Atchafalaya Swamp

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Sunday, 16 April 2006

Borneo Blues Kembali (the return of…)

Excuses, excuses…

I was home on shore leave for almost a month in The Land Of Can, and more than one irate reader had e-mailed in to complain of my “tardiness”—for not producing my blog in a timely manner, for which I will readily apologize.

I should be grateful I suppose, for at least I do have readers out there to engage me, rather than having none at all.

Kembali ke rahmahtullah (to Him we shall return to)

A close friend had just lost a father who succumbed to that plethora of illnesses (hypertension-diabetes-renal failure combo) prevalent among Malay men in their old age.

I was most fortunate to be still in Malaysia on my very last day at home, so with a friend The Grand Sheikh, we made our way to Bagan Serai in time for the prayers and the burial. It was the least we could do to lend support. I had to fly out of the country less than 24 hours after the burial; my last day in Malaysia prior to a trip abroad is ALWAYS hectic. I was more than happy to be at the funeral, but sad that a dear friend had lost a father.

Speaking of that “plethora of illnesses” earlier, it is wise to note—as we approach the mid-forties ourselves—that we are in a way, suffering the ills of “the rich”: hypertension brought on by a rich diet and sedentary lifestyles. In our quest to seal our fate in the material world, we neglect basic health precepts. Add poor diet (too many santan-laden meals), no exercise, smoking, and that scourge of scourges—stress. Heck, I’m guilty on all counts. And I’m by no means alone.

For what it’s worth, I think lets take a step back and see how we can improve the situation. I’m all for the weekly FUTSAL, mostly attended by a bunch of diehards from my high school, but each of us need to have a more regular fitness plan of “vigorous” exercise of at least a half an-hour each time, THREE to FOUR times a week.

One way to lower stress is by praying (now the Sheikh would certainly approve of this), listening to music, or having a hobby. I wouldn’t recommend the ‘Amans Bah’ route though; a triple-bypass survivor friend of mine who six months after surgery ran in a full-blown marathon. Talk about a new lease on life. I also don’t recommend a “hobby” like blogging, because life is stressful enough. Why even bother to blog you ask? In my case it’s just to fulfill a “need”. Some people crave sex, and some people blog, mine is somewhere in between and that’s all there is to it. Yeah, and pigs DO fly, people.

Moving Pictures (not a Rush album)

I’m talking about movies. In my quest for a healthier lifestyle, I conveniently neglected the exercise factor. I put in some serious time to watch some DVD’s (under the guise of lowering stress levels) of recent releases in the comfort of my bedroom.

So let’s see. I’ll start with WHAT I watched with my 12 and 5—year old boys first--Roman Polanski’s Oliver Twist with an excellent performance by the superb Ben Kingsley. What? Roman Polanski making a kids’ movie? Wasn’t he the famous director charged with statutory rape in California back in the sixties, jumped bail and escaped to France to evade trial? The movie was OK (matsalo rating ***out of*****) but that little fact considering the brutal rape and sodomy on the then 13-year old in Jack Nicholson’s hot tub colored my enjoyment of the movie. Roman has never gone to the ‘States since, not even to collect his Oscar for The Pianist some years’ back.

Instead of counting sheep, next I chose the critically acclaimed Good Night, And Good Luck starring David Strathairn and George Clooney for my late-nite viewing.

On top of being the supporting actor, it was also Clooney’s second directorial effort after Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. It was shot in black and white for the ‘period feel’ of the fifties, so it did generate quite a few yawns for me. Actually the subject matter was most interesting in that it dealt with the famed CBS TV journalist who went against Senator Joe McCarthy during the anti-communism and McCarthy’s infamous ‘witch hunt’ era. I rate it **** out of***** only because of the yawns and heavy dialog that forced me to use the remote quite a bit. Recently, Messrs David Straithairn and George Clooney were both nominated for the Best Actor and Director Awards respectively by the respected (more respected than the Oscars in my opinion) British BAFTA.

Transamerica came next, and this controversial movie starring Desperate Housewives’ Felicity Huffman was very much enjoyed by my wife and I. I give it a full *****out of***** because it will make you think about family and relationships for days on end afterwards. The protagonist (Huffman) is a male trapped in a woman’s body and is about to undergo a sex change. Her portrayal is so damn convincing that it brought to mind Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie. 'She' discovered that ‘she’ had 'fathered' a son in a long-ago relationship. The teenager needed to be saved from a life of male gay prostitution. The son was on a quest to find his father, and she needed to keep the fact a secret when she finally found and sprang him from the juvenile lock-up. Is this woman-my-father kind of thing? Needless to say there were hilarious scenes ala Tootsie but a lot of serious ones too. It’s a must-see, folks, please take my word for it. It’s the second-best movie after Brokeback Mountain that I’ve seen this year. You can bet that the Malaysian distributors will practice ‘self-censorship’ and not even bother to apply for the screening permit. Which is a shame really, because every thinking adult should watch both these movies.

Finally, I just had to watch Capote, to see what the hoopla was all about. Played by American Philip Seymour Hoffman (who won Best Actor in the recent BAFTAs), Truman Capote is the true story of the famed writer who in the late fifties and early sixties befriended a convicted killer who had slain an entire family as they lay in their beds. From his interviews with the killer, Capote wrote a bestselling nonfiction novel called In Cold Blood (1966) that practically defined his body of work since he more less invented the 'non-fiction novel’ genre. He was not just your average best selling author because some of his work had also been turned into popular movies, the most famous being Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1958) starring Audrey Hepburn. He claimed to have taught himself to read, and that “writers are born, not made”. He reportedly scored 215 in a college IQ entrance exam. And did I also tell you he was gay?

It seemed to me that the ‘best’ movies released this year have a very common thread. It started with Ang Lee’s (2006 BAFTA's Best Director Award) Brokeback, then Capote, then Transamerica. But ‘Trans dealt with transsexual-ism, but some would argue that after the sex change, the character then became ‘gay’. Confused? So am I.

Well, it certainly looks like it been a ‘gay’ year so far. Sign ‘O The Times? To some, will the themes for movies and controversies this year spell the approaching day of doom?

Edisi Perdana Playboy Indonesia

The inaugural Indonesian edition of Playboy magazine in the world’s most populous Muslim nation certainly raised the doomsday scenario up a notch. The publisher had to move its premises Jakarta recently due to ‘security concerns’. They are currently being ‘persuaded’ by the police to not publish the second issue, for fear of a much more violent response from protesters. Constituti0nally, the publisher is on the right side of the law, but to me, the real issue is the Playboy moniker. To the protesters, the name itself evokes pornography and outright debauchery. So it’s not a question of content, but name. So what’s in a name? It’s all Pria Bermain to me, as opposed to Pria Beriman. So what’s wrong with that? Some folks are just jealous of Hefner, who with the miracle of modern science can still 'swing’ at the ripe old age of 80.

Some of us can’t even swing when we were half his age. But why bother with the guy? A lot of folks are inclined to let it pass, knowing for certain ‘ol Hef would burn in that place where Satan rules. To me there’s no harm done, least of all to Playboy Bunnies. And definitely not to Hefner.

Back in the very early eighties, I too had a brush with Playboy Enterprises. A certain ‘family friend’, the gorgeous lady had asked me to drive her to a certain address off Jalan Gurney. It turned out to be the home of a former Deputy PM (he was not the DPM yet at the time) with the initials MH. So it was a very private meeting with Datuk MH with no one else present. I just lounged around the foyer after getting to shake his hand while they repaired to the back room for discussion.

On the way drive back, the lady told me that basically she ‘represented’ Playboy, among her other businesses, and was curious if the Malaysian government would allow her to team up with Genting Berhad to open a ‘Playboy Club’—with Bunnies of course, up there in the casino highland resort. It seemed to her a good proposition at the time since legal gambling was already allowed in Islamic Malaysia, so why not a Playboy Club? In hindsight, Hefner had actually lost money in the few exclusive clubs that he had started in the US and had to close them down. So it was most fortuitous that MH advised against it, really for fear public backlash, since legalized gambling was already a bit of a stretch to a lot of Malaysian Muslims. But it’s an interesting story, and yours truly did get to meet with MH. So that was my first thrust in the world of Playboy Enterprises. Later, while in college in the US, I subscribed to the magazine simply because of its cheap student rate.

But I still can’t get over the look that lady in the college mailroom gave me every time I came to her window to ask for my ‘mail’. In the deeply conservative South, I was, by their standards, morally corrupt. How can that be?

Mantan Cewek Bulek

In my junior year in college, there was this foray with a matsaleh girl, in my first sexcapade. I happened to be a mentor in my junior year, and like most colleges the world over, we have a ‘get-to-know-you-week', so I was a mentoring a group of freshmen. One of them was a wide-eyed blue-eyed Scandinavian-derived blonde from Small Town America, and I had watched one too many ‘Porky’ movies. So thinking I was going to ‘get lucky’, after a campus night tour, I started plying her with wine at the college refractory (bar) . I somehow got her to come back to my student digs, under the guise of checking-out my latest and the penultimate Police swan song album Synchronicity.

The short of it was I tried to get ‘fresh’ with her, hitting first base and well on the way to second. Then she began to protest.

I insisted, taking her ‘please NO’ for a ‘playing-hard-to-get YES’. I told you I was brought up on a diet of Porky’s and Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Admit it, we all were. During the ‘fumble’, I felt a sharp sting across my face, a well-deserved slap intended to potong stim. I said well deserved because she was a virgin. Take it from me, she was. I think the shame then overtook the pain of the sting.

Then she ranted about how skewed my perception of America was, and NOT every high school girl loses her virginity on Prom Night. This was certainly a revelation to me. And to my testosterone addled morally corrupt brain this was definitely a shocker.

Then she went on saying how the movie industry was controlled by Jews that liked to corrupt America's youth and thus giving a false impression of American (Christian?) moral values around the world.

So thus became my induction into manhood and the sexual mores of the American Bible Belt, thanks to a blue-eyed blonde virgin with perky upturned err…you-know-what.

There was a happy ending though. Eventually we kissed and made up. Six months later we became ‘an item’, and then it took a further six months…ahh, let’s just end the story here shall we?