Friday, 31 July 2009

Deja vu: Another by-election in Penang

Heard this morning that the State Assemblyman for Permatang Pasir, which is one of three state constituencies within the greater Permatang Pauh parliamentary constituency, has died. So there'll be a third by-election here very soon. Will the Barisan Nasional choose not to contest again, like what they did in Penanti?

According to the newspapers: Mohd Hamdan Abdul Rahman, 60, died at the National Heart Centre in Kuala Lumpur at 6.10am this morning. A two-term state assemblyman and former Penang Pas commissioner. In the 2008 general election, Mohd Hamdan beat Umno candidate Ahmad Sahar Shuib with a majority 5,433 majority to win the seat.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Zoom Malaysia

I've just seen Zoom Malaysia's 2009 promotional video depicting some of the country's best tourism attractions. I think it's a kinda interesting video although I'm puzzled how the music of Joe Flizzow, Noryn Aziz and KLG SQWAD can be considered representative of Malaysia's culture and tourism programme....

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Checked your eyesight lately?

An eye clinic is coming up in Bukit Mertajam and the owners are presently renovating the premises along Jalan Song Ban Kheng. However, the size of this humongously large banner advertisement took my breath away. Just compare its size with the person walking along the road. What an advertisement!

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Heritage: Muslim influence in George Town

Here are three of the heritage sites that participated in the George Town UNESCO heritage celebration over the weekend. For once, I should feature the Islamic influences in George Town's 200-plus years of heritage.

This is the Syed Alatas Mansion in Armenian Street. Syed Mohamed Alatas was the leader of the Red Flag Secret Society that allied with the Khian Teik Secret Society to fight the Ghee Hin and the White Flag Secret Society in the 1867 Penang Riots. Today, it houses the Penang Islamic Museum.

Most of the visitors to the museum were non-Muslims. I guess we were rather curious to learn more about the Islamic influence in Penang and boy, I should add that the exhibits were very interesting, especially the ones on the upper floor. There was only a lady manning the information counter and she was friendly, sharing her smiles with everyone that walked in. But we were left pretty much to ourselves to wander through the building, which was what we wanted.

The Acheen Street Mosque was founded in 1808 by Tengku Syed Hussein Al-Aidid, a member of the Achehnese royal house who moved to Penang in 1792 at the invitation of Francis Light. He was followed by his clan and followers. Over the following years, the mosque became the centre of Islamic studies in George Town, frequented by traders from the surrounding Malay archipelago, Arab and India.

There were people but little activity going on in the mosque when we arrived. Basically, we were very much ignored. Taking into context that the Acheen Street Mosque was participating in the George Town heritage celebration weekend, nobody there acknowledged us or even offered any kind of assistance.

But what a difference at the Kapitan Kling Mosque in Pitt Street. We felt welcomed here but more about that later. First, I should say that this is the biggest and grandest mosque in George Town. It was founded by Caudeer Mohudeen Merican, a prominent trader and leader of the Indian Muslim community in 1800. The word Kapitan was a term that the British gave to him and contrary to popular belief, Keling is not a derogatory word. It just meant people from South India, just as the word Benggali referred to the people from North India. The original mosque on the 18-acre land was a single-storey structure but over the years, the mosque underwent plenty of renovation until this is how it looks like today.

The guards at the entrance into the building were friendly enough but we were pleasantly surprised when a chap - Mohamed, I think his name was - ended up as our guide. We donned some robes before being allowed into the mosque and we think it looks just as beautiful inside as well as outside.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Unseen side of St Anne's Feast

Year in and year out, this is typical of the ugly mess left behind by traders and worshippers at the end of the St Anne's Feast in Bukit Mertajam.

Click here to read my blog entry in 2007.

Avanza ignition problem

More than a week ago, my car developed an engine problem just as I was about to drive down to Kuala Lumpur. Every time I shifted into gear, the whole car would begin shaking like a vibrator. As a result, I lost a few precious hours at a car mechanic's workshop in Bukit Jambul on the island.

The mechanic was surprised to see that the spark plugs in the car had turned deep red. Spark plugs are never meant to suffer this discolouration, I was told. So obviously, there must be something wrong with the ignition for the plugs to be like this. Eventually, after a lot of (I suspect) trial and error trouble-shooting, the problem was traced down to a faulty plug coil.

There are four in the engine: one sitting on top of each plug and this one was suspected of causing all the problems. At first, I thought with the problem identified, it would be a quick matter for the workshop to order the spare part but actually took more than three hours for the runner to deliver the part from the city. Talk about gross inefficiency! Three hours to have the spare delivered compared with 15 minutes for the mechanic to replace it in the engine!

But at least the problem was resolved. However, throughout the journey to KL and back, I wasn't feeling totally comfortable with the repair job.

So yesterday, I took the car to the authorised Toyota workshop in Bukit Mertajam for a lookover. Besides, the car was due for its regular service too. I showed the team leader the old plugs and the spoilt coil, and requested that he do a complete check on the ignition system. Two hours later, I drove away from the service centre feeling satisfied. I'm still guarded. I hope the problem is resolved once and for all because my wife and I will be driving to KL again in about two weeks' time.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Football king of Korea

There were many in Seoul's World Cup stadium for whom the game was something that could only be judged in relation to Park (Ji Sung). It would be hard to exaggerate his level of fame in South Korea. When United came here two years ago, he was voted man of the match, despite the fact that he did not play. This time, however, he was given 15 minutes which should be enough to guarantee him the Korean footballer of the year award. Every time the big screen in the sold-out stadium pictured him on the bench, the 64,000 in the stadium erupted. When he got up from the bench to stretch his legs, they gave him a standing ovation. "The guys on the bench were asking if I was the king of Korea," Park said. "They wondered how I could possibly lead a normal life here."

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St Anne's Feast

Around 11.30 pm on 25 July 2009. Sea of people in Bukit Mertajam, all congregating at the St Anne's Church. Where did they all come from? Meanwhile, as expected, the roads in the town were jampacked with cars and buses. That's what I was trying to avoid when I came back early from George Town yesterday afternoon. Anyway, there were not many cars going through my housing area. I must thank the residents' association volunteers for a job well done. They stopped cars from coming in and parking indiscriminately.

The old church from afar.

See what I mean? Worshippers by the tens of thousands.

Hundreds more inside the old church

Meanwhile, vendors tended to their roaring businesses

Saturday, 25 July 2009

George Town UNESCO heritage celebration 2

It's time for the walkabout to begin. Well, it was due to begin some one-and-a-half-hours ago, but my wife and I begun ours from 2 o'clock, accompanied by my old school mate, Siang Jin.

we called it quits at about 4.30pm. Partly, it was because the day was too hot but partly too, we didn't want to be caught in any traffic snarl on the bridge or the mainland. Today is also the high point of the week-long St Anne's Feast in Bukit Mertajam and, well, our house is just a stone's throw away.

But coming back to the George Town heritage celebration, we couldn't cover all the 12 participating heritage sites but we managed to visit the Sun Yat Sen Penang base, the Syed Al-Atas Mansion, the Acheen Street Mosque, the Teochew Ancestral Temple, the Khoo Kongsi, the Hock Teik Cheng Sin Temple, the Cheah Kongsi and the Kapitan Keling Mosque.

Our disappointments: the Arulmigu Mahamariamman Temple was closed while nobody knew anything about the rubber stamps at the Hock Teik Cheng Sin Temple, the Cheah Kongsi and the Kapitan Keling Mosque. "Today's a half-day. The staff have gone back," someone told us at the Cheah Kongsi and then, wanting to feel helpful, added: "Come back tomorrow morning." However, we had a most wonderful tour of the Kapitan Keling Mosque. A bonus: we went into the Lim Kongsi which normally, is closed to visitors.

George Town UNESCO heritage celebration

Have you bought your copy of the George Town heritage passport yet? You should, if you intend to go wandering around the city today as it celebrates its first anniversary on the UNESCO world heritage list. To me, it's also an acknowledgement (and celebration) of the close shave we went through when UNESCO was re-looking at our status in the wake of the four hotels' height controversy. Anyway, with all that behind us, the month-long celebration continues in earnest today and really, the book should be a must if we want to commemorate our world cultural heritage status. It costs only RM8 and when you visit the 12 participating heritage sites listed within, you can have their marks rubber stamped in the booklet.

Anyway, the 12 heritage sites participating in this celebration will be the Syed Al-Atas Mansion and the Sun Yat Sen Penang base in Armenian Street, the Meng Eng Soo Temple in Rope Walk, the Kapitan Keling Mosque and the Kuan Yin Temple in Pitt Street, the St George's Anglican Church in Farquhar Street, the Arulmigu Mahamariamman Temple in Queen Street, the Teochew Ancestral Temple in Chulia Street, the Hock Teik Cheng Sin and the Cheah Kongsi in Armenian Street, the Acheen Street Mosque in (where else?) Acheen Street and the Khoo Kongsi in Cannon Square.

Except for the Meng Eng Soo, the rest of the participating heritage sites are located within a narrow corridor from the St George's Anglican Church at one end to the Acheen Street Mosque at the other end. The activities start at 5pm and should end at about 10.30pm. I also hear that there'll be a film screening of Road To Dawn at the Penang Chinese Town Hall at 8pm. For the uninitiated, this Chinese historical film is all about the brief sojourn in Penang by Dr Sun Yat Sen from July to December 1910 as he attempted to raise funds from the overseas Chinese to support his revolution. Nice show, set against an historical background, but not entirely correct. Besides, it's a drama, not an action movie.

There are also 13 heritage sites not participating directly in this celebration today: the Church of the Assumption in Farquhar Street, Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion in Leith Street, the Logan Memorial in Light Street, the Town Hall, City Hall and Fort Cornwallis at the Esplanade Road, the Cantonese Tua Pek Kong Temple in King Street, the Chung Keng Kwee Ancestral Temple in Church Street, the Queen Victoria Memorial clock tower at the corner of King Edward Place and Fort Road, the Malayan Railway building in China Street Ghaut, the Clan Jetties at Weld Quay, the Yeoh Kongsi in Victoria Street and the Nagore Durgha Sheriff in Chulia Street. However, you can still get their rubber stamps from the Penang Heritage Trust office in Church Street. So that's it, all 25 of them.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Heritage: Two views from the Eastern & Oriental Hotel

I wonder what the Sarkis brothers would have seen when they looked out from their hotel in 1885. Would they have seen this?

Or maybe, they were just standing by the sea front and happened to look back to admire their hotel. Would this be what they saw?

No matter. It was a splendid heritage that they left behind.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Miami Vice and Hair OST

I was at the AmCorp Mall flea market on Sunday and picked up these two second-hand records from Joe's MAC.

The first was a double album: the original soundtrack recording of the musical Hair, starring John Savage, Treat Williams and Beverly D'Angelo. However, I'm not wholly satisfied with it because though it passed a visual check of the surface, the first tracks on one of the vinyls proved defective. But I can't really complain. This album sold for only RM15 and the rest of the tracks were fine.

But this second album was something else altogether. This is the ORIGINAL Miami Vice soundtrack. Pressed in Germany and in very good condition both visually and sonically. I've waited a long while to listen to the whole of Jan Hammer's original Miami Vice theme and here it is. In addition, music by Glenn Frey, Chaka Khan, Phil Collins, Grandmaster Melle Mel and Tina Turner!

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Other impressions of ManUtd's visit

I'm still stuck in my Manchester United mode and there's still one more blog post to go before I'm through with it. It was a few months ago that I decided to give my son a treat with this surprise. I didn't tell him till about a fortnight ago and I had to make sure that he wouldn't be missing any classes. These pictures, then, are my other impressions from our trip to Kuala Lumpur.

The traffic jam

My tickets

The fans

The press photographers

The schwein fru

The sunset

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

A half dozen treat from Manchester United

van der Sar: " I place the football tee here?"

Rooney: "Let's just pretend that I'm not here, okay?"

Doing the Rio: Tony Manero would have been very proud

Scholes: "Wazzat that whizzed by me??"

The loudest cheer off the pitch was reserved for Giggs

Gosh, never thought I'd see him in a ManUtd jersey

Impressions of Red Devils match

18 July 2009: A sea of 100,000 red jerseys of all shapes and designs greeting the Red Devils at the Bukit Jalil stadium

As far as the eyes could see

The Red Devils' Starting Eleven

Here they come...

Help me spot a Fergie...

In the thick of action

After the game

Monday, 20 July 2009

Manchester United in Malaysia

Like my friend Colin would say, we touched the Cup before Steven Gerrard could even see his reflection in it. That's the real EPL truth.

I guess they'll have to wipe the finger prints off it later.

One for the album. That's us with Bryan "Captain Marvel" Robson at our Manchester United Supporters' Club Malaysia in Petaling Jaya last Saturday. It was a long wait for him to turn up, but it was well worth the wait. But he turned up eventually with some few burly detail who were guarding the English Premier League trophy.

Later, here we are at the Bukit Jalil stadium soaking in the red atmosphere.

And here they are, the full team, doing a publicity walk around the pitch after the match was over.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Lost touch

I was doing some cleaning in the house earlier this week to while away the boredom of recovering from my bout of food poisoning when I came across old letters from a pen pal from days long gone by. In the days without emails and the Internet, it was still possible to know people from across the globe and that was through air-mail correspondence. It was slow but every time a letter arrives, I'd open it with a lot of anticipation. We took the time and trouble to really put pen to paper. We thought before we wrote. And we discussed matters of the day frankly. For me, it was a window to the world. For several years, letters flew between us but sadly we lost touch decades ago.

Brian Philip Walters of Wavell Street, Adelaide, Australia, if you happen to read this somehow, thank you for your friendship during those years of the late 60s and early 70s.

On and off, he would send me a list of the Top 40 songs on Radio 5AD which I would presume was the top radio station there. I still have the collection. For the week ending 18 July 1969, the Top 40 songs comprised this whole lot below. How many have you heard of and what do you remember?

Bad Moon Rising (CCR), The Ballad Of John And Yoko (Beatles), Dear Prudence (Doug Parkinson In Focus), Hair (Cowsills), My Sentimental Friend (Herman's Hermits), Special Delivery (1910 Fruitgum Company), Where's The Playground Suzie? (Glen Campbell), In The Ghetto (Elvis Presley), Come Back And Shake Me (Clodagh Rodgers), Spinning Wheel (Blood, Sweat and Tears), I Threw It All Away (Bob Dylan), Big Ship (Cliff Richard), Ragamuffin Man (Manfred Mann), The Walls Fell Down (Marbles), Heather Honey (Tommy Roe), Friend Lover Woman Wife (OC Smith), Without Her (Herb Alpert), Gitarzan (Ray Stevens), Frozen Orange Juice (Peter Sarstedt), Marley Purt Drive (Jose Feliciano), My Way (Frank Sinatra), Get Back (Beatles), The Windmills Of Your Mind (Noel Harrison), Baby Driver/The Boxer (Simon and Garfunkel), Bazza Razza/Have A Giggle-Go (Barry Ion), The Day They Freed The Noise (Doug Ashdown), Yesterday When I Was Young (Roy Clark), Israelites (Desmond Dekker), Tomorrow Tomorrw (Bee Gees), Please Don't Go (Barry Crocker), Little Yellow Aeroplane (Leapy Lee), Funny Man (Ross D Wylie), Love Me Tonight (Tom Jones), Give Peace A Chance (Plastic Ono Band), Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In (5th Dimension), The Real Thing (Russell Morris), Snake In The Grass (Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich), Think It's All Over (Sandie Shaw), Conversations (Cilla Black), One (Johnny Farnham).

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Crerand, Robson at the clubhouse today

They'll be there for an hour. From 11 o'clock.

Paddy Crerand, 1962-71, 397 starts, 15 goals
Fiery Scottish midfield player who did the dirty work while Best, Law and Charlton grabbed the glory and scored the goals. Signed for £53,000 from Celtic in 1963, he played a key role as United lifted the European Cup for the first time five years later. His recent autobiography was called Never Turn the Other Cheek and he liked a challenge so much that he even tried to broker a peace deal with the IRA. "I met ten of them in the middle of the night in Derry," he said. "They were working-class lads and I told them that they needed to renounce violence. I said the only way of solving problems is by dialogue, not by shooting each other, but all they wanted to talk about was United and Celtic."

Bryan Robson, 1981-94, 437 starts, 99 goals
United supporters have become used to watching a team full of legends but for long stretches of the Eighties it felt as if there was only one truly great player at Old Trafford. Robson would run through brick walls for United and his body still bears the scars of the battles that he fought for club and country. Captain Marvel had to wait until he was 37 for a league championship medal but his determination to win at all costs kept United ticking over and in the hunt for trophies until Ferguson arrived at Old Trafford in 1986.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Heritage: Eastern & Oriental Hotel

I just thought that it would be nice to compare how the heritage Eastern & Oriental Hotel (E&O Hotel) in George Town had looked like then and now. The old picture was reproduced from a photograph hanging in the hotel's lift lobby while the new picture was snapped very recently.

In all my life, I must have gone into the E&O Hotel not more than five times. The first time was more than 20 years ago when I was trying to impress her with my new credit card. At that time, credit cards were very rarely used and it was a privilege to carry one. Nowadays? Banks are offering all sorts of gifts to persuade people to sign up with them. What a big joke.

Speaking of credit cards, the Ban Hin Lee Bank had a very good opportunity to start a credit card service in the mid-1990s. I was already running the bank's ATM Centre, was familiar with card services and was ready at any time to expand my role. However, the senior management of the bank balked at offering credit cards. If I remember correctly, they claimed that they couldn't see the earning potential from the business. I think that was one of the very few wrong business decisions made by the bank.

Thursday, 16 July 2009


It so happened that I was logging into my Twitter account this evening to see the latest tweets regarding the Anwar Ibrahim Sodomy II trial. But I never expected to see so many tweet posts from Lim Kit Siang to report the sudden death of this young man who was being questioned by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission over some complaints about the failure of state allocations reaching the people in Selangor.

Teoh Beng Hock, 30, was the political aide to a Selangor state assemblyman and he had been subjected to questioning throughout the night as part of the MACC's investigations. According to the Malaysian Insider:

"At a press conference, the MACC director of investigations Datuk Mohd Shukri Abdul said Teoh was questioned from 5pm yesterday to 3.45am and was released soon after. However, Teoh apparently said he was tired and so he rested on a settee in the lobby. He was seen sleeping on the settee at 6am. At about 1.30pm, Shukri said, they heard that a body had been found on the 5th floor of the adjacent building and when one of the MACC officers went to investigate, he realised it was one of their witnesses. Shukri said Teoh was not a suspect but was questioned as part of their investigations into the misuse of state allocations."

Why? Why question a person throughout the night? I think it's very inhumane to try and break a person down like this, especially when one is not considered a suspect in any investigation. But even for suspects, this is also an inhumane act. An all-through-the-night interrogation like this not only borders on torture; it IS torture. Any type of death is already tragic enough but this sudden death definitely adds to the political intrigue and tension in the country. Especially so when I read further the Malaysian Insider's report (highlighted in the picture below) that "Selangor police chief Datuk Khalid Abu Bakar said the deceased was found lying in a pool of blood clad in a white shirt, black pants and jacket."

I raised my eyebrows because the police chief's description of the deceased's clothes is totally at odds from the photos. He was wearing a blue shirt over white pants, not white shirt over black pants. Why the discrepancy? Evidence that he was just not on top of the situation? A "misquote" by the Police or Malaysia Insider? A lot of answers is needed here. Anguish. Tragedy. I hope the truth will come out fast.