Monday, April 30, 2007

Breakfast Table

When you said goodbye to me the other day at
The breakfast table with a pink note stuck on the mat
Your pretty writing says some ugly things that's been on your mind
You found somebody and you want a little bit of time

You say you're sorry it didn't work out the way
We talked and planned about it just the other day
We stayed on for a little while because you didn't know
What or when or how or why, but you just had to go

How did it grip you like it was everywhere
And then just disappear like it was never there
I burned twice as bright for you but you never shine
Now I stand here breathing waiting for my line

When you said goodbye to me the other day at
The breakfast table all your things should have been packed
Your blissful kisses and your warmth still linger in the air
Wish I could have lied and said I didn't really care

How did it grip you like it was everywhere
And then just disappear like it was never there
I burned twice as bright for you but you never shine
Now I stand here breathing waiting for my line

Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Block Blues

You know you've got it when you're staring at the blinking cursor. Come on! It seems to urge you. Come on, I know you've got something in there! I bet you somewhere inside that blinking thin black vertical line there's a mocking smile tucked away. Bastard. Your fingers are poised over the keyboard, body hunched over expectantly towards the screen, your face looks as cold as ice from the bluish screen glare. You are the Robotic Writer, you imagine. Seriously. Whatever works, alright? Let's not be judgmental here. Okay, so anyway, you're Robotic Writer and Meep! you are going to write, or more precisely type. You imagine the electricity flowing through your whole body charging you up to write only to fizzle out upon hitting your brain. Total meltdown. Which means it's just you and the cursor again. And sometimes you just can't take all this intimidation dammit. I mean all this winking is absolutely distracting. This 'now here, now not here' kind of assistance is infruriating. if you're gonna be a cursor, you just stay there damn you!

Sometimes a media change my help get the creative juices flowing. Writers write, typists type, right? It will be pen and paper for me now. No more of this meancing winking and clickety clackety. So I roll out the best paper I have, maybe some of that fine off white hand made paper from Venice, and then pull out that lovely expensive Mont Blanc fountain pen to write with (if you're going to write the best, you use the best and if you use the best, it'll take care of the rest! How the hell can you argue with such impeccable logic?) Yeah, hey maybe hit the shower, wash off the old negative computer vibe thing and start a fresh with new clothes and a fresh new organic start, just like how the greats used to do it.

Longhand. Just thinking the word sent a shiver down your spine. All those pages handwritten, endless pages. When was the last time you even wrote that much? Never! You have to be mad to do it by pen and paper. You're so computer dependent that you even print your little post it notes out with the printer. (You're the only one in the office that does that, by the way). The most longhand you did was just signing daily documents. You understand of course that you is not me. You is you but me is I. Got that?

Junk that. No, what you need is inspiration. Some good chugging kind of music to get your strumming along the keyboard. You quite like Fort Minor's 'Remember the Name' because of it's urgent violins and cool backbeats. So you turn the song and volume up and then stare expectantly again, fingers poised, ready to receive the inspiration, the vindication, the passion, which you did receive. Except your fingers are tapping the table as if they were drumsticks and the table were a drum. You begin to mouth along the parts you are able to. Then you start head nodding to it. Finger pointing. And then as you close your eyes in musical ecstasy, the cursor keeps staring unwaveringly at you. Bastard.

That's the trouble with inspiration sometimes, it doesn't inspire the right stuff.

Can't help it man, you've got the block blues.

Plink, plinky, plonk, ploink. Ploonk.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Samui Sunset

April 2004
Koh Samui, Thailand

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Highlights of Reading

I am dissatisfied with all the colours that they have available on highlighters: the obviously garish and aggressively fluorescent yellow, blue, red, green, pink and now purple, orange and god knows what else on the way. The reason is that all the colours are rough on the eyes. Smearing their coloured nozzles against the page sometimes makes me cringe because the highlighted words suddenly look mean, angry even. And after the effluxion (always wanted to use this sexy word) of time they look distinctly ugly on the page several years later. Like a frumpy dress that was once in vogue but now can't be taken off. The only merit to them is that they are convenient and easy to use. I just wished the colours were not so potently fluorescent, a little more subdued and humble. The colours should not be like gangsters that mob and pummel your eyes to pay attention. They should be like a slow sensual seduction that lures your eyes to linger and explore those meaningfully important portions.

The better way to 'highlight' I think is the old fashioned way - underlining; a ruler, a red ballpoint pen and a pencil (or mechanial pencil) is all you need. Don't bother using ink pens to underline because then you're going to get very dirty hands and mess up your ruler (and it doesn't matter if it's wood, steel or plastic). And when people see your hands full of ink, chances are they'll probably think you're a bit on the slow side (how else does this moron get ink all of his fingers, face and shirt?). The underlining method is most effective because it forces you to sit up and take your reading material seriously. You cannot underline without a flat surface. You can highlight while flat on your back with the book hovering directly above you in the air.

Keeping to one colour would ensure that you do not get caught up with decorating and ensuring all your highlighted portions are colour coordinated and matching and end up not reading a damn thing. There are a class of people who have such fantastic and exciting looking notes. There are notations in the margins. The highlights are so well coordinated and agreeable that you tend to think it was almost Warholian. But if you asked them anything about what they highlighted and noted so meticulously, they can tell you absolutely nothing except perhaps for the brands of highlighters they use.

The pencil is for notes. I use them to write words whose meanings I don't understand nearby the word. Or sometimes, I scribble some thought or emotion a passage provoked or want to make it clear that I enjoyed a certain passage for future reference. Some people don't like to write on books because they want it clean and pristine, virginal almost. I'm not like that. In fact, I think one must claim their books by writing on them, paging through them often and carrying them around with you (I always carry a book wherever I go). Once you do that, no other book will be like yours. And for me, I prefer reading books where people jot down notes or thoughts on their book because it tells you what they felt at the time, perhaps where they were coming form or even where certain thoughts might point to. It also enriches your reading because it provokes ideas, new lines of thought and perhaps sheds insight to a particular issue. Your own notes also serve as anchors to help you shape your thoughts about the book.

But that's if you're rajin (diligent) lah.

[Daef's Recommendations: How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren]

Thursday, April 26, 2007

joke of the week!

NST reported of a forum attended, among others, by Zaid Ibrahim of Zaid Ibrahim & Co and Nazri Aziz, our de facto Law Minister. In the audience were about 200 lawyers and the topic was whether an Independent Judges Commission should be set up to appoint Judges and to decide on the promotion of Judges from the High Court to superior Courts and also on the appointment of the President of the Court of Appeal and the Chief Judge of the High Courts. As it is, Judges are appointed by the King on the advice of the Prime Minister (PM). The PM of course relies on any recommendation made by the Chief Justice. Similarly, the promotion of High Court Judges to the Court of Appeal, the appointments of the President of the Court of Appeal and the Chief Judge are done in similar fashion.

Suffice to say that such promotions and appointments have been done in a very disorderly fashion. To say that the process lacks transparency would be an understatement. Senior Judges are not promoted. Junior ones are. Good Judges, with excellent judicial temperament are not promoted. There is no set criteria for the promotion and appointment. As it only the Chief Justice knows how to do so. Nobody else knows. And nobody else is consulted. So, the Malaysian Bar and SUHAKAM proposed that an Independent Commission be established to advise on such appointments and promotions.

And guess what the good Minister said? He said we have failed to convince him of the necessity for such Commission and unless he is so convinced, he would not support such proposal. He was quoted of further saying that there is no such thing as being independent unless they are sent down from the heaven, the appointees will always be beholden towards their appointor!

Well Minister Nazri, there you were, in front of lawyers and academician, talking absolute nonsense. Perhaps the thing above your neck is one large tumour with eyes, a nose and a mouth and inside that tumour is some dried cow dung! Your statement is an insult to your law lecturers and all your teachers. Are you implying that the Judges are also not capable of being independent as they are obviously not sent down from the heavens?

Well if so, why don't we do away with the judiciary altogether huh? And let the rakyat fight it out mano e mano on the street when they have disputes. I suppose, they could at least settle their dispute faster that way.

have you kissed your mom today?

Racing barefooted after kicking off her flip-flops, Cyndie pushes her son Derek Madsen, 10, up and down hallways in the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento on June 21, 2005, successfully distracting him during the dreaded wait before his bone marrow extraction. Doctors want to determine whether he is eligible for a blood stem cell transplant, his best hope for beating neuroblastoma, a rare childhood cancer, which was diagnosed in November 2004

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Renaissance Man Reloaded

Thomas Aquinas

The idea of and behind the Renaissance Man has always fasinated me. The general definition of the word has tended to focus on his intellectual side. American Heritage Dictionary defines him as 'A man who has broad intellectual interests and is accomplished in areas of both the arts and the sciences.' Wordnet defines him as 'a modern scholar who is in a position to acquire more than superficial knowledge about many different interests.' Most of the definitions take a similar texture. The general visual you have of these sort of men are heavily bearded, tubby and smarter than you can ever imagine; think Aristotle, Leonardo da Vinci, John Ruskin, Thomas Aquinas (that is a younger depiction of him, which I have always preferred; he is my icon of the Renaissance Man for some strange reason - although I have a sneaking suspicion it has to do with his entry I read once in the Britannica Encyclopedia I have around). And the idea behind the Renaissance Man is that he has a very broad level of understanding with some measure of depth of life and has drawn wisdom from its experiences. One with a great and broad level of knowledge, understanding of it and therefore wisdom. He is the great generalist.

I used to abide by that definition before. But over these last few years having brooded over the idea of doing so after taking into account the massive intellectual, scientific, technological, medical, dietary understanding, educational growth and achievements since the Renaissance, it is time to revise the idea of the Renaissance Man. Why don't I just replace it you may quite reasonably ask? For two reasons. The first is auditory. I quite like the sound of Renaissance and it's rather fun to say. It involves the whole face and mouth in saying it and if properly pronounced it sounds quite pretty as English words ripped from the French often sound (from the French word 'rebirth'). Secondly, I could not be arsed to come up with some crassy new name and sound like I'm touting something new. I'm not. Coining a word used to mean something in days when people were a bit more discerning with their literature. It was a goddamned event. Now, it's mandatory to be able to do so to write those business books or self help ones. None of that for me.

The idea of the Renaissance Man I think can withstand a revision without harm to itself as long as the core idea of what he is remains and the revision is guided by it. So what is it that I'm such a busy body about to write all about it? I think that there are generally four components to a person in this day and life. There is the physical (body), the mental (intellect which would include the arts, religion, and science), the emotional (love, hate, envy, etc. and the sexual) and the political-legal (financially solvency, your rights as a citizen, no prior convictions, etc.). Earlier I had thought of putting sexual as a component by itself, but then I thought that might be putting too much pressure on the guy.

I think that the Renaissance Man has to now weaken his intensity on his intellectual aspect and have a fair and reasonable appreciation of the other three components of his life. So he should not only know of what to do to be healthy, he must at the very least keep himself physically trim (not saying he can't smoke or cigar), he should also have a fairly good understranding of the political and legal system he is in and his rights within it; a sophisticated appreciation of the dynamic interplay between, within and of the undercurrent emotions, and naturally, he is able to keep in firm control of his; he is highly ethical and honest though not without cunning and cynicism; and perhaps even competent at a musical instrument or two, on top of having a reasonably wide level of knowledge, understanding and wisdom. He is to me the Great Generalist. You can throw any question at him and he can in all probability tell you something useful about it or he would have read it.

Damn, when I list it out like that, it sure does look like a tall order. But then that's the point I suppose. We cannot have just about every calling themselves a Renaissance Man (or Woman) as easily as say, some of the Heads of States in Malaysia hand out titles such as the multiplicitous forms of and ubiquitous 'Dato' and now 'Tan Sris' are also becoming a dime for half a dozen. And unlike some of those titles, you cannot pay, cajole or beg anybody to become one. It is something you have to achieve for yourself, by yourself. And more importantly it is a state of being and cannot be flashed around like a Dato'-ship or Tan Sri-ship can with their plate badges. In fact, by then such materialistic achievements would be incomprehensible to him. As I think it is becoming more unbearable for us.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

the way of the Samurai...

“God it’s hot!”, I was saying to myself as I wound down the window to let in more air. My t-shirt was drenched in sweat. And I could feel sweat running down my legs down to my feet. My socks were almost soaked. The only thing preventing my face from being drowned with sweat was the cotton balaclava, which covered much of my face. It was getting uncomfortable. I looked at the digital clock on the dashboard and it says 2.30pm!

I was powering along the back straight of the Sepang F1 track. That must have been the 7th lap and I was feeling kind of thirsty. A quick look at the oil temperature and it was hovering around 110 degrees. The engine temperature was normal. Exhaust temperature was on a high side but there was nothing alarming about it. Everything else was okay except for the old OS Giken double plate clutch. Well, that clutch was working up that day, refusing to let me upshift from 3rd to 4th smoothly at high rev. I had to double clutch before I could do so and that in turn caused me about 1 second on every upshifting from 3rd to 4th! Bloody hell! I was cursing the whole day. But then again, it was high time that that clutch takes a one-way ticket to junksville. It’s been more than 2 years, more than 200 laps around the F1 track and more than 10 quarter mile launches at 7000rpm or above!

I turned towards my brother and said, “hey, I wanna pit after this. This next lap will be our cooling down lap okay”. He just nodded. Turn 14, the hairpin which connects the back with the front straight, was looming ahead. I went to the left, gave the huge 6 pot AP Racing callipers a tight squeeze on the 14 inch rotors, kick the heavy clutch to the floor and downshifted to 3rd. As I de-clutched, the engine roared as the tacho needle jumped to about 5000rpm. I did not bother downshifting to 2nd as I did not plan to take the 0.9km front straight in full speed. After all, it was going to be my cooling down lap. I turned the steering towards the apex of the left turn and the nose just slid to the left. No complaint. No tyre screeching. Completely indifferent. Absolutely nonchalant. The car then drifted to the right edge of the track as we exited the tight left hander. I straightened the nose and after a while upshifted to 4th. The car walked lazily along the front straight.

That was to be a cooling down lap during which I would drive the car as slow as I could possibly do without being hauled up by the marshals for obstructing other cars. The on rushing air would then cool down the engine oil, coolant, brake rotors and almost everything else. It was time to cool us as well. I reached for the air-cond button and gave it a push. Hmm…this is going to be boring…

As I passed the start-finish line, I upshifted to 5th and feather the accelerator. The GTR lazily swaggered at about 130kph along the front straight while gobbling the onrushing air into its huge air filter and under its carbon bonnet. There were some guys standing by the pit wall under the hot sun waiting to see some cars eating up the tarmac along the straight or to take pictures. There were even some long suffering girl friends or wives of these guys standing alongside them wondering what all the fuss about cars going round and round a circuit was about!

I was winding up the window when I heard a thunderous roar from the pit lane. Instinctively, I turned to the right and there she was. A huge-assed Lamborghini Murcielago, the ultimate Lambo of the moment, all 1650kgm of curvaceous steel and carbon fibre. 6.2 litres, mid-mounted V12, 48 valves, quad-cam, 4wd, 620 bhp with a nauseating 650Nm of torque available at just about 5400rpm. This is about brute. This is about raw power. This is about untold wealth. This is about grabing attention. This is about the best the Italian could come up with. Well, almost Italian, actually, as Lamborghini has now been owned by Volkswagen, away from the clutches of some Malaysians and Indonesians, who, during their reign as owners did next to nothing to improve the image of Lamborghini as a premier super car manufacturer. That was a sad episode in the long history of Lamborghini, especially when one considers that arguably, the Lamborghini Countach was the car for which the words “super cars” were invented.

I could see “the bull” sauntered out of its pit and within a few seconds, it gave out a symphony of irrepressible mechanical screams mixed with minor but rapid explosions of burnt fuel and it whizzed past my car from the pit lane. My jaw dropped at the stupidity of it all. I mean, what was the driver trying to prove? That he was a really fast driver in the pit lane? Or was he just trying to show off? Why would an owner/driver of a Lambo, a Murcielago at that, speed along the pit lane, especially when there were people at the pit wall? Good God! Talk about monkeys with flowers!

You are not pitting until you overtake that Lambo!” screamed my brother. Oh shyte, there I was, hot and bothered, not to mention thirsty, in a car which had done 7 laps under the searing heat of Sepang, with a clutch that was more than hinting signs of retiring age, doing a lap in which I was supposed to cool down the car and this guy beside me wanted me to overtake a Murcielago, which was then a full 150 meters away in front of me! What if my clutch completely failed? What if my GTR overheated and ground to a halt? What if my brake fluid boiled when I was doing 180kph as I approached turn 4? You think I am stupid? No, I am not stupid. I am just plain mad!

“Erm, okay…” I said to my brother. With that I switched off the air-cond and wound down the window a bit to let some air into the cock pit. I looked at the boost controller and I was already at full boost of 1.55 bar. There was no way my GTR could match the mighty bull in terms of brute power and torque. All I could rely upon was the GTR’s renown handling around the tight turns, as well as the long sweeping ones, and the strength of its famous RB26 DETT engine which is known to be almost indestructible. If I were to overtake this bull, I knew I had to be fast around the corners and I had to maintain high rev all the while, which meant I had to red line the car at 8500rpm at every gear change! Let’s just hope my clutch would not retire. Let’s juts pray my engine would not overheat! Amen…

I was thinking, there were 3 factors which may work in my favour. Firstly, the Murcielago cost a whopping 1.4 million smackeroons. Being so, the driver was no going to throw about that car as I would my GTR. Secondly, that car was new and I presumed it is a factory-spec car. In contrast, my GTR was loaded with racing parts, mostly from the renowned Japanese racing parts manufacturer, HKS. The engine has been built to sustain at least 9000 rpm, massaged and tuned by non other than Nagata San, of Top Secret. Nagata San, when he was not tuning cars, could be caught on videos doing 200 mph (read carefully, 200 MILES per hour!) in a GTR in a tunnel in France! Absolute madcap! Thirdly, and this was going to be the clincher, my humongous 275/35/18 soft compound Bridgestones tyres had already done 7 laps and they were all heated up nicely and that means instant grip and better traction. The Lambo’s tyres were as cold as Anna Nicole Smith!

The bull whizzed out of the pit lane, the twin tail pipes blaring loud pop and crackles from the cold V12. The brake light went on momentarily as the driver braked before diving to the right at turn 1. I was at the 200 meter mark on the front straight, which meant I was about 200 meters away from turn 1. As I was downshifting to 2nd, the Lambo slithered its way around turn 1 before drifting out to the left to attack the 2nd turn left apex. I was hugging the inside line of turn 1 when the Lambo roared its way out of turn 2 down the lovely sweeping right curve of turn 3. Turn 3 is a beautiful 3rd gear flat out sweeping right turn leading into a short straight before the uphill 90 degree right hander that is turn 4. It is my favourite turn at Sepang. Taken smoothly and beautifully, the GTR would just go into a 4 wheel drift while exiting this turn. It is an experience like no other.

The Lambo, a glob of 1.65 tonne of Italian steel, glided along turn 3, powering its way into the short straight. It was a sight to behold. It was almost defying the law of physic. How could a huge and heavy object glide along a sweeping curve at high speed? As it reached the 200 meter mark, I saw the brake light. Gosh, that was one hell of an early braking, I thought. Hmmm…the driver was obviously having a confidence crisis or it was a borrowed car! If he was going to brake early at every turn at Sepang, he might lose at least a quarter of a second at every time he did that, and that would mean for every lap, he would lose a total of 3.5 seconds around the 14 turn circuit. 3.5 seconds! That is light years in terms of racing time.

He clipped the right apex without even touching the kerb and climbed the uphill left edge of the track before straightening the nose and powering off to the left turn 5 and the right turn 6. He was smooth. His straight-line speed was awesome, to say the least. But he braked early every time. And he powered on rather late too as the huge low grunt torque would otherwise unsettle the car causing the tyres to lose grip and consequently, traction. Driving fast on cold tyres is not easy.

He was constantly 2 turn ahead of me until turn 9. A 180 degree left hander going uphill, turn 9 is a hairpin cum chicane. It is the most ridiculous and difficult turn on the Sepang circuit. Nobody like that turn. Not me, for sure! He was powering along the straight after turn 8 and he was going real fast. As I came out of turn 8, he was already at the end of the straight at warped speed. He braked hard for turn 9 and I could see smoke coming out from the front tyres, which meant, he locked his brakes. He lost valuable seconds there. By turn 13, he was only about 5 car length away from my GTR.

Exiting turn 13, the Samurai smelled blood! I floored the loud pedal in 2nd and powered through the 3rd and 4th. Red lining the engine on 4th, I was doing about 200kph when the last turn of the circuit, turn 14, loomed ahead. The Lambo took to the extreme right, braked ever so early again and dived towards the left apex. I braked slightly late and lunged towards the left apex like a hungry lion. The GTR then drifted out of the apex to the right edge of the track and the front straight beckoned! The Lambo was a mere 2 car length away and I thought, that was it. I was going to nail his big fat ass on the front straight in 3rd and 4th gear in front of all the people at the pit wall. It was going to be my glory day. The day I ate a Murcielago for high tea!

The GTR roared out of turn 14 in 2nd. Upshifting to 3rd at about 8500rpm, the GTR lurched forward with such potent power that within nano second, my GT intercooler was sucking smoke from the Lambo’s twin tail pipes. The Lambo, sensing it was going to be eaten up, powered its mighty V12, churning out every last drop of its 620bhp, going forward at mind numbing speed while emitting a thunderous roar along the straight. People were running out of the pit towards the pit wall upon hearing the roars of the Lambo and the GTR. IN the 3rd gear, the GTR was quite literally kissing the bull’s ass. The speedo went from 120 to 150, 160, 170 and 180 before the bright green LCD start blinking. It was time to up shift. I kicked the heavy OS Giken twin plate to the floor and quick shifted from 3rd to 4th. The transmission went “KAACHUNK…KAACHUNK”…and well, I could not engage 4th! OH MY GOD! Of all the time, that was the time Mr Giken decided not to work properly. I felt like jumping out of the GTR! I had to de-clutch, tap the accelerator to maintain high rev and clutched again before trying to up shift another time. This time, it went through. I had lost at least 1.5 seconds and the Lambom was than pulling away to about 2-car length in front of mind. The speedo jumped from 180 to 220 before I upshifted to 5th and at about 235kph, I was already at the 200 meter mark.

I failed miserably to overtake the Murcielago on the front straight. The Murcielago took turn 1 and I decided to play the mental game. I attacked turn 1 aggresively and moved diagonally towards the left turn 2 with my GTR tailgating the Lambo. He clipped the left apex and drifted out towards the right. In his rush to shake me off his tail, he powered the Lambo on a tad early and the tail wiggled as the rear tyres lost grip. That unsettled the big bull out of turn 2 and he ended up in the middle of the track coming into turn 3. I hugged the inside right line and within a fraction of a second we were side by side leading towards turn 3. This is the time, I thought. This must be it.

I was in 3rd. And I was at turn 3. And the Lambo was going to have a bad day! I flat out the loud pedal along the sweeping curve of turn 3 with the Lambo beside me on the outside line. Coming out of turn 3 along the short straight towards turn 4, we were doing about 140kph…140…150….180…and we were at the 200 meter mark. The Lambo, as usual, braked. I waited till I approached the 150 meter mark before braking. The Samurai leapt from the ground, somersaulted while unsheathing his sword and with one swift, graceful and yet potent move, pulled it across his opponent’s neck before landing on his feet. The opponent fell on his knees, blood spurting out off his almost severed neck, struggling to breathe, almost conscious that this will be his last moment! The GTR dived towards the right apex, drifted out to the left and by this time the Lambo was snarling behind my 6 inch tail pipe, inhaling the 1 meter flame coming out of it as I upshifted to 3rd. The Lambo stuck behind the GTR for quite a while till we exited turn 9. I had taken the twin right hander of turn 7 and 8 in 3rd gear without even braking! By turn 13 it was about 5-car length behind. I powered along the back straight with the Lambo pushing itself to the limit. Turn 14th was taken with a whole load of drama with the tyres screaming away trying to grip the tarmac. I was thinking that I must maintain enough speed around the corners because the Lambo would try to spank my ass along the front straight with its enormous grunt. The driver must have also sensed that something was not right with my transmission as I failed to overtake him earlier along the straight. Upon exiting turn 14, I floored the pedal and upshifted to 3rd a little later. I was looking in the rear view mirror.

I was almost at the start-finish line when I finally saw the Lambo out of turn 14. It jumped straight into the pit lane! COWARD! I shouted. My brother was laughing! “Okay…this is our cooling lap” I said. The Lambo had surrendered! I slowed down, wound up the window and switched on the air cond. The GTR swaggered along turn 1 and then turn 2.

We were lazily minding our way along turn 3. Quite instinctively I looked at the rear view mirrow and a gleaming black Diablo was powering its way out of turn 2! Oh my God….

Monday, April 23, 2007

The 'I love Penguin' Soliloquy

Ahem. Ahem.

Out of all the publishers out there, it is Penguin that I love best. To me they have always been solidly staid if a little on the boring side with the spectrum of classic art (including the modern masters) with its equal measure of greatness providing further candy for the eye. But recently they have got me excited again. Those guys in Penguin sure know how to pull my strings (that's purse strings).

I know Penguin have always been for affordability and widespread readership, but I like that they have been also releasing little droplets of literature for some time now. That's, for example, what I call the series from the scrumptuous Great Ideas series (both volumes) which publishes certain extracts of Philosophers (David Hume, Kierkagaard, Sun Tzu, Seneca for example) and Writers (Orwell, Hazlitt, Swift, Woolf) in a small book often not more than a hundred over pages for a very affordable price. Here you have some awesome piece of writing come through the ages to you for only a measly fee of RM 19.90 (some are pricier, don't understand why) which is sometimes more than half of what a magazine these days costs.

For example, I had the fortune of reading Cicero's 'Attack on the Enemy of State' which I have to say was a rather mind blowing experience. 'Amongst the most famous and influential of all political polemics, Cicero's scathing speeches against the dictatorial ambitions of Mark Antony are the passionate last testament of the greatest statesman of his age; a final attempt to restore his beloved Republic that was to cost him his life,' sums up Penguin themselves on their website. So inspired was I after reading that book that I wanted to read more of him and purchased a collection of his famous speeches (which were really his arguments in certain cases). There is one thing that I learned from Cicero is that you must turn over every little piece of fact and consider it, weigh it, test it and see where it may assist in your argument. The thoroughness with which he considered every meaningful facet of the case was simply awe inspiring. Now when you think about that and the fact that he lived about two thousand years ago, you begin to feel a strange comforting sense of humility. And sometimes even hope, because you realize that once upon a time we did have great men who were willing to sacrifice themselves in the service of their State. Men who once upon a time, asked not what our country could do for us, but what we could do for our country. That such men existed before means that they could walk this earth again. When you read this book, try to imagine yourself, as one of those nervous cowering Senators somewhere in the Senate with an armed Roman guard by your side ready to slay you at the flick of a wrist. Then imagine the courage one needed to have to launch a polemic against Mark Anthony at the height of his power. Can you imagine how potent this little baby is? And at such dirt cheap prices. Pick any one of them you can't go wrong.

And so it was with their 70s Pocket Penguins released in conjunction with its 70th anniversary (mmmm), then there was the Mythology Series (who said old ancient texts and myths were boring? Siegfried's Murder rocked!), the new classic travel writing series and what I wanted to gush about, their 'Read Red' series. This has been a refurbished line where they have reprinted an eclectic collection of the best shorter novels of from both the classic and modern masters. I've been collecting them and enjoying all of them. They've also reprinted one of my all time favourites, Of Mice and Men by Steinbeck (I like to pet nice things with my fingers, sof' things) in a nice portable format. I can tuck it away on my back left pocket. And introduced me to some great writers like Stefan Zweig's perfect 'Chess: A Novella' and Eduard Morike's picturesque 'Mozart's Journey to Prague'. And if you want full on German romance have a go at Goethe's 'The Sorrows of Young Werther' (would not advise severely depressed people to read it).

And the part I love about all these series is that they are affordable and let me taste a whole range of writers, philosophers, political thinkers without having to commit myself over their entire argument or doctrine. Each of them opens up whole new worlds to explore. Even just stopping by with them for those hundred over pages would leave you in some way cleverer than you were before or showed you insight or a different view of life for that moment. I cannot think how anyone can be the poorer for reading them. Thank you, Penguin.

Stage direction: Curtain Falls.

Cue: 'A Whole New World' by Peabo Bryson and Reginal Belle during the chorus.

'Read not to contradict or confute, nor to believe and take for granted, nor to find talk and discourse, but to weigh and consider.' - Francis Bacon, Essays.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Wasted Juice/Curse of the Four Track

You can probably guess from this blog that I aspire to write. And the phrase 'aspire to write' really means someone pays me cold hard cash (or hot roasted peanuts, at the very least) per word or per article (I don't care dammit, just pay me) about any given topic that catches my fancy - like my love for a particular font or the joys of using a manual toothbrush as opposed to an electric one. This blog thing is what I call 'writing in the trenches'. That's because I feel like I'm writing in this trench and lobbing these literary grenades out of my little hole not knowing whether anybody reads, enjoys, hates, or perhaps even masturbates to them over a quicky dinner (this would be a climatic event for me as a writer, and I strongly believe simultaneously for the reader as well). In fact, there's no explosion or even the sound of a heavy object rolling and thumping along the grassy literary landscape in Malaysia or anything. Sometimes I feel I write mist - it's somewhat tangible and conceivable when I'm writing it but the moment I post it up, it fades away into the warm humid air, as if it were never written, never even thought about.

So if you are interested to know how failed writers go about their craft and why they never write anything worth publishing by a publishing house, read on. In terms of preparedness I think few can rival me. I am, at any time, thoroughly prepared to catch those transient fantasies, those elusive ideas, those potent concepts that would serve as springboard for other better ideas, stray thoughts that would lead to other more fruitful paths, that novel argument that seemed imbued with approval from the divine. That's because I have with me, not just the basic pen and notebook (latter has got to be a credible brand too - nothing but Moleskins for me. This is in keeping with the Melayu creed of Mutu Tada, Gaya Mesti Ada which translates too Quality Don't Have, Style Must Have. The pen doesn't really have to be branded though and in fact, haven't one is equally counterproductive as a very cheap notebook. I like using the Uniball Signo Broad (UM-153) Black Ink Pen. This baby is so smooth I call it smoot).

I also have with me a brand new spanking Dopod 838 Pro which has a very convenient and comfortable slide down QWERTY mini-keyboard which is of course loaded with the stripped down Word program for my word processing fetishes. And if I feel writing is too much of a problem (as it sometimes is because I type so much better and faster than I write and I can't even read my own writing these day. This is one of the side effects of input being made through the keyboards - handwriting suffers), then I can type it. But I don't like using it to type too much because it is tiring for long pieces.

If I don't like that, then the Dopod 838 Pro also has a recording function so I can just talk my ideas into it. That way I don't have to type or write it and can even put down my ideas while I'm on the move or when both my hands are occupied. Brilliant. Except that I'm not comfortable with putting down ideas this way. That superb idea that sounded so great in the confines of my mind immediately turns putrid the moment I speak it using my voice. People commonly talk about things lost in translation, but they miss out on the more important problem in translations - such as bullshit insidiously invading the translation. Some ideas immediately turn into bullshit the moment it hits airspace.

And perhaps if the idea or concept were purely visual, I was lucky that not only did the Dopod 838 Pro also have a camera built in with which I could take not only photos but videos as well. Well, if the resolution was not good enough or I wanted a better quality picture, I could use my highly portable Canon Ixus 850 which I carry around everywhere. Art and inspiration can happen anywhere. This is also in addition to my laptop which I carry around as well so that whenever the inspiration invades me, I can immediately put it down. Strike while its hot, so to speak.

So you see there's really no excuse why I cannot catch this inspiration of mine. I'm hoping for the rain because I've got all my buckets lined up. I may have not counted my chicks before they have hatched but I've already estimated that I would get some and made some preparations. I have all the nets that would be able to catch those little gems of wisdom and pearls of good fiction along with all the attendant bullshit. Sometimes when I walk around with all these equipment on me, I feel invicible - as if no great idea or thought will ever escape me, no matter how fleeting or resistant to record.

And this is the irony that I am confronted with - when I have all these things with me, I am unproductive. I cannot come up with damn thing worth putting down on paper. Everything sounds juvenile, cliched or just plain amateurish. But throw me in a place where there are no recording materials, and my mind, as if suddenly being told of the lack of recording sentries about, goes wild. It comes up with the most exciting fiction ideas, sexy characters, novel plots, those head nodding one liners which you couldn't wait to try out on your friends. It spins off ideas with wild abandon as if that would be its last hurrah. I get business ideas, short story ideas, novel ideas, legal ideas, all sorts of ideas. But all this can only happen when I have absolutely nothing with which to record them.

I call this the 'Curse of the Four Track'. I know it sounds strange that I should name this evil curse using equipment from the music industry, but this curse applies (especially relating to me) where all art is concerned. See I used to be in a band. Our lead guitarist, Justin, had a four-track recorder which we would use on occasion to record our cacophony. He usually kept it but when I felt the mood or was inspired to write some songs I would request for the four track. But after he delivered it, I lost all inspiration. Those songs I had kept in abeyance until the four-track came sounded like shite when I put it down. So it would end up that I would hold it without coming up with anything until somebody else wanted it. And when I delivered it to the house of whichever bandmate wanted it, they too would find themselves similarly creatively paralyzed. Whoever possessed Justin's four-track would also be inflicted with the 'Curse of the Four-Track'.


Saturday, April 21, 2007

Okin of the Twilight Kingdom (Part 2)

Before Memnoch even opened his sleep laden eyes, he felt cocooned in a gentle and pleasant warmth. He could hear murmurs of running water nearby and hushed whispers of sweet feminine voices swirling around a quiet rustle of clothes. As he struggled to open his eyes he could hear the volume of the voices around him rise. When he grasped his vision again, he saw that he was lying on a comfortable mattress with large soft white pillows on a worn wooden bed. Before him were many plainly dressed men and women who possessed a curious feature. They resembled him in features except that they all had rather brown or pinkish fair skin which a stark contrast to his very light blue skin. Even though they seemed harmless, he instantly tried to cast protective spells on himself but found that his murmurs dissipating quietly into the warm dry air. Memnoch felt the dryness on his skin.

Suddenly everybody's head in the crowd bowed slightly and shuffled apart to reveal a thin old man swathed in brown robes hunched over a staff which looked like an elegantly thin branch hewn from the trunk of a formidable oak tree. Despite his seeming frailty he exuded a sense of formidability and deliberate determination, as if he could will each cell of blood to his bidding if he wanted to. His face, once squarely handsome, now took on an ancient and wiser look with deep wrinkled troughs that lined his face and eyes that were so severely squinted that to others they looked closed. The old man stood alone at the foot of Memnoch's single wooden bed and seemed to look at him though Memnoch couldn't tell.

After a pregnant silence, the old man spoke.
'Peace to thee, stranger. Welcome to the village of Jula. I am Ti and the Elder of Jula. I trust you are in improved state?'

His voice was surprisingly firm and deep despite the tenativeness with which he spoke. Memnoch was more surprised that he could understand his language. Then he remembered that not long ago cast upon himself the Tongue of Wa'tu. This was an extremely difficult spell for two reasons. The first was because he had to obtain the Wa'tu. This was the tongue of organic gold of a triple horned beast that had the hide of steel and the bloodlust of an amok warrior. Almost the entirety of Memnoch's second platoon of thirty elite soldiers were wiped out in assisting Memnoch to slay the beast. The second was because it was a twenty one day spell cast that not only demanded one's entire focus and concentration to cast but was extremely physically demanding as well. Memnoch could perform only the other essential functions such as eating, drinking, sleeping, shitting, bathing besides casting under very strict and regimented schedule. The ritual had to be followed strictly for one mistake would negate the entire casting. Once cast, the spell was permanent for it changed certain parts of the biological, neurological and physical structure of Memnoch's ears, tongue and brain over a period of thirty days. Sometimes the pain of the physical change was so great that those of a lower threshold killed themsleves to block out the pain. Many managed to carry out the ritual to fail at the final hurdle. Memnoch was only the third of the Twilight Kingdom to possess the Tongue of Wa'tu.

'Yes, thank you great Elder Ti for your hospitality and generosity. I am indebted to you and your village's magnanimity. I only hope I have not drawn too much upon your reserves in doing so. I am Memnoch,' said Memnoch with such fluency and accuracy of intonation that the crowd behind the old man instantly buzzed with hushed whispers of astonishment. If the old man flinched with surprise, Memnoch could not have told. He stood like a rock unperturbed waiting for the calamity behind him to settle before continuing his conversation. The crowd sensed this and quickly fell quiet.
'Where do you hail from Memnoch?'
'I hail from the Twilight Kingdom. Our king is Tanath Ki'nath. Do you know of it?'
The old man did not answer immediately but kept quiet for a moment.
'No. We have never heard of such a kingdom or such a king, Memnoch. Perhaps your lands are too far away form our little humble village.'
'You may be right, Elder Ti. Might I inquire as to the kingdom within which Jula dwells?'
'Jula is part of the Commonwealth of Haleon. There are three other commonwealths aside from Haleon. Those are Uon, Aanakth and Suissen. Together they form the Republic of Ankh. Jula is merely one of the smaller villages of Haleon.'
'I see. And do all these commonwealths share similar weather, warmth and sunlight?'
'There are little variations between them - some are a little colder, some a little warmer, some more humid, some drier. Jula sits some twenty leagues the border of Haleon and as you would have noticed, the air here is dry.'
'I have noticed that too. And are all the denizens of the Republic of similar colour?'
'Yes. Truth be told Memnoch, we have not seen any of your kind here before.'
'I had sensed that too. There are none of your colour in my lands as well. In the Twilight Kingdom, our skins are light blue except for a few rare denizens whose skin are a luminous white.'
They both looked at each other for a while as if unsure where to take the conversation.
'Are you too king in the Twilight Kingdom, Memnoch?' asked Elder Ti.
Memnoch flinched in surprise at the question though Elder Ti remained still and unchanged.
'How did you know this?' demanded Memnoch, a little too aggressively he felt. It was one of those rare moments when Memnoch felt slightly apprehensive.
'One need not be told of it to know or understand something.'
'I accept that.'
'Do they call Obayamaashi in the Twilight Kingdom, Memnoch?'

For the first time in his life Memnoch felt a nervous sense of fear seize him. Obayamasshi was the ancient title of Okin. That title was so ancient that even Tanath Ki'nath knew not of it. Memnoch himself only learned of the old title because of his deep, thorough and meticulous study of all the ancient texts in the Royal Library. That title was last used more than four thousand years ago. How then did an old man in another world perhaps know of his heritage?
'Yes,' Memnoch answered. The crowd behind the old man was intensely quiet holding out for every word uttered from each man.

'Now that I have told you of my origin, I implore you to tell me how you know of me, Elder Ti.'
'I have long known of you Obayamaashi of the Twilight Kingdom though I do not know you. We, not just I, have all been waiting for you. We have been waiting for so many generations that we have even forgotten our grandfathers, our forefathers and all those who came before us. But they have made each later generation promise that we never forget you, Obayamaashi of the Twilight Kingdom, to honour your memory and to watch for your coming. Our parents from the ancient beyond have demanded that we preserve the only record of you saved but above all we must never forget you. We may forget everything, our name, our family, our lands, but we must never forget your coming, Obayamaashi of the Twilight Kingdom. And I am the last of that tradition. So it is fortunate that you came when you did.'

With that a warm smile of relief broke on the old man's face as he sank gratefully to his knees with great difficulty even as he held his staff up before him. The crowd behind him fell similarly to the floor, heads bowed in quiet reverence.

Friday, April 20, 2007

From the Ground Up

May 2006
Hua Hin, Thailand

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Censor Me A Titty

It is a curious thing that in Malaysia, the censors only have their scissors (and lord knows what else) out for sex. If there is even the remotest hint of sexual influence in a scene, and they of course are thoroughly qualified in detecting it though remaining steadfastedly free of its influence (unlike us inferior beings), it will be snipped, cut, blacked or ripped out. When I think of these censors, I imagine short, some thin, some fat, goatied men with long flowing jubah, some with spectacles, some with contacts, without underpants walking around holding a pair of those elegant long beaked steel ones in their right hands. Their nimble fingers eagerly spreading and shutting its arms. They would only use their index finger on their left hand to point at whatever it was they were pointing at before uttering, 'Apa tu?' (What's that'?). I haven't quite worked out what their introductory music score would be like yet, but I'm working on it. But strangely, they allow some of the most hideous violence to be visited upon a human being to be aired in a cavaliar and widespread manner in virtually all forms of popular media - video and computer games, music, movies, television, etc.

This is what I have always wondered: Why is it the policy of our censors to banish expressions of love (hardcore or very explicit softcore sex excepted) and promote expressions of hatred and conflict (playful slapping and light S&M and that means no leather masks excepted)? Maybe I'm nuts or something but I thought it would have been the other way around. There is already so much violence in our own lives with daily reports of snatch thefts, murders, rapes and corruption that the last thing we actually need is something glorifying it and routinely being used as a means of dispute resolution. So what is the basis of this policy of promoting violence?

And it is because of all this daily routine violence that we need to promote and encourage love and respect for one another. I am not saying that showing people kissing or making love does that but I think it does not detract from that policy. And for the love of God, can we please get real! Just watching this stuff doesn't serve as a massive dose of aphrodisiac that makes people want to go and hump each other like a bunch of rabbits. And what is the basis of this policy of erasing expressions of love?

The zeal with which these censors try to erase a kiss, even the faint expression of a nipple or a tasteful lovemaking scene sometimes makes me wonder whether they feared sex or hated sex more, or were just a bunch of seedy perverts all round. I mean, think about it - all those tits, ass, genitals and sex watched on a regular basis and then get edited out - where does it all go? Who watches the scissormen? What kind of people are these? Who are these men and women of such erudition and maturity that they can sit above us and tell us what we can or cannot watch? One day, a scandal is going to hit the fan (if it hasn't happened already) that some of these fellas make montages of the censored material for their own personal collections.

And the irony of all this is that they can censor all that but then they let through books by Harold Robbins, Sydney Sheldon, Eric Van Lustbader, Jackie Collins and lemme tell ya, some of the stuff that goes on in there - even I get a little shy explaining it to people (and on these matters, I am not one who is usually coy on the subject). The difference? Even though books are a visual medium, they are for some strange reason okay. Actually, I think it's because these people actually cannot read or their reading abilities are extremely limited (read: stupid and shallow). Their abilities appear to be only confined to visually obscene material, not literature. So forget to even ask these fellas to root out subversive ideas in philosopy laden books. One would probably need a machine powered drill to get it through these fellas (even then I'm not hopeful). Even when they wanted to do it, as they did with Karen Armstrong's 'Battle for God: Fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity and Islam' in 2006, they buggered it up. For one, Ms. Armstrong is no hack. In fact, in 1999 she was honoured by the Islamic Centre of Southern California for 'promoting understanding among faiths.' Funnier is that the book had long been circulating in the country for some time now. That's like bolting the gate after the cows have bolted. Moo.

But their fascination with violence and their undeniable incompetence doesn't interest me as much as this institutional aversion to sex in its many manifestations. Why are governments, religions and civil society so afraid of it? Why are mature adults in groups afraid of something natural, pleasurable and, for those that want a family (and actually including those who do not want one), necessary? In this entire piece, I am referring only to consensual sex between two consenting people of sufficient maturity (for whichever applicable culture) and so would not include sex induced by force or violence.

I don't quite know but I think it has something to do with the uncertainty with which sex may affect someone though it usually tends to be positive. I mean 'positive' in the sense that it usually orientates one towards a sense of confidence (you are attractive enough) which then emboldens and a fleeting happiness and a general sense of contentment (blame it on the orgasm). When you are internally content and confident of yourself, you will be less easily persuaded by for instance, propaganda. So in one sense sex is subversive. And sex then places this seed of independence and creates an environment that would allow a need for greater freedom for one's self to be born. But this seed also needs to be fertilized and watered by carefully chosen intellectual fare and emotional nourishment to enable one to blossom into a mature and responsible citizen.

But that's just probably one of my theories about why people should be shagging more. And this by the way is all opined and written with no offence to the sanctity of virginity and any virgins reading this.

Anyway, should really stop thinking so much about this stuff.

Tut too too tee to.

Chapati Moments: Androo & Maya

Androo reaches out for his soap. As he blinks the shampoo foam off his eyes, he looks at his soap before using it. He sighs in exasperation. Somebody has been using his soap again. Those are not his pubes, deeply encrusted into his green Palmolive soap. How many times does he have to tell his housemates not to use his soap?? Looks like he will have to forgo the luxury of using soap from now on and convert to shower gel. He shudders - as a Catholic might shudder at the thought of becoming a Protestant. It's just too pleb to use shower gel, he thinks to himself, under some misguided notion that he is some sort of patrician.

He flings the soap away in a tantrum and uses his hair shampoo instead to wash his body. He cringes at the thought of doing something he considers even remotely plebby. He must look for alternative accommodation. Just yesterday one of his housemates left some horrid skid marks in the toilet bowl and didn't have the decency to clean it up. He misses his mother's clean pristine house. You would never find skid marks in any of her bathroom toilets! He misses his father's mutton vindaloo. What he does not miss though is his wife Maya. This is the main reason he continues studying, adding one degree after another. To avoid spending time at home with Maya.

There is nothing wrong with Maya. In fact, she is very pleasing to the eye. Maya comes from a very well to do family. Her father made his money in the early 80's from securing the contract to supply plastic flowers to Government offices during the time plastic flowers were in vogue. Later, he artfully reinvented himself as some sort of indoor landscape artist, convincing the Government that they needed a "garden atmosphere" within their office premises. The rest, as we say, is history. If you walk into any Government building these days, you will be greeted by an array of garish multi coloured plastic flowers. Should you be attending any meetings at their boardrooms, you would be forgiven for being distracted by the mini lake gardens at the center of the room. Yes, right smack at the center lies an entire garden of plastic flowers on the carpeted floor. Maya's father has somehow convinced the Government that having a meeting around a mini garden would encourage and facilitate an amicable conclusion to all negotiations. So that's how he made his money. Fortunately for us, his daughter has better taste than him. Unfortunately though for Maya, she was married off to the son of a successful restauranteur. Androo is her husband's name. Skinny, pale and short. Fancies himself as some sort of intellectual and human rights activist. Incredibly finicky, his hair parted perfectly at the center and smoothed down with the aid of brylcream. Yes, the chap with the aversion for skid marks in the loo. He lines the inner bowl of the toilet with lots of loo paper so that the water in it would not splash back at him when his poo torpedoes in. I'm sorry, I was just amusing myself with words containing double Os. Compared with his butt ugly hairy parents, who could easily be mistaken for Big Foot's relatives, he is relatively OK looking with a certain boyish geeky charm. Most people who have met the family, wonder if there had been some mistake at the hospital when Androo was born and like any decent Tamil movie plot, he would later be reunited with his real parents just when he is about to die from gunshot wounds - shot by his long lost twin brother whilst embroiled in a love triangle. So far, nothing of that sort is happening yet and Androo is still studying for his PhD. So for all intents and purposes, we shall have to assume that he really is the son of Uncle Veloo and Aunty Roopah. And the husband of Maya.

Maya, Maya, Maya. Beautiful Maya. Soft, cultured, delicate on the outside. Deep, spiritual, intelligent with a hidden penchant for mischief and mirth on the inside and a passion yet undiscovered and unawakened. None of these qualities are seen or appreciated by the person she married or the family she married into. They only see her status and her parents' wealth.

Fortunately for Maya and unfortunately for the Veloo family, Maya has made friends with Uncle Veloo's incorrigible niece Letchoomi ... yes our luscious Letchoomi ... and her best friend, the sensuous, smouldering Sosya. These 2 provide endless entertainment for our dear Maya who has to live vicariously through them, fantasising that it is her who is having all that fun instead of being stuck in a dull, listless, loveless marriage to a man-boy whom she and her friends call "Mr Missionary".

Maya, Letchoomi and Sosya are in a newly opened Italian restaurant, not too far away from Uncle Veloo's restaurant. The girls have escaped there to have a giggle away from Aunty Roopah's watchful gaze. Sosya is asking Maya if there is any improvement in her husband's love making or is he still stuck at the missionary position for the last 7 months since they got married. Maya sighs, yes, he is still Mr Missionary - making love with the lights off, under the covers of the thick duvet, hardly touching her except in a perfunctory manner. Maya tried to go down on him, as advised by her 2 helpful friends, but he froze in shock and was catatonic for the next 30 minutes. It was useless. She felt useless and unwanted. Like an empty porcelain vase. Beautiful to look at, admired from afar but no one dares to touch the precious porcelain vase for fear it may break. Its place is on a pedestal. It is not entitled to have any feelings, any emotions, any desires - its function is only to be there to be admired. And such is Maya's position. Androo just forces himself to have sex with her in order to fulfil his duty as his parents expect them to produce children. By now Maya has resigned herself to accepting the fact that she is an object to be admired and not desired. That she herself possesses no desires of her own. That she is cold and lacks passion and that's why her husband finds her unappealing. Even her lecherous father in law looks at her only with deference in his eyes and not lust. She has seen the way he looks at Sosya and Letchoomi but ... with her... sigh, is she that cold?

Maya is asking her friends whether perhaps they could help seduce her husband and teach him how to make love properly. This is indeed a desperate request by a wife. And yet how many desperate wives are out there who wish that someone would tutor their husbands on how to be a better lover? And why can't these women teach their husbands how to please them, you may ask. There are many reasons and many taboos on this subject. Firstly, the wife cannot seem more experienced than the husband. Secondly, having to teach him to do something which he should already know is a turn off. Most importantly, he will lose face and that will surely kill the passion, if there is any, between husband and wife. The wife does not want to play the role of a traffic cop (Polis Di Raja Malaysia) directing the husband where to go. The problem with most men is that they "make love" to all women using the same blueprint. What works for one woman, what turns one woman on, should turn all other women on as well. I'm afraid it doesn't work that way chaps. You need to wipe the slate clean and start afresh - like you are touching a woman for the first time and discovering something totally new and wonderful. The key is in the touch. But men are so performance based these days, they focus on size, length of time, stamina etc they equate themselves to a car. How fast and how long can I go? is their main concern. And women add on to this fallacy by faking it all the time - to preserve the relationship, to secure an insecure man. Then there is also the type of women who just lie there like a log, thinking that consent to enter ie coitus is the sole contribution required on their part to the act of making love. So they deserve what they get.

Maya's friends have resorted to spying on her husband without her knowledge to get to the root of the problem. They now reveal to her what they discovered about Mr Missionary. "I'm afraid I've found out what's wrong with your husband" says Sosya, holding Maya's hand, looking at her in concern. Oh dear, Maya thought to herself, he is gay ... Brokeback Mountain. Every woman who is rejected by a man harbours a suspicion that he is gay. Otherwise they will just have to face facts and admit that he is just not that into them. Sosya continues "He likes stick insects." Maya frowns, puzzled. Letchoomi explains "He's a modeliser. He likes tall, very very thin, flat chested women with a boyish figure - so he's just 2 steps away from being gay .... he could be in denial, so he goes for women who resembles young boys."

Sigh, this is too grey for Maya. She likes things in black & white. Either he is gay or not. This is complicated. "How did you find out?" she asks. "He is dating last year's Miss Tofu International." replies Sosya. "I hear she's shortlisted for this year's Miss Soya Bean Universe" Letchoomi chips in helpfully. She can be Miss World Tumeric for all Maya cares. Her husband finds other women more attractive than her. She is shattered. She cannot evoke even an ounce of passion in him and he finds a woman who looks and feels like an ironing board much more desirable. Letchoomi and Sosya sees Maya's crestfallen face "Gosh, we're sorry. We didn't know you would take it so badly. We didn't know you like him that much."
"Well he is my husband"
"Yes we know dear, we attended your wedding. Are you even attracted to him?" Letchoomi asks.
"He is my husband" Maya repeats.
"We've been through this just now. We know he is your husband but do you like him? Are you attracted to him? Does he turn you on?"
Such painful questions which a wife must inevitably answer truthfully to herself. No, no, no... Yet the answers still point back an accusing finger at her - as the reason for the failure. The inability to evoke passion and to feel passion. She thought married couples reach this stage - of having perfunctory sex - after 10 years of marriage. Hers was a non starter to begin with.
What Maya doesn't realise is that Androo had a traumatic experience when he was 5 years old. One night, he was awakened by the sound of his mother howling like an animal in pain. He rushed to his parents room carrying his little blue teddy in one hand. Their door was slightly ajar so little Androo steps in. What he saw that night would remain etched in his memory for the rest of his life. His mother was on the floor, on all fours, starkers (totally nude). There was some kind of leather collar round her thick sweaty neck and a leather leash attached to it. His very hairy father was starkers too, mounting her from behind like a beast from hell, holding the other end of the leash. It was a grisly sight indeed. She was emitting this god awful guttural sound. Androo was transfixed in horror. Not knowing whether his mother needed rescuing. Not knowing whether it really is his mother. Not knowing whether they really are his parents.
So that, my good people, is why he likes to date androgenous women. In fact, he would prefer to date androids if he could find any. His only reason for having sex with these women is to dispel any gay rumours as he is quite a homophobic. Maya is too much a woman. She has lots of curves and is very soft to touch. It puts him off. He dates models so that other men will envy him. Other short men may compensate by driving a red Ferrari and in the old days, they would invade other countries kill Jews en masse to prove their manhood. These days the only shortie allowed to invade other countries and kill people en masse (this time its the Muslims) is President Bush. Androo resorts to dating models to compensate for his perceived lack of physical allure . There are other things he does which we may not quite comprehend. He was brought up a Hindu and was taught that eating beef is a big no no. Yet he purposely goes to a pub and orders roast beef and yorkshire pudding. In doing so he hopes to prove 2 things - that he is anglophile and that he is not bound by what he perceives are archaic rules. That he has the freedom to practise his religion as he sees fit. He doesn't even enjoy eating beef. Androo's Muslim best friend Oosman would order roast suckling pig at a Chinese restaurant and they would both consume it with great gusto - just to show that they are not shackled by useless rules and regulations. They organise a "buka puasa" (breaking of fast) event during Ramadan and only serve wine to the guests. This is their freedom of religion. In their quest to impress their western friends and to be more white than the whites, to convince them that they are "moderates" and "liberals", they have forgotten to respect their own people. Would I as a Muslim enter a Hindu temple with my shoes on? No, out of respect to the Hindus, I would take off my shoes before I enter. Would a Christian walk into a mosque with his shoes on? No, he would take his shoes off first. So why does a Muslim not respect his fellow Muslims during Ramadan? Why serve wine for buka puasa? You are just showing the westerners whom you want to impress so much, your lack of respect for your chosen religion and your people. Would you serve beef to a Hindu? You may think - aah, but that's his choice whether he wants to eat it or not. But your would also realise that it would be offensive to him, so you wouldn't do it - out of respect for him and his religion. But Androo and Oosman do not see it that way. It is their constitutional right to interpret their religion as they choose to. I'm all for that but before you exercise this right, take heed first that you do not ride roughshod over other people's beliefs and feelings. It is just a matter of courtesy. On one side your have the "fundamentalists" (a much maligned term) and the "extremists" wanting to impose their brand of religion and values on other people, on the other side you have Androo, Oosman and his pals promulgating total freedom of choice. Hell, I would like to be given the choice and freedom of bonking up against the frangipani tree at a public park like Charles and Camilla without worrying about a squad of voyeurs from Pejabat Ugama (Religious Department) rushing out from a nearby bush with their video cam to arrest me. I just want that choice but given that choice, I probably won't act on it because I would take into consideration that my actions would shock the delicate sensibilities of the pakcik & makcik (uncle & aunty) & their children having a nasi lemak picnic nearby. Out of respect and courtesy for them, I would not do it. These 2 opposite polars must find some means of meeting each other halfway and respecting each other's rights. In the words of the great master, Jalaludin Rumi - between Moses and Pharoah ... the Red Sea.

Sigh, lets move on back to Maya. A more palatable topic. Maya does not realise the complex and confused nature of her husband. But then, it is not up to her to unravel his dementia when he cannot even admit to himself that he has a problem in order to address it and to heal it. Whilst her friends are talking, she found herself staring at the chef. The Italian chef. He must be in his forties, she thought to herself. She is mesmerised by his strong hands as he chops the vegetables. Her eyes travel to his shoulders - he is built like a rugby player. Finally, as though he felt her eyes on him, he looks up, his brown eyes staring into her brown eyes. Time stood still. Maya forgets to breath. She is spellbound. He is captivated. Letchoomi and Sosya are intrigued - they stand up in unison, excusing themselves in a hurry to go to the bathroom. Maya and the Italian chef's eyes remain locked. He strides towards her, still maintaining eye contact, and says to her "I want to make love to you." Maya's head reels in shock. So many questions she wants to ask him. So many questions she should ask him but all she managed to say was "Now?" The chemistry between them was intense and overpowering. She doesn't know how long they stood there staring at each other. She doesn't know when Letchoomi and Sosya left the restaurant. She has a vague recollection of him locking the door after they left. She remembers him whispering into her ear "Open your mouth" which she instantly obeyed. She remembers him cracking open a raw egg and sliding the cool raw egg into her mouth, telling her not to break the yolk. She remembers him sliding his warm tongue into her mouth and gently pushing the egg yolk into his mouth without breaking it. They continue passing the egg between them in this slow sensous manner, until finally, the yolk breaks into both their mouths, merging them in that beautiful moment. The moment of Maya's awakening.

You may be wondering - did they have sex? Did the breaking of the yolk signify climax? And I am telling you that Maya made love and was made love to for the first time in her life. Yes, there is a difference between sex and making love, between lust and love. How many of us are fortunate enough to experience true love making - with just a caress of the eyes, a finger trailing up your arm, a warm breath behind your ear, a gentle kiss delicately placed on your wrist? Sadly, not many of us can distinguish the difference between lust and love. Between passion and need. It is rare indeed to look across a room and stare into the eyes of a person whom you have never met before and instantly, at that moment, know that this is the man you want, the man you want to be with for the rest of your life, the man who blurs the distinction between lust and love, merging them into an act of sheer and utter bliss. A man who torments you to near madness by giving you unbearable pleasure. Have you ever met such a person in your life? Have you ever been so divinely blessed in your life? Have you ever been so intoxicated?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Bovine Song

Come let's go down
To the shopping mall
To watch cattle grazing

They are all here
Babe, mid-age and old
But still nothing's sold

See how they drift
From store to store
With glazed eyes

Cows, Cows, Cows
Goddamned Cows
People are like cows
They want to be herd
They'll go where they're led
As long as they are fed
Nothing can be done for them
Because they just don't give a damn

Come let's go up
To the Parliament
To watch cows shitting

Hey, if you're lucky
You might get to watch
Some eating, some swallowing

Yeah, it's real funny
How they waste our money
Buying cow dung

Cows, Cows, Cows
Goddamned Cows
People are like cows
They liked to be milked
The harder you squeeze
The deeper they believe
Nothing can be done for them
Because they just don't give a damn

Where can we go?
They are everywhere
Where'd the conscious go?

Hell, let's have fun
Call your friends up
Let's tip 'em over

Try to resist
The alluring pull
Of the majority fool

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Okin of the Twilight Kingdom (Part One)

There once lived a man name Memnoch in the Kingdom of Twilight. He was a living legend. From a skinny fifteen year old that could barely hold a sword above his waist, he quickly became one of the Twilight Kingdom's greatest legend. When he was thirty five years of age, so many fell to his sword, shield and bow that even the king's most accurate scribes had given up counting his kills. There was perhaps one thing sharper than Memnoch's sword and that was his relentlessly and formidably curious mind. Kalketh Karoth, the king's wizard, dreaded by even the mightiest knights of the king, deferred to Memnoch when arguments inevitably came to an end. Though many in the kingdom wondered what would happen if there was a battle of wizardy between the two, equally as many believed Memnoch would triumph. There was rumour that even Kalketh feared him though no one dared utter this beneath the brooding murmuring sky.

Memnoch was given a special title because of his abilities and achievement: Okin, which meant 'The One of the King'. This title was so rare because both king and kingdom has to agree to the candidate who was then tasked with stealing a scale from a Black Eustrach, a huge and heavily scaled beast that resided in the Eastern Mist Mountains. Memnoch brought back its heart. An Okin was equal to the king in terms of authority. He could exercise all and any functions of the king and all his actions would be valid. As for Memnoch, as the first Okin of the Twilight King in two thousand years and its most powerful he was a virtual god. The people adored him, the king loved him as a favourite son, he had three beautiful beloved wives with seven children between them all who grew up happy and wanting for nothing.

One day, a farmer from Thurak, the colder and darker northern eastern parts of the twilight kingdom, reported a strange sighting to his Majesty's office after puzzling about it for several days. At the far end of his field stood a strange thin bright glowing line that rose from the ground up to about thirteen feet high. He was brave enough to attempt to touch the line several times but reported no ill effect to himself although there was a warm feeling when his hand passed through the line. After almost a year of being passed by word of mouth, word finally arrived to Memnoch. Immediately upon being told of the phenomena, he set forth for Thurak.

After two months of travelling under strongly adverse weather conditions, he had found the strange glowing line, kept it for himself within a massive white sturdy tent with several compartments for him and his retinue to study. His week turned to months which turned to years. In his sixth year of trying to understand and engage the mysterious line he made a breakthrough, although it was unintended. Out of a lark and also frustration, he cast several of his deadliest spells upon the line which seemed to affect the line because suddenly it flashed several colours in rapid succession. Instead of standing back, Memnoch stepped closer to the line and reached out to it. This time his hand passed through the line but did not come out the other side. He felt a gentle tug from within that warm that sliver of warmth and suddenly felt drowsy. As his eyes closed in a fit of slumber, he felt a gentle warmth envelope his entire body.

Monday, April 16, 2007

tHE pROtoN sAGa…

PMA: Hello everyone, I am Paula Malai Ali, and welcome to the pilot programme of “Money, and Nothing Else Matters.” Our special guest tonight is Mr Art Harun, a not too well known cynic-at-large. Hi Art, can I call you Art? Welcome to the show. Gosh, you are looking kinda hot…”
AH: Thank you. Yea, I am feeling hot. Is your air-cond working? Yea, you can either call me Art, or call me later, I am cool…yeah…cool.

PMA: Ooops, sorry, we had a power failure for 8 hours just now and power was just restored and I guess the air-cond needs time to power up.
AH: Oh, okay. “Nothing Else Matters” huh? That’s a Metallica song, in’it?
PMA: Metal-lick who?
AH: Oh, never mind…

PMA: Well, Art, I would love to ask you about yourself, I mean, what and where you eat, who you sleep with and stuffs, but my producer wants me to ask you about The Proton takeover. Erm…you have any thought about it?
AH: Hmm…well, first of all, it is not a takeover. It is just a proposed acquisition of Proton’s shares by Volkswagen.

PMA: Owh…it’s not a takeover than. Hehe…what is a takeover?
AH: A takeover is something like the English did to Malaya prior to our independence. They came here, they took everything they liked, they did anything they wanted, they plundered our resources, fed our leaders with opium and they left. That’s a takeover. There is a certain degree of unwillingness on the part of the target object for it to be a takeover. What Volkswagen is proposing here is merely to acquire some of Proton’s shares and I believe they want to acquire a controlling interest in Proton.
PMA: Gosh, you sound so clever Art.
AH: And you are cute too. You were so cute in the “Chequered Flag” yesterday.
PMA: Uh…chequered flag? Omigawd, you saw it?
AH: Yea…sure, ASTRO ran that programme after the F1 race yesterday and you were co-hosting it.

PMA: Oh God, for a moment I thought you saw me in that chequered undies and bra I was wearing yesterday! Oh God…oh…uh…so, what are your thoughts about the proposed takeover…. I mean, acquisition or whatever?
AH: I think it’s the longest and most drawn out proposed acquisition in corporate history. They have been talking and negotiating since 2 years ago. Since then, well, North Korea has agreed to a nuclear disarmament pact; Koffi Annan has retired; Saddam is dead; Britney Spears has gone bald, Elton John has gotten married to a man and Proton is still talking about Volkswagen! I think it’s stupid! I don’t really know what is wrong and why it is taking so long. I mean, it looks like there would be a solution to the Palestinian crisis before this acquisition is going to be completed.

PMA: Hmm…why do you think it’s taking so long?
AH: Well, maybe, just maybe, the Volkswagen representatives are speaking German and the Proton’s reps are speaking Malay at the negotiating table. And the translator is a Japanese. And so, everything is like, lost in translation lah…

PMA: Hehe…you are so cute Art.
AH: Paula, lemme tell you something. Please don’t you ever ever call any man, me included, cute. A Volkswagen Beatle is cute. A Barbie doll is cute. And so is a rabbit. Your chequered undies may also be cute. But men are not cute, okay?

PMA: Erm…okay. So, seriously, why do you think it is taking them so long?
AH: I don’t know really. You see, Proton is at a crossroad. No. Sorry. Proton is in the pit! One helluva deep and almost bottomless pit. Can you imagine, with all the protectionism policy by the government and the almost monopolistic market, which they have in Malaysia, it still manages to outdo the dumbest of the dumbos and not making money? Its cars are of low quality. Speaking of quality, you would remember that the last management, in their effort to improve quality, engaged TUV of Germany to certify quality for Proton Savvy. Now even the TUV certification has stopped! Why? I am sure many are interested to know. It’s marketing strategy and packaging is suspect, to say the least and to put it mildly. Production has been cut from 22000 units per month to only 4000 units per month! And despite the various tax and duty exemptions, it still manages to be relatively expensive compared to other brands in the same market sector. In short, something is not right about Proton. It is not cost efficient. It is not competitive. This translates to poor sales and income, which in turn causes poor profitability. So, it needs new branding, new marketing strategy, and new technological as well as strategic partner to be competitive. The infrastructure is there. It just needs a push for the next step to be achieved. Volkswagen knows this and they have expressed their interest to acquire Proton. Volkswagen is one of the biggest car manufacturers in the world. With the kind of marketing networking and know how, and with the kind of technological know how which they possess, they are in a position to propel Proton to a higher level of efficiency and profitability. It is all about good and sound business decision. It’s about making money from business. Approached from a purely business point of view, it is a simple deal and a simple decision to make. I mean, Proton needs a strategic partner. Volkswagen is there. So, it is just a matter of agreeing on a price, which is quite easy to do. Then it is a matter of agreeing on the management team.

PMA: Oh, it’s a bit like me buying a handbag ya? I choose the handbag and pay the price, right? Hehe…
AH: Well, that’s half correct. With the handbag, you pay and you bring it back home and use it. With Proton, there is a decision to be made on the price first. But that is simple. You look at the assets and the liabilities and ascertain the net tangible assets and there you go, you would be able to ascertain the value of the price per share. To ascertain the assets and liability, of course Proton would have to "open" up to Volkswagen in a process known as "due diligence". Of course if Proton is not willing to open up or has something to hide, this process is going to be difficult. What is then left to be done is to put a premium on the value of the shares because Volkswagen is acquiring a controlling stake.

PMA: Is that difficult to do?
AH: Well, it is complicated but not that difficult. You have various benchmarks from all over the world. You look at the automobile industry as a whole and look at past mergers and acquisitions and you could then have a rough idea of how much premium could be attached to the Proton shares. Look at the Renault’s acquisition of Nissan for example. It was smoothly done. Nissan was in trouble. Renault came in. Carlos Ghosn from Renault became the CEO and now, just look at where Nissan is! I mean even the Japanese allowed a Frenchman to be their CEO in times of trouble!

PMA: So, what do you think is happening?
AH: I could only speculate. I think irrelevant issues are being considered in the negotiations. When I say irrelevant issues I mean issues which have nothing to do with business at all. Things like “if Volkswagen comes in, there must still be a Bumiputra Managing Director/CEO” or a Bumiputra or Malaysian management”. Things like “if you come in, you must ensure that Proton’s vendors must be Bumiputra” and stuffs like that. I mean, if the seller of the shares do not want to relinquish management to Volkswagen, why must Volkswagen acquire a controlling interest? And why must the seller fear Volkswagen’s management of Proton? After all, Volkswagen is bigger than Proton. They have been in the business for far longer than Proton. They know the market. They have the expertise, both in terms of marketing networking and strategy and production technology and know how and not to mention financial clout. After all their parent company is Porsche! Why don’t we give them the power to manage with a set target and see what they can do for a number of years? We can then all learn from them and obtain a transfer of technology and expertise. Why are we behaving in a strange manner? Why are we being so non-business minded? I mean, how simpler could it be? We have a business. We cannot make it work. We need help. And when someone in the know comes knocking on our door, we are saying, okay, you pay this sum and you let us manage our business. Huh? Like, duh? And in so far as the vendors issues are concerned, well, if there are other vendors who can be cheaper and who offer better quality parts, change them la. What is so difficult about that? That is sound business decision. After all, Proton has to be more cost efficient and produce better quality cars. All these Bumiputra things are nothing but misplaced national pride at work. Well, I suppose the election is coming and maybe the government doesn’t want the “rakyat” (don’t you just love this bloody patronising word…”the rakyat” when it is used by the politicians?) to feel like it has sold out the Bumiputra by selling Proton to a foreigner and let it be managed by them. It is somewhat like Hishamuddin Hussein’s objection against MAS having a foreign CEO the other day lah…typical lah…if you do that, then some Malays may start carrying their Keris in public lah…biasa lah…the Malays kan kuat mengamuk? So, I think the definite spanner in the works as far as Proton’s acquisition by Volkswagen is concerned is the fact that irrelevant issues are being considered. At this rate, no big car manufacturer is going to talk to us. Let alone be Proton’s strategic partner.

PMA: God you are hot…..

DISCLAIMER: No Proton or Volkswagen cars were in any way harmed, damaged or tortured in the production of this piece. Nor was Paula Malai Ali in any way harmed, damaged or tortured as well. For those who are interested in the chequered undies and bra, please contact Daef or The Anomaly via e mail.