Monthly Archives: January 2011

Few Good Ones Left

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LATELY, I’ve discovered that my pool of friends have been diminishing. Well, actually not lately; more like over time. It’s sad. They’re very talented, smart, capable people. And they’ve all gone to seek their fortunes and offer their talents elsewhere.

I know at least 30 people living and working abroad (that’s not a lot compared to some of you, I’m sure, but we’re talking know as opposed to know of). I know more who will be leaving within the next two years. A former classmate is flying the coop to Germany come March this year; two more have plans to start afresh in Singapore and two more will be heading to Australia next year.

Sure, there are some who leave to follow their partners, but a very large segment of this exodus is fuelled by frustration with what’s offered here. Various blogs have touched on this subject: Anak Bangsa Malaysia quotes a recent parliamentary report stating that 140,000 left the country in 2007. “The number more than doubled to 305,000 between March 2008 and August 2009, presumably because of rising crime rate, tainted judiciary, human rights abuses, an outmoded education system and other concerns,” says the writer (read article here). I’d throw in racism and corrupt, incapable leadership, too, based on what’s been happening lately.

Columnist Tan Siok Choo cites in her article in Sun2Surf (read article here) that of the 784,900 Malaysians working overseas, less than 1% returned to the country in the past nine years. Of the 94 scientists from overseas — including Malaysians living abroad — who agreed to work in Malaysia between 1995 and 2000, all but one have left the country.

I agree with some who say it’s the Malaysian Chinese and Indians who are leading this brain drain partly out of frustration from being called ‘pendatang’ by shallow bigmouths, but there are also a lot of very smart, capable Malays that have left for greener pastures. Simply because they know they need not rely on skin colour, connections or money to excel. Simply because they know what they’re truly worth which is, unfortunately, not recognised here.

This is not a new phenomenon — not, in my opinion, even as recent as 10 years ago. Many of my relatives emigrated when I was just knee-high. Even my dad has told us to leave while we can.

I tell my friends it’s great here in Malaysia. We have much to be thankful for and if you look at things in perspective, you realise it could be a lot worse. But I’ve come to also realise that not everyone can be satisfied with the status quo and the unfair distribution of power and income, or promotions/appointments that are race- or connection-driven. I’ve come to realise that , unfortunately, it is the extremely talented ones that make up a majority of this segment.  Personally, I know only one person who made the decision to come back from abroad because he’s convinced he can make a small difference.

Let’s hope Johan Mahmood Merican and and his band of merry men can fulfil Talent Corp’s mandate to attract, motivate and retain skilled human resources in Malaysia. Because, aside from loving my country, aside from hoping we’re not left with a mere handful of brains (yours truly included, heh heh) and a lorry load of corrupt, basket-case politicians, I really dont want to lose any more friends. I dont want to leave my country either, and count it my duty as a Malaysian to remain and contribute. I just wonder how long my ideals will hold out.

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Book Review — Bartimaeus:The Ring of Solomon

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IT’S a rare thing for me to be so enchanted by fictional characters — especially in books. The very fact that they’re not real is one reason; also, most are generally not memorable enough.

Of course there are exceptions; for instance, Caroline Graham’s DCI Barnaby, Jo Nesbo’s Detective Harry Hole, Reginald Hill’s Dept. Supt. Andy Dalziel and DCI Peter Pascoe (seeing a pattern here?) and Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus of Uruk.

Who is NOT a detective, by the way. HAH!

Baritmaeus is everyone’s — at least he’s mine — favourite djinni or demon, if you will (fourth level, by the way; he gets insulted if one likens him to a small fry scallywag). He is vainglorious, recalcitrant, rebellious and the typical wisecracking smart mouth that, at best, leaves me in stitches or, at worst, with a smile on my face. With the exception of a witty repertoire, I reckon these  characteristics make a pretty impressive resume for aspiring demons. Credit goes to author Jonathan Stroud, who brings footnotes to a whole new level and so much joy to reading.

In Bartimaeus: The Ring of Solomon, Bartimaeus travels back in time to the reign of King Solomon circa 950 B.C. (this was written as a prequel to the Stroud’s Bartimaeus Trilogy which was published some years ago) for a new series of adventures while changing masters in rapid time.This time he finds himself under the command of the evil and oppressive magician Khaba the Cruel, who has insidious plans to overthrow King Solomon by threatening to ambush Sheba’s frankincense trade on behalf of the King. Solomon was the most feared ruler in all the kingdoms at the time because of a powerful ring he possesses. The Queen of Sheba, meanwhile, believing the safety and prosperity of her kingdom and frankincense trade at stake, sends Asmira, her personal guard to steal the ring and kill the King. In the midst of it all, Bartimaeus unwittingly finds Asmira his new master and is forced to cooperate in her fatal mission.

I must say that Bartimaeus: The Ring of Solomon wasn’t as good as the Bartimaeus Trilogy or, to be more precise, The Amulet of Samarkand which is the first instalment of the trilogy. That one really cracked me up and I liked that it was set in more ‘modern’ times. Still, it was a pleasant and amusing read and I would recommend it to those in search of some light entertainment.

One final comment: there was an unspoken message behind the story (for me). The story underscored the issue of slavery, albeit in a light-hearted manner. Aren’t we all slaves to something or other which makes us do things unquestioningly and forget to think logically and rationally? What are we bound to? Food for thought, really.

Setting the Stage for Art

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SINGAPORE is going to be busy little island this week, looks like.  The inaugural Art Stage International is being held there right now.

The art fair will bring together Asia Pacific’s finest and emerging artists and will be a most awesome marketplace for artists, art collectors, art lovers and those in the business (commercial/public  galleries, dealers, art professionals) to converge and talk shop.

I could’ve gone — last week, Ivan Lam (Malaysian contemporary artist) dropped me a text message asking if I would love to give some coverage on the event — but the obligations of starting a new job got in the way. Speaking of Ivan. He is previewing his latest solo there, and if you know me, you know I’m a fan. I understand that the reception to his latest collection has been amazing.

In my mind’s eye, I see the iconic Marina Bay Sands filled with representatives from 90 art galleries and people from all over the world. The hubbub of conversations sound like a gentle yet electrifying hum as people share ideas and discuss and admire art.

Sure, this is no Basel, but if I know Singapore (I am proudly Malaysian, but, hey, credit has to be given where it is due), this will be one hell of a show. And I believe if things go well, regional art and its practitioners will achieve a greater integration and cohesion and be more challenged to produce better works, comparable to (or would even surpass) that of the West and Europe.

ART Stage International ends on Jan 16th. Good news for the unfortunate souls (like me) who couldn’t make it this time: the fair will be an annual one.

For more details, click here.

Crime Rate Lower? My Arse!

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IT WAS a bright, sunny Saturday evening, and two weeks to Christmas. Sue decided to do a spot of shopping at the neighbourhood mall. As it was close to home, she walked — as she always did every time she shopped for groceries.

Her shopping done, Sue walked home, happy that her children were well and safe and, at the same time, wondering what to cook for dinner. Arriving home, she slipped her key into the padlock. This was a new padlock since the old one — a heavy old-fashioned iron piece that the family was particularly fond of — got stolen two months before.

All of a sudden, while struggling to open the gate, Sue felt a hard blow to her head, causing her to collapse in shock. Blood flowed freely from her wound and as she curled over in pain, a man snatched her handbag before jumping off and riding away with his partner on their motorcyle. Sue screamed for help.

The time was about 6.30pm.

With no help forthcoming from her neighbour, Sue was forced to climb over the gate — she needed help and the blood was flowing too quickly for her to waste more time struggling with the padlock.

Upon entering the house, she immediately grabbed a towel and, while applying it to the wound to stop the bleeding, called her friend, Tang. She also dialed 999, the emergency number — a hopeless attempt, for she was put on hold until the line went dead. So much for police efficiency.

Meanwhile, the blood continued flowing, and more neighbours arrived outside the gate; there was blood everywhere: on the porch and driveway, gate, plants and the corridors of the house. None of the neighbours outside ventured in nor offered to help, preferring to gossip with one another and lament the fate of their neighbourhood.

Tang arrived quickly (Sue had given up on calling the police as well as her neighbours), with Jean, Grace, Patricia and Man — all family friends — shortly after. Jean accompanied Sue to the hospital, while Tang saw to the police report and, later, helped Grace, Patricia and Man clean up the house. Sue was still bleeding.

By 2am,  following 12 stitches, an X-ray and further examination, Sue was discharged from the Ipoh General Hospital. She had been bleeding for more than an hour. Sue’s son arrived from Kuala Lumpur at about 2.30am; her daughter arrived the following day — both frantic and worried.

Friends who dropped by over subsequent days said this was not the first such incident in the area. Two days later, Sue’s daughter was informed by a friend that another person was attacked and robbed in the same manner. And just a day later, a snatch theft incident happened — again, in Sue’s neighbourhood.

All the attacks had occurred in broad daylight. Ironically, the police patrol the area, each time only after dark. What, really, is the point then? Should they not be patrolling at random hours to prevent criminals from planning their next hit?

Some three months before Sue’s attack, it was reported in a local newspaper that street crime and overall crime index had dropped 37% and 16.24% respectively compared to August 2009. The article in the Star newspapers dated Sept 14,2010 quoted Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) communications director Alex Iskandar Liew attributing the positive results to several factors including police being present everywhere and diligence at various crime hotspots.

In another article in the Malaysian Insider dated May 18, 2010, Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said the ministry had successfully reduced crime rate due to the ministry’s initiative at identifying crime hotspots and reasons for increase in crime through the five main principles of the Key Performance Index blah blah blah…

Police being present everywhere and diligence at various crime hotspots??

Excuse me if I don’t agree. The police have been everywhere but where they are supposed to be!

In July last year, a friend and former colleague was beaten up and robbed while walking to his car after an assignment. He was hit in the head by a bunch of youths who tailed him; the wound required four stitches.

When the police officer who attended to Sue’s case learnt that the robbers only made off with 40 bucks in her handbag, his comment was, “Rugilah diorang (they didn’t get lucky)…”

I received an e-mail shortly after Merdeka last year detailing how a bunch of Malay youths had brutally attacked a bunch of Chinese Malaysians who happened to be walking the street to celebrate Merdeka.  All because they were Chinese (but still Malaysians wat!!)

Perhaps, Art Harun said it best: “Numbers do not and can never reflect intensity…although crimes have been reduced by 80%, the intensity of the crimes is not reflected in the numbers. And the numbers for sure do not tell and are in fact incapable of telling how safe our streets are. Or how safe we feel.”

His full article, which also recounts some incidences of crime was published in the Malaysian Insider, dated Dec 27, 2010. Click here to read.

As tax-paying Malaysians, it is our right to demand for proper protection. Our police should not be:

a) placed in ridiculous looking tents at odd corners of a neighbourhood where they read newspapers and get sleepy while baking in the heat.
b) patrolling at fixed hours of the day (and having teh tarik the rest of the time or cruising the highways without their seatbelts on and chasing down victims for bribes).
c) leaving the emergency lines unattended.
d) taking bribes and preying on poor foreigners.

The Home Minister should realise that the reality, at the end of the day, is that Malaysians have lost faith in the ministry and the police force (many have even lost faith in the ruling government, but that’s a different story). This was mentioned in a study done by Transparency International Malaysia recently where Malaysians view the police as the most corrupted agency in the country (read article here).

I, for certain, have lost faith in them.

Sue is alright now, but she no longer walks to the nearby mall — regardless of the time of the day — without accompaniment. That little bit of caution could go a long way. It also comforts me because, you see, Sue is my mother.

One thing I have discovered from this whole ordeal is the absence of the spirit of neighbourliness that Malaysia once prided itself on: we have become strangers sharing a piece of land yet preferring to keep to our side of the fence. We have forgotten that the dangers that threaten those living on the other side can easily threaten us, too.

But with every cloud comes a silver lining. I have learnt that true friends will always be there. My thanks, in alphabetical order, to the following:

  • Cheng: for getting the herbs for mom.
  • Chris: for making sure that the office was notified about my absence and always checking on me.
  • Foon: for the contractor’s contact number and things I should discuss with him beforehand.
  • Grace: for helping to nurse mom’s head and for graciously letting mom stay over for a few nights after we left.
  • Jean: for being with mom at the hospital and making sure the doctor stitched her right. Thanks to your family as well.
  • Jo: for being there to help me pack and for saying that prayer.
  • June: for also passing me the contractor’s contact number. Thanks to your dad as well.
  • Patricia & Man: for being there to help clean up, and accompanying mom after her discharge from the hospital.
  • Tang: for always being a constant presence at our family home, for being the first one to show up at the scene, for cleaning up, for settling the police report, and for your hospitality. We are glad you visit often.
  • Virata: for your undying support and for taking the first flight out of Singapore just to make sure you were there the entire time we were back.
  • and to all the rest, thank you for visiting and asking after mom.

On that note, Happy New Year everyone!!!

2010 in review

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The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Fresher than ever.

Crunchy numbers

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The Leaning Tower of Pisa has 296 steps to reach the top. This blog was viewed about 1,000 times in 2010. If those were steps, it would have climbed the Leaning Tower of Pisa 3 times

 

In 2010, there were 41 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 45 posts. There were 174 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 46mb. That’s about 3 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was October 1st with 58 views. The most popular post that day was The Life & Times of A Spoilt Doggie (1).

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, potsnorts.blogspot.com, en.wordpress.com, bloglovin.com, and WordPress Dashboard.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for marvin chan, almaz wilson, jailani abu hassan, malaysian minx, and tara sosrowardoyo.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

The Life & Times of A Spoilt Doggie (1) September 2010

2

Pat A Cake, Baker’s Man; Bake Me A Cake Fast as You Can October 2010
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3

Marvin’s World: Latest Happenings September 2010

4

Book Review: Working November 2010
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5

Random Ramblings in my Writeful Corner September 2010
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