Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Wishful dreams Crappy days


I dream a dream today
A dream of going somewhere someday
A land where daydreamers are free to dream
Of going somewhere, anywhere, everywhere, any day

I dream of reading an Ode yesterday
An unfinished script an ode to a poet
Who writes to pass the day
Days just like today, yesterday and any other day

I might dream another dream tomorrow
Dreams that may or might be a dream I’ve dreamed
I wish it will be a dream I wish to dream
A dream I can dream about in my dreams

I wish I’m dreaming a wishful dream right now
Of vibrant places of exotic locales
Of beautiful people of friendlier faces
Of open skies of sunny, cool winds
Where every blade of grass is green and pristine
Where every fleck of snow is not bitingly cold
Where every ray of sun does not sting
Where the water is clear, warm and soothing
Every breath of air breathlessly clean

A place
I wish I be
Right now right here
Instead of just a wishful dream
I dream of daydreaming

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Decisive Nincompoops

All riled up from reading Sakmongkol AK47 “Truth is the ultimate blade to cut the crap”.

This once subversively-popular song springs to mind immediately. Links to follow if I'm "rajin" (Is there an English equivalent ?) enough.

Aku Bukan Musuh Harta - Kopratasa

Mereka kata :
Mengapa kita tidak kaya raya?
Tengoklah si fulan itu,bermewahan saja..
Aku bertanya : apakah caranya untuk aku kaya?
Tapi.. secara mulia dan tanpa berdusta

Bukan kita tidak tahu
Jalan, denai dan liku
Agar harta ditemu dan disapu
Tapi semuanya cara palsu dan tipu..
Bukan kita tidak mahu,
Tapi kita tidak mampu,

Takut dan terkedu
Mengenangkan Yang Maha Satu
Yang Tiada BagiNya sekutu

Ya, telah kaya para pengkhianat,
Dengan harta yang sarat,
Tapi mereka lupa akhirat,
Balasan yang berat,
Dunia, jiwa bertukar menjadi keparat

Ya, telah kaya para pendusta,
Syarat mereka : lupakan Yang Esa,
Harta rakyat, semua disebat
Harta awam, semua dibekam
Hukum syaitan, mereka bertuhan

Kita pun ingin kaya,
Ada harta, ada kereta yang istimewa,
Ada rumah mewah yang melimpah,
Ada hidangan yang bukan sebarangan,
Ada duit yang bukan sedikit

Tapi, jalannya hendaklah suci,
Bukan seperti seorang pencuri,
Jika ada jalan yang mulia,
Di hujungnya ada harta,
Tunjukkan kita, di mana saja
Kita bukan musuh harta,
Kita cuma musuh pengkhianat bangsa
Dan Negara,
Apatah lagi pengkhianat agama..

Dari Puisi Dr Asri

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Dubious Duds


Yann Martel’s Beatrice and Virgil starts like a foreward and that alone got me hooked to dwelve further. Brilliant gambit, if I may say so.

Actually, it was initially the size (actually lack) of B & V which prompted me to pick it from the tens of titles lining The Times Book Store’s “New Arrival” shelf during a lunch break.

Ever seen George Orwell’s Animal Farm? B & V is about the same size.

The summary on the back cover (Blurb, is it?) doesn’t tell you much about the storyline, except that it involved an author, a taxidermist, a donkey and a monkey.

It was only upon Googling the title up later that I came to know B & V was part fiction part allegory on the Holocaust (look it up if you don’t know what this word means).

A few reviewers compared Martel with M. Night Shyamalan.

(Not the “I see dead people” Shyamalan. The Happening and The Last Airbender etc Shyamalan.

Yes; the one (or two) hit wonder.
)

Having found Martel’s writing style to my liking, I was quite flabbergasted with the bad press. Could it really be THAT bad a book?

Writing is a tedious, lonely job.

Writers hope to excite, to enthrall, to give hours of page-turning moments, to provide imaginative avenues and probing insights, or to simply to help readers pass dreadful waits.

For your work to be called a dud is certainly a downer. Especially if you slogged long and hard to come out with your so-called masterpiece.

I suppose Martel took all the criticism in stride as he did mentioned somewhere of working on another tale. Kudos to him.

According to Stephen King, writers are needy. He’s probably correct. Otherwise why do you spend hours, months and, even, years writing, rewriting to get it right for the reader, even if they are purely imaginary?

So, will I be getting the book then?

I’m thinking I will after all.

It might not be are emotionally charged as one of Leon Uris’s epic, but a book that can pass the hours in minutes is worthy of the attention span.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Insightful Mergers

I used to be a bona-fide, die hard believer in the premise of our Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional Berhad.*

My first car was a white, black-bumpered, Satria 1.3GL before circumstances and bad financial/personal management saw me letting it go and replacing with a Proton Iswara 1.3GL.

As many Proton car owners would probably attest, hassle-free is definitely not something you equate with this particular car maker.

I persisted with a third model, the Gen2, and Proton rewarded my somewhat naïve "loyalty" with a horrendous lemon and after a few years of nervous, hair-pulling moments and much, much, outflow of money for repairs etc, I bid goodbye to the brand.

Never sagain, I promise myself.

By then, I had managed to experience the kind of mouse-squeak, bottle cap-rattle free motoring that should be the right of motorists paying their hard earn money – first a second hand Suzuki Swift, then an Inokom Matrix and a Perodua Viva.

The Swift had an early episode of a clogged up fuel filter during one early morning road trip south, but replacement was cheap at RM25, and then it was all fine and dandy, and now still providing its services to my brother in law, it’s 16-years age notwithstanding.

Yes, I accept that no car maker can assure total reliability, but in my case, two out of three models seemed like a chronic lack of a QC culture prevalent in the national car maker.

Just yesterday, I posted a short advise to another Gen2 owner whose engine temp had risen, much like what I had experienced countless number of occasions with my own before I said goodbye.

What irks me the most (and probably other Proton owners in similar predicament) is the stock standard answers we usually get when sending our cars for repairs, warranties etc: “Biasalah, Proton.”

As if that makes it all blipping all right. A kind of take it or take it proposition.

Just like the current “We want it, and we want it no matter what” attitude in pushing for a merger with Perodua.

Proton probably needs this to happen more than the latter. Reading between the lines of Proton’s man-in-charge statement seemed to point to it haranguing the Government to press its case home.

I have given up on the Proton ideals. So reading statements like “I strongly feel there is room to collaborate. It's not about Proton and Perodua, it's about the Malaysian automotive industry” is so gag-inducing.

The Malaysian automotive industry? Really? In what way? My feeble, non automotive-industry savvy mind can’t see how a merger of Proton and Perodua makes sense vis-à-vis the Malaysian motoring crowd, other than having lesser and lesser choices for the low-mid, mid price ranges.

A merger would mean that some line-up needs to be consolidated. I’m guessing the one doing the pushing for a combo would also be the one deciding which models are delisted.

Examples of overlaps: Saga and Myvi. Savvy (is this still in production? Not I really care) and Viva. Persona/Gen2 and Alza.

(Of course, this is the kind of worse-case scenario, conspiratorial outlook. Guesses. Opinions. Everyone’s entitled to them. This is mine.)

This is not the first time Proton’s man at the helm is pushing for a merger.

Usually I don’t give a hoot about what Proton does or doesn’t do. Not anymore.

Inspira a Lancer ciplak: don’t care. Exora going EV: whatever.

But a merger that might just consolidate the kind of “Biasalah, Proton” take-it-or-take-it attitude?

This I care.

Care that enough care needs to be put into its deliberation. Care that both sides are heard. Care that the interests of the motoring public at large is also considered.

Will they?

PS: Honda Insight at RM98,000: Cheapest Hybrid. My emphasis.

*Blame this on my once-upon-a-time TDM-reverence.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Asgradian Thoughts

Unlike the yesteryears, drivers in the morning commute no longer need to endure banal chats and rants of radio deejays with info-focused radio stations around, namely Radio Ikim (for the spiritually inclined) and BFM (for the business orientated).

This morning, for example, I learnt the following from BFM’s much recommended Breakfast Grill:
In Norway, 73 percent of its populace is with tertiary qualifications and their primary schoolers do not undergo graded examination.

Instead the examinations are geared towards assessing if the teaching force (schools, teachers) are doing enough and equipped for the task and responsibility.

For the children, grading starts in their secondary schooling years.

Primary school goers still do homework, learn Norwegian English (hmm, what does this mean?), Math and Science amongst others.

My immediate thoughts were: how carefree – and reminisce that things were not that much different for Malaysian kids all those years ago when the only exam to worry about was the Penilaian Darjah 5 (yep, that’s how old I am).

Even then, not scoring there is not that big a deal although doing so would help get you a shot in one of the, admittedly not many, boarding schools.

Unlike today, tuitions for primary schools weren’t a norm. Schooling days consist of cycling/walking/bus-sing(?) to class in the morning and back in the afternoon, homework or play or both, then off to mengaji Quran in the evenings.

Perhaps I am talking only of my own experience, but my memories of how it was with friends seemed to place this as quite widespread a phenomena.

Thus with this in mind, I am rethinking if indeed the move to scupper the UPSR is a good one. Get rid of any unnecessary stress – and tension – creating item on the children’s part out of the way in the way of building their educational foundation.

Test the teachers and the schools instead by way of the non-graded assessment.

Can we do this, I wonder? What are the pitfalls of doing so?

Do we EVEN need to rock the boat?

Yes, we do. A young nation in a rocketingly competitive world, our children just cannot afford a dysfunctional education system lacking clear direction.

Our University international standing seems indicative of this. University Malaya, arguably the country top tertiary institution, have never been able to replicate its 89th THES (formerly The Times' Higher Education Supplement) ranking of 2004 and is at 207th placing this year.

So, how?
Thor

Monday, 22 November 2010

Storied Instructions

“Three countries that outperform us — Singapore, South Korea, Finland — don’t let anyone teach who doesn’t come from the top third of their graduating class. And in South Korea, they refer to their teachers as ‘nation builders.

The “us” above is the US of A, but it could very well refer to any other country including Malaysia.

There are several good points in the column, including (I think) the following: “There are three basic skills that students need if they want to thrive in a knowledge economy: the ability to do critical thinking and problem-solving; the ability to communicate effectively; and the ability to collaborate.”

Tough call? Perhaps if the rut in the education system is way too deep and too entrenched to rectify and revamp.

Immediately I am thinking of the move to make history a compulsory-pass subject. Will it allow the three elements above come into play?

Much depends, probably, on the way the subjects are being taught in school. I’ve heard of teachers who go beyond their syllabus to make learning enjoyable - dare I say - again…

These are the cream of the crop, and contrary to the view above, I don’t think high grades are the sole criteria for such lofty ambitions. Passion is just important as teachers, too, learn while they teach, don’t they?

I’m wishing, though, that I know how exactly to instill these traits into my own daughter.

Just this weekend, she and her cousins joined their auntie for a jaunt at KL Pavilion, with the Times book store one of the outlets visited.

Clearly in a generous mood, their auntie had acceded to financing their purchases so off they went to the children section.

There weren’t that many books, but still enough to whet any bookworms’ appetite*, but in the end, my daughter exactly what her favorite year-older cousin chose. A diary. One of those lockable types which I know will end up being a doddling book.

Sigh...

She’s always seemed so reluctant to make her own decisions.**

Her younger sister is the exact opposite. Didn’t care what her elder “sisters” were browsing for, saw what she wanted, queried her auntie if the price is within the range permissible and got them. A magazine and an activity book.

She five, going six, but I know the magazine will be read from cover to cover.

Critical thinking and problem solving, communicating and collaborating, eh?

I wonder now if these are skills taught…

* PS: Found a copy of Neil Gaiman and Charles VessInstructions”. So beautiful yet so expensive. Tried to be sneaky in getting the girls interested but no such luck.

Ah Well…

** PSS: Perhaps I am being too hasty in my assumptions. Could it be her cousin was the follower instead? I sure wish so...

Monday, 15 November 2010

Wordy Eloquence

The Big Bad Wolf book sale is in town again and, in what is turning out to be an annual ritual, there I was with the whole family in tow.

South City Plaza was the chosen venue this year, and unfortunately, it wasn’t as easy to find as it seemed on the internet-sourced map.

All that matters was that we managed to get there plus a few cousins of the young ones.

As usual, there were like a billion books in the somewhat claustrophobic hall. Once we have left the children in their section, my wife and I proceeded on our own search for books.

Alas, there weren’t that many which really said “Pick me up” for me. Being such an old timer, I was looking very much for the seasoned, tattered cover novels of old, and what BBW has plenty was the newer ones.

There were still plenty for those really willing to go through one title to the other.

I was practically skimming through only the hard covers, and picking out those which featured pleasantly-designed overleaf before reading the summary at the back page.

And the sum result of the long exercise – two books. A fantasy and another on the (US) comics industry.

Alas, as usual, comics remain the elusive category which BBW is lacking on. There were some Manga titles, but not that many.

I discovered some old-style, illustrated, “Tales from the Crypt” over at the children side and managed to read quite a bit whilst doing the book – search.

(Ironically, the same is also an aspect covered in the book on the comics industry I bought. Haven’t gotten round to reading it yet, though.)

A question bugged me later on: Where exactly am I as a reader? Am I someone concerned with storylines? Do I look more for wordsmith artistry? Or was I somewhere in between?

The more I thought about this, the more convinced I was of falling in the second category.

Sure enough, there are stories which I read and re-read until the pages required extensive re-glueing and patching up, but there were clear signs that there were also stories where the words attracted me more than the story.

Sure tells a whole lot about the person, doesn’t it?

I was hooked by the fantasy after reading the summary exactly because of the elegance in its prose.

Suddenly, the crowd was no longer there. There was only me and the words for the briefest of moments.

Preceding events meant that reading the whole book would have to wait.

I will discover then if the pages within fulfill the promise reflected without.

I’m hoping it’ll be a good journey but you just never know.

PS: The eldest cousin of my children bought two copies of “Tales of the Crypt.” Will wonders never cease.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Non Secret Woes

RM341.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the price tag; one that I could never stretch my budget for.

Wednesday provided an enjoyable hiatus from work and visit to a favorite bookshop courtesy of a work-related meeting with a former college-mate.

There it was, slotted next to a host of Marvel Omnibus (whatever that means) series: Secret Wars by Jim Shooter and Mike Zeck and immediately, my heart skipped a beat.

Alas, for the second time this year, I have had to forgo wishes in deference to stark economic realities.

RM341 is a whole month’s groceries and more.

It’s a sum that could easily cover the petrol and toll bill, with extras for breakfast and lunch.

A figure that would buy me the full set of Geoff Jones’ highly acclaimed “Blackest Night” with extras for, perhaps, a Burger King set meal and the parking fee.

Yet, my fingers felt leaden when it came to re-slotting the phonebook–thick miniseries into its place in the rack.

Instantly I wished I was in Singapore, or back in the UK which would reduce substantially the cost of adding such a classic to my collection.

(Of course this is based on the proviso that I am earning in SGD and Sterling, that is.)

I never did manage to get a single issue of Secret Wars as the mini-series came out when I was still relatively wet behind the ears and pretty much (ahem!) penniless.

(Scrolled Amazon and saw the same being retailed at USD70 (around RM230 at current conversion).

Still way too expensive to make sense, unless, that is, you’re an American buyer. Wonder of anyone of my friend’s going to the US… Hmmm…
)

I took stock at my wallet-situation and decided instead on the reprinted copies of Marvel 1602 (Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert) and Arkham Asylum (Grant Morrison and Dave McKean).

There was also Kabuki (David Mack), the aforementioned GJ’s Blackest Night’s series, parts 1 and 2 of Old Man Logan (Mark Millar and Steve McNiven), the New Krypton (GJ, again!)... the list goes on and on…

Next occasion considerations.

Yep. It’s been a while since I hung around the aisle of Kinokuniya’s comics’ section.

Perhaps the next visit will see even a paperback compendium of Secret Wars?

That'd be nice.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Serene Moments

Something a colleague said just on visiting the graves of loved ones cuts straight into my heart.

I felt a tinge of sadness and a great relief at the same as I have always been fearful of being too bloody cold hearted.

There have been quite a few deaths in my life and through most of them; I do seemed to breeze pass with minimal emotional showing.

So the sharp twang in realizing that it has been a while since I last visited my grandparents graves is a MAJOR thing for me.

It used to be a routine for me to drop by the Alor Merah mosque muslims burial grounds to offer my prayers to both of them.

I know some thinks that its bidaah to do so and that the offering of prayers to those who’ve passed away can be done anytime, anywhere, but it does evokes a different kind of feeling.

One of serenity, in fact.

Unfortunately, it’s been years since the last visit.

Often, we conveniently blame the lack of time in bypassing things which we rate as peripheral to our lives, and usually, life has a way of turning this around to bite you when you least expect it.

A few days ago, a close relative and childhood friend of my better half passed away. She was cancer stricken and had spent her last days at the Sungai Petani hospital.

Her death hit my wife quite badly, as she had talked about her, thought about her but never got round to actually visiting her.

It hit me hard even when I typed those words above.

Mike and The Mechanics’ “The Living Years” hummed in my mind.

I supposed it is normal to wish (pray?) for at least a closed one to be with us in out final moments.

The last thing we’d want is to pass this mortal coil with bitterness in our minds.

Or worse.

This part is a small obituaric afterthought to hate-mongering assholes.

Marina is correct. It has been a particularly fractious Ramadhan.

Seems to be that it’s bye-bye restraint for some quarters, with acts ranging from name-callings to downright warmongering.

What gives, hombres? Not enough sugar ka?

If only we can shut out these nincompoops and their horrendous babblings, eh, and the world may just be a better place for the rest of us.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Rain Speak

What is it about the rain that triggers such melancholic state of mind?

An afternoon walk provided a rare “hujan panas”, and as others scuttle and scurry in flight for shelter, it was my thoughts going on wayward ways.

On wondrous days of being soaked to the skin without a single worry.

Of serene occasions whereby the world is as close as the space around you.

In wonderfully expressive songs of joys and sadness of a well-understood symbolism.

In my mind’s eye, the English light drizzle is still crystal clear in the serenity that it brings.

I forget though the sheer joys of the warm showers of my yesteryears, growing up in a village which everyone regardless calls home.

Watching streams flow though crevices into fields unscathed by crude concrete intrusions, knowing the puddles formed will point the way to beautiful fighting fishes scooped simply with the smallest of open palms.

Hearing the laughter even as elders looked on in disdain (wonderment?).

The pitter patter of naked soles splashing about in sync with the falling water droplets hitting haphazard obstructions.

Waiting for the aftermath, imagining the breaking of sheer white clouds, visualizing the vibrancy of colors rising to the heavens.

Days long gone.

Sigh...

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Franken Companions

More often than not, students do not usually have much memories of their “Cikgu Besar” (Principal, Headmaster or whatever it is they are called).

This is simply for the reason of proximity, or lack of it, unlike the classroom and subject teachers whom we see, hear and converse with every day of the week.

Nope; the Cikgu Besar is someone who sits in a lofty place high up in the school hierarchy.

Sometimes I do wonder if this causes a detachment to the (ahem) raison d'etre of why schools exist.

Before even the (ahem, again...) allegedly racist “Cikgu Besar” debacle, sorry, misunderstanding, (at least according to Education DG), I was confronted with just such an incidence which prompted similar misgivings on these lofty teacher-cum-administrator.

A few weeks ago when my daughter was late to her school in Shah Alam on a Mon(Assembly)day due to a bad case of traffic holdups, she was rounded up with her fellow latecomers and given a berating by several teachers.

Nothing wrong with that, as what was spoken were pretty much spot on – wake up early, prepare for contigencies bla bla.

Then spoke the Cikgu Besar.

She asked where the students live.

My daughters says, truthfully, Meru, and this, shockingly, sets of a tirade from the Cikgu Besar of parents who sends their children to the most convenient of schools without considering the lethargy of distant commuting et cetera et cetera.

Somewhere along the lines, out came something akin to “We don’t want outsiders here" during the tirade.

(Actually, lots more came up which I have since buried in my grey matter.)

My daughter is only 8 this year. Very much like me, she is the sort who keeps things bottle-up inside, and I don’t think I would ever know of the episode had I not decided to hang around the school then.

Had it been my better-half instead of me there, the Cikgu Besar would have had to contend with much more than just silent disapproval.

My daughter was late. Fine. Punish her for that offence.

Casting aspersions against her for being not from the area is similar to the so-called “pendatang” call from the Johor school principal.

What they are essentially saying is this: “You don’t belong here.

Not the same, but eerily similar in context.

Did it leave any impact on my daughter? Like I said, she retained much of my traits including those of letting bygones be.

Me? I’m wondering what goes on in the mind of the Cikgu Besar when she said the things she said.

Frustration? Indignation? What was it?

We have decided to move her out from the school next year. Perhaps it is better for her to be closer to her home, but the way lives are lived these days still means that she will have to transit somewhere before she goes to the religious classes and later gets home.

Perhaps it is time for me to seriously consider a full time writing career.

At least that would then put me closer to my daughters (the younger one is also due to the national schooling system soon).

Lest some aloof Cikgu Besars accuse my wife and I of “Not loving our children enough”.

Yes: that was another contention made in her tirade. In my daughter’s face, mind you.

Nasty, isn’t it?

"You live, but you don't."

Monday, 26 July 2010

Kang Kodos

Query over aliens using credit cards to buy petrol.”

Not only are they here in Malaysia Truly Asia aka 1Malaysia, they are also apparently buying OUR subsidised RON95 using credit cards.

Must be a common sight too – these aliens pumping subsidized fuel – as there is hardly any picture of them anywhere in either our MSM or NMSM newspapers, MSM or NMSM news portals, et cetera et cetera.

Shame of these aliens for tapping our subsidies, isn’t it?

Here we are slogging hard to fork out enough moollah for the government to be able to give back some in the form of subsidies and these ALIENS zooms in, used their credit cards, pump our RON95 subsidised fuel and zooms off again.

At least that is what the HEADLINE implies, that is.

As I don’t usually read NST these days, am not sure whether the same headline is used in the print issues. It is a weird slip unless the word Alien and Foreign is understandably interchangeable, that is.

I.e. Ministry of Alien Affairs, the Alien Student Exchange Programme, Alien Exchange Rates, the need to study Alien Language..

Hmm… That is totally alien language there.

In the meantime, Samuel L. Jackson – whose mugs seems the basis for Marvel’s Ultimate’s Nick Fury – announced the cast of the upcoming Avengers movie.

Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Scarlett Johansson as the Black Widow, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Chris Evans as Captain America, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, and Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk.

I didn’t see iron Man I and II, will not be going to Cap America, Thor is a maybe NOT, but Avengers? This is a definite, highly possible “Maybe”.

Just hope that it would be along the lines of the super hip Brian Michael Bendis or Geoff Johns’s than Jeff Loeb’s Ultimates/Avengers scripting.

Can’t wait.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Soulful Reminders

I’m on the morning school run of late, sending my daughter and have since been tuning to IKIM’s radio station (91.5FM).

There’s a delightful morning Zikir every 7am, followed soon by a morning motivational talk before the 8am news snippets.

You’re not far off to think Radio IKIM as filled with theology-centric items but you’d be surprised. Just this morning, the motivational speaker (missed his name, shame on me) quoted Donald “You’re fired” Trump in his talk.

His talk centred on what Islam could provide to a nation so advance that everything seems to have been catered for. He was talking of Japan, of punctuality, of advancement in technology, etc.

To great nations and even greater people, he said, Islam provides the sense of purpose: The Why.

I can only regurgitate so much of what was conveyed during the morning talk, but what was running through my mind was this: despite the greatness of Islam, so-called Islamic countries don’t have anything to offer the world.

Nothing at all.

The fact remains that we have to go back centuries for the glory days of Islamic civilization is the sad testament of how we have erred from the path of greatness.

The middle path of moderation, of sincerity, of progress. In total contrast to what is occurring in some countries including our own.

Weird in that Donald Trump came up in all this, isn’t it?

Not really as the good Ustaz quoted the billionaire property magnate saying something along the lines of “Success without happiness is nothing” or something like so.

Yes, I know that it’s easy for those moneyed to say so, but Trump was talking of his own context of being divorced from his former better half.

I believe in Islam, this is the concept of Redha (acceptance?).

Two examples come to mind: extreme ones, really. The first is something I read in New York Times quoted by a mid-level Afghan official in the face of assassinations committed on his colleagues.

Others have either given up their struggle to provide a better future for country, or armed themselves with security personal.

He says this instead: His life and death is God’s, and if God decrees that he should die, he will die. Wherever, whenever, however so.

In other words, he will not shirk from his responsibilities. He accepts what is happening as something decreed by God.

The other example is the Palestinians. Here is a group oppressed in their own land while neighbours – some richer beyond belief – lift not a single finger to help. Being in such a situation would have broken even the strongest-willed.

Unless, that is, they accept their predicament as God’s will.

I used to be cynical about the surplus of attention to the Palestinian cause when there are other oppressed (muslim and non-muslims alike) group all over the world, but not anymore.

Instead there is now only admiration of their strength of resolve and faith.

Especially since it brings forth a question I don’t dare (can’t?) provide an answer.

What do I have to offer?

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Prosal Excuses

Putting pen on paper is a big deal for a writer simply because you don't want to end up writing crap.

Well, crap in bad writing that makes the readers go "Ha Ha".

I chance upon these examples of bad writing and they are really quite good (bad, that is).

In fact right up there with "It was a dark and stormy night".

Have I ever made these similar foibles of my own? I don't doubt it at all.

Guilty as charged.

The "thirsty gerbil and giant water bottle" is probably the author's running away from a more cliched prose. "Compiling dust just like a writer's with the fear of publishing his writings" kind of prose.

(I must say that the thirsty gerbil bit was quite vivid a description though. So point made actually.)

At least these authors - bad opening aside - have their work published unlike some people I (ahem) personally know.

As such, I have resolved to put pen on paper no matter how bad my opening lines are.

I'm rereading Stephen King's On Writing just to get me inspired again and I must say that good writing wil grow on you.

In my personal library, you'll find some books in near-soiled condition while others still minty (this is a comic-related term, for those not familiar, meaning as good as from a book rack).

You know exactly then which are the good ones and what aren't.

Alas, time is so short these days that reading has become a chore.

And you just can't write if you don't read.

Its a fact of life that's simply bummer of an obstacle.

Is it, or is it another one of the those "fearful of bad writing" excuse?

The mentioned Gerbils.


Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Missed Opportunities

One of the perks of my job is to be attuned to the newer construction projects coming up, especially those in an around the Klang Valley. Not only the mega projects, mind you but also the more niche ones including high end condominiums.

I've always thought - and in most instances, its a well founded one - that condos and the likes are amongst the best property investment you can make and it doesn't even matter where as long as the location is comfortably urban.

Nothings beats KL Properties , though, as this is where you can really watch your investment appreciate in value. I mean, who wouldn't want to experience being able to sell your condo at, say, twice the price you paid for it.

At the very least, the rental alone is worth the initial cash outlay you have to put in. Alas, through sheer neglect of future needs and mostly immaturity on my part, I squandered whatever chances I had in making some good buys.

After all, back in the mid 90's, I was living and working in Kuala Lumpur as a young executive. Of course, being someone which was not the son of a somebody, I was pretty much awashed with awe of the big city lights.

Made pretty much the lousy kind of mistakes many young immature men made, and instead of making the kind of investment that grow, I instead blow my money on items which depreciate in value the moment you step out of the door.

Just the other day, I visited the Hampshire 2 condo - just behind Ampang Park - and impressed as I was with the whole project's execution, I couldn't help but think: "How on earth will ordinary young Malaysians be able to afford any property in KL?"

I mean, it's not like we are looking at the RM38 m, 14,000 square feet suite overlooking the KLCC kind of property, but the starting point of any property in KL would easily be in the half million ringgit threshold.

Are there still the kind of gems that's accessible to Mat, Ah Meng and Raju in not costing several arms and legs from three generations remove? I don't know, but I sure think that someone must have an inkling on the locations where these properties are still available.

I believe this same thinking prevails amongst those staying in the older (more slum-like) areas of KL.

If you happen to own a medium cost apartment in the heart of KL - or even close by - would you sell it off for profit? You could, but I seriously doubt you could get something remotely of similar value after that.

Nope, buying a property in KL is surely either a speculative purchase or a really long term investment. Pity, I didn't realise this early on.

Ah, well.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Iconic Changes

DC is changing the way Wonder Woman look for her 600th issue.

In the words of series writer, J. Michael Straczynski: If you’re going to make a statement about bringing Wonder Woman into the 21st century, you need to be bold and you need to make it visual. I wanted to toughen her up, and give her a modern sensibility.

The new look Fans of comicsdom will know that DC revolves mainly around the big three – Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman (alphabetically arranged to avoid cries of biasness..).

Ages ago when I first started reading comics, DC was off my radar despite Bats and Supes being household name. Somehow the Marvel's take on the whole business of superheroics captures my imagination better.

Then came a chance reading of an issue of Tales of the Teen Titans by Marv Wolfman and Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, featuring a whole lot of giants, Titans, “Gods” and the Amazons. The art was superb though the layout still suffered from unimaginative DC generic look.

Wonder Woman wasn’t in the issue but her younger sister Donna Troy was.

Still wasn’t a fan of either but I have since then see Wonder Woman as the icon when it comes to the female heroines (in Comics, at least).

Several Crisis (ahem!)later where Wonder Woman play significant roles cemented this view.

Wonder Woman was (is?) always portrayed as regal and astoundingly beautiful. No to mention, bosomy. There is easily countless number of single panels which fits to be framed or wallpapered.

Her stature rose even further in my eyes when she offed Maxwell Lord after going one-on-one against a manipulated Superman in Identity Crisis.

Despite the many distinguished female characters in the Marvel line-up, none can match the stature of Wonder Woman over in DC.

Changing such iconic figures is always a risky move for Comic publishers. Usually it does not matter how they looked like as long as the characterization is spot on but sometimes the iconic look is important.

Witness how Superman has remained so attired for so long despite many modern permutations.

Will the new look work for Wonder Woman, then?

Though not a fan, I cannot imagine Wonder Woman in spandex and am filled with some disbelief in seeing her going all martial arty against some mortals in a promo page.

It's an image that is totally at odds with the image I've cultivated on the Amazing Amazon for so long now. The art is still quite sensational, though.

I'd stick with the old Diana, tqvm.

Back to non-serious stuff, I am perplexed as to how a written reply to a Parliamentary question can turn out to be mistake.

RM800 million is not exactly chicken feed whereby an answer can be “cincai”ly given.

Truly, our Parliamentary democracy is at a bewildering juncture of sorts.

What’s worrying is where the road taken seems to be leading to.

Jim Lee's

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Paper Chasers


We are a country of big money but no money.

RM800 million Palace, but no money to pay the workers. RM4.6b (or is it 8b? 12.5b?) for the PKFZ and no money to pay the bondholders. Billions here and billions there and YET no money to fund brainy / crème of the crop / brilliant students at Ivy-league Universities.

Let’s not count the leaks of Felda, Sime Darby, et cetera et cetera (Not to be mistaken with Peter Cetera. Wonder what the former Chicago crooner is doing these days?)

Like Bonnie Tyler used to sing:”Where’re all the money gone and where are all the cash?” (My tweaks, of course)

Sometime it is so bloody depressing to read the news that you just skip everything and go right to the adverts, the entertainment pages, the sport pages, the cartoons, the tech-pages..

I’ve gone beyond cynical to being downright disillusioned: a total disbelief of anything that comes out of the mouth of our authoritative mouthpieces.

Everything seems to be agend-ise towards the furthering some grandiose money-making (for somebody, I suppose) scheme or project or whatever.

Have we reached a stage where “Money rules” over everything else?

I was teaching my daughter of Year 2 the usage of countable and non-countable nouns of much, a little, many and a few the other night and came to a sentence with the word “money”.

I told her that money falls into the non-countable nouns category, which elicited a bewildered look on her face.

You gave me RM4 everyday to school. So how can money be not countable?

I have to admit of not learning this facet of the English Grammar, having learnt the language via the “If it sounds, correct, it must be” technique, so I just murmured that it was the rule. Fortunately, it was way past her bedtime and she no longer cared less for grammatical nuances than the coziness of a dreamless sleep.

We could all use a good sleep from all these shenanigans, don’t we?

If only. Like the PKFZ quagmire, all these are headaches that are in for the long term.

Headaches that we seemed to be gearing up to inherit our children and- if we’re not careful – their children, too.

Right up to the point where money are UNCOUNTABLE nouns because there are none to count in the first place.

Where’re all the money gone too and where are all the cash?

Monday, 28 June 2010

Flatfooted Stupor

It’s 3.42pm and I am still feeling lethargic from the late night watching Germany thrash England.

I had a feeling that England would lose, but never imagined the margin to be so disappointing especially at this stage of the World Cup. England was caught flatfooted on all the four goals: the back four dreadfully outpaced by the German youthful players.

At least a penalty shoot-out would have carried the “luck” factor into play, but as it turns out, the Three Lions were bested in a whole lot of departments.

Am I missing something or does England not have an outright striker in the team?

Three goals – one of which by Upson! - in five games says just this and to see Rooney looking so very lost is disconcerting especially if you’re a Man United fan.

(On that count, another MU player is making his presence felt in team Mexico and Ji-Sung carried his South Korean brilliantly despite the loss to Uruguay courtesy of Suarez’s superb second goal.)

The question that would be answer in the Argentina – Germany matchup should thus be this: Was Germany really THAT good, or was England just WOEFUL?

Anyway, I didn’t catch the live telecast for that match; watched Frank Miller’s The Spirit instead.

The story was crappy, but the visuals sank me. Fans of FM would undoubtedly be able to connect with the outlandish way the whole movie was played out.

The rooftop scene was straight out of his collaboration with John Romita Jr. in Daredevil: The Man without Fear.

Empathizing with the characters though is out of the question as I hardly know or ever read The Spirit. Could find his motivation for doing whatever it is his doing. (Aside from smooching and flirting with every woman who appeared on screen, that is.)

The violence level, too, was sanitized by the inanity of the whole storyline.

Then again, if it had been ala his Sin City series, The Spirit might not have gotten through to us Malaysian viewers.

Sin City offers a different kind of brutal after all; something akin to the German’s dissecting of England’s back four, I suppose.

PS: Lampard's non goal - Would it have mattered? I dunno. What matters was that it was not called, and the German went on to score another brace. So there. Que Sera Sera.

Frank Miller's Perspectives

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Swaggering Humility

Once in a while I will wonder out loud: Just who the hell are we continuing to build and build for when half - in not more – remain literally empty?

Undoubtedly you will see them. Some swanky – the newer ones are, usually – the others relics of bygone times.

If you’re the adventurous types who don’t mind going off from the usual North- South into the inner roads towards Kuala Kubu Baru, you can even witness whole townships, hulking buildings carrying on silently with nary a single rattle or sigh.

My drive to work carries me pass a few such construction husk - empty buildings crying out for tenants.

Usually the strategy of finding a star tenant will do the job, but with so much space to be filled, you’d have to wonder if we’ve reach a saturation point of expanding in this manner.

True, construction is a grand way of pump-priming. It creates instant growth factor through jobs for developers, main contractors, sub and sub-sub contractors, consultants, all those buruh kasars and so on and so on. Very short term kickback to the economy.

You could easily rack up the Quarterly growth points from a few projects alone.

And then? What happens when the project gets completed and the buildings began to open for public, and private audiences?

Unfortunately for the whole world, the new millennium witnessed a huge blip in the global economy.

Otherwise there’d still be foreign companies snapping up cheap (converted rate, of course – ala our ministers’ favoured comparison in Singapore flour, sugar and petrol and Malaysian flour, sugar and petrol prices) space.

The likes most Malaysian could only aspire. At the supposed RM130 rental as imagined by the FT Minister recently, you’d probably be able to get a broom closet in one of the high end residential units.

We build, and build as though the demand will continue forever. What used to be government-or-related-locked plots now "prime land" especially in the City.

The KTM land is out of the picture now, and so too is the Federal Hills. BBGS is only alive in the cyber world. Pudu Jail is also no more. Worse still, even our Parliament House is under threat.

We just have not an iota of respect for heritage, it seems. If the august House is considered creaky has-been, what hope has ghost-domain that is the Pudu jail?

Like another minister say: “..It is not something we can be proud of.

After all, that hunk of concrete good for nothing is sitting on drool-salivating prime land.

Just like the Parliament House.

And now, we wait with bated breath the next pronouncement of the next “not something we can be proud of”.

V for Vendetta

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Loosely Defined

The Treasury and the Performance Management and Delivery Unit under the Prime Minister's Department (Pemandu) gave starkly different figures on government subsidy expenditure. And they are both technically correct.

The apparent "discrepancy" is due to differences in definition, classification of expenditure and sourcing.”


Uh Uhm… You’ve said it loud and clear, YABD Minister KSK.

Something like the "household income" definition in the low-cost-units-for-local-council-staff fiasco.

All in the definition ladies and gentlemen. No right, no wrong: legally speaking, that is.

Note the following phrases from Jonathan Lynn’s “Yes Minister: The Moral Dimension”:

Retainers
Personal donations
Special discounts
Miscellaneous outgoings
Managerial surcharge
Operating costs
Ex-gratia payments
Agents' fees
Political contributions
Extra-contractual payments
Introduction fees
Commission fees
Managements' expenses
Administrative overheads
Advance against profit sharing


Loosely defined, too, are these phrases but they’re carrying the same meaning.

And from Pemandu, we have the following:

Contract obligations
Financial support
Rebates
Assistance to Ministry of Finance Incorporated companies
Cost-based financial assistance.


The latter (the cost-based whatcammacallit..) is apparently a “substantial item.. under indirect subsidies”.

Fanciful stuffs, these.

Why is KSK coming out with the qualifications the Treasury had taken vis-à-vis the nation’s subsidies?

He’s stepping on people’s turf here and stating that figures are being conveniently classified as such so that different outcomes or findings can be made.

Isn’t that what you’re saying, dear YABD Minister?

The mentioned “Yes Minister” series is full of such convenient classifications that perhaps we can take it as a SOP for governments.

Something like “9.95%” is not “about 10%” kind of thing.

Laughable, isn’t it?

I’m wondering what is playing in IJ’s mind these day. Read somewhere that he is an avid guitarist. Several good rounds of jamming would shut all the crap out.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Pemanduan Berhemat

You have to pity Pemandu CEO Idris Jala these days.

Suddenly, in the eyes of the public, he is the subsidy “Bogey Man”. Never mind that he had apparently re-asserted his qualifications for the “bankruptcy” statement. (Not the one about being like Greek, though. Curious that especially since the European Union member is allegedly corrupted to the hilt if detractors are to be believed.)

Now Bernama says Awang Adek says Malaysia will not go bankrupt in 2019 even if a subsidy totalling RM74bil a year is continued. (Not verbatim, but paraphrase so expect qualifications here to.)

What does that say? That Idris is talking cock. That “the country’s economy would not be as bad as it had been portrayed such as not being able to repay its debts should the Government continue its subsidy programme.

Being essentially the government’s mouthpiece, such reports are to be expected from the backlash so far from the “talking” public. Subsidies, and correspondingly the inflationary pressure in their doing away with, are thing no right-minded politicians (unless you’re in the opposition) will want to touch.

Exactly the reason why Idris is IT. IT being the Bogey Man.

Never mind. Brickbats notwithstanding, Idris (and all those TOP people) don’t need ANY subsidy unlike the rest of us Rakyats in meeting ends.

The fact that they still do get them must irk them a whole lot, eh?

Monday, 24 May 2010

Shellheading Days

My renovations contractor (an Indonesian PR) lamented about the recent hikes in building material prices.

Saya block harga lama pun tak guna, Boss,” he said during on those chit chat sessions we have every now and then. Apparently, cement is now RM17 plus per bag, from around RM14. Ouch.

You’d be forgiven to not see this creeping up of prices of late: it’s very much below the surface especially where construction costs are concerned.

I’d be in the dark too had it not been for the renovations I’m currently undertaking on my house. Or the fact that the Base Lending Rate is now 6.05%, the announcement slotted quietly via a single column advert in the back pages of a weekday.

Now the government is again talking about subsidies; about reviewing them, that is.

Why does the government need these so-called Say your piece in Open Day” thingys when we supposedly already have our respective elected mouthpieces to say our piece(s?) in Parliament?

Is this an open statement that these Yahoos are not doing their jobs of representing the population’s interest?

Anyway, a half-day session in swanky KLConvention Centre can hardly accommodate the millions of voices wanting to be heard, so I suppose this is more a “Hey, we’re a People’s Government” move at best.

Back to my reno contractor’s complains.

I suppose this situation of creeping inflation is inevitable given our “fantastic” 1st Quarter growth. (Wait a minute! Singapore bested us with a 16% growth! Nah, probably Spore just up their figures to best us. We all know (wink wink) how Kiasu our southern neighbour is, now, don’t we?)

Yudy – the contractor – is doing our awning, landscape and “batu cantik” (that’s what he call the pavement, by the way) and his prices, while slightly on the high side is compensated by a meticulous attention to details and quality.

My house is, by the way, near Meru, which is like thousands of miles away from KLCC. I jest, but it does seem like so especially to relatives who comes visiting.

Barely six months after I sign the S&P (Sales and Purchase) agreement, was the new phase launched with an additional RM50K price tag. Last I heard, the specs are about the same, except that these get an extra balcony in the master room.

Compared to property prices in those areas closer to KLCC (heh), the levels we’re looking at are quite cheap.

I shudder to think of the pricing in a few years time.

Back to my house, we still haven’t install the Astro dish as yet and as such the TV sets stay in their boxes; the kids whining notwithstanding. Hasn’t had such serenity of surrounding like this for a long, long while but the day of succumbing to crass entertainment isn’t very far away.

I am, of course, talking about the World “Ole! Ole!” Cup.

In the meantime, here’re two images of no relation at all to the article which I’m putting just for the sake of it. No, I haven’t seen any of Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man and yes, I think the Mark “Ultimates” Milar version is the definitive Tony Stark aka Shellhead.

The new and the old.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Hairy Humour


“Most victims are women. What do women do? They go to the hairdressers... they chit-chat and suddenly it is everywhere and cause people to fear,” he joked.

What an S of a statement.

Why, oh why, do our politicians keep opening their big mouth and say utterly inane things?

You do expect politicians heading Ministries to be a level above the riff raffs but then, some seemed adamant in cementing their inter pares position with the mob, it seems, where drivels, crass generalizations and horrendous sensitivities are the order of the day.

By the way, he here refers to our Home Minister and the Malaysian Insider has a nice picture of him smiling away as he spoke to our students in London.

Let’s not get emotional” was another quotable quote from H.

Do read the article itself, which I do hope is both audio and visually recorded as politicians also have this penchant to turn and say the following words: misquoted, misrepresented, misled, mis this and mis that.

Dear God Almighty.

Is H not in tune with the overall scenario vis-à-vis the community outlook on crimes at home? Why gated communities are more and more the preferred choice and non-gated turning into a semi-gated ones?

What are these all about? Suka – suka residential committee things? Kopi / Hair Salon sessions ideas?

Could it be that H is spot on in his assessment of things?

After all, he must be getting inputs from his officer on the grounds (snooping around hair salons listening at women’s chit chats assignments included?) on the Malaysian crime levels.

I would love to read on the crowd’s response to H’s “talk”, something which the article did not reveal. Hopefully it was either one of aghast, disdain, confound, shock, dumbfound and related responses.

Sniggers, guffaws, laughter or snorts of approval would however place H is the right company though.

One fully deserving the other.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Tragic Consequences

The death of teenager Aminulrasyid Amzah was tragic. My heartfelt condolences to his family.

Reading the Sun’s report of the incident indicated so many wrongs, accumulating to the deadly one that ended the life of the 15 year old.

Was it a heat of the moment incident? Will we ever know?

You tend to get mixed feelings when reading news of the police shooting “alleged criminals”.

On one hand you think “Good riddance”, but on the other, you are disturbed by the seemingly “shoot-first-ask-questions-later” gungho-ness in these incidents.

Most of the times, these deaths become mere statistics, and their stories left untold except for the few paras in the mainstream newspapers.

Many more find their way into the courts, but to date, nothing concrete has taken place. I stand to be corrected in this.

We read that the crime rate has fallen of late, and yet, at the same breath – often just pages away – we read of victims shot gangland or assassin style, maimed and injured while their belongings snatched away, robbed in the wee hours of the morning or late at night.

Both sides of the coin seemed to be going towards extreme ends.

My neighbourhood is not a gated community per se. We have a secured single entry point, but as often is the case, the barrier only filters those who drive into the area. Motorcycles and pedestrians come and go as they like as there are far too many entry points to guard.

Still, the residence is relatively safe to the point of you being able to see a woman – a neighbour two doors across – jog the stretch of the homes in late evenings.

Even then, sometimes you catch unknown faces on motorcycles looking at one house to the other. Suspicious, isn’t it?

You then make judgement call in whether these are bad hats, whether a report should be lodge with the police, whether you should alert others to the same.

Once upon a time when life was far simpler, whole residences know each other well enough and knows exactly who they need to be wary about, but usually this wariness is more the form of missing coconuts, cooking utensils and so on.

These days, you just can’t help but be paranoid. There are just too many scums amongst the local population to not be so.

Talking about that, I felt the same measure of disgust when reading this Malaysian Insider’s report on the tragedy.

Politicians. Some of them just can’t seem to get away from being self serving.

Disgusting.

Anchor by Amy Sol.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

A Glass Wall


Vertigo's Sandman

I once dreamt in black and white.

I was inside a clear all-glass walled building with a host of others; faces unrecognized, identities unknown, reasons for presences unclear.

I can hear their chatter. They say nothing and yet are talking about everything. Children perhaps bored with the hive of nothingness, run their hands along the glass wall leaving a trail of smudge disrupting the clear view of what was outside.

What is outside?

Clouds. It’s always clouds for me. This time they are in shades; whites of different intensity and grey that is never dark enough to be black.

Are we above ground? The question remains as I fear to look down to see the answer. The clouds outside are both comforting and discomforting at the same time so I leave this lingering question be.

The chatter never stops. People doing nothing and everything while I stood in a spot I call my own, content with just watching and listening.

And suddenly a deathly silence fell on the abode. It is beyond eerie how quiet it could get. A stillness of everything that my thoughts (and those around me? Are these their thoughts I’m hearing?) became loud and clear.

The clouds were moving outside. Their pace disconcerting as white and grey mixed in a pastiche by hidden hands (a pastry chef?) mixing and turning, pulling and pushing.

All of us moved towards the wall, transfixed by what was happening outside.

What was happening outside?

I didn’t know. No one seems to know. All of us were glued to the swirling of clouds until finally the motion stops.

What was white and grey was now pure black. Pure unadulterated darkness and the crowd was no more. There was only me, four walls a touch away keeping what was outside, out.

The walls pushed outwards into the blackness as I thrust out a hand. I walked forward, the darkness parting but revealing nothing, only more darkness.

Where are all the other cast in my dream? I was alone, and yet not feeling lonely.

In my dream I closed my eyes.

And felt the warmth of solitude.

A brief bursting of lights tells me that my time here (wherever here is...) was up.

I woke up, to a world bursting with a kaleidoscope of colours.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Muse Tinkerer

For brief moments last Monday, I shamefully sank to the “Western Great, Elsewhere Less So” kind of thinking.

I had signed up for a technical report writing course at a city hotel in glitzy Bukit Bintang with all the initial impressions but promising.

It started with my being unable to locate the said hotel, which turned out to be at the rear portion of another (bigger, more luxurious hotel) and having to park my car quite a distance away. The classroom was located right at the end of a cramped corridor. This same corridor doubled as the "buffet snack" serving place, for want of a better word.

Care to guess that (early) morning dish? Char Kuew Tiow. “It cannot be any more Malaysian than this,” I thought deciding to skip the meal and opting for coffee only as I step into the function room.

It was dimly lit, classroom styled setting with two whiteboards and, on the table, an A4-sized booklet. I flipped it open' ready to criticized and did just that after the briefest of glance: “How drool.. This is going to be one dry course.”

By then, I had decided to stay on just until lunchtime and skipped the rest. A daughter down with abdominal pains being the other reason – never mind that she was already with a nanny.

Just a week before, I attended a similar one-day event in Singapore. The hotel was great, the food sumptuous, the speaker a Texan who injected humour into his presentation. I forgave his rushing through the session as he was just such a darn great speaker. A communications expert, as the marketing slip went.

Nancy – the local course speaker – is meanwhile a former banker turned freelance trainer.

Four hours into lunchtime, I ate back every prejudiced thought of her. She was simply superb, making a dry subject into a very entertaining session without the need to turn it into a guffaw fest just to keep eyelids open, interest from waning and minds wandering. And after lunch, the session’s end came fast; too fast in fact, a sign of how well things had gone.

Of course, the food was still horrendous-tasting, the corridor a source of body-brushing sessions as participants of other courses and seminars pass our room to get to the corner washroom but Nancy was worth every bit of inconvenience.

Did I absorb everything she taught in the two days? Not without some re-reading, but she certainly managed to wake some participant’s muse.

(Note: the “muse” is mentioned in Stephen King’s “On Writing”. They supposedly have a bag, pocket, knapsack of writing ideas in their safekeeping. His is a gruff, cigar chomping, hairy little guy who makes Mr. King do all the work while he loafs about. I haven’t found mine. My guess is that I am not looking too hard for him/her.)

On hindsight, Sturtevant was okay as was Nancy with solid knowledge and expertise in the subject matter their clarion call.

The latter just offer greater value in Ringgit and Sens. Not to mention the chance to ogle at the urbane souls of the KL Pavilion crowd whose life seemingly revolves around fashion and exercising their consumer rights of buying and buying and more buying.

Very deep pockets, hmm?

Ghost in Shell

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Buccaneers Canon

Arr??

Keira "Swashbucking" Knightley

They may be scums, but rude to them the judiciary must not be.

Well, much ruder than rude, actually.

Something along the lines of saying:was turned loose to burgle the stores of Canberra with false credit cards” and “turned loose with instructions to rape and pillage the stores of Canberra when describing the offence committed by a fake credit card-bearing fraud.

Come on, now... this isn’t the swashbuckling era of buccaneers anymore, mind you..

Rape, plunder and pillage. Arr!!!

These days pirates and their buccaneering canons have been much diluted thanks to Hollywood (and mostly Disney) - that the above three words are hardly ever associated with the seafaring (ahem) “adventurers”.

(Gotta go re-read R.L. Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” to get some ideas of what it means to be pirates of old and rid this image of the toothy Captain Jack Sparrow as the definitive “Arr!!” rep.)

In allowing an appeal against a Magistrate’s sentencing, Supreme Court Justice Richard Refshauge said: “It’s important that a judicial officer, in sentencing, describes the offences and their criminality with fairness and measured accuracy”.

Hmm... Measured accuracy. Nice words.

Anyway, the above article is one of two reported court cases which are worthy reads, the other one being the “land taken away by crony in Zimbabwe” case.

You are bound to be taken on a (though admittedly brief) emotional rollercoaster ride reading this article.

There's bound to be disgust, anger, pity, shock, bewilderment and shame.

This is, after all, the same country whose leader wants to be the “Malaysia of Southern Africa”.

The case was newsworthy because of the Malaysian ownership equation, but then again, the country (Zimbabwe) did embark on a "confiscate from the White minorities to give to the Black poor" a not-too-distant memory ago.

If there’s ever a sticky issue in Zimbabwe, it’s their Land Reform movement bit.

Arr...

Sergio Aragones' Groo

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Yaking Yaks

I have discovered another reason why we are stuck in the land of the middle-incomers.

We YAK a whole lot but do too little.

The Star had this headline on Tuesday March 23 shouting: “Apply online for Year One” and I thought to myself: "Finally."

I however rejoiced too soon without taking into account the “We YAK a lot but do too little” syndrome.

As I try to log on this morning, a blank, thoroughly white, page stared back at me with the teeniest bits of alphabets spelling: “The service is unavailable.”

Browser-sensitive apps, perhaps? Nope, it was the same on Explorer.

I mean, what gives Edu hombres? (I shall restrain myself from saying WTF here).

The report had all the right (ahem) hypes – “more efficient”, “reduce cost”, “check online”, “appeal online” - BLA BLA BLA. See: We do YAK a whole lot.

Bloody Naif Malaysian Malay Chap; that’s who I am.

Our PM, NTR yesterday announced quite a whole lot of things a whole lot of Malaysians have come to know for quite some time now. At least I think so.

Still, they do make good reading because these are finally in print.

Especially resounding is the bit about “the Government would no longer tolerate practices that support the behaviours of rent-seeking and patronage”.

We are talking about those who thrive through a combination of charm, some perceived (or actual) connections with the who’s who and a whole lot of “butt-kipas’ing” talents without having to put in the actual work, aren’t we?

(Yes, I do think that butt kipas’ing is talent based. Either you have it or you don’t.)

A query, though: Is the government frowning on the practices that support the behaviours, the act of rent seeking and patronage or the rent seekers and patronage(rs)?

Furthering the advancement of something removes the responsibility of actually advancing the something, mind you.

The Sun report has another weird bit.

In its “Planning for a high-income economy” under the Inclusive sub-heading is the following: “No Malaysian lives in poverty. Our first priority must be to eradicate poverty, irrespective of race.

Exactly whose poverty are we talking about here, eh if “No Malaysian lives in poverty”?

A way too literal translation, perhaps?

I am not going to nitpick the NEM (love all these acronyms!) as the whole plan is quite positive in its objectives and visions.

Just like the so-called “Apply online for Year One” thingy: All great stuff for us.

Alas, as the highly clichéd saying goes: “The proof is in the pudding.”

Or in our context: the kuih lapis, bingka, et cetera.

C’est la vie.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Legsy Palate


If collected at late maturation stages, the truffles will likely carry eggs and larvae — adding proteins and aroma to the truffle.

The article by Nicholas Wade in NYT really did have a load of “new discoveries … reveal(ing) more than you really wanted to know”. (My emphasis, TQVM!)

Just like the sushi-lover horror story floating in the internet gravepine which has since put me off the Japanese delicacy forever.

Anyway, I have never tasted the so-called fungi named truffle especially due to the Pacific Ocean-trench deepness of the pocket that partakes in its consumption would require.

It is one of those delicacies – foie gras being another example – which seemed far too bourgeoisie in palate to dream and/or salivate about.

Just last night I (re) read the delightful short story by (Sir) Jeffrey Archer on Bob and Fiona – the two main characters in “The Wisdom of Solomon”.

In an early description of the lady with 30 inches of legs and a diet perfected on lettuce leaves and water, Archer wrote:

“… she read the wine list from the bottom upwards, ordered caviar as a starter and asked, with a sweet smile, for her pasta to be covered in truffles.”

Truffles and caviar; seemed to go hand in hand the two.

Both non too subtle hints of the fine dining, jet setting. luxury-filled lifestyle of the rich, the famous and all their hangers-on.

I wonder if Fiona would still want truffles had she read the article before the “get-to-know-my-best-mate” dinner.

A twist perhaps - the kind you don’t however usually find in Archer’s tales - would be her asking to have the more exotic kinds instead.

Those preferring to be visually sated with this warped sense of the foodie macabre can tune in to Andrew Zimmern’s Bizzare Food on Astro’s Discovery Travel and Living for some good retching views.

Then again, who am I kidding? Just like vegetarians might eye meat eaters with disdain, some people do seem to see creepy crawlies perfectly suited as protein sources.

I digress. To each their own, eh?

Anyway, The Sun has been running a few articles about another set of new discoveries; the archaeological kind in Lembah Bujang.

The latest being a sun-dial like construction, aged around 1,900 years old. Add this to the jetties and iron smelting workshops found earlier at the same site.

Deciphering the historical context of these discovery would be wonderful to tell us more about how it was all those years ago.

Wonder whatever happened to that civilization? A local version of the fabled Atlantis, maybe?

Again, for the visually incline look forward to Sam Worthington’s “Clash of the Titans”.

It doesn’t feature Atlantis but it does have the CGI-steroid’up new Kraken wreaking havoc and tearing cities asunder.

Kraken Smash Puny Mortals!
The Old "Puny" Kraken

Me puny? Bah!!

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Capricious Caprice

Suhaimy Kamaruddin has some good ideas of “How Lotus F1 can win the Malaysian Grand Prix”.

He is missing one more, I think: Have politicians drive the two racecars.

I have no doubt there will be ample candidates; hell, the more the merrier and they can take turns if ever they decide who gets to go first, second, third and on.

(This might a bummer of a long while though, something like the effort to revamp the ISA…)

And it doesn’t even matter from which faction they are, as all you need is the good old self-interests-preservation-at-all-cost mindset. They are pretty much good to go from this point.

Speaking of preservations, it certainly looks like some people in this good old land of truly Asians have caught too much of this human rights bug thingy preserved for the land of the Mat Sallehs.

How can they (I assume to be parents) go around speaking about things which the Cabinet had already decided as being for the good of the country’s future?

The Cabinet, mind you: not just by a Minister whose words can be forever misinterpreted, misconstrued, misquoted, and a list of other misses by our reporters/journalists/bloggers/twitters.

Shame on them. Shock! Aghast!

What WERE they thinking about raising frivolous matters like the u-turn in the teaching of Math and Science in English during PTA meetings?

Err.. What are exactly PTA meetings for, really?

Been to one where a whole lot of parents raised matters which they think important for the wellbeing of their and their children’s friends and schoolmates. Things like that.

Parents insisting in raising these macro un-manageable-except-by-politicians (aren’t they ever the versatile chameleon?) issues like the Teaching of Maths and Science in English should really realize their place.

Something along the lines of an alleged statement by a former minister: “Stand for Elections” (or something to that effect).

Let’s just leave the bigger picture managing of the country to those worthy, shall we not?

Capiche?

Friday, 19 March 2010

gastromocracy

From NYT
At lunchtime the other day at Ninth Avenue and 41st Street, 13 men and women stood on the sidewalk outside 99¢ Fresh, impatiently ordering and impatiently eating slices amid the ambiance of ungentrified Hell’s Kitchen: idling delivery trucks near the rear of the Port Authority Bus Terminal, a barking dog named Leo someone tied up down the block, a prostitute who hurried by saying something about $150 for a half-hour and a bearded homeless man with a cane who spoke loudly to himself about the size of the average bear. He ate two slices.

Vivid, isn’t it?

You can almost smell the sweat, the aroma, and hear the screech, the jibber jabber, the grunts and feel the heat, the restlessness within this lengthy description – believe it or not – of 99 cents/US$1 pizza slices.

At my lunchtime the other day, I too, had a sampling of American Italian dishes at the Avanti. Great ambience, very affable host; sparse and polite patrons, courteous waiters - pity the soothing background music went dead slight before dessert.

The food?

My entrée was tomato clam soup which I later regretted adding black pepper; the main course red snapper fillet with sautéed Zucchini in tomato sauce (if I am not mistaken) and, walnut cheese cake for dessert.

The dish which tastes lingered long after it was finished was the walnut cheese cake which was superb. The portion was spot on – neither too extravagant nor too stingy – and it had enough richness without the fatty aftertaste.

It more than made up for the first two dishes which weren’t too bad. Good, but not lipsmacking great.

The red snapper fillet was fresh, sweet and juicy but – this is probably one down to one’s tastes – I would have loved for the skin to be crispier.

As such there were no crunchy bits in the dish, as even the Zucchini were slightly overcooked.

Back to the 99cents/US$1 pizza slices which the article emphasized as pricing anomalies in expensive New York.

It sort of places a class restriction as to whom should be patronizing the two said stalls/shops.

You can see this is the above excerpt never mind the fact it is perfectly okay – not to mention legal - for anyone to buy a 99cents a slice pizza if they feel like it.

A localized example would be that everyone and anyone can slurp cendol – seated on stools shaded by foliage from the tree that is the cendol seller’s address.

An episode of Lone Wolf and Cub saw the main character – Itto Ogami – confronted by another wandering Samurai – nickname the Headless Sakon - with this particularly philosophical look on the Japanese sake which he says is the great leveler of class.

The 99cents/US$1 pizza would thus be the symbolical modern day, New York equivalent: except that it won’t.

Realistically, being seen with the Hell’s Kitchen (Marvel’s DD not Chef Ramsey’s, please) crowd would not be something so palatable to a working New Yorker.

Back home, we have something similar going on with the Asam Pedas. FOC to the poor, apparently.

Wonder if we can have a RM1 Asam Pedas (simple rice and gravy deal) meal over here, eh?

Would be a great leveler, that.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

GrooGaffe aka Painful Reads

Those wishing for a painful read should look no further than this gem.

It sort of match – if not surpass – that of the Universiti Tun Hussein Onn’s which appeared way back in August 2008.

Could it be that both were written by the same people/team?

The ever affable Citizen Nades took pains (no pun intended, if you so believe) with red markings the many mistakes, but closer reading seems to show that he has held back.

Perhaps he was worried that nobody would be able to read a wholly red-lined advertorial.

It is however poetic justice, really, to parents who have voiced, and voiced and continue voicing their hopes (nay, prayers) that the government review its U-turn on the English for Math and Science policy.

Apt (s)mug shot to adorn the same page as the advertorial, methinks.

Writers share their fair amount of goofups in spelling and/or grammatical errors, hence the reason why there is another layer of editing usually being done, especially for write-ups that appear in print.

Self editing is perhaps only for appropriate for blogs.

The KDSM advertorial is therefore a curious gaffe. Was it not edited before printing?

I’ve done my fair share of advertorials during my journalism days as these give quite decent extra cash and - while we are accorded fairly greater levels of flexibility in producing the articles - the same editorial standards still applies.

Like I said: A very curious gaffe.

You don’t suppose it’s intentional, do you?

Thursday, 4 March 2010

The Oh-Not-So Mighty?

Ultimate Thor
Read this interesting news piece in today’s New Straits Times Online.

A woman stands alone at the top of the commercial crimes police wanted list, after allegedly conning several celebrities and prominent people of a staggering total of RM432 million.

She is 31-year old Rohaniza Aladib who had allegedly “sweet talked” artistes and a wife of a Tan Sri, amongst others, on her way to the millions.

RM432 million is a whole lot of money to transact that you’d have to wonder where this sum is stashed.

Under her pillow (laced, velvety silk cover, of course!) perhaps? One of the super secretive Swiss Banks, maybe?

How long did it take for her to pile up the millions? Didn’t anyone notice?

According to NST, Rohaniza is believed to have absconded to Australia with the money.

She fled WITH the money in tow?

However she did it, Rohaniza has managed to overshadow even the monstrosity that is the PKFZ scandal in the NST news piece in terms of importance. Imagine that, eh?

It’s something like a shared byline of a junior reporter who added one para – but what a captivating paragraph it is! – in a front page news item.

(It’s one bad metaphor, I know…)

Funny how the billion Ringgit PKFZ scandal is now buried under the radar – what’s with the multitude of allegedly small-fry (Madam Phang being the exception) charging in court, civil suits, you-name-it we-have-it Reports et cetera…

So much so that even its mention – it was a mere mention – was stuck inside a Rohaniza’s story para.

Technicalities of viewing in non standard Internet browsers, mayhap (to borrow from good ol Norse mythology phrasal..)?


Ah… I digress, then.