Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Rogue State

I missed the speech in September but anyway, I finally heard the “On Power and Ideology” address by famed scholar Noam Chomsky (left) – known for both his groundbreaking contributions to linguistics and his penetrating critiques of political systems – which he delivered at The New School in New York before a sold-out audience of nearly 1,000 people on September 19, 2015.

The part of the speech that caught my attention was when he explained his belief why the US of A poses the greatest threat to world peace!

"[The United States] is a rogue state, indifferent to international law and conventions, entitled to resort to violence at will. … Take, for example, the Clinton Doctrine – namely, the United States is free to resort to unilateral use of military power, even for such purposes as to ensure uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies and strategic resources – let alone security or alleged humanitarian concerns. And adherence to this doctrine is very well confirmed and practiced, as need hardly be discussed among people willing to look at the facts of current history."

I agree with Chomsky! It is the Americans who first sowed the seeds of destabilization in territories where its interests, real or imagined, needed defending.

And its interventions, whether directly or indirectly, cause wars that never seem to end, resulting in unimaginable human suffering that sires terrorists and refugees. Just look at today’s war zones: Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq and Syria and you will know what I mean.

On July 20, 2014, I blogged that a stretch of Sabah’s east coast encompassing an area of some 121,270 square miles was put under dusk-to-dawn curfew. And since then, it has been renewed thirty-three times.

Sabah Police Commissioner Jalaluddin Abdul Rahman said on Tuesday that the sea curfew is an important measure in ensuring security in ESSZone (Eastern Sabah Security Zone). He openly admitted that if lifting the curfew was ever contemplated, this may result in more kidnappings! This is an admission of incompetency. He is saying that even with the curfew, do not expect zero kidnappings.

I said then that ESSCOM had failed. I see no reason to change my mind. As long as we have to have curfews, peace and stability on Sabah’s coast remain elusive.

Today is the three hundred and sixty-fifth day of the year. And here is my report card pertaining to my Toastmastering for 2015:

Definitely, a productive year!

And in terms of assignment speeches I had made, the total was 115, comprising 101 CC speeches and 14 Advanced speeches.

This is record-breaking and I can attribute it to dedication, passion and a touch of madness.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Whipping for Gig Organizers

Image: @Enrique Iglesias on Instagram
Sri Lanka's president Maithripala Sirisena was reported to be convulsing with anger when he learned about the frenetic frenzy that was whipped up during an Enrique Iglesias concert in Colombo on December 20, 2015. It was part of the Latin singer's ‘Sex and Love’ world tour.
It is said that female fans became so excited that they felt compelled to remove their bras and panties and even started throwing them at 40-year old Iglesias, besides running to the stage to hug and kiss him.  

Sirisena described their actions as the "most uncivilized behavior that goes against our culture" but then  he turned his attention to the gig organizers and said they should be "whipped with toxic stingray tails", referring to a medieval method of punishment used on hardened criminals.
[Note: In conservative Sri Lankan society, public displays of affection, even among married couples, are frowned upon. Police are known to have arrested courting couples for kissing in public parks or seafront promenades].
My mind turned to Toastmasters. I reckon it is because my mind is Toastmasters-wired. And I recollected that some Toastmasters too had gone overboard. 

At Division J’s Humorous Speech contest on November 08, 2015, one female contestant fished out an underwear and a male contestant flaunted a bra. Another contestant made full-mouthed farting sounds. Their acts were unquestionably in poor taste.
It is sad that these Toastmasters didn’t trust themselves enough; that they didn’t want to rely on language to impress and entertain; that they must hide behind crass comedy and called it ‘humorous speech’.
It is important to know that we are Toastmasters, not stand-up comedians. 

Maybe, I am old school but if we cannot express our thoughts, articulate our ideas, verbalize our feelings and then put everything into words – then I don’t believe we should call ourselves Toastmasters.   
This photo shows only one box full of trophies I had won over the years. They are all from Toastmasters contests, whether Humorous Speech, Speech Evaluation, Table Topics and International Speech – at Club, Area and/or Division levels and I am getting rid of them.
I call it my ritual of cleaning out letdowns and grief and for the small achievements. But yet, it fills me with a measure of sadness because it is like I am throwing away a part of myself.
And then I sobered up. I had recalled what Haruki Murakami (“Kafka on the Shore”) had said: Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart.”

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Crossed About Crosses

Photo of houses in Langkawi with air wells resembling crosses in the Pejuang Agama Bangsa Negara Facebook page on December 23, 2015. Pix courtesy of Facebook
Roof-tops at a housing development in Langkawi, Kedah had prompted a few complaints. And one photograph showing an aerial view of them had gone viral on social media
Actually, the juxtaposition of air wells and fire break walls had inadvertently combined to resemble crosses on the said roof-tops – if they are viewed from a certain angle – and this apparently caused some distress among some eagle-eyed Malay-Muslims.
On Saturday, Kedah state executive councilor in charge of housing Tajul Urus Mat Zain ordered the housing developer to repaint the fire break walls to match the color of the roof tiles.
A day later, Segambut MP Lim Lip Eng questioned whether the cross-shaped Kuala Lumpur International Airport must also be torn down.
The cross-shaped structure of Kuala Lumpur International Airport is pictured in the KLIA Aeropolis master plan. Jannisri/wiki pic
If insecure Malay-Muslims are so hung-up about “crosses”, then maybe they should: Ban Chevrolet cars because they sport ‘T’ badges. Redesign 4-way intersections. Substitute the ‘addition’ sign. Replace the alphabet ‘t’.
And whilst they are at it, please outlaw English words that carry the word “cross” – e.g. cross country, crisscross, crossbow, crosswords, motocross, crossbreed, crossway, crossover, crosshairs, crossbeam, crossbuck, and crosswind. And that is only a small sample.
I don’t believe I am exaggerating when I say that extreme paranoia has taken root in the country.

JAKIM (Islamic Development Department of Malaysia) – with a nearly RM1 billion budget; to be precise, their allocation this year is RM819,074,900 – must be vigilant and start serious work to weed out the Christian symbol and/or the c-word (in case you are still missing the point – ‘c’ is for ’cross’) because it can endanger the fragile faith of some Malay-Muslims.
In Malaysia, endless possibilities!
This is very true:

Monday, December 28, 2015

A Galactic Performance in Just 12 Days

Disney said Sunday that ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ breached the $1 billion mark around the world faster than any other film in history.
The sci-fi adventure movie reached the milestone 12 days after its global release. That is one day earlier than the previous record holder, Universal's "Jurassic World," which was released June 12, 2015.
Wow! Despite my little misgivings about the movie – if you have not read my own review, kindly check it out at this link
Having said that, the blockbuster movie has won massive accolades with fans and critics. It holds a 94% score (as of December 27, 2015) on review site and has even garnered some Oscar buzz.
You would have met BB-8, the Astromech droid from the movie. Ever wondered how it came about?
Here’s one theory:
Celtic maintained pole position in the Scottish Premiership table with a fiercely contested 2-2 draw against Heart of Midlothian Football Club.
The Scottish champs led twice through Nir Bitton (42) and Tom Rogic (70) but those goals were not enough to quell Hearts. Sam Nicholson equalized in the forty-fifth minute and then Osman Sow did the same in the ninetieth minute.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Great Abdul Hadi Awang-Najib Razak Romance

PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang was kind enough to serve us with a joke on Christmas Day. He had boasted he is advising the government. He even insisted it is not to grab power solely for the 'throne', the seats and the positions, but to become the country’s savior.
PAS are already seeing deep fissures which divide the Islamist party, formed in the course of ideological conflicts that saw a faction broke away to form Amanah. If what he said is true, then one can expect another revolt within the party’s ranks. 
I didn’t know Hadi is a joker – he wanting to save the country! Of course, I am not disagreeing with him – it is true, the country does need saving. But from the likes of Najib Razak and company!
Hadi and Najib are engaged in a strange courtship ritual and it has been going on for some time now. Hadi had taken the bold step of wooing the Najib government last month amid lame attempts by the other opposition parties to overthrow the Prime Minister by voting down the Budget 2016 in the Dewan Rakyat.
Najib was moved by Hadi’s love declaration and he responded by proposing that UMNO work with PAS to build a "perfect Malaysia", in line with Islamic ideals, during his party's annual general assembly this month.
And on December 17, 2015, Hadi and Najib met face-to-face. At a regional conference for the Al-Azhar University alumni in Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysia Chronicle, December 26, 2015
The love-struck pair was seen together in matching pink Baju Melayu. To borrow DH Lawrence’s words, “they stood together in a false intimacy, a nervous contact”. And then they knew they needed each other. They wanted to be together. Their eyes said it all. 
I am happy if the romance happens. They deserve one another; they really do. 
EPL leaders Leicester City saw their nine-match unbeaten run end when Liverpool substitute Christian Benteke’s right footed shot to the bottom right corner of the net in the sixty-second minute earned his team a 1-0 victory.
It is obvious our strikers don’t know what their jobs are! Liverpool peppered the Foxes' goalmouth with 25 attempts – twelve were off target and the remaining could only yield one goal.
The 4-day undertaking to peruse and scrutinize DMK1023 exam scripts is laborious and grueling.
Sure, I know it is a lecturer's job. But the pain of marking is like slow death gripping my tortured mind. Like blood, sweat and tears forsaking my spent body.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Jediism Influences Malay-Muslims

One Malaysian newspaper article headlined the mania that is enveloping the country as "Gila Star Wars” (“Star Wars craze” in English).
Ustaz Rohidzir Rais couldn’t stomach it anymore and so he took to Facebook to rant against Star Wars and warn his fellow Malay-Muslims of the growing influence of “Jediism” in the country.
The Islamic preacher had written last Sunday: “In the West, there is a new religion called Jediism which makes this film the basis of their ‘faith’. Do you not realize this? Do you still want to defend your ‘faith’?”
[In a separate post a day earlier, the Al-Azhar University graduate had mocked the creator-director of the Star Wars franchise, George Lucas, as a prophet who was proselytizing the “Jedi religion” worldwide with his “magical saber”. He wrote: “With the chaos in the battlefield and false fights in the imaginary world, we forget the real battle are against Muslims across the world”].
And he concluded by claiming that Malaysia’s Gen-Y have become “lost” in the “3S”, which he said stood for “screen, sports and sex”. If you believe him, then these Malaysians are “sesat” (“going astray” in English). If they are to return to the way of godliness and righteousness, is he suggesting that they give up on movies, physical activities and lovemaking? Surely, that is asking a lot!
I hadn’t realize there are so many wet blankets in the country. And it makes me realize also that just because you attend university does not make you any smarter. I think university education is over-rated.  

Today, I cleared more exam scripts but there’s still a big pile to grade. I am exhausted, weary and worn out.
And I bet my students are enjoying their semester break. Sigh!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Don't Lose Faith in Humanity Just Yet

There is growing religious intolerance across the world and it is swiftly spreading everywhere. Therefore, this television commercial sets out to deliver a simple and timely reminder – that we are all one people: 
Commissioned by India’s Tata Sky, the ad sees three classical Muslim Sufi musicians recreating popular Christmas carols such as “Silent Night”, “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, and “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” on instruments like the oud, mandolin, sarangi and rubaab.
Ending with the message “Don’t lose faith in humanity just yet”, this video has got us right in the feels. On that note, have a Merry Christmas, folks!

Not everybody is feeling merry though! I am still grading exam scripts and I am drowning under a tsunami of answer booklets. If I am looking for just one reason to leave academia, this is it!


Star Wars Makes Biggest Global Debut Ever

In spite of what I wrote about Star Wars: The Force Awakens – you may read it at this link – the movie has already made its biggest global debut ever.

And the Disney blockbuster is on pace to be the highest-grossing film of all time globally. Bigger than Jurassic World, bigger than Avatar!  

As at Wednesday, the seventh film in the space opera saga has collected global box office receipts totaling $765.9 million worldwide.

This has emboldened film analysts to project it may be the first $3 billion movie ever! Wow!
[Note: Disney spent $4.05 billion in 2012 to acquire LucasFilm, the creator of the “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” franchises].
Anyway, for those who can’t get enough of Star Wars, check out the video that is Star Wars-themed:
The German supermarket chain, Kaufland, released a charming Christmas commercial about a young Star Wars fan who finds true love when a new girl moves in next door. The young man works up the courage to dress as a Stormtrooper and then take a love letter to the girl's home. She returns the favor by getting into costume as Princess Leia, with her dog as Chewbacca, and dropping a gift off at the boy’s house.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas 2015

Merry Christmas everybody! May you embrace the message of hope, love, and peace on Earth. And may all of these holiday blessings be yours to keep.
A short Christmas film that tells us to “make time for what you love”:

Lily & the Snowman features Genesis’ “Follow You Follow Me” performed by Canadian singer Adaline.
I was at First Avenue in Bandar Utama, PJ – Level 1 of KPMG Tower to be exact – to deliver my thirty-first Ice Breaker at the CIMA Toastmasters Club meeting on Wednesday. My speech title was “A Roach’s Adventures”.

Love Not Hate

Something to ponder about since in Malaysia, today is Prophet Muhammad's Birthday and tomorrow is Christmas. Let's just learn to give love and share the love we have.
Kim Kardashian's bottom and boobies are now available online. And at least 250 other Kim-related emoji and stickers are also available for messaging apps.
Sadly, humanity has reached a new and desperate low.
On Tuesday evening, I was at the BAC PJ campus in Jalan Utara, Petaling Jaya to present my tenth speech from the Competent Communication manual my thirtieth round titled “Dream Stealer”. A good speech although on a couple of occasions, I had allowed frivolity to creep in. I must learn to stay focused.
Still I was voted Best Assignment Speaker.