Interesting TV this season

Once upon a time, the TV that we got was completely dependant on what RTM would show us. Great stuff, the days of Combat and Hawaii Five-O. Something to watch over during dinner on a black and white 12" TV screen in the kitchen.

Then came colour and we added on shows such as the A-Team and MacGyver. If you really wanted to watch something, you had to record it, because if you missed it once, you'd miss it. I remember keeping an almost complete collection of Automan.

After that came the era of satellite TV. Now shows were on four or five times a week. It was when you got Friends twice a day, five days a week and Buffy ruled the airwaves. It didn't matter so much that you missed the odd show because you could always catch a repeat. You didn't have to set the video recorder on anymore. And I watched less terresterial TV than ever before.

Now TV watching is reaching another watershed. Three things have led to this: the increase in quality of TV shows, a faster Internet and the proliferation of DVD. I'm watching less and less broadcast TV and more stuff on the computer and other pre-recorded media. And we're talking TV series here, not movies.

As a result there is no better time than now to watch TV. The bulk of what I am going to discuss here is television from America because that's what's most easily available.

posted on Tuesday, December 30, 2003 - permalink
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Kakiseni review: Where's the Jazz?

Indeed. Can't agree more.
posted on Wednesday, December 24, 2003 - permalink
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Farming IC Numbers and the Data Protection Act (or lack thereof)

There has recently been a lot of brouhaha relating to the Government's proposed National Service programme. Although newspapers have in general been supportive of it, Malaysian bloggers have been less so. In fact, I have yet to find a single one who thinks it's a good idea. Now to add more fuel to the fire, they have flagrantly not taken care of peoples' privacy rights.

The murmurs of discontent have been raised yet again and most of the criticism now is squarely targetted against the Government's apparent inability to disseminate this information. I go one step further to say that what they have published is inappropriate.

Instead of me telling you the whole sordid story, let me point you to the running commentary on Alphaque:

Anxious kids wanting to know if they've been selected for brainwashing National Service could use a few ways to find out. They could call a special hotline, send an SMS or do what any other kid of the Internet generation would, use the Khidmat Negara website. However, those who believe in the national ICT aspirations and the Multimedia Super Corridor were deeply disappointed because the website was truly unreachable during the whole period. It keeled over and just died like the dodo.

In order to counter this, somebody mirrored this information on a Ministry of Defence server. Except it wasn't really a mirror. The original website invited people to enter their Identity Card number into a form and a result was returned on that single query only. The new website listed all names by state and initial letter. Well, actually, they also included the IC number next to the names (for example, see

I think that this is a Bad Idea. In theory, IC numbers should be private and should not be published willy nilly. What the government has given here is 85,000 IC numbers with names attached to them to anyone who cares to download them. You could argue, "what harm is there in publishing this information?", and I would counter, "what business is it of anyone but myself to give my information away freely?".

This actually all points to a bigger problem - that the Data Protection Act is still not in place. We have been working on this for at least three years now. The last news I had was that the State governments are giving comments on a draft. This was a year ago. The Communications and Multimedia website is not much help regarding the status of this law has some comment about when it will be ready, buried a forum.

Truth is, data protection rights are of little importance to the establishment and without direct orders to the contrary it's unlikely that states (or even federal bodies for that matter) will willingly impose restrictions on themselves on how they can use (and perhaps abuse) personal data. Thus, I envisage that the laws will be broad enough to protect the rights of the establishment to still do whatever they want to with our personal information.
posted on Monday, December 15, 2003 - permalink
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No Gay Elves

No Gay Elves
In conjunction with The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, we are proud to present our Just Say No to Gay Elves campaign. We call out to all those out there that have had to put up and persist with the drooling over that long silky-haired, soft-voiced, laconicly-soft-voiced, eye-candy-camera-hogging, oh-my-god-how-gay-can-you-get elf that has more than his fair share of screen time in the trilogy.

To this end we now say, "No Gay Elves Here!". We encourage all to paricipate by doing the following:

posted on Tuesday, December 09, 2003 - permalink
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The Phillips Jazz Festival

Sheila MajidYou know, I'd hate to say "I told you so", but what the heck - I told you so. The Phillips Jazz Festival had invited not one, not two, not three, but four mainstream acts who were more pizzazz than jazz, and the results were disappointing. Instead of taking the opportunity to experiment, the quartet of Camelia, Ning Baizura, Sheila Majid and Anggun mostly stayed within their familiar musical boundaries. Was it enjoyable? Yes. Was it Jazz? Probably not.

This compounded with the fact that I arrived late after deciding to catch some much needed sleep (you wouldn't believe how busy things got in the preceding 24 hours) meant that I missed out on most of the jazz available.

Anyway, highlights of the concert? Krakatoa are pretty cool, Silk have a bunch of manic musicians and of course, Sheila Majid who did a delicious version of Fly Me To The Moon (but honestly, if all she did was walk onto stage and said "Hi" that would have been fine too). All four of the pop girls looking very nice and pretty (/me waves out to Camelia and Sheila).

Low points? Each of Camelia, Ning and Sheila trying only one jazz standard each, and even that in a slightly more poppy vein. Sheila only having 20 minutes to perform in. A crowd touted at 10,000 but in all honesty couldn't have been more than 2,000. Anggun starting off and continuing with what can only be described as hard electronic rock.

I left early to catch Man Utd's 4-0 mauling of Aston Villa but even that was preferable to Anggun's dismal ending to the festival. Maybe next year, eh?
posted on Tuesday, December 09, 2003 - permalink
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Carnaval Churrascaria

I have this gastranomic fantasy. You know these buffets you get? I dream of a buffet where all the funny stuff that I don't really eat isn't served (Minestrone Soup, get out of here; Radish Salad, you too). Instead, replace them all with prime cuts of meat. Lots and lots of meat. Better still, make people bring it to the table so all you have to do is to concentrate stuffing your face.

Well, I'm not the only one who thinks this way. The churrascaria originated from Brazil, in particular the pampas of Rio Grande do Sul. There, the lush grass feeds herds of cattle and sheep and the eating is good and plentiful. And as the farms are home to some of the finest livestock in the world, the dinner tables groan with the weight of, well, you guessed it, meat. The basic idea of a churrascaria is that people come to your table and keep carving up the meat until you can take no more.

Sounds good to me, bring it on.

Although the city lights of KL are a long way away from South America, there are not one but two churrascaria here in the Klang Valley. One near my home in Damansara Jaya is Carnaval Churrascaria.(If you're curious, the other is Bom Brazil Churrascaria in Bukit Bintang.)

The place is an unassuming corner lot which doesn't look entirely appealing from the outside. It wouldn't have even attracted me if I didn't know about it. I reckon what they need is an extremely large banner that says ALL THE MEAT YOU CAN EAT. That'll do it for me.

It's not all meat, of course. Technically, if you're a vegetarian, you can gorge out on the salad bar, although it'd be a pretty expensive salad bar at RM45 per head. Lots of lettuce in that.

But the salad is at best, window dressing - at worst, it distracts you from the main event. Spit after spit after spit of meat brought to your table. They actually carve it onto your plate. Meat, juices, blood and all.

The restaurant advertises "Minimum 10 Different Cuts of Meat, Fish and Chicken" and although it may seem churlish, some of these "cuts" include chicken gizzards and hearts. Never mind, there's still plenty to choose from.

Like burnt steak, which tastes as if it has salt rubbed into the outside and grilled on a high heat until it burns. And lamb, succulent and juicy. And chicken which is just well done. And these beef medallions that ooze blood when sliced right onto your plate. And did I mention that it's all you can eat?

There's also dessert - that night we had grilled caramalised pineapple, which is a lot nicer than it sounds.

The only downside is that you have to be brave enough to attract the attention of the waiters, otherwise you risk not having food brought to you. The system used in other churrascarias is that there is a little signboard that's green on one side and red on the other (and, yes, the colours mean "go" and "stop") - it would have been good if a system like that was used here.

All in all, it's acutally an extremely enjoyable experience, and even the price is reasonable - RM45 hardly buys you a good steak these days.

Carnaval Churrascaria
77 Jalan SS 22/19
Damansara Jaya
For reservations call: 019-2111133/012-3383832

Bom Brazil Churrascaria is at 35, Changkat Bukit Bintang 50200.
posted on Friday, December 05, 2003 - permalink
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Human Rights Conference
Did you know that SUHAKAM (Suruhanjaya Hak Asasi Malaysia or the Malaysian Commission for Human Rights) is overseen by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Highly appropriate? Well, the official line is that doing so makes it easier to provide high visibility to foreign parties. I shan't comment too much on how this all fits in with the role of SUHAKAM except that part of it's responsibilities is to highlight and educate Malaysians on their rights.

As part of this outreach, they are currently holding a conference on human rights and the administration of the law. I've joined the motley crew of Government officers and NGOs in this two day workshop.

Mention "human rights" in Malaysia, and you get the comment "we have those things here?". Well, it seems we do. And contrary to popular belief, human rights isn't just the concern of the Government but of all Malaysians. With greater priviliege comes responsibility.

Here are some questions I would like to see answered:

The Deputy Prime Minister was meant to give the keynote speech but affairs of the state meant that he had to miss this appointment. The second time, it seems, that the Malaysian head of government was invited by SUHAKAM but was not able to attend.

The speech itself was interesting. Points made were:

A very interesting talk just now which brought up some food for thought. I am suddenly intrigued with the concept of citizen duty that comes with rights.

It's quite a simple idea on the surface that rights and freedom cannot come without responsibility and duty. The more rights that you are given, the more opportunity you have to abuse them.

Hence there is this concept that a citizen has a duty to be a good citizen. Anybody who doesn't meet hs duty runs the risk of forfeiting his rights. For example, all citizens have a right to live, but there are circumstances under which the state can impose the death penalty.

However, for me, here is the crux: Who determines whether a citizen has been negligent in his duties?

In one sense, the answer is simply "the courts". You may have freedom of speech, but if you have said something libellous, you may be restrained by the courts from repeating this.

This is why we have laws. Laws help the courts implement justice. Law enforcement authorities use the law to help determine if somebody needs to be arrested and brought before the courts. And the laws are made public so that no citizen can claim that they didn't what they did was against the law.

Now, what happens if the Government enacts laws that restrict freedoms, based on the idea that citizens have not been doing or cannot be trusted to do their duty?

I maintain that in the end, it is the Government that determines whether or not citizens have been negligent in their duty. Citizens must put their trust in their government that the people they have elected into office will not abuse this priveliege.
posted on Tuesday, December 02, 2003 - permalink