Tuesday, March 20, 2012


I just read an article about bilingual people and how they are supposed to have better cognitive functioning because they have to constantly code switch without much effort, resulting in the brain being used to multitasking and resolving internal problems on its own.

The article also said something about bilinguals' ability to 'suppress' one language altogether when speaking in an environment where another language is needed. This is true, because I imagine my mind being separated into different boxes, and there is a special box for each specific language. This means that whenever I'm within an exclusively French-speaking group of friends, only the French language box is activated and all the other boxes are suppressed, meaning even my subconscious (the voices in my head) is in French and somehow I'd magically adopt French gestures and facial expressions that I would never use when speaking any other language.

I never thought of this phenomenon as some kind of 'suppression', but now I reckon that it actually is. Sometimes after a long, long day at school, I'd go home and see my roommate but we wouldn't speak Malay straight away. We would exchange niceties in French and continue speaking in French for a little bit, then proceeding to Malay with French words scattered all over, before gradually switching into full Malay mode for the rest of the evening. I think this is the result of Malay being 'suppressed' for the whole day (for us both) so even though it's our mother tongue, it still needs warming up in order to converse efficiently.

It might seem extremely pretentious to see two fully Malay guys speaking French to each other for no reason, but I find it completely natural. We have friends hanging out at our place all the time and out of politeness, we make it a point not to speak Malay in their presence in order to make everybody comfortable. You know that feeling when you're wedged between two assholes who speak in a foreign language and you have completely no idea what they're talking about which makes you feel like they are talking shit about you? Yeah, we don't want to be those assholes, so we 'suppress' Malay when we have French guests. After a while, we ended up feeling very comfortable speaking French to each other even when there is no French person present.

Of course, Malay is a Godsend when you need to bitch about someone right in front of their face without them even knowing. That's really the coolest thing about multilingualism.

The drawback of being multilingual is you can lose your languages very easily, and it really doesn't take long to lose a language. A few months of non-practice are enough to loosen up language reflexes and automatism, after a year you'd lose a lot of vocabulary, and after a few years of non-practice your language skills get as good as bare metals in salt water. It gets rusty. I remember being a very fluent speaker of Sarawakian Malay when I was living there, and I was so good that none of my friends knew I was a Semenanjung kid until they came to my house and heard me speak with my parents. After moving away, it only took me a year to lose most of my Sarawakian vocabulary. Now I can't even understand half the things they say.

I don't know what the point of this post is. I guess I just got inspired by the word 'suppress' in the article because I hated the way it sounded, but finally realized there were no better words to describe it.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Dentist = good money

"Hello, I would like to make an appointment for a teeth scaling."

"Of course. Let me check, I'm pretty sure we have an opening somewhere in May....."

Drawback of universal healthcare? All dentists in my town are booked solid before the summer months. I even tried using the "it's urgent" card but that only got me an appointment at an ungodly hour on an April weekday.

That's it. You want good money? Be a dentist.

Monday, March 12, 2012

My Teeth and I

After all these years living in France, I just found out something I would love to have found out a long time ago: teeth scaling fees are covered by social security. In fact, a lot of non-esthetic dental treatment fees are covered.

I have never done teeth scaling before because I didn't think it was necessary since I take really good care of my teeth. From what I read, good teeth brushing and flossing are enough to prevent plaque formations, caries, gingivitis and periodontitis, and God knows how I am a big fan of flossing. One of my guilty pleasures are flossing in front of the TV before breathing, or more precisely seeping air, through the clean gaps between my teeth until I hear the high-pitched whistling that is music to my ear.

It's not just that I want my mouth to be squeaky clean. It's also because one of the things I hate the most in the world is bad breath. You can put me at a fish market for hours I wouldn't bat an eyelid, you can make me lie on a sleeping bag on the street next to a pile of dog shit I'll sleep like a baby, but if you make me talk within striking distance to a guy who has the breath of a jackal, I'll pray that you be crushed by a Russian tank, skinned to the bone by a sushi chef, shot point blank by a seasoned sniper and burned in hell for three thousand years. And I'll throw in the foul-breathed guy in there with you.

Anyways, now that I know I can go for a teeth scaling FOC, I'm just going to go look around for the best looking dental clinic in my town. Might as well go for the best since I'm not paying for anything, right?

Free dental treatments - another thing I'm going to miss when I leave France for good.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


I remember hearing Claude François' Comme d'habitude, one of France's all-time favourite songs and the song that had inspired Frank Sinatra's My Way, for the first time in high school during Hari Bahasa Perancis SBP. A few days after my arrival on France's soil six years ago, I heard the song again on the radio.

You can't live in France without hearing Claude François' name mentioned almost every day. He has one of the most recognisable voices in the French music industry, most of his songs have achieved great success, his fan base was (and still is) massive and his iconic status has passed the test of time, even long after his death. Now they are making a film on him (wonder what took them so long). It has not been released yet but people have been talking about it a lot. It is definitely going to slay at the box-office, I can safely bet my left leg on it.

That got me thinking: if I were to make a movie on a Malaysian (dead) iconic celebrity who is to us what Claude François is to the French, who would it be? The answer came to me literally within a split second - Sudirman. And somehow that got me mad. Why hasn't there been a film about the great Sudir? His voice is one of a kind (he'd only need to sneeze and you'd know it's him), almost all of his songs are well-known, he was among the few Malaysian singers whose charisma was able to transcend the race boundaries in Malaysia, and he has the stage presence comparable to that of Freddie Mercury. No, seriously.

With all the crap they've been putting out in the Malaysian film industry, how is it possible that no one has thought of actually making a film about Sudirman? I don't think anyone needs convincing, but if I have to break it down to you fools, here are 5 reasons why a film on Sudirman is such a brilliant idea:

1) This movie would obviously be a financial goldmine. Sudirman's fan base is huge. He was given the Asian No. 1 Performer award in London, he reigned on the Malaysian music charts for God knows how long, and he had the charm of an angel. His songs have themes encompassing a plethora of subjects, most of them dealing with Malaysians' everyday lives. It's no wonder why his songs are very close to people's hearts. How can you not like someone who sings songs with titles like Anak Gembala, Basikal Tua, Aku Penganggur, Horee Horee, Toyol, Chow Kit Road, and of course, Balik Kampung

2) A good film needs drama and Sudirman's life has enough drama to create a big enough story arc. His mom was a politician and she died when he was 5, then his father died when he was 24. He passed the bar and became a bona fide practising lawyer but he quit to become a performer. He was hated by the Muslim authorities who wanted to ban every concert he intended to do. His free open air concert in Chow Kit Road gathered a crowd of 100 000 people and created controversy when some fans who turned up fainted and suffocated. He had to fight gay rumours his whole career. He knew he was sick quite sometime before his death but he put on a brave front so his fans would not see his illness. He even asked Habsah Hassan to write a farewell song, Salam Terakhir some time before his death, as if he knew his time was coming. Listening to that song still gives me goosebumps even after all these years because it's hauntingly beautiful and because of these two lines

                 "Usah bertanya mengapa aku mengucap salam terakhir kepadamu
                  Kerna waktu berputaran, bimbang tak berkesempatan...

3) You want a good example for the kids? This is a good example. Sudirman was not only an excellent entertainer, he was also a smart student at school. So smart that he got a scholarship to do medicine overseas but he refused. And did I tell you he became a lawyer afterwards? Kids today quit school at the age of 15 to pursue their dreams of "nak jadi penyanyi" after being inspired by Akademi Fantasia and Mentor and whatnot. There's nothing wrong with chasing after your dreams, but remember, a country only needs so many singers. We have more celebrities per capita than we do doctors, and to me that is unhealthy. Sudirman finished his studies before becoming a superstar. He was lucky he made it big, but if he hadn't, at least he had his degree to fall back on.

4) Kids today need a lot of education on the prosperous Malay music industry of the olden days. They need to realize that today's local album sales are poor not just because of illegal Internet downloading, an excuse widely used and rehashed by musicians to justify their failures, but mainly because a lot of local musicians are coming up with stinkier shit than ever before. Seriously, I'm all for supporting the local music industry, but I wouldn't be caught dead even illegally downloading some of the shit that's on today's local radio, let alone buy the song. In his heyday, Sudirman could sell more cassettes per day than today's average singer can for their whole career because Sudirman's songs were actually worth buying and listening to on repeat. Malaysians are not stupid. Believe it or not, we are a tough crowd. We know quality when we see it, and we are not afraid to call shit shit. We are honest people, so if you don't deliver, we don't buy. Simple as that. 

5) People love motivational movies. What's more motivational than a movie about a small man who came from a small village, with a stature of merely 147cm tall, who went and conquered a whole nation with his charisma and his voice? This is a truly Malaysian from-rags-to-riches story, and such a beautiful one at that. It's potential is a no-brainer.

There are of course other reasons, but even with these 5 people can see why a Sudirman film needs to be made. Did you know that not long before his death, he was flown to London to record songs for his English album that was supposed to jumpstart his international career? And it was not just at any London studio: it was on Abbey Road. Yes, the one used by The Beatles. That could be the ending of the movie. A tragic death that cuts him short on his path towards international superstardom, as if he knew that us Malaysians preferred to have him as our national treasure and didn't want to share.

So, are you convinced yet?

Thursday, March 08, 2012

To Lenina Huxley with Love

I just spent an hour watching Sandra Bullock interviews. Haha.

Sandra Bullock is the epitome of wit and femininity. And a real ball buster which is good if you're a woman wanting to survive in today's world because according to statistics (and today it's all about the statistics concerning women's plight, you know, today being the International Women's Day and all), women have been discriminated against by men for centuries and it's not about to stop. I don't think that is entirely true because women's true enemies are other women and they actually bring each other down, but that's a story for a different day. For now let's focus on Sandra Bullock.

I've been a fan of hers since her Speed days because she was this hot chick who drove a bus. The only thing hotter than a pretty girl driving a bus at full speed is a pretty girl driving a bus at full speed in a golden bikini. But well, you can't have it all. And I don't think that would have fit into the storyline. They should have let Michael Bay direct it. He always finds a way to make hot girls in barely-there clothing somehow look pivotal to a movie's plot.

Then there's Demolition Man, in which Sandra plays a (hot) cop, partnering with Sylvester Stallone. Their mission is to track down a criminal coming from the 90's, who somehow managed to escape cryogenic prison. It's my all-time favourite film. I'm pretty sure I wrote about this already. I've watched it so many times I've lost count. I've been known as someone who romanticizes a lot when it comes to things I like, but I seriously think Demolition Man is the perfect combination of action, comedy and romance.

It's set way into the future but there's no flying cars, talking robots or any of that hologram people bullshit. I hate futuristic movies that have flying personal cars just swooping around, as though flying private vehicles are the hallmark of the future. In our times, we already can have flying cars if we wanted to. But just because we can, doesn't mean we should. People already have more than enough trouble driving bi-dimensionally on the street, can you imagine the massacre if people start driving in the air where they need to also take altitude into account? If two cars have a head-on collision mid-air, they won't just remain stationary mid-air until the pediatrics arrive. They will fall on the ground, endangering the lives of the people below. The reason why we don't have flying cars is not lack of technological advances. It's just common sense.

Anyway, since Demolition Man, I've fallen in love with Sandra Bullock. I didn't like her acting in Crash or The Blind Side, two films for which she was highly acclaimed. She nabbed an Oscar for her performance in the latter. In my opinion, her best performances are in While You Were Sleeping, The Proposal and of course, Demolition Man, for which she got a Razzie nomination for Worst Supporting Actress. Well, Hollywood is a crazy place. I mean, they gave an Oscar to Natalie Portman for Black Swan. As much as I like her, I think her Oscar nod was a big pile of steaming bullshit. So if Sandra got nominated for a Razzie, I'd say at least her acting has got people's attention. That goes to show that even during her debut as an actress, she didn't go unnoticed. After all, no press is bad press, right?

So yeah, I watched her interviews. She's a home girl who takes motherhood very seriously. She's very funny, but very grounded at the same time. And she speaks fluent German. Ooh.

Sandra, if you're reading this (and I know you do), please know that I'm your biggest fan and if I had the money, I would literally fly there and kick that cheating asshole Jesse James' ass. And I'll help you raise your kids and be your partner when you need to practice your lines. Or even kissing scenes if I have to.


You're a hair hooker and you don't know it

I met a Norwegian friend in Paris a few weeks ago. She came with a girlfriend whom I didn't know so I introduced myself.

"Oh you're Malaysian?" she asked, eyes twinkling. "My hair is Malaysian too!"

I was puzzled. How is.. umm... well... what? I looked at her very straight, shiny hair. She was black.

"You see, black people don't get to have straight hair. So I had hair extensions put on my head, and the hair is Malaysian. You guys have the best hair, so it's the most expensive on the market. The most expensive hairs in the market today are Brazilian and Malaysian. Google it if you don't believe me."


"How much did your hair cost?" I asked, not just out of politeness because I was really interested to know. You know, if anything happens to me and I can no longer work, at least I know there's something on my body that people would pay good money for that doesn't require me to do hard work. Wait, isn't that the definition of prostitution?

"I paid around 800 euros for my whole head, and it lasts 6 months. You can get Indian hair for a lot less, but it is not as moisturized as Malaysian hair so it doesn't last as long. And Malaysian hair is a lot shinier."

So I asked her how in hell's name these companies got hold of so much real Malaysian hair, and here comes the crucial bit of information I wish I didn't know.

"It's easy. When Malaysian girls go to the hairdressers, where do you think all the cut hair goes? They don't just sweep it off the floor and throw it away. They sell it. That's why they have to cut your hair properly in order to preserve the length."

Badam bam... pishhhh!

Yeah. If you girls are reading this, please imagine your hair being on another girl's head at the opposite end of the globe. At least a part of your anatomy has travelled the world.



"So how did you like Pompeii?" I asked this girl at my hostel in Naples. She was studying arts in Rome, so I assumed she had spent the whole day in Pompeii just admiring the ancient architecture amidst the ruins.

"Well, I'm not gonna lie to you. It was boring," she said. "I know it's kinda amazing that you can still see the remains of a city, like, this used to be a temple, this used to be a school, that used to be a court, and all that stuff. But at the end of the day, you're just walking around looking at rocks."

By that logic, we could look at the paintings at the Louvre and say, "Oh these are just paints mixed together to create the illusion of people." Obviously, I was quite taken aback by her comment, because I had a totally different opinion on Pompeii. You don't go to Pompeii expecting to see Starbucks and big yellow taxis and Chinese take-aways. You go there to see rocks.

"That is the whole point," I said. 'People don't go there to see a city. They go there to mentally put the pieces of rock together and use their imagination to rebuild the city. And it's not just rocks scattered around. You can see pillars with carvings, amphitheatres, houses, bathhouses, and even when it's just rocks, you can still see the solid foundations where the rocks used to be part of great buildings."

"Yeah, they used to be buildings. Now they are merely rocks, very old rocks nonetheless, but still rocks. We were there for 2 hours and after a while we got really bored."

I shrugged. Just because I liked it, doesn't mean everybody has to. It's just a matter of taste, I guess. Besides, it's not that I liked Pompeii. People don't like ruins, the way they don't like paintings. It's more of a fascination. I know I'm fascinated by something when my head is full of unanswered questions about it and when I feel like touching everything. In Pompeii, whenever I touched a wall or a cobblestone, subconsciously there was this voice saying, "You're touching something that is almost two millennia old."

So I could see why the girl was bored, because if you don't have this fascination, you would indeed only see rocks lying around.