Saturday, March 28, 2015

Crawling In My Skin

I used to work with a guy who would proudly and repeatedly tell me he didn't have a Facebook account, like it is some kind of a badge of honour. He also boasted about not knowing what hashtags did and was adamant on not figuring it out because he didn't care about Twitter either, or any other social networks for that matter. "I am old school," he exclaimed.

It was a personal choice, and I completely respected it because I couldn't care less. But after a while he started to annoy me with his constant harping on how people need to mind their virtual footsteps more, how social media is the bane of our generation, and of course, on how perfectly happy and well-adjusted he is as a person since he doesn't have "The Facebook", because he didn't need to worry about his online trails.

I would be lying if I said I didn't freak out a little when Google started doing targeted ads on me based on my search history but on a couple of occasions it actually turned out to be really helpful. My current favourite pair of shoes have travelled with me all the way from South America to Japan, and they are not showing any signs of slowing down. Google was the one who suggested them to me, and I am eternally thankful. 

"But they're siphoning crucial info about you! You should be concerned!"

Well unless you're a troglodyte who lives on shrubs and cave moss, I'm pretty sure you have at least an e-mail address, a telephone number and a bank account (if you don't own any of these you most likely are not that important to spy on anyway). Those contain  enough details about you and no matter how strict they claim their Data Protection policy to be, data theft will always be a risk for you regardless of how much you restrict your online presence. So I say be it. I use Facebook for fun and I don't take social media seriously, so the "crucial" pieces of information I keep on there are ones I am comfortable being leaked. Besides, people who brag about not using Facebook still use Google or other search engines. Your search history is a far better way to spy on you, don't you think? So why the hate on social media when the interwebs itself is peppered with your inane searches of the best latex fetish smut videos or articles on why you're seeing signs of male pattern baldness eventhough you're only 27. Why do you judge Facebook users when your search engine knows every bit about you, you balding perv?

All I am saying is we live in the age where humans are products. We are no longer mere consumers, we are goods. Every one of us, and there is nothing much we can do about it unless we all grow the same pair of humongous steel balls as Edward Snowden's. 

So either you pull a Kate & Leopold and move back to the 16th century, or you can deal with this and stop being so Linkin Park paranoid because that is so 2001.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Victim Complex

I started this post by writing the title first. I'd never done that before. Usually I'd just let my writing roam around and go any which way it desired, and at the very end I'd swoop in, identify the core issue in my incoherent train of thoughts, and come up with a more or less appropriate title.

But not this time around. I thought I wanted to write about something super serious and that I needed to follow through and not get derailed off topic.

So what about The Victim Complex? As much as I love Wikipedia for a straight-forward, (mostly) unbiased overview of a topic, for this particular issue I very much prefer the Encyclopedia Dramatica's definition of The Victim Complex, and I quote:
The possessor of a victim complex needs some outside authority to blame for their own failures. They can never compensate for their personal challenges in order to do the basic competition necessary to be even minimally successful at life. Those with the most institutional of complexes have created not only an outside persecutor but feel an innate and deep endowment for entitlement, even privilege.
A bit of backstory for context:

I was out with a couple of friends at a new hotspot in town, when suddenly a decent looking young lady with a body sculpted by the Gods walked past us before cozying up to a heavyset, middle-aged Chinese guy at the next table. I jokingly quipped, "That dude must be loaded." Small chuckles were heard, and a friend decided that it was the perfect backdrop for a segue into his dramatic recounting of Bustamam's Woes : How The Whole Universe Is Conspiring To Pulverise The Malays. It's a tale of how the Malays are bullied and humiliated to the point where they become mere shells of their previous selves, all because of the money-hungry villains that are the Chinese. And the Jews. But mostly the Chinese.

Wait how the hell did he manage to segue into that story, you might ask.

Don't you see? We were talking, no, speculating about the wealth of a certain Chinese dude next to us. Whenever the word Chinese and money are said in the same sentence, it is almost illegal not to finish that sentence with "...and the Malays are being oppressed by these greedy Ah Bengs." In fact, the mere mention of the word Cina could spark a lengthy debate on how the Malays should stand up for themselves and give these slanty eyed people a good kick in the ass.

I hate it. I hate it every time someone brings up the issue of the Malay privilege. I hate the word supremacy. I hate the word oppression. I hate the word greedy. I hate the phrase "protecting the Malays". I hate the idea of my perfectly able-bodied and able-minded people needing special attention from the government. I hate the bigoted remarks on my Facebook newsfeed about what would happen if the Chinese ruled Malaysia ("We'd all be eating pork and Allah would punish Malaysia with more floods!"). I hate the fact that every time a race issue is brought up, a dimwit would be quick to play the 13th May card, the Malaysian Godwin's rule.

And above all, I hate how readily the Malays see themselves as stupid, lazy and mentally incapacitated, and are proud of it.

The Chinese stole your land? You don't have any land. You don't have so much as a doormat to your name. No one is stealing from you, but you rob yourself... of opportunities. The opportunity to get education, because when the Chinese were in school, you were playing honky. The opportunity to appreciate how our land is abundant with resources, because you'd rather wait for money to grow on trees than work a menial job. The opportunity to be fascinated by different cultures rather than be repulsed by them, because you choose not to care about others who are of different faiths because they might sneak bacon into your beehoon. The opportunity to travel the world and across the universe on a shoelace, through reading. Because reading is boring, reading is nerdy, reading is for the pussies and the sissies and the losers. The opportunity to see the glass half full, because you expect the glass to magically fill itself to the brim and when it doesn't, it's because of the Chinese.

How is it the fault of the Chinese that when I go to a government's office, the person behind the counter is on his coffee break at 10.30 a.m? How is it the fault of the Chinese that you are jobless when it is crystal clear you are a lazy bumfuck with a shitty personality and absolutely no redeeming values whatsoever? How is it the fault of the Chinese that you have this crippling fear of competition that the mere idea of a public university without a race quota sends shivers down your spine? "But what about our comfort zone? Down with those kiasu Chinamen!"

The Victim Complex provides solace. It puts the blame on everybody else but you. It is a teething cookie to your fragile gum, a pacifier to your erratic tantrums, a mouthful of Listerine on your putrid breath. It's a tudung on your bad hair day, it's ajinomoto on your tasteless wonton soup, a coat of fresh paint on your moldy walls.

It's what we use to escape the ugly face of reality.

The Victim Complex, embodied by an entire people, passed down through generations.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Shit only hits stupid fans

These days people find offense in most everything. I admit, my offense threshold is a little high, if not extremely, so not only is it almost impossible to offend me, it's also hard for me to even come close to understanding what goes through people's mind when they take offense on something.

So Jason Lo went under (mild) fire on Twitter for saying something supposedly sexist. It being a rainy Saturday afternoon, I had nothing better to do than to ransack the entire interwebs to find out what he said. Turns out, his controversial quip was something along the lines of "I also used to go out at night to look for pussies" when replying to someone who said "I used to go out looking for stray cats."

Um.. That's... it? That's it?? Someone got offended over a lame pussy joke? Oh come on. On one hand, I was delighted that feminist issues finally got the attention they highly deserve because Malaysia has been way behind in this regard. On the other hand, if feminists get all worked up over a stupid pussy joke, how are people going to take them seriously on other more pressing issues?

If there's anything I've learned during my 26 years of existence, it's that shit only get to you if you let it get to you. You can't control what people say or do, but you can definitely control how you react to it. I wish I could put it more succinctly so it could be a mantra printed out on a T-shirt that I will generously give out to all Malaysians, FOC.  Loosen the fuck up, people! (Now that's another mantra I cannot put on a shirt but for an entirely different reason.)

I am not a proponent of pussy jokes, mind you. However, I am also guilty of making them at inappropriate moments. In my defence, I also make dick jokes. I also make racial-stereotype jokes, humour noir, dad jokes, I'm-going-to-hell-for-this jokes, what have you.  I use humour as a defence mechanism and a tool to keep people at arm's length. Being funny allows people to feel at ease with you and enjoy your company, but at the end of the day they know nothing about you. 

 I used to just mindlessly crack jokes about anything with anyone, and it got me tonnes of friends and enemies alike. Whenever I offended people, I would be hard on myself for going too far or for crossing some lines. After a while I started tailoring my jokes to suit the different types of people I hung out with.  I studied their characters, I did research on the kinds of jokes they liked, I observed the things they had strong reactions to, and I ran with them. But just when I thought I had it all figured out, someone took offense at some  well-tailored joke I made, and I decided to give up and stop giving a fuck. Take offense, I no longer care.

These days I mostly keep my more controversial thoughts to myself unless provoked. I find people more bearable when they are not stupid, and stupid people are usually the most easily offended, so I try to keep the offense on the down low so I don't bring out the stupid in people. In return, people around me become tolerable human beings and it helps me forget their smaller brains.

So I guess my point was people need to loosen up so I can tolerate them.

The end.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

White and its goddamn spawns

I woke up Saturday with a burning desire to repaint the living room and stair walls. I had a thousand other more pressing issues to deal with, but apparently those could wait. The hand stains on the walls, now those needed to go, pronto.

So off I went to the hardware store. For a middle unit shop lot, it was amazing how it had everything you could ever imagine and more, and how helpful the employees were. All I had to say was, "I need all the equipment to repaint my living room and stairwell." Moments later, a paint roller, a small brush for the corners and angles, a roller extension, a paint tray, 2 rolls of masking tape, and a plastic floor cover magically appeared out of nowhere. 

"2 cans of 5L paint will do the job," said the Bangladeshi guy whose command of the Malay language would put most born and bred Malaysians to shame. In fact, the foreign workers I saw coming in and out of the store during the 20 minutes I was there all spoke decent to fluent Malay, it being the only unifying language between them. It is always heartwarming to see your mother tongue being spoken by foreigners while Malaysians themselves look down or straight out despise the language. The difference between the Bangladeshi dude who speaks excellent Malay after living here all of two years and a Malaysian Chinese apek who's lived here all his life but cannot even form one complete Malay sentence? Simple. The apek's livelihood doesn't depend on his Malay fluency. Something to ponder upon.

Back to my story. So the Bangladeshi dude was looking at me with his head cocked to the left, "Nak warna apa?" Such an innocent question. Or so I thought. "Putih," I replied. 

Yes, but what kind of white? He asked, handing me a colour catalogue. This is where things got confusing. I grew up with the basic Luna 12-colour pencil sets, so the only white I know is white, as in that colour pencil I never had to use because who the hell colours white drawing paper with white colour pencil?

"So as you can see here, in the warm white section we have all the off-whites: ivory, eggshell, magnolia etc. In the cool white we have sky white, iceberg, pearl etc." I scanned through the catalogue and saw Mediterranean sand white, Arctic white, waterfall white, smoke white, vanilla white and all other kinds of ridiculous appellations. As the most basic colour in the universe (some even argue it's not a colour, rather the absence of it), white sure did a good job coming up with cool fancy nicknames for itself.

It took me a while to differentiate between linen white and seashell white before I decided to stop giving a shit and just pick one.

"I'll go with this one," I pointed to the top left colour square in the catalogue, the one that actually looked white and not one of those whites that were actually yellow.

"Alright, wedding white it is," he said. 

Yes, the colour I chose was called freaking wedding white. There are so many different shades of white they ran out of objects to assign to them so now they resort to attributing them the name of events and ceremonies. What's next? Birthday blue? Bar mitzvah green? Fall of the Berlin Wall grey? 

Early this year I learned about the colour fuchsia and I thought I was hot shit for knowing such an exotic colour. Now after having been mindraped by a thousand shades of white, I walked out of the shop with painting supplies and disappointment. 

Plato had it right. When we think we know everything, we know nothing.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

The Cook and The House Hunter

Been back home in Malaysia since December. Surprisingly I don't miss France as much as I thought I would. One thing I do miss though, is cooking. I cooked a lot in France, and don't at all in Malaysia. I literally only helped in the kitchen once for the entire duration I have been back, and that was only because my mom bought home darnes of salmon and asked me specifically how to properly cook them on a skillet.

Back in France I would try out all kinds of recipes, from homemade chicken burger to the fattiest potato-free moussaka known to man. I also loved making fusion franco-thai cuisine. Granted, it was only "fusion" because half the ingredients in Thai food were hard to come by or too expensive, so I had to make lots of recipe-tweaking and concessions. After all, lemongrass and lemon juice do taste alike, ginger looks like galangal's estranged twin brother so they serve the same purpose, coconut milk is just milk from a fruit so it is totally possible to substitute it with full-cream milk, and kaffir lime leaves and bay leaves are basically the same thing...... right? 

Ok maybe not. But my fusion dishes didn't taste half bad. In fact they were pretty good. Except for that time when my tom yam goong tasted like sewage water (who adds milk into tom yam?), or that one time when my sambal tasted like dessert because I was going through a period of time where my mantra was "if it tastes funny, add sugar until the taste improves." Or even that one time when I used an old lemongrass in my bolognaise and it tasted bitter (otherwise lemongrass is a god-sent for bolognaise). Lesson learnt: if your lemongrass is 3 months old and has the texture of a twig, don't use it because it tastes like shit and I'm pretty sure it gives you cancer. You're probably thinking Why didn't you just go buy fresh lemongrass? Oh look at Bill Gates over here going around telling people to go buy fresh stuff like a true 1%-er. I bet you're also a vegan who snacks on macadamias and celery dipped in hummus, who throws away his yoghurt 4 days prior to the actual expiry date. I'll have you know that I once ate yoghurt three weeks after the so-called expiry date and it tasted fine, albeit with a funny tinge of tartness but I guess that's pretty normal for a mango yoghurt. And yes, I got severe diarrhea the next day but that was totally unrelated...


I'm currently looking for my own place and a big part of that is because I want to be able to cook my own meals. I love Malaysian food but I have come to a point where the sight of rice and noodles makes me want to strangle a newt.

So if you know a great condo with a balcony overlooking the city centre, preferably with an island kitchen and 3 bedrooms, and costs less than RM300k, then please call me.... so I can call you out on your blatant lie because these days even a shithole in Sungai Buloh costs you a liver.

And that's only the deposit.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Hey are you from [list all the Asian countries]?

I was getting a haircut at my usual place. It was peculiarly busy for a working Wednesday at 3 p.m., so I had a bit of a wait to do.

In came this dude who took up the place next to me on the waiting bench. He looked at me intently, so I just whipped out my phone and started reading my e-mails just so he could see I was engrossed in something and wouldn't bother talking to me. Plan executed, plan failed.

"Hey, may I ask you something?" he said. "Um, yeah sure," I replied in the most uninterested tone I could muster, complete with the "...and make it quick" 0.2 second-glance to the dude before looking back at my phone. Some people should really acquire basic common sense.

"Where do you come from? Well, let me guess...." Oh here we go, I told myself. This is literally the least fun game in the world, because it only involves the other person listing down 15 prominent Asian countries and me saying "nope" every damn time. Seriously, I've been living and travelling in Europe for almost 8 years and the number of people who guessed my nationality right has been around 3, tops.   



"China?" Nope.

"Korea?" Nope.

"Taiwan?" Nope, and I already said no to China.

"Thailand?" Nope.

"The Philippines?" Nope.

"Vietnam? Cambodia? Mongolia?" Nope, nope, nope.

I was about to say "Let me just tell you where I come from and save the both of us 10 precious minutes" when he finally gave up and said,  "Okay so where do you come from?" Phew.

"Malaysia," I said. He retorted with, "Ahh, I wasn't that far. I was getting there anyway." Yeah, of course. The amount of countries in the world is finite, so of course you would get there eventually. I just didn't have the whole day for this stupid game.

In all honesty, I'm not offended when people do that. I'm just a bit annoyed by the fact that most of the time they don't even bother making educated guesses rather than just jumbling together multiple Asian countries hoping to strike gold.

The thing is, it's either you get it within the first 3 guesses, or you'll never get it. Simple as that. Those who guessed it right, it's because they actually took the time and energy to analyze my appearance, rather than just blurting out random Asian countries.

I have double eyelids instead of epicanthic folds, so statistically speaking there are fewer chances I come from the Far East which would rule out Japan, Korea, China and Mongolia. I'm fairly tall and bulky for an Asian person, and height and weight are very much correlated with a country's financial standing. That rules out Vietnam and Cambodia. From my observation, they are usually the shortest and thinnest of the Asian people. My skin is more olive and mildly tanned, which should hint at Southeast Asia. So Thailand and the Philippines were, in fact, pretty close. So maybe there were actually some amount of logic involved in his thought process. But the fact that they were so far down the guessing list and followed by Cambodia and Mongolia just proved that it was merely a fluke.

Maybe I'm just becoming super politically correct, but i just don't see it fit anymore to just ask people where they come from just because they look different. It might not offend me because I am in fact a foreigner in Europe, but it bothers a lot of other people of foreign origins but who were born and bred here. I still remember a conversation with a friend who had Lebanese origins a couple of years back, during the Hezbollah conflict.

"So what is really happening in Lebanon?" I asked.

"Um, I gather my knowledge on the issue from the news, so you probably know as much as I do, if not more," he said.

"Are you worried about your family?"

"Well, all of my family is in or around Cannes, where I spent most of my life. So no, I'm not worried about them for what is happening in Lebanon," he said, with a bit more sass than I would have liked.

I didn't understand his annoyance back then, but with time, it's all becoming a lot clearer to me.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Life lesson before 8 a.m.

It was a chilly autumn day, as it always was in the north of France. Truth is, on this side of the Hexagon, it was always autumn or winter. Summer would grace us with its presence for two weeks a year, and before you know it, you'd be grabbing your winter coat on your way out again.

I was on my daily commute to campus, half an hour away across town. The journey was mostly uneventful until I caught a glimpse of my Solid Mechanics professor getting on the increasingly crowded metro. She was fumbling with her twisted earphone cords, or what I call the less intellectual version of the Rubik's cube.

It was always a funny sight when I saw my professors outside of campus, living their mundane plebeian lives like everyone else. The sudden realisation that they were just normal people with issues of their own, like earphone cords that needed straightening, or money problems, or just the usual waking up on the wrong side of the bed, somehow lowered the pedestal they were thrust onto.

She saw me. I shot her an acknowledging smile, but she took it as an invitation to come over and intrude the peaceful fictitious sphere populated by me and my iPod. Damn you social courtesy.

"So do you always take the metro to campus?" I asked her, knowing very well that she did. In my defense, there are absolutely no good questions before 8 a.m. In fact, if I were to overhaul the code of social conduct, I would abolish all forms of communication before 8 a.m. or morning coffee, whichever comes first.

"Yes, I do. It's just more economical, what with the hike in gas price and all," she replied. I nodded in agreement. Now that the first stupid question was out of the way, I was stumped. What do we talk about next? I contemplated talking about the weather, but it'd been the same grey sky for the last 5 years, and I wasn't a big fan of stating the obvious.

"So you're a Malaysian Muslim right?" she asked, brows arched. I nodded. "Which sect of Islam do you belong to? Sunni or Shia?"

Sunni, I replied.

"I'm a Muslim, too. My family comes from a predominantly Shia region in Morocco," she said with a smile. We then proceeded to talking about the different rites and rituals of our respective cultures, with no one trying to discredit anyone's belief. It was merely a healthy discussion between two people from two diverging sects of the same religion, without judgement or persecution.

I alighted the metro having learned something about Shia and life in general. Most importantly, I was all the more convinced that people are just people. Back home, us Sunnis see Shias as heretics, with some going as far as seeing them fit to be mass murdered. It's funny how we seem to tolerate people from other faiths more than people from another sect of our own faith. And here I was, talking to a Shi'i, with the Muslim faith being the common denominator for both of us, instead of our different sects dividing us.

The world would be a much better place if people would just let people be.