Archive for December, 2008

Forsyth thriller passable but somewhat a letdown

December 31, 2008


This was my first Forsyth novel. As such, I did not know what to expect. But I certainly did not expect the stripped-down, no-nonsense, heavily factual narrative style that was generally gripping. Forsyth sure can weave real-life events with fictional forays good enough, but still does not realise that Malays are not necessarily Malaysians. Other than this howler, some typos, but what really makes this the ultimate post-9/11 jerk-off a la The Kingdom is the fantasy that Western intelligence is able to successfully infiltrate al-Qaeda with a Westerner knowing the Arab ways.  Still, the idea of using a LPG tanker to destroy a luxury liner is scary, if a tad (C)old.


More explanation, less vendetta please

December 30, 2008


Had high hopes about this, thinking it would deliver an in-depth analysis about why counterknowledge exists and how it spreads and so on.  Instead Thompson seems to concentrate more on exposing anything that doesn’t stand up to Western-style empiricism as counterknowledge. While it’s fine demolishing the quack theories of Creationists, Intelligent Design adherents, Holocaust deniers and 9/ 11 conspiracy theorists, I felt he gave short shrift to topics like acupuncture.  The book sort of continues on the website  High marks for content, analytical rigour could have been improved though.

Pargeter eschews simplistic analysis of European Islamism

December 29, 2008


Much has been published about the growth of Islamic extremism in the US and in the Islamic world in particular, but rarely has one come across an analysis of the growth of the rise of radicalism in Europe.  Pargeter takes pains to emphasise that contrary to conventional thinking, Islamic radicalism in Europe is hardly monolithic or divorced from the motivations, objectives and ideologies in the Islamic world.  A highly organised and coherent work which traces how Islamic extremist networks in Europe began life as havens in which Islamists persecuted in their home countries could turn to, and subsequently developed, fuelled in large part by Saudi and Iranian attempts to export their own particular brand of radical Islam in order to extend their influence in Europe, bolstered also by the Afghan mujahideen success and the stillborn attempts to replicate this success in Bosnia and Algeria.  Pargeter also explains why radicalisation can been seen as much as a response to a desire to identity with a common cause and a common sense of belonging, as it is an act of desperation against the impotent rage and despair felt by many second and third generation migrant youth in Europe.

Trance Around My Blog #13: Above & Beyond drops ZoukOut set on radio show

December 27, 2008


Especially thrilled to find that the boys have decided to feature their set from ZoukOut 08 on the very last episode of 2008 of their weekly radio show, Trance Around the World.  What’s interesting is that their playlist is also reconstructed like mine, having lost their original HDD ‘live’ recording during flight.  Anyway, the set is available to listen again as a podcast from iTunes or from the Anjunabeats website.  Enjoy!

Memories of Old Ford Factory

December 27, 2008


Met up with FS for lunch, and then on a whim we decided to visit the Old Ford Factory, which he’d never been to and I’d always wanted to go. It was a little small but comfortable, and the exhibits were not too shabby. It was a little too cramped for my liking, and a result there was lots of information everywhere, which made for a pretty intense viewing.  I suppose if they could build or extend into another annex to lengthen out the exhibits it couldn’t hurt.  We were pretty disgusted by some scrawls that we discovered in the guest book, presumably done by secondary school students. My only regret was that we didn’t really get to explore the garden and the exterior surroundings.  Didn’t feel like taking any pics though, except of the faceplate.  But all in all, an enjoyable afternoon spent in a little history tucked away relatively close to where I live.

retreading old ground

December 26, 2008

I was just re-reading my previous book review entries, when I came across a reference to Abu Zubadyah’s torture, and it just dawned on me that I had been just reading about it in Mayer’s book.  It’s finally happened.  I’m beginning to retread old ground in my reading.  While I’m pretty much familiar with the major pieces of the narrative, it’s been increasingly harder to tease out or dig up new and interesting tidbits to flesh out the story. Either that, or I’m reading merely for the sake or appearance of reading, and not really trying hard to value-add to my storehouse of knowledge.  How do you keep a straight record of all the facts and views?  How do you not at some point get lost in a sea of confusingly similar anecdotes?  I guess that’s what research assistants are for.  

And here I have this grand delusion that I want to get started on my Masters.  C’s idea of an informal lecture series intrigued me. Maybe if I volunteer to helm one about terrorism or the rise of Islamic extremism, it will force me to organise my source materials and put everything into a coherent and digestible whole for my audience. Then again, I don’t know if I have the time, or more importantly, want to spend the time to do it. I will at some point refer to what The Job has in store for me in 2009, but this will have to wait until I have been given more details. Stay tuned.

The Torture Question

December 23, 2008


How did the US ‘force drift’ from being defenders of freedom to defenders of the human rights abuses at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib? In her new book, based on her reporting in The New Yorker, Jane Mayer unflinchingly gives the answer: The Law. Mayer shows chronologically how the law was manipulated to serve the ‘New Paradigm’ of Preemption in the immediate aftermath of the post-9/11 era, and how the legal battlefield for the hearts and minds of American values was similarly littered with semantics and definitions that continues to reverberate today.  If you want visual companions to this book, two highly recommended documentaries are PBS’ Frontline‘s The Torture Question and  Alex Gibney’s 2007 Academy Award-winning piece Taxi to the Dark Side, which is available on Youtube in 7 parts. 

Trance Around My Blog #12: Above & Beyond @ ZoukOut 08, 13 Dec

December 19, 2008


It’s been a LONG time since I tranced around my blog, so while it’s still fresh in my mind, a couple of thoughts about the boys’ 2-hour – 5 to 7 am – performance at ZoukOut this year. First up, the tracklist, which is as complete as I remember it and as the various  clips on Youtube attest:

1. 16 Bit Lollitas “Nobody Seems To Care” (Anjunadeep)
2. Komytea “Professional Killers” [Jerome Isma-Ae & Daniel Portman Mix] (Anjunadeep)
3. Adam Nickey “Shift” (Anjunabeats)
4. Andy Duguid ft. Leah “Wasted” [Black Hole]
5. Tatana & Andrew Bennett ft. Tiff Lacey “Closer” (Gareth Emery Remix) [Sirup]
6. Wippenberg “Chakalaka” [Sphaera’s Boom Chakalaka Remix] (High Contrast)
7. Veracocha “Carte Blanche” [Cosmic Gate Remix] (Combined Forces)
8. DJ Tatana “Spring Breeze” [Martin Roth SummerStyle Remix]
9. Signalrunners feat. Julie Thompson “These Shoulders” [Oliver Smith Remix] (Anjunabeats)
10. Above and Beyond Pres. Tranquility Base “Buzz” [Buzztalk Mix] (Anjunabeats)
11 Above & Beyond pres. OceanLab “Sirens of The Sea” [Cosmic Gate Remix] (Anjunabeats)
12. Luminary “Amsterdam” [Smith & Pledger Remix] (Anjunabeats)
13. Above & Beyond Pres. OceanLab “Breaking Ties” [Martin Roth Remix] (Anjunabeats)
14. Bart Claessen and Dave Schiemann “Madness” [I Prefer This Mix Edit] (Anjunabeats)
15. Super8 & Tab “Delusion” (Anjunabeats)
16. OceanLab “Miracle” [Above & Beyond Club Mix] (Anjunabeats)
17. Above & Beyond “Good For Me” [Above & Beyond Club mix] (Anjunabeats)
18. William Orbit “Barber’s Adagio” [Ferry Corsten Remix] (WEA)
19. Above & Beyond “Alone Tonight” (Anjunabeats)

Jono came on the decks first, starting off with some of the Deep stuff.  Particularly liked what some are saying is a techy remix of Komytea’s ‘Professional Killers’, but this has yet to be confirmed.  With Tony and his Super Star act, Jono was the more reserved one.  All in all, it was a good performance, and the only gripe I have is that they could have thrown out more stuff to the wildly appreciative crowd. 

Here’re some photos, courtesy of the ZoukOut site:

egging on the crowd

egging on the crowd

tony selecting tunes

tony selecting tunes

jono selecting tunes

jono selecting tunes

More insights, plus my photos, here.

Hashim forecasts no Sunni day in sight in post-Saddam Iraq

December 10, 2008


cover of hardcover edition

cover of hardcover edition

I’ve finally finished reading this, after having borrowed it 3 times and not being able to get through it and running up huge library fines as a result. Hashim gives a very detailed, pessimistic account of the origins and motivations of the insurgency, its MOs and participants, and reasons for its continued existence, covering the period Apr 2003 to September 2005. High marks for structure, conceptual approach and readability, but coherence and editing could be far far better improved – I had to endure numerous (for me!) repetitions and grammatical errors. But overall a recommended work. Would like to see Hashim update his work in a 2nd edition, or a sequel, covering the period 2006 to the present.