Friday, April 24, 2015

A Jetsetter's Fashionable Guide to Living the High Life. 7 Essential Tips for being a true Citizen of the World.

A paparazzi's hounding shot of me.

It's a very nice feeling when someone wrote me an email to compliment how insightful it was to read my blog article, specifically on the Myanmar art exhibition.

It becomes even more fulfilling when that someone is a successful musician signed to an international record label! To me, he's a rockstar. But he was just being his cool self when we corresponded via emails. I''ve heard one or two of the band's hit songs but it never occurred to me the musician himself would send me an email to express his admiration on my critique. Since that post, he has been following my blog whenever he has the time and would inform me which post was his favourite.

He told me I could be a serious art critique earning a living in New York. I told him in Malaysia, my official "profession" is an Actor, and writing to me is only a hobby.  I also quickly added that I'm not some rich or famous actor in my country because getting acting jobs here is not as lucrative as say in Hollywood. The collective backward mentality here thinks since a few Chinese are rich - therefore, all Chinese are rich. I told him I'm not one of them. In fact, I was very honest to him and told him how poor many Malaysian people are, even more so a person like me. The reason I was honest to him was because he was planning a trip down to KL to meet me. I don't want him to have any high expectations of me in person, even though I look great in my pictures. His personal assistant would contact me when he's coming down.

In my mind I thought wouldn't there be a riot of fans clamoring for his attention when he arrived? He's very famous, you know, therefore have to keep his identity hidden here. Thankfully, not that many Malaysians know about him and his music. There was no commotion whatsoever when he arrived and the officers at the check-in gate just treated him like any other passengers! He told me he wanted me to join him in his upcoming tour around Europe. I was surprised beyond words! I couldn't say no for I do love to travel and this would be a chance of a lifetime! All expenses paid for and time with a famous rock star? Who couldn't say no to that? Immediately there are tons of things to prepare!

1) Passport and Visa
You'll have to get your passport ready or renewed if you're planning to go overseas. There's an Immigration Department near my house. Do remember to look good or clean-shaven at least on the day you're renewing or getting a passport because a picture of you shall be taken by the officer. The process is simple if you can listen and follow instructions. When I first arrived, I simply queue to get a number. When my turn arrived, I simply walked to the counter to state orally all the neccessary details like my height and current address to the officer. After that, a picture was taken. It's interesting to note the picture is not in color but black and white. My expired passport would then be taken by the officer in exhange with a slip of paper. After that, I am instructed to wait for my turn to pay at the cashier counter. My name is called and payment is made in cash only. The cashier would instruct me to come back in an hour's time to collect at the collection counter. I took the hour to have lunch. Do keep in mind that all Immigration Offices are now closed during lunch hours, so it's best to visit in the morning or after lunch. Since I didn't have any, I took the hour to have one. Getting your visas done is important too. Some countries, I get to have my visas done on arrivals. Other countries, it might takes you 3-4 days.

2) Bare Living Home
If you're constantly travelling, I feel you don't need to have much furniture at home. Just the bare essentials will do - like a mattress or a small TV. This way, you don't spend much on your furniture and able to channel all that money for travelling expenses. If you're living in hot tropical climate, the more electronic home equipments you have like refrigerator, flat-screen TV or washing machine would actually make your home hotter in room temperature! That's because these home appliances emit heat and really makes your living space stuffy. So eliminate all these home appliances and keep your space bare if you're always travelling abroad. A simple cup of americano and croissant in Paris could cost up to RM50 in local Malaysian currency! I love spending, so to balance things out I opt not to have any valuable furniture whatsoever at home. What for when you'll be globe-trotting all the time right? Your home furniture literally sits at home and collect dust. Are you planning to get a car? (who can buy anything now after GST?) Well don't! Use that money and splurge it on your next international destination. Besides, having a car in the garage unused for long periods of time is wasteful to the environment. Now I'm a citizen of the world, my home is wherever I take it with me. It also keeps my mind at peace from any home break-ins because there's nothing valuable in my home anyway!

3) Trench Coat
A coat can work anywhere in the world. A good trench coat is even better to weather all the cold weather European countries - not to mention in rainy day London, New York or New Delhi. You don't have to buy any other clothing - just a good trench coat will do. In my experience, Malaysian-based retail outlets still have the value for money for any clothing, especially coats. The stores here only sells coats before the season, like in October and November. A good trench coat would have just enough pockets (not too many) for you to place your passport and airline boarding passes. Be careful not to have too many pockets in your trench coat for you might get confused as to which pocket you place your important papers. You want to have only one pocket for one important paper. Keeping it simple is key when burrowing through your trench coat.

4) Sunglasses
A great pair of sunglasses will do wonders to your face. If you have a round face, choose a more rectangular-shaped frame. If you have a more sharper and vertical face, get a more rounded-shaped frame. The degree of dark coating should also be considered when choosing a perfect pair of sunglasses. If you choose a much lighter shade, then in really hot and sunny weather, your sunglasses won't do much to protect your eyes. If you choose a darker shade, then you might go blind a little when in the subway tunnel - searching for your wallet. So try to get a balance of the right shades that suits you best. For me, I found one that's just right - not too dark and not too light but enables me to see in almost all lighting situation. You only need to bring one pair of good sunglasses and they really come in handy when you're passing in the street, not wanting to meet the eyes of strangers. A good pair of sunglasses can save your eye effort and enable you to roam around the scene without looking too eager or too excited. A good pair of sunglasses provides the right amount of mystery and sophistication to the wearer too, especially at any fashion weeks in Paris, New York or London.

5) Luggage
I used to be away for one week at the longest. The shortest period is 3 days. I prefer not to check-in my luggage and instead bring it along with me into the plane. Do enquire at the airline carrier's office to get the details like the size and weight of luggage allowed to be in the plane. I bought one luggage that was just the right size to be rolled on the floor when I'm walking or to be strapped at my shoulders like a backpack. I try to bring only the barest essentials like T-shirts and pants and a few underwears. The rest like toiletries can be used at the hotels where I'll stay or I can even shop later for any necessary clothings. This way, my luggage is light and easy. I would usually roll my few clothes in a scroll-like shape, so as to save space in case I decide to bring more stuff. As for the luggage itself, try to get one that you can carry with you comfortably all the time. I bought one that also have shoulder straps and a compartment space for my laptop. The handle is only one which makes it easy to slip it inside and pulled up at the same time.

6) Hotel Lifestyle
Don't get too comfortable staying in hotel rooms. I know at least I tried to do that because when I reached home, it all feels so different! In hotel rooms, you get air-conditioning, bar, room service  and all the luxurious pamperings deserving for a VIP guest! Not to mention the swimming pool which I love because it's my ultimate exercise regime and what a savior to have swimming pools in hotels (at least the 5-stars ones). The constant travelling from one country to another - juxtaposed with different hotel rooms and suites finally renders all hotel rooms the same to me. The only constant is the pure white bed - which is a symbol of luxury in all these hotels. I'm talking about 5-star quality rooms and they try to be different from each other in superficial terms, but the level of luxury is really on par with each other (thanks to my rockstar friend's high profile) The best hotels always have white beds. We got the best rooms anywhere and the presence of his band really brings a kind of prestige to any particular 5-star hotel brand. Most of the time he's not around, and I always go for the spa treatment exclusively for VIP guests. The massages, facial treatments, herbal steam room and bubbling jacuzzi are enough to rejuvenate any jetlag! We live our lives, basically enclosed within the luxurious confines of the hotel. I accidentally mentioned about my birthday and my rockstar friend bought a cake to celebrate with me! Our social lives are now more in the backgrounds of luxury hotel rooms.

7) Currency
Depending which country you're going and whether you're on work or holiday. As an artiste, I don't usually carry any money with me because most of my trips are paid by the production companies who hired me. (not like I have any money at all!) Unlike some air stewards who boasted about their hi-flying lifestyle, the difference from them to international artistes are we don't serve on the plane like they do! Sometimes I get paid an allowance by the production company. But after your trip and you're going back to your home country, questions would often pop up whether you should exchange your money at the country of visit or back home. For example, I was in New Delhi recently, and I was reimbursed back a large sum of money for my visa application by the production company. Holding onto this money, thankfully, I have the hindsight to exchange it at the airport right away. That's because in Malaysia, the Rupees currency is not favored for exchange! There's also a limit to how much you can exchange to Ringgit. So if your Rupees are exchanged into the Dollars currency is still good. Upon arrival at airport in KLIA, I quickly exchanged the remaining Dollars into Ringgit.

Like a migrating bird, I have no choice but to fly to where the money is. I loved watching the BBC documentaries (especially the Human Planet and Planet Earth series) and am often amazed at how similar the wild life animal is with an artiste's. It's a sad reality that even in my very home, I could not find a living. Truth be told, wild life is actually more civilised and fair than humans are.

But real talent would eventually find work even outside from his own country. And that's a jetsetter's lifestyle worth living.

For more articles about FASHION/ART, click below:
H&M Fashion Review (Coats Special)
The Ultimate 7 Point Guide to Winning Project Runway
Messenger Bags Special
Tips for Buying Shoes (Sneakers)
Stuff Magazine 9th Anniversary Party
Myanmar Art Review
Student Art Fair

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Friday, April 3, 2015

The Humiliation Culture that targets on Malaysian Chinese Male Today (Updated)

I am considered dead already in Malaysian "film industry". Even better!

But this is a serious issue, bigger than me. It's the destructive attitude of a country that's heading towards a "high-income nation" status that's quickly replacing our humanity and respect for each other, thus the widespread culture of humiliating others.

The humiliation culture is getting more staggering in the Malaysian media. Specifically at the portrayal of Malaysian Chinese Male demographic group. (That's also why Jimmy Choo was smart not to be based here.)

I happened to catch a Caltex TV commercial on AXN channel. This Chinese guy was trying to feed a banana to a monkey, accompanying behind him are his two Pan-Asian looking friends: one boy and girl at the zoo. After failing in his attempts to get the monkey's attention with a banana, the Chinese guy throw the banana on the ground in frustration and turned his back. Suddenly a banana was thrown back at the monkey! The monkey gave chase to him and his friends. When they're in their both separate cars, only the car driven by the Pan-Asian looking girl and boy managed to start and sped off - escaping the monkey. Guess who's left inside in his broken down car - the Chinese guy.

I, myself, comes from being the harsh target of this type of humiliation culture too ever since my Malaysian Idol performance. I was naive at that time - and how was I exploited by the TV station. After 10 years being an Actor, another reality TV show representative approached me (again) on Facebook recently to audition for their reality show - SuperStar Me. The rep from the show approached me by writing on how much she was entertained by my Malaysian Idol performance. (like I care?) Are you kidding me? How can Malaysian TV industry be so limited and shallow in their outlook for after 10 years, they still think I want to join their mini version of the Asia's Got Talents? It's like they are somehow stuck in their limited mentality and thought others like me would just be like them - stuck. That's why I stopped watching this type of shows anymore. It intentionally humiliates others to gain ratings. And what does the humiliated get?

My Facebook response

Sorry, I have moved on!

The reason for my hesitation was that I have the funny suspicion that these type of reality TV show producers are trying to put me as the centre of their humiliation culture again. Thank goodness, I have the good manners to write back in a polite manner and REJECT their "offer". If I'm not the polite sort, I would scream "where's the money?" After the Facebook chat, no reply anymore. Sorry, my credentials are too big for your small mini shows. I already know just my mere appearance would draw in millions of viewers. Lessons learned.

What you can do:
If you flip through any casting pages, you will read what type of characters are given to the Malaysian Chinese Male talents. For commercials, it's almost always certainly have the "Nerd", "Geeky" description on it. For local Malay drama series, the typecast is even worst. If you're a Malaysian Chinese Male talent, please don't sacrifice your dignity just to be seen on screen. Things haven't change much 10 years ago.

And it won't change, until you do something about it. For me, I simply identify which brands, TV shows or movies that exclude, humiliate and stereotype a Malaysian Chinese male. Which is a lot! Then it's my choice to BOYCOTT these products totally and never watch these shows and movies again. Be careful how you spend your money and attention. That's what these producers and advertisers want from us - the consumers. Don't give in to their deception and brain-washing of what success means. Now, I simply have more time to read my books instead of watching thrash.

How about in the political arena? Tony Pua, the MP for PJ was being labelled as "soft" and "pondan" (a Malay derogatory word for effeminate) when he was trying to debate rationally  and professionally based on facts. This form of humiliation culture is common when politicians choose to debate based on self-concocted notions instead of facts. I truly salute Tony Pua for standing his ground in the midst of this embarassing public humiliation of labels in front of so many law-makers at the Parliament. Certain Malaysian pyschopaths are spewing deragotary words at people in the LRT train too. They are no different from the law-makers who used ugly labels on Tony Pua. Especially at KL Sentral when I have to take my night flights, this skinhead Indian guy in his office attire would be cursing at me when unintentionaly we crossed paths! I don't even know him! I've reported him to the police before. But still, he roams around there freely between 8-10pm preying on his victims. First-class infrastructure inhabited by third-world professional-looking attire! Dangerous.......

This type of humiliation culture is why there's a racial divide in our country today. Enough of all these 1 Malaysia propaganda when such TV commercials like Caltex are allowed to air. Enough of boasting we have a world-class education system when our politicians are throwing labels at each other based on race, religion and who's-more-macho instead of debating real issues supported by evidence that really affect the nation as a whole and not just supporting one particular race only. Enough of all these local movies portraying aspirational titles like CEO or pilot, drama series, hyped-up reality TV shows and unreal artiste lifestyle magazines at the newsstands. You're only humiliating yourself on how shallow you've become when you pay them any attention at all. The worst is you'll become delusional in your own hyped-up self.

I have already moved on.

Why haven't you?

With the culture of humiliation comes the sub-culture of false blaming. I was at the Maybank ATM at LRT station, waiting behind this strange head-wrapped woman in her jacket and jogging pants. The reason why I described her strange was because of her behavior of constantly looking at me while we were queing. I felt a strange uneasiness with her stares and turned my back towards her. After her turn at the ATM was finished, she walked off to the side nearby and I walked in front of the machine to insert my card. I waited for the screen at the ATM to display the ready signal for me to insert my card, when suddenly I heard a cluck sound at the card inserter. Then I placed my card inside, punch in my numbers and suddenly that strange Malay woman shouted that she cannot find her card anywhere right at that moment. Then she came to me and accused me of using her card! I told her that her card must be swallowed by the machine, recalling that I heard the cluck sound. That tudung woman refused to listen to reason and continued shouting her accusations at me that I was using her card! She then demanded I followed her to the ticket counter while still continuing her shouting accusations that I used her ATM card. I shouted back at that blady bitch and told her off to not make such accusations. She told the counter that she wanted to see the police - in which I happily obliged. The police came and took our details. After explaining my situation, the police finally recognised this bitch as the one whom earlier had caused another scene at the station by blaming another person for stealing. She had the gall to cause a scene because firstly, she thinks she's a Malay with her religious tudung (the fair, wrinkled and 40-ish) - therefore the police would listen to her story more.

Be aware of con women like this.

Why the Humiliation Culture?
There's a very selfish innate reason why certain people refuse to move on and remain stuck to the behavior of humiliating others. Let me warn you, ANYBODY can be humiliating others unknowingly and not neccesarily the known bullies sitting at the producers' chair or their high corporate offices. Like the ad agency who created that offensive Caltex ad. The reason why such culture permeates this staggeringly is because NOBODY takes a stand to speak out. When this silence happens (it is happening already), these humiliators become even louder, more delusional and bolder.

Firstly, it makes them feels more superior. It provides a mental illusion that they're better, and therefore everybody wants to grab the opportunity created by them. Take for example that rep who Facebooked me to join that silly reality show. Makes me want to laugh.

Secondly, they failed to see beyond their own selfish gains and find any kind of short cuts for instant validation.  I used to have friends like this. He or she will be quick to criticize, complain and judge others. But what have they actually achieved really? And what makes them any different from that crazy tudung woman who accused me at the ATM machine?

Thirdly, and most importantly - people who humiliates others in public have no real achievements of their own. Don't even boast about your university degree or PhD - it makes you even worst. Therefore, they seek to become a parasite to take advantage of other people's perceived "weakness" and become their self-proclaimed "strength" or "solution".

Below are the characteristics of people who humiliates other people:
* No real achievements of their own.
* Talk loud, only can act as aggressive bullies
* Stuck in their own limited worldview of "I have to be more superior"
* Accuse others blindly for their own benefit

The truth is, everyone has been humiliated in one way or the other in their life. Some take their past humiliations too personally and stays silent in fear. This type of people are too sensitive to ever become artiste of any kind - they only seek fame. Others act out in anger and become the humiliators or bullies themselves. But these are the extreme two choices to being humiliated. The correct way is the middle way - become neither! Speaking from experience, you have to take it like its just another small matter and move on. Be bigger than yourself. But you still need to speak out so others will know and take actions on it. Race and religion doesn't solve anything.

The best way is NOT to take part in any of this type of humiliation culture to show that you have some self-esteem in yourself. Do not mistaken your self-esteem with your religion, race or sexual orintation - you'll only become more of the opposite in the end. See others neither above nor below you. Because that is the truth. We all share the same problems as fellow human beings. When you know this, you'll find all these public humiliations means nothing. The humiliator is in fact, the humiliated. And you and I, the perceived victims, are in fact, the victors.

And we'll live longer, happier lives too. Below are some actions you should take to counter any type of "humiliation"

* Achieve something for the common good of humanity (there's really no greater achievement than this)
* Speak up when you know you've been wrongly accused or portrayed unfairly
* Open your mind to new ideas that's not solely based on race or religion
* Be humble and know that you are not always right....and it's fine!

For my commentaries on CURRENT ISSUES:
The Power of Joyful vs Joyless
The Violent Nature of Malaysian Society
Zaman Gemilang Ma-Lu-Gua
Why a Chinese person should eat at Chinese restaurant
The Great Malaysian Tragedy
5 Foibles Committed by Political Leaders
Street Protests
The Age of Haters
The Over Emphasis of Hardware over Software
How My "Friend" Make Plus-sized Looks Bad
City Folks' Sitting Culture (BM)
How to Identify Monsters Anywhere
Habits of Local Talent (BM)
Lessons learned from "Friends"
Malaysian "Mega-Structures" Hits and Misses