Friday, April 27, 2007

Alternate reality

I read about something really pointless in the Malay Mail a couple of days ago. The story was about how Nur Salima Habibi, a former contestant of Akademi Fantasia was castigated for exposing her aurat when she was performing in a theatre production. The complaint was that she exposed her hair (together with ears and neck) in the play. It wouldn’t have been an issue if she wasn't usually tudung-clad. But because she was (and this was her trademark during the AF competition), she was taken to task for the deed.

Her excuse was that no, she did cover her hair. In adopting a technical defence, she said that she wore a tudung first and then only donned a wig over the tudung. So presto – we’ve got an actress who is syariah compliant and yet remained just as alluring as mainstream actresses, with hair seemingly showing.

I may not be too knowledgeable in religious matters but something is amiss here. Isn’t the whole purpose of wearing a tudung to prevent a stirring in the loins of men whose eyes might fall upon her uncovered head? Maybe I would have to expect that before her performance, someone would have to announce, “Please be informed that Salima is actually wearing a wig over her tudung.” For added measure the announcer might also add, “So don’t you men dare get horny.”

Even with such a caveat, I’m sure wig or no wig, loins susceptible to the sight of female hair would stir anyway.

In any case, she should consider herself lucky not to find pictures of hair superimposed on her head. Or worse, her face superimposed on a naked body like that entertainer couple who in 1998 didn’t send their PC to be repaired only not to find later that the technician didn’t pilfer their hard drive and didn’t submit their photos to

Which reminds me of yet another bizarre incident – in Japan, this time.

On New Year’s Eve of last year, a dubiously talented entertainer who goes by the stage name DJ Ozma performed a song (aptly titled “Bounce With Me”) on NHK (the Japanese equivalent of RTM1) accompanied by a troupe of female dancers. Half-way through the performance his equally talented dancers took off their tops, exposing what seemed like their breasts and continued bouncing with him until the end.

Not unexpectedly, the next day NHK received 1800 complaints about the inappropriateness of the extravaganza. NHK’s explanation was that the dancers only wore flesh coloured suits (fully installed with nipple coloured fake nipples). No breasts were exposed during the whole affair. I would normally think, yeah right but it’s the Japanese we are talking about. Bizarre is as bizarre does. (See video here)

No boobies bared here. Honest.

Now what would this mean for baldies? Perhaps they could now go around sans their bad hairpieces and claim that they are wearing flesh-coloured head coverings for the heck of it.

Gambar hiasan semata-mata

I expressed my amazement to my friend K about this whole state of affairs. He summed it up quite nicely, “It’s pointless. Just like jerking off wearing gloves.” I couldn’t quite agree based on personal experience, but I think he might have a point.

The silliness of it all is totally depressing. I think I'll drop into my neighbourhood pub but don't get me wrong. I'll only be knocking back some non-alcoholic beer and then just pretend to get absolutely wasted.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Usin' my noggin

What have a Minnesotan evolutionist, a grandma in Texas, an acclaimed writer from Terengganu and a camera phone pest in KL got in common? They are all recipients of the Thinking Blogger Award. Which begs the question, what is a “thinking blogger”?

When I was bestowed the award (twice) by Ms. Blabs and Pugly, my first thought was: Thinking Blogger? Is there any other kind? I began to think whether it is really useful to label a blogger as a thinking one.

My instruction, in tagging my choice of Thinking Bloggers, was to tag blogs that make me think. But surely a "blog that makes you think" is not only one that is constantly spouting profound wisdom on his/her blog?

Would that mean that bloggers who write only about the routine aspects of their life should be excluded? Does a person who lovingly blog about his cats not make you think? Or is the foodie who frequently keeps us up-to-date about fabulous eating places in town (with lots of photos to go with the post) not worthy of the award?

The blogsphere is a wonderful medium for expressing anything you want (within reasonable bounds) and there will always be an audience who would consider any one of your posts intriguing.

I will get down to the task that I have been entrusted with soon enough but let me deal with some other questions that have been nagging me. By which route did the tag reach me? Are all the people before me of the same ilk?

The only way to find this out is to trace back all the recipients of the award that leads back to Ilker, the creator of the tag. So I did!

(in reverse order, leading back to the originator)

37. Almost Anonymous
36. Pugly / Nights Over Egypt
35. Dina Zaman / The Splenderful Chronicles
34. Eliza’s Haberdashery / Kak Teh's Choc-a-Blog Blog
33. Bibliobibuli
32. Greening the Blue Planet
31. Stephanie's Confessions of a Book-a-holic
30. The Sleepy Reader
29. 3M’s Review
28. This is the Life
27. The Song of My Soul
26. Fruit In Season
25. Sting My Heart
24. Laurel Wreath
23. Middle Years
22. Rocking Chair Reflections
21. Morning Glory
20. Ordinary Mom
19. Temporary? Insanity
18. The Smiling Infidel
17. Slacker Moms R Us
16. The State of Discontent
15. I Obsess
14. 24/7
13. Red Neck Mommy
12. A Work of Art
11. Under The Mad Hat
10. Bub and Pie
9. So Fast Away
8. Life, the Ongoing Education
7. California Teacher Guy
6. History Is Elementary
5. Another History Blog
4. Primordial Blog
3. Sandwalk
2. Greg Laden
1. The Thinking Blog

Amazing! Don’t you think?

My nominations for the Thinking Blogger Award go to:

Pazuzu’s The Floating Turd: He writes an enormous amount of crap, as the title of the blog suggests, but as you will find, not without a lot of thought. Don’t forget to read his accompanying blog, which is a fun satire on Malaysian politics.

: This self-titled blog frequently deals with issues facing Singaporean Malays. He puts across his ideas eloquently. I don’t agree with everything he says which makes reading it even more compelling.

Lokman’s The Blokeman: Lokman is another Malay Singaporean blogger who defends the Singapore ethos strongly. He stands for no nonsense and provides an insight into why his countrymen are such resilient creatures.

Cikgu Lee: Just when you think Malay blogs are boring, here comes one which brings fresh air to the genre. A Chinese blogger who can use my mother tongue better than I do certainly gets me thinking.

Suria Matahari: Why not? She reminds me that family and friends matter most. That’s worth thinking about.

Note to tagged bloggers:

Congratulations, you won a Thinking Blogger Award!

Should you choose to participate, please make sure you pass this list of rules to the blogs you are tagging. I thought it would be appropriate to include them with the meme.

The participation rules are simple:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,

3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote.

Remember to tag blogs with real merits, i.e. relative content, and above all - blogs that really get you thinking!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Conserve this!

Have you wondered what the going rate is to hire a young able-bodied person to clear ape shit from a cage? Apparently you pay nothing. In fact, if you play your cards right, the shit-shoveler might even pay you for the privilege.

I am, of course, talking about the wonderful world of gap year tourism, the economics of which has fascinated me enough to write this entry.

I was in Sabah last week for a short holiday. (I mentioned this in some comments of the last post). At some point, I ended up at the orang utan rehabilitation centre in Sepilok, near Sandakan. In my usual blogging frame of mind, I was alert for new material. However, while I found orang-utans interesting creatures, I discounted them as suitable interview subjects.

So while the eco-tourists were gaping at our not-too-distant cousins, my curiosity was aroused when I saw some white kids working alongside the rangers. Around lunchtime I accosted a pair of these atypical manual workers at the restaurant and sat them down for a chat.

Both of them were 19 and were British. Andy was from Winchester and Liz was from Taunton. They had finished their A-Levels last year and have spent the last 4 weeks at the centre.

“I love animals and the opportunity to work here was a once-in-a lifetime opportunity,” Andy told me.

“So how did you apply to work here? Do they pay well?” I asked.

Liz jumped in laughing, “No, we are volunteers. We don’t get paid.”

Liz and Andy went on to explain that the opportunity to volunteer at the centre is highly sought. The centre in Sepilok is world-famous and it is not easy to get a volunteer placement. Typically, the volunteers are post A-Level students who have taken a year off before going to university (hence, gap-year). The volunteers would nurse and bathe the babies, feed the adults at the feeding platform and do other more mundane tasks like cleaning their cages. So, for students who hope to become vets, it would be a logical choice. But in any case, having worked here would look good in any CV.

“Besides,” claimed Liz, a vegetarian who wore leather shoes, “we feel good for doing our bit to conserve the planet. Anyway how could you not want to take care of these cute babies?”

“Wow, you must have really pulled some strings to get these places,” I commented.

“Not really. We pay a management and placement fee to an agent in the UK to secure a place,” Andy informed me.

Paying to work. What an interesting concept, I thought. I found out later from my own research that these volunteers pay about £3000 pounds for their 2-month gap year experience in Sepilok. There are other opportunities in Malaysia including teaching English and scuba diving at varying prices. I can't imagine our unemployed graduates forking out even RM100 for a chance to improve their CVs. They even have to be paid to drag themselves out of bed to attend additional English courses and whatnot.

I didn’t feel like I got the full picture. So I waylaid a ranger and tried to get him to talk about this volunteering lark. He wouldn’t oblige and I suspected that he was cautious not to disclose things he shouldn’t. But he suggested that I get a ride back to town from Justin, a former ranger who recently retired and was now driving a taxi in Sandakan. The ranger gave me a number and soon I was taken back to Sandakan by Justin.

“So what do you think about these gap year volunteers?” I asked.

“They are all right. The centre takes about a dozen of them at any one time. And I think some of the money they pay is donated to the centre,” Justin explained. “But it’s challenging to have them. Most of these kids are so sheltered that they have funny ideas about animals and wildlife. I remember one volunteer who refused to eat fish served whole with the head!

And then, some think they could run the centre better than us. They would quote information they gained from this book or that documentary. One argued with me on his first day that the orang-utans should not be just fed with bananas since there were an abundance of fruit available. What he didn’t understand was that we purposely want them to get bored with the bananas so they would venture into the jungle to look for more interesting food.

And these people are so spoiled. One girl couldn’t be separated from her handphone despite the no handphone rule. So one day, we had to suspend our whole operations because one of the orang utans pinched her handphone and everybody had to stop work to persuade the fellow to give it back.”

I was beginning to feel that perhaps it wasn’t so much the volunteers’ animal rearing skills as their hard currency that was welcomed by the centre.

You know what I have to do now right? I’m going to start a conservation programme for “endangered cows”. I’ll call it “Program Berlindung Untuk Lembu Liar” (Program BULL) or in English, the “Wild Cows Shelter Programme”. I’m going to get an agent to find me some gullible British vegetarian volunteers whom I will charge £500 a place. The agent could charge whatever it wants. When they get here, I’ll make sure they have a fulfilling 2 month experience. I’ll set them to work (herding, feeding and even bathing the cows if they want) and educate them on the benefits of recycling manure (that will make sure the sheds get cleaned). Imagine how much I’ll save on employing Indonesians to do the job (and make some money in the process).

Now I’ve got all that sorted, all I need to do is think of a plausible cover story for the Ramly Burger lorry coming for supplies.

Friday, April 6, 2007

First impressions

There’s one more reason why I blog anonymously. You will see that I don’t post any photos, provide an email address or instant messaging ID and I avoid giving out any personal details.

I’m not really paranoid but it’s because extra information tends to distract from your real task at hand, which is reading my blog. If I take away all the excess data, you have no choice but to read my postings rather than play detective to answer the question, “Who on earth is this guy?” That’s what I hope anyway, at least in these early days.

Why I started off the post with these thoughts is because I’ve been recently introduced the term “thin-slicing”. I found out that it’s got nothing to do with making a piece of salami go a long way. It’s the underpinning concept of Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book, “Blink”.

Since my last book review I have taken an interest in pop psychology after all. The idea that you can make accurate snap judgments about people and situations in the first 2 seconds just intrigues me. This is what “thin-slicing” is about.

Gladwell puts forward a case for thinking without thinking, which suits me and my depleted brain cells just fine. My head already hurts writing this post.

We thin-slice whenever we “meet a new person or have to make sense of something quickly or encounter a novel situation.” He says, “Snap judgments are, first of all, enormously quick: they rely on the thinnest slices of experience … they are also unconscious.”

But as I said before, just read this blog. Don’t thin slice me.

The book is peppered with many anecdotes about situations when people thin-slice correctly and wrongly. Gladwell gives examples in the context of detecting art forgery, gambling, speed dating, tennis, military war games, the movies, malpractice suits, popular music, and predicting divorce.

The most fascinating vignette he provides is about Silvan Tomkins. Tomkins was an expert at studying facial muscles and what they revealed about people. By looking at mug shots on “Wanted “ posters, he could tell what crimes the various fugitives had committed. And by looking at decades-old photos of tribesmen in Papua New Guinea he could correctly tell which of them were homosexuals and murderers. It was last reported that there will even be a film adaption of Blink starring Leonardo Dicaprio as Silvan Tomkins and directed by Stephen Gaghan. I’ll bear Leonardo this time in the name of intellectual pursuit.

I’m certain that the ability to analyse faces would come in useful all the time. I’m already thinking of interviews, negotiations and selecting half decent Indonesian maids from sketchy biodatas.

I wonder if I have Silvan Tompkins’ gift? Apart from anything else, thin-slicing would provide a cure for boredom on the LRT or generate some minor excitement from mundane events. OK, here goes:






1. Having a bad hair day
2. Misses Magnum P.I.
3. Thinks he's on the New York subway
4. Loves his fries
5. Loves his fries and has a bad hairdresser
6. WTF??!!!!

Sorry for the disappointing analysis. What do you think I am? Psychic?

(note: Photo No. 6 is NOT photoshopped!)