Category Archives: Thoughts & Commentaries

Kubrick in Malaysia

Usually, around this time of the year, I am either a very happy person or a very sad one. The reason for being happy is to be able to go to Hong Kong as this is the Hong Kong Filmart and the Hong Kong International Film Festival time and the reason for being sad is simply not being able to be there. Well, life is a series of decisions and choices and for that fact, if I would want to go for the film festival, I can just go and get the ticket and leave all the work behind. But I chose not to because I just can’t at this moment. Too many pressing issues…..

But I am delighted when I received a message from an ex-colleague and dear friend who is currently there and her message put a smile on my face when she said, “Very happy B-). Lots of books! Can sit here for whole day. Bought tickets for The Hurt Locker too – ah ~~ :-D”. Gosh, I can feel her happiness and excitement! And yes, I wanted to be there too!!

Of course, my geeky friend who is now working in Hong Kong excites me a lot too when she sent to me the films that she is going to watch, a long list of movies that I would have wanted to watch too!

Too much excitement and not much action will do my heart no good. Haha. But I am thrilled and happy just thinking that such a place exist on Earth and that I have friends who enjoy what I enjoy too, and they are such dear friends.

Come to think of it, in Kuala Lumpur, I don’t seem to be able to find that feeling I get whenever I go to Kubrick, i.e. the very happy feeling, as if on drugs, of going through their DVDs for sale and picking them up like buying vegetables in the market only to realize that I can only afford 20 or so DVDs and had to decide whether to take that Tarkovsky or that Ghatak. Hard choice I tell you. And then to browse their collection of books, then sit down for a cup of coffee while awaiting for that Japanese movie to start screening. What a wonderful feeling that is.

Of course, in KL you can basically do the same thing, go to Speedy Video then go to MPH then go to Mc Donald’s and then go to GSC for a movie. But damn, compared to the Kubrick experience, it’s worlds apart. And what is the difference? Well, for sure the atmosphere but definitely, the selection and quality of the goods in trade, the variety and choice, the depth.

The nearest I get to that feeling was to go to that little shop in Jaya 33 and browse their superb collection of DVDs, then go to Subway for a good sandwich.

I would really hope to find a place like Kubrick in KL and if not, hopefully to be able to build a place like that. But to do that will cost a lot of money but the returns, if any, is going to be slim. I doubt there are enough people interested in a place like this to make it profitable, so anyone who wants to do it must do it only out of passion and of course a deep pocket. But I would really love to run a place like that. Let’s hope I strike the lottery and get the money to do it. That will be awesome!

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Positional Relevance

“Just because the moon and the sun looks the same size from where you stand does not mean that they are of the same size.”

This “thing-in-itself” and “thing-as-they-appear” is not so new and has been quite thoroughly explored by Kant and then further “improved” by Schopenhauer, as he would have liked to believe. Anyways, it will be a very long post if we delve into this topic, even if we are just to discuss about Kant’s idea of thing-in-itself versus Schopenhauer’s so-called critique. It suffice here to say that in Kant’s idea, the “thing-in-itself” is transcendental and cannot be known while Schopenhauer thought that the “Will” is the “thing-in-itself” which is not separate from the things that appear to be (phenomena).

Anyways, nowadays I lean towards what is said in the Heart Sutra, that everything is empty of itself, i.e. there is no distinction between things in itself and things that they appear to be (which one feels like what Schopenhauer is saying although not exactly but this is no surprise as he is very much into Oriental philosophy).

Well, let’s get back to the subject of this post. Actually what I wanted to say here is really simple, i.e. it is important to be aware and realize our own point of view because just because we happen to be standing here and looking at something and interpreting them as they are, this does not mean that other people standing somewhere else cannot have a different interpretation. At the end, they are both talking about the same object but just describing them from their own perspective, their own point of view.

This is really basic and very simple to understand but inevitably, somehow this gets lost somewhere and mankind lose their rational mind and unreasonable emotion gets in the way. It is of course impossible to “take away” emotions which I personally believe is impossible. An emotionless rationality makes no sense because mankind is an emotional animal and to take away that aspect by pure force of logic does not stand against the test of time. But what I am really saying is to regulate such emotion and use the rational mind, together with a regulated emotional state and make sensible and reasonable decisions.

Emotion without reason is as deadly as reason without emotion.

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The Obvious and the Not

“sharpening the eye that observes and the eyes that see”

Day by day, I appreciate Musashi’s words more and more. What brilliant insights.

What is obvious may not be the truth, the truth may not be obvious. If one relies only on external signs and jumps to conclusion, how foolish indeed. To be able to “see” beyond the obvious, to be able to deduce the truth from both obvious and not obvious signs, it is a deep skill indeed, a skill that is worth cultivating. Only then will one steer clear of danger.

As Sun Tzu also said, “Warfare is the Tao of Deception. Although you are capable, display incapability” etc. Therefore, since time immemorial, to have mastered the skill in seeing through deception, to be able to see things as they really are, and not only what they appear to be, will therefore lead a person out of danger and steer safely through a jungle of deception and false appearances.

This is applicable to many aspects of our life, whether playing a game of Go, bringing up our children, negotiating a business deal or going to war.

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When Giants Fart

Ok, well, I could have used a less offensive word but I can’t think of one that has the punch. Anyways, sorry if you find it offensive, although it is funny if anyone would have found something that we do perhaps everyday offensive. Something like digging nose. Okay okay. Let’s move on.

Nowadays I am getting more and more aware of the environment, not that I am not previously especially after Al Gore’s excellent awareness generating campaign. This is because I am now (well, actually since April) the champion (the term is EMR) for our company’s ISO140001 :2004 Environmental Management System program. We should get certified by November 2009, which is soon and thereafter we are targeting a Green Certification either from the New Zealand Ecolabel or the LEED from the US.

Enormous amount of work! We have to look at each and every aspect of our raw materials and processes and each one of them must meet stringent green criteria.

I feel really great about this actually although this is an extra project that I have got to take on besides other stuffs I have to do. It gives me a feeling that I am contributing to something important.

Anyways, the thought of China and India and Brazil etc. coming out as upcoming economic super power is one of happiness but is also something that is of concern. Happy because we need a multipolar world. A world dominated by only one superpower is not going to be good. But above all, the thought of millions and millions of people is going to come out of “poverty” and have the opportunity to live a better life is very good.

But with all these there is a price to be paid especially the damage that is to be done to the environment (not only the damage to Man’s soul). Development eats natural resources. Lots and lots of them, from oil to aluminum, steel, coal, etc. And the burning of fuel contaminates the environment badly, especially from the burning of coal.

The thing is countries must grow but how to grow intelligently without great damage to the environment is the way forward. The old way of burning ourselves to death does not work. We need to work out new and better ways of doing things, use clean and renewable energy, etc. China contributes a lot to the world’s CO2 emission but China is also at the forefront in spending on new environmentally friendly energy. In fact China is focusing a lot on environmental issues as seen in the new laws that is being passed, as well as it is number one in the world in terms of green spending.

One of the nice thing I observed was when you buy books in Beijing, they wrap it in paper and tie it with strings. If you want a plastic bag, you have to pay more. This kind of practices is really good and I hope to see this happening in Malaysia as well. Also, architects have a great responsibility in designing houses or offices or factories that is environmentally friendly, by using natural lighting, solar and wind power, intelligent power management systems, natural air-ventilation systems, etc. We are already seeing a lot of these in new buildings in China.

After all, we have to take care of our house. But we also have to grow and make our people live a better life, lead a better quality life. But we can do it much more intelligently, with our new technologies and insights, our new understanding of science and engineering. If we continue to grow using the Industrial-Age methods, we will burn ourselves to death.

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Ego

I remember many years ago, in one of my training, the facilitator asked what is “Ego” and my friend Ashok who is always very clever and is also a big movie buff answered that Ego is what is between the Id and the Super-Ego. He is absolutely right. What a clever answer.

Anyways, what we learned was that Ego in itself is not a bad thing, contrary to what many people believe. In fact, having an Ego is a good thing and is essential to one’s psychological health. However, it is also a double edged sword when it is left unchecked.

I learn the lesson quite young, around 16 years old. I am sure I had my lessons before that but what happened when I was 16 impacted me greatly and even until now, I can still remember the scene vividly.

It was one of our usual band practice and being one of the leaders of the band then, I am seen as a fierce a**hole. Then one fine day, after the practice, a guy whom I was quite friendly with came up to me and told me this:

“You know, HD, what is your problem? Your problem is that you always, ALWAYS, have to win an argument, no matter if it is right or wrong”.

I remember that and appreciate it until now because firstly, it takes the guy considerable guts to dare say that to my face and secondly, he cares about me enough to tell me the truth while others may be caught in the emperor’s new clothes syndrome. For that I am thankful to that guy even until now. He even came to my wedding ;-)

What he told me really made me think. Why am I so stuck up and has to be correct all the time? Isn’t it possible that I be wrong sometimes too? Should I listen to what others have to say too?

My second lesson came after I started work. It just struck me deep and I still can remember my boss’s face as he told me:

“If you don’t know, just say you don’t know”.

So I begin to think, do I really HAVE to know everything? It is just impossible, so to stick to the idea that I HAVE to know everything when I don’t, I sometimes just Bullshit. And people know it when you bullshit. Or you parrot someone else opinions or thoughts. And people will know that you are just a parrot. People just know that YOU DON’T KNOW and you PRETEND that you know.

Nothing is more damaging to one’s reputation than being found out that you are just a pretentious parrot.

So these two are really important lessons. First, you are not always right, so be humble, listen to others. Then only will you learn.

Secondly, it is impossible that you know everything. There are bound to be things that you don’t know. And when you don’t know, just be humble (really humble, not pretend to he humble), and just say you don’t know (and bloody well get to learn it and know it).

Only then can one be truly humble, because to know what you know, and to know what you don’t know, that is a great wisdom.

So stop bullshitting and start living.

p/s: Other lessons I have learned:

Most of the time:
a. You are at most only half as clever and good as you think you are.
b. When you point one finger at others, always realize that there are at least three fingers pointing at you.
c. Confidence is when you are strong and willing enough to admit defeat, to acknowledge that you are inferior but with a belief that you shall overcome them, and you overcome them and emerge better. Confidence cannot come from pretending to know all answers and pretending to be good in everything when you are not.

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Weekend Movies

I begin to watch more movies nowadays. That is probably because I have spent less time on Go now. Playing Go can sometimes be so frustrating. You invest so much time and effort in it but the results can be disappointing. And when you keep on losing, you really feel like giving up. But quitting is a bad word. Quitting is a sign of weakness. You can get away from it for a while, but you should not quit. You should not quit for the wrong reasons.

As is stated in the Book of Five Rings, the Fire Scroll under the chapter:

“To renew” applies when we are fighting with the enemy, and an entangled spirit arises where there is no possible resolution. We must abandon our efforts, think of the situation in a fresh spirit then win in the new rhythm. To renew, when we are deadlocked with the enemy, means that without changing our circumstance we change our spirit and win through a different technique.”

Anyways, here are the few movies that I thought is worth your hard-earned money that is still showing right now:

1. OVERHEARD (Hong Kong)
2. SETEM (Malay)
3. DISTRICT 9 (USA)

Hong Kong owes us a good movie. It owes us big time. OVERHEARD is one good one, although it cannot be said to be really superb. It is just a normal good movie, i.e. it is not a crap movie. The normal ingredients are there; greed, action, brotherhood, etc.

SETEM is a movie by Tayangan Unggul, my dear ex-company and the movie is good not because of sentimental values but is definitely a much more intelligent movie compared to the huge bunch of crap, ahem, locally made movies out there. It reminds me of BAIK PUNYA CILOK, only better. If you would like to watch a nice Malay movie, this is a good bet.

DISTRICT 9 is worth to be watched not only one time but perhaps two or three times. It is worth watching not because it is a big budget movie but because of the meaning it carries. It occurs to me more than just a few times how it reflects our human conditions although it is supposedly a movie about “aliens”. How we as human has inside us the seed for discrimination, of creed, of race, of greed and of class distinction. But also how, inside us too, there is a seed for great compassion and equality and a sense of justice. It is a movie very worth watching.

By the way, I am tuning in to Astro’s channel 110, a tribute channel to Yasmin Ahmad. SEPET is playing now. I have watched SEPET for so many times I lost count but each time I watch it, I am amazed by it. It is such an excellent, excellent movie.

The channel is quite nicely put together but it will be so much the greater if we can have RABUN, SEPET, GUBRA, MUKHSIN, MUALLAF and TALENTIME all together. I know the complications about rights and censorship etc. but it will just be such a great dream to be able to watch her movies freely, without all unnecessary interventions, just a pure appreciation of Yasmin’s vision and interpretation of the human condition, of a Malaysian’s Malaysia. Through her films, we can really and truly see that Malaysia is a great, great country and all the propaganda to make us feel less Malaysian, all those crap that makes us hate each others guts, is just so puny, so unnecessary and above all, so stupid in comparison.

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Indulgences and Some Pleasures

Weekends are usually very nice and I look forward to it very much. The first qualifying criteria to have a great and happy weekend is to have all the work in the office well taken care of the week before. If there are still work not taken care of, not necessarily finished because the larger part of my work involves some very long term timelines such as the Initial Public Offering (IPO) and the ISO14000 and Green Certification projects, then the weekend will not be that enjoyable as I will have a very bad nagging feeling inside me and I won’t feel at peace.

So yesterday was great. Not only we played Go and Shogi in the Japan club but also in the night, we played Risk. Alex, Philip, Zaid, Jacky & Chi Kuan came and with the new and improved Risk, we played until 3 something in the morning. There are many other ideas to improve the Risk some more and make it more enjoyable and to also increase its strategic and tactical gameplay but just the basic gameplay itself takes 3-4 hours to finish. It is still very enjoyable nonetheless, a good break from the “serious” strategic game that is Go.

I really appreciate these friends of mine. They are really great and interesting personalities.

Then today just right in the morning, I woke up quite early despite sleeping at almost 4am last night, I read some Isaac Babel. I managed to finally buy a copy of THE COMPLETE WORKS OF ISAAC BABEL and looked forward very much to read more of him. That is probably the reason for me waking up early. Babel is another great story writer and for me rank right up there with other Russian writers, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov, all three whom I love, but loving Chekhov the most among the three and Dostoevsky second.

It is perhaps by pure coincidence or perhaps it is the work of my subconscious mind, I popped in Shostakovich’s 13th symphony into the CD player (Bernard Haitink, Concertgebouw Orchestra, Decca), one of the greatest symphonic works and can stand side by side with the greatest Mahlerian symphony (okay…. tsk tsk… Mahler is still the GREATEST!!). Babel is a victim of the dreaded Stalinist regime and Shostakovich’s work is also a criticism of the Stalinist regime. The combination of these two sent shivers down my spine and reminds me of how lucky I am to be born in this era in Malaysia.

The 13th symphony is actually a choral symphony, putting into music the goosebumps-inducing texts by the Soviet poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko. Some excerpts:

From Babi Yar that speaks about the Nazi massacre of over 100,000 civilians, mostly Jews but also consist of other races: “There is no Jewish blood in my blood, but I feel the loathsome hatred of all anti-Semites as though I were a Jew – and that is why I am a true Russian”. It is a call for all humanity to put an end to Racism. Racism has caused just too much blood to spill.

Also, here’s an excerpt from Fears: “They stealthily subdued people and branded their mark on everyone: when we should have kept silent they taught us to scream, and to keep silent when we should have screamed.”

These are just excerpts of the harrowing text. Now, imagine Shostakovich’s music accompanying these texts. (Then read about what happened to Isaac Babel)…

Maybe I should have Pelmeni and some Vodka for lunch afterwards…..

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