Monday, May 30, 2011

We are all at the crossroad now

There are so many reasons to leave but only one to stay.  And that one reason is still strong enough (for now) to keep our hopes and vision alive.

I did believe, after March 8 of the last general election, that we were heading for better times. But of late, I am starting to be fearful of what darkness lies ahead before we could reach the light of dawn. I don't need to repeat what drives my fear here for my fellow Malaysians know what I am talking about.

What is happening to Malaysia? To us, we who know no other home than here, what will happen to us? Why do we, the ones who felt the most despair and sadness at the rot we are seeing can't seem to mount a strong enough defence against the assault that is being waged by the few?

Why can't they, the ones who have continually given their support to a once glorious coalition who brought forth our independence, see that they are now supporting the rot that has set in by remaining blind to the faults of their leaders? Why don't they ever demand better from their so-called leaders?

This is the despair I believe we all feel when we hold that proverbial towel in our hand, conflict in our heart and shouting match in our heads: Shall I throw it in? Now? Hang on a bit? Wait a while more? No, it's hopeless. But .. I can't. Not yet. Not.just.yet.

But we are all standing right in the middle of it now. I hate to have to choose to go where my mind tells me and leave my heart behind the road not taken.


At a crossroads

The Malaysian Insider
May 28, 2011 

MAY 28 — My wife and I met while we were studying overseas. After graduating, I returned to Malaysia while she completed her studies and eventually returned two years later. We started our careers and eventually got married and started our family. It never crossed our minds to settle anywhere else other than Malaysia. In university, I was active in the students’ movement and was determined that when I returned I would make a difference in my country.

That was 20 years ago.

Five years later, my brother decided to migrate. Deep inside I was angry and thought that he was foolish. He was an engineer with two degrees and an MBA, and he was seeking greener pastures? Well, he can leave… but no sir, I will stay and make this place I grew up a better place.

Another 12 years passed, and this time it was my sister’s family who was leaving. What? A family of medical professionals leaving? Even a specialist within their midst who won international awards and accolades for research papers, and they are turning their backs on us here? They earn tonnes more than me and they are worried they cannot afford their children’s education? Why don’t they stay here and together we will change the system and make this a better place? There are already so few of us left here to change the system and THEY ARE LEAVING!!?? Well they can go, but I will stay and soldier on…

Another three years passed; last week my wife downloaded an application form for migration. My hands trembled even as I held the form. Is this finally going to be the path I take? The form states that if I am over 45 I will not qualify! This is my final year!

This is my family’s last call… after this, we will not be welcomed even if we want to go. My heart sank. My wife and I had a heart-to-heart talk. We are middle-class professionals with no big businesses or wealth of any significance to be inherited by our children.

Our next generation will need a strong education foundation to start them off. They are doing well enough in school, not geniuses, but still in the best class and with good prospects for good careers if given a fair chance.
We have heard stories from friends and neighbours of children getting 9As and were asked to do geography when they wanted to be engineers. Were offered history when they wanted to do law. They had to go private. We are resigned to the fact that we will likely have to privately fund our own children’s education.

I looked at my bank account. Have I saved enough to put my children through private education? Not really… maybe partially. Will my children be able to get full A+s to get scholarships? Unlikely. Is my income low enough to be considered poor so that my children will qualify for underprivileged scholarships? I don’t think so. Is my skin “brown” enough for my children to get a “Bumi” quota? Sorry, wrong place.

Today I look into the mirror and I see grey hairs. My vision is beginning to blur. I have to change to a presbyopia specs soon. I switched on the computer and clicked on The Malaysian Insider — I see the face of Ibrahim Ali shouting. I looked out of the window, I see people queuing up in a petrol station nearby. I see Makcik Som selling nasi lemak, just as she has always done for so many years. Twenty years have passed.

I am tired. The prickly durian spirit of yesteryear has been worn down to a smooth watermelon. No longer prickly, no longer pungent. Am I giving up? No! Definitely not. But what about my children? Must they also sacrifice for my cause?

Yes, I have decided to put in my application, to give my children a fair chance. But I will stay, because I have a dream. A 20-year-old dream. I will settle my children overseas and I will return to make that difference that I dreamt of… If I don’t realise that dream at least my children won’t have to dream that same dream for their children. Ibrahim Ali may not like my children, but I do … enough to stop dreaming for a while.

Call me a traitor, pengkhianat, pendatang, pengkhayal or whatever. Maybe I don’t have enough faith in what I am doing. But I will leave for little while and I’ll be back. I am thankful that my great-grandfather came to Malaya for his children. Perhaps my generation will be the last generation here, but I will stay as long as I can.

Recently, I read an article about socialism that gave an analogy of an economics professor and his class. The class insisted that socialism worked and that no one would be too rich or too poor in such a system.

So the professor proposed that they experiment socialism in the class. All grades in their next test would be averaged so that no one would fail and no one would do extremely well.

After the next test, the entire class achieved an average of “B”. The students who studied were a little unhappy while those who did not were elated. By and large everyone accepted the situation because they passed.

As the second test approached, those who had studied previously worked a little less, while those who previously did not study did not see why they should study, afterall they still passed. So by the second test the average results was a “D”. Everyone was unhappy now.

By the third test, the average was an “F”. The scores never increased and everyone started bickering, name-calling and this resulted in animosity towards one another. Classes were disrupted and studies affected.

To their surprise, everyone failed in the next test. The professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great but when government takes the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed. Could not be any simpler than that. You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.

I believe our country is now at a crossroads. My father’s generation was at point “B” where everyone passed and managed an average score of “B” like in the professor’s class — by and large it was tolerable and everyone accepted the situation.

Today we are probably at an average score “D”. Things are not going that well and our country is not doing as well as it should. We are losing out to our neighbours. A lot of people are unhappy. People are starting to bicker. So where do we move from here? Point “F”?

I still hold on to my 20-year-old dream, so I will stay… but if I turn out to be a daydreamer then at least my children don’t have to live in their father’s daydream.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Why, indeed, Malaysia?

I read this and I couldn't have said it better myself.  Makes me sad.  Makes me realize why I have less and less to say about the pathetic situation we have all gotten ourselves into here in Malaysia: malays and non-malays alike.


Why, Malaysia?

By Lisa Ng | Loyar Burok

As we bring #WhyMalaysia week to a close, Lisa Ng writes a heartfelt customer complaint letter to our tanah tumpah darah, our beloved Bolehland, Malaysia.

My dear Malaysia, it doesn’t get more melodramatic than this, does it? “This” being about whether to stick with you till “death do us part” or to walk away, even if for a little while, especially if there is evidence of ill-treatment.

You see, for Christians, marriage is an unbreakable covenant between God and the couple. Some people would call it a “contractual promise” of sorts. Others would say that, however we term it, the general principle of faithfulness applies to Man and Motherland. The only difference is, even Christians are not so cruel that they insist we stick with our hurtful spouse (or even parent in some cases) if our wellbeing is at stake.
That is why my Conscience was clear when my family decided to depart from your bosom to—not necessarily greener—but relatively safer pastures. At least for now.

You may label me a traitor. Or you may accuse me of cowardice. Perhaps you may also venture so far as to call me an unfilial daughter. But loyalty is not a blind man. And I believe that loyalty to you isn’t meant to be at the expense of some measure of fairness owed to me and, more importantly, my dignity as a person. People may not be perfect and neither are governments. But there is a limit to what each person can tolerate. For the physically and/or mentally abused spouse, it could be the 100th punch to the face. For the oppressed Iban or Dayak, perhaps the face of a certain man they’ve seen on posters for a long time. But then, I’m no Iban or Dayak or any of the many indigenous tribes who can rightfully be called Bumiputera. I am, however, a true Malaysian. And while I am not entirely fed-up of the way you’re manipulating me, I am in need of some perspective.

I was born here. In Taman Cheras, Wilayah Persekutuan, to be precise. I have a valid birth cert, MyKad, Malaysian passport and even if my Bahasa Malaysia is rusty, I was brought up learning and speaking the language and when I meet a Malay, I salam them. I love your nasi lemak, roti canai, durian, cendol, satay and sayur lodeh. I am also a Malaysian because I’ve rolled with the NEP ever since I was old enough to understand its impact on me and not held any grudge against you or my Malay friends. I know how the political parties in Malaysia were formed because I rote learnt it in high school. Outside the Dewan of my school, I memorised the names of Sultans from the time of Parameswara, through the reins of the Mahmud and Iskandar Shahs, to the era of Disco, all the while sucking on those umbrella-shaped kacang merah ice creams sold unhygienically by the roadside.

During those formative years, there was already a lot of talk about different races in school having different passing marks for their SPM exams. The news was that Kelantan and Terengganu students could pass their Advanced Maths with 30% while the mark to meet for the “others” was 40%. I remember being bothered by this rumour but I don’t recall breaking up friendships with my Malay friends over this.

When I studied in Australia, my lecturers thought I was Malay because my skin is quite tanned and I don’t look typically Chinese. The only reason why I clarified that I was Malaysian Chinese was because it helped me explain the multicultural aspect of Malaysia (and prevent them from asking why I have special concessions on homes whereas my fellow Malaysians don’t). I pay taxes to you. I eat the vegetables your farmers plant. I am comfortable excusing myself when my Malay friends are fasting and I know the difference between Ponggal and Thaipusam.

I’ve even learnt a little bit of Jawi, for goodness sake.

So why do I have to prove to you that I am Malaysian, the way I just did? Because as time goes by, it seems that non-Malays need to, more and more, defend their citizenship to you. You, who BORE us. Citizenship is NOT a favour. Your granting me a Malaysian birth certificate and MyKad may require that I abide by the Federal Constitution and the laws of this country; it’s something I believe in and do. But it does not come with a gag that I have to put on robotically when your policies affect me negatively. After all, your “managers” are working for my vote. And if they’re working for my vote, then they are essentially in the service industry—and I’m not only a daughter of your soil but also your client.

So as the saying goes, this client is NOT happy with the current service. I have honoured our contract. You have not. Instead, you have tried to hoodwink me into settling for less benefits with the promise of living a quality life in peace and harmony. But as it stands, you’re not only NOT delivering on quality life; even the peace and harmony aspects are left fraying on the side.

My ringgit is beginning to take the shape of a pisang rastali. My grocery bill looks like I shopped for Louis Vuitton vegetables and Prada pork.

Meanwhile, my mother had her handbag snatched three times in broad daylight in a span of eight months. And you conteng on my Bible while allowing a self-professed scholar to irresponsibly bullhorn his total ignorance of my religion to a wide audience, by associating Santa Claus with it.

In reality, clients get to complain. Then what ensues is a review of the business contract. Here, my vote has a tendency to get rigged. And if I try to protest, I’ll probably be arrested. If I ask why I am being arrested, you’ll probably tell me I have no permit. If I ask for a permit, you’ll likely say I can’t have one because protests are wrong. Meanwhile, as we speak, a large crowd of Malaysians will be dragging a headless cow in protest against an Indian temple being built in their vicinity.


Does it make me less Malaysian to want more respect? More fairness? More security? Or maybe just the opportunity to live comfortably without needing to convert to Islam? Has it occurred to you that “more”, of late, simply means returning a little closer to “equality”?

Does it make me less Malaysian that I’ve chosen to continue building my life in a different country? I don’t think so. We settle wherever we feel gives us the most value for money; nostalgia and sentiments alone are not enough if one has family. This may sound a little too businesslike, but you know, even businesspeople return home once their work is done.

I will always be a Malaysian. Even if I lose all my rights overnight. You can take away my identity cards too but I will still remain nothing but a Malaysian, because identity lives in the Consciousness of our being. It cannot be taken away once it is encrypted into one’s self-awareness.

I did not want to say Goodbye to you, Malaysia. I still don’t. The day we left in the taxi was an emotional one. Because I didn’t just leave behind corruption, crime and crooked policies. I left behind 37 years of friendship, late nights at the office to support the economy, pot-holes and school songs. I left behind countless national day parades, open houses, pasar malams, mamak stalls and yau char kwei dipped in kopi-o. And yes, I left behind all my hopes and dreams for my child to experience all these things. And more.

However, staying on would be akin to accepting that all is fine and nothing needs to change. Or standing up to challenge all that is wrong. Either situation means death to me. Death to the conscience in the first scenario, and death of freedom in the second. And neither is a position I want to take because, above all things, above being Malaysian or Chinese, I am a mother first. And mothers are supposed to put their families before everything else.

Lisa Ng is a human being. She used to be a copywriter in the advertising industry. But now she just writes. For whatever helps us regain the lost art of “giving a toss” towards things that matter to the human race.


See also:



Sunday, February 27, 2011

Of Faith: Now I have it, Now I don't

Faith is a strange thing.

For me, I struggle with the meaning of faith in every aspect of my life.

Friday, February 25, 2011

When change is trust upon you

There is really no going back once the wheels are set in motion.

Reading Marina's latest blogpost "for those who still think an 'islamic state' is the way to go" this morning brings home the reality of how change is always a constant in life. And that some changes will hurl us into the unknown, bringing forth a full range of emotions in trying to deal with and survive the change intact (plus a fervent hope that we will come out much better for it).

Events and turmoils happening half way across the world from us are being brought so close to home in real time via the internet.  We watch and get sucked in by the raw emotions screaming out at us from our computer screens.  Whether it's Egypt, Libya, Bangkok or Christchurch in New Zealand, it doesn't really matter.  We talk about them, debate and argue and even entertain thoughts of something similar happening here .. how would we deal with it if it did? And right in the midst of so much changes on the ground, there are still some people who, laughably, insist that things should remain the same, that this is not the time to "experiment" with change.

Well, I'm stumped by such suicidal mindset.

Personally, I have gone through a major change in my life last year. For a while, I resisted, dithered back and forth, trying to rationalize and come up with a myriad of excuses to drown out the fear and uncertainty that came with the change.  Yes, it was a feeble attempt because in truth, I fell flat on my face.  All it gave me was a crazy roller coaster ride through a range of emotions I didn't know I was capable of.  All of which is for naught, really.  Because I came back to square one.  Fact is, there is no turning back for me once I commit myself.

We are all creatures of habit.  But then again, what is this life if we don't appreciate the blessings that come our way, some more obvious while others may be in disguise.

So I asked myself, why not slow down for a moment and listen, take heed, for a change? Or would I rather lament missed opportunities when all is said and done?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Poem: The Guest House


This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

- Mowlana Jalaluddin Rumi (1207-1273)


Poem: The Wild Geese


You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
over and over announcing your place
In the family of things.

- Mary Oliver 


Friday, December 10, 2010

Are they listening?

Much has been written, a lot has been said.

And yet, it seems like no one's paying attention.  We'll see if they end up feeling sorry for themselves after the next GE. 



Americk Sidhu

I have refrained from saying anything for some time now in the hope that matters would resolve themselves sooner rather than later. But this has not happened and I cannot see anything being done in the near future to rectify the situation. So consider this to be a much-needed prompt to PKR in particular and PR in general.

Please remember your successes in March 2008 were precipitated by the support of 50% of the voting population in this country who invested their future in you based on your promises of a better tomorrow for them and their children and their children’s children.

Much work had to be done prior to the last GE to ensure you had a good opportunity of changing things for the better. Many people sacrificed much to ensure you had a fighting chance and with these sacrifices we gave you the mandate to begin the transformation of this nation.

This is not something you should take lightly. It is a once in a lifetime deal not only for yourselves but for the entire diaspora of Malaysian citizenry, a great many of whom have placed a tremendous amount  of trust in you to steer the Malaysian ship in the right direction and to rid the country of the cancerous malfeasance which  has become endemic within the governing regime.

We want a brighter future and that is why we are all relying on you. That is why we supported your struggle and that is why we placed our trust in you. Do not let us down. You owe it to us to do the right thing and to do it now. We cannot afford to wait any longer to see how things develop (or be swept under the carpet in the hope they would be forgotten). That’s not how things are supposed to work in the new Malaysia we are trying to kick start. Reaction to a problem has to be immediate and decisive.
I have often enquired into the reason why Pakatan Rakyat had yet to form a Shadow Cabinet. I consider this fundamental and imperative in any opposition coalition worth its salt. It should have been set up from day one.

We should have had a shadow Foreign Minister, a shadow Finance Minister, Defence Minister, etc., to monitor current government policy and to comment when necessary. We could have shown our political maturity by supporting good policy and hitting back at what we considered to be bad policy, but with our well thought out counter proposals.

Being in the opposition does not mean we have to incessantly hammer the government just to make life difficult for them. This is not a pub brawl. We should be able to use our heads a little and display some political sophistication in commenting intelligently on current government policy whether for or against it.
But we are unable to even begin doing this without a platform upon which we can work.

At present what seems to happen is a mass slinging match every time some Government Minister makes a proposal, the purpose of which is to try and gain political mileage without any proper analysis of the merits of that proposal in a mature and appropriate way. Instead, all we get is a rabblerousing crowd of noisy Parliamentarians who are rewarded for their efforts by being ejected from the House not so infrequently. Admittedly there are times when this has been necessary and I concede that point.

When I questioned the lack of a Shadow Cabinet, this is the response I received:

“Well you know lah…it’s not like in Australia where there is funding for all this shadow stuff….here we have to do it all on our own. And besides, how do you expect us to set up a Shadow Cabinet….who will we place in it? If we place one fella, someone else will make noise and there will be internal fights between the parties and all that. So better we just leave it and sort it out once we get into government”.

My answer to this is very simple. How much does it cost to have a shadow Minister? All he has to do is monitor what is being planned on the other side of the fence and make a stand. If there is no funding just make the best of the situation. It is better than doing nothing at all.

Secondly, if you are unable to reach a consensus as to who is supposed to be a Minister in waiting when you are not yet in government, how on earth do you think this will get any easier once you are?

You have to prove to the people that you really are a “Government in Waiting” and that you will be able to hit the ground running once you take over. This is serious stuff and we need to know you are serious about this whole thing.

Which brings me to the recent PKR party elections?

Evidence has been presented that the polls were rigged. I am still waiting for an explanation from somewhere within the hierarchy. None has been forthcoming. If there was no rigging please come out and say so in no uncertain terms. Keeping quiet and hoping the issue will go away on its own is Barisan Nasional behavior. They have the monopoly on sweeping things under the carpet. This is NOT what the opposition is supposed to be about. Remember this transparency thing being bandied about?

Well the situation appears to be a little opaque at the moment. I for one would like to know whether the voting process was really democratic or was engineered to suit the wishes of those in power. I don’t know the answer. I have heard the accusations but I have not heard the rebuttal. What am I supposed to think?

And because of all this, both PKR and PR have lost one of their most loyal sons upon whom much hope had been placed. There was really no reason for this to have happened. Instead, sour grapes and Trojan horses have permeated the battlefield. This, however, is a battle which never should have begun in the first place if things had been done properly. It is a battle no one will win. What a waste. It is not a question of being a sore loser because Zaid wasn’t losing. From my reading of the situation, he was totally unimpressed with the way things were being done, which ran contrary to the basic principles of fair play; a supposed cornerstone of all that you stood for. Can you blame him? It boils down to a question of principles. Nevertheless I live in hope that bridges may be mended.

Accepting criticism is part and parcel of politics. Accept it, take it on board, digest it, assimilate it and then act on it in an appropriate manner. Logical and pragmatic thought processes are imperative if you want to out manoeuver the enemy. Strategic planning is absolutely essential and this can only be achieved if it is devoid of emotion, chicanery and unnecessary rhetorical posturing.

Just remember you have all been elected to do one job and one job only. That is to wrest power from the government and to ensure that you run this country as promised. This is what we have entrusted you with. It is a formidable undertaking but certainly achievable with the right frame of mind and proper policies put into place.

Which brings me to the “Peoples’ Declaration” (see link below) painstakingly prepared a number of years ago by some very eminent personalities which I thought had been the blueprint for the entire opposition structure. Why are we not constantly referred to this very important document to remind us where we are heading and why we are heading there? Why has this document never been ratified by the opposition coalition?

Please read its contents. You will understand why it is so important. It is basically the constitution upon which the entire opposition philosophy is supposed to be based and we don’t ever hear of it. This I find very strange indeed. Shouldn’t it be the blueprint for all opposition policy?

So let’s get our act together. There is no time to waste. I know deep down inside you are good people but you have to manifest this constantly in a format easily understandable by the masses. Consistently sound and basic ideals have to be portrayed in a fashion that leaves no doubt in the minds of the populace that what you preach is what you practice.

Please take all of this on board in the spirit in which it is written. Accept the criticism for the purpose it is intended and that is to ensure the right path is adhered to and that the aims and aspirations of all those who support you are maintained and perpetuated for the common purpose of creating a much better Malaysia.

We deserve this so don’t let us down.

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Monday, December 06, 2010

What is it that you were given?

What is it that you were given?
I mean from the loss,
After, what was taken.
That very thing you could never live without.
The person or place,
the secret, or circumstance -
now that it is gone,
or has been found out,
and you can no longer call it foundation,
what is it that you were given?

You know and I know, this:
there is a hollowing out.

Something comes and opens you up
and from that moment on
you are no longer immune to this world.

You wake, you wander,
every familiar, now a foreign.
You walk as through water
until you make it back to your bed
and finally, even there -
your sheets, your own pillow's scent different,
as if daily someone repaints your room, displaces something,
disturbs a cherished memento.

You see,
sometimes we are emptied.
We are emptied because
Life wants us to know
so much more Light.

- Em Claire, 2006


Sunday, October 17, 2010

A great disservice!

What a great disservice to our school children who have been made guinea pigs by the flip-flopping Education Ministry under the Barisan Nasional government!

KUALA LUMPUR: All Year One pupils in national schools next year will be studying Science and Mathematics in Bahasa Malaysia
They will not be given a choice to answer in English for school tests and public examinations as they progress through the years. Their textbooks would also be in Bahasa Malaysia, said Education director-general Tan Sri Alimuddin Mohd Dom
.. As for secondary schools, textbooks in Bahasa Malaysia will be supplied to Form One and Form Four students beginning 2012.

Read more: Bilingual option for students and teachers
There have been many calls to the Education Ministry to be fair to all those children made to study mathematics and science in English from Year One to Year Six.  These kids should be allowed to continue doing so right up until they finished their secondary school level, until the STPM examinations if they so wish.

And for reasons which smacks of political expediency, our Education Minister chose to go ahead and reverse the PPSMI without giving the parents and kids any choice.

My son, who will be in Year 6 in 2011 is caught in this net of deceit by our government.  He will have completed six years of studying mathematics and science in English before he moves on to Form 1 in 2012.  Where is the logic for him to relearn the terms in Bahasa Malaysia for the following 5 years only to start all over again in English at tertiary level?

As a parent, I am more than annoyed at what's happening. 
Looking at what's been announced, it's no longer a knee jerk reaction to look at other options like private education.  I have a full year to digest the implication of what the ministry has done. 


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Poem: The Serenity Prayer

The Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;  
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;  
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;  
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next. 

Reinhold Niebuhr


Monday, September 20, 2010

A Yen for Publicity

Madame Yen Yen in her finest moment of glory at the World Expo 2010, Shanghai, China.


Saturday, September 04, 2010

Poem: Answered Prayer


I asked God for strength,
that I might achieve;
I was made weak, that I might learn to obey.
I asked for health,
that I might do greater things;
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.
I asked for riches, that I might be happy;
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men;
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life;
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.
I received nothing that I asked for -
but all that I had hoped for;
almost despite myself,
my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am, among all men,
most richly blessed.

- Unknown Confederate Soldier


Friday, August 27, 2010

Poem: The Road Not Taken

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

- Robert Frost


Thursday, August 26, 2010

An autumn exposition in Shanghai

I'm looking forward to my upcoming trip to Shanghai in September, primarily for the opportunity to visit the World Expo 2010 which will end on 31 October 2010.

The theme for this Expo is "Better City, Better Life" and it makes me wonder, amidst the brouhaha over what Malaysia eventually offered to the world, did Madame Yen Yen missed something crucial in the brief for the theme?

The theme for this section of Shanghai Expo is to dicuss how to build a better city for mankind, which represents the wish of the whole world for better standards of living in future urban environments. There is a deep concern for the improvement of urban environments lying behind this theme. The number of city inhabitants has risen constantly since 1800, and by 2010, as estimated by the United Nations, urban dwellers will account for 55% of the world population. The pursuit of better living environments has accompanied the history of urban development. Shanghai World Expo, through its many sub-themes, depicts a vision of future urban life.

Our Malaysian Pavilion, instead of evoking feelings of pride has dismally became the butt of jokes and indignant anger. Just visit here to get a sense of how some people feel about it:-

I got really angry when i see the malaysian pavillion at the word expo!!! BENCI!! can someone sue this people yg design benda bodoh tu??!!!! We can design better la kan!!! BODO!

Strong words indeed, but real funny when you read the accompanying write-up in that blog posting. You can also check out what Teresa Kok, the Sassy MP has to say about it here.

So I'm itching to see how my government managed to spend RM35million on a structure which has drawn more bile than honey from the taxpayers, not least the fact that they spectacularly "terkeluar tajuk" from the main theme. 

That aside, the weather should be nice and cool hovering around 23 degC by the time I'm there. One thing I particularly like about Shanghai is its interesting mix of buildings and structures of various architectural styles, a rich study of contrasting Eastern and Western influences, old and new. 

The Bund, located by the bank of the Huangpu River, contains a rich collection of early 20th century architecture, ranging in style from neoclassical HSBC Building to the art deco Sassoon House. A number of areas in the former foreign concessions are also well preserved, most notably the French Concession. Shanghai has one of the worlds largest number of Art Deco buildings as a result of the construction boom during the 1920s and 30s. One of the most famous architects working in Shanghai was László Hudec, a Hungarian architect who lived in the city between 1918-1947. Some of his most notable Art Deco buildings include the Park Hotel and the Grand Theater. Other prominent architects who contributed to the Art Deco style are Parker & Palmer who designed the Peace Hotel, Metropole Hotel and the Broadway Mansions, and Austrian architect GH Gonda who designed the Capital Theatre.
Despite rampant redevelopment, the old city still retains some buildings of a traditional style, such as the Yuyuan Garden, an elaborate traditional garden in the Jiangnan style.

The lights of the Bund and Puxi skyscrapers at night.
In recent years, a large number of architecturally distinctive, even eccentric, skyscrapers have sprung up throughout Shanghai. Notable examples of contemporary architecture include the Shanghai Museum, Shanghai Grand Theatre in the People's Square precinct and Shanghai Oriental Arts Center.

Shanghai is always a delightful place to visit. I've been there twice before, both during the cold winter season so this time around, I'm going to experience the city as summer ends and autumn creeps in. It's also a good opportunity for me to eat heartily this time around since I've lost some weight recently.  That thought alone is enough to make me smile.

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Poem: Leisure

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

By William. Henry Davies

(Wm. Henry Davies (1871-1940) is to be considered as the poet of the tramps. Born at Newport, Wales in the UK, Davies came to America from Great Britain and lived the life of a vagabond. One day, as the result of jumping a train, he lost one of legs. Davies returned to England where he continued to live the life of a tramp and a pedlar. He wrote poetry (presumably he did right along) and, eventually, he determined to print his own book and did so with the little money he earned panhandling. A copy of this first work, A Soul's Destroyer, came into the hands of George Bernard Shaw; which, in turn, led to the popularization of the poet.


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