Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Ugly Malaysian

(Photo taken from African Safari Journals. Any resemblance to any Malaysians living or dead is purely coincidental.)

While I was at a play rehearsal last night I received SMS's telling me that petrol and diesel prices were going up by 30 sen a litre from midnight. I wasn't too bothered as my car takes 30 litres to fill up the tank to the brim. Later, when I thought about it, "Wah! 30 sen per litre times 30 litres. That's RM9.00 man!" So after rehearsals finished I thought I would drive out of the KLPAC to the Caltex station that was on Ipoh Road. When I approached I was surprised that there didn't appear to be a queue. Eh? Malaysians getting so blase about these things meh? The mystery dissolved when I pulled into the station. The owner had put up barriers at each of the pumps. And although the station was still open they weren't allowing anyone to fuel up. It was 11.15 p.m. So I thought, "Fuck it! Bastards!" and went to the Sentul Curry House for supper with the other actors. When I drove home past the Esso and Shell stations that were on the way there were long queues of cars waiting to beat the midnight deadline. It was 11.58 p.m. I guess a lot of motorists in Ulu Klang paid the new price for their fuel.

Closing pumps so that you can make 30 sen more per litre from other Malaysians? Unethical. Un-neighbourly. Downright wrong. So Malaysian.

I am sure that all weary Malaysians are bracing themselves for the onslaught of price increases. And in case you didn't know Mr. Water Spray Mouth has already announced that power tariffs will go up later this year. Chances are that a lot of things will go up by 30 sen more a piece just because fuel is now 30 sen per litre more. Always like that, right? Coffee and tea at coffee shops and mamaks will go up. Food surely will go up a lot. Have to transport right? Transport means fuel, right?

I don't even want to begin to think about the shockwaves to come. I think I will go to the pub and have a few pints before the price of those go up too.

But before I go another thing I am going to drink about is this...

This morning I read the papers about the flood victims in Shah Alam. Of how mechanics and workshops were making a killing from repairing and towing stranded vehicles from the flood waters. Tow trucks charged up to RM300 per tow. Take it or leave it. The stories reminded me of times when I watched CNN and BBC TV reports of floods and other calamities in other parts of the world. And how people came out to help their fellow citizens. I wondered why there weren't any such stories in today's papers about Malaysians helping Malaysians. Just because it is the thing to do for friends, neighbours, fellow Malaysians. Not as a chance to make money.

Baarger! You crazy or what? Got chance make money donwan ah? Niamah!

Monday, February 27, 2006

A BIG Night Out

(The Main entrance to The Starhill Gallery)

My wife and I went and had dinner at the Starhill Gallery. Other than having one of our rare nights out we had also seen the review of this Japanese restaurant which looked really interesting. The review was in The Star some time ago. The photos were really nice. Very trad Japanese yet a little avant garde in a way. So we made a mental note to go visit. Neither of us had really been to the newly remodelled Starhill Gallery. After a rather confusing search for the entrance to the car park which really didn't look like it belonged to a classy place like The Starhill Gallery, we parked our car in a rather drab and dirty looking bay and promptly went through the wrong door on our failed first attempt to find the floor where the restaurants were. On the second attempt we met this rather efficient and helpful security guard who guided us through a short corridor which would look more like a disused service entrance in Pertama Complex than the 5 star Starhill Gallery. Anyway, we ended up on the ground floor. Ah! There is a concierge counter with a very pleasant looking lady who looked Chinese. But when she spoke her Japanese parentage was very obvious. Class or what? Instead of a slurred "Can I hepshu?" now you get a slight bow and a toothy grin with real Japanese accented Engrish.

Me: Excuse me. May I know where is the Japanese restaurant?
Concierge lady: Solly, no Japanese lestaulant here.
Me: Huh?
Concierge lady: 5 revels up (pointing to the lift)
Me: Oh, 5 levels up?
Concierge lady: Yes. 5 revels up. laddish floor.
Me: Huh?
Concierge lady: Laddish floor. (seeing that I still had a puzzled expression she inhaled and said...) Radish floor. (that must have taken some effort knowing their problem with R's)
My wife: Let's take the lift.

So we walked to the bubble lift and entered. All the while I was thinking of reasons why someone would place a Japanese restaurant on the same floor that sold ladies apparel. "Laddish floor", right? No. Surely there would be no market at The Starhill Gallery selling radish.

Entering the lift we noticed that unlike other buildings lifts here did not designate floors with numbers. They used names. While I was stupidly looking for the Ladies floor my wife pointed to a lift button. "There it is", she exclaimed with confidence. And indeed there it was. The floor that the Japanese concierge lady had been trying to point me to....RELISH.

The Japanese restaurant, Gonbei is indeed very pleasant eye candy. Comfy. Spacious. A very nice mixture of traditional Japanese decor and modern design. Very attentive service staff who announce each guest's entry with a beat of the Japanese drum at the main door. But just so we knew we were eating in an authentic Japanese restaurant all the Japanese chefs retained their bored, disinterested expression the whole time we were there at a table right next to the sushi counter. But otherwise it was nice. Oh the food? It was forgettable. And pricey. So much so that I even forgot to take a photo of the place.

After dinner we walked around and eventually made our way back to the ground floor. We found Pak Loh Chiu Chow restaurant. Chiu Chow cuisine is something that is not very easily found in KL which seems too fond of Hong Kong Cantonese food. And as you know that is boring after attending your 68,000th wedding banquet. I went in and approached the Maitre 'D who was friendly. I asked about the Chiu Chow fare. His response was almost apologetic. Apparently, the restaurant is part of a chain from Hong Kong. And they didn't really serve 'real' Chiu Chow cuisine because the restaurant was "Halal" as were all the restaurant in the place. And we all know that Chiu Chow food without pork is like a long wank without orgasm. Well, so much for that potential gastronomic adventure.

But as this is Malaysia and so 'tolerance' for each other's religious and cultural differences can be confusing and contradictory. Just 10 feet across the aisle from the Chiu Chow restaurant was The Village Bar with it myriad selection of wines and spirits. Definitely non-Halal.

Some would celebrate this as our cultural diversity and say that this 'tolerance' is indeed what makes Malaysia, Truly Asia. I look at stuff like this and think that all of us Malaysians are not understanding, respecting and accepting each other's diversity and differences but instead 'tolerating' each other into cultural and racial oblivion.

The Village Bar. Middle Eastern lamps and lanterns. Alcohol by the gallons.

The Chiu Chow restaurant. Very classy. Chinese calligraphy. No pork.

Post script. The Village Bar is really good and cheap. A whiskey soda is RM11++. A bottle of Famous Grouse is RM250++. And they have a wide selection of good wines from Australia and Chile starting from RM50++ a bottle. Really good value with great attentive service and bar tenders who can chat as well as serve drinks. You can also order snacks or meals from the surrounding restaurants.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The High Cost Of Health Care in Malaysia

(Laura's reaction to the bill at Gleneagles Intan's Fig Tree cafe)

We all know and we are constantly reminded by insurance companies that health care is expensive and getting more so by the day. Last week I got a rude shock that even visiting friends and family who are in need of health care can also be blaardy expensive.

I had to take my daughter to her paediatrician at the Gleneagles Intan hospital in Jalan Ampang. We hadn't had breakfast and while waiting for her turn we decided to go down to the cafe to get something to eat.

I had a bowl of the day's "special" (meaning that the ingredients were mostly yesterday's leftovers) which was curry laksa. My daughter had a bottle of pop. Total bill? RM19.32

The Chef's Special RM 9.50++
Snapple Arpicot/Orange Juice RM8.90++

Whew! For a while I thought I was in ....

I am very thankful for whoever is responsible for my renewed confidence that I hadn't died and gone to heaven. For weeks I had been seeing squeaky clean RapidKL busses on the streets of Kuala Lumpur. Okay mainly just going round and round with empty bellies circling the Golden Triangle la. But they were all new and clean and ... so un-Malaysian leh.

But today I saw this and heaved a sigh of relief! I wonder what keeps some RapidKL busses so clean and 1st World and others so.......Ghana la. Ah! I know. Golden Triangle = tourists. So must present good image. Other RapidKL busses just ferry Malaysians to and from sweathouses what. So what they complaining about? They should be 'grateful'. Ah! There's that word again.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

What To Do?

(Adam looking resigned in the car)

I think that after years of breathing carbon monoxide and suffering high blood pressure, KLites have finally gotten used to traffic jams and accepted them as a way of life in this city. How did I come by this conclusion? Well, I was stuck in traffic for 2 hours last evening going from Ulu Klang to the KLPAC. A journey which normally in rush hour traffic would have taken me 45 minutes. Max. The reason, according to those LCD signboards, was a tree that had fallen over somewhere in Jalan Pahang which backed up traffic all over the city centre. For all of those 2 hours I sat in traffic I didn't hear a single horn blast, not a single "Niamah!" from any of the long-faced drivers on their way home to a cold dinner or to KLPAC for a rehearsal. As usual, inconsiderate drivers cut lanes, blocked exits, parked in yellow boxes. But none elicited any protest from the rest of the drivers silently suffering in their overheating vehicles.
When I was in front of the exit of the Renaissance Hotel a taxi and a Proton Perdana decided to cut into the lane going towards Jalan Sultan Ismail. Never mind that anyone could see that the lane was at a standstill and had been for more than 10 minutes. They decided that they would pull into the flow anyway and wait for the traffic to move. It didn't seem to disturb them at all that their action would mean that their vehicles would be parked inside the yellow box and that this would obstruct traffic streaming into Jalan Ampang from the opposite direction. So now there was grid lock in both directions. They sat there in the yellow box for almost 15 minutes while busses, trucks and cars and cap cai's manouvered their way around them.

And for the whole time this was going on all the gridlocked drivers just sat and watched. Silently. Without any visible signs of protest. Finally, after 15 minutes both vehicles decided that it was futile and reversed back into the hotel driveway. Presumably to find another way of exit. Or maybe to partake of the happy hours at the hotel bars.

Well, I guess this proves that some courtesy campaign directed at Malaysian drivers is bearing positive results. Yay! Malaysia Boleh.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Puteri Gunung Ledang - The Musical

(Tiara Jacquelina as the Princess of Gunung Ledang. Photo taken from official website)

I went to watch Puteri Gunung Ledang - The Musical last night at the Istana Budaya. To be truthful I didn't go there with very high expectations after having had to endure the snail-paced film version of the story of eternal love. But I was very pleasantly surprised. I had a good time at the theatre last night. PGL The Musical was a flawed but enjoyable experience. At the end of the performance a large number of the audience got to their feet to give the cast a standing ovation. I didn't. I suspect that a lot of this was due to a sense of national pride that we can stage something like this. In the lobby after the show I met several people whose comments included the line, "Wah, damn good la. For a local production." I don't think I was affected by a sense of national pride. I just thought it was a good effort. Local or otherwise.

Last night's performance was plagued with technical glitches. The microphones worn by the performers kept going on and off. And the subtitles, scrolling on a suspended light screen over the stage, must have been operated by an illiterate moron. Sometimes the subtitles would race ahead of the dialogue and sometimes it would lag behind by whole paragraphs. It sometimes felt like a badly dubbed South American soap opera.

Overall it was a very tentative performance. It was the second performance night so the infamous dreaded 2nd night gremlins must have been present on stage with the actors. Early on in the first act Tiara Jacquelina's microphone fell silent at a crucial moment just before she was to break into song. Thankfully, the experience of Sukania Venugopal saved the day when she ushered the princess offstage to 'prepare' while she coached the court dancers. Because this was Malaysia a technician in tee shirt and jeans was seen coming out on stage right gesturing and talking into his walkie-talkie. As you can imagine all these technical cock-ups did nothing to calm the noticeably nervous cast.

Despite the problems the cast did a credible job. Tiara Jacquelina was great as the Puteri. AC Mizal was wonderful to watch as the Majapahit King. Sukania Venugopal as Bayan was skillfully stunning. Adlin Aman Ramlie reprised his film role as Sultan Mahmud and he was...well he's fixed his teeth since the film. But the most watchable of the evening were the incredibly engergetic members of the ensemble. The girls especially just too my breath away. Yes, they were beautiful too.

Okay, okay, so where was Hang Tuah in all of this? In this production the hero was played by Stephen Rahman-Hughes. Frankly, this Hang Tuah had about as much stage presence as a can of tuna. And that's not saying much for the fish. I was dissappointed. Especially since I'd read all the blurb leading up to this. Broadway star, hunk, singer, choreographer etc. etc. Something should have warned me because prior to entering the theatre when I mentioned how handsome Stephen Rahman-Hughes looks all the women around me went, "Handsome? No lah." And when he came on stage I must admit that I had obviously seen something in the publicity photos that were results of extensive post production. As the show went on Rahman-Hughes showed that he had the body language of a limp eel. He also was obviously scared of heights. In all the scenes with the Puteri up on the 20 ft. stage "Ledang" you could almost see him shake. Can this boy act? I don't think so. I could not believe that his Hang Tuah was capable of love much less the eternal variety. I could believe that Tiara as the Princess was smitten and loved Hang Tuah to death. But this Hang Tuah might just be capable of falling in love with a plate of bangers and mash.

Dick Lee's formulaic music was adequate to stir up feelings of nationalistic pride. Nothing more. Part of it reminded me of something that came on when the kids turned on their DVD of Pocahontas.

Raja Maliq's set was innovative but got a little boring after a while.

I had a good evening of entertainment at Puteri Gunung Ledang - The Musical. And I would recommend that you go watch PGL-The Musical too. It won't be a waste of your time or money.

Show and ticket details:-


February 7 & 8 – Previews @ 8.30pm RM30 (Student, veteran, disabled)

February 9 to 26 – Show Dates @ 8.30pm (normal price)

February 12, 19 & 26 – Matinees @ 3.00pm (normal price)


RM150, RM100, RM70, RM50 & RM30


Istana Budaya, Kuala Lumpur

Box Office

03-4026 5558

Booking Website


Tickets available at Istana Budaya, Kuala Lumpur.

For more information, please call/fax ticket2u.biz at 03-4026 5558
Email: production@enfiniti.com.my or visit www.pglthemusical.com.my

You Sure Or Not

Afdlin Shauki's BULI BALIK grossed RM2 million in 10 days and shows no sign of stopping! That surely must be a Malaysian record. Syabas to Afdlin who continues to scale new heights.

I was privileged to be in both BULI and BULI BALIK. The character I played, Tan Sri Michael of Michaelsoft, became quite popular with audiences when he first appeared in BULI..."Lu jangan main gua punya hati ah. Saya anak yatim tahu?"...and so Afdlin wrote him into the sequel as well. This time, Tan Sri Michael, after handing over the reins of Michaelsoft to his trusted partner (Nordin, played by Afdlin Shauki), indulges in his favorite hobby. Singing. And because he has loads of money he makes a music video of 'his' song "You Sure Or Not?" The producers of BULI BALIK used clips of the music video to promote the film on television. And since it aired I have been stopped by strangers who all give me big smiles and say, "You sure or not?". Many friends who have seen in on TV and in the film have been asking where and how they can watch it again. So here it is. If you like the music video go watch the movie. Again. Thank you.

Here's the link

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Homecoming - Coming Soon.

Here is the poster for The Homecoming. A KLPAC production directed by Gavin Yap. It's the best poster I've seen come out of KLPAC or for that matter from The Actors Studio. So, I thought I'd post it here and see if anyone of you like it too. Please don't be shy to post comments here, okay? And do go check out The Homecoming production diary here.

Not to go into too much detail, The Homecoming by Nobel prize winner, Harold Pinter is about Power and manipulation as seen through the eyes and experiences of a really F**Ked up family. After watching this play you will fall on your knees and give thanks for the family you've got. Gavin says that people will leave the theatre and go straight home to give their mom's, dad's, brothers and sisters a hug. Now that's a good enough reason to go watch a play isn't it?

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Ha Ha Dai Siew (Barrel of Laughs)

(Adam - Wake me when this nightmare is over.)

I don’t usually buy two English language newspapers a day. I always figured it was a waste of money. But last Friday while waiting for my doctor’s appointment I did what I usually would not. And I didn’t regret it. There was so much to read in both papers that was so funny. So frighteningly funny.

The front page of The Star screamed, “OCPDs on course”. Initially, I thought that for once those boys in blue had done something right. No such luck. These flers were going to be sent on a human rights training seminar! Huh???!!!

That’s right. Apparently, in the light of what had happened in the last few months someone had thought it appropriate to use public funds on this ‘training’.

The story continued on page 4 and it detailed what this training was about.

The OCPD’s were going to attend talks on human rights declarations and Syariah Law.

They will be briefed about proper arrest procedures (such as how, why and when an arrest is made)

They will attend a lecture on proper search procedures and types of searches.

They will be taught better interpersonal and public relations skills.

At first glance you might say, “Eh! Good what.” But think about it. These people are OCPD’s which for the ill-informed among you stands for Officer- in-charge of Police District. These are fairly senior police officers. Leaders. Not your cap cai riding mata-mata you know. And if they are OCPD’s shouldn’t they have already been trained in all of the above before being let loose on poor unsuspecting (no pun intended) Malaysians?

Doesn’t it make you wonder what crap they are churning out of the Police academy? An OCPD has to attend training to know how, when and why to make an arrest?

There is a bit in the Star’s story that says that the course includes training on ethics, languages, leadership, forensics, and primary policing skills. What???!!! OCPD’s without or lacking in primary policing skills? What the fuck were they doing there in the first place?

Funny or not?

Then of course there is the story about those bald headed geriatrics that has the whole country talking. If you’ve been hibernating, these 11 fellas, mostly old baargers in their 60’s, 50’s and late 40’s were having a game of mahjong in their favorite kopitiam. It was Chinese New Year and a game of mahjong among friends is quite fun isn’t it? Enter the men in blue. They arrest all the alleged gamblers who claim they were just having a bit of Chinese New Year fun and were playing with chips and not cash. All the old guys get carted off to the lockup where they were stripped, albeit just to their underwear (what a sight that must have been. From Calvin Kleins to Ah Pek boxers for sure). And then they got their heads shaved bald. Why? Well, according to Kajang OCPD, Asst. Comm. Mohd. Noor Hakim (he should definitely go for the course mentioned above), he was just following the standard lock-up rule which stated that “hair must be cut short”. Really? Then how come all those arrested for drink driving, suspicion of drug abuse, those illegal Guest Relation Officers (GRO’s) etc. never had their hair cut? Was it just some bored mata-mata in Kajang who felt scissor-happy that day? And today it was reported that the Kajang OCPD fler said, “Under Section 9a of the Lock-Up rules, we can shave a detainee’s head bald, so we are just exercising whatever the law required us to do.” So the law requires it but they practise selective barbering issit? Boy! Those old geezers must have done something to piss off somebody in Kajang.

To top it off, somebody on the Net today wrote to say that something similar was done to a couple of Malaysians by the Singapore police some years ago. And he was chuffed that Malaysians, particularly the Opposition make any noise then. So what are you trying to say, buddy? That whatever shit happens here we are at least better off than...Ghana?

Then somebody in Subang Jaya operates an illegal disco that’s been raided more than 25 times. For all we know he’s still got a full head of hair. The funny bit about this story is that the Subang Jaya Council President said, “We have known about the activities of the outlet and on the advise of the police we sent out a notice to the outlet in 2004 asking the owners to close it down for flouting licensing and entertainment outlets regulations.”

Hello! Very funny la. Some old guys having a game of mahjong get thrown in jail and have their heads shaved while somebody who openly operates an illegal business gets a note in the mail???!!! Malaysia Boleh man!

(Today’s Star on page 3 showed a photo of the ‘billionaire’ who’s been grabbing headlines in recent weeks. He’s been in the lock-up, hasn’t he? Far as I can see he’s still got a full head of hair. Why? I know. He’s a foreigner and we’re always nicer to pelancung-pelancung to our truly Asian country, right?)

On page 15 of The Star is a story that could have been tragically hilarious. The police flers (their marine cousins this time) in Pangkor arrested some guys for using a condemned ferry to transport passengers during the holiday period. Hey guys, while you’re at it tell your city relatives to check on those ex-Mini Bas’s that are being used to ferry school children around. A coat of yellow paint does not make decrepit vehicles safe.

Hiyah! The reputation and public confidence in the boys in blue has really gone to the dogs. No, wait a minute. With due respect to canines we shall change that to “The reputation and public confidence in the boys in blue has really gone down the toilet.” Wait a few days. I’m sure it will be flushed down further. Xin Nien Quai Le (happy new year) guys.

The NST Friday had this scarily funny headline story. YOU MAY HAVE TO PAY. It seems that the Transport Ministry is proposing that car manufacturers and importers be required to pay RM100 for every vehicle sold. Of course, the car people are saying that they may have to pass on the cost to … you guessed it … the consumer.

Seems that this money is to go into a road safety fund called The Road Safety Trust. And that the money would be “used to conduct road safety campaigns.” If these campaigns are like what I’ve seen on TV the past few years and on those bad billboards with the typical government/Filem Negara look I am going to be pissed if I am asked to pay. Anyway, I digress. So just what is this Road Safety Trust and what exactly will it do that will convince us that the money will do some good? But…the Transport Minister in typical minister M.O. continued by saying that he “would make an announcement later.” What the !@#$%$^^%*(&*{)&(_!!! If you’re not going to give us details then why did you open your mouth in the first place? Your speech writer on Chinese New Year leave ah, Yang Berhormat? Nothing else to say ah? Then this YB goes on to say that this type of contribution schemes has been successful in many developed countries. Sure, that’s probably because they planned and tested everything before tokking kok and taking money from their citizens. Take some lessons from that before you choke on your own shoe leather, YB.

On page N10 of The Star, Saturday it was announced that the viaduct at MRR2 was to be closed for repair works. It was found to have cracks and would be closed for 3 to 4 months. The closure was to enable repair, waterproofing and reinforced steel strengthening works . This was announced by the Works Minister, Samy Vellu. This YB also said that the decision was made by none other than the Prime Minister. Okay. But what bothered me was that weeks ago the minister also said that the viaduct was perfectly safe for traffic. So why now? Why the sudden scramble to close it for repairs? And if was not safe why was it not closed for repairs when the discovery was made? Like millions of other Malaysians I can only shake my head in disbelief at this seemingly nonchalant approach to what could potentially have been a tragic catastrophe. Also I sigh a big sigh of relief that the damn thing didn’t collapse when I was driving on it.

Okay while all this grumbling was happening here my 20 year old refrigerator decided to give up the ghost. With all the Chinese New Year leftovers and stockpiled marketing in the freezer this is a crisis situation. So I shall leave you to mull over the daily comedy in our lives here in Bolehland while I go out to battle the traffic (avoiding the viaduct on the MRR2 of course) and make my way to an electrical goods retailer who will hopefully give me some very un-Malaysian service. Meaning GOOD service. Wish me luck.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Half Naked Virgin

Wanna see Gavin Yap half naked? Go to his virgin blogsite and record your impassioned pleas. Stranger things have happened when Malaysians thrust their hands out. The URL is here ...

The Homecoming Diaries

The Homecoming Diaries? Maybe Gavin has been a blogger in his previous life and is returning or he is referring to the Harold Pinter play he is directing for KLPAC.

(Photo of actor Ari Ratos on a whitening cream regime doing an impression of Gavin Yap - some people have said this is the best acting he's ever done. It is not true.)

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

God or Religion?

(Photo taken from http://www.waxy.org/random/images/weblog/gay_satan.jpg)

"God offered us TRUTH.
Satan organised religion."

I was at a Chinese New Year open house this afternoon and overheard the above comment which I thought I would share with all of you. Let me know what you think.

Sadly, I think Satan is winning this thing.