Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Reading my mate's blogs, made me so envious of them. Take for example Ashraf’s or Kay Own’s They seem so profound, fraught with such brilliant ideas, humourous jokes, and intelligent opinions, while mine is so airy fairy. And I haven’t seen the others. So I made a resolution which I hope will last. Unlike my lifelong attempt of making new year's resolutions which never lasted for more than a few weeks. I resolved that I am going to read the news every day. So read the news I did. But I found that I skipped all the columns and pages on politics and went straight to Opinions or Life and Times. Well at least it is a great improvement from going straight to the entertainment column. Baby steps, I told myself, baby steps.

So last Sunday as I was browsing through my favourite portion of the Sunday Paper, Opinions, amidst such motivating and amazing features and opinions on interesting, informative and beneficial matters like About capturing history on film, and about providing better working conditions to our men and women in blue, I chanced upon this article.

It just stood apart from all the other columns I had read. In short I found it simply braggadocian. It just perturbs me if our nation is eventually going to be led by leaders who came from snooty upper class as so clearly painted in this column. Ok, I admit, hands down, I am covetous of such a lifestyle. I am angry at myself that I cannot provide such luxury to my beloved children. But my personal insane womanly kiasu envy aside, let’s all pause and think for a second. How an article glorifying and bragging such privileged lifestyle, inherited by birth, not through hard work, or intellectual capacity, do any good to the nation as a whole?

How can a leader who has had such priveleged upbringing, who can shop for the latest techno gadget in Tokyo feel for lesser people who never had a chance to watch Astro, or even know the existence of PS1 or 2, let alone PS3 or PSP. How can he feel and fight for the poor farmers and the blue collar or even white collar workers who will be expected to vote for him come election day. What cause would he champion? Those already wealthy “entrepreneur” who will suck the nation dry, so that the rich will be richer, and they can spend all the money they earn here, overseas? to buy all their electronic paraphernalia in Tokyo, perhaps?

. Who will champion the cause of single mothers whose children’s sustenance are never being paid, who has to work twice or three times as hard to be recognized, who end up paying hefty legal bills just to keep their children who they have been supporting for years single handed anyway. Who will champion the cause of youths who have done wrong, but wish for a second chance to improve their lives by going back to school but do not have the means to do so?

With leaders like that, What is to become of our father land, I wonder.

  • Link to article

    Out of the cage: My mother, the techno whiz-kid

    18 Mar 2007
    Khairy Jamaluddin

    OUR family had a birthday dinner a couple of nights back. It was the best kind of family birthday dinner.

    Just the immediate clan, three generations eating chocolate cake, banoffee pie and Thai food.

    When the presents were finally unwrapped, the birthday girl was beaming from ear to ear. She was not surprised with her gifts, but rather the delight was merely a confirmation of getting what she wanted.

    First to have its wrapper torn off was a black Bose SoundDock for her to blast the music on her iPod anywhere in the house — loud enough to play out by the pool and small enough to carry downstairs for her dancing classes on Sundays with her buddies.

    The next present, which she was already anticipating, was a 7.2 megapixel Lumix camera with a 28mm wide-angle Leica lens (she insisted on a model with the Leica enhancement) in matte black and loaded with a 2GB memory card — in time for her to take on her 10-day trip to New Zealand next week, again with her buddies.

    It wasn’t any of my sisters’ birthday, neither was it my wife’s. And my nieces are both too young to appreciate techno toys.

    No, the proud recipient of the stuff that would make most tech-savvy guys jealous was my mother, who just turned 72.

    We were all going to get her presents that we thought a septuagenarian would like, but it turns out we were mistaken.

    We should have known better.

    My mother has been at the cutting edge of technology usage for quite some time.

    When I was a small boy growing up in Tokyo, she used to take me to the electronics district in Akihabara every other week looking at all the latest gadgets and gizmos that early 1980s Japanese innovation was throwing up.

    Those were the days of the first Walkman and full-sized, remote controlled (but not wireless) R2D2s.

    Without having to ask, she got me my first video game console — the Atari — on which I learnt hand-eye co-ordination and timing, especially by playing Jungle King, which I thought at the time was the greatest game invented and certain never to be bettered.

    She followed that up by buying me my first PC, with roman alphabets and the basic hiragana Japanese characters on the keyboard for me to attempt to learn word processing.

    This was followed by a whole host of Nintendo hardware, including both the game console and the portable games with Donkey Kong throwing down barrels at you to jump over.

    When I first went off to boarding school, she would snail mail her letters, but as soon as they became affordable, she got a facsimile machine at home from which she would fax her weekly messages to me.

    At university, when most people were still figuring out how to navigate around the world wide web, we began communicating via email (she was an early Jaring subscriber) and quickly learnt how to add attachments and links.

    She was the first one I knew who bought a flat panel LCD TV (she knew exactly which one she wanted and she knew she didn’t want plasma).

    She surfs the Internet regularly, either directly or getting her secretary to print out her favourite websites, which oddly include blogs that vilify her son.

    Although a late adopter, she has become an SMS fiend ever since my wife showed her how predictive text worked, rattling off quick messages throughout the day.

    She now carries the Nokia E70, which flips out a full QWERTY thumb-board for her oxymoronic long SMSes.

    I have seen people stare at this elderly Malay lady in a selendang, typing away furiously on her specialist phone.

    Sometimes when she is at a function which I could not attend, she would snap a photo on her phone and MMS over the (sometimes incriminating) image to me. Nobody ever suspects my mother of being James Bond.

    She is relentless in her desire to want to learn and keep up to date.

    When we bought her the iPod, we thought that she would reach her breaking point. After a while, surely, the old timers just give up learning about the latest fad.

    We couldn’t imagine her loading up songs on her iTunes and sorting out her playlists. Clearly we were wrong.

    I checked her iPod recently and was surprised to find her favourites — Hetty Koes Endang, Broery Marantika, Elvis Presley, Nat King Cole — all neatly organised in her "Mama iPod Playlist".

    Of course, later I found out that she didn’t really do it herself but asked one of my sisters to load up her music player.

    She has reached a stage where she knows she can master all gadgets she fancies, but is content to let other people sweat away at the thankless job of downloading and uploading songs.

    Still, I wouldn’t put it past her to start downloading songs on her computer (legally, hopefully) and insisting on an iPod adapter for her car stereo.

    She saw me using my BlackBerry the other day and wondered out loud if she should also get one — this is usually a cue for me to go and buy her the device.

    Sometimes, the technology has traction with her (iPod) and sometimes it fails her tech test (Nokia Communicator). But she hasn’t been afraid to try.

    My generation was already born in the electronics age. My mother was born before World War Two, way before modern communications technology.

    Electricity in Alor Star in those days was generated from the river by the Hutten Bucks company.

    For our generation, the change has been tremendous, but when compared to the advances that my mother has seen in her lifetime it must seem glacial.

    It amazes me that she continues to try and stay ahead of the curve. This is an example of life-long curiosity in how things make our lives easier and more enjoyable.

    On her birthday, I prayed for her good health so that she will one day enjoy movie on-demand from the classic Shaw Brothers library streamed directly into her handheld device via mobile broadband while making a conference call with her grandchildren over seamless internet telephony.

    When these services become available, you can be certain Mama will be among the first to sign up

    Sunday, March 11, 2007


    The article below from The New Straits Times touched me immensely. Suicide- filicide, u name it, I think we all should ponder on why this seems to be such a common occurrence of late. Such incidences were almost unheard of when family closeness was a norm and not an exception and members of a particular community look out for one another, regardless of race, colour or belief. Yes, you may hear about the occasional suicide, but filicide? God forbid.

    Whatever happened to us?

    We are emotional creatures. All these problems stem from emotional upheavals. Stress from the everyday demands of this modern life – Living beyond one’s means, Ah Long, husband’s affair with another woman, and the list goes on.

    Whatever happened to our spirituality and moral values. Almost all faiths abhor suicide. Has spirituality taken a back seat, materialism now is the God for a majority of us.

    Meanwhile, the importance of support cannot be stressed enough. Yes the PM just launched a counselling campaign- but how thorough is that. Would counseling be enough when it only grazes the surface. Counselling should come from the heart. How can an attempt such as this be a success when we are generally raised within a culture where judging people and isolating people who are different from us, is the norm. At the end of the day, for any measure to be successful, it should be founded on the genuine intention to help fellow humans and not just to sweep problems under the carpet and embellish them with what seem like impressive but in truth are hollow programs.

    After all the prophet p.b.u.h. once said:

    "Actions are (judged) by motives (niyyah), so each man will have what he intended…”


    Kathirasen on Sunday: The heart weeps but the mind is thankful

    25 Feb 2007

    HOW could she? O my God! It’s horrible! These were among the exclamations that burst through the lips of relatives and friends last week.

    They were agonising over the death of two children. Every death is tragic but this tragedy was made more unbearable by the news that their own mother was said to have strangled them.
    And it came so soon after the case of a man who strangled his two children before committing suicide.
    It is incomprehensible. Why would a mother want to kill her children? Why would a father snatch away the life that he helped bring into the world?
    How could they do it? I’m sure when the mother strangled her sleeping children — one at a time — they must have awakened as they struggled for breath.
    Their terrified eyes would have met her eyes. Perhaps, as the life was being squeezed out of them, they were trying to fathom the reason for their mother’s madness. Or perhaps the shock of it suffocated any attempt at thinking.
    And what was passing in the mind of the mother?
    Only days earlier, on Feb 14, jobless Lee Thian Sing strangled May Shan, 10, and Wei Shen, 9, before taking his own life by drinking bleach and washing liquid.
    It happened in the daytime. They would have been awake as he murdered them. Did they struggle? Did their bodies convulse in contortions as they writhed in agonising disbelief? What terrified thoughts tumbled through their innocent minds as the hands that had comforted them were now wringing the life out of them?
    Lee left a note saying he did it because he did not want his children ending up as failures like him.
    His moment of madness is believed to have come about shortly after a tiff with his wife.
    On Feb 22, labourer M. Murthy, 29, was charged at the Klang magistrate’s court with murdering his two-year-old son Ruthren in January. The child is said to have been beaten and kicked to death.
    On Dec 1 last year, Seah Wong Chong and Kau Mei Lin fed rat poison to their children Siew Cheung, 12, Siew Man, 10, and Siew Tong.
    The children died but the couple was reported to have failed in their attempt to take their own lives. They said harassment by loan sharks drove them to it.
    Last July, K. Sangeetha, 30, collected her four children and stood in front of a Singapore-bound express train. Her eldest daughter, Victoria, 8, managed to wriggle free and run, taking her five-year-old brother Jason with her. But Sangeetha and daughters Sagaria and Esther were killed.
    Killing of a child by a parent. It’s called filicide.
    Cases such as that involving Lee are classified by psychiatrists as "altruistic filicide" because the parent thinks he is actually saving his children from real or imagined suffering by killing them. Studies in the West show that the majority of filicide-suicides are "altruistic".
    It was reported that the mother who allegedly killed her two children in Penang did so because she was angry with her husband for wanting to take a second wife. Psychiatrists call this "spouse revenge filicide". It’s an old theme.
    Those who have read about Jason and his quest for the Golden Fleece would be familiar with queen Medea. When Jason abandoned her for a princess, she killed their two children to spite him.
    Martha Ann Johnson of the United States, who wanted to get at her husband after an argument, rolled all 250 pounds (114kg) of her weight on her daughter while she slept. Johnson was convicted of killing her daughter on Feb 21, 1982.
    What triggers the horrendous act? What makes such parents snap? Psychiatrists usually blame it on stress and pressure. Behavioural scientists hold that violent behaviour has no single cause but is the result of an accumulation of factors, including childhood experiences.
    Neuroscientists may conclude that a breakdown in communication between the limbic system of the brain and the frontal cortex could have caused emotional information to be incorrectly processed. Or they might point to a possible malfunction of the amygdala, that tiny almond-shaped mass of grey matter where fear and aggression arise.
    It may be that even the perpetrators of this atrocity would be unable to say what drove them to this instant of insanity.
    What is clear is that we who hear about it are shocked. We are horrified. And that, I think, is good.
    Because it means that such incidences are rare; because if they were an everyday affair or even a frequent occurrence, our hearts would have become numb to them. We would not be shocked.
    When I see that for every mother who suffocates her child, for every father who kills his child, there are millions more who don’t, my faith in parents is restored. The vast majority take reasonable care of their children; many shower love and affection.
    While my heart weeps for the children who were killed, my mind is thankful that these are but instances of aberrant behaviour.

    Children belong in families, which, ideally, serve as a sanctuary and a cushion from the world at large. Parents belong to society and are a part of that greater world. Sometimes parents are a channel to the larger society, sometimes they are a shield from it. Ideally they act as filters, guiding their children and teaching them to avoid the tempting trash. — Louise Hart