Tuesday, August 31

Semi Fiction: Mindnight

He spends the latter part of the evening in thought, the brain invisibly multitasking as the hands and mouth go about rituals so well-practiced it is all on full automatic. It is quiet again, and he remembers the drive back and how his hands trembled at the steering wheel and then the sharp pain as he bit his lip so that he would not be weak then, at least not until he got safely home and alone.


As he washes off today's Present he thinks for a moment, and reaches inside himself to put on a slice of the Past. It's been a long time since he last did that, but tonight there is too much happening to keep inside, and he needs some way to deal with it all. Earlier today he was reminded of something that he'd almost completely forgotten, and for that brief moment he almost lost all of that self control. He managed to not break completely (because there is a time and place for everything) but now, safe in his personal coccoon he is a little less frightened about letting it all wash over him.

He lies down on the bed, eyes wide open. The Past's mantle is like an invisible drape over his body, and he sinks slowly into remembrances of things spoken, deeds done and bits of pieces of lives-that-could-have-been. His breath slows down, and somewhere inside he is reliving a period of his life he rarely mentions these days, or perhaps more accurately tries not to.

If one were to peek at his eyes, the person would see his pupils dilate, contract and move, skittering like a gramophone needle over the vast memory traces he keeps. Today's session is perhaps a little strenous, and there are no dramatics, no musical score or quick cutaway shot to signal a change. He curls up into a ball, and lets out a long, low sigh.

The tears come not long after. There is no measured cadence to them, they are just long, heaving sobs that he struggles to muffle (you know what they're like, the ones that just seem to begin with a huk-huk-huk as your lungs struggle to grasp in more air and then come out in a long whoosh) and as he tastes the salt on his face he remembers everything again.

The memories are always so clear, and like they always do, they end and he is spent, a little sweaty but none the worse for wear. He breathes easier now, because another little part of him has begun the process of mending and he can once again put on the Present. He knows there is a price to pay to continue living within it, and whatever clarity the past minutes bring him it is just a temporary relief. Still, it is a necessary evil, and there are always worse alternatives.

Another day goes by, and he is a little closer to being human again.

In the meantime there is the Present to tend to, and a Future to work for. He sometimes wonders if anything at all in his life would ever turn out at least remotely similar to how he'd imagined it to be (judging from things this far he'd be inclined to say no). He doesn't believe the world owes him anything (since that's an awfully selfish view to take for a species whose lifespans are mere nanoseconds on earth's history) and that any miracles he needs, he'll have to manufacture the old fashioned way -

A little blood, some sweat, and tears.


The Results Show

One hour past Hari Kebangsaan and I've had a bit too much TV.

Thanks for everyone who's helped vote for a name you think you'd like to surf over to in the near future, and also thank you particularly for your often enlightening comments. It's always interesting to know the overall opinion of my professional and experienced readers regarding the choice of sitenames (most of them I just came up with in 5 minutes and decided to share), my mental capacity for creativity, and all that.

Thus ends the first round of brainstorming and voting. I predict sometime in the future there will be a second round, but due to some extenuating circumstances it looks like I won't be moving after all. A false alarm, unfortunately.

So anyway, a big thank you to everyone who's been kind enough to vote and comment, I assure you all this will be taken into consideration when I finally get my own domain.

Till then, goodnight, and have a good Tuesday.


Sunday, August 29

Good Sundays

It's been a hell of a day, but in a good way.

I've just spent this particular Sunday in a blur of activity that's seen me zipping off to Hartamas for lunch with two friends then to PWTC to help a colleague in distress, after which I swung by Sungei Wang with said colleague to pick up some equipment, meeting the friends who came for a visit to the apartment, rushing back out to get myself a new TV (finally with component input, and this after selling my current set to the colleague) and then sending the fellow back to the train station, dinner (Shakeys never tasted so good) and then finally, finally setting up the new tube, running the Xbox's component feed into it and marveling at the wonderful clarity of the picture, which brings me to

now. And did I mention I found the most delightful set of GITS: SAC miniatures that I just HAD to have in Sungei Wang?

Oh my, oh my. That domain will have to wait a little longer, I think.

Have a good week ahead, and I'm on leave! Yay!

P/s: Tomorrow, it's time to shop for an S-video cable, and then oh my God, Fable is out! Fable is finally out! I expect to lose another 80 hours of my life to this incredible game.


Saturday, August 28


I suppose it's inevitable. I've finally saved up enough dough to afford local hosting. So, if you notice in the sidebar on the left there's a little poll to see which domain name you guys would like to point your browsers to. I can't give out full details as of yet, but the new site will not only host the blog, but other content that I've been itching to include.

If you're so inclined, please do vote for the name of your choice. It would be very nice.

Thanks, and cheers!


Adventures With Alien Hands

It's Saturday night, I'm at home and I just spent one of the most interesting dinner periods in my life.

(Before we go on, let's ignore the fact that I lead a very sad, boring existence please. Thank you.)

Anyway, over my plate of maggi goreng I proceeded to read Dr Raj Persaud's chapter on Alien Hand Syndrome and I found some very intriguing conclusions. Alien Hand Syndrome is a rare psychological condition in which the sufferer believes a limb (usually a hand or foot) is rebelling against their bodies or worse, actively trying to hurt them or other people.

What got me to pause my chewing was this:

"..there is also a part of our nervous system which is responsible for our belief that we have free will in relation to our behaviour...(and) if there is a part of the brain designed to make us believe we are in control of our limbs, does the very fact that such a system has to exist mean we are not really in charge of our bodies?"

Now, given that I've been getting a heavy dose of cognitive science/AI aspects throughout the week in the form of GITS, reading this put my already wonked out brain on overdrive. The rest of the chapter then goes to cite experiments which seem to indicate that our conscious actions are actually preceded by brain changes that anticipate them, or in English, our actions have been decided beforehand by our brains before we even think of acting them out. In a sense, it points to the possibility that though we may inhabit our bodies per se, we don't actually control it to the extent we think we do, and this could be scary.

The particular section of the book then continues with the author's suggestion that:

"...one of the prices we have had to pay for conscious awareness of ourselves to evolve as a function of the brain is the delusion that we are responsible for all our actions."

This chapter intrigues me because then there would seem to be a clear reason why we human beings feel the need to be in control so much of the time, even when it is obviously better to let go. The need to feel that we can however, infinitesimally, control the flow of events in our lives (for instance, who leaves or stays in AF) has been something that many people have taken advantage of in the past (the gladitorial battles in Rome) and will continue to do. In the same vein, there seems to be a scientific truth to the expression "let the flow take you" especially when it comes to sports (see ping pong players) or even actions like driving. Perhaps our "ghosts in the machine" are only hindering our brain's natural proficiency at controlling our bodies, and if the our sense of self control is only an illusion, the question surfaces: who pulls the strings?

My head hurts already, but it's a good kind of hurt. So the next time you're walking/eating/lying down/having sex have a looksee at your left/right hand. Did you want to put it there, or is it now in a comfortable position just as if it knew you were about to do what you did?

Hee hee.


New: Computer Universal Bah

Courtesy of [H]ard|OCP:

Next time bring the wore, please.


Friday, August 27

Stand Alone-Complex

A track on its own may not accomplish much.
A track, in combination with a powerful, powerful story, accomplishes everything, perhaps.

(Translated from the Cyrillic, and excerpted)

Angely i demony kruzhili nado mnoj

Rassekali ternii i mlechnye puti
Ne znaet schast'ya tol'ko tot,
Kto ego zova ponyat' ne smog

I am Calling
Calling now, Spirits rise and falling
Soboj ostat'sya dol'she
Calling, in the depth of longing
Soboj ostat'sya dol'she

Beskonechnyj beg
Poka zhiva ya mogu starat'sya na letu ne upast'
Ne razuchit'sya mechtat'
Angels and demons were circling above me
Swishing through the hardships and starry ways
The only one who doesn't know happiness
is the one who couldn't understand his call

I am calling
Calling now, spirits rise and falling
To stay myself longer
Calling, in the depth of longing
To stay myself longer

Endless run
While I'm alive, I can try not to fall while flying
Not to forget how to dream
How to love

Taken from the OST to Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex
Lyrics: Origa/Shanti Snyder
Music: Yoko Kanno (Cowboy Bebop)
Vocals: Origa
Treble: Benedict Delmaestro (The London Oratory School Schola)


Thursday, August 26

Something About Merdeka

Seems like some people are really into the whole Merdeka mood these days. From radio announcers to the people on the telly to those affixing huge flags on their vehicles and driving around, it looks like this year the patriotic spirit (at least as some people define it) is at an all time high.

Others prefer not to display their flags or other paraphernalia, citing they can (and are) be patriotic even without those accoutrements, while yet some people I've seen relegate being enthused about the coming National Day as being lame (or uncool). For these individuals the very notion of actually feeling proud of the country is a sign of severe mental deficiency. They swear that we're all white lab mice, blissfully ignorant of those little signs of oppression, and that it's in resistance that we all finally, really live.

You know what? They may all be right.

Like so many others, I was born and raised here. This is the only home I've ever known. I remember when I was little, Merdeka day celebrations were cause for me and my cousins (we'd always go back to my mum's hometown) to wake up early and catch it all on the telly. Hearing Hasbullah Awang or one of those other 80s voices describe the gaily fluttering flags and those smartly dressed men and women parading up and down in front of the country's leaders always gave us a vague sense of excitement. We too were excited without even knowing why.

Some will say, we were too young and ignorant to know any better.

As we grew up, the National day celebrations were always something to aim for, whether in student magazines (anyone remember Dewan Pelajar?) or scholastic achievement. Many kids I grew up with dreamt of meeting the PM after performing some sort of scholarly or extracurricular feat that would make the news, and perhaps even receiving some sort of reward for it. Getting chosen to represent the state in one of the many performances of the day would elicit the kind of awe only AF winners get these days. Again today, many will say that this is yet another example of the effectiveness of the brainwashing we kids endured, and that we were simply too young to notice anything out of the ordinary. To these people, I say hold on. I'm not finished yet.

Like they always do, the years sped by and we outgrew school and its controlled environments. The harsh realities of the world (and country) shocked us. I remember with perfect clarity the day I heard about the Anwar case while I was on the phone with an ex (public phone dating, LoL). I didn't know exactly then, but my perceptions of the country were to be smashed to pieces. Other things happened in the meantime, including myself growing up. Sadly, for some reason Merdeka didn't have as much appeal in it anymore, for my young self thought, what's the point in celebrating our blissful imprisonment?

Which brings us back to today. It seems that every other day I am given one more reason to not like this country. Whether it's the attitudes of some of the people, the ever-changing, ever-contradictory practices of some of its institutions (in particular the universities, oh!) or simply another piece of hidden wrong-doing brought to light, I cannot deny that the temptation to cut my losses and take my fortunes where they may be improved is extremely strong. I haven't tuned in to the televised parades in years, nor caught up with our so-called achievements, and the kid in me (eternally five, like Shin Chan) misses that feeling of belonging to something bigger than myself.

But then I remember that I do, in a sense. Whatever happens or has happened, Malaysia IS my home, and I cannot and will not deny it. Perhaps destiny decrees that I build my life elsewhere, or that in order for me to properly love and contribute to where I come from, I will have to leave it.

Still, make no mistake. I will not hate it just because many others do, or because it is uncool to love your country. Neither will I love it because I feel I have an unseen 'debt' to it or any of its forefathers. These days, more often than not, I feel sad for it. Sad that I am even now contemplating leaving, sad that I may have to, and sad that I have to watch parts of it go to pieces.

There are good Malaysians out there in every street corner, in every barbershop/mamak, in everytime someone returns a smile or a thank you, as there are many all around the world. Our paths may split and our methods differ but at the end of the day I like to think there's a part of all of us who yearns to feel that tingly feeling when we see the flag go up and to feel that we are part of something we can all call our own.

Happy Birthday.


Wednesday, August 25

Midweek Movie Madness: Korei Reviewed!

Okay, I know I promised the review earlier (like last week) but apparently life had other plans. After being intrigued by his Cure, I was delighted to find a copy of Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Korei circulating around and quickly gave it a looksee one evening with my sister. In case anyone out there is seriously contemplating watching the putrid trash that is The Sisters, try looking for this one or at least re-watch the Sixth Sense. Sisters is that bad.

One cannot help but compare this made for TV effort with Night Shyamalan's powerful entry, although to Kurosawa's credit he doesn't fall for the twist-at-the-end trap our Night is so fond of. The twists come early on in this flick, and to good effect.

Literally meaning "seance", Korei tells the story of an underappreciated psychic housewife Junko (Jun Fubuki) who, while alternating between contacting departed souls for her clients and being a subject of study by PhD candidate Hayasaka (Tsuyoshi Kusanagi) tries to make a comfortable home for herself and her audio tech husband Sato (Koji Yakusho from Cure). When a young girl is abducted from a playground, the police request her help and she reluctantly agrees, until the husband and wife find that somehow the girl has stowed away in one of his equipment cases. Junko hatches a plan to use the girl as a springboard to prove her detractors wrong, but they aren't prepared for what eventually happens..

As my sister put it after the credits rolled, "This isn't really a ghost story, is it?" Korei is at first glance like any other Japanese attempt at hopping on the bandwagon that Ringu and Ju-on started (in fact one particular scene may be intepreted as Kurosawa's little joke at the whole crawling ghost-girl image). However closer inspection reveals that it's more than that. At its heart, Korei is about morality and guilt, and how sometimes we are too preoccupied with our perceived injustices to care about anything else.

Junko is a tortured soul, unable to hold even a simple service job for long, since she always sees the crimes/spirits that follow her patrons. Her psychic abilities are both a gift and a curse, for though she can use them for good, there is nothing much for her to do with it except to contact the odd grandmother or relative. When the girl is kidnapped and the police contact her she is initially doubtful, but springs quickly into action when her senses tell her the girl is here, at her house. It is to actress Fubuki's credit that her portrayal of Junko is realistic and true. As she transforms from object of pity to someone we wish we could grab, shake and yell at, we see her motivations and at some level, we understand too. Koji Yakusho is in his element as Sato, so surprised at his wife's sudden change he becomes literally shaken.

As Junko's plot carries on and approaches its inevitable ending, the viewer cannot help but feel for her, but at the same time we are aware though we are her silent partners in this crime we do not approve. She is the amalgam of every ungratified act, every unnoticed deed that screams for some recognition from someone. Who among us can say we've never felt that at least once?

It's that chill over your shoulder again...

The effects are sparse (since this was a made-for-TV movie) but they work well in the context of the story. There are no histrionics or overacting and what plot holes there are don't force us to suspend our disbelief too much (we ARE talking about a horror movie) and it all wraps up nicely in the end.

Kiyoshi skilfully manages to evade some of those classic horror cliches and brings about something that not only appeals to the horror fan in us, but also a look into the mind of a normal person who's done something horribly wrong and tries to reconcile that with the course of everyday life. For this alone, Korei is a worthwhile catch. It doesn't add anything particularly new to the genre, but what it does it does well.

And perhaps that is far more important than any self-gratifying cameo *hint-hint*. Yes, Shyamalan, I meant you.

Ash.ox gives Korei a 3.5 out of 5.


Special Delivery Part Deux

You know, there's just something about a day where you don't only get one but two very "special" packages. As I was basking in the warm afterglow of Fawlty Towers (thank you!) and Law and Order, my sister came screeching out of her room clutching these:

this photo taken against another "gift" from my launderer, a rather ratty pillowcase, because as you can see, the sheets are now red

Apparently my new laundry/dry cleaner decided to throw in a "welcome package" to fresh customers. Little did I know the package would consist of a very bright pair of boxers (did I mention it was red?) and the aforementioned pillowcase. I wonder who the poor sod is who lost them.

as you can see, against my new sheets it doesn't really show

I think the clincher was the very large stylised goat plastered all over the shorts, with the word "capricorn" written in some cartoonish script - oh what the hell, here's a close up:

interesting texture

I suppose one just has to be thankful for days like these. Now if you'll all excuse me, I need to go laugh some more, and tomorrow return it to the shop!



Tuesday, August 24

Special Delivery

Some people have Milo fairies. Whilst sometimes I DO wonder what it's like to have one of those, I am quite content to have a book-and-DVD fairy, and today, I found this in my mailbox:

There's not much I can say except thank you.
Thank you.

And also, until further notice, I will be busy laughing my arse off at John Cleese and co.
It's been a good day.


New Acronym: HJNIY

I just couldn't resist posting this. An article someone deemed fit to post on SE, with very interesting ramifications. Entitled "Zero Calls, And One Cruel Answer -Why Men Don't Phone: It's Not Him, It's You" it's a write up on Greg Behrendt's new book on relationships. In case anyone's wondering who the hell he is:

"The Los Angeles comedian was a bachelor for two decades before settling down. By his own admission, he was guilty of plenty of bad dating behavior -- which made him a perfect consultant to the hit HBO series "Sex and the City." For the last three seasons, Behrendt advised the show's all-female writing staff and Executive Producer Michael Patrick King, who is gay. Behrendt sat in on scriptwriting sessions a couple of times a week, providing the "straight male" feedback."

Now I'll leave the reader to draw their own conclusions, but perhaps this helps clear up at least some of the mess in the whole dating game, no?



Monday, August 23

ATM Hijinks

Someone once told me that the first few things a person says in the early seconds of a crisis tells a lot about his/her character. If that's the case, by the end of this entry my readers may have an idea of what kind of a person I am, although I for one will insist on second or possibly third experiments.

After dinner, as I joined the sad queue at the ss15 Maybank ATM (I include this information for the benefit of any potential stalkers, and sad refers to the fact that almost everyone is broke at this point in time) and half of my brain was engaged in an extended vacation involving broadband access, video games and scantily clad women, the other half managed to notice the guy in front of me hurrying off from the machine without his money, leaving about a hundred ringgit flapping cheerily in the early evening breeze. Somewhere in the confined recesses of my cranium I could hear a teeny voice yelling at me to stop the bloke, but for some reason the flow of conflicting neurons everywhere made a mess out of everything and I entered that special cognitive state called Ash-Bullet Time, resulting in myself blurting out a very cheery (and loud):


Yes. So much for the dignified "I say there, hold up!" I knew I wanted to say. Of course, this being in a bank, nobody took heed of my feeble attempt at vocalisation and the man was still walking away. Luckily for him, some minor part of my brain was still functioning and coaxed an "Excuse me, please!" from my vocal chords, in addition to some frantic hand waving on my part.

Thus alerted, the man looked back, saw me pointing at the ATM where the cash was still flapping happily and the half-frown I saw on his face after being hailed in such an undignified manner quickly melted away. By this time I managed to say "You left your money, here," and also added some pointing gestures to the mix. He bounded over to the machine, got his money (after slapping his head) and said a quick thank you before bounding off to wherever it is busy men like him go.

Now during the drive home, I pondered the many different ways I could have alerted the owner of the money, instead of stating the obvious (ie duit!!). Still, the deed was done, the guy didn't lose his hundred bucks, and I have something to mull about, and blog.

So remember kids, when faced with an encounter like this, always remember to have the presence of mind to actually do something constructive when faced with a similar situation, and that "Dd-duit!" hardly ever solves anything.


Coming tomorrow: Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Korei reviewed!


Sunday, August 22

No Ad Hominem

Sundays are meant to be lazy.

As I await my parents' arrival (and thus am also hurriedly giving the apartment a quick once over) I am content to just lean back and let the warm buzz pass over me. It's a hot day, and one that doesn't lend itself to much thinking, which is good.

Image courtesy of my PowerShot G3, during yesterday's breakfast meet.

The quiet is also good, and as I resolve yet again to lose some weight (I look horrible!) I remember some of the things that are surprisingly, inexplicably Malaysian:

Our tendency to use the word "best" to denote the quality of something. Ergo:
"I heard you watched the movie last night. Best tak?"

The Malaysian use of the word "special" especially in Malay eateries and burger stalls. Here, "special" usually denotes "with egg". Thus "burger ayam special" would require an egg nestled above the patty.

Similar use of the word "USA" in some dishes, i.e Nasi Goreng USA (or USA Fried Rice). Although I am personally unsure if the people in the states actually DO like fried rice enough to come up with a homegrown variety, apparently our interpretation involves (yes you guessed it) a poached/fried egg, bits of chicken and/or beef and maybe even a sausage (okay, so it's a frankfurter).

I'm sure there's more, but I can't be arsed to think about it (as I said, it IS Sunday), but I shall leave you with an interesting and thoughtful quote that just about sums up my opinion of Sundays:

Animadvertistine, ubicumque stes, fumum recta in faciem ferri?

See if you can figure THAT out.


Saturday, August 21

Almost Fiction

Sometime during the drive to G_____ just now, he happened to look out of the window into another SUV and noticed a youngish looking man in a crisp shirt chaffeuring what looked like a humongous teddy bear in the back seat. As they usually do when being driven around in an SUV, the teddy looked mighty pleased with himself. Rather self-important, people might say. He attempted to wink, but since it was still daytime (and everyone knows teddies only come out to play at night) it didn't reply.

He smiled, thinking of the person about to receive the toy. Would it be a child? Unlikely perhaps, since the man looked too young to be married, and didn't wear a ring. Perhaps it is for a girlfriend or lover, something she'd wanted for awhile or just something he thought would be nice to give.

There is something wonderful, he thought, about seeing a surprised, delighted glow on the face of a loved one.

Rewind: He remembers that once he too, drove a big stuffed toy somewhere to surprise someone. It was a red Elmo, the kind that is large enough to hug a small child. He bought it, strapped it into the passenger seat and drove up North.

Rewind: That time he remembers it was part of an effort to win someone back. He'd had a deadline, and couldn't always wait for a "good time" to do it. As he drove up in his little car to see the girl he'd longed to see, he did something no one knows, till now:

he talked to it.

As silly as it sounds now, he told it his fears, and also hopes. He told it that no matter what happened he'd wish the Elmo to be a source of comfort, and that he wished he knew what to do. The girls at the toll booths smiled when they saw the plush toy sitting solemnly next to him, and he likes to think he made their day a little more interesting.

Fast forward: he arrived at his destination, brought his things in and casually mentioned he'd forgotten another bag in the car. He handed her his car keys, and when he saw the look on her face as she walked back hugging it he knew he'd done something right.

Fast forward: he remembers the moment that she is leaving, the Elmo tied to her backpack. There is a long goodbye and as he watches her walk away to the departure gate he thinks this is something he will never forget. He still hasn't.

Fast forward: she finds a real knight in shining armour, he has lost and this effort is ended. He has since given up on that particular track, but sometimes it brings him a little comfort to think that for a little while, he saw that glow on her face, and that he did good.

The SUV moves, gets lost in the throng of vehicles muscling their way into the toll gate. His reverie interrupted, he blinks and leans back. There is still a long way to go.

He does not ask its whereabouts, only that it is safe in his memory. Perhaps it's still with her, silently watching, sending out the message he took a little time to embed in it during the drive on that long, hot afternoon.


Friday, August 20

The Great Book List Expansion

There is a pile of books in various stages of unread-ness on my bed.

clockwise: Neal Stephenson's Zodiac, Alan Moore's LXG Volume 2, Dr Raj Persaud's From The Edge of The Couch, The Yakuza Movie Book by Mark Schilling, Neil Gaiman's Don't Panic and Bruce Campbell's If Chins Could Kill. Not in picture due to insoluble differences (read I was too lazy to run to the other room is Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver.)

Still I find myself always adding to the already growing list of books to read, like an expansion pack for a game that's a decade old and on its last legs (I swear that doesn't make sense). The latest additions that will soon join the ranks of my bank account depletors:

Neal Stephenson: In The Beginning There Was The Command Line and the sequel to Quicksilver, The Confusion.

Gene Brewer: The K-Pax trilogy omnibus.

Neil Gaiman's Sandman series, and the accompanying volumes.

Douglas Adams' The Salmon of Doubt.

Whoohoo. I have a feeling my house will be freaking filled with books come end of the year.


Thursday, August 19

Bullet Time In KL

It's almost 10 pm and I'm at a quarter to broke.

No, not really. But sometime this afternoon (at about 2 o'clock) I almost did something that would have nudged myself in that direction:

bought the K700.

I can't help it, really. Anyway, from the beginning. This afternoon I managed to take some time in between rushing to Shah Alam and back (checking on those students) to get my books at Kino and get a birthday present for me friend Jo. I could barely contain my impatience as the girl at the reservation counter carefully unwrapped the package with Bruce Campbell's If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B-Movie Actor. That alone would have set me MYR 56, which I was well prepared for. What I wasn't, was seeing the second volume of Alan Moore's LXG (the graphic novel, not the lousy film translation) on the comic shelves. It took me three seconds to get it (and actually another MYR 45 to purchase it).

If that weren't enough to get me started on this downward spiral towards almost certain bankruptcy this month (before anyone else asks, a lecturer in a local uni gets paid peanuts) I had to stop in Sg Wang to pick up Jo's birthday present. Whilst walking up my roving eyes suddenly registered the rows upon rows of mobile phone shops-

and I nearly died.

It was horrible, too horrible to mention. I flitted (if a Hulk-like bound can be considered such) between shops, comparing prices, originality of the components, warranties and various other miscellany with the result that at about 2 pm I was already on the verge of becoming a gibbering lunatic, or much worse, actually rushing to the ATM to pay the remainder of the price after trading in my old (old???) mobile.

Time slowed down. I could see the girl at the counter's smile falter slightly as I began to take my mobile back, mutter something in the way of an excuse and walk briskly away....and around the whole block in circles.

Circles. 5 minutes later, time began to move again and I found myself in front of the same shop. Only this time, that overpowering urge to buy was gone, replaced by a stern voice that said "Ash, thou shalt not buy the mobile until thou hast more clothes."

How does one argue with that?


Coming up next: Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Korei and the horror that is Taking Lives reviewed! Also, Wanted Book Lists: Expansion Pack, and plenty more when the Insane Ox finally decides to write them!


Fiction: Cheshire Dreams

If you listen real hard, you can hear it.

Really. It's like a very faint heartbeat, only it's slower and sounds a lot like this: thump-thump-thump-thump. Very regular-like.

Someone once told me that's the city's heart beating. I used to believe it, but I don't anymore, not really. You see, I once stuck a knife into the ground in this alleyway no one uses and nothing came out, not even gas. All it did was make me angry and I stabbed and stabbed and yelled until this old bird came and asked me if I was alright and then I told her maybe you could help and suddenly she wasn't breathing and her heart just stopped. There was this sound like a click from her throat and she just died. My hand does that, it does. I had blood all over me, and it was nice and warm.

She made me angry, and I had to clean her. Old women shouldn't be allowed to have jobs like these. They're unclean, and I always have to clean them for everyone else. One of these days I will get tired of it, and who will they depend on to keep the streets safe and clean then?

They never last. Never. I try not to forget them, even when they always call me Jim (and forget my name) . I go to their inquests and I see everyone else crying and worrying. This is foolishness, because there is nothing to worry about. They are happy, after the pain. I deliver them, the same way I have to deliver the little pink pieces I cut out. They must know I am doing this for their own good.

It is a lonely job I have. They call me names. I dislike names that people give me, so I give them one of my own. It's a good name. I hope I don't ever have to change it again, it's such a bother. A simple, strong name.

I hope they will remember it. Dear Diary, I must go out again tonight. There is much work to do.



Tuesday, August 17

Law and Order: Good

Tonight's episode of Law and Order: SVU was, in one word, powerful. It's always good when a series consistently delivers good storylines and powerful acting, especially when you're not expecting anything particularly special.

To cut a long post short, tonight's episode had:

Marlee Matlin (whom I used to, and still do think is hot)
A brief look into Munch's early life

There's more, but suffice to say it combines the gritty crime drama feel of SVU with a surprising depth of emotion (watch out when our Munch takes off his glasses and confesses something no one's known since his Homicide days) and turns it into one of the most thought provoking ones I've ever seen.

Good one, there. For a synopsis, click here.



And on the other hand:

Thanks to a friend, I was reminded of something I should have put on my OST list a long time ago - Baz Luhrmann's Sunscreen. Listening to it, I find myself mouthing the lyrics I used to memorise late in '99, and the years seem to melt away so fast, and so do the walls I put around myself, until I am alarmingly, amazingly, horribly


And the tears come. Of longing, of despair (see previous post for one reason why) of sheer frustration, of things I don't even remember doing or if they ever existed in the first place (maybe they're just fake memories I made to keep myself going) and perhaps, most of all, of loss.

Now it is late in the year, and I am still empty. I am glad that no one is around to see me like this, reduced to a shadow of who I always seem to be. There is much to do, always so much to do, and the distance I have put between myself and the people around me is necessary, now more than ever, no matter how detrimental it may seem.

It is okay to not be okay, I tell myself, and for one brief moment my breath hitches, my throat constricts and something more akin to a groan than a wail escapes my lips. It is my only concession to my moment of weakness.

And as quickly as it comes, it passes. The hole is still there, in me, not shrinking but not growing either. I feed it, keep it alive because I know that for now if it goes away, so do I. I feed off the pain, the anger, the frustrations that are channelled into it and come back tenfold because it is only by walking the razor sharp edge of despair can I remember how wonderful it is to be able to come back into the light. Symbiosis, a balance.

And like Baz, this is all I can say:

"Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.."

I think now, more than ever, I get it.


Less Human Than Human

My sister related a disturbing story just now, and if it's true, I will say this:

We Malaysians deserve every bit of all the so-called "injustices" we get.

According to my sister, a woman was invited on TV3's morning talk show MHI. The reason being she actively takes care of children born with HIV, even the unwanted ones and TV3 wanted to give her an award of some sort. Uplifting as this is on its own, unfortunately it brings a price that is too ugly to contemplate.

The woman is ostracised in her neighbourhood, her children teased and bullied in school. The community tells their children to not play with hers, in case they get infected. The worst so far is that they even petitioned the local council to ask her to leave the area. The children she takes care of are mostly ones whom no one else wants because everyone is scared shitless of getting HIV.

Is there any reason to be proud to be Malaysian anymore?

Not in my opinion. We're as insular, cruel and stupid as any other culture out there. We're so busy with our heads up in our collective arses complaining about the weather, the haze, the price of petrol, toll rates, reality shows and all the other crap that makes us oh-so-evolved that we forget the first thing about being human:

That it's never just about us.

Just before she went off air, she apologised to her neighbours and promised them she would move out as soon as she found somewhere new to stay. My sister said that part more than anything made her want to cry. Not for the lady (for I like to think she has a special place), but for all our ignorant, cruel souls.

To the lady with the quiet dignity, I wish you well. Maybe that's all I can do for now, that, and pray God grants you the strength to continue.

And the rest of us mercy.


Monday, August 16

Monday Attack

So much to do, and so little time.

Right now I'm spreading myself thin (as thin as is physically feasible, knowing my bulk) trying to clean up the final exam questions to be submitted tomorrow morning before I go for the day-long workshop that's being held a little too late in anticipation of the faculty's imminent restructuring exercise. That, and apparently there's a special session with the Vice Chancellor to discuss the terms of contract before candidates who are scheduled for their study leave (myself not included) actually depart.

Gets one thinking, how come they didn't have this when I was about to leave? They probably learnt that by not having these sessions they're gonna have more disgruntled-about-to quit people like yours truly. I probably will attend as well, simply to hear what he has to promise to these people and maybe even ask some questions of my own.

Life goes on as it is, meaning I'm more often than not in front of some sort of a monitor (or screen). Still, it's not all bad. Managed to get a no-name webcam for cheap from a buddy who couldn't get it to work with his PC. It works sporadically on mine though, so I guess some of you unlucky people will get to see my ugly mug (among other things) plastered in your chat windows. It's not pleasant, so bring Smelling Salts.

Another thing, my friendly DivX supplier just made my day by delivering all 26 episodes of Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex and Last Exile, two of the best anime series around. Add the fact that Kino just called me to tell me my Bruce Campbell biography is here and the week is beginning to look a little better.



Sunday, August 15

Boo Astro! Boo!

I am horribly, utterly ashamed.

A few hours ago I chanced to watch an Olympic ad on Astro and was shocked and disgusted by our unoriginality. I've gotten used to seeing Christopher Reeve, Avril Lavigne, Kofi Annan and (my personal favourite) Andrea Bocelli tell the world what they perceive of the Olympics and I was rather surprised to hear a translation of Bocelli's version (in BM) being narrated by a woman's voice. At first I thought this was just for the benefit of non English-speaking viewers, but as the ad ended, imagine my disgust at seeing said quote attributed to Siti Nurhaliza!

Now, one COULD put this down to a similarity in content (ie Siti and Bocelli think alike, no matter how silly THAT idea is) but let's look at the beginning of each version:

Bocelli: "If you had the strength of Hercules...legs as swift as the wind.."
Siti: : "Kalau anda mempunyai kekuatan Hercules, berlari laju..."

To my readers, please, I beg you if you have Astro look out for these ads and tell me I imagined the whole thing. It's a downright dirty shame not only for Astro, but for Siti. With this act not only does this prove how "starving" we are for integrity, it also speaks volumes for Siti's character the moment she acquiesced to endorse the advertisement.

It's a sad day when we have to lift our lines from a blind Italian singer to make up a horrible, weak facsimile. Do we not have a conscience? All the integrity and spirit of the Olympics alas, doesn't reach our part of the world, apparently.



Building an OST: Continued

Who'd have thunk compiling a 17 song OST of my life up to now would be one of the most difficult things I'd have to do ever? Not that any particular point in my life is exemplary in its exciting-ness (is there even such a word) but thinking about it (with the help of LimeWire) in chronological terms kind of helps with the song choosing. I've been spending time in between other things to listen to some old tracks and figure out where they fit into my past, and if they were fit to be considered markers. Still, it's early days yet and so far I've gleaned a number of other tracks that may make it into the final cut:

Something from Abba (I can't bloody decide which!)
Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody
Everclear's I Will Buy You A New Life
Anthrax's Belly of The Beast (this is for my form 2 days)
Pearl Jam (again!) and the Rear View Mirror
Goo Goo Dolls' Name

and for more recent periods, maybe these few:
Matchbox 20's Bright Lights
Robbie Williams' Sexed Up

Decisions, decisions. Back to work, folks!


Saturday, August 14

The Bottom Falls Out

I woke up early this morning, my head in a spin. For some reason the entirety of my sleep last night was invaded by really weird dreams of ghosts whom you can keep away by scratching a mark on your doors, the Ex, assorted members of my family, car accidents and plenty of blood. Sometime in the middle of preparing my exam questions I took a late night drive at about 2-ish, and almost made it to KL before I decided to turn back. Friday night's too precious to waste on melancholy reveries driving alone in a ratty old T-shirt and a pair of shorts no matter how tempting it is, although I do have admit the quiet was...welcome.

Where's a good David Lynch movie when I need one? The things that come into my head could probably last a whole trilogy or three. I spent most of the day at work in front of the PC, dumbing down exam questions to be submitted Monday. It's amazing how a whole semester's worth of teaching means naught when the exam is going to be taken by students not from the faculty, which in essence, means that I can't bloody well ask any analytical questions. Instead I'll have to rely on that familiar staple that are memorisation questions, in bloody MCQ format.

The things we do to earn our daily bread.

I read somewhere that tonight an expected several million viewers will be glued to their tellies in anticipation of Akademi Fantasia's grand finale, and that KL will actually be deserted (??). While I'm not a fan myself (there's something about the overwrought drama that gets to me) I'm tempted to take the old car out for a spin during the show just to see if it has as many fans as the newspapers are saying. It would be interesting, at the very least and it'll provide yours truly with some relaxation in between mucking with those questions.

If all else fails, I've got digital copies of Taking Lives, The Princess Bride and Donnie Darko that are just waiting to be burnt onto CD, slot them into my Xbox and by the time the final credits roll AF should just be over (until the next rerun, of course). And in the meantime in my download list are Takashi Miike's Full Metal Yakuza, Pier Paolo Pasolini's masterpiece Salo: The 120 Days of Sodom and Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Kairo which should also tide me over (assuming they'll ever finish downloading). I really need to buy one of those external hard disks.

So in the meantime have a nice Saturday evening, whatever your pleasure. I'll see you tomorrow folks, or whenever this bloody question bank gets ready. I wonder what dreams I'll have tonight in this funky mood I'm in..


Movie Quote of The Day:
"My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, you must die."
- Mandy Patinkin in The Princess Bride


Friday, August 13

Building an OST

Thanks to a couple of Yahoo! chats I've had earlier in the week, I'm now contemplating building a list of songs for (wait for it) the Ash.Ox OST (not to be confused with Ash's Ultimate Mix CD, which is another endeavour altogether). Since this will be an ongoing process (and I so hate to have several OSTs for every period of my life, plus I've been limited to 17 songs) it'll have to take some careful thought and consideration. Yes, I have no life. Besides, the alternative (hunkering down and getting exam questions ready before Monday) seems such a drag for a Friday night. Still, work is work, and in between questions I suppose I'll be able to update the list from time to time. Here, in no particular order are some of my choices. There'll be more than 17 of course, but I'll have to pare them down eventually:

  1. Blur's Charmless Man
  2. RHCP's Under The Bridge
  3. RHCP's Breaking The Girl
  4. Bush's Swallowed
  5. White Town's Your Woman
  6. Nirvana's Love Buzz
  7. Nirvana's Pay To Play
  8. Counting Crows' Round Here
  9. Pearl Jam's Elderly Woman Behind The Counter in A Small Town
  10. Morbid Angel's Desolate Ways
  11. The Pilgrim's My Own Mind
  12. Elton John's Tell Her About It
There'll be some more additions, but first I need to get these questions done. Have a good (and safe) weekend, folks.


Carjacking Update

Here's an update on yesterday's carjacking case, as gleaned from my colleague's report:

At 11 am my colleague was sending her child in a silver Wira (WFS 5715) to a kindergarten in Fasa 4 Tambahan, Bangi. An Indian man aged in his early 20s wearing a t-shirt and slacks entered her car and put a knife to her throat. He then forced her to drive to Section 7, Jalan Sg Chua in Kajang. Sometime during the drive my colleague was thrown out of the car that was going at about 40-50 km/h, resulting in bruises and scratches. A car that was following behind helped to send her to the Kajang Police Station. The worker at the kindergarten noticed the event and had called in a report to the police as well. The car's whereabouts, along with the contents of my colleagues handbag is unknown.

Anyone who sees the car or has any information please contact the Kajang Police Station or you can ask me for a direct contact number to the victim's husband. In the meantime I'd advise everyone out there to be careful.


Thursday, August 12

The Village: Reviewed

Before I begin: trying to watch an M. Night Shyamalan flick while a whole row of boys behind you are spouting gems like -

"Jokim Feniks! Ha ah la! Dalam treler Ladder 49 tadi kan?"

"Hee! Macam muka kau la!" (cue whole row guffawing)

"Apsal la bodoh gila ni?"

is not easy. And that's putting it mildly.

Secondly, in order to fully appreciate the scope of The Village, answer these two questions:

What would you do to preserve your way of life?
What price would be too high, what sacrifice would you offer to this end?

Somewhere deep inside Shyamalan's latest effort lies a good story, and also those questions I mentioned above. However, somewhere along the way it got mired in below average execution and plodding pacing resulting in a bit of a letdown, which hurts this film more than it realises. By now, we all know MNS. The little Indian man who decided to take Hollywood by storm a couple of years and singlehandedly made the "twist" ending cool again.

Alas, all good things must come to an end.

For the uninitiated: The Village tells the story of an isolated town's inevitable confrontation with the horrors that supposedly inhabit its borders, and of the town elders' dark secret that they will keep even if it means losing one of their own...

Perhaps we expect too much out of the director. Maybe the resurgence of the twist ending has somewhat dulled our nerves, leading us to want more. The titular village is a secluded, isolated place, cut off from all the rest of civilisation by an impenetrable forest that is also home, apparently to a race of monstrous beings. The residents live in a self-sufficient enclosed system, all of them abiding by the town rules, and never daring to use the Forbidden Colour or venturing out beyond their borders. It is in this claustrophobic setting that Shyamalan decides to place his story, and though the device is valid, IMO there are a few too many holes for us to be able to swallow this one hook, line and sinker.

Firstly, the positives. In The Village, MNS more than ever emphasises the human facet of the story. These are ordinary people living their lives the only way they know how. They speak in an anachronistic manner, dress in the simplest of clothes and their whole lives are dictated by the rule of the elders. In a manner of speaking, this is their utopia, and on the whole this is conveyed rather well (although to be honest a lot of the other characters are a bit two dimensional). There is unrequited love, fear, tension and a sense of responsibility. As the film reaches its conclusion, the characters have to make some of the toughest decisions of their lives, and to a certain extent they succeed in convincing us of the situation's gravity. The setting also lends itself to helping our suspension of disbelief, as we begin to accept that even without chronological/geographic markers of any kind, something is terribly wrong with this scenario.

On the other hand, one cannot help but feel as if MNS underutilised the acting talent he was given. I mean with William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, Adrien Brody and Joaquin Phoenix one would expect something more but that's all we do throughout the movie: we expect, and we wait. This, sadly describes the movie best. We see the twist and scares coming, we anticipate them and when they DO arrive find that they fall flat. Even the obligatory MNS cameo invites derision rather than laughs, and for once we wish we saw less of him.

All in all, The Village isn't a total failure. There are moments when the story (and may I say moral questions) shine through, but these are few and far between. Caught between a plodding first half and a totally watered down ending, The Village tries to break new ground but only proves that like its characters, it's too scared to venture out of its own boundaries.

Ash.ox gives The Village a 2.5 out of 5


Kidnapping and Carjacked

Just a brief update:

A female colleague of mine was kidnapped late this morning after she sent her child to kindergarten here in Bangi. The kidnapper made her drive for a bit after which he forced her out and left her at the side of the road. The perpetrator, an Indian youth then drove off with the car, a new Wira. At the time of writing she's safely at the Kajang Police Station, bruised and traumatised but otherwise unhurt.

I'll be posting details as soon as I get verifiable information. Keep tuned.


Wednesday, August 11

Midweek Movie Madness: Cure Review!

Seems like it's been ages since I did a proper review, and honestly I thought it'd still be some time before I did another one. The gods of bootlegging must have noticed the gap however, and sometime late last week a copy of Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Cure made it into my grubby hands. I'd been looking for it forever (especially on the durian market) but here it is, and God what a ride it was.

Combining elements of mysticism, mystery and homicide, Cure (or Kyua as it's spelled in Japan) is the story of troubled homicide detective Kenichi Takabe (Koji Yakusho). There's a wave of seemingly random murders sweeping Tokyo, with the only connection a large "X" slashed into the throats of the victims. The presence of multiple murderers (all of whom seem dazed after the fact) who have little or no connection to their victims complicates matters more until Takabe catches up with the mysterious Mamiya (Masato Hagiwara) who seems to possess a strange hypnotic power. As his investigation continues Takabe finds himself drawn deeper and deeper into the case as he struggles to come to terms with what Mamiya really is..

I wish I could say more. Really I do. But telling you any more about the plot would be akin to giving out spoilers, and this reviewer knows his audience never wants that, do they? This film combines the elements of Se7en and Silence Of The Lambs with a surrealistic semi-supernatural take on the psychology of murder and mashes them into a mix that cannot help but draw the viewer in. Kiyoshi Kurosawa (no relation to the late, great Akira) is a relatively new name in the business, although in the past several years he's come up with a couple of interesting entries including this one. As outlined above, the basic premise of Cure is simple. It's the execution that makes all the difference.

Methodically paced, Kurosawa manages to inject tension and horror into the most innocent scenes (catch the scene with the two policemen). You are part of Takabe's downward spiral as he deals with his existence, and of his (slightly neurotic?) wife, the systematic murder of a man by a doctor and part of the complex web that Mamiya is at the centre of, until its denouement. There is never a brutality to the murders, and it all happens for no discernible human motive (the term I like is matter-of-fact). It is this, in effect that makes the film work so well. Granted, by the time the end credits roll more often than not the audience will be wondering "what the hell was that?" but the film leaves an indelible mark on you, making you ask questions you could swear Mamiya was asking earlier on.

One of the things that struck me was how some of the imagery stayed with me even days after my first viewing, and which prompted me to do a bit of reading on my own. That in itself is a remarkable thing. At the end of the day Cure is a love-it-or-hate-it affair. Some will delight in its dark overtones and purposely vague ending, while others will curse and ask for their two hours back. The slow pacing will seem ponderous to some, and there are a few too many questions left unanswered. All in all, if you're a fan of Japanese cinema or looking for something different you'd do well to check this one out.

In the meantime, I'm getting back to John Cleese's How To Irritate People skit. It's a hoot! Coming up next (as soon as I can get my hands on them that is) are Takashi Miike's Gozu and then Izo!

Ash.ox gives Cure a 3.5 out of 5


Tuesday, August 10

The Great Ash.Ox Coffee Giveaway

Okay, since I'm incapable of multiple orgasms (not in the one-after-the-other sense anyway) I thought I'd make it up by posting another entry. This time, I offer to my gentle readers (yes, the three of you CAN also join) a bit of a puzzler:

“Lelaki yang tinggal di sebuah rumah teres di kawasan perumahan Bukit Rimau serta memiliki sebuah kereta Mercedes E Class dan Proton Perdana V6...Ada kalanya dia mengutip RM1,000 sehari dan menjalankan *********** kira-kira empat atau lima kali sehari. Bagaimanapun dia tidak ********* setiap hari,” katanya sambil menambah.."

The first one to guess what our guy's particular profession is, gets a Gmail invite and a free coffee treat from me, no questions asked! And if you don't drink coffee, you can also choose from the glorious choice of tea or (me!) another beverage of choice!

Entries via comments only! Thanks to the doc for the idea!


Three's Company

Is it just me or has it been really, absolutely hot these past few weeks? Every night this stifling wave of near-superheated air envelops the apartment and it's gotten to the point that I swear I can feel steam rising off my body when I take my shower. Really.

It's at this point in time that my seldom-used (seldom because electricity bills are a bitch) A/C unit gets switched on with anything approaching a regularity. One good thing about super warm weather is anything I hang out to dry gets that way really, really fast. One bad thing is I get dry really fast too.

On the way home after dinner a few days ago my sister related a story she found a little disturbing, and which I found well, interesting. It concerned a collegemate of hers, a girl from Indonesia who after hooking up with her boyfriend and dating for the past several months decided to move in together. This in itself isn't really surprising or disturbing.

What was interesting was the fact that in the house that they now live in, they also share a bedroom with the boyfriend's friend. The other tenants are also boys. If by now something doesn't strike the gentle reader as being a little odd, let me just clarify:

The loving couple regularly sleep in the same room as another guy. Now granted, I'm no prude, but being the only female in a house full of boys puts a person in a slightly precarious position. For one thing, let's assume the relationship is also sexual (again, this is an assumption). How does one deal with this, unless copious amounts of trust and loyalty are present? Then again there are the sleeping arrangements, and one can only wonder what it's like if said other roomate needs to go into the room to change and the pair is getting, shall we say, amorous?

Still, all this is conjecture at this point. For all we know, the other boys are all respectful and understanding of their housemates' situation (as is actually often the case), and the particular other roomate opts to sleep outside more often than not, which while being a noble gesture, isn't really a practical one. I refrain from passing any kind of judgement for now, simply because I lack more information (and if it comes across that I was judgemental in my phrasing, please let me know) but I have to say, lewd thoughts of menage a trois aside, this is highly interesting.

Still, whatever rocks your boat, I say. And as always, even though I know the chances of said couple reading this are extremely low, I think that we can all agree that

if you can't be good, be bloody careful.

That's it for today. I'll see you guys tomorrow with Midweek Movie Madness: Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Cure!



Geek link o' the day:
A veritable treasure trove! Digital copies of MIT Theses 1888 to the present available here! Whilst not complete, it's a huge help for us budding researchers (no grants though!).



It's one of those nights again.

Watching Banzai with my sister proved to be a welcome distraction from things. I'd been meaning to blog on Maroon 5's latest, but Idlan beat me to it. Which means, I'll have to put in Seether's latest instead. If there's something good that came out of the fiasco that was The Punisher, it's this track. Featuring Evanescence's Amy Lee, the end result is a mix of raw discord with hungry yearning, perfect for a very, berry, very down Ox.

I need sleep. See you in the Dreaming, people.

Cause I'm broken when I'm open
And I don't feel like I am strong enough
Cause I'm broken when I'm lonesome
And I don't feel right when you're gone away
Seether feat. Amy Lee, Broken, The Punisher OST


Monday, August 9


I learnt a new thing today.

In an online conversation with a friend, I was suddenly reminded by the fact that what we think of as our particular preferences in life may not be so at all. They're not only the byproducts of our social and cultural upbringing, but of our genetic material as well! Free will? It's all well and good until you want to make the decisions that really matter, and then you're better off just sacrificing a goat or something, for all the good it will do you.

I am, of course referring to our choice in prospective partners (mates sound so Discovery Channel). As I've possibly mentioned before in this blog, I have a general predisposition towards women of the petite persuasion. Up till today I've always thought of it as being the result of several factors. 1) Possibly having more "compact-sized" exes throughout my early life (with the exception of one), 2) tall, statuesque beauties presented a formidable challenge throughout my development since they were always the "hot ones" and you know what that means to a geek, 3) as another online friend told me some time ago: "we short girls have to work extra hard to compete with our taller cousins.." the ones I've known usually are spunkier and more assertive and 4) hell they're just nicer to hug, especially since I'm no Moses Hightower myself.

So a whole gamut (yes I am using the word in this case) of emotions ran through my head when my friend today suggested that my preferences were in essence, simply Malay. For the 20 or so years I've been alive it's somehow escaped my notice that there is a racial stereotype insidiously at work, pegging and generalising our reasons to like who we do into a nice tidy package. In my case, apparently Malay men dig petite girls big time, so much so we develop words like genit and cilik (among others) to try and capture the essence of the characteristic. If this is then the case, I am simply acting on some piece of genetic code buried deep in me that dictates the type of women I will like. No offense to you tall women out there, seriously. I don't dislike you. As some people who know me will attest, I happen to like all women. A lot. It just so happens that though my eyes sometimes follow the attractive girl with the legs unto infinity, I also appreciate the other side of the spectrum.

Another thing that came to my notice was the immediate ramifications of the statement. Might there then be a correlation between whom we (as a race) choose as our partners with the amount of assertiveness and dominance we have, meaning is it true that a smaller partner increases our sense of self-worth and makes us (Malay men) simply feel better about ourselves? Are we so craving for any form of dominance that even this suffices? It is in this view that I suddenly view Edrei's previous post in a new light. The tendency of society to peg our preferences into broad racial strokes all but eliminates the sense of actually having a choice, and I'm sure it's not only the Malay men who get this. There will be stereotypes abundant for every other race out there. Tell me your stories.

I've gotten it before simply because I used to date a petite half-Chinese girl: "..itu memang lelaki Melayu.. suka yang macam itu.." when I have no idea what "macam itu" means. I know I shouldn't get riled up (and to my friend, please, this is not your fault. I guess I've been wanting to vent about this for so long) but I feel that it's an injustice for some members of society to want to generalise why other people do what they do without knowing anything about them, and also because I feel robbed of my choices. It's like one of those self-fulfilling prophecies the Greeks loved so much: unwittingly I play into the grand design because it's what all Malay men like.

So after this I guess there'll be some rethinking that needs to be done if I'm to escape being a me, too! case (I have a feeling this rant is actually about coming to terms with my Malayness?). At the end of the day though I am not particularly uber-proud to be a Malay, neither am I too ashamed of it. It is what I was born as with all the attached stigmas and strengths/weaknesses, and I don't rue it. I just would like to think I have some autonomy over my choices in life.

In the meantime you tall females out there will have a new admirer to the already swelled ranks. Not only are you more liable to be modeled into children's dolls or be drafted as flight attendants and models, but apparently liking you will also be one way of shrugging off racial stereotypes, at least in this sense.

Good night.


Saturday, August 7

Saturday Night No Life

In anticipation of work tomorrow (convocation's here..grr) I thought I'd share some er..interesting bits and pieces of information that came through my RSS reader:

Thanks to Lockergnome's Search Engineer feed, I found this. It's called Copyscape, and it's powered by Google Alert technology. Simply put, you type in your URL and it searches the web for any sites that have copied your content without permission, even to the point of listing who's quoting what from you! Excellent tool to have around, especially since other forms of media seem to be looking to blogs for fresh material. Still in BETA for now, but worth a look.

Since not all of us have CIA passcodes, here's the next best thing. Index Mundi is a database of country profiles and facts, compiled from multiple up-to-the minute sources including the CIA World Factbook. Good for students, geeks or just about anyone interested in some statistics because.. you know, there's this thing called knowledge and I heard it's good for you, or something.

So why am I posting things like these on a Saturday night? Because I'm working tomorrow, and it's been a really tough week, that's why. Also, I thought it would be prudent to peel my arse off the video games for a couple minutes and post something of import for a change, before I get all depressed and wishy washy again (which seems to happen with some kind of regularity). One final link, in case you all think I'm no fun. Since games can be expensive, here's a link to about 70-odd free games you can download from the net, in most major categories. Think of it as my contribution to a less stressful work environment, or something. Till next week, cheers!


Friday, August 6

My Kingdom For A Credit Card

I don't know if it's just me, but I find the stupidity of some adverts these days to be mind boggling. Perhaps it's the average joe in me speaking, but a recent radio spot for a certain credit card company's promotion just made me laugh out loud (and at seven in the morning this is no mean feat). Since I don't remember the exact wording I'll have to paraphrase:

Husband: Darling, how much have we spent using our ________ credit card?
Wife: 1000 ringgit, dear.
H: That means we get a Swatch watch free, right?
W: Right, and if we spend 3000 ringgit we get a Philips CD player!
H: But I want a DVD player!
W: Then spend 6000 ringgit!

Whoa. Let's back track for a second. Again, this may be the poor-man-average-joe-who doesn't have a lot to spend talking, but spending RM 6000 to get a bloody DVD player does NOT, I repeat does NOT make sense. Like any other geek, I like AV equipment (even the ones I can't possibly afford) but these days a quick trip to Carrefour or Sen Heng or Harvey Norman gets you a really good DVD player for what, RM 300? Add in about RM 1000 more and you can walk away with a pretty respectable HITB (Home Theatre In A Box) set.

Of course I'm sure the credit card company in question didn't mean to sound rather, well, un-smart. Still, the execution's about as smart as lighting your farts on fire (and trust me, that ain't smart at all). If you want to make your customers charge more on the cards, I'm sure you can afford to hire an ad agency that can structure the suggestion in a way that does not banish it to The Realm of The Incredibly Stupid. There is a psychology to advertising, or so they tell me.

If I sound incredibly pissed, that's because I bloody am. But hey, maybe I'm the only one who notices this, since I don't really have a credit card. Perhaps the rest of us out there DO regularly spend that much and think it's quite reasonable to throw in a DVD player after reaching the 6K mark. To you, I apologise, sincerely and truthfully.

But if the opposite is true, I'd hope that the next time some other credit card company decides to insult the intelligence of listeners everywhere they'll just fire the sod who came up with the idea in the first place.



Thursday, August 5

This IS Random, Mum!

An appalling thought (to me, anyway) just struck me. Since I seem to be having fewer and fewer things to blog about, is this the beginning of the end for The Insane Ox Speaks? Has the part of my brain that comes up with these sometimes smart (and often just puerile) ramblings (I shudder to use the word these days) begun to disintegrate, in the wake of the new and powerful wave called "serious" blogging? Am I destined to take myself seriously and leave the self-serving, attention-seeking, technogadget-loving self behind? Will I do this now, or put it into my ever-growing list of things to do (right after "fix life quick")?

To quote a character from Shaun of The Dead: fuck-a-doodle-doo, I think bloody not.

The past few days (weeks more likely) have been a huge gauntlet of emotions (and I DO mean gauntlet, instead of the oft-used gamut) with me running through the whole spectrum of feelings until my conscious mind just can't keep up anymore. I feel like I've just been through one really long cycle on the washer on "low" and someone forgot to put in any softener (try asking your sweater how it feels after one of those) and I can only imagine how it's gonna feel when it's rinsing time.

Am I depressed? Worried? Scared? Fragile? Yes, and no. I was all those things up to a few hours ago when I decided to take a bath so am now on a temporary reprieve (I suspect the water here has been tampered with by suspicious Governmental task forces in order to keep us all marginally functioning, how's that for a conspiracy theory) . Still, I've pretty much given up on trying to control what my body wants to feel (as long as it knows what it's doing) and have resorted to transcribing the chaotic flow of thoughts in my head on this Thursday evening.

If you're still reading at this point, God bless your mortal soul (or if you don't have one, whatever it is you think you'd like to have blessed) since this is dreadfully boring tripe, even for me. So, as to not disappoint you (and render your reading efforts in vain) I enclose here several tidbits of import to me(!!) and a Gmail invite.

First one to email me and asks nicely gets it. Of course, you could also send in risque pictures to help. Those are always welcome.

Back to the posts! The posts!

They said it was impossible to do. One man proves that 8 miles of wire, some soldering tools and a lot of time can be put to interesting use. Behold, the PalmPsOne .

Bill's got something up his sleeve if he thinks he can buy out Nintendo. I wonder what Yamauchi's got to say about this, although honestly IMHO there isn't room for THREE game consoles, not with Sony's marketing muscle.

Also, BlueToothers beware! A BlueTooth Sniper Gun has just been unveiled at Defcon, and it can blast your mobiles from a kilometre away. Ouch!

Last but not least, after the NCSA linked 70 PS2s last year, a group of Computer Science students and enthusiasts are linking 35 Xboxes together to form Voltron!! Okay, not Voltron, but a supercomputer! Tres cool.

Right. In the spirit of "serious" blogging, and because I too am tired of being the only one to take myself seriously and hence need other people to think that way too, I have performed the unthinkable! This entry (if you notice) has personal bits AND some more "geeky-useful-links" bits!

Huzzah! So until next time, when the Ox tackles the only subject Kenyan parrots don't talk about (religion!) in a totally unbiased, rational and un-inflammatory way (what, this is possible?) have a good rest of the week!


Tuesday, August 3

Department Meetings In La La Land

You know, I had a post all lined up about my experiences with id Software's Doom franchise (ever since late 1994) and how I'm intrigued to see what changes the latest iteration of the game will bring to the table (since it's scheduled for release this week), but then a call from a friend before dinner prompted this little rumination. As usual, it's about work (I'll refrain from calling it a career for obvious reasons).

Since I got the news of the university's rejection, I've found myself being able to think clearer than I've ever been in the past year. Which is strange, since one would expect a certain amount of uncertainty in its place. Instead, I find that it's enabled me to put my priorities straight and make concrete plans for my future and not just fudge around waiting for a vague promise from the university.

In the past few days I've noticed that I've actually stopped doing anything extra for work. Where I usually would look out for new research topics to suggest or training seminars to implement, I'm now content to do whatever it is I'm tasked with doing well and ending there. It's as if when the news came some sort of circuit shut down on me and I operate on the essentials, but nothing more. Maybe this makes me a bad person, but IMHO there's no use in me actively trying to improve the lot of others who just don't care. For example, late this afternoon I had a departmental meeting. One of the bigwigs was advising a newer colleague of mine to quickly finish up her master's thesis and not dawdle doing unimportant things. Now ordinarily I would think this to be very good advice, except for the fact that the same person's been tasked with menial administrative and other duties that come from...the bigwig!

So where does this make sense? Was she implying that my colleague drop the "tasks" and concentrate on her masters, or did she conveniently "forget" who gave those orders in the first place? Then there's another older colleague who refuses to join the online education portal the university asks us to use because "I can't log on, and it's easier to use the departmental server." Personally I've used the system for two semesters and it's been smooth with minor hiccups. Nothing consequential. The way she went on about it, however, was as if it was running on an old Pentium-166 with 32 megs of RAM. For a brief moment I thought I was listening to my students giving their excuses. In short, the meeting quickly degenerated into a nodding and laughing together session, which will give any uninformed onlooker the impression that we're a fucking utopia.

There are other stories to tell, but they're not the point. The point being I'm sick and tired of expending my time and energy to a place that not only doesn't recognise me officially, milks me dry as well. Like I said, perhaps I'm being a lousy worker for not going "above and beyond". The only thing I can say is I do what I am entrusted to well, which is more than I can say for most of these so called educators. In the phone call I mentioned earlier my friend urged me to do something concrete soon, like get a house/flat. I used to be scared of doing that, but the time's come for me to seriously get something going for myself.

In the end, there's no one else to live for, I guess. So Doom will have to wait, and the university..will have to say goodbye (unless they suddenly do an about face which I doubt).

Later, folks.


Social Networking

I'm breaking my policy of not blogging during work hours simply because I know I'll forget to share this when I get home. Anyway, Lockergnome pointed me to an interesting article on Internet Week about social networking software (i.e Friendster) and how they may be more detrimental than anything to our private lives. Thoughtfully written and with real life examples of his own, David Strom's article gives us something to think about before hastily committing to yet another online community.

See ya later, folks..I've got meetings up the wazoo.


Monday, August 2

When Stress Strikes: Buying Rampage

Warning: totally masturbatory post ahead, and I'm not kidding. This post was written with the assumption that all three of my readers will not recognise a bit of self-serving, egostentialist poo amidst all the other pseudo-smart entries. And the answer is still 42, by the way. If you've surfed over here by mistake thinking there are pictures of nude women, you'll want to go here. Ditto nude men. Otherwise, just take this as it is: incoherent thoughts from a very worried mind.

I realised something just now. Whenever I'm stressed/depressed/worried/a combination of all three the inner geek in me goes on a rampage. A buying rampage, I mean. It's like a whole perverted take on the retail therapy concept, only instead of buying clothes (which I need very, very badly) I get all excited about very expensive gadgets I don't need. Now, if you'll all be so kind as to look at the picture below, and extrapolate the price/state of stress ratio you'll realise the state of mind I'm in these days.

That silver beauty is the brand-spanking new Sony Ericsson K700. Some of you may have seen the ad in cinemas. It's gotten rave reviews so far barring some omitted features, and I have to confess I yearn for it more and more every day. Do I need it? Definitely not, but do I want it? Oh God yes. Sure my Samsung E700's barely a year old, and God knows I could use the money for other more important things in life, but like last year, this particular couple of weeks has been a period of high stress for me, and I don't see it ending any time soon (for those new readers, last year at about this time I bought my Xbox).

This is bad. I'm supposed to be saving, not planning to spend any more money. So until I find a bad review of the mobile, I suppose I'll be hatching all sorts of plans to get it. In everyday terms this simply means that under no circumstances must I be allowed near Sungei Wang (well at least till this irrational bout of madness has passed). Also, this stress all time high better plateau or drop soon, or I will be a poorer Ox.

Oh good God. I'd better get some sleep before I think of anything else to add to my wishlist (or should we call it the stresslist?). In the meantime..I'll just watch old episodes of V and Transformers Masterforce, in the vain hope that the inner geek will be satisfied. Hell, if he still makes noise, I'll have no choice but to feed him Alf reruns.


  1. Mobile-Review.com's take on the K700
  2. Esato's Review
  3. Pocket-lint's Review
  4. GSM Arena does a review too!
Some more pics of my latest obsession here.