Wednesday, March 19, 2008

This Is Not A Political Blog

This is not a political blog. However, during our late lunch at Taman Melati before heading off to Sunburst last Saturday, Machiko, maybe in an attempt to make small talk at the table or just being really curious, asked towards no one in particular, ‘Sape jadi MB Perlis ah?’ And in a reflex-like response, out of my mouth, I blurted, ‘Isa Sabu,’ and froze.

In that precise moment, under a daunting realization, I knew what I had become and dreaded it. I am one of those grown-ups who talks about politics. I knew that this day will come but not this soon.

I used to irk about all those old people at coffee shops talking about those in power on who’s doing what. I never saw the point of talking about people who you don’t know personally about and being passionately at that. I mean, why bother? It’s not like they know you. At all.

But all that changed during the recent general election. Even when they started to put up all those poster and flags, I saw it as a form of littering. Then, I went back to Kelantan on the eve of the naming of the candidates due to some family business, and it began to spark an interest in me.

The scene there, well, in Kota Bharu at least, was rather interesting. There was all this talk on how BN would bring out all the stops to take over Kelantan and make a clean sweep of all the states in the country. Yes, the blue and white flags were certainly in abundance but almost half-expectedly enough, the people there just couldn’t be bothered by all the campaigning. They just seem content as they have always been. No voices in support of change or development as being portrayed in the papers. One morning, my father and I went for breakfast at a small warung and the server, judging from our clothes, asked where we were from. My father replied jokingly, in Kelantanese, we came all the way from KL just to ‘pakoh bule’ (cross the moon). Joining in the amusement, she expressed her relief, ‘Ho mujurlah oghe dari Kolupo pung mari tolong,’ It was a harmless morning bicker but nonetheless reflects the overall sentiment of the community.

Pemuda BN put up a rather interesting banner throughout the place which I thought was rather creative. But, as I watched the League Cup Final at a roadside coffee shop that Sunday, the patrons there were making fun of it.

By the time I arrived back here at KL, I have a new take on the whole election picture. Prior to that, I was among the arrogant city folks who thought he knows what’s best for the people in Kelantan without even having properly live there despite being a Kelantanese himself. Sure, bring BN in and your state will prosper. But, there’s a saying, ‘if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it’. And that what was exactly going on in Kelantan. Suddenly, I was feeling like a Mr. goody two-shoes. What gives me the right to tell people living far away from me how they should live and what’s good for them? George, take note.

So, then, to me, the idea of a BN clean sweep suddenly seems rather bad. First of all, the people there are happy as they are. Why mess about? It’s not like a tyrant is ruling there practicing genocide. And second, in a larger picture, it is best for some form of opposition to be present in the political scene. Just for the sake of keeping the ruling party on their toes and not taking their power for granted (in which some may argue, is already happening). Monopoly is not a good thing. It breeds complacency. Just look at my Streamyx connection. It’s still rubbish. 1.0 Mbps my foot.

With that in mind, it is inevitable that the outcome of the general election intrigues me. Kelantan being my primary concern. As it turns out, I was worried for nothing. And yet, plenty to talk about.

I wasn’t that of an enthusiast like my father and elder brother who stayed up all night to catch the results live as they came in. I just woke up half past seven the next day and turn on the TV to catch the main results. As I imagined with many other Malaysians, I expected to see BN registering wins across the board. But when the ticker began to flash defeats to both Samy Vellu and Sharizat, I suddenly had my morning coffee. It was quite unbelievable. Then I went downstairs and my brother was trumpeting BN had lost I thought, surely not.

And then, as we all had experienced, the flurry and chaos that ensued. And no, we will not divulge further into that. What did I say? This is not a political blog. You have Malaysia Kini for that. And that is quite a site, mind you. Which moves me nicely, from my view, on what went wrong for BN in that general election. I have one word for you– Youths.

I think the only people who really knew that they and their opinions mattered, were the youths themselves. BN just didn’t connect with them. Or worse still, didn’t bother to. I think this all started way back in 2004 when they had that big memorable win. Remember what I said about complacency? And they were caught right in it. People who weren’t eligible to vote then, but were this year, are the 17 – 20 year old brackets back in 2004. And, judging by what the results have told us, our young generation is actually getting smarter and critically aware. Although, I still couldn’t fathom the obsession with Akademi Fantasia and Razak Mohaideen movies.

When I say that BN didn’t connect with our youths, I mean, literally didn’t connect. They were left behind in the mediums that were being used. Generally, all young people spend most of their time in front of their computers. Be it at home, at college, at Starbucks or the office for the fresh graduates. And they don’t go the newspaper sites such as Utusan Malaysia (except for Hadi) or the ones with the at the end. They go to social utility sites, blogs and forwarding funny e-mails. And BN failed to recognize this evolution of communication. Instead of embracing technology to cultivate faith among youths they went the other way and did the single biggest mistake they could. Go against the bloggers.

Globally blogs are viewed as a new source of information. And in Malaysia, we have a healthy blogosphere going on. It wasn’t once of twice that we hear various politicians accusing bloggers of spreading lies and hearsays to spread hate among the people. I’ll admit there maybe some out there who set out to do just so. But, these politicians did not take the time to explore the subject deep enough and understand the culture behind blogging that when they came out harshly and saying such things, they didn’t sound like they were going against the actual evil doers but bloggers in general. And it is no secret most bloggers are young people. So when you do that, automatically you have gone against them and hugely disrespected a medium in which they value highly. And they wonder why more people tend to prefer what they could read on the internet rather than the normal medium of newspapers and TV. Well, why shouldn’t they? After all, all they could read in the papers of youths being blamed for everything from crime rates to poor academic performance. And they only watch TV for AXN, MTV or the sports channel.

What’s more, internet news is quicker and more direct. No smoke screens or bullshit as in the papers. We don’t care what event you’re officiating or charity dinners you’re going to. We have questions about the decisions you made and we expect reasonable justification. Not responding them and branding them as pure gossip only creates further suspicion. As they say you cannot believe everything you read in the newspapers, not everything are lies on the internet. And these doubts and suspicion, are not made by few, but many. And most of them are from well-educated people. People who knows the system and says ‘hang on, something’s not right here,’ Of course the rest will start giving notice. And this what built up for the last couple of years and I don’t believe BN realized this and hence, did not keep it in check.

The election results is not an indication of the people’s improved faith in the opposition party (God knows they’re not that grand either) but continued lack of trust for BN. A point made clearly by Tun Mahathir. Love him or hate him. You have to admit he has a brilliant mind.

As for the opposition, well, testing times for them as well. Abolishment of tolls? Reduce oil price by 30 cents? Come on. Does anybody actually believe that? Yes, the current toll rates can be murderous but then again, constructing those three-lane highways is not an easy job. Or a cheap one at that. And, yes, it does need maintenance from time to time. You’re talking about hundreds of miles of concrete slabs. At some point, some will need patching up. So, reduced charges are a more likely scenario at best, considering you have to renegotiate the agreements. Total abolishment is rather ridiculous. And oil price? World economy? Hello? High oil prices is not the makings of the Malaysian government. The rest of the world is suffering from it as well. You want to blame someone? Blame George and his so-called war on terror. Or invasion is more likely. And what’s this I hear about making Petronas footing part of the subsidy bill? Have you no shame? So just because Petronas is in the right business at the right time somehow gives some outsiders the right to share the company’s wealth? Who are you? Joseph Stalin? And free medical? You only need to pay RM1 upon entry at a government hospital to find out what’s wrong with you. And that includes all the MRIs, biopsies and other expensive tests you can think of. If you go to Glen Eagles or Ampang Puteri then of course you will have to pay big money and that’s not the government’s call. That’s the board of directors of that particular hospital. Even if you are an MP of Ampang there nothing much you can do. Be thankful you’re not living in the US. Watch Sicko to knock some sense into you.

And although with yesterday’s announcement of the new cabinet, the dust is finally getting settled, many are still reserving judgment especially on the new faces. My mother works for the Ministry of Health and when she heard the name Datuk Liow Tiong Lai, all she could say was she never heard of him. As for me, my concern has always been the Youth and Sports Minister and that position is handed to Datuk Ismail Sabri Yaacob. Well, at least he’s a dude. One thing that annoyed me about Azalina is that she tends to focus on the smaller niched sports, like powerboats, nursing them like forgotten orphans. While giving a rat’s ass about the bigger and more locally supported sports such as football and badminton. At least Hishamuddin brought X-Games to our shores. You have to give him credit for that. However, I too would like to reserve mu judgment on Ismail Sabri. A quick dig and I found out that he once dissed AF but soon enough his son Dafi was seen prancing around in season 5 of the show. And, just to add spice, he was also once those people who branded bloggers as irresponsible liars. So, unless you perform a miracle (such as Malaysia qualifying for the World Cup), I might consider giving you a break. For two weeks.

As for the rest, it’d be interesting how the Works and International Trade Ministries would do after the departure of Samy Vellu and Rafidah. Which is quite sad, really, because without Samy, who are we gonna make fun of now?

Now, the scene is set to see how everything pans out. With the opposition granted a stronger voice now, it’s time for them to show what they can do which they pointed BN has failed upon. As for BN, have a blog site. For each minister. And Facebook account. And have someone make a Wikipedia entry on all the cabinet members. That would be a start.

And don’t be surprised if Serting is promoted as a prime tourist destination in the near future. That’d be Azalina doing her work. Where is Serting, you may ask? Exactly.

Monday, March 17, 2008

How I Reached Musical Puberty at Sunburst

I never understood Woodstock. It is widely regarded as one of the most pivotal moments in the history of rock and roll. And yet, I didn’t get it. I understand the size of it. I mean, literally, spreading across an area 600 acres wide, but how on earth can someone listen to music for days non-stop? Surely, no one is THAT hardcore. But, then again, it was during the hippie era. So, chances are, most of them were probably too stoned to be aware of what is happening around them anyway.

That was my theory. Up until a few days ago, at least. Because, since then, I went to this little event at Bukit Kiara during the weekend called the Sunburst Music Festival and, suffice to say, it gave me a whole new perspective, and opened my eyes on what Woodstock might have actually been.

Of course, Sunburst was nothing compared to Woodstock which ran for 3 days. This only lasted for 12 hours (and yes, the word ‘only’ is entirely appropriate). And yet, looking at the number of performances, it was quite comparable. Woodstock had 32 artists while Sunburst had 28. But we had 4 stages compared to 1 at that time which explains the 3 days. And it helps, as times change. As opposed to having to sit, or stand for that matter, through a performance which you are not quite a fan of, you can walk to another stage offering a different genre of music, one which you would prefer. And that what exactly I was doing throughout Saturday evening. And it’s such a brilliant concept.

A music festival such as Sunburst takes the best element of a party and concert and mix them up together while leaving out the less favorable aspects. For the good 12 hours or so, you have live music pumping on full volume all around you which beats any high-end stereo system money can buy. You’re out on a field so no worries about ruining your neighbours’ bedtimes. No cramped up spaces because you can choose whether to go crazy into the moshpit, stand on the outer rims for simple enjoyment, or take a break and go get something to eat and chill at the designated tented areas where tables and seats were provided. If you bring along a mat with you, by all means have a picnic. Chill or party, back and forth, anytime you please.

Attending Sunburst has taught me that a music festival such as this is more than just the live music. It’s more of the get-together factor. It was reported that around 12000 people came and it sure looked like it. When that amount of people came together to one place in view of having a good time, it tends to rub-off against you no matter who you are. Saying that, the music wasn’t exactly that bad either. The cream of the show has to be Incubus. It was better than the last time they came around. This time they had a bigger stage, more crowd and they responded by giving a more energized performance. John Legend was equally good too. The girls (and maybe even some married women) were screaming hysterically throughout his show. And I think that lady from Brickfields who got to slow dance with him on stage might have some sleepless nights ahead. The Roots, George Clinton + P-Funk and Incognito made me feel like I was on MTV. And it was a good opportunity for the local bands too. I was particularly pleased to finally see those guys perform properly on stage. One Buck Short, Meet Uncle Hussein, Bittersweet, Hujan and even Pop Shuvit. And, might I add, Che’Nelle as really a surprise package. When she went on stage and asked if anyone has bought her album, I think most of the spectators, including myself, were quite embarrassed because only a handful raised their hands. Sure, her hit is the ever addictive I Fell In Love With The DJ, but when she belted out one of her ballads, which I never knew existed, it was a magnetically captivating performance. If I were to compare her, I’d say she only comes second to Christina Aguilera. She is that good. And not to mention she is quite the hottie. You just can’t go wrong with a fluffy short skirt and knee-high boots. She might as well been in the Lady Marmalade video (wait a minute…).

Overall, I truly enjoyed myself there. Even though it rained for a good hour so, but hey, same thing happened in ’69. Along with some of my mates, it was definitely an event that deserves to be on the calendar annually. People of Pineapple Concerts, I beg you. It can only get better in the future.

The drawbacks? Food and drinks were too expensive, of course as one might have expected. RM3 for a small bottle of mineral water. Hot Dogs and Burgers were RM8 and RM10 respectively even if they were made by Planet Hollywood. Thankfully KFC and Pizza Hut were also around to provide some sense. But so were Haagen-Dasz and Coffee Bean (which I guess did not do too well considering the evening weather). However, expensive as they were, people still have to eat and most of them ran out even before John Legend came out, which was about 10.30 PM, I think. Taking into account the event wrapped up around 2.30 AM, it was obvious they underestimated how much jumping and singing-along can use up a lot of energy.

By the end of it, despite being exhausted, sleepy, hungry and incredibly uncomfortable running around in wet shoes since 5 PM, I’m will use a phrase which is a cliché but there is simply no better way to say it - Sunburst was just fucking awesome! And the memory of seeing Megan shaking her booty was a nice sweet desert to top it all off. Despite there are 6000 more other hotties walking around. God bless music.