Monday, August 24, 2009

Please…Johore is not Johore Bahru.

During my recent sojourn to my second hometown, Kluang, I was assaulted by the thought that I am really going to miss it even it was there. I was driving frantically trying to track down the old favourite Chicken Rice stall which has since shifted, when it occurred to me that Kluang might just become… (Cue horror music here) Johore Bahru!

You see, for years I have been tormented by this particular response I get immediately when I say I come from the Johore state: “Oh, JB.” Gritting my teeth, and holding back my urge to poke their eyes ala Three Stooges, I’d tell them that my hometown is Cha’ah, where I grew up, and Kluang, where I was born and spent my early formative years. But the myopic perception is not without reasons. I tell you why (especially to non-Malaysian readers).

Johore Bahru is the capital for the Johore state, a princely, second largest state in Peninsular Malaysia, and a haven for green plantations, namely oil palm, cocoa and pineapple. The state also homes manufacturing sites boasting many multi-national corporations. Yes, some even bigger than those in Penang except that we Johoreans don’t toot our horns like our cousins from north (hey, Nasi Kandar is just normal Nasi Campur with mixed curry okay!). I know I sound like envoy from Johore State tourism, but that is the fact.

But the trouble is, everyone seems to think of only the Johore Bahru city when the name Johore is mentioned. It’s sickening. I hate that city. It’s the wrong end of the stick with shit. It’s the word I would use as acronym to crème de la crème. It’s the barbecued piece of charred meat that you usually put aside as it is only fit to be eaten by your domestic pet. It, and I’ve said this to many before, is a bastard child of Malaysia and Singapore, before they parted ways and the L'enfant terrible was shoved to Malaysians.

Okay, I made that up. It’s just that Singapore was conveniently an Island, making it easier for them to have nothing to do with Johore Bahru. Now, the city has been known for the wrong reason mostly – crime. Snatch thieves, car robbery, rape, murder and worst, terrible food, has often been attached as the label for that city and it is mostly for one reason alone – cash rich Singaporeans throwing their money around making cheap purchases because to buy most of the things in their country we at least have to make deposit using our kidneys.

Kidding again. But Singaporeans throwing money there is a normal occurrences, like yearly haze. And the fact that Singaporeans are one of the largest property owners in Johore Bahru is not a new trivia, like moronic politicians or reptilian lawyers. But by doing so, they are making themselves available to the lowest, darkest facets found in any human being, also as a result of having seeing inflation rate in the city which is not as great as Kuala Lumpur, higher than KL, just because Singaporeans like to buy groceries enough to feed the entire population of Indonesia (neighbour).

So, no. I am not from Johore Bahru. I have family members near there. My younger brother is away from the stench, about half an hour or forty five minutes drive in a quaint little town called Kulai. Another brother (actually best friend who got assimilated to the family) is staying in Kota Masai, also out of the perimeter of the city of putridity. In fact, I’d seriously consider severing my ties with them if they were to settle down right within that geographic concentration of evil

In all fairness, I would not have mind if the government, in efforts to boost the national income, overcome deficit, and really be recession proof, should sell Johore Bahru off to Singapore for, roughly around US$700 trillion. This time around, it will be part of Singapore and all the snatching, thieving, robbing, murdering, raping and bad cooking can by done by Singaporeans for Singapore themselves. The squeaky clean island sure needs some extra shades of grey. Plus it will improve ties with Malaysia, where we, especially the politicians and lawyers, screw each other within the border as well. It’s a homely thing to do nation-wise.

As for the rest of the Johore, we’d be fine. We have industrial estates outside of Johore Bahru, and huge oil palm plantation (one of the biggest in Asia…probably the world) and some of the fantastic cooking in this part of country. And when I tell people that I come from Johore, they’d say, “Oh yeah, Singapore”, and I’ll poke both of their eyes.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Goodbye To Bacherlorhood.

She kept saying this, as we walked out of the Jabatan Pendaftaran Negara’s (National Registration Board) Marriage Registration Office, “This is the second phase of your life.” That’s my future wife, Linda Marina Fernandez, who’s going to be part of my “second phase”.

I brushed it aside, saying that we have just applied and the actual registration is a month away. Chances are someone can object to the marriage, like the stuffed chicken, Chickie, that my fiancé, Linda, is attached to. That damn puff pillow wants to move in with us, it seems. I need to check with my lawyer on that.

Anyway, the thing is I am finally surrendering myself to married life after 16 years of subjecting myself to bachelorhood which includes cruelty such as inability to fry egg sunny side up. It’s true. Only last Sunday I managed to fry one successfully. I text messaged to a pal of mine, “After a gruelling 35 years, I finally manage to fry an egg sunny side up”. To which she replied something like, “As the saying goes, one is never too old to learn something new. Congrats!”

A sunny side up egg finally after all these years. And yes, I also need to remind myself that if it’s too long on skillet you also get dark side of the moon. Okay, back to my impending…I mean, upcoming married life and I must say the route towards it has been interesting.

You see, we are both of different faith, Linda and I. While she goes to church, I sit at home and watch DVD of my choice. While she prays, I bitch about the lack of quality of onscreen performances and that they have way too much CGI. While goes on her knees worshipping, I am on my knees cursing the disc that got stuck in the DVD player. We certainly belong to two different sets of faith.

So, in order to get to know her belief system better, my future father-in-law got me into these weekend class that introduces the religion to those intending to convert. Though I know very well I am not going to convert, I did sit through them with interest, particularly as I made my own interpretation as it moved on.

The class is interesting because it opens up the window as to how my future in-laws line of thoughts and predispositions are. My future father in-law is fiercely religious. When in meeting with my parents, rather than a casual chat, he looked and sounded like he was giving sermon. But to have accepted me shows that he has an open mind. Plus, girls these days would do stupid thing for love and he, having lived a good 70 years of healthy life and can text message his daughter on what time she is coming back home and that its getting late, he knows that the old school inter-faith antagonism is a thing of the past. Plus it’s not cool.

After the faith class, the last two months, we were sent to a marriage course. It’s compulsory as the certificate would allow us to get married in the house of the lord. And though it was a regular preachy routine that you can get in many help books, there were some interesting moments. One of the revealing one was when I learned that the recent economic turmoil was caused by masturbating.

No, I am not kidding. The one half of the counselling couple, an elderly crochety geezer who had counselled many couples in trouble (only success stories are shared as usual), said men used to be strong, powerful those days. “During the caveman era, they used to hunt, protect their family, had sex only with his wife.” But then, he said, men started practising masturbation instead of actual sex and the act of self-man handling has made these macho posturers into wieners. “In fact, the economic crisis began because of these weak men who masturbate,” he said. Again, I am not kidding. They shouldn’t have rushed in the Madoff case.

Anyway, the next step is the official registration, and followed by weddings at the holy place of our individual faith (okay, technically mine should be a movie theatre, but my parents insist on Hindu temple). And two months down the road, I am a married man.

And that reminded me of something else. When his bachelorhood ended at the age of 40, Ian Fleming, to overcome his “shock” of getting into married life, wrote the first James Bond novel, “Casino Royale”. It is indeed worth pondering that in the very novel that kicked off a billion dollar franchise, Fleming killed off Bond’s lover. Yeah. After getting married. Riiiight.

In my case, yeah it would lovely if I can get that novel that I’ve been working for one full decade out. Otherwise, nothing out of extraordinary. Life goes on. I will be a good husband, and in future, a great father. Most importantly, continue to be the person that I am now, mildly annoying but not a threat to mankind. Saying this, I am now looking forward to a blissful married life…and it also means you have to send that dang stuffed chicken to some orphanage, sweetheart!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Weighty Solution.

I met an ex-colleague the other. A freelancing yoga instructor, football coach, practitioner of Aikido and fitness guru, Subendran Dali is also one of the funniest guys I’d ever met and we shared so much laughter bitching about a former boss.

And then, he dropped the bomb. He said that recent surveys revealed that Malaysians are the most obese people in Asia. Shocked, I managed to respond, “That means you are not doing your job well, don’t you?” He just laughed it off instead of punching my nose with his Aikido fist.

Anyway, he is right. Check this post out.

“Look around the world,” he said, much to my growing fear that he might spout some Eastern philosophy. “Every where they close shop early. But here, we have teh tarik and supper at 2am, 3am or 4am,” he said. Alas, he touched on what should naturally be Malaysian’s favourite pastime, apart from bitching about local politics, which, again, is done during the Teh Tarik sessions.

To the non-Malaysian readers, you might wonder what a Teh Tarik is. “Teh” is tea in Malay, and typing it in Office’s Words application is a big bother because the ever helpful in-built spelling mechanism rearranges the letters, so the “Teh” becomes “The”. Go ahead, try it. Type “Teh” ten times and try to correct it. I won’t be surprised if few minutes later your colleagues are trying to help you retrieve your fist that got tangled up in a mess that was once your beloved keyboard.

Anyway, the Malaysian version is one where instead of normal milk; you mix it with condensed milk which is 10% milk and 290% sugar. You get this sticky, super-sweet beverage that has hints of tea if you are lucky that day. The next word, “Tarik” means pull. So, it means pulled tea, as in you pour from one container where the drink is mixed to the mug and pull the container way up till you got the beverage all over yourself.

So, Malaysian’s favourite supper usually consists of the said drink (I don’t want to type it, I value my fist) and accompanied by Roti Canai, which consist of 5% flour and the rest margarine or whatever fatty substance they use. Or Nasi Lemak which has rice cooked in coconut milk (which if you don’t know, where cooking oil is made from).

And those are only Malaysian food & beverage. We are also aware of fast food franchise that’s available from Perlis to Sarawak. From small town to cities. You have greasy burgers sold from street side to mid-class restaurants like McDonald or Burger King (this with Wendy and Carl’s Jr making foray in recent times). No wonder we are in that list. And I am not far off from becoming one.

Generally I think I am mid-sized, but my mom doesn’t think so. It has been more than a decade since my mom commented that I have lost weight. Quite the opposite in fact. Recently she asked me where my neck was. I know I’ve got a bit heavy below the chin, but come on! She’s a wonderful, loving mom and I worship her. But when it comes to weight issue, she can be a real pain in the, err…missing neck.

Each time I go my parents place, my mom will cook all my favourite meal, feed me breakfast, lunch, tea, dinner and then supper. And then, when I am back home and on the phone with her, she’d give me stern warning about my weight problem. Even ordinary conversation is peppered with hints of the weight issue. The phone conversation would go something like this:

Me: So, how’s dad’s work.

Mom: Fine, coz he didn’t have extra weight to worry about.

Me: How’re the dogs?

Mom: On diet. What you had for lunch?

Me: Dry twig.

Mom: Good boy.

So, here’s an idea I have for the government. Appoint my mom as the Weight Issue Consultant. With her incessant nagging and pressuring, they can get the relevant ministry to transfer the pressure back the people to lay off that sticky drink and turn their face away from Nasi Lemak Bungkus. She’d be the right person to consult when writing speech for anything. For instance let’s say the prime minister wants to address the environmental issue.

Let’s say excerpt of the speech goes “….that it is imperative that we take care of our environment and this attitude should start from home…”

My mom would reword it this way, “…that it is imperative, while you make sure you are no thicker than a lamp post, that we take care of our environment, and this also mean you eat once a day and run twenty kilometres, and this attitude should start from home where you make your own salad…”

Having her on board will do Malaysians a lot’s of good. But of course, there will be backlash from the food and beverage or hospitality industry. This in turn will not bode with Malaysians who are addicted to fatty food. Chaos will reign, with hungry Malaysians creeping around looking for fatty meals. When that happens, don’t look for me. I’d be in Singapore living on Burger King and Teh Tarik.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Manly Gifts

A query from a pal of mine asking what gift is suitable for men triggered me to write this piece. Also, there is nothing much to do so I decided to torture you with, yet, another informative; fact filled posting about…gifts for men!

It is not true that men dislike gifts, because it makes them feel obligated to, for example, wash the gift giver’s toilet. It’s totally untrue unless you are married. No, we guys welcome any gift even it’s a tiny cactus in a tiny pot and can still prick you, that little bastard. But we sure know how to show our appreciation.

Take me for instance. Few months ago, my fiancé bought for me the latest U2 album that came with a limited edition T-Shirt! I was overjoyed and, to borrow the expression from Allison Doody, was “giddy as a school boy”. To show my appreciation I played the CD over and over and over and over and over again, until at one point my future wife wanted to stab me with the dashboard cigarette lighter.

For the knotty men

So, here’s me an amateur expert in buying men’s gift. Let me begin with the most common but useless gift – a necktie. That neckties have no practical value still intrigues me till today. You cannot eat it, and you cannot dip it in boiled water like tea. You cannot use it to lift heavy objects, nor can you ever click on it instead of the remote control. A necktie or a tie as it is known to most of us except the Thais, is coiled around the neck like a slim python and hangs down with its sharp end pointed at the groin. Some sort unsubtle hint about men’s penile & phallic fascination? I bet the inventor of the tie is a woman.

Anyway, you ladies can get your men a new tie. My misgiving nevertheless, I know very much that like shoes for women, ties are great conversation makers. “Nice tie, where’d you get it?”, a co-worker would ask. “I had tie like that once, but it was eaten by my dog?”, the supervisor might remark. Or a pal might say, “Is that pasta sauce on your tie?”

But it’s a bad idea if your male friend already has loads of tie. You know, they have a drawer full of them that one extra tie could trigger all of it to jump out and strangle your friend. “Men Strangled by His Own Ties: Suspects Found in Raoul, Starhill,” is not a headline you’d like to read.

Other apparels include socks, which will remind him to not to forget to wash his current ones, and cuff-links, a totally useless invention now that we have buttons but especially favoured by salesmen who still have not met their sales quota.

BO need not mean Box Office.

If you had nixed necktie as the perfect gift for the dude, here’s something else that can come in handy – perfume. A guy can be the most careful, immaculate, hygienic and sharp in his dressing and all; but once he starts to sweat like a pig (do pigs sweat?) he would emit enough odours to send water buffaloes to demonstrate in the city centre.

I, in particular, have this warm body that can’t take higher temperature and sweat freely. This fact is further evidenced by the…err fact that several times, after work, while driving my fiancé home, I’ve received the “Eww…” sound from her, and after rummaging her handbag, she’d spray her perfume at me. That’s a horrible thing to do. “Hey!” I’d yell, “That’s a girlie perfume. Now I smell like a Strawberry Shortcake doll”. That really annoys her because now she would want to know what relationship I had in the past with Strawberry Shortcake dolls.

My point is this: get the man man’s perfume. You know the ones that come with advertisement showing well built topless men with constipated look? Yeah, those ones. These perfumes still smell like sweat, but of better quality. Sometimes I suspect it is made from sweat derived from those very models in the ad. Now you know why they have that look.

Toys for Boys

It’s even easier if you have enough dough and your male friend or partner is a, basically as it is known scientifically, a techno geek. Or a nerd. Or basically the kind of jerk that keep spouting about the latest app for their iPhone or that he passed the Vapour of Evil level with their Death Skullhead game, or thinks Star Wars Episode One was god’s gift to mankind. Usually, I’d ask you to avoid him like H1N1, but you asked for it.

So, you know what to get for them. Surfing the net you can find the latest, coolest gadget that you can get for your guy friend if it’s worth it. Trust me, it’s not, cause they would have upgraded the gadget to the next version (version 3.1XKWRPIVVXX Cro-Magnon) between the time you purchase it and give it to that jerk. It’s not worth it. I don’t even know why I suggested this in the first place.

Anyway, these are just ideas of what to get for your male friend/partner/spouse/jerk. Also, remember that you can’t expect guys to reciprocate except that they will say “thanks” and go back wearing old tie, smelly socks, and sweat freely and lookout for the next killer apps for his phone that he keeps looking at when you are talking to him. As I said, you asked for it!