Wednesday, 29 April 2009

There's No Such Thing As A British Accent, Actually.

Or for that matter, an English one. Only people outside of Britain use the term "British accent".

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Only in China

There are nearly enough Chinese named Zhang Wei to populate the city of Pittsburgh (and that's just in China).
One of those "I simply have to share this" things. I found this New York Times piece on ay-es's blog (thank you! See, I credit). Click on the post title to go to the article.

The Chinese government is issuing out computer generated identity cards, but their computers only read "32,252 of the roughly 55,000 Chinese characters", so the government there does what no other administration could pull off: ask people to change their names if the character is unrecognisable.

The article humoured me and annoyed me at the name time. On one hand the problem is typically and uniquely Chinese, and actually funny in a this-is-unbelievably-sad-and-hilarious sort of way. On the other hand, the approach taken clearly reflects common views about the government there: bureaucratic, insensitive, inflexible and authoritarian.

They are also introducing "a standardized list of characters for people to use in everyday life, including when naming children". Only in China, right?

Monday, 27 April 2009

Sri Lanka

It saddens me that in Malaysia, when the Israeli onslaught on Gaza started, local news media immediately picked up on it and gave it plenty of (expectedly anti-Israeli) coverage, but the conflict in north-east Sri Lanka (Al-Jazeera link) hardly gets mentioned. In fact they are still having talk shows on the Israeli attacks, thanks to Ahmadenijad's address in Geneva.

While I myself feel very strongly about the Israeli attacks, I don't think it's acceptable that the Sri Lankan problem is sidelined, even as the situation is so fragile there. The UN estimates that about 50,000 non-combatants are caught between government troops and the LTTE fighters. That's a lot of people under risk, and that's a lot of people to ignore. I'm praying that things get better, although I really don't know how that will happen.

I suppose everyone knows the Malaysian political and religious implications and interests in the Israeli situation. And of course everyone also knows how much local news media is politically influenced. Unlike when Palestinians are involved, the Sri Lankan conflict is just another news item, just another local squabble that doesn't unnerve or anger us personally or puts Malaysia at great risk (Australia is worried that there will be a huge influx of asylum seekers, but Malaysia is obviously not a country high on granting asylum status, so I guess we're not worried even if we are just across the sea from Sri Lanka).

To be fair to the Malaysian media, I know for a fact that around the world there is plenty of biased coverage, but in developed countries especially, this is more often due to the editorial and political stance of papers and news agencies rather than top-down political interference, and those stances are for the most part clear and widely known (eg: The Times in the UK is centre to centre-right and in the US, the Washington Post and Wall Sreet Journal are right-leaning papers, PBS is a liberal tv station, etc). Moreover, the general public has a wide selection to sift through, allowing them to read both sides and then deciding for themselves, should they so choose. Obviously that the same is not available to Malaysians. But I digress, I am not here to examine the news media landscape of Malaysia.

But also in their defense, I cannot also say that the Sri Lankan situation is getting any more coverage in other countries than it is here. The fact is that this problem has been going on (and off) for 37 years, and maybe people are just tired of hearing old news. The same could be said about Sudan, and many other conflicts. People sometimes just choose to be ignorant (cf: Rwanda).

But then again, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has lasted for even longer, yet it still gets plenty of attention here..

Thursday, 23 April 2009

By artist Patrick Moberg.
Via tcritic.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Mariah Lied...

...or did she?

From PostSecret.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Earth Hour 2009 Revisited

I simply had to share this.

The Big Picture's
piece on the not too long ago Earth Hour 2009 is simply spectacular. Particularly arresting is the that readers are shown the 'before' shots, then asked to click on the photos to see the 'after' shots. I felt like I was clicking an all-powerful on-off switch to each city's lights. It's really something.

Click on the post title to go to the post, and you'll see what I mean.

Nota Bene: The Big Picture is a photo-reportage blog which features photos of current events around the world collected from various sources. All of the posts contain amazing reportage imagery. They say a picture speaks a thousand words, and that truth is very much reflect here.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Blog & Roll Friday: Overheard In New York

Bonjour all,

Today's featured blog is Overheard In New York, and it's been around for years, so some of you should already be familiar with it.

For those of you who aren't, the title gives it all away. The blog reproduces snippets of conversations overheard all around New York, most of which are ridiculous and hence ridiculously funny.

A sample post:
Guess What Peewee's Word Of the Day Is?

Ditzy white girl standing in line
: Ugh. It's, like, so much effort to get fresh produce.
Ditzy friend #1: I agree! Should we abort?
Ditzy friend #2: Yes! Abort!
Ditzy friend #1: Abort!
Ditzy friend #3: Abort!

--Union Square Greenmarket

Overheard by: office peon
Click on the title post to visit the blog.

P.S. I may be moving Blog & Roll feature to another day from next week onwards, due to scheduling needs.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk

The talented Ms. Nataly Dawn covers Mr. Rufus Wainwright, one of my all-time favourite singers.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Esoshi Monsters

LinkI've found more macabre art: illustrations from the Edo period in Japan, found on BibliOdyssey. Click on the post title to visit post.
I swear my course is turning my mind towards dark thoughts.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Happy Easter

Dear World,
Today is a day of new beginnings, of welcoming change, of renewing hopes, of trusting dreams, and of having to move mountains.
I hope good things come your way. God bless.

With love,

Saturday, 11 April 2009


Don't ask unless you're really, really prepared to hear the answer.
Don't say you care unless you're really, really prepared to ask.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Blog & Roll Friday: Garfield Minus Garfield

Good Friday. With a name like that, you'd have to be more innocent that a baby bunny to expect the day to actually be good.

Life's never stingy when it comes to handing out irony; it has enough to share around all 6 and a half billion of us. And on a day like today, it's bound to go the extra mile. Le sigh. So today I my course's "intensive" study period began. Guhguhgoody! I'm wiser these days—saw it comin' I did.

That aside, Blog & Roll is back to Rock & Roll again, after not showing up last Friday (due to the Melbourne Puzzle Hunt I was involved in). This week's darling blog is Garfield Minus Garfield. And reproduced below is the blog's description:
Garfield Minus Garfield is a site dedicated to removing Garfield from the Garfield comic strips in order to reveal the existential angst of a certain young Mr. Jon Arbuckle. It is a journey deep into the mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against loneliness and depression in a quiet American suburb.
Who knew Garfield could be a visualised philosophical musing and an acute psychological study of modern man? Click on the post title and enjoy.

Thursday, 9 April 2009


Why it is that so many Malaysians claim they aren't racist, yet clearly treat people differently based on their ethnicity? How is it that we get extremely offended when someone insinuates about our race but we let it go when it's someone else's race? Surely if we aren't racists we should be offended either way?

Why do we complain about the pervasiveness of corruption and how it's destroying our country, yet we are willing to push some money to get things done faster or to curry favour, or pay a bribe to escape a penalty? Do we have a right to complain if we contribute to the very depravity we complain about?

Why is it that we wax lyrical about advanced countries and their progressive societies, yet refuse to speak up when our own country's authorities act in illiberal ways? Do we think those other countries got there by their people talking about how advanced other countries were? Why is it that we admire their advanced democracies and political maturity, yet refuse to go beyond thinking that Malaysian politics is, and always will be, solely about "Melayu, Cina, India dan lain-lain"? The Malays should be like this, the Chinese should do that, the Indians must be like so (and the lain-lain? What lain-lain?). Why is it that whenever we even talk about left or right policies, we only go a few steps before it's back to racial lines again?

Why is it that we debate about the merits and demerits of a monarchy, when really, it's obvious that there are countries with and without monarchies who enjoy prosperity, democracy and high standards of living? Why do we not talk instead about restoring faith in our judiciary, promoting the rule of law and separation of powers, preserving and championing our constitutional and human rights, dealing with sexism and racism, eradicating poverty and marginalisation, reforming the police and our prisons, improving law enforcement, promoting democratic practices in politics, taking steps towards environmental sustainability, encouraging entrepreneurship, taxation reform and increasing the quality and availability of higher education? Are these not plenty to talk about, and are these not more important and more pressing issues for the country? Surely all that is right or wrong about the country does not lie in the existence or non-existence of our monarchy, let alone our constitutional one? Why waste precious time and energy?

Why do we get riled up on what language to use in schools when, as a friend has pointed out, we do not talk about our inadequate and regressive education system, increasing public funding for our schools, our lack of transparency in examination-marking, our lack of skilled, motivated and well-trained teachers, our underprivileged kids either not getting into education or dropping out early, our Orang Asli children having relatively poor access to schools and educational resources, improving education for those with physical and learning disabilities, improving the quality of our university courses and the competitiveness of our graduates? Again, are these not more important and pressing?

Why it is that we proudly observe Earth Hour, but refuse to even walk a few extra steps to throw rubbish in a bin, or drive when we can simply walk a little, or pay a little more for environmentally sound products? Why is it that we say nothing when our recycling bins are used as waste dumps? Or when our local councils are insensitive to environmental needs? Or when logging of our rainforests is not strictly controlled? Isn't the idea of Earth Hour to promote more action?

Why it is that we claim we believe in human equality, but we treat those from our neighboring countries like dirt? Like sub-humans? Because they aren't Malaysian? Because they're poor? Why it is we tolerate poor living conditions for our construction workers, physical and verbal abuse of our foreign maids, and think nothing of the deprivation their basic needs and rights by their employers? Are they not our fellow men?

Why is it that we say we shouldn't allow them into the country because we need jobs for locals, when it's many of our countrymen who are too proud to sweep floors, flip burgers, collect rubbish or lay bricks in the sun? If they are unwilling because those jobs have low wages, then shouldn't we campaign for a decent minimum wage and wage regulation? And if we are not ready to do so, shouldn't we discard the idea that we don't need foreign workers?

Why is it we blame them (foreign workers) for crime, when it is our companies, developers and authorities who allow them to be brought in illegally or with minimal checks and restrictions, employ them at the lowest possible wage, give them virtually no rights or benefits, let them cramp 10 men to a bedroom, and then just fire them when we no longer need them or when the economy gets tough-going? What about crimes committed by locals, and what about white collar crime? And what about better law enforcement? Better border control? More comprehensive laws and regulations which fairly regulate immigration, employment, wages, living conditions and working conditions? What about a framework in which to enforce those laws?

We scapegoat them as criminals, yet we ourselves flaunt the law and common rules of courtesy when we double-park, make illegal U-turns, cut queues, evade taxes, bribe or 'exempt' ourselves from fees. We ourselves cheat or abuse systems and people but feel it's justified? We expect so much from others but we ourselves can barely observe the simplest, most basic forms of courtesy. Why do we feel we are exempted from our own censure, or that our poor behaviour can be justified, but others' is inexcusable?

These questions baffle me on a daily basis. We seem so preoccupied with arguing about things not worth arguing about that we practically ignore those which we should debate on. We bicker vehemently about the symptoms, but never care to look deeper at the root causes. Could it be because causes are often harder to eradicate than mere symptoms? Of perhaps looking deeper often implicates us, and forces us to confront fundamental truths about our country and ourselves: that developing the country requires from all of us hard work and dedication, a progressive vision and comprehensive approaches to problem solving, and that we need to practice what we preach, otherwise we'd better duduk diam. If we are unwilling to change ourselves, let us think twice about criticising. If we are unwilling to speak up when it counts, perhaps we should shut up when it doesn't.
Don't just wake up Malaysians, grow up!

Monday, 6 April 2009

Poster from European Youth Against Racism.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

The Ring Goes South

Dear Everyone,
The Melbourne Puzzle Hunt (finally) ended last Saturday afternoon, and I have been busy with uni work till now. Saying the puzzles were 'difficult' is like saying Einstein was 'clever'. After all that cerebral gymnastics, I think I've lost the capacity to construct long, look at that weird bump on the wall! After the Hunt and two days of classes, I don't think I can take anything more demanding than Oprah, even if I didn't actually do very much (our team still positioned alright).

But as always, life has other plans...

I know I implied I would post regularly again after the Hunt, but I'm afraid I may not be able to do that. I will try to post as regularly, but I can't guarantee it, and even if I do, it will probably be non-original content mostly. There'll not be time for the long, wordy articles that I was prone to post in the past, even though I have plenty of ideas and issues swimming in my head that I wish I could put to paper/computer screen (mostly socio-political commentary pieces).

I'm sorry-la. This is beyond my control: very soon from now, my course will intensify so much in preparation for the July exams that I'll be expected walk, talk, eat, sleep, poop and dream law. There are really no two ways about it, unfortunately. It's trudge or trip, slog or sink, work my guts out now or suffer hara-kiri later. And no, "studying smart" does not apply here AT ALL because it really is one of the stupidest courses on earth, so you don't have to give me that golden morsel of advice.

What I would love to hear from you, however, are words of encouragement and support, because this is the time I need it the most. Really. No, I mean it, really! A few words via an email, blog comment, skype/phone call, online chat, SMS/text, facebook message or even snail-mailed letter will go a long way, and I promise I'll remember your kindness, like...forever.

'Cause I'll be honest: the task ahead is extremely daunting. In fact calling it a 'task' makes it seem like hoovering a room, and calling it 'daunting' makes it seem like a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle. Anyone who knows the reality of my position as well as the, shall we say, "inherent structural qualities" of my course will know how difficult it actually is. I counted that I have about 35 textbooks, statute books and workbooks, and about one and a half to two 3" files worth of notes, handouts, circulars and other supplementary materials. I'm shitting bricks enough to rebuild the Great Wall of China, I tell you. There's just so much to fight against. I'm not kidding when I say I feel like Frodo after being tasked to destroy the One Ring...
No one answered. The noon-bell rang. Still no one spoke. Frodo glanced at all the faces, but they were not turned to him...A great dread fell on him, as if he was awaiting the pronouncement of some doom...An overwhelming longing to rest and remain at peace by Bilbo's side in Rivendell filled all his heart. At last with an effort he spoke, and wondered to hear his own words, as if some other will was using his small voice.
'I will take the Ring,' he said, 'though I do not know the way.'

Elrond raised his eyes and looked at him, and Frodo felt his heart pierced by the sudden keenness of the glance. 'If I understand aright all that I have heard,' he said, 'I think that this task is appointed for you, Frodo; and that if you do not find a way, no one will. This is the hour of the Shire-folk...
'But it is a heavy burden. So heavy that none could lay it on another. I do not lay it on you. But if you take it freely, I will say that your choice is right...'
Weeelll..about that, Elrond...acctuallyy, now that you've mentioned it, I...Oh neverbloodymind! What must be done must be done, and it is too late to back out anyway, right Gandalf?

Take care people. I hope you're all well.


Oh yes, a special note of thanks to Ash for helping me add a few items to my 'modest collection'. ; )

Wednesday, 1 April 2009


Hello you sexy things!
I'm sorry there's been a short lag on the blog. I've been busy helping out friends do a very challenging Melbourne Puzzle Hunt. The puzzles aren't in any way easy. In fact, they are quite-literally mind-numbing (you can try them for yourself), so I've devoted most of my cerebral energies to that cause, and I'm pretty sure I've already lost 3% of my grey matter. It doth maketh me feel stupide, thif Puzzle Hunte.

But fret not. By Friday the Hunt will be over, but in the meanwhile, enjoy the video below. I still can't believe it's for real.

P.S. Welcome back Ash!