21 Favorites

“I think in terms of the day's resolutions, not the years'.” ~ Henry Moore

Phases of the Moon Muse

If I could only learn three things from psychology, they’d be: a) Maslovian Hierarchy (diagnosis), b) Taxonomy of Bloom (process) and c) Rogerian Approach(judging evaluation).

Maslow ranks human needs as follows: (1) physiological; (2) security and safety; (3) love and feelings of belonging; (4) competence, prestige, and esteem; (5) self-fulfillment; and (6) curiosity and the need to understand [Source: Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2008].

Ironically, the last Maslovian need occurs by letting go the three that precedes it.

Go figure.


On the other hand, I assume that my readers are (relatively) okay with the first two needs. There is no competition of argument when it comes to basic needs. You can’t think straight if you have not gotten your basic needs straightened.

Come to think of it, you shouldn’t be reading blogs if you’re hungry, cold and dodging bullets. Go tweet, instead.

21 Posts

I close the year with 21 of the year’s hottest posts, using the Maslovian levels of hierarchy as topic.

    Love and Feelings of Belonging

  1. Darah: His & Hers
  2. 30 Months
  3. Naked Society
  4. Smelling Sexy & Coupling Cousins
  5. Jealousy
  6. Secrets
  7. Worship Fuck

    Competence, Prestige and Esteem

  8. Unemployed by Choice
  9. Souvenirs (from Ubud)
  10. Pseudonym Vs. Real Name
  11. Ripples (the fleeting stuff that matter)
  12. Interview on American Bedu's
  13. Reincarnation
  14. Changing Looks
  15. Naked Artist


  16. Engaging Silence (through Yoga)
  17. About the Calling
  18. Fast Aware
  19. Detachment
  20. Itch

PS: I don’t really care how you survived through that as much as I loved writing them. Good luck in the new year.


Ibu’s Hair

“All woman are conscious of when they first become objectified. It happens at puberty when our physicality begins to come into focus. And as soon as we are in our teens, we encounter problems with men who only care about the possibility of bedding us …We're so used to being objectified we don't really know how to look at ourselves any other way, especially sexually. In every culture and subculture, the physical ideals for women are far more codified and rigid than those for men.” – Hazel Dooney.

When my grandparents separated, Ninik became the primary breadwinner and my mother, the eldest of five, became Mother. Ibu (Indonesian: mother), from as early as pre-adolescence cooked and scrubbed and dressed her siblings. This collective memory all my uncles and aunts have endearingly shared with us.

Ibu cooked and scrubbed even when she was briefly in Singapore for her slightly higher education. That’s how my father saw her the first time, covered in soot and scrubbing ferociously on the kitchen floor. 

My parents did not have much at the beginning, but they always made love on a luxurious bed of long, soft hair.

You see, until she had our youngest brother, Ibu had very, very long hair. It reached down to her knees, and she used to collect it in a bun, while scrubbing and  cooking. While she was looking after her own siblings. While she was sweeping in the dorm in Singapore, about to catch my father’s eyes. While she was sure that she was going to have three children.

Ibu's hair reminded her that no matter how much she had to scrub and cook, there was a beautiful hope in all of it. There was a set of children to come out of her labors. There was a reason why she enchanted our father long enough with her long, lustrous hair.

For, one day, few months after she had that one-more-child, Ibu cropped her hair, and said, “Udah yah, no more children.”

And that’s where her hair has been growing since; in her children.


Love: Questions



Elephant, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania

Why did the Caliph Omar bin Al-Khattab’s administration decide on the Hegira as beginning of the Islamic calendar? What was so profound about the flight from Mecca to Medina? Why wasn’t it the year of Badr, or the year of Hajj, or the year of the prophet’s ascension (Isra’ Mi’raj)?

Quick answer? It was when the depression began to lift.


Depression at Initiation seems common amongst the prophets. Who could blame them? Buddha went through that depression with every disappointing teacher and method of achieving enlightenment. Jesus went through that too, ever so briefly, in the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36).

In the case of Muhammad, the Hegira occurred on 622 A.D; about three years after the death of Lady Khadija and Abu Talib. More than anyone else, his wife and uncle were the Prophet’s earthly sources of consolation. Being stripped from their company, did not just test his integrity and sanity and character. It also straightened his mind about the job he was doing.

“Man is stupid…”

The fact that man is stupid was one of the things that the prophets needed to learn from their depression before starting to do their job.

The road that Buddha’s dharma began with accepting that life is suffering (can’t change that) and the renouncement (letting go) of worldly dependence. The path to the Christian salvation started with Jesus’ arrest (can’t change that) and the long, terrible walk to Golgotha; leaving behind a bloody testament on man’s stupidity, and the pricey cost of being dedicated to the job.

In a way, the grief and depression from the death of his wife and uncle (can’t change that, no siree) and the end of his natural resources, brought him to the greatest mystical experience in his life: Muhammad’s ascension to heaven - the Isra’ & Mi’raj.

“… still, the job needs to be done.”

When the prophets accepted what they could not change, was when the prophecy started taking its symbolic form: The four noble truths, the cross and the hegira.

Physically, the hegira was a move from one geographical location to another. A total reshuffling of social identities, homes, traditions, hangout places – comfort zones.

Yet, more than just a physical, the hegira is a forced, day-to-day mental shift. From want and craving, to renouncement of worldly dependence. From anguish and sadness, to the unquestioning acceptance of job demands. From fear and self-doubt, to courageous resolution and “doing the job for the job’s sake”.

No matter how ludicrous and futile the job seems. No matter how ungrateful and stubbornly stupid man can be.

A humble process that is acknowledged every day on the Hijri calendar.


Why Small Acts of Kindness Matter

  • Because they’re doable …

…like the bread Nessie shared with Macky.

  • Because they ripple …

…like Aysha’s muscles.

  • Because they’ll come back to you…

…like the weight he carried for you.

  • Because they’re what we are remembered for…

…like Asmaa's friend, who had only one chance in his life to make an impression on her. 

  • Because they make us heroes…

… like the man who removed the dead bird from the street. Saving his conscience, and Dubai Guy’s. And mine.




"There is no conflict between religions. Only conflict of interests." ~ Alia Makki

One mime yelling at another “How dare you call the Hadith and al-Qur’an in conflict!”

The embarrassed travel companion, desperately trying to calm me, fluttered with shushes. “I didn’t mean to offend you, please calm down.”

“I could’ve agreed with everything else, but NOT that version of XENOPHOBIC STUPIDITY! You’re trying to convince me that Imam Ali and the Prophet had different gods and goals!”

“Okay, I’ll agree with whatever you say, but please, please SHUSH.”

“Whether practical, social, theological or nonsensical schools of thought, they all meet in one place, unveiling a single, multidimensional truth. How can the Qur’an and Hadith and Bible and and Torah and Zabur be in conflict, if they were supposed to be mouthpieces of the same ideology?”

He tried muffling me. I bit him. Then pinned and sat on him.

“If you doubt the messenger; then doubt the message. If you doubt the message, then what’s the point in believing in a god. If there is a common god, then common sense dictates the common threads that bind our religions with each other. The common threads that bind our religions with all the other sciences and arts. You poor unscholarly, blasphemous fool, NOW YOU CAN TELL ME TO CALM DOWN!”

Ever heard of “Improve your argument, don’t raise your voice”?

Hell, no. You got me at a sore spot. Your ears alright?


Brushing Death

"Chance is the pseudonym God uses when he doesn't want to sign his name." ~ Anatole France


Someone once said that a brush with death brings out the better person in us. The transcendental and goal-oriented self. A brush with death is supposed to refine our awareness on how fragile life is.

Yet, I know someone who survived a plane crash. Looking at the chances of surviving a plane crash in the sixties (19%), you’d think that he had taken life by the horns, gotten himself a day-job or something, AT LEAST just to keep his boat afloat.

He did not.

He’s actually right where he was forty years ago; beside a crashed life with too many chances missed, and amendments too late. I feel so sorry for him that I can’t help but wonder if it should’ve been someone else...

Did it make a difference?

Would we have made a difference if we were in his shoes?  Would it have made a difference if we survived plane crashes every day?

Or do we just get used to the fact and begin to take ourselves, our lives, for granted as soon as forgetfulness erodes our bruises?


Impotent Miracles

“Before enlightenment; chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment; chop wood, carry water.” ~ Zen Proverb

A single red lamp on a shelf

Nobody wants to see miracles.

One of the reasons why there aren’t any more (reliable) modern prophets is because the Lord had thrown the towel on us and said, “(Your hearts are) like a rock and even worse in hardness.” [HQ 02:74] There’s just no point showing miracles to ordinary people like us if it doesn’t bring food on the table. Every. Day.

The ordinary, then, has got to be miraculous enough.

Until we see the miracles in between the ordinary lines, we’ll be happily stuck with boring and meaningless. With our personalized mottoes and prophecies. With our petty issues and trivial causes.

And it’s cool that miracles are set in the ordinary. That having three meals a day can be miracle enough for those who appreciates. That waking up free of debt is a salvation. That having all your limbs working is an amazing grace.

The absence of biblical miracles only made it easier to sieve between the amazing and the amazingly hellish, with mere adjectives shoved into our sentences.


Worship Fuck

"Everyone is dragged on by their favorite pleasure." ~ Virgil

There is a time when fucking is a form of Ibadah. And, no, I’m not referring to the tantric or the procreative sex.

Sex is supposed to be a kinky, healthy and yummy pas de deux - (or troi?) - communion with the Almighty. The saying goes that once the couple is shielded and the woman is clean, everything is applicable. Doesn’t that include fondling, foreplay and female multiple orgasms? Doesn’t that include bondage, role play and acrobatic poses?

Okay, I’m stretching it with the BDSM streak, but you’re smart.

There’s a hadith that says something about “If the wife rejects her husband’s amorous approach,the angels will condemn her until dawn breaks.” Who in their right mind would skip sex lest it’s really, really that awful? I’m inclined to reinterpret the hadith: "If the wife rejects her husband, he better start learning a couple of new tricks because he’s probably that boring a fuck”.

I’m just saying, the “Bismillah” at the beginning of those eleven minutes of romp means something good is supposed to be happening. For all the parties involved. Whether earthbound or sublime.



Ever wonder why satiety never lasts long?

We tend to trick our most natural needs with substitutes. Hunger being staved off by sugar and fat and muck. Emotional needs being staved off with food. Social needs being staved off with technology and noise. Self-actualization is confused with big, pretty, shiny toys.

The tricks we play on ourselves. Tsk.

What hunger needs is grub, healthy and warm. What loneliness needs is an embrace. Go tuck/pluck/duck yourself silly, if you must. Society only cares to its convenience. Self-actualization is a sublimated satisfaction; can’t have it if you’re hungry and unloved and cold.


How to Read 4 Classical Novels in a Month

"If you tell me that curiosity killed the cat, I say only the cat died nobly.” ~ Arnold Edinborough

Sunlight shining on a library of booksI’ve finished reading four classical novels last month without even touching a single page. In all simplicity, I just made better use of my beat mobile phone and portable music player and a couple of very generous websites.

While the methods are unconventional, I’ve covered more classical literature in a month than I ever have by means of holding processed trees. Al Gore would have been proud.

Reading from mobile phones

I’ve seen a lot of variations to Classic Reader, and with web enabled phones, available books in the public domain are a plenty accessible. And 3G phones & services are fungi-like accessible these days. Reading from your web-enabled phones can make quite a company as you wait that call/SMS/taxi. Plus, reading from your phone makes the pages easier to bookmark. Just leave your phone’s web browser open and you can finish the chapter in some other time.

The more reasons to love cellular technology, eh? Who would have thought that a phone could compensate visits to the library/bookstore? 

For those who read for the sake of the prestige of being able to flip your hand and say “I’ve read Tolstoy/Twain/Chekhov…” go ahead and drool.

Problems with reading from mobile phones

  1. Depending on your phone screen size and optic strength, you might need to squint from time to time. And with text as long as the Russian literature (and I fuss about this because they’re my favorites), reading from a phone screen can be quite tasking after a while.

  2. I’m easily motion sick. The last time I tried reading in a car, my breakfast exited my gastric system from THE WRONG ORIFICE. Not being able to read/write while traveling would not be so bad it weren’t the most bored I could ever be in my life.

  3. The problem with reading from the web-enabled phone is the same problem with the internet in general: DISTRACTION. I managed to read an entire chapter. While waiting for the next chapter to load, I steal a quick peak at Gmail. Facebook notifications. Twitter replies. Ooh, let me reply to that SMS. And never go back to that Next Chapter of whatever that book was.

Which is why this next method of indulging in classical literature has been getting me all gushed and hot with excited anticipation.

Reading Audio Books

Audio books are awesome, I don’t know why I’ve never done them before.

Every physical downside of reading the classic have been fixed by having someone else read to me. No motion sickness, no internet distractions, no sore eyes. Imagine having bedtime stories read to your heart’s content without ever hearing the dreaded phrase “…The End. Time for bed.”

And have I mentioned how light it is? The entire volume of Huck Finn takes only takes about 311 MB of memory space. 1GB of memory can give you 1.4 days worth of stories. And get this, they’re all downloadable for FREE from Librivox.

I’ve been reading audio books on ojeks (motorbike taxis), in trains, and airplanes. I’ve done it while sorting money, while standing in lines and especially when I can’t sleep. I’m hooked, man. Indeed, your regular iPod can keep you comfortably, intellectually entertained for days.

Come to think about it, the only faults I’ve found from being so addicted to audio books, is that I always have that really faraway & distracted look on me. And I suspect the hairs in my ears are growing noticeably faster. A small cost for appeasing literary cravings, really.

Just don’t say that I didn’t warn ya the next time somebody suggests braiding the hair in your ear.

Anyway, whatchu waiting for? Get off this blog and start reading the classics!

[PS: Ms.Faultfinder, I know the thing you do with audio books are called listening instead of reading. So while you call me stupid for not knowing the difference, go ahead and call me inconsistent too. Especially since I developed that Mark Twainian slur from READING Tom Sawyer & Huck Finn simultaneously.]

[PPS: I was kidding about the ear hair thing. Kinda.]


Misbehaving Thoughts

Man typing an old typewriter

 Note: This entry was written in a Mark Twainian accent. Please drawl indulgently at the middle of words and the ends of the sentences. If you refuse to do it my way, you are going to miss how serious I am about this. And if you ever dare missing the seriousness of this post, you will be guilty of something worse: Wasting your time.

I wrote a 50 thousand words novel in 30 days. After the literary hangover, I asked myself “Now what?” to find that lame old faithful answer waiting for me.

Get back to blog writing, and tell you how that month went without getting me or anybody else – save some goats and cows on Eid and Thanksgiving – served on a table for dinner. That’s what.

Every story starts from one sentence, extended into a paragraph. That paragraph then grows into the structure of the entire story. My storyline and structure, sketched from beginning to end, was drawn in 2000 words. That part was creatively fun and fast and did not require the support of much IQ.

Then I just added fluff. Haha. Easy!

In reality, that’s when keyboard pounding, eye-straining and thoughts of “why the fuck am I doing this to myself?” really began. The Boring Middle, the long word-by-word walk crawl from beginning to the HOPES of an end. This is when my characters went crazy/nice/boring/mightastheypleased. They refused to do as I had told them to. This is when my faith in my excuse to exist faltered. Even the possibility of killing everybody, or shower them with loads and loads of happilyeverafters did not solve anything!

I don’t know why I called it fluff. It tasted more like nicotine grime and caffeine tar to me.

From around mid November, I always was in pain in the mornings, when my knuckle joints refuse to bend and straighten without making rusty screeches. In the evenings, the entire backside of my trunk heaved in awful moans of agony. My body parts took turns hurting, I hurt from fingers to elbows, to shoulders, to neck, and down to my scoliosis back and stumped tailbone.

And you thought writing was easy?

The story went from ridiculous to vulgar. Too many sex scenes, too much blood, too long essays, too short dialogues. I ran out of English words around the 28000th word. Then I ran out again on the 35000th. Only around the 42000th, that I assumed beginning to make sense.

Actually, it began to make beautiful sense around the last two thousand words.

On the afternoon of November 28, 2009, the neighbors were torturing a rotten audio speaker; playing it to its loudest wails. Amidst the obscenities (coming from the neighbor's speakers and my mouth), I heard a song about lovers who could not unite.

Hence, the last1500 words in the story was about the songstress.

Overall, the craft forced me into the the habit of watching and keeping track of my thoughts. This was my only daily meditation. The more conscious I was with my thoughts, the easier it was to manage my behavior and my characters’ destinies and the upward butts in my ashtray.

And just when I thought I was getting good at it, it happened like what Stephen King had said in “The Bags of Bones”, that writers teach their thoughts to misbehave. And I that have a blog to write.

That’s when I had to relearn everything from the beginning again, with all the misbehaving tendencies to scream at rotten speakers. Or cross over unimaginable boundaries. Or finish novel drafts.

With only a little bit of daily backaches, stiff joints and a Tolstoyan worth of cursing, you too might eventually overhear a heartbroken fairy, sing a sad song about things that might have been, and remember to offer thanks for the things that have become.

nano 09 winner

One Hundred Books in A Year: 17 Lessons Learned

Pexel 1.      Readers will read. Regardless to format or income or legality.   2.      Something to remember: The Prophet was illit...