The Carnival of Saudi Chronicles

What is a Blog Carnival?

"Carnival posts are generally collated by the author by soliciting relevant contributions from interested people. The author collects links to these submissions, edits and annotates them and publishes the resulting round-up to his or her blog." ~ Wikipedia

In short: If you could show off just one article from your blog, which one would it be?

What The Carnival of Saudi Chronicles is About.

Off the tabloid coverage and resentful stories affiliated to Saudi culture, this carnival is meant to showcase stories written in English about the good stuff that happen to the people living in Saudi.

Need Examples?

Take Marahm's memories about living and working in Riyadh. Or American Bedu's articles on Saudi food! Or my article on Jeddah's Social scene. Your blog is a chest of stories and ideas. This is your chance to polish and show off the best of them all over again.

The How.                                        

I'll be receiving your submissions throughout the month of June. You can submit your posts through this submission form here. The only conditions that apply:

1.       Positivity and focus on the good stuff about Saudi Arabia.

2.       Readability, and other rules of good blog writing.

3.     If your article is a criticism, make sure it includes recommendations on how to solve that problem. On the other hand, don't sugar-coat it either. Just keep it real and sincere.

4.       One article entry per blog, for each category.

5.       Spread the Word. Grab the Carnival widget and flaunt it on your blog. Or write up a quick post/tweet on this carnival. I want this to cover as many blogs and stories as possible, wouldn't you?

On Wednesday July 1st, 2009, I'll host your article links and my feedback on a separate post here; so make sure you got me on your RSS readers updated, okay?

Back to you now. Start digging & polishing and let the Carnival of Saudi Chronicles begin!


Why Freedom of Speech Makes You Look Childish

So, Sand Got in Her Eyes's article about freedom of speech got on my thinking toes, and this had been a (nearly) reflexive comment. I'm probably not reading her article right to begin with, but the arc of this opinion - more or less - remains the same.

Decree of the National Convention Abolishing Slavery in the Colonies, 4th February 1794,
Photo by Nicolas Andre Monsiau

Sometimes I think that people who demand free speech are a bunch of very pissed off, whiny little adolescents and that the movement for free speech - in my silly opinion - originally came from children who weren't allowed to tell their parents that they're uptight and out of date.

As is the case with the robust citizens from Saudi Arabia and other unmentioned Western and Eastern countries; who risk their lives demanding their rights as taxpaying citizens to object and question the powers-that-be, such as clerics, governments, parents and gods.

What could be so wrong with controlled speech? 

In the days of Suharto regime, a country as colossal and ethnically diverse as Indonesia rolled somewhat smoothly for three decades and the funny thing is that, once Suharto's gone, and free speech got on with its happy feet and everyone got to say whatever they thought, the Indonesian economy, daily conditions of the people, the culturally embedded corruption did not change.

It actually got worse in some areas, and even though Indonesia now has 34 political parties, democracy and the power to say whatever one has in mind does not make direct impact on improving the livelihood of rural farmers, urban dwellers, or improving traffic flow on the streets in Jakarta.

[That said, it's not surprise that near half of the voters (40%), consisting mostly of intellectuals, practiced their right to not vote, knowing how little effect voting may give impact on their immediate lives. Sources (Indonesian): Here, here]

The Faces of Freedom of Speech

Okay, maybe Indonesia isn't the best example of a country with free speech, and let's look how far free speech has gotten with the folks in New Orleans, LA, or Harlem, NY, or shanty towns of Johannesburg, South Africa. How far has freedom of speech served in the betterment of the individual's quality life?

Cuba, Syria and Saudi Arabia are examples of countries that still stand on its feet, despite the rigid control of what the public may think, or say, or feel about that control. The Cuban Family Code probably saved a lot of court hours that could have been spent on custodial disputes . The Syrian censorship did not stop the poet Tellawi from publishing and winning awards for his (rather risqué) body of work. And Saudis indulge on ridiculously generous scholarships like no other country citizens I've ever heard of, whether or not they deserve such awards.

Cutting Chases
Summarized in a couple of spiffy sentences, I'm basically saying;
  • Speech is just another tool of expression and - like any other protected freedom - it should always be delivered into the public with deliberation and class.

  • Freedom of Speech does not always give clear indications to how well or badly a country is performing on individual (intellectual) levels.

  • I'm severely biased saying this, but I'm inclined to believe that freedom of speech became movement when a number of angry individuals - who are not allowed to point fingers at others for their own unhappiness - were told to look for other means of blame, a.k.a themselves.

  • While silencing the thoughts of the Demos has been proven just as harmful, I would like to know if having too much freedom of speech could be any more useful.

  • Shutting up from time to time can be a good thing, no matter how strongly you feel. It's not always about what you say, but how you say it.

  • Quoting by verbatim my uncle, Ario Helmy, "It doen't matter what language(s) you use in blogging, as long as you could use it (them) responsibly "communicative"".

Hence, living with the kind of near-destructive freedom, it is now my turn to practice what's necessary: to sieve and stuff it.


You're Muslim and Want To Practice Magic?

Note: This article was first published in Indonesian, as a guest post on Agus Sukarno's blog .

"How can I enter the spiritual realm?"

Muallaf (a fresh convert) came to the Timekeeper with that line opening their meeting. "In my previous religion, the spiritual world is glued to everyday conduct, whereas in this, only the sensible – the things that are within the reach of our senses – is approved."

"Come close," said the Timekeeper, "closer please, so that you may properly faint when I properly slap you."

Muallaf added his respectful distance and maintained his persistent curiosity, "I'm sorry, did I say something wrong?"

"If you faint, you'll enter the spiritual realm. If you sleep, you'll be there too. Eventually, when you die, you're definitely going to be there. Which method do you prefer first?"

"I've heard of people who can enter the spiritual realm through other means, like meditation and offerings and mantra…"

"Them fools are lying," said the Timekeeper, his voice disclosed annoyed disdain.

"But they can, sir," said Muallaf, his polite voice disclosing the annoyance of a disdained, "and they only needed to mutter spells or dance on top of graves or something …"

"Moving between realms require energy," said the Timekeeper in compromise, "Prior to conception, a father spends energy to move the soul from its realm into the womb. In birth, a mother risks her life's energy in moving a child from the womb to the world. Along the basic rules of physics, the bigger an entity is larger the energy required to move it around."

Since Mu'allaf kept a his ears and attention perked up, the Timekeeper sighed and continued, "Magic is a reaction between two worlds; catalyzed with offerings and mantra. A bit of muttering might bring you a used shroud. Some chicken blood might make you walk on fire for show. Use your imagination in figuring out what it takes to hurt others with magic, because I'm not going to tell you that here."

"Aren't all of those black magic? What about white magic?"

Haven't I already offered that to you, whether you want to faint, sleep or die?
White magic, the kind that is blessed and confirmed by the Lord, occurs every day without getting noticed, much less admired.
Earth never complains running around the sun. The rice in your stomach submits to digestion. The air passes through you with ease just to make you live longer, one breath at a time.
Those are examples of the most gracious, most miraculous white magic that ever existed.
As long that normalcy is marginalized, there isn't a lot of magical miracles that you can expect going on in this life, or the next.

Normalcy is divinely blessed; when was the last time you took notice and gave thanks?
Image: Pete Turner



"Be generous with kindly words, especially about those who are absent.” - Goethe

I'm sorry that we have to put our friendship on hold for the next few years.

We had it coming, didn't we? Normal people cannot maintain casual relationships outside their immediate family in child-rearing years; where reproduction and social-regards are at the peak of their demands.

Obligation obliterates all other purposes, and your family and I can never compete with your esteem, no matter how highly I (used to) reside in it.

Would it be an issue if I spent so much time with a you? Would it be an issue if we never touched in the dark or solicited flirtatious remarks? Would it be an issue if we decided to vacate everyday of our lives to write and philosophize?

Even if we did, someone would eventually assume that something is terribly wrong with us, until the prophesy actualizes itself in defeat.

Grudgingly, our friendship and brilliant ideas and intricate philosophies will have to wait until your husbands and wives are dead and ungrateful children are gone.

I'll wait until you're overweight and bald and your silly longing for immortality is subdued and you want nothing more of the world but to let it rest and over.

We'll wait until we are so old that we're children again; sleeping in small beds, inside our shriveled bodies and nostalgic thoughts and smelling funny like the molds in our chest of unrealized dreams.

Maybe that's when we can be friends again. Just to accompany each other, cross-checking our journeys, on that small bed that is getting smaller that it only fits the length and width of ever exerted minds.

We'll dress for that day in an attire that no one will judge us for. Cotton, biodegradable, and as white as hair. We'll meet in a place where dreams and awareness merge at closure.

And maybe then, we can laugh again at sentences that start with "Remember when…?", over cups of coffee, laces of smoke and clandestine calories.

Image: Jo Whaley



"This is garbage, GARBAGE!"
"Well, coming from trash, that's good praise indeed." - @Diana_blogger

Come with us, she said, come with us to Lake Toba. The scenery's breathtaking.
Man, if you have to go all the way to Lake Toba just to see some 'pretty', I said, I can't tell you how much you're missing in your life.

Do you want to improve your life?
Do you want to improve your rate of productivity, in bed or otherwise?

Who cares!

There's an Arabic proverb that says something like,
"Man is wealthiest when he realizes that he owns nothing, smartest when he admits that he knows nothing, most productive when he realizes that he's done nothing."

It's strange that in a culture as cocky as the Arabic, humility is just as important as in Buddhism and Christianity.

I'm insipid. Aloofness has made me so.

No, I can't bothered with my laid back life, I like it the way it is. I don't dream of making fame or more money or filling up a harem with playboy bunnies.

No, Saudi Arabia, as long that I'm not living there, can't bother me. And, neither can Indonesian issues, because as long that my mother – bless her soul – isn't disowning me and my sponsorship, I got nothing to do with the rest of Indonesia.

No, religious issues are perfectly a-okay, ever since I gave up on Wahhabism, everything seemed to fall in its proper places. And no, the Lord isn't Wahhabi. And yes, the religion I'm following is tolerant and nice.

Yes, my social behavior has been very "behaved", especially since I stopped drinking and smoking barely-legal substances and kept my legs tight together and limited my social interactions to the ones I have with the Timekeeper and my laptop.

Yes, I am so done-that-been-there-so-what; I've been a good, happy, peaceful girl.

And it has been as beautifully boring as Lake Toba.

Photo by Ron Koeberer


Against The Odds: Be Great At It.

Photo credit: Rich Reid

Can you really be doing what you love and be acknowledged for it? Isn't there a place where conventionality and elements of surprise can meet? What do successful people – from both sides of conventionality – have in common?

The Traditional Path
"We are what we protect," – Audrey Tautou, Da Vinci Code

Look at you, in your late twenties or early thirties; at the prime of your years. You finished school, gotten engaged or married, and got yourself a steady income. The future is set and stable, the children are coming, and you probably have the next 20-30 years of your life – until junior gets to the same place you are today – planned out well. You parents are pleased, your friends high-five you like you've won a PS3 game, and all is peachy and perky, right?

So then, why the second thoughts? I started writing this for friends who are in their twenties and on steady pathways to somewhat success yet harbor premature depression or pent up bitterness. They've lived their lives as perfect children, perfect students, perfect graduates and adults. They're the perfectly loyal and affectionate husbands and fathers. Something important seems to be missing in their lives and they envy the people on the other side of the lifestyle: the unconventional hippies.

The Quirky Path
The quirky hippies are folks who openly and guiltlessly renounce the traditional path of perfection. They are unruly, fashionably outspoken, are well informed about social injustice and conspiracy theories and are probably vegans too.

Looking at the carefree hippies, we indulge on these second thoughts: what if you did things differently? What if you never graduated from school and pursued your passion? What if you never got hitched and went through series of love affairs instead? What if you were never sure what tomorrow's going to be like, and lived for the moment instead?

The reality is, hippies are probably uninsured and are prone to fall into pits of debts and awful healthcare. They might only achieve a mediocre level of success in their fields of passion to wake up in their own pools of vomit and resume drinking gin at 9 o'clock in the morning. The unpredictability of life crushes them in a premature onset of depression and pent up bitterness at a life that might have been.

It isn't less scary, whether you choose conventional or the hippie lifestyles. Both lifestyles come with consequences that you are going to pay for later. It could be a matter of choosing between the two evils: a conventional life with all its mind numbing routines, or an unconventional one with all of its low-risk commitments and longer-termed confusions.

The Great Grey Area

When highlighting the milestones in a person's life, we focus on the headlines: The Graduation, The Wedding, The Funeral. We often neglecting the tedious and mundane; like what they have for lunch, how often they masturbate, how many hours of indecision spent over an adjective at the end of a descriptive sentence. When in fact, the fillers, the small stuff in between the headlines, are actually the brick stones that gives every life its running shape towards the headlines.

Greatness, whether in traditional or unusual terms, sits comfortably on a fat cushion of deliberate and uninterrupted daily routines: the calorie-counts, the run/drive to the grocery, the conversations over dinner. It's a discipline to appreciate and honor the small stuff, the stuff that you might take for granted, that builds and polishes the elements of greatness in your life.

Having the small stuff done correctly, with joy and deliberation, with purposeful faith is the only thing that can make greatness achievable whether you live like a hippie or a yuppie.

After all, even mountains are moved starting from pebbles, and miles crossed starting from a step.


Test Post from a New Domain

This is a test post from the new domain: http://Hning.asia

If you get this, consider me a happy blogger now that I can claim all seriousness in this writing business, and you could get on with your lives, but I very much would prefer you go back to that last post with the comic and share me your thoughts.

If you didn't get this post directly on your feed reader, then - daggit! - do tell me and I'll see what I can do to fix that.

In the mean time, Labor Day becomes http://Hning.asia's ReBirthday!! Yay!

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