Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Naturally Late

The way forward for the country may well be 30 years late if Denmark is to be of any example.

At least this is my reading from NYT’s Freidman “The Copenhagen That Matters” which is basically about the painful steps took by the EU country with 5 million people after finding out she was overly dependent on Middle East black gold.

Sustainability policies and active acts often come into place only when matters become far too pressing.

It was unfortunate for the so-called “Climategate” to have happened when it did as it took much of the sting of global warming from the world leaders attending the Copenhagen 2009 Climate Conference.

So in the end, NOTHING came from the much hyped event.

We did promise a 40% reduction in CO2 emission by the year 2020.

Whether it’s a promise (conditional that it was) we can deliver is at best a gamble.

Let’s face it: environmental matters seemed the least of our concerns.

If my reading in the political direction of the country is correct, Malaysians care only about one thing: The Economy. At least that seems to be the thrusts where the current government is concerned.

Never mind lo.

During a trip to Kitakyushu many, many moons ago, I discovered that it was disgruntled mothers who kicked off the so-called green movement of the city.

Grabbing the matters of their children’s wellbeing by the balls, the mothers of Kitakyushu in the 1960’s began pushing hard for a cleanup of the smog-filled industrial city, complete with its mercury enriched sludge-filled bay.

Those days are long gone for the city after much effort and funding.

We don’t have anything resembling such catalyst that could push for such a concerted effort to be made.

Sure, our verdant forest and green hills continue to be raped and plundered for the red earth, space and valuable timbers that it has plenty, but, hey, that is happening not in my neighborhood.

Just last weekend during a trip up north I came across a hill in Kedah with a grotesque half cut look of exposed red earth and green forest.

The hills in the once paddy-king state look a lot like molehills that jut out amidst flat plains.

I supposed the hill will be completely leveled in my next trip up north.

It’s a sad reflection of the country that we seemed to be going backwards in recent years in all matters concerned, so much so that the winning of the ASEAN Games football gold is welcomed with quite the euphoria.

It is like we are starting from scratch again.

Just where is it that we took a wrong turn in realizing this dream of a country which would flourish together with its populace?

I have asked this same question over and over again in many posting but until now, there is simply no answer.
Instead we get braggarts boasting boastful rhetoric’s, institutions neglecting their responsibilities, authorities acting like Maharajahs of old and countless other abomination in clear signals of a country slipping into an abyss.

M Nasir could well be spot on when he sang: “Jangan sampai makan rasuah, Nanti bangsa jadi musnah..” all those years ago.

When you think of it, all the above has a common denominator and it is that of bleeding the country’s resources to fatten ourselves up.

Well, a select few of us anyway.

Sustainability be damned.


Monday, 21 December 2009

Sacrificing Something Sacred

If MCKK was to be open to non-Malays, later the girls will want entrance. Then extremists will want everything non-Malay to be shared. There will be no end to it.

Shocking, isn't it? Are we in a time warp or something here?

Some things are Sacred, Personal” is something that appeared today in the New Straits Times "Letters to the Editor".

(I hardly ever buy the NST these days. Mostly this stems from the paper not carrying loads of ads on (most–of-the-time-phony) $ale$ et cetera.)

Non-Malays. Girls. Extremists. Words with chauvinistic nuances in a single written paragraph.

Good One(On a curious note: Why in heaven’s name would anyone not from MCKK want to be an Old Boy's in the first place?)

I have been at MCKK several times, and sadly, it has not managed to uphold it’s often cited brilliant past. Not a relic, but it has seen better days.

Reading the letter above makes me wonder why the Editors let this one through.

Perhaps a highlight in the kind of prejudiced thinking that goes through some of us?

The existence of such “focused” schools and institutions should not represent a problem where race relations and national unity are concerned had the national schooling system been better managed.

MCKK is hardly unique with many of the country’s schools going the racial and cultural route.

My daughter’s class, for example, has not a single non-Malay student whom she could befriend.

Just when could we learn about each other, then?

Not helping matters are adults who seemed focused in imparting their prejudices to the young minds.

Like above.

Charlize Theron


Thursday, 17 December 2009

Memories of Bygone Days aka The Days I Spent Good Money on Lauya Movies

Pedang Setiawan
After years (decades?) of hiatus from Chinese-language movies, I succumbed to the temptation of Pang Brothers’ Storm Warriors and braved the 6pm Kota Damansara traffic for an 8pm viewing.

Shouldn’t have bothered as the movie was - to put it crudely - crap.

Sure, the action scenes were quite amazing but they were nothing compared to those which appeared in the comic itself.

The two female stars were woeful and wasted while Aaron (Cloud) Kwok and Ekin (Wind) Cheng played second fiddle to all the CGIs on board.

On hindsight, I should have waited for Teddy Chan’s gritty “Bodyguards and Assassins”, which opens tomorrow.

Listing Donnie Yen as its lead actor, the trailer looked promising for a much better ride.

In my younger days, Kung Fu movies were a staple entertainment diet for me with Sungai Wang Plaza being THE place where I could be found on weekends and weekday nights whenever a good (or so – so) movie is showing.

Ever since Jet Li moved to Hollywood and then embarked on artsy Kung Fu movies, Donnie Yen has been carrying on with the all-action theme on his own with the last being Wilson Yip’s Ip Man (2008).

Lacking the flamboyance of Bruce Lee and the impishness of Jet Li, Donnie Yen has nonetheless managed to capture fans with his moves and skills.

Just like those of the late Bruce Lee, Donnie Yen’s moves look acceptably real and raw.

SPLFor example, I could watch his showdowns with a knife wielding Wu Jing and, later, the indomitable Samo Hung in Wilson Yip’s SPL (Sha Po Lang) (2005) over and over again.

Storm Warriors was supposed to have a similar climatic showdown between Cloud and Wind, but it didn’t match the one depicted in the comic series.

Close, but not quite there. A pity, really, as the fight between the two Kung Fu brothers is quite up there where fictional showdowns are concerned.

Even Kazuo Koike’s excellent Lone Wolf and Cub – despite having the best of foes in Itto Ogami and Yagyu Retsudo – doesn’t have anything remotely close.

(My opinions only. You’re welcomed to disagree.)

Back to Bodyguards and Assassins: Should I plonk some cold hard cash to go watch it?

Probably not. I think I will make do with watching the (ahem!) original DVD version when it comes out.

Unlike those younger bachelor days, watching movies alone is not something that is fun to do these days.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Parliamentarians FB'ing

I have just got some information on my FB (Facebook). This is from a student in the Edinburgh University itself who said she has never failed her studies.

“In fact, she is one of the best students doing Bachelor’s degree in Pharmacology with Industrial Experience. Hope this could be clarified so that there are no more rumours on Nur Amalina,” said Zulkifli Noordin (PKR-Kulim Bandar Baru), reading from a posting on his FB.

Nur Amalina is, of course, our 2004 SPM 17A1s scorer.

The “ clarification” was made following the MP’s own question in Parliament on her status following unsubstantiated rumors that she had failed her studies.

Weird that the Q&A and the clarification occurred within “several minutes”, though.

It was as if Zulkifli had intended to put the matter to rest in one swift moved especially since he had no help from Higher Education Deputy Minister, Saifuddin Abdullah.

If I am not mistaken, Saifuddin himself is also on FB.

This posting is not going to be about Nur Amalina, who I believe will do whatever it takes to succeed in her studies.

It’s more about taking postings in the social networks (or any other "facts" in the Internet) as Gospel (no offence intended) Truths.

FB, Blogs, etc usually represent the sides the respective posters want to portray themselves.

Of course, they will be a smattering on facts in between, but fleshing these out would be bits and pieces of opinionated offerings.

Take for example the recent Arsenal – Liverpool game in the English Premier League.

Fact: Arsenal won 2 – 1. Another fact: Two of the three goals were scored by Liverpool players.

So if I were to post on my FB that the game ended with Liverpool players scoring two goals and Arsenal one without letting on who won, I would categorically NOT be fibbing.

And unless someone comes out and say that one of the two was an own goal, somebody reading my post would think that Liverpool had won the match.

(I know it’s a lame example, but then again….)

Back to YBs Zulkifli and Saifuddin on Nur Amalina.

The news brief reported Zulkifli as saying that “he has to correct his statement as he has raised the issue in his debate and has now found out that Nur Amalina was still continuing with her studies.”

Saifuddin, meanwhile, was quoted verbatim as having said: “That’s why I said as far as we are concerned; we don’t have any information on the failure. Thank you for retracting it immediately and correcting the statement.

So there you go.

FB postings in our Parliamentary proceedings.

I bet rumors of Nur Amalina’s supposed failure also originated from the Net.

Maybe even from a friend of a friend of a friend's Internet posting.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Oh To Be Financially Reckless

One fine day of book-window-browsing, I chanced upon two books on paintings – one on Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (July 15, 1606 – October 4, 1669) and the other, Nelson Alexander "Alex" Ross (born January 22, 1970).

Had I still been the financially reckless young man I was years ago, the latter would now be a part of my collections.

Alas, it carried a somewhat hefty price tag.

(A few Ringgits short of RM200, admittedly.

Peanuts, of course, unless you factor the fact that Alex Ross paints comic characters – great looking ones notwithstanding.

The Rembrandt was RM59, but my heart was on Ross' “Mythology”, so I did what my brain said was the right thing to do: I walked off with neither.

On hindsight, the Rembrandt would have made a fine addition to the one I have on Vincent Van Gogh.

It would however also be a reminder of my missing out on the book I really wanted.

Perhaps, saving some money for the purchase? Maybe even both?

Realistically, that would not be possible unless my boss decides that I have been a good worker deserving of some extra in his paycheck.(Amin to that.)

The thing about missing out on things which you “chanced” upon is this: it is often one where you would be rankling yourself later on when they're gone.

You have to admit this sort of thing happens quite a few times.

In an age where the e-book is gathering pace and popularity amongst readers, these “coffee-table” editions remain a strong bastion against their digital cousins.

I wonder how long more before they go extinct?

Alas, the relatively high prices of books here do not help further the cause of reading.

My mind keeps wandering to our southern neighbor where AR's “Mythology” could well be priced within a range which I can safely shell out dollar notes without too much guilt.

I just hope that when I do have some extra, it would still be nestled in the shelves.

Will it?

Alex Ross' Wonder Woman.

Fine art

Monday, 7 December 2009

When Does A Tailspin Start?

“Afghanistan has gone into a tailspin largely because President Hamid Karzai’s government became dysfunctional and massively corrupt — focused more on extracting revenues for private gain than on governing.”

I read this line in Friedman’s “May It All Come True” back and forth a couple of times; a stark and blunt reminder of how a nation can turn to dust and grime.

Yes; the whole column was written with America’s wellbeing in mind rather than Afghanistan’s, but it rightly identifies “ownership” as an important ingredient for nation building.

With ownership, progress can be sustained - Friedman proposes to US President Barrack Obama - in alleviating Afghanistan stock from the current strife ridden-wasteland that it is.

Good luck to BHO in pulling this possibly mission-impossible off, I say.

Friedman’s line of thinking brings to mind the two recent postings by our own Farish Noor on revelations last week of our migration figures.

More than 308,000 left the roost – so as to speak – between March 2008 and August 2009 “to find better opportunities”, compared to about 140,000 for the whole of 2007.

It is, of course, not at all unusual for people to leave in search of greener pastures, but what was telling however were the somewhat despondent responses which followed Farish Noor’s first posting.

In his mind, FN imagines this despondency as people having given up on what he says is the Malaysian project.

Is there still One (pardon the unintended pun), in fact?

Once upon a time during arguably democratically-defective days, we had the so-called Vision 2020 dream – where supposedly the country will stand equal with developed nations.

This dream has certainly withered since.

Somehow, ego and personality driven visions for country do not really cut it where nation building is concerned.

Once they leave, so too their so-called visions.

Which make sense because the other guy will want to show that he is equally visionary in having his own grand visions for the country.

Is FN’s contention correct in that many are giving up on the Malaysian project?

News briefs on the same do not provide any racial breakdown.

But does it matter which race is leaving the country in droves because they no longer believe it can provide for their and their next generation’s wellbeing?

Read Friedman’s line of Afghanistan again.

A government that doesn’t care for long term future of the country will spawn a population that is equally gregarious in their thinking.

Afghanistan is perhaps a far too extreme an example, but the context of its continued collapse is still spot on, isn’t it?

We can certainly draw some (distant cousins ?) contextual similarities here in Malaysia.

Right now, people – even if they are in the minority (as a Deputy Minister suggests of a 10,000 respondents feedback on “feeling safe”) – have also begun to lose confidence in the country’s authoritative institutions.

What there is left when the governors are no longer looked upon as providers of security?

Isn’t this, thus, a kind of “tailspin”?

What's wrong with this picture?

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Sweet Subsidy: Is That Why Its Got to Go?

It does seem like “subsidy” is a much maligned word these days.

Much maligned as though it’s THE grotesque wart that is hindering this nation’s perfect statuesque appearance.

Whatever it is, we do not have to look too far ahead to see what life is like without all these “tongkat”s pushing commodity prices downwards.

For one, the government is looking set to use a MyKad-based method to facilitate a subsidy-less floating of the pump price.

Two things come to mind:

One, my own MyKad is splitting into two, so using THAT would be an exercise in temper controlling.

Two, since I a considered middle income earner, I would have to pay the non-subsidies rate anyway.

Fine. No problem.

Right now, I have to pay premium price at the pumps as my K-Car is such a sluggard when filled with RON95 petrol anyway.

It’s harder to empathize with the removal of subsidies from the other commodities, though. Sugar, cooking oil, flour and rice, to take some examples.

The direct impact for consumer like you and me will not be that major, perhaps, as most families (speaking of the so-called middling group of the neither poor nor rich) are already paying market price (?), with the exception of sugar.

It is the indirect impact that would hurt our wallets, though.

Producers will take the cue to raise prices when subsidies are lifted, never mind the portions of the subsidized commodities.

The ever-popular Malaysian benchmark of inflation – the teh tarik and roti canai – will shoot up, followed with a round of indignations by all and sundry.

Then, a compromise whereby Mamak stalls and restaurants everywhere (Ahem!) sacrifice their earning to “subsidize” this so-called Malaysia staple.

Silently, though, the prices in the other items will creep up.

Nowadays our RM10 note is just enough for a single person unless they go really, really stingy.

This creeping up in other prices is the real net effect of any moves to de-subsidize commodities.

Couple the removal with the introduction of the GST (Good and Services Tax) and it could well mean that our Ringgit shrinks even further.

The government is quoting figures such RM1b and RM2b in extra revenues from GST and petrol subsidy withdrawals.

Not much moollah when it comes to boosting the national coffer, actually.

In fact, it’s not even enough to cover the recent Government's PKFZ bond guarantee .

We really should be looking elsewhere for more solid savings.

Plugging government expenditure leaks, for example.

Wonder how much we can save from there.

Subsidy me this?

LP640. Sweet..