Friday, December 25, 2009

A Spin Around KL on X'mas Night

Thursday night (Malam Jumaat to the Muslims) is special: we pray, read the al-Quran ( Surah Yassin), offer thanks to Allah for all the blessings He showered on us( bertahlil), seek His pardon and continued guaidance ( berdo'a) etc. This year it coincided with
Christmas night, Dec. 24. After the reception at our local Madrasah and Isya' prayer, I decided to take a spin around KL to see how the Keelites were celebrating Christmas.

Wow, the area around Concorde Hotel, Jalan P. Ramlee and Star Hill were jampacked with revellers. There were Father and Mother Christmas with the caps and.... horns ( as if the devil has taken over), no heavy red-n-white costumes with fur linings but only in T-shirt and slacks, Mother Chritmas sporting pushed up breasts and a lot of plumb thighs, and couples chasing each other or running after something. Some places were a total mess with everything imaginable thrown on the road. Some crowds around Sungai Wang went out of control and there were policemen trying to bring some order.

My daughter was at the wheel accommpanied by the wife while I sit at the back absorbing everything. Azlin moaned several times behind the wheel having to deal with the crazy traffic jam with only inches to spare from hitting other cars all around and my wifebellowing her normal shrieks and yells - "Look out.. Someone is going to knock into me.. Slow down.. A gila driver is behind us...That guy cuts in without a care for our lives...That lady is trying to commit suicide.." I sort of enjoyed the running commnetaries.

But I enjoyed watching people in the cars and taxis on my left, right, back and front even more, sometimes even more than the antics of the revellers. A young and gorgeous lady driver with a kid by her side was frantically trying to get someone on the handphone. Then some shouting and a look of murder in her eyes and face. Could it be that her husband was somewhare else,
enjoying himself? In a taxi by my left side a young lady and a rather old man were sitting at the back. The old Romeo was certainly trying to hold the bare-shouldered lady as close to him as possible and the girl was avoiding his clutch. She even gave me a pitiful look. Hey what could I do? The deriver had enough trouble with the traffic to care even if a murder was committed in the cab, probably. I glanced at the old Rmeo and found him glaring at me with obwious fury. What? For taking a good look at his bare-shouldered victim? Hey, I was wearing s skull cap, man! Came out direct from the Madrasah to see what
was happening in KL. To the right was a beautiful scene. Two lovers locked in embrace as the driver of the cab whistled and smiled.

My daughter, my wife and I thought we could have some late supper somewhere along Jalan Ampang, Jalan P.Ramlee or Star Hill, to see what was going on while we slowly attacked ourt food. But none of the places we had in mind would allow such a leisurely evening, nor was there any space for parking. As such Azlin did her best to pull out of the jam and crowd, hit the flyovers and shoot back to Taman Malawati. She literally shot us back at a speed that prompted my wife to request that she takes over the wheel. Azlin prertended not to hear and a had a good laugh.

We ended up in Desa View in Taman Melawati for some roti canai, maggi soup and nescafe tarik. Hey, not a bad Christmas night experience. Azlin gave us an early warning that she would not be agree to drive us around again on New Year's night.
So, we've to seek for a volunteer to do the job with a promise of free dinner and whatever you can drink...Me, I love to sit in the back seat and watch whaever is going on....and record some of the scenes as appended below.

Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sensitivity Training or Group Dynamics

Anyone who has followed some of the virulent arguments and criticims by bloggers with regard to the national education system, the racial and religious issues, the quota system, the Constitutional rights of the Malays vs other citizens, the biases of the Press etc., may well benefit from a brief review of the history of the US. Why US?Don't forget that the Americans are also multi-ethnic in origin and have gone through some very painful experience before emerging as one of the strongest and richest nations on this planet.

I want to highlight only a few phases of the American history which have some relevance to us in Malaysia. First the early emigrants fought many wars against the British colonialist. Don't forget that the early Malay settlers fought the British too and became dead ducks under the British guns and cannons.Birch was murdered and many Malay freedom-fighters were hanged.

You all know how the Frontier Americans dealt with the native settlers-the Red Indians.

The Malay Union scheme could have a placed the Malays in Reservation areas under their Chiefs - the Sultans.Fortunately the Malay leaders together with the Chinese and Indians fought hard against the MU, and sought Independence. After gaining Independece from the British, the American fought among themselves - the Civil War between North and South over the slave issue which killed hundreds of thousand. We had the May 13 incident -nothing compared to a civil war but red Malaysian blood of all races did flow.

The color divide among Americans persisted until today. The Black Americans and those from Asian and other origins, suffered
some forms of discrimination well into the 21st Century. The Office of Equal Opportunity was set ut to deal with the problems and Cross-cultural, Sensitivity and T-Groups training programs came into vogue in Universities, Government Agencies and Private Sector organizations. Differences in culture, values and social norms were dealt with for years in schools, colleges, centers of higher learnings and in the work environment.

The Cross-cultural, Sensitivity, T-Group or Group Dynamics approach to learning dominates all forms of training as compared to the Teacher-Student straight lecture type of training
traditionally used. Role playing where students switched role: Black becomes White and rich becomes poor, Chicano becomes American etc allows one to feel how others view, evaluate and treat us, thus learning to be in the other person's shoe.

It is with all these background experiece and acculturation process that Americans today have accepted a colored man, Barrack Obama- as a President.

Question: Have we Malaysians done enough of this cross-cultural, sharing experience and values, switching roles and seeing as-others-see-us kind of training and conditioning to be eable to cope amicably with the onslought of modern values and realities of life? Aren't we all still living in the safety zone of our cultural shell and evaluating others in terms of how they would endanger our shell instead of realizing that we all live in the same shell. A lot of sensitivity and T-group sessions must be held at all educational and work level to let Malaysians of one racial group appreciate the sensitivity of the other groups and learn to cope with the problems of solving problems together.

Perhaps the politicians must be put through such sessions to let them absorb the prinsiples of disagreeing without disrespecting, arguing without calling each other "stupid' or 'racist', debating without throwing obscene or insulting reamarks at each other. Unless some form of formal or informal conditioning through these sensitivity group sessions are experienced by all leaders and would-be leaders of the Malaysian society, the racial and religious tensions building up in the country cannot be effectively managed and dissipated to produce positiive input for development.

The BTN, the National Service training. classes in schools, colleges and universities, all private sector oraganizations and government agencies should begin to adopt the T-Group, Sensitivity or Group Dynamics approach to training and incorporte its elements in the traditional classroom types of teaching. People cannot be forced to feel one way or another although you can force them to learn certain things Feelings can only be developed through the sharing of experience, interests and values
under a suitable learning or working environment. Malaysians must use the tested approach used by Americans, with suitable adjustments of course, to achieve what they have achieved. Todate our education system is still stuck on the classroom straight lecture approach to education with some innovations that fall short of the T-Group, Sensitivity or Gruop Dynamics approach.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Saying Bye-Bye to 2009

Well....2009 is coming to a close, ushering in Xmas and the NY- 2010.

While there's much to celebrate, there's much more to calibrate and evaluate. 2009 has indeed been full of turmoils and uncertainties some of which have not been resolved even now and will surely spill into 2010. There's room for optimism, space for anxiety and a whole universe of imponderables that we have to face. I suppose that makes life most interesting and challenging.

The political landscape seems rocky, If the rocks don't hold there could be a huge landslide coming our way. For the love of metaphors what makes the rocks unstable? Perhaps SOLIFLUCTION is the best answer, defined by the Internet dictionary as: a gradual movement of wet soil or other material down a slope esp. where frozen subsoil acts as a barrier to the percolation of water. Frozen subsoil, fossilized values and expectations, acculturized social abberations and misplaced sanctification....they all act as barrier to healthy social progress. What are they? All of us defined them differently. A misplaced sanctification for example could be holding a powerful political leader as a "saint" or a "wali Allah", or accepting the rich and wealthy as the most honorable people in society w.a.r ( without any reservation).

On the economic landscape, there are many balloons flying high in terms of investment packages, megaprojects, development funds, loans facilities etc. They give the countryside colorful and high expectations. But balloons can BURST and each time one does, the blast of hot air will wreak havoc on the lives of many people. So watch out....DO WE HAVE ENOUGH MONEY TO KEEP THE BALLOONS FLYING? Even Petronas profit seemed to drop this year by 47.7% - that's a sharp drop indeed, almost 50%. There're signs that cost of things will go up further.

Let's hope that Tourism can bring us more revenue with the all-out efforts being made to bring in the tourists. But watching the events that have taken place, there seem to be a reduction in the scale of festivities - budget shows without the stars and celebrities, reduced pomp and ceremonies etc. Much much more funds are going to the modernization of the Defence system.
This seems to be the time when returns to investment should be given top priority not just scaling down all expenses including costs of adminsitration as the Chief Secretary to Govt seems to be emphasizing. Lets not have a situation where the government says spend, spend, spend to stimulate the economy and the adminstration says cut,cut, cut to reduce expenditure. That will amount to a self-negation of efforts.

Well...22 days to new year. 14 days or so to Xmas. Rev up for the big jump and best wishes to all.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


The LIMA (Langkawai International Marine and Aerospace) show has been around a couple of times but this time around ( 1st - 5th December,2009) the Ministry of Tourism has come in to give it a further boosting by holding a carnival centered at Kuah and Porta Malai. Let's see some pics as seen by a chance visitor ( a normal tourist w/o any special pass to enter the MIEC -Mahsuri International Exhibition Center- building in which the still exhibition is held) whose objective is to enjoy the sights and happenings in Langkawi.

At Kuah the Carnival site is quite prominent and any tourist staying in the main urban center of the island will not miss it. Nor can you miss the food fare, the exhibitions and the show to which everyone is welcome. Witness the random pics shown.

At Porta Malai, the Carnival and the Marine show sites are the same. Tourists going to Chenang and Awana Hotel will not miss the place, nor the MIEC building in which the still exhibition is held and from where the air show will be witnessed by invited guests with special passes ( VIPs NOT Tourists). So let's keep out of the building and focus on what you can see at the Carnival
site. A brief video clip will give you and idea of the scene and another on the site for the marine show.

Now that you already have an idea of the Carnival, suffice it to say that those places you saw were packed with visiors on day 1 and 2 which I witnessed. After visiting all the booths and watching the stage show one can settle down to a nice spread of delicious food as these people are doing:

What about the Marine and Aerospace show? I know you can read about them in the papers, giving the inside story which tourists are not privy to unless they follow the Press write-up. What I'm presenting is what the tourists are likely to see and complain about.

The airshow as seen from outside the airport runaway consists of just a few jetfighters (F 16, F 111 and the Sukhoi MG) and an attack heli (Apache) doing sume stunts in the air. Yes they perform the right angle shoot up into the air, the stop and the free fall, then the dive down, the loops and the upside down flight very smoothly. The B52 also did a short flyover. But that's about it! Unless you have an invitation to see the exhibition in the MIEC building, which I'm sure the tourists don't, the air show is just very ordinary. You could see a more thrilling one as a tourist in other countries. Some video clips may prove the point.

The Marine show takes place without much information or any commentary for the public. You just see from a distance what's happening as already shown in the previous Porta Malai clip. Here are two more showing a rescue operation which tourists watching from the shore could only appreciate with a lot of imagination.

Whilst the marine and aerospace technological achievements must certainly have been well illustrated, the LIMA show certainly falls short of attracting tourists with stunts, big screen coverage and commentaries, and episodic presentations that would be more breath-taking. That requires planning, ingenuity and creativity with a talent for the dramatics. The Ministry of Tourism may not be able to help in that area but some action-drama TV producers may be able to. The trick is you can certainly put up a more dramatic marine and aerospace show with less costs, if properly choreographed.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Aidil Adha and its Significance

Since small I was told that Aidil Adha or Hariraya Korban is celebrated to commemorate Prophet Ibrahim's unflinching obedience to Allah by agreeing to sacrifice his beloved son Ismail as ordered by Allah in a dream. But as he was about to sacrifice the son, Allah replaced the latter with a ram (kibas). It is also celebrated to honor the WUKUF, the completion of the Haj procedures by the pilgims who flooded Mecca to do the Haj and become Hajis. After a special morning prayer and sermon (khutbah) on that day, camels. cows, bulls or goats are sacrificed and their meat distributed to the poor so that they can have a special feast and celebration.

Maybe I wasn't attending enough lectures, symposiums, khutbah etc on Islam or not reading enough of the 'kitabs' especially those written in Arabic and have not been translated into Malay or English. For whatever reasons, I've never really been told of the full significance of the first ten days of the month of Zulhijjah in the Muslim calender. All prayers, especially those in addition to the five compulsory ones as performed by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), all good deeds and gifts to the poor (sedekah), and especially two days of fasting on the 9th and 10th of the month, have very special significance. Fasting on the 9th day is equivalent to fasting for 1000 days while fasting on the 10th is equivalent ot fasting for 10,000 days. Moreover if fasting on the day of Asyura (10Muharram) can absolve your sins(dosa) for a year. fasting on the day of the WUKUF (10 Zulhijjah) can absolve your sins for two years.How come these assurances have not been widely discussed by the ulamas as they had done in regard to the significance of the korban? Or maybe it's just me who have missed such discussions.

Thank God that I finally know. It's no wonder that in Kelantan and Trengganu, the Aidil Adha is celebrated with more pomp and ceremony than the Aidilfitri. Even the Federal Government does not seem to recognize the full significance of Aidil Adha since more emphasis is given to the Aidilfitri. Of course there seems to be more reason for celebration in Aidilfitri for it ends 30 days of fasting, not ten or just two days, plus the special prayers ( tarawih) at night for the whole month of Ramadhan. But even after another six days of fasting ( puasa sunat), one is considered to have fasted for a year -- not 1000 or 10,000 days for fasting one or two days. That's a real grand bonus which all Muslims would not want to miss. This has never been emphasized in the ceramahs and khitbahs that I've listened to.

Anyway, today (26th Nov,)is the 10th day of Zulhijjah. Tomorrow is the day that we in Malaysia celebrate Aidil Adha. Selamat Hariraya Aidil Adha ( or Hariraya Haji/Korban) to all Muslims. May you be blessed with all the special bonuses that it brings by performing all the ibadah that it prescribes.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

"AWAN" came to us...

It was a beautiful. bright morning. When I opened the front door and grill to go out and feed the fish, a mother cat and her baby greeted me with a look as if to say. " Can you please help us." I just smiled and proceeded to feed our fish, some little fries in a large earthen bowl under the porch and a small pool of large Japanese carps at the back of the house. When I returned to the door, the mother cat has gone away leaving the poor kitten staring shyly and quite frightened between the grill and my car.

I held out my hand saying softly, "Here kitty. kitty,come to me", in the most friendly voice that my vocal chord could produce. And, after hesitating for awhile as if to evaluate my intention, it came slowly and cautiously towards me and licked my hand. Boy. I fell in love with the kit instantaneously. I remember seeing some kittens before, brought by the same mother. The moment I approached them, both mother cat and the kittens scrambled away. This one remained and made me feel so...wanted.

I had no choice but to take it to my room, got some fresh milk from the fridge and tried to feed it. No it wouldn't lick the milk from the saucer. I took a handkerchief, rolled a corner and dipped it into the milk and tried to push it into its mouth. After tasting what smeared its lips, it looked at me with a surprised look and licked my hand.

That was it. When my wife returned home we took it to a veterinary clinic, and was given a thorough medical check-up. The kit is a "he" and only a few weeks old. I registered his name as Awan - the cloud. He had come to us as a surprise and we just love him. The little video clip we made of him can say better than my blog. Sorry if the production is below substandard. Some of the writings came out so small and I just couldn't find the right button to enlarge them. Any advice would be welcome.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Toll Oh Toll.......

People have complained before about the rates we have to pay at the toll gates all over the country. The toll charges for a journey from Penang to JB can easily be more than the cost of filling up your car tank. The authorities of course keep saying that the rate we pay is still one of the lowest in the world. I'm not going to argue about that anymore for we all know that the alternative to a higher rate would be a higher govt. subsidy to the concessionaires.

What bothers me more now is the number of toll plazas we've to pass through and make our payments, as little as a ringgit each time or less. How many times do you have to stop, join the que and make your payment if you travel from KL to Taman Tasik Perdana in Puchong, for example? Or from Sungai Pencala to Seremban following the LEKAS route? Only the Smart Tag or the Touch N Go can help to reduce the frequent botheration.

Is there no way at all to just pay once or twice by indicating where our destination is at the first toll gate? What's most irritating is when the driver in front of you stops a long while to grope around for coins, count the changes in hands or just received, or waits for the partner besides him or her to hand over the money, when the queue is so long and tedious. Worst is when someone tries to cut into the queue, edging in bit by bit and pushing you away with a big or a very expensive car or a boneshaker while yours isnew and very precious. I haven't so far seen any officer on duty at the toll giving such a driver a little reminder or a police officerenforcing the rule against jumping the queue.

Another iritation is when you see a number of gates witrh red lights while the queues are getting longer and longer and impatient drivers are cutting accross whenever they feel the line next to them is moving faster. This happens even close to the coned are where a single file is compulsory. Again i've never seen anyone taken to task for such hooliganism.

Well, the Malaysian road manners have been much talked about and they don'st seem to improve. Thousands upon thousands of summons for traffic ofences have been issued as more traffic police officers pour onto the road, more and more ops sikap are mounted with an increasing death rate every year. I think these things will go on if the Police is more interested in collecting more fines than making people aware of their bad road habits or the danger they caused by violating certain regulations. The rouble is people can pay the fines imposed and forget about the danger they have caused to others, even if they themselves don't mind getting injures or killed.

The Police must come up with something more effective than just imposing a fine, Say this and I'm sure they will think of jail sentences or revoking your driving licence. That's causing difficulties and sufference, not educating, making people aware of their mistakes or lack of concern for others. The easy way out by punishing people is not always the most effective way. Maybe traffic offenders can be asked to mend or sweep the road wearing a specific uniform. When other road users laugh at them, then they wil feel very embarassed or shameful. I certainly don't want ot see my kids or friends launghing at me as I sweep the road as punishment for a traffic offence.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Mutual Respect ( A reflection)..

When discussing issues affecting national unity, the question of mutual respect always takes center stage. Behind all allegations and charges that one party has insulted the feelings of the other, there's always the element of mutual provocation, whether we accept it or not. Most often one party feels the provocation involved more than the other and we tend to minimize or even fail to recognize the seriousness of our own failures to observe certain basic principles in mutual respect.

When this happens, misunderstanding and misgiving start to sprout like weeds after the rain. Accusations start to accumulate, each party trying to justify its own stand, often increasing the seriousness of the insult or violation of the basic principles of mutual respect. Emotions flare up and reason takes a tumble. When this happens the negative forces of multiracialism in a society can easily tear the society apart.

For this reason we Malaysians as the citizens of one nation - 1 Malaysia - must constantly check our understanding of the concept of mutual respect. We must be ready to check our tendency to blame others more than ourselves, our tendency to magnify the failures,connivances or provocations of others more than our own. We must be ready to reexamine our own attitude, assumptions, belief and even community values.This is fundemental to restoring mutual respect, trust and goodwill to maintain and promote national unity.

Having said that let's take a quick look at some of the issues which threaten national unity in this country as a result of a failure in mantaining mutual respect. The national language issue related to its official use and education, religious freedom as against the need for Muslims to adhere to the Sunnah wal-Jamaah and protect the aqidah, the supremacy and purity of Allah from abuse , the basic rights of citizens under the Constitution as held against the need to preserve the right of bumiputeras and prerogatives of the royalties etc., had always been at the center of many controversies, polymics and and emotional outbursts. Charges like 'ketuanan Melayu', ' minority groups being marginalized, opposition parties being persecuted, the rights of non-Muslims being eroded, the violation or infraction of the law by the rich and powerful being condoned etc can cause the sparks of distrust and hatred to start flying around.

Only the breeze and atmosphere of mutul trust and respect can prevent such sparks from flaring up into a bush- or even forest-fire. Such mutual trust and respect must be based on the evidence of peace and harmony that this country has enjoyed in the past. The horrible memory of the May 13th incident for those who witnessed it and the stories told to those who didn't, should suffice to make us want to preserve that peace and harmony. Yes, problems will crop up, disagreements will arise within and between the racial groups that make up our people, the political parties will continue to bang each others heads and twist tails as they are wont to do to gain dominancy in runnung the affairs of the state, laws will continue to be violated by those driven by greed and ceiminal tendencies, the hands of the law must continue to be harsh in order to equal the brutality of the criminals and maintain order. But so long as we maintain a mutual respect and trust of each other as the relatively peaceful history of the country after merdeka has proven, we will still be okay. We can fight for what is just and fair, but we don't shed our respect for each other as Malaysians.

We may even dislike certain leaders. But when the people have chosen them to lead, we must respect the common weal. Criticize the decisions they make that we don't agree with but respect the reasons why those decisions were made and show the public other alternatives that could be pursued in solving a certain problem. The right to make the final decisions of course remains with the leaders whom the people have chosen. When we don't respect that right, we're throwing away respect for the Malaysians as a whole and tryuing to force through our own interest.

Let's ponder about this for a moment. I think bloggers need to do some deep, abstract thinking too, and not just ride on the popularity of certain political views, pro or contra, to gain mileage for your own popularity.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Malaysian Theatre

I'm not much of a theatre goer before. But after watching shows like The Siamese Twin ( the name was different) a long time ago, then Puteri Gunung Ledang, P. Ramlee the Musical, and Cuci the Musical just a few days ago, all staged at Istana Budaya, I think we're now moving towards the era of theatrical performance closer to the standard of The Cats, Les Miserables,The Westside Story etc. You certainly don't feel the pinch in your pocket coughing out a few hundred ringgit, when the show really gives you and your family members a good moral and aesthetical experience. Cuci the Musical had us all in stitches while the
moral of the story came accross very forcefully though couched in humour and bone-tickling ad libs.

I can see that Malaysians of all denominations are also becoming more theatre savvy. No more rows of empty seats like before.
Perhaps they are getting a little tired or saturated by the TV and the celluloids. Don't want to comment on the quality of the shows on TV at his point but the modern ' TV dramas' are certainly becoming more and more streotyped, giving us more of the same every night. What I wonder is whether 'going to the theatre' means something more to the Malaysians than going to the cinema, We hear of people dressing up for the theatre in the western countries, like going to the Ball or some exotic functions.Even to attend wedding ceremonies. That seems to make the difference to me. There's more in going to the theatre than to the cinema. In the theatre we can see and admire the audience, their special dress and plumes, their ornaments and ostentations. Hey, in the west bachelors can even survey the crop of young ladies with cultural taste and social standing in the theatre. Are we into this yet or do the bachelors prefer to pick up their future partners at the clubs and socials, the supermarkets and the shopping malls?

But one thing I found out with a shock from my theatre going experience is that the bad road-side manners of Malaysians can be carried over to the theatre's parking lot or its vicinity. In out haste to get into the theatre on time, cars are double or triple parked, one behind the other and beside each other. After the show the owner of the car which came first has no way of getting out until the other cars are moved away.. But the owners don't bother to hurry up, and in the malady that I faced, he (or she) didn't show up even after 20 minutes. It was drizzling and we just could not get out until a few cars around us moved away. The one behind us remained there even after we succeeded in getting out by making several liitle turns, guided by people getting wet in the drizzle.

My son was really furious over the lack of concern for other people and wanted to leave behind a good scratch mark on the offending car or just smash a window, loosen the handbrake and push it away onto the middle of the road. It took some effort to cool him down, inspite of the drizzle. Some of us really don't care about others when driving or parking our cars. I wonder if this habit will ever change, like our attitude towards the theatre.

Yeah, the theatre can really teach us something or more importantly reflect some of our undesireable behavior like refusing to clap our hands at the end of a scene, talking loudly while the show is on, refusing to stand up to allow others to get to seats deeper in the row, rushing out at the end of the show knocking others like tenpins etc. In the carpark, double or tripple parking is one thing. But not moving your car away quickly after the show is another.

It appears that the cinema-show culture is being carried over by many Malaysians to the theatre. If this doesn't change I think places like Istana Budaya will soon become like the usual cinema hall where the dim light and total darkness do not give any credit to dressing well and a cultured behavior.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Prophet Muhammad's Life to be Filmed

NST reported this on Wednesday, Nov.4 p, 26. Immediately I thought that this could never be a venture by the Muslim filmakers, especially from Malaysia. The Company or the man behind it would be facing an avalanche of criticisms and warnings or even threats, that the idea would be killed before it can be promoted,

But when Holywood wants to do it, no one can say anything. Especially since it's going to be produced by Barrie OSBORNE, producer of THE LORD OF THE RINGS and MATRIX. That ensures us that it's going to be a breathtaking epic, bigger than life, more profound than common human logic and reasoning can accommodate, and full of scenes that will baffle the audience. In other words we can be sure that the cinematographic and performance quality will be of the highest order, especially with a budget of US150 million. Plans for the English-language film were annouced at the Doha Tribeca Film Fest in Qatar on Sunday Nov1.

It's comforting to know that in accordance with Islamic tradition, the film will not represent the prophet himself or direct members of his family. Most probably only their voices will be heard. Even that makes me very anxious. Who will render the voice of the Prophet, although it'll be in English? More importantly, who'll advise on the storyline and the selections of scenes to be portrayed? The man will be none other than ulama Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi ( Prof. Dr. Yusuf Abdullah al-Qardhawi), the prolific and controversial ulama who is banned from entering Britain.

Hopefully truth and authenticity will predominate over the interest to make the film appeal to world audiance. While Ulama Yusuf Qaradawi is quite a liberal ulamak I wonder whether he will agree to any dialogues that deviate from the hadith ( sayings of the Prophet). Shooting will begin in 2011. I'm sure the whole Muslim world will be waiting for this epic. My only hope is that it'll not be banned by the Muslim countries for I'm certain that many controversies and disagreements will arise. Any other people attempting to make the film outside of Holywood might not succeed at all in producing it.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Visit to MATIC

Sunday,Nov. 1. With nothing on the agenda for today, I went out to the Malaysian Tourist Information Center for breakfast, especially since some kind of a show was going on there. The many stalls in the area were just getting ready for business and so I went to the Mamaks' stalls behind the Condorde hotel to give my tummy a job so that it'd stop grumbling. The roti canai, teh tarik and nasi lemak there looked fantastic from the way the clients attacked their food. The stalls were pretty crowded.

Well, at least now we have something for the people of KL to look forward to on Sunday beside going to the Zoo or the Shopping Malls. The under-the-tent stalls offer not only all sorts of food and goodies for visitors but also household items and everyday wears at very reasonable prices, certainly below the Shopping Mall price tag. Hey, there will also be karaoke entertainment and some dancing towards afternoon, I understand.

For now I'm stuck at this Information Centre where information booklets,phamplets and fliers abound. What's more we can have internet facilities for free with more than seven PCs available. I don't see all of them being utilized for I guess few people ( especially the computer buffs) know about these facilities. The place is very cozy and the ambiance is fantastic. Let me google for some pics of this place, if available.

No. I dont seem to be able to get any good shot of this place, inside Matic or outside it. I've scanned the various sources of info availabel and what seems most lacking are good pictures that visitors to the info site can copy and transfer into their files.
Google images on TDC, Malaysia don't give much to atract attention to the MATIC and the pic that I got from Malaysia Tourists Information Center webpage is an image of the original PM Seminar Center building. The small pics shown on the webpage don't appear to be attractive at all to me. Even a tourist with little knowledge of photograhy can take more exciting shots, I believe.Many information pieces are just too wordy. Who wants to spend hours just reading promo materials? As Confucius say, one picture tells more than a thousand words.

So, Matic. Get the wonderful photos that I see on posters, t-shirts and shopping bags into the Google website so that people can browse through them. The Malaysian TDC website also needs some serious reworking to keep up with the image of Malaysia as a hot tourists' center.

They leave more wonderful memories than mere words.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Negeri Sembilan: A Rebirth

As an 'anak Negeri' I've always taken pride in every new development that I see in the state. Yes, there were developments in many aspects of life, especially in Seremban, Senawang, and Port Dickson, particularly from the economic pov. But aside for the development of the Senawang Industrial estate and the new road to PD, nothing can be called spectacular for several years. Until these last few years.....

I think YAB Dato Seri Mohamad Hassan has accomplished a lot since taking over as the MB. Seremban has suddenly become more lively and colourful with Senawang rapidly growing into a satelite city. PD has shown some transformation into a major seaside resort area as it should be with all the new hotels and spruced up picknick areas. What is required is of course more entertainment events throughout the week and not just during weekends.The private sector should be allowed to organize those events on a commercial basis.

This week, in conjuction with the installation of the 11th Yang Dipertuan Besar Negeri Sembilan, the most spectacular event took place, ie. the opening of the new road through Bukit Putus. I think it's as historiacal and momentous as the installation of Tuanku Muhriz as the 11the Yang dipertuan Besar itself (see poster pic).

As long as I can remember the only route between Seremban and Kuala Pilah had been through the winding and torturous road called Bukit Putus ( Broken Hillchain), where it takes only a heavy truck to cause a long chain of slow moving vehicles to climb up or go down the hills. Erosion and landslide had all but bring down the hillside and the amount of patching up and plastering with cement and mortars had been tremendous. It can take anywhere from three quarters of an hour to a few hours to just pass through Bukit Putus.

Now it is a smooth glide up with ample room to overtake any slow moving vehicle or come down the hills with some scenic views to boot (see pic taken during a drizzle). I have no doubt that it's going to be a favourite elevated passageway while just down the hill from Seremban will be the Ulu Bendul Recreational area. For now when the road from Seremban to Seri Menanti is heavily decorated with posters and buntings to commemorate the Yang dipertuan Besar's installation, the travel down to Kuala Pilah feels like a procession.

Just before entering the road to Seri Menanti at Parit, Terachi ( another entrance to Seri Menanti is after Tanjung Ipoh town if you're coming from Seremban), located to the left in an open space that used to be an extensive ricefield, is the Restoren Warisan that serves some of the best Negeri Sembilan food. It's a must stop if you want to sample the best of 'masak tempoyak', 'daging salai', 'sambal petai' etc. The free 'janda pulang' drink ( the window who retuns), is succulent and most refreshing (see pic of wife sampling the food).

The lower pic shows the open space of green and fresh air which one can enjoy while sitting in the balcony with wood railings.

Finally, Negeri Sembilan has something unique to offer to visitors. The travel from Seremban to Kuala Pilah or visa versa and going through Bukit Putus, no longer promises a headache to weakheaded drivers and passaengers but a pleasant glide through the top of lush green hills and wide valleys.

Yes, Negeri Sembilan has been reborn with the new elevated road connecting the state capital and Kuala Pilah, Bahau and on to Kuala Lipis or Kuantan in Pahang.

Monday, October 26, 2009

After the Festivities.....

Now that the big 'makans' are over, we must all check our weights again. Those who have added too many lbs or kgs must enter a vigorous weight-shedding program or face the need to change their wardrobe. A few cms or inches extra around the waste may require some pants to be put out of commission. Nothing looks worse on a lady than an undersized or overfilled blouse. (See pic
with thanks to Kimberlycun).

Some say that too many people are getting too fat in Malaysia. Obesity is on the rise in number and mass. I donno lah. If you go to the supermarket in US or UK and see the ladies piling up food in their shopping carts, you'll think that many Malaysian ladies are still underfed. I can't find any good shots of them at the supermart but original models are aplenty. See pics.

Hey, they're just not ladies only. Men too. Let's see them in contrast.

Oops, still a lady at work gorging a whole cake. Give me another chance to find the fat machos.

There we go. I've no shots of fat Malaysian men here. Maybe some readers interested in the subject can contribute. I myself do not qualify to be in the group although a little overweight according to the BMI scale.

Has my weight increased after puasa and hariraya. Hmm..not much plus or minus. I wonder what happened to some of our bloggers, especially the few that I know who follow my posts but would not make any comment. I take it that u agree with all that I say. Otherwise check me, babe, or I 'll continue to blabber in a shoksendiri fashion. Ooooh, I hate to think that another makan time will be around soon - hariraya aidil adha or hari raya haji. To our friends in Kelantan and Trengganu, this hariraya is even more important and therefore more hectic than hariraya puasa. Let's wait for it,

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Living up to a Slogan Or Pulling together an Ideal

Everytime a new leader takes on the helm of the State or renewed his regime we hear new slogans. Thus we have had 'Muhibbah', ' Bersih, Cekap dan Amanah', 'Malaysia Boleh', ' Cemerlang, Gemilang dan Terbilang' and now it's '1 Malaysia', ' Rakyat didahulukan, Prestasi diutamakan.' Once the slogan is ushered in with all pomps and ceremony, the media and all government agencies clamored to interpret and fill in the slogan, so that we all live up to it, interpret everything we do in its term and forever extend its meaning. The government media - newspapers, radio and tv - will even change the usual form of greetings like 'assalamualaiakum' to 'salam muhibbah', 'salam Malaysia Boleh' and NOW...salam 1 Malaysia.

It seems that we are forever trying to fill in the slogans so created, giving them a meaning and a significance beyond what they originally covered. There will be reverberating enthusiasm at first, everyone marvelling and praising the genius of the originator. Then it becomes a cliche and given a kind of token respect. Soon enough people begin to turn it into a kind of joke..and later... given a cynical or even a derisive connotation. The diehard critics of govenment will, of course, find all sorts of ways to redicule the slogans, teasing them through songs and video clips as had happened even to Jalur Gemilang, the National Flag.

Is this a normal thing or is there something unsavory about slogans? I think people begin to tire about a slogan as soon as it's given a meaning and significance beyond what the concept it embodies can carry. The slogan may not even be that inspiring to begin with and is capable of being interpreted in several ways - a strength maybe but also a weakness! If so when the newness of the slogan wears off its strength disappears and the weaknesses begin to take roots. The slogan than becomes bandied about and splashed around like spoilt cream. ' Malaysia Boleh' for example had captured the imaginantion of the Malaysians for a long time( during Tun Dr Mahathir's time) but now, it's cynically applied even to corruptions and arrests under the ISA.1 Malaysia has begun to be used to highlight the stark contradictions as shown by the divisiveness between political parties, between leaders within each party itself, and among the multiracial groups in Malaysia.

What Malaysia seems to need is not more slogans to be filled in by aligning all our actions towards it achievement, but motivating ideas to appreciate and rope in all the assets that we have as an assurance to the achievement of the dreams that all Malaysians share - ie a peaceful and properous society where each individual can strive to realize his ambition in as far as his (or her ) capability permits. Yes, we do need rallying calls and national symbols to bring our efforts together but they must be more
intellectualand inspirational or even philosophical ( second only to religious injunctions), not cheap slogans which are the war-cries of political parties.

Consider fpr example J.F.Kennedy's soul-thumping words: ' Ask not what the nation can do for you but what you can do for the nation?' What about some conscience-pricking words for the rich in Malaysia such as " You acquired your wealth in this county; how about returning the favour by making this country wealthy." Or " You're already rich, can you help your poor neighbour or some poor family to get out of poverty?' Another thing: why don't we stop decorating those dignitaries who are already bedecked with honarary awards and give those awards to the ordinary man or woman who helped his/her neighbors to
overcome their problem. A Datukship means nothing to a Tan Sri or Tun but to a farmer who cleared several acres of forest and turned them into a productive fruit orchard, it would be a great honor.

On a similar vein, the award of honorary Ph.Ds has now become a laughing matter. At the current rate of awards made by various universtiies and colleges in the country, the country will soon be full of Ph.D holders ( no distinction made between the
real award for postgraduate work and the honorary without even a basic degree or a Master's). Plus Ph.Ds purchased at a price from overseas' institutions. With such cheap degrees, why should students slog through years of study to earn a Ph.D? Take up politics and provided you hang on to a powerful boss, you can become rich and learned (with a Ph.D) at the end of the day. Is that the philosophy that we want young Malysians to adopt for the future?

A final point. Those who know how to get rich and have made themselves filthy rich do not necessarily know how to make the country rich and prosperous. They are good at assets acquisition, NOT distribution. Their methods may not be socially acceptable and only good for themselves. I hope our national leaders can take note of this fact.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


The closure of the month of Ramadhan saw deepavali and hariraya festivities merging. There was bright colorful lights illuminating homes and lots of food and delicacies laid out on the tables. The crowd circulates around the laden tables then find a convenient seat among friends to tacle their gatherings.

What makes the difference is whether the crowd is just interested in the food and delicacies or the chance to meet new and old friends, cement broken ties and repair strained relationships. The common problem is that we get tied down to the table we first sat at from the beginning to the end of the visit, without adequate opportunities to move around and meet people with a drink in hand. Why not? Because the syrup drink or fruit juice that is served is taken together with the food in substantive gulps rather than sipped a little at a time like the prohibited type (alcohol).

Hence the preference for the buffet style 'makan' where we can walk around and choose our food. But still we have tables for the real strenuous work to deal with the wet messy stuff like curry, cassarole, masak asam pedas, lemak pedas etc.You can hardly deal with the Malaysian dishes without sitting down, especially when using your fingers to dig in ( see pics).

The way to get around this problem, therefore, is to have some participatory shows, where guests could move around and join the fun. But to get the guests to do so, as in joining unscheduled dancing or singing, is still a problem. We tried this at our open house gahering recently and had some success. For the singing we had to rely on Nasir Wahab and Karen to get the action going (see pics).

But still. it isn't easy to get the guests involved. Everyone suddenly gets so shy. Perhaps it would be necessary to dim the light but that would throw the gathering into a different kind of ballgame. And there were the more religious members of the community in attendance ( see pic).

As such it is necessary to get popular and friendly TV personality like Nasir Wahab to move around and mix with the crowd, take photographs and shake hands to make them feel at ease and ready to join the fun a frolics. Nasir belted out a few popular numbers to the cheering crowd makin the evening a memorable one. While the food served were the usuals at such fectivities we also had something different including 'satay tulang' ( it's more fun to eat than the usual satay) and some fresh durian although 'pengat durian', roti jala and pulut were already served.

Our Indian friends and neighbors also joined us later in the evening though they had their guests to attend to. Peter and Ivy represented our Chinese friends and neighbors to complete the multiracial mix while Dr Jagjit only managed to pop in a brief moment because of prior engagement. . Shariff the DJ, was wonderful and frequently made everyone chuckle and laugh with his ready wit and humorous presentation.

I do hope that everyone enjoyed the evening.To those who could not make it, let's wait for the next hariraya.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Know Somebody Anything Can.

It's the hundredth time I heard someone said, " You know someone in there, anything canlah. Otherwise wait until next election." This implies that to get anything done in the government, you must know someone inside dealing with the matter. Now I hear from scribes like Dato' Kadir Jasin himself that even the GLCs and Banks could be very tardy about entertaining application for loans ( Wed.Oct.14 post). Many responses suggest that he should arrange for a private discussion with someone inside. You knowlah what "private discussion" means.....

Before retiring I also applied for an Express Bus licence plying between certain points in KL. I applied as a private person with the letter addressed to the Secretary of the Licensing Board ( no one in particular). The letter was not even acknowledged, not even on a preprinted slip of acknowledgment or rejection. Since it was my own application and not from a member of the public, I just kept quiet about it. If a member of the public had complained to me then, I'd have traced the letter and the officer who chucked it to one side along with hundreds of others perhaps.

Something is certainly wrong with the attidue of some Malay officers who have reached the top of the pyramid. As a Malay I must admit that senior officers from other races, let alone the top bosses, are more responsive and concerned. Some senior Malay officers just couldn't be bothered to check on the performance of critical functions under their charge. They don't feel the urgency to get certain things done, unless it involves their own salary, allowance or promotion. Especially if they're the blue-eyed boys of the bosses. I think members of the public who're not happy with the attention ( or lack of attention) received from a govt officer should now demand to see the boss or send his or her complaint to the Bureau of Public Complaint. That has been done now. But to whom can you complain about the cold-shoulder treatment received from an executive or a functionary in the private sector? Especially in the GLCS or Autonomous Bodies.

I remember inquiring from PETRONAS if it was prepared to build a gas station on a piece of land that I owned. I've done a viability study of such a station and wanted the company to help with the construction and installation of the facilities. I wanted to operate the station myself. A reply came that I would need RM900,000 plus to build the small station that I planned.
But PETRONAS was ready to buy over the land. I didn't have the heart to continue the project. Is there a study to show who owns the green gas stations around the country. I believe most of them have relatives working in PETRONAS. They know somebody inside and that's why they succeeded in owning a station.

I'll very happy if my suspicion is proven wrong, You must either know somebody inside to get your application seriously considered or can arrange for a 'private discussion' outsied the office, with all the attractions thrown in. Well, that's business, I guess. No wonder Dato' Kadir Jasin said, "Sebenarnya saya tak suka berniaga..."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Politicians vs Statesmen

In his blog dated 29.9.09 Tun Dr Mahathir extolled the "open house" festivities as a Malaysian invention which could really bring the people together, irrespective or races. Seeing how Malaysians really mixed, exchanged greetings and well-wishes at such gatherings, he insinuated that it could be the politicians 'who stoke the fire of racialism' in this country and said (with a tongue in cheek surely), "It makes we wonder whether the country would not be better off if we don't have politicians." He went on to lament the "racial ghettoes" that Malaysians have created for themselves, suggesting that the different vernacular schools our children go to might have caused or exacerbated the process.

The reaction was fantastic. Everyone supports the view. But where does that take us? Have more open houses all the year through, perhaps financed or subsidized by the government? Let the open house festivities do what our education system has failed to do? Throw all the politicians into the sea? As it is they have the license to broach and exploit racial issues but an ordinary member of the public who does it will face the ISA.

Open houses can indeed show how Malaysians really live together and celebrate their religious festivities together. Except for the community leaders and the wealthy, invitees to the open houses are often limited to relatives, neighbors and friends The gatherings certainly cannot fulfill the functions that the education system should undertake. And it's only a one-day affair when satiating the taste buds becomes more important than discussing social or community affairs.

As for the politicians, at best they are the representatives of the people, articulating their interests, integrating them and presenting them to the government. We can't have every man (or woman)-in-the-street presenting his or her own interest to the government for there are too many people in the country. Hence the representational approach. What goes wrong is that politicians fight to become that representative wooing supporters to his (or her) camp or party and pitching their support against his (or her) enemies. In doing so he (or she) uses racial issues, communal issues, national issues or whatever, to raise the emotions of his (or her) supporters to a pitch.The politicians will do anything to get the commitment of his (or her) supporters, including paying them money or through other forms. That's when racial issues become a sure-fire bullet for catching the interest and gaining the support of the would-be voters.

I think it is such politicians who should be made to walk the planks or thrown into the sea. That include those who misuse their power of representation for personal benefits or gains or resort to buying votes. Where do they get all the money if not through some devious and surreptitious methods. Those who really represent the interest of their supporters, see how those interests can be integrated and coordinated with the interest of others in the nation, seek a harmonious and an equitable way of resolving conflicting interests, stop their supporters from mounting a "war" against the supporters of other would-be-representatives, and think of the interest of the nation more than just his (or her) supporters', are statesmen. We need them to represent our interests to the government.

The question now is how do we do away with the politicians and give our support to the statesmen ( or stateswomen, of course). The MCA seems to be approaching the problem in a very positive though aggressive way ie by doing away with leaders who create rather than solve problems. What about UMNO, MIC and other members of the BN? With all the talks about transformation, changing attitude and doing away with the corrupt and tinted characters, is it really being done? As for the PR, component members seem to be in the process of identifying their own statesmen versus the politicians. Let us see whether Malaysians are ready to make the distinction between politicians and statesmen , throw the latter out and usher in the leaders and representatives that have the statesmanship qualities and can give our country a new image.