Saturday, 28 March 2009

First they came...

A poem by Martin Niemöller.

Als die Nazis die Kommunisten holten,
habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Kommunist.

Als sie die Sozialdemokraten einsperrten,
habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Sozialdemokrat.

Als sie die Gewerkschafter holten,
habe ich nicht protestiert;
ich war ja kein Gewerkschafter.

Als sie die Juden holten,
habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Jude.

Als sie mich holten,
gab es keinen mehr, der protestieren konnte.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Blog & Roll Friday: Bent Objects

I don't know how long I can keep up this 'Blog & Roll Friday' thing, might have to be called Blog & Roll Alternate Friday soon. Obviously, it's not a lack of blogs that the problem (we all know there are millions), but rather because I would only feature blogs which I truly enjoy and/or admire, and many of those would probably be known to most of you already anyway, so showcasing those would defeat the 'sharing' aspect of 'Blog & Roll'.

Anyway, this week's star is Bent Objects, where wires are twisted and arranged along with household items to create, well, bent objects. I know it sounds nonsensical but it's better seen than explained, trust me. All of the end results are funny or clever, and most are both.

Click on the title post and enjoy.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Quote of the Week/Farewell

There are two ways to slide easily through life; to believe everything or to doubt everything. Both ways save us from thinking.
Alfred Korzybski (July 3, 1879 – March 1, 1950), Polish-American philosopher, mathematician and scientist.

Via ay-es, who is deserting me leaving soon.

Have a safe, smooth and comfy flight—may you be served by a hot and suave air-steward (or stewardess, whichever rocks your boat), may the food be better than edible, may you get hours of blissful sleep, and may you land fresh as a sprite, ready to take over the world.

I shall miss you—your style, wit, idealism (lol) and intelligence, and of course, our many shared rants.

May you find greener pastures, inner peace, personal fulfillment and lots of fierce vintage clothes in your size and within your budget. Take care of yourself now, all the best, and keep in touch 'till we met again. Until then, Good Luck and Goodbye!

Much love always,

Tuesday, 24 March 2009


"F**k twitter, and f**k the new facebook. I just want to keep in touch with my friends and family. I don't need a bullshit "stylish" interface. I want to put a bullet in my head every time I get on Facebook... Please, just stop...."
A post on a group discussion board which debates the newly introduced facebook design and its similarities to Twitter. (Censorship by moi).

If you could fully relate to that, it is a sign that your virtual life may have overtaken your real one. Seriously people, ever heard of email? Or phones? Or visiting? Or (gasp!) mailing letters and postcards?

Monday, 23 March 2009


Lovelysmartsexycool people out there,
  1. Pleeeaaassee comment. Loved it? Hated it? Totally agreed? Wanted to punch me? Whatever it is, comment!
  2. Other forms of constructive feedback on how to improve/what to write on is more than welcome. You know how to get me, I'm sure.
  3. If you subscribe to my posts with a feed reader, please ignore if a post that you've read before is republished/appears again. It's only because I correct spelling and grammatical mistakes in previous posts that that happens. Yes, I'm anal like that.
  4. If you notice that some of my posts are published at peculiar days or times (eg: early in the morning), it's really because I use a post scheduler which publishes them at a previously set date and time, so don't assume the date or time stamped reflects when I actually wrote the post. No, of course I don't actually write on this blog every day. I don't have that much free time, I just use the scheduler to keep a regular pace.
That is all.


You'd Better Be Free On 17th July, Muggle!

Can't wait to see the Wobbly Bridge actually wobble like jelly, then collapse into the Thames.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

There's Nothing Like A Dame!

This never fails to crack me up.

Judi Dench is peerless! (Pun unintended).

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Quote of the Week

Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.
Oscar Wilde (16 October 1854 – 30 November 1900), Irish playwright, poet, author, wit and 19th Century Poster Boy.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Blog & Roll Friday: A Walk Through Durham Township, PA

Another photoblog I've been following for ages, this one very different from last week's.

Kathleen Connally's photoblog features images from her surroundings: the gorgeously rural Bucks County, Pennsylvania. She claims it is a work-in-progress, but her talent really shines through.

Click on the post title to visit the photoblog, then gawk at the stunning pictures. Check out the archives too!

Thursday, 19 March 2009


(Ed: This is a short reflection on the graphic novel and movie. No real spoilers but it won't make much sense unless you've watched the movie or read the graphic novel, which I strongly suggest you do.)

Watchmen the graphic novel is equal parts thrilling whodunit, riotous adventure, grand conspiracy and cerebral romp through knotty political, social, psychological, ethical and philosophical themes. Starting life as a 12-part comic book series from 1986/7, it was considered a seminal work in the genre, a masterpiece from the godfather of comic book writing, Alan Moore, artist Dave Gibbons and colorist John Higgins. It was designed to be appreciated by way of multiple readings and unhurried contemplation (unlike the movie, obviously) and from first hand experience I can vouch that it is a fairly dense, complex and multi-layered work of fiction, regardless of its medium.

Most people born in the mid 80's (like myself) will not immediately see how important Watchmen is simply because by the time we reached the age when we encountered popular culture's depictions of superheroes, its influence was already deep and widespread. Read today, Watchmen's deeply flawed characters, unnerving undertones and gloomy outlook will seem unremarkable compared to your garden variety superhero facing personal problems and ethical dilemmas while living in deeply troubled, crime-ridden and morally depraved societies.

But when you note that Watchmen is more than 20 years old, and compare how superheroes were portrayed before it, you can see what an astounding impact it has left on the landscape of comic books. Before Watchmen, heroes in comics came in few variations—most of them were valiant, physically strong and dominant, chivalrous, and had unwavering moral fortitude. And of course, most lived in highly stylised worlds where morality rarely had grey areas—the story's villain was often over the top with an almost cartoonish penchant for evil, and the hero was equally flamboyant in his pop-colour spandex suit, ever-ready to save the world.

Moore removed heroes from their 'created' worlds and put them in the 'real' world, not in the sense that the Watchmen world perfectly mirrors ours, but in the sense that people within it do not live in a morally dichotomous universe of perfect good or malevolent evil. In fact in the alternate-America of Watchmen, history took a very different course. Nixon is re-elected for a third term, thanks to the Vietnam War being won by America, in turn thanks to Dr. Manhattan, a superhuman hired by the government to fight (annihilate, really) the VietCong. He (Dr Manhattan) gained his powers by way of a freak accident in a military lab, and is the only person in the Watchmen world to have superpowers. All the other Watchmen/heoes are just humans donning costumes and masks.

Moore asks the question: in such a world, what sort of people would dress up to fight crime anonymously, and why would they do it? For kicks? For fame? For money? Due to some fetish? How many would do it for purely selfless reasons? Would all of them be perfect moral characters? Would they all be brave and virile? His heroes, the Watchmen, and their predecessors the Minutemen, are instead portrayed as either morally questionable, ambiguous to down-right reprehensible, with complex psychological profiles and varying reasons for fighting crime, most of which have little to do with an actual desire to rid society of it. Moore 'deconstructed' the comic book hero down to earth-level human with screw-ups aplenty.

It's really thanks to Moore that we have our heroes (both in comics and beyond) drawn as morally and psychologically complex with brooding personalities and troubling dilemmas rather than as the simplistic white knights in shinning armour of yesteryear. Watchmen darkened the hues of comic book heroes and their worlds unlike anything had done before, and this in turn affected other works of fiction: literature, television, movies, etc. So really, while most people my age might find the ideas in Watchmen familiar, the same could be said of plenty of artistic ideas that, due to them being imitated and recreated ad infinitum, seem unoriginal when presented in their native forms simply because we're so used to their ubiquitous, heavily polished copies. Yet, when we learn of their novelty and uniqueness in the context of their time and place, we take a step back and stand astounded, the same way we would be amazed looking at the first typewriter, telephone or car.

That is one of the problems with Watchmen the movie, because it comes two decades after its source material was created—just a little too late, although of course only today's technology could produce the Watchmen movie we see today (another sign of Moore's amazing vision and talent). In that period, plenty of other comics, books, movies and other media in popular culture have went ahead to portray the type of characters found in Watchmen, so much so that the ones in the movie now seem clichéd in comparison. So what if Veidt is morally ambiguous? Practically all the lead characters in television action serials are. So what if Dr. Manhattan feels detached from everyone else? So is every hero with superhuman powers. So what if Rorschach and the Comedian detest humanity? We've got plenty of anti-heroes already, thank you very much.

The radicalism of Moore's approach in the graphic novel is completely lost when transfered to film, not least because of the 20 year time-lapse, and it's even more lost on those who have not read the comics. They already have a mammoth task of having to shift through the myriad of characters across multiple time lines and their respective roles in the story, while trying to figure out the murder-mystery/conspiracy. It's just another action movie, and there is really no room for contextualising the source material back to the 80's.

But for fanboys (or girls), particularly those who have read Watchmen when the Cold War was actually going on, it is a much loved masterpiece brought to life. And in this sense, the movie is fulfilling to fans, because many of the details in the comics are meticulously recreated, and many scenes constructed almost frame by frame from the source material, with lines copied verbatim. In fact it is so much of a fanboy movie that many of the elements in the movie would go either unnoticed or seem completely irrelevant to the story-at-large to non-fans. Often, the scenes lose their context due to director Zack Synder's reverence to the source material; the graphic novel had plenty of time and space to create depth and atmosphere for them (the scenes) to play out, but in the movie they can seem either ridiculously over the top, pointless or clichéd. Those who have and have not read the comics would no doubt have very different experiences watching the film.

But the problem with adapting Watchmen (besides its inherent plot complexities) was that it was nearly impossible to please everybody, at least to the same degree. You either please the fans (and they are legion) who demand near-absolute reverence, or you please the non-fans who probably needed some drastic changes so as to be able to shallow and enjoy the story. Mr. Synder and his team of screenwriters chose the former, for better and for worse. While this faithfulness works admirably at times, allowing Moore's story-telling and clever lines to shine through without interference, at other times it produces rather laughable results simply because what works visually in the comic book doesn't work as well when replicated on screen. What gratifies long-term fans will often annoy, confuse or embarrass non-fans.

Having said that though, Mr. Synder does add some of his own touches, in particular plenty of bloody and, in my view, distasteful violence not found in the original material. There is considerable violence in the graphic novel, but most of it is cleverly suggested rather than shown; you get none of the cringe-inducing stuff found in the movie. Of course we all know Mr. Synder's portrayal of violence is to be expected considering his previous work, but it still borders on intolerable sadism—it is simply unnecessary and distorts the characters actions beyond their own personalities.

Mr. Snyder was admirably apt at handling the enormity of the production (it really is huge), but he is clearly not an actor's director. While Rorschach's Jackie Earl Haley played the character amazingly (and masked, too!), Silk Specter's Malin Akerman was far less admirable, her lines about as well delivered as a Malaysian postcard to Vanuatu. Everyone else's performance was somewhere in between. The slow motion action sequences were gratuitous and at times downright irratating, while the scenes between Silk Spectre/Sally Jupiter and Nightowl/Dan Dreiberg were often palpably awkward. Of course the multiple layers of the original work was lost in this single-serving movie, but that is to be expected. There is simply no way that every nuance and subtlety can be transfered on-screen from the source material, even with Synder's faithfulness, but even for fans, it's a reasonable, and ultimately necessary sacrifice when adapting it into a movie.

Another one of the directional elements is the soundtrack. The two friends I watched the movie with enjoyed the music selection, I personally did not. The opening credit sequence, a clever and well done montage that condenses the decades of history within the Watchmen universe to a few minutes, plays to Dylan's The Times They Are a-Changin'. Ok, even Captain Obvious would've been embarrassed, but I can let that one go. Plus, as a friend said, it allowed viewers, particularly those unfamiliar with the story, to enter a context of time (the 80's) easily. Fair enough. Later, a funeral ceremony opens to Simon and Garfunkel's The Sound of Silence. That's two in a row. Then a love scene has Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah playing. Why ruin such a beautiful and well-loved song with what is probably the worst love scenes of the year? Threading on thin ice now. Then the scenes of the Vietnam War has The Ride of the Valkyries swells in the background. Are you kidding me? I mean, c'mon! Must you copy the music straight out of one of the most famous Vietnam War movies around? Must you? Then Tears for Fears' Everybody Wants to Rule the World pipes in when we meet the megalomaniac Adrian Veidt, and at this point I am unwilling to forgive. In my personal view, a few lesser known bands whose sound embodies the spirit of the Watchmen's dark world would have done much more good to the movie as well as for the bands' exposure, and to Synder's credibility. But that's my view.

A final note would be on the ending, and it's clear divergence from the original material (the only part of the movie that is notably different, rather than notably missing). No doubt fanboys have already discussed at length whether this was an acceptable move in their forums and blogs, but I personally think that it was a good change. The original ending was intricately tied to another story arch that could not have possibly been included in the movie, so Mr. Snyder and his scriptwriters really had no choice but to simplify it anyway. Even if he didn't alter the ending, it would have seemed far too ridiculous to anyone who didn't go through the hundreds of pages building up to it in the graphic novel.

Yet this new ending, while I agree it was a good and needed alteration, might still be problematic because it doesn't really satisfy the expectations of non-readers. The ending in the graphic novel was Moore's joke on his readers—a dissolution that was completely opposite to what most comic book readers would have expected, but movie goers aren't going to get it simply because, unlike fans of the comics who probably read plenty of other comics, their experience is confined to the movie itself, and their point of reference is other action movies. The joke will seem more like a disappointing and frustrating state of circumstances rather than an astute and ironic twist to the narrative. (But then again, there was the twist to the twist, which I suppose leaves the work to viewers' imagination—you'll know what I mean if you've watched the movie/read the comics).

Which is why I suggest that anyone who hasn't read the graphic novel to do so. If you liked the movie, you'll love the work, and if you didn't like it, reading the source material will probably change your view of the movie, especially if you watch it again. Even if it doesn't change your view (unlikely if you consider how complex and difficult it is to adapt), reading the graphic novel is still a deeply enjoyable and unique experience independent of its movie adaptation. It (the graphic novel) makes you think about (amognst many, many other things) the perils of power and how much misplaced hope we put onto our heroes, who in the end fail us because they are simply flawed humans like the rest of us—a lesson every Malaysian citizen ought to learn.

Sources: Wikipedia and

It's Not Easy To Be Me

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Far Away The Hills Are Green...

I hope you wore green, had lots of Guinness fun, kissed an Irishman/woman, caught a leprechaun and found your pot of gold yesterday.

And even if you didn't, I hope you found a little magic in your life.

Every year since 1962, the Chicago Journeyman Plumbers dye the Chicago River with 40 pounds of orange vegetable dye, which reacts with the water to make it an iridescent Irish-hills green.

The tradition started by accident in 1961 when the plumber's union manager saw a plumber with bright green overalls. They had just started using dye to detect illegal leaks to the river as part of pollution control and the dye had stained the plumber's overalls. And now they do it every year.

Read more here.

And here's an Irish blessing thrown in for good measure.
May your pockets be heavy and your heart be light.
May good luck pursue you each morning and night.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Dear World,
Happy St. Paddy's Day, especially if you're Irish! Have lots of fun, but don't go overboard now!
Now, where did I put that huge Guinness Stout hat?


Definitely Maybe

LinkFrom the incomparable xkcd.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Blog & Roll (Not) Friday: daily dose of imagery

My apologies to everyone for not posting this last Friday. Lots of stuff has happened, including a hilarious predicament, good Tiramisu (I always thought it sounded more Japanese than Italian) taken with a view to kill for, a horrible accident (not involving me, thankfully), and an ironic slap from Fate, right in the guts. Plus plenty of the usual boring stuff in between. Oh, and a simmering crisis (definitely involving me) yet unresolved. Ah, c'est la vie!

Anyway, this week's featured blog is daily dose of imagery, an award-wining photoblog I've followed for years. Photographer Sam Javanrouh is based in Toronto, but posts pictures from around the globe. Most of his work portrays cities and it's colourful denizens (in particular his snowy Toronto) , from huge buildings to busy streets to large crowds to solitary cyclists, all captured through his sharp eye. Javanrouh's sublime photos can make skylines look familiar or anonymous, showing how so many cities look like so many other cities, and can make small, commonplace objects take on epic meanings previously unknown. Good stuff.

Click on the post title to visit. Enjoy!

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Please Read This

Click on the the post title to read the article 'Kugan's blood on our hands?' by über-talented Huzir Sulaiman, at the Star Online.

His column 'Wide Angle' can be read at the Star Online here.

His blog can be found here.

I was lucky enough to watch a performance of one of his plays at college. Malaysia deserves more people like him.

(Cheers for the link from HuffPo, Ash. And enjoy the UK, you lucky girl!)

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Allow Me To Illustrate

I really wasn't exaggerating when I said earlier that my peers were despicably apathetic. Read and weep.

Scene: Crowded class of about 250 students.

Lecturer: So, can we conclude that bla bla bla bla bla? Who says we can? Raise your hands! Who says yes?

Two students raise their hands.

Lecturer: OK, who says no?

Three other students raise their hands.

Lecturer: OK, who doesn't have an opinion about this?!

TWO other students raise their hands.

Lecturer doesn't know whether to laugh or cry (and neither do I).

Mind you, these people are the nation's future lawyers, not assembly-line workers. Bloody l-a-w-y-e-r-s! Now can you see why I'm losing hope in my country's future?

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Quote of the Week

The most important things are the hardest things to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them - words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they're brought out. But it's more than that, isn't it? The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you've said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it. That's the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller, but for want of an understanding ear.
Opening lines to Stephen King's The Body.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Freshly Baked

I'm sorry my dear, I know it's embarrassing but I just couldn't resist.
Thank you for making me laugh.

ay-es says:
today i just realized what the pun on Blog n Roll meant

ay-es says:

ay-es says:
i mean, was referring to

ay-es says:
then i thought, ooh so clever

Algernon says:
what did you think it meant before?

Algernon says:
sausage roll?

ay-es says:

Algernon says:

ay-es says:
dun la. i blur sometimes

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Satu Tahun Kemudian

(Ed: This is a loong piece, but it is very dear to my heart. Please read it when you're free, and of course, feel free to comment.)

I was not is Malaysia a year ago on this day. I was pursuing my undergrad degree at a university in a different country. But even there, I immersed myself in the national elections with help from the Internet. I read a plethora of news sites, blogs, webzines and opinion pieces to compensate for being so far away from the action. I kept up with campaign news long before poling day, and noted the young new candidates, party developments and the emergence of a new coalition to rival the ruling one. News reached me at virtually the same time it reached anyone at home, so by poling day, I was truly under election fever. It was the first general election after I felt I had gained politically maturity and the first one where I was eligible to vote (although I could not due to being abroad), so it was a Big Deal to me.

On the day itself, I was riveted by the chain of events happening thousands of miles away, unraveling before me in words, images and videos on a 13 inch laptop screen. It all seemed so big, so unbelievable, so much more drastic (and dramatic) than what I had expected. It was an exciting time to be Malaysian, even when I wasn't in Malaysia. The morning papers called it a 'Political Tsunami', and there is no doubt that that phrase has entered the vernacular of ordinary Malaysians, just as there is no doubt that that event is an important one in the narrative of our young nation, still struggling to find its identity and place in the world. There has been a stream of books published in the wake of the 'Tsunami', but one day, the history books will tell of it, too. I don't think it is excessive to say that it is a day that shall live in infamy, at least for Malaysians.

While its importance is not to be downplayed, it is also not to be overblown. Yes, we have never seen the ruling coalition lose its two-third majority, nor the change of administration in 5 State Assemblies. It took us aback, all of us, even the politicians (especially the politicians?), but we must remember that in developed countries with mature democracies, changes like these happen often, and they are seen as healthy because they prevent political inefficiency, corruption and stagnation.

Movements away from over-concentration of power on any side will lead to power being genuinely balanced and spread out, both horizontally and vertically (i.e. through the breath of a political institutiona and from the highest levels of government to the lowest), resulting in a strong check and balance, preventing abuses of power and complacency on all sides. Furthermore, in the long run, political parties will try to win the support of a broader spectrum of voters because its power's base is not guaranteed. To do this, parties will usually (although not always) push themselves away from extremes on the political spectrum (because the center is where most voters are found). What this means is that we shouldn't see what happened a year ago as a one-off fluke shot, but as a step towards political maturity.

While March 8th amazed and stunned us, we must also remember that as Malaysians, there is still far, far more that we must do in moving our country towards a liberal democracy, regardless of which side of the fence we are on. The hardest of these steps is changing our minds, our entrenched paradigms and ways of thinking, and coming out of our restrictive and often invisible mental boxes. I figure that there is no more apt a day than today to talk about this, the first anniversary of that unforgettable day.

For supporters of either political coalition, March 8th was seen as a crushing blow to Barisan Nasional. This is true in one sense, in that they lost power that they assumed they were entitled to. But we must see it from another perspective, a wider one. We must see it as a chance for Barisan, a coalition that has no doubt contributed much to nation building (its mistakes and crimes notwithstanding), to do some soul searching, some exorcism, some reaching out, some listening, and most importantly, to change, and change radically. Change that will enable it not to regain immediate power, but long term, sustainable viability and political relevance. Malaysians, regardless of political affiliation, will benefit from this because in the long run, if Pakatan Rakyat were to gain the unchallenged endorsement that Barisan has enjoyed since independence, in 50 years time that power will make PR the BN of today—they will be the ones who will be smug and face dissatisfaction.

Let us not fool ourselves; power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. That is the inherent nature of power: it enables as much as it debases. But this is precisely why we need a liberal democracy, because in such a set-up, power is spread and shared and it changes hands often, and no side or individual is unfettered in his use of authority. Liberal democracy does not embrace majoritarianism, where the one who leads the biggest mob is king. Inherent to liberal democracy is pluralism, inclusion and dialogue: a voice and concern for minorities and co-operation from the majority, as well as space for multiple interests to be given attention. Inherent in liberal democracy is also fair-play: those who win never win so much that they can silence or cripple their opponents permanently (see Zimbabwe).

Legitimacy and viability on both factions would, in the long term, serve the interests of both sides because gains and losses, big or small, initiate political evolution which will keep both parties on their toes as well as prevent complacency and institutional dysfunction. This was exactly what cost BN so much: it was entrusted with so much confidence and power for so long that it ended up taking up its fuction to serve for granted, because there was no one to really challenge it. In the long run, it will not be good for Malaysia if either side is absolutely powerless, regardless of the short term gains. Unfortunately, that is what NEITHER side seems to understand at the moment. At this moment it seems that BOTH sides seem greedy to grab as much as possible by any means necessary.

Because Barisan has been the government for so long, as a child I always saw it as the government, rather than a coalition serving as one. There seemed to be no possibility or need in my mind of having it any other way, until I learnt more about what democracy really means: that through free and fair elections, any party may become the government, and any government can turn into the opposition. While March 8 was clearly a sign that my childhood assumption about BN was unfounded, we must remember that it is still entrenched in the minds of many Malaysians, including politicians from both sides. Let us ask ourselves: how many voters a year ago voted for a new government, rather that voted against the existing one? It is impossible to give numbers, of course, but in light of the events and anger building up to March 8th, I do not think it is completely wrong to think that many people put in protest votes, and that they were surprised by the scale of the outcome of their actions.

Note that I am making no value judgment here: even if PR gained many votes due to frustration and anger, those votes are still valid, and the rakyat must take what it asked for. What PR needs to do now seems obvious to me, as it should to anyone: lead well in the states it has won, and maintain support while winning more on the national level, not grapple for immediate power. If it can convince Malaysians that the power entrusted to it a year ago is and will be used responsibly and wisely, then in future elections, people will vote for PR because they want them to rule, not because they are protesting (after all if you're protesting this time, you'd be voting in BN). This is what governing in a democracy is: hard, painstaking work at building not just states and countries, but trust. (With great power comes?). It is even more difficult considering the political position of PR's component parties: an Islamist party, a secular leftist party, and a party which promotes racial pluralism but is ambiguous when in comes to where its policy lies on the political spectrum.

But hard work must be done, because there is no other way that will work peacfully in the long run. Sure, there are faster ways (re: crossovers), but they are inherently undemocratic, and should not be tolerated, let alone encouraged, no matter which side you're on. I am not holding on blindly to a meaningless ideal—the fact is that crossovers are simply not sustainable ways of gaining power in the long run. How legitimate is power that is taken heavy handedly or by disagreeable means, regardless of questions on its legality? How long is it going to last? If anything, it angers people because it is seen as unethical and unfair: thousands of voters choices are distorted or disregarded by the actions of a few. It will eventually backfire when they vote against you the next time around. You have gained short term power but destroyed long term trust, and trust is the cornerstone of good politics. It is easy to lose, but not easy to gain back.

When party-hopping reaches epic levels, chaos will sooner or later ensue. If you are on Side A and you invite, entice or coerce members from the Side B to come over, where will their political allegiance really lie? How sure are you that they will do your bidding? How do you know they will not be invited, enticed, coerced back by Side B? How do you manage the anger amongst their constituents? Anger which will translate into votes for the other side. It will all be confusing, unstable and very messy: no one is really on anyone's side and everyone is fair game. Politics will then degenerate into a bullying or buying game based on fear or favour, not electoral support and trust. Elections will ultimately be meaningless. If you are on either side, who can you trust? Who can we trust? The political turmoil will ultimately cost the country dearly on many levels.

What BN needs to do seems less clear. In my humble view, I believe that the best thing for it to do is to move away from racialist politics and towards centrist policies, as well as initiate reforms in internal power structures and external public relations, but I know this is no easy feat for parties whose entire existence is based on race. It will take not just able and astute political leadership but cooperative support from party members, both of which BN seems to lack. Instead, what we find is a coalition (and leading party) which, one year later, is still sore and worse, is embittered. It seems that, as far as Barisan is concerned, it is still entitled to govern Malaysia by divine grace, and its job is to ensure that this will forever be so, by hook or by crook. It is more than willing to use questionable means of wrestling away power, but as I have said, this will eventually backfire. It is more than willing to move towards the further away from the political center, and this will alienate far more people than it will win over. What it needs to do is what any other party which loses needs to do: learn the bitter lesson and work hard to regain trust and support by changing and improving. Yet this seems to be the last thing on the minds of its leaders.

Malaysia faces an unfortunate heritage that many post-colonial countries face (and in some ways even the United States is a post-colonial country): the social and political definition of the self through race/tribe/ethnicity and religion, which then leads to segregation, lack of empathy and tension amongst groups. It has also led racialist politics to be the unquestioned modus operandi of our country for far too long. It will take years to undue this, but it must be undone, if we are at all to find lasting peace. And when I say it must be undone, I mean it must be undone by all of us. Too many Malaysians believe that marking 2 X's on ballot papers, then putting them in boxes, is the most they need to do as a citizen. Let me put it to you that that should be seen as the bare minimum.

What I mean is not that every clerk, doctor, tea-lady and student should suddenly be involved in party politics. What I mean is that we cannot simply leave nation building to our politicians alone. In fact that is the mortal mistake that many of us (including myself) have committed: we entrusted too much to our leaders, and then expected too much in return, only to shout and scream when they abuse the broad powers we gave them. We need to be aware that we all have an interest in the wellbeing of our nation and fellow citizens, and we need to change the way we think of our roles as citizens. It will not be easy to do it, but it is of the utmost importance if we are to progress as a nation.

We have to learn to take back that power from our leaders and understand that we can play a greater role in the decisions which ultimately affect all of us. This has been one of the admirable traits of the Obama campaign and administration in the US: it has empowered Americans to believe in themselves and take action during the campaign, and attempted to allow for more involvement of ordinary Americans in decision making in the administration. In other words, America is already moving slowly from a liberal democracy to a direct democracy.

It will be difficult to put powers back into our hands, firstly because our leaders will not give it back easily, but also because we ourselves can't fathom what rakyat-led democracy means, nor its implications on our everyday lives. 'Grassroots' simply doesn't mean a thing to so many of us because we've been powerless followers for so long. But 'People Power' is more than just being able to mark an X for 'Dacing' or 'Roket' or 'Mata' or 'Bulan' every 5 years. That is only the start.

We must now learn to wisely exercise our democratically granted right to speak: to our leaders, our followers, our friends and our family, and through all means: our blogs, our meetings, our debates, our forums, our press, our NGO's, our letters to MP's and our coffee-shop chats. We must also be careful never to preach hate nor ignite violence, and to ignore those who do, but rather to debate properly, civilly and openly . We have to speak out against brutality, totalitarianism and extremism, against racism, against poor governance and corruption. We must voice up what we believe is right, and peacefully but firmly show our dissatisfaction at what we believe to be wrong, or we will be counted as tacitly agreeing to it.

We also need to actively remove prejudices both in ourselves and amongst our friends. We strongly need to move away from ethnic or religious stereotypes and stop accepting racial slurs, and we need to engage with cultures that are not our own to promote understanding. It need not be speeches to an audience of hundreds; it can be as basic as raising awareness at our weekly mamak sessions, and reaching out to learn more about our neighbours from other races. It is as simple as seeing a person as a person first and foremost, not an Indian, a Chinese, or a Malay. Unless we end our preoccupation with race, we will never move on and start working together towards a Malaysia we can truly call home and be proud of.

We need to learn (and this is a painful lesson) that countries are admired and successful not because they have nice race tracks and super tall buildings and shinny big airports and the world's largest curry puff or longest pencil, but because their citizens are fair-minded, civil, progressive and tolerant, resourceful, efficient, well educated (I don't mean in terms of schooling), hardworking and united, and because their governments are free from totalitarianism and corruption, but are characterised by transparency, respect for the separation of powers, inclusiveness and open discussion, and are led by responsible and wise leaders.

We have to learn that we cannot wait even for ourselves to reach positions of leadership, because by then we would be too tired, too busy, too distracted or too tainted. We need to get things moving now, by activism in ways big and small, far and near, regardless of whether we are a school janitor or a leading politician. We need to speak aloud, immediately, fearlessly, and with one thing clear in our minds: we will not be silenced. Only then will our leaders listen, and only then will there even START to be a place for us in decision making.

Which now leads me to my sad conclusion. What troubles me most is not our embarrassing politicians, but our embarrassing youth. I believe in what I have written above, nevermind that I am young, inexperienced, foolish and hopelessly idealistic. But so few of my peers seem to believe the same. From my personal experience, we, who are most expected to take advantage of the hard work our forefathers, as well as move away from their prejudices and poor decisions, are as tragically ignorant and bigoted as they are. So many of us are inconsiderate, selfish and shallow.

Where is the anger at injustice and oppresion? The hunger for change? The idealism? The fire in our eyes? The courage in our hearts? The loud calls for progress? The criticism of authoritarianism? The rejection of racism? I do not hear it amongst my immediate friends. Instead, I find political apathy, helplessness or indifference. Worse still, I find that my friends, tragically, still think along racial lines. Until we can see past the colour of outer skin into the inner character found in a man's heart, I fear that unity will continue to be nothing more than a topic for poster painting competitions in primary schools. I can only hope that my peers do not represent Malaysia's youth as a whole, otherwise God save us!

One year on, and the dust has yet to fully settle on March 8th, 2008. Our politicians are still mocking us, playing games when the world economy is practically collapsing before our eyes. We are still trapped in old ways of thinking, and are still as racially divided as ever, when this very crisis requires us to work together and put differences aside. Every day I lose more and more hope in my country. March 8th may have been the day Malaysia awoke, but I hope that she does not go for a long snooze, or worse, back to sleep. If we have trully awaken, we must now move on to action, and to greater things. Inilah doaku buat Malaysia tercinta.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Blog & Roll Friday: Indexed

I can't believe it's been a week since I posted the first Blog & Roll feature!

This week's shining star is Indexed. Here life observations are reduced to graphs, charts and Venn diagrams on ruled flash cards (and ONLY ruled flash cards), often to humourous effect. Author Jessica Hagy's clever mathematical rendering of reality may require just a little thinking, but it's always worth it.

Click on the post title to visit the site.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Tangerine Breeze

Mr. Sun is gracious today, unabashed
and glowing through the lucid air,
bouncing off glass and rouging bricks,
like a flirt, prickling my skin a little.

Music, churning vaguely from somewhere,
or perhaps, it's just the city's own choir.
I couldn't's probably both?

And the smell! the smell of muffins
with pieces of candied fruit in them,
wafting richly from a café oven nearby,
as batter turns golden in cups of white.

The buses cough out noxious puffs of grey,
but I see instead a parade of blue elephants,
with banners promoting movies, shampoo and cider.
Their mouths open when they stop,
to hurl out funny people, and beautiful people,
who dance blithe steps on the sidewalk.

Ah! I spot a friend amongst the chorus line!
I pull her over with a smile, then a kiss.
She is glad to eat muffins with me,
to sip coffee and philosophise aimlessly
for an hour or two under the sunshade.

At least she my mind,
on this day saved as a keepsake,
retrieved and recoloured
to escape the lonely tropical rain.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009


For those who have macabre tastes, read this feature of Michael Paulus at Street Anatomy.

(Yes, I am just putting up lots of links while finding inspiration for more substantial stuff. Please be duly distracted by this and ignore my dearth of original content. Thank you.)

Still Fabulous

When I let the Sister hear this song, she said something like, "It's nice but they just keep repeating the same line". I replied, "Well, the song is called 'Love Is All You Need' anyway, so why would they sing lots of other lines?".

I love The Beatles, and probably always will.

(Correction 9/8/09: The actual title for the song is 'All You Need Is Love'. I shall never forgive myself.)

Good Advice

Algernon says:
i am thinking of what to blog about?

Algernon says:
ignore question mark

ay-es says:
u shld blog abt happy things

Algernon says:

Algernon says:
such as?

ay-es says:
i dunno

Algernon says:

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Please Read This

1) Click on the post title to go to 3rd party site.
2) Read the post (The 21st Century: FAQ by Charlie Stross).
3) Click on the links in the post if curious to find out more.
4) Ponder deeply. Take your time.
5) Agree with Mr. Stross (and me) that we are all doomed.
6) Go out and live a meaningful life.