Sunday, July 31, 2005

3 Immigrants: Keng

Mine was the first presentation of the semester and when I finished, my lecturer commented that I had “a startling grasp of the English Language. And after only one week in Australia.”

The rest of the Australian students laughed and he patted me on the back like an amusing pet that had done good.

But he was a funny, innovative lecturer. One who had actually been in the world, had made his mark, and came back to make better business professionals by first making them better students.

He was not the condescending racist fuck I’d complained about to my friends. He was a man of good humour who dressed badly and loved his half-Malaysian children.

His wife’s name is Keng and she’s from Penang.
Despite having lived in Melbourne for 10 years, her accent remains like mine.

Keng: Did he give you his ‘your English is pretty good’ speech yet?
Me: First day in class.
Keng: Yeah, he did that to me too.

But now am found

By now, some of the old visitors have found my new address.
I'd like to say sorry if I didn't let everyone know.
When I left the old place, a few people noticed I left and I wrote them and that was that.

If I haven't gone over to your blog to comment, please don't be angry.
If your site trackers recorded any Malaysian visitors, believe me when I say one of them's me.

So I've put my old blogroll back up.
And I've dusted off the welcome mat.

Saturday, July 30, 2005


Jamie Foxx, pre-Oscar.
Self-flying homicidal stealth bombers.
And Jessica Beil is da bomb.

Check it.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

3 Immigrants: Margaret

When I first met her, Margaret always looked at me like I was trying to steal something. “Fucking chinks,” she would mutter under her breath, softly, but not so soft that I couldn’t hear, which was the real intention anyway.

I normally walk away from this kind of baseless racism, but she was harmless. She looked about 80, voice a mix between gravelly Marge Simpson (hmm, Margaret too, funny that) and whoever played the Wicked Witch Of The West in the original Wizard of Oz (hmm, Oz as well). So one day, I spoke to her:

Me: Can chinks buy tea?
Margaret: They can, if they got money.

And so it began.
First tea.
Then conversation. Strained at first, and peppered with accusations of how “your kind were stealing jobs from honest Australians.”
Then, slowly, revelation (I dare not call it trust): “I was an army nurse, divorced twice and happier for it.”

After a while, she refused to accept my 25 cents for the tea.
And I brought clean clothes that didn’t need washing to the launderette.

The Island

That dude who made Armageddon and Bad Boys.
Scarlett Johansson in what looks like a sprayed-on jumpsuit.
Some guy named Ewan McGregor.

What's not to like?

Friday, July 22, 2005

Nothing, really

At the time of this writing:

A family friend just returned from Europe. I know this because my mom messaged me and told me that he has passed her copies of FHM and Sports Illustrated: Swimsuit Edition 2005 for me. Mom, ever discreet, merely noted that "They’re in German. Which will make the articles harder to read."

I’ve had a really nice lunch. A nice 3 1/2 hour lunch with two like-minded colleagues. Like-minded cos we all agreed the best way to deal with the terrifying rumours of instability swirling around our company was to get well and truly stuffed. Fried squid, chicken, fish eggs, briyani rice and 4 different kinds of curry. And we didn’t have to lie either. Yes, we’re going out to lunch. Yes, we’ll be back. What you shoulda done missy, is ask when. Nyuk nyuk.

I was a bit of an asshole. An intern rudely shoved an ad in my face and said "Check this for me."
Me: Ok.
Intern: (drums fingers)
Me: You going to stand there while I check this?
Intern: Yes (defiant and smug)
Me: Staring at me while I check it won’t make it go any faster.
Intern: It’s ok, I’ll wait.
Me: In fact, you r staring might make it go a lot slower.
Intern: How long will it take?
Me: Might take forever (smiles sweet smile).

This is a hollow victory. It is petty shit, and it could’ve been avoided. All she had to do was be polite.

I have not run for a week. I’m disappointed in myself cos I was so fucking disciplined. I just can’t seem to get up this week. I worry I might be getting old. But I’m also very, very happy. I don’t feel running is a chore. There are some days I go to bed smiling thinking "At least tomorrow’s a run day." This Sunday, I swear.

The Ringgit has been un-pegged for the first time in 7 years. Our currency has been pegged to the US dollars since the Asian financial crisis of 1998. Today, it floats free. I don’t know why, but I felt proud. Maybe it’s my soft spot for underdogs. Maybe I’m a naïve and sentimental fool who knows fuck-all about international money markets. But I remember my first day without training wheels. The cuts and bruises are how you earn your wings.

I spoke to my brother.
Bro: Miss me?
Me: You call so often I don’t get a chance to miss you.
Bro: :-(
Me: I love you. And that shit don’t change.
Bro: :-)

As I type this, I miss him so so much.

Have a good weekend everyone.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Just in case

The first time I ever saw the whole condoms-in-a-wallet thing was on an episode of 21 Jump Street. Entire TV episodes, whole movies have been made about always having a pack of rubbers at the ready.

Now, I’m all for condoms. I’m all for protection. But I’ve never carried any in my wallet.

Thing is, I’ve never needed condoms except when I’m in a relationship. And though you generally want to have convenient access to them when an opportunity for life-changing sex arises, it always gives me a moment of pause when I see people who always seem to have condoms handy. Like spare change or toothpicks.

Some examples:

I come pick him up.
“I’m almost done, dude.”
And he is.

Hair, check.
Keys, check.
ID, check.
Cash, check.
Movie tickets, check.
Condoms, check.

I don’t say anything.
I’m thinking all sortsa things, but I don’t say shit.

I’m helping move MY’s sofa into the living room of her new place.

MY: Hey come up, I’ll just clear up some stuff and I’ll buy you a drink.
Me: You better (stepping into the bathroom with her cos I need to wash my face).

She empties the contents of a recent trip to the pharmacy: a bottle of Dove shampoo, some of that tape you use to remove blackheads, and a pack of condoms.
Not the three-pack. The twelves.

She sees me staring and I try not to look like a judgmental prick. I pick it up and pretend to look casually at the brand.

Me: The variety is just staggering. Y’know, they have like strawberry flavoured ones now?
MY: I know. Who the fuck wants the guy to taste like fruit? I want a guy to taste like a guy. Don’t you?
Me: Er, no. I don’t taste guys. Period.
MY: Don’t be an ass. You know what I mean.
Me: Totally (a complete lie)

We reach our hotel. SC’s like this gotta-unpack-the-moment-we-check-in freak.

Razor (Gillette Mach 3)
Soap (Clinique for Men)
Nail clipper (Scholl)
Floss (Oral B)
Toothpaste (ditto)
Condoms (Durex Fetherlite)

Me: (waving pack of condoms) Is there something I should know?
SC: Oh, fuck you.
Me: Exactly what I’m worried about.
SC: You wish. It’s just in case.
Me: Just in case?
SC: Yeah.
Me: C’s at home. Unless she’s flying over.
SC: She’s not. Nothing’s gonna happen. It’s just in case.

And nothing did happen. They have a kid now. He’s always been loyal.

By now, you’ve prolly gotten a laugh and I’ve come across looking like a Victorian-era prude.

But if I were a lady and I opened some guy's medicine cabinet, and six months of Durex is sitting there, staring me in the face, almost saying "Hey go on, help yourself," I'd be a little worried.

Or am I just not made for these times?

Sunday, July 10, 2005

World famous

There was a time when if you said Malaysia, people would give you the kind of blank stare so popular with cows the world over.

As recently as 20 years ago, people would go “Right, Malaysia. That’s that small bit above Singapore innit?”

Of course, fortune’s as important - perhaps more so - than fame, and we’d already become quite well known to condom and tyre manufacturers for our high quality rubber. We were also the leading exporter of tin back then.

By the time I was in Australia (circa 1996), things had improved dramatically. When my new Ozzie class mates discovered my country of origin, they immediately recognized the name. Our two countries recently having had a bit of a diplomatic spat which resulted in then Ozzie PM Paul Keating calling our own Prime Minister a ‘recalcitrant.’
“Oh, you’re from Malaaaysia…” Yes, mate. I am.

By coincidence, I’ve been seeing a whole slew of movies recently on cable that mentions my homeland. We just keep popping up:

Batman Forever
Val Kilmer visits well-to-do shrink Nicole Kidman and spies an ethnic-looking wood carving among the items of office décor. It is a doll with hair made of hemp-like rope in ragged strands, its body sleek, shiny and charcoal-dark. “It’s a Malaysian Dream Doll,” Nicole says. It really is beautiful. And if my country actually had such a thing, we would definitely flog it to the tourists for a pretty penny.

Airhead supermodel (is that redundant?) Derek Zoolander is hypnotized so when he hears the opening bars of ‘Relax’ by Frankie Goes To Hollywood, he will assassinate the prime minister of Malaysia whose support of worker unions have are wreaking havoc with the fashion industry’s practice of using child labour to make their garments. They make Malaysia look like communist China, and unsurprisingly, the PM looks like Mao. Complete fiction of course. We’re a multicultural society, as a quick trip to KL (or a good bookstore) will reveal, so making us look Chinese really ignores about 70% of the population. And for reasons I can’t go into here (I’m allergic to jail) the likelihood of a Chinese PM in Malaysia is rather low. In the way zero is very low.

Michael Douglas is having his life turned upside down by corporate bitch and sexual predator Demi Moore. Who should come to his aid but his Malaysian friend Abdul (or something) whom we only hear as a voice on the phone. Abdul’s accent is extremely Indian:
“My wife dink you are fool of sheet. Bud I like you Tom. When are you cumbing down?”
We do have Indians, the way we have Chinese. But most Malaysians don’t sound like that. Truth be told, there is no one Malaysian accent. Disclosure does however mention a fictitious TV station named ‘TV Tiga’ (‘Tiga’ means 3). That we do have.

Season 1, Episode 1: Open on an aerial shot of the twin towers of the KLCC (Kuala Lumpur City Center), for now, the world’s tallest buildings. Cut to a terrorist on a cell phone making ominous plans. Ironically, the least inaccurate depiction is also the most irrelevant. Terrorists can operate anywhere, and Malaysia is never referred to again in the storyline. It’s also the one with the most potential for real offense, if you’re the sensitive type.

But I think there’s something here. People keep mentioning us. And not, I feel, for (consciously) negative reasons. There’s seems to be something appealing, exotic even, about our country that people seem to want to portray, resistant to the molding hands of progress.

Why, just the other day I saw a re-run episode of Star Trek: Enterprise and Lieutenant Malcolm Reed was speaking to his estranged parents – via subspace radio - who reside in the tiny town of Ipoh, Perak in a country named Malaysia. A town which incidentally, was the world’s leading exporter of tin. Nice to know they're still talking about us in the 22nd Century.

I can see clearly now

I just watched The Village again on DVD.

I’ve decided I’m so over sighted chicks.
Sighted chicks and their prejudiced, biased point of view, worshiping Orlando Bloom and Jude Law with their slutty stares.

Blind chicks are different.
Blind chicks see the real you.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

What if it all means something?

When I reached the age of 12, I had the strongest impression that my first child would be a girl.

In fact, it wasn’t just an impression. It felt more like knowledge.

To a 12-year-old, especially one who wasn’t even interested in girls yet, much less thinking of parenthood, this is weird shit. And when you have more pressing things like homework, video games, and how to skip school on your mind, you generally file it away.

But it kept coming back. So for more than half my life I’ve had this feeling, this certainty.
My first kid will be a daughter
I like kids, but I’m not rushing to be a dad anytime soon. The main reason being well, me. You see, I have all the maturity of a 10-year-old. And I don’t think one 10-year-old can take care of another.

But the feeling persists.

And if you think that’s weird, or that I’m just a bit of head case, or that people experience this déjà vu shit all the time, get this:

I had a dream once. The same dream for almost two solid weeks.
I didn’t tell anyone about it at the time cos it’s not exactly what people wanna hear before they go for a company trip in Perth.

Again, the impression was so strong, it seemed like a memory.

In my dream was a plane.
And it was flying into two very tall buildings.

War Of The Worlds

It may not be the best sci-fi movie Steven's ever made, but it's the most realistic. They came, they saw, and they said "Nice planet. We'll take it."

Go see it with an open mind.
Or not.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Music from another room

Wilson Philips is not cool. They may have been at one time, but that time has come and gone. Even more uncool is a guy singing Wilson Philips and quite enjoying himself.

Now normally, I’m quite careful to reserve my uncool behaviour when I’m home alone – far from the judging eyes of friends and colleagues – but this obviously wasn’t normal.

I’m at the lights when Wilson Philips comes on and I (fuck this is embarrassing) turn up the volume and belt it out:

"Don’t you know…things’ll change…things’ll go your way, if you hooooooooold on for oh fuck me dead someone’s looking at me."


A rich someone (brand spanking new BMW 1-Series).
A nice-looking someone (female, 20-23, blunt cut bangs, nice lips).

I stop singing the way we stop discussing a colleague’s fat, cellulite-riddled ass when she walks into a room: It’s unnatural, and you’re not fooling anybody. She doesn’t do me the courtesy of looking away. She just looks at me. And then, through the glass, I see her lips move:

Someday somebody’s gonna make you wanna turn around and say goodbye-eye!
Till then babay are you gonna let ‘em hold you down and may you cry-eye!

And I sing back up. And we are fucking hitting all the notes like karaoke night and my God it’s so beautiful when the girl smiles.

I pull the handbrake and get out, leaving the door open. I run over to her car and I don’t even gotta tap. The power window goes down.

Me: Will you go out with me?
Her: Aren’t you supposed to ask for my number first? My name at least?
Me: No. If you don’t go out with me, I don’t even wanna remember today. Will you go out with me?
Her: We’re in the middle of the road!
Me: You better hurry then.

She shakes her head and mumbles “Fucking psycho,” but I get a name. And a number.*

The lights go green, have been for two seconds, which activates the horns of all the cars behind us and we snap back to reality. And like the final verse of our duet, the last bit of our perfect chemistry, we both hit the gas, and wave goodbye to each other.

I turn left, she turns right.
And I don’t stop smiling til somewhere after lunch.

*This middle bit in italics is completely made up. But the rest is real.


I saw this one on DVD and I'm once again reminded if it weren't for this wonderful medium, I'd enjoy far fewer movies cos our local cinemas only want to bring in big Hollywood stuff, or movies whose only reason for inclusion under the 'indenpendant cinema' listings is that they require subtitles to understand.