Wednesday, February 27, 2008

When the shit hits the fan...

Blogging from my phone again. I'm at a mamak having a late supper
outside my hotel in Kuantan. I don't have TV3 in my room. I'm actually
watching 360 now. Damn, it just started raining. Anyway i've been
reading the papers and man... The propaganda sure is coming hard and
fast now. Reading the malay papers just makes me want to laugh and
puke at the same time. Their bias is so damn obvious... Who the heck
are they kidding when they say there is press freedom in malaysia? Its
a good thing i don't watch much tv here. Reminds of this old joke. A
guy runs into a bar and ask for the loo. The bartender points upstairs
and the guy runs upstairs. He doesn't find the loo. Since he can't
hold it any longer, he spots a hole in the floor and promptly shits in
it. After he walks down, he finds the bar empty. He ask the bartender
who is mopping the floor where everyone when. The bartender replied
'where were you when the shit hit the fan man?!' well... that's me.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

All quiet on the southern front

Blogging from my phone again. I'm in a van on the way to johor lama.
For the pass two days i've been staying in Kota Tinggi. Our hotel is
at best, only three stars... However i think it.most probably two
stars only. The towels are extremely thin. I had to buy my own towel
from the local supermarket. A quick glance around and you wouldn't
realize that this town was completely flooded in a great flood only a
few months ago. The water level was up to the ceiling of the first
floor of most buildings in the town area. Now, most of the buildings
have been newly painted again. Only a few stores have been left
abandoned. I have a feeling those never recovered financially and have
a fear of the floods returning. Earlier this morning i watched the
UMNO procession walk by to the nomination centre. The MP for this area
is the current foreign minister, Syed Hamid Albar. It was a pretty
quiet affair. Not much chanting of slogans. As Johor is a barisan
nasional stronghold, there isn't much of a challenge.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

In my hotel room

Bloging from my phone. I'm in my hotel room in the Zon. I'm watching
singaporean TV. Its weird. They have the same programs they buy as us
but their commercial breaks are so different. The have a lot more
local brands advertising on media corp. Anyway, it was the usual
tiring day shooting. We when to this abandoned building to shoot. We
ran into a couple taking their wedding photos with the old building as
their backdrop. I find it amusing people would choose a location like
that for their wedding album. I personally would choose something that
isn't so spooky like that... I think i might go take another walk
around the hotel lobby later. I can hear the band playing in the
lobby. Very noisy!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Away again

Blogging from my phone. I am at a delifrance in a strangely named
shopping mall, 'the zon' in johor baru. My hotel is in an ajoining
building also with the same name. A lot of bars here. Its a duty free
zone and there is a jetty here that goes to indonesia i think. After
JB i will be in kota tinggi and then kuantan. 2 weeks of travelling!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The drums of propaganda

Well, the elections finally has a date. The Election Commission has fixed the date for the 2008 General Election on March 8. Just in time for me to vote as I'll be gone from 18 February to 2nd March. I'll be in Johor Baru and Kuantan shooting during the two weeks.


I'm dreading the poster wars that will start on polling day on 28 February. All the posters hanging from every corner is such an eyesore. I wish the local councils would designate places that the political parties can put their posters and leave other areas clear of it.


I remember in the last election Barisan Nasional hung a huge flag right outside my house and it didn't go down for a month. It took a few phone calls complaining to them before their came to take it down.


The Star has given their election coverage a title, "Malaysia Decides 2008" while The New Straits Times is calling it quite simply "Election 2008". Utusan's title is quite long, "Laporan Khas Menjelang Pilihan Raya".


The election is something all the press has been planning for months now. Like the political parties, the press probably had their own preparations well rehearsed.


Political parties are vying for votes during an election while the press are vying for attention. The election in a way is a popularity contest for both political parties and the press. For the press, it's one of the rare few times where everyone gives the same coverage for the same event. So far TV3 has always come out tops in a 'same event' ratings war.


In the US, National Television networks like CBS, NBC and FOX look forward to the rating wars during the election. It's a time when they put the credibility of their news team to the test. The one with the widest and most interesting coverage will get the highest ratings. For the local TV stations, it would be a test of their national coverage.


With TV3, NTV7, TV9 and 8TV sharing the same news resources this year, it would be interesting to see their news coverage. There would be economy of scales in terms of the back office operations. I can forsee that they can share the same operation rooms outside of the Klang Valley. I just hope they have their own editorial angle.


This year for the TV stations, the battle will be between 3 forces. The 'federation' of Media Prima (with TV3, NTV7, 8TV and TV9) against ASTRO and RTM. TV3 would most probably lead the pack in the Media Prima federation. I don't have ASTRO at home so I can't really watch how they cover the election but I do expect quality discussions coming out of their studios. RTM's mandarin news is quite good too. I think it would be a strong fight between their mandarin news and 8TV's mandarin news.


It would also be interesting to see how much access the opposition party has to the mainstream press this year. They have already proven they could use the alternative means like blogs very well. However, the internet is still mostly accessable to the urban voters only.The coming elections here will be a gauge of press freedom in Malaysia and the news quality of all the press (whether local or foreign).


I forsee this would be a tough year for BN trying to convince the urban voters. Places like Petaling Jaya, Ipoh and Penang will be a tough fight. Crime and inflation will be high on their mind.I myself would be voting in Petaling Jaya Utara and I await to see what are the issues they would be bringing up. All the dirt, insults and wrong doing from the last 4 years would be dredged up. It's the time of reckoning.


The drums of propaganda are beating, The troops are keen, soon the battle lines will be joined.


Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war...








Monday, February 11, 2008

change, change, change... chain of fools

I have the whole week of with not much to do. I have 21 days of leave that I carried forward from last year. I'm trying to finish as much of the leave as a I can by the first quarter of this year.


Surprisingly I woke up at 6AM today. I did some light exercises and bought nasi lemak for breakfast. Looking around, there wasn't much to do and I jumped back into bed. So much for an early start to the day. I woke up again at lunch time and here I am still sitting in front of the PC surfing the net.


Lately, the newspapers and the news on TV have all been about the election. The producers have dedicated more time to government propaganda. Usually the first block of the news is about national stories, which could be crime, politics, PM and DPM's visits, etc. Now it's all about what the government has done for the people. The campaigning has most certainly started.


Out of curiousity what the opposition has been doing to prepare for the election, I visited the DAP website. Since they are most likely to contest PJ Utara, the constituency that I am staying and working at, it would be nice to see what they are working on.


Well, I didn't find the name of their candidate... yet, but I did find out that their slogan is "Jom Ubah". Sounds a lot similar like the theme for some of the presidential candidates in the US. Obama's fighting theme is about change. Change for the better I hope.


I did find a DAP TV commercial. Looks like the DAP campaign style is copying a lot from the Americans, they're getting a lot more savvy.



I took a look at some of the blogs of their Parliment representatives too. It looks like everyone is busy preparing for the coming election. Teresa Kok recently when around town with a lion dance troup to collection donations. That's quite creative I would say.


I remember elections are always stressful time, even for the press. In my office they setup an operation centre in the theatrette the last election. It looked like the NASA mission command centre with rows of PC's and a large monitor up front.


In 1999 when I first started work as a reporter, one of things I had to do was to answer the phone during the election. I remember the night the results were being announced and there was a lot of calls coming in enquiring about the late result tabulations for Terengganu.


A few called in to swear at us and also remind me about eternal damnation. After awhile, I just picked up the phone answered with "hello" and then put the receiver on the table and every few minutes say "okay" into the receiver and go back to my work. Most of them are so engrossed in quoting the holy verses to me they don't realize I'm not on the phone. They just want someone to release their frustration on.


I speak fluent Bahasa Malaysia (yes, it's Bahasa Malaysia now, not Bahasa Melayu!) so a lot of the callers assume I'm a Muslim. One caller after ranting about how lying will lead to eternal damnation asked if I was a Muslim expecting a yes from me and I replied no and the guy kept quite for awhile and then hung up after ranting on for awhile. His sales pitch didn't quite work on me.


This year I most probably won't be involved with the election. I hope. I just want to be a regular voter. Hrmm... now that I think about it, I do hope I'm not travelling around during the election. I want to make my vote count this time around.


Okay, it's time to get out and explore the world!





Sunday, February 10, 2008

Up and about in Taiping

Hola! I've been busy since I got back from Taiping. It was straight into the Chinese New Year celebrations. It was the usual, reunion dinner with relatives and first day gathering with relatives.


The Taiping trip was good. I'm always pleasantly surprised at the generosity and hospitality shown by locals when ever I go to a strange new place to do a shoot. Taiping was no exception, the people there was nice enough to take us around and show us their wonderful town.


It was nostalgic for me as well as I haven't been to Taiping in many years. When I was staying in Bagan Serai, I used to go to Taiping every weekend with my brother for art class. After art class, we would hang out at the supermarket below the Panorama hotel.


Not much of Taiping has changed. Just the addition of a few buildings and The Store has taken over the supermarket I used to hang out at. There's a Tesco and a Giant now.


The streets of Taiping are all grids so they all run North-South and East-West. Can't really get lost in this town. When the British first planned the town, Taiping was the first modern town in the whole of the Malayan peninsula. The only other large town was the Penang Island. The Brits had a lot of foresight to plan large streets like these. In the background, you can see Maxwell Hill (also known as Bukit Larut).


I've seen the old black and white pictures of Taiping. There were a lot more trees then. This picture I took is based on a black and white photo I saw. Amazingly, the streets and the building in the old photo still looks exactly the same as in this photo.


Of course back then, it was much easier for the photographer to setup a tripod right in the middle of the crossroad to take this picture. The streets were all packed dirt and horse carriages were the mode of transport. The rest of the of the people walked. You can still explore the whole of Taiping itself on foot. The buildings on the left and right are still the same. The clocktower in the background of the picture is still the same too.


This market was where I used to have lunch.


I had breakfast at this shop near the market. They had some new Chicken Kuew Teow Soup. Not bad. I liked sitting by the street listening to everyone speak hokkien. Just thinking, that 200 years ago, people were having breakfast exactly the same way.


I was looking for a toilet after breakfast and I turned into the Wisma Hasil and suprisingly, The Lembaga Hasil Dalam Negeri has the cleanest toilet in the whole of Taiping! I'm not kidding, this toilet is spotless clean and the floor is dry and it smells nice too.


Even the "New Club" feels old. Back when the Brits started it, it was still new but now it's an 'old' club. I took a closer look at the past presidents board. There's a blank between 1941 and 1945. It makes you wonder what happened too all the club members during World War 2. A blank says a lot.




I managed to stop by and visit the Commonwealth graves. Very somber and well maintained. A lot of young soldiers died defending Malaya during WW2.


A lot of the graves did not have names on it, all that was written was "A soldier of The Indian army is honoured here". I think the bodies were probably beyond recognition when they were buried after the war.


After Ipoh I stopped over in my hometown, Ipoh to stay the night. I visited my grandmother and relatives there. I also took the time to visit my old primary school, LaSalle primary school.


Brought back a lot of memories. I don't remember much but I do remember our teacher used to lead us out to the school field and we'll sit under the trees.


Most of my schooling years, it has been at a missionary school. I when to a Methodist Kindergarden in Ipoh, a missionary primary school in Ipoh and a missionary secondary school in Petaling jaya. The only non-missionary school I when too was Chim kindergarden in PJ and Bagan Serai secondary school. Did it make me a better person? Hrmmm... I'll just say it made me what I am today.


The best thing I like about Chinese New Year is the easy moving traffic in town. I like visiting the shopping malls during the first few days of CNY. The malls are empty and it's easy to walk around and find parking.


I managed to take this panorama picture of Damansara Perdana and Mutiara Damansara from the rooftop parking of One Utama new wing. Who knows, 200 years from now someone will take a look at this photo and wonder how much Petaling Jaya has changed... or how much it looks alike.