Saturday, April 30, 2005
But like twin brothers or sisters, the causeway and bridge, and soon another bridge not too far, will cement us with our Brudder or Sisder across the problematic straits, now straightened out.
Yes, I note here belatedly, two High notes of good cheer.
April 26, 2005 marked the dawning of a new spring for Malaysia and Singapore. Like teenagers, they sometimes fight over the same girl, have lovers' spats, fight like dogs and cats. Hey, who says equatorial countries don't go thru cold winters?
The two countries ushered in a new season of bilateral relations with the signing of a treaty in the city republic by Foreign Ministry's Secretary-General Ahmad Fuzi Abdul Razak, and Singapore's ambassador-at-large Prof Tommy Koh, witnessed by their foreign ministers, Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar and George Yeo, respectively.
This signalled an end of the problematic land reclamation activities in Singapore's territory yet seemingly touching Malaysian horizon, a perception that strained the brotherly ties that had seen Singapore married to Malaysia not so long ago for just a honeymoon period. Other issues on the negotiation table now seem not so insurmountable after all, thanks to relatively young PMs Lee Hsien Loong and Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Maybe there could be a second time around with a newer generation? As they often say, Politics is the Art of the Possible.
The second high note is of glad tidings for the arty, farty community, commonly referred to by the media here. I know arty, but why farty? (I beg your pardon here, I digress; not a transgression, I hope.)
According to a The Straits Times/ANN report I spied in The Star of April 20, 2005, Singaporean film-maker ERIC KHOO scored a coup for his country -- his Be With Me beat 799 internatinal films to have the honour to open at the Cannes Film Festival early next month.
The director's first film for eight years, it will premiere in the festival's Director's Fortnight category. Legendary icons who have had the same honour include Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee and Nagisa Oshima.
A jubilant Khoo, 39, said: "It shows the possibility that Singaporean films can go international."
Singapore Film Commission director Seto Lok Yin called it "a signal achievement" for Khoo.
Signal indeed, for Khoo made the movie on a relatively low budget of S$200,000 (RM460,000), and Be With Me was shot in just 15 days last November.
It's about the love and hope of everyday people, from cradle to grave. It stars (ggod news for late starters!) mostly first-time actors, notably 62-year-ol deaf-mute THERESA CHAN, and Khoo's 61-year-old former English tutor CHIEW SUNG CHING.
This writer, thirty-something-young-at-heart, is also some sort of English tutor, running a Sunday column desiderata.english; he wonders if any producer/director would extend him a "break" like Khoo's generous take-on on SC CHIEW?
Khoo's coming debut adds another feather in the cap for an Asian who dared to dream. This must lift the hearts of the likes of YASMIN AHMAD and her crew, and her young cast. Yasmin caused quite a stir with a Ministerial production promoting civil society on TV, with a Malay youth acting strange and rude -- too successfully, I add, for his own good that some members of Malaysian public were convinced that he was in real life truly kurang ajar for not giving up a seat to a pregnant lady on board a train! The persevering and independent-minded director did Malaysia proud by also winning another international award in France some weeks back with Sepet, also produced at a low budget of RM1million, for which I paid tribute with an earlier post titled a date with SEPET (March 21, 2005).
Friday, April 29, 2005
He is a fresh government pensioner, and now helps out at a Teh Tarik stall (run by one of his sons) adjoining a town road somewhere in Malaysia where the madding crowd stop by for his hot nasi lemak with kambing or chicken curry, or his roti canai, or special nasi goreng that tastes "above par" because he throws in lots of onions and garlic ... all washed down with piping hot teh tarik! I pamper myself with an extra teh-o iced limau or a second teh tarik with susu lembu, it's exquisite especially on a cold night!
Haridas was quieter than normal when I paid my routine -- at least once a week -- inspection of his business, that runs from about 6.30pm, arriving at 10.30 last night. I was direct in asking why there was just a sprinkling of customers at only three of his tables, numbering 10. At this hour, most times only one or two tables would be unoccupied, and sometimes I would have to share a table with "strangers". But sidewalk strangers become acquainted easily, that's the beauty.
Haridas' lament was that for the past few days (which did not rain), business had been unusually slow. He could not really pin it down to any definite reasons.
Could it be that fewer workers involved in transportation (like drivers of lorry, bus, taxi or other vehicle using diesel) are just hampered in dropping by for their makan and drinks? You should know by now the raging "diesel shortage" crisis besetting those involved in this sector the recent days! On the TV news just before I came visiting, the minister concerned, Shafie Apdal, was reported to have promised that the problem of diesel shortage -- due mainly to smuggling -- would be overcome in 48 hours.
Maybe, Haridas said, that is one factor, but he also expressed the view that many other goings-on in the country were upsetting people's spending power, like the recent hikes in toll, public transport including bus, and taxi charges. Definitely consumer goods' prices are rising in tandem, but workers' wages are not keeping up.
Our PM's chief enemy?
I told him that another buddy of mine working in the property and construction sector had reported that the business is struggling, indicated by plunging cement prices (by some 50 percent, the situation three weeks ago), the problem compounded by the vast numbers of "illegal" Indonesian workers who went home under the amnesty programme, but did not return to Malaysia legally (in the numbers as expected by the Malaysian government). So there will be a shortfall of construction workers for some time while the government tries recruiting from other source countries like Pakistan, Vietnam and India.
Haridas and I also discussed some politics. Both of us believed that when Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi assumed the helm of leading the country one-and-half years back, there was unreserved support for his expressed wish to deliver a clean, accountable and caring gocvernment. But has he lost steam?
My guess, concurred with by my politically-informed mate who had contested as a candidate for a State Assembly seat some years back, is that Pak Lah meant well, we don't doubt his determination and sincerity. The main dilemma facing him is that he inherited a system very entrenched in bureaucratic redtape, unaccountability and in many public service departments (not all, I emphasise here) that were not, and are not, customer-orientated. The biggest hurdle to beat is that of corruption -- entrenched like a cancer, spreading stealthily like a thief at night, if not arrested or excised. Would the PM's subordinates work with him, that's the question.
To be or not to be, that's the question -- I add, to be single-minded about the fight against corruption, public enemy number one for Malaysia, in desiderata's humble opinion. If this our government's chief enemy too?
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Contrast this with theSun's page 1 lead headline on April 20, just seven days ago:
MPs query pay rise.
I don't need to elaborate except refer you to my post on April 20, 2005 titled donQTake 2.
I won't work so hard today writing a long post because I am not elected into the august House to talk a lot.
I am my own master, I answer to none except to my own sense of responsibility as a proponent of CivilSociety, and to my own Conscience.
I'll just wait and see how these MPs, both from the Barisan Nasional, and from the Opposition parties would vote on the Members of Parliament (Remuneration) (Amendment) Bill 2005, which when passed, would increase the honourable members' allowances by 10 percent.
Let's talk cock less and see if Action speaks louder than words.
My educated guess is the Amendment would finally be passed and adopted after some posturing of great sacrifice working for the rakyat, save for some dissenting votes from the Opposition bench, perhaps a few independent minded ruling party MPs, Datuk Sharir Abdul Samad, leader of the Backbenchers Club (BN-Johor Baru), and his colleague from Kota Baru, Datuk Mohd Zaid Ibrahim?
I did what I had to do, I saw it thru without exemption ...
These morale-boosting lyrics, sung the inimitable Ol' Blue Eyes way, were over our airwaves for a substantial period to the extent that many Malaysians -- promoted or misled by RTM -- believed that then Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad was a great fan of Frank Sinatra's anthem -- My Way. Even now I'm not sure whether it was myth or reality because I had occasion reading the contrary regarding this perception. Well, never mind, as my post relates more to the message than the fans, though the latter are important, the message remains paramount.
The refrain always brings to my mind Robert Frost's famous The Road Not Taken, often erroneously referred to as The Road Less Travelled. Quoting here the last four lines:
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I --
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
All of us, without fail, would have on certain occasions paused and wondere IF certain significant decisions we made in the past could have been varied, and the consequence, and impact on our present and future would have been another story.
Yes, it often gives rise to Regrets, I've had a few... Hopefully, it's like in the song, Too few to mention...?
We know that when Frost referred to the dilemma of selecting which road to proceed on arriving at a fork or any crossroads (of Life), when one had to choose only one of two (sometimes more) paths, it represented not just the physical paths we encountered in a walk through the woods (which indeed inspired Frost's composing while taking one in the countryside in England with a close friend). We make life-changing decisions when faced with crucial moments, for instance, after high school: is it Science or Arts. or maybe pursue a professional course in Law, Accountancy, or Medicine? Or perhaps, join the nunnery, or go wandering with the waywar wind?
Or after working for some years. the prospects of a new job appears -- do we dare accept the change in career at mid-life? Whatever the decision, the person pays the price for a "wrong" decision, or reaps the reward for the "right" one. But who's to know the future? As I said in an earlier post, Man porposes, God disposes.
That's why, "regrets" in life we will always have a few, but life is too short to be wasted on futile questioning of what could have been.
Now I continue with inTEGRITY, yesterday's post, relating to the face-off between two educated in law, Jenny moving on to corporate legal practice, and Kelly to the armed forces, different paths taken, different destinies, and now at a CROSSROAD, to be determined by their own abilities, and depending on one man's decision, the Don's.
I've noticed that all the 16 participants of Season 2 were excellent communicators, that means the mastery of the English language was a pre-requisite to qualify to even taste the shortlist, and I salute everyone of them. As I said yesterday, maybe Kelly had some winning edge in his humilty to admit mistakes, and the discipline to demonstrate consistently the integrity of his leadership and decision-making. But this doesn't in any detract from Jenny's equally impressive leadership and other human skills, save the judging, including a live audience feedback via their applause, was in favour of the military-trained Kelly.
On the way to becoming the much coveted (second) Donald Trump's Apprentice, Kelly Perdew had in his own recollection of the long journey of challenges, and many twists and turnings, said that he had practised a principle consistently to fight his battles, to always "remain cool and collected, while others are getting edgy and unnerved by the mounting crisi". Yes, a poet after my own heart, Kelly quoted the counsel given in Kipling's IF:
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings -- nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And -- which is more -- you'll be a Man, my son!
Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)
(Here desiderata reproduces only the concluding portion. Don't just depend on me --thou shan't become a parasite! -- go read the full poem.)
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
"We are working on it and it will be established in November," The Star in its report headlined Integrity index to be developed yesterday quoted Samsuddin as saying at the first anniversary of the launching of the National Integrity Plan (PIN) and the Malaysian Integrity Institute in Kuala Lumpur.
The NII would cover all levels of society, from the public to the private sector.
"We hope the index will provide foreigners, especially investors, with an indicator of the integrity of the country," he added. (Desiderata's emphasis)
Samsuddin said that all this while, Malaysia had used the Corrution Perception Index issued by Berlin-based Transparency International (TI) as its benchmark for integrity. (Incidentally, TI has a Malaysian chaper.)
He was of the opinion that TI may use criteria that are not quite relevant to our situation, and hence the TI index might not be suitable for us.
I don't have a problem with the Governmnet's emphasis on promoting inTEGRITY, which universally implies the positive values of honesty, transparency and accountability, especially of paramount importance in international business and foreign investment flows into Malaysia.
But using the excuse that TI's index might not cater to local needs and therefore "not suitable" is like trying to change universally accepted standards, akin to a case of "re-inventing the wheel". Who is going to change to using, or even first recognising as usable, Malaysia's national integrity index, you representing a nation of just 25 million people? Are you aware that the total capitalisation of the whole Bursa Malaysia's companies amount to less than the net worth of one American tycoon's company --Microsoft belonging to Bill Gates?
Things that our honourable Chief Secretary need to ponder over before proceeding on a project that is going to use up lots of human resources, time and energy which could be better used in improving all the public and private systems that are already in place. Hey, next are we going to re-define Gross Domestic Product using our own criteria to suit Malaysia's conditions because out leaders feel the world is not heeding Malaysia's special needs? Let's get out of the proverbial coconut shell before another economic tsunami wraps us all in an eclipse we may never emerge from!
I now turn to last night's TV3 finale of the "The Apprentcie" (season 2) -- where it was a neck-to-neck battle of wits and business savvy-spiritedness between law graduates Kelly Perdew and Jennifer Massey. Kelly chalked up a fantsatic record in the US armed forces, with a glowing testimony given by his superior officer who held the view "Kelly could rise up to the very top (in one of Donald Trump's companies)" and that he would be proud to serve under him (his subordinate in the army!)
Jennifer also had a fantastic record to show -- graduating top of the class at two prestigious universities, rose to the top at a US leading law firm (she currently serves in), and again earning an equally glowing report from her current superior colleague.
The battle to be The Don's apprentice was so tight and close that Mr Trump had to use a novel method-- garnering a live audience's feedback, including the views the other 14 "fired" competitors, and significantly, of several top Fortune 500 companies' CEOs. The overwhelming support of expressed views pointed to Kelly's advantage. All the opinion-makers said the two candidates indeed were outstanding in their own right. Their views crossed gender lines because at no stage could one detect any gender bias in their ratings.
The "roped in" judges gave several character traits common in their assessments -- both Kelly and Jennifer showed leadership qualifies, commitment, discipline, and ability to adapt to meet problems that arise in an asssignment, different degrees of "fire" (abrasiveness was one trait attributed to the female contender), could deliver on the tasks at hand, especially the final one involving organising a Polo event (Kelly) and a basketball event (Jenny) to raise funds for charity.
Humility to acknowledge mistakes
One feature that was considered a "weakness" observed in both contenders' final task was the "personal" interaction (rather lack of) with key people who ought to have been given due respect -- in Jenny's case, not personally attendig to key VIPs (including the sponsors) associated with the charity event, not present to "farewell" the boss after the basketball game; and Kelly too not personally talking to the key personalities at important times. One difference I noticed that when asked for their "defence", Jenny was overly defensive giving reasons for her "absence" (coming across as not acknowledging her lapses) while Kelly did nod his recognition of his omissions, and humble enough to openly acknowldedge his mistakes. I believe this "openness" in humility gave him an edge, which could have shifted the balance (my humble view, of course).
I think the "fire" referred to was all about PASSION, which ranked high in all the assessments given. There is no need to say more but add that where there is passion in an endeavour, it becomes a joy, not a labour. (Not my original thought, 'tis wisdom often proffered by successful people throughout the ages and world.)
The outstanding trait -- present in both finalists Kelly and Jenny -- is definitely, inTEGRITY.
I wrote it such "in" to show that this comes from within the person. Intangible no doubt, but it will finally surface, sooner or later, and it makes the world of difference as to whather one wins the battle -- in the corporate, family or friendship circles. This characteristic is among the desiderata of "towering" character, and must surely belong to those who possess the "glow" that their colleagues and associates talk about. I'd be damned mighty proud to be in Kelly's or Jenny's shoes -- we can always dream and aspire, can't we?
People worldwide look for the same values -- let's not kid ourselves re-defining certain universally-held values to suit our circumstances. That is called "rationalisation", Tan Sri Samsuddin.
Monday, April 25, 2005
Treat today's post as a special, a treat, a trick, whatever, but it's NOT supposed to be written this way. It is written this way because of a Friend, A Challenge, & The Curious INCIDENT of the DOG in the Night-Time. This Dog is spceiall because it's an imaerginary one, and won an award called Whitbread Book of the Year for the author MARK HADDON. But I hesitate to sink myself completely into the book and make it public because it contains some four-letter worsd associated with the pubic area (if you know science like the protagonist in the doggone book, Christopher, this branch of Science is called Anatomy (a combo of a lady called Ana and a man called Tom, my take, not the Bio teacher's!) of the Human Body and your Biology teacher will be the best person to educate you about all the parts in detail, functions, etc, etc which stands for et cetera 2X, which means and so on, and so forth, which can also imply a strategy adopted by many writers they have run out of ideas to list ... get what I mean? So be forewarned that out of necessity to confront the TOPIC, i (in small here) humbly seek thy foregiveness and forebearance if the profane-sounding references hurt your sensitivities ... I guess it must be tolerable if, out of 100,000 words I write, only five words offend thy sense of wellbeing (as Christopher will be able to tell ye: only 0.0005 per cent, which is chicken feed compared with dogshit).
This entry came about after I personally met with a Blogger friend (three or four weeks old)
(Interruptus as in copus interuptus, as for the last panicky 10 minues "lost" this essay up till before the first "sensitive" word, this one is of my own, when the PC screen went off with my creative effort so far ... I "Backed" several times, looked at Drafts too, but could NOT get this titled A Friend, A Challenge & a DOG until I typed the second attempt's title, saw the heavenly pointer Recover post, and I clicked, wallah, her I am cointinuing this post, though this inteerution cost me 7 minutes ...)
No, my friend, Yan (of http://yancorner), is not three or four weeks old, it's our friendship. To distinguish myself when meting up at the hotel coffeee house, I said I would be carrying a copy of Time magazine and a copy of The DOG... I told I was planning to write a review of this book in a coming Sunday's column. Being curious, as any press-related person, or any writer worth her salt would, Yan later bought a copy of The DOG, emailed me and pushed me into a corner to fix a deadline to uplink "our" reviews simultaneously, which is just exactly 1 hr & 30 minutes & 0 second from this sentence-end.
Now let's get to the
The DOG started early with a dead body -- its own bloody body!
"Fifteen-year-old Christopher has a photographic memory. He understands maths. He understands science. What he can't understand are other human beings (emphasis is mine). (Interruptus here again: I just pressed Shift+B to debold instead of Ctrl + B and I lost another 3 minutes typing the enxt 3 sentences again.) When he finds his neighbour's dog lying dead on the lawn, he decides to track down the killer and write a murder mystery about it. But what other mysteries will he end up uncovering?"
The foregoing is NOT my writing -- it's an exerpt from the book backflap flagging off to sell the book for RM35.90 at Kinokuniya (I mentioned the BookStore just in case I can go back to them to give me a free copy for doing this promo -- then I lend lend out this KK copy to my readers who are broke or less welloff than me, who's quite nigh to poverty -- I sometimes spend a night in my car parked near a police station when I can't stay at all the 5- or 6-star or 1-star hotels along Jalan Bukit Bintang (why call it Bukit? when I see no hills there, the stars I can understand because Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones must have stayed in one of the RM5,000 a nighter in a 7-starry deluxe suite, I envy 'em, the stars I mean, not the suite!. As I said in one of my posts, the luxury of Blogging is you san digress as much as you want to, so Try It, blogging I mean, not digressing!)
Well, back to the challenge, Yan, I'm midway to writing my 1,500-2,000 words now, and I get carried away with shooting off tangent, like the stars young Christopher often does in telling his detection story. He even mentioned my favourite snoop. Sherlock Holmes! (I'd mention his sidekick if he was fe-male, but a man sounding like the newest bigstore in town, Watsons (currently being feverishly plugged by Cheryl Samad in a TV series, saw that yet?). Mama mia, I digress yet again.
So as time is running against me, just 60 minutes & 4 seconds to 1100 hrs deadline I agreed with Yan (writers' word is their bond!), I come back to The DOG.
When I started 2-1/2 weeks ago, I was jumping with joy after some 15 minutes because at the top of the pages appeared strange numbers like 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17. This must be a collectible copy in my hands, maybe I can get a few thousand bucks on Ebay auction sales? You know, there are a lot of rich Americanos or Japs out there willing to part with USD (divided by 3.8 rinngit) and I can take a break from freelance 'riting (as LOne (of http://lonestar9) pondered, serious? Yes, I'm very, very serious.)
My bubble burst when it was soon revealed that the top pagination resulted from one of Chris' skills of playing with prime numbers, and the conventional pagination is listed at the page-bottom. There flies my Greenback and myGoodfriend's Sushi of the Malaysian window. mGf refers to one of many freinds and this particular one enjoys Jap cuisine, I like the petite girls since viewing one Dr Han Suyin in Love Is a Many-Splendour'd Thing...)
Then my temperature rose a little as part of my job reading the Doggone book was to see if it was suitable reading for lower secondary pupils at Chan Wa High. Though there is a character Mr Peters who is a vicar, there are other colourful figures who don't hesitate in swearing: What the fuck! or add an "s" for variety, Whatthefucks!? No, the question mark doesn't mean the hearer -- please, I didn't say listener -- was expected to answer, this is what is called a rhetorical question.
One can't really review a book adequately, that would be letting out the cat out of the doggie's bag, wouldn't I? (Actullay, I'm running out of time, just another 44 minutes to go! See, I mispelt "actually" at the beginning of this sentence in my rush.) Just mention is passing Chris indeed threw in a lot of science puzzles and tricks (one I still couldn't figure out was relating to Probability, we'll leave that for another time and place, just that he made it easier with graphs and diagrams which litter the book, like poo?)
I checked the Chambers ENGLISH DICTIONARY starts with A, a on page 1 and ends with zythum on page 1732, and found the following definitions:
fuck fuk (old word, long taboo: all words, meanings still vulg.) v.i. to have sexual intercourse: to play around, act foolishly, etc, etc, and further down:
poo (slang) same as poop5 faeces: defecation.
(I have used poop3 before, in the full form, nincompoop)
To continue, after the neighbour Mrs Shears' dog was found dead, there were the usual arrival of the policeman, the questioning, and Christopher's detremination to solve the murder mystery. It was definitely MURDER, for the poor dog had a fork speared through him (no, not the table fork, the big one from the garden's shed).
I'm now doing a hop-step-&-jump in story telling (not book-reviewing!) and hence summarise here some key obs (for observations as I'm running out of steam):
* Other potentially sensitive words and lines sighted are cunt, (kenny of http://kennysia.com), canORKnot?
** "Do you mean that they were doing sex?" said by Chris to one Mrs Alexander who mentioned earlier to Chris that "Your mother, before she died, was very good friend with Mr Shears."
*** And she said, "Are you tling the truth, Christopher?"
And then I said, "I always tell the truth."
Heaving a sigh of relief, I pen this paragraph:
"So I got to 451c Chapter Road, London NW2 5NG and it took me 27 minutes and there was no one in when Impressed the button that said Flat C and the only interesting thing that happened on the way was 8 men dressed up in Viking costumes with helmets with horns on and they were shouting, but they weren't real Vikings because the Vikings lived nearly 2,000 years ago, and also I had to go for another wee (desiderata thinks this qualifies as another potentially sensitive word and also the subsequent behaviour that follows Chris' need to behave naturally... , so I won't refer for its meaning, or demeaning, in da dick...) and I went in the alleyway down the side of a garage called Burdett Motors which was closed and I didn't ike doing that but I didn't want to wet (desiderata: yet another red-face turning word!) myself again, and there was nothing else interesting.
As time does not permit, I'll leave this for next Sunday's desiderata.english, do I have thy kind permittance, dearer Reader? (This is another rhetorical question.) Just add a PS that today's writing was very much influenced by HADDON's writ(h)ing as a child gifted with with autism.) So if any doeth offence, methinks it's Haddon's talent, not my fault.)
PPS: I'm not editing this post as wrong grammer and spelinsgs can be attributed to young Christopher.
Sunday, April 24, 2005
The heart of today's post revolved around a medical doctor's life, from an actor-doctor's point of view. Alan Alda acted as a "composite" doctor in the famous M*A*S*H series starting some three decades back, based on the daily challenges confronting a doctor caught in the Korean War two decades earlier. Matters of the "sick or wounded" body and heart don't change much through the passage of time -- it's only the circumstances that have changed, the nature and spirit of the medical world's challenges in the ward and operation or war theatres have many commonalities. Whether in Vietnam, Uganda, Korea or Malaysia, or in the US itself, in peacetime or wartime, the doctors' oath sworn to service all telescopes into the daily quest dedicated to the mission of healing and caring for the sick or wounded, and maybe, the supreme test of saving a human life.
It was the year of 1979, and Alan Alda was invited to give the commencement speech to a graduating class of a prestigious US medical school. He prefaced by saying maybe he was invited based on his claim of having as least "played" a TV doctor as Capt Benjamin Franklin Pierce, more popularly known as Hawkeye Pierce. He deemed his calling as an actor playing a TV character delivering laughter was indeed important and complementary to the real medical doctor dispensing medicine.
Alan said Hawkeye was indeed very much a "real" person, and a remarkable one at that, and he told the graduating students "if you have chosen somehow to associate this character with your graduation from medical school, then I find that very heartening because I think it means you are reaching out toward a very human king of doctoring. In fact, it's because he's based on real doctors that there is something especially engaging sbout him.
"He (Hawkeye) has a sense of humour yet serious, impertiment yet feeling, he's human enough to make mistakes, and yet, he hates death enough to push himself past his own limits to save lives.
"In many ways, he is the doctor patients want to have and doctors want to be."
Alan said yes, just as succesful actors getting huge rewards, doctors too instil a tremendous sense of awe in the people's mind, and financially they reap rewards well above the average guy, deservingly so.
However, he advised the graduands: "Possess your skills, but don't be possessed by them."
Three-decade-old gender bias still very much alive today
Alan also highlighted a finding, still relevant more than 30 years later in Malaysia today. He reported that questionnaires filled out at 41 medical schools US-wide revealed a distressing pattern. The women were either still ignored in class or simply not taken seriously as students. Among other distressing episodes, they would be shown slides of Playboy nudes during anatomy lectures -- to the accompaniment of catcalls and wisecracks from male students.
"I'm dwelling on this because it seems that the male-female relationship is still the most personal and intense test of human behaviour. It's a crucible for decency."
Here I recall the recent incident when the most honourable MP for Jerai (BN), Badruddin Amiruldin had taken liberties with a female MP by asking: "How long can the YB's husband stand her?", taking a potshot at the cili padi Fong Po Kuan (DAP - Batu Gajah) who later demanded for an official retraction and apology. (Refer desiderata's Creativity, cili padi and crows, April 2, 2005).
More MP jesters recently made fools of themselves debating Malaysia Airlines air stewardesses' uniforms that were too sexy (not supported by facts), hence arousing male passengers' desires (from the waxing lips of male MPs, or is it M(C)Ps?), to the point of going out of control, or leading to erection? Or ejection? Read a fellow blogger's hilarious account at http://kennysia.com (desiderata disclaims all accountability for kenny's creative accounting, April 20.)
Alan, who had by 1972 co-written scripts for the popular comedy-drama series for seven years, concluded his address with an observation and advice which he said could only come from a non-doctor, and he hoped his young audience would remember: The head bone is connected to the heart bone -- and don't let them come apart.
I end this sharing with another poem from Max Ehrmann:
I journeyed from university to university,
and I saw everywhere the
past rebuilt before the eyes of
young men and young women --
Egypt, Greece, Rome; language,
architecture, laws -- saw the earth and
sky explained, and the habits
of body --
Everywhere chairs of this and that,
But nowhere saw I a chair of the
Saturday, April 23, 2005
I was a little upset recently reading about a certain Malaysian deputy minister calling on fellow Malaysians to protest the Japanese government's so-called "re-writing" of history by playing down past atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers in China during World War II, and also to protest Japan's candidacy for a seat in the United Nations' Security Council.
I had the misfortune of attending a press event when this particular deputy minister spoke in English. His grammar and enunciation were so bad I was inclined to cover my face that such a leader was appointed to represent us. He could not even deliver sentences coherently reading from some text. I couldn't imagine how he could carry himself when visiting Japan, or any foreign country for that matter when the English language would be the language he would use -- as English is universally accepted as the lingua franca of diplomacy -- to sell his line or message abroad using this international language.
Yes, my hair would tend to stand to attention each time this so-called national leader appeared on television speaking English. Even his Bahasa Malaysia was not that up to the mark expected of a representative of the people, though I reserve comment on his Mandarin (which seems to be his major strength linguistically speaking), though I consider myself quite understanding in that language but that is definitely not my forte.
My contention is that this leader should not have a priority posturing on the Japan-China issue just because it was the flavour of the month. Furthermore, was he speaking as a Chinese leader or a Malaysian leader? Because as far as I know, the Malaysian government had not taken a well-publicised stand on both issues.
(Here, I am not to debate the merits and demerits on the stands taken by Chinaand Japan on an issue that saw mounting confrontations, still being staged in China and Japan, as well as Japan's fight for the UNSC seat.)
What I am saying here is that such leaders should prepare themselves well in terms of mastery of the languages they are commonly going to use, on a daily basis, to discharge their duties. Hey, take time off for some English classes, both theory and practical. I just wonder if he has any competent press secretaries to advise him?
Otherwise, young Malaysians would have a very poor model of what represents good leadership. If one plans to become a politician, especially to be serving in the Cabinet, please prepare in acquiring basic skills like language mastery and public speaking. Mastery of oration -- in whatever language, especially in English -- reflects on the quality and critical and logical capacity of the speaker's mind, and hence oratory skill is definitely one of these essential tools. (Senior citizens too are embarassed each time this leader opens his mouth to address public functions, but I'm more worried for the present youngsters who will form the pool for our leaders of tomorrow.)
Did the deputy minister's speech-writers do their job well or at all? I think he'd better conduct some interviews soon to recruit some good apprentices for this critical job. Well, I'm offering today's advice pro bono, as my nation's image is at stake, and I want to reduce the incidence of further embarassment which sometimes I can't avoid sighting as long as this VIP remains a public, national figure.
I suspect his stand on these two issues amounted to "mere politicking" to garner support of a particular community. We can do less with such chauvinistic politics. No, Mr (deputy) Minister, you've got thy priorities wrong. If I had Donald Trump's power, I would add: You're fired!
Thursday, April 21, 2005
I'm motivated when I read poems; I'm de-motivated when I listen to Parliament news.
I'm delighted by some webblogs: sometimes I'm demoralised by inane and profane utterings within.
I'm motivated when my PM acknowledged corruption is a big headache in the country, and he asked all true-blooded Malaysians to lend a helping hand in fighting the scourge. I term Corruption as Public Enemey Number One (displacing Communist Insurgency, then Drugs, of the earlier past two to three decades.)
I'm demotivated when Pak Lah did a half-hearted job so far, ater one-and-half years at the country's helm. I am demotivated when his underlings postured themselves as being "above" board when their names were/have been/are still on the Anti-Corruption Agency lists.
I am delighted that finally Malaysians, and some of the mainstream media too, have been bolder in speaking up. I am delighted that maybe, perhaps, +mayhaps+, Malaysians feel they have had enough, and increasingly raise the Voice to chorus: Enough is Enough!
I am motivated when online newspapers and Bloggers fill the information and discourse gaps left by default of the more established print and audio-visual media, many via self-censorship and others by sheer bloody ignorance of what it's all about!
Now to tell the first tale that I promised, with that long, boring preface, yes?:
From persons to groups or sectors
Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim, with a Masters in Law from the UK, said before the General Elections 2004 (GE2004) that the authorities had completed investigations on 18 very, very important persons (VVIPs) for corruption charges, and prosecutions could be expected very soon.
Afer the GE2004, when pressed by the press on what's happening to these 18 VVIP cases, the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi replied to the effect that these 18 cases did not refer to individuals, but to groups or sectors. Yes, but Rais never did say the media quoted him wrong when the press went to town with reference to VVIPs, or very high-profile people, unless Rais was misinformed or misled by the authorities concerned.
But since then, when the new Cabinet was formed following the March 2004 elections, Rais had been moved conveniently from the PM's Department (where he was de facto Law Minister) to be in charge of Arts and Heritage.
And the media kept a deafening silence about the transformation of VVI persons into VVI groups/sectors.
Meanwhile the rakyat are at a loss for words. Are the rakyat expected to remain dumb, dumb-founded? While the famous -- I can't use the word notorious -- "eighteen" corruption-tainted bigwigs are getting away scot-free?
Now to the second tale:
From profit to loss
Yesterday, the media in the business pages reported that two Bersa Malaysia listed companies, Goh Ban Huat Bhd (GHB) and Supercomal Technologies Bhd, had been reprimanded and fined RM100,000 and RM50,000, respectively, by Bursa Malaysia Securities Bhd for accounting blunders in their quarterly financial results.
Here, I concern myself with GBH, which had been well reported at http://jeffooi.com when the issue first cropped up and where I too engaged in discussion as a Conversationist.
According to TheEdgeFinancialDaily April 20, 2005 report, Bursa Securities in a statement issued the previous day said ceramics wares producer GBH had breached Paragraph 9.16 (1)(a) when it failed to ensure that its announcement on Feb 28 of its unaudited fourth quarterly results ended Dec 31, 2004 was factual, clear, unambiguous, accurate, succint and contains sufficient information.
On Mrch 8, GBH reported a net loss of RM20.84million in its financial year 2004 instead of the earlier announced net profit of RM100.06million due to a "misunderstanding of generally accepted principles of consolidating accounting".
Bursa Securities said it viewed the contravention seriously and cautioned GBH and its board of directors of their responsibility to maintain appropriate standards of corporate responsibilty and acountability.
However, Minority Shareholder Watchdog Group said the company's directors and management should be held accountable instead, as punishing the company would ultimately affect the shareholders. Its chief executive officer Abdul Wahab Jaafar Sidek saif if te company pays the fine, the shareholders especially the minorities will suffer.
There is a substantial group of retail investors who bought shares in the "window period", short no doubt, between the annoucement of profit of RM100.06million, and the statement of loss later of RM20.84million. Who will pay for their losses when they bought "high" and had to force-sell when the GBH shares plunged subsequently?
Meanwhile, the retail investors are at a loss for words. Are they expected to remain dumb or dumbfounded? While the directors and management of GBH get away scot free?
Desiderata is also dumbfounded, but he is not dumb. While politicians and corporates continue to raid the coffers, rape the environment, and sucker the people?
I like the phrase that lawyers often quote: Cease and desist. It sounds good coming from the rakyat (which includes me). It's better coming from the honourable Rais Yatim, or best coming from the most honourable Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
in The Star World (page) 49
graps desiderata's attention enough to wonder if some of these humanrights groups stretch logicalthinking a bit too far?
The AFP report reads:
SYDNEY: A rights group yesterady challenged Australia to say whether it is "exporting the death penalty" after Australian police assisted in the arrest of nine young Australian drug suspects in Indonesia, where they could face a firing squad.
Australian federal police had been tracking the eight men and a woman since February and tipped off Indonesian counterparts about a fortnight ago that the group planned to smuggle drugs via the resort island of Bali.
Five of the nine were detained at Bali's airport as they were about to fly here on Sunday. The four others were arrested at nearby hotels and a total of 11.25kg of heroin was recovered.
Terry O'Gorman, president of the Australian Council for Civil Liberties, said he could not undestand why Federal police did not wait to arrest the gang in Australia, which aabolished the death penalty in 1985. The last hanging was in 1065.
"What has to be answered by the Justice Minister Chris Ellison is why were these people arrested in Indonesia where it's already been said quite categorically that if found guilty, they will be executed," he said.
"If we're in effect exporting the death penalty of Australians to other countries, and if there has in effect been a change in government policy, then let's hear about it," O'Gorman said.
Foreign Minister Alexander Downder said the alleged offences were committed in Indonesia and its police had to be involved.
"People have to know though that trafficking drugs brings the death penalty in many countries, aprticularly in Asia," he said on Nine Network.
"If people don't understand that, they certainly will now."
However, Downer said Canberra would appeal for clemency whenever an Australian faced the death penalty overseas.
Ellison defended the decision taken by federal police. "You have to deal withthe situation at hand and when you're engaged in the fight against trafficking in illicit drugs ... of course yoyu can't think of what might happen -- you have to work on an operational basis."
Desiderata: If O'Gorman's line reflects the thinking of NGOs, it reinforces my hesitant acceptance of many of these humanrights NGOs' approaches to social-political issues, within and outside their countries of operations.
How does Austrlia export its death penalty when it has none in the first place?
How is there a change in government policy if Australia co-operates with other countries in crime prevention via the Interpol?
Maybe O'Gorman has critical faculties that work rings around my eyes?
He says he doesnot understand why the Aussie police could not wait; I also don't understand the manDownUnder either saying this. Wait, wait till the cows ( or is it 'roos?) come home with the drugs in their bellies?
If O'Gorman tells me that he prefers to wait for nine of his fellowkind to bring back the 11.25kg of drugs before acting, then I ask him does he want more of his mates (maybe thousands of young Australians dying slowly or instantly through quick fixes or overdose) before putting the nine behind bars for a number of years and then send them out onto the streets again on account of "good behaviour" in prison? Meanwhile, more young Australians continue to fall victim to drugloards and live a life of Walking Dead until they Fall Dead in King's Cross?
I cross my heart I can't accept thy logic, man from Down Under, or from Up Above!
As a Asian-born-and-bred, now I can see more clearly (I may not agree) why the Singapore Government barred a certain Timothy Barritt (of Amnesty International) from speaking at a public forum recently debating the death penalty in the isalnd republic. (Read desiderata's South of the Border, April 19, 2005.)
With due respect to cases like Barlow and Chambers (see desiderata's Two lucky countries, April 16, 2005), the cause of human rights aren't helped by the likes of O'Gorman's flawed arguments. I'm sorry I'm now more CONvinced that certain NGOS are merely echo-chambers of unsound minds and unsound songs.
To Downer's and Ellison's words, I say: Hear, hear to common sense. G'Day mates, just give it straight and strong to all the likes of O'Gorman of the world.
donQTake 1: The NST runs a page lead today with headline
YES: There are seven illegal toxic waste dumpsites in Johor
BUT: DOE can't take action against those who bury toxic waste within their property
desiderata: Yes, I get a summons for a compound fine for lighting up some bush or twigs in my garden, and my pocket becomes lighter.
Big shots get away with wastes polluting the b..... whole neighbourhood and some bigwig official says his/her hands are tied (No power to act, another heading in sidebar report, NST page 5)and the corporates get away with blue or white or black or other coloured murder.
donQTake 2: TheSun page 1 lead with headline
MPs query pay rise
reported that "It's rare for those offered a pay rise to ask why. Barisan Nasional members of Parliament surprised many by questioning the government's proposal to increase their allowance by 10% when they did not ask for it."
Desiderata: When the Bill comes up for voting, let's see how many would join the Opposition MPs to vote the proposal to death. Action speaks louder than words.
I recall there was one Senator in a previous august House honourably took the government to task over some amendment to a Bill, but when voting came, he shot up his most honourable arm-and-hand to support the Bill amendment. Teh tarik stall Talk cock, anyone?
donQTake 3: No problem with Bible in Malay: PM
as stated by heading in a Brief, page 2, theSun. The PM said that: "But if it's in Malay, you must make sure on the front page that it is (stated) not for Muslims."
Desiderata: Seconded, and Syabas to Pak Lah. Sometimes I don't envy him his job as CEO, because many below him just don't see it. Many in Malaysia aspiring towards 2020 still are afraid of taking on The Clash of the Minds?
donQTake 4: We get a lot of dark humour AT THE DEWAN RAKYAT sometimes, originating from some MPs showing off their bra(i)n(d)cells; but the media also sometimes contribute some, witness today's in theSun, page 6, header:
Uniformed Islamic laws by year-end
Desiderata: Dressed in Black, White or B&W? My favourite colour is blue, whether Monday, Tues, Wed, Thurs, Fri or Sat, but NeveronSunday, when I celebrate my Birdday. And that's when I invite thee: Come fly a layang-layang with me au naturale! Adios, adieu, till I see you yonder at the Blue Horizon.
Yesterday (Tuesday April 19, 2005) Ratzinger emerged on the balcony of St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City where he waved to a wildly cheering crowd of tens of thousands and gave his first blessing as Pope, according to an AP report.
"The fact that the Lord can work and act even with insufficient means consoles me, and above all I entrust myself to your prayers," the new Pope said.
Ratzinger served John Paul II since 1981 as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
In the Pope's hometown of Traunstein, Germany, a room full of 13-year-old boys at the St Michael Seminary that the pontiff attended as a youngster jumped up and down, cheered and clapped as the news was announced.
The traditional white smoke is used to announce a Pope's election to the world. It was one of the fastest elections in the past century: Pope Pius XII was elected in 1939 in three ballots on one day, while Pope John Paul I was elected in 1978 in four ballots in one day. The new Pope was elected after either four or five ballots over two days.
Desiderata: I'd pray for a long and productive reign under Pope Benedict XVI that hopefully would see his humble work bearing fruit for a more peaceful, caring and serene world. Amen.
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
Down Singapore way
Where the nights are warm
And human palm trees still sway
If you got rinnnggit&dame&dime
Hear the new kasi-no chime
Malaysians donwanna go Ghighland
Sin-along to Singapura's Nu-westBand
PLicence exercised here: Apologies to Mexico from desiderita
for taking liberties;
Art thou a her or him or it?
Two latest developments in a country so-near-yet-so-far with which Malaysians conduct illicit love-hate relationships, with occasional public exhibitionists hogging the 900-seond limelight. Today I try to steal a few minutes of the thunder.
All the media (including The Star and NST and theSun) highlighted, and the Singapore press I believe, trumpeted today that Singapore has decided to open up not one, but two casino resortsworth USD3billion (Rm11.4billion!) WoW, ('tis) JUST (to) let me have 1% for this PR piece, Yes? KASI, NO?)
In his first major policy decision since taking over from Mr Goh Chok Tong last August, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced plans to build one casino on Marina Bay near the city centre and one on the resort island of Sentosa.
"We cannot stand still. The whole region is on the move," Lee said, citing statistics showing Singapore getting 6.0percent of Asia-Pacific tourists in 2002, down from 8.0percent in 1998, reports the NST on page 6.
A second report on B1 (BusinessTimes) goes: "The Genting Group said yesterday's decision by the Singapore government to lift a four-decade ban on casionos in the republic presents a significant investment opportunity for it."
Genting is planning to expand into the island state, but will have to compete with 18 other contenders -- including gaming heavyweights Las Vegas Sands Corp, Wynn Resorts Ltd and MGM Mirage -- for the right to build the integrated casino-resort.
What makes Singapore buzz..z..z..
I'm tying up this "South of the Border" news of the samba-and-rumba development, re-branding the staid and strait-laced "kiasu-nemesi" across(ed) the causeway with two other media reports on Singapore matters sighted within the last two days.
* AP reported on Sunday April 17, 2005 that the Singapore government degfended its decision to bar an Amnesty International researcher, Timothy Barritt, from speaking at a public forum about the death penalty in the city state, saying it doesn't need a foreigner to lecture it on its criminal system.
Barritt, however, attended the forum with a statement of his views issued instead, but he plans to meet a Foreign Ministry official to discuss the bar.
** In the New Sunday Times of April 17, 2005, page 10 carried a Bernama report headlined Mistake not having Formula One, says Kuan Yew. I quote, in full, as I feel it's important enough:
SINGAPORE, Sat. -- Not building a Formula One course in Singapore was a mistake, said the republic's founding father Lee Kuan Yew, who acknowledged he under-estimated the power of pop-culture.
In remarks published here today,the former Prime Minister said Singapore had paid attention only to high culture, such as the arts.
"I went for high culture, and forgot pop culture. That is where the money is."
The decision not to build an F1 circuit had cost the country money.
"My colleagues and I said: 'Oh, It's bad. It'll teach our drivers to be reckless. Better not.'
"But that was a stupid decision because everybody wants to be on F1 and they put their names on it and millions of eyes are watching F1," Lee said.
This was a "lesson" he learnt, he said, and although he may not make decisions in the Cabinet now, he had told the younger ministers to "pay attention to all these" as "this is what would make Singapore buzz".
Lee also said that there would be "trouble" in Singapore if there were casinos, but there would be "more trouble" if there was none. -- Bernama.
In Senior Lee's last sentence lies the chief detectable rationale behind the Singapore government's "historic" decision yesterday.
The landmark decision had been preceded by much and vocal debate by usually quiet and compliant Singaporeans on the pros-and-cons of the casi-no or yes arrival at their doorsteps, when previously it was a few hours' drive to GHighlands or a swim to board a Star Cruises liner for that fling on the gaming table. They don't call in gambling, for that to all governments have a negative ring to it.
So Malaysians may be enticed soon to use more frequently the causeway or the bridge, and mayhaps when that "crooked" bridge was straightened out soon, like the two casinos?
Back to the Amnesty guy wanting to lecture Singaporeans (or for that matter, Asians), I agree the Sin.government has a point, just as most probably the Malay-si(a)n one in a similar scenario. I don't subscribe to the much-held view that "human rights" and freedom are mostly concepts imported from the West. I also don't buy that all the cultural products of decadence coming into our region originate from the west.
Don't we have enough brainpower to counter viewpoint-by-point whatever the opinions that Barritt (or Hollywood, or Bollywood, or Collywood) brings to this region. Hey, many Singaporeans, and some rare, and a dying breed of, Malaysians, I know have great oratory and critical powers, as exemplified by the Senior Lee, the architect of modern Singapore, and Sdr Anwar Ibrahim, one-time PM-in-waiting.
For Malaysia to be reticent engaging the Westerners in debate, I can understand, because our Engrish standard has fallen so far behind that it had been reported many of our diplomats abroad shy away from attending international forums -- what more addressing them -- as they do not wish to be caught in displaying the Emperor's new clothes.
Singapore in this new millennium -- Still afraid of a clash of minds?
This is a Globalised World. With the dancing and music Brazil-mardi gras-style along Orchard Road on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, mayhaps Singapore and Malaysia can do a little more space, and volume, at Speakers' Spaceout, not His Master's Voice style?
At the end of the day, I guess the almighty dollar dictates how the world spins -- and Charles Darwin's axiom pertaining to the Survival of the Fittest rules at the international marketplace. I just hope Malaysia wakes up in time to really know the newly branded marketplace is also constanly changing and mercilessly competitive. Someone south of the border knows. Do we?
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
But prefacing the story of Rose (have patience, eh, it's a virtue, remember?), I just briefly share some of Tan's observations, that our society has seen a deterioration of social graces. People do not readily say "Thank you" for a favour or service rendered, children nowadays do not show respect to their elders, not finding time to greet visitors with a "Good morning" and a warm smile, but whose fault is it really?
Tan's lament -- which I share indeed -- that some parents push their children to get ahead of their peers, no matter what the means or the costs. Many adults have succumbed to the culture of Form Over Substance (Gaya mesti mahu!), and show scant regard to respect for their fellow humankind, animals, and the environment. Yes, even our Prime Minister has lamented on many occasions that the country boasts First World infrastructure, but the people still show Third World mentality.
Now back to the Rose story: SH's daugher-on-campus in New Zealand has forwarded a first-person account of a lady, who was introduced by the Professor to the school one day. When the storyteller -- a young lad maybe in his 20s? -- asked of Miss Rose, a wrinkled, little old lady of spritely age 87, with a beaming smile that shone through her whole person, why she was there, "at such a young, innocent age".
With the same wit of the enquirer, she jovially replied that she wanted "to meet a rich man, get married and have a couple of kids!"
Well, in a more serious vein, Rose said: "I always dreamed of having a college education and now I'm getting one!"
Rose and the tale-er became instant friends, with her sharing nuggets of wisdom and zest for life with many newfound friends.I nevitably, she soon became an icon on campus. One day she was invited to address a football banquet.
Midway through her speech, Rose dropped her three by five cards (cue cards with pointers for a prepared speech, remember?) and she just said she had kept off the daily "pint" as it was Lent, and now she was jittery without the stabiliser, guess she would just have to tell it as best she could.
Her message basically was that growing old was easy, it did not require talent. It's growing up
that's everybody's challenge. Growing old is mandatory. Growing up is optional. Rose said the idea was to grow up by "always finding opportunity in change".
On her inclination towards living it up, Rose said: "We do not stop playing because we are old; we grow old because we stop playing."
Her four secrets to staying young -- being happy, desire to achieve success, having a sense of humour, and having a dream.
Her finale at the dinner was to entertain her young audience with "The Rose"; she challenged them to also learn the lyrics and live the spirit of the song.
I excerpted this from The Rose, by Bette Midler, hope it's the right track:
It's the heart, afraid of breaking,
That never learns to dance.
It's the dream, afraid of waking,
That never takes a chance.
Rose seized all opportunities to grow up and she never had regrets. She lived life to the fullest.
She dared to dream. She graduated at year's end, as the storyteller related. Soon after, little Rose passed on, and some 2,000 students attended her funeral to bid farewell, but Rose's spirit lived in all the hearts she generously gave a bit of herself.
Let's give Rose a Wow&Bow, at 87-young and her youthful spirit shining ever bright. Terima kasih to SH and Ms Tan for sharing, heart-to-heart.
PS: For the original account of The Story of a Rose, log onto: www.mybuddies.net; Enjoy!
Monday, April 18, 2005
The poet is the rock of defence for human nature. *** William Wordsworth, in Preface to The Lyrical Ballads
I was somewhat concerned when a friend told me over tea recently that her daughter, like most of her classmates in Primary 5, are memorising compositions by heart for their school examinations. Apparently, this is the modus operandi taught them by the teachers -- whether for English, Bahsa Malaysia, or Chinese -- for spotted essay questions in a public exmaination would help the school "score" in that subject!
From childhood, I guess the process of acquiring knowledge begins with rote learning,
We of course remember:
Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water
Jack fell down and broke his crown
And Jill came tumbling down after...
Or the naughty boys would tease their meek mate:
Georgy Porgy pudding and pie
Kissed the girls and made them cry
When Georgy Porgy went out to play
All the girls would run away
Yes, imitation is oft touted is the highest form of flattery. As long as the pupils know their limits, and acknowledge that their writing is just borrowing some "styles" with their own contents, it's fine. We all at some time or another have experienced some feelings of deja vu when reading other authors' writings -- exclaiming, Yes, I swear I've read or seen that before! It's just that we have had glimpses of similar thoughts or imiginative landscapes locked somewhere in the deep recesses our minds, but a more proactive writer beat us to it! As they say, Great minds think alike, Fools seldom differ, maybe only on April Fool's Day!
But when kids are taught by their teachers to "memorise word for word, idea by idea", for a composition, I don't k-no-w about that. As an examiner, I would be bored (or gored?) to death by reading fifty scripts featuring more and more of the same points on the subject of My Coming-of-Age Birthday Celebration!
Then last (mid-)night's episode of Boston Public inspired this Sunday's rumination, and I hope some educators and parents whose children face the same predicament come write me with their viewpoints for sharing for the common good. The American high school located in a tough neighbour featured an initial euphoria when one of its students Jamaal (I didn't get his full name) was congratulated by his class for being offered a place at the Williams College, and a determining factor was his essay submitted was highly rated.
Then a faculty member found out that this essay had been copied -- plagiarised! -- and Jamaal's form-teacher was devastated of being informed of the news by the princiapal. Feeling dejected and angry that one of his favourite charges had let him down, the teacher broke the news to Jamaal, in a raised, reprimanding voice, that he could not proceed to college for his dishonest act.
To me, copying someone's work substantially and claiming it as one's own -- whether a poem, song or essay or novel -- is "stealing" or "theft", and for a writer, is a most unforgivable offence. Hence Jammal loses a scholarship for plagiarism -- an act of stealing someone's intellectual effort and creation. An offence so easily committed -- with some culprits getting away with it! -- in this age on Internet when information seems endless and seamless, available on any topic at the click of a mouse!
It's incumbent on us parents and guardians to guide the young ones, nurture in them a sense of honesty, to be able to tell right from wrong. Indeed, God created humans in His image, and therefore humans are born with vast springs of good and goodwill, let us writers and poets, as Wordsworth advocates, be the bedrock of defence of human nature.
So when we train our young ones to reproduce wholesale a composition or essay for school tests or public examinations, are we initiating them on a dangerous trend? That's my pre-occupation last night, and I pen this piece more for discussion, and not my viewpoint to be thrust down any parent's or student's hands.
Are teachers so hardpressed (maybe by a isguided principal who only sees As and Bs as the only grades justifying the school's record?) that they can't guide their children to learn writing the better way ... To me, I call it the 5Rs+1W way -- Read, read, read, and then write, 'rite and right!
Maybe start by encouraging them to write a short story based on a series of pictures/cartoons; give them an Opening paragraph like "I was at the wet market with Mum last Sunday morning when we heard a commotion from a teh-tarik stall by the roadside near the entrance to the market. A man clad in sarong -- maybe in his 50s -- was raising his voice at the stall-owner, and I could hear his shouting: 'Hey, mana saya punya kopi-o kau? Mana saya punya roti canai?...' repeated. "
Or lead off a composition/essay with a stanza from a poem:
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?
No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep or cows...
*** W.H. Davies
I think there are many innovative ways to teach the young ones the basics of writing, but I feel strongly against memorising essays by heart. Imagine an examiner reading from 50 scripts and finding 49 of them featuring almost identical points, maybe even expressed in twin-like manner. I'd rather read the 50th essay -- original, not so smoothly written maybe, still an original -- and any thinking examiner would score the unique attempt higher. Mainly because it's the student's own effort. All writers must jealously guard their honesty, above everything else.
That's why when we quote something to enhance our writing, we must attribute whenever possible the authority to the real author -- as the verse from Leisure by W.H. Davies quoted above. A composition based on the quoted verses could be about My favourite pastime, One's hobby/hobbies, The Rat Race, Hustle and bustle of life, even on Lesiure.
I end today with something to ruminate, as all dedicated writers must, in the quest towards excellence in writing, reproducing from Alexander Pope's obsevation as quoted in "Sound and Sense" from his "An Essay on Criticism":
True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
As those move easiest who have learned to dance.
'Tis not enough no harshness gives offense,
The sound must seem an echo to the sense.
Sunday, April 17, 2005
I think it's a good time to recap some companions and Conversationists along the ongoing (ad)venture who I hope, will continue, to add joy and value to this mutually beneficial outing. May we continue to have fun and fellowship along the way.
I'm determined to post at least one story a day, and it has been achievable thus far.
I have marched into mid-April with lovely thoughts of all the girls I have not set sight on who recall for me April Love rendered in the Pat Boone evergreen style, and ll the men whom I have not met yet, yet sound so uncannily familiar, recalling all those Funny, Familiar, Forgoten Feelings sung the inimitable Tom Jones, hipswaying style.
Herewith the rollcall, with malice towards none and goodwill towards all, including the outstanding omissions:
Blogging to the R&R Beat
JeffOoi, acknowledged as agent preceding James Bond by 5 plus one,
Bloggers country-wide, maybe region too, deem him second-to-none
Mack(theknife?) Zulkifli, Branding a new Malaysia
Pak Lah took the cue, it's better late than never
MGGPillai throws in his veteran rants and yarns
Ascerbic but entertaining, revealing many skeletons in the barns
Lonestar9 please continue to 'rite and right
It's serious business I tell you, it's also a force of might
mwt was an anonymous whose counsel I took
Link to PPS and a wider field of reach I partook
Dear SH Tan reminds me of Man's Best Friend
Pointing at some misconceptions which I gladly amend
Dear Zorro, I wish I can see through thy mask
Getting to know thee better, that's my honourable task
O Kenny Sia, from Sarawak my distant yet laughingly G' mate
If I'm female, I'll guffaw and guffaw on our first date
Sepetgal always reminds me of the arts
Indeed, culture deepens and softens human hearts
Finally a most enlightening and mutually loyal fan
Nuggets at http://yancorner.blopspot.com penned by Yan
Thanks for thy soup for the soul constantly
This journey we need each other's words of warmth, spontaneously.
***Composed mentally by YLChong 11.59pm 15th March plus 30 days 2005;
Somewhere in Blogosphere, amidst the stars of human love and understanding, the lightning of of discernment and inspiration and thunder of human rage and righteous indignation? CopyrightORwrong belongs to desiderata2000.
Saturday, April 16, 2005
I had posted about the 15-minute media fame that motivated many so-called do-gooders' going public with generous offers of assistance when writing about the Force of Nature Concert for Tsunami Aid at the Bukit Jalil stadium on March 18 night (Malaysia, charity begins at home", March 19, 2005). Many international aid agencies have similarly reported that a high percentage of pledges of help for such disaster victims remained just that -- promises, made to be broken.
The irony of Nor Hedayah's case is that for the past four months, she had to say farewell of achieving her ambition of becoming a teacher as she had to stay home to help her father, Morad Dohaman, 58, and her mother, Hasnah Baharum, 50, with household chores, her sad routine only brightened up by occasional calls by her schoolmates in Form 2. The irony is that
is that Hedayah was registered with the state (Kedah) Welfare Department since she was one, according to her mother, but the family never received any assistance.
Today's NST report brought some cheer -- Hedayah can look forward to resuming schooling soon, thanks to Modenas pledge to gift her father a scooter to ferry her about.
And an appropriate word from Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, quoted by the NST, that those who make pledges to help the less fortunate should do so.
"Do not disappoint them. If you are unable to do so, you must apologise," he said in Kuala Lumpur after launching Telekom Malaysia's new brand identity yesterday. (All emphases are desiderata's).
Another young Malaysian's plight was spied from the NST Letters column (April 15, 2005) headed: ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE 11 A1s not enough for scholarship?
The writer JIN KHANG, Seremban, asked from the start: "It is the same every year, isn't it? And this year it is my sister's turn to try her luck in getting a scholarship..."
Jin Khang went on to lament that even with 11A1s in the recent SPM examinations, her sister failed to make it to the interview rounds for Bank Negara, Petronas scholarships, and anxiously awaiting an answer to her application for the Public Service Department scholarships. The candidate was a head prefect who was also active in extra co-curricular activites. I believe she was among the outstanding student performers who were recently hosted to a dinner by Pak Lah at Putrajaya where Education Minister Datuk Hishamuddin Hussein was also present.
So desiderata's question is this: are our Government, and national corporations like Petronas, fulfilling their promises to the talented young Malaysians in assisting them in their ideal age to excel?
Hey, oil is a national resource, and Petronas is merely overseeing this resource on the rakyat's behalf; so how about demonstrating more corporate citizenship consciousness with distribution of the wealth generated from the rich oil and gas reserves of Malaysia in helping groom young Malaysians? And also our beloved PM is trying to promote the mission of growing "Towering Malaysians".
I pray there won't be repeat soon of another 120-130 young Malaysian top performers at STPM failing to pursue medical studies because they can't get a place in the publci universities, and also can't afford the bank loans amounting to RM500,000 to finance a medical course at a local private university. (It happened at around this time last year, remember? Where are you, MCA and UMNO politicians?) As a tax-payer, I feel letdown and a sense of outrage when my country fails the young ones. Idealism is so easily washed out by an uncaring and unfeeling leadership, whether government or corporate. I hope race and religion do not factor in such sad
Indeed, It is the same every year, isn't it?
Friday, April 15, 2005
Disturbing because it involves a loss of a human life. A loss under mystery. A life less unexplained.
NST April 13, 2005 page 1 headline DOE men under probe with subhead TOXIC WASTE SMUGGLED INTO THE COUNTRY reported that a potentially explosive probe by the Anti-Corrruption could throw light on how some Department of Environment (DOE) personnel enforce laws and expose the smuggling of toxic waste into the country. Investigations could also help authorities unravel the mystery behind the death of environment officer Rumie Azzan Mahlie on September 17 last year.
His family believe "foul play" was involved because Rumie, a Boston University chemical engineering graduate, had allegedly stumbled on information leading to the smuggling of toxic wastes from Taiwan and disposal of toxic waste in Sarawak the past two years.
The ACA is probing how a heavy vehicle seized as evidence in an ongoing investigation was "ordered" to be returned to its owner, the NST report said.
It's even more disburbing to read in its follow-up today again page 1, headed GAG ON TOXIC TALK, with subheads * Doe men ordered to keep mum ** Ex-Sarawk chief quizzed by ACA and *** Another report lodged on release of lorry carrying toxic waste.
The news report said a "gag order" was imposed by the DOE on its officers around the country, as the cloud of an ACA probe hung over the department.
The report added that a former Sarawak DOE director was quizzed by the ACA and that a report was lodged (yesterday) wit the ACA over circumstances which led to a lorry seized as evidence being returned to its owner. The lorry was allegedly used to transport toxic waste in Perak.
Meanwhile, DOE director-general Rosnani Ibarahim was reported by the NST as saying, to her knowledge, that former Sarawak DOE director Dr Abdul Rahman Awang, was the only person friom DOE to to have been questioned by the ACA.
On the several fires at various state DOE offices that had been reported to have destroyed, among others, some files pertaining to "toxic waste" cases, Rosnani said she did not think the incidents of fire were connected.
The NST report said it is learnt that summaries of some of these cases had been sent to the Attorney-General's Chambers.
Giving credit where it is due, the NST must be applauded for this expose, and the mysterious death of an DOE officer must be probed to its truthful end to do justice to the grieving family. There is now a trend of the mainstream media being bolder in "investigative reporting", which is to be welcomed by all Malaysians. Another sister paper, the Malay Mail, led the expose of the man who came back from the dead, the mysterious "Soosai" still at large, also involved alleged in the death of another Malaysian.
Earlier, the Utusan Malaysia led a weeklong expose involving the Selangor MB Datukl Dr Khir Toyo in the Bukit Cahaya Seri Alam parkland fiasco.
Corrupt practices stink in the air in all these unfinished cases. Under PM Pak Lah this has been given top priority -- the fight of what I term the country's number one scourge. Stop the cancerous cells of corruption from spreading.
Syabas to all these newspapers for such bold coverage doing right by its readers and country as good corporate cirizens.
This case rejogs my memory of the infamous case of BMF in the 1980s (involving RM2.4billion scandal) where another Malaysian life was lost, also under mysterious and unexplained circusmtances. Acpooubrtant was sent by Bank Bumiputera headquarters to do an audit in Hong Kong, but was found dead short while later.
I close with a prayer that there will be no more cover-ups, as Malaysian cases involving big-guns are won't to have a habit of happening. I happily would like to be proven wrong.
desiderata: When the Enron debacle was making media limelight at its height worldwide, a local authority official proudly stated Maalysia did not have such corporate scandals in the magnitude of Enron. I wonder what's the real stories behind the bailouts of Perwaja Steel, Bank Bumiputera, and MAS, and others?
More recently, remember Goh Ban Huat's reported profit of some RM100million being transformed into RM20million loss overnight?
QTake 2: Kota Baru UMNO division head Datuk Zaid Ibrahim has indicated that he's retrieving the towel he had previously indicated he would throw in after being allegedly unfairly found guilty of practising money politics last week by the party's disciplinary board. The outspoken MP for Kota Baru alleged that the same party rules are not being applied fairly ... Why is that some people get scot-free while others are punished?" NST April 14, 2005 reported Zaid as asking.
desiderata: Many Malaysians are asking the same question in many other spheres of living, daily.
Thursday, April 14, 2005
I am heartened today to read that the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry has asked state governments to get the approval of their state assemblies before they develop recreational land.
The Star page 1 with header Saving the lungs reported that any de-gazetting of such land should be debated in the state assemblies so that the issues are brought out in the open, said Minister Datuk Seri Adenan Satem.
Usually, the gazetting of state land for recreational purpose is done by state exco members without having to bring the matter up in the assembly, Adenan said.
"It's only when development works are being carried out that the public get wind of it, " he added.
Yes, often the people, constituents whose votes resulted in their wakil rakyat entering the Dewan Undangan Negeri, are not consulted in the big projects in the state while their elected repretatives make a big splash in the local papers on opening a small community hall or donate some money to the neighbourhood school which is anyway the rakyat's money in the form of income and other taxes paid. No big deal really.
But when a property development involves the clearing of trees and levelling of hills affecting the environments and ecosystems, the people are keep in the dark; the wakil rakyat plays dumb until Mother Nature intervenes in the form of a landslide or flooding to highligt a disaster in the making.
Dismal record of state CEOs' decisions
The press report recorded the following dismal record, outstanding among them was the 800ha Bukit Cahaya Seri Alam Agricultural Park fiasco, when the MB Datuk Dr Khir Toyo behaved like the proverbial "ostrich burying its head in the sand" by declaring "Everything is okay" (Read JeffOoi's Semuanya OK series at http://screenshots.com). The weeklong media coverage in February, spearheaded by Utusan Malaysia, on the parkland devastation reached a climax with PM Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's righteous wrath outpouring on his obervation that from his helicopter view, there was "not a single tree, not a single blade of grass" to be seen -- and everything's not OK!
The Cabinet acted swiftly enough ordering Khir Toyo to cease and desist from such raping of the state's land and environments, and take action against the culprits, which included the state PKNS, whose chairman is also the MB himself! And Khir expects the Selangor constituents to just forget the Seri Alam debacle and keep mum when he did a few PR exercises soon after. What arrogance!
Next the Malacca Chief Minister did a catch-up game with his Selangor counterpart in making the media spotlight for the wrong reasons. Early April it was publicised in local media that part of a 41ha of the Bukit Bruang Permanent Forest Reserve in Malacca was in danger of being stripped bare by illegal felling of trees. The state CEO said that 26.3ha of land had been degazetted for deevelopment, saying that it was all planned under a Master Plan dating back to the 1980s. What gall of a state leader hiding under such inane excuses -- times have changed and it's now a new national CEO, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, in charge, and he has just directed that all states must conduct Environmental Impact Assessment for areas over 20ha planned for development, an order announced by Pak Lah soon after the Seri Alam debacle.
And when questioned by a DAP leader, as well as other concerned citizen groups, Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam goes hiding under a 1980s Master Plan cloak, what arrogance!Deputy Prime Minister was quoted by The Star report as having said recently he was upset that recreational land like football fields were left unattended or taken away for development.
He cited the example of the football field near the Pudu Jail in Kuala Lumpur which had been earmarked for development.
If state CEOs cannot follow the top two national leaders' example in forestry conservation to promote sustainable and quality development, they should just throw in the towel. But that is too much to expect in an environment where the culture is to "pass the buck". Blame the Shah Alam and Subang Jaya municipal councils, blame the ForestryDepartment, blame everyone but himself, the CEO!
The federal government's proposal announced by Adenan has already met its first opposition -- from Terengganu Menetri Besar, Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh, who said "the move would make things more difficult" for the state government. Why this should be so is not properly explained because it can't be explained. A proposal to make state governance more transparent and accountable to the rakyat is frowned upon by the CEO because it would make things more difficult for his government! What b..... arrogance!
Indeed, it's timely to remember what Lord Acton says about power and its corrupting influence. Power should be spread as widely as possible and not concentrated in one or two powerful hands. We know how dictators can make billions disappear into thin air from government coffers, and find their way windingly into private safes in overseas banks. Let's check the power of the state Excos and MBs and CMs and move it back to the state assemblies, with hopefully more representation from the Opposition benches, whether in PAS-controlled Kelantan or BN-controlled Terengganu.
Let's undo the power centres, and distribute influence and benefits more equitably.
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Back to my blood presure story. I told MGF (that is for myGOODfriend from now on) this morning that I prefer not to know my readings regularly, and in fact I had gone without medication for one lo-oo-ong week one time. He remarked, with a slightly dropped jaw and an even lo-oooo-onger stare, that I was completely irresponsible, and it was dereliction of duty of the higest order, to myself!!! (3 exclamation marks for his raised voice, which I seldom do in my writings, this is definitely an exception.)
Well, I was sharing with MGF and another The Star page 1 report with headline stating April 30 stays, and subhead: Ignorance can be very expensive, with Deputy Finance Minister Dr Ng Yen Yen saying that there will be no extension of the April 30 deadline for submitting tax returns and settling tax dues.
She added the warning that "Every citizen must know his or her responsibility to pay taxes. Ignorance can be very expensive."
I read and re-read the whole report, but nowhere could I find how and why ignoring the responsibility, or not knowing about the responsility, can be expensive.
Of course, being an educated citizen, I can guess the unsaid message: that the tax evader/(ignorer?) will be penalised with a fine, commensurate with the quantum, and maybe, the period of being late, in paying up. But (is the journalist) are the journalists not guilty of omitting the details -- the how and why of the 5Ws and 1H of reporting? For those not acquainted again with journalese, the 5Ws are who, what, where, when and why plus the 1H is how?
Another friend (less informed, nevertheless always passing stories to me he heard on the market grapevine!) at the breakfast table said he heard the dealine is June 30, not end-April. He was adamant about his information being correct.
To me, ignorant can mean two things, i.e. not knowing, and knowing, but choosing not to cat accordingly.
Both MGF and I told our mutual friend he was ignorant, i.e., not knowing of the fact (as proven by the news report in front of him, unless the reporters were wrong), and now that he had been informed of the fact, he has no excuse for not submitting his income tax returns before the end of this month. His failure to meet the deadline means he's guily of dereliction of duty as a good citizen.
Me, I know the fact that not checking my blood pressure regularly and taking my medication every day is dangerous to my health. MGF reprimanded me that my case is a good example of knowing, yet not taking appropriate action, as I choose to practise the silly dictum: Ignorance is bliss!
Both my market friend and I are guilty of dereliction of duty, but mine is life-threatening, whereas his is only an expensive exercise hitting his pocket!
PS: I've heard the most dangerous profession is that of psychiatry, as I had read a survey report dating back some years that psychiatrists ranked the highest of suicides committed by professional groups. For journalists, my anecdoctal evidence is that almost one in two journalists is on hypertension (high blood pressure) medication by the age of 40! (This is not authoritative viewpoint from a medical perspective, be forewarned, merely a journalist sharing his salt of 30 years.)
So desiderata's advice is: don't lead your children up the ward or down the 4th estate, there is a high and higher price to pay. Another advice to my friends addicted to high blood pressure pills, take it without fail daily like your wife would that pill to prevent pregnancy. Then say your prayers; remember me in thine (the prayer, not the pill, silly!).