Friday, June 1, 2018

Of donation drives and 'swimming upstream'

It would appear that as long as you question the popular decisions made by the current government, the most common counter you will get is you are pro-BN.

Other counter arguments are predicated upon the fact that your criticism is invalid if:
1. You never criticised the RM2.6billion issue
2. They can't find any postings where you criticised the BN government
3. You used to or still are receiving dedak from BN
4. You are a BN macai
5. You are stupid

With that said, I know this blog post will not mean much to those people but I'm going to write anyway because:
1. I am opinionated
2. I know there are those out there, perhaps a mere handful, who understand where I'm coming from

I have posted many times on Twitter that I am not and have never been someone with vested interest in the previous government. I have never received payment to defend them on my social media accounts. While I have been employed by pro-government news organisations, those were jobs. Simple example, even in the civil service, there were people then who did not support BN but worked for the government. A job, as long as it provides one with a halal source of income, is a job and should not be taken as a vow of allegiance that translates to having to defend your 'employers' in exchange for money, in your own personal time on your own personal space.

Why are people so bothered with my criticism of the current government? I have been very consistent in not supporting Pakatan Harapan from the time they were not working together as a coalition. I was never a Reformasi supporter, I never could get on board with Pakatan Rakyat and when PAS left and PPBM came into the picture which then saw the birth of PH, I still could not get on board with their pact.

Therein lies the other problem, the assumption that if a person is anti-PH, they must be pro-BN. This is not the case. It's like saying if you hate Star Wars, then you must be a Trekkie.

Then why is it I have not been so vocal about the RM2.6 billion donation issue. First of all, I don't usually let popular sentiments dictate my thought process. Secondly, I don't really fancy pretending to understand something I don't.

How many man on the street who are eagerly waiting for DS Najib Razak to be thrown in jail can say with full sincerity that they fully understand the 1MDB issue and the SRC International money trail etc which then goes into the RM2.6 billion matter? How many can detail the financial makeup of the whole allegation instead of simply saying 'Najib stole money from 1MDB, which is the rakyat's money, so his wife can buy handbags'? You don't have to reply this on an open platform just reply to yourselves.

I am not saying Najib is innocent, neither am I saying he is guilty. The 1MDB issue is a very complicated corporate dealing which honestly, I am not an expert of. The same goes for Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's BNM forex issue. The extent of my knowledge on forex is the Indian Muslim pengurup wang I go to exchange money before I go overseas. I never was interested in finance or economy or accounting. If I am anti-Mahathir = pro-Najib, wouldn't I have jumped on the bandwagon and accused Mahathir of committing a crime and should be jailed, akin to what people want to see happening to Najib now? The only thing I can say about the BNM thing is that the matter should be reinvistigated and those responsible of committing a crime be made to face the music. That is all. I cannot accuse anyone, be it Mahathir or Tun Daim Zainuddin or anyone else. I have not even accused Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng of corruption, when that is a favourite accusation amongst pro-BN quarters. I cannot accuse because the matter is still in court. The same goes for DS Anwar Ibrahim's sodomy allegations. I bear no love for Anwar and wish that he will never become the Prime Minister of Malaysia but that wish is not predicated upon his sexual preference. Despite the court having found him guilty of sodomy, I cannot consciously, on an open platform say that he is a homosexual because it is too personal an accusation and I do not think it has anything to do with his political aspirations. Homosexuality is illegal in Islam and if he is one, the sin is between him and God. It is not for me to judge especially when in a situation where it is not relevant for me to use it as the basis of any criticisms against him.

Back to Najib and 'stealing money', because I don't know for sure he stole money, and because he has yet to be charged in court, I shall not say much on that issue. Admittedly, as things are, it doesn't look good for him, but law dictates that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. Remember that the burden of proof is on the accuser, not the accused. Let rule of law prevail first before assuming that silence equals to support.

For people who have followed me on Twitter for a long time, as well as people who know me personally, if they so choose to look at things with an open mind, they can see that my criticism of PH has never been based on accusations of things that has never been proven. The extent of my comments on that will simply be that investigations should be carried out. But for the most part, I have only criticised things that are clear as day. For example, Tabung Harapan Negara.

Facts: Public came up with the idea of crowdfunding (evident from online collection), Marina Mahathir endorsed one such effort on her official Facebook account, PM announced the setting up of a fund to ensure no scammers will take advantage of patriotic Malaysians, fund was set up and Finance Ministry announced that in just under 24 hours, RM7million plus have been collected.

These are all facts. Which then led to my criticism of it. I was then told that if I do not wish to donate, then I should keep my mouth shut.

Allow me to ask this: how is it that when people call Najib pencuri, when no court in the world has handed down such a verdict upon him, that is acceptable? But when I criticise an open effort based on facts, I am asked to shut up?

Even if you so wish to label Najib a thief, that is your right. Just don't discount my opinions on other matters simply because I don't call him a thief. Should the court someday find him guilty of stealing from the rakyat, then you can criticise me if at that point I choose to defend him despite the court verdict.

With regard to Tabung Harapan, perhaps my latest comment on it did not produce the intended understanding amongst Netizens. I am told that what I said was akin to the argument that 'if I'm not hungry, then there is no such thing as world hunger'.

Perhaps that is how some people interpreted my tweet. And admittedly, I should have worded it better.

I completely understand that people are suffering. I was not discounting that simply because we managed to collect RM7 million in just a day. My intention was to highlight the war of perception.

In my tweet, I said '... suffering from what politicians said we were suffering from before GE14'.

The make-up of PH's pre-election campaign was that Najib and his cronies had devastated our coffers and had been stealing from the people and GST was a burden and people were suffering from high costs of living and fuel prices and toll and so many other things.

However, post-GE, people are suddenly willing to donate to pay for what they believed to be debts that Najib had racked up. The same Najib who made us suffer because he was stealing so his wife can buy handbags.

Allow me to point out the fine line between patriotism and misplaced patriotism. Before Merdeka, people donated their possessions so Tunku could go to London to negotiate our freedom. That is nothing like Tabung Harapan. People rallied at the time because there was no country, we were colonised and we had no government and no revenue from industries or taxes to pay for government expenses. We were on our own and we wanted to build a country. We were poor.

Fast forward to 2018, we are not a third world country. We are not even on the verge of bankruptcy.

Urban people, and netizens love to highlight suffering. When we say malls are full, that should mean we're doing okay, the argument gets shot down faster than a speeding bullet. While the argument may be partially flawed, it still rings true on some level. We talk about suffering but for the most part we still tend to ignore the hardcore poor. I don't do much to help the poor except for the occasional derma I give when people come to tables at restaurants, which is why I seldom pass remarks about urban sufferings because it isn't just the government making us suffer. We insist that we are suffering but what I wanted to know, is it perceived suffering or legit suffering like the hardcore poor? We rally so quickly to help pay the nation's debt but what about helping the hardcore poor? Can we raise RM7 million in under 24 hours to help rebuild dilapidated houses in interior areas so they can be a little bit more comfortable? I was presented with an assumed calculation of how we got to RM7 million. Here's my math, assuming it takes RM30,000 to fix up a house, with RM7million, we can fix up 233 houses. If we keep collecting, we can fix more. We can uplift the hardcore poor by giving them a little bit of comfort. Or maybe use the money to help train them with skills. Or to develop rural industries for them to make a living. The government is supposed to do that? Well the government is supposed to develop the country and pay debts. So why one and not the other?

The essence of my tweet is definitely not 'if there is a long queue for the new iPhone, we are all okay'. I was not relating purchasing power, donation drive and what have yous to discount sufferings. If you choose that as the takeaway from my tweet, nothing I can do except explain that wasn't the main point.

If I had wanted to say that and only that, I'd have simply written 'were we really suffering before GE14'. Instead I wrote '... suffering from what politicians said we were suffering from'. It is common knowledge that more often than not, what is perceived, is not really what is. If suffering is a cause for concern, I have yet to see announcements to benefit the hardcore poor apart from BR1M being continued. The announcements, most of them, are populist and serve the middle income earners, youths, etc.

Fight me with facts and rational arguments if you so wish but if you're going to dismiss me as a macai etc, I sympathise with your inability to deal with criticism against the masses. Don't expect me to go with the crowd if from my point of view, the crowd is just pushing one another towards the edge of a cliff. I may be wrong in my observations, but that's the nature of opinions and views.

Monday, June 12, 2017

How may I help you?

Pic taken from the Internet.

Lately, I have been getting many requests from strangers on my private Instagram account. It started after I engaged in an argument with a certain local celebrity on her public Instagram account.

Of course, as expected, there are those who had nothing to do with the argument, yet insisted on jumping in to defend the celebrity.

I don't know if these two situations are related but a calculated guess would be that one has something to do with the other.

Despite stating on my Instagram profile that "requests from strangers will be ignored", I am still getting requests from people I don't know.

This makes me wonder... are these people not capable of comprehending a simple statement or they actually think I know who they are.

If this has anything to do with the Instagram argument I had with the celebrity, what good would gaining entry into my private Instagram account do?

It's like you had a war of words with someone at the supermarket, in front of a crowd, and later on the crowd follows you home, wanting to get inside your house.

Does that make sense to you? It sure as hell doesn't to me.

To those I don't know but insist on requesting to follow my Instagram, all I have to say is that it only shows what a nincompoop you are. You are excused if you are from a foreign country and can't understand a word of English. Or if you never attended school. However if you are a Malaysian and you attended public school here, just like I did, then there really is very minimal excuse for you to not be able to understand something as simple as I will not entertain requests from people I don't know.

If there is something you need to say to me, send me a message. Try not to display your stupidity too much.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The thin line between reporting an offensive Instagram account and sabotaging a user

Pic credit:
Update: Received an e-mail from Instagram on June 8, 2017 stating that my account has been restored. No reason given as to why it was disabled. They did however apologise for the inconvenience.

I have been an Instagram user for some five to six years now, maybe more. My account is private and I only approve requests from people I know. It is a personal account where I share mostly my own photos, of the things I do and places I visit. What is more important than the number of followers I have, with regards to my account, are the captions that go with my photos. 

I do not use my Instagram as a business platform. Neither am I a fame chaser who places my self worth in the number of followers I have. At last count, I had 126 followers, majority of them are my friends and people I have met in real life.

Last night, I got kicked out of Instagram.

At first I thought it was a glitch. Perhaps an internet connection issue or something went haywire with Instagram's servers. I keyed in my username and password and instead of getting back into my account, I received a message that said my account has been disabled for violating Instagram's community guidelines or terms of use.

Suffice to say that this baffled me. No specific reason was given. Just a general one indicating that I may or may not have gone against one or more of the long list of guidelines given by Instagram.

The question remains as to which guideline I violated.

I do not post photos taken by other people and claim they are mine. My photos are not pornographic in nature, neither are they violent or offensive. I do not post photos of other people claiming to be those people. I do not pretend to be someone else in my posts. My profile name is Farah Harith and my user name is @farahharith. My name, in real life, is Farah Harith. It is not a pseudonym. I am who I say I am and I have never attempted to pretend to be someone else via this account.

I do not spam other people's postings with advertisements. I do not sell ubat tinggi, krim pemutih ketiak, fake make-up or any other product for that matter. I am not a businesswoman.

I am definitely over 13 years old, which is the minimum age required to open an Instagram account. I do not use bots or third party apps to generate Likes or followers. I do not Like other people's photos in bulk, exceeding the quota per hour set by Instagram for users to Like posts. In fact, under the Photos You Have Liked tab in my account, there is less than 15 pictures. 15. Over the course of being an Instagram user for more than five years (I happen to be very stingy with my Likes).

So what then is the problem?

As I mentioned earlier, I am not affected with regards to losing followers. I value my pictures and captions but because I linked my Instagram to Facebook, there is a duplicate of my posts on Facebook which means my posts are pretty much archived and is safely available there. So losing access to my account is not that big a deal in that sense.

However, what upsets me is how easily Instagram can lock people out of their accounts without fair warning. My concern is how does this account deactivation work? Is it simply computer-generated? Is there a human element to it?

I believe I have not done anything to generate an account deactivation solely from Instagram alone. This brings me to the point of user-based account reporting.

The only reason I can think of right now on being kicked out of my Instagram is that some people probably reported my account for either spam or being inappropriate. If that is the case, did Instagram review the reports manually or is it computer-generated? Is it based on the number of people reporting or is there some form of evaluation by human beings involved?

I would assume it is the former because if a human being were to evaluate my account and my activity on Instagram, I don't believe they will find anything wrong.

This is what upsets me. If the deactivation process is entirely dependant on the number of people reporting an account, how is that fair? It is even more unsettling when an account gets deactivated without a specific reason and warning.

I can understand that Instagram has a huge number of users and it would be quite a daunting task to manually evaluate all reports but they can at least provide some form of cushion for users because anonymous reporting isn't really fair play.

Prior to deactivating an account, a warning would be appropriate. Instagram should also provide an offline archive link for users so they won't entirely lose their posts. I backed up mine but what about those who didn't?

I say anonymous reporting is unfair because there is no accountability involved. Assuming somebody hates me purely for personal reasons, he or she can report my account for spam or being inappropriate and get other people to do the same and I run the risk of losing my account simply because of personal reasons.

The same can be said for businesses and their competitors. If one side rallies enough people to report a competitor's business account, voila the account goes off the air. How is that fair?

I tested this theory using two other accounts I created on Instagram. Note that I don't know how Instagram's algorithm works but I just did what I did to highlight the principle of the matter.

I used one account to report my other account, which only had one post and was not actively posting or commenting and Liking posts, for spam. My report was received by Instagram. Not half an hour later, I received a message from Instagram saying, "We have taken xxxxx's account down. Thanks for reporting this account. We've removed it from Instagram because it violated our Community Guidelines. Your feedback is important in helping us keep the Instagram community safe."

What did Instagram base its "because it violated our Community Guidelines" on? Is it stated in the community guidelines that a single report, no matter how baseless and unfounded, will be acted upon? How did my dormant account qualify as spam?

(In any case, I deactivated the dormant account prior to Instagram 'taking it down' but that is immaterial in my opinion, because I would assume that up to this point, there is no human involvement on their part.)

Screenshot of the message I received from Instagram on the test I conducted

That simple. Just one report and voila. My assumption on the algorithm is that it works on the basis of how many followers an account has. If an account has less than five followers (like the account I used for testing) then maybe one report is enough to get the account deactivated. If an account has more than 1 million followers, then perhaps it would require more than a few thousand reports.

My problem is how unfair this is. Even with less than five followers, an account is open to sabotage. And perhaps by just one person sabotaging it. The account reporting tab, to stress my point on unfairness, should just be called "report/sabotage an account".

Might as well call a spade, a spade. Clearly the tab can be used for more than just reporting a genuinely offensive or fake account.

If I had done something to violate the guidelines, as a user, I should be given the specifics. This can help guide me in the future should I choose to continue having an Instagram account.

However, what if the alleged violation is merely the result of some idiots who could not differentiate between being cyber-bullied and being genuinely criticised for doing something wrong? Or morons who can't take their idols being criticised and resort to exacting revenge by reporting an account? Should I, as a genuine user, be made to pay the price for other people's stupidity?

For now, I shall wait for Instagram to get back to me, if at all, on the outcome of my situation. I indicated that deactivating my account was a mistake and I have gone through the process of getting my account back. If anything, I want my account back purely as a matter of principle. I am not concerned about my followers and posts because my friends can easily request to follow my new Instagram and pictures are backed up. No losses there. I am just livid that they can easily deactivate accounts without so much as a detailed explanation or fair warning.

If this was a glitch, fine. But if this is the result of overly sensitive idiots and morons who idol worship celebrities, then my condolences on your lack of logic and common sense. Good luck in navigating through life as nincompoops. I may have lost my Instagram account but it is just a social media account. I can always sign up for another. If only it is as simple for you to sign up for wisdom and intellect.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Anak dara Macik Anne: Sheer idiocy or a really bad corporate strategy?

Pic sourced from the internet.

To date, the explanation on Auntie Anne's halal status given by one of its executives on Facebook has garnered more than 8,000 shares. Safe to say, her post is now viral.

Sadly, this was a stupid move.

Actually, stupid doesn't even begin to cover it. It was idiotic and moronic. I say this because, the exec had posted the 'explanation' on her personal Facebook post, signing it off as 'Anak Dara Macik Anne', probably alluding to the recently famous Nasi Lemak Anak Dara, also courtesy of social media.

Allow me to detail why I think her explanation was stupid. First of all, she works for a company which, as logic would assume, must have a proper headquarters, complete with their own Public Relations or Corporate Communications department. They should because, the company that owns the Auntie Anne's franchise in Malaysia, Chrisna Jenio Sdn Bhd, is a registered private limited company and has been in operations since 1996. They also have 45 outlets across the country.

With that said, why didn't they issue an official statement? While many have been applauding the exec for providing an explanation, these people fail to see that what she did was actually rather juvenile.

However, the main reason why I feel her Facebook post was stupid was because she had opted to include the 'pretzel dog' bit in it.

If Auntie Anne's had bothered to issue a statement, any public relations officer with half a mind would not include 'sordid' details.

There is no reason to inform the public on why the application was rejected and get into specifics, especially when the bigger issue here is why has it taken 20 years for the pretzel chain to apply for a halal certification? What I would like to know is when did they first submit their application to Jakim?

This is why with regards to the whole 'dog' fiasco that blew up the past few days, I place the blame solely on the idiotic Facebook post by the exec.

I stress that there was no need for her to mention the 'pretzel dog' bit because according to Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom today, he said Jakim never banned the name. Instead, he said that there were compromises that could be made.

"If (an establishment) wants to protect a name, compromises can be made in the sense as well. But for Auntie Anne's, it wasn't a rejection, it was just a proposal. At the end of the day, they can't be denied a certificate just because of the name," Jamil Khir said, as reported by a news report on Free Malaysia Today (FMT).

If the pretzel dog matter had never been mentioned, the internet would not have exploded over the past few days about food names.

It went from pretzel dogs to hot dogs to root beers, to turkey ham to beef bacon, even to the extent of UK's Daily Mail carrying a story, headlined, "Hot Dogs will be banned in Malaysia unless restaurants agree to change their name because they sound too 'dirty' to be halal.'

Of course this was clearly a spin of an epic proportion, and I can't blame the exec for Daily Mail's spin, I stand by the fact that this wouldn't have happened if only Auntie Anne's had the good sense of issuing an official statement.

And it's not just Daily Mail, our 'dog' issue has also been carried by the BBC, RT (Russian network), Fox News, CBS News, New York Daily News, and I don't know how many others. So I guess a 'congratulations' is in order for 'anak dara Macik Anne'.

This brings me to the question of whether the exec went rogue (on the explanation) or was it a corporate strategy by Chrisna Jenio Sdn Bhd?

Either way, both moves were stupid.

While maybe the exec enjoyed her 15 seconds of fame thanks to her Facebook post, and also, while many may disagree with me, I stand by what I say, that her move was idiotic and does not reflect the proper conduct of an employee, or a company (if this was a move sanctioned by the company). - FH

Stop telling me I'm confused!

(Pic credit Instagram @oskarandmeyerdachshunds)

My parents made sure I received proper education while I was growing up. Before I was 7, they sent me to kindergarten for a good 3 years. At home, the education did not stop. I was encouraged to read and by 6, I was reading the newspaper. There is also a picture of me at about 5 or 6, falling asleep with a copy of a political book by SH Alattas. Not sure what I understood from the book at the time, but my point is that I was not deprived of education. I was also exposed to good music at a young age. At 7, I entered the public education system and stayed there until I finished Form 5 with a Grade 1 in SPM.

My education continued after that and until today, I am still learning. My story is not unique. Many people in this country pretty much go through the same process. What we take away from all that education will of course differ from one person to the next. What I am trying to say is that we are not a nation deprived of education.

Which is why it makes me angry when people keep telling me, or in the case of the point I would like to make in this comment piece, Muslims in general, that we are easily confused.

Remember the Jolly Shandy incident some years back? Some 'concerned' Muslims were worried that the packaging of Jolly Shandy which to them looked like any normal soda drink, would confuse the Muslim population in this country.

Never mind the fact that for any Malaysian with a clear head, Jolly Shandy has always been and will forever be an alcoholic beverage which is placed next to other alcoholic drinks at the store. Also, the fact that the word alcohol is clearly printed on the can.

Just because a few people found it to be confusing, they saw it fit to 'warn' other Muslims on social media to be wary about the drink.

Today, something similar has cropped up again. Fomca said words like 'dog' and 'beer' should not be part of the menu as it would confuse Muslim customers. It is likely that Fomca was referring to the much-loved hot dog and root beer that has been part of our lives for as long as I can remember.

While we may have joked about hot dogs and root beers with our friends, I believe most of us are aware that we weren't actually eating cute puppies wrapped in bread or that we would be pulled over by policemen for drunk driving after drinking bottles of root beer.

For those who frequent Auntie Anne's, the famous pretzel kiosk, I highly doubt there were those who got confused over their pretzel dogs.

But somehow, we have always been told that we are easily confused.

"So and so should be banned because it might confuse Muslims."

How many times have we heard this line in news reports and how many times is it actually about truly confusing things?

I feel it is an insult because Islam is a religion that emphasises education. We are supposed to keep on learning for as long as we are living beings. Education is something that does not end once we leave school. With that said, why do people keep telling us we might be confused when logic dictates that at some point, we should be able to think for ourselves?

If one or two people are confused, is it right to simply generalise?

I was never confused with the Jolly Shandy drink and I sure am not confused by hot dogs, root beers, beef bacons and turkey hams.

I am also not confused whenever I go to a Malay stall selling kuih and I see dishes like badak berendam or cucur badak. Have you ever asked the makcik selling the kuih if her husband battled an actual badak to get its meat for her to make badak berendam?
A friend asked yesterday, what about bishop's nose? Good question I would say. How many bishops sacrificed their noses for us to be able to eat dishes with bishop's nose in it? This 'confused' Muslim can safely say that the answer to that question is zero.

Also, no buffaloes (with or without wings) were harmed in the making of buffalo wings.

In the case of this whole 'dog' fiasco, I believe societal norms should come into play. Some phrases are not literal. The phrase 'hot dog' may be confusing in a society that has never heard of sausages and hot dogs. The phrase 'buffalo wings' too may be confusing in a society where winged buffaloes are in existence and they have never ever had chicken wings.

This is Malaysia. Hot dogs are sausages. Beef bacon comes from cow. Turkey ham are from turkeys. And root beers will not make you drunk. So my advice to those who think they are doing the society a favour by warning it about this and that, think first before you issue your warning.

And stop telling us we are easily confused. While you may go through life drooling and wondering about how things work the way Homer Simpson would, most of us are not like you. Most of us are actually smart, intelligent people.

With that said, I will continue to enjoy my hot dogs and root beers. And I will not purchase a can of Jolly Shandy just because I got confused. I may use the confusion as an excuse if ever my parents catch me drinking Jolly Shandy, but that one would be on me. Hic. - FH

Saturday, September 24, 2016

D'Cuatro Calientes and the Asam Pedas family

**This article first appeared on Free Malaysia Today on Sept 18. Click here to access it on FMT's website.
**The following is the longer version of the same article.

Photo credit Azrol Ali

Looking at Malaysia from the view point of what is being shared on social media, more often than not a person would come to the conclusion that Malaysia is a very racist and intolerant country. From non-Muslims getting berated for eating in public in Ramadhan, to drivers getting into racially-tinged arguments on the road to politicians spewing venomous remarks at one another, to various accounts of alleged racism happening across the country, it makes one wonder if there is hope for us.

However, if we could just turn our gazes away from our smartphones and take a look around us, we can see that Malaysia is indeed where our hearts are and is a country we should be proud of.

There are many places here where race melts away and people just sit together, happily enjoying each other's company. It is everywhere, be it a kopitiam or a mamak shop. For me, I found it in a little corner of Petaling Jaya, where a band from the Philippines, indirectly, is helping Malaysians realise the true meaning of 1Malaysia.

Calling themselves D'Cuatro Calientes, the band, made up of family members, consists of Danny and Connie Olivera, the parents, and their son Billy and his wife Lissa.

Performing outside the Asam Pedas restaurant in The Curve at Mutiara Damansara, the band, in their own way, is bringing together Malaysians of various races under one umbrella, all in the name of song and dance.

Connie told me that the band started out many years ago, initially with herself and Danny, and their brothers. However, after a while, the brothers moved away, and Connie was faced with the tough decision to let her sons be part of the group.

"When my boys were schooling, I did not want to involve them. I wanted them to be in school. Preferably no music," she said, adding that as time went by, her sons began to develop their own interest and talent in music.

While initially, the band was also made up of Danny and Connie's eldest and second son, life and tragedy soon carved a different direction for D'Cuatro Calientes.

With their second son having gotten married and settling down in Singapore and the tragic passing of their eldest son seven years ago, Billy, the youngest soon joined his parents, with Lissa coming on board later on.

It is true that music is a universal language, as upon observation, it does not matter what song was being played, be it in Spanish or Tagalog, Malay or English, Cantonese or Mandarin, as long as the beat is right, what Gloria Estefan said rings true, "the rhythm is going to get you".

D' Cuatro Calientes performs at the street section of The Curve and their performance is engaging enough that sometimes people who walk by would move to the beat. There are also couples who would slow dance, in the middle of the open area in front of the band, under the night sky.

It is also the love of song and dance that gave birth to the Asam Pedas family.

For normal shoppers, looking at some of the dancers who would perform usually on weekends, they would either assume this was a dance group hired to accompany the band.

However, they are just patrons of The Curve who would often hang out to hear the band perform and loved to do a little dancing.

The 'family' has grown over the years and its pioneers, retirees Alan Lee and his wife Susan Yeoh are now proud 'parents' of quite a few young kids who also share the same love for song and dance.

"They call me mummy," Yeoh said.

Alan Lee and Susan Yeoh. Photo credit Azrol Ali.

"This family was started by my husband and I. Slowly the group increased. More and more people came here to dance. They found that the ambience is good, music is good. It's a very healthy place, open air and I think it would be good for the youngsters to come and get together," Yeoh, 70, told me when met recently.

Her husband Lee, who is 71, said they have been dancing there for more than five years now.

"My wife and I started dancing and one of the young boys asked if he can join and then the group slowly started to grow. I used to look on YouTube (for dance steps), I learned it and I teach them. These people learn very fast," Lee said.

He then pointed over to a Michael Jackson impersonator who had earlier danced to the song Billie Jean performed by the band, to the cheers of passing shoppers.

"I encouraged MJ there to come up and dance. He was just sitting there (back then), very shy. I gave him 'semangat' to come and dance. Now he is part of the family," Lee said, smiling proudly.

MJ is 43-year-old Faizal Habib Ahmad who often hangs out to dance together with his three children.

"I come here often to hear the live band. At first I was shy. And one day, they played the song Uptown Funk. They pulled me in (to dance)," he said, adding that it was from that point on that he became acquainted with the other members of the Asam Pedas family.

"I have enjoyed dancing since I was a kid. I just do it for fun," he said, affirming that he was not a professional dancer, and that he works in a hospital.

Another member of the group, is Irwan Kurniawan Abdullah who is a freelance dancer and a choreographer.

Iwan is an orphan and had picked up dancing when he was 14.

"I've been coming to The Curve since I was 19. I saw an elderly Chinese couple dancing, I just watched them. Up until then I was just doing street dancing. When I saw them (dancing), I wanted to learn more," he said.

That was how he joined the 'family' and has been an attraction himself as he is very light on his feet and performs very well, much to the delight of shoppers walking by.

"I have gotten some (dance) jobs from voluntarily performing here," he said.

For 67-year-old August Ang, he said that the fellowship the 'family' has draws him to hang out there, especially with the involvement of younger people of different races, and that it was an outlet for them to exercise and have fun.

On all the races coming together, Ang, who frequents The Curve with his wife, Alice, said it was beautiful.

"It's back to the old days before government politics and all that. This is what I experienced in my kampung in Tengkera, Malacca. It didn't matter who you are, we don't see races. We are all just friends. We are all Malaysians," Ang said, expressing his hope for a united Malaysia.

"We see it in badminton, everybody is with him (Datuk Lee Chong Wei). We forget we are of different races."

Switching to impeccable Malay, Ang added, "Mak kita dulu ajar kan? Dari kecil dulu, semua sama." (Our mothers taught us from small, that we are all the same).

Yeoh shared the same sentiments, saying that the Asam Pedas family is really 'muhibbah'.

"We are 1Malaysia here. We don't think of religion, we don't think of races, we are one happy family. We celebrate birthdays. If it's Hari Raya, we celebrate Hari Raya. If it's Chinese New Year, we celebrate Chinese New Year (and so on). That's what 1Malaysia is all about right?" she added.

For Connie, she was happy observing the harmony and respect in Malaysia.

"Harmony and respect is very important in your country. You can get along with each other, that is very important. The love is always there. If there is no respect and harmony, there is nothing," she said.

Connie also expressed her pride in the band being able to perform a famous Philippines song Miss Na Miss Kita, in Malay.

The translation was provided by a local lyricist, Azmi Abdul Rahman, who also frequents The Curve and enjoys listening to D'Cuatro Calientes as well as watching the Asam Pedas family dance.

As for Azmi, his ability to sing along to some of the Chinese songs, has proven to be an ice-breaker for him and some of those who came to listen to D'Cuatro Calientes.

Some of the Chinese patrons would look at Azmi in awe when he sang along to Alan Tam's Pang Yau in near perfect Cantonese.

Meanwhile, for Lee, he was happy that the family's togetherness and friendship gave the young ones who join something useful to do with their time, as well as keeping them out of trouble.

"I am very happy," Lee said, and it was apparent in the joy from his voice and the smile on his face.

"Here, the word 'bangsa' does not exist. We are one family. Sekeluarga," he said.

Speaking about Malaysia, Lee added, "We should start to think of each other as a family. We should start to think of helping one another, of giving. Those who have give a little more, those who don't, give a little bit less. But there is always somebody who needs something. It could be in the form of words of encouragement, doesn't have to be money.

"You gotta show a little kindness," he sang to the tune of Glen Campbell's Try A Little Kindness.

And there is indeed no better song to wrap this article up than the rhinestone cowboy's words of advice for us to just 'try a little kindness, and to not walk around the down and out, lend a helping hand instead of doubt, and the kindness that you show every day will help someone along their way.'

There is more to life than what is being posted or shared on social media. Take a stroll in real life once in a while, and you will chance upon something as simple as a Malay boy and a Chinese uncle enjoying line dancing to the tune of Achy Breaky Heart.

It may be simple, but it will surely put a smile on your face and reaffirm your faith in humanity and how racism deserves no place anywhere in this world. - FH

D'Cuatro Calientes. Photo credit Azrol Ali.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Start thanking Anwar, Malaysians, he is your saviour

Here's my thank you note, Datuk Seri
It is my opinion that the politicians in Selangor have lost sight on the true meaning of the word 'rakyat'.

If anything it has become an excuse to justify each orchestrated political move, no matter how ludicrous it may sound to a person who still subscribes to logic and common sense.

While I believe the 'rakyat' was never in Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's mind when his family formed Parti Keadilan Rakyat back in 1998, I'm sure many would argue with me, saying that it was the best thing that could happen to the Malaysian political landscape.

I can accept those arguments and respectfully agree to disagree, but I cannot fathom the veils still covering the eyes of the people supporting Anwar after he announced the Kajang Move.

How is it that the Kajang Move can be justified as 'for the rakyat'?

Especially since everything related to Pakatan Rakyat in Selangor just began going downhill from that point on.

Where is the rakyat supposed to fit in this mess, apart from being used as an excuse in the press statements issued by PR lawmakers in support of Anwar and his political maneuvring?

It pains me that staunch supporters of Anwar still see him as the answer to our political woes.

For the record, I can understand if a person refuses to support Barisan Nasional (BN), but it borders on the illogical to expect PR to be the better alternative.

If it wasn't clear to some that the rakyat is the farthest thing on Anwar's mind before this, it should already be the minute he choose to announce his wife's candidacy for Selangor's next Menteri Besar on the very same night Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak addressed the nation with regards to the Malaysia Airlines (MAS) Flight MH17 tragedy.

Najib had a live telecast at midnight on July 22 and some half an hour later, Anwar who had concluded a meeting at the PKR headquarters in Tropicana decided to hold a press conference to announce that Wan Azizah is the preferred choice to replace current MB Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim.

At a time when Malaysia is reeling from two massive aviation disasters, Anwar felt it was in the best interest of the rakyat to announce that he wants his wife to take over as Selangor MB?

Is Abdul Khalid really that terrible of a Menteri Besar that Anwar couldn't wait?

Perhaps let the dust of the MH17 tragedy somewhat settle first? Or wait until the Selangor state assembly reconvenes later in the year? Or wait until the next General Election, since Abdul Khalid had already made it clear before this that this was going to be his last term as MB?

But then again, when Anwar wants something, Anwar goes out and gets it. Oh but wait, despite countless dates given, he is still nowhere near the office on Level 5 of the Perdana Putra complex in Putrajaya, which we all know is his ultimate goal.

What is the next best thing? Appointing his wife as MB to Malaysia's richest state it seems.

The point I'm trying to make is that PR in Selangor should just leave the rakyat out of this mess and carry on as they please because they will do whatever they want anyway.

PAS tried to back Abdul Khalid but somehow, somewhere along the way, they caved in to the coalition's backing of Anwar's proposal.

While they clearly showed resistance to Wan Azizah being appointed MB, yesterday they 'unanimously' agreed.

Pakatan Rakyat gets what Pakatan Rakyat wants.

Again I ask, where does the rakyat fit in all these? The rakyat will have to go to the polls should a statewide election be called if Abdul Khalid decides to dissolve the state assembly and not make it easy for Anwar to place his wife in the state's top administrative post.

The rakyat which these politicians 'care' so much for will have to hit the polls once again despite having done just that slightly more than a year ago. And for what? I don't think I have to mention it again.

While it may be clear as day to me, it is still a blur to many. Particularly with one DAP lawmaker who blogs under the pseudonym SakmongkolAK47 saying today that the nation should be thankful to Anwar for providing the rakyat an alternative to BN.

"Malaysians owe him an eternal debt of gratitude for forging a common platform," DAP lawmaker Datuk Ariff Sabri Abdul Aziz said in his blog today.

I know it is only Monday but I can safely say Encik Sakmongkol is already the winner of the moron of the week award.

So it is with dripping sarcasm that I urge my fellow Malaysians to start sending thank you notes to Anwar.

He is your saviour, isn't he?