Monday, May 23, 2011

Thanks, Chris


History is a word based on the words of someone else.

That may have seemed obvious enough, but I figured that it may help to shake the tree and start with something different, for once. For it is also the first time in a while that I have finished a book.

The book in question is Chris Jericho’s ‘Undisputed’, a biography based on the years following his arrival in the WWE all the way to the Second Coming, his return to wrestling at the backend of 2007.

The book proved to be one of my wisest investments in recent times. For one, it is something that would probably be taken for granted. Those familiar with me know of my interest in Chris Jericho. Simply put, he is a fantastic performer on a number of levels. His wrestling skills are accomplished, and he appears to be the kind of wrestler capable enough to go through the number of different styles and matches required. He was also one of the more entertaining speakers on the mic. Funnily enough, I did not read his first book, ‘A Lion’s Tale’, which would be something more properly considered as an autobiography. In that, he charted his rise from his childhood days to the moment of his WWE debut. It got a lot of praise, but I never did get round to buying the book. I don’t know why.

At the same time, I was also interested in Chris Jericho because he pursued his dreams. In ‘Up In The Air’, George Clooney’s character mentioned that children look up to sports stars because they chased after their dreams. In this case, even while he was performing, he toured and performed on a regular basis with his band, Fozzy. They did relatively well, in my opinion, but more than just that, he also pursued an active career in…well, almost everything else. He worked hard to become an actor, auditioning for roles in many different kinds of films and TV shows. For some of them, he was granted his wish, and performed in roles both big and small in TV, film and on the stage. He took acting classes, and even did some stand up comedy.

In short, he showed me that it is not impossible to chase after your dreams. Even if you fail, you will have done more than others.

More to the point of this post, it is a book that is well-written and enjoyable to read. I have not been reading recreationally for a while, only to prepare for my lectures. Reading for fun? Savouring over the words that my eyes layeth upon every few seconds, enjoying the process as these words deciphered themselves into images imprinted on my own psyche?

No.

The book that killed it for me was ‘A Doctor In The House’ by Dr Mahathir Mohamed. It was in the early chapters that I managed to discern a very defensive pose. He was quick to defend himself, taking up a more paranoid position than I had expected. Very quickly, it is clear that while his words are measured and strong, his story and history as we know it won’t exactly lie in bed comfortably with one another.

The biggest issue I have with the book, however, is the use of footnotes to explain further about certain things. Kedah would be followed by a number, and, true to the form formed by my reading of academic journals, I focused downwards until I got to the appropriate number at the end of the page. “Kedah,” it began, “a state in the northwestern region of Peninsular Malaysia.”

Rarely do I get so worked up about something so miniscule. The use of footnotes can be helpful in providing more context, but though it is not a favourite of mine, here it becomes even more ridiculous. Why would a book written by a former prime minister of Malaysia require such minor definitions to be included? We would not expect a book written by Western personalities to include such footnotes as “London, capital of England”, do we? How condescending do we want to be to ourselves?

I considered whether MPH, the publishers of the book, wanted to make it more accessible to people who aren’t familiar with Mahathir or Malaysia, but I’d argue that if you aren’t, then you have no business picking up an 800-page tome costing RM100 to begin with. People who are interested in reading his thoughts, in wanting to find out about Tun Mahathir’s side of the story would almost certainly know where Kedah is. Even if you still want to define it further, notes should have been given to the author to alter it to something like “I was born in Kedah, in the northwestern part of Malaysia.” That would have given an opening for Tun Mahathir to perhaps further explain certain ideals that comes with originating from that region. To me, they have a strong and special character, the Kedahans, and that could help to explain why they are responsible for producing so many people who rose to the top in Malaysia.

Because of that, and other such definitions of words such as Agong, UMNO building, Perlis and even titles (“Malays have a complicated system of honorifics that convey esteem and respect”) was enough to piss me off that I did not do any recreational reading for over a month. Since it was a book I borrowed from my father, he has already started to ask some questions about it.

After having finished ‘Undisputed’ in the morning, I closed my eyes, and let the thoughts swirl in my head. The joy of reading had been rediscovered, and as I recover from Jericho’s description of being analised by a metal pole (“It was like getting fucked by Robocop”), I leaned to my right, and saw Dr M’s smiling face at me, egging me on. I reached for it, and started from scratch.

Now I’m at page 97.

Thanks, Chris.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Galaxy: The Fighter


He felt the wind of the punch first, lightly warning him before it landed itself on his cheek with significantly less subtlety. Jayken staggered backwards; he had parried the newcomer’s attacks with grace and power, but this particular question had no answer.

Certainly not one that could protect him.

He shuffled backwards on his feet, trying hard to maintain his stance. A step outside the squared circle lined on the ground would be fatal. He’d lose a point, but he’d lose a lot more than just points. They're mere nomenclature when the rest of the class is watching on and backing him. He’s their leader, the superstar of the grade. He can’t afford to lose to…

…actually, just who exactly is that guy?

Standing at just over six feet tall, with a dirty blonde style to match, the newbie checked in without much fanfare. Having recently transferred over from the Koobcamian district, there shouldn’t have been much reason for a fanfare, either. That district hosts the dropouts, the rejects of rejects, people who had wanted to join the Academy, but had failed some of the pre-requisites. Some do eventually manage to make the jump, but even fewer actually stayed, unable to withstand the intensity of the Academy.

That is why Jayken is widely regarded as the special one amongst many special ones. He is tough, but fair; calculating, but calm; ruthless, but friendly. Those are very uncommon characteristics to be found within a single person, let alone one who desires to become a soldier for the Federation. As a result, he has been put on one of the fast-track programmes, intended to speed up the graduation of super soldiers to help with the war effort.

So was this dude here.

Jayken stepped gingerly towards the centre circle. The guy pulled back the strands of hair covering his forehead; if he were to fall out from the Academy, he’d be one of the major teen idols without much effort. His green eyes is radiant with intensity, but that betrays nothing more than his inexperience.

Jayken immediately rocketed off his feet, using his knee to aim for the guy’s head. That shot was parried, but that’s OK, for his left knee simultaneously came up to score a similar hit. The stranger parried that one too, with both arms actually managing to hold on to his knees mid-air. Jayken brought his hands, and bopped him around the head, ringing the guy’s ears long enough for him to release his grip of the knees. Falling exactly how he had intended it to be, he crouched and swiveled on his heel at the same time, sweeping the guy’s legs off the floor.

Well, that was the plan. The guy jumped with both legs, while his hands are still holding on to his ear. That hit should have affected his balance, but he showed no signs of it as he spread his legs and immediately caught Jayken’s head with the inner thighs. Jayken realised the hurricanna attempt, but had no time to react to. The stranger, with Jayken's head clamped tightly between his thighs, arched backwards and flipped Jayken up, bringing him overhead as he did so, and slamming him, back-first, into the ground.

The next thing Jayken knew was the guy being pulled off him, with his arm raised in victory. “Winner!”

The hall fell silent, not knowing how to react. Jayken got to his feet quickly, even though his body protested. He threw a glare at the guy, but softened it once he realised the contest was truly over. He had lost, fair and square, to a better opponent. These moments are rare, and these are the moments that should be remembered, so that they shall not be repeated.

“Congrats, man,” said Jayken, removing his handpad and extending his grip. The stranger pulled his hair back once again, immediately after removing his own handpad, and gripped Jayken’s outstretched hand with his own. “That was pretty good.”

“Thanks.” The grip was harder than Jayken had thought it would be; his own grip was naturally strong, but this guy is…something else. He released Jayken’s hand and turned to walk away.

“Hey,” Jayken couldn’t help but raise. The guy turned slightly, his face half-shadowed by the warm lights above. “Jayken.”

There was a pause, a moment to be sure, nothing more, but it felt longer than that. “Kye.”

And with that, he turned back, and left.

*Read Galaxy: Red Mist.
*Read Galaxy: Room With A View.
*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.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Dahei


We laid in bed together, looking over some of the videos that she had loaded on Youtube. She had previously talked about how some of her friends had received these videos; it feels as if more than half of our conversations are about television shows and films. She has a keen eye for both, and we’re not just talking about being a Gleek or watching films just because Johnny Depp is in it.

Her mother popped her head into the room. “I’m leaving now,” she said. I got out of bed, and went over to her, my body bent halfway as I reached for both of her hands and gripped them tightly. I brought my forehead down to her hands, and then straightened myself. Most of the Koreans I’ve done this to finds it somewhat disconcerting, interestingly enough, so I don’t do it as often. With Dahei’s mom, however, it is a different story. I love and respect her as much as anyone, and the feeling’s mutual. “No, Fikri,” she said just a few days earlier, when I had offered to pay her for putting me up for the few days. “It’s OK. You’re like a son to me.”

We said our goodbyes, as I would be departing that night, and then she left for work. I got back in bed with Dahei, and we spent the next hour or so in the same fashion. We had not had the opportunity to do that very much, for a variety of reasons. Now that my departure is impending, time is precious. We both felt it, wondering when the next time we meet would be.

Pretty soon, the time came for me to leave. I could not hold it off any longer, so we left her house. She accompanied me to the bus stop, where the airport limousine would pass by. We spent quite a while standing there, waiting for the bus that should have come, but didn’t. We killed more time talking more and more about the genius of Tina Fey, but then I realised that waiting for another hour or so for the bus would prove to be somewhat fatal. It was cold, and uncomfortable for the both of us. More to the point, I would miss my flight, which would have disastrous consequences.

Dahei was the one who had insisted that everything would be OK. She said so since I had returned. I did not want to let up, because I wanted everything to be perfect. I wanted to settle my mother and sister’s accommodations, as well as sort out the issues related to my graduation. It was a holiday, but it could only be one once certain requirements were met.

She felt differently. Not for the first time, it should be said, but such things are always as subjective as they can be, right? There are many ways to skin a cat, and they are many ways things could and would pan out. In hindsight, she and I were both right and wrong at the same time. That was the nature of our relationship, and it appeared to continue even after we’re not involved anymore.

In this case, however, she got the time wrong. The bus did not come, and I hurriedly grabbed a taxi. For once, I haggled; I did not have as much cash on me as I had wanted, but fortunately, one of the taxis agreed to take me all the way to the airport.

I threw my bags into the boot, and slammed the cover down. Then I turned to her. I can still see her, somewhat, with that huge, oversized orange scarf fashionably draped around her neck. She stood there looking at me as the cars, the people, the world around us swirled in concert, reminding us that time is nearly up.

She said sorry. I said I’m sorry too. It wasn’t just for the limousine, but everything. I hugged her, holding her close to me, and then I left her.

That would be the last time I would ever see her.

Youn Dahei passed away a few days ago. She came into my life at a time when I was still shell-shocked and shattered by the failure of my previous relationship, hitting me at the worst time possible. She gave me the confidence and the strength to gather the broken pieces of my heart and put them back together again.

We are no longer together, but like all the people I have loved and love, I still keep a part of her with me in my heart. It wasn’t the same thing, and probably never will be again, but I do care, love and cherish her in my own ways. Even now, I find myself being so sad, yet I’m unable to cry. I feel my heart squeezing itself in so many ways, but I couldn’t quite let my feelings out. I don’t know what had happened, exactly, but hearing her mother’s sobs on the phone deterred me from asking her further.

I may have lost someone dear to me, but her parents lost their only child.

I am writing this because I want the world to know that there once a girl named Dahei, who took a broken shell of a man and made him believe again.

There once was a girl named Dahei, who had big dreams of making documentaries that could change the world.

There once was a girl named Dahei, who I had loved deeply with all my heart and more.

Rest in peace, Dahei. I love you.