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Sunday, January 02, 2011

Another year older...

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It’s been about a month and a half since Walski’s posted anything, and it seems another year has gone beyond the time horizon in the meantime.

Fireworks ushering in 2011, taken at Solaris Mont Kiara, hosting by Photobucket

First off, Walski would like to wish everyone a great 2011… hope that it’s better than the rollercoaster 2010 we’ve just left behind.

So, what makes a good year? Or bad year? Or, for that matter, a so-so year that’s easily forgettable? One thing’s for sure – 2010 was certainly not a so-so year. It had some good, more bad, and more than it’s fair share of ugly.

Think of this post as both a retrospective of the year gone by, and what Walski would like for the 365 days ahead.

Post-length warning: since this is many posts all rolled into one, what lies beyond the break is a long-ish write up. Now would probably be a good time to go get your cup of java topped up… 
(ok, so it’s technically 364.25 days, and the retro-prospective,  in the full post)

Incidentally, myAsylum will soon celebrate 5 years of being online. Who’d have thunk that when Walski started this blog in 2006 it would still be around at the turn of a new decade? (And for you grammar nazis, “thunk” was intentional)

Granted, it’s not been as successful, traffic- and readership-wise, as other more sensationalist blogs, or blogs written by sensational people, but myAsylum has been getting a steady stream of visits throughout it’s almost 5-year lifespan (give or take a couple of weeks). And, it has an audience, presumably from a small group of people with like-minded sensibilities as Walski has.

Perhaps it’s time to go back to the blog’s more controversial and outspoken roots. Walski will be the first to admit that in the last 18 months or so, he’s exercised a lot of restraint, and to call a spade a spade, self-censorship. Frankly, he doesn’t feel safe speaking his mind like he used to. And that’s a bad thing Walski will try to rectify this year.

The irony is that the same people wanting to shut you the fuck up are the same ones who have no qualms about what they have to say. Which brings us to another facet of 2010 – the year of Ibrahim Ali and Perkasa. They have not only been reported in the media a lot – and by a lot, Walski means A LOT – in an unspoken and un-admitted way they have helped shape UMNO’s political posturing.

Here’s the thing Walski simply doesn’t get – among other things, Perkasa is opposed to a needs-based NEP, claiming that the NEP is a constitutional birthright of the Malays – if the Malays are indeed the most needy of Malaysians en masse (as Perkasa often claims), wouldn’t a needs-based policy cover Malays by default? Logical, no?

But logic is something that is totally redefined when it comes to Perkasa. Their logic is based on birthrights, purportedly enshrined in the Federal Constitution. And by inference, so is the NEP. You won’t actually find any mention of the NEP in the Federal Constitution, but that, as far as Perkasa is concerned is not important. What is important is that they are right, and anyone who cares refute them are traitors. And repeat an inference enough times, loudly, and it starts to become accepted as the truth.

That’s the main problem with Perkasa – they’re not necessarily logical, but they’re loud, and insistent. And when their logic is challenged, out come the less than complimentary epithets, or worse, police reports. Walski reckons that no less than 20 unique police reports were filed by the organization against various parties during 2010. It’s almost as if filing police reports was Perkasa’s official hobby. Probably their organizational KPI, but that’s just a guess.

And so, one of Walski’s to-do’s this year is to refute the mumbo-jumbo spouted by these folks. To assist him in this effort, if there’s anyone who writes well in Bahasa Malaysia, and wishes to contribute their time, do let Walski know. He’s serious about it.

Religion, too, became a big talking point in 2010. The incidences involving religious disputes and controversies would occupy a sizeable list, and Walski won’t bother. Suffice it to say that during 2010, the religious authorities kept themselves busy in their effort to curtail as many rights and civil liberties as they could. Another KPI thing, in all likelihood. Funny enough, the same citizens who fight tooth and nail in support of more power to the religious authorities are the very same ones most at risk of having their civil liberties nipped.

While Perkasa’s preoccupation is making police reports, and a nuisance of themselves in the process, the religious authorities, on the other hand seem to be preoccupied with wanting to play God. Especially when it comes to being ever so eager to criminalize personal sin.

The biggest mistake Malaysia ever made was to move away from being a secular (and more civilized) state, and to make religion a prominent part of public policy. In Walski’s perspective, Malaysia is headed full steam ahead towards being a religious apartheid.

Now, some of you will probably take offense to that notion, but when you have different sets of laws for different sets of citizens, and when being unfortunate enough to profess a certain religion may make you liable to become a “criminal”, what else would you call it if not religious apartheid?

If religion is supposed to be a person’s personal bond with his/her perceived maker, who is the state to judge one’s level of bonding? But we’re definitely heading in the direction of other nation-states that have attempted to use religion to rule. And looking at other nation-states in the modern era that have chosen that path, the prospects for Malaysia are not at all encouraging.

Incidentally, the religious authorities, although NOT elected, have very real powers. Including the power to make your life a living hell if you wish to not comply with their wishes. Whether or not these powers are actually legal or not is another matter. The reality is that they exert the powers perceived to be theirs, and continue to push the envelope with what they can get away with.

With the momentum set in 2010, Walski doesn’t expect any less discord this year. No surprise whatsoever if religious disputes increase over the next 355 (or 364.25, if you wanna nit-pick). On that front, he foresees 2011 to be worse than last year, and will continue to worsen with each subsequent orbit around the Sun.

Politically, 2010 was an interesting year to observe. To analyze and comment on what went on the previous year in detail, and to prognosticate what this year has in store, would take several very long posts. In a nutshell, however:

  • the Pakatan states, namely Kedah, Kelantan, Penang, and Selangor, continue to come under unrelenting attacks by UMNO/BN, through the mainstream print and electronic media, as well as online through the numerous pro-UMNO/BN blogs and websites. Walski expects this to continue this year, as well.
  • there is speculation that snap general elections will be called in 2011, and some even suggesting that the next GE will coincide with the Sarawak state elections, which has to occur this year. There are a few reasons, however, why Walski doesn’t think that GE13 will be this year:
    • the amount of resources required for BOTH to happen concurrently will be too significant for even the UMNO/BN machinery to cope with.
    • the Sarawakians are beginning to get restless… and therefore retention of Sarawak under BN rule would be the primary focus. Indications are that the urban vote is slowly swinging to DAP, and the rural folk are starting to get antsy over what’s perceived to be the continued infringement of Native Customary Land Rights.
    • Tenang by-elections will be held at the end of January. Walski suspects any decision on when to call GE13 will likely be made only after the Johor seat has been contested
  • going by what's been reported in the mainstream press, UMNO/BN seems to be gaining the support it lost during GE12. At the same time, it would appear the mainstream print and electronic media have somehow been given a mandate, of sorts, to attack Pakatan Rakyat whenever and however they can. This means that the perception of increased support is just that – perception
  • the recent PKR election fiasco, which resulted in the departure of controversial politician Zaid Ibrahim, is being used against the party by their opponents, who are capitalizing on the mess. This has been capitalized to the fullest by UMNO/BN, and Walski suspects that their renewed confidence is based primarily on this.
  • speaking of Zaid Ibrahim, since leaving PKR, he has gone to head  KITAKesejahteraan Insan Tanah Air – a political party that splintered away from PAS back in 1995 (source: Wikipedia). How well he does in his political career is something that’s left to be seen.
  • DAP, too, got more than their fare share of bad press, due to rivalries within the party. This, too, adds to UMNO’s growing confidence. PAS on the other hand is on the constant receiving end of consternation, but seem to be chugging merrily on their own way.
  • there were 4 by-elections held in 2010. Three were parliamentary by-elections: P-094 Hulu Selangor (April 25), P-212 Sibu (May 16), and P-185 Batu Sapi (November 4). The fourth, held concurrently with the Batu Sapi by-elections, was for N-45 Galas (Kelantan). Of these, BN won the Hulu Selangor, Batu Sapi and Galas by-elections, while DAP won Sibu.
  • on the cyber battlefield, the pro-UMNO bloggers and Tweeps continue their attack on Pakatan. But these attacks are usually based on sentiment, with blogposts being circulated as “evidence”. In other words, nothing that could be considered to have much substance. But Malaysians at large are known to be gullible, and so whether or not these cybertroopers are having much success in gaining mindshare is rather questionable. For Walski, they are irritating more than anything else
  • every little thing ends up being politicized – this is perhaps the one underlying characteristic of 2010. And that is not at all a good thing.
  • quite late in the year, the Malaysian Civil Liberties Movement (MCLM) emerged, helmed by dissident blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin, better known as RPK. Touted by the press as the Malaysian political “Third Force”, MCLM’s aim in a nutshell is to bring quality back into politics. In a sense, calling MCLM a third force is rather misleading, as their purpose is not to splinter Pakatan Rakyat, but rather to strengthen it. To date, the organization has announced two upstanding individuals – renowned civil rights lawyers Malik Imtiaz Sarwar and Sreekant Pillai (whose late father is none other than the awesome MGG Pillai). MCLM’s first foray will be the upcoming Tenang by-election.

And that's a quickie highlight of things political in 2010. Not comprehensive, by any measure, but just to give you some idea of what happened. You know, just in case you’ve been under a rock the last 12 months.

On a more personal level, 2010 was a year when Walski didn’t get to blog a whole heck of a lot, managing to publish only 77 blogposts. That count may seem like quite a few, but bearing in mind that between 2006 and 2009 he managed to publish 1,066 posts, 2010 was a very slow year.

The reasons, of course, were primarily work and his personal life taking precedence, plus the amount of traveling Walski had to do last year. He can’t promise that the same regularity of posting seen in 2006 to 2009 will be resumed, but Walski will try to post more often this year.

But blogging aside, 2010 will be a year he’ll remember for musical reasons – it was the year Walski finally managed to catch Nine Inch Nails live, in Singapore. It’s just a shame that many quality and non-Bieberish live shows give Malaysia a miss, with Paramore – tolerable pop – being the infrequent exception (via Hopefully Tune Talk, the folks who brought Paramore to town will continue their support for music, and sponsor more credible music acts this year.

Despite being ultra-busy in 2010, Walski did manage to watch a few films last year, although mostly NOT in theaters. Here are some of the films released last year that Walski managed to catch, ordered by when in 2010 they were released (all links go to

  • Daybreakers – vampires happen to be one of Walski’s favorite movie genres, and so this was a must-watch, so to speak.
  • The Book of Eli – is there any role Danzel Washington can’t play?
  • The Spy Next Door – ok, so Walski likes Jackie Chan… apart from that, it was a fun kiddy flick
  • From Paris With Love – isn’t amazing that the same smile can be both warm and menacing, depending on the situation?
  • Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief – this is one of those Walski would never have watched if he weren’t stuck on a long flight…
  • The Wolfman – apart from vampires, it’s werewolves. Oh, and Anthony Hopkins.
  • Shutter Island – Leonardo DiCaprio has surely come a long, long way as an actor. An excellent film, by the way.
  • The Ghost Writer – perhaps one of the more overrated films of last year. Not that it was bad, just not that great. Still, when Roman Polanski makes a film, it will be something that won’t entirely disappoint.
  • Alice In Wonderland – Jack Sparrow with crazy eyes. Is it just Walski, or does the Mad Hatter in this one look just like Madonna?
  • Green Zone – a good war thriller, focusing on faulty intelligence, and Weapons of Mass Deception
  • Kick-Ass – a surprisingly good film. An unpretentious, and good fun flick. Plus, Chloe Moretz (Hit Girl) is simply adorable, in a totally evil way. Incidentally, Kick-Ass 2 has been announced, and scheduled to be released in 2012.
  • The City of Your Final Destination – when Anthony Hopkins is in the cast, you can expect a quality film worth your while. This one certainly did not disappoint.
  • Iron Man 2 – yes, Walski is a self-professed geek, and secret lover of comic books. The first Iron Man was really good, and the second one, while not better, was good enough to make you look forward to The Avengers, another films scheduled for 2012.
  • The Karate Kid – Jaden Smith, like his father, is a fine actor, and Walski predicts much great things from this kid. Add Jackie Chan to the mix, and what you have is a very watchable film, almost equaling the original. Truth be told, Walski takes Jaden over Ralph Macchio any ‘ol day. That said, Pat Morita will always be more memorable…
  • The Twilight Saga: Eclipse – you’re probably wondering why this film is on the list. More later (see below)…
  • Predators – sometimes, not knowing much about a film helps make it more watchable. Predators is one of those films…
  • Inception – hands-down, this has to be the very best film Walski watched last year. It is also the ONLY one he watched at the cinema the first time around… Mind-boggling, almost like The Matrix, and with an engaging plot – Christopher Nolan continues to prove why he’s perhaps one of the best living film directors around today…
  • The Expendables – he’ll be blatantly honest; about the only reason why Walski watched this is the cast. Sometimes, though, too many stars in one outing makes a film more of an eye-strain rather than be memorable. Especially, when the story line is predictable. Ironically, “expendable” would be an apt one-word review for this one. Not that it was bad, just not very memorable, and not a disaster if you didn’t get a chance to watch it.
  • Scott Pilgrim vs. The World – one word for this film: superb. And since you probably won’t get to see it in Malaysian cinemas any time soon (film distributors are utter idiots sometimes), Walski encourages you to go look for the DVD… If you liked the comic book series, the film will not disappoint you.
  • Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps – despite the fact that Walski considers Oliver Stone to be a living legend as far as film directors go, this film was a tad disappointing. Not because it is a badly crafted film, because it was actually a very well made one. And not because of the casting, which is as good as it probably gets. Okay, the pace certainly didn’t have the intensity of the original Wall Street, but that’s okay too. The real disappointment for Walski lies in how the story pans out, especially towards the end. And the ending? Well, not to give too much away, but “not very credible” would be one way to describe it… Essentially, the tipping point at the end just felt way too rushed, and could have certainly used a bit more development. But that aside, this is still an exceptionally good film, and one that Walski would recommend, with some minor caveats.
  • The Social Network – there are two things you need to be armed with to watch this film: a penchant for dialog, and an undivided attention span that lasts for at least an hour and a half. If you liked Jesse Eisenberg in Zombieland you’ll like him in this film, too, cast to play Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg. The story is engaging, and certainly not boring, despite it being very heavy on dialog. As an added bonus, the soundtrack was the crafty handiwork of Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) and Atticus Ross (musician/composer/producer who also composed the score for The Book of Eli).

Now, a bit about why Twilight: Eclipse is even on the list of movies Walski watched last year. Just like Percy Jackson, he watched in on the numerous KLM flights he was on plying between KL and Jakarta. It just so happens that Walski did watch the first Twilight film at a friend’s place, and has since watched both sequels while on his travels, courtesy of the in-flight entertainment systems. Oh, and Walski did mention about the vampire and werewolf film genres before.

So there… For the record, he has NOT read any of the Twilight books, which, by the way, are utterly dreadful – just read Reasoning With Vampires if you don’t believe Walski. Nor is there any desire to read ‘em anytime in the foreseeable future.

But hey, good news for Twilight fans – bad news for the rest of us – two more films are on their way, one in November this year, and the other a year later in 2012. And Edward, can you PLEASE fucking turn Bella already?

Well, so much for 2010. Yes, Walski’s probably left out a number of things about last year. But since this post is probably already quite long, he will instead focus on what 2011 holds for him. Not so much about politics and other things on a national level, though. That we will cover in future posts.

Personally, Walski greets the new year with new work challenges, courtesy of a number of resignations within the company he works for. Challenges are good, and keeps us on our toes to drive us towards excellence. In all likelihood, Walski won’t be travelling abroad that much this year. Instead, it will be more domestic travel. And with a product group now under his wing, the challenge will be to grow the business.

Apart from work, Walski would also like to focus some attention to the one area in his life that has been neglected – his music. Now that he has a new tool at his disposal – the iPad – chances are that Walski will use it as a composition tool. In addition, of course, to using it for work, and playing Angry Birds during the slow moments in the day (it’s a superbly addictive game, he might add).

On the home front, Walski will work towards having more time with the Mrs. Not just time, but quality time. It will mean a lot of time-juggling, but it’s a priority that Walski intends to focus on.

As for blogging and being online, Walski’s intention is to definitely maintain this blog. Perhaps there won’t be as many posts as there were between 2006 and 2009, but he definitely intends to post more often. To facilitate that, and to maintain his other time commitments, the posts are likely to be shorter in length. Walski will just have to learn to be less verbose.

To one and all, have a great year ahead… Happy New Year 2011!!