Tuesday, 30 November 2010


i've not been having as much internet time of late. some of it is because i've been doing some other fun stuff, but also because i've had a couple of things thrown at me out of left field which have taken up time. i'm also supposed to be writing up my speech from the women's association conference, but not tonight.

while there are a lot of serious things to write about, i'm not in the mood tonight. so i thought i'd consider the list of 100 books that i've seen around the place over the last week. generally, i think people who put up the list just want to show off how well-read they are. but hey, i'm just as much a show-off as the next person! so the list is below, i've put the ones i've read in a different font & the ones i've read partially in italics. i've put a star next to the ones on my bookshelves.

i'm currently trying to get through captain corelli's mandolin, which is a bit of coincidence. i'm finding it heavy going, and it has a few icky bits. this is something i find happens more with male writers - i'm thinking "snow falling on cedars", "the world according to garp" & a couple of others, which just have random gross stuff that doesn't actually add to the story line. it's not that i have problem with portrayals of reality, that can be graphic and horrific, but this stuff seems just seems unnecessary in the scheme of things. or maybe it's just me.

as others have mentioned, the list is a bit wierd. eg it has the chronicles of narnia, then the lion, the witch & the wardrobe, which is a double up (& the former is 7 books, not one). i haven't read all shakespeare's plays, but have read mcbeth & romeo & juliet. there are some notable omissions, rudyard kipling & oscar wilde come immediately to mind, but i'm sure there are others. i can't believe they've left off steinbeck's "east of eden" but included others, and that dickens gets so many on the list. also i've italicised the bible because you can't avoid seeing bits of it here & there, and i've read a few passages. i've read heaps of enid blyton books in my childhood, but can't remember if i've read the particular one they've listed so haven't marked it as read.

anyway, here goes:

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen*
2 The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien*
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte*
4 Harry Potter series - J.K. Rowling*
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee*
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte*
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell*
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy*
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller*
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien*
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk
18 Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger*
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot*
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell*
22 The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy*
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams*
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll*
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - C.S. Lewis*
34 Emma -Jane Austen*
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen*
36 The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis*
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - A.A. Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown*
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - L.M. Montgomery*
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen*
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas*
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens*
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker*
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Inferno - Dante
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray*
80 Possession - A.S. Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - E.B. White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle*
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo*

so there you go. 40 books read, 8 partly read. a few i'll definitely get around to reading.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

removing royalty

well, we didn't end up with a good result. i'm still feeling pretty sad about the tragic deaths of the miners over on the west coast, and wrote some thoughts about that at the hand mirror yesterday.

instead of anything heavy, i thought i'd write something about royalty. i guess it's prompted by the news of prince william's engagement, amongst other things. as you'd expect, i'm a complete anti-royalist. i can't possibly agree with the notion that people deserve any kind of position or honour simply by virtue of their birth into a particular family. which means that i also disagree with inherited titles.

any formal recognition a person receives should be as a result of their own efforts and actions. and it would be nice if the efforts and actions of the less well-off were equally recognised & rewarded as are the achievements of business people, sports stars & famous actors. i know there are a whole range awards given for various achievements - literary, scientific etc. but even many these are based on privilege, they often depend on having access to significant funding to carry out research for example, or having strong language skills that can only come with those who have had the privilege of a good education. still, at least these latter awards are based on some effort and talent shown by the recipient.

but royalty requires no talent that i can see. all that's required is the need to not make such a total ass of yourself that you are forced to abdicate your position. most everyone born to such a position manages that minimum requirement, primarily because they don't want to lose their privileged position.

what i can't understand though, is the support the general population gives to royalty that allows it to exist. there can be no king or queen, after all, without public support & without public funding. how is it that a family can convince the majority of a nation to publicly fund this position of privilege, especially in this day & age when very few royal positions carry any power (even the king of tonga is losing his)? is it some kind of cultural value deeply embedded from childhood, which people are unable to overthrow? if i asked for support from the public purse to live a lavish lifestyle, without any particularly valid reason, i'd be laughed out of the room. yet royal families all over the world manage to do this over generations. i can't understand it.

i've heard the argument that royalty provides stability by acting as the head of state. in which case, why can't someone by appointed every few years, like we appoint our governor-general? even the g-g's are selected on the basis of some kind of merit, some history of public service. that's a thousand times better than royalty.

i especially hate to see royalty in muslim countries, especially because it goes against every basic islamic value. leadership is not a birthright, human beings are as equal in the sight of God as the teeth of a comb except on the basis of their piety. leadership is to be chosen on the basis of knowledge & experience, and removed if the leader fails to fulfil the rights of the people. given all of that, i'm at a loss to understand how the royal families of saudi arabia & jordan justify their existence, nor the sultans of brunei and oman. malaysia also has some kind of figurehead royalty position, though i have no idea what role this person is supposed to fill.

if i ruled the world (yeah, i know, scary prospect!), one of the first things i'd do is dismantle every structure & institution related to royalty. all the money that would be saved & gained from sale of property, i'd reinvest in programmes to reduce poverty.

Monday, 22 November 2010

hoping for a good result

i've had a very hectic weekend, and am still pretty exhausted. i was at the women's studies association conference on friday night & saturday. i gave my speech saturday morning, & got to meet sue bradford & catherine delahunty, both lovely women. there were so many wonderful women speakers, and i tried to get some of the things they said down on paper, but a lot of it was quite academic so that was difficult to do. also, i think i'm out of practice - it's been a long while since i had to take notes at a lecture!

sunday was the 6km walk around the bridges (yup, still a bit store), and i was quite busy after that as well. i managed the race about 3 minutes under last year's time, but then i didn't end up doing much preparation in the last few days - just too busy. oh well, maybe i better start training for next year!

so, not in the mood to write anything very meaningful this evening. also, the mining accident at the pike river mine has me on edge. i'm hating the news coverage - makes me want to throw things at the tv. especially the news ads - the fact that they are using this to advertise future news bulletins grates terribly. radio nz is a lot better, in that there are no commercials & the coverage is not so obviously trying to capture the tears & suffering to increase ratings.

i just can't get out of my mind how horrible this must be for the families down there, how much more difficult for the ones stuck in the mines. i know the rescue workers are doing their absolute best, and yet the waiting without knowing is a very heavy feeling. and i don't even know anyone involved in this personally. here's hoping for better things tomorrow.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

eid mubarak, again

just a quick note tonight to wish everyone eid mubarak for eid-ul adha tomorrow (well starting from tonight, to be accurate). this is our festival that is part of the hajj, for those who can make it to saudi arabia. a quick look through the archives shows that i've not written in-depth of my experiences of hajj, which i performed in 2006. maybe if i have energy over the coming days, i'll put some of it down.

in the meantime, for a more substantial post, i've put up this one at the hand mirror about how exclusionary alcohol can be.

Monday, 15 November 2010

the performing snake

unfortunately i've been neglecting posting here, as i've been busy at the hand mirror. here's a quick list of posts over the last few days:

- a wonderful malaysian woman who
won a thesis competition in hamilton
- a
speech i'll be doing on saturday at the women's studies association conference
- a
headline failure by the waikato times
- an excellent video clip about education
- a farewell to hon pansy wong
- a meeting of wise women held in nz last week
- and finally, an excellent judgement by judge andrew becroft

so not much left to say just now. other than the fact that the broadcaster who will not be named continues to be a clueless moron, who can't understand that he wasn't exercising free speech, he was excercising paid speech subject to a code of standards. which standards he well and truly breached. on the plus side, he recognises that he is a snake, and i do agree that his former employers were just as much to blame for his on-screen antics.

that he would have been paid for an interview in a women's mag is also quite sad. and such a whinging interview, which if given by anyone else, would have had his supporters telling the person to "harden up & get over it". still, slagging off his former employers is a good sign that he won't be rehired any time soon. let's hope another channel isn't going to give him a platform he doesn't deserve.

Sunday, 14 November 2010


i had an interesting experience today. i went up to auckland to attend a "blessing" for a gorgeous little baby, at a church in auckland. i have attended church services before, but not many. actually, i even gave a talk at a service at a church in auckland some years back. that was definitely an interesting experience.

the only other times i've been at a service is for a christening and a funeral. what struck me today was how different the christian mode of worship is, in comparison to what we do. as a summary, it was a lot of getting up to sing, then sitting down to hear verses of the bible or to read prayers. music is not at all a part of our form of worship, though expert qur'an recitation is quite beautiful and melodious (to our ears anyway). i know that hindus also use music as a significant of their worship, while other faiths use chanting.

so the singing felt alien to me. muslim worship seems to be a lot more about the individual connection to God, even though we pray in congregation quite a bit. but even though an imam will lead the prayer, each person is still making their own individual connection. so there isn't that same kind of response from the congregation that you get with the christian service. it didn't seem as contemplative to me, as an outsider observing what was going on, but who am i to say what individuals were feeling at the time. i certainly couldn't see into their minds!

the most poignant part was the middle of the service, where people got up, moved around and greeted each other. and the words used for the greeting, by every single person, were "peace be with you". which is a literal translation of the muslim greeting "assalamo alaikum". it felt quite surreal to be greeted with such familiar words in an unfamiliar context. and yet it brought home our common humanity, the similarities between our aspirations for ourselves and others. i'm sure it was quite symbolic of many things that i can't quite put into words.

it was nice to catch up with some familiar faces, as well as to meet 2 bloggers i'd only known electronically until today. i love putting faces to names, & the process of words on a computer turning into real people.

all in all, a lovely day.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

round the bridges

i had 24 hours offline yesterday, which i need to do every now and then. wasn't feeling too well, which means i missed my (so-called) training for the round the bridges walk in a couple of weeks. when i say "training", i mean a walk on the treadmill, and i'm still terribly unfit. i walked 2.23 km in half an hour today, still nowhere near the 6km i have to walk in about 10 days. sigh. let's hope it's a sunny day, and i guess i'll have to take my time. i'll be part of the muslim women's team, there were about 10 of us last year. one of our team did the walk in her niqab (full face covering) last yet. i'm actually looking forward to this - i had a nice sense of achievement from managing to finish it last year.

Monday, 8 November 2010

nice to be back home

it's been a few days since i posted. i've been putting up some posts at the hand mirror, one a follow-up on the clueless employer who discriminates against women, another about some nastiness by stephen fry towards one of our local bloggers, and one on a moving piece written by the father of nayan woods, the young boy killed by a teenage driver. tonight, i've put up a post on the census of women's participation - well, not so much a post by me as it is a cut & paste job.

i've been busy over the weekend, with a trip to palmerston north & dunedin. it was the next stage of the programme we took to christchurch & dunedin last month. there will be at least another trip before the end of the year, and i now don't have a weekend free until christmas! i'm sure everyone is feeling the end of year rush, just to make sure really appreciate our holidays when they finally arrive.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010


no post last night, for a couple of reasons. one was that i'd had another one of those sleepless nights the previous night, where i tossed & turned til about 4am. so not in the mood for using my brain. the other reason was that i'd been leant a dvd copy of "boy", which i had to return today.

i have to say that i really loved the movie. i was getting a little bored at about two-thirds of the way through, but it really picked up at the end. i loved the subtlety of the messages, the authenticity, well everything about it really. if we're going to be spending millions of dollars supporting and building local talent, then this is the kind of project we should be putting public money into.

here's the clip for poi e, still one of my favourite songs:

from the original clip of this song, i still remember the close-up of the young maori kid who looks so happy (a little bit of that is included in the new version above). i used to look at it in a sad kind of way, thinking about how very few spaces there were at the time for maori kids to feel proud of their heritage & culture, to just feel completely comfortable with who they were. even now, the level of hostility that will come bursting out when something like the te papa issue is raised, it's scary & pretty difficult to live with, especially for kids at that age.

on a possibly related note, i've got a post up at the hand mirror about a strange stance taken by the office of ethnic affairs. i also wrote on monday about a clueless employer in the waikato who thinks it's ok to discriminate against women.

Monday, 1 November 2010

a rally with a purpose

so this rally to restore sanity happened over the weekend. i didn't watch it live, cos i was busy doing other things, but i've been catching up with some of the coverage today. not everyone is happy about it.

there's the issue with the
name of the rally, and i have to say that i'm quite sympathetic to this argument:

That the politics in this country have become extreme, absurd, and increasingly dangerous is not a result of mental illness; it's the result of ignorance and bigotry...

These people aren't nutty outliers; they are knowingly and deliberately and rationally complicit in a campaign to undermine both the credibility of the democratic process and the efficacy of the US government....

Because we live in a culture where people with mental illness are to be dismissed out of hand as the hopeless lunatics they are, your disablist frame is actively counterproductive.

so yes, in a world where mental illness is already stigmatised, the restoration of sanity is not a particularly nice message to be getting across. there's a huge underlying implication that insanity is bad, there those with mental illnesses are bad. not helpful dude. perhaps a "rally to restore rationality" or something similar might have been better.

the bigger criticism is about the ethos of the rally itself.
the standard links to a post by mark ames (with a disablist title & plenty of disablist language). his main point boils down to this:

That’s what makes this rally so depressing and grotesque: It’s an anti-rally, a kind of mass concession speech without the speech–some kind of sick funeral party for Liberalism, in which Liberals are led, at last, by a clown. Not a figurative clown, but by a clown–and Liberals are sure that this somehow makes them smarter ... because they are not taking themselves too seriously, which is something they’re very, very proud of. All great political struggles and ideological advances, all great human rights achievements were won by clown-led crowds of people who don’t take themselves too seriously, duh! That’s why they’re following a clown like Stewart, whose entire political program comes down to this: not being stupid, the way the other guys are stupid–or when being stupid, only stupid in a self-consciously stupid way, which is to say, not stupid. That’s it, that’s all this is about: Not to protest wars or oligarchical theft or declining health care or crushing debt or a corrupt political system or imperial decay—nope, the only thing that motivates Liberals to gather in the their thousands is the chance to celebrate their own lack of stupidity! Woo-hoo!

i've seen similar sentiments elsewhere, and i think people who express them are totally missing the point. there is absolutely no doubt that this rally was called in response to the one held by glenn beck & others, in conjunction with the tea party movement. if this rally was making a statement about anything, the statement was that people are sick of the hate, the bigotry & ignorance that symbolises a lot of the rhetoric coming out of fox news & the tea party movement.

to me, it was about a bunch of people getting together to say "can't we please have these discussions and political debates without the extremism, the name-calling, the scapegoating of minorities" and so on. at the time the rally was called, there was a huge wave of anti-muslim sentiment in the country being flamed by the likes of sarah palin in regards an islamic centre in new york. as well as some really nasty anti-immigrant stuff as a result of tough laws in arizona, piled onto plenty of other layers of bigotry & hate.

it was an absolutely valid and i believe necessary response to all of that stuff. that it wasn't a peace rally, or a rally for work rights, or for any of the other causes that mr ames holds dear doesn't make the cause of this rally any less important or less valuable. in a world that is becoming increasingly torn apart & polarised, it is absolutely necessary for someone (or thousands of someones) to stand up and say "there has to be a better way of talking about this; there has to be a better way for us to come up with workable solutions that will benefit the majority". mr obama was supposed to be that person, but as yet he hasn't been able to deliver too much. some of this is his (and his administration's) fault, some of it is because of other factors.

it's a pity that mr ames didn't stick around for the "
moment of sincerity" bit at the end. because jon stewart said it better than i ever could:

Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear
Jon Stewart - Moment of Sincerity
Rally to Restore Sainty and/or FearThe Daily ShowThe Colbert Report

i have to say that i'm not always a fan of jon stewart (no-one's perfect after all), but most of the time i am. and when he gets it right, he really gets it so right that there aren't many who can match him. this is one of those times where he gets it right. here's a bit of a transcript of the clip:

"So what exactly was this? I can't control what people think this was. I can only tell you my intentions. This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith, or people of activism; or to look down our noses at the heartland or passionate argument; or to suggest that times are not difficult, and that we have nothing to fear. They are and we do. But we live now in hard times, not end times. And we can have animus and not be enemies. But unfortunately one of our main tools in delineating the two, broke. The country's 24 hour politico-pundit-perpetual-panic-conflictinator did not cause our problems. But it's existence makes solving them that much harder.... If we amplify everything, we hear nothing."

and of course, how could i blog about the rally without mentioning my favourite man of the moment who finds himself once again in the middle of it all, right where he belongs:

After grieving a little recently for the disappearance of those reverberating ‘peace waves’ of music and bulldozing optimism of the 60’s (The Never Ending Rainbow), the message came: why not join us at the Rally on the 30th of October? Oh my God! What a good idea. That’s all there was to it....

This event may not change the world, or the destiny of the elections, but it was great reminder of the peaceful hopes of many, to rise up and re-state their ardent wish for more sanity and less fear. Glad I was there.

here are yusuf & ozzy osbourne at the rally, singing about trains: