Friday, 12 February 2010

Digitised Gratifications

Ansel Adams: Aspens, Northern New Mexico

One of the very first items I bought when I finally settled down in UK all those years ago as a student was a Canon EOS 1000 SLR camera which came with a 35-80mm zoom lens, camera bag and tripod.

It was a vanity, spur of the moment, but ultimately disappointing, purchase.

I later found out that the zoom lens' slow speed (4 – 5.6) - coupled with the camera’s own “basic setup” – was quite restrictive even for the amateur photographer that was its owner.

In the end, I traded it at a loss for a Minolta X-700 with a 50mm lens which proved a much better companion.

The X-700 was pretty basic - all it had were Program, Aperture Priority and Manual – but the lens was fast at 1.4 so I could get away with low light / night shots without relying too much on the flash.

And, yep, it uses the film negative and you crank it manually one frame at a time.

Not sure if it had one of those attachable motorized film rewinders but, as I was a student on a tight budget, film cranking is no big a deal.

Recently, my better half saw me looking at the gorgeous Olympus EP-1 PEN and was blunt in her comments: “You hardly ever use the camera (a Nikon Coolpix) we have currently.”

She’s half right, in fact. If I do ever buy a DSLR, it’ll probably be another vanity buy driven more by the fascination of numbers and specs (pixels, apertures, shutter speeds etc) than in the photography itself.

Half right because, deep inside, I still long for those days when I go on (often solo) sunset walks in search of picturesque scenes to snap.

(I hardly get any good shots anyway, but hey, enjoying the whole process counts!)

Unfortunately, such is a luxury once you start on the mad dash of life’s highway and unless you happened to have yours on a silver platter, there is no way you can go on these trips of indulgence.

If ever something wonderfully similar were to occur to me (the silver platter thingy, I mean), I will be setting aside the dates June 21 and 22 for a trip to New York’s Sotheby’s for Polaroid’s auction of its collection.

Unfortunately, the rise of digital photography has not been kind to these companies of old churning out negatives, Polaroid included.

It’s caught in a second bankruptcy proceedings and this time around, a court in Minnesota has ordered Polaroid to sell a portion of its collection to pay off creditors.

The collection – some1,200 of them – are expected to fetch a maximum of US$11.5million; peanuts in facts so much so that NYT quoted one of the photographer whose works is included in the collection as saying: “To sell it is criminal.

I supposed the sentiment would be different had the auction been more of the normal process rather than a forced one, but this is usually applied more to paintings.

Polaroid is however more instantaneous in its gratification.

Something like the digital cameras of today, except that with Polaroid, you hold the image in your hands.

Instant and without makeovers.

So sinfully gratifying, that.

(PS: The two images from New York Times (online, Feb 10, 2010) are examples of the work which could be auctioned.)

David Hockney: Imogen & Hermione

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Coffee Tablogs

A line from the Federal Court’s on Nizar versus Zambry decision:

“..terbuka untuk pemohon (Nizar) untuk membawa usul tidak percaya terhadap responden (Zambry) di LA (DPR) atau membuat representasi untuk Kebawah Duli (Baginda Sultan Perak) bila saja jika ia berfikir bahawa responden tidak menikmati sokongan daripada majoriti ahli LA..”

What exactly do these words mean?

Long, long ago, I learned of two Latin phrases – Ratio Dicedendi and Orbiter Dicta.

Both are concerned with legal decisions, but they are of different weight.

Ratio Dicedendi is the rationale behind a decision, while Orbiter Dicta are statements said in passing on certain issues which does not per se affect or influence the ultimate ruling.

The first is binding and sets a precedent, the latter does not.

What of the above remark by the Federal Court in the case? A plain reading seems to suggest it is mere Obiter Dicta as it doesn’t seem to have any weight on whether or not Nizar could succeed in his action against Zambry.

Bar Council’s Edmund Bon – who is also Nizar’s counsel – says it is an “escape clause” for the applicant.

It does suggest routes that could (should?) be taken when a government no longer seems to command the majority.

Two methods are spoken of: the motion of no confidence and a representation before the Ruler.

The first is quite common, but in reality, more a move to embarrass than to really do what it is supposed to be doing.

A move for such motion is usually proposed through the Speaker who will invariably be from the Government of the day. Enough said, I suppose.

More effective are those impromptu (technically speaking) vote of no confidence: Remember the Budget 2010 debacle when the Government scrapes through with only three (if I am not mistaken) votes?

That is one way of doing so without having to even raise such a motion in the first place.

Hypothetically, though, the government of the day can call such motion against itself and then represent to the Ruler dissolution of the State Assembly from loss of majority.

Will anyone do so, though? Nizar argued that he had attempted the same in his case.

In the MI article, Bon suggested the following to be truer to (political) reality: “If a Mentri Besar thinks he has lost the confidence already, he is never going to ask the Sultan to dissolve the Assembly anymore because backdoor dealings will be a better route to maintain or seize power.

More curious bit is the part about “the applicant”.

WHO exactly did the decision mean with respect making representations to the Ruler? The opposition? The prospective would-be Menteri Besar? The Speaker? Whosoever thinks that the majority is lost?

While Orbiter Dicta may well be opinions / legal views said in passing, but at the same time, they are persuasive in nature.

These are hypothetical suggestions but still very much based on legal applications, which later decisions can quote as persuasive views.

Weird, this one.

PS: As I am not a legal practitioner or a current student at law or even someone remotely related to the practice, the above are rants from one with the most basic of legal knowledge.

In other words, coffee table talk stuffs.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Naif Expectations

Federal Court’s decision (as per The Star):

The Apex court ruled that if a Mentri Besar refused to resign, his office was deemed to have been vacated.

The bench ruled that the vote of no confidence could be determined by other means than from the Perak Assembly.

Now let’s have some dissenting notes, shall we?

This one is way out of my bounds, but I’m betting some legal scholars can do justice with a detail discussion on the above two items.

Let’s talk layman like, though:

1. Who “deems” a Menteri Besar office is vacated? The courts? The Rulers? The State Assembly?

2. “Other means” – legal “other means”? Ruler's exercise of discretions “other means”? Any other means as practicable “other means”?

Going the logical route would mean that a Menteri Besar is thus supposed to resign when he no longer commands a majority in the State Assembly.

(This is from my reading somewhere that once appointed he can't be sacked. I stand to be corrected.)

As such, the second reasoning comes into play, doesn't it?

But when is this point of "losing a majority" reached? How is this read? A show of hands? Newspaper reports? The Blogs (kidding, of course.)

What of "Vote of No Confidence"?

By who?

The State Assembly, shouldn't it?

This mess is such a Chicken and Egg that it boggles the mind.

Curious to see how the Federal Court debunks the initial High Court’s reasoning, too.

Ho hum..

UEA's Ziggurat


Monday, 8 February 2010

Tolling of the (Political) Bell

So who will the judiciary decide as Perak Menteri Besar tomorrow?

Will it be the current MB, who gained the seat through the help of three crossing-over State Assemblyman (and woman, of course), or the former, who represented the voted in faction pre-crossover?

The jaded amongst us will probably laugh and pity the naivety in the very premise of the question above, but I sincerely believe that we have to continue having some faith in the system.

Without this system, anarchy rules even though it disguises itself as something resembling peace and order.

Isn’t it?

Central to this is the issue that is the sanctity of the law, the very arbiter of fairness to everyone regardless.

Judges – from the Magistrates to the Registrars right up to the Justices and Judges – judge based solely on the available legal provisions, rightly or wrongly.

They may cite their legal opinions on the morality of provisions, but they cannot go against the law.

During my school of law days, I would usually read the dissenting judgment in much more greater detail.

Put this to the vanity / pomposity / pride of going against the established set; very youthful in essence.

One of those judges who somehow seem to love to dissent was the late Lord Denning (1899 – 1999), but he was also someone whose judgment is readable and not like some olden day scripture or something.

(According to Wiki, Lord Denning fell behind Lord Keith in terms of dissenting judgment while at the House of Lords. Okay… I didn’t know that when I was gobbling up the words of the latter’s written judgments.)

Dissenting judgments are fun to read because they tended to outline the other side of the argument, and most of the time, it is often done because the judge thinks that unfairness has occurred and that the law should be interpreted another way to correct this.

That notwithstanding, dissenting judgments still operate within their legal boundaries of the law.

Peripheral perhaps, and most probably the case, but still confined within what is provided by the law.

Which is why judgments and decisions that provide little in legal reasoning will bound to raise questions.

Of biasness. Of impartiality. Of unfairness.

Put it in black and white – even those judgment without a single dissenting panel – and the fairness equation is back on as the aggrieved will know exactly why.

It should never be just: Appeal dismissed with cost. FULLSTOP.

So, to whom shall the bell of (political) justice toll? Nizar? Zambry?

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Bowing Daes

The South Park Gang
Reading Paul Krugman’s latest column in NYT on the “boring” banking sector of America’s northern neighbour, Canada, reminded me of the animated movie: South Park – Bigger, Longer & UnCut.(1999).

SP:BLU had exactly what Krugman mentioned in his article about the perceived general perception of Canada(ians?)

The movie (if you can call it that) stars the four South Park’ers - Stan, Kenny, Kyle and Cartman – and features a movieload of profanities, crude innuendos and crass stereotyping, even Satan and (the late) Saddam and so on.

The list of “wrongs” in this movie would upset many moralists and drive them possibly to the brink.

I must say, though, that it was quite rip roaring "fun", especially if you view it from an American audience's perspective.

Especially the parts abut (this word featured in the movie, mind you) Canada and Canadians in general.

The animation itself was typical South Park – nothing to shout about, very 2 dimensional - and the plot was pretty flimsy, mish mash of everything, but it was meant as a political satire.

Krugman’s “Good and Boring” made me wonder how Canada/ians ended up being so stereotyped.

LavingeThen again, look at this list of well known Canadian artists: Celine Dion, Shania Twain, Karen Carpenter*, Neil Young, Bryan Adams, Sara MacLachlan, Bryan Adams, Paul Anka, Michael Buble...


Of course there is also Avril Lavigne and Alanis Morissette, but compared to say, Lady Gaga, even the two rocking singers are quite tame; very Canadian, in fact :)

In his article, Krugman noted that the tighter rein on credits exercised by the Canadian authorities over banks' leveraging was the crucial difference in sparing the country from a US-like meltdown.

Boring did Good, in other words.

What of Malaysians, you’d wonder? Ever think how we're stereotyped by others?

Amongst ourselves though, the stereotyping are usually race based – like we Malays being lazybones, or Amok prone, for example.

Stereotyping of a community (at least in my book) is something that is cultivated through time, reinforced mainly by highlighting examples that give credit to these same notions.

Drum the same over and over again, and these so-called “racial traits” will stick in the mind.

As in the case of boring Canadians. Or lazy Malays.

Boring proved to be quite fortuitous for the former, but can laziness ever be a virtue for us?

Doesn’t it make you sort of wish our forefathers were depicted as boring instead, eh?

(*As pointed out, the late Karen Carpenter was born in New Haven, Connecticut. Apologies for the slip.)