Monthly Archives: November 2007

Whoever heard of the movie “Friends with money………..?”

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Have you seen “Friends with money”….or even heard of the movie?

Well, its just one of those things – movies in the drama/ comedy/ romance category don’t do very well in the Malaysian scene unless of course its slapstick braindead comedy action movies starring people like Stephen Chow, Jackie Chan. But this one caught my attention.

I watched “Friends with money”on Astro. It was on at 7am the 23rd of Nov & 12midnight, the 24th of Nov.  Jennifer Aniston and Joan Cusack, two of the more familiar names to us are amongst its female cast. The movie first debuted in the US on April 7th, 2006. I don’t recall it making the M’sian movie circuit. If it did, it probably didn’t do very well in the M’sian Box Office.

But, the film bagged two minor film awards i.e. Best Supporting Actress (Frances Mc Dormand – 1st from the left in the pic) at the Independent Spirit Awards and the Dorothy Arzner Directors Award (Nicole Holofcener) at the Women in Film Crystal Awards. Yup….you got it right…. never heard of these Awards but nonetheless the film won them.

But you know, despite the invisibility of the film …… I watched it and it struck a nerve. 

The storyline involves 4 women friends – 3 married and 1 single and how each one deals with their very different circumstances in life.  The show is about life…real-life. It explores how unbalanced we feel when we’re out of our comfort zones, how people and society measure success through accumulation of wealth……..

The movie is anchored by the character Olivia (played by Jen Aniston), who is single and works as a house cleaner….And she has 3 other friends who are well off.  

The jibes at how people from different status levels (measured by the bank account, of course) view similar issues, is particularly funny.  For instance, Olivia who represents the voice of the ‘poor’ wonders why people just can’t donate money directly to the orphanage or disease centre of choice. Whereas Franny, the rich one – played by Joan Cusack – says its just not done that way! The way to do it is to attend an expensive, highly publicised charity dinner/gala and then you donate to the foundation and then only does the money goes to the charity. So there you go, life seems simpler when you’re poor, no? But then again, if you don’t have a charity gala, how’re you gonna show off to society how rich & successful you are, eh?

It’s also about how friendship & relationships are either maintained or lost through the ravages of time when “life interferes”. 

These issues are woven into a comedy of sorts but yeah….. like I said, it strikes a nerve. Who knows, you might even be able to identify one or two of your acquaintances or friends in the characters of the movie. Ladies should enjoy this movie. Not too sure if the men will though…..coz it does depict the gay sort to be the more sensitive lot as opposed to the normal macho guy :-).

Happy viewing, if you do watch it!

p.s. Oh, btw, did I mention that the acting by the whole ensemble cast was good…?!

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Tales about Meditation

It all started out as a casual suggestion by me to a friend who is suffering dizzy spells when driving. When she visited her doctor, she was told that she might have vertigo. Funnily, she did not suffer these spells when not driving.  Now she fears driving. Well, I had a personal theory….could it be a panic attack? Since I have read that meditation helps people relax and destress….I mentioned it & this sparked off a an interesting debate.

Apparently,  these friends of mine are not advocates of meditation as they feel as Christians, they do not wish to reach a state where their minds are emptied & hence providing a tempting vessel for evil forces…hmmm…. 

Well I decided to do some research & you make up your minds on the benefits or non benefits of meditation.

Meditation 

Meditation one of the five principles of Yoga. It involves the art of focusing your mind, restraining your thoughts and looking deep into yourself. Practicing it, is supposed to give you a better understanding of your purpose in life and of the divine as well as providing you with certain physical and mental health benefits.

The aim of meditation

To focus the scattered rays of the mind on a single point so as to lead you to a point of self realization.

How it’s done…..

. Practice in a quiet place.

. Make sure you’re comfortable, from your attire to your position

. Warm up and stretch a little by doing some Asanas (Yoga positions). Doing some Pranayama (Yoga Breathing) is also advisable . Empty your mind of all thoughts.

. Prevent other thoughts from coming into your mind. To do this, you can concentrate on a single focal object such as a candle or something in the room. Some people chant the mantra. Some people focus on the Chakras (the 7 main energy centers in the body. As each Chakra relates to specific spiritual, emotional, psychological and emotional issues, the conscious awareness and the balancing of these energy centers lead to well being. ) In meditation the points of focus are mainly the Anahata Chakra (the heart) and the other is the Ajna (in between the eye brows)  

So far so good…..so, we’re not exactly emptying our minds right? We do focus on something……

How it benefits the body ….

Meditation apparently, results in a generalized reduction in multiple physiological and biochemical markers such as –

  • decreased heart rate,
  • decreased respiration,
  • decreased plasma cortisol which is a major stress hormone,
  • decreased pulse rate
  • increased EEG (electroencephalogram) alpha which is a brain wave associated with relaxation
  • a decrease in metabolism. Your heart beat reduces, your oxygen consumption drops (up to 20% in some cases) and as such, this helps lower your blood pressure.

How it benefits the mind…

One goes through a state of deep relaxation during meditation, while the mind’s awareness level is increased. This results in faster reactions, greater creativity and broader comprehension.  And because meditation requires discipline, determination and patience, it helps with the development of your mental health. 

Types of Meditation 

Well, the common layman’s perception of meditation brings about images of people sitting cross legged, ‘omming’ away’ the whole afternoon..but really there are 4 different Types of Meditation.

  1. Concentration Technique… which is the basic emptying of the mind by focusing on a single object
  2. Insight Meditation … this is going one step further the basic, i.e. learning to become more aware of our thoughts, emotions and sensory perception.  Here you learn to observe your surroundings, take it all in without ‘undergoing’ it.
  3. Contemplation & Self Research…to focus on widening our perspective and to learn to understand the nature of our problems and the workings of the mind.
  4. Meditation in Motion. Now….I find this 4th category interesting…did you know that Tai Chi, Qi Gong and Chi Neng and even walking can be forms of meditation…..Generally this type of meditation entails strengthening our attention and our awareness by focussing on our motions.

OK, besides viewing my jogs & walks (or should I say meditations in motion) during the evenings in a different light now  ….. I figure meditation does have physical and mental benefits. Given that its aim is to promote a deep sense of relaxation or a deep concentration by focusing your thoughts on a motion or even an object, I guess it gives your mind a break from the daily stresses of life.  There will of course be some who will see it as a means to achieve spiritual transcendence but hey, they’re entitled to their beliefs. But for those who are dead against meditation for religious purposes, …… it might perhaps be a little misunderstood…? 

Let’s assume we take a walk or a jog in the park. We focus on nothing but our motions. We take our mind off things for an hour or so. We become relaxed and our body is exercising away…. technically we’re meditating, no?

OK then, anyone game for some “meditation in motion” this evening…..(weather permitting of course)…?

What’s in the media nowadays…?

Politics, of course. For instance ……………

I read today, the 16th Nov in the NST of a certain Minister commenting during a Dewan Rakyat proceeding about Air Asia’s stewardesses wearing skirts that are too short and that you can see a ‘tunnel’ in between??? He has apologised…by the way!

I watched 101East on Al Jazeera on the 15th Nov at 10.30pm and hear a Minister twist the words of a human rights lawyer who said that the lack of transparency in our Govt institution, results in the failure of the majority making informed decisions to him saying that “the rakyat is ’stupid’….????” (The lawyer said NO SUCH THING. Ill informed does not equal ‘stupid’ – check the dictionary)

I read of the Govt’s generosity in allowing a certain politician to build mansions first & then get the permits later & how his home escapes demolition……. But then again, you don’t read of the same generosity being extended to temples built without permits….which unfortunately did not escape demolition?????

I read of comments made by a certain distinguised leader in the Dewan Rakyat that a physically challenged & wheel chair bound would have got the condition coming to him/ her due to sins of the past……….

……………but then again, you could have fooled me.  Did all the above appear in the written & TV media…. gosh I could’ve sworn it could’ve come from some ‘pasar’ really. 

And to think that some comments which stink of sexism, rascism & arrogance come from leaders who so called represent the Voice of the Rakyat. …..

God Help Us! Please.

Making sense of the way we speak…..

I bumped into a friend one day and was invited to join her and her companion, an English lady, for lunch. When my friend & I, both of us being Malaysians, launched animatedly into the controversial topic related to the clearing of land in UK heights near Taman Hijau, we noticed the English lady listening to us very quietly with an amused look on her face…..

Okay….. now this is queer… did we say something offensive? Did we have food stuck on our noses….. ? Was our point of view 180% from hers?  Nope…. she was actually counting…. .What the….?????…….

She admitted that she held a fascination for the unique way we Malaysians spoke….(thanks for the euphemism…you really mean weird, right?)….To prove a point, she was counting the amount of times we used or shall I say “overused” the phrase “at the end of the day” in our conversation …. In the 15 minutes of conversation between the both of us (Malaysians) she claims that we used the phrase at least 10 times. …. (YES, she actually counted). So on average, that’s once every other minute …..ok…that IS rather weird. 

Yes, we Malaysians have always been told that we have a unique brand of English, the most famous being the  punctuation of -lahs at the end of every other sentence. 

Two contributing factors why native speakers find our English quaint is our love for archaic expressions…..and of course our pronunciation or mispronunciations I should say…………

1. Archaic (old fashioned) expressions used by Malaysians that sound quaint to native speakers……

Outstation: (Archaic) We use it to mean that a person is away in another town/state in Malaysia. This word is leftover from the colonial days where British officials get posted to ‘stations’  away from their home stations hence the word ‘outstation’. Malaysians understand it perfectly when used in the modern context, but native speakers would actually find its use puzzling.  They would simply say, “so & so, has gone out of town” or “so & so, is out of town”.

Pail:  (Yup, Archaic). That ubiquitous plastic or metal container that is ever so common in our households is apparently better known as a ‘bucket’ by native speakers. I was told that the word ‘pail’ was very old fashioned by an English tutor from the British Council. I guess its true, after all,  you don’t hear people saying “He/she has kicked the pail”  when someone has died right? They say “he/she has kicked the bucket“! 

Scold: (Surprise, surprise….Archaic too). Native speakers prefer to say ” Do tell him off…..he’s being rude ” or “Give him a telling off”…… Well…here I must compliment Malaysians….such a superfluous amount of words when we can just say “Scold him-lah, he’s so rude!”.

2. We Malaysians have our own brand of pronunciation too…….

Flour: This is  common one. We pronounce ‘flour’ as ‘fl-ah’ when native speakers pronounce it as ‘flower’. Well readers be warned: “Don’t try this at home (i.e. in Malaysia). This stunt should only be performed in front of native speakers only. I do not wish to be held responsible if the shopkeeper looks at you, as if a tongue blister was causing you to speak funny. Worse case scenario, you end up with a bouquet…” 

Forehead: Now this is a real classic. I did not find this out until I was teaching a class about ‘parts of the face’ and an Aussie happened to observe me.  At the end of class, she told me, ‘It’s pronounced as ‘forid‘….’; I said, “Huh, excuse me?”.  She pointed to her forehead and said :”Its pronounced as ‘forid'”. Now, I was insulted and argued, “I’ve NEVER heard such a thing in my life” – ‘forid’….it sounds as if its a medical condition or something like that.   “Check the dictionary!”, she commanded. I did. She was right!  I stand corrected. Forehead is pronounced ‘forid’, not ‘four-head’ as we have always did ever since we learned to speak English. Sigh. ………….

……………….Well, ‘at the end of the day’ you can’t say that Malaysians lack originality in the way we’ve modified the English Language. The important thing is that the ‘purpose’ of the communication was achieved… We would want to be able to understand our jaga kereta boy when he asks us to ‘gostan lagi….yah yah gostan gostan…!’ rather than scratching our heads, to try and understand his incomprehensible rantings…….”Yah Yah, go astern, go astern.…..” ….YIKES… what did he just say??!………….. Crash, bang…….

p.s. Don’t worry…..over use of the expression “at the end of the day” is not a Malaysian thing, it really is a ex-BBGS thing…..if you hear someone punctuating their sentences with “at the end of the day”….do ask if they studied in BBGS before.