Saturday, October 30, 2010

Kitchen and Arnold

OK Smacks, the kitchen is nearly done. They put in the tiles today, which means young Arnold has lost his sand to burrow into. He's asleep in his accustomed corner while I watch back-to-back episodes of M*A*S*H*. Have the house to myself (Shi Sho is off for a run in Genting and Chubs and the D-man in JB with Mums and Elliot and Maggot and the turtles).

So here goes:

Arnold standing on new table top

Settling in - doesn't he look so much better?

The kitchen so far - nearly done

Nother view

My cakah doggie in his accustomed corner

Reclaiming My Room

Arnold is lying stretched out on the floor of my room. That's right. My room. I reclaimed it from the dust, the paint spatters and the general chaos last night, working until it was sleepable again. The two-seater sofa just didn't do it for me.

The renovation men are still here but I think (blessed insight) the work is slowly winding to a close.

My shifting my stuff from the hall back into the room has freed up some space there. I try and sweep it from time to time but all in all, it's still disgusting. Arnold thinks so. I tied him up to coffee table after he tried to dig up the newly laid concrete (notty boy, notty notty boy) and as somewhere during the night, he tried to scramble up on the sofa with Jules. She woke up to find this heavy thing on her feet, claws digging in.

He got a smack for that.

Today when the workers showed up, Arnold was outside. He started barking at them (a first). Jules said he must have decided that with Dadda gone (Chubs took him to JB for the one-month mass) he is the man of the house and it is his duty to protect us. So I had to go an haul him in (he's getting heavier and harder to carry but his wound is finally healing nicely). Then he takes up watch on the narrow passage in the house with the heaviest traffic, oblivious to all the people who have to step over him to get to where they're going. So I pushed him in the third room with Julie and then after breakfast, brought him to hang out with me. Which is why my little black Angel is stretched out on the floor. I don't think an old dog can grow (other than sideways) but he is looking bigger.

It was nice to scrub everything (I did the windows this morning and reattached the curtains which means my room is now nicely sealed off and private once again. This feeling of choking in dust has been going on for, well, longer than a month. My desk (which I tackled last because I was afraid of it) had been "bersepah" for months and months. I don't remember when I last arranged it. But cleaning yesterday, I found lots of things I thought I had lost. Like a pair of scissors (I had two, then I had none, now I have one), my bum bag (losing this is why I took my bag to the walking path which precipitated in the car break-in and all that followed and I don't remember what else. I only remember that I found stuff which was good.

Arnold is a little flatulent. Or maybe he's drooling. Anyway there is some wet sound emanating from him.

Now I've got my room back I can start planning for Christmas.

But first I have to go find another closet (this one has just about fallen to pieces, another mattress (although I have a new appreciation for this one after my difficult night trying to find a place to sleep when they were painting my room and it had become off limits, various cleaning supplies (including lemon pledge, for the love of God, lemon pledge).

Maybe today the kitchen guys will put the oven in. I don't think the kitchen is cookable yet but now there isn't anymore sand strewn all over the floor (for Hey Arnold! to burrow into so that's an improvement). I have this great desire to scrub floors.

My Arnold is clean because I bathed (scrubbed) him two days ago when Chubs was over watching Monk. Actually it was a pause between episodes during which he went out to buy naan and tandoori and I took young Arnold to the bathroom and tortured him some. (Maybe it's his jaunts in the outside world but he gets stinky after less than a week, requiring another wrestling match in the bathroom).

Now I'll do what Gandalf bid Theoden do when he exorcised Saruman from him and breathe the free air, my friend.

Well, almost free.

Not long now.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


"Think of it this way," she said. "What is the basic courtesy you would show a stranger?"

I stared. What had that got to do with the price of fish?

"It's called my lowest common denominator rule," she continued. "When you're angry, when all you want to do is lash out or turn cold, when all those biting words are bubbling up in your insides waiting to spew, stop and consider what you would say if you were talking to a stranger. There would be a basic modicum of respect and politeness. Treat the "friend" as if they were a stranger."

"Wouldn't that be rather cold?" I wanted to know.

"As opposed to? Chewing them out? Attacking their soft underbelly? Vomiting out words they will never forgive and if they do forgive, never forget? Is that what you prefer?"

She had a point. I had to admit it, running my mind along my various excoriations. If I couldn't be nice, if I couldn't be warm, if I couldn't be caring, I could at least be civil.

It wouldn't cost me anything. Except the sleepless night once guilt kicked in and I was sorry for what I said, or the anger that lived on from the scene that ensued, where I went over what I had said and wished, wished, wished I could have thought of something far worse, escalated it in my mind, till the gleam of the knife I carried was dulled with blood. Whosever blood it was.

Plunge, plunge, plunge into that soft underbelly.

That's the way it goes. That's the way it has always gone.

But now, "At least, try to be civil. You were taught the basics of courtesy. Here's where you're supposed to apply them. Ugly, bile-spewing arguments are not acceptable once you're past 10. At most 11."

I nodded sadly. It had taken me so long to learn this.

So, Thumper, what did your father tell you?

"If you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all."

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Attreversiamo (Let's Cross Over)

Kinokuniya have just texted to tell me that they got my Art of the Novel by Milan Kundera and could I please swing by and get it. I wish they had told me yesterday when I was in KLCC itself for an interview. But regrets are futile and unnecessary and they don't actually DO anything.

Arnold has developed pus around a seemingly innocuous hole in his head. I am wondering whether he should go board with the vet again so he gets his wounds properly seen to. Here, although I clean them, the house is in an uproar with dust and paint and sand (renovations - everything looks all fucked up) and this stuff must be getting into his wounds. They haven't been healing properly.

There seems to be such a lot wrong with my boy. When the more alarming things are taken care off, other things pop up. Like his enlarged prostate. Today he made Dadda angry. Julie was sleeping on the sofa (her room is unlivable and Chubs's room, which she was sleeping in, has just been painted) and when she got up to go to work, Arnold took her place on the sofa. I think he just wanted to sleep in some place with her smell (Jules has become his favourite member of the family) and Dadda completely freaked out. Told me about it and said, I shouted at him, and he knew he had done wrong.

I'm afraid I just laughed.

He's lying near me now. In one of his customary naps (he has about 300 a day). It's getting more and more difficult to feed him because, though always hungry, he's taken to rejecting food. He rejects his own food, he rejects our food, and while on the one hand I want to starve him until he's hungry enough not to be fussy, on the other hand, the last time I made a start at it, his stomach started growling alarmingly and it scared the crap out of me.

There are other interesting things happening but I just feel like blogging about Arnold and nothing else. Go figure!

I want this chaos to be over and everything to settle down once more. Everything feels filthy, covered with a layer of crud.

It's nearly November. I want to go home.

PS: The title was taken from Eat, Pray, Love. Which I watched yesterday. And loved. Absolutely.

Let's cross over!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Dog and I

OK, here's the thing about Arnold. He likes human food. That's not to say if you buy say, chicken rice, he will scarf the whole thing. No. He must see you eat it first, sit at your feet and stare up at you hungrily, and then when you put the leftovers in his bowl, he will devour the food. Now, if you buy him human food and don't eat it first (transfer it directly to his bowl) he figures there must have been something wrong with the food to begin with and after a few desultory bites, he crawls under the table to watch you eating something totally different.

Dadda, is surprisingly, the biggest pushover when it comes to this. I bought them chicken rice for lunch, asked the Uncle to "tambah", gave Arnold the excess, which he quickly finished and then came into the hall to watch Dadda eat. Finally, the Big D couldn't take it anymore and gave the rest of the food to him. And when I called to ask him what he wanted for tea, he said:

"The fellow is hungry lar. Get something for him."

So I did. Rice and a very nice mutton curry. But because I didn't eat it first, Arnold rejected it.

Needless to say now, he doesn't even touch his dog food. I transferred his breakfast to one of those little free tupperware thingies and put it under a car at the end of the road where another stray hangs out. I figure this one will be less fussy than our little black ball of fur.

Little black ball of fur threw up in my car yesterday and it smells to high heavens. So I took it in for a wash but they simply vacuumed the inside without any water and soap action - so it still smells.

The vet said his wound is not healing as fast as it should and they may have to open him up again to see if there are any maggots left inside.

In the meantime, he continues to be his charming self and I continue to worry about him.

Something is wrong with my light. It keeps blinking. Probably has to do with the renovations. (Our electrical appliances are acting up).

I was supposed to return to JB today after an interview.

I am supposed to get back to a PR company on some speeches they wanted me to write.

I think I'll have another lollipop.

(When in doubt, always non sequitur)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Sleeping Pill

I wrote this for a column that never got published. Two years ago! In line with all my writing some how finding its way into this blog I shall be featuring my column articles from time to time.

I recently received an offer to buy doodles. Doodles, I ask you! To personalise my sales letters. The one selling these doodles had found a way to commoditise his doodles so that each sales letter looked like it had been written over. So that it had “personality”. And seemed warm and friendly.

…anything you can do to make your copy look more personal couldn't help but build rapport between you and your prospects, increasing the level of readership and response.
One of the most striking and effective ways to create these effects is to mess up your copy with hand written notes, scrawls, doodles, and drawings. Done right, these attention grabbers can dramatically increase your sales, especially on the web, where people are conditioned to scan, skip, and scroll.

Of course, this came from one of my many US-based mailing lists.

It never ceases to amaze me the lengths that these people will go to be up close and personal with customers. Even in something as boring and generic as a sales letter.

Of course there was no way I could use these doodles.

Not here.

Not now.

Not yet.

I checked my office inbox and sure enough, there was a letter from one of our department heads. He needed me to edit it and “warm it up”. But just a little. Not too much. Not an over-the-top warming up that would turn it from a serious document into an adolescent ramble.

I sighed as I tackled the task, changing a word here and a word there, but generally maintaining the tone of the boring letter. Good day. Allow me to introduce myself. I’m so-and-so company. I offer such-and-such product. Zzzzzzzz. Oops, sorry, must have dozed off.

I grinned as I wondered how the head of department would have taken to me adding doodles to his very serious, very important, and extremely boring (though trying not to be) letter.

Luckily most CEOs are not like me. If a person bores me, I make my excuses and walk away. If a letter or email bores me, I toss it into the bin, or delete, delete, delete. Malaysian CEOs, on the other hand, probably read these potent (anything but) charged-up missives (or at least, get their secretaries to read them) and accord them due attention.

A friend told me over a roti canai at Anggerik that they were now doing seminars about adding heart to the Malaysian corporate sector. I looked at her in surprise. Adding heart?

“You mean warming it up?”

“Adding heart, Jenn, adding heart,” she said.

As they say on that ad on Astro, way to go Captain Obvious! But I was pleasantly surprised that the Malaysian corporate sector had actually recognized that it needed heart. It reminded me of Singapore’s then-Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong giving a speech in which he said Singaporeans were boring and they needed to learn how to have fun. What insight!

As they say in all good twelve-step groups, the first thing is to recognize you actually have a problem. The second thing, of course, is to form committees with impossibly serious and boring names (i.e. The Committee for figuring out how you’re going to tackle said problem and the implications of not figuring out how to tackle said problem and the possible impact on our GDP).

I have a theory (but of course, what would life be without theories, conspiracy or otherwise?). I think our ability to bore the recipient to tears when we put pen to paper (or more accurately, fingers to keyboard) comes from a lack of confidence.

We go out of our way not to sound like our natural selves, because we think our natural selves are unimpressive. So we throw in vague words with plenty of syllables which are probably Latin in origin to impress the heck out of our readers. The less the reader understands our letter, we figure, the more impressed she’ll be.

We go out of our way to sound like a management consultant report, you know the kind that large companies fork out millions of ringgit for?

So what do we do about it?

For starters, I think we need our own vesion of the American doodles. It wouldn’t feel natural to us to employ doodles, but what we do have, homegrown, no less, is Manglish. Never heard of Manglish because you speak perfect English? Just pepper your letter with the occasional “lah” and “ah”. Maybe end a sentence with “izzit” or “izzenit”. If you’re interested Kit Lee has a whole Manglish dictionary which is available on the net.

And maybe can avoid passive constructions (it’s so lame) and write in the active. I killed her. Rather than, she was killed by me.

And to further Malaysianise it, maybe we could reference Lat cartoons (in lieu of Gary Larson). Tell you what, here’s an idea – maybe someone can design the Malaysian version of doodles and smiley faces and make a killing on the stock market when they take their company public. They can call it Whateverlah Sdn Bhd.

Just a thought.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Because I love you...

Hey there. It's me again. After not blogging for close to a week, being knee deep in interviews and transcriptions and articles I had to write (way to go, Jenny!), I am favouring you with a second blog post in one day. Why?

Because, as they say in the Mickey Mouse Club, I love you.

So here goes:

See, in the 1930s, this place was second to KL. Now this is all that's left. By the way, in case you're wondering, this is the place young Arnold and I took a jaunt too that fateful Sunday, when he wound me around his little paw forever.

See, the thing about this place is that there was a brick factory (now abandoned). And the thing about the brick factory is that there are an awful lot of chimneys around.

More chimneys. Or perhaps it's the same one from a different angle. Who knows.

Chimneys galore!

The opposite of chimneys: A canopy of trees!

More bricks...

Hole in the wall!

How you can tell a place is old. More than the dingy, dirty shophouses, it's the quaint old tumbledown houses.

My little chum-chum!

My favouritest Indian boy!!!!!! (Be still my heart)

I Wish I Had A River

I've started this so many times
If not on the page
then in my mind
but the words
keep slipping away...

Arnold is curled up on the floor near me. He always finds a way to be near me. If I go out for any length of time he becomes anxious. Although Julie is very sweet to him, takes him for walks, feeds him.

I just plucked a maggot out of his wound today when I was cleaning it. I think it's an old maggot that has risen to the surface. It wasn't wriggling, anyway.

So obviously, a lot has happened. But because I didn't record it in the passing, because I was so busy running trying to catch up with yesterday, the words have disappeared forever and I can only give you the bare bones.

I went to see the sergeant on Monday about the lost credit card. We went to the mall to view the CCTV. It was two skinny Chinese guys in shorts. If I hadn't watched knowing they were the crooks who had stolen my card, I would have thought they were the most normal guys in the world. Just this side of ugly. Anyway, I didn't recognise them (which apparently is a bad, bad thing) and called the bank to tell them so. The bank said in a stiff sort of voice, we'll get back to you. The sergeant told me his department was swamped with cases - ideally they were supposed to work on 4 cases a month but because there was a staff shortage (but no shortage of criminals) they were all doing about 20 cases instead.

"Usually credit card fraud would be the lowest priority, but because you're a reporter..."

So you see. The pay may be dismal but there are perks. After I dropped the sergeant back in the police station, I pressed down on the accelerator and hustled my way to KL for not one, but two interviews. Having two back to back meant I couldn't linger. So the first interview was kind of a washout because the guy said he couldn't talk about plans and make any forward looking statements...I had to rewrite the story by trolling the net for information. But that came only three days after. So I went for one. I rushed off for the other. And after two interviews back to back, I felt like a limp rag, wrung out.

But the day wasn't over yet. There was young Arnold to be visited or redeemed from the vet. His distress at parting the day before had really gotten to me. Leaving the poor little fellow at that hospital with those men roughhandling him had cut me to the quick. So much so that even though this was going to be a rough day from the get-go, I woke up at about five and started worrying about him. Since I was in town, I dropped in on Mark but he hadn't started performing and some other group who was going to be playing there were sound testing. By the time he was up on stage, also sound testing, I had to take off. If I were going to get Arnold out of hospital, I would have to do it by 8pm. And it was already past 6. There was KL rush hour traffic to consider.

I had called the vet to ask what my outstanding bill was. (It turned out to be more than she said, finally, because she didn't take into account the medicine). I called Dadda to ask him if I could bring a dog back (after all the house is a dusty, sandy tip at the moment with all the renovations going on, and I promised I would find another home for him). Finally, after blustering ineffectually, he agreed.

So I went to get young Arnold. The vet (well, one of them, a very young one at that, whom Arnold seemed to be particularly fond of) showed me how to clean his wound (it's still gaping and weeping) and told me I would need to feed him a bunch of pills every day.

So I got Arnold home and with all the commotion didn't transcribe a single word that night. I was too exhausted.

The next morning Anna emailed to say, we're ready for you to start sending in the stories. Everything was at sixes and sevens. I had two more interviews to transcribe and some people who said they would respond hadn't responded and what's more, some of them wanted to see their quotes before it went to print. I spent the whole day transcribing and felt too tired to start on the stories.

Woke up at 6 on Wednesday and got going. By noon, I had sent in my first story and then my second. Now while all this was happening, there was Arnold to be taken care off, lunch to be bought, calls and emails to be fielded....funnily enough I didn't have my meltdown. I figured I'd defer it till I had time.

The rest of the time was taken up finishing the stories, having minor dramas (one company called and changed the quotes they were given to assess for accuracy entirely. The PR called and gave me an ultimatum. Either I use what they had given me or not run the quotes at all.

I didn't run the quotes.

So I went to the office for the page layout last night and we finished only at about two in the morning. By the end I was flagging so much I forgot the word "apostrophe". I said, you know that squiggly thing you put at the end of a word to denote ownership?

So I'm done with the project.

Anna was actually happy with my work and she said, why don't you come join us.

(Why can't anyone understand that I want to be free? During all this fracas when I was running around everywhere trying to get everything done I got a call from another newspaper from someone I particularly detest, asking if I would meet him for chappati to talk about the possibility of them hiring me. Was I open? No, I said. Just no. He wanted to meet for chappati anyway)

Salehin has been unable to find Arnold a home. He said to check him into the Furry Friends Farm. And I have to get rid of him before Maggotty gets here. I was supposed to have gone back to JB today (I think I could trust Jules to look after him in my absence) but I have an interview on the 26th (which reminds me, I need to send questions) and don't want to have to rush back.

So that's the state of play at the moment.

Arnold is still lying curled up nearby. I need to give him a good scrubbing. His habit of sleeping on the sand in the kitchen and running off and making mischief (this is a positive sign) means he's become a little grubby.

Over and out.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

You Mean The Weekend's Over?

An alternative title could be: This Side of Sunstroke.

Just saying...

I can't believe the weekend's over. Yesterday, I worked. I transcribed all of two interviews and felt very virtuous as a result. Transcribing is the heavy work. Actually figuring out what I'm going to use is the smart work. Seems like I'm doing all the heavy work and none of the smart work.


So today, I hit the ground running and after running around erranding, I went to see my main man. I didn't go to see him yesterday, so he was lying slumped in the corner looking sad and didn't come out when I opened up his cage and called him. The Indian helper guy wanted to haul him out (I think he's pretty rough with Arnold) but I said no. So I sat at the edge of his cage and coaxed him until he came out.

He's a gooboy my Arnold is.

Anyways, since I didn't spend any time at all with him yesterday and since it WAS Sunday and since I was kinda planning on going to Batu Arang to look around and take some shots, I thought I'd take Arnold along for the ride. Spend some quality time so to speak.

The trip there was OK. Although confused and unable to get comfortable in the backseat (he tried out a variety of different positions, on the seat, off the seat, between my seat and the door, he was basically good on the way there. (See why I think he used to be somebody's dog? Our dogs who have been with us since they were puppies are extremely badly behaved in cars)

Anyways, so I found my way to Batu Arang without directions (adventure, adventure), parked outside the tiny medical centre, gave Arnold some water, and then hauled him off for a long walk. He pulled me here and there, pooped and peed, stared at the other strays who were lounging in the roundabout. Now here's one way to tell that Batu Arang is a sleepy town. The strays eyed him and did nothing. They didn't even bark. Whereas when I take him for a walk near the vet hospital, those dogs go crazy, screaming the place down, baying for blood.

So we walked, looked at the large chimmeys scattered on this overgrown piece of land (apparently all that's left of a brick factory). A toothless old dude who came creaking along on his bicycle said my anjing (dog) was cantik (pretty). Although he was half blind and definitely gaga, I preened at the compliment. (Arnold, in his body harness, did not pay him no mind).

So we walked, I snapped (not very good) pictures of this, that and the other, wondering which, if any, Gurmeet would accept for my travel piece.

And then the heat got to me. Although I was in my Nat Geog (never leave home without it) cap, I couldn't take it anymore. Arnold was hot too. He leaned over into a drain and started lapping away.

And I let him. Wishing I could do the same. But there was some mineral water left in the car and I had brought my bowl for strays, which means that we could both share.

Anyways, he lapped up all the water in his bowl and it was time to go. This time though young Arnold did not behave quite as well. I loaded him into the backseat, got into the front and put on my seatbelt. He stared at me through the gap in the two front seats and decided he wasn't going to be relegated to the back. No siree, not he.

So he scrambled to the front, checked out the co-driver seat, decided it was not good enough and proceeded to stretch himself on my lap. With his little paws digging into my right forearm. And that's where he remained for the rest of the drive.

Made it kind of awkward to drive, what with not knowing the roads, what with it being the long and windy estate-type roads, but generally he kept still, except when he dug his claws into me to get leverage to look out the window. He was a contented little pooch, and clearly thought I was taking him home (poor thing, I did want to).

He remained calm and quiet until we got onto Jalan Gasing. Now, he had only seen these same roads driving out (that was once) but somehow he recognised them. He started scrambling all over me and whining, stepping on the power window switch, which sent the windows down, alarming the shit out of me (he could have jumped out). How on earth did he recognise the road? Anyway, I yelled at him and made him sit still and put the windows up again. He settled on my lap once more, no more a contented doggie.

Luckily when we got back to the vet hospital it was feeding time (Arnold likes his food) so I was able to get him into his cage and watch the Indian dude feed him. He gave Arnold dry biscuits without the meaty dog food but as I had stayed to watch, he pulled out Arnold's bowl and put the soft stuff in. I think he doesn't bother to look after him properly cos little Arnie is a stray, not like the pedigree dogs occupying the other cages. Should make no difference because I pay the same amount. I don't think I like him very much.

The other guy there, Francis, told me that Arnold was a very intelligent dog. He seemed to like him a bit better.

I had texted Salehin earlier to ask him for help. He said send pictures. I came home and did just that. Now I've got to sit tight and keep my fingers crossed. I have to go back to JB at the end of this week and I'll be away for at least a week. I want to find him a home before that.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Conversations, Canines and Divine Chuckles

Me: So then how?

What this means is, how do I get to the frigging place? You said you would be sending me directions but it's already 8 and as yet zilch. Aren't you playing at 9.30? (Amazing, the conversation that can be compressed into three little words)

Mark: Jen, not playing reef...sick as a dog la.

Which is kind of self explanatory and not nearly as cryptic as my message that I sent apropos of nothing.

Me: Poor thing. What happened?

Mark: Phluuuuu

Me: It hasn't affected your spelling anyway.

Mark: Hehehe.

Which is why I didn't end up at The Reef last night. No, I was free to stay home and transcribe. Did I? Well actually, I lost multiple rounds of Spider Solitaire while watching about seven episodes of M*A*S*H* third season.

Today I interviewed someone I had obviously met before. We both had that, I've seen you some place before look when introduced. Interesting interview. Nice guy. Said if he helped me with larger article I'll have to buy him a drink. Then said, ssssshhhhh, looking around furtively to see that no one was listening. His PR was, but she just smiled. And I said, OK, as long as it's at a dive of my choosing (no prizes for guessing which) rather than swanky places like the Hilton.

There is a fine layer of dust on everything. It feels icky on my tongue, the soles of my feet, my hair, my desk, my dressing table, oh, just about everything. Can't wait for these renovations to be done with. Unsettling is what it is.

Arnold wagged his tail on seeing me today. He is alert and active and getting cuter by the minute. Look at what just a little good food and proper care can do? And he licked me. Another first.

He is also getting quite heavy and I puff and pant carrying him downstairs so he doesn't go potty on the stairs again. One of the docs there chatted with me and helped me strap him to his leash. Arnold boy is obviously a favourite but he chews on the lock of his cage at night. I'm thinking a few runs should dissipate some of that excess energy. He ran today. Pulled me along. And peed like there was an ocean sloshing around in his bladder.

I was supposed to leave for JB today but it's 9pm and I still haven't. Mum said not to come if I'm too tired. She said, put your friends off. Tell them next time.

Sigh. I think I'm gonna have to.

You wanna hear God laugh?

Tell Him your plans.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


I'm feeling a little (make that a lot) mixed up. Somebody stole my credit card and maxed it out. The bank is saying because I didn't report it (I didn't even know it was stolen until I received a phone call and checked my wallet this evening) I am liable for the amount.

So I break my back working to pay for some thief to buy a laptop or two? The guy from the bank was stern and unavailing. Bottom line is, bank does not want to stand the loss.

Thing is, if I didn't sign those chits, how can they dun me for the amount? And why didn't they block the second transaction? I never make huge transactions on my credit card.

Anyways, so there I was driving to the clinic to take Arnold for a walk, screaming in my head against the unfairness of life. Where did I lose my card? The transactions were done on Sunday (God, what a 10.10.10 for me). Was it at Nando's that afternoon? Did the cashier actually return my card? I thought she did. I can't remember. Was it at the cocktail I didn't want to go to anyway?

I went to the police station to make a report and they were very nice and even faxed through the report to the bank's credit card centre for me.

Then, as I was out walking Arnold in the park, my pocket buzzed. Was the guy to tell me he had received the report. He was stern and angry.

Sure, dude, everyone's mad.

But can't you see I'm the victim here? Not the perpetrator?

Well, I'll just have to do what it takes I guess. I'm kind of weary and I just want to lie down and sleep for a long, long time. Instead, I will transcribe two interviews and start on the stories.

(And although I may not have time to waste feeling sorry for myself, I still am. Tremendously sorry)

Mark Knopfler.

Dire Straits.


Early Assignments for Night Birds

So I was out of the house by 8.30. I usually haven't unclosed an eye by that time. But there was this interview and it was (you guessed it!) right in the heart of KL and that too, at 10am, and morning traffic is never predictable, so there was I was, giving myself one and a half hours to get there.

I gave myself such a good headstart that when Ridz, the PR texted me to tell me to park at the Pavilion and make my way across to the building, I texted back to say, Hey, I'm already here. On the 33rd floor. Waiting for you.

He said: "Oooooooo!"

And then he said: "Coming!"

So he was up and I scrutinized his features in vain, trying to remember him from his days at the Edge. No go. So I asked a few questions. Yes, we had met. Years ago.

The interview went very very well and the boss was supercharming and informative (wow, am I lucky or what? Everyone I have to interview in this space has been great!)

Then I passed through Bangsar to post a birthday card (OK I know it's early but better early than late, hey?) and get some lunch.

Got back, was all set to start transcribing interviews (the secret Jennifer is to stay ahead of the transcriptions) and instead I fell fast asleep. Fast fast asleep. And I heard some guy come in and start to take the kitchen apart. When I woke up and padded over, he had half the tiles on the wall off and turned to grin at me.

The walls looked bare and denuded but this has been a long time coming.

I want to go see the doggie but I'll go after his feeding time so I can walk him. Will probably have to carry him downstairs because yesterday when allowed to scrabble by himself on the floor, he stopped and peed at the top of the stairs, then on the welcome mat, then on the five foot way.

Poor little Black Arnold. I met a dude yesterday outside the veterinary hospital who was standing there gazing into the distance. We struck up a conversation as I waited for someone to let me back into the clinic (after the walk) and he told me: "My dog has just passed on."

OK, considering the state I've been everytime one of our dogs "passed on" I asked him whether he was OK, and he said, yes, the dog was old and feeble and on a drip. I felt sorry that the dog had expired in the clinic and not at home, surrounded by the people he had loved for 17 years.

Such is life and the ending of it.

He took a look at Arnold who was straining at the leash and said cleaned up, he would be a real handsome doggie.

We'll see.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Burst Pipes, Work, Mark and Arnold

Burst pipes: The kitchen pipe had been leaking for some time shooting streams of water all over the place. Julie had bandaged it with tape, tea towels and tremendous optimism. It exploded today. So she left with instructions to have it fixed. I called a plumber who came late and everything erupted into a drama slightly less dramatic than a burst pipe because my father tends to work himself up to a steam when kept waiting.

Not good, Benny, not good at all.

Work: So there I was furiously trying to transcribe two interviews (I managed one and a half), emailing those who hadn't given me any replies (I need to keep track, I've lost track), and then (thank God the pipes were fixed) having a quick shower, some won ton noodles and heading out for my interview in the heart of the city. It went very very well. I can't believe I never heard of this lady when I was editor of that stinky magazine. She's a veteran in the industry, really smart and so nice. (the trick to this is keeping ahead of the transcriptions)

Mark: It was supposed to last an hour but it lasted two, so when I was all done it was 5pm and ping, that's the time Mark starts to play (at least I think it is) and there I was, a stone's throw from the place. So I texted him and drove to the hotel. Parked my car, walked to the lounge, seated myself and then noticed the text which said, sorry not today, private function. Aaaaarrrrrggggghhhhhhhh! Anyways, he was there to help his friend, who was covering for him, set up. He said, come to The Reef on Thursday lar. I said, I don't know where it is. He said former Mons (at least I think he said Mons). Still didn't know where that was. He said, why, this place was your time what? So I punched him for being ageist. And he had to run.

Arnold: I was not going to stick around if Mark was not playing. And luckily all this happened under 15 minutes which meant that, I didn't have to pay for parking. Haha. So I drove to the veterinary hospital instead. Saw my little Black Arnold. It was feeding time and he was excited. Then I took him for a walk. Went next door to the pet shop to get an overpriced leash to do the job. Arnold pooped and peed so much I started to think that he hadn't done either in a week. Since I already have the leash, I think I'll take him for a walk whenever I can make it there. Wound still ugly. But healing. (I can't see it granulating but it looks less holey I guess)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Some Kind of Wonderful

I'm supposed to be writing my article on this pewter designer, and sleeping (three interviews tomorrow, back to back) so instead I watched Some Kind of Wonderful.

You look great wearing my future.

Even to myself, I don't make sense.

But then, I have writer's block. It is an affectation I have been told, but when I care what the people I am writing about think of the article, the inner editor comes into play and ties my hands. Every word I write, delete, delete, delete. Every intro I come up with, stupid. Oh my God, so dumb. So I run into corners, hide, do anything, ANYTHING, but what I'm supposed to.

And next week, well next week looks pretty. Anyone got some meth? I think I need chemical reinforcements if I'm going to see it through. Well, actually, I'll settle for coffee. Strong coffee.

I went to see Black Arnold today and while his wound was wet and weeping, he seemed a whole lot better. So much so that when I took out my ziploc bag and poured the dog biscuits into his bowl he stood up and proceeded to wolf it down. Then he tried to escape. The string tied around his door should have tipped me off. I held him while I stroked and talked to him and could feel the pent up strength in his body, just willing to bolt. I wonder if I can take him for walks now. Just to work out some of that energy. But as I said, the wound still looks ugly.

I stopped another vet who was on his way out and asked him about it. He said maggot wounds tend to take a long time to heal. And they stay wet for a long long time. The good thing was that I got one of the helper guys there to wash his cone. It had become truly disgusting. Then we reattached said cone. The guy asked...does this dog bite? I said, no, not at all.

And yeah, even with all this pent up energy, he was gentle. Another lady came by and talked to me. She had rescued a stray with a maggot wound as well and had come to see him. The stray, who was in another room was howling the place down.

Nobody likes being cooped up I guess.

The good thing is that Arnold is recovering.

Now if only I knew what to do.

If only I knew what to write.


Friday, October 08, 2010


Arnold actually looked up today. Doc said she extracted only one maggot. He's getting better. His eyes look more alert. He reacted to my stroking him. I sat in his cage and talked to him some. He seemed to like it. Even his fur looked better. The wound is still scary looking (to me) but the doc says it's healing nicely. Wish they would change his cone though. It's starting to look mucky...

Gooboy Arnold!

In other news...oh never mind.


Song Ping just wrote to tell me that Peter died. Peter Pruefert. The director of the International Institute of Journalism. The guy who saw to it that we all had such a lovely time in Berlin, more than 10 year ago. (And then again, a year later, when I was part of the test group for the IIJ's journalism on the net course).

I forgot about Peter. I mean, I didn't think of him much after the course. He was just a nice, slightly older gentleman who made everything so agreeable there. The food. The lodgings. He made it easy for us to travel around, he took us on a two-week trip around Germany, he, I can't even begin to describe what he did for us, in those short two months there. It was lifetimes long.

Every night, a few of us would gather in front of the common tv to watch the free porn (after 11) on local tv. Most of it had stories and most of the stories involved two women and one man. So (and this was very soon after we first arrived) I asked Peter, "how come all German men like to do it with two women at the same time?"

He raised his eyebrows. "Excuse me?"

Anyway, because of my question I got quickly labelled the randy squirrel. (Kind of unfair, because besides enjoying the porn, I didn't get up to anything else - I could have, but I didn't)

Peter spoke English with a posh Brit accent. He seemed to have an uncanny knack of picking good lecturers. (When he didn't, he knew it, cos Victoria's head would fall back in a swoon and soon, she would be snoring so loudly that we would all give each other delighted grins).

I don't really know what happened to all the others in my group. You form these attachments based on being in a strange situation for a space in time. And then you unform them. It's just par for the course.

But I still wish I had thanked Peter, or at least, kept in touch. Written to find out how he was doing. That sort of thing.

Peter's death was swift and sudden. A short, severe illness and then he was gone. He had just been to the IIJ office two months ago for a visit (being already retired). Everyone is reeling from the news.

Last year another trainer of mine passed away. This was not sudden. Lung cancer, two strokes and he lingered and died slowly. I didn't know he was ill, I hadn't kept in touch.

And I regret so deeply that he died not knowing how much he meant and how much I, for my part, owe him.

RIP Peter. And RIP Razman. You both made a difference and you're remembered fondly.


I went to see Arnold today. That's what we named him. Arnold. Because he resembles the man with half his face blown off from Terminator. Actually, Julie named him. I was going for Blacky - short, simple, obvious.

I called first. The doc said he was doing better. She (the vet) seems to be warming up. I thought her a cold fish the day I met her. But to give her credit, although she did say he was old and far gone, she didn't recommend that we put him to sleep. The day after we dropped him, he was up in the morning and he ate all his food. Good sign, with that wound still gaping there on the side of his head.

Yesterday I was scrambling to call a million people and get interviews for this project I got very short notice for and I'm supposed to finish almost instantly (it's not the writing that takes up all the time, it's the information gathering), so I didn't go visit. In fact, instead of taking my evening constitutional, I went for an interview. My first for the project. Was good but I came back exhausted. So I didn't go, but I did call.

Today, I called in the evening and the doctor said she had plucked out eight dead maggots from his wound. There was still some left. She stops when he gets too distressed.

But when I went over to see him, he just lay there, in his nice clean cage, barely moving, a cone around his neck to prevent him from scratching the wound. It still looked ugly, but the vet said it was granulating. As in starting to heal. She also said he was a very good dog. He never snapped or bit when she was extracting the maggots. When it became too painful, he would simply whimper.

For the most part he doesn't make any trouble. He eats what's given to him, then lies down again. I tried to stroke him (he needs a bath badly and cannot be given one until after the wound has healed) but he barely reacted. Didn't even seem to know I was there.

I was glad he was getting such good care. If you saw him, your heart would go out to him too. I will try and visit him as often as I can. The other doggies who were boarding reacted to my presence. One little Shih Tzu pup howled and obviously wanted to be played with. It had a cone too. But I didn't dare because I didn't know what was wrong with it and how it should be handled. Besides, they're not my dogs. Little Arnold, lying on his back, quiet and sad, is.

Maybe sometimes life cuts you some slack, hey?

Anyway, I thought I'd tell you. He's not dying. He's getting better. And the vet said he was a very nice doggie. Extremely sweet tempered.

How bout that?

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

When You're Busy Making Other Plans

I settled on the sofa with the phone. OK, it may have been expensive, but I would call for a pizza, heck I would call for two, take advantage of the double deal. Then if Julie and Ivan came back there would be enough to go around, and besides, I was ravenous, having the done the four rounds at Kiara, and I needed to get started on work.

Anna had given me a huge task and almost no time to do it. I would have to turn down all other work for the next two weeks. As much as I can juggle, some things are beyond me.

So during the walk I mapped out who I would call, as soon as I got home, who I would send emails to, what other questions I could send to Anna...oh, it was glorious, glorious. I was all raring to go!

And then I saw the little fellow slumped in front of a driveway at the house next to the house opposite. He was black and for a minute I thought he was the little dog I had befriended not too long ago who hadn't put in an appearance for a long time.

This little fellow just lay there. I went up to pat him and that's when I noticed it. Instead of a right ear, he had a wound...that seemed to go all the way to his brain. Maggots were busy chomping away. The smell itself was enough to make you faint.

Horror-struck I stared at the gaping abyss to make sure. Then the pizza delivery guy appeared and I fumbled for my wallet to pay him, feeling wave after wave of sickness sweep through me. Oh my God! The dog was in such agony. It looked like he was too far gone.

Julie came home and I asked her to come across the street to look. Then I said, do we know any vets? We didn't of course, but that didn't stop us. She immediately went to the internet and started to investigate. I called my friends and they gave me what help they could.

No one was picking up.

And then I thought about the pet rescue farm I had written about a few weeks ago. Hands shaking, I called one of the volunteers and almost in tears, I told him what happened. He was really helpful. First he texted a number of a vet that made housecalls. Then he asked for my address and called around to see if they could get any vet to come to the house to pick up the dog.

I would pay. No problem about that.

But finding a vet after 8 is like trying to find a (I couldn't think of the appropriate metaphor and I'm too tired to be creative). In the meantime I had rushed to get some dog biscuits and put it and some water into my red bowl for strays (the cat that I also sometimes fed, was indignant and started circling said dog and expressing displeasure in a variety of ways).

Julie brought a blanket and somehow we managed to load the little black thing onto it and carry him over to our compound which is presently strewn with sand, stones, cement (you name it) because of renovations.

I fed him some more dog biscuits and weak as he was, he stood up to eat it. I wondered how long he had gone without food and how long this damn wound had been festering in his head.

Salehin called. He said there was one 24-hour clinic in Jalan Gasing that I could go to for emergencies. And he texted the number. Julie said she had already called it but they guy there said, no we're closed. I called and insisted. He said, well, but it'll be expensive. You'll have to pay.

I said, I don't care. I'll pay.

He said, OK. And gave me directions.

Julie had already made plans. She was going out for a movie. Her friend was coming to get her. I said, I can't do this without you.

She cancelled her plans, but her friend insisted on coming anyway to help us. This is despite his quesy stomach. The dog's ear stank to high heavens. I was poor little baby...what did you ever do to deserve such suffering. If nothing could be done, we would put him to sleep. But I was determined he was not going to spend another night in this agony.

The vet who was irritated at being kept waiting asked me to brief her. When she saw this was a stray, she examined the wound and then insisted on giving me the "facts". She listed out the various costs (what with the operation and treatment and boarding it would come up to well over RM1,000). Too much for a stray, you say? Especially when you don't have a steady job?

I ask you, what would you have done?

Put it to sleep because it would have cost less?

Perhaps that would have been the sensible thing to do.

Instead, I asked her, do you accept cards?

She nodded curtly. And then proceeded to go start on the operation. The millions of maggots that had been chewing their way through his little head - she squirted in the medicine, injected him with a sedative/painkiller and set to work. Even then, she barely managed to pull out half before she had to stop. The dog was coming around and he was in pain. She then prepared a cage and carried him upstairs.

Julie gave me her look (the one that clearly says, I think you're making a mistake). She said, even if he gets better, how do we keep him?

When Salehin called, I asked him if it would be possible for him to help me find a home for the doggie. He said, no problem. Take a picture of the dog having the operation. Write a story. And we will circulate it.

Julie took the picture with her handphone. I will write the story.

And now I have to get back to the work I was originally supposed to do.

So tired.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

RIP Uncle Joe

I guess Grandma came to get you. You were her first son and always her favourite. At least, that's what I've heard. I never met her, you see, she died just before I was born. But I suppose she would have come back for you.

As we get older and the people who used to love us unconditionally expire one by one, we're left in a colder, crueller world. Because there are few who know. There are few who remember. There are still fewer who care.

I heard your last minutes were not traumatic. True, you threw up, but then you fell into a deep deep sleep and then, you slipped away. It was relatively painless, no wailing. No drama.

There is no one to weep. (Perhaps that's for the best, hey?)

Mum was over there. She came to say goodbye. You were her eldest brother and even when she stopped talking to you, she still cared.

When she called to say you had gone, her voice was subdued. In shock. Thank goodness Julie is there with her. She wanted us to come too. Well, Dadda is going tomorrow. He is also in shock. He kept saying, but he's younger than me, and I knew him.

And the rest of them? Your sisters? I don't know. I don't know how they reacted, whether it was relief, whether it was sadness.

That house grows older, dustier, drearier and emptier. Will you stick around and haunt it for a while or will you go join Papa, Mamma and Auntie Gert? Were they the ones who came to get you?

Was it pleasant? Where they at the window, calling? Ah, but they wouldn't have been because you died unconscious, you died without anyone praying over you, you died with three sisters staring in horror as the paramedic tried to revive you, and not much else.

You died without the grace of a happy death.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Therefore I Lead...

The thing about being a freelancer (and not just a business reporter) is that you never know what's coming up tomorrow. A variety of jobs are thrown at you from all angles (Malaysia, as I've found, being chronically short of writers).

All the time I was out of journalism, or only into it for a tiny specialist section of the market, I missed out on these interactions.

Today I met a bunch of kids who were what I could only describe as "politically engaged". If you think there's nothing special about that, it's only cos you don't know Malaysian kids.

They were polite, charming, sincere and very, very smart. All had ideas about what changes needed to be made for a better tomorrow.

What was surprising was that some of these kids were actually from the local school system. Now I can understand smart, aware kids from international schools, where they are developed in different ways and judged based on a different set of criteria. In an international school dissent and contradiction are welcomed. The kids are thought to think for themselves, to judge, to evaluate.

But firstly, not many parents can afford these schools (though some do hock everything from their houses to their wives to pay the school fees) and even if they could, there aren't that many in Malaysia to begin with.

The local school system, however, is designed to create the mindless mob. You swallow a huge amount of information rote-style, trot it out mechanically when asked, hoping you can remember the exact phrasing of the definition on page 24 of your textbooks. Alter the question just a little and you're lost. And since you have imbibed the words and not the principles, you wouldn't be able to apply the information to different situations.

Why do you think innovation is something we have to pay either the foreigners or the Malaysians who have been abroad, to do?

In fact, when I interviewed this German guy who had been invited to turn around a Malaysian company, he told me the sheeplike mentality of the Malaysians (yes sir, no sir, three bags full) was what caused him the most problems. If he said, OK, let's talk about the problems with this product, everyone looked at everyone else, shuffled their feet, and then eyed the ground, hoping nobody would call on them. They were afraid to offer an opinion, afraid to say anything that could be construed as criticism, afraid of the penalties of speaking up.

Which is why it was doubly interesting to meet these products of the system he had spoken about, but oh my, what different products. These kids thought about things, questioned the status quo, were not taken in by appearances or PR surfaces - said, oh for God's sakes, walk your talk instead of giving us more fluff, and most importantly - you become a leader to serve, not to accummulate money or power.

Everyone has the potential and even a street sweeper can be turned into a leader provided they have a desire to serve. Without it, even the best credentials in the world won't make you one. No, you'll be some corrupt lackey engaged in securing your fiefdom, but not a leader.

Never a leader.


So now I've called Theresa and am busy trying to hammer out said article. I'm supposed to be somewhere for dinner and most likely I'll be late because she wants to see it today.

Sometimes I don't mind the hard work and tight deadlines.

Sometimes I love my job.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Wide Open

I am sitting cross-legged on my bed, listening to the patter of "after-rain", that is the remnants of rain after the fury of the storm has been spent, waiting for my two sets of fish fillet mcvalue meals. Basically because after ordering my father not to walk out and get sardines (he gets dizzy when he walks out but he still insists on doing it) I went back to sleep (the sleep of the dead) and did not emerge from the deeps until past one o'clock. During which time the D-man was already hungry and grumpy and rhubarbing about how we would have gotten the sardines if it hadn't been for me barking out orders in my sleep.

Anyways, Macker's calls to say the order has been delayed because of fury of said storm and asks if this will be OK. What can I say? I'm hungry, he's hungry, but of course it's OK, especially as the mahjong game has started in the house opposite and those lizards are leering at my parking place with their evil covetous unblinking eyes.

"If you go, they're going to take your place," Dadda observes irritably.

"Yeah," I sigh, and proceed to call McDonald's.

I was up till 3 this morning, transcribing an interview and writing the story. That's why. And the rain, which sinks me into delicious somnolence, made me sleep even more deeply and of course, much longer.

I seem to be tired all the time. Part of it is work. Part of it is my habit of doing four rounds around the Kiara arboretum that exhausts me physically. Part of it is my late nights (OK there was one late night for fun and the rest of the late nights, were nothing more glamorous than work).

The editors have a habit of assigning me things last minute. Like a call I receive at 10 o'clock at night asking what I'm doing tomorrow. Because, there is an interview and they have nobody to send for it. I make the mistake of not researching the company before I go on said interview and leave out a heap of interesting questions.

Wandering around in a haze I don't seem to be able to look forward to anything. I have an assignment tomorrow morning (early night tonight then) and another next Saturday, and an appointment with the eye doctor (Dadda's not mine) next Friday. Other than that my week is wide open.

Wide, wide open.