Sun sea sand

Sun sea sand

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Give The Lab Rat Some Cheese

I’m pretty much a straightforward kind of gal. I don’t like to lie, and I don’t take well to people lying to me. I often tell people what I think, or if I don’t want to do that, I’ll say nothing. Yes, I’m guilty of small white lies, like telling a boss "I’m sick, oh poor me" when I’m just slightly under the weather. That’s more exaggeration with a touch of self pity.
Yes, I do get in trouble for shooting my mouth off, and I may not get everything I want because I don’t know my diplomatic speak (I’ve read Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, but have not learnt from it), but I’ll most likely tell you the truth, even if it hurts.
I mean what I say, and I say what I mean – a principle I generally live by. Of course, I reserve the right to change my mind – that’s a woman’s prerogative – but at the moment I promise something, or say that I would do something, I mean it.
And I get so annoyed with people who say things like, yeah I’ll call you when I’m next going climbing or playing badminton without having any intention to do so. Why lie? Just tell me straight that you can’t be bothered. I probably won’t be your friend for long, but isn’t that what you’re after anyway, since you don’t want my company?

At least this is not as bad as a guy I once knew who lived in a parallel universe. That would be the only explanation of how he could tell others that he had seen things which no one else did. Case in point, he told his friends that while we were out, on a pedestrian bridge in Brickfields, I had argued with him and in a fit of pique, had thrown my umbrella over the side and into the river.
That so did not happen. Yes, we argued, but I did not fling my brolly over. That was among other things that he told his friends happened. So I was really curious. Was he, really, in a different universe, where in truth I did chuck my brolly – with him truly seeing it flip end over end in the air, and then with a splash hit the water to be swallowed up whole by Sungai Gombak, never to be seen again?
That would merit scientific experimentation, but I didn’t bother, and just dumped the Loser. Because it would be bad enough if he were lying to me, but worse that he was lying to others about me.

However, that’s all just straighforward lying (or being insane).
The more complicated part of life, I’ve just found, is when people practise lying to suss out who you are.

Recently, a friend related to me a conversation he had had with his wife about me. At the time, I said nothing as it didn’t strike me as particularly noteworthy. Later, though, after ruminating on it, I felt that his conversation with his wife had ended on a nasty note, with one party being judgemental, and wholly unjustified about it.
When I told him that, he admitted that no such conversation had taken place, and he had made up the whole thing to see how I would react. He said it was done in the spirit of conducting an experiment, of sorts, him being a bit of an amateur psychologist and all.

What am I, a lab rat?
More importantly, now that I know he likes to fabricate things, how can I ever believe whatever else he has said before and what he will say in the future? Is it all a test?
And worse, now that I know that he can, and probably will, in future, lie to me, should I be overthinking everything I say and do? If I know that any given input would or could be fabricated, would that cause me to alter my reactions? Would I have to mull over what a particular comment, say, could mean, and then weigh up my answer to fit? Or not to fit, whichever I thought would suit my purposes better?

That would be tiring. Imagine, if you will, that he said my hair looked lovely today.
I’d have to think – is he sincerely complimenting me or is he trying to push my buttons to see how I would react? And then, if I chose one over the other, would I just say "thank you, I had my hair done at the salon" and cause him to think I am frivolous both in vanity and financials? Or to say "oh this old thing, it’s just get up and go" and have him, if he were not sincerely praising my hair in the first place, to think that I am completely lazy and go out with a whole rat’s nest on my head?
You’d never really win, and anyway, it would be completely exhausting.
This is also why I’m crap at chess, or checkers, or card games where you have to weigh other people’s (possible) hands before making a move. Or gambling.
Even in the world of conversations and making judgements about people, there are several million permutations on the "why did he say what he did" and "what should I respond" scenario.

This would also cause havoc in the world of empirical studies: If lab rats had mental consciousness (like humans), and they found out that scientists were manipulating their world in order to get results, would they, too, be driven to overthink their instinctive actions?
Just to make it easier to understand what I’m on about, let me give you this example of lab rats and a maze:

Straightforward lab rat (Me):
Day 1: Yumm, cheese!
Day 2: Yumm, cheese!
Day 3: Cheese? [Run around a couple of corners] Yumm, cheese!
Day 4: Run around the same corners. Yumm, cheese!

Mind-game lab rat:
Day 1: Yumm, cheese!
Day 2: Yumm, cheese!
Day 3: Cheese? [Run around a couple of corners] Yumm, cheese!
Day 4: Wait a minute. The scientist could be messing with my mind by putting the cheese around several corners. His action can be constituted as X, therefore, expecting my reaction to be Y, thus achieving result Z.
However, if Y[complex mathematical equation] = I am, therefore I eat cheese / X[more complex mathematical theorum], then I therefore should react by just sitting here and pretending I don't know Who Moved My Cheese, and give the scientist a skewered result. Yes!

I guess I’m not a rat and I have the consciousness to weigh what I say and do, but to have to overthink everything in case people are lying, or being diplomatic, is just such a waste of time. I take people at face value and give them the benefit of the doubt that they are good people and sincere in everything they do. And I want them to see me in that way too.

And as for the liars, I take everything they say from then on with a pinch of salt. And when push comes to shove, I’d rather they shove off from my life. Because, truthfully, I don’t want to play that game.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

How Interesting. Tell Me More.

Silence is golden, as they say. And in a conversation, silence can create a vacuum which you feel necessary to fill – sometimes with inane facts and sometimes with snippets of your life, or even all of it.

I’ve been noticing this fact with several men I’ve met recently. I wasn’t deliberately baiting them with being mysterious and cryptic, although this is a pretty good game in itself, but rather that was how events played out – they were more than willing to talk all about themselves, and I let them.

In Brunei, I went out with a guy who picked me up in his SLK200. Good start, if he were trying to impress me. Better if he were rich and still humble. But, over one course of dinner (no starters or dessert), I found out practically everything about him. His days of glory as a national footballer who helped his team win the Malaysia Cup in the late 1990s, his marriage and subsequent divorce (blamed on his wife’s supposed infidelity), the family business he’s running (and how successful it is) and the contracts they got, his education, his (various) cars, his (expensive) hobbies, his family… Seriously, practically everything. Since I got a meal out of it and a ride in a convertible, which he drove round a bit top-down, it was not such a hardship to plant an interested look on my face and urge him on and on.
After that I mocked him mercilessly to some of my friends, of course. But for him, it was a great date! Why wouldn’t it be? Here was a girl hanging on to his every word. Oh joy.

Then there was the guy I met up with in KL who expounded on the theory of a winning form in bowling, and his own expertise, naturally.
And another who confessed part of his past, about which he had never even told his wife.

And just yesterday, I met a guy, who sat down at my table because we had shared a chuckle over the fact that his Harley had set off a car alarm. In just an hour or so, I had learned all this about him, without much prompting necessary, just some silence: Where he’s from, where he’s working now, why he is working where he is working now, what he does in his job, how much he gets paid as this product manager of a hypermarket, how much he gets paid extra because his boss wanted to uproot him from JB to KL, where he is staying, how he gets to work, his special-edition Harley and how much people are offering for it, where he went on his Harley rallies, his Harley ring, T-shirt, jacket etc, his other car, his biking history (Kawasaki Ninja to the high-handlebar Harley to this one), his ex-wife, his daughter and how his daughter often complains that Mum doesn’t take her out “jalan-jalan” because she’s so busy going out with Uncle S. That is a lot to take in, from a perfect stranger, no less!

I let them talk, sometimes because I’m not in the mood to share everything about my life. But most times, it’s because they don’t ask.

The guy I met yesterday only asked where I’m staying and what I do, in general. He wasn’t even interested in the answer. And the bowling expert? He didn’t even ask if I had ever bowled before, so I pretended to know nothing about curve balls or wrist flicks, and let him wow me with his knowledge.

This is a bit of a double-edged artform. On one hand, I played the game with this one person I wanted to get to know. Sitting back and listening to him talk with someone else, I noticed how this woman jumped in to cut him off mid-story with her own anecdotes, and he’d patiently wait till she’s done, then continue with his story, which had not reached its conclusion and point by the interruption. So when I had the chance, I asked him questions, and let him tell his story to its conclusion, without butting in. But that’s because I sincerely wanted to know. And I wanted to impress him with my listening skills.

As for the others, letting them talk negated the need for me to share my life story. And, at the same time, suss them out for who they really are. Men who are very proud of themselves, and want you, the little woman, to know all about it.

And by the time they are finished, there is no point, really, in telling them anything about yourself. They don’t really want to know. They might not be able to handle the fact that you're more successful or more interesting than they are.

They just want you to be impressed. And fall all over them. Not a chance.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

James May, the lovey

Yup, I'm officially in love with James May of Top Gear, who lives in London with his black-and-white cat Fusker (a bit like Postman Pat's) and his long-term girlfriend down the road whom he refers to as Woman in his columns.
I used to like Richard Hammond because he's so cute, with an expressive face, though I think he has practised his facial gestures for maximum impact. He can lift one eyebrow, turn his gaze to the camera slightly or give a little smile to convey all that he wants to say but can't. Pretty cool.
But May takes the cake. He's gruff, scruffy, slightly bad-tempered and a bit obsessive, but it's all so adorable.
An interviewer at the Sunday Star Times writes: "From his stripey jumpers, long hair and carefully dishevelled paisley shirts right on down to his battered old Jag, May is the epitome of a certain kind of cultured English bohemian. He has a music degree, plays the harpsichord, loves cats and model trains, flies his own plane, smokes a pipe, and at some stage of life has acquired a toff accent, though he's from working class stock the son of a Bristol steel worker and went to a very ordinary comprehensive school in Yorkshire."
He was fired from an auto magazine for inserting a secret message in the drop-cap of the articles, which read: "So you think it's really good, yeah? You should try making the bloody thing up. It's a real pain in the arse." Very funny and classic James May.
I love Top Gear. I wish they were coming here to Malaysia for the live programme!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

OK, So I don’t have OCD

OCD, the short form for obsessive compulsive disorder, is getting to be as well known as autism or dyslexia for diagnosing people once just thought to be weird, who refuse to communicate and too lazy to focus in school (in that order). Now, those who can’t develop social links to people, and thus the social mores that we need to relate to the people around us – for example the concept of sharing, of looking people in the eye and making conversation, in simplified terms – are most likely autistic. And those who can never grasp reading, or lessons in books, may be dyslexic, where words look jumbled up, among others.

These are mental health issues, and not only were they diagnosed later than other physical health problems, the stigma of suffering from these conditions also led to denial. Previously, if a child cannot smile at his mom or dad, and beat his head against the wall repeatedly, he was “mentally disabled”. And these “mentally disabled” children ended up in a care facility, at home and treated like a dunce for the rest of their lives, or in extreme cases, chained up in a cage “for their own protection”. And yes, it’s still happening now. With the diagnosis of autism, there are now methods in which to “communicate” with autistic children, in the hopes that they become, not totally “cured”, but functioning people who are able to take care of themselves.

Same goes with dyslexia, where for years, slow learners get sent to “special classes” with the most disinterested teachers in the school. The teachers feel like they are being punished by having to teach the backward students, and the children – who are generally bright – feel like they’re being cast out of normal society just because the words dance around on the page. Now, dyslexic people may take oral, instead of written, tests, and learn to read in different ways.
Of course, there is a (very wide) spectrum for the severity of autism, dyslexia, and mental disability, in general, and unknowledgeable people (like me) can’t say if a person is one or the other. That’s where you need experts.

So these experts are now also beginning to realise the severity of OCD as a disease and not just a quirk put down as “eccentricity”. For an example, see Tony Shalhoub’s character in TV series Monk. Thing is, Monk’s OCD becomes funny, even as he is still functional.

What it doesn’t delve into is the impetus that causes OCD – the voices that tell one person to wash his hands over and over, not stopping even when the skin is raw, or to check that the door is locked, 30 times over.

It’s the anxiety, according to an article I read in Men’s Health magazine. An anxious feeling that if a person doesn’t do this one thing, something bad will happen. We all have some level of anxiety, but it is quelled by other voices – yes, I checked the iron before I left, I remember switching it off. Sometimes, it’s not really off (we forget), but we are not going to think about it any more than a few anxious moments. We are not going to go back into the house, check the iron. If it is off, switch it back on, then off ( to make sure it’s really off). You want to go, but can’t, because the voice is saying ‘is it really off? If it’s not really off, the iron will short circuit, the house will burn, taking the block with it, and people will die.’ Then switch it back on, then off. Voice. On, off. Voice. On, off. Lights, on or off? Stove, on or off? Shoes in perfect alignment with each other, no knick-knack out of place, clothes hangers must be no more or less than four inches apart from one another. Any other way, and the person is so anxious that he cannot function – not at school, at work, or anywhere.

Seems these voices can also be about feelings, as the writer of the article claims. The writer gave an example of the voices which told him that each and every girlfriend he had was cheating on him, every night, so he demanded explanations and proof of their whereabouts. (Though I’m not convinced that it wasn’t just voices plus insecurity, although he claims to have been cured via pills.)

Anyway, the basis of it all is anxiety, going into full-panic mode if everything “isn’t just right”. And that is what is absent in people just saying they have OCD if they like their clothes hung in a certain way, their knick-knacks on the table in a symmetrical arrangement and if they have all their books arranged in alphabetical order. Yes, if things are out of place, they will bitch and moan (who moved my Zidane figurine?! It should be to Raul’s right, not left!), move it back and carry on. If there is a dirty plate in the sink left by their husband, they will wash it and put it away, even though it’s late, and then, job done, they go to bed.

They are obsessive, yes, but not compulsive, and not to the extent that it affects their life. And too many people use the excuse of having OCD, if they like their things just so.

I said so myself, just last week, and now I’m recanting. I do not have OCD. I like my hangers to be same colour and make, and for them to face in the same direction, but I’m not anxious if they want to move around. Sometimes they want to mix in other hanger stratas. I would love to have all my clothes hung in colour-coordinated groups, as this makes it easier to dress. But when my white shirt goes galivanting with the black skirt, it doesn’t bother me that much, I just separate them and promise through the tears that they’ll get to see each other again the next time I want a black-and-white ensemble.

And maybe I have a bit of a perfectionist attitude, which comes and goes with the moods. Or I just say that because I’m a lazy bugger and can’t be bothered to alphabeticise my CD collection, or when I say I can’t get C done because I don’t have A and B in place, I just can’t be bothered to get C done.

Case in point: I signed up for guitar lessons today. Normal thinking would be: I need to get a guitar, I need a place set up in my house to put the guitar so that it won’t fall over and get damaged but it has to be within easy reach for whenever I want to practise, and I need to set up a proper place to practise, with a stand for the guitar book and a comfortable chair, and thick curtains so that I won’t bother the neighbours when I play, and only then can I start lessons.
And today was: no guitar, no nothing, but signed up for lessons. Whether I’ll stick with it is another issue, of course, probably relating to my (possible) fear of commitment, and fodder for another post some other time.

I’m learning that these are excuses, maybe based on other reasons, like fear of failure. I’m planning to write a book, but I can’t get started because I don’t have a car to take me to see the people I need to see for the interviews. I don’t have a tape recorder to record the interviews. Maybe I’m just scared that no one will be interested to read my book? But I’m not really anxious up to the point that I can’t function, and that is why I don’t have OCD.

For now, there is a CD case on my desk that is not completely aligned with the edges of my laptop… but I’m OK with it. Alright, I actually moved it, making it square with the edge of the table, but I wasn’t anxious about it. Not really. Now I’ll get on with my day… after I rearrange my closet.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Hot, Hot Night

Wooee. A hot night and a hot race was the SingTel Singapore Grand Prix over the weekend. Me and gal-pal Debby hit the F1 party scene thanks to tickets (pictured) courtesy of Adam, who had won them at a media event. Thanks a whole bunch, Adam, we had ourselves a whale of a time.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

30 Years of Lego People

I can't remember if I ever had Lego's Mini-men, myself, as the toy was a luxury. But I'm sure my cousins did, and I do remember building houses for these little people oh, some 20-odd years ago.

Back then the mini-men were just that - mini men. Now they're mini people with jobs, lives, communities and history. The first was a policeman, and see how they're getting on now, with a high-tech station, as pictured.

There's four million of them, and they're 30 years old. To celebrate, there's a website showing a 60-second stop-action clip of mini-men in history, as well as other titbits for Lego fans.

So as New York Entertainment magazine puts it, Happy 30th birthday to the Lego Miniman, who enters a fourth decade of being accidentally swallowed, lost in the back seat and stepped on by an irate, barefoot adult. (I'm sure we've all been there...)

Winds of Change Overhead

The winds of change have caused the first reported casualty: A China Airlines flight to Bali hit turbulence while flying over Malaysia, injuring 30 people, two seriously. One of the passengers is said to have suffered a spinal fracture.
According to an AFP report, the Boeing 747, flying at an altitude of 11,280 metres, dropped 60 metres in 10 seconds in the incident on Saturday. It said the airline reported being in Malaysian airspace at the time.

Hmm, I guess the politicking and ISAing have create ripples in the world.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Little Devil wants to run a marathon

The Little Devil is really little, if you don't know by now. I'm "five feet in heels", something I say when people ask my height, and petite. In that sense (I'm making the excuse beforehand), I've always thought I wasn't built for long-distance running. Just look at marathon runners, and triathlon athletes - they're tall, big and bulky, with huge reserves of fat to draw from when they're "running on empty", plus huge lung capacities (my lungs are small, thus I always have extra air when scuba diving).

In school, I've only competed in sprints - the 100m dash, 200m at the most. Get me to run 400m and I'm dead halfway round the track. Running 5km would take me more than an hour.

But as old age creeps, or rather, gallops up on me, and I can't sprint in record-breaking times anymore, I thought I'd try to develop some long-distance stamina to get fit and toned. Thus the (day)dream of completing a marathon, and even a triathlon.

Tell you the truth, the dream has been ongoing for years now. And nothing much has happened towards its fulfilment. In early 2000s I ran (or walked) the charity Terry Fox Run, still taking about an hour to complete 4.5km (those hills around Lake Garden are murder!) and last week I took about 45 minutes to saunter the streets of KL for the charity Rat Race organised by my company (it felt a little less than 4km). Oh, now that I think of it, I actually registered for the Penang Bridge marathon in 1999 but didn't go (sheepish grin).

And those charity runs were only 4km. A marathon is 10 times the distance. Seems like an undoable task. The Greek soldier Pheidippides, who had been credited (in some accounts) with running from Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persians had been defeated in the Battle of Marathon, managed to run into the assembly, announced "we have won" and promptly keeled over and died. Not very inspiring, huh?

Inspiring, though, are people who have succeeded, if not in elite 2-hour and a bit times, within the set time limit for certain marathons to get a medal (pictured), or if there are no limits, before they open the streets back to traffic, at a pace of 13 minutes (or 14) per mile (1.6km).

If you don't reach a certain cut-off point, runners have to take to the sidewalks, or in cases like the Marine Corp Marathon, hop aboard the strugglers' bus. (That would definitely be me. In high school in Kuantan, when we were doing the 11km Teluk Chempedak to Balok run, my roommate and I took the strugglers' boat!).

And that's the marathon. What more the triathlon, with 3.8km of swimming, 180km cycling and a full marathon to boot in the long-distance or Ironman event. Gal-pal Debby (she of the Miz Cool moniker) says she wants to do this, too, but needs a serious kick up the nether regions to even start training.

Well, I'm afraid I've got sad news... or let's call it another excuse. I've got a bum knee. A bum knee is something which can be used in any or all instances as a reason for not doing something. Just ask some men.

This bum knee developed in 1996 when I was on holiday from uni (let's call it skipping a week before Winter holidays) and touring London with cousin Rozi, her future hubby Meri, Meri's sis Leen, cousin Ziad and Meri's friend Azreezal. I didn't know how it developed, but maybe the cold didn't help. Walking down a flight of steps, there was a sudden ache in my left knee which meant I could not bend it without grimacing.

It has come and gone since then, usually when I've exerted myself. Coming down Mount Kinabalu in 1999 was complete agony, even when favouring the knee meant crab-walking (going sideways) all the way down. In the AXN Challenge in 2005, it started hurting about an hour into the race, thus I was walking/limping/hopping for the next seven hours.

Colleague Pat (whose own knee was ruined by squash) suspects I've got cartillage damage. Thinking about it, I thought it could be from years of school sports and doing the dash, especially without stretching. Or maybe, he says, some people are more susceptible to osteo-arthritis than others.

Anyhoo, seeing as Malaysians do not have easy, or cheap, access to physiotherapists, I doubt the problem will go away, and pushing through the pain might make the problem worse. Sigh. So in the end, will the dream remain a day dream? For the time being I can only sit here, with my knee elevated to relieve the ache, and wonder.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

I Turned Around and You Weren't There

I just learnt that I can't work alone. Unsupervised, yes, but not alone, especially when the work regards writing. An essay, article or headline, I work better if there are other people around.
When I was a reporter at The Sun, there was always a hubbub of people talking, asking for advice, in some cases yelling, that this was never a problem. Not so much that I noticed, as I seldom did my writing at home. Then it was on to subbing, still with many people around me.

Most recently at the Brunei Times, when I got back into writing feature stories, there was colleague Arfa, and then Juli, off of whom I bounced ideas. Sometimes they didn't even need to say anything - all that was necessary was a pretence of being heard and the answer was there, whether it was the most perfect word for a headline or a sentence structure which would not make me sound like a moron.

It's like those proverbial "at the tip of my tongue" things - what you're looking for is there, you just need an impetus to bring it to the fore, and usually this involves sounding out a query. But maybe I just like the sound of my own voice... hmmm...

Well, anyway, I'm on my own now. And I'm struggling. I've been trying for weeks to work on the article for my high school reunion this weekend, and I have come up with nothing. Nada. Zilch. Satu kejadah pun takde apa-apa. And I despair at the idea of freelance writing, thoughts of which I'm entertaining for some extra dosh.

But I can't write by myself. I sit at the desk I've put up by the window in my room (pictured) and stare at the blinking cursor on a blank page, then stare out at the bit of swimming pool and garden down below. In front of me are my clothes on the rod hanger, and they're not really into having conversations. To my left is my bed, with not even a teddy bear to feign concern. And when I turn around, there's nothing but an empty wall. And no one behind me.

I guess I'll just have to heed my own words, usually said in a hoarse whisper to Juli when she goes home late a night: "Jangan Pandang Belakang."

Monday, July 14, 2008

There's a Butt Naked Male in My Room

And here he is. The troll with the rainbow coloured hair.

I can't remember when I got it, or who gave it to me, or even whether I bought it myself. Dates me though, doesn't it (I'm that old - LOL)

I'm sure it had a name. Probably Rainbow Troll, knowing unimaginative little me.

Well, it's been in a box these past two years, and somewhere among my belongings the years before that - just part of some stuff which survived the multiple culls in my transient life.

It was a bit manky, so I gave it a bath. I even washed its hair and put in some conditioner. Now it has silky, flowing locks - wait a minute...

When Love is Gone

When love is gone, why does it have to hurt so much?
There’s a gaping hole where the heart used to strongly beat
A punch to the solar plexus that makes it hard to breathe

When love is gone, why is there such a feeling of loss?
There are no more calls to ask about your day
No smile, or touch, or kiss that used to wipe those blues away

When love is gone, why does life feel so empty?
There is no longer the one you used to end the day with
No hopes, nor dreams, nor happy-ever-after to live

When love is gone
The sunshine flees and the skies can only weep
And when he said, the love is gone
I cried myself to sleep.

This is a great breakup song, by Malaysian rock queen Ella and her bro Korie.
It's entitled "Pergilah Sayang", which, for want of a better translation, means:

"Fuck off, love, and leave me alone". LOL.

Meaning of the lyrics (roughly translated):

It felt wonderful when love was found
Falling in love and making promises
saying how much we loved each other
together we laughed and cried

But now all that's just a memory
You left without a word

Where are those promises you made
that we would live our lives together

I'm letting you go, even though it hurts
let me be alone
tears are my only solace
I'll keep everything as a memory

Fuck off, love, leave me alone
Let go of the memories between you and me

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Cat's gonna get you

Isn't this cute? Looks like the cat is going to pounce on your head any time now. I've got it as my PC wallpaper.

I got this pic here, a collection of cat pictures from the internet. See also here for more kitty kat poses. Though I like the natural photos rather than the doctored ones.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Nation in Panic After Cat Terror Incident

WISCONSIN: Terror struck home in the small town of Millwood, Wisconsin as a cat ruthlessly attacked a bird yesterday. Sheriff Doug Bungy said, "It was carnage, that's what it was. A more monstrous crime has never been committed here in all the three hundred years our fine town has stood."
Media outlets were quick to jump on the terror bandwagon, with claims ranging from Dan Rather's story stating that the cat acted alone to Fox News's report that it was trained by Osama Bin Laden to attack small birds in Afghanistan.
Debbie Lynch was witness to the carnage. "I saw the cat, it looked like one of them normal cats, you know, and it stalked the bird. I thought it was looking at the bird like a person looks at a painting in a fancy museum, then there was the blood and the screaming and the gore. Only now do I truly know the horror of war", she said.
Investigators on the scene have taken forensic swabs and called in specialist counselors to deal with local trauma. George Mellors, who runs the local hardware store said, "We have had nothing like this here, ever. This used to be a quiet town. Now it is the very epicenter of hell. Its like something out of a Stephen King book, apparently. I dont read but my daughter do."
The cat was believed to have fled the area by jumping over a fence and hiding in some shrubs. Anyone with further information should contact the FBI.
The following information has been posted in all local post offices, police stations, and pet shops:
Description ; Cat. About a foot long. Walks on all fours. Sometimes uses the name Tiddles. Has tail. Black and white. Approach with extreme caution or bowl of milk.
This is not the first time feline related terror has stalked the local streets. In November of last year, a small kitten was seen ruthlessly attacking a small woolen ball. According to an eyewitness, "the ball was just sitting there, and this kitten or whatever it was pounced". The ensuing chaos caused many innocent members of the public to step over the wool. Gordon Blacksmith commented, "I heard on the radio that there was an incident, and I went to see. The kitten seemed to be planning the attack, hiding in some shrubs, and then it leapt on the wool. There but for the grace of God go I", he said.
Also last November, a cat was seen lurking in a tree, and worried residents thought it could be a sniper. In December the town turned into a triple terror hot spot with the disclosure that a goldfish had been under surveillance from a small group of fur ball extremists for over half an hour. "This town isn't safe anymore" said one resident, who wished not to reveal his identity, "You can't walk down the street without some cat looking at you. You don't know if they're going to come up to you, expecting a pat on the head, a stroke or something altogether more sinister, like abuse. Who knows what "meow" means? It could be a signal for a terror outrage or a request for more tuna. Or, God forbid, a mixture of the two." -- The Fake News

Cute, innit? News satire, also called fake news, is a type of parody presented in a format typical of mainstream journalism. According to an entry in Wikipedia, the goal of news satire is to make social commentary in a form that provides entertainment. Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, was even made (in)famous because of his believable fake news.

For more examples of fake news, eg
Atkins Diet Fanatics Assault Cookie Monster and School Bans Paper From Area Schools, go to The Fake News or The Spoof. The entries are generally humorous but can be offensive. Be warned that out-loud laughter may be a consequence.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Play It Again, Sam

There are songs that you like for a short time.
There are songs you never wish to hear again.
There are songs that make you cry and those that make you sigh,
Songs that make you smile, if only for a while.

There are songs that transport you to a time in your life that was bright and beautiful, where most things were weird and wonderful, and where you found yourself blissfully happy and carefree.

That time for me was in lower secondary school.
The song was Man Bai’s “Kau Ilhamku”.

It goes like this:
Beribu bintang di langit kini menghilang
meraba aku dalam kelam
rembulan mengambang kini makin suram
pudar ilhamku tanpa arah

Sedetik wajahmu muncul dalam diam
ada kerdipan ada sinar
itukah bintang ataupun rembulan
terima kasih ku ucapkan

Izinkan ku mencuri bayangan wajahmu
Izinkan ku mencuri khayalan dengan mu
Maafkanlah oh..
andai lagu ini mengganggu ruangan hidupmu
kau senyumlah oh.. sekadar memori kita di arena ini
Kau ilhamku

This song always made me happy though I wasn’t quite sure why. Then the other day while I was having supper, I heard another melody. Though it was not "Kau Ilhamku", there was an echo of it.
Suddenly, I stopped flipping through my magazine and just stared off into space. The other song was still playing, but what resonated in my soul and through my head were the bars of Kau Ilhamku and a feeling I had not experienced in over 15 years.

It was there in front of me as clear as the peanut butter sandwich I was eating.

A school field. Sitting in the grass. A blue sky above. Me and my best friend Az. And the memories and feelings came rushing back.

She was in a sense my inspiration, as we used to trade ideas. We were then quite prolific little writers, although our work would never stand up to literary review. There was always something to write about, some idea we were teasing into being. She had her imaginary friend Emma (I never knew her personally, of course), supposedly a green-eyed, raven-haired beauty who was the protagonist in her stories.
I had my main character Ana (Raja Putri Syarhana Farhani) with her blue eyes, strawberry blond locks and a dusting of freckles across the bridge of her nose, (I guess we had our own ideals about beauty), slated to be the girl who won over the boy everyone wanted. (Well, maybe not everyone, in Form Two it was just me and Az drooling over our class monitor Fuad who was tall, fair and quite cute).
Ana was the heroine who was supposed to grace the pages of my first novel. Ana with the elder brother whose name I still use when signing my sketches. Ana with the loving Caucasian mother from whom she gets her beauty and colouring, and slightly authoritarian Malay father. Ana with the wonderful house and mixed upbringing and poor Bahasa Melayu, which is the reason she gets tuition from the boy, who later finds himself enthralled. And on it goes.

And there were other stories. Some which came from songs we listened to, some based on the people we knew (and had a crush on), some from homework and some just pulled out of our fertile imaginations.

Those times are long since past, but the memory of them never really go away. It’s something that lies dormant until resurrected – by a melody, by a phrase, by a face in the crowd.

It is there, just below the surface. The memory of a friendship. A memory of a song.

Sometimes you just have to play that song again.

Mz Cool and Gang at the Big Lake

Location: Tasik Loagan Bunut, Sarawak


Saturday, March 29, 2008

My car is in Europe

Well, Si Merah (for the colour red) seems to think it is, as it gave up spewing cold air through the air-cond vents and instead decided that the driver in equatorial Brunei needed a heater.

It was truly a horrendous experience, as the windows don't really open (old cars have windows which fall out sideways) and we were building up steam inside the car. At 1pm, local time, just after the sun was at its zenith, the inside of the car was hotter than the weather outside.

Not too hot to be funny though. Passing a sign for the Giant hypermarket, the first to open in Brunei (on March 22), my passenger Juli said Giant must be the hottest thing in Brunei right now, before adding: "But not as hot as Si Merah!"

I wilted.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Can I borrow your mother?

My mother has been gone now for 18 years, three more than the 15 during which she was in my life. And yet, why are the memories still there?

Why do I still dream of her, and during these dreams sometimes totally forget that she has passed away? Sometimes in these dreams I rationalise the years that she's been gone - in one dream she had to "disappear" (like in those movies where people go into protective custody) for several years, in another she lost her memory, and in the others she was just there. No real explanation. I had my mother - the one who died when I was 15 - and we did the normal mother and daughter stuff.

Is it me? Is it a subconscious calling out into the darkness of the mind for my mother?

My daylight soul would dismiss this in the first instant. I'm a grown adult. I don't need my mother. I barely knew her, and when she was around, I only knew her as a mom who worked odd hours for the Malaysian News Agency (Bernama). She was a bit tough with us kids (she had a bit of a temper - probably where I got mine?) and hardly seemed to be at home. We were brought up mostly by the maids.

But I do remember once she ran over our kitten and bought us toys to soften the blow when she broke the news. And she and my dad often took us on holidays, when I suppose it would be easier to travel without kids along.

And when I went to work at Bernama, I found out more about this woman my mother. Well-liked, friendly, a good sense of humour - all the things a daughter would never really know, even if she were still alive.

Do I regret not having a mother? Maybe up to a point. In a Malay (or Asian) society, mothers are not the "best-friend" confidantes they are made out to be in Western books or movies. Do we really talk freely about our boyfriends, our periods, our expectations of the first night of marriage, for instance? Can we discuss our bodies, our confidence in our looks or talents, our dream of meeting this great good-looking guy who can make the earth move? Can we ask how Mom and Dad met, how they fell in love and how will I ever get over this jerk who dumped me?

And yet ... I find myself daydreaming of finding a man with a mother who will love me like mothers should.

Today, March 28, is my mother's birth date. Just after midnight, I was going through some of my jewellery, and picked up the jade bracelet that once belonged to her. I don't know if she ever wore it or it had been bought for investment. I've never worn it (it's too big) and it's been sitting wrapped in red paper, in a blue velvet case, for the past 18 years. It's one of several things that I have of hers, picked up after Dad remarried.

So I have my mother in snatches of memory. In items left behind. In the eyes of friends who knew her better than a daughter ever could.

But really, I don't have a mother at all.

What, no cup holders?

It's so common to have cup holders in cars nowadays that it's probably not even mentioned in the bumf for a new vehicle just hitting the auto market.

I think it's quite a new phenomenon (relative to the more than 100 years that cars have been tootling around on Earth), as the car I'm driving, a Toyota Corolla hatchback from 1984 (pictured), doesn't have this little, but very useful, gadget.

I forgot all about this though, when I dropped by the Thye Foodcourt in Gadong after work for a takeaway cup of teh tarik. Having just recently been on a roadtrip in a Toyota Hilux (a pickup truck, of all things, has cup holders - I bet those come with adjustable supports in case the vehicle goes head over arse) and noticing that my pilot had his teh tarik at the ready by his side while driving, I cheerfully carried my plastic cup of tea into the car - and then realised I had no place to put it.

So it went between my legs for the drive home. Not such a great idea when you're driving a manual and have to change gears. Not much better that short me has to sit far forward to reach the pedals and the steering wheel keeps bumping into the cup.

I ended up with a teh tarik-flavoured crotch. Not remotely as kinky as it sounds. Thank goodness I had a layer of my new cotton-rayon dress and another of Levi's to keep me from getting scalded.

Sigh, the trials and tribulations of a girl in search of a great cup of teh tarik...