Menu for Illusion Only

on Saturday, May 30, 2009

It's Friday night. To celebrate, my wife and I went to have dinner at a Hong Kong style Restaurant which we had not been to for awhile. After struggling through the heavy Friday evening traffic, it felt wonderful to be seated at the table, sipping Chinese tea and looking at the large menu.

And then, I found my self staring at the menu. Staring, staring and then laughing. The menu was mostly in Chinese but they were also considerate enough to include an English translation and there is where the fun started. Here are some of the gems:-

"The pictures are only for illusion only."

"The food comes complete with ingredients"

"Like hero and beautiful woman,
good food goes with good wine.
We recommend our corn no saur wine."

"Try our fresh lazy river fish."

In honor of such literary brilliance, I offer the following other jewels for your reading pleasure.

I know Chinese have a reputation of eating anything but cowboys and germs........really?
And here's a bonus picture. When you don't know what it is called, just stick with what you know.

A Different Kind of Memorial

on Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I know that our American friends have just celebrated their Memorial Day during which they honor their servicemen and those who have fought for their country. During a visit to Kerta Gosa, Bali, I came across a very different kind of memorial monument. It was not to honor their heroes and victorious warriors but to remember their honorable defeat and annihilation.

Kerta Gosa was built on 1686 by the First King of Klungkung, Ida I Dewa Agung Jambe as part of his palace in Klungkung that was called Semara Pura which means 'A holy place for love and beauty'. Kerta Gosa consists of two buildings (
Bale akerta gosa and Bale Kambang) set within a garden and lake complex called Taman Gili. The former functioned as a Court of Justice and the latter which was beautifully positioned in the centre of the gardens, functioned as a meeting place or an audience hall for the King. It is also called the Floating Hall as it is surrounded by a lake.

Both these buildings have elaborately decorated ceilings consisting of panels painted in the two-dimensional "wayang" or puppet style and have been called Bali's Sistine Chapel. The paintings centre round the journey of Bima Swarga through heaven and hell to try to rescue and redeem his parent's soul. In turn though, it reminded convicts awaiting trial the kind of suffering and punishments that await them in hell. Some of these are quite grotesque.

(video & photos by LGS)

Just across the road from Kerta Gosa is another all together different monument. It is called the Puputan monument and it and the painting below remembers the tragic end of the kingdom. Puputan refers to the suicidal last stand of the local defenders in the face of overwhelming odds.
Those that could would die fighting but others including women would ritually commit suicide rather than be subject to rule by foreign conquerors. A number of notable puputans occured in Bali between 1906-1908. Such a disaster happened at Klungkung Palace on 18th April 1908 when faced with invading Dutch soldiers equipped with modern firepower. The battle was completely one-sided and several thousands were killed.

This is the ugly side of colonialisation and imperialism and its human costs to the practically defenceless local populations and this too should never be forgotten.

Basic Squirrel 101

on Friday, May 22, 2009

Today, a work colleague came up to ask me to identify a squirrel. He said that he heard that I was into squirrels. I was taken aback. Evidently my secret identity as the Lone Grey Squirrel was not so secret after all and someone has made the connection between my internet alter ego and my real identity. Hmmmm. In hindsight, I'm so glad I decided against posting up the photo of me dressed as a squirrel wearing only a red underwear and a cape. Those things have a way of coming back to haunt you.

The other reason I was taken aback was that I did not know the answer! Shock horror! Anyway, I did a little research but I think I now know the answer. Apparently, he took a photograph of a squirrel which he thought was a plantain squirrel (which is common in these parts) but whereas the plantain squirrel was marked, this was not marked. His question was what squirrel looks like an unmarked plantain squirrel.

The Plantain Squirrel has a grey body and a light brown belly with a white and a black stripe between the two. The plain Slender Squirrel is slightly smaller has a grey body and a pale belly and no markings.

Anyway, since there has been a lot of interest on squirrels lately from readers and visitors to this blog, I have decided to provide a basic introduction to the world of squirrels or Squirrel 101.

There are 365 species of squirrel (one for each day of the year!) which belong to seven families. They can be roughly divided into tree squirrels, ground squirrels and flying squirrels. Grey squirrels are tree squirrels and the only group worth discussing further. Ground squirrels may be cute clowns but basically they have become confused between burying nuts in the ground and burying themselves in the ground. On the other hand, flying squirrels are just a bunch of self-absorbed show-offs. So we will now just concentrate on Tree Squirrels.

Tree Squirrels can also be divided into several main groups.

Grey Squirrels
Originally from North America (ranging from the Deep South and all the way to Canada), the grey squirrel has made its way to U.K. and even Italy where they are out competing the local squirrels due to their strong work ethic and cuteness. Grey Squirrels are the liberals and moderates of the squirrel world. Grey squirrels mantra is that "There is no black or white. Instead much of life is grey". Grey squirrels really range from pepper and salt color, all the way to melanistic black. The paler squirrels are in the Deep South while most of the black squirrels are in Canada. The reason for this is unclear but some say that this is due to the large number of black slave squirrels that were smuggled to freedom in Canada by the Underground Railway in the 19th century.

Red Squirrels
Red Squirrels are found in many parts of the world but the populations of major importance are found in Europe. The European Reds are basically protectionists, left wing, communist unionists who are always protesting about the more hard working Greys!

British Reds have similar political positions but they are better characterised by other major characteristics. Specifically, English Reds are basically soccer fans. Some support the "Reds" (i.e. Liverpool) while others support the "Red Devils" (i.e. Manchester United).

Scottish Reds instead are more concerned with Scottish independence being as they are the proud descendents of the original red-haired Pict squirrels, begorrah. These squirrels were never defeated by the Roman Legions!

Non-Aligned Squirrels
The remaining world squirrels can basically non-aligned, apolitical, third world, hard working squirrels with low carbon pawprints. They are just happy to be left alone and undisturbed.

Disclaimer: No squirrels were injured in this parody. The only thing hurt was the truth.

Nuts Even Squirrels Can't Love

on Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I just love this photo which I found floating about in the internet (sorry, don't know who to credit). It reminds me ever so much of a Jasper Carrot comedy sketch entitled "Nutter on the Bus". To hear the sketch, click on the title in the previous sentence.

For you lazy so and so's, I have also included part of the script below which I have to thank Gavin Corder for as I lifted it off his blog ;

When the nutter gets on the bus, why does the nutter always sit next to me?

I was on the bus the other day and I could hear this nutter getting on behind me. I can tell he's a nutter because he's calling out...

'Eeek! Has anyone seen my camel!!?'

And everyone on the bus is praying quietly ‘Please God don’t let the nutter sit next to me. I’ll do anything you want but please don’t let the nutter sit next to me’

Nutters love showing you things, "I've got an atom bomb in here!"

And he shows me a corned beef tin ...

Well once you've got the nutter everyone else can enjoy it...

Anyway, back to the photo. That green thing could be the Swamp-Thing or even cousin Thing from the Munsters but most likely it is just a Nutter on the Subway and I have to tell you that this is one nutter that even this squirrel won't want to collect.

I love the look on the face of the woman sitting next to him. Looks like she is thinking of something appropriate to say, doesn't it? The man in the background however, doesn't care. He's just glad the nutter did not sit next to him.

I was wondering what the Nutter might say to the woman. Or what the woman might say to the Nutter. Any suggestions? Be creative but please keep it PG-13. Look forward to seeing the products of your wicked imagination.

Never Again?

on Sunday, May 17, 2009

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The Tugu Peringatan or Memorial Monument was completed in 1966 to honor the more than 11,000 soldiers from Malaysia that made the ultimate sacrifice for their country starting from World War I and on to World War II, Independence and the Emergency Period (a period of communist insurgency) and the Confrontation (with mighty Indonesia). The 15 m high bronze statue was the biggest in the world at that time. This monument is an important icon on Malaysia's path and history of nation building. We proclaim to the fallen, their families and all Malaysians now and in the future, that we will "never forget".

In contrast, the May 13th Incident seems to be something that Malaysians of all persuasions seem to want to forget. On May 13th 1969, race riots and sectarian violence erupted in Kuala Lumpur and some other parts of the country. By the time the smoke cleared, it is believed that more than 2,000 men, women and children were killed. Most of them were innocent and defenceless civilians. Official figures claim less than 200 killed. Many will forever be lost to their families allegedly coated in black paint (to make racial identification difficult) and buried in unmarked mass graves. There were stories of great brutality but there were also stories of great bravery and integrity on the part of the police, armed forces and ordinary citizens. Many stories tell of neighbours protecting each other irrespective of race or political leanings. However, a certain innocence of race harmony would be lost that day too.

Just a couple of days ago, a prominent journalist wrote that his young grand-daughter had no idea about the May 13th Incident and that in his opinion this was a good thing as this meant there is hope for the young generation to bring the nation forward without these baggages from the past. So instead of "never forget", we are being encouraged "not to remember it anymore".

I have to disagree. I think it is both a responsibility and a need to "never forget". To all those who were murdered, we cannot forget. Not because we should seek to perpetuate a legacy of hatred and to promote revenge but to ensure that their deaths serve a purpose in warning us from going down that dark path again. In remembering, we can learn from history and avoid the same mistakes in the future. "Never forget" can than become "never again". However, those who do not learn from history's mistakes are doomed to repeat it again. I certainly hope for Malaysians that we learn and do not repeat our mistakes.

Unfortunately, despite the monuments and memorial days that we see around the world, I sense that most of the world is neither remembering nor learning from the past. World War I was the war to end all wars. Never again was the cry; yet within a few years, we were on the road to World War II.

Last century saw the Holocaust. We set up memorials and said never again. Yet just as the Jews were persecuted under Nazi Germany, today the Palestinians suffer under the heavy boot of Israel. Sure, we can analyse and given reasons and argue who has more rights but in my opinion oppression and killing of the defenceless will always be unjust. Why did we not learn?

Genocide, ethnic cleansing and even fracticide has occured again and again. The Khmer Rogue and the killing fields of Cambodia. The horrors of Rwanda. Even now, it is happening in places like Darfur, Sudan and the world seems unable and unwilling to do what it must to stop it.

I think that the first step to "never again" is to make sure that the whole world "never forgets" the lessons of the past. Instead of re-writing history, being politically sensitive and hiding these incidents, we need to do even more to highlight them, to teach about them in schools, universities and museums and to make sure that these terrible deeds are exposed before the powerful light of public consciousness. The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. Let us instead remember, learn and prevent these horrors from visiting us again.

Stay Away From the Light

on Friday, May 15, 2009

It was 1983. It was my first big adventure, backpacking across Europe primarily by myself. After an overnight train ride followed by a rough bus ride from Zagreb, I was extremely excited when I arrived at Plitvice Lakes National Park in what was then still Yugoslavia (this UNESCO World Heritage Site is today in Croatia). I just love nature, the great outdoors and water and the lush wildlife rich forests, limestone hills and caves and cascading lakes scores high in all those aspects.

After finding a place to stay in a home in the village of Jezerce, I hurried to the entrance of the Park and spent the whole afternoon in delirious exploration of the trails, waterfalls, lakes, beaches, boardwalks, caves and vistas of the Park. I was running around all over like a kid in Wonderland. It remains one of the best days I had ever had. Time quickly passed and before I knew it, the sun was beginning to sink behind the hills.

At this stage, I thought of hiking it back to the village but as I was approaching the exit, I was waylaid by this most exquisite aroma. It was the smell of fish being grilled and it came from the Park's outdoor restaurant. Until then, I had been mostly surviving on stale bread and cheese to save money while on my cross Europe trek. Now after a whole afternoon of rambling and scrambling, I was hungry and when I saw how inexpensive the food was as compared to other parts of Europe, my resistance crumbled. I took a seat and ordered grilled trout.

I had a great dinner but by the time I had finished, night had fallen. To my dismay, I then realised that apart from the restaurant which was then already closing, there were no lights to be seen. It had slipped my mind that I was now in the countryside and in a wilderness area. Although I had a torchlight, it was sitting in my backpack in my room in Jezerce, some 3 km away. I fumbled my way out of the Park and on to the road that led to Jezerce.

The road was not very wide although two cars could pass each other easily. At the side of the road was a narrow verge and then the tall pine trees of the surrounding forests rose high into the night sky so that it blocked off most of the light from the stars. It was very dark and I could barely make out the road. It was also getting very chilly. I had no choice. A warm bed awaited but I would have to navigate this road in the darkness.

As I walked, I realised that I knew very little about this part of the world and its forests. I knew there were bears and wolves in some parts of Europe. Were there any here? I did not know and my heart beat faster in my ignorance. I managed to find a fallen tree branch of suitable length and used it like a blindman's walking cane, probing the area in front of me. The branch might also come in handy if I did encounter any wolves or at least that was what I comforted myself with.

The journey was slow and stressful. Perhaps an hour had passed and I saw no one else nor any signs of lights from dwellings. The sky above was ablaze with stars twinkling in the chilly night air but I plodded along a dark road lined by dark silent trees. Then, in the distance, I saw a single bright beam of light appear on the road. It was coming towards me at a reasonably fast speed. I realised that it must be a motorcycle and was glad that to have even that little bit of light to illuminate my way.

The light got nearer and bigger and brighter. Eventually, it was so bright, I could not look into it. I moved to the side of the road to allow the motorcycle to pass. Then suddenly, it was upon me. To my horror, it was not a motorbike at all. Instead it turned out to be a massive juggernaut, a big 16 wheeler monster that was barreling down this country road that was barely wide enough to accomodate it and at high speed. To cap it all, it had only one headlight working.

The driver may also have been surprised to see me and seconds before I reacted, I heard the loud blast of its air horn. Th sound galvanised me into action and I threw myself off the road and into some bushes at the edge of the forest. The juggernaut rolled by with such speed that I could feel the air and myself being sucked towards the wheels as they passed. Then just as quickly, the lights and noise of the truck disappeared and darkness and quiet returned.

It had been another close brush with an unpleasant end. I made it to the village and safety without further incident but I was cold, bruised and in shock and it took a very long soak in a warm bath before I recovered any color in my cheeks.

If I had learned any lesson from this experience, it is to appreciate the truth behind the following wise sayings; "Stay away from the light." and "The light at the end of the tunnel may turn out to be a speeding train." Oh, and you would have thought that I would have also learnt the importance of bringing a torchlight along when walking on dark roads and forests but I still forget from time to time.

For all you readers with morbid curiosities who wanted me to conclude my previous post about near death experiences, let me just say that apart from what has already been mentioned, I also had Scarlet Fever, had a lorry rip off my car door, escaped being impaled by metal rods from the back of a lorry and been in at least 3 car accidents including one in which I caused the car to spin 3 times. That's all folks.......and it is quite enough, don't you think?

Season Extended

on Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Biochemistry may be considered to be the scientific study of the chemistry of life. However, my biochemistry professor used to say that, "The more one studies biochemistry, the more one asks, not how is it we are alive but why aren't we dead." By this he meant that the further we probe into the complex interactions that keep us alive, the wonder of life is replaced by the amazement that something has not already gone wrong.

Indeed, to stay alive, some two million different proteins must be functioning properly. These proteins consist of chains of amino acids in a specific sequence that can be as short as 51 units (insulin) or as long as 26,926 (connectin). Now consider that in many of those two million proteins, a single amino acid in the wrong place in the sequence may be enough to kill you. On top of that, the level of these proteins must also be just right in relation to each other. To try to understand this, try picturing that you have to type words consisting of between 51 and 26,926 letters each in an exact sequence and then make sure that you type these words an exact number of times which is specific for each of the two million different words. And now try to imagine that you have to keep typing this with close to 100% accuracy again and again or it is game over!

Okay, enough with the science lesson. The point that I am trying to make is that it is a miracle that we are alive and a miracle that we stay alive and that is just from the aspect of our body function. Next we have to consider that we live in a dangerous world full of myriads of possible threats. Life could be snuffed out by natural phenomena, illness, contact with dangerous plants and animals, machinery, other humans etc........ Again, I think we ought to be thankful we are still alive.

In my last post, I kind of joked about being a Star Trek Redshirt (i.e. he who gets killed off in the very first episode). I must say that I am thankful that I have made it to my 47th year. There have been occasions that my season could have ended but God has chosen to extend my contract. I don't know why He has done so but I know He has set my Guardian Angel to protect me thus far. Sometimes, my own stupidity has kept my Guardian Angel busy.

Below are just some of the incidents that I remember which we may call my near death experiences or perhaps preferably, my life extention experiences.

1. The Glass Guilotine. When I was a toddler, I apparently smashed my hand through a pane glass door and a sheet of glass came crashing down that could have taken my head off but I escaped with a badly cut finger and a scar today to show for it.

2. The Rotting Gut. I had a bad stomach pain when I was 11 years old. I went to hospital for observation but the pain disappeared overnight. The doctor came in the morning and decided to discharge me, However, despite my best effort to get out of there like the wind, a more senior doctor came and decided that I should have some exploratory surgery. I protested that I was well but he insisted. He operated and saved me from a perforated appendix.

3. The Rock Landing. When I was about 12, I went for a school picnic at the foot of a dam. All of us were excited when the bus dropped us at the top of a small valley. To get to the bottom where we could picnic and swim, we had to negotiate a slope of about 30-40 degrees consisting of loose rocks. Overgrowing the rocks were some jungle creepers. In my enthusiasm, I grabbed hold of a couple of food hampers and made my way down. The hampers were not heavy but they were bulky and they inhibited my line of sight so that as I was making my way down, I caught my foot on a creeper vine and went flying into the air. I feared the worse. Yet, despite falling a vertical distance of more than twenty feet, I landed on my feet in the loose rocks, kept my balance, suffered no injury and even managed to catch my two food hampers. I think my Guardian Angel was particularly alert that day.

4. The Bicycle Incident. When I was 14, I stayed away from home for a month with family friends in the boondocks and I enjoyed the freedom and new experiences. I eventually became a very good bicycle rider but that was not so at the beginning. At the beginning, I was an idiot and a klutz. One early trip, I decided to cycle to a nearby village post office to mail some letters. The bicycle I used had a basket in the front and I placed my letters there. Before long, I was cycling along a pothole ridden single lane road that led to the village. Despite being a small country road, the vehicular traffic was heavy and often recklessly fast. I was happily cycling along when it all happened in a flash. The bicycle hit a pothole; the letters flew up and one fell out; without thinking, I bent into the traffic and grabbed at the letter. Next thing I heard was a loud horn and I felt the rush of a car passing less than an inch from my head.

5. The Gang Standoff. When I was 16, I regularly played basketball at my school which had two basketball courts side by side. One Saturday, as we were playing (and you could consider my gang of 10 to be mostly skinny nerds), we were suddenly approached by a gang of 10 ruffians. They were looking for a fight. They started pushing and intimidating us and nothing we said could placate them. Things got worse by the minute as some of them picked up long metal pipes from a nearby construction site. Others showed us that they were armed with hunting knives. Honestly, all I could do was pray and wait for the pain to start. Then at almost the point of no return, a well respected atheletic school prefect came by and at great risk to himself, intervened. So instead of fighting, we played each other in a rough and tough basketball game. We lost the game but won some respect from the other gang and parted on better terms. However, it could have been so easily been quite bloody.

This post is already too long and I haven't even told you how I survived beyond my teen years. I will have to continue in the next post. However, I would very much like to hear how you, dear readers, are survivors. I am sure you have similar or even more interesting stories of your own life extension experiences.

Phasers on Kill

on Saturday, May 09, 2009

I am a big fan of Star Trek, especially the original series with James Tiberius Kirk, Spock and the rest of the first USS Enterprise crew. In honor of the new movie representing this time period and story line, I thought it would be fun to see which Star Trek character would I be as according to this deviously designed personality quiz.

Readers would have probably noticed from my recent posts that I was going through one of periodic funks when I despair for the human race. I thought that doing this quiz would be a pick-me-up but I was wrong as I turned out to be..........expendable.

Your results:
You are An Expendable Character (Redshirt)

An Expendable Character (Redshirt)
Deanna Troi
Leonard McCoy (Bones)
Geordi LaForge
Beverly Crusher
Jean-Luc Picard
Will Riker
James T. Kirk (Captain)
Mr. Scott
Mr. Sulu
Since your accomplishments are seldom noticed,
and you are rarely thought of, you are expendable.
That doesn't mean your job isn't important but if you
were in Star Trek you would be killed off in the first
episode you appeared in.

Click here to take the Star Trek Personality Quiz

In hindsight, I should have not been surprised at my rather poor result on this quiz. In fact I have never done well in these internet character quizzes or name generators as you can see here.

Dark Secret

on Thursday, May 07, 2009

Again and again, reputations are brought to ruin by scandalous photos circulating on the internet. The Squirrel too has not been able to escape this scourge.

A lot of people think I got a scholarship to see me through my higher education but the dark, sad truth is..........

Thanks for bearing with my recent spat of dark and depressing posts. Hope you found this one a little bit light-hearted.

Surprised, Shocked and Bewildered

on Monday, May 04, 2009

I consider myself a well-traveled and seasoned squirrel and thought that nothing much surprises or shocks me anymore. However, I stand corrected as I was just recently extremely surprised, shocked and significantly disgusted.

I refer to an agency named Ashley Madison and their services. I came across this in the papers and apparently they have run adverts on TV in the USA. Their slogan is "Life is short. Have an affair." and it hails itself as the "world's #1 married dating service specifically for attached men and women who are looking to have an extra-marital affair."

That is right. It is basically a dating service that specializes in linking those who wish to have extramaritial relationships and romps with other unfaithful married individuals. When challenged and accused of encouraging adultery and for being a "Home Wreckers Incorporated", their reply is "Ashley Madison does not encourage anyone to stray … Providing a service like ours does not make someone more likely to stray any more than increasing the availability of glassware contributes to alcoholism".

I have not included any links cause I do not want to inadvertantly encourage any of my readers to stray over there. However, I suspect if you really want to, you will find your own way there. Certainly business is good with 2.5 million members signing on for their services. Furthermore the company even boasts that their business is recession resistant and even seems to be booming in the current economic crisis.

The reason, the company claims, is that many people are trying to avoid the trauma and costs of divorce (including trying to sell the home in a depressed real estate market) during this period of recession. So instead, they hang on and take advantage of the service to have several discreet affairs.

Wow, good business model! But hang on, it is basically immoral and it is encouraging the breakdown of the family unit even if both parties remain married and have separate swinging affairs through this agency. The CEO of Ashley Madison is Noel Biderman who is married with children. I wonder how he explains his work to his children and if any of his children's friends parents make use of his company's services. Heck, would he be so philosophical if his own wife cheated on him.

I also came across another company that provides alibis. It claims that "it provides professional assistance to facilitate a private maritial affair". They can send an official invitation for you to attend a conference or trade show in the city of your choice, call your spouse to seek confirmation of your participation and hence give your alibi credibility, provide phone forwarding services, create websites of the non-existing hotel and provide all the bills, letters and documents to assist in the deception. This allows you to have your extra-maritial tyrst in complete confidence and stress free. The same service can even create false reference letters for job applications.

Isn't all this illegal? Apparently not but I think it should be. The family unit is the most important part of the fabric of our society and the marraige vows are meant to be serious and a lifetime commitment to each other. Anything that causes the breakdown of that unit is to be avoided as so many people end up being hurt when the family unit fallls apart, especially the children. Infidelity should not be encouraged, let alone facilitated. This is an immoral business.

I would never be involved in a company that promotes infidelity or gives false references. I draw the line here and will not cross it. The furthest I will go is to have a company that gives fake excuse notes (with forged parent's signature) for kids who want to skip school and can afford to pay the price.

I jest of course. Yet, in this confused world that we live in, there will probably be those who would condemn my "kid friendly" service while having no problems with using Ashley Madison.

On a totally semi-related matter, the result of the poll for "Husband of the Year" award, the winner is Ireland. Congratulations Ireland. Despite making your wife carry the heavy crate of Guiness, voters liked the fact that you were romantic enough to hold her hand while she was doing that. In the spirit of the award, the Irish husband gets a one week trip for one to the Guiness Brewery and the Irish wife gets one week free of her husband and a week free trail with Ashley Madison.

May Madness

on Saturday, May 02, 2009

First, a warning. This is the type of post in which the beginning and the end has very little relation to each other except via the convoluted connections made in my unkempt mind.

So to start the post, I had hoped to give due recognition to May 1st which is an internationally recognised holiday which may be called the International Worker's Day or Labour Day. I have to qualify this statement. Most countries in the world celebrate Labour Day on May 1st with a few notable exceptions which include the USA (September 5th) and Canada (first Monday in September). Labour Day was meant to commemorate victories and achievements in the fight for workers' rights and in particular the adoption of an 8 hour working day.

For most of the world, May 1st was chosen to remember the Haymarket Massacre in Chicago in 1886 during which police fired upon workers taking part in a general strike in support of the 8 hour working day. The USA, on the other hand, wanted to distance itself from remembering that incident and also from the strong support of May 1st by Socialist and Communist groups and chose September 5th instead which commemorated a working man's parade in New York by the Knights of Labour in 1882. Canada's Labour Day in turn commemorates a different struggle, this time by the printers in Toronto in 1872 but also for a shorter work hours.

This is perhaps a rather long-winded way to say that I am on holiday today. It made me think though that so many of us take for granted the Labour Day holidays and think of it merely as an opportunity for a long weekend. In doing so, we are also taking for granted the basic workers' rights that most of us currently enjoy and do a disservice to the memory of those who fought for these rights and who, in some cases, paid with their lives for it.

Those of us with jobs should be even more grateful as the world reels under the current economic crisis, for many will be losing their jobs and facing great difficulties. Some will come to the edge of the precipice. Some may go off the edge. We cannot tell how much damage and human suffering will result from this crisis which many are saying is as bad as and perhaps worse than the Great Depression. I read with sadness, stories of men killing their whole family before killing themselves. Recently at Jay's blog, we read of someone jumping to his death. While I do not know why he jumped, many others have jumped due to the pain brought on by financial despair.

While in no way do I condone these actions, I can understand to a degree, why these people have resorted to these actions. They have lost hope. The tragedy is that they cannot see the hope that may be just round the corner. All of us must be responsible to share each other's burdens and to hold out hope to those immersed in hopelessness.

The Great Depression was certainly a time of great hardship and of great despair. An affluent America may perhaps have forgotten the hard lessons learnt back then but with the current economic crisis, some of those ugly days may be back again.

Here is where my brain makes a sharp turn and heads off into a new direction. For this, we have to return to a recent post in which I answered a question on which book, art piece, or music has been an influence on my life. Missing from the list is which movie has been an influence. As I was considering this post and my thoughts moved over to the Great Depression, this movie came to mind. It was the 1969 Sydney Pollack drama entitled "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?".

This movie was set in the Depression period and focussed on a couple taking part in a dance marathon competition. The 1,500 dollars prize money draws many other desperate individuals to participate as a way out of their dilemma. However, when our protagonists (Jane Fonda and Michael Sarrazin) discover that the organisers intend to cheat the winners by imposing all kinds of deductions, what fragile hope that they still harbored seemed to vanish like the morning mist.
In the aftermath, Jane's character asks Michael's character for help to commit suicide. He shoots her in the head and later when the police asks him why he did it, he replied, "They shoot horses, don't they?"

This movie was very influential to me, making me realise and understand more about the state of hope and hopelessness. The last line and title of the movie was a cynical reminder that we ofter treat animals better than we treat our fellow humans. As I had said, I do not condone the actions of all those who kill their families and/or themselves because of the financial crisis. They may have lost hope but I believe hope is always just round the corner. Certainly, there is more to life that is worthwhile and which is not lost just due to financial distress. However, what they may have needed is someone to reach out to them and remind them that there is still hope; that the total darkness they find themselves in is only a temporary eclipse, to sit with them in the darkness until they can find the sun again in the smiles of their friends and the love of their families.

So to end this post, I will include this clip of some of the more significant scenes of this movie that won an Oscar for Gig Young as Best Supporting Actor and got 7 other nominations.

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