Friday, March 30, 2007

Coffee With WildGuy at KLCC

I couldn't sneak off early for a lunch date with WildGuy, but I made it anyway. I sought the healing provided by more social contact with friends. That need grows as you get older. And it's fun talking with him. He sets everything straight with his warped philosophies and wry observations.

(So McDonalds has a mini-outlet at the food court now - and it's not even a year since my last visit)

There were musings on death, mercenary work in the Middle East (and the beauty of RPGs, AK47s and M16s), abuse of the suffix "-cino" by Malaysians, and an acquaintance of ours with an eerily reptilian nature.

"Have you heard from him lately?" WildGuy asked while we were having McDs.

"Nope," I replied. "Not a peep."

"Same here. Haven't heard from him for a long time now."

"Maybe business has been bad lately, so he hasn't had much activity." I sipped my Ribena (who cares about that vitamin C thing? It still tastes good). "So he's probably hibernating. You know how reptiles are."

WildGuy cracked up. "Yeah well, it's the rainy season. The weather is cold, after all, so it's understandable." As usual, he had the last word. There was also something about bloggers, but I forgot what.

KY had a prior arrangement, so he couldn't join us for coffee right after lunch. By the time he was ready, the coffee was gone and I had to leave.

The coffee? Tastes like anything ending with "-cino" should taste - in Malaysia, at least.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Imagine If They Were 300 Years Old

"Why is it so bad lately?" a female colleague asked about the traffic situation in KL this week. Another female colleague said some roads were closed, but didn't know why.

"The Royal Malaysian Police are celebrating their 200th anniversary," I supplied. "They've closed the roads to Dataran Merdeka for the festivities." Where they prance around in shiny uniform and showing off at the motorists' expense, I mentally added.

Female Colleague #1 rolled her eyes.

"What? The police are so old already?" asked Female Colleague #2.

"Of course," I said. "The British formed it first."

The modern police force was in fact founded by our former colonial masters. Clinging stubbornly to ancient roots, the Malaysian Police's web site insists that they went back as far as the Malaccan Sultanate, when the Police Chief was known as the Temenggung. True in a sense, but it doesn't justify shutting down part of the city's busiest traffic grid for a self-promoting celebration.

Weren't there any vacant National Service camps they could've used for rehearsals? And after that, I'd suggest they do all their well-practised marching, chanting and human pyramid building in a deserted stadium on a weekend, make a high quality DVD recording of it all and have it on sale at every police station. It'll reach a wider audience, be available for viewing all year-round, and would take care of any Police Day "celebrations" - and all related road closures - for the next two centuries.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

How to Avoid Helping Terrorists

The Information Minister says mainstream journalists and papers are selling themselves short by quoting blogs and web sites, sources of "news" that he says have no credibility.

May I quote him on that? Oh, right. I just did.


Terrorists - and those who help them - now face the mandatory death penalty if their actions kill people. Malaysian airlines will soon be warning foreign visitors about the dangers of drugs and terrorism.

Just when we're trying to woo more tourists this year.

To counter the additional cynicism the ruling would engender, I'm offering tips on how you can keep from being an unwitting tool of mass destruction.

  • Beware of people who ask for directions - and help in carrying luggage.

  • Be careful when donating to charity. You know what they say about good intentions and the road to Hell.

  • Drivers of buses and cabs would have to watch who they're ferrying.

  • Hotels, resorts, budget inns and the YMCA should conduct stringent checks to prevent their establishments from becoming fly-by-night operation centres for al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah.

  • Sales clerks of places like Ace Hardware, IKEA, 7-Eleven and all retail stores should keep an eye on strangers who loiter around too long at the electrical goods and cellphone departments.

  • And you cellphone peddlers too should beware. You know how they set off those remote controlled bombs in Madrid?

  • Homeowners! Beware of who you sell or rent your property to. That also goes for you car owners.

  • Pizza Hut! McDonald's! Shakey's! Domino's! Do you know who your riders are delivering to?

Follow my advice and you won't go wrong.

Really.

And Happy Visit Malaysia Year 2007.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Live Here At Your Own Risk

"At your own risk" is a phrase habitually used by operators of parking lots, amusement parks, hotels, gyms and every other conceivable establishment as a talisman against the wrath of irate customers.

Because it often works.

Welcome to Malaysia, where living is as perilous and exciting as a reality TV show. In a country where civil disobedience means speaking your mind, there are other hazards.

  • Two students, one of whom lost his hard-won academic certificates along with his luggage, had their bags stolen when the bus they were travelling on spilled cargo onto the road after the doors of the luggage compartment failed.

  • A boy drowned in a swimming pool, a venue even the Guinness Book of World Records wouldn't consider as a candidate for World's Deadliest Place. And this isn't the first time.

  • There's an underground parking lot in the city that invites you in, but politely tells you that your car may be submerged when it floods.

  • A colleague left her car at a parking lot at Bukit Jalil to commute to work via the Light Rail Transit. She came back after sunset and found scratches in the paintwork.

  • People have died at our theme parks - and National Service camps.

  • Did I mention snatch thieves?

We make frequent calls for accountability and transparency from our politicians, civil service and law enforcement authorities, yet turn a (seemingly) blind eye at the surly parking lot gateman who just sticks his hand out for money (and be really really surly when you refuse to pay). Being a small-time operator should no longer be an excuse for shoddy service.

People take risks in casinos and stock markets. When overclocking CPUs, climbing Mount Everest or bungee jumping. Selling the Iraq War. Buying books by first-time authors. Having pet cats.

Something is seriously wrong when the risk of losing your life is associated with things like getting your car from the parking lot, riding the bus or just walking down a quiet street.

Now there's a slogan for Visit Malaysia Year 2007.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Because There's Nothing Else Blog-worthy Today

In a bid to crawl out of the woodwork, the Tourism Minister paraphrases Epimenides, with predictably catastrophic results. The gaffe, picked up by Chinese dailies in the country, soon had the female half of the local blogosphere fuming. Plus, the timing could not have been worse.

Now, I don't read the Chinese papers (because it would take too long, and I don't know most of the characters), particularly because, like their Hongkie counterparts, they have a tendency to sensationalise. But we are talking about some one who suggested that he was a conspiracy victim when the regional news media harped on the big bad haze that happened last year.

It's also true that most bloggers jump on such gaffes like pumas pounce on sheep. Most sheep, however, don't make themselves stand out from the crowd. And we don't go out of our way looking for something to tear apart. At least, not here in Malaysia.

We just sit back and wait.