Monday, March 31, 2008

A Towering Malaysian

I did not know Dr Tan Bee Hooi personally but that does not stop me from respecting and admiring this wonderful person and a true Malaysian.

Dr Tan Bee Hooi, 37, an anaesthetist with the Penang Hospital, died in Paris on Wednesday following surgery. She has done Malaysians proud by donating her organs to patients in France and other European countries.

"She was truly a remarkable woman. Even in death, she has given life to others," Malaysian Ambassador to France S Thanarajasingam said of Tan, who had succumbed to complications arising from surgeries related to arteriovenous malformation (AVM) in her brain.

In a statement issued to Bernama in Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian Embassy in Paris said Dr Tan's father, Datuk Tan Gin Soon, believed that his daughter would have wanted him to donate her organs, given her "deep and abiding interest" to serve fellow human beings.

Her family has donated her organs, including her corneas, heart, kidneys and liver, to patients in France and other countries of Europe.

Dr Tan had undergone treatment at the Fondation Rothschild, under the care of Professor Jacques Moret, a world-renowned interventional neuro-radiologist. The complicated procedure of the embolization of the AVM on March 11 went well but Dr Tan's condition took a turn for the worse and she died on Wednesday due to complications from the follow-up surgeries.

Dr. Tan Bee Hooi had a habit of getting quotes from the net, printing them out and attaching them to the board of the OT call room. This quote below, attributed to Mother Theresa, was her last one.

People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered;

Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;

Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;

Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;

Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;

Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;

Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;

Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have and it may just never be enough;

Give the world the best you have anyway.

It remains there till today:

Despite her busy schedule, she found time to help others through social work and volunteered her services at the Mahindrama Temple at Kampar Road, Penang.

Her mother, Khor Mooi Looi, 61, a retired teacher, said Bee Hooi had wanted to open the first pain management clinic at Penang General Hospital after her operation. Bee Hooi’s remains are scheduled to reach Penang International Airport at Bayan Lepas today, March 31, 2008.

The single-mother left behind two sons, Tan Xin Yeng, five, and Tan Xing San, seven.

Thank you Bee Hooi, for showing us lesser folk how to live life. Mother Theresa would be proud of you.

If Bee Hooi's story and courage has moved you, consider giving the gift of life yourself as well. For pledge forms and more information, contact the National Transplant Resource Centre. You can also register to be an organ donor online at the Malaysian Society of Transplantation website or get the form here.


All The World's A Stage

hyp·o·crite

–noun

1. a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, esp. a person whose actions belie stated beliefs.

2. a person who feigns some desirable or publicly approved attitude, esp. one whose private life, opinions, or statements belie his or her public statements.

Former Terengganu Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh (left) and new Mentri Besar Datuk Ahmad Said hugging each other after the swearing in ceremony at Istana Maziah in Kuala Terengganu. Ahmad Said declared that he would consult Idris in the running of the state government.

All 23 Barisan Nasional assemblymen were present at the swearing-in, which was over in 10 minutes. PAS president Datuk Seri Hadi Awang led Opposition leaders and eight lawmakers to witness the ceremony.

MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu has urged the Government to release the five Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) leaders detained under the ISA.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

jUnKoFuNc

This week, the spanker takes a break from newspaper bashing to write about one of his passions - music.


What do a bunch of musicians who are busy with studio recordings, music festivals, music workshops and traveling for gigs in and out of the country do with their time off? Why, they play more music, of course.

Albert Sirimal, guitar maestro, has put together a funk band for the Genting International Jazz Festival with an ensemble that reads like a Who’s Who of Malaysian jazz musicians.

They are the only local band to join the other 9 international bands flying in for the festival that will be held on the 4th – 5th of April 2008 at Genting Highlands.

Named jUnKoFuNc, the project band was conceptualised by Albert and bass player Andy Peterson. Over a cold beer, I asked his music direction and he replied “Dude, the genre is funk, pure funk”.

Funk music is an American creation of the 1960’s. In the 1950’s, West Coast jazz styles were the chic thing to listen to. These had more European elements, were more experimental, had smaller chamber groups and catered to an elitist upper-class audience.

As a directly opposing reaction, hard bop music came about and moved back to its “bebop” roots – incorporating more gospel, blues and a very dominant bass line.

With the addition of the organ and saxophone and simpler harmonies, the style became what was called soul jazz. The main rhythm groove was more repetitive and less improvised.

Soul jazz then mixed with Rhythm & Blues to become more upbeat and dance based. These were the beginnings of Funk.

The bass line and the drums in funk music still form the dominant anchor. Complex polyphonic rhythms are the aim. The harmony is more static, tending to hover around a single chord.

There is a distinctive percussive timbre in funk music – not just from the drums and the bass guitar with its exciting slap-bass technique, but also from the attack of guitars and keyboards or organ and saxophone.

This off-shoot of bebop jazz is particularly popular with Malaysian jazz bands.

The band consists of Albert Sirimal on guitars and main vocals, Andy Peterson on bass, John Ashley Thomas on drums, Justin on keyboards, Badar on percussions and Ahmad Muriz on saxophone.

ALBERT started his musical career in 1985 as a soloist, playing the guitar and singing in many of the local clubs around Klang Valley.

When he emerged as runner-up in the Carlsberg Top Of The Pubs 1989 competition, Albert expanded his horizon by collaborating with other musicians to form bands, working alongside them in concerts, tours, sessions, music festivals and workshops.

Having played with some of the most talented musicians in and outside Malaysia, he has developed his own finger-style guitar picking.

As a highly-respected sessionist, Albert has been called upon to play with a plethora of local stars including Ning, Sheila, Ferhad, Prema Lucas, Maya Karin, Zainal Abidin, Jamal Abdillah, M. Nasir, Too Phat, Reshmonu and various others.

Albert's distinctive guitaring ability saw him exploring beyond Malaysian shores and performing gigs in Thailand, Singapore, Germany and the UK.


ANDY PETERSON is the most sought after bass player in Asia. An outstanding and amazing bass player, Andy has worked with Jackie Cheung, A-Mei, David Tao, Billy Cobham, Harlem Yu and local artistes like Siti Nurharliza, Steve Thorton, Zainal Abidin and Sheila Majid.

Currently a Yamaha Bass Endorsee, Andy encompasses all genres, be it jazz, rock, soul and in the case of jUnKoFuNc, it’s Andys favourite, funk.

Teaming up with Andy to handle the rhythm section is JOHN ASHLEY THOMAS on drums. A very talented and phenomenal drummer, John started playing drums when he was just 3 years old.

His credits include working with Grammy award-winning flautist Nestor Torres and touring the Blue Note circuit in Japan with Motown legends The Three Degrees, and playing at numerous jazz festivals including Arts Alive! Jazz Fest in South Africa and Jarasum International Jazz Fest in South Korea.

He has performed with premiere Jazz/Latin/Funk musicians and bands like Farid Ali, Steve Thornton, Grey Lyons, Alonso Gonzalez, Akihiko Matsui and Jiro Okada of Junky Funk from Japan, Yu Quan from China and Frank Gambale.

He won the Best Drummer Award 2002 at the Yamaha AsiaBeat Band competition and currently is a Yamaha Drums Endorsee and Sabian Cymbals International Endorsee. John currently heads his own band Funk Mob.

Also in the ensemble is JUSTIN LIM who will be handling the piano and keyboards. Justin has performed and recorded with musicians and artistes of diverse inclinations. His performing experience includes stints with artistes like Isaac Entry, Noryn Aziz, Angelita Li and Kris Dayanti.

He has contributed his talents to various recordings such as the yet-to-be-released album by Greg Lyons Nonet, indie icon Pete Teo's sophomore album Television (2006) and Malay pop artiste Min Malik's single "Jemu" (2000).

From 2004-2005, he was a member of the now defunct indie rock outfit, Her Reverie, playing guitars and keyboards. His compositions and arrangements can be heard on Ong Yuen Kwan's spoken word album The Most Beautiful Time (2007) and also on the independent film Thank God I'm an Atheist (2007). Justin is a recent graduate of the Penn State University with a MMus in Composition/Theory.

When the idea of getting a horn section to be part of the band was brought up, the vote was unanimous. AHMAD MURIZ CHE ROS. A graduate from the highly acclaimed Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, majoring in film score, Muriz may like jazz but his feet can’t stop tapping to contemporary orchestral music.

Currently attached with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, Muriz’s extensive work on arrangements and composition exploring the rich heritage of traditional Malay music has been highly respected by music lovers and musicians themselves. Muriz will be playing the saxophone and handle all brass arrangements for jUnKoFuNc.

And to top it all, providing that bit of Latin flair to the whole music arrangements is BADAR. Having associated himself with the likes of Mr Gambus @ Farid Ali and Karen Nunis, Badar is one of the most sought after percussionists in Malaysia.

His dedication towards his profession has taken him all over Malaysia and across Asia. Badar can be caught playing regularly alongside Albert Sirimal and singer Vijay David, shuttling between KL, Singapore and various parts of Asia.

The Genting International Jazz Festival 2008 will feature the largest repertoire presented so far in its run.

Tickets, band information, room packages etc can be found on the website www.gentingjazz.com. The hotline number to call is 03-2718 1118.

Why The 80's Will Never Die

It’s hard to put a price on nostalgia. Shows like Here and Now The Best of the 80’s evoke powerful memories for children of the '80s and new converts alike. People like me who grew up in that decade.

I was playing drums for a band called Delta fronted by a skinny teenaged Francissca Peters who lived a few doors away from me in Ipoh. We like to think back to that wonderful time when we were aged between 16 and 25 and were free of all responsibilities. I feel very privileged to be associated with such a fantastic era.

It was a time before the corporations, the conglomerates and the globalization of music began. Almost all the artistes in the 80s were very individualistic. They designed their own images, bought their own synthesizers, played around with the sounds, experimented and did their own thing all from the heart.

This is why I jumped at the chance to attend the concert at Genting’s Arena of Stars. The tour has already been staged in Britain, Australia, Japan and Europe, to rapturous response.

For the Malaysian show, five international acts took the audience down memory lane with their string of hit songs. The tour featured the following amazing artists playing their greatest hits.

LIMAHL

Kicking off the show was Limahl, 50, best known for his song Never Ending StoryToo Shy and Only For Love. which was the theme song for the fairytale movie of the same name. The former frontman of Kajagoogoo teamed his charming good looks with his soulful voice to enjoy a successful solo career after leaving the group, with hits like

In 1991, Limahl got back into the music business, not as a singer, but as a producer songwriter and arranger for other artistes such as Kim Wilde, Peter André (who had a big hit with Mysterious Girl) and the like. His real name is Christopher Hamill (his stage name is an anagram of his surname).

After the first song Limahl’s vocals were drowned out by the band, evidence that the soundman was on a different planet from the rest of us.

JOHNNY HATES JAZZ

Johnny Hates Jazz is an English pop band formed in 1986 by Clark Datchler, 44, (vocals, piano), Calvin Hayes, 47 (keyboards), and Mike Nocito, 45 (bass).

Clark Datchler left in 1988 and was replaced by The Cure’s bass guitarist, Phil Thornalley, 47.

In 1992, the band was involved in a serious car accident which left Hayes in a body cast for over a year. The band lost momentum and eventually split. In September 2007 Hayes announced that he and Mike Nocito, with a new vocalist, Danny Saxon, would be reforming the band.

Their classic pop hits include the top 5 hit Shattered Dreams, Different Seasons, I Don't Want To Be A Hero, Heart Of Gold and Turn Back The Clock (which featured Kim Wilde on backing vocals), their album of the same name went to No. 1 and went double platinum in the UK selling over 4 million copies worldwide.

Being one of their hardcore fans, I found their performance heartbreakingly dismal, with Saxon sounding like an amateur karaoke singer, compounded by the inefficient soundman. Images of Simon Cowell and his scathing remarks kept running through my head.

PAUL YOUNG

Paul Anthony Young, 50, most recently seen on The Asian Food Channel’s Hell’s Kitchen, has a genuinely soulful voice and hits that have spanned the decades. This former singer and bass player with the Q-Tips returns for this tour after appearing on the very first one in 2001 to great critical acclaim. Paul sang a selection of his hits from Come Back And Stay, Love Of The Common People, Senza Una Donna, Tear Your Playhouse Down to 'Every time You Go Away.

The voice may be a little throaty now but ever the showman, he was very energetic, dancing all over the stage and even coming down to dance a slow number with a lucky gal from the audience.

Paul was featured on the recording and video for the Band-Aid project, "Do They Know It's Christmas?" Band-Aid's proceeds went directly to famine relief in Ethiopia.


HOWARD JONES

John Howard Jones, 53, made his debut performance on UK’s Top of the Pops in October 1983. His album Human's Lib went platinum. Jones combines synthesizer music with commentary on animal rights and life's excesses, with philosophy, spirituality and humanistic ideals as his lyrical themes.

In 1984, he released a single called Like To Get To Know You Well, which he dedicated to the original spirit of the Olympic Games. Although it was not an official Olympic anthem for the Games in Los Angeles that summer, it caught on and was a huge worldwide hit. The song appeared in the film Better Off Dead and the computer game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories.

Howard sang hits such as What Is Love, Things Can Only Get Better, New SongPearl In The Shell. Corny as it was, him reading “Selamat datang keGenting nama saya Howard Jones” in Bahasa endeared him as much as his stage antics and vocals. and

BANANARAMA

This band was one of the first in the music industry to promote “girl power” in the ’80s and are listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as Britain’s most successful girl group

This sassy duo (Siobhan Fahey left in 1988 after getting married to Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart and formed Shakespear's Sister with Marcella Detroit) comprises of original members Sara Elizabeth Dallin, 47, and Keren Jane Woodward, 47, took to the stage for their first Here & Now tour. They belted out Cruel Summer, Robert De Niro's Waiting, Venus, Love In The First Degree, Nathan Jones and Na Na Hey Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye.

Their hard rocking, slick choreography and hunky male backing dancers certainly helped the show to reach its peak, leaving us wanting more.

Bananarama also featured on the Band Aid hit single 'Do They Know It's Christmas? as well as a cover of 'Help' with French & Saunders for Comic Relief. Keren lives with ex-Wham star Andrew Ridgely.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

How big and strong is The Star?

Article by Helen Ang and Image both from Haris Ibrahim's blog People's Parliament
Reproduced verbatim. View the original here

How big and strong is The Star?

The answer: Very.

Just look at the 17-storey Menara Star, its main printing plant in Bukit Jelutong and other subsidiary plants, bureaus in the various states and its guanxi (business networking).

Money maketh the MSM.

Newspapers take up the biggest slice of the adspend pie at 56 percent, i.e. raking in about RM3.1 billion revenue, according to a Feb 13 report by Nielson Media Research. The cost of a full page colour ad in a Star main page ranges between RM36,000 and RM38,500 depending on the day of the week – you do the math on adex (advertising expenditure) filling the paper’s coffers.

In its corporate profile, Star claims a readership of 1,122,000. This figure is based on Nielson’s July 2006-June 2007 Index. It also claims an audited circulation of 309,181 copies on weekdays and 322,741 on Sundays for the same period. Multiply the numbers with its cover prices of RM1.20 and RM1.50, with total days in a year and you get readers forking over roughly RM115.4m + RM21mil = RM136.4 million per annum.

The reason why Star gets our goat is because of its smug spinning.

Reasons why it so sickeningly spins are because the paper is owned by MCA, linked to the government and has BN vested interests at heart. It figures that the paper’s top management, both editorial and corporate, is handpicked by the owners.

Can MCA reinvent itself to shed its communalism? Not unless it drops the ‘Chinese’ in its name, upon which the party will cease to have its raison d’etre.

Can a rebranded The Star likewise change its spots? I don’t think so, not unless the Augean stables of its highest echelons are cleaned out first. These men (and women) are dyed in wool pro-establishment, and dare we say, know which side their bread is buttered. Its reporters and middle-rankers are not necessarily likewise. But if you want to climb up the career ladder and fast, it naturally pays to play the politics.

What happens in its newsrooms?

I dug up some past whistleblowing on The Star from Malaysiakini archives. Letter writers who claimed to be insiders spilled the beans in 2001 when MCA investment arm Huaren Holdings, which at that time held 66 million Star shares, wanted to take over Nanyang Press Holdings along with the several Chinese publications in its stable.

Please cut and paste the urls below to read these letters in full – I strongly recommend that you do. Excerpts:

· “No stories about the opposition can be published without clearance from the editor-in-chief, especially any statements by DAP and Lim Kit Siang. No picture of Lim Kit Siang or Karpal Singh is allowed on the paper.” (‘Ling lies about ‘non-interference’ http://www.malaysiakini.com/letters/8467)

· “The fact that we are owned by the MCA is enough to give all MCA leaders, not just Dr Ling himself, the authority to dictate what stories should or should not be run, how stories should be angled, what pictures to use, and what pages stories should appear on.” (‘The MCA does interfere’, http://www.malaysiakini.com/letters/8497)

· “… whatever decision made during the meetings is guided by what Ling wants. Ex-Star Journalist is right – the real editor-in-chief of The Star is Ling Liong Sik.” (‘All the news that MCA deems fit to print’, http://www.malaysiakini.com/letters/8498)

Is the scenario much different in Star today? Back then, some 90 columnists and contributors to Nanyang Siang Pau, China Press, Sin Chew Jit Poh and Guangming decided to stop writing for the dailies in protest of the Nanyang takeover.

Kudos to those guys!

What about today’s MSM men?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Happy Easter and Selamat Menyambut Maulidur Rasul

The Spanker wishes all Malaysians a happy Easter
and an auspicious Maulidur Rasul














Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Tail Wagging The Dog


image credit: KL Confidential

Fellow Malaysians,

You know we're in trouble when the cops start flying our beloved Jalur Gemilang upside down.
You also know we're in trouble when the newspapers start believing their own lies and slants.

It’s disgusting to read the mainstream media nowadays, especially spinning gasing Ah Chun’s articles in the star. I refuse to dignify it with a link here. Not only does he downplay the bloggers’ role and efforts in the outcome of the elections, but he also demeans Jeff Ooi.

The only positive thing is that he admitted the mainstream media has to relook at its editorial policy given the maturity of Malaysian readers.

Err..I hate to wake you up from dreamland to break this to you, but you kinda missed the bus there, my delusional spin doctor.

image credit: Mob's Crib

Spinning gasing Ah Chun, spin it any way you want. Our Jeff won. And you had better address him as Yang Berhormat, geddit?

I believe it’s time to take the “no buy no lies” campaign of paper-free Tuesdays one step further. Let us refuse to purchase newspapers for one week i.e. Monday 17th March to Sunday 23rd March 2008 to show that we are mature enough not to swallow lies, one sided reporting and blatant cover-ups. For more msm shenanigans, read Shanghai's report here, Tony Yew's take here, Haris of The People's Parliament here, Zorro's sword thrust here and Sledgehammer's wake-up call to advertisers here.


Please get your news fix from the internet. There are plenty of unbiased news sites and blogs. Let us send a strong message to the government controlled mainstream media by denting their sales figures for one week. Please vote with your money by not buying the newspapers for one week.

If you would like to see a fairer media in the future, please forward this message to all fellow Malaysians in your address book. Thank You.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Money for Nothing


Money for Nothing

Now look at them yo-yos that’s the way you do it

You play the guitar on the Mtv

That aint workin’ that’s the way you do it

Money for nothin’ and chicks for free

Now that aint workin’ that’s the way you do it

Lemme tell ya them guys aint dumb

Maybe get a blister on your little finger

Maybe get a blister on your thumb

(From ‘Brothers in Arms’ the fifth album by British rock band Dire Straits, released in 1985)

I promised myself I would resist the huge temptation to write about the various politicians who are in denial about the election results and their pathetic attempts to “explain” their whacking at the hands of the rakyat. I figure you’re bored to death with the mainstream media’s lies anyway.

Instead, I’ll field a question from reader Arul, who commented on the hasty shredding of files in Khir Toyo’s office. He said “Spanker, I am disgusted that I have to slog like mad to earn a few bucks when these corrupted Wakil Rakyak and their families siphon off millions. It seems like that's all my life is working for kacang putih. What I make is nothing compared to some. It's depressing and I'm sure it's that way for a lot of other common people too. “

Money for love. money for fun, money for everything.

I hear your frustration, Arul - we all do, but unfortunately, life is what it is. Money seems to be required for all of our basic needs, and if you don't have enough of it, life can get pretty miserable

However, people survived for centuries without money as we think of it and use it today, and even now there are people living happily without money in certain areas of the world.

There are still many ethnic tribal peoples living exactly the way man started out living. They live completely off the land, they hunt and gather everything they eat, they make everything they use, they build their own houses, they occasionally barter, but they use no money system as we know it.

And the kicker is - they are very happy and content. Some of them have even been introduced to more "civilized" society - with clothing, money, electricity, etc. and they wanted no part of it - they truly enjoy their way of life. To answer your question, mankind can and does survive without the dependence of money.

Unfortunately, in today’s world, if you "lived completely off the land", you would be considered homeless and therefore an ugly stain on society. Even communities/cultures like the Amish and Mennonites who are primarily self-sufficient still use money - they are just much more frugal with it than the average person.

It's easy for me to say, "be happy with what you've got", or "count your blessings", or "you're better off than a lot of people, so quit complaining". But many of the people who say those things aren't the working poor and don't understand the despair that can come with struggling every day.

All I can tell you is - I've been average all my life - there were three children in our family and we grew up average. My parents worked as teachers to support us and we were not the right colour to apply for charity or state assistance of any kind, such as free school books, government handouts or scholarships, etc. We didn't take anything for granted.

At this point in my life, I still don't make/have the money I would like to have - and I’m still in debt, but I'm making it. I don't live anywhere real nice or fancy, but I'm sitting in a place that has running water, electricity, air conditioning, a stove, a refrigerator, a microwave, a toaster, a coffeemaker, a tv with astro, a computer with high-speed cable internet and I've got food in the fridge and cans in the pantry.

Oh, and I've got an old 4x4 outside. Seems like a little overkill to list all that, but it makes you remember that there are people who have none of that. And yes, we have to work to pay for it all, but we have the able bodies and the opportunities to do so.

There are plenty of people who live in places where there just aren't enough jobs to go around, so they have no choice but to starve or move somewhere else - but if they have no money, how can they move? Look around you at the Philipino, Indon, Myanmar and Nepalese invasion of Malaysia.

The only thing I can tell you is... and this almost sounds unacceptably crazy, is to be happy about going to work and about what that work affords you, even if it isn't much. When you get there, be pleasant with your co-workers, who are working for a living just like you, be happy that someone is paying you to be there, be happy that when you get home - you can get a bite to eat and sit in front of the tube, be happy about each and every friend and family member you've got and the time you get to spend with them.

Try as hard as you can not to think about money... you have to think about it when you're paying a bill or buying food, but other than that, just don't think about it. Thinking about money or our lack thereof, is what depresses us. You don't need money for fun - think of all the fun you had as a child that didn't cost anything.

I realize it sounds phony, but do things that don't require much money and they will still be just as enjoyable. Get together with friends for a dvd movie fest and talk over a cup of coffee - cheap but still a pleasure. Go to a park, a lake, a waterfall. Go on a walk, a bike ride, watch the sun set, go somewhere to people-watch.

Look around and see the beauty in everything. Enjoy everything you do have and don't think about what you don't have or the money to buy the things you don't have. It's easy to think that the rich have no worries and be resentful about it. It took me a long time to accept the fact that they do have worries.

Just like the rest of us, they get injured, they get cancer, they get depressed, they get divorced, they lose children, they become addicts and alcoholics, their families die, they die. Look at disgraced Klang politician Zakaria Deros of the infamous “Istana Zakaria and illegal restaurant on state land” who keeled over after the election results.

Many more than you'd imagine commit suicide. It takes some terrible unhappiness to be rich and still be miserable enough to kill yourself. Despite their money and all that it brings with it, something causes them to feel so hopeless that they end their own lives.

I wish I could tell you how to live your life and be happy without the dependence of money - but short of moving to another country and living the tribal life, I can't. I can only tell you that you can live a happy and fulfilling life without a lot more money than what it takes to survive.

And if you ever do make more money and live more comfortably, then congratulations and I hope you get to enjoy it.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Age of Assholes









For the better part of my life I have made it a point of giving people the benefit of the doubt with regard to their personal level of assholery. It was my practice to automatically set that level relatively low for just about everyone. That is, I assumed everyone was a decent person, until proven otherwise.

But with the proliferation of online communication, I have re-evaluated my assessment of the number of people who live well above the Asshole Line. In fact, I've had to reconsider the possibility that a great number of people who walk this planet are not only assholes, but spectacular assholes. The assumptions of my youth have actually been reversed; as I now assume everyone is an asshole, until they prove otherwise.

I've heard mention on several occasions, in several places, from several people the notion of the "Internet Mask". If you're not familiar with the Internet Mask concept, it's the idea that people communicating online, whether in a chat room, social networking site, on a forum, or via email can be any person they want to be. The anonymity of the web allows this, and some would even say it encourages it.

I agree with the Internet Mask concept in large part. There is anonymity involved in online communication, just as one would expect anonymity from wearing a mask. But instead of the anonymity of the web allowing people to be any person they want to be, I see the anonymity of the web allowing people to be the person they actually are.

And apparently there are a lot of assholes out there breathing our air.

I mean, think about it. We go through our normal day, and the folks we encounter are generally pleasant to be around. If not pleasant, they are at least tolerable. In the real world, we interact with each other on an interpersonal level. We're often courteous. We hold doors for each other. We laugh at each other's jokes, and say "Nice job" for tasks well done. At the very least, we're apathetic toward each other, making no impression one way or the other.

The short of it is, face-to-face and in person, there are few people willing to let their natural assholery flow unfettered. And it's not difficult to understand why. Assholes are generally not only frowned upon, but were they to exercise their talents among an overwhelming majority of non-assholes, they would likely be admonished with extreme prejudice. In other words, they'd get their asses kicked.

But the Internet prevents ass-kickery for assholery, and so these morons are free to be themselves, so help us God.

Think about the way we act in our cars during a traffic jam or when someone cuts us off. We curse and gesture and rant and plot a murder spree against the offender's family. And we have no qualms about behaving that way, because we are separated from the other drivers by a ton of steel and some safety glass.

Well, the same dynamic is at play for the online assholes. Only they are completely invisible, and most likely separated from the rest of us by hundreds if not thousands of miles. The chance of them being put in their place is slim. We can do nothing online but ask them to stop being assholes, which as you might know, is only going to spur them to further heights of assholeness.

The chance of retribution, the possibility that the non-assholes can group together and kick their collective unrepentant ass is remote. So they show no restraint in unleashing their assholery. In person, they are scared, trembling little cockroaches, but on the Internet they are free to be themselves and roar like Lions.

And this is very disconcerting. Because, as non-assholes, we're faced with the fact that there are a lot of people who not only don't mind being hated, but who find some perverse pleasure in inspiring anger and causing others to hate. Unfortunately, our anger and hatred have no viable target, which is the real tragedy. Non-assholes are simply made to feel these dark emotions with no outlet, which is perhaps the precise power trip these idiots are after.

So where does it end? Or is the situation going to get progressively worse?

Well, the Internet is not going to go away. It is too valuable an asset in our lives now. In addition to being a convenient communication tool, it is a ready source of entertainment where we can download music, watch streaming video, and read amazingly funny websites like Spanking DA Monkey.

It's an intermediary for procuring unlimited goods and services. And it's one of the most, if not the most, robust and accurate information sources on the planet, given the current trend of the government-controlled mainstream media in Malaysia to skew and spin information for its own agenda. Bloggers Rocky and Jeff Ooi are being persecuted for not wearing Masks while exposing this malaise

Everyone uses the Internet, and that means the number of assholes unleashed by the Internet Mask is going to continue to climb. But there's absolutely no reason to stop using the Internet because of all the jerks in the world.

So here’s the Spanker’s pocket guide to neutralizing Assholes. Cut and keep in your pocket for easy reference.

The Spanker’s pocket guide to neutralizing online Assholes

If you get nothing but bile in an email from some jerk-off, filter everything coming from his address into the Junk bin. If you participate in online forums and another poster is constantly flaming you, check to see if your forum has an "Ignore" feature. If so, use it, and use it with no apologies.

If you are into gaming, and your online game features a "Chat" interface where you encounter competitors making fun of yo’ momma, disable it. You can still blow the other competitors up or take over their star cruiser without talking to them.

If you like chat rooms and someone challenges you on everything you say, take your friends with you to a private room. Or go ol’ skool on them, and simply pick up your trusty cell phone to chat with your friends.

Ignoring Internet assholes removes the perceived power they have, and without power and the attention they so desperately seek, they will go away. And if they don't go away, at the very least they will be neutralized.

Folks, there's nothing wrong with the Internet Mask. We all use it to some degree. I mean, I'm not exactly the spanking monkey from Taman Desa I pretend to be. I'm actually a handsome, rich and macho Harley biker from Ipoh. But if we're going to survive the Age of Assholes, we've got to actively combat unacceptable behavior.

So disable chat, use those Junk bins, and engage that Ignore feature for every asshole you encounter.

Except the ones you encounter on this website, of course.