Of The Importance of Being Sane and Live Healthy

I'm sorry for not writing for quite a while. It's not that I'm have nothing to write, I do have so much to tell about, but maybe I'm just lazy.

There are two major news that keep floating around the news in Japan recently, the pandemic swine flu and one of SMAP's member arrested by police for being heavily drunk and nude in public.

The swine flu pandemonium started in Mexico and soon after it spreads to United States and Canada. The outbreak happens fast and quick, and in a very short time, there are many cases already reported all over America and certain parts in Europe. The virus strain origin remains unknown but it is believed that the virus strain migrated from Asia or Europe through people and migratory birds, although many speculated that it comes from pig factory farms in Mexico. The virus developed to be infectious from human to human contact (and no longer through animals like it used to) and that starts the pandemic warning globally.

The WHO has give few recommendations to prevent the outbreak of swine flu (especially in affected country):
1. Avoid crowded places
2. Avoid close spaces
3. Avoid salutations with the hand and kisses
4. Wear tissues to cover mouth and nose
5. Go to the doctor at the minimal sign of flu
6. Enhance your immunologic system
7. Wash your hands with soap and water frequently
8. Sneeze in the arm, under the elbow, instead of doing it in the hand
9. Try to stay at home.
10. Never self-medicate
11. Eat fruit and do not drink alcohol nor smoke
12. Avoid sick people

And the next major news is the arrest of one of the SMAP member, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi. He was arrested for public indecency, appear naked in public (in Akasaka, Tokyo to be exact) after been heavily drunk (he was believed to consumed more than 10 mugs of beer and shochu, the Japanese traditional wine). It brings the shock to Japanese media (considering the massive popularity of SMAP in Japan and also because of the gentle and clean image of Kusanagi throughout his career in Japanese media industry.

Unlike the West part of the world, such behavior normally would increase the popularity of the artist (for example, Paris Hilton sex video) but it is almost impossible to see the same effect happen to celebrity in Asia. Especially Japan, which famous for the clean image of every public figure and the strictness of being a role model of the society (remember Shoichi Nakagawa case? Where he was drowsy and slurring his words during G7 meeting), such case as public indecency is a big no-no. The effect of Kusanagi bad move; all his commercials and feature in media has been taken back and he receives critiques from all over the country.

Some of my Japanese friends has asked me why Islam prohibits the Muslim to eat pork meat and consume alcohol. I let Kusanagi and swine flu to answer that.

I know it is a bit late to post this, but classic pieces do sells sometimes. As I am currently reading Murakami's Kafka on The Shore and starting to list Murakami and his work in my favourite list, I decided to post his acceptance speech during Jurusalem Prize Award last January 2009 in my blog. Realizing I never post this, and wondering why I haven't post this back in January, probably I was a bit busy with Japan immigration (visa etc.) at that moment, so I totally forgotten about this great speech.







受賞の申し出を受けたとき、僕はエルサレムへ行かないようにという警告を受けました。僕は自問自答しました。イスラエルに行くのは適切なことだろうか? 当事者の一方を支持することにならないだろうか? そして、圧倒的な軍事力を解き放つという選択を下した国家の政策を是認することになってしまわないだろうかと。考えた末に、僕は来ることに決めました。たいていの小説家と同じように、僕もまた、人から言われたのと正反対のことをするのが好きなんです。やれやれ、これは小説家としての性みたいなものですね。小説家というのは、自分の目で見て、自分の手で触れたものしか信じることができないんです。だから僕は、自分の目で見ることを選びました。黙っているよりも、ここへ来て話すことを選びました。それは、僕がいつも心に留めていることです。小説を書くとき、いつも心に留めているのです。紙に書いて壁に貼ろうとまで思ったことはありませんが、僕の心の壁には刻まれています。言ってみれば、こういうことですーー


僕にとって、小説を書く目的はひとつだけです。それは、個人が持つ独自の尊厳を引き出すことです。独自性を満たし、システムにからめ取られないようにすることです。だから——僕は、生命の物語を、愛の物語を、人を笑わせ、泣かせる物語を書くのです。見た限りでは、私たちには希望が無いように思えます。壁はあまりに高く、あまりに強い。もし私たちに勝利への何らかの希望があるとすれば、それは私たちの完全なる独自性を信じることと、魂を結び合う温もり※から来るものでなければならないでしょう。 私たちひとりひとりには、形ある、生きた魂があります。システムにはそんなものはありません。システムに私たちをコントロールさせてはいけないのです。システムが私たちを作るのではありません。私たちがシステムを作ったのです。


English version:

Always on the side of the egg

By Haruki Murakami

So I have come to Jerusalem today as a novelist, which is to say as a professional spinner of lies.

Of course, novelists are not the only ones who tell lies. Politicians do it, too, (sorry, Mr. President) as we all know. Diplomats and military men tell their own kinds of lies on occasion, as do used car salesmen, butchers and builders. The lies of novelists differ from others, however, in that no one criticizes the novelist as immoral for telling them. Indeed, the bigger and better his lies and the more ingeniously he creates them, the more he is likely to be praised by the public and the critics. Why should that be?

My answer would be this: Namely, that by telling skillful lies - which is to say, by making up fictions that appear to be true - the novelist can bring a truth out to a new location and shine a new light on it. In most cases, it is virtually impossible to grasp a truth in its original form and depict it accurately. This is why we try to grab its tail by luring the truth from its hiding place, transferring it to a fictional location, and replacing it with a fictional form. In order to accomplish this, however, we first have to clarify where the truth lies within us. This is an important qualification for making up good lies.

Today, however, I have no intention of lying. I will try to be as honest as I can. There are a few days in the year when I do not engage in telling lies, and today happens to be one of them.

So let me tell you the truth. A fair number of people advised me not to come here to accept the Jerusalem Prize. Some even warned me they would instigate a boycott of my books if I came.

The reason for this, of course, was the fierce battle that was raging in Gaza. The UN reported that more than a thousand people had lost their lives in the blockaded Gaza City, many of them unarmed citizens - children and old people.

Any number of times after receiving notice of the award, I asked myself whether traveling to Israel at a time like this and accepting a literary prize was the proper thing to do, whether this would create the impression that I supported one side in the conflict, that I endorsed the policies of a nation that chose to unleash its overwhelming military power. This is an impression, of course, that I would not wish to give. I do not approve of any war, and I do not support any nation. Neither, of course, do I wish to see my books subjected to a boycott.

Finally, however, after careful consideration, I made up my mind to come here. One reason for my decision was that all too many people advised me not to do it. Perhaps, like many other novelists, I tend to do the exact opposite of what I am told. If people are telling me - and especially if they are warning me - "don’t go there," "don’t do that," I tend to want to "go there" and "do that." It’s in my nature, you might say, as a novelist. Novelists are a special breed. They cannot genuinely trust anything they have not seen with their own eyes or touched with their own hands.

And that is why I am here. I chose to come here rather than stay away. I chose to see for myself rather than not to see. I chose to speak to you rather than to say nothing.

This is not to say that I am here to deliver a political message. To make judgments about right and wrong is one of the novelist’s most important duties, of course.

It is left to each writer, however, to decide upon the form in which he or she will convey those judgments to others. I myself prefer to transform them into stories - stories that tend toward the surreal. Which is why I do not intend to stand before you today delivering a direct political message.

Please do, however, allow me to deliver one very personal message. It is something that I always keep in mind while I am writing fiction. I have never gone so far as to write it on a piece of paper and paste it to the wall: Rather, it is carved into the wall of my mind, and it goes something like this:

"Between a high, solid wall and an egg that breaks against it, I will always stand on the side of the egg."

Yes, no matter how right the wall may be and how wrong the egg, I will stand with the egg. Someone else will have to decide what is right and what is wrong; perhaps time or history will decide. If there were a novelist who, for whatever reason, wrote works standing with the wall, of what value would such works be?

What is the meaning of this metaphor? In some cases, it is all too simple and clear. Bombers and tanks and rockets and white phosphorus shells are that high, solid wall. The eggs are the unarmed civilians who are crushed and burned and shot by them. This is one meaning of the metaphor.

This is not all, though. It carries a deeper meaning. Think of it this way. Each of us is, more or less, an egg. Each of us is a unique, irreplaceable soul enclosed in a fragile shell. This is true of me, and it is true of each of you. And each of us, to a greater or lesser degree, is confronting a high, solid wall. The wall has a name: It is The System. The System is supposed to protect us, but sometimes it takes on a life of its own, and then it begins to kill us and cause us to kill others - coldly, efficiently, systematically.

I have only one reason to write novels, and that is to bring the dignity of the individual soul to the surface and shine a light upon it. The purpose of a story is to sound an alarm, to keep a light trained on The System in order to prevent it from tangling our souls in its web and demeaning them. I fully believe it is the novelist’s job to keep trying to clarify the uniqueness of each individual soul by writing stories - stories of life and death, stories of love, stories that make people cry and quake with fear and shake with laughter. This is why we go on, day after day, concocting fictions with utter seriousness.

My father died last year at the age of 90. He was a retired teacher and a part-time Buddhist priest. When he was in graduate school, he was drafted into the army and sent to fight in China. As a child born after the war, I used to see him every morning before breakfast offering up long, deeply-felt prayers at the Buddhist altar in our house. One time I asked him why he did this, and he told me he was praying for the people who had died in the war.

He was praying for all the people who died, he said, both ally and enemy alike. Staring at his back as he knelt at the altar, I seemed to feel the shadow of death hovering around him.

My father died, and with him he took his memories, memories that I can never know. But the presence of death that lurked about him remains in my own memory. It is one of the few things I carry on from him, and one of the most important.

I have only one thing I hope to convey to you today. We are all human beings, individuals transcending nationality and race and religion, fragile eggs faced with a solid wall called The System. To all appearances, we have no hope of winning. The wall is too high, too strong - and too cold. If we have any hope of victory at all, it will have to come from our believing in the utter uniqueness and irreplaceability of our own and others’ souls and from the warmth we gain by joining souls together.

Take a moment to think about this. Each of us possesses a tangible, living soul. The System has no such thing. We must not allow The System to exploit us. We must not allow The System to take on a life of its own. The System did not make us: We made The System.

That is all I have to say to you.

I am grateful to have been awarded the Jerusalem Prize. I am grateful that my books are being read by people in many parts of the world. And I am glad to have had the opportunity to speak to you here today.

How I adore him.

Self note:
1. I have two presentations need to be done starting end of this month in my lab's seminar. First, about my degree graduation thesis. Considering the thesis itself was presented three years ago, presenting it now need proper preparation and definitely I need to read my thesis back. Sigh. Not an interesting thing to do after all. Secondly is about a paper by McKinsey & Co. Climate Desk regarding Pathways to a Low-Carbon Economy: Version 2 of the Global Greenhouse Gas (Abatement Cost Curve) where I am required to present about the topics of Chemical, Transport and Buildings.

2. Still slowly reading Kafka on The Shore. Watching Swing Girls directed by Shinobu Yaguchi because of my mood to learn how to play the sax. And on my heavy rotation is Aqua Timez's Kira-Kira ~original ver.~ (from Kirin's TV commercial) and Arashi's Season (from au TV commercial where Sakurai Sho innit). Yes, I am a commercial freak.

Have a nice weekend, people.

Next Level by Ayumi Hamasaki

No, this is not the post about her new album. But more about the song with the same title by her, in that album. Many people just can't understand my weird taste of music, I almost can listen to every genre (from kroncong, dangdut, jazz, hip hop, rock and Mozart's pieces). I admit Ayumi's voice not the best on her class, but she has this unique sound and beautiful tunes and lyrics that make me love her even more.
My favourite song from Ayumi is none other than Naturally (from the album I Am...). The lyric drives me, and so with the rhythm. And since Naturally, all her songs start to bore me a bit, due to some experiment she did to her following album after I Am. And then comes Next Level, her new album, and I starting to like the melody and lyric of the song with the same title as her new album. It just suit my situation right now and my flowery purpose to come to this land.










We start to move for the next stage
We keep on walking
On this endless, straight road
We keep on shining

I wonder how I'll be able to
Make a start again
From this point

* I looked up at the sky and smiled softly
I heard, "Don't be afraid, it's all right"
I looked up at the sky and tears rolled from my eyes suddenly
Even the scar left in my past is dear to me now

I hear the signal sound for the future
Our eyes meet each other

My heart is throbbed with excitement
I wonder what I'll choose and draw
And what kind of map will be made up

** When we feel the wind, let's clench our hands tightly
Because we don't need many words any more
When we feel the wind, let's make a strong step
Let's go with the same speed, looking at the same scenery

* (repeat)
** (repeat)

The New Cabinet and Malaysia Boleh Spirit

Being away from Malaysia does not mean that I do not know what is going around back home. In the age of internet and globalization, everything in the world is connected.
Below is the line up of new cabinet under the leadership of Dato Seri Najib Tun Razak, the new appointed Prime Minister of Malaysia. I personally like the line up, especially the new Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water.

Prime Minister and Finance Minister 1: Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak

Deputy PM and Education Minister: Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin

Ministers in Prime Minister’s Department
Unity and Performance Management: Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon
Law and Parliament: Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz
Religious Affairs: Brig. Gen. (Rtd) Datuk Jamil Khir Baharum
Economic Planning Unit: Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop

Deputies: Datuk Liew Vui Keong, Senator Datuk Dr Mashitah Ibrahim, Datuk SK Devamany, Ahmad Maslan, Senator T. Murugiah

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak
Finance Minister II: Datuk Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah
Deputies: Datuk Chor Chee Heung, Datuk Dr Awang Adek Hussein

Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin
Deputies: Datuk Wee Ka Siong, Datuk Puad Zarkashi

Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat
Deputies: Datuk Abdul Rahim Bakri, Datuk Robert Lau

Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein
Deputies: Datuk Wira Abu Seman Yusop, Jelaing Mersat

Information, Communications, Arts and Culture
Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim
Deputies: Datuk Joseph Salang Gandum, Senator Heng Seai Kie

Energy, Green Technology & Water
Datuk Peter Chin Fah Kui
Deputy: Noriah Kasnon

Plantation Industries and Commodities
Tan Sri Bernard Dompok
Deputy: Datuk Hamzah Zainuddin

Rural and Regional Development
Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal
Deputies: Datuk Hassan Malek, Datuk Joseph Entulu

Higher Education
Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin
Deputies: Dr Hou Kok Chung, Saifuddin Abdullah

International Trade and Industry
Datuk Mustapa Mohamed
Deputies: Datuk Muhkriz Mahathir, Datuk Jacob Dungau

Science, Technology and Innovation
Datuk Dr Maximus Ongkili
Deputy: Fadillah Yusof

Natural Resources and Environment
Datuk Douglas Uggah Embas
Deputy: Tan Sri Joseph Kurup

Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen
Deputy: Datuk Seri Sulaiman Abdul Rahman Abdul Taib

Agriculture and Agro-based Industries
Datuk Noh Omar
Deputies: Johari Baharum, Rohani Abdul Karim

Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi
Deputy: Datuk Dr Abdul Latif

Datuk Shaziman Abu Mansor
Deputy: Datuk Yong Khoon Seng

Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai
Deputy: Datuk Rosnah Rashid Shilin

Youth and Sports
Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek
Deputies: Datuk Razali Ibrahim, Wee Jeck Seng

Human Resources
Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam
Deputy: Datuk Maznah Mazlan

Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs
Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri
Deputy: Datuk Tan Lian Hoe

Housing and Local Government
Datuk Kong Cho Ha
Deputy: Lajim Ukin

Women, Family and Community Development
Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil
Deputy: Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun

Foreign Affairs
Datuk Anifah Aman
Deputies: Datuk Lee Chee Leong, Senator A. Kohilan Pillai

Federal Territories
Datuk Raja Nong Chik Zainal Abidin
Deputy: Datuk M. Saravanan

I wish every best to the new Prime Minister and his line up to work hard for the country. Having to live in country like Japan, where Malaysia is left behind comparatively, make me strongly believe that the spirit of Malaysia Boleh should be instilled back to our citizen. Like the Japanese says, 'がんばってください’(ganbatte kudasai) when they are wishing somebody for the best of luck, although it is not directly translated as good luck, but wishing ones a hard work in what their do. Comparing our level with Japanese, do we have time to relax and stay left behind?

Some personal note:
1-I'm still reading Haruki Murakami's Kafka on the Shore and enjoying it. I need to start reading some Japanese reading stuff, and I found Kitajima Kosuke's autobiography, 夢,はじまる。。 (Dream, Begin...) is a good read. Yes, I'm a big fan of Kitajima (although I am not really a swimmer myself, but everytime I see Kitajima's face, I feel spirited and bersemangat)

2-Attending the advance Japanese class make me even spirited to brush up my Japanese level to a more advance level. My lab mate, Tanaka-san said my Japanese is good, but I know that is not really true. There are still thousands of kanji that I don't understand and so many words that slowed down my conversation with my Japanese friend. がんばります!
3-So far, there are only four Malaysians in my campus, University of Tokyo, Kashiwa Campus, including me. And from these four, two of them are Malay (again including me). I've get the opportunity to mingle with the international student community here in my campus, and few of them are saxophone player. I always find saxophone as interesting and sexy. Maybe I should learn how to blow a sax than oboe since the variety of tunes the sax can fit in.

I used to have some perception regarding Japanese movie; they tend to be draggy, slow and monotonous. If they are scary type of movie, the ghost is easily predicted or recognized. A long rebonded hair is so Japanese type of spook. Or in general we can call it Asian type of ghost. If they're melancholic type of story, it must be one of the main cast is dying for serious illness. Yada yada yada.

I know about Okuribito long before I came to this land of Japan. I know it wins the Oscar. And I know Ryoko Hirosue is in it. But perception does influence me to temporize watching it. Although deep inside I do think it's gonna be a good watch.
And finally I downloaded it. And yes, now I know why they deserve the Oscar. It is like the same feeling when I first watched Volver (by Pedro Almodovar).
I do not want to further explain about the plot line and so on. Watch it yourself. I highly recommend it.
My favourite quote from Okuribito:

"Working here for a long time make me think
that death... is a gateway.
Death doesn't mean the end
but leaving the present, heading for the next stage.
Truly a gateway.
As a gatekeeper..
I've seen off many people
"Have a nice trip, and see you again"
I would say."


No, I am not busy. Maybe not yet. But to post something about what's on my mind is somehow kind of complicated. There are so many things in my mind right now that not easily composed in one complete essay. So, for the time being, let list it down to few points:

1. I love shinkansen (the bullet train). Contrary to popular belief and my own otherworldly mind, it is not really feel fast inside the train. Yes, you can still see the view from the window and read the letters from sign board and so on. But I believe the train runs fast from outside view.

2. I love Land Rover bicycle and I want it for my ride. Forget about Freelander folks. They are too pricey for my current financial flow right now, and I am going environmental. Not talking about saving another whales, but living eco-friendly life and stop releasing another CO2. Yeah, and I didn't even bother to switch off the light during Earth Hour campaign because I was totally forgotten that campaign. Sigh.

3. I have Konosuke Matsushita: His Life and Management Philosophy book to review (and to write report to Panasonic as well) and Kafka on the Shore by Murakami Haruki to read now. Finally. I have been hesitating to read Murakami's for almost 2 years because there's too much to read in my reading list and I just don't bother to read in train sometimes (back in my working life back then).

4. I listen to Ayumi Hamasaki new album, Next Level and Koda Kumi's Out Works and Collaboration recently. They're good.

5. I just downloaded Okuribito, the Japanese film who won the Oscar. Some of the cinemas here is still rolling it but I don't want to watch it alone and I don't want to spend another 1500 yen for it. And please somebody upload Talentime as soon as possible because I am desperately want to watch it too.

6. Another so called sustainability stuff. I love it when the bus driver here turned off the engines when they stopped in traffic light. That's super awesome. Malaysian (and the rest of the world too) should follow this good move.

I am extremely exhausted. Off to bed people. Have hanami date tomorrow.

Japan is known with so many terms like The Land of Sakura and also The Land of Rising Sun, but not many people call Japan as The Land of Train. Train might be the first thing you see when you first enter Japan by airplane, since that type of transport sprawling all over this nation and connects almost every place (even the remote and rural ones). And don't even start mention about the Tokyo subway and train system, it confuses all foreigners and newcomers to this city.

Despite the complex train system in Tokyo and major urban center in Japan, undeniably it the most important factor in daily Japanese life and one of the most important factor in the rapid development of Japan after World War II period until now. Each train lines and subway system has their own history, like the bullet train (known as Shinkansen) is opened in times with Tokyo Olympics 1964. Japanese spend most of their life inside the train, while commuting back and forth to work place, and also for other purpose.

Train system in Japan is not just famous for its effective and complex network, but also for its punctuality. Japan railway network has been regarded as one of the most punctual in the world. With some of the train has interval for only few minutes for each train schedule, it is not a surprising thing to see train schedule in unusual time like 10:43 and so on.