Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Tube


I flicked through the channels from one to the next. Each press of the button on the remote brought with it further groans, internally at least. None of this is truly getting my interest. Somehow it feels like the more we have, the less we have. A reification of paradox more concrete by the day.

I catch a quick flick of Hugh Jackman, though. This is good, I thought to myself. I always have time for the Jack Man, and I always have time for X-Men. I am eager awaiting the next installment, which is already released as it is. Days of Future Past seems to be an interesting combination of many of the best things from the X-Men films.

He was being interviewed by Jaymee Ong. She's a lovely looking girl, and host of the show Ebuzz. Recently, Jackman and a few of the others stars of the show made their way down to Singapore for the film's premiere, and she managed to snare the job of chatting with them about the film.

The conversation ambled on comfortably enough, with a few witty remarks exchanged here and there. That's to be expected, though, since the majority of these film stars have learned to do these things very well (though probably none as well as Mila Kunis saying she'll go to a Watford football match. That was golden).

Peter Dinklage was up next, and a similar process was repeated. The third interview was most interesting, though, for it was with Fan Bingbing, the Chinese actress. I immediately watched with greater interest, the hair at the back of my neck metaphorically standing.

She asked the question in English, and Fan responded in Mandarin (possibly; my brain can't really tell apart the differences as accurately as I really want to). The next moment was interesting, for it was a reaction shot of Jaymee, and though she was still smiling, she seemed incredibly uncomfortable. I don't know what she was thinking at the time, but I'd hazard a guess she thought about how she probably should have picked up a language a lot closer to home.

I wondered whether she was brought up somewhere overseas or something, or maybe she was simply surrounded by non-native languages that helped code her understanding the world. Simply put, if you're going to be surrounded by English or by Mandarin or by Bahasa Malaysia…what are you going to do?

The pie, however, was completely splattered on my face after the event, as I Googled a little more to find out about her. As it turns out, she was born and bred in Australia, before moving to Singapore to find fame and fortune (so to speak; I've never heard of her). As such, it is reasonable to expect her to not know Mandarin or any of the other Chinese dialects.

This, then, is the lesson. It is incredibly difficult to judge someone based on what we may or may not think their race is or is not. It happens almost naturally, perhaps a lot more than it should do, but it does happen. In many respects, there is nothing wrong with judging in that regard, but we should realise that such impressions and judgments should also be highly contextualised and fluid.

The tube, then, is probably what I should get. Being without television for a long time has changed my viewing habits, ensuring that while I paradoxically watch more television shows, I was watching only the things that I wanted or needed to watch (some for fun, some for work). My ability to recast my own thoughts and ideals about modern day society is therefore more limited than before, cutting off a lot of the potential food for thought at its source. For example, I am no fan of such celebrity-driven channels or shows, but every once in a while, getting a peek into something we are not all that familiar with may help to broaden our horizons.

The broadening of horizons. There are many different ways of doing that. One can be by way of shifting into new positions, taking up new perspectives on the same thing. Another is to go beyond, to travel into the unknown; our scope may still be identical, but, aimed as it were in new directions, we're looking at new things. Probably the best thing to do is both, or perhaps there is a fourth, more nuclear option as yet unconsidered.

Things change. Perspectives change. People change. Times change. The television, the tube that helps to reify, solidify and deify certain perceptions into strong and concrete stereotypes, may yet be our savior in that regard.

Anyways, sorry Jaymee.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Landon


It’s a bit of a shock to wake up to.

In announcing the 23-man roster for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann has seen fit to select players he think will do the business down in South America. That is his right, and it has been since 2011. His approach has been revolutionary in nature, and his search for the right players for the World Cup has uprooted plenty of trees everywhere.

However, I did not think it would extend to the uprooting of one of the mainstays of the national team over the past decade or so, Landon Donovan.

Though I may not necessarily be classified as a hardcore follower of football in America (the foot-with-the-ball kind), my interest in the league has steadily increased over a number of years. The efforts taken to establish new teams, traditions and players were very interesting to note on a critical level, and comparisons to other sports and franchises within the very saturated American sports context is an eye-opener worth analysing.

It helps that the presence of a number of players such as David Beckham, Thierry Henry and Rafael Marquez has been migrating there. The United States have a great tradition of exporting players overseas with great success, but recently, the bigger news have been the homecomings of established American names such as Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey, amongst others. More interesting on an imagined-communities level has been the integration of semi-Americans such as Mix Diskerud and Julian Green (more on him later).

However, the main constant used as an equaliser for all these players and teams have been one man and one man only: Landon Donovan.

An attacking player of great quality and courage, he has largely settled at Los Angeles Galaxy for nearly ten years. It has not always been smooth sailing for Donovan, and to the larger audience, he is probably more known for his supposed failures as much as anything else.

He actually started his career in Germany with Bayer Leverkusen, but though he were to have two bites of the German cherry with both Bayer and Bayern Munich (the latter an opportunity granted through the then-Bayern coach, Jurgen Klinsmann), he didn’t quite manage to settle. Further stints in the Major League Soccer (MLS) with San Jose Earthquakes and Los Angeles Galaxy allowed him to flower in more favourable surroundings.

However, the bottom line on his actual level of consistent of performance as a player remains murky, given that MLS, then and now, is not considered by many as the benchmark of high quality football. That’s a bit of a misnomer, given the great strides the league has made over the years, but a hint of that accusation remains true. For my part, Donovan proved that he has the quality to perform after two loan stints with Everton, as well as more than matching David Beckham during his stay in Los Angeles.

Of course, that was some years ago. What of the present? The situation is that Jurgen Klinsman is taking with him attackers such as Jozy Altidore, Dempsey, Aron Johannsson and Chris Wondolowski. They are players of great quality in different ways. Many observers may be swayed by Altidore’s lack of goals in the Premier League, but a year playing in England’s top flight is not to be sniffed at when it comes to toughening players up.

Johannsson and Wondowlowski’s great form in the Dutch and American leagues are good to rely on, while no complaints can be made about Clint Dempsey; Donovan might not have signed permanently with a European team since 2005, but Clint just can’t help himself, even signing back for Fulham on loan near the end of this season after returning to America at the tail end of last year. In this, I think it is probably Donovan’s break from the sport for four months recently that took its toll. Given that he is 31 years old now, his tournament-saving goal against Algeria in 2010 may well have been his swansong on the world stage.

Instead of the United States record goalscorer (Donovan has scored over fifty goals for the men's national team), Klinsmann has opted to take in his squad the appropriately-named novice, Julian Green of Bayern Munich. Highly thought of in Bavaria, his inclusion is probably a kind of insurance for the future, given that he has yet to make a competitive appearance for the Americans.

In place of the face of American football, then, Klinsmann has picked a player, however prodigiously talented, with only five minutes of top flight first team football in his professional career thus far. Theo Walcott’s selection for England in the 2006 World Cup was even more extreme (no senior appearances for Arsenal at the time), though the argument could be made that experiences such as his and Ronaldo’s at the 1994 World Cup have played decisive parts in their careers since then.

Nevertheless, this risk-taking has built a bit of a rod for his back. Klinsmann has taken as big a risk as any, sacrificing the past for the present in his bid to secure the future, in the Group of Death against Germany, Portugal and Ghana.

For the sake of all three men and the team, I hope he is successful.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Human


“The truth of the matter is, everybody tends to reduce or expand things to a level that they understand. Two people can look at the same thing, they don’t necessarily see the same thing. Whatever happens on the screen really comes out of you. There’s no formula.”

Gordon Willis, cinematographer

****


Karpal Singh. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Gordon Willis. These are the passing of peoples who, over the past few days, weeks and months, have caused very significant outpourings of grief both in and out of the media.

 In times like this, it seems like more and more people are dying. Of course, that’s probably not really the case. I suspect that it’s a mere matter of increased media exposure that such news hit home a lot more often, I suppose.

We are constantly surrounded by the media, and often there is an agenda in the reporting of such news. However, when it comes to someone’s death, it is really quite difficult to spin it any other way.

On a minor, personal level, I am somewhat affected by their passing. Each of them, and many others before them, have played an important role in the formation of my consciousness, engaging with me through the works and important roles they have carried out over the course of their careers and lives.

However, it is not entirely uncommon either for there to be a party pooper to pop in and break up the moment. Many have indicated that when Steve Jobs died, entire continents and nations stopped to mourn the passing of one man, while most probably did not even raise a finger at the death of undernourished children in poor countries all over the world.

Those with a more specific agenda points out that many of the disenfranchised of the Palestinian cause, for example, rarely merits little more than a small mention, if even that.

I suppose on that level, I can see where they’re coming from. Each and every life is vital and important in its own ways. A person’s birth into the world is taken almost for granted, but the conceiving of a human being and the subsequent efforts taken to raise them as well as can be should be not looked at dimly.

However, is the amount of coverage (or lack of it) any indication on the importance of life? I am not entirely sure. I think it is natural that when people die, it is those who are most affected who will mobilise themselves in different ways to grieve and to mourn.

In the case of Steve Jobs, he passed away, leaving behind a legacy of important innovations that literally changed the way a significant proportion of the world works. Though we have never met him, our lives have been greatly impacted by the works of Mr Jobs.

The same, unfortunately, can’t be said of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I have written previously of his importance to me on a deeper level, but I am not entirely surprised that most of my immediate friends have probably not even been aware of him.

It’s a little disappointing when that happens, to be honest, but in line with more realistic expectations, I didn’t really think things would occur the way I truly want them to. As it stands, it’s fine. Colombia and Mexico held public events to commemorate him, and that is a fine mark of the impact he had made. Those in the know will know.

The proximity of our involvement is no real indication of the importance of any given person. We are all important and special in our own ways, and I think it’s just fair to allow those who are greatly affected to mourn in whatever way they want without realigning the contexts to serve a different, perhaps more political end.

Gordon Willis shot quite a number of important films in my own film education. He is most often praised for the Godfather films, which my cinematographer had waxed lyrical about. However, I am perhaps just as equally impressed with his work on Zelig; shooting and lighting the different Woody Allens throughout the time periods and events can’t have been all that easy, and yet the transition and integration of the character into the different scenes seemed quite seamless in class.

My respect for him went up when I tried to replicate something similar in another project, which proved to be difficult as hell (and I had a fair amount of digital help and expertise as well).

May he rest in peace.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Labels


It seems like almost every day the name of Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) is being presented in the media one way or another. It’s quite clear what the agenda may be at times, and for the most part, I just sit back and listen.

However, in a write up by Robert Chaen entitled A Tale of Two Universities, there are a couple of discrepancies and factors I feel he failed to consider that should be adressed here. It’s published by The Malaysian Insider, so you can check it out if you wish. In that piece, he basically used the time-tested classic of selective anecdotes to peddle a fairly incomplete and inaccurate picture, in comparing students from University Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) and UiTM.

The first thing I have an issue with is the tendency to use the term Bumiputera and Malay almost as if they are one and the same. He may or may not know this, but they are not always the same thing. Officially speaking, a Malay is considered a Bumiputera, but it does not mean that a Bumiputera is a Malay. It is the bigger umbrella under which Malays come, but it is not the same. I am personally against such specific identifications, but that is a part of the reality we have to deal with on a day to day basis, and he has a responsibility of getting this fact right.

Moving forward, to a certain extent, it is not untrue that a large number of Bumiputeras and Malays are interested in attending universities with a larger segment of their own kind. However, this has to be looked at in a more critical fashion. There’s a difference between those who wish to stick with their own race or group (more on this later), and those who wish to stay away from others. I do agree that this can have its disadvantages in many ways (eventual lack of familiarity with others, for example), but it is not always malicious in nature.

The tendency to stick with what you know arises from a number of different factors, and a part of it is to feel comfortable. This manifests itself in a number of different ways, and one of them is to basically stick with what you know. The people whose prayers patterns will be largely the same as yours. Those who speak the same language in the same way as you. Those who share the same kinds of accumulated cultural capital for you to discuss with.

A brief foray into any university will reveal this to be true. A lot of the time, such divisions are made along racial lines. Going beyond that, there are other factors such as the socio-economic class, linguistic ability, and even nationality. At UiTM, students from Borneo have a tendency of sticking closer together for a number of reasons. At the very least, they make the effort to know who is from their home states or towns.

Even in private institutions, such divisions occur. Indonesians make up the biggest percentile of the foreign student population at Monash University Malaysia, but most of them have a tendency of only hanging out with other Indonesian students. A similar statement could be made for the Australian exchange students.

I must stress that these does not encompass all the students there. There will always be exceptions to the rule, but I do feel this observation should be considered if one is to look at discrimination in universities in more detail. People may want to look at universities like Monash, Sunway or UTAR (maybe) as bastions of international exposure and such, but while it is not entirely untrue, just like everything else it is not always the complete truth either.

He also fails to completely mention the different objectives and natures of these two very different institutions. Yes, both are places of education and such, but there are very significant differences, and one of the biggest difference is the the private/public divide.

Someone entering a public university for their education only has to pay a relatively small amount for the privilege of their stay there. Removing all the other costs, tuition fees can sometimes amount to a few hundred ringgit in some cases. Of course, I say relatively small amount, but this can be a cost and a burden for some others; what can be a troublesome amount for some is drinking money on a Friday night at Lust for others.

Someone entering a private university, however, will not be able to get past the gates with a few hundred ringgit. He or she will not even be able to enter the class with four figures. Private education in Malaysia can be exorbitantly expensive, and it gets incrementally more expensive every year. When I studied at Monash a decade ago, it costs 50% less than it does now. People may have to pay five figures (and above, if you’re doing the science/engineering based courses) to have a chance to enter these universities now.

Of course, he was talking about UTAR in his article, and not Monash University. In the comment section, he replied saying that the kinds of families who attend such universities are of a higher income category, and that is a factor , which made me wonder how much it costs to actually attend UTAR. According to their website, a Bachelor of Journalism in Chinese Media(!) costs a minimum of RM35,000. I don't actually know whether this is for all three years of the programme or just for one year of the programme. The Monash website is clearer, and a similar programme there costs RM31,000 a year.

Whatever the figures may be, the majority of students don’t pay for the costs of their own undergraduate degrees. There we find a more instructive factor to consider: class.

When someone graduates from a certain university, plaudits and praise are showered upon them. You have done it! You are now a…Monash grad. A Sunway grad. A UiTM grad. Well done to all! You go out, get a job, work, do well, and other people will think, “Well, he/she did very well there! Monash/Sunway/UM/UiTM prepare their students well.” On the flip side of that, the university will also get a fair amount of blame if the students don’t do well, but that depends as well.

I believe in this case, the family is the one who should be given as much credit as the university, if not more so. Of course, every once in a while, an outsider gatecrashes this party, but the fact remains that a very large proportion of private university students come from families who do not have to worry about where their next meal comes from.

There is nothing wrong with this, of course, but it is an important factor in the development of a person. Someone from that context may have already grown up with books by William Shakespeare, John Grisham and others on their bookshelves. They may have learned and studied in environments where English has been used extensively, to the point where it becomes second nature. They may have internet connections fast enough to the point where streaming full episodes of The Daily Show, further inculcating in them various methods of critical thinking as well as topping up on a dollop of the trendy American culture considered to be the standard, is possible.

As such, the students who are already entering Monash University, Sunway University, and, yes, UTAR, are already somewhat equipped by their family to begin with. This foundation is important, and for the university to be given sole credit for a graduate is a fallacy of the mind.

At public universities, it may be more varied. Yes, to put it bluntly, there are some poor people here. There are also some rich people here. There are some who are in between. The wide variety of cultural capital brought to the table here can be very interesting and challenging at the same time.

Some may not read. Some may read, but only certain kinds of novels. Others coule be experts in reading and writing (one student at our faculty has completed a bunch of critically acclaimed novels that’s commercially available). They may not have Shakespeare on their bookshelves…but they may have Usman Awang. They probably have not heard of Gabriel Garcia Marquez…but they've read A. Samad Said’s Adik Datang a few times (as an aside, I believe the title of A Tale of Two Universities is more than just a nod towards Charles Dickens. Somewhat ironic, then, that he failed to consider the element of class more critically in his article).

There is a difference, then, in the language, cultural capital, and perhaps more importantly, value attached to them. Who are we to say that these are books not worth reading, or things not worth knowing about? A lot of them may have problems constructing sentences in English, but when it comes to Bahasa Malaysia…good lord, at times, I have been incredibly moved by some of their writings. I often tell them that they should consider publishing some of it. A lot of them don’t, because they have been shaped to belief that the pursuit of such ideals are not…well, ideal. I suspect a number of my students from Monash and Sunway may also have issues should they be forced to write in the national language. Just like any one of us when we are supposed to communicate in a medium we are not familiar with.

And therein lies the conundrum. There is a gap here between the value we attach to Western culture and the value we attach to our own culture. Elif Shafak, a Turkish writer, pinpoints this eloquently in her TED Talk. On an academic level, this has proven to be somewhat problematic, because across the board, people have been told that they need to adapt to the outside world, rather than consider how much of what they already know is valuable in some respects. Failure to adapt to this results in low marks, and many takes this to mean that they are stupid. Your English is not good enough, so you won't get this job. This and that and blah blah blah.

That is the greatest fallacy of our education system, as much as I can tell of it. We attach labels like UiTM, UTAR, Monash and Sunway and expect this to be enough. We set English as the standard, Shakespeare as the standard, Marquez as the standard, Spielberg as the standard, without truly considering the claims of Usman Awang, A. Samad Said, and U-Wei Haji Shaari. Those who do not conform to this are considered as failures. There is a mismatch between what they know, and what we think they need to know, but the existence of this gap is no automatic need to label them as stupid or incompetent.

It is an incredibly difficult thing to judge, and therefore incredibly difficult to decide. We approach this whole thing as if they are all one and the same, and yet people don’t take into consideration how variety in terms of their background, history, culture and knowledge can be expressed. Bumiputera is one label, but orang Melayu dari Kelantan dan orang Kadazan dari Sabah are very, very different.

At the university stage, educators play a critical role, of course, to further develop the student. How much the student develops, though, is largely dependent the family and the students themselves. We educators play an important role, but we are essentially building upon something that has already been established. It means that what comes out at the end of the three or four years of their undergraduate studies will be very different. Some will have maximised the opportunities presented, others will have pissed them away.

The difference at the end of the day will be the students themselves. I don’t know why, but people have a tendency of conflating students into one and the same. Monash students are like this, UiTM students are like that.

I will focus on UiTM, because I feel that such analyses are usually done by those not entirely familiar with how UiTM works, and the sheer breadth of the university itself. Simply put, there are many different faculties teaching many different kinds of courses to very different kinds of students. There are over 20 faculties spread out however many campuses all over the country, employing different kinds of lecturers, professionals and experts of varying levels from a number of different fields. Some are great, some are shit.

The fact is it is incredibly difficult to take a graduate from these faculties and claim him or her to be the model UiTM student. Each and every single student is different in their outlook and perspective on things; there are students who are unable to truly express themselves through unfamiliar discourses, then there are students who break down the walls and prove people wrong many times over.

It is instructive to look at the faculties in more detail. Law students, for example, have a propensity of greater and more critical expressions of the self. From my own faculty, I would expect the theatre students to shout you down (and come up with a dance while they’re at it) if ever you claim them to be incompetent simply because they are from UiTM. Of course, these are only from the faculties I am aware of, though, and again, I am basing this on the smidgen of experience I have with them.

One such experience was debating. The UiTM law students are consistently amongst the best in the country, and tend to do fairly well on the international stage as well. I have debated with them previously during my undergraduate days at Monash University, where they wiped the floor with us, and I have a strong hunch that the debaters from UiTM won’t have much trouble finding jobs.

From the film faculty, there are also students who have done well outside. A number has been praised by them whenever I meet people from the industry. Beyond the film industry, others have done works not-related to their actual degree as well. I know for a fact that one student, who completed her creative writing diploma studies under me, did her part-time work with the Berjaya Group.

She did her job very well indeed, to the point where she was doing the jobs of others, translating from and into…Bahasa Malaysia. “They’re Malaysians, and they can’t even speak Bahasa Malaysia!” she exclaimed during lunch some time ago. As much as it's great for students to pick up a number of different languages, I can't think of other places in the world where people make deliberate efforts to not improve their grasp of the main language in their own home country. I suspect this is true of quite a lot of students, but again, it would be very tricky to apply accurately enough.

We can sit here, share anecdotes and try to prove who is more right. If anything, the variety of anecdotes used for different reasons suggests one thing: that there is no one single truth to this. As much as there are students who do me proud, there are also a number of others who make me metaphorically tear my hair out.

That happens everywhere. In every single place there are students who do not do all that well. There are students who excel, scoring top marks every semester, and then there are those who only turn up for the exams. There are those who you have no worries about whatsoever (even when they themselves worry like hell about their assignments), and there are those who you wonder what will happen once they graduate.

Every student, every place, is different.

UiTM, UTAR, Monash, Islam, Christian, Bumiputera, Melayu, Cina, and more. Much, much more. There are all labels that can, in very specific contexts, be useful for the use of critical discussions, but in the end, they do very little to advance issues in a positive way.

Robert Chaen can only speak from his experience, as can any one of us, and many of his points are worth considering. However, I feel that his perspective is not as complete and as true to the day-to-day reality of what these students are like.

More to the point, it does not do justice to merely work with labels such as the above. The more I teach, the more I realise how useless such terms are, and that we have to consider each and every one of them as the human beings they are. At the very least, they deserve nothing less than that.

To paraphrase the Nelson Mandela quote from his article, education is indeed a powerful weapon, and it's about time we use it properly for more constructive reasons.

Ryan


Until last summer, Ryan Giggs had an enviable record that very few people ever in the history of world football had.

 It is somewhat related to him being a one-club man, but that is not that exclusive a club. The likes of Tony Adams, Paolo Maldini and Francesco Totti, amongst a number of others, are players who fall into this category. They were brought through from their team’s youth systems, and grew to captain their side. More than that, they were symbols for the movements, the forces of nature, their respective teams eventually became at some point or another.

However, given the very fluid nature of the manager in the hotseat, they did not manage to challenge Ryan Giggs on the record I am talking about here. It is not the fact that he literally became the most decorated player on almost all the statistical fronts you can think of, or that he has maintained his footballing career with little football-related issues you can think of off the pitch. Of course, in non-football-related matters, though, there are some issues that happened that I won’t run through. Sad, though, that.

No, it is the fact that he had spent his entire playing career at one club under one manager.

The reign of Sir Alex Ferguson had brought a lot of success to Manchester United at a time when success wasn’t the given right we had come to think of in recent seasons. It is only recently that Manchester United can truly claim to be one of the biggest clubs in the world.

Even when they won the Treble at the end of the last millennium, they were still not seen on the same levels as Real Madrid, Barcelona or Juventus, amongst others. The fact remains that Manchester United was a competitive team, certainly on the domestic stage, but to reach such levels is to actually reach such levels; I feel that it is only from the start of the mid-noughties onwards, when Ferguson and co overcame the likes of rouble-powered Chelsea on a more consistent basis. Up until that time, many of the biggest names in world football were more likely to turn us down than they did others.

Nevertheless, this is not necessarily meant as an analysis of the rise (and subsequent fall) of Manchester United. This is more of a tribute towards a player I had readily identified as my favourite player of all time.

I feel that his best years as a player, and especially as a winger, occurred during the mid- to late-nineties. In particular, his slalom past the Bolton Wanderers right back to cross for Terry Cooke’s goal was delicious. This was during the 1995/96 season, and of course there are many other moments Ryan has provided us with that is just as, if not more memorable than a routine home win against Bolton.

However, it is the way the camera is positioned, capturing perfectly his posture as he twisted one way and then the next. Sometimes, it is not just the football on offer, but how this offer is presented to us. Perhaps another time, I can dig into how we have all been conditioned to watch football in a very specific way by the television directors of these matches.

For now, though, this is an imperfect post, written off the cuff, about a player and a personality who is significant in my own appreciation of football, which has been a huge part of my own life. Then again, what kind of words can we use to truly describe a player who has served Manchester United and the game that is football so well for over twenty years at the very top?

I suppose in that sense, whatever post and words I can come up with will not be enough. For now, though, this will have to do.

Thank you, Ryan, for all the wonderful memories. Here’s to many more.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Dyana


With her fresh appearance, good looks and a fairly strong background, Dyana Sofya has appeared almost from nowhere to become a catalyst for a kind of change in Malaysian politics.

What kind of change, though? I am currently reading a book, El Clasico, by Richard Fitzpatrick, detailing the rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona. This is a rivalry that has run for centuries, and one of the chapters is entitled 'Change is good…if it is for the better'.

It’s an obvious quote, and the fact that it appears in a football book renders it even less likely it will go down in history as one of its more significant remembrances. However, just because it is so obvious doesn’t make it any less true.

Previously, I had interacted with Dyana on Twitter. At the time, I was handling the Twitter account for my department, @WritingFiTA. This must have been around the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil. That tournament is usually held as a dry run for the World Cup proper, and it is, if you like, a closer examination of the host's capabilities of running an international-level tournament.

I guess they should also include, “the host’s ability to control its own people.” For it was during that tournament that there were huge public outcries against the Brazilian government. Disappointed that the promises of improvements in public infrastructure, amongst other things, to be brought about by the World Cup were not followed through, many Brazilians took to the streets to express their anger. I strongly recommend the work of Fernando Duarte, a Brazilian sports journalist whose articles provide more context on this.

It was the expression of these sentiments that Dyana made a point to mention. I believe at the time, she was handling the Twitter account for @Twt_UiTM, which I had followed, and through my faculty’s handle I made a point of countering hers. I rarely do this through my own handle; I decided long ago that I had wanted to maintain my personal handle for: a) professional purposes, and far more importantly, b) lame jokes.

Anyways, the point Dyana was making was of the bravery and courage of the Brazilians to rise against supposed tyranny and let the world know of their grievances, and how we as Malaysians have not done the same thing. I saw her point, especially with regards to the improvement of infrastructure for the public, such as transportation, but figured that a fairer comparison could have been made with more equal contexts in mind.

She mentioned of how many millions of ringgit had been wasted in a number of projects. In this case, I think a better side-by-side analysis would be the last time Malaysia hosted a proper international sporting event. As I recall, the 1998 Commonwealth Games is the closest example I can think of at the time. Further reflection reminded me that we also hosted the World Youth Cup in 1997, during which time the likes of David Trezeguet, Juan Roman Riquelme and…err, Damien Duff graced us with their presence and skills, even early on in their nascent careers.

Coming back to the point, the infrastructure whose progress was fast-tracked because of the Games included the building of a new national stadium and new modes of public transportation. A part of this was the Putra and Star LRT systems.

I have to admit, by this stage I wasn’t in the country much, so I was not able to judge the kinds of teething problems I am sure they faced when these projects were first implemented. By the time I came back for a holiday, all these things (including the Twin Towers, interestingly enough; was it built with the Games as a part of its objective too?) were just…there.

I can only judge it by what I saw, though. What I saw and still continue to see is…the infrastructure we had put in place specifically for the 1998 Commonwealth Games is still around in one form or another. As such, in this kind of comparison, I do believe that the government and its partners at the time as a whole does not look all that bad.

She didn’t agree with this method of assessment, though, which is her right. The mini tete-a-tete petered out as quickly as it had started, with both sides making its point and no one really interested in budging from their original position.

Anyways, that’s a pretty massive tangent to take to get to this point. Over the past few days, since she was confirmed as a political candidate of the Democratic Action Party (DAP), the amount of attention showered on her has been monumental. I regard myself as a political observer on the fringes, but I can’t recall this kind of attention being paid towards a newcomer to the Malaysian political scene. Feel free to correct me here.

Some have been quite complimentary, but others have been busy running their mouths and running her down before she has even started to jog in this race. The kinds of attack have been deplorable at times, with people chastising her mother for raising her to be who she is (if that's the case, I pity those whose parents would prioritse the United Malays National Organisation [UMNO] over them).

Others, even with better intentions in mind, have failed to look beyond her good looks. Yes, she is aesthetically pleasing on the eye, but come on, people! She's not the only one in the whole country. Quite frankly, you’d think that many of them have never seen a beautiful young lady before.

Far less surprisingly has been the involvement of the race factor. I said it’s not surprisingly, but I am still disappointed. Analysts have suggested that her race decided it for DAP, a group claiming to be multi-racial but still somewhat superficially dominated by members identifying themselves to be of some ethnic minority; as a part of a bid to portray a more multi image, Dyana has been selected to lead their charge in Teluk Intan.

Whether all these things are true or not, on a personal level this is my biggest fear: that a young, ambitious, qualified and capable Malaysian is being seen as anything but.

We know plenty of capable people in our personal and professional lives. I know quite a fair number who do plenty of good work both within and without government institutions. More to the point, I also know of plenty more people who can’t wait to leave the country. They have their reasons for doing so, but while I do not wish to knock them, it is these very people who have a bigger chance of doing something to change the nation should they wish to get involved.

Instead, they…don’t. They look further afield, to Australia, England and the United States. Nowadays, I gather the Republic of Korea is growing as a destination of choice for many Malaysians, too. Year by year, I see more and more people looking for little more than to escape the Malaysian and/or the government (i.e. they may stay in Malaysia, but working in the government? Probably not).

There are reasons that pull them away to other places, but it's more disappointing to see them acknowledge factors that pushes them away from Malaysia. Sometimes, it is a bit of a camouflage game going on (claiming to be sick of Malaysian politics while probably secretly desiring a life where they can make more money and not have to worry about khalwat, for example).

All this and other reasons and factors are to be considered as well, but the end result is that the kind of change we often talk about does not come as quickly and in the same way we want it to. With regards to power, we can debate whether it is given or taken. What seems certain is that those who are in power stay in power or become more powerful simply because others who could have challenged them in whatever way they can...decided they don’t want to.

Here, then, is another fact, and the only one that truly matters: Dyana Sofya is a young Malaysian who is capable of helping along this change many of us wish to see. Whether you agree with her or not, how many of us is capable of looking at her and seeing only and exactly that? Without taking into consideration her race, religion, alma mater, gender and other such genres?

The question then is probably not whether Dyana is ready to enter the dog eat dog world of Malaysian politics. I suppose the bigger question is whether we as Malaysians are ready to accept her as such.

Believe


I am waiting for the van to come and pick me up.

We are standing outside of the dormitory. There’s quite a number of the other foreign students here, but as such congregations tend to go, we are splintered off based on nationality and/or linguistic ability. Everyone here is here for one reason, though.

We are all waiting for the van.

Soon enough, the van turns up, and my coordinator, Jinim, is already waiting inside. She is a nice lady who tries her best to sort out things for all us foreign students here at the university; at the last count, there are around 80 students from outside of Korea who are enrolled into a number of different programmes here. That can’t be an easy job.

She does, however, have a habit of disappearing at certain times when some of the students need her most. But hey, I suppose I do that too every once in a while. I call it my Batman act, and the people in my office have exasperated to no avail in the changing of this act. It is nice to disappear into the cave sometimes.

That, however, is another story for another day. Today, though, the van we have been waiting for is finally here.

****

We all step into the place, knowing it well enough like the back of some of our hands. It is a bright, warm and cheery church. It’s nothing more than a few floors in a shoplot, but they do a good job with what they have.

In the earlier days, I had visited this church on a more regular basis. Upon arriving in Korea, I was picked up by a member of this very church, a friend of Jinim who had asked him as a favour to pick up this dude from Malaysia. On the ride from the airport, he was friendly and very active in trying to push Christianity on to me, perhaps even more so after I told him I am in Korea to study films and filmmaking.

“Passion of the Christ…what a great movie,” he exhorted at the time. “Yeah,” I started, “but in Malaysia, Muslims weren’t allowed to watch that film freely at the cinema.” What followed was a long explanation about how that situation came about, and I am sure, even for a normal Korean Joe (or Park, maybe) like himself, who are used to dealing with complex issues in complex ways (nuclear-armed neighbour on the doorstep, anyone?), was somewhat perplexed by it.

His name wasn’t Joe, though. His name is Peter. Today, the church is sending Peter off on a missionary trip to Vietnam, where he and his family will be settling down for the next few years, helping out the poor with a healthy dollop of effort, financial aid and spiritual guidance. The leader of the church, a smart and portly man whose name escapes me at the time of writing, starts to talk about the value of Peter’s work and those of others. As is the custom, the first sermon is in Korean, while the second is in English. I suppose this is because of the foreigners in attendance.

The content of both is not usually the same. For today, in the first sermon, he speaks of how the help granted by them will ultimately aid them to bigger and better things on the national scale. Here, a word about how the economic might of a certain group is strongly linked towards the strength of their faith in the lord, Jesus Christ. There, a list of countries considered by them to be poor for a number of reasons. He mentions Cambodia, but no word on our Arab brothers. That will probably contradict him on some level, I suppose. He goes on talking like this for some minutes.

I turn to Yong Sean. He is another Malaysian on scholarship at the university. He has been here far longer than me, and as such has had a bigger chance to sharpen up his Korean a lot more. He is a good friend who had taken the time to help me out when I first arrived here. I should drop him a line or two one of these days. For now, though, he turns to look at me, and that look merely confirmed what I think I had understood.

It’s a fairly condescending worldview to take, though it is not without its own set of evidence. This can easily be countered with a number of other things, but of course, now is not really the time or place for that.

For now, we’ll just sit and listen. Later, I’ll get my ttok. It’s a great tasting Korean snack and I am without shame in admitting this to be one of the reasons I (initially) come to this church for their afternoon gatherings every once in a while.

****

Steven ambles over to meet me. It has been a while. Though all the members of the church were very friendly, he is one of the friendlier ones, who constantly make time to ensure we are all doing alright.

Many of the church members have availed themselves to us, passing around their numbers for us to contact whenever we have the need to. I can’t recall ever doing that, but a number of the other students have utilised this to great effect. Usually it is some basic translation work that needs doing over the phone, perhaps something along the lines of “I don’t understand what this policeman is saying” or something like that.

Somewhere, Ridhuan Tee is orgasming himself in delight, probably taking this as the strong example of Christianisation he is talking about. At least, he might have done if he knows about this.

We talk for a while, Steven and I. I dig into my ttok. All around us, everyone else is mingling and having a decent time. A number of the juniors, those who came in a bit later than we did, are sitting around the tables with their Korean friends, who are helping them with some basic Korean homework and such. That’s another good thing they are doing.

Steven asks me about a recent international incident involving some Muslims. For the life of me, I can’t remember what it might have been. For some reason, Muslims have been branded as the same, one and all, and for many people, however educated they might have been, logic and reason goes out of the window in this never ending search for justice.

It includes the questioning of random Muslims. Of course, I am not at all suggesting that Steven is trying to lynch me or whatever (sometimes I wonder whether I should stop a random Korean in the street and say, “GET THAT SUICIDAL THOUGHT OUT OF YOUR HEAD, MR KIM!”, before continuing on with my journey). His line of questioning, while still friendly, suggests strongly that he expects me to defend the acts of people I don’t know from places I don’t really care about. This was way before Osama bin Laden was killed, so it might have been a bombing or another incident somewhere, I don’t know.

I trot out the usual, about how, while the world might have gone along with that particular marketing trick, the fact remains that Islam and Muslims are not the same things, and what people claiming to be Muslims might do may not be exactly the same as what Islam itself promotes.

He suggests that I make a film to promote better universal ideals. His eyes waver slightly, indicating that his attention level is not where it probably should be; I remember thinking what it was he wanted me, a Malaysian whose country has generally been very inoffensive on the international stage to the point of near-insignificance, to say. I blurt out something about socio-political factors that should be taken into consideration, as well as the different ways in which religion has been (re)appropriated for a variety of different purposes, but by now it is clear that he is not all that interested in my answer anymore.

Perhaps he just wanted to make some small talk. Hmm. I ask him whether he saw Girl’s Generation’s latest video, Oppa. He hadn’t the chance, he says. You should, I mention him. It’s great. For all the right and wrong reasons.

****

The above is not an attempt to portray all Koreans, all Christians and all human beings as one and the same. It is merely a flawed recollection of what happened a number of years ago, years during which time I experienced many different kinds of challenges in my life.

Some of this has included spiritual challenges. There were times when I did not really turn to God as much as I probably should have. I did, however, end up reading more of the Qur’an in a language I completely understood while those who were intent with the deification of their own discourses surrounded me.

There were people who were like me, and people who weren’t. I found people who surprised me, and people who confirmed some of my own thoughts and hypothesis.

In the end, though, the fact remains that each and every one of us faces challenges on a daily basis, however big or small they may be. In such times, I do believe that falling back on what we know, and holding on to the very principles that we have studied and learned is important.

There will always be people who want to push unto us their own agenda. Sometimes, it makes sense, and sometimes, it does not. This is where we have to use our own brains to decide as to how much of this bullshit that we’ve been fed on a daily basis by our friends, imams, teachers, the media and national leaders are actually true. I believe that God gave us this gift for a reason. Might as well use it.

****

Ridhuan Tee is right and wrong both at the same time. He has publicly claimed that Muslims should infiltrate churches to have a better understanding of what Christians truly say about Muslims in such enclosed environments.

That would actually be an interesting exercise; I do feel that even with all the crap flying around in the different forms of mediated ‘discussions’, we have yet to truly see and feel and know for a fact what other groups truly think of us. Just as I am sure the likes of Mr Tee and his friends have plenty to say at the mamak, I am also convinced that with different contexts, different agendas are brought to the fore.

Unfortunately, it is not all that likely we are able to set much of our own feet into churches as freely nowadays. The way society has developed both by and of itself has not allowed for such acts to be perpetrated, which is a sad indication not only of those who lead from above but also those who take the charge from the ground.

I used to laugh about how the Christian groups at KDU College and Monash University used to promote their events with the big words, “All are welcome!” Of course, that’s before you notice the tiny little asterisk that followed it: “Non-Muslims only.” These are the so-called educated people we’re talking about. That itself is yet another post for another day, but whatever it is, it is not as open as it probably used to be (though that depends on the romantic tint with which we view the past; it could well be that such tensions already existed from way back when).

Was my own experience a form of Christianisation? Maybe, maybe not. I’m inclined to believe that it’s just a group of people who have an agenda they want to be accepted on some level by many people, but you can apply that to pretty much everyone. I have no doubt that Christians try to convert people to the high heavens. I also have no doubt that Muslims, Jews, Hindus and many others, in their own ways, have very similar objectives carried out in very similar ways. That is one of the main ways a religion grows.

Here’s the key thing, though: was it successful? Absolutely not. It was not successful because I had a strong belief in my own faith and principles. I am able to consider these things in a more critical fashion because I believe I had been educated by my family and my teachers (amongst others) well enough to withstand whatever that comes my way.

That is also why Mr Tee is wrong. He talks about groups that have an agenda, those with objectives related to the overturning of our own ideas and ideals. He fails to consider that many people, maybe even most people, have a certain sense of what they want and what they don’t want.

This in itself can be dangerous; logic is potentially our own worst enemy, because we are going to believe in what we believe, cherry picking the various anecdotes and examples to counter others with “But my friend…”, “My uncle…” and any such variance that we can think of.

What this whole incident has shown, however, is how little we think of ourselves. The fear some segments of society has tried to generate is aimed at the belief that if we are ourselves weak. We do not truly believe in what we believe, and we do not truly fight for our own principles.

I totally and utterly disagree with that notion. Just because we are presented with a notion that is against what we think, it does not mean we accept immediately and completely these notions at the expanse of our own identity and character. We are human beings, forged out of the rock by the different discourses we come across and are exposed to.

That is not to say that we don’t change our minds. Of course we do. People have changed beliefs and faiths before, and that will continue to happen. However, that is a result of a combination of different things, the insurmountable and irrefutable mountain of evidence presenting itself bit by bit to the point where it is difficult to deny.

It’s the little things that occur in so many ways, before it finally…clicks.

What Mr Tee is saying is those who have an agenda will constantly try to undermine us, with especial regards to the Christian community. What I am saying is that we as human beings are better than that, and it is far more useful to think things over in a critical fashion to decide for ourselves, rather than letting others control that for us. It ain't going to be your friends, Mr Tee, the church or any films I make that will change your mind. It will be you.

Fight for your beliefs and don’t lose your shit over those who really have no power over us. Seriously, have a look at all these people who spout these things, and consider how much power they actually and literally (don’t) have.

Keep the faith, and everything will be fine.

The van is going to pick us all up soon anyways. And then we’ll find out the truth.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Why We Do What We Do


"We don’t know how many people well-versed in Bahasa Malaysia who are interested in this. We also don’t know how many people are actually that interested in the kind of informal discussions we have about Malaysian films, amongst others. Sometimes we look at a fairly serious issue; at other times, it’s little more than a walk in the park, shooting in the breeze. Essentially, we are talking about something relatively few people care about in a language relatively few people care about. Of course, the positive people we are, we flip that around to “the world’s only film podcast to be recorded in Bahasa Malaysia”. Sometimes, just for fun, we tack on “by not one, but two government servants” to that, or some variations of it. As such, the podcast is done partly as a kind of service to reduce the barriers to those who are interested to gain more access to such discussions and information in this manner."

An excerpt from Why We Do What We Do, written for Thoughts on Films.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Gabriel


There’s something about the magic of of a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel.

No, I am not necessarily talking about magic realism, which he himself is considered by many to be the godfather of. Truthfully, I don’t know whether he himself is all that comfortable with that particular point, but as I prefer to explain to others, Marquez is not merely a storyteller, for he can probably be more accurately described as a saga creator.

The relationship first began with an old, somewhat tattered copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude. It was my one of father’s books, and I must admit that it is to this day that I am indebted heavily to my father’s love and support for reading. I read through my fair share of Doraemon and Hardy Boys books (including the Malay version, Siri Hadi. Ladies and gents, meet Faruk and Johar Hadi!), but over time, my personal tastes developed depending on what was available to me.

Handily, there were more than a few books ready for me to pick up and polish. I remember ploughing through novels such as The Unconsoled and When We Were Orphans, both by Kazuo Ishiguro. The Unconsoled was a mammoth book, a five hundred page plus monster that required true dedication for someone fairly young in their reading career at the time; When We Were Orphans was slightly more manageable, with an exciting third act.

However, few of them truly got my mollies coddled as much as Marquez did. Truth be told, One Hundred Years of Solitude was a very difficult book to read. I kept going back a few pages at a time, trying to remember who is whom. A lot of the characters had very similar names. That one played with my mind a bit, because the story is not necessarily concerned with one particular protagonist, but with a series of them. Hence the term saga; we’re not looking at one character, but a whole family, an entire town, from the very beginning through to the very end. It’s almost an indictment of how history itself is formed and remembered. Upon discovering that he himself was an active journalist throughout the writing and publication of his novels, I remember thinking, “No surprises there, then.”

I had to go back and rewrite the above in the past tense, from ‘is’ to ‘was’. It was not a comfortable thing to do.

I also read through Love in the Time of Cholera. My love for that book was compounded by the fact that my brother from another mother, Iqbal, was equally besotted by the story. The book itself was an amazing telling of one single character as he goes off in the search of love. I remember thinking that the whole story/saga was more about hope and faith, and considered how romantic Marquez himself might have been in real life. Of course, there are those who are better informed than me who will no doubt correct me should I be wrong, but I do believe that I am not all that far from the truth.

In my research for my television studies subject, I stumbled upon the fact that his son, Rodrigo Garcia, is a filmmaker of note. He is a filmmaker I quietly respect, whose work in dealing with issues related to women and female representation on screen has been very layered and interesting. The TV series I was to use as a text for discussion was Six Feet Under, and in this context, I did think that the apple didn’t fall all that far from the tree.

As a reader and lover of books and stories, I love spending a fair amount of time going through second hand bookstores. You never truly know what kind of hidden gems you'd come across. I once found Chris Jericho's A Lion's Tale hidden at the Central Market second hand bookstore. I didn't really have that much cash to spare, but I didn't think twice about buying up that bad boy.

That does not compare, however, to the nirvana I felt when I discovered Marquez's Living To Tell The Tale. I didn't even bother reading the first few pages before rushing to the counter to buy that book first before going back to browse through the rest. It was slightly pricey for a second hand book, mind you (around 10,000 won, if I am not mistaken, which is the equivalent to around RM30 a few years back), but given the author, there was little that could go wrong in my mind.

Since I first discovered a love for reading, I have read quite a lot of books. Not as many as others may have, and certainly not as many as those who have been alive longer than me. I will say, though, that I think the amount of books I've read in my life can be considered as respectable.

And out of all of these books, none of them have left me as breathless as the last few pages of One Hundred Years of Solitude did, the realisation that the saga is coming to a conclusion accentuated by the need, the absolute desire to know what happens at the end, leaving me reeling emotionally, mentally and physically.

To me, that is the magic of Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Thank you, Gabo. I hope you rest in peace.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Conflate


Over the past few weeks, Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) have been getting a lot of bad press about a seminar held with regards to religion. To be more specific, it featured a number of people from Indonesia who had converted into Islam, and were seen preaching much of the same message to the masses in attendance.

Being a UiTM lecturer myself, I figured there might have been some sort of memo about being present for the seminar, but I didn’t notice anything, so I never went. I got wind of it through social media, as my friends online went to town with regards to what happened. Based on what I have read and heard, truth be told I didn’t really have a problem with their reactions per se, given that they probably felt most affected by this seminar. I can’t really replicate their perspectives unto my own, so to each their own.

However, I do feel that to conflate the opinions of those who spoke at the seminar as a position that is also held by the university as a whole seems ridiculous. Whatever their perspectives maybe, they were opinions and feelings formed from being born and bred in discourses and contexts different to ours. How applicable is it to the Malaysian discussion? Yes, you may say that Islam is one and all, but the reality is we understand this very same thing in very different ways. On a more personal level, I don’t agree with them, but then again, I wasn’t born in Indonesia, where ideas in relation to religion are formulated in very different ways.

However, is the facilitation of space for discussion necessarily the same as an official endorsement of those involved? One event, organised by one part of the huge organisation that is the biggest university in Malaysia, is rather difficult to be taken as being representative of said organisation.

According to an official-enough source on the web, the speakers include Haji SM Masud (a Christianity-Islam comparative religion expert), Hajjah Irena Handono (former Roman Catholic nun), Haji Insan LS Mokoginta (former Roman Catholic Christian), Professor Dr Menehim Ali (Christology expert from the University of Bandung) and Haji Abdul Karim Omar (secretary general of Pertubuhan Muafakat Sejahtera Masyarakat Malaysia). I write their names here because they are the ones who expressed their opinions at the event as invited speakers, and they are the ones who...were very rarely quoted by pretty much everyone.

Here's a tangent. Monash University, a jewel in the crown of many of the middle class Chinese Christians (as UiTM is to the Malays, I suppose) who are very happy to expose their children to a more international education, have invited our prime minister on more than one occasion. Hell, him being granted an honorary doctorate is probably an even bigger and even more official endorsement of the man himself. To a certain extent, certain parties and groups of students are not particularly happy about that, which is fair enough. At the same time, though, the opinions and ideas expressed by the prime minister himself was never accepted as being the official position adopted by the university. It was seen as many things to many people, but the conflation of their official positions was not one of them.

I served Monash University itself for quite a number of years as the filmmaker in residence, and I have conducted a number of workshops and seminars about films and filmmaking at the university itself. In particular, the Monash Independent Film and Education Symposium featured Nadiah Hamzah, Woo Ming Jin and Amir Muhammad, filmmakers whose ideas constantly challenge the accepted ideal in a number of different ways. At my current faculty, until recently I was in charge of organising seminars related to the creative writing programme. I’ve invited people ranging from Nik Amir Mustapha to Shuhaimi Baba. Their ideas was not accepted by many in attendance as a reflection of the faculty or the university’s own position.

So why now, and why this? Some would point to the presence of high level people in attendance as well as being on the organising committee. I honestly don’t know how much this should be taken all that seriously. Being involved with the lecturers of the Faculty of Film, Theatre and Animation (FiTA) in organising events, there were quite a lot of high-level names being included as a way of keeping them involved on an official level. In truth, they rarely come down for meetings, and as such I never truly feel the complete involvement in actually running the event. In such cases, though, I never truly feel that that was important: unless it was detrimental to the organisation, the tendency has always been to publicly support whatever event that is put on. Here's a tip: if you want to have an idea of who is the real driving force behind such an event, you might want to consider the second- or third-ranked name on the list. The people at the top might be more important, but you'd want to take into consideration those who actually make the difference on a day-to-day level.

It is this level that should be considered. Beyond the perceptions driven by reports of many who may not have even attended that event and relied largely on second hand information, it is even more important that we deal with the day-to-day reality. Here it is, to the best of my understanding and based on my (fairly extensive) experience: as a staff of UiTM I am often ‘strongly encouraged’ to make my presence known at certain events. There are no real repercussions should I not attend, but that is the context many must consider. Just because the numbers in attendance were impressive, it does not mean that the words of whose speaking them will travel far.

For the most part, human beings have a tendency to stick with whatever it is they want to believe in, however irrefutable the supposed logic of the argument they’re being presented with may be. I strongly suspect that the such an event may well have a willing group of people who embrace the message, but I also know for a fact that many of those in attendance was probably not even interested in the slightest. Some of these events, I attend and have left before the end, primarily because I was not entirely turned on by the proceedings. Others, I stay through to the end, but at times I have regretted doing so, primarily because these events can be mind-numbingly boring to me. (It should also be noted that some can be very enlightening; I especially enjoyed the Academic Conference of 2013).

None of this is intended as a defence for the actual event itself. I merely believe that more accurate questions and issues should be raised at the right people. Some of the questions we should probably consider might include the following: how effective was the seminar? How much of an impact did it truly have in terms of turning people to its supposed objectives? How much of this can we truly attribute to the university? Should we actually consider naming and shaming the speakers as well, if we consider their views and facts to be inaccurate and unrepresentative of the discussion in Malaysia?

Speaking of which, within that bigger picture itself, how much of the same standards do we apply to ourselves and everything around us? Or is it just those who we don’t agree with that deserve to be in the firing line?