Friday, October 28, 2005

Swallow A Couple Of Eggs And Call Me In The Morning

This sign outside the Isetan supermarket at KLCC made me spin on my heels. Chewable vitamins, cherry flavoured paracetamol, oral vaccines....what will they think of next? I know those billion $$$ drug barons are creative but this was just out of sight man. Now instead of swallowing tablets or capsules you can fry, poach, steam or scramble your medication. And have it with a bit of salt and pepper to "make the medicine go down". And for only RM3.29 a dozen. Sure beats what I pay for antibiotics at my GP's. Cool.

But it was not to be. Turns out that the sign was written by an English language challenged SPM graduate. What the sign meant to say was that the eggs were anti-biotic free!

Actually, these days you just can't buy JUST an egg anymore. They've got to be cholesterol free, antibiotic free etc. The only thing not free are the eggs you buy. Same thing goes for stuff which you use everyday. Try looking for an ordinary bar of SOAP. You won't find any. There are lots of beauty treatments, facial washes, cleansers but no SOAP. Right?

This is the blog I got for visiting KLCC yesterday. Oh yes. I also got myself a cool pouch for my Nokia 6630 phone. I'm a happy man.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Did You Feel The Pain?

(Photo of Malaysian consumer who's been screwed so many times he's decided to take it lying down)

If you didn't feel any pain up your rear end but have been reading the papers over the last few days you might just have been awake enough to know that you've been screwed yet again. This time by the petrol companies and the retail petrol stations. After some hoohah about not wanting to accept credit cards for petrol purchases the usual committees were set up to "discuss" the matter. Then the government stepped in and made the mandatory statement about how things should not affect the poor raayat in a negative way. Those of us 'older' flers were expecting the next step to be announced which was "Screw the blaardy consumer. Again." And so they did. It was announced yesterday that the petrol companies and the petrol station owners had come to a mutually beneficial agreement. And notice I picked the word "mutually" very carefully. It's just between them and them. You and I have no say in this. Read this...

"Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Shafie Apdal said the agreement was reached on Oct 19 at a meeting attended by petrol dealers, petroleum firms, banks, credit card issuers and representatives from Bank Negara.".......New Straits Times, Tueday, October 26 2005. Do you see you and me in that equation? Of course not.

Drum roll please......................From November 1, all petrol purchases with credit cards will no longer be eligible for reward points.

Now do you feel a little fire in your rear end? Well, maybe a little pinch. During good times we don't get anything special from these big businesses and when things go soft we are the ones paying to bail THEM out of their problems? I can hear some of you saying that it's nothing what. Just don't get a few points toward getting a free bar of soap or a free bottle of mineral water only what. That's true. With the system it will take some years of fill-ups before I become eligible for something as valuable as a box of chocolates. But that's not the point is it? If petrol companies need loyalty programmes it means that there is keen competition among them and they NEED our custom. So why are we letting them get away with it when it comes to losing a few sen profit per litre? And when you think about it what do credit card companies do for charging you a couple of hundred Ringgit a year in subscription fees? Ya, what? It makes it more convenient for us, the consumer to spend money and so we do and they make profits out of that. And we need to pay them for that???!!! What do petrol stations offer us other than a facility to get fuel? Their toilets are still filthy. Their so-called convenience shops sell crap at inflated prices and now they don't even offer to wipe your windscreens or inflate your tires. Service at service stations has become a privilege. Which you pay for.

Doesn't sit well with me I'll tell you. So what am I going to do?

Sigh. I must admit that I am also going to submit and hang my head in defeat. What to do? Don't buy petrol and don't drive ah? Take LRT and bus ah? Cannot lah. Inconvenient lah. I am ashamed of myself but I will still drive and buy petrol with my credit card and be F***ed up the ass. Cash? No I don't fancy carrying a thick wad of Ringgits just so I can add "mug victim" to my list of 'screw'-ups. If you know what I mean.

This is merely the latest in our long history of getting the shitty end of the stick as consumers. Think about it. How many times has this happened just in the last 6 months. No make that the last 6 years! Of course, it is no longer a surprise that the Malaysian consumer is another apathetic creature that is not going to become extinct in a hurry. And big businesses have learned this and are using it to great advantage in swelling their annual bottom lines.

Now I am going to do something gross. If you're squeamish or if you're under 18 please leave now. I shall not be responsible if you throw up all over your Imbi Plaza keyboard.

I am going to pull the shitty end of the stick out of my behind and read the ringed history of how I have been screwed. Ready? This is your last chance. Okay, here we go...........NGMMMGPH! There it is. Let's see........

1. I pay taxes, cukai pintu etc. but the water that comes out of my tap is not fit for drinking. And so I spend more money buying those water filters. Now that's become a "keeping up with the Jones' "fad too. My filter is better, shinier than yours. Mine costs more than yours. And big business is laughing all the way to the bank.

2. I go to see a movie. Pay the ticket price and then get screwed by scratched prints, bad sound and censor's butchering. But that has been the subject of another bellyaching session here. (Go to "Pay Money Orso Cannot Get Ah? Niamah!" below)

3. I pay good money to park in a parking lot so that I can patronise and spend more money in some shopping mall. Then I get accosted by signs that tell me the management is not responsible for anything that happens to my car while in that parking lot.

4. I pay tolls so that I can drive smoothly from one place to another. Then I get stuck in a traffic jam just to pay my toll.

5. I pay good money to get hooked up to a satellite TV network. Then I get out-of-date programmes that my Singaporean friends keep reminding me are so "last season" leh. Of course these satellite TV flers are constantly coming up with new "packages" which means that you need to pay more and more money for programmes that you don't want to watch. Simply because the programmes you want to watch will packaged with those that you don't.

I can go on with more examples but I think the smell is getting a little too much to bear. But I'm sure you get the picture.

I think we're so used to being screwed that we don't even feel the pain anymore and I swear that some of us really are beginning to enjoy it.

My prayer is that one day the Malaysian consumer will stand up and scream, "I'm mad as hell and I won't take it anymore!!!"

Errrrr...but no lah. Too inconvenient lah. Too much trouble lah. Hiyah! Waffor make trouble. Can make money enough lor. Or as my friend Jit Murad would say, "At least we're better off than Ghana."

Sigh. Kerana Mu Malaysia. Boleh.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

A Very Expensive Look At Seafood

(Photo of Adam's look of concern at the ticket counter. "Is my struggling actor papa really going to be able to afford this trip?")

This morning I made my maiden visit to the spanking new KL Aquaria in the monolithic Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (the other KLCC). Now the reason why I decided to do something which I would not normally attempt was that my daughter's kindergarten had arranged a field trip there. And since only one parent could accompany her, my wife went and I decided to take my son, Adam separately so he wouldn't feel left out.

Sad to say, the KL Aquaria is yet another Malaysian rip-off. First, it costs RM76.00 with taxes for 2 adults, me and our helper. Adam got in free cos he is only 2. Second, the price roughly translates into more than RM1.00 per minute per person for a visit. 30 minutes is approximately how long it takes to tour the place at a leisurely pace. It is small.

If you factor in parking and lunch a visit to the Aquaria can easily cost a family of 4 or 5 upwards of Rm200.00!!! And who has that kind of money to spend these days?

Now for the positive side of things. The KL Aquaria is bright and new and is actually quite well done. The exhibits, although very limited are well designed. Even for a short fler like Adam. Quite un-Malaysian, all the staff were well dressed, polite, cheerful (and this is the fasting month remember). And very eager to assist with information about the exhibits which they all seemed to be very knowledgeable about. But the most surprising thing for me meeting them this morning was that they all spoke English willingly! And spoke it very well too. Certainly much better than newsreaders on RTM and some radio deejays we all know. Sorry, couldn't resist that. Whatever the management did here with the training of their staff they should sell their system to Pak Lah's gormen departments.

All in all I guess it was a good morning for little Adam. He enjoyed looking at the seafood. He enjoyed petting a starfish. He loved moving along on the walk-a-lator through the 'undersea' tunnel. He had a good time.

When I did my sums this is how it went...

Tickets for 2 adults RM76.00
Parking FREE
(I know the owner of Top Hat restaurant across the street. So I begged and she let me park there at no charge)
Lunch RM36.00
(We escaped the souvenir shop but I couldn't fight the bright lights and colors of the food court. Adam made a beeline for the Kenny Rogers restaurant cos he loves eating chicken)

And so, for a 2.5 hour visit on a Tuesday morning I spent RM112.00

Okay that's it for this blog. Got to go figure out how I am going to feed my children the rest of the week.

Oh yes, some useful advise. Maybe. If you're planning to visit the Aquaria do not park in the KL Convention Centre. It costs RM3.50 EVERY hour or part thereof you park. There is a tunnel that links the Suria KLCC to the KLCC (confused?) and that leads you straight into the fish show. Parking at Suria KLCC is cheaper. I think. I am assuming that not many of you are fond of begging lah.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Niahmah! Missed By One Number lah!

(Photo of Adam......."Niahmah! Missed by 1 number!)

TV Smith called yesterday and said he was away from his pc and wanted to know what my nombor giliran was that I got from the JPN at Maju Junction. He was at the 4D betting shop. I told him, 2047 and tumpang the fler for RM5.00 SMALL on the draw.

The first prize last night was 2147! NIAAAAAAAAAAAAMAAAAAAAAA! Missed by one number.
Okay, okay I know it is a hundred numbers ahead ok? Don't try to get smart on me.

This is one time I didn't appreciate efficiency in a government deparment. Come to think of it if I had not listened to all the smart comments, "Got to go early one, I tell you", "Must go in the morning and line up as early as possible".....etc. I might have arrived a hundred numbers later.


Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Some Things Take 2 Trips To Work Out

(Photo of Adam impersonating the guy behind the Warga Emas counter)

Since my friend TV Smith likes photographing ghost towns like Putrajaya, I bought 2 Air Asia Tickets from a travel agent in Shah Alam after losing my way looking for the deserted JPN office that is supposedly there and asked him to accompany me to Labuan to get my Mykad renewed. Halfway to KL Sentral, we figured we could use the money for the KLIA train for a few more jugs of beer. So off I went to Maju Function for another go. He went home to continue his sleep

I went to Maju Junction. Got there at 1030 hrs. Went to the nombor giliran counter. The same guy there. He saw me me, "MyKad?" I nodded. He handed me a number. 2047 (any of you flers buy this number and it comes out you know what to do lah:-). He mumbled something which I didn't quite catch. But I thought he said that I should just go sit down and wait.

There were a lot of people there. I sat down in front of a counter that had a big sign, "Kaunter Khas Untuk Warga Emas (nice name, right? Much better than Senior Citizen) Dan Orang Kurang Upaya." I qualified on both counts:-) If you have to ask why.......never mind lah.

Thing was that the two counters were serving people who obviously didn't fit into either category. I sat for 3 minutes and decided to go up and ask about my number and if I should wait in front of this counter. The guy behind the counter looked like he needed Colema Therapy, had his eyes fixed firmly on his computer monitor said, "Ya, itu nombor VIP." What? Have I been upgraded. Found out later that VIP and Warga Emas and Orang Kurang Upaya same thing.

Waited another couple of minutes and heard my number being called. Went up to the counter and was served by this lady who looked like she was days away from retirement. She had this typical government officer attitude. Which is to make you feel like you don't exist and they're there to tolerate you until their next tea break. I handed over my IC and the nomber giliran and my change of address form. She punched some keys on her computer. Asked me to place my left and right thumbs on the scanner. All the while joking with colleagues at other counters and making me feel really unwelcome. She handed me back a receipt type piece of paper and mumbled something, pointed me to some other counters. I dechipered the mumbles to mean I should go wait in front of counters 1,2,3 or 4. I went.

Those counters had contraptions with two lights shining out and a round thing which I guessed was the camera and its lighting. After a minute this young lady waved me over, asked me to put my left thumb on this scanner. Then she waved me to go sit on this chair in front of her. Directed me to turn left a bit, turn right a bit, tilt my head a bit. And then, "Datang lepas 3 bulan." That was it. Of course, the piece of paper I held in my hand clearly stated that I had to wait 6 months. But then continuity in a government system would make it.......well not a government system. Right?

I looked at my watch as I walked through the door. It read 1040 hrs. I was lost. Didn't know what to do. I had planned at least 2 hours there. Paused for a smoke. This rather desperate looking Chinese guy comes up to me and asked if I was one the guys who helps fill up forms for a fee. I said no. "Then where are they?", he asked me in Cantonese sweat beginning to trickle down his face because his nomber giliran was running. I told him that they are now not allowed to solicit business outside government offices. "So you are one of them lah", he asked. No....I am here to....never mind what form you want to fill? Turns out he just needed to fill up a simple form asking for his name, address and NRIC number. The same one I filled in. So I did it for him and he was grateful.

I left the building. My faith in government departments temporarily restored and feeling good for having done a good deed for a fellow nomber giliran fler in need.

But me being me, I had to go kay-po a bit more la. So I went back inside the place and walked over to the half of the office which is the place you go to pick up your new MyKad. Yes, you have to take a nombor giliran here too.

Okay, okay, the JPN facility in Maju Junction is divided into these two sections by a large wooden reception desk type thing. This morning there were 3 young guys there. One sitting rather casually ON the counter top. But what made me notice the counter was 3 pieces of A-4 size paper cello taped to the edge of the counter to inform people that this was where to register for Undi something or other. Nothing wrong with that except that the "signs", hand written on white A-4 which were dog-eared, stained and torn were flapping in the air-con breeze just like so much trash. Incidentally the A-4 sized hand written sign is a Malaysian icon. Look out for it wherever you go. I caught the eye of the counter top balancing guy and showed him the tattered signs. "Oh itu sudah lama lah." Then he gave me a dirty look that said, "Why don't you piss off and let me and my colleagues here continue our day of fun and frolic at you tax-payers expense."

I sighed and left the building to meet my wife for an early lunch and a game of 10-pin bowling. Good day in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Pay Money Orso Cannot Get Ah? Niamah!

Photo of Adam. "You lookin' at me?"

I get very upset when I pay good money for goods and services and I don’t get my money’s worth. Don’t you? It’s just natural. Case in point. A few weeks ago I went to watch a movie in one of the cineplexes in a shopping mall in KL. The film was the then local hit movie and the hall was packed. The big budget film was advertised as a milestone in Malaysian film history. The film boasted Dolby Digital Surround Sound. And being always interested in good sound in films I bought my ticket and went in with great anticipation. Imagine my disappointment when the film played with one channel of the sound distorted and with a loud irritating hum coming from the screen. Not only was there no surround sound effect the film was also shown through what must have been a projector whose light source was a nearly dead 60 watt incandescent lamp. I found out later from a reasonably reliable source that it was common practise for cineplex operators to run projectors at less than optimum light intensity to save costs. It was not a good movie experience. Certainly not worth the RM10.00 ticket and the RM6.00 parking fee. I could have bought a pirated DVD version of the same film and had a much better viewing in the comfort of my home. And still have change left for a packet of kua chee and a beer. Later when I complained to the management of the cineplex the response was some plastic smiles and tired nods and I was told, “It’s like that one lah. Local film what.” WHAT???!!! So much for the Malaysia Boleh spirit and being proud of our achievements.

So where is this leading to? A few days later at a Hari Raya open house I met the marketing manager of the film’s distribution company and related to her my less than satisfying experience at the screening of one of her company’s films. She was politely apologetic and then offered me a reason which totally had me in hysterics. She said that bad quality sound and picture quality in Malaysian cinema halls were the results of movie piracy. Her reason was that because of piracy the exhibitors could not make enough money to maintain their equipment and had to resort to cost cutting measures. She then proceeded to urge me to join the fight against pirated movies and also to encourage everyone I knew not to buy pirated movies. If there was no piracy we would then get the quality expected when we visit the cinemas. Wait a minute. Isn’t there something wrong with that equation? Maybe I’m old fashioned but I always thought that the equation worked the other way around. It is the producer’s duty to the consumer to provide the best quality product and the consumer’s decision on whether to buy. Has the rule changed? So now we give you our money first to buy your inferior quality products, then you use our money to develop the product that we should have had in the first place issit?

When I finished laughing and left the company of the by then pissed off marketing manager, I thought further about what had just been said. Then I got really scared. I think I’m the one who’s out of touch with reality. That’s the way things have been done around here for quite a long time now. Look around. I’m sure you will see many examples of this pay first, receive later formula at work.

You interview someone for a position in your company. The first thing the applicant asks is how much money you’re going to pay and what benefits you have for him. Not what he can do for you. I remember a time when job applicants would try to impress you with their abilities and potential contributions to the organisation first before YOU decide what they’re worth. Sure, if at the end of it they don’t think your offer is up to their expectations they have the option to tell you to **** off.

Our poor showing in sports is a fine example of this screwed-up system too. It’s no longer about passion and achievement before rewards. It’s what do I get now and IF I should achieve something.

Malaysian theatre seems to have adopted this mentality as well. We hear or read all the time about practitioners bellyaching about how their efforts are hampered because they can’t sell enough tickets and therefore make enough money to do what they want to do. They are asking for support so that they can achieve what they promise us will be quite worthwhile. Again, give me the money first, then I will show you lah. You make something first that we want to buy. We will buy. Then you will get money to do something else. Then you see if we buy that or not and so on. No ah?

A friend told me the other day that all this is the result of the growing of the current “Y” generation. Another friend called it the MTV generation. A whole generation of people who’ve been brought up expecting to be given everything NOW. Forget effort, forget passion, forget achievements. We want everything NOW. Faster lah. A generation with a kind of thinking that perpetuates a culture of mediocrity.

And all the deaths on Malaysian roads. Isn’t that another scary example? To me, it’s like someone sitting up waiting to see how many people will die before he decides to improve the quality of the roads or the highway system. Or the killer mudslides, landslides etc. “Errrr…wait ah….how many people have been killed ah? Oh that’s all ah? Okay we’ll approve a few more housing projects on hill slopes then.”

Scary isn’t it? Okay, I’m going out to my pirate DVD dealer. See you at the movies.

This article first appeared in The Edge's Options 2 in January 2005. I think.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Buka Puasa Contest

Keep your eyes open for the funniest, strangest, most laughable Buka Puasa advertisements that have sprouted all over the country. In the newspapers, billboards, TV, radio, flyers etc.

Take a photo, write a short report, send in a recording. Whatever. The best and most interesting entry sent to us WINS ........drum roll).............3 bowls of Hokkein Mee at Champ's @ Centre Point, Bandar Utama. Sorry lah, outstation flers have to arrange your own transport to come here lah.

Will try and get TV Smith and Jeff Ooi to be judges if we get enough entries. If they don't want, then it will be Patrick Teoh's final decision. It's good to be a dictator:-)

This contest is open to all Malaysians. However, the prize is non halal but can be substituted for 3 servings of Nasi Kandar at the mamak fler's place just downstairs of Champ's lah.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Some things just take a long time to change

(Photo of Adam Teoh practising for when he has to be on the lookout for his nombor giliran at a government department)

The MyKad, the government multi purpose card that is set to replace Malaysia's NRIC - National Registration Identity Card, has been in the news again. Prizes for changing over. Road shows to encourage changing over. Deadlines. Yesterday I decided that I would go do it since it is inevitable that it will have to be done. I happened to be chatting with my friend TV Smith ( and he told me that the registration department has a website and that I would find useful information there. I went there and lo and behold a working website by a government department! Very informative site indeed. Listed all the locations for MyKad application and collection, phone numbers, documents required to effect the changeover, etc. I was impressed. I called one of the phone numbers listed and after getting no answer on one attempt and a couple of engaged tones I spoke to a polite and helpful person. She told me what I had to bring for the application which was my passport if I had one, my current NRIC. What about photos I asked. No need. You get here and we will take them for you. Huh? Really ah? much money will it cost and should I bring cash? No need. It's FREE! Ha!!!??? Really one ah? Yes, I was assured by this very helpful lady on the other end of the line. Just come over and we will take care of everything for you. Hey, what do you know man? Pak Lah kicks ass man!

And so armed with a renewed confidence in government efficiency and a swelling pride of being part of the new Bolehland I drove to the nearest location, Maju Junction. Right in the middle of the city. Easy parking. Spanking new building. After getting lost a couple of times I found the JPN. There were quite a lot of people there already. The moment I walked through the door my heart sank. Most of the counters were manned by the dreaded TUTUP sign. The faces of all the MyKad applicant hopefuls had this look that you see at all government department queues. Resignation. I found the counter where I was to get my queue number but didn't see the sign that was sitting on it. I asked the man behind the counter for a number. He pointed at the sign. It read "NOMBOR GILIRAN UNTUK HARI INI SUDAH HABIS". Okay I paraphrase but that was what it meant. The rather disinterested man behind the counter said that I should come back the next day and......try again! Someone standing close by offered an unsolicited piece of advice. "You have to come early in the morning one." So after all the hoohah it does still cost the Malaysian raakyat one full day off school/work/business to do something simple involving a government department. No wonder response to the MyKad changeover has been lukewarm despite enticements of attractive prizes. Including a Proton Savvy I'm told. Maybe I will just forget about it and join the ranks of the millions of apathetic Malaysians and not bother with MyKad. Until they tell us that they will fine us shitloads of money or throw us in jail if we don't change. And then I will wait for them to announce discounts for the fines before I get off my butt and go get a nombor giliran. SIGH.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Ramadhan and Some East Coast Comedy

When I read the Sunday papers this morning I almost fell off my chair. Laughing. Kelantan's big chief has announced that the state intends to stage a reality show of its own. Well sort of. They apparently want to hold a singing/composition contest. Open only to mothers. It will be a lullaby composition contest to sing husbands to sleep. The rationale is that when husbands come home tired the wives should sing lullabies to them. This will then cause them to have a good night's sleep. And when they awake in the morning they will feel refreshed and happy and this will "help build a great relationship between husband and wife." In the statement he also said that the contest is in line with singing allowed by Islam, which was to strengthen family ties.

No this is not a fairy tale. It is true and it is happening right here in Bolehland.

And now I need some clarification. Isn't the month of Ramadhan about abstinence and fasting? Then how come each year when the fasting month rolls around we see all those banners/billboards/media ads showing people new and innovative ways of gorging out on food? The fasting month hasn't begun but the Ramadhan buffet ads are out all over the place. Watch out soon for the billboard to appear outside our Istana Budaya, our palace of culture advertising break fast buffet at low low prices. A multi million Ringgit edifice supposedly to develope and show Malaysian performing arts reduced each year to being just a very expensively built gerai makan.