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. Make me rich. (Spiritually, of course.)
If you'd like to know what people here think of the war, here's a simple anecdote:
The American media calls it "War In Iraq". The local media calls it "War On Iraq".
Wait. I just had an 80s flashback
Is it just me or does Nicole Kidman's Academy Awards hairdo remind you of Max Headroom
I have been cultivating a Clint Eastwood squint for many years to appear more mysterious. And today I've discovered that my left eye is now smaller than my right.
Anyone know if ingested hair gel is considered a household poison?
Pakistan National Day 2003. Yay!
For the ignorant toffs among you, today is Pakistan's national day.
How could you have forgotten?
I almost did until I saw the Pakistani government had taken out an eight page section of the local paper to commemorate the occasion. One article in the section referenced a unmentioned "military take-over" unfavoured by the United Nations, then deftly post-rationalises the current Musharraf government which ironically is a military takeover that's unfavoured by the United Nations. The author then lauded the greater freedom of women in politics under Musharraf, completing glossing over the fact that Pakistan was not too long ago ruled by a woman who had begun instituting those reforms during her reign.
However it was clear to see that the Malaysian government had its fingerprints all over it. Articles featuring, Mahahtir (the Malaysian prime minister) and the defence minister highlighted the close economic, military ties and "brotherhood" between the two countries that looks like it was hastily included by a mushy employee of the PR office.
The ironic thing about this praising is that Malaysia and Pakistan have rarely seen eye-to-eye. Mahathir has never agreed with the way Musharraf had come to power. And has distanced himself from a leader he considers a dangerous element to stability in the Asian sphere.
However things have changed. Muslim right-wing radicals are coming to power in Malaysia and there is growing anger among them, stoked by what they see as a war on Islam by the developed nations. Radical muslim clerics have been making loud calls for muslim nationalism.
So Mahathir has been courting other Muslim countries in the hope of making peace with the radicals and holding off their anger. Nothing expressed this clearer than the advertisements in the newspaper section by Pakistani ordnance factories touting tank weaponery, anti-aricraft missiles, guided missiles and laser targeting systems for infantry. It was kind of like a Toys R Us festival for army procurers, but the target audience was more likely Malaysia's radical elements. The Malaysian government has subtly used this opportunity to send a message that it is doing all it can to safeguard the homeland. Less subtly, it was a show of a strong arm-in-arm bond between fellow Muslim nations in the face of global adversity.
Thanks to America's War on Terror, we're seeing a global coalition growing among diverse Muslim nations which would otherwise have kept their relationships cool. But will Bush notice before it is too late?
One of those times I wish I had a camera
Today we salute the staunch and steady garbage man.
He gets up every morning and hardily hauls away your day's refuse. And when he takes a well-earned break, he slips a cigarette between his fingers, lights up and draws... with... his... garbage workgloves... on.
(I swear I almost fainted from this display of olfactory fortitude.)
I must be getting old
Yesterday I enjoyed a fantasy where I teach "the ways of the world" to a virgin who was dying to learn how to "fully enjoy her own body".
You will find an air-sickness bag in the pocket in front of your seat.
Fresh perspective of the war on Iraq
I met two American 7th Day Adventist missionaries on rotation in Malaysia. These two twenty-year olds were among hundreds that are over here. I spotted them immediately for what they were -- not because of their black leather Bibles with gold lettering -- but because of their typically pale complexion, crew-cut hair, white short-sleeve shirts and dark pants.
I asked them what they thought of the war, they said
War? What war?
Their sect apparently forbids the watching of television.
I got taken from behind
I was at the light-rail train station yesterday with a crowd boarding the train and someone leaned against me and started pushing. I resisted, thinking he was just another rude passenger from Kedah. Suddenly he's not pushing any more and when I turn around, I see a short Malay man in a brown shirt and satchel walking away. The doors close behind me and I feel my pockets. There's no wallet there.
I'D BEEN TAKEN FROM BEHIND!!!
At the next station, I reported the incident to the station control and they told me to return to the station where I boarded. And that's where security officer Kader insists that his job doesn't cover protecting passengers, only station property.
The thief had got away with my credit card, ATM card, some business cards and my Malaysian identity card. But no money, because I keep that in a money clip (my first internet purchase seven years ago from the Sharperimage
I've always dreaded the day I would lose my identity card. The Malaysian Home Ministry, the government section that issues them, has made it an acute point of making life difficult for anyone who loses his card. The logic being that if they made it easy to replace, people would take less care of them and lose them more often. It's the same sort of thinking that also insists society would be more promiscuous if kissing were allowed in public (which it isn't). Come to think of it, I don't recall French prime ministers ever visiting Malaysia.
So I was expecting to have a very difficult time with lots of pointless questioning. On the contrary, I spent no more than 20 minutes at the police station (the obvious next step), where I patiently waited for the desk officer to finish an earlier report that he was typing with two fingers. I swear it was just like out of NYPD Blue.
Most of my time was spent staring at the picture of the chief of the police hanging on the wall where you'd expect to see the Prime Minister. The chief's face reminded me of The Geek Who Gets Pushed Around By The Jocks from the Porkies movies. This unsmiling comically-stern mug was adorned with a flat nose and flat thick lips, almost as if he was actually squashed inside the frame. I imagined him trying to scream "Heeeeeeelp meeeeeee! Heeeeeeeelp meeeeeeeee!".
(Later, in true Malaysian fashion, the desk officer finally gave up, turned his computer around, handed me his keyboard and asked me to type my own report while he stepped out of the room to attend to more urgent bodily functions.)
At 8am this morning, when the outside temperature had gone from "Toast" to "Stir-fry", I was at Wisma Wilayah where the identity card office is located. The office was labelled "Jabatan Imegresen" which translated from Malay means "Office of Retarded Cows". Shortly after I arrived, I found myself leaving. Everyone there was applying for passports and I thought I'd received the wrong instructions from the police officer. I was later told the jabatan also doubles as the identity card centre. Ahhhh-haaaa, no wonder I always walk into shoe stores, ask for hamburgers and end up buying footwear.
But the morning was not a total waste. In fact, I was glad I came because as I stepped out of the exhaust-encrusted building, I saw the only possible thing you'd expect across from a depository of red tape.
There it was, an old Chinese shophouse with large red-painted words declaring it as "Thong Nam Piles Specialist".
Hey you, you want a job?
My latest project is starting up an internet radio station. I'm involved as part of a team that wants to sell this idea to a multi-million-Ringgit company which produces products covered under the media ban in Malaysia. They cannot mention their product brand name (and I shan't either because this project is a bit hush), but the law doesn't cover new media.
Delicious, isn't it? Can you say "$kaching$"?
This company has few other avenues to spend their massive advertising budget that aren't already flooded with their competitor's messages. We're offering them a new way ... as well as an alternative income generator (from advertising revenue).
The attractive thing to the listener about this radio station is that it will be able to offer niche formats because it is far more cost effective to do so than terrestrial radio. Finally, a 24-hour blues station! Even a 24-hour hard-house station. All in the local patois. We'll even be able to say the word s*x on radio.
Uhuhuh. I said s*x, uhuhuhh.
What I need is someone who:
- can figure out how to start an internet radio station from the technical end
- is willing to help source for the hardware and software in our name
- willing to work in the nice warmth of Malaysia for a few months
- willing to manage a talented team of programmers to create a receiver client
- can see the big money potential of this project
I have decided that people who are so fat that their lips never meet because of the sheer weight of their quadruple chins should never never never ever ever EVER
ever get facial piercings.
That would be kind of like someone waving a red flag and yelling LOOK AT THIS! while pointing at a bloody twelve car pile up with eyeballs, gutts and limbs hanging out the windows.
Buddy, that kind of need-for-attention, we don't need.
When you stick your hand in a box of books, beware of dangers to your immortal soul
Just one of the thousands of dangers of living in a muslim country. Taken at Skoob Books, if you can't read my badly-taken photo, it says "This box of antiquarian legal documents may contain pig's skin".
Bookstores always hog all the fun.
I like going to raves. They're full of contagious energy and life. The music is loud enough to overwhelm all synaptic ability and you just let your heartbeat float on the bass. They're also kind of like funerals. I'm just glad I'm not one of the participants.
I got an invite by one of the organisers of the rave at Cyberjaya last night. It was an hour's drive out of town and it was ironically being held on the grounds of the Shell Corporation headquarters. I am currently working on the website of Southern Pacific Entertainment which supplies the sounds engineers, lighting equipment and other sundries such as free beer for me. I was there mainly for the booze.
Ramesh, Devan and I got there at almost midnight and the cover-charge was RM50, which none of us had to pay because Nathan waited for us at the gate and handed us free passes. I later discovered why the cover was so high. Hardly anyone order drinks at these events. I had counted about 3,000 people at the rave and only two hundred beer bottles littered on the ground. Once I looked at how everyone was dressed, it was obvious that no one could really afford drinks. They were all in their thrift-shop best.
This was completely different from the raves in the UK, where everyone would be drinking the tipple of their favourite ad campaign. People would be dressed outrageously like it was the first and last night of their lives. Colourful boas, spiked purple hair, tight silk shirts, nylon mini-skirts, hot leather pants would be the norm. Not to mention the hugs and screams of "How are you dahling!". What I witnessed at this rave was pretty sedate. Everyone was just sitting around or staring at the DJ. Was everyone already on E or what?
I really wanted to start a fight somewhere. Something to liven things up. It always did in the UK clubs. Then the bouncers would come in, girls would scream and everyone would cheer whomever got booted.
The rave was called Regenerate. On the banner, it was subheaded as "The activity of spiritual or physical renewal". But the people who come to these raves do so so often you'd wonder whether a complete reincarnation would be more beneficial. In fact, I spotted an ex-colleague who was really surprised to find anyone she knew there. She folded her arms, exchanged small-talk and hurried away.
Sorry if this is terribly incoherent. I've still got a headache at two in the afternoon. Ah, what am I talking about? I was just there for the booze.
Another internet huckster
Rikky was interested in running an internet business because he had just visited a local huckster who calls himself Senze
, but whose real name is Shaun Tan, as revealed by his WHOIS
Shaun gives talks to willing
participants for RM4,000 per pop and all of them go based on promises of wealth. Kind of like a pyramid scheme, only without the bad products to sell.
His talks are titled "16 Real-Life Examples On Making Money On The Internet You Can Easily Copy For Your Own!" and he sells a book also titled the same. This begs the question: are any of those examples his own business? Not at all. And yet the business model he uses himself (ie giving talks to
participants) is not one of those 16 examples.
Shaun promises that you will make money by using all the business models that failed dramatically during the dotcom crash. This includes the tiresomely (or is it tirelessly) ubiquitous mass emailing business ("Super Internet Business no.3") and the give-things-away-for-free business model ("Super Internet Business no.9"). If only Pets.com had hired him. They would have been a success if only they had sent more emails to all their customers and given their dog food away for free.
So we have a guru who has had no experience, just a bad 70s-style permed hair-do.
Interview with a pirate
Yesterday afternoon, I interviewed Rikky Wong, an ex-VCD pirate distributor. He wants me to do a website of hot betting tips for him (information which he has a genius odds-maker to provide). Rikky drove a green BMW, wore gold-rimmed spectacles, had wet-geled hair and dressed in a dark-shaded officewear with a silk tie. He was indistinguishable from a Chinese businessman except he looked 22, used a Nokia Communicator and had a secondary Nokia mobile as well as a pager for betting tips.
Here are the exerpts.
Me: How did you get into video piracy?
Rikky: My partner was one of the first VCD pirate distributors in Malaysia. He was really the first. He began with software in those big floppy disks. He also sold pirated software manuals.
Me: Were you part of a gang?
Rikky: We were not part of a gang. We were just businessmen.
Me: How big were you?
Rikky: Actually we were one of the smaller players. We had some shops in PJ and some shops in KL.
Me: Did you ever get into trouble?
Rikky: Once the BSA raided our shops in The Mall. There was one on the ground floor and one on the third floor. I lost several hundred thousand pieces of stock. But the loss only amounted to a few thousand Ringgit. Then it was a court case.
Me: What happened?
Rikky: The file disappeared.
Me: Don't you get warnings?
Rikky: Yes, but not for BSA raids.
Me: Did you have to pay off a lot of people?
Rikky: We only paid off four people in KL. RM15,000 each month. We didn't have to pay off everyone, just the top guys. Then PJ was another pay off because it was under a different city council.
Me: So few. Weren't you worried that someone higher up in the government, say some minister, would make noise?
Rikky: Not really. If they did a walkround, we would be warned beforehand and we'd cover the pirate stock with legal VCDs.
Me: What about porn? Did you deal in porn?
Rikky: (Laughs) No, we dealed only in grade 3 (softporn) not in grade 5 (hardcore porn). If the police caught you red-handed with grade 5, you'd go straight to jail. But with grade 3, it is a lesser offense. Just a fine of a few thousand Ringgit. Once I was caught with grade 3 and the police tried to scare me. You see all this, I can put you in jail. But our lawyer told us that grade 3 fell under FINAS (the Malaysian censorship board). So I told the police so what, this is just art movie, not yet censored and they let me go. (Laugh)
Me: Where do you get your videos from? Who's the source?
Rikky: We didn't know that.
Me: You didn't know? You mean you don't ask too many questions.
Rikky: We'd just get a phone call telling us what new titles were in and asking for our order. We were just a distributor. We had a one time thought of getting a copier for ourselves. It would have cost RM4 million.
Me: But copying CDs is so easy these days. Any computer can do it.
Rikky: This machine copy 10,000 pieces in one hour. We even rented a factory. But in the end it wasn't worth it.
Me; Not someone's house? You mean a real factory?
Me: I'd heard there was one in Klang.
Rikky: There are ten in Klang!
Me: Why did you get out of the business?
Rikky: The prices kept dropping. When we started, it was RM25 per disk. Now you can get it at RM5 at the pasar malam (night markets). It was the pasar malan sellers that dropped the prices. We couldn't control it.