Thursday, 31 May 2012

Valued Attachments

 Just the other my youngest daughter asked me: “Is RM1 for a piece of sausage expensive?”

Being typical me, I didn’t give her a straight answer, opting instead on a cryptic (for a kid of seven who just started school, I assume so): “It’s not the number that is put on the item that matters, but the value it actually carries that makes it either expensive or not.”

Feel free to judge if this example clears it up for the poor child: “RM1 for a piece of sweets is expensive, but the RM1 for a car would be dirt cheap.”

I knew she didn’t understand as she then reiterated: “So, can I continue to buy from the seller or not?”

In the end, my wife – who overheard the conversation – decided to put an end to the subject by packing her and the elder sister sausages to bring to their holiday camp every alternate days or so.

Her question did get me thinking though: pricing is moot as opposed to the value of items, and yet value on its own is highly subjective.

Take for instance my RM388k home in the, ahem, Greater Kuala Lumpur area (heh).  The price tag caused me to slightly break sweat all over my brow, but speak of the same TODAY, it’s cheap. 

Not DIRT CHEAP, but Klang Valley suburb cheap.

Looking at the prices of even mere terrace home (intermediate lot, mind you!), I am thankful to my better half for convincing me to take the plunge (and the developer for coming out with a pretty good, spacious home at the said price which was quite competitive about 3 ½ years ago).

Depending on our, urm, financial community (for want of a better word) standings, value is even more subjective than ever.

So, to the, urm, semi well-heeled, the Lamborghini Avantador at RM2.8m (plus minus) is a VALUE proposition to the RM5.2m Buggati Veyron, especially since you can get your hands on the Lambo far easier than the Veyron.

For the likes of even the semi well-heeled then, the RM240K Lotus Elise is literally a weekend go-cart model which can be thrashed if they are so inclined.

The top-of-the-range RM73K Proton Preve? Bah!!

Of course, they are the (what’s before semi? quarter?) well-heeled who do not carry the same philosophy on values as mentioned above and thinks that a RM23K well maintained second / third hand Mini Austin is as good a car as any others.

I’ve meet one, in fact: hangs around in his favourite kopitiam in shorts, singlet and slippers in between minding his million Ringgit restaurant business.

He is an old timer, though. From simpler days when money wasn’t everything and flaunting your wealth is as welcomed as farting out loud in public.

Do I think RM1 for a piece of sausage expensive, then?

Selling to kids at a State Mosque function: but of course!

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Critically Just

The banning of books (or any other form of art & literature) is a very spontaneous kind of thing in this country with the latest being the book "Allah Liberty & Love -Courage To Reconcile Faith & Freedom" by Irshad Manji.

I would assume that the banning of the Canadian-Ugandan-born author’s book was done after much deliberation and a full review of the book’s content.

According to the Sun, but for some last minute cancellations, Ms Manji wassupposed to hold talks at two universities and a bookstore in Kuala Lumpur so she went ahead to meet a small group of people at the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall.

How small? God knows.

Could her book (translated into a Bahasa Malaysia version by ZI Publication entitle “Allah, Kebebasan Dan Cinta") have slipped under the radar had she not been a professed LGBT proponent?

This, we’ll never know.

(BTW, ZI Publication is also the publisher for Reza Aslan’s Tiada Tuhan Melainkan Allah which provided with a pretty good read albeit only the first half of the book.

Being an Iranian, albeit one residing in the US, Aslan wrote the book with a very pro-syiah outlook, but oklah: it does open up your mind a little on how the West looked at Islam in general.

What hooked me to actually read Tiada Tuhan Melainkan Allah was the brilliant first chapter. Whoever did the translation job did a great job in roping you into jumping into what is an extremely studious, researched based academic work on Islam.

Tiada Tuhan Melainkan Allah was not an easy book to digest and it took me long nights to finally get through all the pages.)

Anyway, back to the banning of Ms Manji’s book.

It does seem that the SOP for such a banning to take place is if there is a complaint, or a raising of concerns, preferably from something with clouts to make things move.

That would explain why some others equally deem-able of offensive book / literature can make it quietly into the bookstore and on to the readers without much fanfare.

Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso’s noir-ish 100 Bullets, for example. Very mature audience targeted.

Or Osamu Tezuka’s MW, which feature a serial killer, a priest and a conspiracy.

My question is this: what is the defining line that gets a book, a literature the ban?

Very likely, it is theological misfeasance where Islam is concerned.

However you won’t know of this until you actually read the book. Was it read in its entirety? Who read it? Was he / she swayed from the right path after reading the book? Did the translated work follow the original to the point? Where were the offending bits? How were they offensive? Why was it translated in the first place? Why was the author cleared for so-called initial engagements?

Was it, in fact, even a good read in the first place?

The Home Ministry has came out with the reasons for banning the book. Kudos to them for the explanation which answers some questions the reading public might have in the mind following the action by the religious authorities.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Fanciful Sniggers

"Using the photographic blocking system, it has been determined that 22,270 people were at the Bersih 3.0 rally on April 28. This is close to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) estimated figure of 25,000 people but way off from what Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had announced to the rest of the world."

What is this penchant for dwelling on the trees and missing out on the forest?

So what? What if merely 2,353 people turned up?

What about their message of the need for electoral reforms? For the Authoritative Institutions to not be tainted with hints (much less full stench) of partisanship?

What is so bloody wrong with freer and fairer elections anyway?

All these statements would be quite comic if not for the almost tragic connotations of their utterance.

Why is there a need to whittle the numbers down? Just because Anwar says its 250,000 doesn’t mean it is.

Everyone knows so.

BUT, if the turnout had really been 22, 270, then probably the Parliament would have been dissolved by now.

Especially since the Umno recently held 66th birthday (really? Umno Baru?) garnered like, what, 150,000 attendees?

Being in a Stadium, probably Bernama super duper masses calculation method via the “photographic blocking system” would not be needed to cite the figure, correct?

So, what’s the hold up?

Doesn’t BN want the three states back into their fold?

Doesn’t BN want to kick LGE / KI / AAR out of office and save the down-trodden and sidelined Malays from the clutches of the LGBT-loving and promoting PR?

After all, 22,270 is barely 0.18 percent of the total number of voters in Malaysia (12,595,268, isn’t it?)

You can say, Bah!!, snigger away and say: Okay, let’s get a good margin mandate now.

And remember too, the 22,270 people are most probably from the Klang Valley, which means that their votes would be in places like Jinjang, Kepong and Bukit Bintang anyway. Or Klang and Gombak.

Again: Bah!!! Snigger and holds the General Election.

22,270 is like the number of people at a Pasar Malam.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Reo Speedwagon (With apologies)

Got some distressing news this morning: my cousin’s marriage is apparently in tatters.

Her former husband had divorced her twice in the course of the last two months and, as is usually the case, there is another woman involved – a divorcee.

Poor Paknjang (as I called her father) has had to be warded when his blood pressure shot through the roof throughout the family ordeal.

Both their children are now with their grandparents (her side) and she’s left to fend on her own here in KL.

She’s said to be pleading with her ex to get back together; something which her mother is totally against.

All I got was third hand information from my wife whom Maknjang rang up this morning so there are a lot of holes in the story, but I do worry about how my cousin is doing.

My wife and I had been in a similar situation too some years ago and our marriage were fortunate to have survived such a grueling and cruel test.

Without wanting to point the blame finger on anyone, I am wondering when and how the point of no return was crossed in my cousin’s case?

I remember her “gossiping” with my better half about a third woman – a nurse, if I am not mistaken – during one of the family visit way back when we were still staying in Ipoh.

It usually starts with the man of the house.

Typically something to do with "finding the (so called) right one". Right. You and I know that's just full of bull.

The truth is that we were simply wayward.

Why exactly? Why are we so easily enticed with words of sweet nothings and willing to forget solemn vows, breaking family ties and severing relationships that took years to build?

These are questions I ask myself even.

When I was deep in the same waywardness shit the last time, I justified it on the basis of the supposed uncontrollable human emotion of “feelings”.

Such an abstract word is the perfect scapegoat for the unfaithful.

Up to a point, feelings are indeed the factor at play in wrecking marriages and breaking homes, but there is a crucial controllable equation in the emotional-jigsaw in that the parties involved allow a spark to grow into a full blow Super Nova.

The oft quoted “I can’t help my feelings” is pure bullshit used by men to justify their infidelities as the truth is that we CAN tone it. Considerably so.

In the case of married fathers, keep those lecherous emotions and thoughts in check enough for the imprints of our faithful better half and beautiful children to surface over the superficially imposed, all flowers and bees, image of a woman who “understands me”.

Our wives understood us for years and decades to put up with our egoism, foibles, flaws, cantankerousness, emotional handicaps etc etc etc.

Otherwise they would have left a long time ago.

Do I wish my cousin and her husband to get back together?

I do.

I know, too, however that it’s going to be a long and difficult journey for scarred hearts and emotions to mend.

Just like Stephen King’s IT, such things often return to taunt just when you think you’re on the right path.

And as muslims, my cousin has only once chance left to make things work.

The question is: Does HE want to get back together?

Or is it be a case of “I can’t help my feelings”?

Monday, 14 May 2012

Defensively Preoccupied aka Next Week, Next Week

Football fans largely had their high of the EPL last night when Man City relegated season's rival Man United to runners up by eight goals difference on the same number of points.

And they did it in dramatic, come back from the dead, fashion too. Very Man United like (ahem!) if I may say so.

Anyway, the next big one is the Champions League final next weekend at the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany featuring home team Bayern Munich and England’s Chelsea.

A non fan of neither, the match-up holds little interests to me, but I’m sure millions will be glued to the action come Sunday morning   (it’s being played Saturday night over in Germany after all).

Little interest that is until I read “Dortmund Shows Why It's a Champion” at New York Times Online on the Bundesliga champion, Borussia Dortmund's trashing of Bayern, 5-2, in the German Cup final the same Saturday night.

The writer, Rob Hughes, writes with not a hint of sarcasm of Bayern’s seeming inabilities to accept that they were basically outplayed by their rival, period.

He quotes, amongst others:
Bayern’s coach, Jupp Heynckes:  “Congratulations to BVB. Borussia deserved this victory. They ruthlessly exploited our weaknesses. We were very unfocused today in defense and handed out gifts. Borussia created one chance in the first half, but scored three goals. Our defensive display was catastrophic.”

Captain Philipp Lahm: “We were the better team over the 90 minutes. But we made disastrous defensive errors and kept handing it to our opponents. We can’t be making errors like that next week.” 

(My emphasis, TQVM.) 

 Such a distinct, urm, lack of respect to Dortmund’s win over them, isn’t it?

Implying, of course, that Bayern only lost the match because it was too preoccupied with the BIG one next week.

Hughes went on to quip: “Next week, always next week” right after Lahm’s comments.

Since reading the article, I am now cheering Chelsea to best Bayern in the Champions League final.

Let’s see of Bayern can still be the better team over the 90 minutes and still lose out of what is touted as THE one coveted Cup in football.

Of course, Chelsea has the extra incentive in that the final is their ONLY chance of being in the Champions League next year after a tumultuous (footballing) year that saw them stuck in 6th place below (gasp) Newcastle.

Their win would drop 4th placed Spurs from the Champions League, though, and that is not something which would sit well with Spurs fan.

Now THEY will be clamouring for Lahm and Co to be, urm, not the best team over 90 minutes and win the Champions League at the expense of poor, poor Chelsea.

Don’t you just love football?

PS: Condolences to all my "You Never walk Alone"- fan friends? Next year, next year, perhaps? 

Friday, 4 May 2012

Unstrange Bedfellows

And here we have the apology from NST on the Islam / Scientology, urm, word-replaced newspiece:

We hereby confirm that we have made a grave error in publishing the statements in the article. We accept that in his speech in the Australian Parliament referred to in the article, Mr Xenophon did not use the word “Islam” and neither did he assert that Islam is not a religious organisation but a criminal organisation hiding behind its religious belief.

As I don’t read the print NST, I am unsure where the clarification / apology is.

Nothing was said about the damning sub heading: “Impartiality Questioned: Anti-Islam Australian Lawmaker Comes Under Fire” though.

Then again, absolutely NOTHING newsworthy had occurred here in Malaysia, in Australia or any other Islamic-majority nation since the 2nd of May that the offending article came out.

No rally calling for his “head”; no “Sod off you Islamophobe”. Nada. Yilek.

Perhaps, nobody gave a hoot to what NST had written then anyway.

Then again NST was NOT a solo offender as the same dangerous bullshitting was taken up in the rabidly anti-opposition, anti-DAP, anti-Anwar, anti-PR Utusan.

There the author quoted verbatim the same offending remarks, without even noting where the quote was sourced from.

So, both NST and UTUSAN must have gotten the statement from somewhere, didn’t they?

The Million Ringgit question thus: from where? Who replaced the word Scientology with Islam?

No need to bother on question of “For what purpose” as we know exactly why.

Utusan and NST, huh.


Strange bedfellows NOT.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Simply Toxic

When I quit the NST in March 2008, there was already some considerable clash of ideals within me.

Just as the nation was hit with the so-called 2008 Electoral Tsunami, so too was our motley group of media practitioners (chewah!) in Ipoh similarly affected.

I guess I just got fed up with having to toe the political line in having to cover the functions and events of the-then sore losers of Perak Barisan.

On hindsight, I am sure glad I am out of the journalistic loop vis-à-vis the current scenario of heavily politicized and overly partisan “news” coverage.

So much so that integrity is being given a quick and painful kick in the butt. Just like this alleged replacing of the word “Scientology” with “Islam” of a supposed speech by Australian Senator Nick Xenophon as per the following excerpt:

“What we are seeing is a worldwide pattern of abuse and criminality. On the body of evidence, this is not happening by accident; it is happening by design. Islam is not a religious organisation. It is a criminal organisation that hides behind its so-called religious beliefs.”

Were the words uttered by a Malaysian, surely there’ll be groups calling for his or her head by now.

It is a silly act, though, as such copy pasting could be - and in fact was - easily discovered.

But then again, I remembered having to tweak an article on the political sentiments of the Kinta Valley Chinese community as to favor the Barisan Nasional pre-2008 General Elections.

My colleagues from the other Press had a good laugh at my expense when the byline-less observations - written under protest - saw light.

I read also today of journalists donning black in protest of violence against media personnel especially during Saturday’s monumental Bersih 3.0 rally which turned quite ugly.

The Chinese papers reportedly came out with Black front pages in solidarity to this cause.

Over at the other main stream newspapers, though, things seemed pretty much status quo.

Saw BH front paging “news” of some horse-ying involving opposition MPs Anwar and Kit Siang and I couldn’t care less what Utusan, Kosmo and Metro had on theirs.

Fair to say that these papers pretty much crossed the Rubicon of impartiality for a while now.

What’s scary is that they continue to be the main source of “news” for a good majority in the community.

Toxic nation building. In walloping dollops.