Hiatus


You will know by now that I am not blogging frequent as I used to be

Work is one of the excuse and it is taking more of my time these days. But at the same time, I am spending my free times, not drafting for my next blog post but rather playing mobile games and doing plenty of reading. Perhaps it is due to the state of the nation that is so depressing and lawlessness running around. Perhaps I am just too tired tired to think of the content for the blog posts – there’s plenty to talk about on the subject of politics but it is getting tiring on daily basis.

Let me take a proper break from blogging before coming back again. This is not the last blog post, I can assure you.

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History In Malaysia


Until lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunters. ~African Proverb

(I still remember this – the history book that I used when I was young and in school. Image source: Blues Riders)

To tell you the truth, the subject of history have always fascinated me.

I hated the subject when I was in school; somehow the subject was made to be so boring. It was nothing but memorizing boring facts from an equally boring text book, taught by another boring teacher. It was something that I did not expect from the subject of history – a subject which I loved when I was small and discovered a thick history book in English in my childhood neighbor’s house.

It was lying on the table – the cover half torn but something about it caught my eyes. I opened and immediately noted that the content was comprehensive and laced with old photos. I asked permission from the owner, the neighbor’s eldest son and excitedly brought back home and threw myself in going through the details. The history book was laid in simple but comprehensive English. It had several chapters covering the major civilizations in the world. It kind of kept in my possession for several years (the owner decided that it will be useful to me than him).

But still, at the time I was slogging through the school and was on the way to greater things, the content of history was still kind of balanced – a bit of everything but just enough for a stressed-out student in national schools.

Then when I was in Law School, there was a bit touch of history when I did Jurisprudence and it was interesting. Then the History and Discovery Channels came through Astro and that wiped out my whole understanding of what is history. I learned about the Romans better through the Discovery Channel than the time I read about them from the books. History is now comes in better visuals – almost CSI like investigative presentation and facts backed by evidence and more balanced insights. History is now backed by science, eye-witnesses and new evidences.

(Early Indians in Malaysia – it gives me the goosebumps whenever I see old black & white photos. I wish I can go back in time and see  how these people lived and interacted with each other. How was the surroundings and how deep their culture was? Image source:  CJ.MY)

Several years ago, I saw a school History book on my colleague’s table – it was his daughter’s and he had to bring it to work for him to get some photos from the net for her daughter’s assignment. I glanced through and I was shocked – after a long time I had not looked into the school books (still having the phobia), it appeared to me that the standard of learning history has gotten to a new low. The content was too simple, focused more on certain civilizations and the other equally rich background civilizations seemed to be made in the passing.

Perhaps it is why, this was raised:-

History textbooks are biased and littered with errors, claim two authors and academicians. Dr Ranjit Singh Malhi and Ng How Kuen, who write history textbooks for Chinese schools, say their experience with officialdom does not augur well for the teaching of history in our classrooms.

Ranjit, author of secondary school history textbooks since 1990, and adviser to the Ministry of Education (MOE) on history textbooks, said such materials were littered with factual errors and distortions. He said that when he pointed out the errors and distortions, a ministry official labelled him “anti-national”.

“Secondary school history textbooks have been used to promote political interests. It should be a scholarly pursuit and not politically-motivated,” said Ranjit who showed theSun history textbooks with errors and exaggerated facts.

“Five out of 10 chapters of the Form Four history textbook deal with Islamic history as compared to only one chapter in the earlier textbook. The intention of the earlier syllabus was to expose our students to World History,” he said when commenting on the announcement that the history syllabus is being reviewed and that the subject will be made a compulsory pass in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia from 2013.

“The coverage of important historical events such as Renaissance and Industrial Revolution has been reduced by more than half,” he said.

He also said certain historical personalities, such as Yap Ah Loy (the third Kapitan China of Kuala Lumpur), were not given due recognition.

Yap played a major role in the development of Kuala Lumpur as a commercial and tin-mining centre, particularly after the fire of 1881,” he said, adding that the Form Two history textbook had only one sentence on Yap as “one of the persons responsible for developing Kuala Lumpur”.

(Source)

But then again, I only looked at one book and have not been following on the “evolution” of the history contents in school books since I left school. In the age of broadband internet and satellite TV, learning the history is no longer confined to school books. There is more than one avenue from where one can learn what had happened in the past.

And when it comes to what need to be taught as history in our national schools – we are indeed at a cross road.

Do we strip away the wealthy facts of history from the other civilizations and the original immigrants and only focus on what happened in Malaysia long, long time and the people who been here before the British? Or we look deeply into what we can learn from history regardless of civilizations and the people behind the key events in history (like Mahatma Gandhi or Lawrence of Arabia)?

(What if the Japaneses had won the war in the Pacific? How our history would look like then? Image source: http://www.worth1000.com)

It only seems right that the young ones learn about the history of Malaysia and its people first before we can start exploring on the history of the world. But at the same time, the history of the country should not politicized or distorted or allowed to be factually incorrect. Yes, history has been written and rewritten by the majority, by those who have won over major conflicts, by those in power and those with the money. Just imagine how our history books would look like if the Nazis have won the Second World War or if Parameswara have not decided to escape from Singapore and founded the Sultanate of Malacca? So, certainly the content of the history books would be “adjusted” accordingly.

But what is not desired if even the known event in history has now been riddled with factual errors and major distortions. Setting aside the factors of biasness and racial tone of the argument, that is the point that Dr Ranjit is trying to make is valid.

It does not matter that “5 out of 10 chapters of the Form Four history textbook deal with Islamic history” – it is still part of our history but what is needed is that history (no matter which area of the civilizations or era) is presented as whole and in a truthful manner, as close as possible. We should not let the young ones to look back and see things differently.

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Confusing History with Racial Prejudice

Hari Ini Tiada Sejarah

NaNoWriMo 2010 – Day 6


My entry for this year is titled “The Aryan Wind”…a mixed of espionage, adventure and mystery.

As at today, I managed to crawl about 10,011 words – just meeting the required daily entries of 1,666 words. Compared to last year, this year things have been slow – traveling is hampering the time to sit down and write and then there is the issue of getting a good plot down.

For now, in the spirit of NaNoWriMo, I am just whacking enough words on a very loose plot to get to the finishing line and as always, need to spend another couple of months to brush up a illogical plot into a logical plot.

Here is short excerpt of what I have done todate:-

John remained silent – he is not sure where his team stands between the powers that are involved and why the betrayal.

“Let’s think about this another time, Joseph. We are on the run, we need to strategize. You better take rest – you been injured and you need to recover. Besides, we need to take some sleep before our turn for the night watch” said John as Joseph made up his bed and closed his eyes.

His injuries were bad and he needs time to recover. In the meantime, John predicts a daunting effort in getting his mission done.

Crossing the 10,000 words milestone has been tough but the good thing is as I keep writing, new plots and subplots starts to form and I managed to clock in more additional words (something thinking is required). NaNoWriMo has not been easy but I think that is what makes it more interesting.

24 days to go for the finishing line…

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NaNoWriMo 2010 – Day 1


The writing event of the year is finally here

Although I don’t have specific storyline for this year’s NaNoWriMo (I guess I will start with some gibberish storyline before fine tuning later), here is an interesting article I picked up on the event that might inspire you:-

If I were asked to guess the number one obstacle that stands in the way of a person finishing a novel, I wouldn’t choose writer’s block, a busy schedule or running out of ideas. I wouldn’t choose lack of a laptop or quiet writing space. I think that the main obstacle to a completed novel is simply the act of not writing.

Sure, the above list of reasons will get pulled from, but in most cases they’re just used as excuses to not write. If a determined person wants to, and really tries, I believe that he or she, under almost any circumstance, can write a full novel, simply by sitting down and writing it.

This way of thinking is put to the test every November, during National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo was started by Chris Baty in 1999, with less than two dozen writers, and has taken off like a rocket since.

For the twenty-one participants in 1999, as well as the eighty-thousand in 2006, the goal is simple. Starting November first, write a fifty-thousand word novel in one month.

It’s by no means easy, but it may be a little easier than you expect. What Chris Baty did was create a writing environment where the focus is on speed above all else. Words, pages, chapters as quickly as possible, and barely time to take a breath.

This may sound like a terrible idea. A novel, after all, isn’t just a string of words. Sure, maybe a person could type out fifty thousand words in a month, but if it’s poorly thought out, then they’ve just typed out fifty thousand useless words.

To make a good novel, some might tell you, you think, you plan, and you outline. You look before you leap. If you get writer’s block, maybe you should take a break from it, and go walk in the world. See if inspiration hits you. You don’t just hurry through.

Read further here

That was an inspirational read – a good start for NaNoWriMo 2010. My third run in a row and hope to complete the finishing line on time as how I did in 2008 & 2009.

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In just 30 days, you too can write a masterpiece

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The Unexpected Mission


(All for the love of writing a good story – Image source: http://101reasonstostopwriting.com)

“….He knew that he was asking a very hypothetical question. He knew what would be the consequences if he does not deliver. Deepak did not say anything but instead he stood up and put his hand on John’s shoulder. He just looked at John, smiled and said that he will be contacted in one week’s time or perhaps sooner, depending on what John is doing to get his money. Deepak said John will be of course, watched at all times, just to make sure that the police are not involved in this.

Deepak walked away and John was left still sitting down at his place. John took out the paper and looked at the list again. Two of the banks listed are located in Accra, one in the New York and two more in Malaysia. It is not going to be easy to arrange for the transfer of the money within a week especially the banks are located in three different countries and governed by three different banking rules…”

The Unexpected Mission is the title of my entry for the 2009’s NaNoWriMo and it has taken me about 11 months (in between my regular work and my laziness to open the file to complete it) to complete the short novel (with revisions to style, grammar, spelling mistakes, expansion of the nameless characters and additional twist to the story). The final tally is a short novel of 50,203 words (ya, delete quite load of them especially the x-rated part), covering over 93 pages.

I had intended to publish it once the rough edges of my book has been cleaned out – after all, since I put a lot of sleepless night into the story, the last thing I want to see is it collecting “dust” in my laptop folder.

But recently as I went shopping for new books, I realised something – a 93 page story is going to end as a really short story. 93 pages was nothing in the novel world. So, I looked back at my “piece” and I realise why some good novelist can write a really thick book (they write good stuff there and not for the sake of getting the book thick). They expand on the current storyline – perhaps with some sub-plots, explanation and further expansion of the characters. It ends up something brilliant.

And as I went through my 2009 NaNoWriMo entry – I realise that there is plenty of “holes” in the storyline. The main storyline and the main characters are there but sub-plots were missing and some of the background actions were not explained properly. So, whilst it is good to complete the 50,000 words finishing line within the NaNoWriMo month (it is not an easy task considering that 81% of the participants did not finish the 50,000 words finishing line) but to make sure that the storyline is tight and interesting, it is better to put more time and effort.

So, I am holding back the “publication” of the 2009 NaNoWriMo entry for now – there is plenty of time to improve on my “masterpiece” (as least, that is what I see them as). Another 2 weeks and I will be busy with my entry for 2010’s NaNoWriMo entry (title yet to be confirmed but I have some plots in mind) and perhaps another 11 months, fine-tuning the content.

15 days and counting…

NaNoWriMo 2010


NaNoWriMo 2010 is still 3 months away…

(It is not easy to do a NaNoWriMo but once you have started, you are in an exciting ride. Cartoon source: http://theideagirlsays.wordpress.com. Copyright @ 2006 Debbie Ridpath Ohi)

I have been participating in NaNoWriMo since 2008 and thus far, the experience has been one heck of a ride. Imagine the pressure of doing up 50,000 words in 30 days – where one can find the time to write down 50,000 words when you have very little time for work, family and pleasure. It is a good challenge for anyone (not necessarily for good writers).

And worldwide, numbers of people participating in NaNoWriMo have been growing too:-

1999: 21 participants and six winners
2000: 140 participants and 29 winners
2001: 5,000 participants and more than 700 winners
2002: 13,500 participants and around 2,100 winners
2003: 25,500 participants and about 3,500 winners
2004: 42,000 participants and just shy of 6,000 winners
2005: 59,000 participants and 9,769 winners
2006: 79,000 participants and 13,000 winners
2007: 101,510 participants and 15,333 winners
2008: 119,301participants and 21,683 winners
2009: 167,150 participants and 32,178 winners

(Source)

Thus far, things have been almost smooth for me to come up with a rough story for 50,000 words within a month and spend the next 11 months to fine tune the story.

In 2008, I wrote “The Malayan U Boat” but about 2 months before NaNoWriMo 2009, only then I started to work on my 2008 draft and finally published it in November 2009 (almost a whole full year after I started). I could have started on the fine tuning works earlier but I was lazy.

In 2009, after I have completed my draft titled “The Unexpected Mission”, I promised myself not to make the same mistake that I did in 2008. Fast forward to 2010, unfortunately my 2009 draft remained as a draft although I managed to start on editing work on the draft on an ad-hoc basis.

Fortunately recently I managed to get more free time to work on my second NaNoWriMo and I am almost 80% complete with the first review. Another few more days, I should with the rest and start with my second review of the content, well ahead of the NaNoWriMo 2010.

Whilst I am still on this topic, to my readers and fellow bloggers, how about it? Want to join me in NaNoWriMo 2010? Want to take up the challenge and see whether you can cross the 50,000 words line within a month?

The best part of NaNoWriMo is that you can write on anything topic (not necessarily on a story) and you can go on your own pace. There is no penalty for failing to finish at the “finishing line” – after all, doesn’t the best part of the journey is the journey itself?

Read here on how NaNoWriMo works and if you think you are up to it, register yourself here and join me in NaNoWriMo 2010!

Nearing 50,000 words


(Image source: http://www.artslink.wordpress.com)

I am sorry for not writing very regularly for the blog.

It is just that I have been busy with work and during the night and on the weekends, I have been “burning the midnight oil” on my novel for the NaNoWriMo 2009. Since I have been concentrating all my free times on this venture, as at todate I have completed almost 92% of the 50,000 words which was required to win the NaNoWriMo 2009 and I still have another 8 days to complete the balance 8% words. In other words, I am ahead of the scheduled words by almost 11,000 words.

I figured that I would be able to complete the 50,000 words, probably 5 days before the official closing date.

Thinking about the plots to write on daily basis has not been easy and every night I go to bed thinking on how I can expand the novel by another 1,000 – 2,000 words the next day. Sometimes I do get some inspiration but other times, I get blank inspirations.

But as the promoters of NaNoWriMo have said, just keep writing no matter how the plot is turning out to be, no matter how bad the paragraphs may be. Just think of expanding the novel on a smaller scales rather than expanding it on a larger scales and so far it has turned out well. I need to do plenty of revisions and re-writes of the current novel and probably the long cold December (it is already getting below 10’C at night lately) will be just the right time for that.

Can’t wait for the finishing line at the 50,000 words!

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