Friday, June 24, 2011

Let's Just All Get Along

"Throughout history, Allah has imposed upon the Jews people who would punish them for their corruption. The last punishment was carried out by Adolf Hitler. By means of all the things he did to them – even though they exaggerated this issue – he managed to put them in their place. This was divine punishment for them. Allah willing, the next time will be at the hand of the believers."

- Yusuf Al -Qaradawi, 28 Jan. 2009, Al-Jazeera

Since when are religious leaders allowed to incite the killing of another human being and segregate people by choice of faith? In this day and age, I don't get how people can still endorse the Holocaust. This man, who is considered to be the most respected Islamic ideologist in the world, has set Islam back 200 years and give it a bad name. How can Hitler's killing of the Jews be considered 'divine punishment' when neither Hitler, nor the Nazis, represent divinity?

If that's not enough, his blatant criticism of the Shiites being heretics has probably incited civil wars between the Sunnis and the Shiites, both being of the Muslim faith. So, not only he wants the Muslims to hate the Jews, he also wants them to hate other Muslims from different schools of thought. He knows that there are people who hold on to his every word, those mindless fanatics who live without bothering to think for themselves. Thus, whatever he says can have major consequences on the Muslim world, and how Islam is perceived by the outside world.

If there's one thing in common among the Bahrain Uprising, the Cyprus dispute, the Lebanon conflict, the Bosnian war, the Palestinian war, the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, the Liberian conflict, the Mindanao unrest in the Philippines, the South Thailand insurgencies and even the great American War on Terror, it is the use of God's name to justify mass murders (and I don't think it's a coincidence that all of the conflicts stated above involve Muslims). Where religion is supposed to guide people and give solutions, it has become the cause of the problems.

I love Islam and have seen its beauty in depth, but the Muslims are the problem. The hypocrisy, the hate and the intolerance. I've never seen more hypocrites than in my country Malaysia, where people judge people for almost everything and where the holier-than-thou attitude is just widespread. It's like everybody's looking around for bigger sinners than they are. Those who pray five times a day would see others as slacking Muslims. Those who don't pray five times a day would say, "At least I still wear the hijab and cover my aurah." Those who don't wear the hijab would say, "There's no use putting on the hijab if the rest of your outfit is body-hugging." But both would agree that people who drink alcohol are worse than them, and people who drink alcohol would say, "Well as long as I don't eat pork." And those who eat pork would say, "Well what's the use of being a devout Muslim and praying 5 times a day and not eating pork if you're doing it just to show off to people that you're a better Muslim. That's riak (bragging) and the Prophet frowns upon that, it's the worst thing ever," and that brings us back to the devout Muslim who prays 5 times a day and who doesn't eat pork and who judges people who don't perform their 5 daily prayers, and so on and so forth.

In the end, everyone finds a bigger sinner than they are and they'll live happily ever after. The vicious cycle of hypocrisy benefits all Muslims.

So in the words of the aptly named band War, "Why can't we be friends?"

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Living On Plastic

I rely a lot on my debit card. I seldom carry cash around, for two reasons: coins are heavy and banknotes get lost easily. And of course, because most shops in France accept debit/credit cards.

I love it that I can just go out anywhere carrying just a piece of plastic. It's like having a very, very thin wallet, only thinner. Aha. If I'm carrying cash and it gets stolen, it's real money I'll never see again. On the other hand, if my card gets stolen, I can just call my bank and cancel it without a cent of my money budging from my account. That's the beauty of having the Carte Bleue system in France. All debit/credit cards are smart cards with PIN codes, so if they get stolen, the only way they can be used is using the Internet. Even then, they can trace where the Internet purchase was being made and might catch the thief. Either way, the cardholder will not be charged.

When I go back to Malaysia for good, I'll insist on having a debit card, not a credit card. With a debit card, the money is taken from your bank account right away after payment, and payment is refused if you don't have enough funds. This way, I'll be prudent with my money and only buy things I can afford. Using a credit card is basically just borrowing money from the bank and repaying the debts at the end of every month, which can be very, very dangerous because swiping your credit card at the cashier really feels like you're creating money out of thin air.

Now I have another reason to be prudent: my banker just called me and offered me a Visa Premier (you know, that shiny gold card) due to my "unwavering loyalty and trust in our services". Translation: We see you as a big spender and we'd like you to spend even more. I told him I thought I was too young to carry such a fancy card ('being too young' is my excuse for everything). But he pointed out that in the past 4 years I've called him many, many times to ask for an override in weekly payment limit, because sometimes I needed to pay for things like flight tickets and hotel bookings and stuff, and the payment limit of my current card doesn't allow me to. He told me with Visa Premier I would have a much higher payment limit, so this very irritating problem can be avoided.

I was still on the fence, until he told me the other advantages I would get with a Premier card which include travel insurance (flight cancellations for any reason and lost luggage), and 25-30% discount on car rentals. On top of that, since I'm not yet 25 years old, the exorbitant monthly fee for Visa Premier is waived. And in certain airports I might be able to enjoy the airport lounges as a card holder. That was when I got sold hook, line and sinker. It's a win-win.

But I told him I still needed him to call me every few months to advice me on my spending, or every time there's an anomaly in my Visa activities. That's why I love my banker. I don't know if it's me being naive, but he always seems like he has my best interest at heart. Our relationship might be platonic, but it's one of the most meaningful relationships I've had in recent years. He even called me when I was on a cruise in Turkey 2 years ago to remind me about the Euro-Turkish Lira currency conversion rate and to tell me how much I've spent up to that point of my travel and that I should be careful not to splurge on unnecessary stuff. It's kind of like having your parents breathing on your neck all the time, but I feel like I needed it otherwise I'd spend beyond my means without realizing it.

I know I'm contributing to the capitalist system, but I've never thought of capitalism as a bad thing. So the guilty conscience just doesn't exist. Some people regard the use of payment cards as evil, I see it as a practical way of spending. I can be a big spender, but I'm never reckless with my spending. As long as I don't feel the urges to live beyond my means and abuse my credit cards, I think I'll be fine.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Alphabet Of Manliness Sucks Big Time

Remember I talked about Maddox's The Alphabet of Manliness?

I hate to say this, but it's an utter disappointment. On his website he's crass in a very smart and witty way, in the book he's just crass. And somewhat misogynistic. Talking about boobs and cocks and boners is always funny... but in small doses. Of course there are a billion euphemisms for male genitalia, and if you run out of those, you can always make up a billion more. But you are not obliged to use all of them in the hope of having an intellectual book. Not for me, anyway.

All the respect I had for Maddox has now gone to the sewers. I don't know what I was thinking buying a book titled The Alphabet of Manliness anyway. It reeks of chauvinism, and the sole reason it's written is for stupid people to get a cheap laugh out of sexual innuendos and even scatophilic references (like the different types of shit men produce). I'm not a prude, believe me. I talk about those things he wrote in the book, shit and all. But I don't plan to write a book about it. Hell no.

I felt violated reading the book. It's a scam. I paid good money based on his reputations alone, all because I thought his blog was awesome. I liked his blog because it's educational in a very vulgar but not at all patronizing way, but the book is just at the other end of the spectrum. Very vulgar, but utterly stupid. The first chapter discusses about how to punch a guy in the crotch. As I was turning the pages, I was waiting for the clever bits to appear, but nichts. It's just that. How to punch a guy in the crotch. With figures and illustrations and supposedly-funny step-by-step instructions. And the second chapter is about how to grope women's butts and boobs. I mean, who is the target market for this book? 18 year old boys with gigantic zits and raging hormones who would jerk off to almost anything?

Damn I'm pissed.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Hash Tags And Internet Memes Are Stupid

Hash tag jokes and Internet memes. Those are getting old, and some are getting really, really old.

I've never found hash tag jokes funny, and now it's bordering on irritating. In case you don't know what a hash tag joke is, it's the supposedly relevant funny joke people put at the end of a status update or comment on Facebook, preceded by a hash (#) symbol. For example:

Feels like eating something sweet and delicious now! #HornyForChocolateBananaCake

It is completely useless and totally unfunny, mainly because people who use them are lame unfunny fucktards who saw someone do it once on Twitter and found it weirdly funny so they started doing it and can never stop. They probably laugh at their own hash tag jokes too. I admit, I took so long to understand why I started seeing hash tags after status updates and comments on Facebook. I even had to ask a friend what they meant. She said,  "If you actually used your Twitter account, you would have known that hash tags are used to categorize your tweets so people can search for them."

Which is a great idea because the world now is going at a billion tweets or so per second, so it makes perfect sense to be able to look up other people's opinions on a particular subject . But why am I seeing them everywhere on Facebook? Can you look for people status updates and comments on Facebook using hash tags too? No. So it's really just a way of integrating nonsensical Twitter function on another social network in the hope that the humour will transcend. Well, it doesn't, because I don't think it has ever been funny even when correctly used on Twitter. If these people actually knew anything about programming, they would know how programming syntaxes differ from one language to another, and it's extremely important not to mess them up because a language might not recognize the commands or functions of another language. So I think it should be the same with social networks. Anything that is intrinsic to a network, should remain intrinsic.

Internet memes on the other hand, used to be funny. But I suppose it's because I was pretty young when I discovered them and it was fun to see unsuspecting people's reactions when you used them because these memes usually make zero sense and are filled with errors, grammatical, spelling or semantics. Plus when someone actually recognized the meme (and replied using another one), it made you feel somewhat cool because you have an inside joke of your own that other Earthlings don't understand.

The problem with that is, now that all the young kids want to grow up really fast and jump on the cool bandwagon way before time, they keep using and reusing old Internet memes until they wear very thin. Everywhere you go on the Internet you'll see people using phrases like, "U MAD?" or "Challenge accepted" or "om nom nom". Or any random memes from Lolcats. Some of them don't bug me as much, or at all, because they're relevant to the situation. Like when people say "EPIC FAIL" to depict a person's failure at achieving something, it's because well... that person is actually failing at something. But some memes bug me to the core, especially this kind:


It's basically just using the same adjective twice in a sentence, making it redundant. Whilst I can see some humour in that, it's becoming really old and uncool. People who first used them aren't using them anymore, but their spawns are multiplying everyday which is why we still see them being used almost everywhere on the Internet.

Maybe I'm getting too old for Internet memes, so I don't blame young kids for using them because I used them when I was their age too. But when older people than me use uncool, worn down Internet memes, it makes me sad. It's like they're mentally retarded. Dude, you're 30. Use proper language. It's like the Internet has become their reality, and they refuse to grow out of it.

The thing is, some of my friends use them (hash tags and Internet memes) even on BBM. While hash tag jokes are obvious and easy to ignore (I just don't dignify them with a response because jokes don't need replies), it's usually harder to sidestep the meme. When I just replied to their message without acknowledging the meme, they're like, "It's a meme. Get the fuck out of your cave, batman."

I know it's a meme. I'm on the internet every day, of course I'm familiar with the term. I just don't find them, or you, funny. That's all. There's nothing wrong with being unfunny. It's only wrong when you try to squeeze a laugh out of people using cheap tricks.

Books and Baby Talk

I'm reading Fyodor Dostoevsky's Notes From The Underground.

It's a grand book. In every sense of the word. Not only in its premise, but also its execution. The choice of words, the phrasing, the tone, the subtexts. In my opinion this has a lot to do with the spectacular Russian to English translation by Constance Garnett.

I have always regarded book translators with utmost esteem, because not only do they have to carefully interpret the authors' ideas and convey them perfectly in another language, they also need to keep the cultural subtleties intact while doing so. Mediocre translators can easily translate words, but all art will be lost in translation.

Which makes me wonder, if the book is so good in English, a language with which Russian has almost nothing in common, then how must it be in Russian? The thought of being able to even decipher the original Cyrillic-written back cover of the book is tantalizing enough. Hmmmm...

No, I'm not high. I just love my books. A friend once saw me very upset after I accidentally puppy-eared the cover of my Catch-22. He jokingly said I took my books way too seriously. I do, but only with the good ones. I couldn't care less if someone would tear my copy of Mary Higgins Clark's Two Little Girls In Blue into pieces and burn them in a voodoo ritual. It's a shitty book, by an overrated shitty author (I bought it at a train station in Venice because it was one of the very, very few English books they had and I was going on a 6-hour train ride to Florence thus desperately in need of a reading material). But if something were to happen to the good ones, I'd be almost devastated. The pages of my Midnight Children fell out of their binding months ago. And I still haven't gotten over it.

That's why, three years ago when I had my bag stolen on a trip to the French Riviera, I decided to end the trip there and then and go back home. It wasn't because of the camera or the iPod I had inside it (well, only a little bit). It was mostly because I also had a rare early hardcover edition of Madame Bovary for which I stayed up all night bidding on eBay.

This obsession might be due to the fact that every day I dream of having a huge library in my future house, and I would like for the books there to be used, but in very good condition, just like in a real library. Used, so that the library will smell of yellowed-paper (the best smell in the world). And in very good condition, so that they will still be appetizing for my kids to read and not be put off by their ungodly appearance. Oh, and my kids will not just have those huge-ass pictorial books with pictures of talking farm animals on them. The moment they know how to read and write and speak fluently, I'll make them read Stendhal's The Red and The Black. I'll also be the no-nonsense father who doesn't use baby talk with my children. I still remember people baby-talking me up until I was six or seven, and I found it annoying as hell because I was already very eloquent since I was four or five. Baby talk is cute, but it doesn't help with children's mental growth whatsoever. If anything, it makes them dumb because they'd think that's actually how adults talk.

Monday, June 13, 2011

It's Good To Be A Malay Man (Part II)

My favourite actors are (in brackets the name of my favourite film(s) starring each actor):

1) Sean Penn (I Am Sam)
2) Jack Nicholson (As Good As It Gets, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest)
3) Gael Garcia Bernal (La Mala Educacion)
4) Dustin Hoffman (Kramer vs. Kramer)
5) Jean Paul Belmondo (A Bout De Souffle)
6) P. Ramlee (Ibu Mertuaku, Madu Tiga)
7) Gregory Peck (To Kill A Mockingbird, North by Northwest)
8) Marcello Mastroianni (La Dolce Vita)
9) Javier Bardem (Mar Adentro)
10) Marlon Brando (A Streetcar Named Desire)

Honorable mentions : Benoît Magimel (Les Petits Mouchoirs), Colin Firth (The English Patient), Soumitra Chatterjee (Apu Sansar), Amitabh Bachchan (Black), Ewan McGregor (I Love You Philip Morris), Tom Hanks (Philadelphia).

My favourite actresses are :

1) Sandra Bullock (Demolition Man)
2) Renée Zellweger (The Bridget Jones Diary)
3) Meryl Streep (Sophie's Choice)
4) Marion Cotillard (La Môme)
5) Tilda Swinton (Young Adam)
6) Reese Witherspoon (Sweet Home Alabama)
7) Eva Marie Saint (On The Waterfront)
8) Audrey Hepburn (Breakfast At Tiffany's)
9) Gong Li (Farewell My Concubine)
10) Sarimah (Ali Baba Bujang Lapok)

Honorable mentions: Saadiah (Musang Berjanggut), Penelope Cruz (Non Ti Muovere), Dian Sastrowardoyo (Ada Apa Dengan Cinta), Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins), Umie Aida (Embun), Helena Bonham Carter (Fight Club), Ingrid Bergman (Casablanca), Julia Roberts (Pretty Woman, Erin Brokovich).

Mind you, those are not just some token Malay actresses I put up there. I was actually in love with Sarimah when I was little because I thought she was one of the smartest actresses of her time (not to mention extremely beautiful), because she always played smart characters. In Tiga Abdul she played the cunning wife of the smartest of the Abdul brothers. In Ali Baba Bujang Lapok, she played the resourceful maid to Kassim Baba. In Madu Tiga, she played the third and most intelligent of Mr. Jamil's wives, the one who actually came up with the idea to set ground rules on her husband's polygamy.

Same goes to Saadiah who played a smart wife in Musang Berjanggut. She even seduced the king with her witty words in Siti Muslihat.

This goes to show my love for strong, smart women who aren't afraid to speak up for themselves. The character Sarimah played in Tiga Abdul is a strong-willed woman who knows what she wants, but who is a loving and caring wife to her husband at the same time. She's still sensitive, homely and every bit a woman, but a woman who knows to say it out loud when her husband does something wrong or crosses the line. Women don't have to be weak, clingy and submissive to be loved. They can also be smart, goal-oriented, outgoing and self-sufficient, all the while being a loyal wife and a pious Muslimah.

Shocking isn't it?

One of the reasons why Malay men stay the way they are is because Malay women are happy enablers. In my previous entry about Malay men, some anonymous said I had to read more and not just write according to what I see. I don't want to blow my own horn but I probably read more books in a month than he/she reads in a year. If he/she even bothered to read more about the Prophet Muhammad's wives, he/she would know how Aisyah was a very stubborn and determined woman who would stand her ground no matter what. She was a very jealous woman who would not settle for mediocrity, she would strive to beat others. She was also very keen on knowledge and was an avid learner.

The prophet's first wife, Khadijah, was 15 years older than him, and was a rich, successful merchant. In fact, he depended a lot on her wealth during their marriage. This goes to show that women can, too, be the breadwinner in a marriage. There's nothing wrong with the wife being more financially successful.

Women and men exist for different reasons. We are NOT equals. If we were, God wouldn't have bothered creating two sexes. But one sex is not supposed to be superior to the other, because one completes the other. If women only marry for financial security, and men marry for sex, how is that different from prostitution?

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Morning Fuckup

There are certain things you're sure will never happen to yourself. When I see people having misspelled tattoos, I just know it will never happen to me simply because I'll never allow myself to even be near a tattoo parlor.The mere sight of it makes me cringe.

When I look at homeless people, it's like looking at a life I'll never have. I know that I've been working this hard since very young, so I'll not end up being like them.

When I see women in skirts walking around town with a big run in their stockings, I can't help making fun of them because that is the kind of problem I'll never have to deal with.

I've always thought of myself as a messy person, but organized enough to still be fresh and clean when going out of the house, wearing fresh clothes. I'm a last-minute person, but somehow I always manage to put things together and walk out the house not looking like I've just rolled out of bed after a rough sleep.

Except for yesterday. I was running so late to an important class that I took a very quick shower (a normal student in France wouldn't have bothered with showering but I just can't start my day without it) and just put on random pieces of clothing really fast and dashed out of the house. I was running half an hour late to class, a personal best.

When I finally got a seat on the tram, that's when I could actually take a breather, calm the fuck down, and make sure I didn't forget anything.

Unfortunately, I did. I forgot to put on a matching pair of shoes. I have Fred Perry on my right foot, and Veja on my left. I've seen it happen to a lot of people, and never thought it would happen to me. Next thing I know, I was walking around campus the whole day looking like I had just rummaged through a Red Cross charity basket.

Monday, June 06, 2011

It's good to be a Malay man

It's good to be a Malay guy. No, really.

I still remember during any festivities back home, the guys could leisurely watch TV or take a nap while all the females of the house were cooking, cleaning, taking care of kids, ironing clothes for their husbands, brothers and children, and no one was complaining because it was the norm. Women are just expected to do house chores.

When a Malay guy smokes, no one says a thing. When a Malay girl smokes, everybody will start questioning her morals, her upbringing, her way of life, even her faith.

A Malay husband can actually play God and threaten his wife, "You'll never see heaven if you don't do what I ask."

An unhappy Malay wife, if forced into housewivery by her husband, has practically no way out if one day her husband chooses to turn his back on her and neglect his duties. She can't leave him, because she has no job and no savings. What does she do? Fake it. Fake it all the way till death, while the husband can pretty much go around gallivanting and philandering without the slightest care in the world.

Even if a divorce takes place, guess who people will put the blame on? The Malay wife. She doesn't cook well. She doesn't take care of her body. She nags a lot. She looks too old for her age. And of course, the Malay husband can find another 20-year-old wife just like that (*cough* Salleh Yaakob *cough*) while it's slim pickings for the ex-wife to find another financially and emotionally stable husband.

A Malay mother is expected to raise a child single-handedly, because the father is supposed to work and bring the bread. So what happens when a child turns out bad? People will blame the mother.

A Malay husband who just got back from the office can say, "I'm tired, I'll do this later," and just go take a long nap in an air-conditioned room. A Malay wife, even after a long day at work, has no excuse whatsoever. She still has to deal with the pots and the pans and the laundry and the kids after work. Husbands helping in the kitchen? Almost unheard of. How can you expect the guys to help with cooking when they aren't even capable of washing the one plate and one glass they use after dinner? For a Malay guy, there's no use buying an automatic dishwasher because he can just put his dirty plate in the sink and it will miraculously clean itself.

And now Malay guys will have another reason to rejoice: our wives are now encouraged to take classes on "How To Be Better In Bed Than High-Class Hookers." You know, because when things go awry in a marriage, it's almost always because of the sex. And if the sex is bad, it's almost always because of the wife. Which means, in order to keep a Malay husband from sticking his penis into a hooker's vagina, a Malay wife has to be a hooker herself. You know what they say, if you can't beat them, join them. Isn't it funny how Malay women have to bend over backwards (very literally, in this case haha) to accommodate their husbands. It's like women are supposed to control their husbands' penile blood flow. And if one day Malay men are all inclined to have sex with cats, there will be classes for Malay wives entitled "How To Have Sex Like Cats".

You might ask, why don't we just create a "How To Stay Loyal To Your Spouse" class for the men? Haha, what a silly question! You know how thick the Malay male skull is. It's way easier to manipulate Malay wives than the Malay husbands, because since a very young age, Malay girls have been taught that the only way they can go to heaven is if they obey their husbands. Thus, Malay husbands can do no wrong! It's always, always the woman's fault. Accept it. Your heaven is on our feet remember?

It's good to be a Malay man. Really, it is.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

My Own Tyler Durden

Sometimes when time is running out, when things get out of hand, when fear takes over, I feel like creating my own Tyler Durden.

Tyler Durden doesn't get scared. He doesn't get stressed out. He always, always gets the job done. In no time. And Tyler Durden gets all the girls. Heh.

I haven't had bouts of insomnia. I'm no schizo. But I still think it's nice to be able to split yourself in two and get things done twice as fast. One half doesn't need to know what the other half is up to, although both halves know exactly what they need to do.

Tyler Durden is smart.. ish. Except when he said:

"Welcome to Fight Club. The first rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club."

Talking about not talking about it, is talking about it, or is it not? Well Tyler, looks like we need to chop your balls off.