Thursday, May 31, 2007

dara #4


kalau waktu itu
tanganmu kusambut
jari jemari kugenggam lembut
sambil berjalan perlahan lahan
di bawah rendang tua kita duduk

rambutmu kuusap
matamu kutatap
pipimu merah
bibirmu merekah
tirai hati terbuka
tiap rasa menjadi kata
singkap semua rahasia

kalau waktu itu
kulempar tubuhku
ke lubuk jiwamu
menyelam dasar hati
meraba segala rasa

waktu membeku
kita berpadu
awan melindung
mentari tertudung
janji terpahat
kita terikat
berdakap erat

mampukah berubah segala semua?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Laura Criscio
Acrylic on canvas board

Today looks like yesterday
And pretty much like tomorrow
Overflowing with pain and hate
Filled with regret and sorrow

No resolution in sight
Self love and unforgiving souls
Block the way to hope
Apathy is too happy to play all our roles

This can't be the only way to live
Just can't see another way to breathe

The Fear infects all our lives
Blinds us to each other's redemption
What if this or what if that
The signs along the road to perdition

This can't be the only way to live
Just can't see another way to breathe

What if I said to you
'There's a way out of this cesspool,
It isn't very far away
What if I promised you
a warm forgiving tomorrow
shorn of hate and anger

The secret simply is
Breathe a little love
Give a little more
And think of forgiveness
in your life, oh life
in our lives

Revenge is our only currency
It's got the highest rate of interest
But there are no returns
Save enough to get your free tempest

See your bags all packed
Shirts of anger, slacks of regret
Storm out and slam the door
Pain's picture in your back pocket

This can't be the only way to live
Just can't see another way to breathe

What if I said to you
'There's a way out of this cesspool,
It isn't very far away
What if I promised you
a warm forgiving tomorrow
shorn of hate and anger

The secret simply is
Breathe a little love
Give a little more
And think of forgiveness
in your life, oh life
in our lives

Monday, May 28, 2007


27 May 2007

virtual Jesus...

The normally wordy me is now bereft of words...

This is why!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Tales of the Disciple #2: It's in the Seniority Silly!

The thick matte darkness slowly and ever so gently, to the strains of a solemn melancholy oriental tune, swirls out of its thick fog to reveal a courtyard with huge flat square dull grey stone tiles laid closely next to each other. In between them grew a sliver of carefully manicured grass. The tops of the grass ended at exactly equal the height of the stones. In the middle of the courtyard stood two men. One was an old though handsome looking man of erect bearing dressed in a loose fitting though neat looking brown robe. Standing beside him was a taller though slightly hunched fat man whose dirty puke-green robe were at its limits in containing him. Only the youthfulness of his face, which was the best feature on his face, hinted that he was younger than the man that stood beside him. Both baldly faced a fantastic vista of snowcapped mountains of bluish hue with some in the distance shyly draping themselves with sedate though large fluffy clouds nearby. It was still bright despite the sun being happily muffled by the sweetness of the air.
'The air up here is beautiful,' said the Master as he took a deep breath, smiling as he exhaled slowly, savouring it.
'Yes. The mountains are nice too,' replied the fat disciple.
They stood there in silence for a moment, one enjoying the view with his eyes closed as if in ecstasy and the other whose ends of his thick furrow brows slowly inched closer as his lips pursed and twisted quite unnecessarily.
'Do you know why I asked you to accompany me, oh ample anteater?' asked the Master, the deep and rich timbre of his voice loud and clear though sounding as if part of Nature herself.
'Ah, Master, it is as if you read my thoughts!' replied the fat one, startled at being discovered.
'Alas, such powers are beyond one such as I. It was your face that betrayed you
, oh stout water buffalo. It twitches so loudly like the death throes of a fish upon a tiled floor,' the Master helpfully explained.
'Ah, Master! Thy ears are as sharp as thy thoughts. Praise be to the Eternal Presence for thy presence,' began the disciple enthusiastically his spirits rising.
'Enough!' the Master commanded. 'Cut the chatter. Get to the matter.'
The disciple trembled at this firmness of his Master's tone.
'Yes, Master!' he cried. 'My grief is over a matter that happened middle this week Master. I, along with, disciple Ji, were tasked with tending to the library that day.'
'Yes, Master. He is a one of our new additions last week. But he was a very senior disciple in some other Master's teachings.'
'I see. Carry on.'
'Thank you, Master. One of the senior students came to me to regarding an interpretation on a particular portion in the text of Balraoth. I do not claim to know much, Master, but the text of Balraoth I do know. This is my favourite reading. The quality of prose there is unrivalled amongst the other texts. The portion that he required assistance too was one that I knew by heart. So I tried to explain it to him but he stopped me soon after. He requested I ask a senior librarian to explain it for him. I told him of my familiarity and love for the text and suggested he hear me out. He reluctantly agreed. So I started. While I was doing so, I could see his eyes leaping behind me and scouring the area. The way his eyes widened and retracted to its normal size indicated he had caught sight of disciple Ji reading quietly with both his arms folded on the table and his face looming over the text, overwhelming it with his shadow and shrugged shoulders. I could then see his mind turning. His eyes were fixed on me to give the impression he was listening but I could see a void forming in the centre of his pupils as he gave himself completely over to thought. Even before the last syllable barely left off my mouth, he punched me with a question. 'That's very interesting. Thank you. I was wondering. Do you think I could have a word with our brother over there?' I was boiling with indignation even as I informed disciple Ji of his new found admirer. Since I was tending the reception, I went back to my station and sat down. I heard disciple Ji try to explain it to him. With the greatest respect, Master, he got it all wrong! He didn't even know which of the usual interpretive devices applicable! But that student looked on in awe at disciple Ji as if he were the author of the text itself. But anyway, that's what brought me to grief, Master,' said the disciple in one hasty, clumsy, spittle spitting go. None of the spittle touched the old man.
'O, Chubby Cicada?'
'Yes, Master.'
'You talk too much. You have gone on at length. But you have not told me what it is that bothers you.'
'I'm sorry, Master. I don't understand.'
'That's the problem with you, dumpy dragonfly. You speak before you think. I do not know what your complaint is. From what you told me,
you met the student's request. He came in seeking a senior librarian's opinion. He asked you to put them in touch and you did. He left happy because he got what he wanted. What are you upset about?'
'But I could give him the correct interpretation, if he asked me!' wailed the disciple.
'Ah. You are upset he did not ask you?'
'Yes!' cried the disciple a little too enthusiastically.
'Because you knew the text very well?'
'Yes. I would have given him the correct explanation.'
'I see. So that is why you are unhappy? Because the student was not interested in your explanation?'
'Tell me o' hefty mantis, would you find grief in everyone who overlooked you for an answer you knew?'
'Why not?'
'Because perhaps sometimes they didn't know to ask it from me.'
'Was that not the case with the student too?'
'But this is different because he came to ask me for help first, and he didn't listen.'
'Why should that be any different? Why should he believe what you say?'
'Because I was being honest!' cried the disciple.
'What has that got to do with whether he believes you or not?'
'Because its the truth.'
'But do all people seek truth?'
The disciple was nonplussed that his Master posed him such a question.
'All people should seek truth!'
The old man chuckled heartily.
'Yes, o' wobbly will 'o wisp. But you must learn to distinguish the is from the ought. What people think they are might not necessarily what they actually are. In the same way, the student thought what he needed was a senior librarian's opinion to be correct, not an explanation for him to consider and reflect upon. Clearly, he was merely seeking an easy answer to his problem, not an answer. Do you see now why you have no reason for grief?'
'Yes,' said the disciple, a warm smile slowly replacing his frown.
'Good. That shall be your lesson for the day. Let us retire.'
Both the unsightly disciple and lean old man rose from their cross-legged posture and walked towards what looked like an entrance to the forest. The disciple rummaged in the right pocket of his robes and fished out a thin piece of paper with some words scrawled on it.
'Just a moment, Master. Let me just read the directions again from ...' said the disciple before a gust of wind snatched the paper from his hands and blew it all the way to the edge of the cliff where it did a little swirly dance before leaping off.
The scene slowly fades to a jet black darkness to the strains of a violin riffing on some variation by Paganini before being brought to a sudden end with a loud discordant note blown by an old French horn that is due for servicing next week.
'O heavy hopper! Was that the map to our temple?'
'Uh... yeah, ' replied the disciple before mumbling quietly to himself, 'Shit. Should have brought the bloody mobile phone.'
'I heard that,' said the old man.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Warning: Idiots Crossing!

"Keselesaan yang tidak tertunggu-tunggu". Uh, erm... just what exactly the fuck are you trying to say?

PS: and why must all the billboards in KL nowadays have to have that "sayangi Kuala Lumpur" thingy? Whatever the fuck for?

Friday, May 25, 2007

Okin of the Twilight Kingdom (Part 3)

when darkness thunders
seek the lightning
behind the clouds

Na el harikansintum

(The language of anh used here is a very potent language where one syllable speaks many things. This paragraph can only be translated into our language as follows: Obayamaashi, the great king that came through the needle of an eye that performed feats of gods, built for us the dam, irrigated our lands and introduced farming to our kingdom; who heals the sick and poor; who stands for justice and peace; who raised an army of soldiers from the dead and defeated the evil and hated Inirath; and thus brought peace to our land.)

Bow thy head on bended knee
Offer up thy prayer
of thanks and Love

Guide Him
With thy Life

'You are a very perceptive man, Elder Ti,' said Memnoch before he broke into a smile as he carefully rolled the scroll up, 'to wring so much from so little.'
'My Lord is generous. But this is not true at all. I have memorized the poem and recited it both by mind and mouth thousands of times, before young and old, fair and hideous. In fairness, it was completely obvious as it should have been.' Memnoch's smile widened. He started to feel at ease and comfortable in the village especially in Elder Ti's company. He was meticulously humble and modest. Always ready to deflect or politely decline even a flicker of praise. Elder Ti was the sort of man who felt that if he accepted the praise, he would have the duty and obligation to live up to it and so assiduously declined all praise.
'I trust my Lord's quarters are agreeable?'
'Yes, these humble surroundings are a welcome change from the luxury that I have unfortunately grown accustomed to.' His smile broke into a contemplative mood.
'I humbly apologize for the spartan accommodation for one such as yourself, my Lord.'
'Think nothing of it, Elder Ti. And please, call me Memnoch. I am no king here.'
'Ah, It would please me as nothing else would. But knowing what I know, it would not be possible. My Lord.'
'You claim me as your king yet you disobey my command?'
Elder Ti stood motionless.
'Well, you are at liberty to anyway,' said Memnoch with a smile just touching the edges of his mouth. 'Tell me, what is it like here in Jula, or Haleon, if you can.'
'It has not been good. My Lord's last presence here was so long ago that most of our lands have forgotten you. It pains me to tell my Lord that this village is the last surviving village that believes in your prophecy. And even then, many amongst them have discarded their traditions. Fairytales they call our sacred texts that have come down through countless generations. I just may be the last person that truly knows and would be able to preserve our literature. My only student is still too young and lacking in experience and learning. I just hope that he learns enough before I die. What is more, many have left for the many large cities far away. Some used to take the trouble to come home. But now, it's a rare event. So life here is quiet and far away from everything and everyone else. I should think some of them might think us very primitive, living the way we do.'
'Ah. Not at all. It is honest here, there are no trappings of excess. So there is little contact with the outside world here?'
'None whatsoever.'
'How many are there in the village?'
'Almost a hundred, divided into only a handful of households. As Elder of the village, I have the largest household with twenty three. Thankfully, one of my assistants attends to the routine matters.'
'I see.' Memnoch went quiet and seemed to be pondering over something. A cool gentle breeze whispered through the room. 'Tell me, Elder Ti, Was Magick used here by the previous Obayamaashi?'
'Magick? Well, I have suspected something like that. The texts are not explicit about it, but it is strongly implicit. It would explain many things.'
'That is interesting and comforting to know.'
'But do people in your lands practise Magick?'
'No. The Magick that we know of here are only those tricks of sleight of hand.'
Before Memnoch could continue, a huge black crow flapped itself down noisily on to the window frame. The crow blocked out most of the sunlight that before came unhindered into the room. Its silhouette threw itself across the room and loomed largely on the wall opposite the window. It's huge glassy black eyes turned to Elder Ti for a moment and then to Memnoch. It then paced the window sill back and forth whilst eyeing them warily. Elder Ti seemed calm but there was a tight tenseness to his face when the bird was in the room. He stood rooted watching the bird and furtively murmuring something under his breath.
Memnoch studied the big jet black crow that didn't walk but strode from end to end, as if impatient for something to happen. Its feathers were so perfectly black that they all looked like one smooth slick mass of black. Its beak was a steely determined grey. Its eyes seemed to be searching the room, its pupils darting around the edges.
Memnoch was jarred out of his study by a loud thud. It was the old man striking the floor with his stick three times. The crow emitted a loud ear splitting screech and in a scratchy though malicious sounding screeched, 'Welcome back, Obayamaashi. I have awaited your return for a long, long time. You shall not escape this time!' And with that the huge crow alighted into the sky, gradually fading away into a clear blue sky. Elder Ti's and Memnoch's eyes followed it into the distance, as if keeping the crow under close scrutiny would deter it from returning.
Elder Ti turned to Memnoch and in a grave voice said,
'My Lord, we have to leave.'
'Yes,' replied Memnoch.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

the way of the Samurai... #2

Get in. Belt up. And hang on for your dear life!!! Click here!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Of Ghosts

Ghosts. Believe it or not. I used to believe. But these days, after being instilled with a healthy dose of logical reasoning, psychology and biology, I find them much harder to believe. Before I explain why, let's just state what I mean by ghosts. I shall adopt the ordinary visual of them. Ghosts are those spirits of persons who were formerly alive that remain or dwell on earth. These spirits can sometimes be seen. Usually they are invisible, but if one is lucky, they will be translucent but not so much that some of their features cannot be made out. They can be benign and helpful like Casper or Dr. Malcolm Crowe in Shyamalan's Sixth Sense, or suffering and requiring resolution like Sam Wheat in Ghost or a bunch of nasty ass mofos like most of them horror movies. Why most ghosts in popular culture tend to be of evil and malicious intent would make an interesting meditation but it is irrelevant for the purpose of this post.

Ghosts are not supposed to exist according to the laws of science. Biology dictates that we need a properly functioning corporeal body in existence to be able to do the things that we do. Without a brain, our body would not function - either automatically or consciously. Thinking is caused by the firing of neurons in our brains. And ghosts do not possess brains nevermind neurons, so how do they think? How do they form sophisticated intents, thoughts and puzzle solving solutions (i.e. swooping through the air and chasing somebody through walls)? Physics dictates that we are bound by gravity - but ghosts defy gravity. How do they do this? How is it that mistlike or apparition of theirs can defeat gravity so simply? And how do ghosts defeat the Second Law of Thermodynamics i.e. entropy by switching from a warm body to a cold one and to an incorporeal one which possess certain heat properties? Finally, what of Chemistry? What chemical compositions are these beings who have shed their corporeal body? Nobody can say.

Then there is the logical difficulties faced with a belief in ghosts. How does one become a ghost? Some say, that they have to be frustrated beings or did not complete their 'mission in life' or revenge, and stay until it is done. But that describes about 99% of the world population - we should have a lot more or a lot less ghosts than are reported. And why do they hang around at certain places unable to travel the world? If they are translucent, highly mobile and have designs, why can't they just drift around the world? Why is it some people can see them but others cannot? Does one need a slightly different biological make up like the Moken children's eyes that have specially adapted itself to the water and can see twice as sharp underwater than normal people? Nobody knows.

One might think it strange that we should be scared and bothered of ghosts considering how illogical existence is and how little we know of it. But this attitude is one all too human - abhoring the unknown and painting it with his prejudices until he becomes afraid of his own creation.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

i have nothing better to do!

Tune Hotel, RM9.99 per night. Tune Hotel car park, RM2 for the first hour and after that, well, RM1.50 per hour. Hotel room is Rm9.99 for 24 hours. Parking charges are RM36.50 for 24 hours. Well, they are not very in tune with each other in'it? One is singing a tune, the other is singing a different tune altogether no? It's like so out of tune, right? So not in tune. So not very tuneful. Datuk Tuney Fernandez, I know you are so clever lah... but you better retune this one, or else not many will dance to your tune la daeeey!

If ever there is a proof that some DBKL officers are on crack, this is it! I mean, look at this roadsign. What is "IRR"? Investment Return Rate? So, if I make a turn into, say, Jalan Kinabalu, what is my investment return rate? 44%? And what is the 3.6 in the middle supposed to mean? Is that the IQ of the person who designed this, this Dali-nesque plaque of super stupidity? This roadsign must be entered in the Guinness World Record (er, why is the world records kept by Guinness? Doesn't that make it unreliable? Hahah... sorry, I am just wondering!) as the stupidest, most complicated, most ridiculous lobotomy-induced-piece-of-shyte masquerading as a roadsign in the whole universe! It looks like the long lost drawing of a giant octopus which attacked Columbus just after he got around the Cape of Good Hope. I read the script. It says, "aftereth we got aroundeth the Capeth of Goodeth Hope, a monstereth with multiple tentacles attacketh us and gobbled up two of our looketh like this!". Yes, it looks like this one! And whoever decided to place this so called roadsign just 1 metre from the relevant intersection, must be mixing his crack with some UHU super glue and 3 cups of Shahab whiskey with an alcohol content of 88% or thereabout! Moron!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Before Lunch

Al Mahara @ Burj Al Arab,
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
December 2006

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Holy Man

Believe in me
And I will deliver you
Get on your worn knees pilgrim
Tell you what to do

Trust in me
And heaven's guaranteed
Just open your hearts and pockets
Pay for your sinful deeds

Don't tell me what you think is right
I've read the holy books by the divine light
Don't question me, that's the Devil's thought
I've been ordained by God, to stop unholy rot

Holy Man
That's what I am, I am
Not fucking superman
Just a Holy Man

Do as I fucking say
Not as I do
Don't give me lip now sonny
I know you do it too

Buy these holy things for your spiritual health
Buy them all, get discounts, maybe save yourself
Sell your land or your car or fucked up kids
God loves the sinner with generous deeds

Holy Man
That's what I am, I am
Not fucking superman
Just a Holy Man

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Reading the Thickie

Bloody Thick Book; A Thickie

I love to read. There's little that I enjoy reading - be it of any topic, whether it is about the uses of a corpse to the literature of Steinbeck to Sade, Achebe, Kawabata, Palahniuk to the philosophy colletions by Grayling (for the twenty minute philosophical brief), Hume, Kierkegaard to the anthologies of Coplestone and Russell to the meanderings of Ruskin to the studies of Winnicott, Postman and Holt to unadulterated filthy gutter porn to the essays of Hazlitt, Bacon and White to clothes labels, cereal boxes, computer equipment packaging to promotional pamphlets given and found. But my love for reading is without its Achilles Heel: the Thickie.

Thickies are defined as books with more than 400 pages of heavy denseness (many sentences per page) set in a small and austere font. These books usually have ugly page aesthetics. When you open the page, what you see in the page are not clean, precise and accurate depictions of alphabets arranged according to their groups and these in turn arranged in sentences of sufficient width (which combine to create a pattern of white and black on the page that is aesthetically pleasing when seen from a reasonably readable distance), you just see a thin, jagged line scurrying across the page leaving a daunting looking sentence. And when all of these hideous lines are put close to each other, they look like some sinister code that when recited would unleash the forces of evil upon earth and I would have to do battle with them and eventually triump over them in my leopard skin loin cloth, velvet red cape (that only stretches half way down my back), my sword forged by Zeus on one of his drunken bouts and a motorcycle helmet (nobody makes those iron helmets with spikes anymore) with a Hello Kitty sticker stuck on the right side. [Note to self: start working out so body looks good in battle outfit. Split one pack to eight pack so loincloth and cape can also be washed on stomach].

Worse are those books that use paper that are really supposed to be used on frilly lingerie. Some of them are so thin as to be transparent that when you turn the page, if you focused your eyes intensely enough (like men are wont to do with finely built women in whatever clothing), you can even see the printed words and setences on the opposite side. I can understand the use of it by budget publishers and for budget books but this sort of quality paper is simply unacceptable for books, of whatever thickness or thinness. After all, how is one supposed to use the damn book when one is stuck in the toilet without any tissue paper and no friends around nearby to get that roll of toilet paper for you? Paper like that can barely hold print, it sure as hell ain't holding shit.

But despite my issues with thickies, that does not mean that I don't attempt them or even on rare occasions finish them. I just have to go through an elaborate pre-reading ritual before I commence the book. Depending on the thickness, length and hardness (of the writer or writing), it takes up to about 2 - 3 weeks before I begin books of such volume.

The first thing I do is to read a few shorter books in quick succession. These are books of excellent writing and inevitably tend to be classics. The reason for this is to build up my reading stamina and appreciation. Stamina is gained from reading several books in quick succession and the different books are to help keep things interesting or prevent the exercise of reading from being too monotonous. It is important for me to read good books so that my benchmark for quality is set and fresh in my mind when I attempt the thickies. These books are also important in helping me practise my appreciation of the plot, dialogue, themes and style of writing - and perhaps to see if there are resonances in the thickies with some of the great novels of literature.

The second thing is to place the book in a place where I would see it often or regularly. This is to affix in my mind that I will be attempting that book soon. It is like the climber that sits in some Swiss cottage in some funky sounding Swiss village near the Alps on a cool spring day out in his garden blowing on his cup of freshly brewed coffee whilst basking in the magnificence of the jagged snowcapped mountain range, toying in his mind how he would climb it. So the idea is something like that even though the reality is nothing like that. What usually happens is I just put the book on my study table and can't help but see it because of its size. And what you see everyday becomes less daunting and smaller even as time goes by.

The third thing is to 'flip it'. To flip it would be to pick up the book and feel the weight of it resting on your hands; to smell the earthiness of its pages by gently spreading it wide and then dipping your nose carefully right down the middle and inhaling deeply; caressing the pages to feel its texture - smooth as a virgin's or sticky traction like a lover's skin after several bouts of love making; turn to the front to see just how much introductions, preface and table of index has to offer and then to the back to check the booty and see what extras they have as back up - endnotes, references, bibliographies, interviews with the author and further reading recommendations; then determining just how many pages I will be actually reading; if the book is tempting enough, I may be even tempted to read a few lines here and there just to taste the book - which may whet my appetite for more.

Finally, there is the inevitable reading. The conditions must be optimal before I start this book. And whilst I don't consult a feng shui guy or get a colonic irrigation before I start, the environment in which I begin the book must be pleasant and cozy. I definitely cannot commence reading the book whilst taking a dump in the toilet nor in the car while driving to work or even during work. Its not conducive nor convenient. An example of optimal conditions for commencement of a thickie attempt would be perhaps on my sofa in my study with the airconditioning at twenty three degrees centigrade, with a freshly opened can of beer, soft pleasant music (like Norah Jones, John Mayer or Keane) playing unobstrusively in the background, a pencil and eraser on hand, comfortably attired - like a pair of boxers and singlet, and finally a few uninterrupted hours. These days, that sounds like waiting for planets and starts to align to form a shape much like my arse. Which probably explains why I don't read many thickies as I should.

There's also one thing I noticed in the literature kingdom - that most of modern classics of literature tend to be on the short side (unless you are Russian then short is something like less than 1000 pages) - I wonder whether that is because most people are also daunted, don't have the time or are lazy when it comes to reading a thickie. More interestingly, I wonder whether a thickie has any place in this fast paced Internet environment where time is not one or five o'clock but money.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Words and Phrases

Affection Break: The affection that your partner lavishes grandly on you during a commercial break but evaporates the moment the series s/he was watching resumes. The maximum amount of Affection Breaks in an episode is limited by the amount of commercial breaks in an episode or program.

Zakaria: The name with which to describe a penis in a state of contentment, satisfiaction or happiness (Zakatakria is the antonym).

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Chapati Moments: Auntie Roopah and the Temple of Doom

It is now time to tell you a bit about Auntie Roopah. Though I find her quite a loathsome and pathetic creature, some of you might feel that she deserves our pity. I was hard pressed to find a photo of her. This is the best I can do. Androo's drawing of his mother when he was 4 years old. And this was drawn before he caught his father in the act of riding his mother like Zorro. Auntie Roopah is the daughter of an immigrant labourer - something our Cabinet Minister would call a "buruh kasar" (rough labourer/menial worker). You can read more on the Cabinet Minister's faux pas here (just click).

You don't really need me to tell you this about Auntie Roopah. You would have deduced it yourself if you had met her. She met Uncle Veloo when he was a nobody kitchen boy at an Indian restaurant where she worked as a washer woman. They were attracted to each other almost instantly - drawn and bound by their debased nature. These two debased creatures clawed their way up society through 10% hard work and 90% through their conniving ways. Having accumulated the restaurant and expanding it into a chain, they sought to reinvent themselves as people from an established and privileged background. But their coarse manner, garish mansion which they named "Castle Veloo" (not realising it sounds more like a pub than a residence) and peasant-like features fool no one. They have made sure all their sons are well educated and married off to well established families as though this in itself would erase their humble beginnings. All Uncle Veloo and his wife need to complete this picture is an honorary PhD bestowed upon them by some dubious university in India to make them feel legit.

And like most nouveau riche, who lacked the proper upbringing, they quickly forget their roots, talking down on their own kind who are less fortunate and treating their staff like slaves. Flashing their luxury car which they need to upgrade every year, Rolex watches, distasteful jewellery and overbright sarees at social events which they had to pay an arm and a leg to get an invitation. The only way they can get their faces featured in Tatler or Le Prestige is to take out a full page advertisement in these magazines. By now Auntie Roopah has already concocted some farfetched story that she is the granddaughter of some maharajah of an unheard of province in India and is ready to call herself Princess Roopah should Tatler choose to do a feature on her.

Yes, I know I have rambled on for 3 paragraphs now and have yet to describe her looks. At best, she is the closest thing one could describe as "the missing link". Yes, Darwin's missing link between ape and man. She has thick jet black coarse frizzy hair, a flared nose, thickish dark lips, a strong set of molars, bushy eyebrows forming a unibrow as they meet at the center, more than a hint of moustache above her upper lip, a big mole (which looks more like a wart) protruding at the left corner of her upper lip. There are at least 3 stubborn hairs springing out of this mole, taunting you as you watch her speak, driving you insane, provoking you to attack her with a tweezer.

Her arms and legs are covered with coarse hair. She is quite stout. Stout and squat. Her underarm hair is allowed to grow wild unchecked - quite an unpleasant sight when she wears those sleeveless saree blouses. Even the Italians and the French would find this sight quite revolting particularly if they catch a whiff of the pungent aroma drifting from this untrimmed undergrowth. Years of eating blue cheese would not have prepared the French for this assault on their seasoned nostrils. But you would not be surprised at all if I told you that Uncle Veloo loves to bury his nose deep into Auntie Roopah's underarm. The pungent aroma heightens his sexual senses. Anything goes with that Uncle Veloo.

Under the advice of an image consultant whom they engaged before their son Androo's wedding, Auntie Roopah had her hair straightened (rebonding they call it) and styled into a short bob. It looks like she is wearing an ill fitting wig though there is some slight improvement to her previous washer woman look. Uncle Veloo, under the advice of the same consultant, now sports a very short fringe across his forehead. One would think that there is going to be a remake of Spartacus soon, looking at them or another remake of Planet of the Apes.

Securing Maya for her daughter in law was a major feather in Auntie Roopah's cap. Maya is from a prominent well established family who made their millions selling plastic flowers to the Government. Only recently, Maya's ingenuous father secured a contract to design and build 170 pintu gerbangs all over the country. Pintu means door and gerbang I don't know how to translate. Its some kind of commemorative arch. A pintu gerbang is an objet d'art. A structure of great necessity to this country and its citizens. It gives people a sense of belonging and pride of the area they live in. It keeps people from getting lost and not knowing where they are. Just when you think you have been driving for hours and don't know where you are, a pintu gerbang looms up ahead of you with the words "Selamat Datang ke Sabak Bernam" (Welcome to Sabak Bernam).
A mere signboard at the side of the road is not good enough for Malaysians. They like to do things in a big way. They need a structure hovering over the road to welcome them to somewhere every 5 miles. And each State try to outdo the other in terms of design and uniqueness of their pintu gerbangs. Some may cost many millions to build. Certain States splurge out on canons strategically placed at each side of the pintu gerbang. Nothing like having canons pointing at you as you drive into a certain State to make you feel welcome. Like those canons perched outside the majestic colonial government building on top of a hill in Johor Bahru, pointing towards the teeny weeny island of Singapore, reassuring them that we are friendly neighbours. We should test fire these canons to see if they are still working. Then we can also gauge how many times we need to fire to sink Singapore.

Ok, ok, I digress from our jungle bunny Auntie Roopah. Auntie Roopah has a particular fondness for pintu gerbangs. When they were dating, Uncle Veloo and her used to meet at their nearest pintu gerbang. If anyone were to pen their love story (yuks!), it would surely be called "Cinta Pintu Gerbang". Cinta means love. Pintu Gerbang I have already explained at great length. See picture above.

Auntie Roopah is at the temple this morning. Once a week she goes there in the early hours of the morning to sweep the floor. You may think this is a very odd activity for someone who is trying to erase her background. But Auntie Roopah believes that by performing this service, the Gods will smile kindly upon her as they have already done through these years, raising her status in society from a miserable washer woman to a grasping rich wife. Little does she know that the Gods are planning to have her reborn as a fat hairy pig or wild boar in her next incarnation befitting her behaviour in this life.

Why do people not realise that God doesn't give a fuck whether the temple floor is clean or not??? For as long as your heart is unclean and you treat your fellow beings shoddily, you will surely incur God's contempt no matter how many floors you clean even if you choose to lick the floor clean out of your devotion. But still she continues to labour on, sweeping the floor each week, like the long suffering wife who diligently mops the kitchen floor everyday so that her husband will think himself lucky to have such an excellent homemaker - when in truth, he would rather she spend those early hours in the morning sitting on his face instead of seeing his face reflected off the spotless kitchen floor.

Unbeknownst to Uncle Veloo, Auntie Roopah also goes to church on Sundays. I can't rightly say that she is pretending to be a Christian. Auntie Roopah's concept of religion is a little different from ours. She doesn't see anything wrong in having several religions - what's wrong with adding one more God in your prayers? she thinks to herself. She quite enjoys herself at church. Here she is allowed to belt out hymns off key at the top of her lungs and nobody dares complain. She would have liked to go to the mosque too and be a Muslim except that she finds it difficult to pray to a God when she has no idea what he looks like. There isn't even a picture of their prophet let alone a statue of their God! The idea of praying to an unseen God is something she cannot quite grasp. On top of that these Muslims are a fussy lot - they don't like you stepping in & out of their religion like a yoyo. You could end up in jail. And these religious officers will be coming to your house checking if your husband and family are Muslims. No, no... she would rather not go there. There might be a tussle over her dead body when she dies like that mountain climber wots-his-name.

What compelled her to go to church initially was seeing the photo of the Pope's private secretary, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein. Oh what a dish! she thought to herself, salivating at the thought of confessing her sins to him. Swoon! She was the first person trying to get into the local Catholic Church that Sunday. She sat at the front row, only to be disappointed that the priest is another Indian like herself, whose face is as black as the kuali (frying pan) she uses to fry onions. Where are the Italian priests??? Such misrepresentation!

Nevertheless she persevered with going to church. She thinks the people there are refined and she can hobnob with the upper echelons of society. We should not condemn Auntie Roopah for what many people are guilty of doing in this country no matter what religion they profess. Friday prayers for the Muslims have now become a major networking exercise. People check where the Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers and corporate bigwigs are praying before deciding which mosque they should go to. Partners of law firms study where their target clients pray and which restaurant they eat at after prayers. Then lo and behold! These partners are conveniently praying next to their target clients and later, eating at the same restaurant. Come next month, they are all chummy and going to Mecca together to perform their Umrah or Hajj with these clients. Annual trips to Mecca with clients, the Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers have become the norm for those who want to get ahead in life. These corporate personalities and politicians will be travelling with their large entourage & posse of hangers on and sycophants. This is their ideal opportunity to get up close and personal with these dignitaries and important people. Not to God. In fact, does anyone even remember God anymore? Our Prime Minister stays up at night to pray hoping that God will reciprocate by running the country for him during the day whilst he sleeps through meetings and functions. Ah, the powers of delegation! The way we behave, you would think that humans created God to serve them instead of the other way round. The minute we hit the prayer mat, out comes our wish list. God please grant me :-

a. ...

b. ....

c. ...etc and the list is endless. "After all, I am doing what you are asking me to do ie praying, so now you must reward me for remembering you for the last 5 minutes of my precious time." Bloody hypocrites - that's what we are when it comes to God. We created God and Satan so that they can take the flak for all the atrocities we inflict on each other. In fact we put the blame on God more than we blame Satan for them!

The Spanish Inquisition - in the name of God.

The Crusades - in the name of God.

A busload of school children in Israel blows up - in the name of God.

President Bush (together with Blair and Howard) invades Iraq and kills thousands of innocent people - in the name of their God - Oil and their religion - democracy.

God doesn't need your prayers - you need them. Stop torturing God with your offkey yowling of what was once a beautiful hymn. Yes you may think that I am the Devil incarnate for saying all this. I am Loocifer. The much maligned devil. Let me show you the faces of true evil walking this earth:-

Oh yes, where was I? Auntie Roopah comes home from the temple, opens the front door and catches her maid, Rajustahoari, on her priceless persian carpet bonking her son Koomar ....

To be continued.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Malay Political Moulin Rouge

Note: I had written this just after last year's UMNO General Assembly. An edited version of this piece appeared in Malaysia Kini. This piece will always be relevant, in my opinion, every time UMNO has its general assembly because year in year out this is what they will discuss! So, here it is, the unedited version, warts and all...

“from the fool’s gold mouthpiece the hollow horn plays wasted words…”

- Dylan : it’s alright, ma ( I am only bleeding)

Mired in intellectual mediocrity; corrupt of any constructive socio-economics ideas and lacking in real leadership quality, the UMNO delegates – and their so called leaders alike – resorted to rhetoric bordering on surreal idolism and flirted with jingoism. If patriotism is, indeed, as Samuel Johnson puts it, the last refuge of a scoundrel, than the mother of all scoundrels had, in the past week, manifested itself and bred aplenty at the PWTC.

If, during the Mahathir era, the UMNO General Assembly would almost inevitably be preceded by the launch of a repackaged Proton car disguised as a new model by Tengku Mahalil and his band of auto clowns from Shah Alam, the chest beating agenda of this year’s assembly was set in no other than the birth state of UMNO, Johor. About 10 days before this year’s assembly, launched with much aplomb and pageantry by Pak Lah and his band of Ben Elton’s wannabes was a very ambitious - albeit economically and strategically puzzling - project dubbed the “South Johor Economic Region”. It is a project “2.5 times the size of Singapore (yes, size matters ; see KLCC for cross reference please) and 48 times as big as Putrajaya” (as succinctly reported by the Star on 4th November 2006).

The PM has obviously perfected the art of political rally driving where he would say something and almost immediately thereafter do a 180 degree turn in typical Possum Bourne fashion. “We will build the crooked bridge to Singapore come what may” one minute and “after considering public sentiments about it, we have now decided not to build it” one minute later. Public sentiment my foot! “I don’t need to build monuments and mega project” some months ago and “2.5 times the size of Singapore and 40 times as big as Putrajaya” come early November. Valentino Rossi, here comes the real new kid on the block, boy!

If Mahathir would just be content with a chest-beating precursor to HIS assembly, the current PM has taken it further. There must also be an “intellectual” (why is it that I chuckle when I was typing the word “intellectual”?) precursor. The real tone of the assembly was set by Ghani Othman a day after the launch of the SJER when he contrived a meek and what was, in reality, an intellectually challenged, polemic on Bangsa Malaysia. “Bangsa Malaysia is not acceptable”, screamed the headlines on 6th November 2006. What followed over the next few days was a polemic, which is, to F1, the Super Aguri team and to normal healthy people, a kindergarten talk!

And so, the day came. Amidst all the white baju melayu and red sampins as well as the white baju kurung and red kains (and of course, the current politically correct white tudungs!), the obligatory Keris was carried around, unsheathed and brandished. And, the rhetoric commenced!

Hishamuddin Hussein, in a rare display of decisiveness, decided to un-Hussein-Onn himself. Ditching the soft, smooth and diplomatic ways his father was well known for he delivered an ear shattering speech. His message was loud and clear. Well, it was very loud and a lot unclear, actually! His deputy and the most famous son in law, Khairi Jamaluddin did not want to be left out as well. His was a fiery speech. Even a super senior UMNO stalwart who dared to question the NEP came under attack by KJ. When interviewed after the assembly, he was quoted as saying “they (the speeches) were fiery, but there was no fire”. Haha…excuse me for my laugh, but wasn’t that exactly the point? Fiery but no fire? Clever but not smart? All words but no substance?One after another took the centre stage. Topics ranging from the all too obvious our-leaders-doing- well-and-so-let-him-do-it-his-way to a minister’s wife’s exposed breasts were brought up, dissected, discussed and shouted about in earnest. After all, it was to be a week for the Malay agenda to be brought to the fore. The message was clear. We are the Malays. We have our rights. We are in a struggle. We struggle for our race. We struggle for our religion. We struggle for the struggles of our forefathers. Don’t you make us angry by questioning our rights, or by disturbing our struggles. We wouldn’t like that. We would get angry and when we are angry, we will unsheathed our Kris, all 6 inch of it, and poke you!

The PM’s speech was assuring to all Malaysians. We must not drown ourselves into ultra-conservatism. There must be religious and racial integration, and tolerance. While we lead the country, we must be fair and just. It was a breadth of fresh air. And that was it, air. Nothing more! What is your, and UMNO’s, vision of our country Pak Lah? And where is the path that is going to take us to that vision? Where is the socio-economics blueprint that is going to guarantee that we all are not going to drown ourselves in ultra-conservatism, that is going to guarantee racial and religious integration and tolerance, that is going to bring your idea of transparency and accountability to fruition? Where? What? How? None!

The usual applause and pleasantries followed. It was a good speech. And all UMNO thank you for it. And don’t anybody dare to say anything bad about it please. Because at UMNO, we unite with one aim, one voice and….one opinion! Mukhriz Mahathir found that out to his chagrin when he said the speech was nothing new!

When everything else went on with the usual accompanying boredom, something has to be done to spice things up. Enter Datuk Azhar Mansur. He made an appearance. Denied that he is no more a Muslim. Like, duh?

And so the assembly came to a close. The delegates did some shopping and went back home. And life goes on with its attendant normalcy. Why can’t they just leave all of us alone?

“And if my thought-dreams could be seen
They'd probably put my head in a guillotine
But it's alright, Ma, it's life, and life only.”

- Dylan: It’s Alright Ma (I am just bleeding)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Superfluousness of Watches

Vacheron Constantin's Tour de l'Ile

The wristwatch is actually a rather recent invention. Its predecessor was the once widely used pocket watch. However, due to the growth of consumerism and consumer demands, the original purpose of the wrist watch, as a time keeping equipment, which seems rather quaint in this day and age, is becoming obsolete. Why do you need to look at your wrist watch when your phone, which you look at more often than your watch tells you the time; or the ubiquitousness of the clock in most modern vehicles; or the digital clocks that dot the city; or the computer you are using tells it to you too; or from the television programs; or just from the movement of the people around you (it's lunch when the office is deserted)? If you are an urban dweller who is reading this article right now - you can go through an entire day without having to look at your watch.

But just as its functional purpose is in decline, its value as a fashion accessory or financial investment is on the rise. For the former, you need only go to any Swatch outlet to see a plethora of different designs on the watches aside from the materials used for the watches (steel, plastic, leather) and the designs of the watches itself (funny shaped face, terribly stylish face which is useless for telling the time, novel and therefore weird straps). They are cheap, attractive and plentiful. This outlet doesn't try to sell you a watch. Collect us all! they cry from their stylish display cases. That's right, these days you buy a collection of watches. These sort of watches are used then rather to mark your affiliation, to make a statement, to complement your clothes, or to waste your money - everything else really except tell the time. Some of the designs don't even pretend to tell you the time anymore. And do they really think that James Bond Collection of watches is going to be worth a damn 500 years from now? It's ironic to find these consumers try to inject a sense of posterity (and hence durability) in an environment of and with a product geared towards transience and disposability. And that's on the one end.

On the other end of the spectrum you have the luxury watches which are so expensive some people can work their entire lives and not even save up half the purchase price. One such watch for example would be the Vacheron Constantin's Tour de l'Ile which is touted (by the company of course) as the world's most complex watch every made, requiring 834 parts which took over 10,000 man-hours to create and features an 18-carat silvered gold dial with a hand-sewn alligator leather band and pink gold buckle. That goes for a measly US$1.6 million. I personally find such watches vulgar, ostentatious, no matter how elegantly stylish the watch and ultimately futile because all that effort goes to a watch that will be little used, little looked at, little shown and kept in a small little box in a very established and highly secured bank. I sometimes wonder how these watch makers feel to make something so durable and of such worth only for it to be kept in a box for the rest of its entire life, to make something so useless. Perhaps they are too well paid to care anymore.

But thankfully, not all watches are that pricey of course. Thankfully the people at places like Rolex, Patek Phillipe, Audemar Piguet and Jaegar Le Coultre understand that there are those amongst us (not me of course!) who have a few tens, if not hundreds, of thousand of dollars to spare and want similarly styled watches. And to sweeten the deal of course they gull their customers into thinking that these are things of value and will increase in value over time. Hence that is why these days, people talk about watches as an investment, when before, the people who collected watches did so out of passion or curiosity. That's what the heady days of the 80's followed by the 90's have done to us - our hobbies (including sports) are capitalized and exploited. These days, if you like something or doing something, you have to justify its economic value, or these days its health values. It's so tedious sometimes! What happened to the days we did something simply because we liked it and it felt good? So for all these highly expensive and useless (in the true sense of the word) objects, time too is not the issue - in fact, almost accidental, and sometimes almost absent from the watch itself. And that is just one of the unfathomable amount of ironies of humanity.

One thing I like about these highly expensive useless objects (HEUO) is how it tries to hold and improve its value its existence simply due to its limited in circulation and effluxion of time against the tide of disposal culture in our society, which probably has the most waste per person per kilogramme in the century of mankind, which prides itself on its cheapness and ready availability. But really, what value can it hold and how much can it improve? Nobody can say. Nobody dare say. When you think about it, why should these old ones grow in value when the company keeps producing new ones, better ones, improved ones? Simply because they are old and limited? Even though this was done deliberately?

And the hilarity of it all is that all these collectors are in kind of conspiracy with these watchmakers and it goes something like this: The watchmaker produces a timepiece for some ridiculous price spiels about how its mechanism uses this amount of parts, requiring so many thousands man hours to build and has this special feature and so because of all these useless crap which you will never use after you have shown it off to all your friends and moved on to your new objection of veneration. These community of collectors, speculators and just plan old watch lovers unconsciously conspire to agree that this timepiece shall grow in value as time passes. To back it up some of them actually play this game and the whole scheme is off and running, and soon after it becomes a culture, industry and source of profit.

But what are you buying really when you buy a watch in this day and age? It's not the watch, it's not the time, but other people's time. When you buy a highly expensive watch which is basically one of the most useless objects around, all you are buying the time of highly niche skilled group of people who have brought their entire life to bear on this endeavour. To me, all that's a whole lot of life, effort, money and time dedicated to a thin band of flesh on one's wrist, dontcha think?

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Length of Life

Hua Hin, Thailand
May 2006

Sunday, May 13, 2007

In Defence of Islam?

Those who, stand either individually or in clumps, claim that they are defending Islam do not trust in Allah and thereby blaspheme. These people are of narrow minds and materialistic creed. Let us consider some of the more relevant and obvious repercussions of accepting Allah as the "The Originator of the heavens and the earth!" (Surah 6:101) which is basically this Universe, and the many billion other universes out there, all that space, and clutter in between. We, in truth, don't even make up an atom of a grain of sand in the entire scheme of things. And those are just His creations - so, in truth, we will never be able to even comprehend Allah. Whoever claims they do, makes false claims for godhood. And therefore sins.

Let us consider this starting point: that we are unfathomably small in His entire design. We die out just like all other living things on this earth. Our lifespan is short - a maximum of just over one hundred - with an average of about late 60s these days. We, as Homo Sapiens, only arrived on the scene relatively recently i.e. about 400,000 years ago, and our recorded history only stretches back to about 32,000 years ago with those cave paintings in Chauvet Cave of Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc Cave, in southern France. The earth is estimated by scientists to be approximately between 4.5 - 6 billion years old. So that's how we are even compared to the earth. Nothing much. And the universe? Scientists currently estimate it to be about 13.7 billion years old. So in terms of times our Homo Sapien race existence compared to the universe - our significance is 0.0000029197080. Now you then divide that but all the many people, animals, etc. and you come through and we realize how insignificant any of us are.

When seen in this light, that Allah was long before us and shall be for ever, so what does it matter if some of his most insignificant creations on one of His billions, if not trillions, of galaxies and planet, does not believe in Him? What does it matter that there are these non-believers who speak ill of Him? The truth is that no one can harm Allah or his religion because we are in His realm. What is more, going by scripture, we are all answerable to him on Judgment Day, so why should we have to answer to someone lesser whilst we are alive? A comparative analogy of the relationship between Allah and mankind/His Universe would be as a computer programmer to his program. Whatever program a programmer programs into his computer can never harm him (assuming it is your usual standard desktop PC and not some robotic killer machine whose sole purpose is to annihilate any living thing) - he can manipulate it, change it, do virtually anything to it but the computer or its programs or the product of its program can never, ever harm the programmer. So when there is no threat, there cannot be a defence.

And Allah is Eternal and Creator of All - what possible threat can there be to the Supreme Being of the Universe? If even Satan himself cannot bring about such an event (because he will get his butt kicked in the End of Days), then what more the mere sons of Adam? And what do these ants think they can do in Allah's defence? That some of his sons thinks that Allah is in need of protection is to betray what they really think of themselves and Allah. The first is that they think too highly of himself and his worth to the Allah and the Universe and secondly, they think too lowly of Allah and his Creations. They do not say this explicitly, but there is no need to because actions have always spoken louder than words.

So what is this Defence of Islam really about then? It's the same thing that has happened over the centuries where religion is concerned: frustrated, unthinking, unlearned, morally and ethically corrupt human beings who want to achieve some control in his life and do so by piggybacking on a religion to establish a high moral position and to burn with righteous anger with supposed authority from God with which he can then carry out his psychosis. This Defence of Islam strategy is an attempt to play up their victimhood (defence presupposes an attack) to try and attract sympathy from unconcerned or unrelated parties. But then in banding together and claiming defence they then allow themselves the possibility of a pre-attack strike (because that is a defence too which America used as a justification in attacking Iraq). Ultimately, the entire strategy is geared towards confrontation and violence.

The truth of the matter is that the Defence of Islam was never about Allah. It was always about the corrupt Muslims who seek not to worship Allah in humility but to try reach His exalted status; and then in failing so miserably and ending up no better than Satan and his cronies, end up ultimately becoming a disgrace both to Islam and Allah.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Long Sentences

This is not about those given to people who have committed crimes. This is not an allegorical meditation about the penis (and so sentence being a supposedly clever metaphor for it; although a healthy amount of double entendre is envisaged to be present) nor a deconstruction of its possible use as a television antenna (a bit to the left, please) with a scintillating conclusion about how Peyronie's disease would facilitate a better reception. This is also not about using the word 'sentence' in the old fashioned sense when it was similar to a maxim or meant, 'an opinion given on a particular question'. This is about literature and my whimsical reply to the hegemony of those literati who take the position that sentences, be it in fiction or non-fiction, should be short, cogent if not potent. Each sentence tasked only to deliver one singularly clear and inevitable message to the reader. But this reply should not be construed to mean that I am in complete opposition to the beauty, readability and wonder of the shorter sentence. I love them as much too, as my recently published piece B indicated. When I am completely inebriated, I often fancy that I am able to construct short sentences with a smattering of literary merit that would make people want to read it. However, what I propose to do here is to expound a little on the benefits and pleasure of a long sentence, and how they are still relevant and important to writing; and that they should not always be neglected in favour of the cogent.

Ever since I began to write, I have been often told and advised that my sentence must be short. They must be clear, precise, cogent and potent. Is this word necessary? No? Then get rid of it. Can I replace those ten handsome words that I have lined up like United Nations peacekeepers from Bangladesh (with little branches as weapons) standing at attention with one muscled Rambo-like word that can do their work two times over? I can? Then bring in Rambo. Like Tomás de Torquemada, I would then ruthlessly hunt down all these bloated, flabby sentences and upon chancing upon them, root them out mercilessly and then fling them on the bonfire of vanity. If I saw a sentence that looked to tall, out my scythe would come and like the Grim Reaper himself, I shall cleave unto it and make it of appropriate length. I became so obsessed with writing very short sentences, that I even tried writing a non-fiction article using one word sentences but then grew annoyed with the amount of sentences each paragraph had. One paragraph even had 80 sentences simply because that was number of words used there. It just got out of hand. And put it this way after you have been Torquemada and Grim Ripper and deploying Rambos for a good part of your life, it wears you out and down.

You start to long for those days of peace, like a warrior king who has lost his taste for blood, battle but not for comely horny virgins or non-virgins for that matter (I am reliably informed that warrior kings only classify women in that manner). You start to wish you were able to write sentences that had more the feel of a long pleasant stroll under a canopy of trees in the woods with dust-specked shafts of light breaking through the foilage here and there. You begin to take pleasure in John Ruskin's prose which though meanders like a wandering sage, aimless though never without purpose or at the least, beauty. You are more forgiving with the indulgent sentence that perhaps did not say twice it could have with the same amount of words. The weight of sentences began to weight as much as the weight of words. Sentences you wrote now have a more family festiveness with the various punctuations that dance and play around it - there are commas, semi-colons, colons, the odd dash here and there, in addition to the full stop. You no longer worry that the entire sentence sometimes takes up one paragraph or that one paragraph takes several pages because you are not troubled or driven solely by that drive of businesslike efficacy. Business is business. Literature is literature. You may have a little of each within each other but they are not the same.

The difference in power between sentences can also be discerned if they are compared to like a boxer's punch (as opposed to a fruity one). And to me those ideal short sentences like I have described above are like a short, quick punch that keeps the opponent at a distance. Each punch is not powerful but many of them can wear an opponent down before he finally succumbs to a technical knock-out. Of course, once in a while one bears witness to a potently fatal though short and quick punch that does the job but those, like a superbly constructed short sentence full of meaning, don't come often. A long sentence, with its many shorter sentences held together by various punctuation devices, is able to house within it several short punches which can be used to set the stage for the delivery of the coup de grace. Longer sentences also very obviously have a longer reach and greater capacity for holding more information. Sometimes it is necessary to have certain information or facts at the forefront when considering something and short sentences are not helpful in this.

But good prose is a skilful and subtle combination of both. Reading an entire essay or work composed solely of one style or the other is painful and an eyesore, because I believe there is such a thing as page aesthetics (the beauty in the patterns that emerge when the sentences are arranged or formatted on a page). The instinct by these 'short people' to condemn something before they have even read it by simply looking at the length of a sentence must be condemned and put to the pen (so to speak, after all it is mightier than the sword). The problem with long sentence as usual lies not with the length, but the skill required to construct a good one. It certainly is harder to build a good long one compared to a good short one. After all, 'Jack screwed Jane' is theoretically perfect but completely lacking of any literary aesthetic, and its, like both Jack and Jane, easy. Now try to convey that same kind of information in 30 words in one sentence. Not easy... unless you are skilled (or read a lot of those sorts of sordid stories). So the blame then lies not with the sentence but the human. But then, it is common for mankind to blame everything else, including his own inventions, for whatever failings except his-self.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Sometimes to be Cruel is to be Kind

Recently, the wife of a friend of mine threw a party for him. He and his then ten year old son were fairly regular tennis players in our little Tuesday tennis group. Sometime just over a year ago, during a common break (there were two courts and four pairs going at any one time) I asked him how he was. He always had a big gentle smile on his face. He told me he was okay. His wife who often followed them but didn't join in corrected him and told him to tell me about the incident that happened during the week. My curiosity piqued, I couldn't help but ask and at his wife's persistence, he relented and told me that a few days ago, while he was taking a shower, he fainted. It seems he woke up a few moments later with a powerful throbbing pain in his head. That was probably from the fall, he said. When I fainted my head must have just crashed on to the hard floor. Ouch.

That story had a very sinister feel to it. And my friend, he was a very fit fourty-something. He was trim, lean and modestly muscled. He was quite the sportsman as well. There were few games he didn't play. So there was no reason why he should blackout in the shower. I suppose, the story had the effect the wife wanted and expected, no doubt. I immediately impressed upon him the urgency and seriousness of getting himself looked out. he laughed and waved it off as perhaps an overwhelming tiredness. He was working rather hard those few months before that. Undeterred, I impressed upon him not to take such telling signs so casually and told him of the experience of my somewhat distant experience of cancer through my family and friends hoping to scare him to the doctor.

I think it was only a few months later when I noticed he had stopped coming. A little later, we were told he was diagnosed with brain cancer. We were shocked. He went down to Singapore for confirmation. It was confirmed. The doctors there advised for surgery of the tumour and it was carried out. Unfortunately however, they could not remove all of it. Bits of the tumour were just too deep in his brain for them to get at. So they left it and hoped it would not grow, or at least he would get well quickly enough for them to carry out chemotherapy.

But things just did not go his way. The tumours came back with a vengeance and he didn't take well to the chemotherapy either, so they stopped it. The doctors gave him six months. That's all you have they told him. And when they told him that, he was exactly how I last saw him - fit, wholesome, and beaming away. And he was generally a great kind of guy - strong family man, fit, great at his work, generous. Brain tumour. Six months. I don't think I can ever, ever truly understand what that must be like. To be told that suddenly, one day, I'm sorry, you're checking out uh, in the next six months and no there's absolutely nothing you can do about it. Mom and Dad cannot help. Your family. Your friends. Nobody can give you the rest of your expected life back. There's nobody you can bribe to reverse it. There's no lawsuit you can file to reverse this horror. There's just you. And Death.

Things went hard pretty damn fast. Amazingly he lived past the time period he was told for a good seven months by around now. That party was for him. He had a beautiful house which he had just completed when he was told of of his fate. He had designed it and supervised the building. Very tasteful. He was laid out on one of those aluminium recliner chairs with the big rubber bands wrapped around the frame, a pale shadow of his former self. His face and body had shrunk. His thin pale legs lay awkwardly, his left leg almost falling off the recliner. His hands were gripped at the joints so hard that he looked like he had paws instead of hands. The colour of his skin was a sickly pale colour. He always had a healthy fresh looking tan. He could not speak, walk, eat, or do anything you and I can do. The most he could do was shift his legs a little, move his hands a little and open his eyes. It is always so very sad and painful to see anyone like this, more so a friend or member of family.

And as he lay there, I looked at him and then was interrupted by a rather chubby Chinese lady with unusually red cheeks (probably from too much make up) clad in a dark blue shirt with bright pink and white coloured words reading 'Jesus Loves You'. She asked me whether I was his friend and I said yes. She then proceeded to tell me that when he was diagnosed with the cancer, he turned to Jesus for help and went to their church. They said that he was a very good Christian and prayed a lot. I wanted to say, Woman, I know this here's a good man. Then she prattled on about how with the power of prayer they can help the healing process. Drawing attention to my friend, she proudly announced the might of prayer to Jesus because he had lived passed the six months the doctors had given to him for up to seven months more. What finer example do we have of His Mercy (I later found out that this brand of Christianity is called Charismatic i.e. those who believe in faith healing). This I suppose is where she and I look at the same thing but see completely different things. I am not quite sure what kind of mercy that is so I just smiled politely and kept my mouth as tightly shut as I could. To not be able to live and be so paralyzed with drugs to kill the pain. To live merely for life's sake is not living indeed. This is the living death.

And while she was saying all these things, there in the living room was a projector playing a video of one of Malaysia's former Ministers preaching about God and Jesus. He's up there all alone with the microphone having a blast. Hands churning, flaying, held up, stretched out - he was working it. I wasn't listening but for the one and a half hours I was there, it was still going strong with little indication of stopping any time soon. It was on already when I was there too.

I have often thought of such a scenario happening to myself and wondered what I would do. Would I live through it, in false hope (no, I suppose wouldn't, I don't think I can even live with that) and finally let death claim me through a thick cloud of drugs, pain and sadness, or would I take my own life, quit while you're ahead kind of thing? We do it for animals when they are useless or lame (especially horses) or getting too old or even if they have a kind of cancer (yes, animals can get it too). Why do we hesitate to do so when humans get that way - when we become, so useless, our existence so meaningless to ourselves as it is expensive and enervating for our loved ones, each day a crawl up a mountain of pain where there is never a down slope? They say it is because of the sacredness of life. But then what sacredness can there be left in a life unlived, a life in anguish, in excruciating pain, lived through a drug laden haze? It is said that sometimes to be kind is to be cruel and sometimes to be cruel is to be kind. Is this not one of those latter instances?

He can do nothing about this second wave of cancer this time. This is it for him. Yet they pray, and beseech us to pray for him. But I'm not quite sure what for. For health which we know would not come? And even if he does live, what kind of life will it be? I know if I were in such a position, I should hope whoever it is that offers prayers for me would do so for the quickness of my death. For that, to me, would be an act of kindness.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

'scuse me, but I just don't freckin' get it - part 2


You all must have seen it right? You know, that billboard with Maya Karin in that red slinky dress smiling ever so seductively. And invitingly too. And beside her picture, there is this phrase printed in white over a backdrop of blue, “dengan Celcom, anda berkuasa” (with Celcom, you are powerful). Damn it. That advert is so, erm… uplifting man. Not in the spiritual I-may-have-seen-the-light sense of the word but more towards the forklift-moving-upward-to-the-sky sense la. I mean, that advert makes me want to stop my car, rush out to the nearest Celcom booth and buy its pre-paid card man. It makes me feel so, um, “berkuasa” if you know what I mean. Yes Maya baby, let’s meet up and feel my “kuasa”. And I just love it when in the Celcom TV advert she would say something like “saya mahu lebih…” (I want more). Well Maya, actually, I want more too. More than the more which you want and probably some more after that. More!

Strangely enough, that very same advert, does not evoke that kind of feeling from me when the picture used is that of Steven Gerrard or Ryan Giggs. Or that smelly Frenchman Robert Pires! Perhaps because they say it in English - with Celcom you are powerful – rather than in Malay. Just perhaps.

It does not take the brilliance of say, Wahap Patail - boy, is he brilliant or what? – to tell you that sex, in all its manifestation and form, sells. You want to sell a car? Well, take a huge picture of Tyra Banks in some tight pants and a top so tight that her chest looks like it’s gonna burst like some water sprinkler pipe in a Putrajaya building, and slap a teeny weeny picture of the car next to her and you would have a bloody good car advert. What else do you want to sell? Ciggies? Jeans? Whatever. Sex S.E.L.L.S. Rule number one.

The primary objective of an advert is to grab the attention of the audience towards whatever the advertiser is trying to sell. The audience, you and me that is, are very busy people. WE have very short attention span. 3 seconds the most. Because looking, and analysing, adverts is not our hobby. We just look at the advert (or watch at as well as listen to them) because we either have nothing to do while stuck in a traffic jam or because something in the adverts grabs our attention to them. Like Maya Karin in a slinky red dress smiling at me while saying “come Art, I want your baby!” Okay, I made up the last part. But you get the idea. I hope.

That’s the primary objective. The next objective is to try and hold the audience’s attention for as long as the advertiser can so that he or she could be told about the product being advertised. So, in Maya Karin’s case, the product is Celcom. Okay, we all know that because beside Maya Karin pontianak smile, the word Celcom is printed. That adverts scores 2 points. It grabs my attention. Then it manages to introduce me to Celcom.

What’s next? Well, in a competitive market, it is not enough to thrust just a brand name. A good advert must be able to tell the audience, in that 3 seconds attention span, what the hell is so special about the product compared to its competitors. And so, back to the sundal malam girl. It says “with Celcom, you are powerful”. That’s it. Simple. Celcom is powerful. Now I know. So in my mind, just as I passed that billboard, having spent 3 precious seconds of my very precious time in my precious car being stuck in a not-so-precious traffic jam, I would then be thinking, why would I be powerful with Celcom? Dang. That advert works. Celcom would than be planted in my head. For a while, that is. But Maya is planted for a lot more while than Celcom. Oh Maya…you tau, I berkuasa you tau? Fu-yoh!

A good advert will also be able to tell the audience about certain features of the product which makes it special, or better than its competitors. It’s like an advert of the new Court house, if ever they need one. I could imagine it saying, “the Jalan Duta Court House, big corridors, largest in the world”. Ya, something like that. With pictures of Fairuz and Wahap, smiling ever so, erm…charmingly. Well, it wouldn’t be as uplifting as the Celcom advert, but it might be upshifting, rather. You know, when you see the advert, you like upshift the gear so quickly because you want to get away from it ASAP!

Okay, okay, I digress. And so I come to Proton Savvy advert. On TV, the advert has these 2 bonkers in a Savvy on top of a roof when this, um, this huge grey creature which looks like a giant marsh mellow came and grabbed the Savvy and threw it down. And these 2 bonkers were like, aiyo aiyo we are gonna die. Then the grey giant marsh mellow went away and like, nothing happen. The car was in a good shape. It’s like, well, nothing happen. Like, totally. Oh, wow! The Savvy. Focking strong car it must be! Brilliant. It means the Savvy can be pushed down a ravine, or smashed against a steel divider, or take on a bull dozer head-on, or make it turn turtle in the rain near Jalan Parliament and nothing will happen to it. Ever! Well well well, that is the biggest CRAP I have ever seen on TV in my whole precious life! Idiots! You don’t sell cars by telling people that your car is so strong, especially when your car is a small car meant to be driven to the market, clinic or some kindergarten by some women! You only do that if you want to sell a tank to the MoD! Blinking morons!

Than comes the Savvy advert in newspaper. I saw it. It says “Savvy…blah blah blah…AMT”. Hmm…AMT? AM what? AMT. What the fock is AMT? I have to see the small print now. Oh AMT stands for “automatic manual transmission”. Like, d’oh! If a transmission (gear box) is automatic, how could it be manual at the same time? And vice versa. This Proton guys must be really clever to come up with an automatic gearbox which is also manual at the same time. Brilliant. Not! I then made a few calls. It transpired that what the Savvy is offering is actually a semi automatic gearbox. It can be switched to auto mode, where the gear will change itself like any other automatic gear, or to semi auto mode, where one could up shift or downshift without having to deal with the clutch. In fact there isn’t any clutch in the Savvy.

This semi auto gear box is nothing new. Porsche started it a long time ago and called it “tiptronic”. That word is so well known that even the Proton loving school teacher would have known about it. Tiptronic. Yes, that thingy which allows the driver to up shift and down shift without having to kick a clutch pedal. Tiptronic. Tiptronic. AMT? No, it’s tiptronic. You fool! BMW followed suit. They also came up with similar gearbox. BMW is a huge car manufacturer. Bloody huge it makes Proton looks like a mere tahi lalat on Rossie O’Donells’ ass. And yet, despite BMW’s huge-ness, they did not name their gear thingy AMT. They named it “steptronic”. Maintaining the “tronic” sound to their name. Why? Well, ask Wahap Patail. He is brilliant. He would tell you BMW did not name it AMT or UMNO or whatever because “tiptronic” has become so well known for that device that really, there was no reason, marketing wise, to change that term to something else. So, BMW, in all their wisdom, called their device “steptronic”. Tiptronic. Steptronic. Not AMT! You wankers! And why would Proton, this, this small ciku, who DID NOT invent this device in the first place, name it AMT? Excuse me. AM what?

The purpose of an advert, well, one of the purposes, as I postulated earlier, is to tell the audience of how special the advertised product is. And that purpose, ladies and gentleman in the Proton marketing division, Ma’am and Sirs, is not going to be served by naming your special device in some alien form like AMT. You see? Because when readers like me, stupid people that we are, read AMT we would not be having a blinking clue as to what AMT is. Get it? Feeling thick today are we?

You need another example? Well, Honda came up with variable valve timing in the late 80’s when they launched one of the best sports car ever, the Honda NSX. Honda called their invention VTEC. It is such a good invention that many followed suit. Mitsubishi followed suit and called their invention MIVEC. Toyota called theirs VV-t. Suzuki also called theirs VV-t. Then Honda launched their intelligent VTEC and called it i-VTEC. Toyota also became intelligent and called theirs VV-ti. And so on and so forth. But they are talking about the same thing. It is variable valve timing, whether it is VTEC, MIVEC or VV-t. But the terms are so well known. Mention VTEC, MIVEC or VV-t, and people will know what it is. Even if they don’t have a clue as to what it is, and how they work, in their mind, they would think oh well, this car has got that VTEC thingy lah. And that thingy must be good lah. So Proton. What did you do. Well well, you all also came up with variable valve timing. What did you all call it? CAMPRO.

I am tired. Like, todally.

ps Imagine Proton developing a new anti brake lock system (more popularly known to the world as the "ABS"). Would they call it ABS? Naah, they would call it the "Malaysian Caliper Un-locking New Technology" or MYCUNT, in short. I could just imagine the billboard. They will have Siti Nurhaliza (with or without Datuk K) - well, it could be Mawi though - flashing her famous sweet sweet smile. Beside her there will be this new Proton car , probably called the Wajaria or something like that. And the tagline will read, "Proton Wajaria, now with MYCUNT, good eh?" Like, todally. Idiotic. That is!