Friday, November 5, 2010

In which I lash out at everything

Edit: Some pictures are lost, thanks to some reorganization on Facebook. Much of the post still makes sense, though,

Looks like I can throw my umbrella away, at least for now- there’s nothing hanging over my head at the moment, except for a faraway cloud labeled ‘Exam Results’, though I have no idea when it’s coming to town. In the meantime, I suppose I’ve earned the right to ignore it completely (as well as everything else I ought to be doing) and just relax- and what better way to begin that phase but by incinerating every single thing that’s irritated me in the last few months?

For one thing, there’s the new Budget, which everyone who doesn’t support the government is calling an ‘election budget’ due to its focus on mega-projects and such- with much attention given to the proposed 100 storey tower. Whose building site happens to be near my college. Having walked around the area quite extensively (both by design as well as accident), I really don’t know where they’re going to park the tower. It’s a nice, green, hilly area, with a few landmark buildings (an old school and Merdeka Square, neither of which I care much for, really), and the only way I see them building it is if they park it over the Square, perhaps turning it into an indoor parking lot.

Come to think of it, I wonder why they decided on 100 floors. Maybe they knew they could never top the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, and decided to throw everyone off guard by being one floor less than the Taipei 101, just so they can say to their critics, “See? We’re not competing in terms of phallic length here- we aren’t even bothered about being 2nd longest tallest”.

The predominantly male-led desire to build big things and stamp their name over it aside, the Budget also has other strange and irritating points (to complement it’s down-to-earth but still irritating points, like the increase in service tax by 1%- as if service has gotten any better), like the discounts on 300 types of goods- this taken from the Prime Minister’s speech: “apparel, handbags, shoes, shampoo, suits, children's apparel, wallets, hair colorants, golf balls, imitation jewellery, talcum powder, curtains, table cloth, blankets, bed sheets, shirts, undergarments, lingerie, nightwear, perfumes and mosquito netting”.

Um. What in blazes am I supposed to do with discounts on lingerie? I don’t intend on cross-dressing anytime soon, at least not unless you’re able to direct me to Jusenkyo, or build one- a much better option for a mega-project, if you ask me. All this is supposedly geared at molding Malaysia into a premier shopping destination. Somehow I get the feeling that the established fact that tourists still prefer to shop at Singapore and Hong Kong even though those places are still more expensive hasn’t sunk into their consciousness yet.

I’m not going to dwell for long on this one, for obvious reasons. Curse the disgusting little creatures. I don’t know where they come from- we’ve never had them before. For some reason these horrid little millipedes just enjoy crawling into my house just to keel over and die.  It can’t be due to the rainy weather alone- someone’s obviously been planting some sort of plant that’s been attracting them. Well go back where you came from, dammit.

A few weeks ago (at time of composition), UMNO made a presumably (and perhaps quite legit an assumption since nobody seems to have said anything about it in public, nor denied it- then again I haven’t really been reading the news in detail) unilateral decision in its Annual General Assembly (or some other large televised conference) to have History made into a compulsory-pass subject for the SPM examination (which is roughly equivalent to the British O-Levels).

I didn’t think too much of this (being tired and thoroughly unconcerned with everybody else but myself at the time), having slept through most of my history classes back in high school, in addition to considering the subject to be a cake-walk given its focus on the same old nationalistic propaganda with a sprinkling of superficial foreign history to divert third-class critics’ attention from the syllabus’ obvious insipidity.

I aced the subject, which is actually quite impressive given that (a) I hated the entire syllabus, it being a constant repetition over several years with bigger words; (b) the subject itself is in Malay and involves a lot of essay writing- that language being my weakest since I hardly use it; (c) my extra-curricular reading could actually have caused me to fail if I were to find a chance to slide it in; and (d) I concentrated on the section on World War II while pretty much ignoring the rest as much as possible.

Anyway, back on point: the syllabus is crap, filled with the same stuff kids learn throughout a grand total of 11 years of compulsory regimentation brainwashing schooling. Much of it focuses on how the evil white men sailed over and engaged in a system of conniving land-grabbing (which is actually half-true, to be fair) and an array of pathetic ‘freedom fighters’ who invariably ended up dead or exiled to more peaceful climates.

It’s also heavily one-sided, taking great pains to ignore everyone else’s point of view. For example, it doesn’t mention that the British actually were rather irritated at their officer’s overzealousness in acquiring real estate (they probably didn’t want the responsibility that comes with ownership). A great deal is made out of how we (they, really, since I wasn’t there) gained independence peacefully (always making it a point to mention it smugly to other former Imperial colonies), while in truth the British were all too happy to offload the place, and the fact that the idea of Empire is itself was pretty much dead (assisted suicide, really- ‘all men are free and equal’ isn’t an appropriate sermon when you’re trying to lord it over everyone else).

History itself is defined as ‘someone’s story’, if I recall correctly. Foreign history is limited to a whirlwind tour with an itinerary that looked something like this: “Mesopotamia >Sumeria >Babylon >Greece >Rome”. There’s a little tidbit on WW1, probably mentioning that it was started when Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated. Facts on WW2 are lopsided as well- they state that the Malaysian Peoples' Anti-Japanese Army was supplied and trained by the British, but fails to mention that they were actually a front for the Communist Party of Malaya, and Chin Peng, former public enemy number one, was one of their top men.

A few days ago, the Minister of Education, who also happens to be the Deputy Prime Minister (most likely chosen for being an ugly beardless walrus with zero charisma) made a statement to the press stating that ‘this is so that youth learn to appreciate history’. Quite surprisingly, he’s quite right, for once. We’re sick to death of it.

Extra reading: somewhat related.

Normally I can’t wait for classes to finish so I can go home, but there was one day where I just felt too- tired isn’t exactly the right word, but it’ll have to suffice- tired to- not to go home, but to begin on the journey home. It’s not like it’s an endless trek across an unmapped landscape. It’s no more than an eleven minute walk to the LRT station, a brief wait for the train, and (usually) 20 minutes to get to my station, and 10-15 minutes to drive home, depending on how fast I go, the only challenge being the smelly people I have to walk past on the way.

I first had a forewarning of what was to befall me, on the train. Men in red shirts gradually filled it, pouring in at every station, each one a joyous, noisy fiend. Every time the doors opened, they shouted in impatience (or perhaps to welcome their compatriots), and also shouted to… encourage the doors to close faster. To make matters worse, I happened to be wearing red as well. I found myself a seat and tried to lose myself in music, grimacing at every shout.

As the train drew close to Bukit Jalil station (where the stadiums are) they looked in one direction and started screaming euphorically… before finally realizing that the stadium was on the other side. I let them exit first, not wanting to be mixed up with the crowd. I got to my car, but it took forever to get out of the parking area, with a constant flow or Reds and Yellow-shirts (it looked like the recent conflict in Thailand, really) walking past, and idiots trying to park further ahead. Even worse, the ‘fuel low’ warning had flashed several times by then. My phone’s battery was nearly dead, and I had nothing to do but scream in frustration- a poor replacement for the usual in-car karaoke session.

How’s this for irony? The Sultan of Johor recently ‘donated’ 19 vehicles to the Royal Malaysian Police Force worth a grand total of RM5.5 million. The donation consists of ‘nine Australian made Holden Commodore cars, two Proton Perdanas and eight Harley Davidson 1700cc motorcycles’ which will be used as- drum roll please- escort vehicles. Not for criminals, but for him and his family.

So he’s donating them to himself, really- it’s more like he’s setting up a trust for himself, with the police as trustees. When you think about it, he’s really not donating anything, since none of it is his money- it’s all from taxes.
The fourth despot Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad, is a bored man. Most old folks take up some hobby after retirement, like bonsai or chess, but this guy took up provocation. He didn’t take it up, really, as he’s been doing it since before he landed the job.

Here’s his latest bombshell: that dictatorship can be better than democracy. Democracy-addicts would find this statement sacrilegious, but there is some truth in it. I’ve always believed that crazy places like Pakistan (the Bhutto’s should get the Oscar- every single prize in it) would be better off with one intelligent, forceful person pulling the strings and easing the country towards true democracy.

What everyone knows is that he was wistfully referring to himself. This isn’t Pakistan, no matter how much you wish it was. Get a bonsai already, old chap.
Then there’s the ongoing tension between China and Japan over the Senkaku islands, where a Chinese fishing ship was accused of ramming a Japanese coast guard vessel. With the recent video leak, it’s fairly safe to assume that the Japanese were telling the truth now, with China just being their regular self-righteous, irritating self.

I’m not going to bother with the politics or the history of the matter (China would claim the whole of South East Asia if they could), but some other interesting issues that have been happening on the sidelines- for one, the sudden appearance of a ‘Japanese idol group’ supporting China’s claim to the Senkaku islands. Quite surprisingly, no one in media-saturated Japan knows anything about them. Made in China, anyone? The comments (in Japanese) are hilarious:
“It looks like there are two Japans in this world”
“What’s with the straw at their feet?”
“If and idol-otaku like me doesn’t know them, I don’t think normal people would”
“What parallel world is this from?”
“The pictures look like they’re promoting a porn video”
Then again, they really might be a Japanese idol group (albeit virtually unknown). In any case, the Japanese over at 2chan seem to have discovered an easy way to win wars…
…they’ve taken the insult that the Chinese most often throw against them, ‘Riben Guizi’ (Japanese Devils) and turned it into a ‘moe’ character, Nihon no Oniko, perplexing the Chinese:
“I didn’t think it would turn out like this… I just don’t understand that country”
“Damn, just damn. Japan is a dangerous country. Perhaps we should admit our loss”
“We boo and jeer them and their response is a moe character… We’re helpless before them”
“Riben Guizi is a moe character!? What can we call them now? Japs? Creepy otaku?”
Pure genius. Now, to end on a lighter note:
I took a Blood+ character quiz, hoping to get Haji but got Saya instead. "You are a strong friend that will fight for whatever it is that will protect your friends and family. You will doubt your very existence sometimes but will always prevail though hard times."

...No comment.
And finally, I got Hermione from a Harry Potter quiz, despite gunning for Severus Snape. "You’re book smart, moral and cool under pressure. You love learning and showing others what you know. You’re way more mature than those around you, and you always seem to know what’s best."


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