Posts from the “Malaysiana” Category

#Riuh2016

Recently a reporter from The Star publicly complained that he was denied access to most Malaysian athletes in Rio Olympics — the coaches had decided our athletes are not to be distracted before their competitions, and so there would be one collective press conference beforehand, and further interviews would have to wait until after they had competed.

Seems fair enough, I leave it to coaches to decide what is required to draw the best out of their athletes. I don’t want our national athletes stressed out with the high expectations and making promises while going head to head against top athletes from the world.

I was surprised the editor of the sports desk at The Star found this whine worth publishing. It largely seemed to be “I have arrived, you owe me”.

I’ll share a few examples from the article:

“Coach John Beasley told the journalists at a press conference on Monday they could ask as many questions as they wanted to because after that Azizul and Fatehah would be banned from talking to the press.

Like the cyclists, the divers took the same route. No interviews until their events are over.

Luckily, the shuttlers are not banned from opening their gob. If not there would be no stories coming out from Rio de Janeiro.”

So you had a press conference, why didn’t you get the questions out on the spot? There was your opportunity. Once before the competition, and many more after.

I have to see this annoys me further because I dislike this Malaysian press habit of not asking questions during press conferences. Most writers for prominent local publications are guilty of this. The general assumption is that journalists will ask the questions 1-to-1 after the press conference, thus dragging out a 30 minute affair into a 2-hour event in an air-conditioned hotel function room with too much mihun.

“All these athletes are funded by the Government. The cyclists and divers train overseas and big amount of money are spend on them. Certainly the tax-paying public has the right to know what’s happening on the ground.”

I guess our government includes Maybank and Yayasan Sime Darby? Not sure who sponsors the dive team, besides Nike (I’m not sure if this extends beyond Pandelela), but I hope some good ones are lined up. And as for the part about training overseas — so what? The cycling team has been training in Australia since Josiah Ng’s days as our Olympian, suddenly now it’s a problem? Datuk Nicol David trains in Amsterdam, and anyone who suggests she’s not a Malaysian athlete deserves to grow a third eye just so it can be blackened along with the usual two.

If there is a problem with our athletes having to train elsewhere, it’s what we have to offer those who stay that we need to examine. Even China has said Datuk Lee Chong Wei could be a world champion with their facilities and resources (god knows what he meant, maybe he meant Olympic gold medallist, since LCW is definitely a world champion in badminton), and Misbun Sidek said funding was the reason our athletes have yet to achieve a gold medal.

“Personally, I think Malaysian athletes are too pampered. Officials mollycoddle them all the time. It’s time to discard the kid gloves.

And some of our athletes are super sensitive. You criticise them and they won’t talk to you.

My message to them is: Grow up.”

Personally, I think our Malaysian press is too pampered — not in terms of what they can publish, but in terms of what they expect in their line of duty. I say this as someone who’s always uncomfortable with the fawning treatment of gifts and food I get when I do attend events as press.

How sensitive is this reporter? You grow up. Can’t do live interviews? Find another goddamn story in Rio. You’re in the Olympics. Figure it out. How can the reporter sent by The Star be so goddamn blinkered? What other story angles did you miss, FFS?

I tried to imagine my former editor, Jacq Ann Surin, handling this reporter’s submitted article about ‘pampered athletes’. When I worked for her, she had some accounts of spirited attempts during her journalist days, doing what it takes and getting the story. More experienced journalists tend to have these stories. Not to assume what Jacq thinks of this issue, but I doubt this hand-wringing would be a response she would respect, or even accept as an editor. I definitely don’t think it would have been published.

Anyway, I think Juana put forth the best retort (which I have loosely paraphrased).

“I’ll like to see him cover Syria. Excuse me, I’ve flown all the way here. What is the meaning of this blockade?”

The reporter did manage to cover Rio, despite his complaints. Maybe knowing of them made me feel his coverage was quite lacklustre. You can decide for yourself here.

It gave me great pleasure to read the comment by John Beasley, coach of the cycling team, in response to The Star. I couldn’t find it on the article itself where the comment had been posted, I’m not sure if he or The Star removed it.  I don’t know why the comment didn’t show on mobile earlier, but I see it on the website now.

It’s worth reading his very valid, and in my opinion, quite restrained comment.

Good afternoon Phuah,

I am sorry you feel that way, I just read your story and it is very typical of the Malaysian press. I gave you full access to the athletes during the press conference though very few questions were asked, why? Because you guys don’t do your homework, why is it that the Malaysian press come to press conferences without doing their homework?

All the performance data is out there accessible on the net and yet still you ask us what is your records? Further more we get asked the same old questions every time we are interviewed.

I think it’s you guys that need a big kick in the back side to do some preparation before coming to interviews. I can only speak for cycling here and honestly you guys call your self professional, it’s more like a holiday as there is rarely a story worthy of reading as there is no substance in your stories. The Malaysian press are like a broken record, we are always open and available to you guys.

Let me point out one fact, you got the opportunity to speak to us when we arrived, where is that content, Oh sorry I had a moment lapse of memory, you did not ask many questions did you? if you ask me it is your fault. Yes, we train over seas, I have been well noted for pointing out the reasons why and this is only to give your athletes their best chance to perform on the big stage, We also educate them off shore also something you guys need a lot more schooling on.

We are at the Olympic games, do you know what that means? We are racing the best of the best from all around the world, every body is a champion that has just qualified to make the games team.  Most athletes train a life time and never get to represent their country, though in Malaysia that is not good enough for you guys, our athletes you have the hide to call them failures, what is wrong with you people. Regardless of what happens here in Rio we have left no stone unturned on our journey to get here and we have provided Malaysia with some great results over our journey, now grow up and let us get on with doing our job.

Sincerely,
John Beasley
Head Coach Track Cycling.

Paragraph breaks are mine. I hope it’s okay to archive his words here.

So drama mama.

The ex-housemate is in town.

  • Adri: In Singapore, two men kidnapped an old lady, and the police caught them.
  • Lainie: In Malaysia, we rob the Nigerians.

When I explain my lezzie drama to Adri, she gets it. Easily. Maybe I should share the link below with my straight friends who don’t understand how ‘lesbian drama’ isn’t imagined.

Lesbian Drama 101: makes you relive your previous (and more conventional) lezzie dramas and want to stay single for a nice, long time. Ahhh, singlehood. More serenity.

Haunted House

Earlier in the week, at about 4AM, I heard footsteps above my room. Or rather, the heavy thumping noises sounded like footsteps. Now I live in a townhouse area that is not immune to burglary, and more importantly, my unit is on the highest floor. There are surrounding units that go up higher next door, but on my block, my duplex unit is the topmost unit. I was naturally quite worried. Rang up my security guards, and one of them promptly arrived at my door and marched through every room to check for suspicious, lurking individuals.

  • Lainie: The noise came from upstairs, at the roof, not in here.
  • Guard: Maybe it was just a cat?
  • Lainie: I don’t think I’ve ever seen a cat that could possibly sound so heavy*.

He promised the check around the perimeter of my place and take a look at the roof. The next day, I saw him walking around on patrol near my place, and asked him what happened during the perimeter check. To be honest, I didn’t think it had actually happened because while I didn’t hear any potential burglars lurking around, I also didn’t hear any security guards either.

  • Guard: There was nothing up there.
  • Lainie: Oh, that’s good I suppose. I wonder what made that noise…
  • Guard: Maybe you heard something because the condo unit on the immediate next block (one floor higher than mine) isn’t occupied.
  • Lainie:

Can’t help but wonder how many crimes have been explained away by accusing the spirit world. That said, why pay for a trek through a carnival’s haunted house when you can live in one.

*My friend Annu pointed out that she had a similar experience and it turned out to be civet cats. I’ve not seen one in this area before, but there are monkeys and the like, and I do live next to a forest reserve…

Eavesdropping in KL

  • #1: You don’t eat pork ah?
  • #2: I don’t eat pork.
  • #1: So you eat chicken noodles?
  • #2: I only eat siew yuk. And I eat char siew also. And when the pork is with noodles. Or when it is with rice.

How many types of pork do you have to eat before it counts?

National Nap Time / National Tea Break.

We’re such a young country and I have a theory for it!
  1. We could start building ANY national cultural tradition now;
  2. pretend we’ve been doing it since the beginning of time;
  3. and pass it on as an awesome culture (or a wtf one — like saying “A**ah”) to the future generations.
I guess what I’m trying to say is…We should seriously consider a National Nap Time. I propose 430PM–6PM.

This could really work. We’re already great at forgetting our roots — we barely recognise that this land came with Hindu and Buddhist influences prior to Islam.

If we’re going to sleep through our history, let’s make it a national hobby. Napping is already a personal hobby for me anyway, and I know I’m not alone. If we go national, by the time our great-great-grandchildren come along they won’t know we used to have responsibilities in the evening besides napping.

Side thought:

National Nap Time has two cousins: Siesta and Tea Break.

If possible, Malaysian gomen offices were previously seen as the biggest habitat of Tea Break culture; being the huge chunk of time between Lunch Break and Closing Time where finding a cooperative government employee at their desk was also Toto Time.

However, in the last decade Tea Break seems to have mostly been replaced by Tutup/Hilang: the game of driving to, from and around Putrajaya, trying to find a cooperative government employee who could and would get the job done. Succeeded within a month? Toto time.

The main difference to my imagination is that former involves waiting and reading a book in the passport office, and the latter involves your car pissing away petrol while you read Waze in Putrajaya.

Malaysia already has Tea Break, but we can have a lot of other T-things too. T-idur Break, (I’m still not letting the nap time go), T-Bone (steak), T-Bone (boning), T-Pot (except you could interpret this to be an illegal activity), T-Vee (telenovela time!), T-Pee (camping at Dataran Merdeka).

Whatever your inclinations. I vote for National Tidur Time/National Nap Time. I’m just saying: it’s not a terrible idea.

Recent conversation with a lesbian activist*

We were in the company of women and a transman, talking about male pregnancy (as in: transmen getting pregnant). I noted that my uncle, though not remarkably liberal, identifies as such and had said that a pregnant man was “going too far”.

I thought it was a curious line to draw, and was surprised to find that despite being in the company of many lesbians and gay-friendly liberals, everyone else felt the same way.

  • Her: It’s just wrong. They’ve made a choice.
  • Me: So transmen shouldn’t have babies because they made a choice?
  • Her: Yes.
  • Me: What is this choice?
  • Her: They’ve taken hormones, surgery…It’s a choice they’ve made.
  • Me: So because they’ve chosen to be men, they should not get pregnant?
  • Her: Yes.
  • Me: Okay, wait. What if a man naturally had a vagina? Can he use it to have babies?
  • Her: I don’t know. I suppose that would be okay.
  • Me: Isn’t that a transman?

She concedes it’s an emotional reaction on her part. The transman beside me had a different perspective:

  • Him: The child would be discriminated against. What kind of life would that be?
  • Me: Isn’t that the same argument used against lesbian and gay parents? If it’s valid against transsexuals, why is it not valid for straight people to use that against the rest of the letters in the “LGBT” community?

*all conversations inaccurately paraphrased.

Dear Diary, Bersih 3.0 really sucked.

So it’s June and I think it’s finally safe to talk about Bersih 3.0. My reluctance to address my attendance of the (supposed sit-in) demonstration had much to do with:

1) the politicisation of Bersih, which I am very tired of
and
2) the collective crazy of some participants.

I went to Bersih 3.0 for work, as a photographer. I was also supposed to be live-tweeting, but for whatever reasons (network flooded/rumoured mobile jammers), that did not work out at all. If I weren’t there for work, I would have been following updates of the rally from the safety of my home. Wearing my boxers. Eating Cheezels.

For Bersih 2.0, I had done my homework the night before. Gotten numbers of lawyers, bought my Good Morning towels, lil packets of salt, went with friends (and political tourists). Presumably had running shoes. When I was kettled in at Tung Shin Hospital, and tear-gassed, I had everything I needed to deal with it (and the relative comfort of knowing Kate, the Guardian journalist we were with, had witnessed the events).

For Bersih 3.0, my biggest preparation would have been an unplanned adventure the night before in Serdang, eating curry mee.

The next day, I took a train to KL Sentral to meet Kate, who was back in town to cover the Bersih rally again for Guardian. This time around, we were both sick as dogs and grumpy as hell about crowds, work obligations and the heat.

Malaysians, early for once.

I knew a huge crowd had already started gathering the night before — I had been in Dataran Merdeka, and somehow slipped behind the police barricades under some farce. Quite a few recognisable faces there, along with the Occupy Dataran crew (who soon had to pack up their stuff). Ahead of me, Pakatan supporters (mostly from PAS) were out in droves, flag waving, slogan-chanting. Felt much more like a political rally.

Malaysians love having the number 24 in their sial news. Rosmah's supposed RM24 million diamond ring, Liow Tiong Lai's RM24,000 license plate, or Teoh Beng Hock's death over alleged abuse of RM2,400. Pantang!

So I knew the official Bersih 3.0 would be hell crowded, and too political. Still, KL Sentral itself was alright. You could see the Bersih T-shirts speckled amongst the crowds, people taking group pictures. A few Lynas supporters. The train ride to Pasar Seni had two middle-aged men who made damn sure everyone else could hear their informed discussion on Bersih issues.

Central Market was so packed I couldn’t see who was onstage giving the speech. Nor could I hear anything being said. I asked around A LOT before I even figured out that it was Ambiga up front, surrounded by friends from the womens groups, possibly rallying the crowds.

Made our way to Masjid Jamek station, through the back of Pasar Seni where the police blockades were. The humidity was intense, and the crowd made it worse. There were some people sitting around here and there, but for the most part, I didn’t see many sitting down.

Polis, polis ‚ talked to some of them. Apparently the police force at Bersih had been given only half-rations from the night before, so they weren't in a great mood either, and prone to blaming protestors. Kate and I slipped through on the left.

Closer towards Masjid Jamek, where protestors were just milling about.

Kate and I were taking it easy at the sidewalks until an uproar started building up at the end of Masjid Jamek’s road. I knew then I had to get to work, so I forced my way to the middle of the road (and lost Kate). Years of partying in ridiculously packed nightclubs had given me the ability to elbow and boob my way through a crowd to *anyone*.

PAS Unit Amal guys started parting the crowd. I was in luck, it was Ambiga and Hishamuddin Rais. If I get pictures of them, I can go home, pop Panadols and have the day over and done with!

PAS Amal flers clearing the way for Ambiga, along with her bodyguards(?)

The first of one of the many times Ambiga would request rally participants be seated — I am still making my way towards her in this photo (before Nizar arrived)

Mostly lied my way past the PAS barricade (“Eh, I was inside just now, but got pushed out here” / “I’m with HER!” / “Angkat gambar, angkat gambar/ “I’ll leave right after”, etc), and made sure I was within a few feet of Ambiga.

All media persons out to get a good shot are vicious, merciless, and very rude. Kesian one of the womens’ NGO reps who got yelled at by a male photographer. “If you don’t want to be pushed, DON’T COME!”. It’s unfair, and I wanted to tell him off, but I was too light-headed by then to do anything but survive the heat and the pushing (my feet lifted off the ground a few times).

Another uproar — desposed Perak MB Nizar Jamaluddin had joined us, with his wife and young daughter.

Children — good for political mileage. Eating chocolates for energy.

Ambiga made her speech, I got my pictures. Of Ambiga, Hisham Rais, steering committee members Subramaniam and Andrew Khoo, and NGO people accompanying them. Nizar and family. I realised after the rally that Sze Ning was only a few feet away from me, but in the sea of people it would have been a minor miracle to see her. At this point, a man had been intentionally prodding and shoving my back — he was clearly out to antagonise and harass me, but stopped when I turned around just to observe more about him. Felt a bit uncomfortable that someone was out to make me lose my temper (he was standing near the PAS Amal guys, and had found a comfortable-ish spot where he didn’t need more space, but was reaching out just to push my shoulders).

They had wanted all of us to “duduk” while the speeches were being made, which would have been another minor miracle if possible, given how packed the crowd was where I had been. I have no talent for squatting, much less in that increasingly dizzying heat. I awkwardly hovered a lil bit, and photographed Nizar since I had somehow been turned around from Ambiga to face him.

PAS Amal guy making sure everyone is quiet for the speeches — most can't hear Ambiga anwyay

Then the best moment of Bersih happened: Ambiga declared the Bersih 3.0 rally a success and asked us to disperse.

“Yay, I can go home as soon as some of the crowd around me moves away!”

Of course, if that happened, Bersih 3.0 wouldn’t be the sensationalised political ammo for BN that it is today. Why didn’t someone just make Ambiga a huge “GO HOME” placard?

Then, an even bigger uproar than before.
“Dear god, today is never going to end”.

Kit Siang and Anwar joined the platform (I think it was a truck?) that Ambiga and Hisham Rais’ team were already on.

"Oh, fucking aces."

At one point, I had turned to the PAS Amal guy struggling to hold the line near me.

Lainie: I’m not being paid enough to work here.
PAS Amal dude: Saya volunteer.
Poor guy.

When Anwar’s political speech was done, and the truck pulled away, I resumed my business of trying to get out of there. My stomach was growling, and I could no longer tell if I was weak from the humidity (was already drenched in sweat by then), hunger or fever. Either way, I was in no condition to layan a crowd.

Part of the crowd that had dispersed. Many were just recuperating in the sparse shades found under the young trees between Pasar Seni and Masjid Jamek

Walked to Pasar Seni, trying to find Kate. Stumbled upon a huge gathering of people who had probably missed the order to disperse (I learnt later that though the likes of The Star tweeted the news, they were treated as malicious misinformation by gung-ho assholes*). The police trucks were there, and lines of officers.

*already very grumpy

I stood near the officers and took some photographs. They were clearly just posing as an intimidation tactic at the time, doing military-esque lineups, getting inspected, assuming battle stances. Protestors were starting to remove the barricades.

Barricades being removed. The ones who took the lead were middle-aged men, but everyone else followed suit soon enough. Like gotong-royong.

Police doing one of their many formations

Some guys with Occupy Dataran poster, beginning the sit-in protest in front of the cops.

Took some shots and left because I didn’t want anything to happen, and I certainly didn’t want to be around huge groups of people and police trucks after the dispersal order.

Police officers putting on gas masks and loading up tear gas guns— ie: time to go.

Central Market was all barricaded, so I had to take the pedestrian bridge. Trembled my whole way across, took quite a few breaks. I very nearly blacked out on my slow walk to the front of Pasar Seni. I was too tired to even pour water on my head, though the heat was quite nuts by then. I was hearing a faint buzzing. I think I only kept going out of sheer stubbornness and dislike for crowds.

At the bottom of the bridge, I stopped to catch my breath. Drink some water. Curse myself. A minute in, I hear the familiar booming sounds of tear gas canisters being launched. Then I see huge clouds in the middle of Pasar Seni, and people running towards me.

The charming sight of pillowy clouds of tear gas, yonder horizon. Fuck you too, BN.

I half-heartedly ran all of a few feet in front before the tear gas catches up with me. Aiyah, menyerah je, I can’t run faster than the air I breathe. I can handle tear gas (however awful), but it’d be worse if I pengsan here from being sick. Sat in front of Pasar Seni, got some salt from a nice old lady, felt the sting in my eyes and looked for an escape route. Train station closed. Babi.

Walked behind Pasar Seni train station (amidst shouts not to cause a stampede — at least some people were keeping their heads with them). Was very upset to see some protestors had brought babies and children with them. Are you fucking nuts? Do not attempt to hold a hostile government hostage with YOUR BABIES. Damn kesian.

Met some hipsters and friends. Some declared they were going to get their money’s worth by getting into Dataran Merdeka. Clearly with everyone’s mobile network down, information was very poorly distributed during the event (and even before). Still encountering people running away from tear gas, noses dripping, eyes bleary, coughing hard. Some were in good humour — apparently there was a change of wind direction where they came from, and the cops had tear gas backfire at them.

Saw a cab, left immediately. Ended up in a pub, cringing at the news as I watched footage RTM would play to death of protestors storming through police barricades and flipping over a cop car.

Hated all political parties a bit more — one for hijacking the event, another for handling it badly (though I knew both would happen). Sinuses impressively clear from the crowd dispersal gas.

Later on, cheered this website on: Dear Ambiga.

Went for a family dinner the next day and was asked by my aunt if I felt gungho about the tear gas. It’s not a surprising question, Bersih 3.0 is a badge of courage for some. At the very least, my own experience was marred by my fever and I should have known better than to attend, even for work.

Personally, I think wanting to get teargassed/arrested for a cause, or appreciating it, would make me an asshole. But feel free to differ in finding whatever values you do in being attacked.


• I have been seen in a Bersih 3.0 T-shirt. I purchased two — one for my mother, and another for myself. Consider this more about my loyalties for cheap T-shirts than Bersih. I wore a black T-shirt to Bersih 3.0.
• To be absolutely clear: I support Bersih’s 8 Demands. I appreciate the movement and the awareness its raised. But because I foresaw the political hijacking and lack of initiative/capacity to effectively limit it — I wasn’t there to support the rally, and if it wasn’t for work, I wouldn’t have been there at all.
• All photos © Lainie Yeoh 2012. Do not use without permission. Heaps more photographs available, contact my gmail account: lainieyeoh @ etc.

Observations while driving in Kuala Lumpur

1. Driving with a “P” sticker makes people go easier on me (tried and tested).

2. Most of my road rage stems from people driving like idiots. I’ve recalibrated my view to expect idiots. I only get upset at road bullies now.

3. Road bullies, when confronted, mostly run away.

4. It sucks to be a motorcyclist on our highways. It’s worse to be a pedestrian.

5. Any accident or parked car will cause a traffic jam on the highway. Anything. If you want to do guerrila advertisments, turn on your hazard lights, and park by the Federal highway. And maybe put your competitor’s ad all over the car, so drivers will curse them.

6. This is what I was taught in driving school. Slow drivers on the left, fast drivers on the right:

This is what it’s really usually like:

(I  only have a vague idea what cars are supposed to look like when I draw them.)


Image above is of angry Go Gourmet delivery dude harassing a driver. He parked his motorcycle in front of the car and forced them out for a confrontation. I don’t know what the context is.

#yoRais

I can’t be bothered with what Rais Yatim says. He lost credibility so quickly and so long ago, he can’t even inspire my incredulity anymore. Most recently, a Singapore Dance Theatre ballet performance was cancelled due to “indecent costumes”. Twitter explodes.

All I want to say is, I used to take ballet (heh. heh. heh); I pranced about in my tutu, wore carelessly tied ballet slippers, and more shades of pink than I care to acknowledge. What I have from those days are:

  1. super flexible feet
  2. excelling at jump rope as a child — skills later evolved into jumping over a wall taller than my head, to ponteng class in Ipoh Parade (some idiots built a mall next to my school).
  3. memories of practising my jumps with the other students in ballet class, while my classmate’s younger asshole brother shot pellets at us from the door. One of two boy bullies I never beat up in my childhood, only because I’d rather have been shooting pellets at us too.
  4. zero ballet skills.

I don’t want to think about this anymore, so here’s this gem I plucked from Su-Yin instead:

I’m so pleased that the outrageously indecent ballet performance is cancelled. Looking forward to seeing a huge decrease in rape cases, abandoned babies, sexual harassment and carnal urges! Rais Yatim, may no man’s briefs ever be tight and may no woman ever get her panties wet by the sight of dancers in leotards. And may we never have sex again, because sex is only for the West. Go Rais!

Indeed. The faster and farther he goes, the better for our arts scene.


footnote: picture is of my cat Gangster performing ballet the Malaysian way. Depending on how you look at it, he’s either in the nude, or wearing a heavy fur coat. Either way, it ain’t a tutu. And he can lick himself nearly anywhere, I’ve seen him.

[Update]

And just as I click “Post”, Rais Yatim announces: “The Ballet Illuminations by Singapore Dance Theatre wasn’t rejected, no applications were made.” and “The KLPAC baru shj mengemukakan permohonan persembahan Ballet Illuminations pd hari ini 5 April 2012, jam 12.30 tgh hari di kaunter PUSPAL.”

ISH. Wtf is going on*?

Nah, if you’re interested, the dress code section from Puspal booklet:

Click to download PDF of Puspal guidelines in English

You know. From the same charming arts-and-ballet-loving publication that says:

from the same Puspal PDF

Gotta love it.

*actually, I roughly know WTF happened la. But I don’t know if the people involved will step forward to tell the truth. I think that’s important for credibility most times, telling the truth. I’m not optimistic.

[2nd Update]

And KLPac issues a statement contradicting Rais: KLPAC insists Singapore ballet application was rejected