Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Evil Extraordinaire

Biting sarcasm
They branded him “the beast”, “animal”,“an evil lowlife”.

To this, Bernie (Bernard) Madoff, the convicted cheat said:
"I have left a legacy of shame, as some of my victims have pointed out, to my family and my grandchildren. This is something I will live in for the rest of my life. I'm sorry. I know that doesn't help you.”

Madoff was convicted of operating a Pyramid (or Ponzi, as in the equally infamous Charles Ponzi’s) Scheme whereby he paid so-called “dividend” to previous investor from the wallets of the next.

His scheme – and victims - grew as word of mouth of incredible earnings passed on.

This is definitely not a small money scheme, with “exclusivity” thrown in good measure to make it even more enticing.

The scheme ran for years at ends and nobody complained when the money flowed into their pockets.

Few cared enough to “question” the source of such fantastic dividends. Surely alarm bells should have rang somewhere.

No, it took the global financial tumble when hedge funds and banks (who carried the deposits of the ordinary folks who could only dream of fantastic dividends) took an equal fumble and lost billions in their assets’ value.

News reports on his sentencing spoke of his victims scavenging for food in dumpsters, now dependent on food stamps, losing entire savings for several generations of families, with mortgages unpaid, elderly victims unable to pay for medical coverage.

Victim robbed of savings earmarked for the care of his mentally disabled brother.

My, my. Madoff was truly the Devil Incarnate.

For his extraordinarily evil (Judge’s words) misdeeds, the former lifeguard and sprinkler installer was sentenced to 150 years in prison.

How very American. All hype, all glitzy. You could almost make a best selling movie from this.

We, too, have our fair share of schemes here with the most fantastic of promises.

You’re most welcome to believe them.

A Madoff quote struck me: “The harder I tried, the deeper a hole I dug for myself.”

He dug his own hole so deep he knew he could never get out off.

His investors, meanwhile, followed like lemmings.

Verily the evil.

Friday, 26 June 2009


“Are you sure this way’s okay?”

“Course. What? Don’t tell me you’re freakin’ out cos of some movie. Come on. Anyway I’m around. And I’m no MJ.”

“Just.. this street’s freaky, you know..”

“No shit. Everything’s freaky at night.”


“What’s up? Cat got your tongue, baby? Why’ re we stopping? It’s the middle of nowhere..”

“… (hrmpp)..”

“Now you’re freaking me out...Jess?.. baby?.. What's with you?..”

“…(huhhhhh huhhhh)..”

“Stop it or I’m leaving you here. I mean it. Leaving you... Baby..?”

“… why won’t you come closer.. you were all over me just now..”

“Mother(blip).. What the?!! Ow!…that hurts! What the (blip) ….. (gasp).. bleeding..bitch.. am bleeding..the (blip) ... (gasp) (gasp).. (gasp)”

“……want me.. you want me... hmmm hmmmm….”

“...(gasp) (gasp)(gasp)….”

“..hmmm…baby…baby…hmmm…want me...…”

In the distant a dog howls into a moonless night.

(RIP MJ. The curtains are down.)

Michael Jackson (August 29, 1958 – June 25, 2009)


Tuesday, 23 June 2009

I am a hypocrite

Yes, I am one.

A young Iranian woman shot by paramilitary sniper during a protest and not a single whimper from me.

Now, insert the word Israeli soldier (nay even, better, a Zionist) therein and make the victim a Palestinian (for example), and see ME raise a hue and cry, of anger and bitterness at the injustice.

Snipers Israeli and Iranian had their cross eye on their would-be victims and both took the shot.

The former during the occupation of the Gaza strip, the latter a recent protest in Tehran.

For sheer cruelty, both are no different.

And yet, I am strangely silent when the aggressor is perceived as a Muslim brother.

Of course, bashing Israelis are easy since they are the personified evil in the Muslim eyes.

And I am one.

Spot on, am I not?

Neda Agha-Soltan, died from sniper shot June 20.

Rest in peace...

Monday, 22 June 2009

Stolid Husk

I saw the most amazing scenes on the telly last night.

It was news on a Father’s Day celebration at Shah Alam’s Concorde hotel, showing all sorts of “fathers” ironing clothes.

Amazing in that something so routinely mundane in the modern household (at least in mine) could actually be decidedly newsworthy.

I was ready to smirk at this, along the lines of “romantic notions that caring fathers help out in menial household duties” thinking, when I thought of my own dad.

At how such a task would have been a tough one for him.

I remember the days when Mom was hospitalised with a slipped disc last year and how difficult it was for him to adjust to even having to buy lunch for himself.

He has always had Mom to prepare the meals daily, all within well defined time slots.

Dad – perhaps stemming from his days as a soldier – is highly regimented and formal in almost everything.

Even in the way he treats his three grown up children.

My sister and I, having been raised by our grandparents from a very young age, have admittedly been the more wayward ones when it comes to both him and mom.

It’s a sad truth that I don’t feel the spark for them the way you do with ones you hold dear, something which is quite disconcerting to me.

That warmth within is conspicuously missing.

Often, I get nothing with mom and dad: just a sinful coldness in my heart I couldn’t even pretend its non existence.

Once upon a time after my studies, I stayed for a short while with a close uncle and envied at how close he was with his son.

They shared guffaws while watching movies of the late Tan Sri P Ramlee, roared in approvals when their shared favorites football team scores, jeered at one another whenever rival favorites lose; the list is long.

I remember thinking that this was how it should be between me and dad.

Central to this aloofness in feelings (on my part) is perhaps the fact that we were apart for a long, long time: dad was at most a holiday father figure to me (and perhaps my sister, too).

Memory is largely a superfluous thing, but I can still remember some of the moments shared with my late grandfather than I do of my own dad.

Unlike the popular saying, absence most definitely does not make the heart grow fonder where I am concerned.

Off and on however my mind keeps going to Mike and the Mechanics “Living Years”.

It is often said that we only start to appreciate treasured moments (and I truly believe that this should include these familial feelings and connections) only when they have passed us.

I pray that I do not end up even without these moments.

I want to worthy of being a son to my dad and not this stolid husk that I now am.

Now, if only my heart echoes this…

Ironing and fatherhood.

It’s a match made in heaven.


Friday, 19 June 2009

Desperately So

We need a national unity government like we need a hole in the head. The thought of sleeping with the ethically debased and morally detestable Barisan Nasional government is simply too abhorrent to contemplate.”

Tunku Aziz echoes exactly my thoughts and, I suspect, countless others on the much hyped subject.

(The word “hyped” is there because I am suspicious of its timing with the Manek Urai by-elections.)

While I am no fan of PAS, but readings tell me that the party itself has NOT outwardly propagated such a move.

A unity government doesn’t make sense when there is already a majority – although not a two third – for Barisan Nasional and Umno.

Tunku Aziz used far stronger words for the latter, but I would settle for Political Enemy Numero Uno for PAS.

In fact, a well accepted PAS can easily replace Umno as the main leading party especially since here Malays and Islam are pretty much interchangeable.

Coupled with the principles of Universal Justice that is the makeup and crux of Islam, you can certainly see that should PAS do things right, it can easily maintain its core of supporters and welcome new ones as well.

Surely even the (once derided as a kampung only) party can see this vision.

This unity talk is a surefire way PAS can squander this growth potential.

Sleeping with its Enemy Numero Uno (unless PAS’s bigwigs have a different idea here) is after all a harsh kick in the balls to those of us who believe in the party and its compatriots of DAP and PKR.

It shows that some PAS bigwigs are more concerned with positions (correspondingly linked to the potential for self enrichment and aggrandizement ala the much-alive political patronage system.)

What else could the reason be?

It cannot be the so-called Malay-unity factor.

(This would be a far more dangerous precedent: Imagine PAS and Umno on one side, and PKR and the rest on the other. Shudder.. Is it cold in these thoughts or is it just me?)

Tok Nik is adamant that such talks with Umno should be quashed, and, to me where PAS is concerned, he is absolutely correct.

What do those leading such talks hope to garner anyway?

Not the support of Malay-issue centric voters as these are, I assume, firmly in the hands of Umno (even though it does seems to be party first and race second if all the allegations of favoritism are true).

Tunku Aziz says it’s a case of Summer Madness.

Najib's analogy was that of a marriage proposal.

They were in fact married before, but alas, there was a divorce; one that was acrimonious too.

As such, these talks are just a rekindling of that marriage.

A “Rujuk Semula”, to use the Malay phrase for it.

For PAS to initiate such rekindling demeans the party and what it stands for.

Desperate comes to mind of such acts.

Thus the question must be: desperate for what?

Numero Uno Enemies: Sabretooth and Wolverine

Marvel's Biggies

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Self Inflicted?

And so, the stereotyping continues …



Opium den: Afghanistan



Is the muslim world ever going to rise above our vices?

Monday, 15 June 2009

Rapier Sharp

As a reporter, covering Assembly sittings is both a boon and a bane.

For one, you’re assured of some columns in tomorrow’s print, and you’d also get to see firsthand some real life political circussing (for want of a better word) which is incidentally also its bane.

(Of course, there is also information to be had, but most of the official ones are normally stale in that you already have it and all they do is confirm them.)

If you are looking at anything resembling the wit and poise in exchanges ala Jeffrey Archer’s First Amongst Equals, you’re better off rereading the novel again and again.

That said, I normally look forward to Question Time; easily the most – shall we say – exciting part of any Sittings, as this is where a reporter can get not only stories to follow up on, but also controversies should someone slip up in their Supplementaries.

Most of the time, though, Supplementary Question Time (designed to catch those unwary) ends up highlighting the evasive capabilities of our politicians.

Controversial questions would be sidestepped, often with a “back in your face” statement or bullshit of some kind, or for the more gentlemanly, a heat dousing “Kita akan kaji” (We will look into it).

I have thrown pens in disgust at such answers, vainly hoping for something snappy a response the writing could reflect.

The country experience a New Renaissance of sorts during the last General Election with more opposition members filling the Parliament, but do the numbers also bring in some much needed quality in debates and exchanges?

The (Old New – Does Rocky’s qualify as Newer?) Malay Mail provides some (highly readable, very entertaining and quite transparent) writing and highlights on Parliamentary Sittings.

Readingthem, you’d be forgiven to conclude that while there are some bright sparks among the newcomers, many more are quite the Twits.

TwitsThus we get things like this unnecessary show of Un-Parliamentary Childishness.

Surely there are more creative ways of getting your message across than getting thrown out of the august Hall, isn't there?

The stunt should bring some lines in prints, but it also goes to overshadow some obviously valid points of contention on the whole Perak BN takeover fiasco.

(Technicalities yada yada notwithstanding, it’s still very much a fiasco… If you have to do, do it right.)

Nizar should have stolen the thunder in his first day as a Parliamentarian in a far more dignified and, dare I say it, gentlemanly manner.

Perhaps, I’m asking for too much for a politician with a rapier sharp wit in the still green Nizar, eh?

Then again, he should make it a point to rise above gutter political antics.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Roving Waywardness

Are Djinns and Sihirs the reasons why some of us become unfaithful?

Perhaps it’s true in some cases, but Djinns and Sihirs seemed easy and convenient escape exits for those with roving hearts, no?

I have been there too and am pretty sure no Djinns (other than my own personal demons) were around tweaking my unfaithfulness quotient during a particularly shameful period of my married life.

If it weren’t the dastardly Djinns, what was it then?

In my case, it was my all-too-human frailties and suffices to say, it led to betrayals, heartaches and frayed trusts which I truly hope will never, ever, recur.

Thankfully those days are long gone and pretty much, my heart is set in stone now for the special someone that is my better half.

Time has helped the healing process, and now, both of us could joke about that dark period without either of us getting inflamed.

(Perhaps the Djinns has gone on elsewhere? A cross continental trip to England, maybe?)

I am however not an all out non believer of Djinns, Sihirs and the likes; at best I’m a skeptic as I’ve seen enough to convince myself that just because something is not visible does not mean it doesn’t exist.

When I was much younger (I think it was during my early primary years) I witnessed an exorcism of sorts done on an auntie during the wee hours of the day.

Scared the shit (not literally, of course) out of me then.

Just recently, a restless spirit entered both me and my daughter’s dreamscape causing some restless, but fortunately non lasting, moments.

I woke up to find my eldest daughter thrashing about, and started reciting Ayatul Kursi and other verses from the Koran to calm her, which she did after a long while.

Then “it” came to me.

The mental image I got during the feverish dream (nightmare?) was that of a good looking, young Chinese man, portrayed in a picture placed besides an altar.

Was it truly a passing spirit, or was it the work of an active imagination? I will never truly know.

Using Djinns and Sihirs to wreck the marriage of others is not something out of the ordinary this side of the ironically Malay / Muslim world.

(Don't these people know about the dangers of being in Syirik?)

Another auntie found weird things buried in her compound during a trying period when another woman was wooing her husband.

There were clear intentions in driving a permanent wedge between the couple, and while it didn’t work (they are still together), there were plenty of heated moments for both of them at the time.

Now, they’d joked about the period, laughing off the episode that – I truly believe - brought them closer still.

I think those involved in such deep relationships will always face these tests, and surviving them will strengthen the tie that binds two hearts together.

Djinns and spirits can be nasty sometimes – they cause some restlessness in one way or another – but people are nastier still in invoking these to their cause from either ego or jealousy.

That said, in any case of waywardness it still takes two to tango.

So, let’s not kid ourselves, shall we, O wayward men and women?

There is only so much the invisible Djinns can do.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Dear Tan Sri

My humble thoughts are that there is no need to make a pass in English compulsory to obtain the SPM certificate.

Not because English is not important. Far from it, really.

In an age where the children are forever drilled that it is the outcome that matters and not the journey itself, a “must pass” condition seems at odds with this reality and disconcertingly political (with much apologies) in its connotations.

You are already talking about limiting subjects: well and good as it would make learning not a race of how many 1As and 2As instead of the actual gathering of knowledge.

(I would however propose that the limit is set only on what is counted in aggregate for the Certification and NOT in the actual subjects which students can opt to take.

Many – especially those in the secondary levels – are expose to a diverse range of interest and might just want to learn about something other than the core subjects.

Why stop them from doing so if the resources are available for these subjects to be taught?)

Back to the suggestion of making a pass in English compulsory: my thoughts would be that if something likewise is imposed, you shouldn’t stop at a mere pass.

Make it instead at a certain level of competency reflective in the number of years that went into learning the language.

Say, a C. (For competency?)

After all, if one does not even get a pass after learning the language for a good 11 years of their young lives, it is a sign that they have been going through the motions of learning, without getting anything out of the hours of being in the classroom.

Unless the standards are at such high levels, getting a Pass is the least a learning student should obtain.

An argument is that these students might be interested in something else than English.

Well and true, but how one can sit through the hours of classes and not gain anything is a sure sign of a failure in the system.

Perhaps, the “Must Pass” should be on our Education System instead.

I sincerely believe that the learning and teaching of languages (any language, for that matter – even mother tongues) is something of a passion.

Those who have it often go on to become the artisans of the society, adding flair to the hum drum of daily living.

Teaching these students must be a delightful exercise if my former teachers (including informal ones at home, workplace and elsewhere) are of any examples.

They display a willingness to indulge in Q&A’s that could sometimes verge on the nonsensical on the whys and hows and what nots in language usage.

Anyway, with the teaching of Science and Mathematics being in English, passing the actual English language papers must surely be scientifically mathematical.

You can’t learn them without some competency in the language they are being taught in, isn't it?.

Why is there a need for a “Must Pass” then?

Alas, these are only my humble opinions.

There might be other considerations that my myopic mind could not discern, but I do hope these are for the best of our future generations and nothing else.

Best regards,
A Keen Parent

Nuggets on classes from Bill Watterson


Thursday, 4 June 2009

Heavenly Offerings

Just how much are you willing to pay for good, nay, great tasting food?

I am willing to bet that two thousand quid is way too much for curry, no matter how exotic sounding it might be.

That is the audacious price tag on the Samundari Khazana curry (Seafood Treasure?) a mix of caviar, sea snails, whole lobster and edible gold served at London’s Bombay Brasserie.

The ingredient’s list: Devon crab, white truffle, Beluga caviar, abalone, Scottish lobster, quails' eggs and more caviar.

What makes it expensive is also perhaps the amount of sweat (pun intended for those in the know) that goes into the curry.

At least the recipe calls for something traditional: the seafood is apparently marinated in tamarind juice; so it’s not all pure exotica.

A wise man (actually it was Martin Yan of Yan can Cook) said good food takes time to prepare, but it does need that special touch to make it from good to great.

The special touch can range from mom’s home cooking to the company the food is shared with.

How many times have you gone “hmm… exquisite” (well, not literally) during wine and dine (again, not literally) sessions just because; one, you are with a special someone, and, two; you are bloody paying an arm and a leg (plus a few others in between) for Le plat du jour.

The breakfast place I frequent during my studying days serves a kicking seafood sandwich and its nothing more than crabstick in mayo vegetable salad in croissant. Cost less than a Mars bar, even.

While Greek Kebab with crunchy red cabbages and chunky mutton makes wintry evening strolls warm and fuzzy.

An in the dead corner of the world, run down, eatery (for lack of a better word) in Sungai Lui near Cheras offers the best grilled (a mild word to use, really, as the freshwater fish is virtually charred on the outside) Tilapia I’ve ever had.

Never mind the fact that it only opens from 7pm and is miles from anywhere.

When I was in Perak, everyone was talking about a certain ikan bakar place which was the rave, prompting a visit with my better half for a bite.

It was nothing compared to Sg Lui (admittedly our favorite) but what put us off the place forever was the owner’s unabashed overcharging.

He went yada yada yada and plonks a high figure without even a hint of adding up figures to make the total.

Would I have mind it much had the grilled offerings been heavenly? Probably not.

Kowtowing is never good taste anyway.

Grace Patricia Kelly (1929 – 1982)


Monday, 1 June 2009

Very Much Ado

Crispy crisps
In the New York Times: The Lord Justice Hath Ruled - Pringles Are Potato Chips.

Now that is the kind of headlines I would love to see more.

I wonder if the writer (One Adam Cohen) enjoyed fleshing out the details as I did reading them.

A gist: There was apparently a legal battle on the status of Procter & Gamble popular Pringles as to whether they are categorically potato chips.

In the UK, potato chips (or crisps) are taxable.

P&G’s argument is that since Pringles are essentially potato flour, corn, rice and wheat (and here I thought it was all potato, sodium and what vaguely resembles taste), it’s therefore NOT potato chips.

The British Appellate Court, as it turns out, accepted this argument, declaring: Pringles is, shall we say, potato chips Lite.

(Anyone thinking of getting their hands on the judgment should reconsider especially since Mr Cohen himself said that it’s “a convoluted opinion that considered four interpretations of the law before ultimately rejecting three of them.”)

The Supreme Court pooh poohed the Lower Court's findings, deciding instead that “it’s a matter of overall impression.”

Good one, that.

Bad one for P&G, though, as the decision meant they owe back taxes of some US$160 million.

Off and on, we do get our fair share of “interesting” headlines here back home in the legal culinary sort, but they are hardly those which require our Justices to crack their brains on.

Thanks to the above decision, I will take note in the mountains of documentations that had gone into deciding Pringles are in fact potato chips every time I take a sinful bite of such crispy delights.

(Wonder how much fun the lawyers had - and the money made - in battling a case this significant...)

Had the case still in adjudication I may well be committing Sub Judice for saying “crispy”.

Legalese. Just love ‘em.