Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Malaysian time - another aspect of the third world mentality

I always hate Malaysian time although I am a Malaysian. It just does not make sense, and I do not like to be made to wait. Being made to wait for a very long time without a valid reason just pisses me off. I have been brought up by my parents to be punctual for any functions or appointments I have to attend to and to respect other people's time.

Thus, I'm always early for any functions or appointments I need to attend to. This is because I take into consideration of the factors that would affect me travelling to the place of the function or appointment. Being very strict about punctuality has seen me almost always never late for any functions or appointments I need to attend to. If I am late for any functions or appointments it would have been due to unforeseen and unavoidable circumstances.

An excellent example of Malaysian time would be Chinese wedding dinners. These dinner functions are notoriously well-known to start extremely late; anywhere from one up to three hours from the time stated in the invitation card. The idea of it is that the bride's family should arrive "fashionably" late for the dinner function so as not to be seen as being impatient for it to start or being plain greedy about the food to be served.

Whoever came up with this idea about Chinese wedding dinner starting late could be a moron to the boot, and has no respect and do not value for other people's time. This trend could possibly have spilled over to the other aspects of Malaysian life and thus, causing many Malaysians to get into the habit of not being punctual for functions or appointments they need to attend to.

As Malaysia will be a developed nation in about nine years' time then this mentality about being on Malaysian time should be discarded altogether. Otherwise, we will be a laughing stock, especially to other countries as this actually portrays that our reliability is very questionable in nature. It definitely does not bode well where positive impressions on Malaysia are concerned.

A Malaysian writer, Lydia Teh has termed Malaysian time as Malaysian Rubber Time or MRT in her book, Honk, If You're Malaysian. She was further quoted in this book as saying "MRT can be deadly". It shows punctuality is extremely essential in every aspect of our daily life.     

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Malaysian kiasu-ism - an aspect of the third-world mentality

The irony of me being a Malaysian - I don't indulge in the third-world mentality Malaysians are well-known to possess. But I do it without meaning to off and on. Not that I deliberate want to do it. I was at the supermarket in town this morning doing my usual weekly grocery shopping. What I saw was an out-of-the-ordinary scene.

There was a very long queue of people at the redemption counter. I was wondering why, when it came my turn to pay for the items I had picked out at one of the check-out counters, I found out that the supermarket chain concerned was offering a few selected items for the price of RM 1, which was really dirt cheap to the boot.

What amused and baffled me was that Malaysians would go all out to get dirt cheap offers at supermarkets and hypermarkets. Worse still if there is no capped limit to the number of items they could buy, a possible stampede would probably ensued! However, thank God that the supermarket chain management had decided  to cap the limit to one unit per item per customer for this particular one-day offer. Thus, the long queue at the redemption counter.

It is actually not a very bad thing to be kiasu at times as this would help us become globally competitive. If we do it the right way and with the right kind of attitude and mentality. But not over trivial matters like open house buffets and supermarket/hypermarket special offers. Not to mention and top on this list would be driving, and Malaysians are extremely well-known for their devilish antics on the road; that is why the fatalities pile up sky high, akin to or worse than those countries at the height of civil wars.

Being kiasu - doing it the right way, you would reap the benefits from it but doing the wrong way would result in ruined first impressions and damaged reputations. Maybe it could be a good thing if we can take the good leafs out of our neighbouring country's book on how to be kiasu the right way.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

SPM Results - Good or bad it may NOT determine your future career path

It is the time of the year when all Malaysian 18-year olds are receiving their end of high school public examination results, better known as Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia or SPM. Yup, SPM is often viewed as a high school student's future decider, as in the direction they will take where their career path is concerned. For the excellent achievers, there will be not much problems for them to decide what career to take up. Usually it would be the average and below-average students who would face more issues in deciding the career path they want to take.

However, as I was scanning the newspaper this morning, I noticed that some excellent achievers are also faced with the dilemma in deciding their career path. Often, the traditional career choices would be medicine, law and engineering. These career choices often give the idea to students and their parents that they would provide job security, big bucks and the so-called glamour attached to them. Out of the three reasons, most likely job security would be true and the latter two are most likely just disillusionment due to very stereotypical views about the said careers.

Choosing a career path after leaving high school is never that straightforward as most people would perceived it to be. Even for excellent achievers, let alone the average and below-average achievers. In fact, in the real world out there, many people I know are pursuing careers they would NEVER EVER dreamed of doing. But there are also people I know who are pursuing their careers of their choice.

At the end of the day it boils down to TWO most important factors when it comes to choosing the right career path after SPM - they are PASSION and INTEREST. If these two factors are not present when deciding a career choice, then it is better not to pursue it, as it is just a waste of time and effort, which are better off being used to pursue a career of choice. 

Big bucks would often be THE pull factor for a particular choice of career but without passion and interest, it would be just a job an individual would love to hate but he/she does it because of the money. This would defeat the purpose of spending the time and effort being trained for the job. Sad to say from my observation, this is the reality in the Malaysian job market today, a severe mismatch of job talents in many industries and areas of expertise, not to mention in the civil service.  Also, there are still some industries and areas of expertise that are not being properly explored, developed and be matched with the right talents.

At the end of the day, ideally all of us should be doing what we have passion and interest most, but if it doesn't turn out the way we hoped it to be all is not lost yet. Giving it the benefit of the doubt, there could be a silver lining behind those grey clouds hovering over the career/job we might hate doing.

And to those SPM-ers of 2010 - congratulations to all of you, all of you deserved a pat on the back for all the hard work you have put in regardless the results you have obtained. I hope all of you will have a successful future in the career of your choice.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tsunami - how well do you know this word?

These days when there is an incident of earthquake happening, especially when it is an undersea earthquake, the buzz word seems to be tsunami. Tsunami is the Japanese word for giant waves or killer waves. I have actually noticed that most people do not know the word tsunami - at least before Boxing Day of 2004. Yes, that fateful day saw a 9.1 undersea earthquake off Acheh, Indonesia triggering a monstrous tsunami that devastated many parts of Asia - Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia, just to name a few.

I would like to conduct a random survey to find out how many of my blog followers actually knew the term tsunami before the one that happened in 2004. For the record and your information, I knew of the term tsunami when I was about six years old. And I did not learned it in school but by reading about it from a few encyclopaedias Dad had bought for both my brother and I.

I had also learned about the Earth's structure, volcano and earthquake from the very same encyclopaedias. My knowledge about tsunami would be further strengthened in the Geography classes I had attended when I was in junior high school. By then, the term tsunami has become a familiar word to me and I managed to have better understanding about it through those Geography classes in school.

I was quite surprised that many adults I know did not know the term tsunami before the Big One happened on Boxing Day of 2004. I am actually quite amused... this general knowledge should have been known by most people as it would most likely be a very common knowledge that could be easily picked up from various sources and/or reading materials.

You would have picked this knowledge up if you have been a very observant person and a voracious reader like me. And please respond to this blog entry if/when you can, and it does not matter where you are from.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Review: Dancing on my Grave by Gelsey Kirkland with Greg Lawrence

Dancing on My Grave

Title: Dancing on my Grave
Author: Gelsey Kirkland with Greg Lawrence
Year: 1992
ISBN: 0-425-13500-4

Dancing on my Grave is an autobiography of Gelsey Kirkland, a celebrated former ballerina of American Ballet Theatre. Kirkland was well-known to partner Mikhail Baryshnikov, a celebrated Kirov Ballet dancer who defected to Canada in 1974. Baryshnikov as a principal ballet dancer with American Ballet Theatre (ABT) was the frequent partner to Kirkland from 1974 to 1979.

Gelsey Kirkland was trained in the Balanchine technique of ballet at the School of American Ballet and was a baby ballerina of the celebrated co-founder of the New York City Ballet (NYCB), George Balanchine. However, as Kirkland fell out of favour with Balanchine in the 1970s and also because of her desire to dance with Baryshnikov was extremely strong, this saw her leaving NYCB in 1974 for ABT.

Kirkland became very popular when she dancing with ABT as she was well-known to strive for extreme perfection to the art of classical ballet. This perfection for the art of classical ballet became the trademark of Kirkland as a ballerina with ABT, and she had danced many performances to critical acclaims and reviews.

However, being the perfectionist she was, Kirkland became the victim of circumstances that would eventually risked her stellar career with ABT. She was involved in illicit drugs, participated in the dancers' strike in 1979/1980 and repeatedly falling out with the ABT management. These unfortunate incidents were sadly due to Kirkland's ambition to be the excellent ballerina she already was at that time.

Kirkland's story could be just one of the many stories of ballet dancers in the 1960s and 1970s that were embroiled in many career controversies, issues and problems. The use of illicit drugs was also a major issue for many ballet dancers then as it coincided with the era of American counter-culture at that time. This story was riveting to read as reviewed favourably by many newspapers and magazines in the USA at the time of its first publication in 1986. Even if you are not a fan of the ballet, Kirkland's story would still hold you spellbound because she told it in an uncannily honest and brutal manner, leaving no details unturned.

Dancing on my Grave gives an intimate insight into the ballet world where most people would not be aware of. Contrary to popular belief, many experiences that most ballet dancers have to endure throughout their performing lifetime is far from being a fairy tale. Kirkland's story proved it to be all too true. However, ballet dancers being the disciplined and resilient people they were and would always be, many of their stories would often have a reasonably happy ending, and Kirkland's Dancing on my Grave is one of those stories destined to be one.  

Friday, March 18, 2011

KTM Komuter - seriously needs a revamp!

I took KTM Komuter last Tuesday into KL city to catch Black Swan. My usual hang-out cineplex where I could drive to did not screen Black Swan, what a bummer! So I was forced to make a trip down to KL city for this very purpose.

As I am the type of person who always catches the first screening of the day for any movie I want to watch at the cineplex, I would often take KTM Komuter quite early in the morning. That Tuesday saw me taking the train before nine o'clock in the morning. As it was a week day, naturally the train was packed to the brim like a can of sardines mostly with office workers.

The ride was extremely uncomfortable, although I did manage to hop on to the 'Ladies Only' coach, it didn't help much as the coach was packed beyond its holding capacity with hardly any room to manoeuvre. It has been almost 20 years since KTM Komuter first started its services. If my memory serves me right, hardly any improvements were done to make Komuter an appealing means of public transportation. People would take it when it is only viable to do so, when buses and taxis are not an option.

It was even packed almost to the brim when I took it home BEFORE the peak hour rush started on that same day. It baffles me why hardly anything was done to improve its services. On the other hand, the LRT services have shown marked improvements in their services, and I actually quite enjoyed the ride on it. I actually have not taken a ride on KTM Komuter and LRT for more than two years.

After this particular experience riding KTM Komuter and LRT services, I have come to the conclusion that as long as not much improvement are being continuously carried out, many of us would rather drive to the places we need to go. Implementing another new public transportation project without improving the existing one defeats the purpose of providing a world-class public transportation for the public. I would rather have an extremely efficient existing public transport system than a new public transport system simply because less public funds would be spent.

Unless the existing public transport system failed to serve its purpose well, then a new public transportation project should only be considered as a solution to improve it.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Excellent command in English Language - does it really matter?

English Language is the global lingua franca. People who are able to master English as a second language would stand a good chance of excelling in any area they choose to do, be it in Malaysia or abroad. Being a Malaysian, to be able to master English Language as a second language is actually A BONUS! And I'm saying this from my personal experience. And NO, it does NOT make you ANY LESS Malaysian and Malay/Chinese/Indian/other races.

As globalisation is the way to move forward, being able to master English Language would be an advantage, especially when it is not the first language; as in the case of all Malaysians. Malaysia, being a multi-racial country, Malaysians would usually learn many languages while growing up. Like myself - Hokkien is actually my mother tongue but I am able to speak Bahasa Malaysia, English, Hokkien, Cantonese and a smattering of Mandarin. All in all I could speak FIVE languages; with the ability to master both English and Bahasa Malaysia! Being a Malaysian has allowed me to be a multilingual person in a very unique way without being ANY LESS Malaysian and Chinese. I am still VERY MUCH a Malaysian and Chinese since the day I was born.

I am actually very grateful that I was able to be extremely fluent in English Language as it actually piquéd my curiousity to acquire more knowledge to add to the wealth of knowledge I already have. And this was done NOT at the expense of being fluent in Bahasa Malaysia and Hokkien.

From my own experience, having an excellent command English Language DOES really matter, especially if you are looking at the option of developing your career in a global environment. It is NOT a waste to know how to speak more than one language, and it's NEVER at the expense of the national language, no matter from which country you are from that doesn't use English as her first language.

Mastering the English Language like any other language requires a lengthy commitment if you want to be excellent in it. My own experience saw me took up to at least TEN years to master English Language. In the early years of learning the language I had to carry a dictionary everywhere I go with the reading material I carried with me at all times. I neither complained nor whined about it, and when I went to Australia to further my studies I was complimented for my excellent command in English. The Australian accent and slang never intimidated me as I had the reasonable knowledge and capacity to comprehend it. And it actually allowed me to communicate well with people from different cultures and backgrounds.

Thus, to all my fellow Malaysians, please have the courage to acquire an excellent command in English Language. No, I'm not asking you to glorify it but to acquire a reasonable level of competency of the language so as not to lose out to other countries that are surging forward to be the best in their own areas of expertise. And why should Malaysia should lose out to them?


Sunday, March 13, 2011

The great earthquake and tsunami in Japan - March 11 2011

Dateline March 11 2011. A day of natural catastrophe of unimaginable intensity has happened. An earthquake measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale devastated the northeastern coast of Japan at 2:46 p.m. This earthquake came with a very nasty surprise in the form of a tsunami up to 10 metres in height slamming into most of the northeastern coastal area leaving devastating trails of destruction in its path.

Not to mention the countless of fatalities due to this catastrophe, as of 1:00 p.m. today the estimated number of deaths is recorded at more than 1,000 but the actual number of fatalities could be much higher. To me, this earthquake is so reminiscent of the tsunami that devastated Acheh, Indonesia on December 26 2004.

Which brings me to say that yet again Mother Nature is probably sending her signal that she would not tolerate anymore abuse from mankind. I guess many of us also, myself included are wondering if the world is actually coming to an end.

I was watching National Geographic on the TV about a week or so ago about the history of the Earth. It was an eye-opening experience for me. From what I could gather from this particular documentary, the fate and future of the Earth actually lies in the natural forces that Mother Nature unleashes on the movements of water in the oceans and the movements of lava and magma in the core of the Earth. These movements would actually determine the fate of all living things on Earth.

In this day of rapid development and advancement all across the globe, each and every one of us should spare a thought for Mother Nature where our actions impacting the environment are concerned. Especially in the wake of the global climate change. Indiscriminate actions impacting the environment would definitely bring dire consequences to Mother Nature and all living things on the Earth. Humans are no exception to this.

Each natural disaster that happens, especially devastating ones like in Japan this past Friday as well as the tsunami in Acheh, Indonesia in 2004 should be stark reminders we could actually destroy not only the Earth but also ourselves if we are not mindful of our actions impacting the environment. It is not too late yet to help rehabilitate Mother Earth when we all are really serious about playing our respective roles.  And we should be really serious about doing it.

Countries like Malaysia that is currently listed as an earthquake-free zone should start assessing her preparedness for the possibility of earthquakes happening in the near future. The Malaysian government should take into consideration of this possibility after what happened in 2004. I don't think Malaysia will be forever impervious from earthquakes and even volcano eruptions. As we are actually located extremely close to Indonesia, a country well-known for her violent earthquakes and volcano eruptions, the Malaysian government should consider drawing up contingency plans for devastating natural disasters. This move would very much help the country to prepare for the inevitable if it does happen in the near future.

My thoughts and prayers go out to all who are affected by this great earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and also to all the people from the other countries affected by it. We are all in it together so let us show our solidarity support for one another regardless of global and cultural boundaries in this time of need.  

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Review: Black Swan

Black Swan

Black Swan is the latest ballet movie to hit the global box office since Mao's Last Dancer in 2009. However, it is not the run-of-the-mill ballet movie with a fairy-tale ending. It tells the story of a ballet dancer, Nina Sayers vying for the lead role of Swan Queen in the ballet company she is working for in its latest production of Swan Lake. Nina is a talented dancer, however, being a perfectionist she is, it is all the more difficult for her to realise her fullest potential.

Nina did get the lead role of Swan Queen. However, securing this role came with a catch; she also needed to master the role of Black Swan. While mastering the role of Swan Queen came within her grasp, mastering the role of Black Swan soon became an unimaginable nightmare. Nina has to put up with the daunting pressure from her domineering mother and an impossible artistic director.

Not only that, Nina began to feel convinced a new dancer in the company by the name of Lily was determined to snatch the role of Swan Queen from her. As the pressure to excel began to mount on Nina, it was also the point where she began to show signs she were to succumb it. The horrendous hallucinations she was experiencing became the breaking point. Nina finally did managed to master both the role of Swan Queen and Black Swan, however, it came with a terrible price as she did not managed to muster the courage to ask for help.

The character of Nina Sayers was helmed by the ever gorgeous Natalie Portman, and she played it to absolute perfection, performing 90% of the dance scenes in the movie. Thus, this year's Academy Awards category of Actress In A Leading Role has aptly gone to Portman for her brilliant portrayal as Nina Sayers in Black Swan.

Mila Kunis who played the role of Lily was excellent too. The dual personality of the "bitchy" and "nice" Lily was so real beyond any description I could think of. Kunis' acting could have rivalled that of Portman's, they are in my opinion, equally excellent.

As I'm very partial to ballet movies, this would hardly come as a surprise to people who know me well that I would review Black Swan favourably. I seriously think it could have rivalled The King's Speech in terms of global box office collection, despite the fact these two movies are from very different genrés. And yes, I HIGHLY recommend Black Swan even if you are not a fan of the ballet and/or ballet movies.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Malaysian public toilets - etiquettes need to be observed

Malaysian public toilets often leave me much to be desired. It is a necessity for many people yet you would find there are people who do not know how to use them properly let alone treat them with respect. It would not be that bad if people are able to observe simple etiquettes to keep the public toilets clean and in reasonable condition.

Making things worse would be when you have to pay to use the public toilet but its cleanliness is not even up to scratch. One of my top pet peeves about the Malaysian public toilets would be their extremely wet environment. I wouldn't mind if the toilet in my own home is wet as there are very few people using it. However, when you have to share the public toilet with hundreds of other strangers, it is entirely a different matter altogether.

Not only that, some people have the habit of hogging the toilet without any care in the world, even when there is a very long queue of people waiting to use it. This phenomenon is extremely prevalent in the ladies' toilet. My own experience often saw me waiting up to 15 to 20 minutes just to use the toilet for a small business due to some inconsiderate people who decided to hog the toilet cubicle. I also often encounter people who would leave little pressies after they are done using the toilet.

Sometimes the attitude of people using public toilets baffles me. More so if they are supposedly to be well-educated and well brought up by their parents. If most people can keep their own toilet at home clean and tidy, why can't they just do the same when they are using the public toilet? I guess it all boils down to the mentality of many Malaysians - when something doesn't belong to you, you would treat it according to your whims and fancies.

Public properties should be treated with respect as they are built using taxpayers' hard-earned money and/or money spent in retail and services business transactions. People should stop and think for a moment that it is their hard-earned money being used to build public properties around the country as well as hiring personnel to upkeep them. Even if it means you have to pay to use them.

As we are moving towards the direction of a developed country, everyone should play their role to treat public properties with respect, especially public toilets. And it is something NOT to be peed about (pun intended) because it often becomes the first impression foreigners have on our country.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Review: American Ballet Theatre: a 25-year retrospective

American Ballet Theatre: A 25 Year Retrospective

Title: American Ballet Theatre: a 25-year retrospective
Author: Elizabeth Kaye (text), Clive Barnes (foreword)
Year: 1999
ISBN: 0-7407-0019-7 (hardback), 0-7407-0018-9 (paperback)

American Ballet Theatre: a 25-year retrospective is a coffee table book that chronicled the progression of America's premier classical ballet company from the time it was first founded in 1939. It is a pictorial chronology of the American Ballet Theatre (ABT), illustrating some of the most prolific male and female dancers who have performed and are performing with the company.

ABT is a company that have always been staging well-known and well-loved ballet classics such as Swan Lake, Don Quixote, La Bayadère, Giselle and The Nutcracker just to name a few. However, the company also commissioned quite a few neo-classical and modern ballet choreography from choreographers like George Balanchine, Antony Tudor and Jerome Robbins. Thus, this book contained photographs of some of the most memorable performances that have been showcased by ABT from the mid-1970s to the 1990s.

This book is excellent for people who love ballet like me. I love the photographs in it, coloured and black-and-white alike. In fact, I REALLY LOVE ballet photography. The beauty of it is beyond any description. People who are into performing arts would be able to relate to what I'm saying. I have the paperback version of this book for less than RM 50 many years ago and I thought it was a worthwhile investment when I saw the price of the hardback being sold by Amazon.
However, it would be a worthwhile to get this book if you are as crazy about ballet as I am. I had actually forgotten I have this book; it was because of Black Swan is currently playing in the Malaysian theatres that it jogged my long-lost memory I actually have this book. I have cleaned the dust off it and have been flipping its pages tirelessly over and over, reliving the ecstasy of just looking at those beautiful photographs.