Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Women Are Badass Drivers

please click on article to enlarge

Here’s a news article in today’s Star that confirms something that Shem and I already know – women are badass drivers.

Not too long ago we were on the Kesas highway travelling to Puchong and I was driving. As we approached the Toll, I headed for the Touch & Go lane. An Indian woman driver who was talking on her hand phone and driving with one hand suddenly cut across three lanes to get into the cash lane on the left hand side.

Had I not swerved violently, there would have been a nasty accident. Thank God there were no cars nearby on my right. I paid the toll, got down from my car and waited for the woman driver to clear the toll booth.

As she approached with her window down, I asked her “Why did you cut me off?”

“F%#k You!” she shouted as she sped off, still talking on the hand phone!.

I could have got back into my car and chased her and redesigned her car with my steering lock, but as I told Shem, maybe I would have done that in my old life. I’m a follower of Christ now.

Now you know why Joe (our Usher in church) is always giving testimony on his close shaves with women drivers as he rides his bike around.

Actor Peter Graves is dead, Burt Reynolds very ill

This post is only for those aged 40 and above. The young ‘uns won’t have a clue who Peter and Burt are 

Seeing the latest pictures of some of your favorite movie stars of yesterday can really give you a jolt and drive home the fact that time and tide wait for no man. We will all get old and wrinkled and have white hair, or worse lose our hair (like me). It is also a grim reminder that we will all die one day and face our maker to be judged for our deeds and misdeeds.

Peter Graves, the tall, stalwart actor best known for his portrayal of Jim Phelps, leader of a division of special agents who battled evil conspirators in the long-running television series "Mission: Impossible," died last Sunday.

Graves died of a heart attack outside his Los Angeles home. He would have been 84 this week.
Graves had just returned from brunch with his wife and kids and collapsed before he made it into the house. One of his daughters administered CPR but was unable to revive him. Graves' family doctor visited the house and pronounced that he had a heart attack.

Although Graves never achieved the stardom his older brother, James Arness, enjoyed as Marshal Matt Dillon on TV's "Gunsmoke," he had a number of memorable roles in both films and television. Normally cast as a hero, he turned in an unforgettable performance early in his career as the treacherous Nazi spy in Billy Wilder's 1953 prisoner-of-war drama "Stalag 17."

He also masterfully lampooned his straight-arrow image when he portrayed bumbling airline pilot Clarence Oveur in the 1980 disaster movie spoof "Airplane!" Graves appeared in dozens of films and a handful of television shows in a career of nearly 60 years. The authority and trust he projected made him a favorite for commercials late in his life, and he was often encouraged to go into politics.

He took on formidable human villains each week on "Mission: Impossible." Every show began with Graves, as Chief Jim Phelps, listening to a tape of instructions outlining his team's latest mission and explaining that if he or any of his agents were killed or captured "the secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions." The tape always self-destructed within seconds of being played.

The show ran on CBS from 1967 to 1973 and was revived on ABC from 1988 to 1990 with Graves back as the only original cast member. He credited clever writing for the show's success. "It made you think a little bit and kept you on the edge of your seat because you never knew what was going to happen next," he once said.

He also played roles in such films as John Ford's "The Long Gray Line" and Charles Laughton's "The Night of the Hunter," as well as "The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell," "Texas Across the River" and "The Ballad of Josie."

He noted during an interview in 2000 that he made his foray into comedy somewhat reluctantly.
Filmmakers Jim Abrahams and David and Jerry Zucker had written a satire on the airplane-in-trouble movies, and they wanted Graves and fellow handsome actors Lloyd Bridges, Leslie Nielsen and Robert Stack to spoof their serious images.

All agreed, but Graves admitted to nervousness. On the one hand, he said, he considered the role a challenge, "but it also scared me." "I thought I could lose a whole long acting career," he recalled. "Airplane!" became a box-office smash, and Graves returned for "Airplane II, The Sequel."

Born Peter Aurness in Minneapolis, Graves adopted his grandfather's last name to avoid confusion with his older brother, James, who had dropped the "U" from the family name. He was a champion hurdler in high school, as well as a clarinet player in dance bands and a radio announcer.

After two years in the Air Force, he enrolled at the University of Minnesota as a drama major and worked in summer stock before following his brother west to Hollywood. He found enough success there to send for his college sweetheart, Joan Endress. They were married in 1950 and had three daughters – Kelly Jean, Claudia King and Amanda Lee – and six grandchildren.

Thank you for a very entertaining career, Peter. May you rest in peace.

Another popular 80’s actor, Burt Reynolds checked into rehab in West Palm Beach to be treated for an addiction to painkillers, following an allegedly grisly and bizarre incident in late August. He was found semi-conscious and covered in blood in his Hobe Sound, Florida, home.

"The houseman found Burt lying in a pool of blood. He'd fallen and was badly cut. The houseman drove him to the hospital. But Burt was behaving strangely, and doctors were so concerned about his state of mind that they sent him to the county mental health facility in West Palm Beach," a source told the newspapers.

His admission to rehab may not have been entirely voluntary. The facility allegedly refused to release Reynolds unless he agreed to head straight to rehab. "He's been increasingly abusing booze and prescription drugs, mainly painkillers. There have been many times recently when he's been completely out of it, and twice in the last few months he's ended up at the ER," the source said.

Burt wasn't happy about it, but he checked in, went through detox and then joined a regular 30-day rehab program." Reynolds' manager, meanwhile, has put forth a less colorful version of the events that landed the 73-year-old actor in rehab.

"After a recent back surgery, Mr. Reynolds felt like he was going through hell and after a while, realized he was a prisoner of prescription pain pills," he said in a statement. "He checked himself into rehab in order to regain control of his life. Mr. Reynolds hopes his story will help others in a similar situation. He hopes they will not try to solve the problem by themselves, but realize that sometimes it is too tough to do on their own and they should seek help, as he did."

The manager said the actor has been released from a Florida hospital after a planned heart bypass operation. Reynolds went into the hospital on Monday and was discharged Tuesday.

The star of "Smokey and the Bandit," "Deliverance" and "Boogie Nights" now says that he has "a great motor with brand new pipes" and is "feeling great." Reynolds is 74.

What does message the above two stories have to tell us? Tick tock…tick tock…tick tock…

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Silence! I Kill You!

Archbishop Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam today accepted the public apology by the Al-Islam magazine and said no legal action will be taken against them.

“I am happy that the editor and journalists of Al-Islam have made the apology on their website and promised to print the apology on their forthcoming issue,” the head of the archdiocese said.

“I accept the apology and no legal action will be taken against Al-Islam on this matter,” added Pakiam, who is also the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei.

Pakiam assured them that “the Catholic community is appeased. I extend my peace and goodwill to the editor and journalists,” he said.

It is good that the magazine has voluntarily apologized. CONSIDER this. Despite the available evidence of Al Islam's unethical undercover report in which the magazine's Muslim journalist spat out the holy communion to photograph, no action is going to be taken. The Attorney-General's Chambers decided this despite the police reports and a memorandum lodged by Catholics about the insensitive treatment of a holy sacrament in Christianity.

Then consider this. Because some Muslims perceive that Islam is being challenged by a non-Muslim journalist, English-language daily The Star could potentially lose its publishing permit. At the same time, because some Muslim groups have taken offence at a statement by Sisters in Islam (SIS), the Muslim women's group will likely be investigated under Section 298A of the Penal Code for causing disharmony and disunity on grounds of religion.

What exactly do these developments tell us about the Barisan Nasional (BN) administration's idea of justice and fairness? And how can citizens make sense of how our government is responding to these issues?

Muslim "sensitivities" paramount

It's clear that when it comes to defending a particular faith community's sensitivities, Muslim sensitivities trump all others. And because the majority of Muslims in Malaysia are racially categorised as Malay, it would be logical to surmise that the BN government is only interested in defending Malay-Muslim Malaysians' rights.

Other faith communities, mostly comprising the other races, will just have to contend with being second-class citizens who will not be accorded the same protection as the majority.

Actually, the state shouldn't even be in the business of defending those who have been personally offended by the views or actions of others. Indeed, Al Islam's offence was unethical journalism and acting in ways which were un-Islamic despite its pretext of acting in the ummah's interest. Hardly a crime against an individual or the state. No, the state should not be in the business of penalising offensive actions or words.

But since the state has decided to be the guardian of public sensitivities through various legal provisions, it needs to demonstrate that it will treat all citizens and their complaints fairly and equally.

By not doing so, the BN administration, now under Datuk Seri Najib Razak's leadership, is clearly proving that it is incapable of treating all citizens with equality. And that if you're not a Malay-Muslim in Malaysia, there are no guarantees that the state will do right by you.

How else would we be able to make sense of why the administration will not act on addressing Catholics' hurt feelings, but will immediately snap to action when some Muslims' sensitivities are affected?

Price to pay

There is another lesson to be learnt from what has happened recently. If one speaks up for justice and compassion in Malaysia, there is a strong likelihood that there will be a penalty to pay. More troublingly, it is the state that will ensure a price is exacted against citizens who speak up against injustice.

What exactly was The Star's managing editor P Gunasegaram's crime when he appealed for compassion in the name of religion in his 19 Feb 2010 column titled Persuasion, not compulsion?

Although the article was removed the next day, I reproduce the article in full below for you to read and decide Gunasegaram’s “crime” for yourself. Why was The Star made to feel so threatened by the state that it felt compelled to remove Gunasegaram's column from its online version, issue a public apology, and censor long-time columnist Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir?

Sure, at least five police reports have been lodged against The Star, including by the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (MAIS). But what crime was committed that the daily should be given a show-cause letter by the Home Ministry? And why is it a crime for a non-Muslim to reasonably appeal for justice and compassion in the name of Islam? How does doing that denigrate and undermine Islam? How can it even be offensive to Muslim sensibilities when Islam preaches justice, peace, compassion and fairness?

To be sure, the argument used by these complainants — that no non-Muslim should speak up about the administration of Islam in Malaysia — is actually just a red herring. Because SIS, too, hasn't been spared from the wrath of those who have been "offended" by the organisation's statement condemning the clandestine caning of three Muslim women for "illicit sex".

And what was SIS's crime? Seems like it was that SIS spoke out against the state's use of Islam to justify the cruel and inhumane punishment of Muslim women for a private sin the state should have no business policing. Its crime was that it was courageous enough to speak up against abuse of power in the interest of justice and compassion.

So what can we conclude? It's not about whether one is Muslim or non-Muslim. Anyone, regardless of faith, who dares to challenge the state's interpretation of Islam will be threatened and punished until they back down.

Really, we shouldn't be too surprised that the BN administration is doing this. After more than 50 years of BN rule, there are more than enough examples of how the government will crack down on those who speak up for truth and justice. From arrests under the Internal Security Act and charges under the Sedition Act to the closure of newspapers including The Star during 1987's Operasi Lalang, the BN is a government that will be neither challenged nor held accountable.

Hence, the use of Islam and the introduction of the notion that Malaysia is an "Islamic state" is really just another way to stifle challenges and attempts at holding state power accountable. After all, God's laws, unlike human-made laws, are sacrosanct and cannot ever be challenged. How convenient, no?

This, then, is what our current government is all about. My question is, do we really want more of the same?

"Persuation, not compulsion" by P Gunasegaram

When federal laws unambiguously prohibit whipping or caning of women, religious laws must not be allowed to do the opposite.

ONE of the small things that I am grateful for is that I cannot be legally whipped or caned for any offence any more. Yes, there are criminal penalties which can specify whipping, but not for those over 50, I am told. Sometimes being old(er) is an advantage.

The other reason that I won’t be legally whipped is that I am not a Muslim and therefore my personal behaviour is not subject to syariah courts, which can hold me liable for offences such as drinking alcohol and have me caned.

For me and for millions of Malaysians of all races and religions, Feb 9, 2010, was a sad, black day in the history of our country. On that day, three women were caned legally for the first time ever in this country. They, all Muslims, were caned for engaging in illicit sex, an offence under syariah law, it was announced.

It is shocking that such sentences are being meted out for such offences. While religious laws may allow for such sentences, it is possible for judges to mete out lower sentences, especially when such “offences” are of a very personal nature and harm no one else.

When there are loopholes in religious laws which allow such punishment out of all proportion to the “crime” committed, and which go against the sensibilities of most Malaysians, then it is incumbent upon the Government of the day to use the legislature to do the needful. Otherwise it abdicates its responsibility.

Illicit sex means sex out of wedlock and if we are all not hypocrites, we will admit that it happens all the time, among both Muslims and non-Muslims. To prescribe caning for such an offence is something that most Malaysians are likely to consider just too much.

It also opens the door for caning for more minor offences in the eyes of religious officials, such as drinking alcohol. In fact one Muslim woman, who has refused to appeal her case, is currently awaiting a caning sentence to be carried out after she was found guilty of drinking alcohol.

That case attracted international attention and made it to the front page of two international financial dailies – The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times – on the same day last year. The current case, announced on Wednesday, is already beginning to attract world attention.

With three women already having been caned for illicit sex, the way has been paved for more caning of women in the future. That will not endear Malaysia to Malaysians, let alone foreigners who are inevitably going to equate us with the Taliban. And who can blame them?

And are we going to go further down the slippery road and cane women for dressing immodestly too, as has been done in some countries?

There are already indications that Malays, especially women, are migrating and leaving their homeland, not because they don’t have opportunities here but because as Muslims, their personal freedom is restricted – and there is danger that it will be curtailed even more.

Yes, it has been said the three women did not suffer any cuts or bruises following the caning but that is scant consolation to those who have to undergo such humiliating punishment on top of the intrusion into their personal affairs.

As if the caning was not bad enough, alarmingly they spent months in prison. One of them is still serving her jail sentence and will be released only in June.

All three were found guilty of committing illicit sex by the Federal Territory Syariah High Court, which issued the caning order between December last year and last month. Perplexingly, they were not made public at that point of time. The public had no idea of the caning before it was done.

Also, it was not clear if the women had exercised their full rights under syariah law by appealing the court’s decision.

These are behaviours which should not be treated as if they were criminal offences; but they have been. The offenders have not only been caned but also jailed, which is rather harsh punishment for something which did not harm anyone else and was done in privacy and behind closed doors.

This is clear indication that there are laws in our statute books – both syariah as well as civil – which are outdated and need to be revised in keeping with the times and the recognition that individuals have personal rights.

Personal behaviour between consenting adults that do no physical harm to them and to others should not be legislated. This is in keeping with the development of personal rights throughout the world, and anything that takes away these rights is a step backwards.

Religion is open to interpretation, man interprets it and man can – and does – make mistakes.

Even if religious rules are flouted, we should have a system which does not mete out punishment for offences, and focus instead on rehabilitation and counselling. That will be in keeping with the universal tenet that there is no compulsion when it comes to religion.

Custodial and punitive sentences by religious courts should be limited via statutes because personal behaviour of adults is often involved and there is no hurt or harm to any others arising from such behaviour.

Religion is about persuasion not compulsion, about faith not certainty, and that is the way we should keep it. Otherwise, bigotry is going to get in the way and we won’t be following the tenets of religion but of those who choose to interpret it the way they want to.

We have all seen what happens when religion – no matter what religion – is carried to extremes and hijacked by bigots. We don’t want public flogging, we don’t want arms chopped off, we don’t want people to be stoned to death, and we don’t want people to be burned at the stake.

We have already moved way past that. Let’s not allow a small number of religious bigots to take us back into the dark ages. And for that, we all need to stand up and speak up when our individual rights are trampled upon.

Managing editor P. Gunasegaram is appalled by the number of sins committed in the name of God.