Selasa, 31 Disember 2013

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

Be Awesome: Modern Life For Modern Ladies

Posted: 30 Dec 2013 08:00 AM PST

A BOOK with the title Be Awesome is supposed to make you feel just a little bit awesome, even from just having picked it up and read the cover.

Sadly, Hadley Freeman's Be Awesome left me feeling confused and bemused instead, and nowhere near awesome.

In her introduction, Freeman talks about why people need to feel awesome, weaving in some social issues like feminism, fashion (or lack thereof) and a little on her background. What's meant as an introduction to a guide on becoming awesome instead sounds much more like the inner monologue of somebody nearing a psychotic break. Freeman rambles on without seeming to have a clear message.

"I pretend to be a newspaper columnist and fashion writer," she says, but "... 70 percent of my fashion articles have been written when I've been wearing, at best, vaguely coordinated pyjamas, T-shirt, leggings and Ugg boots ..."; maybe in a mistaken attempt to appeal to most of us ordinary, unglamorous women.

Instead, it has the opposite effect. Freeman comes off as trying too hard: trying too hard to relate, to be funny, and to inspire. What I was left with was a feeling of growing disappointment, and a lot less awesomeness than I started off with. And this is just the introduction.

To be fair, there were a few relevant points made in her introduction on feminism, and how its relevance is still questioned today, and she brings up the very valid argument that if racism is still relevant, why can't feminism be?

However, there were certain points in the rest of the book that by turns made me cringe and raised my temper. In fact, there were times when both happened within two pages.

For example, Freeman's "Top Ten Commandments for being a vegetarian". For someone who is a lifelong vegetarian, Freeman doesn't seem to think too highly of the rest of her ilk. Her second-most important commandment is for vegetarians not to talk about their poo. Because obviously that's what they all do – talk about their poo non-stop.

Another gem: Don't make a fuss if there are no vegetarian options. Even if you're invited to a dinner party, DON'T tell your host that you're vegetarian, unless they ask you. The reason? Well, they're already cooking for all these people, so don't give them the extra trouble.

While it's admirable that Freeman doesn't want to make more trouble, it makes no sense why she thinks this is a good idea. Wouldn't your host prefer to know your dietary restrictions? If you were lactose intolerant and every dish had cheese or cream, then, oh boy, you're in trouble! These ideas made it difficult for me to enjoy the good parts of her book, which can sometimes be found in the same section as the not-so-good.

Her 10-point guide to being a modern-day feminist is actually quite good. The same goes with some of her views on feminism. However, these points are either always very subjective, or barely researched, which is a shame because these are what gives the book that special "oomph".

Instead, she (again) meanders off into telling the reader what to do.

This tends to be a trend in her writing, with the good parts being completely overshadowed by Freeman's bossy attitude.

And that is a problem, because, while this is a non-fiction book and Freeman is perfectly within her rights to air her opinions, it feels like she's trying to force them down your throat instead of suggesting them.

Be Awesome has some pearls of wisdom, if you look very hard. Unfortunately, it isn't anywhere near awesome.

Limbang Rebellion: 7 Days In December 1962

Posted: 30 Dec 2013 08:00 AM PST

THE Limbang Rebellion in Borneo was the prelude to Malaysia's confrontation – or Konfrontasi, as it's more popularly known – with Indonesia and helped to convince Sarawakians of the wisdom of joining in the formation of Malaysia. Yet it is not mentioned in our school history textbooks and unless our families or our friends were directly affected, many of us know little about the weeklong uprising in December 1962. That's why Limbang Rebellion should be on your year-end list of books to read.

Sydney-based historian Eileen Chanin brings a very personal angle and touch to her tale.

Australian-born Richard "Dick" Morris was British Resident of Sarawak's Fifth Division when he and his wife Dorothy were taken hostage.

OPTIONAL PIC: Leader: Former police constable Salleh Sambas led the rebels in Limbang. -- Photos from Limbang Rebellion 

Rebel leader: Former police constable Salleh Sambas led the rebels in Limbang. — Images from Limbang Rebellion: 7 Days In December 1962

Chanin, who later became their daughter-in-law, had access to the couple's unpublished manuscripts and letters.

She interviewed many of the players – including the Royal Marines who came to the rescue – and delved into archives in Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and Britain.

In an extensive bibliography, she has meticulously listed all her reference material – right down to the date on which she accessed various websites.

But don't let the pages of maps, glossary, footnotes, bibliography and index overwhelm you.

Limbang Rebellion reads more like a thriller, drawing you into the lives of the people caught in the conflict.

Chanin sets the stage, pointing out that rebellion has had a long history in the region of Borneo, starting with the 1841 rebellion which British adventurer Sir James Brooke helped the Sultan of Brunei to suppress.

By 1962, Sarawak had passed through World War II and the Japanese Occupation. "Britain wanted out – but most Sarawakians wanted the status quo preserved," writes Chanin.

She traces the responses to the plan for the British territories of Borneo to form a new Federation of Malaysia, noting that "many in Sarawak were wary".

Abang Omar (centre) with his Red Cross 'workers', in their hastily assembled new uniforms, came to the rescue of the wounded and the hostages during the Limbang Rebellion. -- Photographer unknown. 

Abang Omar (centre) with his Red Cross 'workers', in their hastily assembled new uniforms, came to the rescue of the wounded and the hostages during the Limbang Rebellion.

And she notes that Britain's Colonial Office was "apprehensive about Indonesian moves in the Borneo region. It was expecting that the Indonesian Government would distract attention from serious domestic problems by launching 'claim' to neighbouring territory."

By Dec 6, although Dick had received reports about a possible uprising from Limbang and from Miri, he accepted the official opinion that there was no certainty of trouble.

"We agreed that the Police should be placed in a state of alert but that no further action should be taken."

But at 2am on Dec 8, the armed wing of the Brunei People's Party (which opposed the formation of Malaysia) launched coordinated attacks across Brunei, in Sarawak's Fifth Division and the western edge of North Borneo (now Sabah).

Chanin then picks up the pace with a blow-by-blow account of the rebel action, the experiences of the hostages and the rescue mission that succeeded even though the Royal Marines were vastly outnumbered.

She also recounts the bravery of many of the locals.

For example, Dorothy had earlier begun to revive the Limbang Group of the Red Cross, which had lapsed due to lack of support and funds.

She had held a first meeting, at which the business community promised building material and labour for a Red Cross headquarters.

A local headman and Limbang's postman, Abang Omar Abang Samaudin, offered to help and his daughter was appointed cadet officer.

When the rebellion broke out, Abang Omar and his daughter treated the wounds of both the revolutionaries and the police, and he told the rebels to send the bodies of the policemen who had been killed to the mosque for burial. That night, his family sewed Red Cross "uniforms" and the following day, he insisted that all civilian patients be released.

Then he met rebel leader Salleh Sambas and demanded permission to visit the prisoners under the rules of the World Red Cross conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war. The following year, Abang Omar was awarded the Queen's Commendation for Brave Conduct. His story is just one of many woven through the account, making what happened 51 years ago come to life.

Limbang Rebellion: 7 Days In December 1962 is available at Kinokuniya Bookstores at Suria KLCC and other leading bookstores.


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