Atchafalaya Swamp

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Edisi Juli 2006 Komentar Terkini

Some of you might be a tad pissed to see that I have not updated my blog for a while. So I apologize for adding to your woes of ‘carpal tunnel syndrom-ing’ your fingers - clicking on the mouse to my site - but to no avail. Sorry.

No excuses, except that writing is hard. But I had an interesting two months, and so did the whole wide wild world in general. That reminds me of Yusuf Islam’s seventies hit Wild World that has been regurgitated by the likes of Mr.Big and countless others.

Oh baby, baby it’s a wild world / It’s hard to get by
With just upon a smile…

Stars of ’74 brought by The Power of Google

Those of you who read my previous ‘Six Degrees of Separation’ piece will realize that the Internet is what had made it all possible; specifically the phenomenon of googling.

If I hadn’t googled Chin in the 'States, who led then led me on to Dr. Yong, then my inaugural ‘Stars of ’74’ group would not have come to fruition. Yup, that’s right. There is such a group now.

We had a mini-reunion recently - lunch at a superb Nyonya eatery, somewhere in the Curve Mutiara Damansara, Petaling Jaya. When Dr. L. Yong PhD (the big-time US Defense contractor - some say ‘war’ contractor who had sold-out his nuclear engineering expertise) came to town recently, I had hastily drawn up a get-together with my Year Six primary school mates from Johor Bahru.

To view the group you can go to www.flickr.com/groups/star2.

Interestingly, some of my high school buddies, also hailing from the same school but in different sessions, are also eligible for membership. If if you happen to be reading this, please join.

And all this happened within the course of six months; from the click of a mouse to a full-fledged reunion! Err…not quite full - I meant mini-reunion.

For sure, not all the classmates from 35-odd years ago can be contacted. But to be able to pull a few guys from around the globe for lunch I considered a feat in itself. These were people who had not laid eyes on each other for decades and was curious to see how the other had fared. It was like trying to connect people who once knew each other as children, jumping decades ahead to now mid-life adults. I know. It's a poor allegory.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Raja Rahman (holding Std. 6 classphoto),
Left-Right: Dr. Yong, Dollah Rahim, Bad Gumpunk

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
The so-called Stars of '74.
No prizes for guessing which one's Mat Salo though.

In the News: Wedding of the Year

I’m sure most of us, try as we may, could not ignore the 'sensationalistic' news thrust upon us by Arus Perdana braodsheets and tabloids - on the impending wedding of Malaysia’s number one songbird to a married Datuk twenty years her senior.

Re-printed below is a tongue-in-cheek jibe from a fellow Malaysian blogger (reprinted with his permission of course). You can find his interesting and hilarious commentaries at www.simontalks.com . It's one of the best local blogs, me thinks. I’m mildly amused that our local Cinapek blogger show some interest in this 'CT' phenomenon also.

Dear Leading English Newspaper, We Want More Siti! NOW!
July 23rd, 2006

Dear Leading English Newspaper,

I am OUTRAGED. As a long time esteemed reader of your respectable newspaper, I want, no I DEMAND to know why there has NOT been any coverage on the FRONT PAGE of your hallowed newspaper for the past two days.

Yesterday, there was a fantastic write-up about that Datuk K’s ex-wife making claims to some of the Datuk’s house and property. Although I was over the moon the see you manage to dig out this fabulous piece investigative journalism, I am slightly disappointed that it only made the 4th page, not the FRONT PAGE. Plus, you did not give the exact details of the condo and property for us to hunt it down and stake it out to get a glimpse of our angel, Siti.

ANY news of Siti MUST be put on the FRONTPAGE, it’s your duty as a national English broadsheet - I don’t care if there are other ’so-called’ more important news like tsunami in Java, or national sugar shortage, or stock market crash - I want Siti! I want to know about the 5-man designers making her dress that’s more expensive than my car, I want to know when she says that her marriage is fated / destined / arranged in the stars / predicted by Joey Yap or anything like that. Even if MAS goes bankrupt it can appear on page 5 or later.

If on any particular day, Siti does not make any newsworthy press releases (God forbid that should happen), then I will settle for any coverage on Mawi, especially the details of his engagement break-off with his fiancee. A transcript (or better yet, camera phone video recording) of the negotiations between the parents will do nicely. Don’t forget, you’re the LEADING ENGLISH NEWSPAPER, not some piece of sensational tabloid like those who are more concerned with ‘real news’ or ’social issues’.

Tomorrow, I had better see a printout of Siti Nurhaliza’s wedding guest list on YOUR FRONTPAGE or there’ll be another letter from me. And when are you guys to HEADLINE an interview with Datuk K’s kids? That stuff would be GOLD, man.

Yours sincerely,
Concerned Citizen

Ha, I wish this Simon chap would send this letter to every damned leading newspaper in the country. They might even take it seriously.

Cikgu Wilson at Malay College Kuala Kangsar – A Clockwork Orange

I’m quite embarrassed to admit that I know nothing of a little known fact concerning my secondary school. Cikgu Wilson had once taught Form Six English at my hallowed alma mater. Wow! Of course this was some twenty-odd years before my time.

Some of you are already going, "Cikgu Wilson who?"

Most of you know him as Anthony Burgess (d. 1993), the famed British author and scriptwriter. He changed his name to become a full-fledged writer upon returning to England a year after leaving Kuala Kangsar. That was right around the time when Malaysia was about to gain independence. His most famous work, A Clockwork Orange, was turned into a movie by Stanley Kubrick (d. 1999) . Kubrick also directed that steamy Cruise/Kidman vehicle Eyes Wide Shut. But who can forget Kubrick's 2001 A Space Odyssey with that majestic Richard Strauss' Also Sprach Zarusthra score in the opening sequence?

I only found this out after browsing through one of the MCKK ‘old-boy’ websites, a blogger-site at http://www.mcoba.blogspot.com/. In it were some posts by prominent old-boy Tun Haniff Omar, one time IGP and now Chairman of that gambling group – Genting Berhad. In an article that was re-printed from his NST column, he mentioned that Wilson/Burgess had taught him English in Form Six.

Again, wow. Can’t imagine someone world famous once walked the hallways and hung around the classrooms of my former school.

Mat Salo’s own brush with fleeting fame.

While we’re on the subject of fame, aiyah, I have a story to tell too. This happened right after I graduated from college in the mid-eighties.

I went home and found myself in a country undergoing a recession. There’s also a raging recession going around now but few care to admit it - least of all the government of the day. They wouldn’t know the ‘R’ word if it hit them in the a*s*. Sorry, I digress. We’re talking about fame here weren’t we?

So I had come home with high hopes and dreams, and found myself with no job, nor any offers. It was quite a trying time, and I appreciated some friends (again from MCKK) like Anduq and Que who occasionally propped me up with cash to enable me indulge in my nicotino addiction.

To keep the Devil at bay, who seemed to like idle hands so I hear, I embarked on a few ‘enterprises’. One of these low-brow enterprises was selling illegal fireworks at pasar malams (there weren’t VCD’s and DVD’s then!). The other was accosting young, impressionable pubescent schoolgirls at shopping centers.

Let me explain.

Under the guise of 'interviewing' for 'research' purposes while employed by a market research firm - allowed me to amass quite a formidable database of these young girls in my address book, for perusal later. I meant the book, not the girls. But sometimes one does ‘get lucky’. All that shenanigans came to a crashing end when one of the girls I contacted was an old schoolmate’s sister. I’m glad my schoolmate never found out – and we’ll leave it at that.

Anyway, one of the higher-brow projects was to put some of my university education to good use. Gold was being mined in Kelantan and the state was opening up ‘blocks’ to be explored. I contacted a small Australian mining company and the owner agreed to recce some of the potential areas with me, provided I secure the logistics part on my end. Plus I should also connect him with some influential locals and he would thus underwrite all expenses. It sounded good.

In a rented Pajero at the Pengkalan Chepa Airport of Kota Bharu, I collected the Aussie and a business associate of his, a gold trader from Singapore by the name of Derek Seagrove. Derek was actually British , but became a Singaporean 'convert' – ensconced in our part of the world since the British Days. I was surprised Derek could speak the Kelantanese dialect, better than mine, even. He said he was once posted to Kelantan as a settlement officer something-or-other in the late forties and early fifties. Ah, that explains it.

Armed with a topo map and a local partner - a Datuk lawyer-cum-ex MP, we set out to a potential site south of Kelantan called Dabong. This was where we panned the streams for samples. Kelantan was once known some centuries back as the Golden Chersonese so you can bet we did find gold in them streams. The trick was where to find the ‘mother lode’ – which could be anywhere upstream. So it will require extensive and detailed exploratory work in thick jungle. Not to mention huge financing too. I suspected it to be way over my head to be honest.

With that in mind the Datuk and the Aussie got back to Kota Bharu in the former’s Alfa Romeo GTV. For a retired Datuk in the hinterland, it was quite interesting to find his choice of car. I still remember the license plates DB3, and I thought it was pretty cool. I, on the other hand was entrusted to bring Derek to KL via the old road in the Pajero, where he was to catch a flight back to Singapore.

That was when it got interesting.

Derek wanted a trip down memory lane so he had specifically asked me to stop at the rest house in Kuala Lipis for the night. Apparently he must have had good memories of the place. We were quite beat from two days wading streams and panning, plus carrying all that equipment. Not to mention fighting leeches and mosquitoes. Thus it was a welcome respite to check into a quaint little rest house by the river and savor some good Hainanese-inspired Chicken Chops and Steaks.

After dinner we repaired to our rickety-beds with only the mosquito coil and ceiling fan to thwart the mosquitoes away. The rhythmic chirp chirp chirp of cicadas can be heard outside the corridor on that hot, muggy night.

We chatted side by side in our single beds as he regaled me with tales of his time in then British Malaya, letting fatigue wash over us in a haze of cozy camaraderie.

Then he said something quite out of the ordinary that caused my jubor to terangkat.

“Jenny would certainly like someone like you.”

Jenny was his daughter, and by that he meant I was his daughter’s ‘type’.

What…me? I don’t even have a job. He went on about how his only child was divorced and how her former husband was ‘rough’ with her. I take this to mean he was a wife-beater or something.

So this Jenny might like a jeans-and-T-shirt kind of guy with no job. I was quite flattered thinking this genial old man having a good impression of me—well, good enough to recommend me to his daughter. Sort of. But wait, then he said –

“She’s actually quite famous.”

Whoa, wait-a-sec. My heart picked a couple of beats. Who ah?

“Jenny…well, she’s the star in an American TV mini-series called A Woman of Substance”.

At that time I had not heard of the TV series nor the book by Barbara Taylor Bradford. And I thought the old man was pulling my leg. Come on.

“Never heard of her?”

Err…sorry Derek, no.

So with my interest piqued, I asked a bunch of questions about her. Now he really got my attention and followed by my "oohs" and "aaha". Her former husband was the British Indian comedian on Mind Your Language, a popular English TV series of that era. That one I know, but can’t for the life of me recall which character the ex-hubby played. But what I really wanted to know was how this Jenny looked like.

Then the big let-down came. Derek, in a conspirational whisper and eyes casted down confided that Jenny was now living-in with Michael Winner, that’s Sir Michael to you – the Producer of that ‘Death Wish’ string of movies starring Charles Bronson. Potong stim laa braader!

I was up in the clouds already. Fantasizing I might someday meet a famous Hollywood actress. After all Jenny does fly in to Singapore now and again to visit her dad. Derek had promised to invite me over when Jenny comes to town. That day never happened of course, and I have since lost his business card.

In case you were wondering, the gold business never took off either. As in most episodes, that about sums up the story of my life - so far.

As we drove into Kuala Lumpur, he asked me to drive by the church near the Selangor Padang. That’s where he was married, he said. Then we drove to Bangsar where he showed me the hospital where Jenny was born. It’s now a government maternity clinic along off Jalan Bangsar, opposite a 24-hour mamak joint that serves excellent roti canai and frequented by the likes of Hishamuddin Rais and the late MGG Pillai so I hear. Can't quite believe that the Klinik Ibu Dan Kanak-Kanak across the mamak joint actually delivered one of the World's Most Desirable Women Of The Eighties.

A few days after Derek left, I went to a bookstore to browse. I needed to check out how this Jenny looked like remember? A Woman Of Substance was on the bestseller list in every bookstore in town. And every cover of the paperback had Jennifer Seagrove’s face on it – a glamorous Emma Hart still taken from the TV show.

Not long after, the mini-series debuted on Malaysian TV (TV3 if I recall correctly) so ‘my Jenny’ became a household word to bored housewives.

So that was my brush with fame - albeit fleetingly - that I once knew the dad of a famous Hollywood A-List actress.

But back in that bookstore I felt like shouting to everyone within earshot – hey, I know this famous Hollywood actress father-lah. We shared a room in a rest house in Kuala Lipis worrr!

You think anyone would have believed me?