Παρασκευή, Αυγούστου 27

Pope returns Our Lady of Kazan to Russia

Soundtrack: Την ωραιότητα της παρθενίας σου, from the Akathistos Hymn, sung by chanters Arvanitis, Bilalis and Lazaropoulos, from the album Τηι Βασιλίδι Μητρί (To the Mother and Queen).

The Kazan Icon of the Mother of God, one of the numerous miracle-working icons venerated in Pre-Revolutionary Russia, stolen over a hundred years ago and eventually ended up for sale in an auction, whereupon it was bought by a combined Roman Catholic and Russian-Catholic effort (coming just ahead of some occultists who wished either to make use of its power or desecrate it). The icon eventually ended up in the Pope's chapel in the Vatican, and the Pope wished to return it personally to Moscow as a gesture of reconciliation between the two churches. The Moscow Patriarchate, ever a shining example of Christian charity, spoke quite nastily about this. The Pope decided 'ok, whatever' and so now the icon is arriving back in Moscow tomorrow - the Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God (on the Julian Calendar).

For those interested, the Kazan icon is commemorated 22 October.

Troparion of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God Tone 4

O fervent intercessor, Mother of the Lord Most High,/ thou dost pray
to thy Son Christ our God and savest all who seek thy protection./ O
Sovereign Lady and Queen,/ help and defend all of us who in trouble
and trials,/ in pain and burdened with sins,/ stand in thy presence
before thine icon,/ and who pray with compunction, contrition and
tears/ and with unflagging hope in thee./ Grant what is good for us,
deliverance from evil,/ and save us all, O Virgin Mother of God,/ for
thou art a divine protection to thy servants.

Kontakion of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God Tone 8

O peoples, let us run to that quiet good haven,/ to the speedy helper,
the warm salvation, to the Virgin's protection./ Let us speed to
prayer and hasten to repentance./ For the Mother of God pours out her
mercy, anticipates needs and averts disasters/ for her patient and
God-fearing servants.

Пресвятая Богородице Казанская, спаси нас!
Most Holy Mother of God of Kazan, save us!

(original link via Serge)

I'm a Sapphire

! You are most Like A Sapphire !
Dark, mysterious - but unforgettable. You have a deep
beauty. Delicate, and shy you try to stay away from the
limelight but often your intelligence puts you in at the
deep end. You're like a Sapphire, because, your beauty is priceless.
You're intelligent, full of opinions, and not big-headed about it all.
Sometimes you need to put yourself out there, as you can be a bit shy.
Congratulations ... You're the mysterious gem everybody wants to have and learn more about.

?? Which Precious Gem Are You ??
brought to you by Quizilla

This is why online quizzes can't be trusted. 'Not big-headed about it all'? '...you can be a bit shy'? HA, bloody ha!

Πέμπτη, Αυγούστου 26

A Glass of Milk with Amaretto

Soundtrack: Over The Water Blue by Alternature.

I'm sitting here with a glass of milk with amaretto, taking a break from watching over mum. Yesterday morning we got a call from mum's mobile - she told us she was being discharged and that we could pick her up at lunchtime. Yippee! We're really amazed (and glad, of course) she could come home so early. However, her coming home means Dad and I take turns taking care of her - helping her exercise the leg to get strength back and helping her walk to and from the bathroom.

Took an evening off from looking after Mum and caught up with Droo (Andrew Liew)& Crystal Kang. Cheryl Chong was going to join us but something came up at the last minute. It was lovely catching up with Crystal, whom I haven't seen or caught up with in over a year. Droo was a lovely gentleman as usual. We updated each other on things and on people we knew in common.

Who'd have thought Kevin Teo would've been so stupid as to steal a computer from the Armed Forces (for someone else) and do silly things while wearing the rank of an officer (he's actually a corporal). He got caught - and to think he only had something like a month left to serve. So, facing detention in military prison (not exactly the Grand Hyatt), he fled the country and scooted off to Madison, Wisconsin, where he's doing university. He'll never be able to return again. Stupid stupid boy. To think he used to be in the Gifted Education Programme. Hah.

Droo's indicated he might likely be able to play for Anthony's wedding - just that one song. However he's checking his schedule with the Swim Shadys - he's in demand as a substitute player as he's got more talent than all of them added together, which isn't saying much. He said they 'lack a certain something'... to which I drily suggested, 'talent?'. Droo then cracked up and I suspect in between giggles he was trying to say I was wicked, but with all that laughing, I couldn't really tell.

It seems there's now a film on Imelda Marcos, supposedly told largely in her own words. Marcos however is furious and insists it be banned, claiming she was misled into believing her interviews were for a college project.

Ah, Imelda. If she's a villian, she's my all-time favourite villain. Former Philippines First Lady. What class, what style. In case you don't know (and you'd have to be pretty ignorant not to), when her corrupt husband was overthrown, they found some THREE THOUSAND pairs of her shoes in the presidential palace. She insisted 'everyone kept their shoes there... the maids, the gardeners, the drivers... everyone!'. Heh. Here are some gem quotes from her, taken from The Wit and Wisdom of Imelda Marcos:

  • "I did not have three thousand pairs of shoes, I had one thousand and sixty." -- 1987

  • It is terribly important to do certain things, such as wear overembroidered dresses. After all, the mass follows class. Class never follows mass." -- cited in Ang Katipunan, October 1980

  • "Win or lose, we go shopping after the election."

  • "If the shoe fits, buy it."

  • "Never dress down for the poor. They won't respect you for it. They want their First Lady to look like a million dollars." -- cited in Beatriz Romualdez Francia's Imelda: A Story of the Philippines

  • But the best one of all has to be this one - "They went into my closets looking for skeletons, but thank God, all they found were shoes, beautiful shoes!"


    Two things from the Old Oligarch:

  • Louis Armstrong & Pope Pius XII - While in Rome in 1949, Armstrong and wife Lucille (who was Catholic) had a private audience with Pope Pius XII. The event seems also to have been attended by numerous diplomats and members of press. Evidently it was the Pope’s idea, since from his days as a young priest he had been a jazz fan in general and an Armstrong fan in particular. Years later All Stars bass player Arvell Shaw gave an account to Joshua Berrett. "The Pope was telling Louis how he loved his records and how he had his records from when he was a young priest and everything." According to Shaw, the Pope asked the Armstrong’s if they had any children. Louis responded, "No, but we’re having a hell of a lot of fun trying." The air suddenly went out of the room, but the Pope laughed amiably, and eventually so did the momentarily shocked bystanders. (Berrett, The Louis Armstrong Companion, 1999, p.p 166-167). Full link here.

  • The Jean-Paul Sartre Cookbook:
    October 4
    Still working on the omelet. There have been stumbling blocks. I keep creating omelets one after another, like soldiers marching into the sea, but each one seems empty, hollow, like stone. I want to create an omelet that expresses the meaninglessness of existence, and instead they taste like cheese. I look at them on the plate, but they do not look back. Tried eating them with the lights off. It did not help. Malraux suggested paprika.

    October 6
    I have realized that the traditional omelet form (eggs and cheese) is bourgeois. Today I tried making one out of cigarette, some coffee, and four tiny stones. I fed it to Malraux, who puked. I am encouraged, but my journey is still long.

    October 10
    I find myself trying ever more radical interpretations of traditional dishes, in an effort to somehow express the void I feel so acutely. Today I tried this recipe:

    Tuna Casserole
    Ingredients: 1 large casserole dish

    Place the casserole dish in a cold oven. Place a chair facing the oven and sit in it forever. Think about how hungry you are. When night falls, do not turn on the light.

    While a void is expressed in this recipe, I am struck by its inapplicability to the bourgeois lifestyle. How can the eater recognize that the food denied him is a tuna casserole and not some other dish? I am becoming more and more frustated.
    If you don't find that hilarious, you're obviously not conversant with 20th Century philosophy and nuttiness!

    From Gen X Revert:

  • Saudi Religious Police Say Barbie Is a Moral Threat - "Saudi Arabia's religious police have declared Barbie (search) dolls a threat to morality, complaining that the revealing clothes of the "Jewish" toy — already banned in the kingdom — are offensive to Islam." Geesh. I don't think Barbie dolls are healthy role models for girls, but still...

  • Saudi Arabia's religious police stopped schoolgirls from leaving a blazing building because they were not wearing correct Islamic dress- 15 girls died in the fire. I simply quote Voltaire's motto - écrasez l’infâme! Hurrah for Islam I say. Three cheers please! Hip-hip AWAY! Hip-hip AWAY! Hip-hip AWAY!

  • Τρίτη, Αυγούστου 24

    A Chastisement

    Today I had occasion to point out to a friend, that 'in polite company, "Happy 18th Birthday" is not followed by "so now you're legal, right?"'.

    He looked suitably rebuked.

    The little devil in me couldn't resist a little cheeky grin and adding 'everyone knows 16 is the legal age'.

    Bits here and there

    Soundtrack: Chiacona, the final bit of music from the last scene of Cavalli's opera La Calisto, performed by Concerto Vocale, dir. René Jacobs. Ground bass, divisions on top. Heaven must sound like this.

  • Droo last week, as I visited him on Wednesday, gave me a copy of the Swim Shadys' cd. In case the reader isn't aware, several of Singapore's male national swimmers have decided to form a rock band, calling themselves the Swim Shadys. Their album's called 'The Deep End'. Considering how one of them can just about play three chords and their lead vocalist hasn't any training - both are painfully obvious upon a first hearing of the album - perhaps 'Off The Deep End' might have been a better name. Of course, I wouldn't be seen dead buying it, but still wanted a good laugh (the money's for a good cause, so fine), so, THANKS DROO!

  • Singapore's swim team not doing too well at the Olympics? Abysmally, it seems. What else did one expect? They're all too busy pretending to be Anna Kournikova (that quip from Anthony)... modelling, playing rockstar... oh, and training every once in a while. Someone said 'you want that lot to do well? Make sodomy an Olympic sport!'. Personally, after reading the papers and hearing their excuses, I think 'whining' would be more appropriate.

  • Held door open for a pregnant lady and her toddler to walk through. And walk through they did. Not a word of thanks. Not even a nod of acknowledgement. Did I look like a doorman? I swear, Singaporeans have no bloody manners. I was sorely tempted to yell after them 'YOU'RE WELCOME' or 'HAVE YOU NO BLOODY MANNERS?' but decided, as the Chinese phrase goes, to save the fire for warming my tummy.

  • Dad taught me a rather colourful Malay insult today, guaranteed to get a Malay running after you with a meat cleaver. It's Anak Sundal. I'm not translating it into English as I'm a gentleman, but I'll put it in Latin - Filius Meretricis, and Italian : Figlio della Puttana. Thank gods for the 'decent obscurity of a learned language'.

  • Finally, after much research, I've discovered Macs DO support Ancient Greek - both display and input. Now I can get a Mac with no worries, hurrah!

  • My Phlogger messages don't seem to be getting through. Gabriel tells me the people who run the service have just left the country for further studies. aaack.

  • Flesh of Jade
    Like a prostitute who, having sold her body all her life, decides to quite and close her business, and then tells everybody she wants to be chaste and protect her flesh as if it were jade.
    He Manzi on Great Britain, in the Shanghai Liberation daily. the reference is to Britain's discover of a passion for democracy in Hong Kong under Chinese rule, having long denied Hong Kong democracy under British rule. A fabulous quote!

    Next, a lovely exchange between a Singaporean journalist and a Chinese cab driver:
    He eyed me from his rear-view mirror and asked in Mandarin: 'Where are you from?'

    'Singapore,' I replied, staring straight ahead at the crew-cut hairstyle of this taxi driver in the Chinese city of Xian.

    'Your country is very nice, very clean,' he added, before continuing, 'and you guys have guts. Wasn't it some years ago that you caned an American boy? Even the United States president couldn't save him right?

    'Not like us. See Americans and we are scared. They bombed our embassy and sent spy planes over, and what did we do? Nothing.'

    A Green Hymn

    : And Did Those Feet In Ancient Time (Jerusalem) sung by the Liverpool Cathedral Choir.

    Why Green? The first verse mentions 'mountains green' and the second 'England's green and pleasant land'. A tenuous link, but a link nonetheless. The hymn's been sticking in my head for a while now, and Roger Jenkins was singing it today, so I took that as a sign that I should blog about it. A distinctly English hymn, with words by William Blake, referring to the old legend that as a young man Christ visited Glastonbury in Britain with St Joseph of Arimathea, hence the lyrics:
    And did those feet in ancient time
    Walk upon England's mountains green?
    And was the holy Lamb of God
    On England's pleasant pastures seen?

    And did the Countenance Divine
    Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
    And was Jerusalem builded here
    Among these dark satanic mills?
    I particularly like the beginning of the second verse:
    Bring me my bow of burning gold!
    Bring me my arrows of desire!
    Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
    Bring me my chariot of fire!
    Ah. Luverly. More information here, a midi file here, and two renditions (streaming Real Audio files) here and here.

    Singapore's New King

    (Readers not from Singapore, please, please, read this entry and tell me your thoughts)

    Why's that a green thing? Green's the colour of hope and new beginnings. I listened to the new Prime Minister's 3 hour speech on Sunday night. Sincere. Sensible. Mature. He sounds like his own man, and not just his father's son, which is good. I started listening to his speech already disliking him, as I've been doing for a long time already, and ended up... well, I still can't say I like him, but I don't actively dislike him anymore. He spoke much from the heart, and I have to say many of the notes and chords he struck found sympathetic resonance in mine. I was riveted to the telly for all three hours of his speech, and that's something. I was expecting something aloof, dignified and almost aristocratic (his father is Lee Kuan Yew, the man who made Singapore what it is), having called him Crown Prince for as long as I can imagine. Being an actor, I can tell when people are being fake, but he was very at ease when he talked about domestic issues. In his comfort, I read sincerity.

    He declared that 'fresh and bold' changes would have to be made to the way Singapore traditionally does things. 'It’s a new generation and it’s got to take Singapore another step forward, another level higher. To do that, we need a fresh and bold approach. We’ve been successful, wildly successful, otherwise we wouldn’t be sitting here today.'

    He also slaughtered several policy sacred cows during his address. One was the notion upheld by the government that since the man is the 'head of the household', medical benefits should be extended only to dependents of male, not female, civil servants. He said this would change and the benefits would be equalised. Child benefits will now extend to the fourth child. Maid levies will be lowered for families - making care of children easier for families with two working parents. Paid maternity leave is now extended to twelve weeks from the original eight, with the Government bearing the cost. Parents of children up to the age of seven may take two days off annually - to care for a sick child, take him to the doctor, see his teacher, or even simply to take him to the zoo. The Civil Service (including teaching and military) will now have 5 day work-weeks.

    He said children should be given more time and freedom to play, and the education syllabus cut down. 'It's okay for children to get hurt. They fall down, bruise their knee, knock themselves, a few scrapes, can't be helped, that's part of growing up. If you grow up with no scars anywhere, you've never fallen off a bicycle, I think you're a different sort of person.' Children should also be allowed to 'grow up in their own time', he said, relating how some parents with children in kindergarten even complain their children do not get worksheets. I hope he's serious here.

    Dad reports Lee's Malay is very, very good. He thinks Lee's speech won the hearts of many in the Malay community. Let's hope so. The Malay community need only look across to our northern neighbours for proof that Singapore really is a place where they may consider themselves blessed. Lee's own Malay teacher's family went, in one generation, from being teachers of the Malay language, to being an international family. Were it not for our combined efforts at nation-building, their children might be selling Nasi Lemak.

    Mr Lee as a serious and thinking leader, yes. But humorous? No way. Yet, I found Sunday's speech seriously funny. It was peppered with anecdotes and he even took jibes at a Cabinet colleague, timing his punchline to perfection.

    I don't know if I've laughed as much when watching my favourite sitcom - Yes, Prime Minister (how ironic). I certainly did not expect this from Mr Lee. But his performance clearly showed that he is concerned about the people's feelings and opinions. Taking a cue from his predecessor, he was approachable, friendly and humble, with even a dash of self-deprecating humour. But more than just tickling me, his jokes and anecdotes bridged the distance. As he stood on that stage, he was not that stern brigadier-general or the privileged son of Singapore's first prime minister. He was, almost, just like one of us - a nice guy with an infectious sense of humour, talking shop with his buddies on a Sunday night.

    I'm 26, single-ish (I'm so going to get murdered by someone for saying that), with no plans for marriage or children. But no, I still don't want the Government to tell me when to have them and how many we should produce. My parents are already doing that. Gone are the days when political leaders send didactic messages, telling Singaporeans to stop at two and the populace subserviently obliged. I do not want the new PM meddling in my bedroom, and thankfully, he did not.

    'It's a national problem, it is also an intensely personal business,'
    he said. 'We are not going to micro-manage your lives. I mean, we won't say have the first one by 25 years old, the second one by 30 years old. Up to you. What we can do is we'll make it easier for families to marry and to have children. You make the decisions.'

    I cheered. Here is a leader who is not talking down to us, but treating us as adults mature enough to make our own decisions. He enticed, encouraged and did not coerce.

    Now let's see the Government repeal the laws against gay sex! Whether gay sex is immoral or not is beside the point - what is done in the bedroom between two consenting adults is the business of none but themselves (and God), not the State. Let's see the gay-rights group finally be permitted registration.

    He also devoted fully 20 minutes to Singapore’s relations with China and Taiwan, a subject which has been a hot talking point since his 'private and unofficial' visit to Taiwan from 10-13 July, when he was still Deputy Prime Minister. The Chinese government was livid, saying that his visit damaged “China’s core interest and the political foundation for China-Singapore relations, and hurt the feelings of 1.3 billion Chinese people”.

    He said he went to get a real feel of the situation in Taipei, so that he could make the right decision for Singapore in case of a crisis, and it would've been far worse had he done so after his installation as Prime Minister. His concern was that any war between China and Taiwan would be a disaster for the Asian economy, and not just the two countries involved. He was "very worried by the growth of Taiwanese independent forces" and that there was "a real risk of miscalculation and mishap". He added that "If Taiwan goes for independence, Singapore will not recognise it. In fact, no Asian country will recognise it. Win or lose, Taiwan will be devastated. Unfortunately I only met very few Taiwanese leaders who understood this." He accused the Taiwanese leaders and people of being parochial, not really understanding the world situation - I've been to Taiwan plenty times, know plenty Taiwanese... and he's right. They think that if they declare independence, the mainland will not really attack, that all the talk of war from China is mere blustering. They think China won't jeopardise the 2008 Olympics in favour of recovering Taiwan. They are VERY, very wrong. To China (and the millions of diaspora Chinese), the Olympics are a minor matter in comparison to the unity of the Motherland. Taiwan has constantly been snatched from the bosom of China - by the Dutch, then by the Japanese... China isn't complete without Taiwan and has every right to wage war to the death to prevent it from going independent.

    His reply reiterated Singapore’s commitment to the One-China policy, saying Singapore could not support Taiwan if the latter provoked a cross-strait conflict. 'If a war breaks out across the straits, we will be forced to choose between the two sides. As a friend of both sides, any decision will be painful. But if the conflict is provoked by Taiwan, then Singapore cannot support Taiwan.” I'd be pained myself - a war between two parts of China would break my heart.

    What I particularly liked was the bit about the brain drain of intellectuals and literati fleeing to pastures perceived greener. He said one person in America or China cannot make a real impact on those societies - the odds of becoming someone important enough to do so are practically nil. In Singapore however, every man counts, and one man can really make a difference. "Please come back, stay and make a difference" was the gist of it.

    It really set me thinking. Perhaps this Classical scholar may just return and do something here. We'll wait and see how the political and cultural climate develops first.

    Green Things

    Soundtrack: 世界末日(End of the World) by 周杰伦 (Jay Chou)

    Back from another of those silly Osteoporosis show performances. I'm exhausted - keeping vigil with mum at the hospital is really emotionally tiring, plus the shows are physically exhausting too. I'm going to have a nap, but before I do, I'll mention a few green things.

    Salsa Verde

    I made a batch of my favourite Green Sauce for Zhengxi's dinner gathering on Saturday. He was quite pleased his father, who is apparently quite territorial about his kitchen, happily shared space and chatted with me as we prepared different things concurrently.

    As his house didn't have a food processor, I found to my dismay I'd have to pound all the ingredients by hand in an old-fashioned Chinese stone mortar & pestle. So alright, in went 2 large handfuls of flat-leaved parsley, about 3 tablespoons of capers, 4 cloves of garlic, one small handful each of mint and basil.


    An anecdote came to mind about how in Thai villages in the old days, young single village men wanted to hear an available girl pound a paste. A fast, steady pound was said to mean she would be a sexy wife. Future mother-in-laws bragged not about their daughter's beauty, but about their ability to pound! Though not an available girl, and certainly with no interest in attracting Thai village men, I tried to pound steadily and quickly, hoping the taste of the result mightget me the cute swimmerboy in the living room waiting for food. Yeah. Right. Moving swiftly on...

    Once the herbs all became a smoothish paste, I discovered a most interesting thing. While it may not appear on the surface that there is a difference between using a food blender as opposed to a mortar and pestle there is a significant difference. A food blender set to puree does not produce the same result as a mortar and pestle when crushing herbs. The object of the mortar and pestle is to extract the juices from the herbs and to pulverize the fibrous cells of the leaves. At most, a food blender just gives you smaller pieces of the same herbs. As such, the flavours end up being more intense. Fabulous!

    In went 6 or so anchovy fillets, thump thump thump, the juice of slightly more than half a lemon, and 2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard. The whole was then stirred to a good mix, then good olive oil added in a slow steady stream while continuously stirring the paste - rather like making mayonnaise.

    The end result? The best Salsa Verde I've ever made, and it went really well with the Chinese Roast Pork (with crispy crakling) that Zhengxi's dad made.

    The Bellinis and Sgropinos weren't as good as I wanted. I had to substitute nectarines for the white peaches in the Bellinis, and even these weren't as ripe as I'd hoped. Sgropinos were alright, but not perfect like last time I made them.

    Δευτέρα, Αυγούστου 23

    I'm Good?

    How evil are you?

    That's not possible... Anyway, more random points!

  • Just when I thought I'd seen it all. At the hospital, there's a food court with pretty decent food. It's one of the Food Junction chain, and the malay food stall in the chain's usually quite good. So alright, there I am, paying for my food and suddenly I realise the lady behind the cash register with the big smile isn't a lady. Big hands. Deep bass voice. It hits me with all the subtlety of a speeding train - she's a Tranny! If you don't know what a Tranny is, please go find out. Naturally I had no idea if she was post or pre op, or whatever. I have nothing against trannies, being a bit of q queer fish myself, so I'm using the word 'tranny' for convenience, not as a derogatory term. So what, you might ask - a tranny is no cause for comment. It's not like I haven't been around a bit myself... but this one was in a tudung. For those of my readers not in South-East Asia, let me explain. A Tudung/Tudong is a headscarf worn by conservative muslim Malay women, and looks like this. So, a tranny in conservative muslim costume, all covered up. Bizarre. One wag said 'perhaps it helped hide her Adam's apple?' and he may be right. Still, it gets stranger. My friend Tracy, who works in Cardiology at that hospital, tells me if I stick around long enough, there are FOUR of them. Imagine that. 4 trannies in tudungs.

  • From Serge: Impressions of a Quiet City - a lovely essay about a temple built on the sea in Japan.

  • Also from Serge: Greeks take break from Olympics to celebrate feast of Assumption.
  • Grazie a tutti!

    Soundtrack: Prospero's Magic from the Michael Nyman's sountrack to the Peter Greenaway film Prospero's Books.

    Mum's out! She's sedated and on morphine for the pain, but the worst is over and we're all very relieved. Dad and I will be spending most of the next 7 or so days with her at the hospital until she is discharged.

    Dad and I couldn't sleep at all the night (Thurs night) before the operation - Dad confided he'd not slept alone in the bed at home for the longest time. By 6 a.m. when we both got out of bed, I saw dad was in no state to drive - he was anxious and groggy. So we both took the tube - I dropped off at the station nearest the Syrian Orthodox Church about 8 a.m. to fetch the priest, and Dad continued onwards to hospital.

    Happily, I found that there was a visiting priest from out of town, and they felt it was better to have two priests instead of one. I'm certainly not complaining!

    Dad reports Mum was a bit uncomfortable and anxious early in the morning before the operation, but when I arrived with TWO priests (Mum and Dad are sure this was a good sign) who gave her a short prayer service and then the Unction, she (as well as Dad and I) calmed down and we were quite peaceful after that.

    The operation took a bit longer than expected, but that's because the docs were extra-careful, since mum's delicate and on the elderly side. She went in 11.30 a.m. and was expected out by 2 or 2.30 p.m. We had no news at all and even the ward was unable to tell us what was going on in surgery or the observation... we got a tad worried. 3 p.m., no news. At 4 p.m. we get a call on my mobile from a rather flustered and hesitant sounding nurse, asking 'excuse me please, how were you related to Mrs Julia Yong?'. Note past tense. Plus a pregnant pause right after. I nearly dropped the phone at that point. Then she went on to say that the patient is now sufficiently awake after the operation (she was heavily sedated and on lower-body anasthetic, some spinal thingy) and wanted us to know she was alright. Good grief. Thank God it was just the nurse's bad English.

    So alright, we left the hospital at about six-ish, since mum was still under sedation and it was best to leave her to doze off at her pleasure. Dad and I took the tube back again and pretty much dozed off as soon as we got back - about 8 p.m. As you understand, we were both emotionally and physically exhausted.

    She's got Holy Water there, her Rosary & Chotki, as well as icons of St Panteleimon, St Elizabeth the New-Martyr (thanks to Liggy, mum has a deep devotion to her) and the Mother of God - so she's in good company! She's also already been anointed with oil from St Nektarios of Pentapolis & Aegina and from the Romanian Skete on Mt Athos. During the week, the Oecumenical Patriarchate priest will come visit and offer prayers and anoint her with oil of St John of Shanghai and from the Royal Martyrs.

    Spent most of Saturday there with mum, till about 5 p.m., when I went off - I was cooking for a friend that evening, but more in another post to follow. She had a most curious machine beneath her leg, that slowly flexed the joint back and forth for about two hours.

    Sunday - was there again with mum. She's already started physiotherapy - walking an hour each day. Great pain but mum's a survivor.

    Let the prayers continue, and thanks to those whose prayers have sustained us thus far.


    You are a very calm and contemplative person. Others are drawn to your peaceful, nurturing nature.

    Find out your color at Quiz Me!

    EEEEeeeeee I hate Green.

    I Am

    Which tarot card are you?

    Wheel of Fortune eh? Sure... as long as you remember I'm far more glam than Vanna White!

    Πέμπτη, Αυγούστου 19

    Camp Nonbelief


    From The Curt Jester:
    There's horse camp and piano camp and chess camp and church camp.

    Now, there's godless camp.

    Minnesota atheists, humanists and free thinkers just finished holding the state's first summer camp for kids who don't believe in God.
    Full story here.

    He's got a hilarious song worth quoting in full:
    I wonder what the atheist version of Kumbaya is for a campfire song?

    Randomness is king, accident
    Randomness is king, accident
    Randomness is king, accident
    No lord, accident

    Primordial swamp, accident
    Primordial swamp, accident
    Primordial swamp, accident
    No lord, accident

    Ex Nihilo nothing, accident
    Ex Nihilo nothing, accident
    Ex Nihilo nothing, accident
    No lord, accident

    Cosmic fluke we are, accident
    Cosmic fluke we are, accident
    Cosmic fluke we are, accident
    No lord, accident

    Nietzsche - god is dead, accident
    Nietzsche - god is dead, accident
    Nietzsche - god is dead, accident
    No lord, accident

    Randian Positivism, accident
    Randian Positivism, accident
    Randian Positivism, accident
    No lord, accident

    I think therefore I am, accident
    I think therefore I am, accident
    I think therefore I am, accident
    No lord, accident

    Today's Nut...

    Two little sayings:
    Today's mighty oak is just yesterday's nut that held its ground.
    I like that... I like that a lot!

    I also like this neat little phrase I coined:
    If you can't be luscious, be a lush!
    Ergo, Cheers!

    Prayers for Mum please!

    Dear reader,

    This afternoon, I accompanied my mother as she was admitted into hospital for a knee-joint-replacement operation tomorrow. She'll be there for a week, and I intend to be with her as much as I can, so blogging and social activities will probably be pretty sporadic (if at all) this coming week.

    Your prayers will be much appreciated. If you happen to be of the Christian faith, I ask you to take a minute to remember her with the following prayer for the sick, taken from the usual Orthodox prayerbooks:
    O Holy Father, Heavenly Physician of our souls and bodies, who hast sent thine Only-Begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to heal all our ailments and deliver us from death: do thou visit and heal thy servant Julia, granting her release from pain and restoration to health and vigour, that she may give thanks unto thee and bless thy holy Name, of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.
    O holy prize-winner and healer Panteleimon, Great Martyr, patron of doctors and the sick, intercede with our merciful God that He may grant to our souls the forgiveness of our sins.

    Mum's already been anointed by a Roman Catholic priest from St Ignatius', but honestly, after being accustomed to the old Roman and Byzantine rituals for Extreme Unction/Holy Unction/Anointing of the Sick, I have to say this new post Vatican II rite is awfully trite and short, not to mention not terribly comforting.

    What's the Byzantine ritual like? Look here.
    At each of the anointings the following prayer is repeated: "Holy Father, Physician of souls and bodies, Who sent Thine Only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ Who healed every illness and delivered from death, heal Thy servant from the weakness that holds his/her body, of either body or soul, and enliven him/her by the grace of Thy Christ, by the prayers of the All-holy Lady Mother of God and all the Saints."

    Seven Epistle and Gospel readings are said and seven anointings are performed. After the seventh, the open Gospel Book is placed over the head of the one receiving the Sacrament, during which the senior Priest reads the Absolution Prayer containing the following: "I do not lay my sinful hands on the head of him who comes...but Thy mighty and powerful hand, which is in the Holy Gospel." This replaces an ancient practice of laying-on of hands.
    The Traditional/Tridentine Roman ritual (i.e. Pre-Vatican II, or before the 60s) is also explicit about its intent- both the forgiveness of sins and healing of soul AND body.
    The priest takes the Oleum Infirmorum (the Oil of the Sick) and anoints the sick person in 6 places: eyelids, ears, nostrils, lips, hands and feet. As he annoints each place, he says Per istam sanctam Unctiónem + et suam piisimam misericórdiam, indúlgeat tibi Dóminus quidquid per (visum, audtiotum, odorátum, gustum et locutiónem, tactum, gressum deliquisti.) By this holy unction + and his own most gracious mercy, may the Lord pardon you whatever sin you have committed by (sight, hearing, smell, taste and speech, touch, ability to walk).
    The new Roman rite has just the tasteless
    "Through this Holy Anointing may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit." He then uses olive oil to trace a cross on a person's palms. While he does this, he says, "May He who frees you from sin save you and raise you up."
    In the old rite, the oil blessed by a Bishop using these words,
    "Emitte, quaesumus Domine, Spiritum sanctum tuum Paraclitum de coelis in hanc pinguedinem olivae, quam de viridi ligno producere dignatus es and refectionem mentis et corporis..." ("Send forth we pray, Your Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, from heaven into this rich substance of oil")
    .In the new rite, any oil of plant origin may be used, blessed by a priest using these words:
    "May your blessing come upon all who are anointed with this oil, that they may be freed from pain and illness and made well again in body and mind and soul."
    The Holy Ghost is no longer invoked! All focus is on bodily health, and almost no mention is made of spiritual healing or the forgiveness of sins. For those interested in a comparision between the old and new Roman formulae, have a look here.

    While the old Roman rite was a tad morbid, and had an unhealthy tendecy to be reserved for those on their deathbed (hence the name EXTREME unction, meaning 'LAST anointing' in Latin), I'd find those prayers far more comforting than the bland new ones. Thanks, I'll stick with the Traditional formulae - Eastern OR Western. I DON'T TRUST THIS NEW ROMAN RITE. As such, as much for my own peace of mind as for the spiritual welfare of my mother, I'm bringing the local Syrian Orthodox priest down to the hospital tomorrow to give her the anointing according to the Syriac rites - I don't know what that tradition is like, but I'm certain the prayers are reasonably similar to the old Roman and Byzantine traditions.

    Foxy? I'm not so sure...

    You are the fox.

    Saint Exupery's 'The Little Prince' Quiz.
    brought to you by Quizilla

    Now THAT is frighteningly accurate. Eeeek. And no jokes about me being a fox please, 'foxy' is hardly the right word. 'Bear' possibly.

    Happy Transfiguration!

    6/19 August - The Transfiguration of Our Lord

    The Transfiguration, by Duccio di Buoninsegna, (1308-1311).

    Troparion, tone 7: When Thou wast transfigured on the mountain, O Christ our God, Thou didst show Thy glory to Thy disciples as far as they could bear it. Let Thy everlasting light illumine also us sinners through the intercessions of the Mother of God. Giver of Light, glory to Thee.

    Kontakion, tone 7: Thou wast transfigured on the mountain, O Christ our God, and Thy disciples beheld Thy glory as far as they were capable, that when they should see Thee crucified, they might know that Thy suffering was voluntary and might proclaim to the world that Thou art indeed the reflection of the Father.

    There's a wealth of information out there, and I won't try to add to it. The painting of the Transfiguration above, by Duccio, while a Western work, shows a clear debt to Byzantine icon style - note how the edging and folds of Christ's robe are picked out in gold, the background is stylised and the sky behind is also gold. There's more of Duccio's work here. For those who are prefer the Russian school of iconography, there's a stunning early example here. The there's a lovely Byzantine illumination (dating from about the 12th Century) of the Feast here.

    Transfiguration, by Johann Schöner(1477-1547), from De iudiciis natiuitatum libri tres

    Let it not be said that I'm biased against the West - here's a lovely example from the Franco-Flemish School. More assorted images here.


    you are augustus caesar
    You're Augustus, the first emperor of Rome. He had a lot of drive and skill, possessing a respectable spirit and the ability to persuade. His wife, Livia, was always in his ear, she has a BIGGER persuasive spirit. He's a God.

    What Julio-Claudian Roman Emperor are you?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    Τετάρτη, Αυγούστου 18

    Eat Chinese Food For A Long Life!

    The rural Chinese build their diet on a wide base of rice, rice products, noodles and breads made from minimally processed grains. This is topped by another wide tier of vegetables, fruits, legumes (with soy in abundance), nuts and seeds. The narrow top bands of the pyramid include small amounts of vegetable oils and plant-based beverages such as green tea, beer, sake and wine, which are recommended daily. The tip of the pyramid includes recommendations to include only occasionally (once a week or less), if desired, small amounts of dairy products, fish, sweets, eggs, poultry and red meat (no more than monthly).

    My Gods, if I had to eat like that, I'd be dead within the month.

    Nuptials and then some

    Soundtrack: La Belle Homicide by Charles Mouton, played by Hopkinson Smith. 'The Beautiful Murder' sounds almost like some jazz title. It's actually a fabulous Courante.

    It appears to be the season for weddings. Adrian Lim (Ah-beng from Army Daze) got married in Feb, and there are a few more before the year is out. Hmm.

    7th August - Daniel Tan & Gillian Koh
    That one went quite well, even if I do say so myself. The Byrd was good, so was Psalm 127 (sung to Gregorian Tone 8, the solemn Magnificat version). The Alleluia raised a few eyebrows - I bet it's been a VERY long time since the older Catholics in the congregation last heard chant. Let's not even go into how I'm probably the closest thing Singapore has to a real cantor anywhere - and I mean chant (Roman rite Gregorian or Byzantine rite), not the crap that passes for music in the new Roman rite. Priests these days can't even pronounce Latin, never mind their so-called church musicians. The Bach was ok-ish. I was nervous, so the voice got a bit smaller, but hey, the couple accused me of stealing the show, so it can't have been that bad!

    It was lovely seeing a lot of old schoolmates from ages ago. Special mention has to go to Terence, who actually looks better now than he did back in school (I didn't think that was possible). He's still boyishly handsome, with that adorable smile... only this time he's in a morning suit with all the details correct... *sigh*. Oh, why do you have to be a breeder! Oh, the groom and 4 best men were all in morning suits (with all the details correct). Luverly.

    Lunch was in a large drawing-room at the Asian Civilisations Museum next to the river - very nice. String quartet in attendance.

    Dinner was at the grand ballroom of the Ritz-Carlton. Very nice. Swing jazz band playing Glen Miller style stuff - very tasteful.

    Since Daniel and I went to ACS and King's College together, there were tons of people I knew and hadn't seen in ages. It was lovely.

    Lavish weddings are aplenty, but truly classy ones are so rare. It was a perfect wedding, I thought. Let's not even mention how the huge rock on her finger blinded everyone with flashes when they were dancing to 'Let there be love'.

    8th August: Azad & Lucie
    This time, Krishna from Army Daze! Azad found himself a lovely French girl from Grenoble (who converted from Catholicism to Mahometanism, grumble grumble). Dinner was at the Grand Ballroom, Ritz-Carlton. What're the chances of attending wedding dinners on 2 consecutive nights at the same ballroom? North Indian buffet, food was quite good. Aside from Adrian (Ah Beng) and his wife, there was no one else I knew. No alcohol!


    Anthony & Lynette (September)

    Husi & Calista (Jan)

    Τρίτη, Αυγούστου 17

    A friend just asked me, 'Ah, good, Ed... decline puella'

    and I replied, 'No, thank you, young lady'.


    Soundtrack: Los set goyts recomptarem from Llibre Vermell de Montserrat by Hespèrion XX, dir. Jordi Savall.

    What've I been up to these months? Where does one begin... Warning - this is going to be a very random post. Points and paragraphs will come up from all directions, rather like brownian motion...

  • For a start, I've been doing a touring play, comissioned by the Health Promotion Board. No, it's nothing glamourous - it's for teaching primary-school age kids about Osteoporosis and the importance of eating calcium-rich foods. The sort of script that has "Can anybody name me a vegetable rich in calcium? Yes! Spinach! very good!" and a character named Aladdin who shakes a carton of milk (any special carton? As long as it's - CALCIUM ENRICHED!) and a genie comes out to teach us all about Osteoporosis. In case you were wondering - I'm the panto dame. Yes. I've got a big purple wig and frighteningly garish dress and big skirt. Needless to say, it's artistically highly dubious. However, we actors being what we are, we do it for pay. I fail to see how this differs in essence from prostitution. The lines are awful, hence impossible to learn EXACTLY. We cover all the points everytime, even if the lines come out slightly differently with each performance. Yeah, fine, except the chap who wrote the play (and is acting as well) is behaving as if we're desecrating great literature. Somebody please tell him 'Aladdin and the Magical Maxx' is not on the same level as Shakespeare.

  • Last Monday (National Day), I cooked dinner for 10. Yes. 10. Risotto with Bacon, Garlic and Rosemary. I'd originally intended to use Pancetta, but couldn't find any for sale that morning. That turned out quite good, especially with a sprinkling of freshly-grated Pecorino cheese. Next, dessert was Almond-stuffed Figs poached in Port Wine, with a Pistachio Cream sauce. The Figs were amazingly sweet (read: instant diabetes), but the pistachio cream turned out less than perfect. Anthony will attribute that to his less-than-fine pounding of the pistachios.

  • Oh, one reason I've not been blogging so regularly is that I've discovered a new file-sharing program. Thanks, Gabriel - it's all your fault! The program is Soulseek - ad-free and spyware-free. What's so great about it? Lots of people with unusual music - LOADS of early music, jazz, new age. Searching for rare albums is highly addictive, I must say.

  • One of the side-benefits of Soulseek is that I'm getting wonderful language practice. Plenty of the users of Soulseek are serious musicans or music fans who don't speak more than a smattering of English (they tend to be Spanish or French, for some strange reason, and rarely German or Italian). Obviously, I have no Spanish or French, so I end up chatting with them in Italian. Since my Italian is gleaned from opera and music, I can go on at length about perfidy, death, love, betrayal, glory and suchlike, but haven't a clue how to say 'please requeue your download'. One chap I found last night, a Spaniard from Barcelona, had no english and I had no spanish, so we chatted in broken italian (supplemented with bits of Latin where I didn't know the word in Italian). He commented 'E strano per me parlare in Italiano con un Cinese'. Then it got funnier - it turns out he's a professional early-musician named Jordi (no, not Savall, I wish), and when I told him I played Lute, Archlute and I sing Alto and Bass, he went 'No!!! tante cose ?? E la prima volta che parlo per l'internet e mi tropo co un colega cinese. E incredibile!!!' My reply was 'questo mondo e un piccolo (e molto estrano) loco'

  • Παρασκευή, Αυγούστου 6

    Maestro di Musica per Le Nozze di Daniel & Gillian

    Soundtrack: Toccata by Claudio Merulo. One of the most important composers of the Venetian school, Merulo was organist at St Mark's in Venice. His style is simple but requires virtuoso runs in both hands.

    Alright, so about three weeks ago, while I'm visiting Grandma in Borneo, East Malaysia, I get an email from my old pal Daniel Tan, who's getting married the first weekend of August. He'd invited me to the wedding ages ago, but this email was a bit of s surprise.

    "Would you honour us by being the cantor at our wedding?" - which is alright so far.

    "Can you find yourself a choir to sing with and an organist?" (I'm paraphrasing) - I nearly fell off my chair.

    They didn't want the usual cheesy tacky music, so I offered a chant, baroque and renaissance combination, very simple stuff but very 'churchy'.

    Lucky for them and for me, I managed to rope together Alan Lau and Chris Ow - we're just singing the Kyrie and the Alleluia before the Gospel. Finding an organist wasn't difficult - Ten Yeen very kindly obliged.

    Ten Yeen's performed at the Victoria Concert Hall organ, and she's an excellent organist (i.e. pedals and multiple manuals, not the electronic burp-boxes) - she's been playing for Anglican churches (and not RC ones, hence she has taste) since she was a teen. The music she's playing will be Merulo and Frescobaldi:

    Prelude - Toccata by Merulo (midi available here). Toccata avanti il Recercar della Messa degli Apostoli by Frescobaldi, from Fiori Musicali.

    The hymns - Crown Him with Many Crowns, God of all living (to the tune of 'Morning has broken') and To God be the Glory.

    Postlude - Canzon post il Comune della Messa de Domenica by Frescobaldi, from Fiori Musicali. Possibly repeat the Toccata from earlier as well.

    Fortunately, the singers and I (who've only had one rehearsal together) don't have very much to sing. Aside from leading the hymns, we're singing the Kyrie from the Mass for 3 voices by William Byrd (it's for 3 voices and quite easy, couldn't put anything more complicated together) and the Gregorian Alleluia (with verse). The Alleluia verse is taken from the Mass of the Holy Trinity on Trinity Sunday, traditionally also used at mediaeval English Royal Weddings - gorgeously meandering in the way that the best Gregorian chants can be.

    So now the Wedding is tomorrow - 7th Aug at the Church of the Sacred Heart, Tank Road.

    Daniel also requested I sing something to cover the signing of the marriage register at the end of the service. Alright, so I thought, do I want to sing a piece for Bass or Alto? I figured Alto would be more memorable, so I chose originally the opening aria from Bach's Cantata BWV 170 Vergnügte Ruh, Beliebte Seelenlust. I love this aria - bittersweetly lyrical in the way Bach typically is. The text is:

    Vergnügte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust,
    Dich kann man nicht bei Höllensünden,
    Wohl aber Himmelseintracht finden;
    Du stärkst allein die schwache Brust.
    Drum sollen lauter Tugendgaben
    In meinem Herzen Wohnung haben.

    Contented rest, belove'd inner joy,
    We cannot find thee midst hell's mischief,
    But rather in the heav'nly concord;
    Thou only mak'st the weak breast strong.
    Thus I'll let only virtue's talents
    Within my heart maintain their dwelling.

    But alas, Andreas Scholl I ain't. The highest note in that aria is the second E above Middle C, and it gets used a LOT. I simply can't do it at modern pitch (A=440). The only way I'm going to be able to do that aria is at least a whole tone (or more) down. Even more, it's nearly 7 minutes long - too long.

    So I looked and found something nice for alto at slightly more than 3 minutes - the second aria from BWV 35 Geist und Seele. The piece is a bit high, but do-able at baroque pitch (half a tone lower than modern). It's scored for Alto, organ oblig. and continuo, so doing it with just organ and alto is close to the orginal. The vocal line's quite florid, but thankfully coloratura isn't a problem for me, only high notes and sustain. If you care to hear it, a midi is available here. Also, the text is quite nice:

    Gott hat alles wohlgemacht.
    Seine Liebe, seine Treu
    Wird uns alle Tage neu.
    Wenn uns Angst und Kummer drücket,
    Hat er reichen Trost geschicket,
    Weil er täglich für uns wacht.
    Gott hat alles wohlgemacht.

    God has made all things well.
    His love, his faithfulness
    We see ev'ry day renewed.
    When both fear and toil oppress us,
    He has sent us ample comfort,
    Since He watches over us daily.
    God has made all things well.

    This one Ten Yeen and I started work on at Thursday evening's wedding rehearsal. Heh. So listen to that midi of the aria and realise that Ten Yeen and I are going to be meeting at 8 on the morning of the wedding (it starts at 11) to hammer this one out. Gillian's already called my voice fabulous, ha. That was even before I could get all the notes right. Yes, I know... I'm a show-off, but hey, if you've got it... Let's just hope my voice holds out. I'm surprised Daniel and Gillian are eager to have a man singing in high voice doing a solo at their wedding, but then he went to King's College London and she was from Cambridge, so oh well.

    Τρίτη, Αυγούστου 3

    What Accent Is That?

    Soundtrack: 'Parce mihi Domine' from Morales' Requiem, sung by La Capella Reial de Catalunya, Hespèrion XX, dir. Jordi Savall.

    So there I was, preparing to do a voice-over for some video.

    Lady-in-charge: 'You can do accents right? What accents can you do?'
    Me: 'For American, only a generic mid-west. For English, I can do Public-School, London cockney...'
    Lady: 'What is this public school? I've never heard of it before.'
    Me: 'it's the accent of the highest level of the upper classes'
    Lady: ' oh very good, i think we'll go for that'

    So alright, I start reading the script in my best cutting-glass accent... Noel Coward would've been so proud. Halfway through the second paragraph, she stops me.

    Lady: 'Eh, excuse me ah... what is that accent?'
    Me: 'It's English. Upper Class.'
    Lady: 'But it doesn't sound anything like David Beckham!'

    (sensible readers will now intone a solemn Te Deum in thanksgiving that I don't sound anything like him)

    She insisted that Beckham's accent was more recognisable as classy. I refused to sound anything like him (I said I couldn't do it). We compromised in the end on a sort of London city accent. Urgh.

    In other news, Andrij sent this amusing link - Web Addiction Gets Conscripts Out of Army

    The Neighbours' Dog

    I have horrible annoying Indian neighbours. They're loud, smelly (and I mean cooking smells) and filthy. They have a little black terrier with long curly fur. Today I found out what they call it - I was on my way home and I saw the mistress of the house standing in the corridor yelling at it: 'BLACKIE!'.

    Considering they're actually darker than the dog is, this is highly ironic. Pots and kettles, I say.

    Amusing news from Andrij

    Thieves Steal Russian Mayor's Car ...and the Mayor

    Priest, Nun Convicted After 'Sex Act' in Car

    Meanwhile, from the Old Oligarch - Canada's first gay divorce comes barely six weeks after Ottowa legalized gay marriage. Hah.

    The \\
    Last Cigarette:Last PIPE - Sunday
    Last Alcoholic Drink:This morning
    Last Car Ride:This afternoon
    Last Kiss:Last week =)
    Last Good Cry:Ages ago.
    Last Library Book:Singing in Latin
    Last book bought:Adventures of a Gastronome
    Last Book Read:Shusasku Endo: 'Silence'
    Last Movie Seen in Theatres:The Day After Tomorrow
    Last Movie Rented:Blithe Spirit
    Last Cuss Word Uttered:don't cuss =)
    Last Beverage Drank:oolong tea
    Last Food Consumed:Bread with kaya and butter
    Last Crush:Oh, you know who...
    Last Phone Call:this morning
    Last TV Show Watched:Law & Order
    Last Time Showered:this morning
    Last Shoes Worn:brown hermes sneakers
    Last CD Played:Tallis: Spem in Alium - by the Sixteen
    Last Item Bought:antihistamines this morning for my allergies
    Last Download:lost count
    Last Annoyance:the parish priest of the church of the Sacred Heart
    Last Disappointment:humanity, daily.
    Last Soda Drank:diet coke
    Last Thing Written:a telephone number
    Last Key Used:B Flat Major
    Last Words Spoken:alright!
    Last Sleep:this afternoon's nap
    Last Ice Cream Eaten:burnt caramel
    Last Chair Sat In:easy chair!
    Last Webpage Visited:www.orthodoxchristianity.net


    The Hub
    Category I - The Hub

    You're a 'people person'. Networking runs in your
    blood. Consequently, you can move through most
    social circles with ease.

    What Type of Social Entity are You?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    Just a few things from Re-Minisce

    Soundtrack: "Tiki-tiki-tiki", a south Italian lullaby sung by Savinna Yannatou.

    from his blog:


    He also muses about singaporeans and accents:
    So today, seven (going on eight) years later I've got a pretty much neutral accent with an unmistakably British tinge to it. (It'd also be far too much effort, and far too pretentious to do the Public School thingy, since I don't encounter that on a daily basis. Having said that, one of the blokes I fenced with the other night was from Eaton. heh)
    Two things to add - I've got a perfect Public School accent =p and it's 'Eton'! =p

    I'M BACK!

    Soundtrack: 'Baya Baya' by Safri Duo

    Hi all. *sheepish grin*. I'm back. Numerous choes of 'I can see' from the readers, no doubt. Apologies - I got depressed for a bit then got lazy to blog... then various things conspired to lead my attention away from blogging. I'm going to try returning now :)

    Church Bombings

    I suppose we've all heard about the horrible church bombings in Baghdad. Armenian, Syrian, Assyrian and Chaldaean parishes, if I recall correctly. O Lord, watch over Thy suffering people! Meanwhile, which part of 'Yankee go home' don't the American troops understand? Before the American invasion, Iraqi Christians worshipped in peace in a secular regime - Easter, Christmas and all holidays were celebrated joyously. Now...

    Athens Mosque
    Meanwhile, plans for Athens’s first official mosque are being finalised. "The mosque, part of a cultural center which has been in the planning stages for many years, is to be funded by the Saudi Arabian government. The plan to build the mosque at Pallini has been criticized by the Church of Greece, which says that the fact that it is near the airport will give visitors the impression that they have arrived in an Islamic state. Pallini residents, who are mostly Christian, fear that the mosque will change the character of their town. Muslims lament the fact that they will have to travel a long way from the center, where most of them live, in order to worship." Hopefully someone will dynamite it. That it is being built in Athens, and not where the majority of Greece's Muslim population actually lives shows that this is a sign of power and presence, and not primarily a consideration on the part of its financers (the Saudis) to actually serve the Muslim population in Greece.

    This is much like the recent building of Europe's largest mosque in of all places, Rome. The symbolism of this is undeniable - the spiritual capital of some of Islam's (once/historically) fiercest foes (western Christendom, in particular the Crusaders) being host to one of the biggest mosques in the world (and the biggest in Europe) is gushing with subtext. What is doubly worse, is that the Imam appointed to lead the Grand Mosque of Rome (Imam Abdel-Samie Mahmoud Ibrahim Moussa) is cut from the same cloth as the radical clerics in the middle east proper (see article Roman Imam: Destroy Islam's Enemies for evidence of this.)

    That the Saudi's are funding this Athenian mosque is particularly galling, since in Saudi Arabia itself permission is never granted for the building of Churches, and what little Christian presence there is in Saudia Arabia has to live in such a way as to be totally invisible. Even bringing so much as a Bible with one into Saudi Arabia is forbidden, and it will either be confiscated or one will be turned away. It's pretty annoying, when one thinks about the fact that the Saudi establishment is funding and encouraging the building of mosques and the proselytization of people worldwide, yet they're unwilling to allow the same in their own "holy" land. Pass the dynamite! But they hey, if it's being built by Greek labourers... it'll never get finished in the first place (rather like several Olympic venues).


    I find it ironic that a group called "Planned" Parenthood would have a t-shirt proud of what is usually the outcome of an unplanned pregnancy.

    Kremlin Sued For Return Of Churches
    More than 80 years after its churches were seized by "godless Bolsheviks" and turned into anything from grain stores to shoe factories the Russian
    Orthodox Church is launching an unprecedented legal battle to win back its property.

    Furious that the Russian state still owns most of the country's churches 13 years after the collapse of Communism, and has had the gall to start charging it land tax, the church has launched the first property restitution lawsuit since the Russian Revolution in 1917.

    The lawsuit, which is regarded as a test case that could open the flood gates for thousands of other restitution claims from aristocrats to foreign governments, relates to the stunning 15th-century Church of Ilia the Prophet in Moscow which currently houses Russia's State Museum of the East. The church wants it to become a "living place of worship" once again and says it is poised to launch a rash of similar lawsuits throughout the Russian capital which could see a third of the land owned by the state in Moscow contested.

    The church was dispossessed of all its property in 1918 under a sweeping decree issued by the Bolshevik leader Lenin, an atheist. Before the revolution it had been Russia's largest landowner with some 7.5 million acres to its name but overnight it lost it all. Icons and other religious paraphernalia were plundered, bell towers were toppled, hundreds of churches were simply bulldozed out of existence and at least 45,000 priests were murdered.

    Oh this will be fun!