Thursday, December 31, 2009

“….Where Art Thou Tiger?”

Ever since the seemingly minor accident on Nov 27, 2009 in Florida that involved Tiger Woods (his wife’s presence at the scene was initially thought to have been to help him but rather she was there to knock him senseless with a 3-wood) he has not been seen since. What transpired at the accident scene was mired with murky circumstances without anyone the wiser on what really happened, even now.

Eldrick Tont Woods better known as Tiger had come off clean from day one.There was no attempt on his part to deny nor to spin stories. He could not have as there were his conquests 14 of them (now 15). They were ever ready for a 'tell all',telling bedtime stories, of their times with Tiger, to whomsoever - for a fee (even complete with voice mail messages)

Tiger could not therefore talk otherwise except for the only recourse he took with his statements on his web-site, where he apologized and explained - but nowhere was he to be seen. It was rumoured he was heading to the Bahamas in his luxury yacht but the yacht had not moved. It was still at its moorings at the pier.

When he played at the Mines Golf Resort at Sungai Besi way back in 1999 he could command an ‘appearance money’ of RM1 mil (USD?)just to be present and only just to play (winnings were extra) With his absence he has now given a whole new meaning to such a thing as ‘disappearance money’. Even when he 'disappeared' he could still be valuable. However, it was not for himself but for those tracking him. It was reported that a paparazzi snapshot of him now is worth USD300k. Whether you see him on the fairways or you don't he can still command big money. Such is the man.

The world’s wealthiest athlete estimated to earn about US$100 million a year in endorsement deals before his troubles were known, is just as priceless, whether he is seen around or otherwise. We are going to feel the void in 2010 though, as he is to lay off golf for the time being.

So golf forthwith will not be described as, a ‘game where 30 white men with clubs in their hands aggressively chasing a black man, and still not able to inflict any harm to the black man’. Now it will be just some ‘white guys chasing each other around the links and the familiar 'maroon-shirted champ’ on the final day is to be sadly missed.

However much the golf pundits insist that it will not affect the game, it is a foregone conclusion that it will. Golf ratings would definitely plummet down tremendously.

In fact in a report today,(according to a study by two economics professors from the University of California, Davis) the sex scandal may have cost shareholders of companies endorsed by Tiger up to a cool US$12 billion (RM41.2b) in losses.

Tiger in the meantime continued to be the butt of jokes from various quarters. The latest had him as a walking sex machine, generously endowed with a penchant for Latinos. He does not need Viagra but brought out the ‘Tiagra’ in him instead.

Actually the journos are the ones having a field day with a vengeance. They could not do it before on a squeaky clean guy, a goody-two-shoes with an unblemished record both on and off the fairways. Now they can.

Tiger would have to take it. When you are down, you are down. You are not to be heard nor to be seen just yet. Take a leaf from what both Bill Clinton and David Beckham had gone through. It was bad when it lasted but now both are respectable gentlemen and walking tall.

There’s a caveat though. While the spouses of both Clinton and Beckham stood by their men, Tigers’s wife Erin Nordegren talked of ‘separate holidays, separate living (she had already chosen a house to go back to in Sweden) and separation’.

It seemed there was a nuptial agreement so there may be a cap to the extent of compensation and Tiger is not facing the prospects of a bottomless pit in alimony payments. It is not 'much' just USD1bil. Erin likewise would have to think real hard, that a bird in hand is worth 2 in the bush so why make a big thing out of it.He's on the defensive, just stay cool and make sure he does not stray too much.

Hopefully both could have the resolve to pick up the pieces and start anew especially with 2 beautiful kids to get them going.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Déjà vu – Idol Outcome in Malam Sehati Berdansa

It just did not seem right, it’s just not fair. The favourite just missed out in not being crowned the winner. Yes, many were of the opinion the outcome did not reflect the real consensus. Even the reviews by the many journos before the final had analysed and expected a different outcome.

Yes, I’m talking of Adam Lambert or Adam Lembut, destined for fame as the American Idol winner last season 8, but not quite.It was déjà vu last Saturday night Dec 26,2009, reminiscent of the Idol final night.

Kris Allen, the underdog, the American Idol of season 8, was surprised, much to being embarrassed. When the results were announced, he had to pull Adam nearer to his side as though wanting to share the limelight which he subconsciously thought was undeserving to accept.

Last Saturday night OP Nazril and Sazzy relived the episode of the Idol final night. Being favourites it was difficult for the live audience to comprehend. They were rooting for their favourite pair. The shouts were loudest for them. However, OP Nazril and Sazzy lost out to the eventual winner, Sein and Nana.

While not wanting to take the credit off from the commendable efforts of Sein and Nana, it was not their fault in any case, they came, they performed and they won.
However the trend was very apparent even before that. Sein and Nana received very high SMS counts in weeks leading to the final.

While OP Nazril and Sazzy were tops on the dance floor ( the jury gave them a 100 perfect score on 3 occasions, remember?) they were trailing on the SMS count. So since the final night was based entirely on a 100% SMS count, they were done for.
There was no way they could have won. There seemed to be ‘unseen hands’ pushing for higher SMS counts against them. The less said the better.

If all others remain equal, cēterīs paribus, OP Nazril and Sazzy to me and to many others were the winners hands down.

Adam Lambert now dubbed Adam ‘Glambert‘ being the glamour guy that he is, even though runner-up, is seen, heard and had chalked up better success than the American Idol winner in their post-final days.

OP Nazril and Sazzy, if you are good, you are good, never mind what the SMS had determined. Enjoy your second honeymoon in Australia! That being part of the prizes that you had richly deserved.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Nights of Dancing Togetherness

On Saturday the night of Dec 20th 2009, I found myself in front of the idiot box glued on the reality show Malam Sehati Berdansa (for want of a better one may roughly be translated as ‘Nights of Dancing Togetherness’ or thereabouts )

This was one of the rare occasions that I allowed myself the luxury of TV time. And I managed to sit through the whole show for a good reason.

It was mainly to see how my favourite pair Nazril and Sazzy were doing. They were the early favourites and they managed to hold on tenaciously to their position. According to my beloved wife Shadah (who had never missed a single episode) Nazril and Sazzy were awarded 100 points by a ‘jury’ twice before.

This happened again on Saturday night for a third time when Fauziah Latif awarded them 100 points for the ‘romantic’ sequence, one of two dance sequences they had to do. They came away with good credentials that night.

OP (Old Putera) Nazril Mohd Idrus was a tiny tot way back in the mid ‘70s when I first knew him. His late father Allahyarham Mohd Idrus Ahmad (we were colleagues at the NPC) and mom Rohani were family friends. Together with others at the NPC then ( namely Arshad and Khalidah, Allahyarham Ruslan and Siti Hawa Salleh (now Datuk, Dr), Ibrahim and Sharifah , Ahmad Berek and Aishah, Tembun and Aminah, and OP Mahyudin and Rohani (now Dr) ) there were frequent family gatherings. OP Nazril was barely 3 years old then and his brother Naza a few years older.

We did not get to meet as a group when I later left the NPC to join another organization. OP Nazril in the meantime grew up, became an OP, became a Chartered Accountant and became the Chief Consultant of his own in Damansara Perdana. What a small world there is!

In the case of Sazzy, it is also still a small world pleasantly enough. Her uncle, OP Shamsul Qamar Tan Sri Kadir was my contemporary in the early ‘60s. We were both at Pasar Road Primary, Victoria Institution and the RMC.

The last I met OP Shamsul was some years ago when I went to visit him at Kg Lubuk Kelubi in Ulu Langat. He had the foresight of acquiring a few acres of prime land which he converted into a number of fish ponds. He had an ingenious way of getting clean, clear, and fresh water for his fish ponds by connecting a network of pipes from a mountain stream on higher grounds from across the road to his land. The anglers who frequented the ponds (he charged them a fee then) must have been attracted by the fresh, pure and unpolluted water ( I wonder if it is still on as it was quite some time ago) Incidentally, Sazzy’s father is OP (Dato’) Shamsul Falak. I did not get to meet him though as he joined the RMC much later in the late ‘60s.

So much for the digression.

It is now confirmed that the top two couples, OP Nazril and Sazzy and Sein and Nana will be dancing for the coverted title next week ie the 10th and final week.

One more fact that needs mentioning. OP Nazril was awarded the Board of Governor’s Prize in 1991. (awarded to a Putera who excelled in sports) In the course of the nine weeks, in the Malam Sehati Berdansa he had exploited his sporting prowess to good effect (which was equally matched by Sazzy)

Their agility, rough and tumble at times but balanced with delicate movements mostly, was just poetry to see and of course their easily recognizable good looks would put them on a higher pedestal.

OP Nazril and Sazzy are up against an outsider in Sein and Nana. The couple who was eliminated last Saturday night, Isma and Zul had consistently chalked up good ratings before but they faltered when it mattered.

All goes to show that OP Nazril and Sazzy (even though favourites), must stamp their authority next week. There are no two ways about it. While we, (‘budak boys’ and OPs everywhere) are solidly behind you.

Keep the good flag flying and Good Luck to you both!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

One Year Down the road

On Nov 01, 2008 the retail petrol pump price was adjusted downwards by 15 sens.

It just seemed unreal. Barely 3 months before, in mid 2008 it was panic stations. The crude oil price shot up to USD145 per barrel and CPO went up to a record RM4486 per tonne

The retail pump price was then revised upwards a steep jump from RM 1.92 to RM 2.70. The Federal government had to do it. The petrol subsidy had burst its seams. It was survival amidst protests all round.

The plantation big boys on the other hand were raking in big money. Even the lowly butter substitute, margarine which is palm oil based was beyond the reach of many. To make it equitable the windfall tax was mooted by the government. The plantations must be made to share their good fortune and pay the additional tax.

It was not difficult to see as a consequence the sudden rise in the price of goods. BERSIH and HINDRAF came into the picture with their brand of admonitions through street demonstrations.

Then, 3 months after, again it was panic stations. The reasons emanated from the same source ie the crude oil and the CPO market again. This time however it was a different situation, the opposite, in fact.

Who would have thought crude oil would plummet down 60% from USD145 to USD70 per barrel while CPO to RM1600 per tonne from a high of RM4400 plus. It was madness. The government was relieved!

The hypermarkets had also responded likewise with price reductions on an array of goods. And the roti canai sellers then were not to be outdone. They made a big show of reducing their price of roti canai and teh tarik by a measly 20 sens (was it 10 sens?) There were posters announcing it and the then Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Shahrir Samad was at the various joints which were promoting it and doing the teh tarik stunts together with them. But it remained just as what it was, just a big show!

Sometime in mid-1973 when the OPEC countries cut production of oil on account of Israeli aggression in the Middle East the price of crude (I don’t remember what it was) suddenly shot up.

This was the first oil crisis. OPEC through the Saudi Oil Minister Sheikh Ahmad Zaki Yamani was showing himself to be all too powerful. OPEC had the whole free world in its grip. It was a sudden wake up call for the U.S. and the western world. The Arabs ought to be restrained, so they agreed silently. The Arabs ought to be put in their right place!

Now we know why the U.S. invaded Iraq and Saudi Arabia was tamed and silenced. The western world must have been working on it since 1973, (or even earlier?)

The EC countries ' pooh-pooh' it saying, that " OPEC could cut production, so what? " what can the Arabs do with their oil, drink it? We are blessed with loads of Octoberfest beer to give them when they get sick of the oily stuff, " they mockingly retorted.
To give a semblance of solidarity, among them however, the EC countries went on a ‘carless Sunday’ policy where cars were not encouraged to be on the road on Sundays. I experienced this first hand as I was then attending a course in Delft, Holland.

(where I met OP Mazni Ibrahim also on the same course - remember Nida, the Filipino girl? ..... but that’s another story)

What was a busy thoroughfare in front of our apartment then was just devoid of cars except for the usual trams that rumbled by. Unfortunately it affected us, just so, as we normally took advantage of the weekends gallivanting around the neighbouring cities. We used to go by hired cars south for day trips as far as Odense and Brugge in Belgium and cities bordering the German side. So ‘carless Sundays’ meant no travels.

On the home front our Indonesian maid who has been with us for close to 10 years (and who had managed to acquire a few acres of fruiting palm oil land since) lamented woefully of bad times.

“ Before I could get the equivalent in rupiah of RM10 per kilo. Now it is just about RM2 per kilo”

I could remember how proudly she flashed the S&P Agreement to seal the land ownership barely two years ago. We had a hand in extending a wee bit of an advance for its payment to top up to what she had saved. Unlike some of the other maids who splashed their earnings on new clothes and prepaid DIGI cards, she was frugal in her ways.

Now, fast forward one year down the road, Nov 2009,

The RON 95 (research octane number) is now at RM1.80 - five sens higher than the previous RM1.75. While the RON 97 has gone up to RM2.05 from RM1.80.

It is however convenient for consumers as the types and the prices are the same at all stations. It would have also saved the oil companies on their advertising costs. No more the ridiculous ‘put a tiger in your tank’ types of promotions just to differentiate between them.

When these prices were adjusted upwards there was not even a whimper unlike last year. It just goes to show that last year when the rakyat were unhappy with the PM then, they went to town. They just piled up the criticisms, voiced their unhappiness and worsened the situation.They would pick on any issue, and it would flare up.

Now, BERSIH is not as vocal and HINDRAF turned themselves into the Makhal Sakhti Party, a legally positioned political party and are friends with PM Najib. If they play their cards well they may just shove off Samy and MIC out of the way to be left as artefacts of history.

Crude oil is hovering at the mid USD70s and even touching USD80. CPO is at RM2200 per tonne. From July to September 2008, the MPOA (Malaysian Palm Oil Association) estimated about RM260mil of windfall profit tax was collected when the CPO price stood at around RM4,400 plus per tonne.

Padang on the western coast of Sumatra was devastated by a powerful 7.9 Richter scale earthquake that flattened the city. My maid’s palm oil land in Bangkinang which was further inland was not affected. So also Pekan Baru which was spared, but the 30-year old concrete bridge spanning the 50 metres of waterway at Bangkinang collapsed. The various vehicles light and heavy would have to make a detour of more than 20km without the bridge.

Now the local palm oil price at Bankinang is the equivalent of RM1.50 per kilo. Our maid just left it to her siblings to harvest and pay off expenses for which otherwise she would have to send hard cash from here.