Wednesday, March 4, 2015

R.I.P. Mr Spock (1931-2015)

Leonard Nimoy (left) who was the versatile actor, director and photographer – whose career was defined by his role as Star Trek’s Mr Spock – died Friday at age 83.
Few actors outside soap opera become defined by a single role to the exclusion of all else in their career. But that was the case for Nimoy – as the first officer of the USS Enterprise in Star Trek, he became synonymous with his character, a half-human, half-Vulcan.

Nimoy himself considered his role challenging and he said: "As an actor, my training had been in how to use my emotions, and here was a character who had them all locked up."


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Star Trek began life on television, running 79 episodes across three series between 1966 and 1969.

In front of the camera, Nimoy captured with delicious wit the tensions in the character. Spock’s logical, detached perspective could be infuriating to his more demonstrative colleagues; it also caused him to be amused or bewildered by the workings of humans. This could play out humorously or poignantly. He was uniquely placed, for example, to analyse coolly our emotional shortcomings: “It is curious how often you humans manage to obtain that which you do not want,” he mused in the first series. His dry rapport with the more passionate, full-blooded Captain James T Kirk (William Shatner) was a pleasure that endured long after the Star Trek brand itself showed signs of having been around the galaxy a few too many times.
Once seen, Spock (left) was never forgotten. The hair, boot-polish black, was snipped short with a severe, straight fringe; it looked more like headgear than a haircut, more painted on than grown. An inch of forehead separated that fringe from a pair of sabre-like eyebrows that arched extravagantly upwards. These came in handy for conveying what the reserved Spock could not always express verbally. “The first thing I learned was that a raised eyebrow can be very effective,” said Nimoy.
Spock’s defining physical feature, though, was his pointed ears. The actor’s first reaction upon seeing them was: “If this doesn’t work, it could be a bad joke.” Sharply tapered but in no way pixie-ish, the ears somehow never undermined his gravitas. Or rather, Nimoy’s sober disposition precluded laughter. Besides, in a show suffused with messages of inclusivity and tolerance, it would never do for audiences to laugh at someone just because he came from Vulcan.
Nimoy contributed key details to the character, including the traditional Vulcan greeting: a hand held up and the four fingers parted to create a V. This was inspired by prayer gestures witnessed by the young Nimoy at a synagogue.
When Star Trek was cancelled, he moved on to new challenges. There were other movies he acted in and he even established himself as a film director. He wrote poetry and indulged in photography.
In 1979, he returned to play Spock in the rather leaden Star Trek: The Motion Picture. He would do so in a further seven Star Trek films. Among them were Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991). He was the only original cast member to appear in JJ Abrams’s instalments of the ‘rebooted’ franchise, Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013). His appearance in the first of those Abrams films, as the older Spock coming face to face with his younger self (Zachary Quinto), was deeply affecting and played with characteristic restraint. He also revived Spock in two 1991 episodes (“Unification I” and “Unification II”) of the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation, and in animated and computer-game incarnations of Star Trek.
Leonard Nimoy could never really escape association with Mr. Spock!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

When a Sausage is Just a Cock

I am sorry! I had labelled Second Education Minister Idris Jusoh an idiot! I shouldn't have! [Read my blogpost at this link].
I should be more respectful. If he wants to be an idiot – that is his right. And it’s none of my business. Besides, Malaysians seem inclined to show off, to let others know how clever they are, and even to convince themselves that they are believably clever. Really clever.
That’s when I finally understood what he was trying to tell us. That he was not just saying to the world that Malaysian education is world-class but that we should believe it too. If it is said over and over and over again, we may just believe in the bullshit that we concocted ourselves. Mind you, it is not easy to be clever if you have been certified an idiot. It takes lots of practice to talk and act like an idiot even if you are already one and yet come off as clever. Of course, it helps if you are an UMNO Minister because it comes naturally,

Take this example.

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The above product – ‘Lap cheong’ (Cantonese) or ‘là cháng’ (Mandarin) (臘腸/腊肠) or Chinese sausage – from Tesco Tanjung Pinang (in the northeastern part of Penang island) is referred to as “Chinese cock”!
We use words carefully and prudently. So who says our level of English in Malaysia is abysmal?
We are so damn clever! After all, we are a proud product of Malaysian education. We, Malaysians, are full of cock! The 47% that is!
After my Monday meeting in KL Sentral, I proceeded to Rumah Puspanita in KL’s Jalan Hose to attend the NAWEM (or the National Association of Women Entrepreneurs of Malaysia) Toastmasters meeting. I also took up two evaluation roles, i.e. Speech Evaluator and General Evaluator. Although there were only thirteen of us (12 women and a gentleman) – it was still a good meeting. And I was truly overwhelmed.


Upon this meeting’s conclusion, I double-backed to KL Sentral – this time, my destination was Mercu UEM – to attend the KL Advanced Toastmasters meeting. I just missed the one and only assignment speech but I did listen to the evaluation and even participated in the Table Topics. In my books, this is still a good meeting.


New Disease Discovered in Malaysia

Breaking news! Malaysia’s world class education system has detected a new disease!
“Chicken chop”  must be 2015's medical discovery of the year – if you refer to the medical certificate below obtained from a clinic (Klinik Perubatan Balqis) in Sg. Buloh, Selangor. I’m not sure how you get this malady and I don’t even know how serious it is – but the patient was given five days’ sick leave. 
Suddenly, I am hungry. And I fancy Hainanese chicken chop!
Menu from West 57th St. Café (affectionately known as the Zang Toi café), Level 4, Parkson Pavilion KL. Image credit:
Yesterday, I was in KL Sentral to attend the Service Rocket Toastmasters meeting. I took up two evaluation roles, i.e. Table Topics and CC speech #8. A good meeting overall and I even received a ribbon for being voted Best Evaluator.


Monday, March 2, 2015

Seeking a Royal Pardon

Last Tuesday, the family of Anwar Ibrahim submitted a petition for a royal pardon – the last day to do so of the 14-day deadline since the court's verdict on February 10, 2015.
Anwar’s wife, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail (left) explained that the appeal to the King does not imply her husband’s guilt, but was made because his trial and conviction were unjust.
Will the King put to right this miscarriage of justice? I don’t think so but we must still hope!
At the Windy City Open (February 24-March 04, 2015) in Chicago, USA, Malaysia's squash queen Nicol David took twenty-seven minutes to dispose Egypt's qualifier Heba El Torky 3-0 (11-5, 11-4, 11-7) on Sunday.
On Friday, David’s first round match against wild card and world No. 40 Olivia Blatchford saw the former also winning 3-0 (11-3, 11-6, 12-10) in thirty minutes.
Meanwhile, Malaysia's number two player, Low Wee Wern passed a daunting physical challenge from 15-year-old Egyptian Habiba Mohamed to notch a 11-8, 9-11, 12-10, 11-6 first round win on Friday.
Then the world number eight who faced Rachel Grinham yesterday prevailed over the latter with a 3-2 win. She took 58 minutes to dispose the Australian 7-11, 11-2, 3-11, 11-9 and 11-6.
In the quarterfinals, David will meet England's Alison Waters and Low will challenge Egypt’s Raneem el Weleily! Let’s see the two Malaysians continue to make waves.

Action Figures in Offbeat Situations

Yesterday, I posted a photo of comicbook characters – all in a line – in “peeing” positions. Of course, the Hulk was the center of attention. My fave character.
That picture is the work of toy photographer Hrjoe who has taken a wonderful series of photos that capture Marvel superhero action figures in all sorts of offbeat situations:

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Image credit:!/hrjoephotography/photos/pb.1536853386556972.-2207520000.1424940282./1536860523222925/?type=3&theater

On Sunday, Celtic moved a big step closer to the title as they ended Aberdeen's 13-game unbeaten run and opened up a six-point lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership with an emphatic 4-0 win.


Second placed Dons were more impressive in the opening half, but fell behind to Jason Denayer's header in the thirty-seventh minute. In the second-half, Aberdeen collapsed and Celtic helped themselves to goals – through Leigh Griffiths (63, penalty), Gary Mackay-Steven (69) and Stefan Johansen (80).

In the English Premier League, Liverpool moved up to fifth spot with a 2-1 win over Manchester City – also on Sunday.

Jordan Henderson's curling effort in the eleventh minute put the Reds ahead before Edin Dzeko finished off a slick move fourteen minutes later to equalize. But Liverpool’s Brazil midfielder Philippe Coutinho capped a fine display with the decisive goal when he struck from 25 yards in the seventy-fifth minute.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

1MDB - About to Go Kablooey

The fuse has been detonated. And 1MDB is about to go kablooey!
A joint investigation by Sarawak Report and UK’s The Sunday Times newspaper uncovered the trail of the missing billions at the heart of Malaysia’s 1MDB impropriety.
Investigators pored over thousands of documents and emails relating to transactions by 1MDB, including its initial joint venture with the little known oil company PetroSaudi International from 2009 in search of damning evidence.
And what a minefield of incriminating information they discovered! In spite of plenteous and profuse denials, the entire joint venture project was conceived, managed and driven through by the Prime Minister’s alleged associate and family friend the party-loving billionaire tycoon, Jho Low.
The records also prove that the $700 million so-called “loan” that was supposedly repaid to PetroSaudi as part of the JV agreement, was in fact channelled into the Swiss bank account of Good Star, Jho Low's personal company.


Jho Low with Paris Hilton. Image credit:
That money was then partly used to buy out Taib Mahmud’s UBG Berhad (previously known as Utama Banking Group Bhd) in Sarawak at a very advantageous price for the then chief minister and his family, who had been failing to get a deal on the open market.
PetroSaudi had agreed to act as “a front” for Jho Low on such deals, according to the documents – it was a subsidiary of PetroSaudi International registered in the Seychelles, which bought UBG, using money siphoned from 1MDB.
1MDB cannot keep mum any longer. Malaysians are waiting for the company’s 3 idiots to respond. What have Najib Razak (Chairperson of the Board of Advisers), Lodin Wok Kamaruddin (Chairperson of the Board of Directors) and Arul Kanda Kandasamy (President and Group Executive Director) got to say about this wild story concocted by wicked parties who just love to find fault with the Prime Minister and his madcap schemes?
We're about to witness a dazzling fireworks display!
When colleague Sri Bala shared the above photo with me on Wednesday – a light bulb immediately lit up in my head. It gave me an idea for a speech. And the speech title came just as quickly, i.e. “Size Does Matter”.
It is not what you think. The speech that I delivered at Meteor House at Open University Malaysia yesterday had the same title but it was about my fondness for plus-sized women! And I was voted Best Speaker.
This was a joint meeting between OUM Toastmasters and Friendship Toastmasters Clubs and I went as a guest of the latter. Only thirteen Toastmasters came – I suppose we can pin the blame on the ongoing Lunar New Year for the lukewarm response.


Anyway, the meeting started and finished on time. And I am awarding it a 5.5 over 10. BTW, the Vice Presidents of both OUM and Friendship each presented me with a can of Coke! They sure know how to make me happy!