Category Archives: religion

The ‘Creaking’ Horror


Great Pumpkins!  I nearly missed out on doing a Halloween inspired post this year.  Nearly……but not quite.  I have been absent from the blogosphere because I was on a righteous quest to destroy the undead creatures of the nightmare dimension ……. ummmm….because I was traveling.  Ah, but now I am back and you cannot escape my Halloween expose!

Here it is…….the secret lives of Ghosts!

ghost criminals

But on a more serious and creepy note, let me tell you now, the story of the ‘Creaking Horror’!

A long, long time ago ……well, not that long ago……..actually last week, I found myself in what is rumoured to be the oldest hotel in the world in continuous use.  I refer to the Parador de Santiago de Compostela or, as it is also known, Hostal dos Reis Católicos.

Santiago de Compostela is at the end of the long distance trails that has been traversed by pilgrims since as early as the 9th century.  The object is to reach the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela which is said to hold the remains of St. James the Apostle of Christ.   Coming from Portugal, Spain and as far as France to this town in Galicia in the north-west of Spain, pilgrims could be walking in excess of 800 km.  The difficult journey was part of the spiritual experience.

Needless to say, things were a whole lot more difficult and dangerous during the ancient times and many pilgrims would arrive in Santiago de Compostela in a bad state.  So, in 1486, the Hostal was set up by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel to give shelter and aid to these road weary pilgrims.

My own journey there was by car and I arrived there on a dark, wet and foggy night.  The place was huge, ancient and quite imposing in the dark.  After checking in, we went through dark corridors with long shadows and creaking wooden floors.  Sometimes, the ancient timbers felt soft underfoot as if it might fall away due to rot but we couldn’t tell as it was covered by heavy carpets. Well, this is creepy, I thought to myself.

After dropping off our luggage in our room, which also felt every bit as ancient except for a very modern bathroom, my wife and I went snooping around.  By now, the lights had come on and most of the corridors were dimly lit.  We could also look out over the balconies onto grand courtyards.  But the place was confusing.

There were a number of courtyards and after a while you could get quite turned around, not sure how to get back to where you started.  All the time, as we walked, the sound of the creaking floor would resound along the dark, empty corridors.  Here and there, some brightly lit areas appeared.  Some were outside other guest rooms and some were outside larger rooms that had been re-purposed into small meeting rooms. And there was sometimes a plaque on the wall to tell a story or two about the rooms.

We found these plaques quite interesting.  There was a room where one of the Pope’s stayed on his first visit to Santiago de Compostela and other rooms to tell of famous digntaries, clergy and even musicians that laid their heads to rest there.

As we were moving along, we found a particular meeting room and the plaque duly informed us that many pilgrims used to arrive in critical condition and many were not even able to attend mass at the cathedral at the end of their pilgrimage.  For them, their journey would end in this room, where they could hear the priests carrying out mass in the courtyard below one last time before they expired.

Hmmmm.  This place has served as a hostal for over 500 years.  But a hostal was not just a place to find shelter, it had also served as a hospital, a hospice and invariably as a morgue at the same time.  And, over 500 years, many, many, many died there.

We don’t believe in ghosts and we reminded ourselves that as we hurried along the maze of darkened corridors (the creaking horror) trying to find our way back to the light……….

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Editor’s Note: Despite the squirrel’s mad Halloween tale, this is actually a very beautiful and historic 5 star hotel.  If you have the opportunity, stay here.

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Like in the Movies


Most of us like action movies.  The explosions, the guns blazing, the mayhem and usually the good guys win and they look cool doing it.  For a couple of hours we escape into a fantasy world of thrills without any bodily risks or consequences.

But as recent incidents around the world has demonstrated, it is completely awful when it happens in real life and impact real people.

This last couple of weeks, a couple of Hollywood type stories played out on the streets of my city, Kuala Lumpur; stories with drama, action, suspense and intrigue.

Abduction

Pastor Raymond Koh was driving his car on an errand to deliver a food gift to a friend who was about to travel abroad.  At least three black SUVs screeched in,  blocking off  the road and boxing in his car. Men with black balaclava masks poured out.  A couple of them stopped oncoming traffic and another was seen apparently filming the incident.  Pastor Raymond was forced into one of the SUVs and the three vehicles then sped away together.  He has been missing since the 13th of February.

Pastor Raymond is active in a number of Christian charities and was the founder of Harapan Kommuniti (Community Hope) which holds free tuition classes for children and English lessons for adults from low income groups.  In 2011 though, the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais), in a controversial move, raided a community thanksgiving and fundraising dinner at a church and accused Pastor Raymond’s organisation of proselytising Muslims.

There has been no ransom demand or any communication from the abductors and despite numerous eyewitnesses and CCTV footage, the police have not reported any progress in their investigation.

Many Malaysians (including me) have been praying daily for his safe return.

Assassination

Our international airport was the ground on which our tale of international intrigue and skullduggery occurred; real James Bond stuff.  A Korean man traveling under the name of Kim Choi was making his way across the airport concourse to catch his flight to Macao when two young women approached him from different directions and appear to reach from behind and cover his face with a chemically laced cloth.  They then left as quickly in opposite directions.  After seeking help,  the man collapses and dies shortly later.

It is now believed that Kim Choi is actually Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.  The two women have been identified and arrested.  One is a Vietnamese national and the other an Indonesian.  The Indonesian woman claims she was approached by some men and paid to carry out what she had been told was a prank for a TV show.  Police have also arrested a Malaysian man and a North Korean man.  Interpol has been asked to help hunt down four other North Korean men who left the country the same day as the incident.   The North Korean government has also objected to the autopsy investigation.
Malaysia continues to be making the news for all the wrong reasons.  Come on 2017, start getting better.
I will keep praying for Pastor Raymond and for Malaysia.  However, I promise to nudge 2017 along in the right direction by having more positive posts in the next couple of weeks.

Another Century And We Are Still At It


Two ants were sitting on an a mound up on a hill overlooking a battlefield.  From there, they could see men from two armies fighting viciously with guns, tanks and shells.  All over there were dead and dying from both sides.

The first ant said, “This is great!  Let the humans fight their crazy wars and when they have finished killing each other to the last man, then ANTS will rule the world! Bwahahaha!”

“Bwahahaha!” echoed the second ant. “Hooray! Ants will rule the world!”

After a short pause to think, the second ant asked the first ant, “Black ants or Red ants?”

 

And so, this is war.  Don’t know how or when humankind started sacrificing on the altar of war but it doesn’t seem we will stop.

This week in Europe, various ceremonies are being held to commemorate 100 years since the start of World War I.   Some 16 million people perished in 5 long years of fighting.  it was the war that marked the start of the industrialization of killing.  It had been called the “war to end all wars”.  Yet just two decades later, the world plunged into World War II and more than 60 million killed.  We were just getting more effective in killing.

800px-Cemetery_of_World_War_I_in_Auce,_Latvia(Photo by Simka)

And so, far from moving towards enlightenment, understanding, fraternity and peace, conflicts continue to plague us since.

Some (from atheist and humanist circles) claim that religion is the main cause of war and certainly there have been many wars fought that use religion to draw the battle lines.   But I believe that mostly that hides other motivations – usually, political, ideological and/or economic ………. and in some cases, just base pack mentality of “us” and “them”.

Just consider some of these non-religious dictators and the damage they inflicted on mankind (estimated killed);

 

I really believe that the root of it all is the desire “to want what others have and to deny others from getting what we have”.

Did you know that back in the 1930’s USA prepared a series of contingency war plans and the first one they came up with was codenamed, “War Plan Red” – the invasion of Canada?!?!?!

It was part of a plan to address the problem of the British Empire being an economic and global rival to America’s aspirations.

Sigh……………..

Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. ”

Let us pray for the peacemakers where ever they are and in whichever conflict they are trying to bring to an end.  Let’s not let the ants take over and rule the world.

 

Top 10 Reasons for a Sinking Feeling


Last week, two very large sinkholes opened up along a very busy stretch of road in the centre of Kuala Lumpur.   Construction work for a road tunnel had accidentally caused a burst water pipe and the escaping water led to the formation of the sinkholes.

Sinkhole-in-Malaysia-near-Jalan-Pudu-KL-photoshop-memes-Malaysia-20140703-05-620x315

Sadly, there’s been a lot of that sinking feeling here in Malaysia this year as we seem to be reeling from tragedy; political, racial and religious extremism; and many cases of “foot in mouth disease” by our leaders.  In fact,  if possible, we seem to be having a lot of “shooting oneself in the foot that also happens to be in the mouth” disease.

Here in no particular order is the TOP 10 Recent Reasons for  Malaysians to have a Sinking Feeling.

  1. MH 370 – the missing Malaysian Airlines plane had the world’s attention on Malaysia for much of the beginning of the year and it is considered  one of the greatest  aviation mysteries.  Where is the plane and what happened?  Apart from the tragedy of lives lost, Malaysian officials came across as arrogant, insensitive, incompetent and contradictory.  The handling of the matter and the treatment of the relatives of the victims has been terrible.
  2. Grabbing kids – in the last year, Islamic authorities have been involved in cases in which children, brides and even bodies have been snatched.   In a number of cases,  Muslim converts who had lost child custody cases in court went on to abduct their children from their Hindu mothers and despite the court ruling have been able to keep the children up to now.
  3. Grabbing brides – A Hindu wedding was raided by religious authorities and the bride was taken away in front of the groom and the 400 guests.  Although born and raised as a Hindu, the authorities consider her a Muslim because her father, who had abandoned the family in 1990,  had become a convert.
  4. Grabbing bodies-  Last month, a family was grieving and holding a traditional Chinese funeral for their loved one.  About twenty minutes into the ceremony, religious authorities interrupted the proceedings and took away the body claiming that the deceased had converted to Islam some 17 years earlier.  As you can imagine, this came as a terrible surprise to all her family members.
  5. Groping bodies – A Malaysian diplomat and military officer, Muhammad Rizalman Ismail, claimed diplomatic immunity when charged in New Zealand for burglary and sexual assault with intent to commit rape.  He had followed a 21 year old woman to her home from her bus stop, broken in, undressed and tried to assault her.  She fought back and with the help of neighbors alerted by her screams, forced him to flee.  Once again, the manner in which the authorities have handled the matter has been disgraceful.  They flew him back to Malaysia and denied that they were protecting him until certain communications with the New Zealand government were leaked to the press.  They also said that he would not be extradited but would be tried in Malaysia.  Then, under pressure, they agreed to return him to New Zealand to face the charges.  But now, the authorities claim that he is unwell and medically unfit for travel.  Although, so far the only thing that has been said about his medical condition is that he “was not looking good”, withdrawn and depressed.
  6. “Break bone Fever” – The mosquito borne viral disease, dengue fever, is characterised by severe joint pains (hence “break bone”) and in severe cases, internal hemorrhaging.  The number of cases and deaths have increased by about 250% from the previous year with about 40,000 cases and at least 80 deaths this year till now.  I personally, know of 5 people who have been ill and a friend has attended two funerals.  So apart, from dust from extensive construction going on in Kuala Lumpur and the suffocating haze from forest fires, I now am also unable to open my windwows for fear of the mosquitoes coming in.
  7. Dry taps –  This year also saw the largest urban area in the country, with 2.5 million people, facing water rationing for over three months.  Dry taps in a country with some of the highest rainfall in the world. Something is wrong with this picture.
  8. The K9 problem” –  The chairman of the commission on public transport had said in an interview that there would be no problem for guide dogs assisting the blind to be allowed on public transport.  Apparently, he was wrong.  The Deputy Minister for Transport said that city by-laws insist that dogs should be under the control of a capable owner (thereby implying that the blind are not capable) and went on to say that dogs would only be an inconvenience to the blind.  Religious authorities than chipped in to say that guide dogs were inappropriate for a Muslim majority country as dogs are considered unclean in the religion.  This seems like a strange statement considering that no such issue has been raised about the use of police dogs or security dogs.
  9. “Hell’s Kitchen” – This last couple of weeks has seen the authorities declare war on soup kitchens and the homeless.  Apparently, they are the great evil that is damaging our society.  The
    Women, Family and Community Development Minister

    Women, Family and Community Development Minister had implied that people are choosing to be homeless because they can get free food.  She also said that tourists are also taking advantage of the soup kitchens and therefore not spending tourist dollar on meals.  The Minister of the Federal Territories then proved that he was a man of action by banning all soup kitchens within 2 km of the city centre.    He suggested that the homeless were lazy and giving “his” city a bad image.  He also implied that building shelters for the homeless would make them complacent.  He also said that if they were hungry, they could always travel out of the city centre to soup kitchens further out.    Some soup kitchens plan to defy the ban and will face stiff fines for their defiance.

  10. The sky is falling! The ground is sinking!   – the latest round of construction activity all around Kuala Lumpur for the Mass Rapid Transport or MRT train line has been causing all manners of problems but of greatest concern is the safety of the public.  Large concrete and metal beams have now fallen on passing cars on at least two occasions.  The cars were wrecked but miraculously, the occupants although requiring hospitalisation, escaped with their lives.

Two-hurt-by-falling-metal-beam-(1)

And of course, there was the big sinkholes that I mentioned at the beginning of this post.

So how do Malaysians deal with all this gloom? ……..with a sense of humor.  LGS proudly presents for your viewing pleasure a few examples of Malaysian netizen’s take on the sinkholes and WHAT REALLY HAPPENED?

The "why the chicken crossed the road with the Hippo" theory
The “why the chicken crossed the road with the Hippo” theory

 

The "Pandamonium" Theory
The “Pandamonium” Theory

 

Surely it was Godzilla!
Surely it was Godzilla!

The State of the Realm Report


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Holy Crown of Hungary (Photo by LGS)

Well, for the umpteenth time, one of my new year’s resolution is to STOP PROCRASTINATING!!!!

So doing my annual end of the year report on the state of the Realm of the Lone Grey Squirrel about a week into the next year isn’t so bad, is it?  What’s a week past the deadline between friends.

However, the real problem is that when I looked back on 2013, there isn’t much to report.  Been a kind of quiet year in the Realm.    I guess that the biggest single event of the year was my enforced exile for 7 months while my nest was being repaired and renovated.  Something that I am quite glad is over and I am now comfortably installed in my spanking new mad scientist laboratory.

Don’t get  me wrong, it wasn’t a bad year.   Let’s just say it wasn’t a vintage year.  Lots of things went well for which I thank God but it wasn’t a vintage year.

No major achievements like winning the Nobel Prize (Drats and curses – wasn’t my “donation enough”?!?!);  world conquest (bummer) or winning the lottery jackpot (bummer-er).

And my other great desire …….. world peace?  The world didn’t do well in that regard at all last year.

As far as blogging is concerned, it also wasn’t a hot year for me.  I took leave from blogging for 4 months and I only managed 27 posts for the year.  Not very prolific at all.  That’s just about a post every two weeks.

So what can we look forward to in 2014?

Well, sadly in Malaysia, the year has already started badly.  Just two days into the new year, Islamic religious officers raided the Bible Society of Malaysia, arrested two people and confiscated more than 300 Malay-language bibles.  Some leaders also called for protests to be held outside churches.

This was the latest chapter in a saga which started just over 3 years ago in which Christians were told that they were no longer allowed to use some 35 words of Arabic origin which they have used in the Malay and the indigenous languages bibles for several centuries, contending that these words are for the exclusive use of Muslims and no other religion.

Christians comprise some 10 per cent of the country’s population of 29 million and the  Malay-language Bibles are widely used by the indigenous tribes in the states of Sarawak and Sabah (Christian majority states) and by the Orang Asli (indigenous peoples)  of West Malaysia which accounts for about 66% of all the Christians.

The use of the word “Allah” (the word meaning God) by Christians led to several churches being torched and vandalised in 2010 after a high court ruling allowing the Christians the right to use the word.

Ahead of a state election in Sarawak, the government agreed to a 10 point plan which basically assured that Christians that they could continue to import, print and use the Malay bibles as long as certain conditions were met.  This recent raid, arrests and confiscation of the Malay bibles seem to fly in the face of that agreement.

Whatever your religious beliefs, I hope you will join in and pray for tolerance, peace and respect between peoples of all faiths.

Here in the Realm, I have decided to focus on more achievable targets than world conquest.  I plan to post an average of 2 posts per week this year.  Wish me luck.  It’s only the first week and I am already behind on the strike rate.

Valentine’s Day Jailhouse Blues


I am no big fan of Valentine’s Day.  My wife and I think it is silly to celebrate our love on the one specific day of the year when all the florists, shopkeepers and restaurants have their knives out to slaughter lovers with exorbitant prices.  In the modern context, Valentine’s Day is just another over-hyped, commercial event.    Historically, the romantic associations with Valentine’s Day has nothing to do with Saint Valentine who was not remembered as some patron of lovers.  Valentine is remembered on that day because he was a martyr who was brutally killed for his faith.  Inspirational, maybe.  Romantic? No.

Apparently, the first known association of  Valentine’s Day with romance and love comes from Geoffrey Chaucer’s poem “Parlement of Foules” which was written in 1382.  In the poem, he wrote;

“For this was Saint Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate”

So, apparently, Chaucer was referring to a special day when birds in Britain choose their mate.  And even then, he may also have exercised poetic license cause February 14th is way too early and cold for returning birds to be turning to thoughts of love.

So, Valentine’s Day to me is just a load of hogwash.  Still, I respect the right of the gullible to fall for the modern marketing gimmicks and the right of hopeless romantics to knock themselves out to celebrate the loves of their lives. Hey, it can even be fun watching some of their antics.

Roses are Red,
Violets are Blue,
Celebrating Valentine’s can be costly,
And land you in jail too.
 

However, be warned that since 2005 Muslims in Malaysia can be arrested for celebrating Valentine’s Day and in fact more than 100 Muslim couples were arrested last year.   Proponents and supporters of this “law” give three main reasons;

  1. Valentine’s Day is associated with elements of Christianity.
  2. Celebrating Valentine’s Day leads to immoral acts (they call it sinful sexual gratification day).
  3. Asking someone to be your Valentine is akin to idolatry.

The Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) is pushing for more arrests this year for Muslim couples out on the town celebrating  this terrible Day.  They are also asking the government to ban hotels from offering any Valentine’s Day specials which they say may lead to couples spending an illicit night at the hotels.  Finally, they are asking the government to place public service announcements on national television to warn Muslims from celebrating the Day.  What killjoys!

Perhaps the ladies are more romantic cause the Sisters in Islam (SIS) spoke out against PAS’s anti-Valentine’s Day campaign.  One of SIS members was quoted as saying, ““It will be better for them to concentrate on other important matters like the backlog of syariah cases in court or the payment of alimony to wife and children.”

Right on, ladies.  As I said, I am no big fan of Valentine’s Day but I believe that those who want to, have every right to pay five times the normal price for flowers or blow a month’s salary on a romantic dinner.  After all as they say “love makes fools of us all” and “fools and their money are soon parted.”

Happy Valentine’s Day young lovers wherever you are.

Kecak


Our friend Mago does a series on his blog called “Sunday Music” and just recently he covered a song by Annette Hanshaw (1901-1985).  In his post, he included the use of that song in an animated version of the Ramayana story.  A rather unusual combination which you should check out.

Anyway, this reminded me that I had a related post that had long been on the back-burner and I decided it was time to bring it to a boil.

In Bali, Indonesia, there is a dance called the kecak dance in which dancers enact the Ramayana story with musical accompaniment provided by the rhythmic, hypnotic chanting of a large group of men.  It is quite an experience.  I have had the good fortune of witnessing it twice.  Once, I saw it as part of a dinner performance at an international beach hotel in Nusa Dua (which is where all the photos  below were taken) and once at a sunset ceremonial performance at the clifftop temple at Uluwatu.  Of the two, I really must recommend the spectacular setting at the Uluwatu temple which also includes a fire dance.  If you are ever in Bali, this is definitely one of the highlights not to be missed.  To tantalise you, I have included a video by Hawaiian filmmaker and reknown hula dancer Kimokekahuna at the Uluwatu temple.

The Ramayana is a classic Hindu story.  In brief, the kecak dance is about the hero Rama and his beautiful wife Siti.  One day while in the forest, Siti sees a golden deer and begs Rama to capture it for her.  He leaves Siti under the protection of his brother Lakshmana and chases after the deer.  Sometime later, Siti is misled into thinking that she hears Rama calling for help.  Fearful for her husband, she pleads for Lakshmana to go and search for Rama.  Lakshmana is reluctant to do so at first but eventually gives in to her pleas and disappears into the forest looking for Rama.

But it was all a ploy to get Siti alone and unprotected and she is kidnapped by the demon King Ravana and taken to his kingdom of Lanka.  The rest of the story is about how Rama defeats Ravana and rescues Siti with the help of the white monkey king, Hanuman and his army of monkeys.

 

Kecak Dance and Dinner at the Grand Hyatt, Nusa Dua, Bali.

 

The Bad Guy Appears

 

Fight! Fight! Fight!

 

Left to Right: The Golden Deer, Little Tourist and Some Character that I Can't Remember

 

The Bad Guys After Losing Again

 

The White Monkey King Giving Me the Thumbs Up

 

Vodpod videos no longer available.