Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Towers of Strength


Outside my room, the Twin Towers stands majestically in the distance, gleaming against the painted night of the sky. All around, scores of others compete for attention, shining forth their lights and colours. Theirs is a futile effort; the UMNO building, with its red neon-like signs, spells hope and despair (sometimes both at the same time), while distance favoured the Matrade building this time. Unfortunately, it did nothing to hide its troubled past, the monolith looking every inch the complete, total and utter waste of money it has been, is and will continue to be.

The Twin Towers has become synonymous with Malaysia, a steel structure that has imposed its own influence on the Kuala Lumpur skyline. Not many mainstream and commercial films go by without at least silently crediting it as a cameo actor. Some would say that its acting is terrible, but to compare it to wood might, in itself, be insulting to the trees of the world.

What I want to talk about is the meaning of the Twin Towers. It has stood there for a fairly long time, but what does it really mean and signify?

I ask this, because in part of the justification of another mega-tower, Menara Warisan, is the reasoning that it would give us a new, and more advanced image. Do they not learn of the counting of chickens before the egg is hatched? Image comes from reality, not the other way around. A well is nothing without its water, because beyond that it is nothing more than a hole made up of a bunch of rocks. The water is the substance, the very reality that sustains the community around it. Empty structures are not what we need, but nevertheless, there is a need, I feel, to consider the desirable that beyond reality. In this case, the style over substance. We have the Twin Towers, but what does it mean in terms of image and perception…?

“I don’t think it is important,” a friend of mine retorted. “I mean, what does it mean if we have nice buildings when other things are not well-tended to? It won’t matter if we don’t have a sound education system.” Typical. That annoys me, that, when people avoid the question and give a different answer, especially if they are delivered like jewels of wisdom never thought of before. I asked for what is, I get a what if.

Is he wrong? Perhaps not, but we’re still at square one. The question crossed my mind not just because it is something I see every day when I go to sleep and when I wake up, but partly because I wasn’t around when it was built. The announcement of its building and the actual building process took place in my absence; its presence there was somewhat shocking when I laid eyes on it for the first time. I had known of it, of course, but just to see it with my own eyes for the first time was still something to behold.

Even stranger is the fact that no matter how many times I have seen it, it still doesn’t seem that tall. Even when it was officially the tallest office building in the world, as I stand there and aim my gaze at the very tips, it never did strike me as being that momentous, in terms of its size. What kind of image does it project when I myself don’t think all that highly (pun not consciously intended) of it?

I mention this because I am sure that there were people around back then who had protested it. I’m positive that many others, in addition to my friend, considered it a waste of money when other things could have been improved upon. Now nobody really says anything, beyond the few murmurs here and there. They look and think of what could have been. Perhaps the same fate would befall upon the much maligned Menara Warisan as well, a seemingly unnecessary venture at a time when it seems like the price of oil is being increased every other month.

There is no answer here that I can give you, for what’s mine is the result of my own journey. I do hope, however, that the time will come when people will truly analyse and consider the meaning of that which is actually in front of them, that which is done, rather than the lack.

What is, instead of what if…

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Galaxy: Room With A View


The breeze came into the room unhindered through the conditioners. It was uninvited, but not unwelcome, lending its coolness to the occupant inside. Not that Kida was complaining much. It did much to cool down the heat within her, the sadness, rage and fury all rolled into one.

When the news reached her last week, it did so in the most inconspicuous of manners. The confederation, citing budget cuts, had taken the bold and controversial step of electronically transmitting the news of those who had passed on. It was understandable, for the war had drained a lot of the financial resources of not just the confederation itself, but also its mighty backers.

Understandable, but not readily accepted yet by the masses. Kida herself, away on a mission, did not get the chance to check her transmissives until much later. It was only until much later that she found out that Dallas was dead, thus becoming one of the first names to be released in that electronic, inhuman way.

Her sadness, however, wasn't something that came immediately. It wasn't a sudden outpouring of emotions that shook her. It was the rage at the way the news was delivered. In that sense, it was probably good they went digital, because she might just have shot the damn messenger.

Now, though, now that she has been called to collect his things from his old room on The Vole, she found that she had a hard time to hold in that which was never released before…

“Amazing, isn't it?” Kye's voice startled her enough to shake her out of her reverie. Had he not been there, she might have started to cry. She turned in the direction of his voice, loathing the rasp that came with it. His was a voice that once calmed her, soothing her when needed, and was generally pleasant to the ear, but there had been a change not just to the voice, but to Kye himself. Though Kida can't quite put a finger on it, it was a change that, unlike the wind, was both uninvited and unwelcomed.

Kida was pretty sure that Kye was remarking about Dallas's collection of figurines through his galactic travails. They lined up the cabinets that lined the walls, a hobby that had taken years out of Dallas's life. Wisdo wasn’t a good source for such figures. Aura wasn’t bad, but the Outer Galaxies were the main source for the serious collectors. Well, according to Dallas, anyway. Kida herself wasn't a big fan of it. After all, how could someone spend so much of their life on something so dead? Each figurine was beautiful, yes, but it is not alive. It doesn't keep you alive, it doesn't give anything to you. Dallas had spent an entire afternoon with her arguing about this some time ago...

Dallas is dead. Suddenly, the reality of that fact hit her once again, and here, in the room that was his own, on the ship that he called home, she wanted to be anywhere else but here. Their breakup had been amicable, but deep down, she knew, just as these things tend to be, that it wasn't as simple...

“I've always been impressed by how much effort he put into these,” Kye stepped into the room and her train of thought. He straightened himself from his leaning against the door frame. His gaze never actually fell on Kida, but she felt her circle of privacy was threatened with each step as he walked closer to the figurines, his cloak swaying lightly as he moved forward.

Kida didn't respond, and continued to hold the empty box in her hand. Dallas had named her in his will, after all, and she is the one now responsible for clearing out his room. That came electronically as well; Kida made a mental note to attend the Yellow Rally next week at Wisdo, lending support to the rising tide of the people.

“I mean, he wasn't really the kind to be too open to every single being he came across.” Kye was holding a figurine of a ballerina in a pose, her legs bent at the knees in an elegant position. “I've never thought of him to be the kind of soldier that would willingly sacrifice himself for others...you did know how he died, didn't you?”

“Stop it, Kye.”

“But his was a heroic death, Kida, you must know...”

“Enough!” She threw the box at him, finding more solace in the act rather than the box actually hitting Kye. Empty boxes won't do anything to one of the most feared warriors in the galaxy. She used to be glad that he is on their side, but these days, Kye himself seemed to be content to be on his side. She honestly doesn’t know what to make of him; she had heard about the altercation between him and Jayken, but Jayken himself had disappeared once again into his black hole, slipping away immediately after the funeral.

Kye laughed, an evil, guttural act that shook Kida to the very core. No, she told herself, this is not the same Kye anymore. She has no wish to remain in the same room, on the same ship, perhaps even in the star system with him anymore. Dallas’s belongings can wait another day, she found herself thinking as she hears the sound of her own footsteps at speed along the corridor.

Kye’s laughed died down to a smile, as he remained inside the room. He took one of the figurines, a mini recreation of the Rasgnab fighters. Born blind, but with their other senses hyper sensitive, they made excellent warriors and spies. They can see more than those who could, thought Kye as he gripped it, crushing the wooden figurine until it cracked and its head rolled off. Soon, those who can truly see shall lead the blind.

And that will be most welcome.

*Read Galaxy: Revelations.

*Read Galaxy: Masks.
*Read Galaxy: Goodbye Darling.
*Read Galaxy: Love Letter.
*Read Galaxy: The Last Stand.
*Read Galaxy: The Sixth Sense.
*Read Galaxy: Homecoming.
*Read Galaxy: Vs.
*Read Galaxy: The Journey.
*Read Galaxy: Tears of the Son.
*Read Galaxy: Across The Stars.
*Read Galaxy: The Prodigal's Return.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Pro Tools


“No, we don’t need to get the Mac to do that.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes! We just need a computer, and the programme. We can do it on your home computer if you want.”

“What about the quality?”

“No, the quality will be similar. The difference is not really worth spending the extra cash on.”

Silence. “I think it’s best if we have another computer to do the editing.”

****
The above was a conversation with someone who wanted me to edit a video for them. She had mentioned about the possibility of making a string of videos, and suggested that getting a Mac computer specifically for that purpose might be a good idea. Though in many ways the industry standard, I implored the idea, for the money to be spent wasn’t in her pockets yet. I pointed out that I made a corporate video for a bank using her previous laptop, but she wasn’t swayed enough.

She, however, is not the only one. I have come across many different people who believe in such ideals: that in order for them to make high quality videos, they need a certain kind of equipment, a certain kind of money, a certain kind of support, in order for the video to be made to a certain quality. While there are technical merits attached to that, it should be noted that professionalism and quality is not necessarily linked to the physical means available.

I say this because it is an experience I experience with those who make or want to make videos. In truth, it is symptomatic of a wider range of people. I have friends who have Macbook Pros. They spend a lot of time and effort to get these, but at the end of the day, the only programmes end up being properly utilized is Microsoft Word and Safari. It is a powerful tool, but if you have no interest in using it fully, then why purchase it? The same applies to a friend of mine who bought a new phone. Admittedly, I should applaud her for not jumping on the iPhone or Blackberry bandwagon, but she spent a lot of money on a new Nokia model (the exact model number? I can’t remember, I’m terrible with these things), when all she ever used her phone for is to make calls and receive messages.

After a while, she gave up on the phone, complaining of the extra complications. Of course, it doesn’t help that it kept breaking down, and Korea doesn’t have a good enough support system for Nokia, but the fact remains. She doesn’t need it, her old phone was fine, but she got it.

Spreading the net just that bit wider, I sense a feel, a desire that almost transplanted into a need: the belief that if we have cooler things, we would become better people. If our computers are more expensive, then we’d be more professional. If we have bigger towers, then our image, and indirectly we ourselves, would be better.

Professionalism, maturity, strength and poise come from within. What makes us better people than others, what separates the best from the rest is not necessarily the tool. What makes us smarter is not just the intellect garnered from reading books, but how we use that intellect to make a difference. The computer, the mobile phone, even money itself (pieces of paper that means nothing without the meanings we attach to them) are all means rather than an end itself.

Those who believe that the tools are the end are fools to do so.

Private Personal


"I don't live a lie. You have to understand that people who choose not to discuss their personal lives are not living a lie. That is a presumption that people jump to."

"Look, at the end of the day, people have to respect people's differences. I am different than some people would like me to be. I just don't buy into that the personal can be political. I just think that's horses--t. No one's personal life is in the public interest. It's gossip, bottom line. End of story."

Kevin Spacey, addressing rumours on his private life.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Subuh


Something moved my heart as I drove near the mosque, Masjid Wilayah. It is situated along my route, its perimeter an island of holiness of its own.

“Island of holiness of its own,” I whispered silently in my heart as I drove in; I have a tendency to play these things through in my head, so that I’d have the chance to pause, rewind, and make some corrections as I go along. It didn’t seem so appropriate at the first pass, but there is a quality to it. So, island of holiness it is.

It has barely passed 6.30am, and there were a few stragglers who were just about to leave, weaving their vehicle around mine as I navigated my way through. Were they the lucky ones, those who couldn’t sleep either? Is it a divine intervention on their part that drove them here to submit, before driving them away to submit to their own physical wants and desires? Perhaps, perhaps not. Not everyone keep the same schedule as you do, Fikri.

Correction. I don’t keep the same schedule as everyone. The difference is minor…but it is there.

At the risk of overdramatizing this, I parked the car, went in, did my wuduk, went into the prayer hall, and…prayed. And then…silence.

I cast my glance across the hall. As I write this, I have Joe Hisaishi’s ‘Good-by Cello’ strumming through my ear. My mind played a similar score as I see a father, having completed his prayers, stood up and strolled over to a young man catching his kip in the corner. With an elegant swing, he reached for the robe strobed across his shoulders, removed it, and timely whacked it over the boy’s head. “Dah, jom balik.” I couldn’t help but smile, recanting my prayers but with my mind, my heart entertained by the shenanigans.

Then I’m back in the silence, engulfed in the deafness and surrounded by the magnitude of the aura of Allah.

*****

These are the moments I appreciate the most. My submission to God has never been that which is dictated by others. I follow through the rituals, I fast the fast, but in truth, these have served nothing more than a token submission to Allah. It is the routines set forth by Him, after all, or so I believe.

In truth, these are nothing more than nomenclature, routines that have strengthened by relationship with my fellow man, but not necessarily with God.

So what is my secret, if I may be permitted to term it as such? What is the condition for my holding on to my faith, not so much as a matter of risking letting go, but as a way of tightening the grip even further, even when conditions had conspired to test and challenge me even in ways I did not imagine myself?

It is these silent moments with God. These moments gives me the strength, for when I shut my eyes, I hear of nothing but. Not the breathing of those next to me, the overzealous bastard who thinks that by uttering his words slightly louder than the rest that he would get a bigger load of pahala, or the tudung wearing UM officer who treated the foreign student with such a difference that I myself feel some shame at her being of the same race, religion and nationality as me. It is not, however, the fear and loathing of others, nor is it the defensive reaction that naturally kicks in when the Bible-thumping ladies to roam the subways threaten very loudly those who do not believe in Christ as their savior. Perhaps they believe that they would get some extra pahala as well by doing that.

My strength comes with the silence. It is with the drowning out of these Earthly voices, created by God though they might have been, that are not beautiful in the slightest, the voices of those interested only in the fires and prizes that competitions would bring them. Titles, image, prestige, perspectives…what is the use of these if you lack the basic respect for others as human beings? What is the use of 1Malaysia if you fail to see that the person next to you is a human being, one who do not deserve to be encroached upon, to be impressed upon or to be influenced unduly just for your own benefit? What is the use of praying five times a day if, by the end of it, you lie in bed knowing that you have not done all that you can, all that you could in order to make the world a better place for all in it? They sleep soundly, but the sounds of their dreams do not compensate for damage they did through their lies…

…but who am I to judge? I feel angry at the hypocrisy and the two-faced nature of others, to list just but a few, but who am I to pass any kind of judgment? Though I do have ‘Hakim’ as a middle name, and it does in some way give me more authority over those who don’t (this is written with my tongue firmly in my cheek, so have a sense of bloody humor, please), it pales utterly in comparison to God.

I am a nobody. Within the bigger scheme of things, we are all nothing more than specks in the universe, waiting for our time to pass.

And so, as I wait, I sat there quietly, listening. With my eyes closed, my senses tingled to my very tips, and I listen. For this is when I forge my path with God.

It’s mine, and mine only. I suggest you find yours, and let no one else invite you to tread upon their paths.

Amin.

R.I.P Tom Walkinshaw



You were a terrible F1 team owner, but your battles to keep the Arrows team alive was very much at the forefront of my memories as I got into F1 by the end of the 1990s. Despite the small budget and limited technical abilities, the gorgeous black-and-orange Arrows punched above their weight enough times to impress. It's a pity you drove them to the ground afterwards, but thanks for the memories, and rest in peace.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Galaxy: Revelations


“But you never said anything.”

The wind of the night chilled his skin sufficiently. It wasn't too warm, or too cold. Life on Aura is like that; the roughest areas can be unimaginable to some at the lower levels, but get high enough, and you can get high on life.

The sights, too, could have been one for sore eyes. Jayken's eyes were certainly sore from the lack of rest. Earlier, he had felt them trembling, fighting against the fatigue. His eyelids had wanted to comply with their wishes, but a few caffsteams did their job. The packaging of New World's products may not have been impressive, but they do do their business: it certainly opened his eyes to a new world.

Well, same old, same old, actually.

This, however, is new territory.

“You never said anything.”

Sounded like a broken record, that. Funny, because nobody really wrote a guide on how to deal with letting your heart out. They probably did, but it wasn't something Jayken was interested while fending off existence-threatening machines.

“Yeah, I didn't,” he admitted. With that, he tore his gaze away from the outside world, old or new, and shifted them to Jo Dandy. One of the finer pilots around, it was unfortunate that she didn't have the stomach to actually kill in cold blood, which restricted her mainly to shuttle runs and evac missions.

Unfortunate? It was a blessing. Killing is never fun, and never easy; Jayken felt as if a small part of him becomes more deadened the more he does it. Not killing keeps you alive and healthy. It certain hasn't harmed Jo, but it does mean that she doesn't get to write her name in the annals of history. Shuttlers just don't get the same credit as fighters. If...when this war is over, she'll be lost as if she never existed amongst the mass of others.

To Jayken, though, that won't quite happen just yet. If anything, she's at the very center of his universe. How could she not be, with the way her brunette hair falls slightly out of place, and the way she pulled it back behind her ears almost just as swiftly. How her thin-ish eyebrows danced their little dance as she smiled, betraying the sense of seriousness her face displays when she doesn’t...

"Jayken?"

"Yeah." He had been lost once again in her hazel eyes, which is not a good thing when you're supposed to be an alert fighter pilot of the confederation. It was actually a formalised part of the training back at the academy, but if anything, it just goes to show how deeply he could fall back into her gaze, a gaze so deep and sincere that...

"Why do you like me?"

Jayken smiled, more out of nervousness than anything else. For how do you answer a question like that? The truth might be a good place to start.

“I don’t know, Joanie.” Silence. “Well, that’s the simple answer. The truth is, I know, but I don’t.” That’s a bit of a lie, to be honest; now that nervousness turned slightly into fear: fear of rejection. For once, he finally understood all those seemingly-meaningless pop songs. “I mean...some of it is clear enough, I think. You’re beautiful, smart, funny, and your eyes...” oh, those eyes... “...I could easily get lost in them.”

She smiled when he mentioned the eyes. Her slight movement dropped a few strands of her hair across her face, and just as quickly, she pulled them back again, sweeping them behind her ear, turning slightly away as she does so. Yes, that. Tell her that. “It’s that,” he blurted out, having to hold himself from shaking with trepidation.

She turned back to look at him, a slightly quizzical look now creeping its way on. She even looked beautiful like this. God, why are you doing this to me... “I mean, your smile. The way you...ah...” He exhaled, trying to compose himself, an act that didn’t seem to work when she smiled at his nervousness, at how foolish she is making him feel. I could actually feel the butterflies in my...

The beeping of the communicator actually shocked and shook him both at the same time. Silently cursing and praising God both at the same time, he looked at his wristwrap comm unit, and saw Jo doing the same thing. The realisation hit them both at the same time as they looked at each other. Time to go.

Even within that moment, though, even though not a single word was uttered between them, he could sense the question coming from her gaze, a strong one that could very well change their friendship forever. What do you expect me to do with that little revelation, Mr Westley?

Jayken steeled himself and his gaze into her eyes, and smiled. Well...there is someone, somewhere in the galaxy who thinks that you’re beautiful just the way you are, someone who loves and cares for you deeply with all his heart, he answered. It could be a lot worse.

She smiled, nodding her head slightly, and Jayken melted once more; even if they'll never get together, there's always that smile to look forward to.

It really could be a lot worse.

*Read Galaxy: Masks.
*Read Galaxy: Goodbye Darling.
*Read Galaxy: Love Letter.
*Read Galaxy: The Last Stand.
*Read Galaxy: The Sixth Sense.
*Read Galaxy: Homecoming.
*Read Galaxy: Vs.
*Read Galaxy: The Journey.
*Read Galaxy: Tears of the Son.
*Read Galaxy: Across The Stars.
*Read Galaxy: The Prodigal's Return.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Home Comforts


“Turn in here,” my father instructed, somewhat sleepily from the passenger seat. I couldn’t blame him, for it had been a long day capped off by a long journey. Leaving UiTM together, I assumed the role of driver, though if the truth must be pried out of me, I felt equally tired.

“OK,” I said, stifling a yawn as I signaled my intent to the other drivers. The reassuring indicator clicked softly in the background as the Volvo bowed to my instructions to a tee. The insulation of the car is also a lot better than your average Proton, which makes for a silent ride half the time.

“Err…is this the place you want?” In front of us is a new building, a shopping complex of sort. I remembered such buildings being in construction from years gone by. In fact, I once picked up a date for the Monash ball somewhere from an apartment in the area. She was a French classmate of mine at the Alliance at the time, and rare though those moments turned out to be, I always thought of the French class days in the early noughties when I drive through the area.

“Eh, what is this place?” Sounding a lot more alert, my father seated himself upright; he had been lying down, with the seat reclined as it were. Now, however, the slight alarm made his back straight as a telephone pole as he rubbed his eyes, and scanned the environment. “I haven’t come here for a few years…”

I stopped the car, and surveyed the area. It most definitely is a new building, and his suggestion of eating at a famous ayam golek restaurant somewhere around the area is in danger of becoming nothing more than a delusion. I asked him what the place is like, hoping to see some kind of sign, wondering whether I had taken the wrong turn. He seemed adamant that this is where it should have been though. After a few moments, we turned and went back to the main road, continuing along the path.

“How things change…” His words rang in my head, as I drove on almost aimlessly. I had been looking forward to it, to eating the ayam golek. He had raved about its taste, and how, back when he was teaching at UM, he used to frequent it with almost reckless abandon. That wasn’t so long ago, I had thought, but I realized that in the context of a lifetime, some years can…

“Hah, itu dia!” He pointed to the restaurant, part of a ramshackle series of shops lined up along the streets, as these establishments tend to be in Malaysia. We found a parking spot, and soon enough, tucked into the chicken like there was no tomorrow.

As dinner came to an end, and we winded down with our respective drinks, I took a moment to study my father’s face. The lines lining it made me wonder about the kinds of things that he went through, and indirectly, about how important this particular dinner could have been. It wasn’t really just about eating, was it? Perhaps on some level, it was about a reaffirmation of the certain things in life, or perhaps in a way, how certain things are and could be in your life.

Slowly, as the rate of development is accelerated, as new shopping malls go up almost every other month all over the country, as the struggle to remember what the Twin Towers looked like coming back from Penang on the PLUS highway before it was blocked by the multitude of Mont Kiara’s own towers became ever greater…I suppose sometimes it’s just comforting to know that some things won’t change for quite a while yet.

Home comforts, I believe is the term. I’m glad we found it that night.

Shower Scene


His head was still ringing as he stepped into the hotel room, closing the door with a resounding slam. His right hand reached for his temple, where the would-be assassin had karate chopped him with enough force to knock out a normal man.

Fortunately for his good self, he was no normal man.

He could hear the shower running once the ringing inside his head subsided. She must’ve gotten straight into it once she came back. She didn’t seem to have the stomach for it…no, that’s not true. She was in fear for her life. Perhaps for him, too, but it didn’t seem to be too big of a problem for him. For her, though…for her, seeing a man killed…no, strangled to death in front of her very eyes, and to aid and abet in that act…it probably wasn’t as what she had imagined when she was assigned to be his handler. She went from pushing pens inside the bureau to pushing lives out of this world. No wonder.

He has to remind himself of that.

Just as he was about to take off his shoes with his heels, he noticed the broken wine glass on the table. There was nothing inside it, no traces to suggest that its appropriate contents ever took residence inside it. The bottle, a Ch√Ęteau d'Yquem 1999, was uncorked, but its contents remained untouched. A single note of worry started to cross his heart.

“Vesper?” he voiced out cautiously.

He stepped lightly towards the bathroom door, and opened it. It is heavy, but its opulence didn’t lend any weight to a noise. The heat from inside the room rushed outside, grateful for its release, but what he saw didn’t give way to the same relief.

Vesper, still fully dressed, sat inside the shower, the hot water rushed slowly from the top. She shivered as she leaned against the ceramicly-tiled wall, her hands shaking from the water…no. From fear.

James stood there for a moment, considering what to do next. He didn’t realize that it would have that big of an effect on her. If she is normal, if she could be the face in any crowd, the girl you’d meet next door, the real person who would have friends, if she is a human being…what does that make him?

The look she gave when she glanced up cleared all that away. She was crying, her eyes red with the tears mingled with the water. “I can’t wash it off,” she sobbed, and in that moment, James went forth and stepped under the shower with her. Leaning down, leaning against the wall next to her, he put his arms around her.

It felt warm, not from the water, but from her body. Warm and nice. He found himself shivering just for a moment as he lightly grabbed her hand, and guiding it to his lips. He kissed it softly, each one of them, and felt her shudder recede. Leaning his head against hers, as she gave in to herself and folded inwards in his arms, with his touch, for support, all the pains of the world were forgotten as he closed his eyes and whispered softly to her.

“There, there…all better now.”

*A reimagined scene from Casino Royale.

Friday, December 03, 2010

To Russia With Rubles


So it's Russia, then.

My initial reaction was one of some measure of joy. I have to admit, it is an incredibly ambitious decision by FIFA to have selected Russia as its next host for the FIFA World Cup. The federation has been on quite a roll, selecting a number of newbies to host arguably the biggest sporting event for a number of tournaments now. Following on from South Africa this year, let's not forget that Brazil will be the host in 2014. Qatar in 2022 will be a new adventure as well.

For my part, I'm always up for a bit of adventure, whether literal or metaphorical. I followed the announcement with a deeper interest than usual, partly because the previous edition only had Brazil submitting a bid to hold the tournament, so the element of drama was missing. Here, there was tension, build up, perceived villains in the forms of media exposes and corrupt officials, with a twist in the tail. After all, Spain/Portugal was expected to have been in the mix as well, so the presence of a number of very credible potential hosts made for an exciting event. Plus, with the announcement of the 2022 hosts to be made as well, we get double the drama.

More importantly, however, by 2018 I think I would have been more established as a person. More settled, more financially-secure, more able to do what I want to do. In short, when I blow out the candles of my birthday seven and a half years from now, I fancy doing it in a World Cup-hosting country at the time when they are actually hosting the World Cup.

I say this because it is an experience that is worth experiencing. I have spent some time in Korea, where people go absolutely crazy during the World Cup. The experience have often left me wondering what it would be like to actually be in a country that is hosting the World Cup. You can't buy that kind of excitement, certainly not in Malaysia, with the number of plastic fans that populate the mamaks every weekend or so. The people who support their country, who cheer for their players, do so genuinely. Malaysia's participation in the Asian Cup a few years back gave a good cause for people to attend competitive tournament football. Of course, the quality of our own footballers leave a lot to be desired, but the reaction of many of my friends left me wonder whether we'll ever be able to put all these things aside and watch football for the sake of not just the nation, but for football. “I don't want to waste my money. I'll wait for them to improve first, and then I'll go and watch them.” I still remember those words, and wonder what wasting money is to people who spend their weekend drinking away money that would have quadrupled the ticket price at the time.

Which leads me to the concern of Russia. Yes, Russia will host a nice little World Cup, which is already a lie. Their World Cup will be anything but little. In case you don't know, it is a big country, and it will take some effort to cover the distance between the respective stadiums if I do decide to follow England (FYI, I support England and Korea for reasons of familiarity and symbolic umbilical cords). Russian cities make regular entries into lists of the most expensive dwellings in the world, while other costs will surely not just pile up, but be also jacked up as if cartons of Red Bulls had been spilled into the computer that decides ticket prices.

Of course, that's overstating things. However, after the euphoria and pleasant surprise had died down, after the climax had passed, I sobered up to the potential costs. Who cares about racism and corruption if it costs more than your life to go there to begin with? I better hope that Spielberg comes through a little quicker with his 'Transformers 5' offer. For now, we'll have to adopt a wait-and-see policy.

Well, that's a lie. For now, I could exercise a few demons, and open up a game of FIFA on my computer. That I did, and controlling different teams in different halves, England vs Russia proved to be a more interesting affair than usual.

England still lost 3-2 to Russia. Dammit.