Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Fat people and wide screen TVs

I've just noticed something unfortunate. Wide-screen TVs stretch the image right? It's not a good thing for fat people.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Meritocarcy is a dirty word

There is a culture in this part of the world that views competition as evil, rather than boosting standards and quality. Words like "meritocracy" are debated in parliament, and ultimately swept under the carpet just in time for lunch.

An example here in Malaysia was when the powers that be realised that Malaysian Universities rated badly in comparison to those in other countries around the world, they simply created their own list, rating only those in Malaysia; predictably, Malaysian universities now appear in the top 10.

And so it comes as little surprise to those who have been watching that Indonesia has now officially banned all adverts not actually created in that country (with the exception of tourism ads for the promotion of foreign countries, properties located outside Indonesia, some international games, competition and education, and some large brands where the same actors are used throughout the world).

For the uninitiated, TV commercials are always awarded on the basis of a pitch. Our company, for example, might ask 2 local and one international production house to give a treatment on a piece of work. And indeed, we also find ourselves in the position sometimes of pitching against the international branding houses.

Till now, I believe the case was that one foreign "expert" was always to be accompanied by three locals.

It's a pity. Actually, it's just silly. For the local Indonesian market it spells a dreadful step backwards.

I predict that because of this move standards will go down rapidly. The work will be worth less. Even if it is not, clients will begin to chop budgets. Lower budgets equals less work. Less work equals fewer people working. And eventually, no industry.

Ah well. If they can't see it. Good luck to them.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Monday, June 02, 2008

The madness

This should give you an idea of ho busy it is in Hanoi. Madness.

37 centigrade

Here's one of my favourite shots from the trip. I was sitting at a little hole in the wall drinking local beer. The little old lady didn't know I was snapping her.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Viet Nam continued

Sunday 25 May

The vehicle was military green. Tick. It was a 4x4. Tick. It was a Toyota Landcruiser from the old skool. Tick. The driver smoked War Horse Brand. Two ticks. That’s where the ticks end.

My quest for inner peace took me through the industrial outskirts of Hanoi. Whe3re I might add, the road manners are no better than the old quarter. A journey of 150kms took all of 4 hours. Anyway, what awaited me on the other end was a veru pleasant surprise. Seems I had signed myself up for a homestay.

It was great. To begin with, it was the first good meal I had had while in Vietnam. A note on food: Vietnam is the world’s second largest net exporter of rice. And yet, to date, I had not seen a grain. Noodle soup, rolled up pork mince, processed meat of some description. But no rice. WTF?

Anyway, here there was rice in abundance. As well as fried bugs. A delicacy, I’m told. Not one to shy away from such things, I tried one. It tasted, not surprisingly, like grass. That was it for me, but I was amused by my hosts’ sorting through the plate and picking out some particularly juicy ones to crunch on. I enquired, as you do, which ones were the best, and they assured my that the big ones were. Well, you can’t fault the logic.

The next thing that stood out for me was the quiet. Like game farm in the Northeren Transvall quiet. Luvly. In fact, the frogs were so loud they sounded like small dogs barking.

Monday 26

Woke up to the faint smell of cow dung and burning grass. Fabulous. It’s really at times like these that I get a little homesick for SA. Nevertheless, I decided I liked the countryside so juch that I would simply push on to Laos. Unfortunately this was not to be. My guide could not find out whether I could get a visa as the border; and at 180US extra for the privilege of going the extra 160kms, I thought better of it. Next time.

Back in the hotel in Hanoi, I tried to book a ticket back to wherever. A shambles. I still couldn’t connect to the Internet with my own computer and the PCs in the foyer were all set to 2002. The airline booking engines were not happy. And they put on the moon. I ask you.

Some negotiation and a hefty commission later, I had an airticket back to Bangkok.

Tuesday 27

And so here I am. Back in Thailand. My original return ticket to KL has been successfully changed to tomorrow afternoon. (Always buy the most expensive ticket you can – that way you can change it, and not have to put up with various arbitrary airline rules.)

I have a few good pics. I’ll post them when I’m in the mood.

Ha Noi

Friday 23 May

Good god. First impressions of Vietnam: madness. The journey from the airport to my hotel (if one can call it that – US$20 a night) was like being a passenger in a dodgem car. Motorcycles are everywhere. And I mean everywhere. There seems to be no sense of self preservation among the riders.

The hotel itself is a quaint affair. The foyer looks like a 1950s movie. A ballustraded staircase is the only way up or down to or from the rooms. The furniture in mine is a kind of dark stained cross between Chinese Art Deco and 2 dollar tea house.

The deeper I get into the dark green heart of Asia, the stranger it gets. At least there’s AXN in the TV. And oh, the TV, very small, I think my laptop screen is bigger.

As of now, there is no Internet (the horror, the horror), - a cable, but no connection - but at least I have found one electrical outlet in the bathroom that accepts my universal adapter. And thank god, the electricity seems to be at, or near, 220 V, 50~, or my Dell would be toast by now.

Let me tell you about the money. I have no idea how people actually cope. 1 US equals 16 100 Dong. When I stuck my card in the hole in the wall and saw numbers ranging from 50 000 to 2 000 000, I got a surprise, to say the least.

Saturday 24 May

Ok I’ve figured out this driving thing. It’s quite simple; there are no traffic lights. Well, actually, there may be 3 intersections in old Hanoi with lights. The rest is just a free-for-all. Think ants, all scurrying hither and thither – over around on top to the side this way that way bumping changing directions. Now imagine that the ants all have motorcycles, tri-shaws, cars and busses. And they’re big. And they can hurt you.

Speaking of which, I did see an accident involving 2 motorcycles. Unbelievable. I hadn’t even been here a day. God’s own country man. Gotta love this place.

Still no Internet. Even after pissing around with my computer (along with the hotel’s IT specialist). We’ve installed and uninstalled every driver, protocol and IP monitor the computer will allow us. And still nothing. My boys back at XM are going to have their work cut out for them when it comes to reconnecting me to the company network.

Today was rather fruitful as far as activity was concerned. Awoke to the Hanoi national anthem (car horn, for the uninitiated)
at about 9am. After a quick bath and 2 fried eggs on doorstep toast (the breakfast of champions), I found myself in a tri-shaw, headed out into the … fuck, who am I kidding, it’s a supermarket out there.

3 minutes later I was soaked. Did I mention that the humidity here is about 99 degrees? No, really. It really is.

I had the opportunity to visit a museum – I think it was called hac, hat, num clac, or something. Jokes aside I was very impressed. After having said my hellos to a 10 foot, smiling Mr. Ho (Ho Chi Min – Singapore has Raffles, this place has Ho; oh and I even saw a statue of Lenin), I was in turn greeted by an amazing spectacle involving a 30s French art retrospective, some groovy installation art and the usal assortment of fibreglass tanks, actual correspondence between leaders of they VC, a pair of glasses (evidently used to peruse aforementioned), rubber AK47s, etc.

At about 12:30, my friendly neighbourhood tri-shaw operator pulled into a beer house and refused to go any further until he’d been watered. What could I say? It was hot. He did 3 glasses before I had even drunk the foam off mine. The fellow clearly had a thirst. Then on the pavement, a group of fellows produced a small stash of dope, sniffed it appreciatively, and proceeded to light up in an enormous bamboo bong. Luckily they didn’t offer it around, or I may not be writing this now. The natives were restless, and so was I. So I headed back to the hotel for a nap. Well deserved, I might say, after a morning spent reclining in the luxuriously appointed surrounds of a bicycle with three wheels.

This afternoon I concerned myself with the important business of getting lost in the old quarter.

Having successfully dodged Mr. Tri-shaw, I was attacked by loaves of bread. Everywhere I turned I saw crusty, baguette style frenchy loves being pedalled, delivered and otherwise making their way around town. I thought nothing of it – at least consciously. For it wasn’t long before I had the most powerful hankering for crusty bread, lovingly smothered with pate. Ha! I was dreaming, of course. But wait. Wasn’t this Hanoi? And weren’t the French once here in their droves? It was. And they were. And I did find a small place in which I was able to procure, for a very small fee, some rather rough, but delicious, pork pate and the very same, and by now ubiquitous crusty loaves.

Later I ensconced myself at a beer establishment to take photographs. I think I may have 2 worth publishing. A fine day, all told.

Tomorrow I leave by Jeep (I’m hoping some “American War” style machine with ancient tyres and a dodgy green paint job) towards the interior. Fuck knows where. Should be amusing. Perhaps I’ll see some real Montagnards. I’m looking for a genuine scarf. For protection I’ve purchased a Vietnamese flag (red with yellow star) and same with hammer and sickle. We are, after all, in Cong Territory.

Friday, May 23, 2008


It’s raining like a bugger. Chubby, malevolent, monsoon-practised drops with floods on their evil little minds. The kind of raindrops the Matrix creators could only dream of. I mention this simply because I’m due to leave Bangkok for Hanoi in about 5 hours, and at this rate not even Buddha himself is going anywhere.

Here in the dining room of the Woraburi Resort/hotel (a type of outdoor, lanai type affair – a tropical-architecture structure constructed to allow air to circulate, and, assumedly, to cool its patrons), I’m drinking water (???), eating green curry and reading Hunter S Thompson. It is cool now – although no doubt ascribable to this god awful storm, rather than any ingenious design on the part of my hosts.

The place is full of the usual suspects: older European men with their Thai “wives,” girls who accompany these same gents for the period of their stay here in Bangkok, presumably for the purposes of guiding, translating and whatever else goes on behind closed hotel doors; waiters and waitresses rushing about with great steaming plates of rice and other Thai delights; a gang of middle eastern tourists who seem determined to get out and about despite the rain and the obviously curious looks of the locals. Their perseverance is met with success as a lone Tuk Tuk emerges out of the waterfall that is the atmosphere. Clambering in, they disappear into the afternoon mess that characterises this and every other South East Asian city.

The atmosphere here is decidedly cheerful. Dodgy 80s hits are playing on the sound system, and there is a strange kind of buzz. I can’t really put my finger on it, other than to speculate that the potential energy that has been stored up in the raindrops is releasing itself into me and the rest of my fellow diners.

I take this opportunity to remind myself of the purpose of this journey; to take photographs of foreign and otherwise exotic cultural artefacts and post them on my blog. Hmm. So far, not so good. Bangkok is not as photogenic as one might think. It’s well nigh impossible to get around, and the stuff I’ve seen on the Asian Food Channel seems not to actually exist.

And so, on to Hanoi, where I’m sure, I will find much in the ancient French Colonial architecture to record and be interested in.

I have made reservations at a guest house in the old quarter – an area whose name evokes, for me, visions of quaint coffee shops and even quainter locals. We shall see.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Gritpype replies

Hello Duke

The matter you speak of sounds a little bit too good to be true. After all, as we say here, there is no such thing as a free lunch. However, you have piqued my interest. Before I start to send my particulars to someone unknown, and to parts unknown, I like to understand a bit more about this transaction. And of course, I don't actually know you personally, so I am understandably cautious.


Further adventures in Scambaiting: the rise of Gritpype Thinne

My previous posts detailed some rather feeble attempts by the scam scum to separate me from my money. More recently I received another one of these. Here below:

Dear Friend
With all due respect, I am Duke Ani, aged 21 years,a Citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I got your contact in my search for an honest person abroad who can assist me in investing my inheritance wisely and my instinct motivated me to write you.I inherited the sum of US$48million from my late father Mr Ani Friday as the only child of my parents. My parents were victims of the deadly plane crash that claimed the lives of 117 people on 23 October, 2005 in Ogun State of Nigeria. You can check and verify about the plane crash in the following links below.

This is the bit a really love. Check out the link. very enterprising.
I am looking for a trustworthy partner abroad who can assist me to move my inherited funds abroad for banking and investment because of the continious Economic and Political instability nature of African states. I am willing to give you 25% of the money for your role and assistance to me. I want the money to be invested in Real Estate business and other profit oriented ventures.
Do not hesitate to contact me for further details ( hope you will handle this matter with altmost confidentiality and transparency it deserves.
Duke Ani

And so I replied, dutifully, in my guise as a sucker just asking to be fleeced. For the purposes of this exercise I am using the email address Gritpype.thinne@gmail (you'll recognise this as a Goon Show character).

And this was the response I got - rather long winded:

Attention: Gritpype,

Thanks for your timely response to my mail. The transaction that I proposed to you is hundred percent legitimate and will not take us more than seven working days to be accomplished because I have already worked out the modalities for the smooth transfer of the fund into the bank account that you will nominate for this purpose.

Note that the nature of this transaction demands that we maintain utmost confidentiality to ensure a successful transaction, Haven said this let me brief you with the official processes to be involved in the transaction. My main focus is to present you to the Bank as my business partner abroad and you will further apply that this entitlement be transferred to you through the said legal processes.

We shall start by sending a formal application to this effect. I will copy you with the text of the said claim and transfer application to this effect as soon as I receive your response. Thereafter, the Bank will request of you the relevant back up documents to your claim and application according to the demand of our probate law on transfer of inheritance.

I am on the stand by to provide you with their requirements from the stock of documents that is presently with me. Otherwise, we will have to facilitate our acquisition of any one demanded outside my possession with the help of a reputable attorney here. Once we have provided the Bank with their demands they would be under legal obligation to transfer the funds to your submitted bank account.

Please note that all legal awards we shall have to seek from the federal high court to compliment your application of claim. You are not to worry about this as I will easily secure the services of a lawyer that will use the benefit of his professional competence and influence to do this for us only that it will only cost us some official expenses.

As we proceed, the processes and demands of this transaction will become clearer to you. I want you to send me your Information such as, (1) Your full name as written in your International Passport or drivers license (2): Date of Birth (3): Your Telephone /Fax Numbers (4):Occupation (5) Residential address.

As soon as you send me the above Information I shall obtain the Text of Application form from the bank and send to you also the required information of the Deceased father and of the bank. I also want to assure you that your information are top secret and would not cause any harm as every step we are taking is under the guidance of the law.

Be assured that the procedures to be adopted in effecting the transfer will be official and legal which will protect us from any breach of the law now and in great future do call me on this telephone number below for further correspondence (+ 234-703-049-9600) Above all, I personally count on the will and blessing of the almighty God to facilitate our plan and understanding to produce not just success but also peaceful sharing/investment of the funds at the end of the day and a healthy family business relationship thereafter.

I also pray for establishment of cordial relationship between us, God being our helper I await your urgent call/response.

Yours Sincerely,
Mr. Duke Ani.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Buzzfuse has taken over my blogs

Argh! Since I installed the Buzzfuse widget, it has begun a very thorough process of posting everything I have ever written. I some ways this is quite amusing. But on the other hand, it's posting all sorts of crap from the past 3 years. I think you can safely ignore most of it.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Pope: Rock star or Bin Laden of the West?

I’ve been watching with some amusement the news coverage of the Pope’s visit to America. It seems pretty transparent to me that “W” is leveraging His Holiness as a moral rallying point not only for Catholics, but for everyone else who doesn’t stand behind Bin Laden.

So now we two opposing (and some would say imposing) figureheads, each on opposite sides of a quite arbitrary paradigmatic divide, vying for the hearts and minds of the global massive.

Georgie-boy gets the rub-off of the supposed authority of his god (as represented by the Holy C), while the Vatican gets to exercise the kind of political influence possibly not seen since the Dark Ages.

Think about it; although there’s no danger of anyone being excommunicated, we’re seeing all the signs of an over-powerful church. Relics are on sale in the form of T-shirts, cups, caps and other merchandise; there’s even debate at ground level as to what actually constitutes valid mementos. One’s place in the bosom of the kerk, as it were, is no longer a given – you need tickets. The Pope himself is feted and fawned over by politicians just as his predecessor was all those years ago.

We need a modern day Oliver Cromwell; one who'll bring us a modern day Restoration.

And perhaps that is an Obama. Not just of the Bin Laden variety.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

There is an alternative to cybernetic totalism

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Jaron Lanier coined the phrase cybernetic totalism in an article entitled One Half Of A Manifesto to describe what he perceived as society's idolisation of technology to the point where our relationship with the technology itself becomes the only measure of our humanity - the idea that "...evolutionary psychology, artificial intelligence, Moore's Law fetishizing, and the rest of the package, will catch on in a big way, as big as Freud or Marx did in their times. Or bigger, since these ideas might end up essentially built into the software that runs our society and our lives. If that happens, the ideology of cybernetic totalist intellectuals will be amplified from novelty into a force that could cause suffering for millions of people."

Heady stuff indeed. But lets take a step back.

What he's really saying is that there are those among us (computer scientists in the mold of Turing) who believe that computers will ultimately become sentient, begin to write software for themsleves, build more machines like themselves and ultimately take over at the expense of poeple - in very much the same way as presented in the movie, The Matrix. These same poeple, as I understand the gist of the thing, don't however see this as an apocapyptic outcome; rather, they embrace it as the only eschatalogical path worth considering.

Lanier makes an interesting and very eloquent atack on this line of thought, and it really is worth reading.

The trouble is that Lanier himself seems to be mired in the same AI paradigm as his colleages, albeit from a contrary point of view.

But let me get to the point. While I agree with Lanier's thinking in response to the his cybernetic totalism, I offer another point of view on the thing.

Maybe the Internet, cybernetics and all the other stuff is merely practice for the next life.

Maybe the so called "age of aquarius" is a natural foil to technology and technological advancement. For just as we as a society are becoming more accepting of the huge potential of the technology we have created, there is also a greater acceptance of the more ethereal side of ourselves - our ability to tap into the unseen energy of the universe.

The difference of course is that you can actually touch a computer and cause measurable and repeatable things to happen, whereas when it comes to the more airy fairy phenomena we simply cannot. But does that make it any less important?

I think not.

Furthermore this merely serves as yet more fodder for the age old argument as to what constitues science; the had sciences, or their soft bretheren (sometimes known as the social sciences for lack of a better term).

Therefore, like Lanier, I feel that there is nothing to fear, but for different reasons. And I look forward to the time when we are all joined in the reat melting pot of consciousness in the sky.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The one buck wee

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Malaysians have a strange love/hate relationship with 2 things: food and public toilets (I suppose there is a sort of progressive logic there somewhere if you look hard enough).

On the food front, missing a meal is seen as the closest thing to blasphemy after disparaging Islam; however, the philosophy is the cheaper the better. The price of a roti canai goes up from 80 sen to 1 Ringitt and there's a national outcry (ministers make pronouncements, "inspectors" are sent out, etc). Everywhere you go, large buckets of badly cooked, sticky, soggy rice stand by to satisfy the needs of a never-ending stream of overweight diners.

But it's the toilet thing that I feel the need to relieve myself over. Malaysians treat public toilets as ... well, I can't actually think of an apt description. Suffice to say that you don't want to be down wind.

As a consequence of this, some enterprising individuals, or indeed facility owners, have taken to charging one for entry ( I assume the proceeds go towards paying various poor buggers to wipe, mop, splash and otherwise maintain some semblence of cleanliness. KLCC shopping centre, for eg, has, on the ground floor, an "executive toilet," the entry to which is RM2. Let me be the first to say that it is clean, to their credit. (The upper floors' toilets, not so much.)

So here's my point: If I pay for a one buck wee and only manage a 30 sen wee, do I get a rebate? I mean, one might be struck with stage-fright. And can I get a double entry ticket? What if I have a coffee while shopping (it's a diuretic, as we all know)? Are tickets transferrable? What about season tickets?

It's a complicated issue. And one that deserves serious debate.