Where Have All the Heroes Gone?

on Monday, August 31, 2009

Sculpture of Hang Tuah

Every country needs its heroes. For most countries, they have adopted heroes that best reflected their national character or aspirations. We have the freedom fighting heroes like William Tell for Switzerland. Then there are defenders of the helpless and oppressed like King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table for England. Then there are the heroes of ideology and the revolution like Che Guevara for Cuba. Robin Hood may also be considered an anti-capitalistic hero since he "stole for the rich and gave to the poor." However, Robin also fought for the oppressed. There does seem to be a lot of oppression going on in England.

Some countries like Australia have some strange national heroes. One of them is Ned Kelly the infamous bushranger which is a polite way of describing a murderer and a robber. However, he has become an icon of resistance against an unjust establishment. In some cultures, the cultural heroes can even be con men because trickery and even treachery is highly valued.

Malaysia celebrated its 52nd National Day today and I feel that we could do with some new heroes to inspire us. When I was growing up and even today, all the children are taught about the ultimate Malaysian hero, Hang Tuah. Hang Tuah was by all accounts the greatest Malay warrior ever. He became an admiral and champion for Sultan Mansur Shah of the glorious Sultanate of Melaka in the 15th century.

Hang Tuah defended Melaka from pirates, rival Sultanates and invaders. He helped represent Melaka on diplomatic missions and generally was intrumental in building the greatness of Melaka while having amazing aventures. He was brave, a warrior, a wise administrator and a stalwart of the Sultanate.

So far, not a bad hero figure for young minds. However, there is one virtue that is often said to be his greatest which was his faithfulness and loyalty. The following story is the most famous of all the romantic legends of Hang Tuah. After reading it, please share your opinion on whether he remains the right hero for the youth of today.

The Fight with Hang Jebat

Hang Tuah was part of a group of warriors who served the Sultan of Melaka (not unlike the knights of the roundtable of Camelot or the Three Musketeers of France). Hang Tuah was particularly favored by the Sultan because of his bravery, wisdom and services to the Sultanate. He eventually is promoted to the post of Laksamana (Admiral) which is very prominent and influential.

However, some in the Royal Court was not happy with his ascendancy and start rumours that Hang Tuah was taking advantage of his post to gain access to the Sultan's concubines. The Sultan hears of these rumours and he grew very angry and without seeking out any evidence, sentenced Hang Tuah to death by execution.

Hang Tuah was arrested by men led by the Bendahara (Chief Minister). However, the Bendahara only pretended to execute Hamg Tuah so as to buy some time to find evidence to exonerate hang Tuah. Instead, he smuggled Hang Tuah to a remote forest in the Kingdom.

Hang Jebat was Hang Tuah's childhood friend and closest colleague and brother in arms. After Hang Tuah, he was probably the best warrior in Melaka. Thinking that his friend had been unjustly accused and executed, he was wracked with grief and took to drinking. In a drunken fit, he took revenge on the Sultan by attacking the Palace. Running amok, he killed all that he met and took over the throne when the Sultan fled the palace.

The Sultan and his advisors was at lost of what to do until the Bendehara told the Sultan that Hang Tuah was still alive. The Sultan was happy at the news and regreted his earlier haste judgment. He offered Hang Tuah a full pardon and ordered him to kill Hang Jebat.

What followed was a duel with keris (curved daggers) between Hang Tuah and his friend Hang Jebat. When Hang Jebat saw Hang Tuah, he was very happy to see his good friend and invited Hang Tuah to join him to teach the Sultan a lesson but Hang Tuah refused saying that there is no excuse to ever go against the Sultan and to be unfaithful or disloyal.

After a titanic struggle, Hang Tuah kills Hang Jebat and proved his faithfulness and loyalty to the Sultan.

What do you think? It seems to me to promote some very feudal values such as loyalty to the leader above all else including justice and friendship. I think we need some new heroes.

In to Africa

on Saturday, August 22, 2009

For a very, very long time, one of the things that Ive dreamed of doing is to go on safari amidst the huge animal herds and carnivores of the African plains. One such place that you might do that is at Kruger National Park in South Africa.

In 2004, I had the opportunity to attend a conference in Durban, South Africa and I had hoped to make this dream come through. However, as it turned out, a trip to Kruger was a little too costly for my means nor did I have sufficient free time to make the trip.

Instead, I went with some others to one of the many independent and privately owned safari parks. These were essentially large areas of relatively open habitats but which were basically fenced off private property. The animals in these safari parks are 'managed", not free ranging and are often bought from other parks.

So really, they are more like open air zoos rather than truly natural habitats. The number of animals are usually quite low and they are often not prime specimens due to excessive in-breeding. So though I am grateful to have had the chance of even visiting a safari park, I still hope to do a real safari experience in Kruger National Park one day.

This is the jeep that we used to make our way around the park.

Most people come to see the big five which are the lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and Cape Buffalo. Well, I saw no lions or leopards (often missing from these safari parks as the predators are much harder to manage and costly to feed). Nor did I see any elephants but I did get to see the following; Cape Buffalo and the rhinocerous.

I also saw the giraffe. Now that is a big animal! I wonder why it is not listed as one of the top five.

I also saw a rather scruffy pack of ostriches.

But for me, the real jewel for my visit, was the glimpse of the secretary bird (Sagittarius serpentarius). This bird was so named because it is said to resemble a pompous British Government Secretary from the late 18th Century. It is a diurnal raptor and is seen on the coat of arms of the Republic of South Africa.

The apparent fading stripes on the rump of this Zebra is a sign of excessive inbreeding within the Zebra herd in this particular safari park.

Banff Squirrel

on Monday, August 17, 2009

What else could I be posting about if not about this now infamous Columbian Ground Squirrel? The story is that two British tourists visiting Lake Minnewanka in beautiful Banff national Park, Canada, wanted to take a photo of themselves with the lake and mountains in the background. They placed their camera on some rocks and set it to take the photo on timer.

However, attracted by the sound of the timer, this squirrel pops up just at the right time to crash the photo. The couple were so amused by this photo, they posted it on the National Geographic website and from there, the squirrel photo has made it round the world. In fact, the squirrel is now appearing in other photos too.

He is now a global celebrity. Way to go, brother.

Funny Laughter

on Monday, August 10, 2009

I thought that we could all use a laugh this Monday and so I decided to post on laughter. I admire people who know how to laugh at themselves and know how to make others laugh along. My favorite comediennes all knew not to take themselves seriously. The only thing that they took seriously was the art of making people laugh.

Some comic geniuses take it a step further and make it almost their professional duty to trip up their fellow colleagues and make them laugh. One good example and a favorite of mine was the Carol Burnett Show. As if the skits were not funny enough but the real icing on the cake were the one liner ad lib that the actors would throw out which often caused the other actors in the skit to laugh uncontrollably. Yet as good professionals, they would try to hide their laughter behind straight faces or available props, but often not very successfully. For the audience, the poor attempts to hide their laughter were some of the funniest things ever seen. Occasionally, an actor would lose it and laugh hysterically and that would just ignite the audience with wildfire laughter. When that happened, I would laugh until I cried.

There was something contagious about the laughter. "Laugh and the whole world laughs with you.", so the saying goes. I present for your amusement, one of the best examples of an infectious laugh. It is a little long but quite worth it. The fun really gets going at the 1.30 minute mark and all decorum goes downhill from there. Enjoy.

Moving to Blogland Lane

on Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Haven't you ever wondered what it would have been like to be among the pioneers moving in and establishing a new town in the middle of the wilderness? Well, a new community has been founded by KJ in Blogland Lane and she is inviting us to join her pioneer community.

Having accepted her warm invitation, my wife and I will be virtually moving in to 1313 Blogland Lane home this weekend. Allow me to take you on a virtual tour.

The cedar wood home is in a forested setting, on a small rise overlooking a nearby lake and with a stream gurgling nearby. The main living area will have high ceilings and tall glass windows with a view of the lake. Windows throughout the house take advantage of the views of the old growth forests.

Outback there is a deck with a hot tub, ideal for a soak while looking at the stars at night. Also a great place to catch some rays and to have a barbeque. There is also a screened area which is great for a snooze while communing with nature sans bugs.

The other obvious feature is the many squirrel feeders but being generous, birds are welcome too.

Visitors are always welcome for a chat and will be greeted with a cool beer in summer and warm chocolate in winter.

Visit HERE to have a look at some of my other dream homes.

a wide choice of available land
including double lots,
lakeside, ocean front,
small plots, rambling acreage,
dells with forest canopies,
tree lined, flat, or hilly terrain,
whatever you want.
Just put up a picture of your home/yard
on your own blog
and the place is yours!
Provide any details and descriptions you want,
and put out the Welcome Mat
or the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign.
(Just leave a comment on her blog letting people know they can see
your house on your blog.)

Learning PR from Pigs

on Sunday, August 02, 2009

"One man's meat is another man's poison.", so the saying goes. However carrying on with the theme from the previous post, perhaps the saying should be "One man's delicacy is another man's bizarre food."

Why is that, I wondered. I think part of it is due to the accepted role of certain animals in our Society. In some parts of the world, they eat dog and horse meat. This isn't the case in most Western nations though and I think it is because these animals have elevated positions and roles in these societies. Dogs are just another farm animal in the East but in the West, they have been alleviated to pets, companions and for some, even one of the family. No one wants to eat their pet, companion or family member. Likewise in many parts of the world, the horse is just part of the livestock but in other parts they are elevated to racing champions and riding partners.

I am forbidden by wifely decree from eating venison under the pain of sleeping on the couch. It all started with a visit to Banff, Canada when a small herd of deer actually came up to the back of our rented lodge and shared our breakfast. My wife enjoyed hand feeding the deer. Somehow the bond was established and I am now forbidden to eat venison. If I ever suggested ordering venison at a restaurant, she will remind me that she fed those cute, big doe eyed innocent, trusting deer in Banff and that we could never betray that trust by eating venison now.

Hmmmm......and so I have been venison free for over 15 years now. This made this squirrel brain (more than just a food item) think. Perhaps, one way to dissuade people from eating squirrels is to change their perception of squirrels as vermin or forest bounty to that of cute, innocent, trusting friends.

This has been done before by my porcine friends. Remember "Charlotte's Web"? The book and movie was all about trying to save the piglet from being slaughtered. Now what sicko watches the movie, roots for the pig and then leaves the movie theater and orders a bacon burger? Hmmm, don't answer that.

Even more successful was the movie "Babe". There a cute little piglet thinks that he is a sheperd dog. Once again, we root for the cute, emotionally confused pig and once we identified with the pig, it is difficult to eat pork. Not convinced? Well, the Chinese Government was so concerned that it would brainwash its citizens and lead to a collapse of the vast pork industry that it actually banned the movie from China.

I think that the pigs were on to a good idea. So it wasn't long that the National Union of Tasty Squirrels (NUTS) embarked on a public relations campaign for squirrels by sponsoring a number of movies. Here are some examples which the intended PR message.

Scrat from "Ice Age": The lovable persistent and funny underdog.

From "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian":- The heroic and noble, defender of all that is righteous and just and good.

From "Squirrel with a Pearl Earring":- the romantic, sensitive and artistic squirrel.

What do you think? Do you feel this will work and get people to stop eating squirrels? If it doesn't work, I am afraid that the only other option is to bomb the Appalachians.

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