The Rundown

This review is also posted on Visit it, log in, rate it, make me money.

"Do ya smell what da Rock is cooking?". I looove the over-the-top antics of The Rock (I feel compelled to put a (tm) after the name, just in case you start confusing it with like, a movie starring Sean Connery and Nicholas Cage or maybe a stone at the bottom of your garden, or something). Everytime he says that line, for some reason, I think "Stone Grill Cooking", but that's probably just the anti-WWE fan in me talking.

Anyway, I thought he was more than passable in The Scorpion King (it was fun, over-the-top, exciting) and liked enough of the trailer (it looked fun, over-the-top, exciting) to The Rundown to give it a shot.

The Rock (real name: Dwayne Douglas Johnson) stars as Beck, a "retrieval expert" who, as the opening sequence shows, excels at taking things from people who don't want to give them up in the first place. Despite the violent nature of his job, he's actually a swell guy, who abhors violence as a resort (especially the use of guns) and all he wants to do is to set up a nice little restaurant, maybe ten, twelve tables, and presumably make something that smells good in the kitchen. The only thing that stops him is that he is deep in debt and thus takes less palatable work to work himself out of it. Hey, not my script, you know.

He finally gets given his chance when his boss asks him to fly down to Brazil to retrieve his son, Travis (Seann Willam Scott). If he does this, all debts are wiped out and he can fulfill his culinary dreams.

He flies into the jungle, but as you may expect, the job is not as simple as it seems. The whole area is under the control of Hatcher (Christopher Walken) who runs a massive mining operation in the jungle and considers the local populace to be convenient labour. Hatcher knows about Travis and has let him look on his land for the legendary El Gato Diablo, an incredibly valuable piece of treasure made of gold and goodness-knows. (Incidentally, El Gato Diablo is also slang for crystal methamphetamine, but I don't think that that's relevant to this film.)

Beck also makes the acquaintance of Mariana (played by Rosario Dawson - remember her in Josie and the Pussycats? Nah, neither did I) and Declan the pilot who flies Beck into this god-forsaken place. Declan is played by Ewen Bremner, who I do remember from Trainspotting and who in this film mangles the English language by being a Scotsman who plays an Irishman. Why did he have to be Irish? Because Scots are not happy-go-lucky? A Scotsman would certainly patch up his plane with duct tape.

So, got all that? Beck is the hero, Hatcher is the bad guy, Travis is the buddy rogue with the heart of gold (albeit a clumsy and nerdish rogue), Mariana is the feminine distraction and Declan is the plucky sidekick.

The plot, from now on, can be guessed by anyone who has been raised on Hollywood films: Beck flies in, finds Travis, tries to leave with him, gets stopped by Hatcher and a reluctant Travis, bumps into Mariana who then helps him and Travis find the El Gato Diablo and then altogether they stop Hatcher and his evil mining company ways.

But it's all so fun watching them do this. Really. The fight scenes are great, Christopher predictably hams it up and the banter between Beck and Travis is side-splitting at times. And that's about all you need for a good action film.

It's really good to see that people can still put a lot of thought and care into a film like this. All too often, you might think, "Ah, B-Grade action movie" and leave it at that, but there's still a lot to be done, and this movie does it well. Of course, you could argue that The Rock basically lives an action-movie life both off-set and on, but the guy can act as well. And Christopher Walken: priceless. Give that man a life-time Oscar already.

At the end of the day, when you buy a ticket for a movie like The Rundown, what you expect is action and fun, and this is exactly what you get.
posted on Friday, October 31, 2003 - permalink
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Malaysia breaks the top 100 in the FIFA world rankings

According to the latest FIFA world rankings released earlier this month, Malaysia is now in 99th position. This is better than the 117th position we held last month and much better than the 127th position held a year ago. The last time we were at our current position was in August 1998. (Incidentally, the highest Malaysia has been is 75 waaay back in August 1993 when the rankings were first established. We started sliding then and have never looked back since.)

Yet, we are still some way from being comfortable. We share table positions with Vietnam and Malawi and are still behind such powerhouses as Haiti, Libya and Togo.

No matter, for the first time in nine months, we are ahead of Singapore in the rankings who are currently at 102nd position.

Malaysia Boleh!
posted on Thursday, October 30, 2003 - permalink
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From the "Surely this can only be a coincidence" files: The Mid-Valley Megamall branch of Sushi King has just moved from the basement to the third floor. Right next to Pets Wonderland.
posted on Thursday, October 30, 2003 - permalink
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How spammers are targeting blogs

It felt like the digital equivalent of flyposting - coming home one day to find your windows covered with posters for dodgy clubs and bands you have never head of.

On the one hand, I completely symphatise and actually would hate to see this website over-run by irrelevant comments. On the other hand, I wouldn't want to immediately restrict who could post comments. Tough one.
posted on Wednesday, October 29, 2003 - permalink
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Tungsten T3 Review

I've just put up a review of the T3 on Basically, I like it, even if it does suffer a little from featur-itis.
posted on Wednesday, October 29, 2003 - permalink
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Orang Asli

Well, on the whole it was pretty cool. My mum's shop in Penang (eponymously known as The Bookshop) was hosting a talk on the Orang Asli presented by monsieur H. Berbar. He's a photojournalist and has spent five years on this project, including six months in the jungle, culminating in a coffee table book. Nice to hold, pretty to see, but the version printed for Malaysia has no naked people in it. He actually had to ask the orang asli to put on clothes. They were very confused about it. "It's for the KL people - they can't see nudity."

The Orang Asli are the indigenous people of the land. They exclusively live in Peninsula Malaysia and should not be confused with the Orang Asal who are those from Borneo, Sabah and Sarawak - e.g. Iban and Dayak.

Some Orang Asli have been integrated into modern society, but a number still live in the jungle. Most are nomadic and finding them is a little bit of a hit and miss affair. Berbar had to travel upriver for half a day and then trek through the jungle for a few days more to find some of them. Others are more straight-forward, such as the Meh-Mehri of Kerry Island.

Orang Asli pretty much live off the land, and they view the jungle with respect. Ceremonies are held before anyone leaves the village to go out into the jungle, and there is an idea that spirits of the dead roam out there.

They also believe that spirits are captured by cameras in photographs. Strangely, they believe that the spirit is in the first photograph you take, but not the others. Berbar took polaroids and returned the first one he took back to the subject. That way, they didn't feel as if their spirits were being taken away.

Be careful of whose hand you shake, it seems. Taking the hand of a woman is tantamount to taking her to be your wife. Berbar said he shook seven women's hands before discovering this.

Anyway, anything you do in the tribe needs the OK of the chief. You want to marry someone, see the chief. You want to divorce them, see the chief. Go into the jungle, "Yo, chief!". If you want someone to take medicine, you show it first to the chief and then he takes a bit, then everybody else takes a bit, and then you administer the medicine.

Food is what you find. Meat includes snakes, rats and monkeys. Berbar liked snake, I personally would find it an acquired taste. They hunt with blowpipes tipped with poison. One scratch, and you'd be dead within a few minutes. A single dart will take down an elephant.

The innate sense of direction of the orang asli is supreme. If you take one out of his village and leave him somewhere hours away, he will find his way back.

Anyway, the whole afternoon was filled with snippets like this, and I'll be posting a notice up when his book is available. His next project is on Penang island and the Bookshop is meant to have a small cameo role in it.
posted on Tuesday, October 28, 2003 - permalink
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The E&O Hotel

The E&O hotel is one of the most famous and exclusive places to stay in Penang. It's actually been around for a while, got closed down, and then recently reopened under new management. It's selling points are fine accommodation and luxury service in a colonial-style ambience.

I stayed in the E&O for one night, simply because I could and wanted to see first-hand what it had to offer.

Well, on the surface, what it has to offer was fine furniture, wonderful ambience and large rooms. I think that they're all suites in the E&O, with bathrooms as large as the bedsit I used to have in university (two sinks, if you're counting). The furnishings are splendid - almost makes you want to smuggle out a chair or a writing in your suitcase.

Each guest can also call upon the in-house butler service. I didn't, but (for example) you can instruct them to polish your shoes or iron your shirt.

I have to say that service overall was excellent, with none of that pandering hand-over-your-heart which you see in official hotels (come on, nobody in Malaysia does that to greet one another - it's artificial, it's manufactured, it's a pretense of a non-existant Bangsa Malaysia element).

However, there is a quibble, and it's in the fine detail. Not in the rooms, I must add. The only thing incongruous there is the modern-day 24" TV set with 15 satellite channels. They even have cloth laundry bags, one of which made its way into my luggage.

However, their coffee shop serves its butter in the little plastic containers and its sugar in little paper sachets. And if you're going to charge RM500 a room, I think you can afford to do a little better than that.
posted on Tuesday, October 28, 2003 - permalink
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I mentioned to Jeep that I thought that including Sheila Majid, Ning Baizura, Camelia and Anggun in the lineup for the next Philips Jazz Festival smacked less of trying to raise the standard and awareness of jazz in the country and more of selling tickets to a wider audience. He agreed with me.

But, I still remain optimistic and look forward to see what they will offer.
posted on Tuesday, October 28, 2003 - permalink
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The Wedding of Kenzo and Hooi Lin

Okay, I don't normally make a point of mentioning names in this website, but it was their wedding, and it was a grand affair, and since I'm going to say mostly positive things about it, there's no problem mentioning their names. I have never attended a wedding like ths before.

Firstly, a little background: I know Hooi Lin through her involvement with the Bookshop, so we're not complete strangers, but I don't know her so very, very well either. Anyway, I mention this for a reason, and I'll expound a little later.

This wedding has always been planned to be a grand affair. I understand it's been in the works for over a year. The invitation was delivered by hand, and each card inside was hand-tied with a bow. The stamp used was from a limited edition set of roses bought in bulk months before the invitation was handed out. The whole thing spoke of "hey, this is a big deal for me, and it'll be a big thing for you too if you come".

Next, the venue: the Cheong Fatt Tze mansion in Georgetown, Penang, the famous blue house now restored as a hotel. It's famous for its ambience, its beauty and for being a very good example of heritage conservation. They took the whole house up for the weekend.

When you approach the house you can't help but notice that something special is happening that night. The lighting and overall decor on the outside was engaging. Then you step through the front door and - wow - they had an arch of roses in the roofless courtyard with pink fabric all around.

There was the obligatory baby pictures slide show (which to me is as good a reason as any to not have a public wedding). After that there was a very stylish movie that brought together the couple's official wedding pictures which ran while the bride and groom came out under a shower of pink feathers and petals and re-enacted their vows under the rose arch.

Did I mention that Hooi Lin has a penchant for pink?

Then, what is the highlight for most Chinese weddings - the dinner. The courses were served Chinese-style (each dish in turn, one by one), but the dishes were a mix of chinese and malay (for example: satay, jellyfish, ayam percik, kailan with mushroom, sago gula melaka and crispy pancake). I must say the food was uniformly good.

Now, I have to explain something. Hooi Lin knew that I am a big (BIG) Sheila Majid fan, and she tried to seat me at the same table as her, but due to a mix-up with table seatings (nobody's fault, really), that didn't happen. That was unfortunate for me, but the point is that she was thoughtful enough to put me as an 11th person on a table for ten just because she knew that it would mean a lot to me. On a night where she had every right to think of herself and her husband, she took the trouble, despite me not being a very close friend of the family's. That's the kind of person she is.

No matter, the company at the table was good. It included the bridesmaids/maidens (I made the fatal mistake to ask what the difference was), three of Hooi Lin's friends that she made years ago in Japan as part of a student exchange (or something) and Jeep (Jip?), a musical lecturer at USM and all-round good-bloke jazz pianist. Actually, if you get the chance to listen to him, do so, I think he's quite good.

After dinner, there were the obligatory speeches followed by a triplet of songs by Sheila Majid herself, accompanied by her husband Acis on the keyboards (Lagenda, Aku Cinta Padamu and ... an English jazz song whose title I don't know). I thought it was quite... improper to ask her for an encore, seeing that it was somebody else's wedding and all the attention should have been on the bride and groom and not the live entertainment.

Then, more singing, and discoing. Into the wee hours, I understand. Some of the guests were staying there at the hotel itself and I guess they must have been partying all night long since there's no way anybody could have slept through that.

Me? I had chaffeuring duties the next morning, so I spared people the sight of a tubby guy in batik grooving away on the dance floor. Maybe next time.

A really unique experience - as one guest mentioned, "this isn't a wedding, it's a fully-fledged production!". The only major discord was that some people became fairly loud after downing the jars a little too eagerly and - my opinion - if you can't handle yourself after a few drinks, then don't drink.
posted on Tuesday, October 28, 2003 - permalink
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Johan Ismail

I have just received a telephone call from a friend of mine telling me that Johan Ismail, author of has just passed away last night of a heart attack. Jeff Ooi has a posting on his website about this.

I first got to know Johan when I was with the MDC working on the Smart School and the Cross-Flagship Integration projects. He had been doing a lot of work on Learning Management Systems (culminating in !nk) and I had spent time discussing with him on how something like that would be implemented.

The one thing I remember about him was how dedicated he would be to what he believed in. I had intended to meet up with him again soon after he pointed me to his website. As his website is currently "off-air" I will temporarily disable the link to it in the left-hand column until it gets back up again.
posted on Saturday, October 18, 2003 - permalink
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How cool is this? A form-generated table-less template generator for webpages (especially blogs).
posted on Sunday, October 12, 2003 - permalink
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The Page Design Genie

It seems that Xerox are designing a program that will automatically layout your documents for you using "sound design principles" so that it looks good.

Of course, those of us who've used LaTeX as a word-processor know how good that is already at layout. It will even hyphenate words correctly. OK, so it may not be so good with different sized fonts and lots and lots of pictures, but it's been around for ages, and does a really good job as it is.

Anyway, I think it's better at it than MS Office.
posted on Sunday, October 12, 2003 - permalink
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Should Microsoft be held liable for bugs in its products?

Just read the Windows and .Net editorial on this topic. It's a good read, and contains some relevant issues.

As tempting as it is for me say, "Go ahead, sue Microsoft for all the money they've got", I personally don't think it's fair to expect a product as complex as MS Windows to be bug-free, but I think it's reasonable to expect them to sell products that work as they advertise it to.

The question is, have Microsoft ever advertised that they will ensure that their system is secure no matter what? No, I don't think so. But I as a consumer would want them to fix bugs as quickly and efficiently as possible. Yet, it's very unlikely that me as an individual would be able to do this. That's why, in a free market, competition is a Good Thing. We can't expect Microsoft to change as long as they don't really care either way, and they don't care because people cannot move over easily to a non-Microsoft product.

Do I sound as if I'm rehashing a Open Source argument? It's not my intention. I have a fantasy, and in this fantasy what we have not alternative Operating Systems, but, if you like, an alternate Windows. Windows from anyone who's Not Microsoft. Some way we can keep the OS without buying it from Microsoft. Okay, so how we do this may not be so easy. It would be nice if someone took the time to build WindowsTwo. Cleanly separating the apps from the OS (as with Java) would be another way. Or we could have WINE that really works.

Anyway, all this is kind of going off the subject. What I'm trying to say is that the problem isn't so much whether MS should be held liable, but that we shouldn't be in a position where going to court against Microsoft is the only way out of it. Yes, I think they should be held liable if they don't keep to their marketing hype, but we should be able to turn around and say "no thank you" if we don't like what they have to offer.

posted on Sunday, October 12, 2003 - permalink
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Jedmulbd Txet

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe.

I'm sure lots of you have seen this. But, as with most people, I couldn't just leave it alone at that. Is it really true and there's research done into it? Are there exceptions? Or is it justs someone's lame joke on the world and spam filters?

I'm always intrigued by things like this that drop unexpectedly into my mail. The first thing that I wonder, "Is it true?". It annoys me that people don't worry about just hitting the "forward" button without first checking the facts. And it's not that difficult to do so.

So is it true? Well, the answer isn't quite as clear as you might think. First stop, the great, and they confirmed what I suspected - that it may not have recently come from research from an English University after all. Well, it's not to say that there isn't, but nobody's stood up and raised their hand and said, "it's me!".

In fact, dig a little deeper and you eventually come to a letter sent to New Scientist that shows research in this area has been around since the mid-seventies (link thanks to Matt Davis from the Congnition and Brain Sciences Unit of the University of Cambridge who has a long discussion on this matter).

Even better, Mr. Davis has counter-examples which show what the statement above claims (that it "doesn't matter in what order the letters in a word are, the only important thing is that the first and last letter be at the right place") is not always true:
A dootcr has aimttded the magltheuansr of a tageene ceacnr pintaet who deid aetfr a hatospil durg blendur

Do I have too much time on my hands? Probably.
posted on Sunday, October 12, 2003 - permalink
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The Rugby World Cup

Ahh... it's only Saturday night, and I have already watched 500+ minutes of rugby this weekend. Yes, you've got it, it's the Rugby World Cup. For me, it ranks below the real World Cup (tm) and the Euro championships for quad-annual sporting events, but I still spend a fair amount of time watching it.

The only problem is that the gulf between good and mediocre teams in rugby is large. None of the last five games have produced surprises. Argentina did the best against Australia, holding the hosts to a 24-8 win. The Pumas played really well, I thought and the aussies need to do much, much better if they want to win the tournament. More back line practice, perhaps?

Next was New Zealand's game against Italy. Now, the Italians have been playing in the Six Nations for a few years now, so the standard of their rugby should be much better, but they still got whipped 70-7. The All Blacks made it look like a practice match, only poor handling in the last third of the field standing between them and a hundred points (as well as RM20 for me). Absolutely phenomenal.

Keith Wood, an inspiration to us allIreland then stepped out to play Romania. It seems that Ireland are the third best team in the world. I really can't believe they're better than the Aussies, but with Keith Wood and O'Driscoll playing, they can beat any team, I reckon. Anyway, they won 45-17. As a former hooker myself, I was very, very happy when Woodie made a fullback-like angled run to score a try. (A poor combination of "I", "hooker" and "woodie" there, but I'm sure we're all mature enough not to giggle at this. Oh well, ok, giggle a little.)

I thought France against Fiji could be a really close match. Fiji always do well in seven's rugby, so all they had to do was to treat it like a seven's game played by fifteen people. They tried, but their inability to ruck and maul well cost them and they eventually lost 61-18. Some people think rugby's just "pick up the ball and run", but there's an awful lot of skill involved when trying to hold off the combined effort of eight people through your shoulder and neck in the scrum. There was an absolutely amazing try by Rupeni Caucau when he single-handedly ran two-thirds of the pitch to score.

Finally, South Africa met Uruguay. The only way that South Africa could lose this game would be if the bad luck they've been having over the last few months spilled over into tonight in a big way, but fortunately it didn't, and they won convincingly 72-6. Despite the scoreline, I didn't think they played all that convincingly, and I wish them the best of luck against England - they'll need it. Breaking a Will Greenwood tackle will be a little harder than it was against the Uruguayian midfield in this game.

Tomorrow? Wales vs Canada (potentially a close one), Scotland vs Japan and England vs Georgia (100+ points, I think).
posted on Saturday, October 11, 2003 - permalink
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Bowling for Columbine

What a great movie. I really like Michael Moore a lot and he's worth listening to, if you bear in mind that he's one point of view.

Bowling for Columbine is Michael Moore's thesis on video of why people in the US tend to be more violent to one another compared to - well - everywhere else, really. He reckons it's because US society as a whole live on the edge in an atmosphere of fear and that people feel that the best way - the only way - to protect themselves is to be very ready to shoot the other person.

The case he builds is a meandering one, a little like he's trying to make up his mind. Several strands come into play: the ease and comfort with which a person can get a gun in America (he opens with a bank that gives away guns when you open a bank account - a pretty outragous alternative to a toaster, if you ask me), the way some Americans feel that toting a gun is a right and an obligation, all the way to this idea that the "American Way of Life" is to bully somebody into submission - Might is Right, you say?

He argues that people get their primary impression of the world around them from TV and newspapers and that the media in turn show what they think will attract the most viewers. Violence is one of these things, it seems. "If it bleeds, it leads," was one comment. And it's all just "entertainment", with a layer of hypocrisy there when Americans excercise their version of moral rights (right to own a gun, right to defend oneself, right to rid the world of tyranny by replacing them with other tyrants).

All the while, there are places where you just have to laugh out loud at the ridiculousness of it all. There is a portion where a newscaster easily switches between "concerned reporter at the scene of a shooting" to "concerned reporter at the lack of hairspray" when the camera is switched off. The funniest things are the ones that are true.

He also sometimes gets under some people's skin, on purpose. I don't like this aspect of him so much, when he ambushes unsuspecting targets (actor and NRA spokesman Charlton Heston, for example) who really have no idea what has hit them.

Moore is constantly worried about the state of his country, and continually points fingers at deficiencies, and yet is obviously as patriotic as it comes. He's definitely one of those who believe that it's an obligation to show up our faults to better ourselves.

All in all, it is a worthwhile thing to watch and should definitely be part of any ethics/morals class.
posted on Saturday, October 11, 2003 - permalink
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The Philips International Jazz Festival 2003

How cool is this? The next Philips International Jazz Festival is due to take place at Bukit Kiara on 6 December 2003. Ah, I have great memories watching people like Michael Veerapan, Lewis Pragasam and the incomparable Diana Krall at previous festivals, and this time they're only charging RM42 for the event (which is pretty reasonable for 7 hours of music).

This year, I only recognise the household names: Shiela Majid (yay!), Camelia and Ning Baizura, as well as Indonesian singer Anggun. I can't help thinking that the decision to invite so many high-profile pop names to sing jazz is more to attract crowds then to promote innovation and invention in Malaysian jazz (although Shiela Majid does have a "jazzy" background).

Nevertheless, I do look forward to it and hope it's better than my worst fears.
posted on Friday, October 10, 2003 - permalink
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Props for

It seems odd that I would praise something that's published by Microsoft, but I've got to say that I think Salon is one of the best online magazines out there. Everything from the diversity of articles they publish, to the fact that they give you an option to access to the whole magazine by either subscribing to them or by watching a little ad. It's like pay TV or free TV, and they let you choose. Brilliant.

They're pretty liberal too and not adverse to a little right-wing bashing from time to time, which fits in nicely with my persona. But the real reason I like it is because, well, the writing's pretty darned good.

What about pro-microsoft stances? Well, in an editorial they admitted that they would be more likely to write a neutral article about Microsoft than an anti-Microsoft one. But, on the whole, I don't see any cloying essays about how Microsoft will save the world, unlike IT magazines that run adverts disguised as articles.

If you've never read it before, give it a shot.
posted on Friday, October 10, 2003 - permalink
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Tim SebastianI've finally managed to see the interview that Tim Sebastian had with Syed Hamid Albar, the current Malaysian Minister for foreign affairs, on HardTalk (courtesy of Jeff Ooi's link to the RealVideo on BBC). Overall, I thought it was a fair-ish performance, although it would have been far better if Syed Hamid had more prepared for some of the topics. I don't know whether they get a heads-up on what will be discussed, but I would have thought that the ISA would have been an obvious one.

I reproduce below transcripts from two sections on the interview. The first is about the ISA and the second is on refugees being turned back. I actually have lots to say about the ISA section of the interview, but I'll leave the details for another posting. What piqued me were the statements that (a) Cogent evidence is needed before people are held under ISA and that (b) You can only bring people to court for normal crimes - the ISA is for 'other' crimes. You can also add the throwaway comment that "prevention is better than cure" as another one I have something to say about.

Timestamp: 10:25 - 14:26

Tim Sebastian: Your Internal Security Act is singled out for particular attention. The accusation is that it's used as a means of taking out your politcal opponents. How do you reply to that?

Syed Hamid Albar: My response is very simple. People who do not understand Malaysian political system may, you know, just simply criticise us and say it is getting rid of the opponent. We have elections every four or five years and the opposition have won two states in Malaysia. we have-

TS: The opposition has said you've arrested some of their members on the Internal Security Act but you haven't put them on trial.

SHA: We arrested them, the same way with the Patriot Act, the same way that you're dealing with terrorists act, if they support overthrowing of government through illegitimate means or unlawful means, of course we'll arrest them.

TS: Why not bring them to trial, ... (unclear)

SHA: (unclear)... even in the case - prevention is better than cure, you know, we have taken-

TS: The PAS, the islamic opposition party, say that if you have any evidence against their members, bring them to court

SHA: I think it's the same thing now what we have done now, the terrorist activities, what we have focused on, we do not just simply arrest opposition leaders because they are opposition, we can handle them very well, there is no problem on that.

TS: It's a bit of a coincidence though, isn't it, that the ones who are detained-

SHA: You look at Guatanamo Bay question, there is a lot of coincidence there, a lot of denials of human rights. If you look at UK case of arrest of -

TS: We're looking at Malaysia though... (unclear) we raise these questions with Washington, I'm now raising about Malaysia with you.

SHA: What I'm saying is that, sometimes, we tend to look with a jaundiced view, what other countries, without really fully understanding what is happening in the country. What I'm saying is that we can handle our political opposition without difficulty. Whether you agree or disagree that's a different question. But I'm saying that we have no problem about the political process.

TS: Yes, but the fact is a lot of people are locked up, indefinitely, without charge or trial because the Internal Security Act provides for arbitrary arrest and detention without trial for an indefinite period based on the suspicion that one may be likely to commit a crime. Lots of people might be likely to commit a crime, it doesn't mean that they are going to and since when does a civilised country lock up people just becaust they might commit a crime.

SHA: I think this shows that you have not studied nor understand-

TS: This is the Human Rights Watch-

SHA: The Human Rights Watch cannot be gospel in everything that they say. There are a lot of report, a lot of reports on human rights about other countries, but in this particular case, there is just not on mere suspicion, there must be cogent evidence for them to show that they are involved in subversive activities that can threaten the security of the country and we put and place great importance on peace and stability here in Malaysia.

TS: I come back to you to that point, if you have evidence then why not put them before a court?

SHA: No, if they commit the normal crimes, then you can bring them to court. If they've commited, say, our KMM or our group that is called Al-Maunnah involved in overthrowing the government, we charge them in court. But when people do subversive activities then this is the law that we inherited-

TS: So you just detain them indefinitely-

SHA: Not indefinitely, that is not true. There is a two-year period at the initial stage and it is subject to review. And the review is done by very independent people. If they think that within the two years these people can be released, then they can be released.

TS: How-

SHA: THey're very independent, they have nothing to do with the government. Judges, there are judges inside it, there are people who are responsible at looking whether the detention of this person would serve the interests of the country or not.

Syed Hamid AlbarThe other part which I found interesting was on accusations that Malaysia is turning back Indonesian refugees.

Timestamp: 18:37 - 20:52
TS: Why are you turning away refugees, arresting refugees, who are fleeing the violence in Acheh province?

SHA: I'm not aware-

TS: Despite protests from the UNHCR, the refugee agency, why are they being turned away?

SHA: They have not been turned away. For your information, there have not been refugees coming this way.

TS: You say they're not refugees. UNHCR says they are refugees.

SHA: You hold on, if I can explain the situation. What they have done is, we have over 1 million illegal immigrants into this country, people who are, who are working without proper documents. These people, is part of an on-going process of making sure that we arrest illegal people who have no documents, about two hundred of them were arrested in this country without any documents.

TS: Four hundred asylum seekers were-

SHA: Then they are-

TS: Were arrested on their way to the UNHCR office.

SHA: What the UNHCR has done is that they have registered illegal immigrants as refugees. So, we have, we need to investigate whether these people are refugees or these people are illegal immigrants seeking employment in this country

TS: But you are throwing them back before you could investigate (unclear)

SHA: They are still with us under detention, on investigation. We haven't thrown anybody back yet.

TS: Have you arrested them? Why can't (unclear) Why can't you leave it to UNHCR to do it?

SHA: No, no. Because they came as (unclear). If the UNHCR say they are refugees then they have to prove that to us. In this one we have arrested them, then the UNHCR then decided these people are refugees. We do not act in that way. We do not do that. We have to act in accordance with our own law.

TS: There is a right to asylum that is contained in the Universal declaration of Human Rights, isn't there?

SHA: Would you be willing to accept anybody to come to your country? I don't think so. Because in this particular case, they have come in as illegal immigrants, we do not want illegal immigrants in this, in this country. They want to come in through legal means, of course they are most welcome, if we have jobs or employment for them. But not as illegal immigrants, that we will not allow.

posted on Friday, October 10, 2003 - permalink
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Arnold Schwarzen-governor

Governer ArnoldUgh. The good people of California have recalled Gary Davis as governor of California and elected former bodybuilder and actor Arnold Schwarzenneggar to take his place. Well, I use the words "elected" and "actor" quite loosely.

Why should I care about what happens half-way round the world? Very little of what he will do as governor will directly affect me (even if California is the world's fifth largest economy). I had no say in the vote and will have no say in trying to remove him.

Instead, I see it as a worrying trend that the cradle of democracy can knowingly elect a man who has no experience whatsoever in government at any level to lead them. I suffix "idiot" everytime I say "George Bush" (idiot) these days, but I would still vote for him over an actor. Who can barely grasp the nuances of the English language. Who, when accused of molesting former workmates said, "I am very sorry", making it sound as if all he was sorry about was getting caught.

I have believed for some time now that the key to a working democracy is for the voters to be educated. I get into little arguments about how on Earth PAS can make some of the policies they do. My answer? You don't like hudud law? Well, they are being tabled by a state government that was voted in by the people. And that's about as fair as you can get.

If we want people to make good choices when electing their government, we have to make sure that they understand enough of the issues being debated and then to make their own decision about it. How many of us really believe this about our voters here in Malaysia?

And here is the crux of it all. I used to believe that it would just be a matter of time. People need to get used to the idea that an opposition isn't inherent evil, but a vital necessary for a healthy democracy, and that the open debate about important issues is what is important.

But now, they have voted Ahrnuld in. A combination of razzle and dazzle has brought in a man who really shouldn't have been taken seriously in the first place. Issues? What issues? I fear anything goes, really.
posted on Wednesday, October 08, 2003 - permalink
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Fiery Phones

OK, I couldn't just keep this quiet anymore. I am sick and fed-up of people lecturing me to not use my handphone around a petrol station.

It sounds sort of believable. There are news reports of this sort of thing happening. Shell has put up signs discouraging people from smoking, having the car engine running or (you guessed it) using a handphone while filling the car with petrol. Now the Malaysian government is advertising on radio and TV warning people not to use their handphone at petrol stations.

The news report linked above has three cases of when a handphone had caused a fire at a petrol station, so as a risk that has been esablished, it's good to try and reduce that risk. Switch off handphones at petrol stations.

This is all good, I suppose, for the paranoid out there, except for one thing: It seems that there are no - let me repeat this again: no - examples of handphones causing fires in petrol stations. My sources backing this statement are the ever-reliable as well as

For some local spin on this, see the National Institute Of Occupational Safety And Health forums.

My take on it? Well, I'll call you up next time I'm refuelling to let you know...
posted on Wednesday, October 08, 2003 - permalink
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The Coliseum

A couple of friends are honeymooning in KL, and as the local guy they know from UK, I took them out for dinner. Now, when I take visitors from out of town, there's very few places I go; I could take them to Uptown and all that entails, or I take them for Banana Leaf rice with fish head curry or I take them to The Coliseum.

The Coliseum is a KL institution. I remember going to this smoky, colonial-styled restaurant when I was kid. The big appeal was and still is the sizzling steaks. Well, things have changed. They used to put a bib on you and all that, but not any more. They pour the sauce on the hot plates away from the dinner table now. It still doesn't do much to improve air quality, though.

Another thing I like is the old-style bread. We used to be able to buy bread like that in Malaysia, but ever since Gardenia came along with their homogenised loaves, with their perfectly square bread, those have been hard to find.

The other appeal of the Coliseum is that they are probably the only restaurant in KL where the eccentric service is part of the draw. Heck, they've been around since 1921, so personally, I cut them some slack. By "they", I mean the waiters. There are only two types of waiters in the Coliseum: old or temporary. And with age, comes a certain amout of lattitude in service.

For example: I once ordered a steak medium rare and the waiter said, "Are you sure you want this? Medium rare means it's not cooked inside. Don't send it back if you don't like it, okay?".

It's just the way they do things. Some things never change.

Halfway through dinner the waiters cleared up the table next to ours. They took off all the bottles of tomato and worcester sauce and then flipped the tablecloth over so that the used side was now underneath and the clean side above.

Kathy leant forward and whispered to me, "I thought you were joking when you said they did that!".
posted on Thursday, October 02, 2003 - permalink
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