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.