Direction of a Nation 2


transforming-science-education_5162ed81afb47_w1500

(Here’s why we should go that extra mile to ensure science, technology and mathematics forms the bedrock of a nation instead of religion. Infographic source: http://visual.ly/transforming-science-education)

The week started on a rather sour note:-

Lebuhraya Mahameru will have its name changed to Lebuhraya Sultan Iskandar. The installation of new signboards is expected to begin today.

THE decision by Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) to rename eight major roads has not gone down well with city folk.

In a statement by DBKL, well-known roads such as Jalan Duta, Jalan Ipoh and Lebuhraya Mahameru will be changed to reflect the names of past Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

The installation of new signboards is expected to begin today.

As the news broke early yesterday morning, city folk took to social media to vent their disbelief and frustration

(Source)

Didn’t I say that in this country, we are looking at far too trivial matters when there are far more important matters that we need to be concerned off?

For start, I still do not understand what is the benefit of changing these well-known and often used road names to past Kings’ names. If it is to promote the good name and respect for the monarchy, this is not the way to do it. Besides if the reason for changing the road names is indeed due to the respect for our Kings and not because someone had an itch somewhere on his body, what had happened to change the names rather urgently? Nothing at all. Further, there will always be a good opportunity to name something “new” with the Agong’s name – new roads, new buildings, new bridges, new submarines & ships, etc. Why go ahead and fix something that is not broken?

It is obvious that it was done without any much thought to the inconvenience and waste of time and money that the ordinary citizen will incur with these “clumsy” decisions. For start, the taxpayers is going to be burdened with additional cost of changing the sign boards and road users is going to be burdened with re-remembering the new names (and updating their GPS data mapping).

It is something that others are also asking:-

To further understand the reasons, I queried him: if that is the case then why are we changing street names that have already been changed – re: Jalan Duta which formerly known as Guillemard Road? What about the historical value of these streets? Was there any meeting with heritage agencies or bodies prior? Was there a public discussion that the public missed out?

How much cost incurred to change these signages? Ismail answered that the cost is between RM3,000 and RM5,000 per signage. In total, he would not how many signages to be changed. He can’t even estimate – it is just too technical for him.

(Source)

Ok never mind this decision by the authorities for now although I am going to miss names like “Jalan Duta” and “Lebuhraya Mahameru”. It has not been the first time we have watched a “do first, think later” in motion in this country. We had bigger circus in town that dwarfed this decision.

Ah yes, I am talking about the UMNO general assembly. As usual and nothing surprising, from the past years’ general assemblies, there was plenty of talks of survival & desperate fight for the community (somehow for a few days in a year, the community becomes an endangered species), the warnings of be careful of the non-Malays (despite the non Malays are not heading the government of the day), how if not united (yes, against the non Malays, again), the community will be left out in the country, blah, blah, blah was the high note of the general assembly this time as well. Somehow over the years, we have become immune to these seditious talks when the circus comes to the town.

But interestingly 2 items stood out that perhaps need a greater scrutiny. First was of course the reversal of the decision to scrap the Sedition Act.

To further justify it, Najib even said that it will be strengthen to protect Malaysians from, well, other Malaysian:-

The decision to retain the Sedition Act 1948 has nothing to do with keeping Barisan Nasional in power, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on Sunday.

Najib, who is also Barisan chairman, said there was no ulterior motive in the move to retain the Act as it could not ensure the coalition would be re-elected in the coming or future general election.

Najib added that the Sedition Act was not just about the protection of Muslims and the Malays, but extends to all races.

“We will also ensure that the enforcement of the Sedition Act will be fair and according to the law,” he said.

(Source)

And mind you, this comes from the same man who just 2 years ago announced that he is going to repeal the dreaded Sedition Act as part of his visionary road map for a very transformed Malaysia. So, hearing the man to turn around and now say that there is no ulterior motive to retain the Act and the use of the Act would be fair and according to the law, one have to wonder and ask the question “would you believe him again?” And just to see how Najib’s administration has been “fair” in applying the law in the past, you don’t have to go far back in history.

Let’s take this for example:-

I am only going to refer now, in red, to the fifth “seditious tendency” referred to in Section 3 – “to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Malaysia”.

Can we think of any?

Calling Chinese ‘pendatang‘, perhaps?

Threatening to spill the blood of the Chinese with the keris, no?

So, if you utter words that might have the tendency to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Malaysia, you would have committed an offence under the Sedition Act, 1948.

Right?

Well, not if you are Ibrahim Ali, and not if you uttered such words that had the tendency to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between Muslims and Christians of Malaysia but your intentions were not to cause such hostility but to defend Islam.

In other words, under the Sedition Act, 1948, the intention of Ibrahim Ali, at the time he called for the burning of the Holy Bible, is irrelevant in considering if those words would have a seditious tendency.

(Source)

And even better is this:-

Umno delegate Datuk Mohd Zaidi Mohd Said should be investigated under the Sedition Act 1948 for claiming that the “Chinese are getting rich through illegal activities”, an MCA leader said today.

Penang MCA liaison committee secretary Dr Tan Chuan Hong said Zaidi should be probed and punished to ensure others do not make similar comments, The Star reported.

The Permatang Pauh Umno division chairman, told delegates at the Umno general assembly that the Chinese in Penang gained wealth and power by being involved in illicit economic activities, such as gambling, prostitution and entertainment outlets.

(Source)

One threatened to burn bibles whilst another said that another race got their wealth from illicit economic activities. Well, let’s see if Najib keeps his words this time. Will he be fair and apply the law as he had mentioned? He does not have to wait for new improved Sedition Act to be in place – the current Sedition Act should be more than enough to haul couple of trouble-makers to the court. That’s fair, right?

The next thing that stood out in the general assembly was this:-

He said some current component party leaders had dared to question Malay and Muslim issues, such as religious schools, covering of women’s aurat (modesty) and the Shariah Court. Khairul Anwar said he believed they did this to gain popularity in their own communities.

“So let them become the presidents of MCA, MIC, Gerakan and the rest, but when they want to sit in BN’s highest council, they should be voted in by the Malays of Umno. “We do not want them to be cheering for their own communities and questioning our race.”

(Source)

Should I comment further? Does that some how this nails the truth right on it’s head doesn’t it?

Although it has not happened and I don’t think Najib would be dumb enough to do so but perhaps it is just a matter of time before UMNO actually decides to hand pick the presidents of MCA, MIC, etc. And it’s funny for Khairul Anwar to say that he believed they did this to gain popularity in their own communities. Then what do you call the yearly bashing of the non Malays during the UMNO’s general assembly? Does that also qualifies “doing it to gain popularity on one’s own community”? A classic case of the pot calling the kettle black.

Let’s face reality – a race based society can never be good for any country that wants to move forward. The yearly race bashing should stop now and for those who bend the other way should be punished – no double standards applying, of course. There’s no two ways about it, if we want this country highly developed, resilient to external threats and economically robust. Let’s us focus on what is more critical and urgent.

Soft Spot for Old Songs


(One of many great songs from movies starring the legendary MGR. One that stands out is this lyric – “Milk is white, so is the toddy but the truth is only know once I had drink it. Women is the same and I am feeling drunken from her”)

(Kannadasan is brilliant as usual – only a poet like him can think of these words – “the cupid got cheated, thinking all girls are like flowers” which nails the situation in the movie)

No matter where you are right now, no matter how old you are, I am sure you always have your favorite songs that you don’t mind humming the whole day long.

Same goes for me. Despite “starting off” with the music of Illayaraja and later discovering the new age music of A R Rahman and then Yuvan Shankar Raja, Harris and all the new music directors, I always had soft spot for the music from the 1960s and 1970s in particular songs composed by MS Viswanathan – Ramamoorthy and penned by the great poet Kannadasan (I also liked songs composed by KV Mahadevan and AM Raja).

I like old songs for 3 reasons:-

1. It brings back memories from my childhood time. Songs from MGR and Sivaji movies composed by MS Viswanathan were still played as the mainstream songs when I am still an infant. The same songs played during weddings and family functions and it is something that triggers good memories whenever I hear the same songs.

2. The songs itself. Back those days and before the digital age, it is not easy to compose and record the songs and the songs must meet the high expectations of a very demanding directors, producers and audience.

No high tech gadgets to tune the music and composition and the only way to go would be to do things old school – proper orchestrate (instead of music software) and the singers getting the words and tunes just right. MS Viswanathan once told he once worked with a famous director who will drop by the recording studio just to make sure that the singers get the pronunciation of words just right.

3. The lyrics. In those days, every words has a beautiful meaning and it is something to look out for. Who can forget lyrics like “don’t sharpen your knife but sharpen your mind” or “From the neck of Lord Shiva, the snake asked the garuda if it is feeling good and the garuda who will fight & kill snakes replied that if everyone stays at their right place, all will end in an good ending”?

Very deep meaning indeed. Don’t get me wrong, it is not like the new songs has very bad lyrics – quite a number of the songs do have the same beautiful lyrics that one had heard back in the 1960s but sometimes some of it simply get lost within the music.

They say old is gold and the same goes to old songs. It is also ageless too. I just wish someone will compile again all the old songs and re-record them so that tunes that is lost by old technology and analog dust in the past is preserved in pristine condition and made available for the next generation of music lovers.

Old Photos – Part 3


Before we proceed with this week’s short post, there are 3 things I wanted to say aloud.

First is Waytha, after the hunger strike stunt that he pulled before the elections and got his MOU with Najib had now resigned – he rightfully deserved it, if you ask me. The way to go is to stop fighting for rights and benefits based on racial lines and do so more on poverty lines so that all races in this country will fairly benefit from it. For that Pakatan’s proposition makes it more favorable and Waytha should have stick to Pakatan and work out the issues from there. We cannot afford to go and go on racial basis on a multi racial country. It however does not change the fact that the Government still need a major overhaul. After all, if the Home Minister can come out and can casually sweeps a threat to slap a Member of the Parliament under the carpet, that says a lot on the present state of the country.

Second is Happy Valentine’s Day. My cousins got busy with their yearly ritual during this time of the year – selling roses near their house (profit margin seems reasonable) and as was last year, the business had been very good. In respect of the occasion, please check out the YouTube video below. The song (from award winning 2010 Tamil movie Angadi Theru) correctly represents on how we look at our better half although we may not say it aloud (sometimes tough men are indeed soft inside).

Third is that I am happy that Sony have finally rolling out Android 4.3 to Sony Xperia SP smartphone. Perhaps a Valentine’s gift? It has been a “long wait” (ha ha, if I had read well on the various comments in Xperia forums) although the existing Android 4.1.2 still worked wonders for me and it was way better than my older Symbian powered N8 in most areas but a firmware update is always welcomed with open arms. I got my phone “upgraded” this morning and so far the first impression of the update – the graphics seems somehow smoother.

Let’s proceed with this week’s post.

Last week, I had an unexpected phone call.

It was from my distant elder cousin who I rarely see these days. He called me and asked if I had Whatsapp. Feeling confused, I slowly said I had the apps (who doesn’t uh?) but clarified that I was not “online” at the moment (I switch on the mobile data only when it is necessary – to check Facebook status, emails or fact finding in Wikipedia). He said he found an old photo of my dad with his siblings and he will send it via Whatsapp. I switched my mobile data on and waited for the photo but nothing happened. But the next day, I got 2 photos sent via Whatsapp. One was a studio photo of my cousin’s mom & dad, taken when they just got married.

old photos1

Another which interest me more was a photo of my dad with his brothers and his father (my grandfather) who looked much younger. I had a photo of my grandfather when he was rather old but not any photos when he was younger. I did not realise that my grandfather from my father’s side had the same flair and style as my grandfather from my mother’s side. I showed the photo to my dad and he could not remember much on the photo other than that it was taken when he was about 14 years old (which meant it was taken in the 1950s). He however pointed out his footwear back then and that was pretty standard (the necktie was borrowed from the studio).

My dad was not sure of the occasion when the photo was taken but it was a rare photo indeed. There is no photo of my dad when he was younger and none had never surfaced in the last 30 years or so. This promptly copied to my old photos collection that I have setup recently (now I have about 30 black & white photos and that collection is growing). My target is to collect as many old photos as possible, before it goes missing, tag them with detailed narration and finally publish them in a dedicated website so that all family members (near & far) would have access to these rare photos.

P.s. Take a look at Part 1 & Part 2 here and here

And now a special video for Valentine:-

Have a good weekend ahead…

Quotable Quotes 3


Foremost, rest in peace to former South African President Nelson Mandela who passed away last Thursday. A real statesman like him will be greatly missed.

Taller_Buddha_of_Bamiyan_before_and_after_destruction

(Here’s one fine example of “instead of giving priority to the minorities, just concentrate on the majority”, courtesy of the Taliban – never forget one’s history even if it took place thousand years ago when “ketuanan” thing was almost non-existence and traders, preachers and intellectuals from every great civilizations made this country their home and trading port. Image source: Wikipedia)

Let’s start with this:-

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said those who avoid paying tax can be regarded as having betrayed the country. This, he said, was because the responsibility to pay tax was one of the pillars of patriotism.

“The definition of patriotism in our country is that we must discharge our responsibility to the country for the good of the people and the nation.

“When we pay tax, we are helping the people. We instil this spirit, with this our country will be more successful,” he said when opening the National Economic Empowerment (Pena) Conference at the Federal Territory Mosque auditorium here today.

(Source)

You see, sometimes, I am not sure if we are suppose to be pitiful or angry on how Najib – the Prime Minister is behaving and making public statements. And for him to come out and call the tax-evaders traitors was rather confusing. While we strongly agree that tax-evaders should not be let off the hook and we strongly support any means to bring them to book, the real question is whether this another wayang kulit to deflect the attention on the latest fiasco on his wife? I don’t know but one thing for sure, it is bad timing for Najib to say these things. After all, if he is saying that whoever don’t pay their taxpayers as traitors, what about those who misuse the taxpayers and remains unpunished & unaccountable to anyone? What you call them these daylight robbers – ahem, national heroes?

From one pro-BN blog, the same sentiments was echoed and the over-spending and the abuse of taxpayers money is very worrying (ha ha, after riding high on Anwar’s sodomy’s case some time ago, these guys now realised that there are better ways to be sodomised left, right & centre and the Government is dishing it out on a regular basis. Interesting to see them being very restless now):-

Then it gets a bit more interestingly dumb…

Johor Umno Youth deputy chief Khairul Anwar Rahmat today urged Putrajaya to form a committee to audit non-Bumiputera companies for not hiring Malay chief executives (CEO).

They (the Malays) are given low wages, poor chances and positions far from CEO positions, therefore Pemuda Johor welcomes (Khairy’s) call,” Khairul said during his address to Youth delegates at Umno Youth Annual General Assembly held in the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC), today.

(Source)

I just do not know whether it is even possible to comment on one of the dumbest statement of year. Not sure if one can stoop that low to even to think of this idea of forming a committee to investigate the non-bumiputera companies who do not have a Malay as the CEO. Why stop at a committee? Why not go ahead and make a law that all CEOs must be a Malay? The level of greediness for high pay & position without the hard work & the experience is astounding.

Think about it – if I am a businessman and it’s my money, my main goal would be to get my company profitable, be a market leader in whatever industry I am in and make my shareholders very happy. For that, to run the company, I would pick the best, the most skilled & experienced people (with proper tactics and vision) to run the company. It does not matter whether that person is a Malay (my ex-boss was one fine CEO and he was highly professional too), Non Malay, Mat Salleh or even Martian. No one in their right mind would take any half past six idiot with nothing to show as the CEO – there must certain minimum qualifications attached to it and “color of the skin” on its own is not one of that qualification. Same shit happened here and makes the call to bring back brilliant Malaysians from abroad to serve the country ends up just another loud fart in the wind.

Of course, we can always trust them to put the cherry on the cake…

Kedah delegate Tajul Urus Mat Zain said the government’s move to gazette the land will only result in it losing votes at the next general election. Tajul, who is also Kedah state exco member and Tanjung Dawai state assemblyman, said almost every house might have a candi underneath.

“Instead of giving priority to the minorities, just concentrate on the majority.

(Source)

Let’s face the hard-cold fact – the real history is dead in this country and everything simply boils down to race and religion and it gets manipulated even more by short minded politicians, out to score some cheap points. Just because the candi was used to be a Hindu temple more than a thousand years ago, it does not mean it is not part of the rich history of this country. One cannot be so ignorant – after all, the Malay culture has been richly infused with the past Arab, Hindu, Buddhist & Chinese influence and same goes to others who come to this great country (good example, we have even ang-pows in yellow packets for Deepavali now, ha ha). In fact, one would not be wrong to think that the ancestors of the present people in Kedah could have been the builders the very candi that the developer had “ignorantly” demolished. So can this important link to the past be easily wiped out with a stroke of a pen?

And if indeed the Government only focus on the “majority”, then you can count on losing every historic monument that is not related to the “majority” in this country one day. Still remember the uproar on our mission based national schools? Still remember on how the Taliban demolished the thousand year old Buddhas of Bamiyan just because it does not conform to the “majority” belief in the country? Interestingly the excuse that Taliban gave in demolishing the statute was this – “…destroying the statues in accordance with Islamic law and it is purely a religious issue…”. Are we seeing the same insane thing creeping up in Malaysia?

Dr M, We All Are Pendatang!


(The message from the great Tunku back in 1988 is still relevant today. The issue of asking someone to go “back” to whatever country that their great-great-great parents came from is nothing new and is not limited to the Bolehland but who is not a “pendatang” in the first place and interestingly that includes “whiter than the white” Dr M whose ancestry was from India.  As the Tunku himself had said, think for yourself and see if what some people have done with their powers is right or wrong)

Is this another distraction from real issues in the next general election? Another dump of dirty politics on the main road?

It is a distress for one to read on the Dr M’s admission on “Project IC” in Sabah and where instead of acknowledging his past mistakes (some even called it treason) and trying to get forgiveness and work towards citizenship of the real stateless people in Malaysia, he instead called for RCI on the citizenship to Indians and Chinese before Merdeka. And worse, he puts the blame on the late Tunku Abdul Rahman (the statesman who got this country its independence and saw through the formation of Malaysia) for granting citizenship to “unqualified” people.

One thing for sure, Dr M have fallen from grace even if he has done some good for the country in the past. And on Dr M’s stirring of the cheap dirty politics to cover his back (it is not the first time he has done this), there has been far too many angry response. The one from Erna Mahyuni nails the point on the dot:-

Sometimes, I think the nation would be better served if Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s vocal chords took a trip to Siberia. After all, few things have been as powerful and as destructive as his voice.

With that voice, he suggested Operasi Lalang. With his words, he brought low two institutions: the royalty and the judiciary. But to silence him forever is to play by the rules he set. Kill dissent, smother criticism, strangle freedom of expression. We may not like to listen to Dr Mahathir, but we have to give him the same rights we long for and deserve.

As he enters his twilight years he continues digging his own grave, this time by insisting we scrutinise the citizenships granted to the non-Malays during Malaya’s independence. That he equates Sabah’s illegal immigrants with the Chinese and Indians is insulting. But hardly surprising. Dr Mahathir believes that to elevate the Malays, it is necessary to trample on the other races. In his heart, Malaysia has always been “Malay-sia.” Land of the Malays, for the Malays, by the Malays.

What a lie.

And it is a lie perpetuated by the fools in Perkasa and the more right-wing elements in Umno. This country would be nothing without the “pendatang.” Dr Mahathir also forgets that many so-called Malays have ancestors who were also in their days “pendatang.” The Bugis. The Minang. The Javanese. Go to Kelantan and you will see Malays who have Thai ancestry. Go to Johor and you will find Malays who can name Chinese among their forebears.

USM professor Zilfalil Alwi, wrote a paper “Asal Usul Melayu Berdasarkan Fakta Genetik” (Tracing the Origins of the Malays by Analysing Genetic Data) where he theorised that early Malays could also have been Indian priests who had arrived at the Malay peninsula to propagate the Hindu faith.

That would make sense, seeing the predominantly Hindu Malay population in Bali. Who eat pork unreservedly, to the horror of our Malays when they visit the island. Dr Mahathir says “Melayu mudah lupa” but himself forgets that non-Malays have worked for the country, fought for the country, died for the country. If tomorrow, should all the non-Malays leave en masse, the country would be crippled.

Non-Malays have served in government, in the armed forces, as well as in the police. Can Sabah’s illegal immigrants say the same? Can we say that Sabah’s “instant citizens” fought off the communists or, in the Confrontation, say they fought off Indonesia’s armed push to put an end to Malaysia? Unlike Sabah’s illegal immigrants, the Chinese and Indians did not come from countries who still privately believe that Sabah and Sarawak should belong to them.

If one day Sabah’s illegal immigrant population dwarfs the natives, would it be surprising if either Indonesia or the Philippines attempts to again “claim” the Borneo states as many of its citizens are there anyway? While Sabah’s illegal immigrants have contributed to the economy, the natives do not embrace them as kin. They cannot claim a shared history, they cannot pretend to have become part of the process that led to Malaysia’s birth.

They did not win the right to citizenship. They do not deserve to be citizens merely because they are willing to vote for Barisan Nasional. Dr Mahathir also forgets the Orang Asli, who, among all the peoples of Malaysia, most deserve to be called “sons of the soil”. But they have benefited the least and suffered the most from Malaysia’s creation. We take their land, send missionaries to “save their souls” when we can’t even save them from poverty.

To the Orang Asli, we are perhaps the real pendatang who have taken everything and given them little in return. They are barely even recognised in our history books or schools. How many Malaysians, for instance, can name the many Orang Asli tribes? Instead of recognising the Sakai and Jakun as the “real” bumiputera, “sakai” and “jakun” are now Malay derogatory terms.

If you insist on semantics, Dr Mahathir, then technically we are all pendatang.

The call for fellow Malaysians to go back to India, China, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Timbuktu, etc (and soon Afghanistan, Nigeria & Iran, trust me on this) has been nothing new especially from short sighted, power hungry politicians who often wanting to slay the wrong bogeyman. They seem to take great pleasure in seeing the various races (who now living in harmony with each other) in Malaysia to be in odds with other and then manipulate the situation for personal interests (both BN and Pakatan are guilty on this).

Fuelling the fire for further disunity between fellow Malaysians is the recent ex-PM’s suggestion for RCI on citizenship of Indians and Chinese during Tunku’s time. If Dr M is trying to divert the alleged wrongdoing with his Project IC with this, he is dead wrong. The issue is not so much on why citizenship was granted but rather how it was granted i.e. did the proper scrutiny, procedures and criterias were followed in granting the citizenship?.

Besides it’s futile to dig into the granting the citizenship during the independence now, especially after 56 years in existence. One because the key people involved in earlier decision are no longer alive today, so whatever motive for the citizenship back then must be deduced and interpreted from official documents and other records and we all know how very liberal interpretations (depending on who is doing the interpretations) could led to different meanings and by extension difference consequences. So, it will not be right to fall back on official documents alone. If Dr M wanted to do a RCI on the grant of citizenship for the Indians and the Chinese before Merdeka, he should have done that when he was in power and Tunku was still alive.

Two, when the citizenship was granted to the Indians and the Chinese immigrants in early 1950s and onwards, BN was not the government of the day, the British were and they did not regard the Chinese and Indians as illegal immigrants and did not actively hunt down these people high and low as we do now with illegal Indonesians, Bangladeshi and at times African “students”. And it part of the understanding that the Indians and Chinese (who was then part of the British protectorate) who wish to remain in this country after independence will be granted citizenship and will be absorbed into the new federation. They cease to be the citizens of India and China from that time onwards. And it was done in the open and with the full agreement of all parties (if Tunku did not agree with this condition, he could have simply said no and insisted on another condition for the independence). It was not done to secure one’s electoral powers in the state. It was not done with a sinister motive.

The issue of granting citizenship to illegal immigrants in Sabah (which caused them to leech on the state resources and its people) has not been a new issue to the true Sabahans and it had remained a thorn on them for many years now. If it is not for the upcoming general elections, it is very unlikely Najib’s administration would have proceeded with the royal commission to investigate on the illegal immigrants & the grant of citizenship to them. But now since RCI have been formed, it is best to wait for the royal commission to complete their investigations and submit their final findings. And if the royal commission finds faults and makes the necessary recommendations, hopefully the Government will follow through with the relevant actions.

But in the meantime, we need to deal with threats to undo what our forefathers has done when they first laid the foundation for the country to be independence and move ahead with all races united as one people. We cannot afford the lose the country just because of one old man.

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Neil Armstrong: 1930 – 2012


(The first man who will step on the moon -Neil Armstrong. Image source: The Hindu/NASA)

“This is one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”

Although he was not the first in space (that credit goes to a Russian, Yuri Gagarin who unfortunately died of a young age) and as the LM commander (and the pilot), he just happen to be the first to step out, we shall not forget the famed statement that Neil made after stepping on the Moon in July 1969 The moment was historic to all mankind who for ages have been fascinated by the Moon both spiritually and scientifically.

There is certain aura and mystery of the Moon – for one; it is not clear how the Moon was formed. The best theory is the giant impact hypothesis which states that the Moon was formed out of the debris left over from a collision between the Earth and a body the size of Mars, approximately 4.5 billion years ago. And without the Moon, the planet Earth would not have tidal motion which is generated by the gradient in intensity of the Moon’s gravitational pull from one side of the Earth to the other. And the Moon also stabilizes Earth’s wobble, which led to a more stable climate (otherwise we will have extreme weather every few months) and probably helped life evolve. So, was it by chance or by design we have a Moon for close companionship?

And whatever the reason, landing on it seemed to be dream that eluded us for many years until Apollo 11. Man’s exploration of the Moon ended with Apollo 17 in December 1972 and the planned exploration in recent times under the Constellation program have been cancelled in favour of a manned asteroid landing by 2025 and a manned Mars orbit by 2035. The Moon is moving away from Earth at the rate of 3.78cm per year but it will take billions of years before we can feel any drastic impact from this and who knows, perhaps by then we would have already landed humans on the planet Mars and travelled to other galaxies and managed to stabilize Moon’s shift from the planet Earth.

The possibilities are endless – all we need to do is to take that one giant leap.

Childhood Memories – Part 24


Read the series here

(The grand daddy of all radio and even entertainment devices – the one that ruled long before we had satellite TV and one good source for news)

I was watching TV a couple nights ago when my wife asked me to “update” her MP3 files in her thumb drive. She heard her favorite song on my car MP3 player and she wanted the same for her car. My son interjected and asked for a specific song from one of the latest Tamil movies. I was kind of speechless – it is kind of interesting how we have moved from radio station only to cassette to CDs to MP3 files these days.

Do you still remember the good old days when you had none of this and you had the good old radio (and that too with a handful of channels available)? I still remember the old radio in one of my relative’s house and I still remember that it was still working and I still remember that there was no cassette player in that old radio.

(Not the same model that we had in my grandma’s house but something similar – it is a premium player. Just imagine 2 huge speakers sticking to this player and you get the idea)

The radio in my grandma’s house was a bit more sophisticated. It only had one cassette player which also came with a radio receiver and something new called “Dolby NR” and it had several dials for bass, treble and balance. For some kids like us, it was akin to driving a space ship. It had huge speakers and for long, it is only used when my uncles were around – it looked too complicated at first but soon we get to know how to work the player, we often use it to listen to music or the news on the radio.

And when we know that it can also record music from the radio, we hunted for old cassettes which were lying in the store-room and inside some of the drawers. We did not know back then but we did override a good number of ever-green and classical Tamil songs. It something we regret of doing now but back then, we did not have cash to buy new empty cassettes and seeing all that cassettes collecting dust in the storeroom and lockers, we decided to reuse them to record songs from the radio. Thankfully, none of it belonged to my uncles’ favorite collection, otherwise we would have been skinned alive.

Back then, we did not have THR Raaga or 20 plus radio stations but we had Radio FM Stereo (in addition to the sole Tamil radio channel) and in particular, it’s “Pilihan Bersama” radio program (still remember it?). It was my favorite because you get the best songs here and in FM stereo too (a rather new piece of technology back then). I recall recording the songs on the same cassettes several times over several nights – not all songs were played in complete and marking initial “BRC” on the cover to mark those cassettes that I have recorded.

(Portable, low powered and often found in many of the kitchens – providing music and news for the ladies of the house. Low tech and cheap simple speaker – it is hardly the loud music machine one would expect it to be)

That is when I am at grandma’s house. Back at home we only had a small cheap radio transistor which came with one cassette player (which we did not use much because we did not enough cassettes and also because the recordings was bad) and with one speaker. But since we listened to the radio more, the cassette player was rarely used. That radio stayed with us for a couple of years until one day it simply went broke.

(The almost exact model that my Dad bought for the house with just a small difference – this model seems to have a couple extra buttons and this time we had a real high tech machine with 2 cassette decks, removable speakers, separate bass booster, equalizers and digital radio station search. It would have been perfect if my Dad had bought the one that came with CD player as well but it was OK – this model was more than enough for us)

It was time for another radio and by now, CD players were making the headlines and I knew that I had convinced my Dad to buy one with a CD player if he decides to replace the broken radio with a newer one. I was away when my Dad went with my brother to buy a new radio so it was not a big surprise when they came back with a model that did not come with any CD player. Damn! That was my initial reaction – I guess our first encounter with a CD player had to wait for now (CDs back then were too expensive anyway). But the new radio – a Panasonic came with 2 cassette players (which meant I can copy cassette from another with ease), equalizers, a whole load of automation and good 4 speakers. We really handled the radio with great care – it was new and we knew that my Dad paid for it in installments and with a hole in his pockets.

(Sony brand Walkmans was expensive but we always had cheaper alternatives and Aiwa brand was one of them and you can get from a range of the cheapest of all with simple mechanism, low tech and all the way to expensive high tech models. You won’t find Aiwa brand these days, it almost went bankrupt and was acquired by Sony in 2002)

In between, we were introduced to something called Walkman – at first, by borrowing from well-to-do relatives and later, by collecting money to buy one our own, I bought one – my first portable radio many years later. It was an Aiwa brand and it was good and was helpful when I was doing my studies at home. My brother found a broken radio, took out it from the shell, found an old speaker and managed to get it work and we often hear it late at night – in particular Casey Kasem’s American’s Top 40 and another (I can’t recall the name) where the DJ reads listeners’ problems and then provide the relevant advises.

One fine day, we got a call from our uncle – he said he had something for us and will be dropping by to pass it to us. It was a radio but there was a built-in CD player. Apparently his friend was moving out and decided to pass his radio to my uncle. My uncle who already had a radio on his own decided to pass it to us. We were excited and immediately hooked up the radio and tested the CD player (the funny thing was we tried to do that at first without any CDs – it was dumb of us). So, after inspecting the player for some time, we decided that we need to have a CD to test and see if it is working or not. We then decided to ride to Brickfields to the many of music shops to go and buy a CD. At the shop, we realised that we are buying our own first CD – a minor history in the making – we were finally moving from cassettes to CDs – from analogue to digital. Out of the many hundred CDs in the music shop, we hunted for the one CD that we want to buy and bring back to test the player.

(I kind of miss them especially the premium TDK brand where the magnetic strip is in bluish in color. The non premium ones was brownish in color and often reproduced low quality sound)

We found a CD that contains the evergreen from the 70s – it was not cheap (it cost RM15) but thankfully we brought enough to buy it. We bought the CD and eagerly rushed back home to play the CD on the new player. It started to play but it was not long before it went dead. A couple more experiments, cleaning of the lenses and even shifting the player to a different place but nothing worked. The player was busted and we had an expensive CD without a player to play it on. Sadly we went back to cassettes but were determined to buy a good CD player when time permits. That time came, in several years later when I started to work and slowly had enough to buy a proper player – Aiwa that had 3 CD decks and can even play VCDs. It was not long before we had mp3 files to share – at first to be burned into CD as audio file and then later without any conversion to be played on mp3 player or car player or laptops by simply sticking a thumb drive on the USD port.

One thing we did not have in our “arsenal” all these year is a record player but I did encounter it only once and that too during a wedding. Someone had brought in the record player but did not have the right records but not for long. Someone dashed to his house and came back with a record which has a picture of a bald head on its cover.

(Image sources: http://www.alamodestuffblog.com, http://sarawakianaii.blogspot.com/, http://analogburners.com/, http://www.radiokmcity.cz, http://auldies.euweb.cz/ & http://www.audiokarma.org)

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