn.
The noontide is upon us and our half waking has turned to fuller day, and we must part.

If in the twilight of memory we should meet once more, we shall speak again together and you shall sing to me a deeper song.
And if our hands should meet in another dream, we shall build another tower in the sky."

.. The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran

Monday, August 11, 2008

Your Catfish Friend

If I were to live my life
in catfish forms
in scaffolds of skin and whiskers
at the bottom of a pond
and you were to come by
one evening
when the moon was shining
down into my dark home
and stand there at the edge
of my affection
and think, "It's beautiful
here by this pond. I wish
somebody loved me,"
I'd love you and be your catfish
friend and drive such lonely
thoughts from your mind
and suddenly you would be
at peace,
and ask yourself, "I wonder
if there are any catfish
in this pond? It seems like
a perfect place for them."

... Richard Brautigan

Who Is The Guide?

I am like the sea;
many ships sail across the sea,
but who knows
the depth of the sea?

When I move
through the streets,
I watch the sons of truth
pass me by;
I do not say anything,
but I open my heart,
and they enter!

... Sidi Muhammad Sa'id al-Jamal ar-Rifa'i as-Shadili

When I Consider How My Light Is Spent

When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest He returning chide;
"Doth God exact day-labor, light denied?"
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, "God doth not need
Either man's work or His own gifts. Who best
Bear His mild yoke, they serve Him best. His state
Is kingly: thousands at His bidding speed,
And post o'er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait.

... John Milton


Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

... Langston Hughes

Let Me Die A Youngman's Death

Let me die a youngman's death
not a clean and inbetween
the sheets holywater death
not a famous-last-words
peaceful out of breath death

When I'm 73
and in constant good tumour
may I be mown down at dawn
by a bright red sports car
on my way home
from an allnight party

Or when I'm 91
with silver hair
and sitting in a barber's chair
may rival gangsters
with hamfisted tommyguns burst in
and give me a short back and insides

Or when I'm 104
and banned from the Cavern
may my mistress
catching me in bed with her daughter
and fearing for her son
cut me up into little pieces
and throw away every piece but one

Let me die a youngman's death
not a free from sin tiptoe in
candle wax and waning death
not a curtains drawn by angels borne
'what a nice way to go' death

... Roger McGough

Of Speeches & Weddings

I attended two beautiful weddings over the last weekend. Had I known I had to give a surprise speech, I would have 'prepared' for it - but then it would not be a surprise anymore. Anyway, had I been prepared, I would have recited the following for them, both. Congratulations A&T and M&F!

Then Almitra spoke again and said, "And what of Marriage, master?"
And he answered saying:

You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when white wings of death scatter your days.
Aye, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.

But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

Love one another but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.

Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.

Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.

And stand together, yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.

... The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Side 'Live'

Had an open house and lunch with close friends today at my place. There was a short prayer conducted by a few of those friends together before having a traditional 'nasi ambeng' on this rainy day ... Best!

Thanks guys for coming :)

When most of the guests have left, another close 'famous' friend honoured the occassion by singing 'live' strumming his guitar 2 songs: Side by Travis and When You Say Nothing At All by Ronan Keating. (Thanks so much N! Was waiting for this since the last 2 courses we had with you). We were together at Singfest earlier last week and he grew to like Travis, hence the song. Unfortunately, this is not his 'life' performance but instead the 'live' performance of the original Travis singing Side at Top of the Pops.

Well I believe there's someone watching over you
They're watching every single thing you say
And when you die
They'll set you down and take you through
You'll realise one day

That the grass is always greener on the other side
The neighbours got a new car that you wanna drive
And when time is running out you wanna stay alive
We all live under the same sky
We all will live, we all will die
There is no wrong, there is no right
The circle only has one side

We all try hard to live our lives in harmony
For fear of falling swiftly overboard
But life is both a major and minor key
Just open up the chord

But the grass is always greener on the other side
The neighbours got a new car that you wanna drive
And when time is running out you wanna stay alive
We all live under the same sky
We all will live, we all will die
There is no wrong, there is no right
The circle only has one side

Friday, August 8, 2008

In The Word Of Luqman, The Wise

If Allah wishes, He wills provision for Him,
so all of phenomenal being is His food.

If Allah wishes, He wills provision for us,
so He is our food as He wishes.

His volition is His will, so say that He wished it.
So it is wished.

He wills increase and decrease.
So what He wishes is wished.

This is the distinction between them,
so understand!
From a certain point of view,
their source is the same.

Allah says, "We gave Luqman wisdom," (31:12) and He says, "Whoever has been given wisdom has been given much good." (2:269) By the divine text, Luqman had much good as Allah has testified. The example of what Luqman said to his son is, "My son, even if something weighs as litle as a mustard-seed, and it is insode a rock or anywhere else in the heavens or earth, Allah will bring it out." (31:16) This is a wisdom which is articulated, and that wisdom is his setting out that Allah is the One who brings forth. Allah confirmed that in His Book and did not refute what the speaker said.

As for the silent wisdom in it, and you know it by the circumstances, he is silent about the one to whom that grain is given. He did not mention him nor did he say to his son, "Allah will bring it to you or to other than you." He used bringing in general terms and denoted the thing brought in the heavens or in the earth as an instruction that the looker might regard His words, "He is Allah in the heavens and in the earth." (6:3) Luqman gave instruction by what he said and by what he remained silent on, so Allah is the source of every knowing thing because the known is more universal than the thing, so it denies unknown things.

Then he completed the wisdom and brought it to its full value in order that the structure might be complete in it. He said, "Allah is Latif (Subtle, Kind)." (31:16) Part of His subtleness (latâfa) and His kindness (lutf) is that He is in the thing named by such-and-such a definition in such-and-such a source of that thing, so it is only what its name indicates by convention and usage. It is said that these are names: heaven, earth, rock, tree, animal, angel, provision and food, and yet the source of everything is One. Thus the Ash'arites say about this that the entire universe is homogeneous in substance (jawhar), so it is one single substance.

It is the same as our statement that the source is One. They said that it varies by non-essentials. Thus our statement that it varies and becomes many through forms and relationships so as to provide distinction. It is said, "This is not that in respect to its form or its non-essential or natural disposition (mizâj)." Say whatever you like, but this is the same as that in respect to its substance. For this reason, the source of the substance is put in the definition of every form and disposition. However, we say that it is not other-than-Allah. The mutakallim thinks that it is called substance. Even though it is true, it is not the source of Allah of which the people of unveiling and tajalli speak. This is the wisdom of the "Latîf".

Then He is described when He says "the All-Aware (Khabir)," the One who knows by experience. It is His words, "We will test you until We know." (47:31) This is the knowledge of tastes. Allah put Himself with His knowledge of what the matter is in (our) profitable knowledge. No one can deny what Allah has written about Himself. Allah differentiated the knowledge of tasting and absolute knowledge. The knowledge of tasting is limited by the faculties. He said of Himself that He is the source of the faculties of His slave when He said, "I am his hearing," which is one of the faculties of the slave, "and his sight," which is one of the faculties of the slave, "and his tongue," which is one of the faculties of the slave, "and his foot and his hand." He did not restrict Himself to specifying the faculties, but He mentioned the members. The slave is not other than his members and faculties. The source called the slave is the Real, but the source of the slave is not the Compassionate Master.

Relationships are distinct by their essence. The one brought into relationship is not distinct. Then He equalized His source in all relationships, for it is but one source with various ascriptions, relationships and attributes.

Part of the completeness of Luqman's wisdom in instructing his son is what has come in the ayat of these two Divine Names, Latif and Khabir – Allah is called by them. If He had put that in phenomenal being (kawn) which is existence, and said, "He was (kana)," it would have been more complete in wisdom and more eloquent in admonition. Allah related the words of Luqman in meaning as he said it and did not add anything to it. His statement that Allah is the Latif, the Aware, is from the statement of Allah. Then Allah knew of Luqman that, had he said it (kana), it would have been utterly perfected by this.

As for his words, "If it should be but the weight of one grain of mustard-seed," it is for the one who has it as food. It is only the atom mentioned in His words, "Whoever does an atom's weight of good will see it, and whoever does an atom's weight of evil will see it." (99:7-8) A mustard-seed is the smallest thing consumed. If there had been anything smaller, Allah would have used it as He said, "He is not ashamed to make an example of a gnat." (2:26) Then since He knew that there is anything smaller than the gnat, He said "or of an even smaller thing," i.e. in smallness. This is the word of Allah, and that which is in the Sura of the Earthquake (99) is also the word of Allah. So know that!

That which is smaller than the gnat is the atom, and then there is another subtlety (latîfa). That is that the atom, in spite of its smallness, is also lighter in weight because it is alive, since the living is lighter than the dead. So the meaning is that when the deed is the weight of an atom in smallness and lightness, the recompense must be seen. We know that Allah did not restrict Himself to the weight of the atom, and there is nothing smaller than it. He used it by way of intensification, and Allah knows best.

When Luqman used the diminutive for his son, it was the dimunitive of mercy and thereby he gave him a legacy which contains his happiness if he acts according to it. The wisdom of Luqman's legacy lies in his prohibition to his son, "Do not associate anything with Allah; associating others with Him is a terrible wrong." (31:13) The one wronged establishes apportioning in respect to His description even though it is the same source. So he is only associating His source with Him, and this is the very greatest ignorance.

The reason for this is that the person who has no recognition of the matter nor of the reality of the thing, does not know that diversity is actually contained in a single source although forms vary in that single source. So such a person puts the form shared by another in that station, and so he makes every form a part of that station. It is known of the associate that the matter which indicates him through what occurs in him of partnership is not the source of the other with whom he is associated, since it is the other. In reality, there is no associate. Everyone is based on his portion whenever it is said about him that there is a partnership between the two in it. The reason for that joint association, if it is joint, is that the action of one of them eliminates the collective aspect. "Say: Call on Allah or call on the All-Merciful." (17:110) This is the very heart of the question.

... Fusus al-Hikam, ibn 'Arabi

Only Connect!

"The words that were read aloud on Sunday to him and to other respectable men were the words that had once kindled the souls of St. Catherine and St. Francis into a white-hot hatred of the carnal. He could not be as the saints and love the Infinite with a seraphic ardour, but he could be a little ashamed of loving a wife. Amabat, amare timebat. And it was here that Margaret hoped to help him.

It did not seem so difficult. She need trouble him with no gift of her own. She would only point out the salvation that was latent in his own soul, and in the soul of every man. Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer. Only connect and the beast and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to either, will die.

Nor was the message difficult to give. It need not take the form of a good "talking." By quiet indications the bridge would be built and span their lives with beauty."

... Howard's End, E.M. Forster

Sitting Companion

Ibn 'Abbas said, "The most precious of people in my opinion is my sitting companion."

... al-Adab al-Mufrad, al-Bukhari

Monday, August 4, 2008

Aleksandr Solzhenitsy

"for the ethical force with which he has pursued the indispensable traditions of Russian literature" ... Solzhenitsy was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature (1970).

He passed away today after years of declining health. I was introduced to him after reading his magnificient genius novel when I was still a student: One Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovich. The story is set in a Soviet labor camp in the 1950s, and describes a single day of an ordinary prisoner, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. Encouraged by the loosening of government restraints on cultural life that was a hallmark of the de-Stalinizing policies of the early 1960s, Solzhenitsyn submitted his short novel Odin den iz zhizni Ivana Denisovicha (1962; One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich) to the leading Soviet literary periodical Novy Mir ("New World"). The novel quickly appeared in that journal's pages and met with immediate popularity, Solzhenitsyn becoming an instant celebrity. Ivan Denisovich, based on Solzhenitsyn's own experiences, described a typical day in the life of an inmate of a forced-labour camp during the Stalin era. The impression made on the public by the book's simple, direct language and by the obvious authority with which it treated the daily struggles and material hardships of camp life was magnified by its being one of the first Soviet literary works of the post-Stalin era to directly describe such a life. The book produced a political sensation both abroad and in the Soviet Union, where it inspired a number of other writers to produce accounts of their imprisonment under Stalin's regime.

Solzhenitsyn's period of official favour proved to be short-lived, however. Ideological strictures on cultural activity in the Soviet Union tightened with Nikita Khrushchev's fall from power in 1964, and Solzhenitsyn met first with increasing criticism and then with overt harassment from the authorities when he emerged as an eloquent opponent of repressive government policies.

In 1970 Solzhenitsyn was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, but he declined to go to Stockholm to receive the prize for fear he would not be readmitted to the Soviet Union by the government upon his return.

In December 1973 the first parts of Arkhipelag Gulag (The Gulag Archipelago) were published in Paris after a copy of the manuscript had been seized in the Soviet Union by the KGB. (Gulag is an acronym formed from the official Soviet designation of its system of prisons and labour camps.) The Gulag Archipelago is Solzhenitsyn's attempt to compile a literary-historical record of the vast system of prisons and labour camps that came into being shortly after the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia (1917) and that underwent an enormous expansion during the rule of Stalin (1924-53). Various sections of the work describe the arrest, interrogation, conviction, transportation, and imprisonment of the Gulag's victims as practiced by Soviet authorities over four decades. The work mingles historical exposition and Solzhenitsyn's own autobiographical accounts with the voluminous personal testimony of other inmates that he collected and committed to memory during his imprisonment.

Upon publication of the first volume of The Gulag Archipelago, Solzhenitsyn was immediately attacked in the Soviet press. Despite the intense interest in his fate that was shown in the West, he was arrested and charged with treason on Feb. 12, 1974. Solzhenitsyn was exiled from the Soviet Union on the following day, and in December he took possession of his Nobel Prize.

The introduction of glasnost ("openness") in the late 1980s brought renewed access to Solzhenitsyn's work in the Soviet Union. In 1989 the Soviet literary magazine Novy Mir published the first officially approved excerpts from The Gulag Archipelago. Other works were also published, and Solzhenitsyn's Soviet citizenship was officially restored in 1990. He ended his exile and returned to Russia in 1994.

On June 5, 2007, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree conferring the State Prize of the Russian Federation for the humanitarian work of Solzhenitsyn. President Putin personally visited the writer at his home on June 12, 2007, to give him the award.

In a 1978 Harvard address, he described the problems of both East and West as "a disaster" rooted in agnosticism and atheism. He referred to it as "the calamity of an autonomous, irreligious humanistic consciousness."

"It has made man the measure of all things on earth - an imperfect man, who is never free of pride, self-interest, envy, vanity, and dozens of other defects. We are now paying for the mistakes which were not properly appraised at the beginning of the journey. On the way from the Renaissance to our days we have enriched our experience, but we have lost the concept of a Supreme Complete Entity which used to restrain our passions and our irresponsibility."

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Post-Singfest 08

Awesome, surreal, fantabulistic! I am totally loss for words after attending Singfest 08. Absolutely amazing - the energy was so alive and present. Everyone was there for that one common purpose: for the love of great 'live' music. Many of our favourite bands all rolled into a 2 day open-air concert, and the fans have been so great - how awesome is that? (see, I am speechless - repeating myself).

In fact, I have not recovered from the surrealism of that experience - still feeling super-high from being a mere 10 metres away from Travis performing 'live' before my very eyes. I saw my favourite bands, and became a fan of a few others. The company I spent it with were most wonderful too. It will be hard to forget this experience. L & N: Thanks!

In fact, whilst writing this entry, I have Travis singing away from my iPod - and I still cannot believe that I saw them performed right in front of me. I am elated! (I'm repeating again :) I don't really know how to write a post-entry to Singfest, so I will just let you into some of these bands and their music that absolutely kicked me :) The various introductions that ensued were taken from wikipedia.

Travis are a Scottish Indie pop band from Glasgow, comprising Fran Healy (lead vocals, guitar, piano, banjo), Dougie Payne (bass guitar, backing vocals), Andy Dunlop (lead guitar, banjo, keyboards, backing vocals) and Neil Primrose (drums, percussion). Travis have twice been awarded British album of the year at the annual BRIT Awards, and are often credited with having paved the way for bands such as Coldplay, Keane and Snow Patrol. They have released five studio albums, beginning with their debut, Good Feeling, coming in 1997 and their latest The Boy with No Name in 2007. On September 29th 2008, Travis will release their 6th album, Ode To J Smith, which promises to be their rockiest album since their debut in 1997.

Unlike the usual commercial choice, my favourite Travis's song is Writing To Reach You, followed by Driftwood.

Because my inside is outside
My right side's on the left side
Cause I'm writing to reach you now but
I might never reach you
Only want to teach you
About you
But that's not you

Home is where your heart is
But your heart had to roam
Drifting over bridges
Never to return
Watching bridges burn

Simple Plan is a French Canadian pop punk band based in Montreal, Quebec. The band has released three studio albums: No Pads, No Helmets...Just Balls (2002), Still Not Getting Any... (2004), and Simple Plan (2008); as well as two widely marketed live albums: Live in Japan 2002 (2003) and MTV Hard Rock Live (2005). The members of Simple Plan have helped nonprofit and advocacy groups by donating to many established organizations such as the MTV Asia Aid benefit, MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), RADD (Recording Artists, Actors, and Athletes against Drunk Driving), and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The Simple Plan Foundation focuses on teen problems ranging from suicide to poverty to drug addiction. Here is a sampler of Welcome To My Life and Perfect.

Do you wanna be somebody else?
Are you sick of feeling so left out?
Are you desperate to find something more
Before your life is over?

Hey Dad look at me
Think back and talk to me
Did I grow up according
To plan?
Do you think I’m wasting
My time doing things I
Wanna do?

Taken from their website: Influenced by the songwriting classicism of piano men Elton John, Coldplay's Chris Martin, and neo-soul star John Legend, Mêlée present their own style of carefully crafted melodic pop on Devils & Angels, the quartet's debut album for Warner Bros. Records, which was released on April 3rd. The songs, which range from driving pop-rock anthems to uplifting power ballads, are characterized by solid hooks, lilting melodies, and frontman Chris Cron's soaring vocals and expressive piano-playing. The stunning piano ballad "Can't Hold On" is about someone Cron knew who died. "I was concerned about why I wasn't getting really upset," he says. "I thought, 'What's wrong with me? I don't want to be an emotionless robot. I want to be able to feel like everyone else.'"

Someone cries and it washes the street with tears
But when they are mine, they collect in my head for years
Rain or shine, still I'm standing on all I said
'Cause it's in my soul, carry on when the feeling's dead

'Cause this is real, and this is good.
It warms the inside just like it should,
but most of all it's built to last.

Lostprophets (are a Welsh rock band formed in 1997. They have produced several demos (none of which are still produced commercially), three studio albums and eleven singles. Their first album, Thefakesoundofprogress, was originally recorded in a week for £4,000 (GBP) and intended as a demo, but the band re-recorded and re-released the album on a much wider scale through Columbia Records in the USA, although they remain with Visible Noise in the UK. They released Start Something in 2004, and Liberation Transmission in 2006, both to mixed reviews and commercial success. The band are favourites to win "Best British Band" at the 2008 Kerrang! Awards, for a third time running, after already becoming the first act to win the award twice in a row, despite not having released any material since 2006. This is Rooftops and Last Train Home.

When our time is up
When our lives are done
Will we say we've had our fun
Will we make a mark,
this time
Will we always say we tried

But there's still tomorrow
Forget the sorrow
And I can be on the last train home
Watch it pass the day
As it fades away
No more time to care
No more time, today