Friday, 29 August 2008

Beef, bacon and eggs

England in 1992 was my first ever excursion to a foreign country.

My arrival at Heathrow was at least a week before I was due to register at my law school.

I remember full well the jetlag that floored me with a five-hour deep sleep in one of the many beds at the Malaysia Hall (the old one in Bryanston Square, not the one in Queensborough Terrace).

Being one of the few Malaysian students heading to Norwich, I was pretty much left on my own in making the relatively scenic and beautifully colorful travel to Norwich in Norfolk on board a bus.

I had read enough about Norwich to know the whereabouts of the local YMCA bed and breakfast for a week’s stay whilst waiting entry into one of the many student residence of the university.

The stay was uneventful, except for some extreme difficulty with regards breakfast.

Just like it is with hotels etc, breakfast was also major event for the YMCA with its many tenants queuing for their share of the days’ meal; albeit the typical British breakfast combo beef, bacon, eggs (scrambled or omelets, and almost never the sunny side up variety), beans and bread.
The typical British breakfast
Unfortunate for me the eggs would be invariably sandwiched between the beef and bacon everyday; the reason being to allow the juices to add plenty of flavors to the omelet according to the B&B’s cooking staffs I spoke to.

All and well for the other tenants, but I’m left with having bed and butter every morning for the whole duration of the stay.

The same predicament became apparent during my early days of entering the student hostels.

I cook my own food, and lengthy stretches of eating vegetables, fish and all things seafood, the hankering for meat was beginning to feel quite insatiable.

What else can a Muslim student - in a town he barely knows - do but to choose the only other alternative (said to be, at least) available and that alternative comes in the form of the local Marks and Spencer kosher meat offering.

Much later when I began to broaden my social circles did I manage to secure much needed Halal meat courtesy of an enterprising Arab from Cambridge (about 90 km away) who would arrive in his van every weekend to replenish supply for his student customers.

Marks and Spencer fresher offerings were more to my liking, but, really, beggars cannot be choosers, and if frozen beef and chicken is all there is, frozen is good enough.

Ramadhan allowed some luxury for the campus Muslim students with free meals for the breaking of fast supplied by those who came with their families. Most of time, the staple meat would be mutton, and it was quite an eye-opener to taste the many styles of cooking the somewhat heaty meat.

Breaking of fast would be after the Maghrib prayers within the tight confines of a room designated as the campus mosque.

Cut to the present.

Being Muslims in a country where Islam is not the official religion tests self-discipline to a whole new level as it starts right from the food you eat to keeping the deadline of the daily prayers.

Taking the easy way out is always present as a convenient escape route for those without the necessary willpower or faith.

Back here in our country, Malays are deemed Muslim by birthright and everything is conveniently pre-packaged to the point that the effort its takes to be a good Muslim is lost and taken for granted.

A question of self discipline and faith

A question of self discipline and faith



Anyone for beef, bacon and eggs?

Monday, 25 August 2008

Feeble factual fallacies

Merdeka for the children's future.

Merdeka Thoughts...



Next Sunday we will be 51.

Sadly this year’s celebration of a nation’s birthing seems more like than of an ordinary mortal in that the older they get, the less it becomes an occasion to celebrate.

It does not really take a genius to know the reasons for such a lukewarm pre-Merdeka run up, what’s with the global economy in the doldrums and our own situation of far too much muck politicking.

Perhaps it’s for the better.

Lest we forget, the nation’s birthday is supposed to be a day to reconnect with the core essential of the nation and the bedrock upon which it is built on.

From what I heard, it was a somewhat crass politico-pontification the last time around at the National level Merdeka celebration. I didn’t get to witness it as I was assigned to cover the State level celebration in Ipoh.

It’s really a pity if such an important day for the nation did become fodder for self aggrandization of perceived worth vis-à-vis the architect of our independence from the British all those years ago.

Being a junior reporter means that I have never been able to take my own family to witness these Merdeka celebrations as I always find myself working the said day.

I’m wondering if I should do so this time around since I am outside of the industry and now with off-days that is the same as millions others.

It would be good to instill some measure of patriotism, of love, and perhaps some interests in the nation’s history so that they would – as did their father before life’s progress made free time a luxury – develop a love for history.

Except that I do not trust those charged with scripting the days proceeding of keeping the scared trust of not misrepresenting historical facts; something which I witnessed during my coverage of the State celebration last year.

It left me cold to hear lies presented as fact I shall not divulge here as to save face.

Suffice to say it gave credit where none is due with nary a mentioned of the worthy parties, even if the latter later turned rouge where the country’s history was concerned.

I hoped that it was just something cooked up to suit the parade, but it still left a bitter taste in my mouth.

Interviews with the participants revealed that what I had read years ago and accepted, as facts were indeed facts even to them. I did not bother to confront them with the statements of the MC seeing that how they, too, were just third parties in the matter.

Perhaps there is a bigger picture here I am clearly missing.

One thing I am clear of is this: Merdeka is not solely for rejoicing the past but also to remind us of past follies that would hamper our future.

We are history, our children, their children, and their children’s children are not.

Merdeka is all about them. Not us.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Wordy Eloquence

The Beauty and the Poet

A scene from Cyrano de Bergerac


At their most eloquent, languages are amongst the most beautiful of creations.

There are many examples, surely, and amongst the gems would undoubtedly be Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac in its many interpretations. (Steve Martin’s Roxanne might be the odd one out, though, but that’s only my opinion.)

I saw the 1990 movie version by Jean-Paul Rappeneau and starring Gérard Depardieu and Anne Brochet, and it left an indelible mark in me as to how something so utterly unintelligible can yet be so beautiful.

The movie was entirely in French and since the only words I know are Merci, Mademoiselle and Monsieur, I had to depend on the English subtitles throughout the two hour and 15 minutes' duration.

In truth, it mattered little, as the triple transition of hearing, reading and translating the poetic renditions didn’t jar.

French flowed smoothly to English and on to comprehension. In fact, the only other time I experienced a similar repeat was in Japan .

Cyrano de Bergerac is a tragicomedy about a Parisian poet/swordsman/soldier who fell in love with his beautiful cousin but held back by his grotesquely exaggerated big nose.

He found a way to express his feelings after becoming an inadvertent intermediary between a dashing soldier in Christian de Neuvillette and Roxane.

Of course the story does not end in typical fairy tale endings which the Americans are so fond of churning.

The movie depicted Cyrano as very adept in using his eloquence and rapier sharp wit in battles as well as romance. The scene where he sparred – using words and a sword - with an aristrocrat who challenged him by insulting his large nose was an early highlight in the level of poetry that would follow.

Don’t take my word for it. Try to get a copy and judge it yourselves.

In the meantime, I leave you snippets of what you could expect. They are either said by Monsieur Cryano or Mademoiselle Roxane. (Quotes courtesy of Bookrags.com with thanks.)

~~~
Cyrano: And what is a kiss, specifically? A pledge properly sealed, a promise seasoned to taste, a vow stamped with the immediacy of a lip, a rosy circle drawn around the verb "to love."
A kiss is a message too intimate for the ear, infinity captured in the bee's brief visit to a flower, secular communication with an aftertaste of heaven, the pulse rising from the heart to utter its name on a lover's lip: 'Forever.'

~~~
Roxane: Why else would you concoct such a delicious revenge? It must be a gesture of love.

~~~
Cyrano (Speaking in the shadows on behalf of Christian)
Your white gown swathed in the blue-black mantle of night. I am only a voice, and you are a point of light. I may have spoken Beautifully to you in the past-
Roxane (thinking its Christian who is speaking): You know you have-
Cyrano: Because I have been forced to speak through-
Roxane: Through what?
Cyrano: Through the whirlwind which your eyes stir up inside me. But now, in this blessed darkness, I feel I am speaking to you for the first time.
(This is a particularly heart rending scene as at the end of the “session” Christian is welcomed into the lady’s chamber leaving Cyrano behind.)

~~~
Cyrano (in a battlefield): There. There is our soul. The same reed, the same fingers which have piped us into combat, call us softly home, in our thoughts. This is no longer the shrill call to attack, it is every shepherd who ever inhabited our land, whispering his sheep to fold. Listen. It is your hillside, your earth, your forest - your younger brother, suntanned under his red woolen cap. It is the green solitude of nights you spent beside the Sordogne. Listen my countrymen. It is our country calling.

~~~
Roxane: Every woman needs a little madness in her life..

~~~
Cyrano to Roxane: You're as casual about death as if it were the theatre.

All quotes are from the original play as translated by English novelist John Anthony Burgess Wilson who managed to brilliantly maintain its symphonic and lyrical rhythm.

Note: Rostand based his playwright on Parisian poet Hector Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac (1619 to 1655) and the play also introduced the word panache to the English language.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Inappropriate behaviour?

A look to die for..

Am I too Sexy for You?


To the Malaysian authorities, Avril Lavigne is not sexy, just not proper for Merdeka .

At least I think that is what they are saying from reading news report on the postponement of Miss Lavigne’s Best Damn Tour concert initially scheduled on the 29th of this month.

Perhaps it’s the word “Damn” that made it inappropriate. Maybe.

Fans of the Canadian rocker should cross (no religious connotations intended here) their fingers that the postponement remains just that.

I do not count myself as a fan, but enjoy listening to her songs all the same. She kind of reminds me of Canadian singer songwriter Alanis Nadine Morissette, who blew it after recording such a rip roaring first album in Jagged Little Pill.

Neither of them can be regarded as sexy. Not in my eyes, anyway.

The country’s moral police however have their own set of definition, I supposed, as Ms Lavigne is deemed sexy.

She joins recent (more suitable) nominees Inul Darastita, Gwen Stefani and Beyonce Knowles, to name but a few. Bollywood Divas can strut their stuffs as they are outside this grouping of “sexually exciting or attractive” (as per freedictionary.com) women.

(PussyCat Dolls managed to slip past the moral police for the MTV Asia Award despite the impromptu sneak peeps show the last time they were here.)

Sexy men, meanwhile, can come in and go as they please which means that the moral polices are definitely an all straight-alpha-male bunch of pious folks.

My wife is adamant that when it comes to men, the defining features are their eyes. She goes absolutely goo goo gaa gaa over George “dreamy eyes” Clooney. (The inverted words are really my wife’s, not mine) and think that all Bollywood male divas are just overhyped Bangladeshis with better hygienic practices.

I am torn between Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek for my own "most sexy" list, but in the end Mrs Pitt wins due to her strong character traits. A mother of three and still looking as beautiful and luscious as ever have my votes where it matters. And those lips of hers are just to die for (no offence, Yang).

Perhaps the moral police are right in that Avril Lavigne is sexy after all. Here is a young artist who is on top of the world doing what she does best, and the millions who adore her music must see something really sexy about this characteristic charisma.

She is barely 24, and already has something like 30 million copies of her album sold to fans all over the world, and looks certainly isn’t one of the draw. Surf around the Internet and even when Ms Lavigne do show some skin, sexy is hardly the phrase that would come across your mind.

Am I correct, Mr. MP, Sir? Or are you still busy ogling?

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

The Politics of Frustrations

Remember her?

John Profumo's Christine Keeler



“Makan suap” is a demeaning Malay phrase that every politician and civil servant should abhor.

It was a phrase that buzzed irritatingly in my mind when I read this newsflash on the arrest of Perak State Executive Councilors by the State Anti Corruption Agency for alleged “makan suap” of over RM100,000 involving a RM180 million housing project.

I’ve had such high hopes for the country’s administrative landscape vis-à-vis reduced number of under the table transactions with the forming of alternative state governments promising justice, fair play, et cetera et cetera.

The “makan suap” is still at mere allegations stage but I have this deep sinking feeling which I am sure is shared by many others that things are very much Status Quo where politicians are concerned.

They are just not to be believed.

Incidentally, a Malay vernacular paper I seriously distrust gave added spice with hints that sexual gratification was also involved.

Kinky.

Money and sex.

If you believe in rumours, its almost expected of politicians in positions to have them.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Profumo di Donna

Believe me, Pegs looks way better..

A Pashmina Model


The early 90’s Norfolk’s Norwich was a pensioner’s town that's dull with a capital D.

Dull could however still be enchanting as a night out with a beautiful course mate convinced me that romantic evenings are not the sole domain of perennial favorites Paris or Venice.

Pegs - her nick - was my senior at Law then although we were virtually the same age.

Sporting a boyish haircut and the sweetest smile owing to clearly define dimples in her rosy white cheeks, she was a picture of elegance that day in her knee length skirt, high boots and a muted maroon Pashmina draped around her shoulders.

Amongst the Asian students at the University we were both in, Pegs was right up there in the top five for sheer attractiveness.

Her looks alone would literally floor anyone; a look that is both demure and confident at the same time, and, of equal measure.

Introduced to each other only a few days before during a Malaysian society courtesy call, the initial attraction I felt led for a very pleasant feeling when she said yes to a "Movies?" suggestion made much later.

We were supposed to catch a trilogy of now-long-forgotten movie, but found ourselves fidgeting after the first installment ended that a decision was made to forgo the other two parts and go on an evening walkabout around town.

There were hardly any pollutant in the chilly Norfolk air as such that, even at an appropriate distance, the young woman from Johor smelt fresh (and divine) without any hint of perfume being used.

There were others – couples, singles, families, etc – that night, most minding their own businesses; some familiar faces, most complete strangers. We traded smiles with those we knew amidst curious glances.

There were some pubs around, though most are concentrated in the inner town area, yet there were little of the famed rowdiness that is an important British contribution to the world.

Hour passed the walkabout without us realizing it until we spotted a Turkish Kebab pushcart near one of the many medieval churches dotting Norwich.

Pegs cheerily suggested that we have a bite of Kebab so as to be spared from having to wander around town looking for a halal restaurant.

It was a good helping of hot shish kebab in full pitta bread for both of us, and Pegs was right in how good it tasted. The Turk – we thought and assumed that he’s one anyway - managed a good blend of fresh salad and meaty mutton and a balanced measure of sweetness and sourness.

We stood around at the pushcart finishing our kebabs, and later stopped at a small roadside café often frequented by our professors for its purported splendid coffees (latte was not much a buzzword yet at the time!)

The evening was fast deepening into night and I ended up – for the second time that week – at her place, where we spend the rest of the night looking at pictures and continuing with our small talks.

Honest.

We parted company as soon as the sun came up, and it was back to the daily grind of lectures, tutorials and the likes.

Sadly (but somewhat realistically) for me, it would also be the one and only (albeit a much cherished) evening of relative intimacy with her.

Pegs was all champagne and candlelight dinner. I, on the other hand, was home cooked meals and plain water.

And, although I didn't realised it then, my heart was already taken by another.

Someone close and yet so far away.

Monday, 18 August 2008

The Bottomless Pit..

Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo


Fear is normal.

Letting your fears be a crutch is mildly abnormal to those without such fears.

Unless you’re in their shoes, when what’s feared assume a dangerous proposition in needing to make a choice: should I, do I…

Ever since my uncle startled me out of my wits whilst watching a lizard man going berserk in a suburban neighborhood a long, long time ago, I have always skip horror movies as they would inevitably give me nightmares.

Even mild ones for that matter.

There are some exceptions, though. I managed to get through The Exorcist (1973) – great movie, brilliant book, Candy Man (1992), The Thing (1982), Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and some silly ones which I often watched with friends as they are loaded with female actresses showing off their breasts and impromptu sex scenes before being rip to shred moments.

(Six Sense (1999) is not a horror movie, so that one doesn’t count.)

I am also proud to say that I managed to watch Candy Man alone – I was in London at the time - albeit at the price of three sleepless nights.

My wife says my phobia of horror movies is somewhat silly, but I am adamant about putting blissful sleeping hours over the minutes of being scarred silly as a priority of my life.

Her views also stem for my fondness in reading horror novels – I read The Exorcist before even seeing the movie, for that matter – and Stephen King is one of my favorite author of all time. Is there a difference in being frightened from reading something as opposed to watching it?

I don’t really know, but what I do know is that it’s a different kind of fear and the one I get from reading is tinge with a kind of (misplace? Perhaps..) pleasure that would always leave me wanting more unlike movies.

A really good author has this unique ability to fill you with dread of the approaching horrors while keeping you on track to meet it. There is no need for shock factor to (cliché alert!) scare you out of your wits where novels are concerned.

That said, I have not read a good horror novel for some while. Put it down to the 8am to 7pm lifestyle we are living these days when the hours needed to read through a good book is always wanting.

Back to my phobia of horror movies, a question I often ask myself is whether it would hold me back from anything? At 38, I am way passed the dating scene where horror movies give pubescent males the opportunity to be heroic and, who knows, a hug or two. :)

I don’t really miss not watching any of the movies anyway and, gauging from some trailers I managed to sneak peek, I am not really missing that much in terms of being scarred into having sleepless nights.

Last week, though, I felt the same kind of dread I get from a good horror novel as I watch an episode of Jennifer Love Hewitt’s Ghost Whisperer featuring the legend of Bloody Mary – a girl with mutilated, bleeding hands after being buried alive by her parents.

I knew somehow that I should stop watching as the burial scene came on. I knew I will be watching a most terrible tragedy unfold, but as morbidity is wont to do, I continued watching knowing full well that it would cost me at least a few hours of sleep.

It did that night, but different from when I watched Candy Man alone all those years ago. Instead my mind was buzzing with the tragic death of the young girl, and how the same was happening everywhere around the world where young children die needlessly; many victims of cruelty instead.

The young girl in the Bloody Mary legend had parents who thought she had died and wanted to give her a proper burial.

Some parents (I am using this word with a bitter taste in my mouth) in our community are burying their newborn babies alive so that the babies would die .

Now, that scares me more than anything else.

Where are we headed as a nation? A bottomless descent?

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Forbidden fruits, eh?

A doofus view on the separation of powers

I know I had said that this blog will be apolitical, but off and on, along comes items just too juicy they simply beg to be picked up and dissected.

These two headlines - BPR dibenar siasat politik wang dalam UMNO and BPR boleh siasat dakwaan politik wang: PM - will probably change tomorrow. Or maybe they won't. We shall see.

Both are nevertheless self explanatory in runing smack against the ideals of executive non-interference, don’t they?

The PM is, after all, also in the list of potential investigatee (please tell me there is such a word!)

Meanwhile, do enjoy this cartoon courtesy of www.unionleader.com.

Au Revoir!

Monday, 11 August 2008

Our People, Our Shame.


A beautiful chicken coop from www.gardencluboftaos.com



Stories like these sure perks you up, don't they?

Just when you thought our newspapers cannot top "The Abandoned Toilet Couple" , along comes "A Spinster Living in a Chicken Coop" .

Both articles are very surreal; akin to fairy tales gone bizzare.

Perhaps it's just the reporters' doing: sensationalizing a nondescript piece of story just to get some column space (No offence, Hamzah :) ).

People living in a chicken coop is really a first for me.

I was born in a mixed Malay, Chinese, Sikh, Indian village in Alor Setar and my childhood is fill with adventures vis-a-vis the ubiquitous chicken coop. You have these cutesy little chicks which warms the heart everything they start chirping away while following their mother hen around.

We were relatively poor and rearing chicken is one way to cater for meals on the table in a few months time with both eggs and meat. Every family does it, so there was no big deal about having chickens in your backyard.

But what kind of a society allows someone to live in a chicken coop complete with a monthly rental to boot for the courtesy of such luxurious abode?

Wow. Living in a chicken coop.

That really puts some clear meaning to the Malay saying of "Kais Pagi Makan Pagi".

We've had people living in a toilet; now a chicken coop. Shall we bet of being able to top these in a few months time?

Friday, 8 August 2008

Prudish Nudity




Moral policing in this country can really provide some rib-tickling moments.

Just recently, I saw this show on 8TV with a Malaysian host (I think it was Hannah Tan, but I’m really not so sure) in Australia at some open space event whereby the participants went semi clothes-free (for lack of a better word).

Cue the typical local prudishness with blurred views on the appropriate portions of the bodies captured by the film crew. All good and proper except for the small fact that all of them had their underwear on – men, women, everyone!

The host even went to interview a Brazilian couple; the event's a first for her, third time for him. She was fully clothed, he - conveniently blurred from navel to neck or thereabouts - shows of some (substantial despite blurred) chest hair. :)

Hmm…

The thing is, there was no nudity. Not a single female participant shown during the show had gone topless. The men? Who cares if the men went topless? My conclusion was therefore that the digital censorship was more on the sarcasm factor than a genuine effort to “protect” the local viewers prudish senses.

Even our newspapers have this nasty habit of digital censorship, especially in some cases where there is substantial cleavage being exposed. Why chose the picture in the first place if you are so intent of not showing it in its entirety?

Of course, there are images so crass and vulgar in nature that they ought to be restricted to the domains of private viewing, but with the cable network on 24-7 and showing ample amount of exposed skin, the country’s moral police surely has a tough job on their hands.

Once upon a time, they were armed with felt tip black marker pens. Copies of suspect magazines (ironically, those on photography are always in the top five or ten) would be perused and the appropriate “hiding” of exposed bosom/breasts done. Never mind the magazines come plastic wrapped; so long as there’s nudity inside, the black markers would go to work.

How far should those in authority go in the name of prudishness? Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi received quite some flak on his “black marker” job of a classic painting. Berlusconi would surely find himself some fans should he ever want to take up our Second Home programme and reside here.

He could sit around with them and reminisce on past glories of “black marking”. “How good it felt, eh? Ahh.. The joy, the elation.” “I was meticulous. Not a single exposed nipple, a single breast, got past me.”

Nudity might be objectionable, but not all of them, crass. Some are simply too beautiful to be judged so harshly.

Beauty can be distracting, but distraction alone is not a crime.

PS: The image above is by Edward Steichen, a Luxembourg-born American artist.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Where the Grass is Greener..

Pic from nomadicwriter-kate.blogspot.com

If you were given a chance to migrate, which country would you choose?

Tough one, isn’t it? The thing about being in a foreign land is that it’s almost always better in it being a short to medium term stay. Maybe. I wouldn’t know for sure as the only foreign countries I have ever visited are England, Singapore and Japan.

In Japan, however, is a country this country should (and did, some time ago) look to for a clear direction of where we could be in the near future with the right actions today.

It was mid last year that I manage to squeeze into a short trip to Kitakyushu in the island of Kyushu; the southernmost island of Japan’s big four including Honshu, Hokkaido and Shikoku.

The sky was deep blue the day I arrived in Kitakyushu; the highway bus trip bypassing a clear (though, not crystal) Murasaki river, tall bamboo forests, beautiful paddy fields - some sandwiched between factories - and traditional Japanese homes dotting hill slopes.

Kitakyushu city itself was a mixture of old and new buildings. Once one of the most polluted in Japan, the city literally took charge of its cleaning up process.

It took the bull by the horns (I do so love clichés…) by enacting several environmental laws, setting up pollution monitoring centers, reorganizing its sanitation and public sewage facilities and dredging up the Dokai Bay; once dubbed “the Sea of Death” by locals.

Apparently, it was a group of mothers – tired of their children being maligned by the soot-filled skies – who fired the first salvo for Kitakyushu’s future with a documentary, "We want our blue skies back".

At the time, the annual average dust fall was a stratospheric 80 tonnes (!!) per square km every month. Ironically, it was Kitakyushu (and Japan’s) relentless march towards industrialization that was the cause.

Nothing signaled this long gone days then the now-decommissioned Yawata forge; a mammoth monument of how far the city has progressed to ensure its future generations do not suffer the way its children of the 1950s and 60s did.

The forge stood right in horizon outside the city’s Environmental Museum, where I witnessed a delightful one hour-long diorama on the dark days. Perhaps it was the soft female voice narrating the story that fascinated me, but I found myself empathizing with the “actors” and their concerns.

I might not have understood every single word, but the message stood out clearly. Shifting from villages to schools, from backlit rooms and shadowy actors to open courtyards, from the views of mothers to fathers and children, the script said without shouting: "Enough."

Later when freed from the formal itineraries, I took a walk along the Dokai bay one late afternoon, and saw that it was not empty boast that the clean up had been successful. The water was as blue as the sky was blue and the breeze calming.

There were several fishing boats docked at the harbour area, but you could second-guess that fishing was not the main economic lifeline of the city with several large factories located at the bay’s edge.

Kitakyushu is, however, an early sleeper with the major shops and shopping malls closed by 9.30pm latest. The smaller shops continue late into the night. Non-Japanese speaking tourists would find it a bit difficult as most of the signage and maps are in Nihon-Go.

Traveling around the city is nonetheless a chinch with a well-integrated public transport system. My Japanese friends claimed that the trains and buses hardly ever miss their appointed schedule. It was a boast well justified with a self-witnessed attention to punctuality from the few days of commuting I managed to do.

A typhoon hit Kyushu the day I left. From my window seat, I could see the rain dropping on the island even as I kissed a soft goodbye to a city that impressed me with its dedication for its future generation of populace.

(This posting is inspired by Jailani Harun’s EMail From Yasuo Fukuda's Cabinet . )

Monday, 4 August 2008

Positive Prose

Beautiful prose starts with a single dot

A beautiful rendition taken from www.writteninsight.com


Reading Tunku Abdul Aziz: The truth about bloggers got me thinking into the reasons why many are jumping into the bandwagon (a tired old cliché, eh?) of blogging, for want of a better word.

Most of the better known bloggers are doing it in protest of the clamp on freedom of speech. Never mind the many pontifications by obviously internet-literate politicians of wanting to control blogs, bla bla bla… the question they would need to first ask would be: Just how do you stop someone from writing what’s in their minds?

Blogs are after all just a notepad – albeit a virtual one – that is extended to friends, relatives, even strangers, just by virtue of their knowing where to look. The braver spirits put their names and often their whole lives – including that of their families – within these private pages; while other far less extroverted in character hides behind pseudonyms.

Anything wrong with that?

Someone somewhere might just write some crappy comments about, let’s say, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, and this note is seen by someone else who shows it to someone else. What is important to realize is that just because the so-call comments are written and read, does not make it the unequivocal truth. It might be perceived as the truth by those who read the note, but could hardly stand the scrutiny of being the truthfully truthful truth.

How does one even know what is the truth, anyway?

This is where credibility comes into play. When a blogger, or a writer (any wordsmith outside of the fictional genre) chooses to pen his or her name on his words, due respect should be accorded accordingly to the degree of truth in what was written. Grant respect where its due.
Laying your reputation on your beliefs
At the very least, the subject of their comments - should they take offence – can then pursue the matter further, legal or illegally.

Those looking at blogs in a derogatory way are missing out on the insight provided by the medium of the person writing the postings – their thoughts, their outlook on life, their private sentiments, the background situation behind their postings.

Just like diaries, especially those written in times of hardship, blogs can be very illuminating. There are some brilliant prose, insightful words and speeches waiting to be discovered. They need not be all deep, emotional and poignant postings, as shown by some of the younger set of bloggers who writes with stylish slang.

If you are less than inclined with this style of writing, just turn away as you are essentially looking someone’s personal space, albeit one that is open to everyone who cares to visit.

After all, it could just the posting of someone who is bored and looking for some escape from life’s tedium.

Friday, 1 August 2008

A Leap of Faith

Feeling rather whimsical today.

My mind was racing on posting something, anything and a whole range of list was playing in my mind; war criminals (way too serious), love and relationships (too deep), talent versus practice (too academic), and then I chanced upon this out of the world story in Reuters.

Water on Mars sounds like a huge potential for mankind.

I am a lover of comics. Grandpa Tok Wan (Allah bless his soul) helped nurtured my love of reading by buying me a copy of Marvel’s Howard The Duck decades ago while waiting on take a train ride to somewhere (Funnily, I cannot remember this somewhat important bit).

At the time I was about seven, but I have always been a keen reader – my uncles and aunties would attest to this; it was their books which took the brunt of my scrawling – and I took the magazine like (Urgh! Cliché alert!) a duck to water.
My first comic title.
Comics are the end products of very fertile, imaginative minds. The many wonderful writers, however, do not normally work from a complete vacuum, but tap into the many historical facts, myths, scientific discoveries, social and religions indoctrinations, to craft their fantastic tales that continues to delight even now.

In many of these tales, mankind is able to make the jump to other worlds, in Galaxies far, far away from us. The Mars probe is one small step towards this human potential.

I doubt we would reach this imaginary potential looking at the way we are conducting our lives on earth. We destroy when we can build. Stunt when we can progress. Stop when we can move. There is no telling if the world were to unite towards achieving our potential. What were imaginary 50 years ago are realities today, so do not say that we do not have what it takes to move beyond this much-abused planet of ours.

During my youthful years, I sometimes fantasies being able to travel from one inhabited planet to another, one galaxy to the other. Ever the introvert, I molded my imaginary persona to mimic another Marvel icon, the Planet Ravager, and demigod, Galactus. Unlike the latter, though, my travels were more of learning about each planet rather than siphoning off its energy.

Of course, it never came to my kind that you would need more than huge reserves of energy to be able to make the jump traversing billions of light years.

Those days of fantasy had been replaced with the cold, crushing truth of realities. Sad, but that’s just the way life progresses. You start young and fresh, bristling with energy and enthusiasm, raring to go where no one else has ventured, but doubts will come knocking at every step, compounded with way society reigns it more adventurous recalcitrant.

Sometimes you wonder what would have happened had all those gazillions of cash from all over the world were to be utilized solely for the whole world’s betterment instead of each country’s vested interests.

Whimsical thoughts, isn’t it?