A Little Satire is good for the weekend: AliBaba Aficionado 1

December 10, 2017

A Little Satire is good for the weekend: AliBaba Aficionado 1

by R. Nadeswaran

SATIRE | The following is the welcome address by AliBaba Aficionado 1 (ABA1) at the emergency caucus meeting of “AliBaba and the 40 Thieves” held in a cave in a Southeast Asian country this week:

This is not a political meeting. So I will dispense with the formalities. As Head of the Brotherhood of Thieves, I have bad news. We can no longer rely on the people we had previously relied on. Some are cracking up and soon, they will be singing like canaries. Like the 159 business leaders housed at the Ritz Gardens in Riyadh which has been turned into a prison, some of you will turn over or be turned over.

Our turn may have come. The law is closing on us. Sorry, the law is closing on me. I can run but I can’t hide. You are accessories so I don’t think they are interested in you. You are only foot soldiers who carry out my orders. I will not squeal on you but I will have to seek protection for my wife. I sometimes wonder if anyone would speak up for her or save her.

The paintings have been returned, the properties were seized and some jewellery surrendered. My wife is aware “they” know about the pink diamonds but I am worried that she will go berserk if they attempt to confiscate them.

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Yes, 2017 is not a year on which I shall look back with unadulterated pleasure. It has turned out to be my annus horribilis.  A series of unfriendly events have taken place and the crackdown by authorities around the world has caused us a lot of discomfort, distress and loss of sleep.

Periodically, when the coast appears to be clear, the governments of certain states drop “bombs” unannounced and we have to set our damage control operations in motion. Even our neighbours have not been too helpful with the timing!

Two days ago, some American lawyer described one of our citizens as a kleptocrat and its effects have been reverberating from the Atlantic to our shores. A few of our die-hard supporters have become victims – dumb-founded, caught flat-footed and mostly ignorant.

Our usually dependent propaganda unit has run out of lies and deceit. The guys who were put in charge have failed miserably. All they could do was to scrap the bottom of the barrel and say that the lawyer does not know what he is talking about!

Do you expect the people to believe them? The cyber-troopers whom we spent millions have no clue how these issues have to be addressed.

Our Mr Money Bag @ Fei Chai is not with us, which should tell you a lot. In fact, he is scared of setting foot not only on our shores but any landfall in the world. Hence, he is taking to the high seas to avoid arrest. With the most beautiful girls and the best champagne, he shouldn’t be complaining!

On a more serious note, the lifeline of our operations – money – has been slow in coming. Fei Chai’s non-appearance is reflected in your goodie bags. No more gold bars and other glittering stuff. There’s not much to take home. Perhaps some gold coins, some sterling, euros and greenbacks and a few other odds and ends.

Money is tight

Previously, as head of the congregation, when I call for summits like this, there’s plenty to pass around, but not this time. Many governments are keeping tracks on Fei Chai and his activities. His close associates have abandoned him. He can’t even transact any financial dealings. Even his proxies are under watch.

A few years ago, he wired a couple of billion into my account. When one American journal published the details, I thought they will back off after I threatened to sue. Instead, they challenged me. I had to retreat.

Then, I told everyone that the money came from a friendly party in the Middle East. My No 2 even went to extent of announcing that he met the donor. But he couldn’t even tell a lie properly because his bluff was called.

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One of the Delegates to the Emergency Caucus meeting of “AliBaba and the 40 Thieves” 

This claim debunked and I was caught with my pants down when they produced documents showing the money trail through financial institutions in four countries before it came to my account. It caused me quite a few anxious moments when I met up with my golf buddy in the US on a recent visit.

Banks around the world are watching the movement of money. Fei Chai, members of my family and many of you have been designated as “persons of interest” by central banks of some countries. Hence, if you have overseas accounts, be prepared to offer some explanation as to the source of your funds.

Let me remind you that not far from where we have assembled, there are about 5,000 people attending another congregation where more is spoken than done. They have no love for any group or any leader. They have converged, hoping to reap the rewards – cash, contracts, projects and even one-night stands – at an annual meeting where everything including loyalty, allegiance and commitment are traded. Even principles, ethics, integrity and conscience are bought and sold at a premium to the highest bidder.

Despite having their hands tainted, some are making excessive demands with the backing of dissidents. I have already heard the Cow-in-Condo woman beating the war drums and the lavatory cleaner wanting to be installed as chief minister. Some other minions have come out with bird-brained ideas but as I said, there’s not enough loot to contain their lofty and ambitious ideas.

I have said it before and is worth repeating – cash is king. But right now, cash is tight. Old friends who benefited are washing their hands off. And there’s not enough to appease everyone. Any idea, plan or suggestion to assist me in escaping my predicament will certainly be welcome.

The above is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.


The Sheila Majid in All of Us Malaysians–Empathy

December 7, 2017

The Sheila Majid in All of Us Malaysians–Empathy

by James Chai


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Malaysia’s Talented First Lady of Jazz–Dato Sheila Majid

COMMENT | I was first introduced to Sheila Majid’s music when I was 12. My father played me “Sinaran” and “Lagenda”, and told me that Malay artistes have a “bigger” vocal cord – they are able to belt higher musical keys.  Indeed, Sheila Majid was the legend in her genre, the “Queen of Jazz”.

Sheila Majid singing Dia–What a Voice and What a Talent

I renewed my interest in her last year when she appeared for an interview on BFM, in which her larger-than-life personality shone through. Her straight-talking character and her latent rebellion reminded me of activist and writer Marina Mahathir, whom I deeply adore.

Sheila will always be special to me.In some sense, it was inevitable that she would provide a concise summary of her general concern towards this country in a widely-shared tweet. With 280 characters, she pointed to the pressing economic conditions of Malaysia – a situation surely experienced by many.



But there were dissenters. Not chiefly on the content of her tweet; instead, on her right to have a say on issues outside of singing.

The critics admonished her in two ways: first, by saying she had no right to comment on socio-economic issues; second, that she had no expertise to comment on anything of that sort.

No right to comment

The flamboyant TV personality Mohamed Azwan Ali (photo) said that Sheila had no right to comment on issues regarding cost of living, because she is who she is today because of the government.

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The Weido Azwan Ali–The Brother of Selangor Menteri Besar, Dato’ Seri Azmin Ali

Her wealth, success, “Dato” title, and millions of followers were all contributed by the UMNO government, and thus Sheila loses her right to publicly comment on the state of the country.

With due respect, this argument is hard to support. It grossly underestimates the musical talents of Sheila Majid and the vast Malaysian population who supported her in more ways than one.

Sheila has never received formal vocalional training and instead taught herself to sing; her fans kept her going in the good times and the bad. They recognised that she had talent. And she worked hard for her success.

While the government might have contributed financially to the entertainment industry, these are at best a fulfillment of governmental responsibility using taxpayers’ money rather than an act of UMNO generosity.

UMNO would have a hard time proving that Sheila Majid wouldn’t have succeeded if UMNO was not there to assist her.

Additionally, receiving government support, if at all, does not come with an attached condition of silence. Government funding does not displace a citizen’s constitutional right to freedom of expression, even if that criticism is against the government. In fact, holding the government to account is the right and responsibility of a citizen, and it continues regardless of which political party governs the country and regardless of how well they do.

It is precisely because a government’s decision affects the largest segment of the population that it should never be granted immunity from criticism.

And since Sheila Majid is as much a citizen of this land as anyone else, she should never lose that right simply because she has (supposedly) succeeded with the help of the government.

No expertise to comment

UMNO information chief Annuar Musa (photo) and many others have said that singers like Sheila Majid should never comment on socio-economic issues because they have no expertise in doing so, and that they should stick to singing.

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The Tainted Former MARA Chairman, Annuar Musa

Again, this is another poor argument. First of all, it assumes that commenting publicly on issues like cost of living, low wages, unemployment, and debt levels somehow requires a specific expertise.This is surely untrue since everyone who has a stake in this country should be accorded the space to speak his or her mind, and the open market of dialectical discussions should resolve any untruths.


But more importantly, the statement of “no expertise” also assumes that somehow members of Parliament and ministers have greater expertise in running the country. If anything, the elite position of politicians puts them out of touch with the common man and daily realities; their internal politicking, posturing, and powerplay often serve no benefit to the general welfare of the people.

The declining status of the country today, in real and perceived terms, should be evidence enough that politicians are not the ones with the greatest expertise in running the country.

Sheila Majid may not be an expert on socio-economic issues. There is something that must be acknowledged: singers and songwriters do not live in a vacuum. They too are daughters, sisters, and mothers who have concerns, just like the rest of us. Furthermore, Sheila is smart and well informed.

You do not need to be an economist or a political scientist to have a conscientious and empathetic view of the plight of the nation. And you certainly do not need any expertise to earn that right to speak up on the things you care about.


Being Exceptional the right way

November 15, 2017

Being Exceptional the right way

by Azmi Sharom@www.thestar.com.my

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Mustafa Akyol and Azmi Sharom

I WAS very surprised that Kazuo Ishiguro won the Nobel Prize for literature this year. Don’t get me wrong, I think he is an excellent writer. Believe it or not, I do occasionally read things other than football reports, and I have enjoyed Ishiguro’s work tremendously.


However, I always thought that the Nobel Prize for literature was given to authors who are so complex and hyper intelligent that they seem to be from another planet. I have tried to read the books of some of these folks – Naipaul, Saramago and Gao, to name a few. And I haven’t managed more than 20 or 40 pages. It’s not because the books were awful. It’s just that they were too difficult.

Contrast this to Ishiguro’s breakthrough book The Remains of the Day. My Japanese mate introduced it to me and I read it in one night. It was a jolly good read, but it wasn’t particularly challenging.

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But then, can we be surprised? After all, Bob blinking Dylan won the prize last year. Seriously? “How many roads must a man walk down, before you call him a man? …The answer is blowin’ in the wind.” Seriously?

Again, I am not dissing Bob. I think that Blood on the Tracks is an awesome album; it’s the best break-up album money can buy. And I remember fondly hearing him sing unintelligibly at, of all places, the Putra World Trade Centre. But is he up there with Neruda?

Image result for Bob DylanMusical Genius Bob Dylan and a Man of Peace


Okay, at this point, you may be saying that I am being elitist. Maybe I am, but not in the way that you may think. After all, I freely admit that I am not smart enough to get the works of the Nobel winners that I have tried to read. How can I be elitist when I clearly don’t understand them?

I guess what I am trying to say is that it is good to have some crazy mad high standard of human achievement; something to look up to and admire. A gold standard that perhaps in our own small way we can aspire to.

The same goes for sport. As sweet as it is to see the Falkland Islands badminton team huff and puff away at the Commonwealth Games, it is the elite in sport that truly captures the imagination.

It is when we bring things down to a lower or in the case of television, the lowest, common denominator that we start to lose that aspirational element of human endeavour. Why train and work hard to be a good actor when you can simply be obnoxious and have your own reality TV show?

And so it is in politics. I want leaders who are smarter and more able than me. They should be people who have a grasp of the world that I don’t have, in order for problems to be solved and governance to be good. If we just go for the popular and the lowest common denominator, then any Tom, Dick or Donald can be a leader and that could be disastrous.

All people are created equal. That is something I believe in. But not everybody can achieve equally. Some are just stronger or smarter or more talented.

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It is one thing to acknowledge those who can be appreciated by a wider audience, who are more like “one of us”. But if we do that all the time, then what is there to aspire to? What is there to inspire?

Azmi Sharom (azmi.sharom@gmail.com) is a law teacher. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.

The Bamboo–It’s Magic

August 13, 2017

The Bamboo–It’s Magic



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I am fascinated with Bamboo. It is Nature’s gift to mankind because it is versatile and durable. Dr.Kamsiah and I plant bamboo in our home, no. 26, Jalan SS22/39, Damansara Jaya, Petaling Jaya to enrich our environment and attract the birds.

Have a good weekend.–Dr. Kamsiah Haider and Din Merican

Adieu, Glen Campbell

August 11, 2017

Adieu, Glen Campbell

The country singer Glen Campbell passed away on Tuesday afternoon (August 8), following a difficult six-year bout with Alzheimer’s disease. He was eighty-one, and is survived by his wife and eight children. Campbell is probably best known for “Rhinestone Cowboy,” a song he recorded in 1975, though he released sixty full-length studio albums over the course of a fifty-year career, sending some eighty-two singles up the Billboard charts, which makes it feel foolish to reduce his discography now, to divine some quintessential text. He sang in a clear, slightly pinched voice that was particularly well-suited to songs of compromise—anything that betrayed all the strange negotiations we allow in order to move deeper into the lives we want: “There’s been a load of compromisin’ on the road to my horizon, but I’m gonna be where the lights are shinin’ on me.”

Campbell was born in 1936, near Billstown, Arkansas, the seventh son of a sharecropper. He moved to Los Angeles in 1958, when he was twenty-two, and found work as a session guitarist—that’s Campbell doing those soft little strums on Frank Sinatra’s “Strangers in the Night,” and playing the charged, galloping riff that opens the Monkees’ “Mary, Mary.” He briefly joined the instrumental rock group the Champs, who’d had some success, in 1958, with “Tequila,” still one of the best encapsulations of the portentous elation brought on by ice-cold margaritas. But Campbell wanted to lead his own band. In the early nineteen-sixties, he fell in step with the drummer Hal Blaine and the keyboardist Leon Russell; they assumed some outlaw bluster and called themselves the Wrecking Crew. Campbell signed a deal with Capitol Records in 1962, though it wasn’t until 1967, when he, Blaine, and Russell recorded a cover of John Hartford’s “Gentle on My Mind,” that he had his first hit single. It’s a wistful song about freedom, memory, and the (perhaps dubious) idea that if you truly love something, you shouldn’t ask anything of it—especially not monogamy. (In 1980, after Campbell’s third divorce, he told an interviewer, “Perhaps I’ve found the secret for an unhappy private life. Every three years I go and marry a girl who doesn’t love me, and then she proceeds to take all my money.”)

Campbell had an easy air about him, though. He appeared courteous in an old-fashioned way, yet still vaguely mischievous, as if he might call you ma’am but would wink at you as you left the room. At the end of the sixties, Campbell starred in two films based on novels by Charles Portis: “True Grit,” in 1969, and “Norwood,” in 1970. He’s a sweet, beguiling presence onscreen—demure and Southern, even when he’s casually plonking his spurs down on the dinner table or calling one of his companions “a squirrel-headed bastard.” More musical hits followed: “Wichita Lineman,” in 1968, “Galveston,” in 1969, “Southern Nights,” in 1977. He hosted his own variety show, “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour,” which débuted on CBS in January, 1969. Surveying his successes, one gets the sense that careers like this don’t happen anymore, or at least not in the same way. To trust a singer to carry you through several decades—stretches as musically and politically diverse as the sixties into the seventies into the eighties and nineties—requires a particular kind of allegiance. Campbell may not have demanded it, but he received it.

Campbell continued recording even after his diagnosis. There is a dark humor to the later work—he titled his final album, released this past June, “Adios” (it was preceded by a so-called “Goodbye Tour”). His dexterity with a guitar—he is an agile, artful picker—never seemed to wane. Nor did his voice. His cover of Harry Nilsson’s “Everybody’s Talkin,” which he recorded in late 2012, is remarkably nimble.

I met Campbell once, at the Nashville airport. All of my belongings (including my laptop, which contained an early and otherwise unsaved draft of a magazine feature I’d spent months reporting) had recently been stolen from my rental car. It was parked in a garage downtown; one of its rear windows had been smashed in with a rock. During the ensuing hubbub—phoning the cops, explaining the compromised state of my Kia Sephia to the rental-car agency—my flight back to New York City had departed without me. I was consoling myself by drinking a great deal of beer at an outpost of Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, the famed Broadway honky-tonk. This must have been in 2009. I looked up and saw Campbell wandering around with his wife, Kim Woolen. (They’d met on a blind date—he took her to dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria, with his parents, and then to a James Taylor concert.) Campbell hadn’t been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s yet, not in any official capacity, but it was clear, even then, that he wasn’t quite himself—that certain ideas or bits of language were receding, drifting out of reach, like paper boats fluttering across a pond.

I approached and brazenly asked for a photograph—I suppose I felt like I had little left to lose in Nashville that afternoon. They were so gracious. You know, it wasn’t that bad, losing my stuff and missing my flight. There would be more stuff, more flights. He threw a big arm around me and we grinned.