Friday, August 31, 2007

31 August, Merdeka

Jalur Gemilang, Melaka, 2004

Happy 50th Merdeka!!!

A strangely silent pause.

Just what's so happy about it though, I can't tell. I'm sure it's something to do with being free from colonial rule, something-something about being independent, and maybe a lot about not having to sip tea daintily all day (but hey, guess what our national drink is). Don't get me wrong, I'm no deviant, but I am somewhat tired of superficial celebrations where flag-waving and badly lip-synched patriotic songs are the best show our leaders can whip up. And as if to compensate for their lack of nationalistic lustre, we have an international fireworks competition! Yay! Surely that's something for the rakyat to cheer for!

Give me something else to believe in, leaders. Not smoke, fire, or short-lived flames. Give me something that will benefit all Malaysians, for that is what we are—Malaysians.

But who in their right minds would sacrifice such a position of unquestionable privilege and comfort for the sake of the masses?

( |o }===:::

On a livelier note, this Merdeka was probably my most happenin', ever. I purged eight times since yesterday. Knocked out from all the effort, I accidentally fell asleep before midnight and missed all the charades on TV and possible fireworks nearby. Dang.

Oh wait, I feel a ninth one comin'. Gtg.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Lennie develops on the night of the lunar eclipse

The blank Polaroid lay flat on the table. "Shake it! Shake it!" I said excitedly.

"No! That's the wrong way," said Rach. "You'll mix all the colours up." Tickled by the cleverness of the sentence in her head, Rach grinned and said, "Let's watch Lennie develop."

( |o }===:::

At times, the imposing nature of age—that always increasing, never decreasing number—gets the better of me. Almost. It is as if I were a subject strapped onto a sterile metal table in a lab, society and all her expectations giving me a curt, disdainful glance before proceeding with the mandatory exam.

Married? No.
Attached? No.
Car? Second-hand; purchased this year.
House? Parents'.
Income? Err... it's complicated.
Career success? Blank.
Goals? Blank.
Spiritual health?

And so they prod before the morphine kicks in and I am dreaming again that I am singing and playing in front of an audience, their monotonous queries fading into the background.

( |o }===:::

The office celebrated the August babies today, in what must have been a stroke of numerical genius in my favour. There were four candles side-by-side on the cake, and I had trouble blowing mine out without killing someone else's lifeline. You'd think that perhaps, one would get better at blowing out candles as they grow older, but no, that's simply not true. Your puff of candle-blowing power decreases from a developing bad posture, your accuracy suffers from neckache and your reluctance to answer to the call of a higher integer means that you need to try at least three times before you 'succeed', thus inadvertently prolonging the moment of symbolic aging in the spotlight.

( |o }===:::

I once bought a book at a warehouse sale that was about a white explorer who had been caught by the natives in some far-off land. As I don't remember the details, we shall imagine that they were bloodthirsty cannibals who hissed, snarled and sucked their ulcers dry at the chance to taste this exotic white meat. Did it taste like chicken? Or did it taste like the stillborns, only perhaps less tender (and much hairier)? While they danced around the fire and lowered him into the gigantic charcoaled pot, he suddenly remembered a piece of news he'd read a few weeks before embarking on this suicide mission. It had said that on this exact date, there would be a total solar eclipse happening in the region he was in. Battling fear and a semi-conscious urge to crap his pants, he cried out to the translator (for how else would the locals know what he was saying?) and the people: "WAIT!"

The croak came out dry, bouncing off the skin of the pounding drums and an earth that roared under the soles of hungry warriors. Again:


The celebratory march stopped. Cold eyes peered at him, spears lifted. Warily, the white explorer gazed for a hint of hope in the sky—and there it was. A sliver. Pacman nibbling into the sun. Pointing to it, he put on his best imitation of God and said, "I will kill the sun."

Needless to say, the white explorer lived to tell the story.

( |o }===:::

If you didn't already know, a total lunar eclipse happened today. Rach called it a 'happy birthday present to you from God' as we watched it live over the Discovery Channel website while engaging in collective oohs and aaahs. Sure, it was cool, very cool in fact, but a more meaningful 'present' were some simple acts of care showed by thoughtful friends. Overall, it was a very nice birthday, and a possible reminder to a weary cynic of 'churchese' that God cares. So thanks to you guys who rock so well.

"Lennie develops, 2007"

Polaroid: RM3.50. Company: Priceless. Line: So corny

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Fried Green Tomatoes

Last weekend's Pay Less Books sale saw me scavenging for cheap reads. In less than an hour, I'd rounded up 7 books. The first to be devoured was Fannie Flagg's Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. My verdict: I love it! It's funny, lovable and you feel an affinity for the characters. Here's one of the funniest chapters, regarding a character called Evelyn, a woman facing menopause:

September 1, 1986

Ed Couch came home Thursday night and said that he was having trouble with a woman down at the office who was a “real ball breaker,” and that none of the men wanted to work with her because of it.

The next day, Evelyn went out to the mall to shop for a bed jacket for Big Momma and while she was having lunch at the Pioneer Cafeteria, a thought popped into her head, unannounced:

What is a ball breaker?

She’d heard Ed use the term a lot, along with She’s out to get my balls and I had to hold on to my balls for dear life.

Why was Ed so scared that someone was out to get his balls? What were they, anyway? Just little pouches that carried sperm; but the way men carried on about them, you’d think they were the most important thing in the world. My God, Ed had just about died when one of their son’s hadn’t dropped properly. The doctor said that it wouldn’t affect his ability to have children, but Ed had acted like it was a tragedy and wanted to send him to a psychiatrist, so he wouldn’t feel less of a man. She remembered thinking at the time, how silly… her breasts had never developed, and nobody ever sent her for help.

But Ed won out, because he told her she didn’t understand about being a man and what it meant. Ed had even pitched a fit when she wanted to have their cat, Valentine, who had impregnated the thoroughbred Siamese cat across the street, fixed.

He said, “If you’re gonna cut his balls off, you might as well just go on and put him to sleep!”

No doubt about it, he was peculiar where balls were concerned.

She remembered how Ed had once complimented that same woman at the office when she had stood up to the boss. He had bragged on her, saying what a ballsy dame she was.

But now that she thought about it, she wondered: What did that woman’s strength have to do with Ed’s anatomy? He hadn’t said, “Boy, she’s got some ovaries”; he had definitely said what balls she had. Ovaries have eggs in them, she thought: Shouldn’t they be as important as sperm?

And when had that woman stepped over the line of having just enough balls to having too much?

That poor woman. She would have to spend her whole life balancing imaginary balls if she wanted to get along. Balance was everything. But what about size? she wondered. She never heard Ed mention size before. It was the other thing’s size they were so concerned about, so she guessed it didn’t matter all that much. All that mattered in this world was the fact that you had balls. Then all at once, the simple and pure truth of that conclusion hit her. She felt as if someone had run a pencil up her spine and dotted an i on her head. She sat up straight in her chair, shocked that she, Evelyn Couch, of Birmingham, Alabama, had stumbled on the answer. She suddenly knew what Edison must have felt like when he discovered electricity. Of course! That was it… having balls was the most important thing in this world. No wonder she had always felt like a car in traffic without a horn.

It was true. Those two little balls opened the door to everything. They were the credit cards she needed to get ahead, to be listened to, to be taken seriously. No wonder Ed had wanted a boy.

Then another truth occurred to her. Another sad, irrevocable truth: She had no balls and never would or could have balls. She was doomed. Ball-less forever. Unless, she thought, if maybe the balls in your immediate family counted. There were four in hers… Ed’s and Tommy’s... No, wait… six, if she counted the cat. No, wait just another minute, if Ed loved her so much, why couldn’t he give her one of his? A ball transplant… That’s right. Or, maybe she could get two from an anonymous donor. That’s it, she’d buy some off a dead man and she could put them in a box and take them to important meetings and bang them on the table to get her way. Maybe she’d buy four…

No wonder Christianity had been such a big hit. Think of Jesus and the Apostles… And if you counted John the Baptist, why that was 14 pairs and 28 singles, right there!

Oh, it was all so simple to her now. How had she been so blind and not seen it before?

Yes, by heavens, she’d done it. She’d hit upon the secret that women have been searching for through the centuries…


Hadn’t Lucille Ball been the biggest star on television?

She banged her iced tea on the table in triumph and shouted, “YES! THAT’S IT!”

Everyone in the cafeteria turned and looked at her.

Evelyn quietly finished her lunch and thought, Lucille Ball? Ed might be right. I probably am going crazy.

- Fannie Flagg, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

Monday, August 06, 2007


Today, I understood a bit of what a monkey, squirrel, bird, panda, tiger, fern, crawler experiences when it loses its hideout to men in chainsaws and tractors. You feel bare. You feel like you could run for a thousand miles with your little heart churning out blood and fear, yet still end up in the jaws of a well-camouflaged croc or at the end of a shotgun. You dart for cover, but to your disgust, it's a measly hibiscus plant. To quote 99% of horror movies: You can run, but you can't hide.

Then there's the excruciating heat. The ground burns beneath your feet, and whatever overhead shelter there was from the scorching sun has blown away; collapsed; ceased to exist. If you're unlucky and wear a thick fur coat in this hot and humid climate, you begin sweating like a pig. If you're an actual pig with a thin epidermis, sunburn and skin cancer might just kill you off before a pack of hungry coyotes. You become a helpless victim to the elements.

This afternoon, I lost some of the "protection" I've known my whole life when I arrived home to a facade that looked different. It was our mango tree. It was missing. Suddenly, the whole house and garden seemed naked. Anyone on the street could look right in. In fact, it felt mighty weird, as the mango tree had been with us from as far as I can remember (which is a very long time ago), and had served us well, bearing luscious fruit and generously sharing its shade.

But today, its stem held itself up proudly for a last time; its branches grandly bowed and swayed for a nondescript finale. Only my dad was there to see it go. As the men started hacking into its 30-degree inclined trunk; as they fell blow after blow into termite-infested branches, the tree's two decades of love and labour became mere memories. The same tree I had tried climbing as a kid; the same tree I had curled up with a book in (and failed, for it wasn't destined to multitask as furniture); the same tree my parents and relatives spent hours gazing up its branches for signs of a yellowing fruit; the same tree my mum fell from and oozed blood from her head; the same tree a pair of yellow birds in the neighbourhood frequently sang lovesongs on; the same tree the garden squirrels played hide and seek in; the same tree the bats and birds loved to lepak in (while relaxing their anus muscles over my car)—this same tree was now gone. All that remained, when I returned home, was a story half a foot tall; sawdust and debris all around; roots still in the ground.

And the Sunday sun blazed down as usual. Only this time, there was no one to shelter me.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Neighbours Pt II (Wildlife edition)

A fly sticking around before the rain

A cat imitating a punk headbanger after the rain (click to zoom)

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Rabbit vs. Grandma

Rabbits are territorial, and so are grandmothers. If you lived in my house, you'd soon realise that the toilet downstairs is akin to a battlefield where a silent but tense power struggle is waged out every day between rabbit and grandma. The former loves to dash in for a quick poo if no one's looking; the latter tries to clampdown on such loose behaviour by constructing an elaborate rabbit-proof barricade before she heads off to bed (which is when Lump roams the lands). So far, it's been effective. For someone who's 97 years of age, I think her contraption is brilliant.

Lump surveys the mountainous terrain ahead

A closer look reveals the extent of creativity at work here


One rainy Saturday a few weeks ago, I decided to document my neighbours. I must admit, I've never spoken to any of them. My family used to trade New Year cookies for Raya ones with the neighbour on the right, but that tradition dissipated into a mere childhood memory when the 'datuk' from next door passed away.

The neighbours on the right

An old Chinese lady used to live on our left, but a few years ago, she opted out, and sold the place to the management of a printing factory nearby. The management then proceeded to conveniently dump what must have been a hundred and two male Nepalese workers in that house. The feisty, loud-mouthed neighbour two doors down kicked up a big fuss, and recently, the number went down to ninety-nine. I don't have a major problem with them... except for well, perhaps one. There's this young Nepalese chap who thinks it's very amusing trying to peep at me whenever I get down from the car, close the gate, etc. Once I was trying to wash the car, and a bunch of them—him included—just returned from the factory. He grinned, sat down at the porch and proceeded to gaze in my direction as if I were some kind of Saturday matinee Tamil movie. I felt like throwing my dirt-soaked sponge at him, but for the kinky connotations such an action could imply.

The neighbours on the left

My room faces the back, and the dudes at the back are total slobs. I don't waste my time observing their daily routines, but take a look—doesn't it just look like a junkyard? The water drainage pipe is hanging from the roof, and each time there's a thunderstorm, some part of the house creaks and falls away.

Room with a view: the neighbours at the back

And as a bonus, check out this back neighbour's neighbour (pictured below). Is it too much to ask that the people in my neighbourhood be more civilised?

The back neighbour's neighbour

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Andy McKee playing 'Drifting'

I stumbled into the arms of an amazing fingerstyle guitarist today. No, not Tommy Emmanuel. StumbleUpon, that nifty surfing tool, introduced me to Andy McKee playing a song he wrote called 'Drifting'. I immediately forwarded it to my guitar buddies online, and soon, an oasis of sorts (saliva, actually) had formed on our keyboards.

Stuff like this inspires me to want to pick up fingerstyle guitar. It's the most comprehensive style that allows you to perform solo yet still sound 'full'. Don't know where I can find a teacher, though, and the time. Roger Wang lives too far away and Az Samad is in Berklee. Sighs.