Friday, October 30, 2009

CONVOCATION TREND.

Yesterday I posted a letter to the VC of UiTM, taking exception to what happened Tuesday.

I attended a covocation at that university on Tuesday. Check that word "convoke". It's to call out, summon.

What I saw was incredible.

Graduands silently walking across the stage to silently take their certificates of graduation from the silent VC. No names are called, except if you receive a VCA. Only the names quickly scroll silently across on three giant screens above the stage. They don't always match the graduands underneath. My daughter comes under someone else's name, that's how I know.

I counted maybe 150 people, parents mostly, sitting with me INSIDE the hall. That's because we came early (at least 90 minutes before the start of the "convocation") and stood in a line outside the hall entrance. The majority of the proud parents were seated OUTSIDE in tents and other rooms, but supplied also with giant tv screens. I doubt if "pride" came to their minds.

What's happening here ?

Why bother with the whole ceremony, with the parading of the fancifully attired academia behind the the three Malay warriors in leather shoes carrying symbolic keris and two wooden spears, with the accompaniment of the ancient "nobat", the graduands overdressed in their bulky gowns and motar-boards with tassles tossing, and later everyone solemnly standing to the Negaraku ?

Next time just post the damn degree.



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CRIMINALISING WAR.

I attended the 2-day conference organized by the Perdana Global Peace Organization called the Kuala Lumpur International Conference & Exhibition to Criminalise War at the PWTC on Wedesday and Thursday 28th. & 29th. October. I had to miss the first day of the War Crimes Commission Hearings to-day, Friday because of an association meeting, but intends to go to the second and final day of the Hearings to-morrow morning.

I think it's incredible that this effort at organizing the call for the civilised world to sit up, take note, and do something to stop wars being waged by powerful nations, is being spearheaded here in Kuala Lumpur by an old ex-PM. Incredible because he no longer holds the reins of power in his own country and faces all the logistics problems faced by such a person doing such a thing; incredible because Malaysia is hardly the country that looks like having the voice and reach to shake up the global village; and incredible that at his age he is bothered and has found another truly noble cause to champion, and against all the obvious odds.

Listening to all the speakers who come from several countries , and the narrations of two actual ex-prisoners of Guantanamo, I was struck by the eloquence of all, except the Malaysian retired General. It was not an eloquence of strident language but the chilling phrasing of simple diction describing human cruelty over its own kind, made for selfish ends. There wasn't any shrieking diatribe nor abusive expletive being hurled at the absent enemies. The almost subdued adverbs were nevertheless striking and more than telling in the message being offered. The conviction comes out because of the currency of the condition and the reality of the experience possessed by the speakers.

The Malaysian retired General should learn from all this. It's never enough to raise your voice to make people hear you out. Making jokes in a public speech is an aquired art. It would have been better if he was to relate some real experience by Malaysian troops in Congo, Somalia and Bosnia. The Malaysian version of "Black Hawk Down" could have been at least entertaining.

There was a large enough crowd that came for the conference, but the giant hall made it look small. Certainly more students could have been invited, because they are the future that needs to be told. I could have called a few friends to come, even if for the second day only, but didn't. Even after many said "no more" after two World Wars, wars are still being waged, in fact more cruelly effectively. It's mad to say you fight for peace. It's equal to saying you rape for virginity.




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Monday, October 26, 2009

27th. October's quick posting but slow boil.

In about an hour's time we'll make a quick, long drive to Shah Alam for Dek Na's last graduation. It's literally the last afternoon session of the University's 71st. convocations.

Each year the parents are gradually moved further and further from the proper ceremonies, in fact totally out of the actual hall. Next year they might as well just post the scrolls. What's the ceremony for ?

This is not a day for the graduands to rejoice - they have spent all their joy when they found out their final results months ago by mail and on-line. Sure, they worked their butts out for their degrees, but they had everything going for them - the facilities, the teaching staff, all the financial assisstance in the world. Not to have some measure of success at all is really stretching things a bit.

The convocation is for the parents. They are the ones to be congratulated, to get the bouquets and not to give them. They are the ones who often scraped and went without from the time the students were only in primary schools - without sleep, without the holidays, without the dispensible little comforts of life so that the children got enough so as to not distract them from the important business of concentrating on their school-work and later university-work. University graduates don't start from year 1 at university, they start from year 1 at Form 1 at least. Sure the government build the schools and universities and staff them with teachers and syllabuses. But it's the parents and parents only who build the encouragement and the incentive for the small developing minds to want to succeed in education. Nobody else can do that. And you take away this speacial day of gratification from the suffering parents ? Put them in temporary tents and annexes to watch their offsprings walk across the hall to receive that elusive piece of paper on a tv monitor, having come all the way from Perlis and Sabah, even if you ignore the wee-hour drive from Seremban ? Have a heart !

Break up the huge ceremony and do it at the actual campuses, not lump all together in one place and one date. Practice some of what you teach. That should be a start. Build it around the parents, for once. They've earned it. Give them this day in their life. Is that too much ?



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Sunday, October 18, 2009

A fully exploited Sunday.

This morning it was my usual round of golf at the club. I got out of a possible mess with a timely call of my mobile. I had promised to join Muhsin the Beltless for this morning, yesterday, before Kampong Pro asked to play with him this morning, also yesterday. I said I was fixed for 9 holes, but Kampong Pro said that's OK, he'll join some others for the second 9. Then Muhsin the Beltless called too late last night saying he'd asked Mubin the Shepherd and Maulud Tok Lembago to make our foursome. So, when I called Kampong Pro this morning, he was still at home, so I said sorry Muhsin the Beltless had arranged the flight without telling me earlier, and since we're only for 9 holes can I go ahead without him, and Kampong Pro said OK lah, go ahead. What a relief.

At 2.30 I went for a Hari Raya do in PJ (PJ in Seremban, not PJ Selangor), organized by an association I'm involved in. The reception was to be from 11 am to 4 pm, but I called Khairuddin, the host, that I'll come at the tail end because I'm sure most will come early, so I should come later to balance the attendance. It was the usual lemang-rendang-ketupat-kuah kacang fare, and this was the penultimate day of Shawal, so it wasn't very exciting food, nor too much talk. The crowd was already sparse, and except for a few faces, I couldn't recognize many people, with most faces changed with age.

At 6.30 Kak Tun, Tok Mail's wife, called, inviting us for dinner at Sungai Ujung Club at 8.15. "Wear shoes" she warned. I accepted the invitation and told the wife we'll leave after Maghrib prayers. When I finished prayers she was already dressed, so we were at the club before 8, and before our hosts.

We thought it was to be a reception for the recent marriage of their daughter in Singapore to her Irish boss, but it turned out it wasn't. It was just dinner for the four of us. Kak Tun and my wife are in the same association and meet often and get on well, so it was another dinner for them. Tok Mail and I also share a few activities together, so it was also another dinner for us. The setting was pleasant enough and we talked comfortably, and finished the food, except for some remaining buttered prawns and sambal that were dog-bagged. We spoke of the Bagan Pinang bye election and the recent UMNO General Assembly, and made different jocular remarks, not unlike the many that have been passed around. While picking from the mixed fruit platter, I mentioned the fact that Tok Mail used to eat papayas together with the seeds. That was when Kak Tun remembered a funny incident involving Tok Mail. Kak Tun had tears running down her eyes telling the story and laughing uncontrollably.

We didn't linger long. Still, the club was already quite empty when we left at close to 10, and it was early night yet. It was a nice little dinner, and totally unexpected. I'll have to reciprocate, I suppose.



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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Golf for the Olympics.

Last weekend the IOC announced that golf, with a few other sports, has been voted in to be included in the 2016 & 2020 Olympics. They say it's a return after 100 years. The fact is golf is older than the Modern Olympics, with written records of more than 600 years.

The follow-up media coverage highlighted the comments made by both exponents, supporters and event-managers of the game who lauded the decision, extolling the feeling of pride for country for players and the increasing worldwide popularity of the sport as justification for its inclusion.

The Olympics long ago abondoned the impractical self-imposed rule of restricting the Games to only "amateur" sportsmen. The arguements are deserving of another commentary. For now, suffice it to say that relative to other newer, more obscure and less popular sports like wushu, karate, softball and curling, golf surely stands out better for inclusion into the four-yearly World Competition.

The ethics and rules of golf, even as it is played socially among friends, are notorious. For starters, in no other sport do players call a penalty upon themselves. For the evening outing among four friends, calling penalty upon oneself because of the infringement of an archaic rule about a "free drop" or a "penalty drop" out of a "bad lie" may mean nothing more than the loss of one hole in a game of over eighteen holes . For a professional golfer during a competition, such a penalty is worth literally millions. Too many times these true professionals have even penalised themselves by a stroke, often the difference between winning and losing, simply because the ball that they have "addressed", that is, lined up with their club to hit, has merely oscillated in its original spot, not because of any movement made by the player, but because of gravity or wind acting on that 1.64" ball sitting precariously on the top of the grass. Now, that itself you can cynically say "well, golf makes that rule." The thing is no one knows it except for the player standing directly over the guilty ball. View this in the light of the "dive" many a professional footballer balatantly makes, in front of live tv, and realize the contrasting moral code of conduct exhibited, and exhibited time and time again. Surely this alone epitomizes the Olympic spirit.

The main arguement in support of golf for the Olympics should really be the fact that in this sport is found the true test of skill that is absolutely tested, regardless of the size of the competitor and the food that he eats. In boxing, weightlifting, swimming, atheltics, and gymnastics, just to name a few, either one or the other, or usually both factors of size and objectivity of umpiring are fatal to the outcome of the competition. The participants must be of the same weight class, or the bigger sportsman obviously has an advantage, as in athletics, or the judging is subjective, as in boxing and gymnastics, for instance. Not in golf. Ian Woosnam was World No. 1 once. He stands at 5' 4" and probably still eats steak and mashed potato. Vijay Singh also was World No. 1 once. He's 6'2" and eats rice (his Malay wife comes from Johore) and the occasional chapatti ( he's a Bai, isn't he ?). A lot of young and small South Korean girls, and one Japanese girl, Ai Miyazato, are currently causing consternation in the LPGA by rotating wins this year among themselves against the big American girls in their own backyards. Each golf competition is run over four days at the same venue, come rain, shine or stormy weather. So its the common condition for everyone. And the winner is decided by adding up the total number of strokes that he makes, including those that he makes but misses, and all the penalty strokes referred to earlier. That is absolute. It's 280 or 283 or whatever, not 280.5 or 283.25.

What about costs ? Isn't Golf a rich man's game ?

It's getting expensive now, that's true, but isn't everuthing else ?. When I started 22 years ago (wow !) a half-set comprising of 7 clubs including the bag cost RM 300. To-day a good driver (the No. 1 club, not the guy who drives his boss to work) alone costs upwards of RM 2,000 ! But as in all things in life, you measure your own clothes. Why buy a Rolls Royce when a Kelisa will do. Then there is the playing facility. You can't build your own hockey field and maintain it as well, or your own atheltics tracks. OK, but you say for golf you have to be a member of an expensive Golf Club. But we now have "walk on" facilities in many clubs, and not all are expensive, and in fact Government Servants join at Government rates. Plus, this country is seeing the beginning of the building of public courses that are a common feature in US, UK, Australia and many parts of the world. For the equivalent of RM 20 you can play at these "munis".

The only possible downside to the Olympics inclusion is whether all the noise made would end in a whimper. Look at tennis. It's already in the Olympics. But last Olympics gold medallist hardly create a ripple in the tennis world, and no ebullent rejoice of medallists stick out in the media. In fact many professional players were not particularly keen to put aside the time from their rich professional schedule, so in the end it was always "the buck stops here". Pro-golf is richer than pro-tennis. Will we see the same thing ?

Here's the catch. All this while, tennis as a popular sport has never quite made a rampage anywhere. Just look at the facilities for the game and the merchandising, even at dedicated sports stores. And here's the biggest stopper - there's an age limit. Beyond certain years, you can't run after the ball, even if you allow it to drop first. It's different for golf. Everyone of the 30 over clubs in NS alone has a pro-shop. Every shopping mall in all the major towns has at least one golf shop. And the golf ball doesn't run. And John Philip Seow plays 9 holes every day and celebrates his 80th birthday this month.

If the criteria for a popular sporting activity worth promoting to the highest level is the display of an achievable athletic skill unlimited by physical size, the freedom of skill development because of a salubrious climate and abundant facility, the high rate of return to investment probablity because of the durability of the game, and the long-term knowledge of the erstwhile pasttime and the established pleasure of the pure competition, then golf measures up.

For Malaysians, this is one world-wide sport that is well within their capabalitities to excel in, as proven by other Asian players to-day. Everything possible should be done to promote the sport and to produce, in time, world-class players competing on world-class stage.We should welcome the inclusion of this sport in the Modern Olympics. Get the Municipalities to build a public course each. Get the schools and private clubs together. Get a Malaysian Olympics Champion in 2016. That's only seven years more. There's time.

Meanwhile, I'm off to meet Ong Tiong Meng for 12-4-4.





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Friday, October 9, 2009

A.K.Bear.

This Sunday Hank has organized a sort of reunion at A.K.Bear's house in Seremban for some Budak Boys. A.K.Bear himself has not sent out any similiar message, electronic or otherwise, so I assume the host has consented. This might very well serve as the 50th. anniversary for the group, having first come together in 1960 or thereabout.

By all accounts, everyone is retired. By some accounts, a few have sadly passed on, God save their souls. I'm included in the confirmed coming list for this Sunday in as much as it's in my town as these are some very old friends I'm keen to meet again, most of whom I have not maintained regular contacts with all these years. Experience has taught me not to expect too much. Many times in the past I had bumped into some old school friends (not the Budak Boy type) that I recognized in spite of the passage of time in their faces, and I had warmed up to, only to be given a kind of cool reception instead. It seemed that the feeling of nostalgia, in whatever amount, was only unilaterally felt by me. Or perhaps the other blokes couldn't recall anything.

Most of the names that I saw on Hank's list have gone on to the top of their professions at their points of retirement, but I don't expect less of a Budak Boy. Many have taken circuitous routes there, and most have served nobly and without fanfare. As a parent myself, I'm keen to find out how their children have moved on in life. For all you know, our children might at this very moment be in related fields or even in the same organizations.

A.K.Bear built his big house where he's spending his retirement now only after he retired, that I know. I've never asked him the circumstances of that happening. In fact his old family house that has now been vacant for a long time is just a few meters away from this new place. This I asked about, and his vague answer was the sisters often come back to clean the compound. Every time I stand on the 17th. tee at SIGC, I see the forlorn-looking bungalow with the rusting Peugeot 504 in the old porch.

A.K.Bear must have a lot of bush jackets, or he simply likes them, because every time I see him, he'd be wearing one. He also still drives the last official car assigned to him, most probably given to him as a parting momento from the goverment. The paintwork could do with some rework, but that's my observation only. Obviously A.K.Bear has other priorities.

He's a member of SIGC, and we've met there a few times. Unfortunately he doesn't play golf , although a mutual friend said that he had seen him play a very long time ago. He was in school a Davis Cup tennis player, as well as a hockey and football player. So it's not as if he can't play golf, anyway. I'm told he has been quite vocal at the club's AGMs.

So I look forward to Sunday, see some old friends, crack some old jokes, and catch up with what's new with the old candidate at Bagan Pinang.



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Sunday, October 4, 2009

Aman Shah.

Aman Shah Khalid is not to be confused with Aman Shah, the Malay pop singer who appeared for a short while in the 80's. The former was originally supposed to be from Seremban, the latter from Jelebu, though admittedly both are from the same state. The only similiarity is that both were handsome, when much younger, of course.

I don't know what happened to the singer. I guess he has disappeared into the crowd somewhere. But if not for the rare and infrequent and strange messages that I get from the other Aman, I could also say the same thing about him - that he, too, has disappeared. No, no, I'm just joking ! Aman Shah is somewhere in Kayangan - Perlis Indera Kayangan, that is.

We first met when I joined the same organization that he had already joined earlier, in 1968-69 (it's so long ago that I can't even pinpoint the YEAR !). He was a flamboyant young officer driving, at that time, a flamboyant Mini Cooper. There was something about a penchent for speed about Aman. When he changed his car it was for another speedster, also at that time, a Datsun SSS, if I'm not mistaken. We used to join a few fellow office-mates for nights in the town before he fell for Salomi. This was when he was posted to a senior post in the north, I think. As far as I can recall they have only one son who was given the nicely theatrical name of "Kelana". At that time I thought it was a fantastic original name.

Through the years we would bump into each other once in a long while. Aman has moved on. He was the GM of a large outfit in Perlis, but later took leave to resume post-graduate studies in England, came back and went on his own in KL, then moved back to Perlis where Salomi is from, and to-day it looks like it's Perlis for good.

Whatever you do, Man, don't forget your roots. It's always "Somban", and I'm here still. Your old suffering pal.



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Friday, October 2, 2009

Othman Abdul.

Othman called me out of the blue to-day, before Friday prayers. He didn't tell me what prompted him, since it must have been at least two years that he last called. We spoke a while, but to the end the real reason for calling never came out. He taught me a few Japanese words, so we signed off by my saying to him "mata ai masho" - till we meet again.

We worked together for four-and-a quarter years 15 years ago. Actually I had met him before that at a golf competition, so I remembered him when we met again at work. When I left, he remained behind, but soon after he also left to team up with a friend and are still together until to-day. Also, when we parted company, I vaguely remember he had 5 children, and increasing. To-day he has TEN, hopely not increasing. But five are already at university, reading various subjects, so it's quality with quantity, thank goodness.

We shared a common vice in golf. We were about the same handicap then, and I have the feeling that that situation has not changed, in spite of his protestations. So we should get together again soon, I said, and he agreed.

Othman was doing marketing, although his training was different. My, did he do a bloody good job, too. He was given full reins and made the most of the trust given. There were many inspiring incidents involving him and his marketing ploys. The performance of the company was proof of the good work put, though HQ did not fully appreciate the methods, and by HQ I mean one particular guy who said "marketing is nothing." He has since left the HQ and in fact died.

The team that was put was tremendously creative and highly motivated, right down to the lowest ranking staff. When the fleet operations were first launched at midnight out of container-boxes that served as temporary offices, everybody involved came, many in their sarongs. It was so exciting, and that excitement, for me, lasted for my entire four plus years with the bunch, with the many more who joined later. The new routes, and the new clientle that Othman and his able assistants developed were truly adventurous and fun. For me, and for the independence I enjoyed for a while, those were eye-opening and wonderful and satisfying years. Alas, they didn't last, not because what we did were wrong, but because our methods were deemed questionable and that version of things won the day at HQ, all because of the myopia and bias of that particular guy mentioned earlier.

I'm glad Othman called and brought back happy memories. I wish him well.

"Dai jo bu, Othman-san."




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