December 12th

These blog posts are thinning out to say the least, partly because I'm busy, and partly because I've already said a lot of things I wanted to. Which is better, repeating yourself endlessly, or staying silent once you've said your piece?

Quote of the Week

  • "This house has been far out at sea all night, |The woods crashing through darkness, the booming hills, |Winds stampeding the fields under the window |Floundering black astride and blinding wet |Till day rose; then under an orange sky |The hills had new places, and wind wielded |Blade-light, luminous black and emerald, |Flexing like the lens of a mad eye." - Ted Hughes, Wind

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Uni so far...

...has not started. I've been in Uni accomodation for a week, meeting my future doc mates, and attending lectures and groupwork sessions, but the course only starts next Monday.

So what ELSE have I been doing so far?

1. Learning English English, along with its brothers Cornish English, Scottish English, Indian English and Immigrant English
2. Trying to remember how to socialise with people.
3. Acquainting myself with the local superstore ASDA
4. Apparently, I dance well. (WTF? I've like danced 5 times in my life...)
5. Getting as near drunk as I dare in pyjamas (NO I'M NOT JOKING).
6. NOT updating my blog/friendster/facebook profiles.

Will keep you guys posted, but I'm damn exhausted right now and classes haven't even started proper.

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Review – Minutes to Midnight, Linkin Park

This is somewhat late considering Minutes to Midnight was released some months back, but it took some time listening to the album before I could tear myself away from seeing it in the same light as the other albums (So those of you who still view it from that angle, please rethink your angle, not what you see). Since I can’t review the album until I analyse each song, I’ll leave the album summary to the end.

A short guitar and drums skit that which sums up the album quite thoroughly and gives the listener a taste of what to expect. In terms of content, this one opens the album on a grand note.

Given Up
Quite a shocker, considering Wake’s grand tone and the subtle Leave Out all the Rest. This is LP’s foray into Industrial, and though it has very nice guitars it doesn’t quite live up to the intensity of a Nine Inch Nails tune, which the song will inevitably be compared against. Compared to the previous LP “angry” tunes it’s nothing too new, though it will please fans of the “harder” rock genres.

Leave Out all the Rest
This song has an excellent opening with near-perfect layering effects, but the chorus seems just a tad lacking in terms of vocals, which are very good throughout the rest of the song. I’d have happily labelled this the best song on the album if the chorus had just a bit more vocal oomph. The song is roughly on par with Numb, though Mike Shinoda’s additional vocals would be welcome to give it more flavour.

Bleed It Out
LP has definitely gotten it right in this song, at least in terms of the infectious energy. This song, with its catchy tune and lyrics to boot, makes the previous LP hit Faint seem amateurish. It stands out as one of the best songs on the album, with a very nice use of the hoedown beat/clap to make things even more energetic. It has been suggested that Shinoda has very subtly hidden a message in the lyrics – but even if you don’t agree, this is still an excellent song.

Shadow of the Day
A nice keyboard loop, though I think the beat could be improved. The song shows its true colours when the vocals start, and here the band’s development becomes clear – they’ve definitely grown up. It would be unthinkable for a song like this to show up on any of their previous albums, but I much welcome this refreshing change. LP has taken a page from U2’s book, and they’ve come out the better for it.

What I’ve Done
With a good guitar opening, the song can only get better when the vocals begin – Bennington does not let his fans down. The well-chosen lyrics are just another sign that LP is developing as a band, though many an old fan will lament Mike Sinoda and Joe Hahn being very muted in this particular song.

Hands Held High
If you could only listen to one song on the album, let it be this one! LP uses organ and drum effects as well as the choir bridge and ending to highlight the lyrics – which are amazingly poignant. Though Shinoda remains in the background throughout most of the album, he deservingly becomes the highlight of the band when he steps to the fore. This is an excellent song, and to date LP’s most important, even more so than the very poignant FRGT/10.

No More Sorrow
This is the hardest song on the album, and Metal fans will appreciate it. A very impressive guitar throughout, with decent drums – but the angst-laden and unsubtle lyrics pale in comparison set against the poignant and powerful Hands Held High, and as a result what political thunder it has simply gets stolen by Hands Held High.

Valentine’s Day
This seems to be a throwback to My December, with some tweaks and refinements – certainly the lyrics and instruments are better thought-out and well-implemented, and the later twist keeps it unique from being lumped with other clich├ęd songs of the same style. Sandwiched between the extremely hard No More Sorrow and the rather meek In Between, it's easy to overlook.

In Between
This one starts off very promisingly, with good harmonies (though the vocals could be improved significantly) but peters out towards the second half of the song – simply put, there was just not enough content to keep it going, and a very awkward twist in the chorus to beef the song length up does it no justice either. Though I can empathise with the content, I cannot agree with an extra limb grafted onto the song to make it look whole.

In Pieces
This one turned out to be a surprisingly good song, considering the somewhat awkward beginning and rather hard-to-accept combination of instruments and vocals (I suspect they did this on purpose). Its guitar effects do it justice though. Though it will not be one of my favourites, it is definitely respectable in its own right.

The Little Things Give You Away
Deep, poignant and meaningful, especially with the great guitar solo by Phoenix and following voice effects – here, the song shines through as being a cut above the rest. They prove that a subtle and mature song is simply better than one where the artists descend into uncontrolled chaos.

Minutes to Midnight
Initially, the overall sound of the album was very hard to accept – especially for a diehard like me, after all who cannot resist comparing its songs to old greats like Somewhere I Belong, Crawling, and In the End? I was sceptical, especially after watching What I’ve Done on MTV – and prepared for the worst.

With a significantly muted rap and near-absent DJ effects, the album shocked me at first (my brain kept screaming “U2!”, “Evanescence!”, “Nine Inch Nails!”, “Nickelback!” throughout the first few songs and I wondered if the band was going through some sort of musical midlife crisis) – then Hands Held High turned up, I took a step back to rethink my original judgement, and everything was alright again.

Despite some awkward pace changes and the rather unfortunate In Between, LP continues to deliver. The change from teenage anger/confusion to political and social awareness is definitely a step in the right direction (and was hinted at somewhat in Reanimation’s FRGT/10 and Meteora’s Breaking the Habit), though it will leave some fans nostalgic for the nu-metal sound that LP pioneered. My chief gripe about the album is that Joe Hahn (a very important asset to the band) has not been given much precedence. Otherwise, it doesn’t get much better than this, with the band’s varied showing across the genre spectrum managing to stay “Linkin Park” while not becoming stale from repetition. This is not an album to miss.

Monday, 3 September 2007

A middle class with a lower-class mindset

In Ghostline's post M for Merdeka; V for Vendetta, I discussed a point which I found particularly disturbing: our education system. Reproduced below is part of my comment (with added color and bold font for emphasis):

"...Our government school systems have very successfully turned most of us into unquestioning workers. This bunch can be placated with shopping malls, government-controlled media and the threat of the I.S.A. The more intelligent ones are so bored by textbook history that they don’t ever want to read about politics again, or they just decide to emigrate.

And that’s just the way the government wants it - a middle class with a lower-class mindset. Easy to placate, easy to bully, easy to trick, easy to govern..."

Part of Ghostline's reply (also with added color and bold fonts):

"... at the Bangsa Malaysia gathering... Malik Imtiaz used a very good term, “de-education” to describe the way that the failed education system has robbed the people of the ability to think for themselves, which is partly why they blindly accept what the government tells them is good and true.

We are the stubborn few who refuse to submit to totalitarianism, but we need to reach out to the people if we want to achieve anything meaningful.

Apathy-ignorance is indeed our greatest enemy: I have great difficulty convincing even my close friends to do something..."

Taking this one step further, I want to highlight as a student the (likely deliberate) flaws in our present education system:

First, we put too little emphasis on critical thinking. Students are plied with near-endless quantities of homework that emphasise rote memorization and straightforward technique over conscious thought. Few students are able to question why something should happen, rather than what, how, where and when it happens.

Second, we are desensitized from current history by our history textbooks, which numb our senses with irrelevant and trivial details. How much significance does the coinage of Malacca bear to current geopolitical history? Students end up treating history more as a chore than an interest – and who can blame them? Combine that with our exam papers that simply ask us for facts and not reasons behind them, and it is no wonder that students do not care about history, much less attempt to question it.

Third, while history textbooks ply students with irrelevant details, they attempt to sidestep modern geopolitical history altogether. Practically every important event outside Malaysia in the past century is squeezed into a single chapter, almost as an afterthought. Students are left with little understanding of the relevant issues behind today’s global turmoil, and more often than not end up with a skewed understanding of history.

Fourth, the textbooks tell a one-sided tale of things, in terms of race. “Malay” history takes precedence, while the “Chinese” are at every attempt portrayed as money-faced tin miners, or even worse, gangsters. “Indians” are barely mentioned in the textbooks, and are portrayed along with the “Chinese” as immigrants and foreign labourers. How much does that do to endear the “Chinese” and “Indians” to the “bumiputeras”? How much does it encourage the “immigrants” to fight and die for their country?

Fifth, our textbooks conspicuously avoid explaining the words May 13, save to paint it as a nebulous “dark day in history”, the day when racial balance was upset. Throughout the textbook May 13th is used as a terrifying ‘bogeyman’ to scare off any notion of questioning the status quo, racial harmony or government action.

With an education policy like this, it is no wonder that our kids want to buy the first airplane ticket they can afford to Australia and New Zealand. Those who remain end up as desensitized worker-drones, unable to rid themselves from their chauvinistic cultural past, and uninterested in questioning or opposing government policy. The education system has done all too well in preventing free thought and preserving an otherwise transitory government system, but fails miserably in creating a flexible, useful future generation who might have otherwise made good and intelligent leaders for their country. Instead, we will see a growing class of people who are financially “middle class”, but mentally and politically unintelligent and immature.

All this after our current PM declared that education is the most important ministry in Malaysia. Yes, it is important – to keep us, the rakyat, cowed and under control. Now that I've said my piece, are you still willing to be kept under the yoke? Do you want to be subverted and used, never realising your full potential? Do you want to grow up just the way your government wants you to grow up - uninterested, uncaring, unintelligent?

I don't.