Friday, 28 January 2011

Dashed Joviality

Long time fans of Lat would have notice the non-too-subtle change in the later editions of his classic “Lat, Kampung Boy”.

Lat has always managed to skirt the fine line of sensitivities in all his work, and Kampung Boy is a definite gem, not only in its rawness, but the total honesty in the way the story is fleshed out.

I’ve lost my original copy, by the way, and was dismayed when I found the changes made in the newer prints.

I’d like to think that it was a conscious move by Lat himself to replace the pages especially that of him returning home with a can full of tin ore, his dad waiting on the stairs of the their humble abode.

Readers can literally feel the disappointment in both father and son in the slapping scene over (if I am not mistaken) a three-page spread.

No one could have done it better.

A very, very powerful showcase of emotional exposition on Lat’s part especially when you take into account the joviality of his (late) father and the equally fun-filled episodes – swimming in fish filled rivers, exploring tin mines etc - involving the growing up cartoonist and his friends in the preceding pages.

Alas, these (slapping scene) pages have been replaced with a “safer” new version of father chasing son all around the kampong. Even the pen strokes were tamer in comparison.

Suffice to say, I didn’t bother getting a copy.

And now we have the Interlok “amendments”.

I must admit that I have not and have no interest in reading the novel, controversy notwithstanding. There are enough books which can occupy my precious few hours of reading time to not expand the list whenever a title crops up in the news papers.

Aren’t we opening a can of authoritarian worms here with this move to amend so-called offending scriptures?

Offensive texts are literally everywhere in the writing world. Choose the right kind of titles and you’re apt to find expletives strewn all over the place.

Would it be morally correct to go in with a black marker to blank these out as to sanitise the work?

Perhaps you could justify the national unity and respect for all communities facet in the amending of the Interlok, but what’s to stop the authorities (if they have not already done so) from doing the same to other books, titles and works deemed offensive?

Where do we stop?

Doesn't the author have a say in this?

And it was only recently that some of us protested the selective nature of our historical text for schools; in how we're publishing only those views which the authorities want to officially recognize.

Aren't we a bunch of hypocrites.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Chirpy Moments

“I was awake and meditating in my hut, and as the Muslim call for prayer began, I experienced tremendous peace, more bliss than the normal peace that I experienced daily.”

Believe it or not, the above are the words of a Buddhist monk who was taking about the early morning Azan and it resonated with exactly the kind of serenity I (and I suppose, countless other muslims) experienced.

Unlike the other Azans, the early morning or Subuh has the words “the Prayer is better that sleep” and listening to that alone (in Arabic) is sinmply melodic to not only the ears but also to the heart.

The Malay words of “sayup” (Is there an equivalent English word? Not sure, really) is reflective of the feeling. You can be within the vicinity of the mosque or surau, or well away, and yet the words feels as if spoken from a distant.

Like the sound of chirping birds while boxed in a concrete jungle.

Or the sound of cascading waters in a barricade of trees and the thick foliage of a tropical jungle.

It’s the magic of the Azan to invoke such a feeling of peace. The accomplished Bilals (taken from Bilal Ibn Rabah, the Ethiopian former slave?) does wonders to the Azan, loud speakers or not.

One of the many definitive moments in legendary (Tan Sri) P Ramlee's (many) movies was his reciting the Azan in Sumpah Semerah Padi. Controversial as it was (there are differences amongst ulamas as to whether such infusion of melodies is allowed), the Azan was well nigh beautiful.

I am sure you’ve heard of this before, but the timing of the Azan is such that as the world moves on its axis, so too will the call for prayers from one time zone to the other, mere seconds or none apart should the sequencing be perfectly timed.

Imagine the continual wave of serenity that then follows.

Even in the mind’s eye, it’s simply beautiful.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Rendered Beautiful

My daughter surprised me with her tenacious spirit this morning, one of many similarly wonderful out-of-the-blue occasions.

Still recovering from a nasty flu, she was coughing rather badly all through the 30-minutes drive from the house to her school in Shah Alam. I said nothing during this except to pass her a plastic bag in case she felt like vomiting.

It’s the kind of dry, throaty cough that I know to be both unpleasant and painful so in between overtaking slow cruising lorries and cars on the NKVE, I made up my mind to send her for another medical check-up, get an MC and let her rest the day out.

And if need be, take an off day myself to babysit.

As any other school-ferrying would vouch, reaching the school is the breezier phase of the whole routine with having to navigate crisscrossing kids, kids and parents, late-arriving teachers and haphazardly parked cars and MPVs being the other - more curse-prone moments - half.

I spied a small space in between two parked cars, slotted mine, switched off the engine, turned around and asked if she was okay, half expecting a “Not so” reply.

She said she was fine.

I checked my hearing: “Are you sure you’re able to attend class today?”

“I’m okay,” she said starting to sling her school bag across.

“Okay... Don’t forget to tell your teacher if you feel bad. Get her to call me. Can you do that?”

“I will.”

Father and daughter then trotted their way to the school gates as the school bell started clanging for the children to converge to the grounds for their Monday morning assembly.

She might not have realized it but holding her small hands then was a father filled with silent pride.

I bade goodbye and watched her joined her schoolmates in a frenzy of swift walks through covered walkways and endless chitter chatter, twice turning to see me standing near the guards' post.

And feeling truly blessed.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Slippery Stepovers

“The present prime minister, by training, by education, by upbringing, is most suited amongst Umno leaders to implement progressive and modern changes to the country. But he will not get the support from the many layers of extremists within his party.”

Well, there you go.

So much for hoping somebody could step up to fill the void in leadership for the country, as yet another greaser steps into the fray.

Am wondering why Zaid is in such a rush to prop up the Prime Minister with the above grandiose pronouncement?

Call a spade a spade, for goodness sake.

If the Prime Minister hasn’t the balls to stand up to the extremist in his party, he is of not much use to the country now, would he?

Thus far, the Prime Minister has made a whole lot of yak and not too many of the do.

Are we saying the country just needs to be yakked along to greater heights? A yak yak and a yak yak there and everything’s fine and dandy?

Perhaps I am reading too much in generalities, as the KITA main man (nice one, pun fully intended) did slip in “amongst Umno leaders” which narrows the scope and span considerably.

Sigh… I digress.

While I am neither too fond of the yahoos in the PR line up too, several notables personalities have shown certain steel in offering some hope to the nation.

Nurul Izzah, for example, have shown some good sense in her statements – the blip in her congratulatory message to the Malaysian Tigers notwithstanding – of late.

Fortunately for her, a MSM in The Sun in giving her space to say her piece other than the online ones.

Being the daughter of a former DPM does invoke the “by upbringing bit”, but she has certainly stepped out from his shadow.

About time, I say.

SOMEBODY needs to.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Tunnelish Memories

Last weekend, I did the unordinary in having lunch-cum-lepak session with some old college mates from my pre-University days.

There were four of us and over individual meals of Nasi Arab (three of which is of the very tender Lamb Kabshah variety) we caught up with each other’s latest in life development.

As is usual when long-time friends meet (I think!), there were also bouts of reminiscence in the “good/bad old days”.

I was really amazed with the recollection my fellow college mates had of the period a good 20 years ago. Such superb memories!

They remembered names, places and incidences right down to the most minor of details.

I am ashamed to say of having to go “Uh Hmm”, “Ah Yes, I remember him/her” and such just to keep pace even as I tracked into my own memory vault for something, anything to trigger any floodgate, however small, of whatever it was they were talking about.

There were, of course, bit and pieces – mostly nuggets in selective memory bank – which I could see with my mind’s eye, but for a good length of time during the (ahem) discourse I was as blank as a whiteboard at a MySpace “What’s our next plan?” meeting.

(Pardon the totally inane and witless metaphor)

It was good to reconnect with old friends, but it made me realized how far removed I am from the previous-life circles, where I stood today.

We come to these junctures on countless occasions, I suppose, and for some, they will not only collect valuable experience and enter life-changing decisions but also lifelong friends (sometimes even life partners).

Kid (Kelantanese guy from Bachok who’s into gym these days and who once sport a Morten (AHA) Harket hairdo) commented – quite exuberantly, in fact – that I had a pretty tunnel-like “radar” aka perception.

How very perceptive, I thought.

This could very well explain why I am so ill equipped when it comes to the glossary of life’s experiences. Either that or I just have a very, very lazy memory-bank workforce whose idea of file retrieval is limited to those file within fingers’ reach.

Is that good, bad or somewhere in between?

I don’t really know, but it does leave you behind during Alumnus and what not.

For what’s it worth though, I’m okay with my ROM, limited as it is.

I sure don’t mind improvements in my RAM, though.

Loved to have a greater level of zippiness to my thoughts...

Monday, 10 January 2011

Demon Speedsters

“The Road Transport Department has deployed plainclothes officers across the country to keep tabs on bus drivers.”

Reverse psychology is it, Dear Mr. Transport Minister? So that bus drivers will be wary of committing fouls like speeding?

After all, they won’t know if there is actually A plainclothes RTD officer around taking notes (actual notes, mental notes, any kind of notes?) of breaches in safety protocols “like overtaking illegally, using their mobile phones while driving or speeding."

What of speeding lorries and trailers? No plainclothes to act as boogey man for them?

Some years ago, there were talk of putting in speed limiters into all these heavy vehicles, but this idea was shot down. One of the reason put was that drivers could as easily bypass and tweak the speed limiter thingy (pardon my technical deficiency) to render it useless.

In place, what was mooted was an airplane black box system, which also didn’t take off and finally – at least according to this Malay Mail article – operators (express bus services, methinks) have opted for a “more sophisticated speed limiter and GPS system”.

Must be the reasons why buses and lorries can zoom past us these days on the highways with such impunity…

I wonder at what speed the speed limiter is set at. 230km/h?

Am wondering, too, what happened to all those enquiries, reports and what not of previous tragic accidents involving heavy vehicles? Gathering dust somewhere, maybe?

I see so many drivers these days taking the safer approach when confronted with the speeding road demons. Just give them the widest of berth and hoped that they will speed their way off our radar.

Safety first.

So what if the law breakers are given a free reign?


Where's a hero when you need one*, eh?

*With thanks to Bonnie Tyler.

Reality's sacrier

Friday, 7 January 2011

Fictional Furore

A (admittedly miniscule) blogo-furore has sort of erupted over the inclusion of a so-called muslim character as a Batmen-franchisee operating in France.

You’ve really got to love those passionate folks who wrote in their (to me, somewhat bigoted) views on the wrongness of such a move given that there is no actual person in fact.

22-year old Bilal Asselah aka Nightrunner is no more real than Bruce Wayne aka Batman will ever be. There a predictably muslim villain going by the name Colonel Abdul al-Rahman as part of the Liberators in Ultimates 2, so what is the big deal in having one as the front line good guys anyway?

Comics – fiction and fantasy that they are – can sometime be reflective of reality in the hands of great writers.

I still remember a Peter David’s Incredible Hulk take on the issue of HIV. A single issue with no preaching, and no answers pushed. Just like things are in real life.

The problem here is that the comics institution is pretty much localized.

Western comics – DC, Marvel, Dark Horse etc – are steeped in the ideals encompassed in Christianity, liberal, democracy etc.

Heck, our very own Zoy – whose super-skillful pendekars graced the Sunday pages of Berita Harian – infuses Malay, Islamic ideals in his fictional character.

Breaching these set barriers can be thus quite blasphemous in the eyes of chronically stoic-minded fans.

Do I think it’s a good idea to have Nightrunner @ France Batman?

Not really. It is after all so easy to run awry of ideals.

Hell, the character Batman himself is an anarchist, who skirts the law as best as he can. Sure, he doesn’t kill, but he bashes them all the same and do employ dubious methods in combating the so-called villains in his storyline, doesn’t he?

Bilal Asselah’s bashers do not need to worry as they will be times when the faith, belief of the French will be put to the test.

How the writers will tackled this eventuality will depend very much on their own set of beliefs and faith, won’t it?

Lighten up, dudes.

It is Comics after all.

Or would you rather than something like the Comics Code incident to recur?

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Status Blipping Quo

It’s barely a week into the New Year and some things looked pretty much status quo for the country.

The (ahem) alleged dipping of greedy hands into public coffers and land reared its ugly head again with this piece of news today.

Curious though as to why this featured in the Metro instead of the national pages. Hmmm…

There are some nice aerial-view pictures, too, ala a dentist and former Selangor MB’s multi-million Shah Alam’s home expose some time ago.

From the article, it sure looks as though the alleged dipper (heh) had decided to “fu*&ing GungHo” it with regards a disputed land for public use to come up with some nice, beautiful, unaffordable to the masses, homes.

The report mentions some VIP as well, alas, minus their glorious names, as owners of these homes.

This land dipping allegation, however, show up a certain political solidarity with PKR, Umno and MIC in the thick of things notwithstanding the existence of the so-mentioned VIPs.

Kudos to them, I say.

I wonder what can be done against the alleged offender in this case. We’ve seen a fair share of illegally constructed building (mostly miniscule ones, though) being torn down in the past by local authorities.

Would Dewan Bandaraya similarly take a “fu*&ing GungHo” approached IF the encroachment is indeed illegal? Will it?

I seriously doubt so.

Federal Territories and Urban Wellbeing Minister Datuk Raja Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin was quoted in the report as saying that action will be taken in the matter against the alleged offender.

What kind of action? As paraphrased: “a notice would be issued to the developer”.

Sure makes you want to holler out loud until tears gush down your red, flushed cheeks, doesn’t it?

Expect the case to go on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on…

Yep. No ending in sight.

Like I said, it’s pretty much status quo in Malaysia.

Déjà Vu, even.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Culinary Democratisation

For the life of me, I cannot recall when I first started eating raw fish aka sushi.

It could very well be something which followed closely my interest in the yesteryear Manga (the days of Domu, Akira, Lone Wolf and Cub etc).

Fortunately, this dish is now easily found in the country, thanks to Sushi King and other outlets without you having to frequent posh so-called Japanese restaurant for a taste.

I had a go at the real deal during my trip to Japan sometime ago. As a layman (as opposed to a true blue food connoisseur, I suppose) I could not really tell the difference between that and those I usually take in Malaysia anyway.

Aside from the authenticity factor, a sushi is as good as the sticky rice that goes with it. And, according to my tastebud, the tuna is also not half bad too as sushi ingredient. Add a dash of wasabi and you’re good to go.

Once I read this piece of news about a US396,000 342-kg blue fin tuna, my mind started racing as to how many sushi pieces this giant would be able to make.

At home, we are so used to cooking fish whole. This is so unlike the Western style of filleting and boning the fish, or the Japanese fine art-ish, sushi-pieces slicing act.

The years of intermingling of the racial/cultural cooking pot however, have certainly blurred this culinary divide, and nowadays, even Mat Sallehs can be found digging into Nyonya-style, fish head curry.

You just have to love the democratization of eating habits, don’t you?

Don’t bother looking into symbolism as this posting is nothing more than a rambling.

Now, if only there is a sushi outlet I can short-drop-by on the way home...