Archive for 2008

March 8, 2008

democratic action party

The DAP boys did it. Nice.

michaelooi  | nonsense  | Comments Off
March 6, 2008

bitter memories : classroom duty incident (part II)

*this is a continuation from the previous entry… *

Now, a little bit about our principal – ‘Brother Casimir’ was a name that brought tremendous fear back in those days. Though he wasn’t really the incumbent discipline enforcer and rarely made appearances around the classroom areas, rumor had it that he once appeared out of nowhere to grab a boy for misbehaving and gave him the nastiest whack ever on the ass. It was said that the cane whack seared so deep, that the poor boy couldn’t sit upright for days. Although I suspected the tale was probably a product of exaggeration as it traveled from mouth to mouth, I did notice that Bro Casimir indeed brought about an enigmatic aura of trepidation around him. He had the stench of a very dangerous man.

Maybe it was his macabre look, I don’t know. With a pair of deep dark eyes, protruded forehead, hooked nose and one side of crispy thin lopsided hind ear – it wouldn’t be surprising at all if one suspects that he was somewhat a cross between a nosferatu and that pesky pet rat of Jabba the Hutt. People were naturally scared of him. Especially us schoolkids. Whenever he passes by a classroom, one could notice the instant effect. The whole class would go quiet and silence would follow wherever he went. Words would travel fast from classrooms to the next, that “Brother is coming!” and everyone would perk the fuck up and be at their best behavior. Dicks would shrivel and sphincters pucker. And I reckon if there was to be a dog around, it would probably bite its own balls to commit suicide the moment Brother appears, no shit. (alright, that was just an exaggeration…)

So, this fearsome white wizard was standing before me, his white pulpit robe flowing, white hair glistening… but his eyes were fiery red. I’d never seen him so fucking mad before. He grabbed my puny arm and dragged me to the corridor and started to hurl a tirade of batshit angry rebuke at me. I couldn’t understand a single thing he said then because

a) I was too busy being scared shitless
b) he had this thick Irish (or was it Scottish?) accent that made him sound like Rambo with a toothache…

I only managed to make up a few sentences, one of them was “I’M GONNA MAKE SURE YOU GET A STICK FROM ME TOMORROW! NOW TELL ME YOUR NAME!” – He didn’t bring his fucking cane so, he had to book an appointment to get my ass whooped on the next day. And that, was the motherfuckest torture I had to endure in my entire life as a schoolkid. Had he whooped me right away on that spot, I wouldn’t had suffered that much. Imagine, I had to go home that day feeling like I was about to be lynched the next day… which gave me a fucking miserable and sleepless night. I didn’t eat well, nor did anything well. Just scared shitless. It was the longest night ever.

The next day was a Friday, I can remember… and I went to school dithering like a Parkinson patient, looking out for the white wizard to appear in front of the class to summon my head. I waited the whole day long, but surprisingly, he didn’t show up. I was at the verge of going insane, and amidst the agitated state of mind and paranoia, a more foreboding thought came to me – the wizard probably didn’t come because he wanted to save my ass for the Monday assembly public caning… OH MY FUCKING GODDD PANIC PANIC.

And from there, I had to endure another 2 tormenting days through the weekend to face the day of reckoning – which by then, I had already mentally braced myself for the worst… And then the time came in the assembly, it never fucking happened. Brother Casimir wasn’t even fucking there. And because the worst of the possible situation had already gone by, my fear sort of like subsided after that. And he never came that day, the day after and for weeks and months after. I gave it a thought one day, about what went wrong and I suspected that I might have given Brother the wrong name and the wrong class out of my freaked out mind – which might have prevented him from locating me… because you know why? We Chinese kids looked all the fucking same to him. The whole incident went by as if it was an incomplete nightmare… I woke up before Freddy Krueger manage to struck me with his evil ‘stick’ (kinky)

That was my second narrow escape from a calamitous fate, after the first one. I can be unbelievably lucky sometimes…

michaelooi  | escapades  | 5 Comments
March 4, 2008

bitter memories : classroom duty incident

People always say, that there are 2 things you cannot avoid in your adult life – tax and advertisements. But for a high school student, it has got to be the ‘classroom duty’. No I’m not referring ‘duty’ as in ‘your duty to fucking finish your high school and not be a yokel’. But ‘classroom duty’ as in, the janitorial work that your kiddy ass exploited to do by your corrupted school board in their bid to save some maintenance cost. You know, sweep the floor, dust the fucking blackboard and stuff? Yep. Back during my time (I am not sure if people are still doing that today), everyone had to take turn to clean up the mess after class – well unless if you’re a cripple or a biological retard.

The classroom duty was always a fun thing for me and my buddies. I’m not implying that we LIKED to do janitorial work, but more like having the propensity to make the most out of each job. We’d give half assed effort for it and spend the rest of the period romping around. You know, like engaging in broom fights… duster fights… duster soccer… duster juggling (there were a thousand and one cool stuff that we could do with a duster, besides dusting the stupid blackboard) and sometimes, illegal activities like swapping defective desks to adjacent classes. Such were our activities, fully utilized to our juvenile amusement.

One day, we overdid it. I overdid it. I don’t quite remember what was the theme and who was there with me that day but, I was having a blast. Towards the end of the duty, right before we were about to wrap up and lock the classroom, I did a final stunt called ‘the basketball chair’ maneuver. The ‘basketball chair’ maneuver, as the name implies, is played like a basketball… except that there is no ball nor basket involved. You use a fucking chair. Here’s how it works – you throw a chair from a distance away towards another chair, so that it lands upright and stacks up on one another. Requires a little bit of skill to pull a stunt like that but, if you can master it, you’d save a lot of work stacking up chairs.

That day, I was pulling a feat that none of my friends had ever done before (well, that’s probably because they’re not as such a dumbass as I was…). I was trying to do the basketball chair thing at the full length of the class. That is – from the front of the classroom, right to the back of it. That’s like the equivalent of a full court shot in a real basketball game. I don’t know what was I thinking but, it seemed like a neat idea back then.

I can still remember, the chair I was holding was one of those ubiquitous old skool rusty steel chair (that always fucking stain our white uniforms). That thing was heavy, about a few kilograms. I lifted it up with little regards, took a careful aim and flung it with all my might. The chair took flight across the classroom, landed about half a foot short of the target and fell sideways, resulting a din of metal crashing against the cement floor, which I reckoned was loud enough to be heard across the building block. On any other normal day, this would had been a really trivial thing to happen. But that day, was not an ‘any other normal day’. It was the day the planets were not in alignment to my chi, and the cosmic energy was incongruent with my spirit, which thoroughly fucked up my chakra. After the explosion of sound, I noticed a white object towering above me from behind… which prompted me to turn back and look up, and saw my 6 feet something school principal – the formidable Brother Casimir Hannon… and that was when I realized that my fate was in jeopardy there…

(to be continued…)

michaelooi  | escapades  | 14 Comments
March 2, 2008

“No Country for Old Men” (2007)

Four Oscars. That’s how many awards this flick grabbed at the 80th Academy Awards. Best director, best adapted screenplay, best picture and best supporting actor. Must be one heck of a good movie to be able to pull a feat like that, I thought. But it fell a little bit short of that in my opinion. It was just ok for me. Above average but, not really excellent. I’m gonna put what I think in point form…

– storyline
20 minutes through the flick, I could already guess what to expect for the remaining of the 2 hours. A hunter discovers an aftermath of a drug deal gone wrong, absconds with the money and a bunch of baddies (assassins) go after him. Adventure ensues. You know, not enough surprises. That was sort of a let down for me. After watching the likes like “He Was A Quiet Man“, I know how surprises and unpredictability can do to enhance the experience. I felt that the plot’s too simple and linear – but then, this is an adaptation of a novel so, it’s already not much of a plot to begin with.

– cast and characters
good and bad, but it was alright for me generally. I don’t fucking know what significance does that Sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones) character has in the movie apart from being a narrator and a confusing old fart that talks a lot of shit with an unconvincing accent. That was the down side.
The good side, has got to be the character of that main villain named Anton Chigurh (an assassin that was sent by a drug buyer to retrieve the missing/stolen money). You see the guy running in the poster there? He is skedaddling away from this crazy fuck. Chigurh was such a fucking badass in the flick. Has a very odd looking hairstyle that paints a false impression of douchebaggery but don’t let that fool you. Underneath that disguise of unforgivable look, he’s a cold blooded psycho that would kill anyone or anything he doesn’t like at all. Drug pushers, cops, assassins, innocent motorists, etc – he’d kill anything, even the person who hired him. No motive, just kill. Can’t get enough of him. This guy is fucking awesome. They should make a separate movie about him…

chigurh: “do you see me?”
(The actor who played Chigurh got the Best Supporting Actor)

– actions and effects
Lots of them, and they’re all very nice. Loved the gore, the blood, the gunshots. There’s a part where Chigurl had to dress his own gunshot wound from a shotgun (or was it a hollow point wound?) which I think is splendid (and he did it without a flinch – unlike that fucking sissy Rambo who squealed like a 6 year old getting an enema). Fair share of animal cruelty too – a few dead dogs (one was shown getting shot) and an intention to kill a bird (which I think was funny). There’s nothing more I could have asked for (though I’d advise to skip any part with Tommy Lee Jones in it – which I think most of them are redundant and out of place at times).

Over and all, I’d like to think of it as a serial killing plus action kind of hybrid flick. It’s all about Chigurh ruining people’s shit wherever he goes… and nobody can fuck around with him, right till the end of the story. It is all good for me except Tommy Lee Jones’ redundant parts and the unbelievably fucked up ending – which brought injustice to the quality of the whole plot, like a deck of cards.

This worths 7 out of 10 in my scale of awesomeness, but fell short of a Picture of The Year trophy… in my humble opinion.

michaelooi  | movie reviews  | 4 Comments
February 29, 2008

“Nine Cs of Leadership”

With the election round the corner, I feel that it is appropriate for me to share this with the public – on what to look for in a leader… and hopefully, be able to vote wisely…

The following is an excerpt from Lee Iacocca’s (former CEO of Chrysler Corporation) book – “Where Have All The Leaders Gone?”. Note that most of the references are about the American political scene, but then in and out, it’s not much different than anywhere else in the world. For some weird reason, the guy at the top is always an asshole.

But then, not that you can’t change a thing about it. All you have to do, is pick wisely. Try not to pick an asshole but instead, a real leader with substance. Find out what an accomplished leader has to say about what it takes to be a good leader… just take a 10 minute break and do it. (trust me, if it’s not worth reading, I wouldn’t have posted it here…)

The Test of a Leader

I’ve never been Commander in Chief, but I’ve been a CEO. I understand a few things about leadership at the top. I’ve figured out nine points — not ten (I don’t want people accusing me of thinking I’m Moses). I call them the “Nine Cs of Leadership.” They’re not fancy or complicated. Just clear, obvious qualities that every true leader should have. We should look at how the current administration stacks up. Like it or not, this crew is going to be around until January 2009. Maybe we can learn something before we go to the polls in 2008. Then let’s be sure we use the leadership test to screen the candidates who say they want to run the country. It’s up to us to choose wisely.

So, here’s my C list:

A leader has to show CURIOSITY. He has to listen to people outside of the “Yes, sir” crowd in his inner circle. He has to read voraciously, because the world is a big, complicated place. George W. Bush brags about never reading a newspaper. “I just scan the headlines,” he says. Am I hearing this right? He’s the President of the United States and he never reads a newspaper? Thomas Jefferson once said, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate for a moment to prefer the latter.” Bush disagrees. As long as he gets his daily hour in the gym, with Fox News piped through the sound system, he’s ready to go.

If a leader never steps outside his comfort zone to hear different ideas, he grows stale. If he doesn’t put his beliefs to the test, how does he know he’s right? The inability to listen is a form of arrogance. It means either you think you already know it all, or you just don’t care. Before the 2006 election, George Bush made a big point of saying he didn’t listen to the polls. Yeah, that’s what they all say when the polls stink. But maybe he should have listened, because 70 percent of the people were saying he was on the wrong track. It took a “thumping” on election day to wake him up, but even then you got the feeling he wasn’t listening so much as he was calculating how to do a better job of convincing everyone he was right.

A leader has to be CREATIVE, go out on a limb, be willing to try something different. You know, think outside the box. George Bush prides himself on never changing, even as the world around him is spinning out of control. God forbid someone should accuse him of flip-flopping. There’s a disturbingly messianic fervor to his certainty. Senator Joe Biden recalled a conversation he had with Bush a few months after our troops marched into Baghdad. Joe was in the Oval Office outlining his concerns to the President — the explosive mix of Shiite and Sunni, the disbanded Iraqi army, the problems securing the oil fields. “The President was serene,” Joe recalled. “He told me he was sure that we were on the right course and that all would be well. ‘Mr. President,’ I finally said, ‘how can you be so sure when you don’t yet know all the facts?'” Bush then reached over and put a steadying hand on Joe’s shoulder. “My instincts,” he said. “My instincts.” Joe was flabbergasted. He told Bush, “Mr. President, your instincts aren’t good enough.” Joe Biden sure didn’t think the matter was settled. And, as we all know now, it wasn’t.

Leadership is all about managing change — whether you’re leading a company or leading a country. Things change, and you get creative. You adapt. Maybe Bush was absent the day they covered that at Harvard Business School.

A leader has to COMMUNICATE. I’m not talking about running off at the mouth or spouting sound bites. I’m talking about facing reality and telling the truth. Nobody in the current administration seems to know how to talk straight anymore. Instead, they spend most of their time trying to convince us that things are not really as bad as they seem. I don’t know if it’s denial or dishonesty, but it can start to drive you crazy after a while. Communication has to start with telling the truth, even when it’s painful. The war in Iraq has been, among other things, a grand failure of communication. Bush is like the boy who didn’t cry wolf when the wolf was at the door. After years of being told that all is well, even as the casualties and chaos mount, we’ve stopped listening to him.

A leader has to be a person of CHARACTER. That means knowing the difference between right and wrong and having the guts to do the right thing. Abraham Lincoln once said, “If you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” George Bush has a lot of power. What does it say about his character? Bush has shown a willingness to take bold action on the world stage because he has the power, but he shows little regard for the grievous consequences. He has sent our troops (not to mention hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens) to their deaths — for what? To build our oil reserves? To avenge his daddy because Saddam Hussein once tried to have him killed? To show his daddy he’s tougher? The motivations behind the war in Iraq are questionable, and the execution of the war has been a disaster. A man of character does not ask a single soldier to die for a failed policy.

A leader must have COURAGE. I’m talking about balls. (That even goes for female leaders.) Swagger isn’t courage. Tough talk isn’t courage. George Bush comes from a blue-blooded Connecticut family, but he likes to talk like a cowboy. You know, My gun is bigger than your gun. Courage in the twenty-first century doesn’t mean posturing and bravado. Courage is a commitment to sit down at the negotiating table and talk.

If you’re a politician, courage means taking a position even when you know it will cost you votes. Bush can’t even make a public appearance unless the audience has been handpicked and sanitized. He did a series of so-called town hall meetings last year, in auditoriums packed with his most devoted fans. The questions were all softballs.

To be a leader you’ve got to have CONVICTION — a fire in your belly. You’ve got to have passion. You’ve got to really want to get something done. How do you measure fire in the belly? Bush has set the all-time record for number of vacation days taken by a U.S. President — four hundred and counting. He’d rather clear brush on his ranch than immerse himself in the business of governing. He even told an interviewer that the high point of his presidency so far was catching a seven-and-a-half-pound perch in his hand-stocked lake.

It’s no better on Capitol Hill. Congress was in session only ninety-seven days in 2006. That’s eleven days less than the record set in 1948, when President Harry Truman coined the term do-nothing Congress. Most people would expect to be fired if they worked so little and had nothing to show for it. But Congress managed to find the time to vote itself a raise. Now, that’s not leadership.

A leader should have CHARISMA. I’m not talking about being flashy. Charisma is the quality that makes people want to follow you. It’s the ability to inspire. People follow a leader because they trust him. That’s my definition of charisma. Maybe George Bush is a great guy to hang out with at a barbecue or a ball game. But put him at a global summit where the future of our planet is at stake, and he doesn’t look very presidential. Those frat-boy pranks and the kidding around he enjoys so much don’t go over that well with world leaders. Just ask German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who received an unwelcome shoulder massage from our President at a G-8 Summit. When he came up behind her and started squeezing, I thought she was going to go right through the roof.

A leader has to be COMPETENT. That seems obvious, doesn’t it? You’ve got to know what you’re doing. More important than that, you’ve got to surround yourself with people who know what they’re doing. Bush brags about being our first MBA President. Does that make him competent? Well, let’s see. Thanks to our first MBA President, we’ve got the largest deficit in history, Social Security is on life support, and we’ve run up a half-a-trillion-dollar price tag (so far) in Iraq. And that’s just for starters. A leader has to be a problem solver, and the biggest problems we face as a nation seem to be on the back burner.

You can’t be a leader if you don’t have COMMON SENSE. I call this Charlie Beacham’s rule. When I was a young guy just starting out in the car business, one of my first jobs was as Ford’s zone manager in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. My boss was a guy named Charlie Beacham, who was the East Coast regional manager. Charlie was a big Southerner, with a warm drawl, a huge smile, and a core of steel. Charlie used to tell me, “Remember, Lee, the only thing you’ve got going for you as a human being is your ability to reason and your common sense. If you don’t know a dip of horseshit from a dip of vanilla ice cream, you’ll never make it.” George Bush doesn’t have common sense. He just has a lot of sound bites. You know — Mr. they’ll welcome us as liberators no child left behind heck of a job Brownie mission accomplished Bush.

Former President Bill Clinton once said, “I grew up in an alcoholic home. I spent half my childhood trying to get into the reality-based world — and I like it here.”

I think our current President should visit the real world once in a while.

The Biggest C is Crisis

Leaders are made, not born. Leadership is forged in times of crisis. It’s easy to sit there with your feet up on the desk and talk theory. Or send someone else’s kids off to war when you’ve never seen a battlefield yourself. It’s another thing to lead when your world comes tumbling down.

On September 11, 2001, we needed a strong leader more than any other time in our history. We needed a steady hand to guide us out of the ashes. Where was George Bush? He was reading a story about a pet goat to kids in Florida when he heard about the attacks. He kept sitting there for twenty minutes with a baffled look on his face. It’s all on tape. You can see it for yourself. Then, instead of taking the quickest route back to Washington and immediately going on the air to reassure the panicked people of this country, he decided it wasn’t safe to return to the White House. He basically went into hiding for the day—and he told Vice President Dick Cheney to stay put in his bunker. We were all frozen in front of our TVs, scared out of our wits, waiting for our leaders to tell us that we were going to be okay, and there was nobody home. It took Bush a couple of days to get his bearings and devise the right photo op at Ground Zero.

That was George Bush’s moment of truth, and he was paralyzed. And what did he do when he’d regained his composure? He led us down the road to Iraq — a road his own father had considered disastrous when he was President. But Bush didn’t listen to Daddy. He listened to a higher father. He prides himself on being faith based, not reality based. If that doesn’t scare the crap out of you, I don’t know what will.

A Hell of a Mess

So here’s where we stand. We’re immersed in a bloody war with no plan for winning and no plan for leaving. We’re running the biggest deficit in the history of the country. We’re losing the manufacturing edge to Asia, while our once-great companies are getting slaughtered by health care costs. Gas prices are skyrocketing, and nobody in power has a coherent energy policy. Our schools are in trouble. Our borders are like sieves. The middle class is being squeezed every which way. These are times that cry out for leadership.

But when you look around, you’ve got to ask: “Where have all the leaders gone?” Where are the curious, creative communicators? Where are the people of character, courage, conviction, competence, and common sense? I may be a sucker for alliteration, but I think you get the point.

Name me a leader who has a better idea for homeland security than making us take off our shoes in airports and throw away our shampoo? We’ve spent billions of dollars building a huge new bureaucracy, and all we know how to do is react to things that have already happened.

Name me one leader who emerged from the crisis of Hurricane Katrina. Congress has yet to spend a single day evaluating the response to the hurricane, or demanding accountability for the decisions that were made in the crucial hours after the storm. Everyone’s hunkering down, fingers crossed, hoping it doesn’t happen again. Now, that’s just crazy. Storms happen. Deal with it. Make a plan. Figure out what you’re going to do the next time.

Name me an industry leader who is thinking creatively about how we can restore our competitive edge in manufacturing. Who would have believed that there could ever be a time when “the Big Three” referred to Japanese car companies? How did this happen — and more important, what are we going to do about it?

Name me a government leader who can articulate a plan for paying down the debt, or solving the energy crisis, or managing the health care problem. The silence is deafening. But these are the crises that are eating away at our country and milking the middle class dry.

I have news for the gang in Congress. We didn’t elect you to sit on your asses and do nothing and remain silent while our democracy is being hijacked and our greatness is being replaced with mediocrity. What is everybody so afraid of? That some bobblehead on Fox News will call them a name? Give me a break. Why don’t you guys show some spine for a change?

Had Enough?

Hey, I’m not trying to be the voice of gloom and doom here. I’m trying to light a fire. I’m speaking out because I have hope. I believe in America. In my lifetime I’ve had the privilege of living through some of America’s greatest moments. I’ve also experienced some of our worst crises — the Great Depression, World War II, the Korean War, the Kennedy assassination, the Vietnam War, the 1970s oil crisis, and the struggles of recent years culminating with 9/11. If I’ve learned one thing, it’s this: You don’t get anywhere by standing on the sidelines waiting for somebody else to take action. Whether it’s building a better car or building a better future for our children, we all have a role to play. That’s the challenge I’m raising in this book. It’s a call to action for people who, like me, believe in America. It’s not too late, but it’s getting pretty close. So let’s shake off the horseshit and go to work. Let’s tell ‘em all we’ve had enough.

Vote wisely, people… and best of luck.

michaelooi  | snippets  | 9 Comments