Skip to content

Budapest 1991

1.32

April 1991, Budapest

One sign of the times in Budapest was the dismantling of signs of the old regime. In this case it was done via the street signs, reverting to the pre-communist names (I suppose).
Budapest soviet communist street name

Another typical sign of the times was the sale of Soviet paraphernalia. Though by this time there was already an industry producing fake stuff, so you couldn't always be sure it was real.
Budapest soviet era souvenirs

Actually, if you look really hard in the right hand binocular, you can see me - dressed in my travel gear: leather jacket, jeans and walking boots.
binoculars budapest reflection


++++++++++
The 15-minute blog post.
I like to blog, but I can't afford to spend a lot of time on it. Solution: limit myself to 15 minutes per post.
One link, one picture maximum [oops, not always then!].
All comments, critiques and corrections are welcome. Thank you.

Heaven and Hell in Antwerp

The Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp (Belgium) took one hundred and sixty-nine years to build (yes, 169 years!), and building stopped in 1521. In a modern city, its size and intricacy still impresses, so just imagine how it might have looked to a peasant arriving from a village, where a two storey house is already a significant achievement.

The point of the cathedral, just like huge skyscrapers and malls nowadays, was a reminder of the who has the power in the social system, and an invitation to come in and contribute towards the collective building of common value systems. Think of the Petronas Towers and how they are seen as representing Malaysia and the achievements of Mahathir's Barisan Nasional government.

Literacy was rare in those days, and masses were in Latin. So, you may ask, how did people learn about the religion then? Good question, and you can take it as a special assignment and come back tomorrow with an answer ;-P ...

OK - I don't know, I suppose there must have been some portion of the mass that was in the vernacular, the sermon I suppose. Which would leave it open for the priest to interpret the liturgy and the scriptures in whichever way he felt was most appropriate.

The tympanum is the hemispheric portion above the door; and for an illiterate looking closely at it, there are clear messages to take home. I read recently (can't remember where) that only 10% of European medieval children lived to the age of ten years old, death was omnipresent, and the promise of Heaven and the threat of Hell were probably the main tools of religious instruction. On this tympanum, the message is carved out clearly.
Cathedral of Our Lady Antwerp tympanum

At the top sits the ruler, Jesus - who is also God according to Christians - sits at the top. On his right hand, you can see those who are chosen for eternal life and to the left are those consigned to damnation.
Cathedral of Our Lady Antwerp tympanum

below him, the Archangel Michael (or Gabriel) holds the scales of justice and wields an unyielding sword. Below him is a monk with a skull, dunno who he is.

On the Archangel's left side, the despair and fear of those who were rejected is clear
Cathedral of Our Lady Antwerp tympanum

and we even have Satan, or a demon, grabbing the hair of a condemned sinner
Continue reading "Heaven and Hell in Antwerp"

My 2009

One useful thing about blogs is that they also serve as a kind of 'digital memory' - like a diary, memories and thoughts are stored for a future time when you can go back and be reminded of what you've been through. How some things you thought were so important at the time have turned out to be insignificant, and others have developed into so much more.

Anyway - here's my retrospective of 2009

January
Nine posts. As for most of the year, I was reflecting and thinking about blogs - the topic of my PhD. I was ruminating about the importance of comments in The Commentosphere, and Bloggers, transparency, truth and personhood.

Also, as Chinese New Year and the Dancing God of Prosperity! beckoned, I made one of my many failed resolutions 'blog every day' in Decisions, decisions: ethnographic focus.

February
Sixteen posts for this month, which is probably a record. More thoughts on comments with The 10 types of commenters, musings on How SoPo blogs helped the advertisement industry; a fieldwork experience at Profit Blogging Bootcamp - Meeting for money?; and a cryptic references to events in Perak in Silver transformations.

Apart from helping me to get a cinema premiere ticket in I’m Going Kame Hame Ha with Dragonball Evolution, our dog Gambit appeared in The Star in Canine Car Seat Belt :-) (yes it was just a pose, no we didn't actually strap him in like that).
malaysian dog wearing seatbelt

March
Eleven posts in March; I tried initiating a map of Recycling Centres in Petaling Jaya, and did a little Tourist in KL post after a friend visited.

But the most important thing for me this month was on March 9 - myBlogS 2009 - Malaysian Blog Survey now open!. I relentlessly promoted and harassed anyone I could about it for a month, including at the Dragonball Evolution Premiere and my Thought Bubble :-)
huai bin sixthseal julian hopkins dragonball premiere

and the eLawyer Conference - Be informed!.

And amongst a few food posts, I admitted to My food fetish - Cili goreng!

April
Nine posts for this month, which saw quite a few events - I won a PS3 for dressing up as Bob Marley at the Nuffnang Music Bash - Super prize!. Due to that, and the myBlogS survey (myBlogS 2009 - 538 already and only two more days left!), I got some attention from The New Straits Times, who did a full page spread on me, boosting my readership (temporarily) by thousands, thanks to mentions by other bloggers, leading me to remark that Bloggers are not journalists, and blogs are not newspapers

May
Eight posts this month (note the decline :-|). Thanks to AMBP, I met some Star Trek Camwhores
trekkies in Malaysia
Continue reading "My 2009"

Auschwitz - The Death Camps

August 1990

I spent about three weeks in Poland from August to September 1990. It was a depressing place at times - heavily polluted, and with communist style buildings everywhere. And it has a tragic history too - it was designated as the part of the Lebensraum ('living space') by the Nazis, who intended to empty it out and fill it with German colonists (Wikipedia for more details). An example of this was Zamosc, a beautiful Renaissance-era town, which was emptied out and renamed 'Himmlerstadt' ('Himmler Town') after Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS.

For anyone visiting Poland, a visit to Oswiecim is a must - renamed Auschwitz by the Nazis, it was the location of two of the camps built to kill Jews, Roma, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, Polish, Russian POWs, dissidents, and anyone the Nazis deemed sub-human or a nuisance. Those who weren't killed immediately, were used as slave labour until they died of malnutrition, disease or injuries.

A visit there is important, to bear witness to this horrific moment of the history of humankind - born out of racism and ethnocentrism.

I took this following picture in 'Auschwitz I', the smaller original camp.
crematorium at Auschwitz I

It shows the trolleys used for putting bodies into the crematorium. Although it felt voyeuristic and somewhat inappropriate, when I saw how it was so obviously made to put bodies in (note the shape and size), I felt that this photo could be a small way to show the truth to anyone who doubted it.

The camp itself was deceptively calm - red brick buildings and leafy trees (though the trees would be more recent).
fence at Auschwitz I

The exhibit that shocked me the most was this


and on top of the hair, I saw a blond plait (maybe this one, not my photo though)


It made me retch. It's one of the most horrible things I've ever seen.

At Auschwitz, they would use every part of the people they murdered - and this included making rough cloth out of the human hair. For that, hair was stocked - when the Russians liberated Auschwitz, they found 7 tons of hair, packed and ready to be shipped out.

A final note: while I was taking the bus to the camp from the train station, I started talking to an old man who spoke some German. I asked him how he knew German, and he said that he had had to learn it at school in Ozwiecim during the war; so I had to ask him - did he know what was happening in the camps? He shrugged and said Yes, everyone knew. How? I asked. He held his nose and said, 'The smell', waving his other hand to demonstrate the smoke wafting over the small town.

It's difficult, almost impossible really, to imagine what happened. But it did. And we should never forget it.

Chez Vincent - Brussels restaurant

Wow I haven't blogged for almost two weeks! Actually, I was in Belgium for a week - it was my mother's 70th birthday, and we surprised her by all turning up for lunch. There are six of us children in all, and she only knew that my sister was taking her out to lunch. I guess I was probably the biggest surprise of all, seeing as she thought I was in Malaysia :-) Anyway, thanks to my brother for paying for the ticket, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to go.

We had a very nice meal in a typical Belgian restaurant called Chez Vincent; it's located in the 'Rue des Bouchers' area near the Grand Place - this is a warren of small streets packed with restaurants and some bars. Chez Vincent itself is somewhat upmarket I think, but serving the standard dishes of steak, cod, waterzooi, mussels, and so on…

It has a very nice décor, in particular the murals that were done around 1920, using tiles
chez vincent brussels tile mural

The amount of work that must have gone into the tiling is huge, it has to be all planned in advance, then each colour has to be fired separately
chez vincent brussels tile mural

You enter the restaurant through the kitchen (I always find it reassuring to see the kitchen :-))
chez vincent brussels tile mural

The tiling was done by the Maison Helman, as you can see …
chez vincent brussels tile mural

It's been there for about 90 years now!

Their specialty is mussels - but I'm not such a fan of mussels. As it was the hunting season, there was some game available – “Râble de lièvre, sauce crème ou sauce poivrade” (hare stew, I think) and “Suprême de faisan fine Champagne, pommes pins” (pheasant). I chose the pheasant, with a sauce ‘fine Champagne’. It was very tasty, I had a recollection of pheasant as being somewhat gamey, but this was nice – more like turkey than chicken, but along those lines. It came with a baked apple topped with some berries.
chez vincent brussels pheasant

I dunno if it had anything to do with the game, but the knife I was given was a La Guiole knife; these are very good clasp knives, often used by hunters (those who can afford it, otherwise they get an Opinel). This one is not a clasp knife, but one made for the table, it looks the same but you can't close it.

It was not cheap, expect your dishes to start at 20 euros and go up from there, but it was good quality, very tasty, and in a unique environment. The service was fine, but the waiter got a tad confused with the orders after we changed places – I think he remembered the order by seating place, not by the person.

Nuffnang Awards - Whistle stop tour

The Nuffnang Asia-Pacific Blog Awards were held last weekend, and various lucky nominees and bloggers were transported into Singapore from Malaysia, Philippines, and Australia. It was the first of its kind and, for me, the cut-off event for my data collection - from now on, it's time to start reviewing all my field notes, transcribing interviews and aiming to finish 100K word in one year.

Here is a rapid tour of how it was for me - we gathered at the Nuffnang offices in KL, and arrived at the Link Hotel at about 3pm. Yee Hou was our efficient shepherd, leading us safely to Singapore and back, even those who didn't declare cigarettes... :-P
nuffnang blog awards group
After we booked in (was a bit slow) - a welcome beer!
asahi beer singapore
Then, off to the Awards ceremony! Efficiently run, nice food, nice people, many awards - nominees from all four countries where Nuffnang has a presence. Blog celebrities and Celebrity Bloggers :-) (list of the nominees and winners)
nuffnang awards ceremony singapore
In the group photo (L-R): dork on the left, dunno who sorry, Swee San, Soon Seng, Wenli, and Jolene (click her name for a much more complete account of the awards).

Got back to the hotel for a pleasant surprise welcoming letter with a gift of cute cows from Exabytes, longtime advertisers with blogs
Continue reading "Nuffnang Awards - Whistle stop tour"
tweetbackcheck