Wednesday, 24 December 2008

WTF! @ Crash Boom Bang

Kaboom!!!
These must really be desperate times for our government.

The latest bomb is a The Edge report that an EPF-led consortium is close to buying three parcels of prime land in the Klang Valley.

Producing verbatim snippets here:
“204 acres of land near Jalan Cochrane, Kuala Lumpur. It reported that the provident fund was also the favourite to buy two parcels of land at Rubber Research Institute in Sg Buloh and Jalan Ampang.

According to The Malaysian Insider, property consultants have valued the land in Ampang at between RM150 and RM250 per sq ft (psf), the land in Jalan Cochrane at RM100 to RM200 psf, and the site in Sg Buloh at RM8 to RM12 psf.”

My maths isn’t that good and I might get things wrong here but a guestimate for such an adventure of acquiring Jalan Cochrane alone would cost the EPF led Consortium a hefty RM888.6 million at the lower price or RM1.78 billion at the higher price.

That’s a whole lot of our money to be spent.

I remember the DPM’s statement on the above sometime back and in my mind names like YTL, YNH, Sime, SP Setia, Mah Sing (to name a few) came up as the possible contenders to snap up these prime zones.

These housing Juggernauts are after all well equipped to profit when the good times returns.

I have never been more wrong in my life.

EPF yet again. ValueCap’s injection is still ringing in our ears.

Just like the suspicions cast by many of grubby hands wanting a dip in IJN’s cash reserves, the EPF is - for the umpteenth times - THE honey bowl of which everyone - even those in the streets, that's you and me – want to desperately open up.

Never mind that its our "Simpanan Hari Tua".

Hence the reduction in our monthly contributions: where despite public assertions that many would want to maintain was still forced upon us with silly administrative procedures.

Sometimes its justified for parents to dip into their children’s saving during rainy days, but it is utterly reprehensible to eye the savings as the MAIN option, and especially when the net effect does not in any way benefit the family as a whole.

Pray tell how this move to acquire prime land would benefit the Rakyat?

Does it mean that EPF would sell off the land to a third party?

But at what cost? The additional premium would surely put off any buyers who would probably rather be a first hand purchaser for such transactions to make business sense.

Would they develop it themselves, then?

EPF; in the property business. It’s highly risky, especially since even our giants in the housing sectors seem to be taking things easy for the time being.

And this is despite some having ample liquidity in their accounting.

Just like the IJN piratisation - (ahem.. excuse me) I mean - privatization, move, this doesn’t make sense.

Except for this: The national coffer is empty.

A worst-case scenario whichever way you look at it.

Crash Boom Bang.

Do say a prayer.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Bored Pastiche

It’s hard not to feel like James Stewart did as L.B. “Jeff” Jeffries in Rear Window (1954) these days.
Bored guy with a telephoto lens
Bad news unfold at worryingly dizzying pace, and just like Jeff, there’s little that you can do, really but rant.

There are so little to look forward to even as the year nears its ending days. Not even the upcoming Wolverine movie.

Am definitely not impressed with its all-action, little nuances, trailer despite the tie-in characters’ roll call, which includes Gambit, the Blob, Deadpool and Sabretooth.

Not helping matters is the now-deferred piratisation (Reggie (Sunday Star, Dec 21) Lee’s word, not mine) attempt of the IJN; a blatant show of “we can do whatever we want to” of the rich, the powerful and the connected amongst us.

Rant all you want. Ain’t nothing you can do bout it.

Poor schmuck, Us.

Time will tell if our rants made any difference.

I certainly won’t put much stock in the so-called powers of the “Rakyat’s Voice” – a peculiar phrase politicians would normally use whenever there are justifications to be made.

There were initially some exciting deviations from the mundane in our (meaning, local movie) very first lesbian kiss (Yowza!) as well as the (world’s?) first group nude stalking courtesy of Tayangan Unggul’s Histeria and Reformis (now former ) president Ramlan Abu Bakar respectively.

We know now what happened to both.

I was so looking forward to how Reformis would do their nude stalking thing. A plan so out of this world, really.

Had often wondered if they had the balls for it.

As I said earlier: I’m like L.B. Jeffries these days.
A True Princess

On second thought, James Stewart did have the company of the beautiful Lisa Fremont (played by Grace Kelly).

Hmm…

If only I can go for an Alfred Hitchcock “better known movies” marathon this coming long weekend like they often have in the UK all those years ago.

Should be way better than reading the daily bad news or Rocky Bru’s current fixation with Chin Peng.

Something worth doing over long weekends?

James Stewart and Grace Kelly

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Sugary Sweet

Finally, it has come down to seven options.

“It” being the teaching and learning of Maths and Science in English in schools.

I wonder what would be going through the minds of our Cabinet Ministers when the matter comes to a head and needs resolving.

Brownies!Hopefully no one is thinking about scoring any political brownie points, despite the obvious popularity of such a move.

On my part as a parent whose eldest daughter would be amongst the ten of thousands of children making their first step into formal education, I fail to see the benefit of taking a retrogressive step by going back to the mother tongue in both subjects.

The way forward is always fraught with the need to push and step up in efforts.

It’s really no different here.

While it may be true that the usage of English seems to give an undue advantage to the urban and suburban students over those in the rural areas, this is a matter that could be resolved with the appropriate human resources policing.

(I say seems because personal experience shows that the so-called advantaged group has equally atrocious grasps of the language. Perhaps a different set, then..)

A particular advantage in pushing for the continued teaching in English for the two subjects is – in my mind, at least – that it would “force” students into practical usage of the globally accepted language.

Students (except for some select few) generally do not put too much stock into learning a language, as it seems to be something learnable at home and elsewhere.

In other words: they are taken simply for granted.

It’s the same for any language, be it English, Bahasa Malaysia, Mandarin or Tamil.

Perhaps it is this deterioration that is prompting champions of the mother tongue to push the discontinuation of English as the teaching medium.

Could it be that the case of a fear that the language would eventually die a natural death for a lack of impetus in their continued use as a commercial language?

Modelled sweet cravingsLike I said, there’s a good deal of brownie points to be made.

My hope is that current sweet needs are tampered with the realization that too much would lead to the future risk of diabetes.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Whispered Shout

Is that a cry I hear?
Barely a whisper, nestled in the breeze,
A solitary note, a whimper of a shout,
Far too timid,
Or is it cowed?

Crowded out in a mass of unblinking chatter
Black doves and white ravens
Highbrow lummox and bourgeois pariah
Lustful clerics and frigid harlots
Each in vapid cognizance of listless living
Some craving solace
Many seeking serenity
And finding none in a world without patience for the lethargic
Without forgiveness for the miscreant
Tired of repeat showings
Of countless rebirth
In false Messiah
In suicidal dullards
Seeking the pinprick of a black hole
An eyelet to swallow it whole
To a cherished blankness
Is that her cry,
I hear?


Mother earth?

Quiet Solitude: From marithpoet.com

Friday, 28 November 2008

Blasphemous Oxymorons

I’m a fairly recent convert to green tea courtesy of a fine sampling during a trip to Japan sometime ago.

Not really a connoisseur, I don’t brew my own tea leaves etc and depends mostly on generic offerings of the main tea producers.

naturalNormally, I would go for “plain” type but a last shopping trip saw me pick up a “jasmine” variation, and sure enough: it simply doesn’t work for my taste buds.

The best thing about green tea is that it would never taste bitter no matter how long you have it in the cup or mug, which was not – disappointingly - so with the jasmine green tea I bought.

As such I’ve had to time how long the tea sachets stays in my Friends’, “Rachel” sized cup.

Supposedly green tea helps to detoxify your system, but this I wouldn’t really know or care enough to look into, as I just like its natural scent and taste.

Detoxification refers to the process of removing toxins from the body, although I believe its more of a mind thing where you just believe in the need for an external element when the body has already in-built biological system to deal with it.

Perhaps its just a sign of times and the realisation of how much alien ingredient we are pumping into ourselves helping to popularise this concept.

We now want to know what these items are and where they are from. Ie. its very source.

In Islam, the question on "source" is very important, hence the existence of the Quran and hadiths in providing guidance even as cleric hold discourses on items – new and old – that concerns the Ummah at large.

As such, Halal (permissible) is a concept that applies not only to the food and drinks we consume but also the resources used to get these items in the first place.

It’s certainly a huge issue that confronts modern muslims and hence the somewhat vapid attention to ingredients in items consumed, for example, and the firm adherence to earning an honest living.

Rezeki yang halal, as the saying goes. Quantum hardly matters really.

(And since we couldn’t really be 100 percent sure, we seek forgiveness for any slipups in our prayers. But, of course, there must be ample effort on our part, too.)

Could this be all that is wrong and besetting the biggest party in the country; aka the so-called money politics?

Ever so discreetCould it be that the body (the party) is too pumped up with all that is not-so-halal there is simply no detoxifying it anymore?

All those years of handing out small and big tokens – mostly in the form of “duit kopi” or “beda isi minyak” - for support etc are now sedimentation no longer flushable.

Star columnist Azmi Sharom wrote: “It’s the kind of thinking that creates some horrible everyday blasphemies like people muttering “halal, ya?” after they accept a bribe.”

Azmi is probably writing from personal experience.

To ordinary Malay Muslims, the "halal, ya?” (or “mintak halal”) are often requests to set aside lack of small change in money, or uninformed consumption of a host’s food items.

Things like that.

“Halal, ya?” for bribes is just as oxymoronic as "Halal Pork".

You’d need a lot more than just green tea to detox such blasphemy.

Bribery - Lawson Wood (1878 - 1957)

Never do this

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Meaty Discourse: second take

The headlines were screaming loud today in the English dailies.

Star and Sun: “Yoga Fatwa on Hold” while NST went with “Fatwa on Yoga – Consult the Rulers first”.

The two main newspapers in Bahasa Malaysia are pretty subdued on the matter.

If you wish, read up Sun’s take on the subject in the main news as well as its columnist for the day .

Remember: with open mind. Don't go ballistic unless warranted.

Two things come to mind when you read through these news articles:

i. the National Fatwa Council is bound by Constitutional jurisdictions in the implementation of edicts, and

ii. the issue is only of concern to the so-called liberal, English speaking and using Muslim cross section;

The first point is the more interesting as it points to a two-tier syetems: an issuance of edict by the Federal National Fatwa Council, and then implementation by the State Fatwa Committee.

Implementation in the respective State is following the Royal Assent from their respective Rulers before it can be gazzetted.

What happens if the State doesn’t agree with the National Fatwa Council?

Secular me had this one nagging thought I didn’t highlight earlier as it might just be interpreted as going against Fatwa, and it is this:

Once a fatwa is made, it becomes a rule. Haram is haram, and there is no two ways about it and once gazzetted, action can be taken against those who break these rules.

The suddenness of the edict is a problem for some of the now-Haram Yoga Muslim instructors who would (should?) have known enough to not indulge in the mantras and chants which would have eroded their faith in the first place.

What would become of them? Perhaps, they should have a name change: Pilayoga, or Yolates, or something. Would they still run foul of the edict if the poses and practise are basically the same?

The view of the Perlis Mufti accords a way out for them and in the logical discourse-based thinking (not always the case when it comes to religious issues), this possibly should have also been the way the National Fatwa Council worded the edict.

Just like it is with the daily prayers: there will be room for differences in practice as long as the core faith and belief remains true.

Muslims should not envy those sitting in the Fatwa councils - Federal and State – as in their hands lie the huge, HUGE responsibility of guiding us and woe should there be missteps along the way putting the religion in dispute or ridicule.

There is no bigger responsibility for a Muslim than to lead the ummah.

That is why the Prophet Muhammad SAW is Junjungan Besar.

The solemnity in prayers

The starting point

Monday, 24 November 2008

Meaty Discourse

My wife and her secretary joined an after office hour Yoga class sessions sometime back.

They went for a whole stretch of days and were quite pleased with the progress made in terms of their fitness levels, and the ability to fit into blue jeans again.

And then it got to the stage of mind over matter. Or something. Oneness, and what not.

I wouldn’t know as I wasn’t there but both decided that it was not something they’d want to venture in.

Did I mention that my wife’s secretary is a devout Christian?

Being stuck in routine 8am to 6pm job, my wife found the idea of social exercise club heaven sent, and yoga – early on – seemed a good idea with an all-female membership, close vicinity to her workplace and a structured fitness system.

She didn’t fancy hitting the gym or swimming, and walks in the park are basically a weekend thing so Yoga was it.

The National Fatwa Council’s recent decree on Yoga just affirms what both she and her secretary felt at odd with.

(My wife is now eyeing Pilates as her fitness regime and learning the ropes via the idiot box and a VCD. Her secretary meanwhile practices "speed marketing" in Singapore.)

Couldn’t have the Council be a bit more proactive over such matters? Nip whatever “kesangsian” there is at the bud, so as to speak.

Yoga has been around for a long, long time and is not even a recent phenomenon in the country.

There are things that are more current and shimmering which the Council should look at in earnest; issues that have more meat for discourses such as the right to practice religions, the amalgamation of Civil and Syariah laws, or the controversial ISA, for a few examples.

What of the study by Suhakam for children attaining the age of majority to be given the right to choose their religions ?

These are some of the worthy issues the Council should discuss and reveal their thoughts on.

Things like chants and mantras accompanying Yoga moves or any other activities - Silat, for example - most Muslims know and accept as wrong anyway.

Hence the oft-quoted defense of only practicing the moves from their practitioners.

Being dismissive of an issue's seriousness would only lead ignorance to rule public discourse over such matters and half measured efforts are equally damaging.

During an assignment of covering a Malaysian Nature Society’s function in an Orang Asli’s village in Gopeng, I walked upon a group of women cooking curry in a huge pot, supposedly for lunch.

Their answer when I queried what dish it was: “Babi hutan. Boleh makan sebab dah sembelih. (Roughly translated: Wild boar. Can be eaten as it’s been slaughtered.)

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Ignore the practitioner and enjoy the scene.

Beauty

Friday, 21 November 2008

Immoral Intentions

“Don’t look now but someone is checking you out.”

Being a typical nondescript male specimen, I hardly get second glances with the female crowd so my wife’s comment perked my ego up a bit until I managed a glance at the so-called “checker”.

I saw a thin, slightly effeminate bloke who was chatting away with another man – beefy, middle age perhaps - who had his arms wrapped around the former's shoulders.

Rev Homer J. SimpsonThere was no denying the highly visible intimacy the duo exuded.

Initially I thought it was the bigger man my wife had referred to, but it turned out that the one eyeing me out was the smaller guy.

I’m used to the cross dressing community in public, and while last night’s incidence was only the second such over the last few months, what concerns me was the totally pompous manner in which the couple exhibited their “relationship” to others.

A sort of “Up yours!” statement to those who disapprove of such behaviour.

In Spain, feathers are being ruffled with the conservative views of their Queen Sofia when it comes to homosexuality and gay marriages.

The book “The Queen Up Close” has Queen Sofia saying that she did understand why "they should feel proud to be gay."

"That they get up on floats and parade in the streets? If all of us who are not gay were to parade in the streets, we'd halt the traffic in every city”

Queen Sofia of SpainMy first encounter with the gay couple phenomenon here was decades ago during a Merdeka celebrations in the city when my friends and I chanced upon two men smooching away right in public’s eye in Jalan Bukit Bintang after the parade.

Being the hot-blooded young men that we were, we expressed our disgust – which the couple just laughed off - and went off to see if we could discovery some female coupling instead!

We went home disappointed in that respect.

I was once “propositioned” by a man who sat next to me in one of the now- no-longer around Bas Mini Wilayah.

He started out with small talks and then remarked that he likes boys in uniform and that I would look great in one.

Ouch! I left it at that and exited the bus as soon as I could.
The surge in liberalism of late in this country especially in this respect is at odds with its overall conservatism especially as Islam is the official religion, and all the other religions practiced freely.

Homosexuality is something that can be said to be man made with the basis for its acceptance stemming from the human rights domain where morality has no stand in its jurisprudence.

The gay community here is simmering just below the surface with everyone knowing of, and recognizing their very existence but ignoring the issue or closing one (both?) eyes to it.

It’s a phenomena that points to a breakdown in the institution of family that is the hallmark of society’s growth. Where do we get the next generation if every couple is of the same gender?

Cloning? Stem cells? More morality conundrum there, I’m afraid.

With the exception of religions, policing morality is really a tough call for any authority as they call for a most subjective judgment as to what should be and what is wrong where the laws are concern.

I wonder if we are now ready to accept public gay couples? Looking at the way things are, it would seem that the answer is yes.

Could it be that more of us no longer cares about morality?

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Individual Solace

If I could fashion a personalized praying room, or hall, it would have to be based on Kuala Kangsar’s Masjid Ubudiah.

Not in its architectural design - despite the relatively medium sized mosque being one of the most beautiful constructions in the country – but the internal set-up, especially the carpeting.
Masjid Ubudiah, Kuala Kangsar
The carpet lining the floor of Masjid Ubudiah is not of the really deep plush variety, but it gives you the most exotic scents as you sujud so much so that you wouldn’t really mind reading the verses a whole lot slower that you normally would.

This is one mosque where the execution of the minimum five prayers a day is a pleasure not only to the soul, but also the senses.

Masjid Ubudiah, I sincerely believe, is just the right size and walking from the area where you take your wudhu to the praying hall is just a short distance, unlike, say, the Shah Alam mosque.

Another fine mosque I enjoy praying within is that of Universiti Teknologi Petronas (UTP, for short).

It is minimalist in design lacking the grandeur of it’s other more illustrious siblings and provides the most calming of experience especially if you opt to conduct your prayers in the open air section.

Sited next to a lake, the design is such that a cool breeze would envelop your body even during a hot afternoon, which the whole area of Sri Iskandar, Tronoh and the likes – being the ex-mining area that they were – are for most of the time.

The UTP mosqueOn occasion I would just stay on for a while after prayers to just enjoy the solace.

Being a Muslim in this country is almost heaven sent, with most areas having Mosques and Suraus, and missing the five main prayers a matter of personal choice especially for those on the roads.

Before the completion of the UTP’s mosque, a favorite stop was a mosque near (if I’m not mistaken) Titi Gantung my friends and I dubbed “Masjid Pas” for the predominant white-moon-on-green-background flags within its vicinity.

It’s old and rickety and, during the construction of the Ipoh – Lumut expressway, a hassle to drive in and out of, but there’s ample parking, clean water and clearly designated (and clean, too!) toilets for the male and the female ummah.

Best yet, it has the same warm wood scents I could associate with my grandparent’s home in Alor Star where I grew up all those years ago.

These mosques and suraus are iconic constructs in Islam being the recognized “agama rasmi” of the country.

Diverging a bit, what of arches built in the pretext of campaigning for Islam Hadhari ?

A lifting of the veil by the new Malay Mail team on Nov 20 revealed the project involving the construction of 14 arches “key, high traffic sites nationwide in exchange for an exclusive 15-year concession” deal by the Prime Minister’s Department with a media company.

The project’s brief: “Cadangan penajaan gerbang kempen kesedaran nilai - nilai murni menerusi Islam Hadhari.”

Further, the MM article said the campaign period for the government will be for three months a year, the rest of it being free advertising space for the media owner.

My, my. What sort of messages would be fronting the arches the other nine months?

The Jalan Syed Putra's construction – already causing some bad vibes amongst nearby residents for water supply disruption – is supposed to be the pilot project.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but “nilai – nilai murni” shouldn’t start on such wrong footing of raising people’s ire.

And just call it as it is.

The way it is elsewhere

Billboard promoting Islam

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

One Saturday

Work should be made unlawful on Saturdays.

It wasn’t (no edict, no provisions in the Penal Code, nothing in the Employment Act) so I was pretty much stuck without any mood to do anything one such Saturday.

Even if it was only freelance writing.

I did the next best thing when you’re gung ho about doing nothing: research, but it wasn’t something Ted (my freelance contractor) would probably have approved of: I went “YouTubing” for songs from my yesteryears.

It sure felt great (awesome? Ouch!) to still enjoy those “oldies” courtesy of fans who took time to upload the videos.

One of the many songs I looked up was Lisa Stansfield’s “This is the right time” from her 1989 debut Affection, and end up enjoying another single I had completely forgotten about: “All Woman” (1992, Real Love).

Lisa Stansfield
The song tugged my heartstring, but the music video was, in a word, crap.

And I'm sure the lyrics would loose much of its relevance these days of women’s liberation and working parents unless there is some deeper meaning which I did not catch.

Still, I went through the song over and over again as the melody was simply magical (is that violin in the background?) and the last bit did get me melodramatic vis a vis how things are with my better half.

Another song I enjoyed that came with a crappy video was Ronnie James Dio’s “Holy Diver” (Holy Diver, 1983).

Holy Diver!
My friend and I used to love doing that horned devil thingy. We were young, foolish and anti authority (mainly the much disliked dorm Ustaz - one from three, really; the others being cool dudes in my book for their psyche-the-student-instead-of-reprimand them approach).

Incidentally, I heard “Holy Diver” again sometime ago on the radio; probably KLFM’s retro segment. That made me look up the song again.

A much better, and braver, music video on something so touchy a subject – faith – would be R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion" (Out of time, 1991).

Songfacts.com says the video was based on one Gabriel Garcia Marquez's novel titled "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings".

Losing My Religion
The novel apparently told of an angel whom people made money from by displaying as a freak show after he fell down from heaven.

If that’s not brave, I don’t know what is.

Don’t really know if the song was ever aired here, though.

There were others I managed to look up; far too many to really list here, but the one that got me singing along was Rick Astley’s “It would take a strong, strong man” (Whenever You Need Somebody, 1987).

I have a soft spot for guitar solos, and in “..strong, strong..” it was a good one. Not the best, but quite there all the same.

Some trivia:
Ronnie James Dio was born Ronald James Padavona in 1942. Lisa Jane Stansfield and Richard Paul Astley are both 42 this year having been born in 1966.

All much older than me. Wonder what songs they listen to during their Saturdays?

Friday, 14 November 2008

Ten for a moment..


Terminal Tunnel Vision Patients


Jeffrey Archer’s A Quiver Full of Arrows has this short story entitled “Chunnel Vision” which tells of a man transfixed with HIS own fixations that he failed to see anything else.

If my recollections are correct, the tale has it that he had gone on and on about a possible book he would be writing to an author friend at a hotel whilst his (soon-to-be former) girlfriend indulges in some extravagant dining exercise.

At HIS expense, of course.

Hence the title, a cheeky attribute to the medical condition in the loss of peripheral vision. You can read the story here .

My mind drifted back to (Sir) Archer’s story upon reading this particular comment from NUTP secretary-general Lok Yim Pheng:

“When you are taught a subject in a certain language for six years, you should improve in the language. There should definitely be progress; otherwise it means the teachers are not doing their jobs. We need to analyse the different groups of children's achievements. For example, how many students got Es in the subjects?”
Examination Blues
This comment was made in the heels of a reported 4.4 per cent increase of A scorers in English and a 4.8 percent increase in overall competency (A,B and C), a 46.6 per cent of pupils (or 238,153 in figures) choosing to answer Mathematics in English and 31.1 per cent (159,234) for Science.

These figures are astounding especially compared to last year: 0.2 and 0.3 per cent respectively.

NUTP had sometime back voiced its opposition to continuing the teaching of Mathematics and Science in English in one of the mainstream newspaper, so the reaction was perhaps understandable.

Shouldn’t however the fact that more children are finding English to be something neither foreign nor incomprehensible rejoiced?

I find the NUTP’s wanting to still finding flaws in the face of such positives bewildering.

In any education system, there will be failures. Most of the time, it's the result of multiple diverse causes and not necessarily the education systems or the language used in its delivery.

Unless all those who tackled Maths and Science in English had actually scored badly, what would be a cogent reason for backtracking a policy that helped increased significantly our students’ confidence in the language?

Education Minister Hishammuddin Hussein was spot on when he was cited as saying:
“…it answered the emotional outbursts following the implementation of the policy, as if it will jeopardise the future of our children.”

There was nonetheless still a proviso:

"This does not mean that the policy was right. It also does not mean that we will not make changes.”

Can’t blame the Minister as he is, after all, a politician, and a good one always gives face.

I just hope the Minister and the Cabinet members would put in their minds the faces of these children with their newfound confidence before deciding on the issue.

(Perhaps I am the one afflicted by this ailment? After all there were some reductions in the number of A's in both subjects...)

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Where we stand statistically

Figures quoted to the Parliament by a Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department on the Malaysians’ household monthly income:

Below RM1,000 (Total of 495,500 households)
Malays: 301,000 (60.8%), Chinese: 50,900 (10.3%), Indians: 29,000 (5.8%),
Kadazan: 29,300 (5.9%), Orang Asli: 7,500 (1.5%) and others: 78,800 (15.9%)

~ RM1,001 and RM2,000 (Total of 1,695,900)
Malays: 976,500 (57.6%), Chinese: 338,300 (20%), Indians: 125,300 (7.4%),
Kadazans: 38,800 (2.3%), Orang Asli: 9,800 (0.6%) and others: 207,200 (12.2%)

~ RM2,001 and RM3,000 (Total of 1,144,700)
Malays: 614,700 (53.7%), Chinese: 300,800 (26.3%), Indians: 121,500 (10.6%),
Kadazans: 15,300 (1.3%), Orang Asli: 2,500 (0.2%) and others: 89,900 (7.8%)

~ RM3,001 and RM4,000 (Total of 743,000)
Malays: 380,500 (51.2%), Chinese: 234,700 (31.6%), Indians: 73,300 (9.9%),
Kadazans: 8,900 (1.2%), Orang Asli: 1,000 (0.1%) and others: 44,600 (6%).

~ RM4,001 to RM5,000 (Total of 497,800)
Malays: 254,700 (51.2%), Chinese: 166,600 (31.6%), Indians: 44,800 (9%),
Kadazans: 6,900 (1.4%), Orang Asli: 200 (0.04%), and others: 24,600 (4.9%).

~ RM5,001 to RM10,000 (Total of 914,200 )
Malays: 419,200 (45.8), Chinese: 368,400 (40.3%), Indians: 76,800 (8.4%),
Kadazans: 13,400 (1.5%) and others: 36,500 (4%).

~ RM10,001 to RM20,000 (Total of 235,300)
Malays: 85,700 (36.4%), Chinese: 118,700 (50.4%), Indians: 23,400 (9.9%),
Kadazans: 800 (0.3%) and others: 6,700 (2.8%).

~ More than RM20,000 (Total of 49,500)
Malays: 16,500 (3.3%), Chinese: 27,900 (56.4%), Indians: 3,600 (7.3%) and others: 1,500 (3%).

Grand total in number of households is 5,775,400.

Do note that the percentage will not tally due to a rounding up exercise.

Isn’t statistic wonderful in that it tells you everything and yet nothing at the same time?

PS: Thought of coming up with a swanky chart, but the results are, as you can see below, utterly pathetic.
Money, money!

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Latte Swirly

Subprime Goldmine?
Just how big a hole have the smart alecks of Wall Street dug for the world to refill?

Looking at the figures being asked as (ahem!) bailout from the US Treasury Department is really a surreal experience:

AIG: US$150 billion (supplementing an earlier USS$85 billion)

Nine US banks: US$125 billion

GM, Ford and Chrysler: US$50 billion (on top of US$25 billion earlier)

Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae: (not stated, but both are sitting on US$5.3 trillion worth of mortgage which probably had lost much of their value)

Had Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson (ahem) injected funds into investment bank Bear Stearns and Merrill Lynch after they got into trouble, it would have been another US$395 billion and US$44 billion respectively.

Then there’s the so-called stimulus package that’s the highlight in this country and Japan and China at US$1.95 billion, US$51 billion and US$586 billion in recent times. The US stimulus bill is set at US$700 billion and some news analysts are saying that it won’t be enough .

Note: Ours was by far the cheapest stimulus package and whether or not that would help the country would be seen next year; the year EVERYONE is saying will be much worse than this year.

Exports are down, as the Americans and the Europeans are no longer buying items they do not really need that much.

A sure sign of how bad things are is that latte lovers are forgoing Starbuck’s for the cheaper brands, the French are having lunch at McDonald’s and Americans are throwing into the dustbin all offers for credit.

Just what is happening to the world's finance and how did we let it get THIS bad?

Back at home, though, everything seems handy dandy so much so that a 10 to 20 cents reduction at the Mamak restaurant makes front page !

Pop quiz (said in the deadpan manner ala Keanu Reeves): How many 20 cents coins do we need to fill the hole that seems to be sucking the world’s confidence in the economy?

Don’t bother answering, though.

If the bests minds in the world cannot fathom just how deep the shit we’re in, the rest of us might as well just sleep over it and carry on the best we can.

And, yeah, enjoy the 10 cents less for tomorrow’s roti canai and tea tarik, and 20 cents for Nasi Kandar.

Hopefully, the portion served’s still the same.

Just last night my wife and I shopped at Mydin and out flew RM360 from our wallet for groceries.

I did splurge a bit: bought smoked chicken breast slices when I really shouldn’t have, but, hey, what is life without all these little pleasures to make it more bearable.

Might as well become a hermit and go sit/chant/whatever in a cave somewhere.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Notions Within

Is it possible to feel truly alone and lost amidst more than 6.6 billion people?
Mar Kendrick's Pain receptor (2006)

Sadly, it is.

The most unfortunate loneliness must however be those moments when you are empty within.

It’s a feeling difficult to explain to those who have never experience it personally, but it is akin to having a space of nothingness inside your very soul.

This space is almost like a vacuum, and it would not hesitate to suck you in deeper into despair if nothing is done to arrest this desperate cry from the tedium that would normally afflict our lives every now and then.

God knows I’ve felt this a number of times in my life.

Perhaps it’s a feeling that afflicts those with a softer side to their personality.

Perhaps not. I wouldn’t know for sure but I’d love to have the late Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939) analyse some recurring dreams during those dark days of loneliness.

In it, I was swimming in, or gazing into, a crystal clear ocean fill with all manners of ocean life, all of which would pay no attention to the stranger amongst them.

The dream would have no particular catalyst, or plot twist; unlike horror movies where all the calm and serenity are just a prelude to a gory fest of blood and gore.

There are no words, but you could literally feel the cool breeze (if I’m watching from above – a bridge, a quay, a cliff) and the cool touch of the sea (when I within).

Another dream of far less recurrence has me high up in the sky, watching or witnessing billowing clouds; coming together in bold strokes of a master painter with the bright blue sky his canvas.

All are beautiful sights I felt blessed to be lost within.

I was in heaven and hating the moment of my waking up to a destitute world; one fill with greed and selfish interests, pain and suffering.

Often I forget – then - that it is also a world of hope, of love and beauty, and that it’s not the world’s fault that it turned out the way it did after centuries of abuse.

I have but only recently found the strength and courage to accept this reality after rediscovering my faith.

This faith is the anchor that ties us down to earth.

Loneliness might be beautiful at times, but it is never real and always a fleeting pleasure.

Heaven (on earth, at least) is in finding the little things that makes everyday worth the seconds and minutes that passes us by.

George Seurat’s Bridge at Courbevoie (1886)

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Lest We Forget...

Gadis Kecil - Usman Awang (1929 – 2001)

Tubuh itu mengingatkan daku
sebatang pinang di desa sepi
kurus dan tinggi
ketika ribut besar
pohon sekitarnya rebah terkapar
dan pohon pinang tegak menanti
sinar mentari pagi

Demikianlah gadis kecil itu
kurus seperti sebatang pinang
bertahun berulang-alik melalui
penjara kawat duri menemui
ayahnya yang bertahun pula sendiri
menentang tiap penderitaan
tabah dan beriman.

Gadis kecil itu mengagumkan daku
tenang dan senyuman yang agung
dengan sopan menolak pemberianku
'saya tak perlu wang, pak cik,
cukuplah kertas dan buku.'

Usianya terlalu muda
Jiwanya didewasakan oleh pengalaman
tidak semua orang mencapai kekuatan demikian
ketabahan yang unik, mempesonakan.
Bila aku menyatakan simpati dan dukaku
rasa pilu terhadapnya

sekali lagi dia tersenyum dan berkata:
'jangan sedih, pak cik, tabahkan hati
banyak anak-anak seperti saya di dunia ini.'

Aku jadi terpaku
dia, si gadis kecil itu menenteramkan
mengawal ombak emosiku
jangan sedih melihat derita pahitnya.
Alangkah malunya hati seorang lelaki dewasa
yang mahu membela manusia derita terpenjara
menerima nasihat supaya tabah dan berani,
dari anak penghuni penjara sendiri?

Sepuluh anak seperti dia
akan menghapuskan erti seribu penjara.

~~~~~~~


One such Gadis Kecil will no longer visit her detained (Entah sampai bila) father…
natalie Portman aka Evey Hammond in V for Vendetta

Freedom most sweet..

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Bogeyman Boogies

Anyone who is a fan of oldies Filem Malaya will recognise this particular line:

“Kajang Pak Malau kajang berlipat, kajang saya mengkuang layu, dagang Pak Malau dagang bertempat, dagang saya musafir lalu."

I have never understood its exact meaning but it was a poetry in motion, voiced immaculately and with much gusto by the late Nordin Ahmad (1932 - 1971) in Salleh Ghani’s Seri Mersing (1961).

Nordin Ahmad played Damak, a migrant who espouses the core values of integrity, honesty and sincerity (quoting from Filemkita.com).

Classical Malay films are pretty much white and black in its moral and etchical discourse, and for most of the time, it is relatively easy to spot to bad and the crooked guys who should get what’s due to them.


One film which probably detracted from this cut and dried ruling might be P. Ramlee’s excellent Semerah Padi (1956) which incidentally, also star Nordin Ahmad as the other main character in the tale of tragic love triangle.

Back to Seri Mersing.

Damak in the undated tale of the Malay heartland of old was a bogeyman of sort for the relatively close knit, know everyone community as here he was; a migrant looking to settle down in a place he desperately wants to call his own.

His hardworking, honest (and heroic) demeanour wins the love of the local beauty (played by Rosnani?) and, of course, the local lads take offence of.

A concerted effort was then made to disparage this outsider, forcing Damak and his whole family to leave and only then was his innocence surfaced.

Thus the classic line was quipped by a man who must have felt a great dissappointment that positive virtues came to naught for the sole reason of him being outside of the clique.

Sounds familiar?

Another film which tackled issue of preserving the status quo is the 1992 classic “Strictly Ballroom” starring Paul Mercurio and Tara Morice.


The comedic Australian offering saw Mercurio taking on the role as Ballroom dancer Scott Hasting who was chastised by his ballroom peers when he dared to veer from the accepted dance steps.

He later found solace, love, companionship and redemption with the off beat Paso Doble (Spanish for double step) routine.

The movie mocked every known cliché there was to mock on the issue of status quo, but did it charmingly without, I believe, insulting anyone in particular.

Here the bogeyman (so as to speak) was change from the acceptable norm, a fear that these changes would render the conservative elders moot and redundant.


This country has had its fair share of bogeyman.

The latest seems to be Mahathirism, the sanctity of the social contract agreed by our Statesmen of old and the special rights of the indigenous Bumiputra.
Much have been said and written on these matters, but a recent most refreshing look must be that of Ikim’s “Overcoming Religious Sensitivity”.

It’s a good read but I wonder if the author would ever reach his intended audience.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Moral Policing: A Sequel

Imagine that: there are moral police even in the much-hyped land of the free, United State of America.

zack and Miri's poster
Kevin Smith’s sentimental comedy “Zack and Miri make a porno” did not make the cut in the state of Utah, with “graphic nudity and graphic sex” being cited as the main concerns for the banning.

A title like that would surely court trouble elsewhere too even if the movie is not an outright pornographic or blue movie.

Remember Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone’s “Basic Instinct” (1992)? I saw that one in the United Kingdom and my, my, did it have some graphic sex scenes.

Ditto with Madonna’s “Body of Evidence” (1993) where she shared some hot candle moments (amongst others) with Willem Dafoe.

Based on the titles alone, Stone and Madonna show of skin (and more) would have passed through to the viewers should the Moral Police not view the whole movie themselves.

Truthfully, I was also once a MP myself.

It was during my secondary school days where the student body organizes on a regular basis free movie shows at the college’s lecture with yours truly one of the so-called censor board member.

This particular movie (the title has long since slipped my mind) featured Vampires in a spaceship setting, but since it was a sci-fi cum horror offering, we let it pass without any pre-viewing.

I think the particular scene that spelt the death of the free movie idea was somewhere in third quarter of the movie when, at first, there were shadows of a nude woman.

To my utter shock and horror, the shadow then shimmered into one in the form of a voluptious vampire, who started to “do” the male crew member before absorbing his essence or something.

It wasn’t an outright sex scene, but more of a foreplay kind of thing.

The next thing the hundreds of unblinking students (male and female) knew, there was a rush to the projector, the light came on and that was the end of the movie.

Our feeble excuse that the title didn’t hint of any nudity or sex didn't get us any respite.

Movie titles matters.

Malay movies such as Sofea Jane’s “Perempuan, Isteri dan …” and Aleeza Kassim’s “Panas” hinted of a certain amount of raunchiness to their storylines; never mind that these would still be confined to that allowable in our local scenes.

The lovely Sofea Jane
I watched “Perempuan, Isteri and …” as well as Nasir Bilal Khan’s “Amok” to see just how far the local artists could stretch the R-Rated stuffs, and both made do with innuendos without resorting to being too graphic with its sexual contents.

Local moviemakers have been managing to stretch this boundary further with the new offerings especially in Ahmad Idham’s “Remp-It” which showed ample plain skin and “foreplay”ing without getting into much trouble.

Reading the “Zack and Miri make a porno” banning made me realized that those who make up censor ship board (or its equivalent) are really doing a thankless job.

To do their job, and do it well enough within the context of moral policing, they have to literally watch everything as the title might not provide any dead give away of it including graphic nudity and sex scenes.

Unless, of course, it is stated outright in the movie’s synopsis, that is.

Continuing to watch would then just be plain opportunistic.

PS: With thanks to all the wonderful producers whose works I am featuring in this posting.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Formal Sex

I am curious: How did we learn about “the birds and the bees” before this current situation of information overload?

Is sex still very much a taboo subject when it comes to talking about as a serious educational subject matter?

I chance upon this very informative and relatively detailled article entitled (quite coyly, if I may say so) Private Practices: The Doctor Says , in The Star; which writes at lenghts about sexual practices including a section on DIY (quite imaginative subheading from the good doctor!).

It goes about the subject in a highly “matter-of-fact” manner, unlike the one which got the now defunct Weekend Mail into trouble.

Anyone remember the survey done on Malaysian’s most preferred position? But then again, the WM was already stretching the moral ruling a wee bit with its Campus hotties feature.

With the best of efforts, I remember my first ever source of sex education: a (not so ) cleverly hidden Playboy magazine which showed a very, very young boy some very curvaceaous females in various lusty poses, clad in nothing else but their undies.

It was a very exciting discovery for me, but alas, one not lasting as the thick mgazine – which were also cut out in some pages - was no longer underneath the thick mattress in a room onn the fitrst floor when I went for second round of “reading” it.

Similar chance exposure came off and on, mainly from video tapes brought back by other uncle’s - mostly from horror movies, a genre which back then were filled with sex scenes just right before the victims would meet their gory end.

These were also fleeting moments as all the children would be shooshed away beyond the watching zones.

There were also novels – Mills and Boon, Harold Robbins (1916 – 1997) - about that provide the most vivid portrayals of sexual shennanigans, but they were way too thick and way too texty for a young boy to read, so for most of the time, I’d just skimmed through the pages seeking for THE part.

Formally, though, the first ever introduction to sex education was, of course, none other than the subject of biology during my secondary schooling days.

By that time, many of us pretended to know what it was all about and there were red faces when the topic came up.

I still remember my biology teacher (first name Faridah) who was easily one of two sexiest female teachers in my college then, the other being our English teacher whose name I sadly cannot recall.

Cikgu Faridah – who was also well known for being very stern when she’s angry - normally dresses in tight Kebaya that often showed enough glimpse of her curves to those who dared lift their eyes from the text books while she was teaching.

She would chide us for giggling or being red-faced during the topic of human reproduction system and say somethings along the lines of” “Why should you be ashamed for something that is very normal?”

Perhaps, but by then we do hear of fantastic stories of sexual encounters by some of the ”macho’er” college mates with their girlfriends which might or might not be true, but which nonetheless fired up the fertile, young imaginations.

It was only during my stint in the UK when I found out that the “dirty pictures” I came across all those years ago in the hidden Playboy were among the more decent ones in markets were such magazines were available to the public.

These and some easily accessible blue video (as they were known then) made sex their main subject, but instead of educating, the act was instead commercialised to the extreme end that it become soulless.

Anyone remember this one: a couple married for quite some time but still without any children went to a medical practitioner with their problem. When asked how they made love, the couple - quite forthcoming - said they did exactly what the porn actors and actresses did!

(If you don’t understand the punchline, you have truly led a pious and healthy life.)

We might not be opening ourselves to such a concept of “dirty magazines” for the public eyes, but the borderless world of the Internet meant that there is simply no such need to be in place.

A single click is all it takes to access for really foul sites which make sex the dirty word that it was not meant to be.

Cikgu Faridah may have had a coy smiled on her all those years ago when talking about it, but she was spot on in her remark.

Is it too late for us to re-teach this same notion to the younger generations?

(Do read also Dina Zaman’s “Youth, Sex and Doing Business” for a particularly disturbing look on this matter.)


Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Plat du Jour: Malbouffe délicieux ....

I came to know last night that my two daughters (and my wife, too) do not share my delight in Sushi of the uncooked kind.

They were at first very eager when they saw the cute pack filled with sushi pieces I bought for breaking fast, and as is always the case, the younger one gets to go first.

She dipped her fingers in the red roe, and the placed them in her mouth. Nothing. "So far so good,” I thought.

fishy roey sushee
My other daughter then took a quarter bite from the same piece.

The taste must have come as a shock to her as even as she started chewing, her face began to contort, giving me the “Eww!" expression, and, before I could say anything, she had already bolted to the sink, spitting everything out.

Everyone (except for me) was shocked even as I laughed. Only when I saw tear flowing from her eyes did I realized the extent of her reaction to the taste of uncooked fish roe, which, unfortunately, her dad loves.

I comforted her and asked her to drink warm water to wash the taste away as my wife berated me for feeding the children something she, too, wouldn't touch.

The little one didn’t ask for seconds, by the way.

More palatable?
Sigh. No one to share this particular love, then.

There goes my dream (someday) of visiting Japan with my family in tow to taste the many sushi dishes they have.

(Perhaps I can tempt them with the more palatable tempura dish…)

I am someone with a “pondan” (to quote a particularly irritating relative’s word) stomach when it comes to food, and am quite choosy in eating pre-cooked food as I am prone to stomach aches whenever I do so.

I’d settled for cooked food anytime (except for the aforementioned sushi, that is..) including the ubiquitous fast food which used to be de rigueur during family outings.

They are convenient, the kids love them and its relatively inexpensive until of late when prices soared to match – probably – our own highish inflation levels.

Nowadays, a RM50 note would be just enough to cater for the four of us, desserts inclusive. Even then, we have to carefully balance the purchase in a mix of ala carte and set meals to stretch the note and get some change back.

It was thus with eyebrows raised that I read this Bloomberg story titled French Bistros File Record Bankruptcies as Le Big Mac Reigns , especially the part where it quotes the price of a McD doublecheese set meal at 8 euro.

A rule I learnt from my stint overseas is that you should never, ever, convert when it comes to food; otherwise you’d starved to death. Compare their prices in terms of numbers and you should be safe.

(As an example, converting the above price at the prevailing rate will get you a price of RM36.58. Ouch! That’s more than the alleged cash bribe needed to buy a vote in a certain party nominations.)

What was more interesting in the story was the point that fast food is becoming the choice lunch there what’s with the current dismal economic situation almost everywhere the world over.

Imagine that.

Here, the fast food is still very much a once-in-a-while lunch or dinner treat, and the French (a notion put forward by the article, at least) is treating it as a budget item for hard times!

How far behind exactly are we in the economic pecking order?

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Historical Histrionics

A piece of history
“According to legend, Genghis Khan lies buried somewhere beneath the dusty steppe of Northeastern Mongolia, entombed in a spot so secretive that anyone who made the mistake of encountering his funeral procession was executed on the spot.

Once he was below ground, his men brought in horses to trample evidence of his grave, and just to be absolutely sure he would never be found, they diverted a river to flow over their leader’s final resting place.”

I am no authority with regards one of the more well known Asian historical figure, and whatever “knowledge” I have of Genghis Khan is basically from Robert Shea’s (Shike – Last of the Zinja) portrayal of his grandson (?) Kublai Khan.

Shea’s Mongolian conqueror was depicted as someone respected by both his enemies as well as his ally, bright and highly articulate, but with a deadly ruthlessness in his quest of expanding his empire to the point of it being an obsession.

Before Shike came along, my image of the Mongolian conquerors (Kublai and Genghis) was that of Ming the Merciless from the campy science fiction series of Flash Gordon in the late 1970s.

Ming the Merciless
It’s an image that’s particularly transfixing in the mind as to how Mongolians supposedly look like.

There is another television character which also play homage to this typical stereotyping, one I remember only by his oft quoted “Amazingg…”, most probably from the 1960’s Get Smart series about a bumbling spy.

The name of the character with the droopy, noodle moustache escapes me.

The modern interpretation of the great conqueror is far less stereotypical however as seen in Sergei Bodrov’s film Mongol (2007) where ironically, Japanese actor Asano Tadanobu played the lead figure.

Asano Tadanobu
Irony in that the land of the Rising Sun proved the most recalcitrant of annexations for Kublai with two failed attempts that “shattered the myth of Mongol invincibility throughout Asia” (The Mongol Conquerors), the second of which was depicted in Shea’s Shike in great, albeit purely fictional, detail.

The world’s history has been made that much richer from these strong, driven characters, but little has been paid to those whose lives were affected by the actions of these great men (and women).

This is exactly where the realm where fiction thrives.

Combining accepted facts with fiction, good writers are able to weave totally believable tales of characters living during such tumultuous times, and in so doing breathing some measure of reality and drama into dull, staid, historical facts.

Incidentally the first two para of this posting is from a Bernama news flash of students from the University of California’s (San Diego) Center for Interdisciplinary Science in Art, Architecture and Archaeology using advanced visualisation technologies to locate the tomb of the late Genghis.

Apparently researchers have tried in vain to locate the tomb’s site since 1990, so these students are raring for another go at it, and this time, technology is hoped to provide the breakthrough.

Dr. Albert Yu-Min Lin, an affiliated researcher of the Center, tells us why: “But as great a man he was, there are few clues and no factual evidence about Genghis Khan’s burial, which is why we need to start using technology to solve this mystery.”

If only I had foreseen all those years ago historians having this much fun.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Magik in Pittance

My first entrepreneurial slant, developed when I was 14 years old, was fueled by my thirst for comics.

I had sort of a Comics Club going at the college I was studying in, charging some nominal fee to finance the monthly subscription of several titles, namely Uncanny X-Men and some others.

Comics were relatively cheap back then – a bumper issue would set you back RM4.50 to RM6 at most – and they were delivered to the College office so they were pretty secure.

And as chief entrepreneur, I get the first read.

Alas, the same idea also dealt me with the loss of a major portion of those very comics from friends who – on hindsight – couldn’t care less about collections and being able to re-read the issues again and again.

(Incidentally, my better half is also always chiding me about reading again and again my collections of comics dating back to god-how-many years! She would ask how many times I needed to read the same thing. Sigh… )

Amongst the comics I lost were issues 186 to 188 of the Uncanny X-Men featuring the team against an alien breed called the dire wraiths (a spin off from another title : Rom The Spaceknight, which I didn’t read).

Chris Claremont's Lifedeath
The story arc started with “Lifedeath” ; a love-hate story involving Storm, of the X-Men, and Forge – the inventor who created the weapon which stole her mutant powers.

It was also the same weapon that saw the dire wraiths making an assault against Forge’s building in a bid to destroy not only the gun but its inventor along with it, and soon the battle is joined by members of the X-Men, namely Rogue, Colossus and, later, his younger sister, Illyana aka Magik.

The ending of the X-Men versus dire wraiths battle was a cliffhanger in another adversary being introduced who would only emerged again in later issues, a seemingly favored tact of writer Chris Claremont which I highly detest.

Claremont however makes this (admittedly small) flaw with huge degrees of characterization, imaginative storylines and down-to-earth issues of love, death and heroics.

I was rummaging through the boxes of old comics I have not unpacked and found a single copy from the ill-conceived, but worthwhile Comics Club batch; issue 192 of the Uncanny X-Men.
Enter: Magus!
The cover was worn out; the edges frayed and torn, and when I flipped through the pages, I found the tracing with a pen of Nightcrawler in one of the panels before the heroes – this time involving Kurt (the aforementioned Nightcrawler), Colossus and Rogue – went against another alien named Magus.

This issue also ended in a cliffhanger with Professor Charles Xavier – the X-Team founder and mentor – beaten unconscious by his students and dragged away to parts unknown.

Wow... Does anyone have issue 193?

I felt sad in seeing the issue’s condition but also elated the magic that drew me to comics were still very much alive in the yellowed pages 24 year later.

Best yet, it was only RM1.90.

A price tag that gets you pretty much nothing these days.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Sick Money

As good as any picture.
“The first sign of trouble was powder in the baby's urine. Then there was blood. By the time the parents took their son to the hospital, he had no urine at all.”

Sometimes it takes details like these to drive home the tragedy that is the Melamine tainting scare.

Statistics alone never works to convey the enormity of what had been let loosed to the world at large: 4 babies dead, and 53,000 sickened.

I remember an episode of CSI: Las Vegas (I stand to be corrected) where someone went around injected poisonous substance into mineral water bottles.

It’s an act that is calculated to do the most damage to the public at large as anyone and everyone could end up being the victim.

Case in point: excessive Melamine was found in Malaysian-made biscuits with further test concluding that the tainting having originated from raising agents from China.

Biscuits.

And for once, consumers thought that avoiding milk products from one of the biggest Asian economy would be safe enough only to be jolted with the realization that the culprits – faceless to date – had moved the goalposts to include possibly non listed ingredients.

How in heaven’s name would concerned parents go about in filtering the items their children take on a daily basis?

At schools, in kindergarten, their own purchases from the grocery stores, which might or might not know of excessive melamine exposures.

What are we to do? Stop them from eating?

Yi Kaixuan was 6 months old when he died from the melamine tainting. The details above describes the moments leading to his death.

He was one in millions, and it could well have been any child.

What were they thinking?

This “money-over-everything else” is downright sickening.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Historical Baggage

Bygone Era
The headline: 'Make history compulsory subject in primary schools'

The sentence that piqued my interest was this one: Abdullah also suggested making history a more exciting subject for students.

History not exciting enough? My, my …

It has been a while since I read a History textbook, but my recollections is that they do veer on the side of being dry and, most might say, unexciting.

However..

Two World Wars costing millions in lost lives and the birth of a most horrific weapon of mass destruction, Empires born, bloomed, crushed and forgotten, birthing of major religions, cult-like personalities, mythical tales of bravery and sacrifice etcetera etcetera, history should be anything but unexciting.

It is an undeniable fact that from within the mass of “dry facts” birthed a good number of thought provoking, let’s say, by-products (for want of a better word).

Take the Malaysian history, for example.

It may not be as old as that of the world’s – our version of an “Empire” was only born in the 15th century – but the has had its fair share of tumultuous events, future-defining moments, bravery and dramatic sacrifices.

We have played to death the saga of Hang Tuah and Hang Jebat(from (Hikayat Hang Tuah), figures steeped in myth but born from our chequered history in the Malacca Sultanate (1402 – 1511)
Amron Omar: Study for Pertarungan II, 1980, Charcoal on paper
I cannot remember which version of Hang Tuah I read all those years ago but a particular segment that remained in my mind is the part where the two friends had to have their climatic duel on trays (dulang) to avoid the many spears being poked into the floor by hose witnessing the battle (was it at an istana?)

The tale of Hang Tuah and Hang Jebat was a tragedy for me. A friendship torn asunder by scheming politicos and an absolute Ruler whose ideals were far less than perfect.

Elsewhere and elsewhen, the novel by Leon Marcus Uris (1924 – 2003) Mila 18 takes us to the atrocities committed on Polish Jews in spining a tale of gallantry of its hero, former army officer Andrei Androfski, in the face of overwhelming odds and set in World War II (1939 – 1945).

The novel written in 1961 played out like a long-drawn movie and was extremely heavy reading material for someone barely in his teen back then.

A scene I can still recall is where the one of the main character – a Christopher De Monti – reluctantly parts company with his lover, a Deborah Bronksi who is incidentally Andrei’s sister and the wife of a Paul Bronski, a Jewish who hates being one, just pages before all hell broke loose with the invasion of Poland by the Germans.

Going further back in time is another novel – a two parter, the first of which I cannot trace its whereabouts – by Robert Joseph Shea (1933 - 1994) entitled Shike which centers on the love journey of its main characters Jebu, a Zinja (don’t ask) monk and Shima Taniko, a noble princess, amidst warring fued between Japanese Warlords, and in the second volume – a Mongolian invasion of the Land of the Rising Sun.

Facts and fictions intertwined seamless in all three that takes leaves from moments in the world’s history burnished into the memorable tales that they are.

All three are also steep in commentaries – some subtle, most not – of events, cultures, human frailties, allegiance, love, friendship – things that makes life what it is.

In fact, there are many, many more examples.

Unexciting?

Perhaps the facts are stuck in the textbooks and had ventured no further.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Economic Apartheid

This one's from Enter the Dragon.
One of my favorite Bruce Lee film is the “Fist of Fury” aka “Chinese Connection” aka “Jing Wu Men”.

There were far too many memorable scenes in the film to really highlight, but one that would really stand out in an age of being politically-correct and what not must be the famous “No Dogs and Chinese Allowed” (highly offensive!) signage scene.
A most offending signage

On reflection, the scene was quite contrived as there was no real flow in its inclusion with the movie except to amplify the socio-situation during the era the movie was supposed to portray.

For those who has never seen the film, the scene sees the late Bruce Lee (taking on the role of hothead Kung Fu exponent Chen Zhen of Chin Woo) being denied entry into a park with the said sign only for a turban wearing Sikh guard allowing access to a foreigner with a dog.

A man (presumably Japanese) approached Chen Zhen and made a disparaging remark that he would take Chen Zhen in provided he (CZ) pretends to be a dog.

The guy gets what due with kicks and punches and the infuriated Chen Zen then shatters the offending sign with a jumping kick.

(Note: A more politically correct and, some say, with a more balanced view of the era is the more recent "Fist of Legend" , but the latter - true to its title - cops out on the core "fury" portion of Bruce's version. Both are still highly enjoyable.)

The offending signage scene gets an impromptu replay in my thoughts when I came across this Reuters article on the Emporio Mall in New Delhi and so soon after I read the International Herald Tribune's article on Hinduism versus Christianity .

Both articles – which tell of a deepening socio-economic crisis in one of Asia’s rising economic giants - disturbed me as it portays something out of a bygone age and complety at odds with the progress the world had supposedly made.

The first writer spoke of economic apartheid, of the “haves” and the “have nots”.

For a country that prides itself of one of the premier democracy Asian country, the much lauded system had unfortunately failed its masses.

Perhaps the faults lie with the populace who did not take the opportunities presented, perhaps its India’s long standing caste system that perpetrates this vast chasm of the wealthy and the poor, the strong and the meek, the pariah and the brahmins.

I neither know nor wished to speculate on the possible reasons.

My prayer is that we do not go the same way as did India.

God knows there are warning signs of similar inclinations here.

Democracy means a number of things and it must surely include economic consideration where the majority – never the minority - benefits, in one way or another.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Notional Debt

Taken from Korean Times
US national debt soars to US$10,150,603,734,720.

US$10.2 TRILLION. Or US$33,237 per person.

Fortunately, it’s a digital countre as opposed to a mechanical one otherwise, folks near or in its vicinity would find it extremely disconcerting to hear a click clack every time the clock goes up by one dollar.

From our Treasury Website, Malaysia’s national debt stood at an estimated RM176 billion as at 2007 a not so bad situation when seen vis-à-vis the USofA’s national debt figure (albeit the latter being a more updated 2008 figure).

We stand at a not so bad RM6,350 per person based on the 2007 figure.

And RM6,350 these days are not really that much.

Just last Saturday, my brother in law found out that it would “cost” him RM8,984 in hantaran and maskahwin to marry his long term girlfriend.

That’s about 5 times what he earns currently.

And that is exclusive of the corresponding costs of the kenduri, the wedding suits, the frills, the wedding ring.

Hopefully, he has set a ready allocation for all these costs without having to resort to a term debt or something.

It’s never good to start a family with the debt clock already at five or so figures and ticking.

I should know as I’ve been there.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Saving Private Fat Cats


“How much is 700 billion? The mind registers the number with such imprecision as to make it meaningless.”


Really: Just how much is US$700 billion?
Worth the paper printed on?

This is the figure bandied by the US government to stem the country’s steep descent into god knows where its headed economic turmoil.

In numerical terms, 700 billion is not much really: just eleven zeros behind the seven. Even converting to Ringgit at a crude USD1 = Ringgit 3, we’d get eleven zeros behind 21.

But then, it would be 2.1 trillion. In Ringgit.

US$700 billion is also 6,713,000 billion in Indonesian Rupiah at USD1 = Rp9,590.

700 billion in Zimbabwean Dollar will however only get you about 1½ kilos of mince meat – if you can find the item in the first place.

US$700 billion is also the Pentagon’s budget with at least US$100 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan.

In Iraq, conservative estimate puts war casualties at around 700,000 in 2007 – four years after the country was invaded on the pretext of being liberated.

700,000. Approximately US$1,000 per head if you compare the figures bandied where WAR is concerned.

They didn’t need to bail the fat cats with taxpayers’ money after all.

All that money...


All that money...

Monday, 6 October 2008

Private Perceptions

I was at home in Kluang for the Aidil Fitri but wishing I was elsewhere.

Having been raised by my grandparents together with an elder sister, I have never managed the art of being close to both Mom and Dad.
The town's namesake hardly seen these days..
Conversations tended to be forced, stilted and very formal. Mom has the tendency to hearing without actually listening, while Dad was just slightly aloof and too regimented.

They get along really well with my younger sister (whom they raised on their own from young) though.

That late evening of Syawal 1st, I discovered another share similarities in both Mom and younger Sis: that of a hatred for Seputeh MP Teresa Kok for perceived anti Islam stand.

As they spew venom against TK, I came to realize that their sentiments were similar to that of a mainstream newspaper accused of targeting the DAP MP in its sights.

Probably Mom and Sis both did not bother the read ALL the news on the issue, sticking instead to the headlines, some quotes and, perhaps, some anecdotes from friends and relatives.

Incidentally, Mom and Dad are both staunch Umno supporters. Don’t know about Sis, but her hubby is the younger brother of a prominent Umno Pahang politician.

They quieted down when I impressed on them that there was a lack of fair play and justice in the matter, as similar actions are not being taken against others who are playing and fanning the racial embers simply because of their political affiliation.
Who is this Judge Dredd?
On a roll, I spoke at length the preamble of the (much talked and highly dreaded) ISA, its intended use and how its usage in detaining TK, Raja Petra and the Sin Chiew journalist was unjustified.

Whether or not they accept what I said I do not know. I sincerely hope that some of what I said filtered through, but I doubt if it would be lasting.

The conversation came back to me as I read Malik Imtiaz’s latest posting especially where he wrote:

"As much as the current Home Affairs Minister may think he is Judge Dredd (tread with caution, the image of the Minister in leather, zips and boots is not for the faint hearted), he should perhaps appreciate more fully that Malaysia is not facing the kind of apocalyptic prospect that the ISA was designed for.”


His warnings came too late for me. :)

Though no fan of Judge (Joe, Joseph, Stallone?)“I am Da Law” Dredd, I have a fair share of his exploits in my comics collections.

Dredd’s Mega City One is not a future I wish my children, their children and their children’s children to be a part of.

But it’s surely a place where our ISA would fit right in.