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Your History, my History and Rick’s History…..

Posted by inspir3d on January 1, 2007

I crossed the New Year lastnight watching a Warner Brothers HD-DVD edition of “Casablanca.” You know that fuzzy black and white melodrama based on the broad way play, “Everybody Comes to Rick’s” by M.Burnett and J.Allison. The plot moves roughly at the speed of a motorized wheelchair from scene to scene under the guidance of veteran director Michael Curtiz.

The main character is, of course, Richard Blaine, played by Humphrey Bogart. He’s a figure not so very different from Huan Guan in the confessions of the Singaporean gangster in London only a whole lot, street wiser with a heavy dose of world-weary cynicism. He’s the quintessential antihero, a man who proclaims,

“I stick my neck out for nobody. You hear me, nobody!”

At least that’s his philosophy until old flame Elsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) shows up, only for him to utter those famous lines,

“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she has to walk into mine.”

Then all bets are off as Rick turns back into a noble and caring human being.

The accolades, awards, and adulation were nothing short of spectacular for a film that almost never was. In 1942 when it was being made, it was considered just another Warner Brothers back-lot melodrama only to end up being one of the all time silver screen greats.

I first chanced upon Casablanca the movie one muggy Friday night in the mid 1990’s.I into my final year in Engineering college, bored, and surfing between a baseball game and the wheel of fortune when Rick suddenly appeared – I remembered the tune, it was catchy, you know the one played by a sambo “yezzzzzz basssssss” caricature side kick, whenever the antihero says, “Play it again Sam.”

By the end, I was fascinated by something that would normally have left me cold fish indifferent -a romance! (I am a Sci-Fi buff). I had no idea how popular the film was, winning Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay, nor how much more popular it would become on TV, eventually attaining the status of most-often broadcast film in history. I only knew I loved it!

So, what’s the attraction? Why does “Casablanca” consistently show up in the public’s and critics’ lists of top-ten films of all time? I suspect it’s the characters, the atmosphere, and the dialogue as much as anything else. Sure, it’s a riveting love story, but without the colorful cast, oily locales, and memorable clichés, it would probably be just another run of the mill melodrama, which, as I said, is about what its producers initially expected it to be. But the movie eventually took on a life of its own in the eyes of the public. I guess one reason why most people found it affecting is precisely because, it was one of the first times Hollywood actually produced a movie where the main character Rick had such a tremendous amount of emotional baggage rooted in the past – in fact, throughout the movie, we are reminded of how everything he thinks, feels and decides to do isn’t so much determined by events in the apparent present or future, but rather his distant past with Elsa.

In a sense watching Casablanca yesterday night when the New Year passed, underscored for me, the importance of appreciating our history as individuals, a community, a tribe, a nation and perhaps even the wider spectrum of a broader based history of others who we may not even know.

I cant help but feel, the appeal of movies like Casablanca lies precisely in their capacity to tap the age old human yearning of questioning: who were really are and where are we going? In a sense, when we watch the antihero Rick struggling emotionally with the past as he tries to do the right thing in the apparent present of the silver screen– we can’t but reflect and draw analogies with our own existence and how our personal and broader sense of history eventually shapes our reasoning and perspective of the world.

On a larger schema or bigger canvas one may even juxtapose this question to ask the question for the rest of humanity: Where will our understanding of today and, more critically, the next century be, if we didn’t have a clear appreciation of our own sense of history? So much of how we presently see ourselves resides the cobwebs of our past. In not necessary referring to the history depicted to by historians, yes, sort of history does help us make sense of our place in society and community, but I referring to the small stuff – your history, like the moment when you first learnt to ride a bike, or the first time you ever scored a goal. You know the small stuff where history is a “h” and not the big booming authoritative voice of “H.” There is a certain uncertainty about even the notion of what really is history, I suspect.

I mention this only because the history of history is replete with endless contentions as to what actually once transpired – everyone from individuals, firms, institutions, governments and continents feel the need to gain a foothold over their equity of the past in order to help them make sense of their sense of futurism, losing our sense of history is like losing a limb, we hobble, we fall.

The recent debate on history textbooks in Japan and its impact on the neighboring countries like China and Korea, shows historical revisionism is a deadly serious business – no one wants this past to be snuffed out, not the comfort women not even the pygmies who once fought alongside the Australians against the Japanese in WW2. Or for that matter people who go around creating crop circles – everyone wants the benefit of clear light.

In a sense this has even transformed how modern day historians go about profiling history. For one, historians have to contend with the multitudes of views from different individuals and this in turn has led to the concept of “interculturality”, which focuses on the interdependence of these countries and peoples – unlike traditional comparative and contrastive-dichotomic research based methods of profiling history, where people from different continents are measured against each other very much like bolts ie West/Europe versus Asia/one of the already mentioned countries.

The concept of interculturality presupposes an inclusive methodological approach where no one country, people, creed or race has the right to determine their own history: since the actors concerned are not exclusively regarded as “autonomous” entities, but rather “mutually dependent” entities which influence each – in short, this analogical framework of profiling modern history is simply an extension of the “butterfly effect” – with albeit an academic gloss, one that simply reads.

“Your history determines my future and vice versa.”

If this sounds like a revisit of the demented jack in the box Jurassic Park chaos theory construct – where a butterfly flaps its wings in Tokyo and causes a force 10 hurricane storm over Long island, that’s precisely what it is. In short history in our age has never ever been so ephemeral or ungraspable before.

The history of mankind seen against the light of interculturality cast long disturbing shadows of what actually once transpired in the past, it simply means, its not enough these days for an individual, firm, institution, government or continent to simply understand their own histories, they need to take a proactive interest in their neighbor’s histories, if they seriously aspire to succeed in global politics, economics, trade and commerce.

Getting it wrong simply means the mother of faux pas’s like present day basket case Iraq, when military planners didn’t see the need to factor in the historical baggage of Sunni’s and Shites only for them to face the multi headed hydra of an Iranian style theocracy in the future – in short the sum of all theirs, yours and my fears put together with a bit more to spare to go around the block!

Getting it wrong simply means when the Japanese Historical Institute recently supplanted the word “invasion” for “campaign” to describe the Nanking incident, it created a diplomatic ruckus resulting in thousands of Chinese students protesting openly on the streets all across China.

Getting it wrong simply means for better or worse, our age is now either a technological nightmare or nirvana and whatever the bane or benefits that either technology or the free market capitalism has done to resolve the problems of the world’s unfairness or exacerbated it – your guess really is as good as mine. We shall never know, we will lumber like the blind, barreling head long into this architecture of the future, never really knowing whether it holds the key to dystopia or utopia for the rest of humanity.

Getting it historically wrong simply means the human race will increasingly disregard real values, philosophies and even such a thing a relationships, but instead seek solace in the powerful opium technology offers in the form of TV, pop culture, and the endless pursuit of gadgetry, even though these narcotics are addictive in the long run only to exacerbated the ills of society. The more widespread the usage of these narcotics, the more socially acceptable their use, till we will physically stop seeing it – that’s what happens when we don’t care to understand our history against the broader history of others – that’s what happens when the compact between society and history is abrogated – it becomes slightly shakier, its never entirely stable and this is where the pain of not really knowing who you or who they really are comes in, it grows dimmer and darker.

On a personal level, there is nothing as derisive as someone saying or behaving in a manner which simply sends out the message: I don’t want to know anything about your history. I am just not interested. It goes beyond disrespect, its very hurtful.

I remembered one incident poignantly some years ago during a scientific meet when I was the last speaker who presented a paper of an cracked brained scientific finding in New York about using man made generated lightning bolts to tame the weather. Hardly had I walked up to the podium half the crowd left, some had the courtesy to apologize, others simply stormed out and two thirds of the way into the seminar all but only two men remained.

One of them slumped on his chair snoring, the other an oriental gentlemen in a dark Italian suit seated in the back row listened attentively, his demeanor sharp and attentive possessing an eagle like quality. The man stayed on to the very end.

That evening as I stormed out of the lobby into the chilly sidewalk towards the subway, the stranger with the briefcase followed. I turned back and after exchanging a few words, I gathered he represented a group of interstellar colonist on an unheard of planet, somewhere in some far distant galaxy from ours – he mentioned briefly, there was a demand for what he termed terra-forming technology and expressed a wish to review the area of my cracked brain research further.

I had till then many strange conversations, but none as strange as the one that fateful evening. As I walked listening to the man, I couldn’t help but recount Rick’s closing lines to Capt Renault in Casablanca.

“I think this was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

By Harphoon / Brotherhood Press/ Philosophy / 2006


34 Responses to “Your History, my History and Rick’s History…..”

  1. flyboy said

    Chronicler is going to go ballistic, you spelling is worse than darkness harphy!

    130th says: Nice to see you again and Happy New Year.

  2. My interpretation is that Rick makes Elsa leave without him at the end as a revenge for what she did to him years ago, not out of altruism. He is an iron-hearted realist at the core.

  3. You’re all wrong. Every single one of you. The reason why Casablanca is so famous is because it represents the last thorough vestige of Humphrey Bogart’s sexiness. He, the epitome of manly appeal brought low by the current culture of effeminate male celebrities. It’s a conspiracy I tell you, the vaginal terrors of marketing have brought low the ideology of man, turning our once proud phallic power into metrosexual angst, trading our fedoras for body butter, our witty apathy for emo whinging.

    Or at least it should be, because that’s as much correlation to the theory that Casablanca’s success is somehow related to society’s appreciation and consideration of history as Harry Potter is an important work in the discussion of fables, fantasies and childlike imagination. Which is to say, incredibly vague and uselessly generalized.

    And don’t slag on pop-culture so effortlessly. Today’s pop-culture is tomorrow social history.

  4. dudu said

    Harpy boy is one of the darlings in the brotherhood. He just likes to transpose the world against his infantile pursuits, really he is quite harmless and terribly preppie boy in his ways.

    We are all terribly fond of him.

  5. montburan said

    I like Casablanca as well :). Just remember it was made just around the time when the US finally decided to enter the war against the Axis and the Dept of Manpower actually recruited Warner Brother’s assistance in helping out in the war effort.

    Btw what else did you watch, it was a long weekend remember harphy? Or was someone else watching you in your pinky PG’s? 🙂

  6. Angry_one said

    What happened thereafter between the terraforming outscourcer alien and Harphy?

  7. atomic monkey said

    Brotherhood is strong for only one reason, they have a huge following.

    Darkness was right at the end of the day, it doesnt boil down to whether you appear on TV or even whether you claim to be the No 1 blogger.

    It boils down to one thing and only one thing – will ppl vote for you with their mouse clickers.

    That is the ultimate currency in blogosphere – the rest is just fluff.

  8. atomic monkey said

    You want to know who the brotherhood is?

    Go through it slowly, dont rush take your time and get to know us.

  9. sphgirl said

    Brotherhood Press has started its siege machine on the singaporean blogosphere. They have begun to set the creative benchmark by tasking the likes of Harpoon, Trajan and astrboy to write.

    But they have not even begun to roll out their heavy hitters yet who are led by bambie darkness boys.

    I strongly suspect one of the reasons why they are still reluctant to roll out their first division writers is because they still feel the blogosphere needs to be slowly educated.

    Once the 1st division writers appear, then you will really see what darkness bambie boy meant by a new era in blogosphere.

    These people are not even asking our permission to do the things they do, they are not even soliciting our views either. They have simply said, this is how we are going to write our history and if we do not write it ourselves, we willl have to live under someone’s elses authority and that is never going to happen – so they have proceeded.

    I know their ways very well because I have followed them for a very long time.

  10. sphgirl said


    I just feel the interval between one article and another is too long, you boys will lose the momentum. The effort should be tighter. Just a constructive feed back. I always enjoy what you write in more ways than you can possibly imagine 🙂

  11. Lassie said


    I think the brotherhood has only one performance metric measure. They are after all quite customer orientated, that is to say what we want, they will make it happen.

    However, I do believe they do go abt educating us sometimes and this may not be such a bad thing.

    For example, I never really took an interest in politics and world affairs bfr bc I thought all those things were not important. I have always preferred to read women’s magazine abt make up and wedding gowns and that sort of thing.

    But because people like harpoon make it so very interesting by mixing a film review with the need for all of us to reclaim our sense of belonging by knowing our history. I am able to learn a bit about myself and be entertained at the same time.

    I dont really think people like darkness have some great plan to take over blogosphere, if they did they would have just blogged and most of us will just go there. After all it just takes 15 min to register one.

    Neither do I see him courting the attention of the media, not like Galye Goh who cannot write for nuts (I dont know why see always insist on the persona who represents blogosphere, cant we find someone less kayu) and mr wang who keeps flip flopping pro media, anti media, pro govt, anti govt, till aiyoh, I have a serious headache figuring out what he really stands for. I think he is seriously very confused.

    As for the brotherhood they have always been very consistent, no media, no interviews, no blog, no e-mail, no mainstream. And bfr they do anything, they always make it a point to communicate their intentions very clearly to the general public.

    I am very sure if you really google hard enough, you will find Bambie darkness telling us all how we need to go to the next level of blogging and things can never remain the way they are.

    After telling us and when none of us listens, they will just proceed with or without us, that has always been their style.

    Do I consider this unfair? I dont think so.

    As for what blogosphere will be like in the future. I think it is clear to all, the most creative and interesting will win the most readers. The boring ones will just go the way of the dino.

    long live the brotherhood and harpoon

  12. Lassie said

    I am sorry if I rambled for too long:)

  13. rocketer said

    You know why the MSM typically excludes the brotherhood despite the fact they score they highest number of reader hits in the internet and opt for personalities like Gayle Goh.

    Think. Why do you think that is the case. Think really hard abt it.

  14. rocketer said

    Atomic Monkey is right, get to know us, read slowly and carefully, dont rush take your time.

    Find out who they really are and you will eventually discover yourself.

    Long live the brotherhood!

  15. Chronicler said

    The reason why the msm like personalities like Galye Goh is because if they say jump, she will say how high. Its the same with wang, he is a panderer and we all know it only too well. At least Brown is a man who stands on his own two feet, we may not like him, but all the brotherhood respect him.

    Try it with a man like darkness lah, go ahead I dare you, he will just look into the ministers eyes and tell him the facts of life.

    That is one thing the MSM can never risk – the bad boy factor so now you know why ppl like Galye Goh do the things they do.

    Blogosphere needs a real leader to represent its interest it certainly doesnt need running dogs like her.

    We need real leaders who will represent our interest, men of substance, not panderers, there are too many of them out there.

  16. darkness said

    This is enough. Harphoon I expect you to manage the situation in future. I want this thread to end.

    As for Gayle Goh, I really have no comment, never heard of her bfr.

  17. Did I just see a bunch of deluded fools here talking to themselves?
    You bunch of monkeys should stop mumbling here and start doing some work.
    Like first, go and set up a blog yourself.

  18. chronicler said

    If we are really talking to ourselves why dont you check with the webmaster, I am sure he will provide you with all the IP accounts to show otherwise

    But you cant stand the truth can you and as your tag aptly describes how credible you really are Anonymous200.

  19. chronicler said

    I am the chronicler of the brotherhood. I dont want to fight, but if you force me, I will hunt you down and we will take it from there.

    Do you understand?

  20. harphoon said

    Hello all,

    blogosphere is very big place. Too big for generalizations.

    I think they can do their stuff and we can do ours.

    But I agree with darkness we need too rapidly build up “core competence” in our writing skills.

    I think if we spend less time whinging abt how unfair the world has treated us and simply focus all our energy on improving our spelling, grammar and style of writing, both we the writers and you the readers will cont to enjoy a very rewarding experience.

    I just dont see the point of channeling our energy in a non-constructive way.

    Thank you.

  21. darkness said

    I personally feel the whole issue of who should be the best person to represent the interest of blogosphere in a public discussion will always remain a contentious issue, simply because they are so many factions within the community which make up blogosphere, it is isn’t so much a monolithic community as it is a collection of communities, each with its respective ethos, values, goals and followers.

    Therefore when someone makes a conscious decision to appear in a public forum to speak about blogging, he or she is in fact a de facto representative of this larger and broader virtual community.

    They may even qualify their position by saying they are simply there to represent their personal experience of blogging, but this remains an unconvincing argument to me, because it presupposes the vast majority of viewers can successfully make this scalpel like differentiation – the truth is they cannot and will not and usually no caveat is inserted by either the producers, interviewer or interviewee to suggest otherwise – its to their interest to leave it deliberately open ended to heighten the dramatic effect.

    Usually if one really examines the spirit and flow of the line of questioning, the blogger isn’t so much discussing his blog and his personal experience as opposed to the wider paradigm of blogging in general – it is this larger and broader context which remains contentious, because against such a broad framework everyone in blogosphere expects to be represented and this naturally compels one to ask, how inclusive has this personality been in engaging others in blogosphere? Has this person who presupposes to speak on the behalf of the rest of blogosphere taken the trouble to acquaint himself with the various communities within blogosphere? In short has this person done his or her home work in striving to comprehend the various attributions of the community he or she aspires to discuss about?

    You may of course say all these things are not really important, simply because you know your slice of blogosphere better than anyone else and yes, after all it is your blog and surely even by the onus of the reasonable man surely this is enough, but that is a bit like a frog in a well saying the world is a circular blue disc with intermittent specks of white puffs – you speak the truth, but only a miserable slice of the truth.

    A derivative of this reductive line of logic simply means you will not have any credibility because you never bothered to do the things that needed doing in the first place – that is getting to know your community and this simply means you were perhaps bovine for acquiescing to the offer to appear in the first instance – because if you really think long and hard about it, you are probably the last person who should suitably be the name and face of blogosphere despite your best intentions.

    So there you go the truth in the palm of your hands, something to mull over the weekend, though you may shake your head and so “nay” I say to you look around you will find many others doing exactly the same thing as they look on. That my friend is the great disconnect, the place where a man stands before the great abyss not really knowing why his actions has provoked so much consternation – a place simply called the great divide.

    Am I darkness declaring war with you? Hardly, you have no idea how I wish for you to see the truth.

    I urge you all to be calm.

  22. observer said


  23. darkness said


    does anyone know a killer recipe for curry chicken? Will really appreciate it if you could share.

    Many thanks.

  24. steamboy said

    hey boss,

    No need to sweat it. try the curry chicken recipe from primataste.

    Its fail proof and the results are pretty good. Just cut back 40% on the santan and add more onions when you fry the rempah.

    Another thing if you want it spicier add in more chilli powder. Hope it helps.

  25. chronicler said

    Don’t forget the pandan leaf boss, put it in the rice cooker, it brings out the curriness.

  26. nacramanga said

    You also need to make sure after adding the santan to lower down the flame, otherwise it will start to froth and scum will form.

    Another thing, use a clay pot, my mother says, it doesnt impart that synthetic taste, more natural.

    Finally add in the potatoes in the last 20 min otherwise it will be like chowder.

  27. observer said

    hi darkness,

    My mother use to brine the chicken that is to say, she will soak it in a brine solution first bfr cooking.

    The recipe is 5 tbs of salt and water just to cover chicken and place in fridge.

    Remember never rinse the chicken and air dry for at least 2 hours.

    Darkness I just want to tell you. I really appreciate what you are doing for the singapore ppl. We need charismatic ppl like you.

    God Bless you.

  28. Nacramanga said


    Is that Oberon? Nice to see you bro, when are you log on again?

    I heard abt this brinning thingy and it works boss, no joke! Its based on some reverse osmosis thingy that breaks up the muscle fibers.

    But it leaves a funny taste so you need to add a bit of lime cordial to go with it or put a bit of fruit into the marination.

    darkness obby is back!

  29. darkness said


    We go back a long way right. I need to level with you buddy, we are here to enable ppl not disable them.

    You see its abit like the cat and the stove.

    A cat who jumps on a hot stove will learn never to jump on a hot stove again, but it also means it will never jump on a cold stove either and that is never a good thing.

    You got understand obby, you have to cool it and give ppl the right to even criticize us.

    Otherwise we will just be no better than those ppl who hammered brown and the ppl will despise us.

    Good leadership doesnt mean hammering ppl when they are wrong, it means bringing them back to the good fight by reasoning with them.

    Do you understand obby? Do you understand what I darknmess am trying to say to you?

    Brinning, I will give it shot. I promise, thks obby.

  30. pumpman said

    “But it leaves a funny taste so you need to add a bit of lime cordial to go with it or put a bit of fruit into the marination.”

    I suspect the funny taste comes from a chemical reaction with the sodium chloride and the pot.

    Need to marinade the chicken in a plastic or non-reactive container.

    Another thing if the temp isn’t below 12o C, nothing happens.

    Salt quantity is also very important the general rule of thumb is 4 rounded tablespoon heaps for every litre metric.

    Nac is right, you can add in flavoring. I usually throw in the mixed spices one gets from the mamak shop for abt 50 cents.

    I have tried brinning for the last 5 years, once you start there is no going back.

    It’s just magic.

  31. sphgirl said


    You need to use curry leaf / that’s to say you need to fry it first – if you want the Indian curry.

    If you want a more peranakan taste / use limau purut and serai / that should give the curry a very straits flavor.

    I would also recommend using fresh coconut milk instead of the packet variety / the taste is very different.

    Best of luck and happy new year to you boys.

  32. Ong Lei Kit said

    Hello all

    btw never forget to use only mineral water.

  33. dudu said

    Here’s looking at you kid! Want to be a chap in my story?

  34. puppylover said

    Come into Rick’s cafe Americain, its happy hour

    kick back your heels, relax and enjoy. Its not worth it to work too hard, one just needs to kick loose sometimes and look out far into some distant place in between the past and the present.

    Harpyboy do you want to be part of my history? Where are you, I hope you havent high tailed?????

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