Monday, 31 July 2006

Riding the Gen-Y Wave at KLCC

I arrived at KLCC around 11:30 on a Saturday morning for the bloggers' gathering. Fearing the city's notorious traffic jams, I left the car at home and surrendered myself to the whimsies of the public transportation system. The crowds weren't huge when I arrived, but they would soon swell.

After walking up and down the mall for nearly two hours I stopped at a San Francisco Coffee outlet and ordered an Iced Mocha. An American tourist spots me admiring one of the big-assed mugs they sold. "It'll be much better filled with coffee," he said. Well, duh.

I took my seat outside the outlet to nurse my beverage. Another tourist sat in front of me, clutching the day's copy of The Malay Mail. The cover grabbed my attention, and as soon as I emptied my cup, I rushed to the newsstand and took a closer, incredulous look at the headlines.

Exclusive survey reveals Malaysian bloggers talk bollocks!

What an earth-shattering revelation. How many eons did it take them to figure it out?

I didn't know whether to be insulted or relieved. While the report stated that contrary to the misgivings of the Ministry of (Mis)Information, not everybody in the country sees blogs as a source of news, let alone a source of credible news. However, a significant portion of those polled clearly bought into the bullshit that all blogs must be credible sources of knowledge and information, not vanity mirrors or private soap-boxes.

I'd suggest interviewing some real people next time, instead of zombies.

The meet was supposed to begin around 3pm at Burger King, but I was there a little before three. Lingesh and his buddy Raj were already there. Seeing no one, we dispersed for a while. When I came back, there was still nobody. As I spied a short, curvy lady with red highlights in her hair and a daring outfit re-filling her cup, there was a tap on my shoulder. It was Albert.

"Why are you still here?" he asked. Then I asked if he knew why the section at the back of BK was closed. "Closed off for us, you moron!" he chided. "Get your blur ass over there. The party's started."

Of course, Albert didn't exactly say all that, but he should have. I wouldn't have minded at all. I had a feeling he's dealt with my type before. Meanwhile, Lingesh loaded his camera with fresh batteries. Lock and load.

There was a flurry of activity, and I stopped keeping track of the arrivals according to sequence. Less than half of those listed at Jolene's made it for the meet, making me - perhaps - the oldest representative of the geezer contingent. I did feel embarrassed being there; I don't bookmark or blog roll most of them, and out of those that I do, there were only a few that I read regularly.

The short, curvy lady turned out to be Yvonne Foong. The Malaysian blogosphere has heard about her and her medical condition, but... she looked as normal as can be. And very nice. And kind of hot (I feel so wrong thinking that way). Yet her condition has impaired her hearing, and it might get worse. Where's the justice, I ask you? I initially thought she had a hearing aid, but I was wrong. Most of the time I communicated with her through a text editor on her laptop PC.

There was April Yim and her ear-ring tower, festooned with all her creations. Every piece was a work of art. The efforts must've been immense, judging from her complexion. Yvonne couldn't keep her camera lens off the masterpieces. She even bought a pair or so. Holding up two pairs: a pair of shamrocks and another with a Celtic motif, she sought help from me and another friend, Avril. My choice tanked. Well, what do I know? I'm a guy.

Jolene was there, of course, being one of the two organisers of the meet. Among the things I talked about with her were the green insects, her future dentistry practice and design for her business cards, the alarm clock poses and the likely scenario where she'd fill half of her digicam's memory card with shots of her first patient's mouth. I'll pity the fellow - and make sure I won't be the one.

Suanie, Erna and Fireangel (FA) dropped by briefly, followed by Eyes and Scorkes, whom I forgot to introduce myself to. I also missed former barista Sarah, who was among the meet's early birds. I'd prepared a gift for the affable beer-loving Suanie, and made an unscheduled purchase for Fireangel's upcoming birthday. Erna, meanwhile, wasted little time in promoting her upcoming gig, a little stage production called Refugee: Images.

Between poses for the cameras, Suanie and FA managed to find time to bust my balls over my presence at the meet. "Why are you here? You actually attend blog meets? Aren't you supposed to be this faceless people-hating recluse who throws barbs behind an alias? Mister 'Misanthropic Cynic', my foot! You're a fraud, you pretentious, man-whorish social butterfly!"

Guilty as charged. Sue me.

Before Suanie's bunch left, I wished FA happy birthday and may all her wishes come true. I did so with some trepidation; previous experiences show that the opposite sometimes happens whenever I wish someone well. Unfortunately, it held true for FA; her cellphone was stolen while she went shopping. I'm worried for Erna - I wished her well, too. It did not mean an end to future gift-giving and well-wishing endeavours, though.

I also chatted with Boadicea and Kyels, famous authors of deep, melancholy and thought-provoking posts. I don't read them a lot - their writings take me to places I'd rather not be. But damn, do they write good stuff I wouldn't dare to explore.

And Holy Linus Torvalds, Father of Linux! What's with the coloured contacts and fake eyelashes, Jasiminne?

PennyPupz arrived a bit later. I didn't recognise her at first because of the way she did her hair. She recognised me, though. In a way, it was scary. But not as much as the number of cameras at the meet.

I looked on as the Gen-Y contingent posed for the cameras, whilst thinking about that hack job The Malay Mail pugnaciously calls a "poll", and the nature of blogs and blogging in the country. Both PennyPupz and Kyels groused that it's no longer about "substance and deep thoughts"; most blogs today are picture albums, vanity mirrors and personal soap-boxes. Like Marie Clare, Cleo and FHM, I volunteered. They don't disagree. But is it a bad thing? No. A good thing, then? Not really. It did turn some gears, and I came to the conclusion that maybe it's better to just sit back and watch, like what I did as the flashes kept popping.

My anger towards the elitists, control freaks and petty-minded in the blogosphere and the government boils over as the cheerful tableau unfolds before me. Who the hell are you (and for that matter, who am I) to say what a blog should be? What makes you an authority on what a good blog should be? The gall of you to imply that all bloggers are bullshitting, anti-establishment troublemakers! Their blogs may be full of what you think is trash, but do you really think that's all there is to them? Can you see what they will be in the future? Just look at them now!

This is the unity and harmony you tirelessly preach, but won't foster if it didn't happen according to your grandiose plans. And worst of all, you're putting things in motion that will break it all up. Despite the absurd educational and socioeconomic policies, they managed to find common ground. Man-made barriers like skin colour, religion and creed are nowhere to be seen. Yes, they're vain, they war and quibble, but it's not forever. After the last bitch-fight involving Skyler and Jolene, they've patched things up, even before the meet, and are practically buddies. Much more than I can say about you.

These youngsters are having a good time. The time of their lives. In five, ten, maybe twenty years down the road, after their youthful enthusiasm and zest for life are worn down, these will be the best times of their lives, and they've got it all on film and blog. When the bills mount, mortgages loom, children rebel and when friends or loved ones pass on, they could look back at the craziness of yesteryears and laugh or cry, and perhaps, rekindle the flame that burned oh-so-brightly back then and find the strength to move on. They'll be a lot better off than I will be; there's much of my past that I've discarded for the sake of moving on.

As the crowd thins, I decide it's time to leave. I bowed gracefully and made my exit, my spirits mysteriously buoyant. I think there was an overflow of feel-good youthfulness somewhere, and I got caught up in it. Further proof comes in my impulse to buy a 400 gram block of Cadbury's Dairy Milk from the ground floor Chocolatier stall.

On a Saturday evening, I came away with fewer worries about this country's future. It's in good hands. A Parliament full of camwhores is a whole universe better than one with little Napoleons or street fighters - but no less unnerving.

Maybe I should worry - just a little bit.

Surf's up, my fellow fogies. The new wave's-a-coming, and to block its path is suicide. Have a little faith, will ya? Grab your boards, catch the wave, and hang ten. It's gonna be one helluva ride.

For more information and lots of pictures, visit Dr. Tan (Organiser #1), and Little Girl In A Reverie (Organiser #2).

What's In A Name?

This journalist, like many others, fervently believes the hand poised on the Made-in-Iran Launch button is connected to a brain with sub-code wiring. The proof is in statements like these.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has ordered government and cultural bodies to use modified Persian words to replace foreign words that have crept into the language, such as "pizzas" which will now be known as "elastic loaves," state media reported Saturday.

— Associated Press (AP), via Yahoo! News

Drastic, yet absurd measures to preserve the purity of the national language from the onslaught of corruption by foreign influences. By golly, it sounds so dreadfully familiar. But the prospects for comedy are good. I look forward to the day when I can yell, Roti liat, satu! (One "elastic loaf", please!) at my neighbourhood mamak stall, while enjoying a "short talk" with whatever friends I have left after twenty-odd years of separation, and mulling over the building of a "small room" somewhere in Langkawi.

I'm sure my "elastic loaf" would taste great, too.

And why didn't I hear of this in the local mainstream news? Is this the reason why the Government has its entire digestive tract in Gordian knots over unfettered, free-for-all reporting via online media? Checking the related news sidebar on the BBC page, I'm starting to see a pattern, and for once, I can't blame them.

What takes the cake about this ban is that the names of animals, insects, fruit, vegetables or colours are involved. If this piece of legislation is actively enforced, it presents a particular dilemma for a certain minority. Words like huang (yellow), lan (blue) or ma (horse) are used as Chinese surnames, while long (dragon), feng (phoenix) or lin (unicorn) are powerful names for those with high expectations for their offspring. There are other words like feng (bee/wasp), hou (monkey), or ying (firefly).

No matter. As this post demonstrates, creativity is boundless.

Friday, 21 July 2006

If You See Red, Don't Go Green

Will Greenpeace See Red?
I've always been ambivalent towards green groups like Greenpeace. Over the years public sympathy and funding have morphed them from a free-floating fringe group into something akin to a political party. As everyone knows: When a group professing altruism becomes political, things invariably go wrong.

I remember an old Readers' Digest article about how their "Save the Seals" campaign, led by that witch Brigitte Bardot, ruined an Inuit community by depriving them of a livelihood. Today, the Inuit are hunting seals again, as well as - what I regard as a slap-in-the-face for Greenpeace - Canadian fisherman, who partake in an annual seal slaughter to eliminate the competition for cod, pollock and salmon, while earning a profit doing it.

How long will it be before they cross over to the dark side and employ the terrorist tactics so favoured by loony legions like PETA and various animal welfare groups, who pick the easy battles and ignore the good fights?

Life After Whales
It confounds me that Japan, a well-spring of innovation and improvisation, is in no hurry to find a solution for the sword of Damocles hovering over dozens of fishing communities who supplement their income by killing or capturing whales and dolphins: "What the hell do we do, once we drive them all to extinction?" There's one Japanese fisherman who has given up whaling and dolphin hunting to organise whale watching tours. Others may not be as receptive to the radical idea that a live whale is just as valuable as a dead one.

Maritime patrols would be a good career path for former whalers. Pirates? Terrorists? Straying North Korean vessels? Suicidal Greenpeace pontoons? Imagine the large metal shank of a harpoon several feet long protruding out of the eye-socket of some stubborn captain of a trespassing ship. What other "Don't Bleeping Mess With Us" message could be more straight-to-the... -point?

Tuesday, 18 July 2006

Being Real Sports

So they're dumping RM490 million into a sports complex in the UK? The lifestyle changes brilliantly proposed by the Government must be working; they've saved enough for another prestigious monument. Personally, I don't think it's necessary, since we've already got the infrastructure and training plans in place.

Don't believe me? All the runarounds the civil service and government departments put us through has the whiff of a secret exercise regime. Once the wild goose chase ends, you'll feel the after-effects of an entire Iron Man race, complete with the mental and physical agony. We do, after all, love our flatbreads and sweet pulled tea.

Our Government cares. Really.

Sunday, 9 July 2006

Whale Safari, Redefined

Whale-watching tourists in Norway were given a first-hand look at the country's whaling industry when an animal they were watching was harpooned. The carnage was not taken well by the tourists. I wonder if any children were on deck at that moment?

The blood flowed and it wasn't a pretty sight. This really wasn't what we came to see.

— Leontien Dieleman, Dutch tourist

No shit, Leon. Whale-watching-slash-whaling tours, while economical and possibly educational, will never catch on. Not until the nasty bits of the business are resolved, anyway.

While Japan stoops to bribing poorer countries in the International Whaling Commission (IWC) for control over whaling restrictions, Norway doesn't even bother with politics or pretensions. This, however, goes beyond "rubbing it in your face".