[56/365] No Signal

There is only so much a man can do when faced with the unholy trinity of bad weather, shitty ISPs, and failing tech equipment – that is to say, nothing at all.


[55/365] Music Universal

There are people who, when learning a new language, are constantly amazed at the fact that the language is capable of producing music that actually sounds good.

I like to think that some people are incapable of recognising that music, much like all forms of art, is universal. It’s not restricted to any language. You don’t need to understand the language the song is sung in to appreciate and enjoy it. One doesn’t need to understand French to be a fan of Stromae, although it would definitely add to the enjoyment. I’m a huge fan of Árstíðir and I don’t speak a word of Icelandic. Just because you don’t understand the language the song is sung in doesn’t automatically mean it’s a bad song, but some people can’t seem to fathom that.

Hence, my earlier statement.

I’ve always found it weird, personally. Why would you insist that a song is bad just because you can’t understand the lyrics? Why would you be surprised that hey, a song in German can actually sound good! Of course it can! Songs are so much more than the language they are sung in – the vocals, the melody, the rhythm and cadence of the lyrics melded together with the beat and harmony of the music; that’s what music is all about. It’s not restricted to language. It’s universal.

Some people find that hard to come to terms with, and for the life of me I can’t understand why.


[54/365] Bigotry and Academia: Drawing A Line

Coming from a Muslim-majority country that claims to be supportive and tolerant of its diverse multicultural ethnic makeup, there’s nothing I am more intimately familiar with than the stunningly hypocritical intolerance of the conservative Muslim-majority when it comes to things that are distinctly unfamiliar to them i.e. people of other creeds. There is a very strong culture of us vs. them especially in conservative countries like Malaysia. Conservatives are all about maintaining the status quo, and that inevitably creates the battleground that is us vs. them – the usurpers who challenge the throne and the ones who protect it in turn. When you’re so attuned to the mindset that those who are different from you are the enemy, you end up being unable to fathom the concept that the enemy are people just like you, who live and breathe and prosper as your fellow countrymen, even if they don’t share your skin colour or language or religion. You become unable to understand that people are people, because all you know is us vs. them. All you know is you vs. the enemy.

And it’s this mindset that’s so dangerous, because it encourages a closed-off mind and unwillingness to consider things from a wider viewpoint. It restricts your thinking, forces you to dismiss the perspectives of others. When you refuse to walk a mile in the other man’s shoes, you fail to understand where they’re coming from. You fail to understand them, and in a multiracial country as ours that sort of inability to understand each other – not to mention the outright antagonism between the different ethnic and religious groups, even – can be the catalyst to spark discord and disharmony. A small fracture can bring about devastating calamity precisely because we’re multiethnic to begin with; the risk is so much greater because we have so much more to lose compared to predominantly single-ethnic nations like Japan or the Philippines. A lot of people scoff when I say this, but Malaysia is really the USA of Southeast Asia – sure the geo- and sociopolitical circumstances differ, but look at our similarities. The majority being one ethnic race that’s keen on maintaining the status quo? Check. Minority races either oppressed or not given the same opportunities and/or privileges? Check. Growing discord over the unfair status quo and enforcement of religious and/or non-democratic policies in government? Check.

Face it. We’re more like the United States that we think.

Point is, we – and by we I mean the Muslim Malay majority – are hugely intolerant. We’re intolerant of non-Muslims because they’re kafir, they’re infidels who are barred from Heaven for their blasphemous religions. We’re intolerant of LGBTQIA+ folk because the traditional interpretation of the Quran puts them as sinners doomed for the flames of Hell, the modern-day denizens of Sodom and Gomorrah. We refuse to consider even for a single damned second that non-Muslims and LGBTQIA+ folk are Malaysians too, because for us we are the majority. When you’ve spent so long surrounded by tyour own kind, you forget that other kinds exist. You forget that other people exist. You forget that you’re not the only people who make up this country. You forget that Christians are not exclusively Westerners, and you forget that there are gay and transgender people in this country just like there are gay and transgender people anywhere else.

But is there a line to be crossed when you’re speaking as an academic; as a lecturer, as a professor of philosophy, as a scholar of the social sciences? Call me pedantic, but how can you say you’re speaking objectively as someone who studies social science when you refer to Christians as those infidels from the West and talk about LGBTQIA+ as if they’re a disease? The whole point of academia is to study things without being affected by bias, and here you are blatantly displaying said biases. It’s not a good look, so to speak.

I’m writing about this today because earlier I went for an Introduction to Philosophy class taught by a lecturer I ‘d met for the first time. He’s a great guy, an associate professor who’s based in the political science department. He’s fun and cracks a lot of jokes and really knows his stuff, and he manages to make a three-hour class at 8am actually worth looking forward to. He talked about the main cores of philosophy and then went on to explain political philosophy in a little detail, but during one of his tangents he told us a story of how he once had a student who went from a typically masculine guy in his first year to wearing high-heels by graduation. It was told as a joke, mainly to elicit reactions of disgust and shock from the other students, and he went on to tell us about his experience with said student (apparently) flirting with him and how he found it all so unnatural. He said that while he wouldn’t reciprocate flirting from a female student, he can accept it because it’s the norm. When it’s a student he’d already identified as male, he was creeped out, to say the least.

And as always I sat at the back, taking notes during the more educational parts of the lecture, and an uncomfortable feeling crept up my spine when the class laughed and eww’d during the more flamboyant parts of his storytelling. In comparison, last semester I had an Introduction to Social Science class taught by a lecturer who’s based in the mass communication department. This particular old man was seen as annoying and cranky, but I personally thought he was really cool. He knew his stuff and didn’t go off on as many tangents as the associate professor does, and he made sure to spend all three hours actually teaching us things instead of making jokes every three minutes. I loved him, even though I got a C in his subject. This old man also used to make points about LGBTQIA+ folk, but he never described them in a derogatory manner. He never called them disgusting or tried to elicit a reaction from the students. He used to say that LGBTQIA+ isn’t weird or a disease or something unnatural – it’s just that we don’t understand them. We don’t know enough about them, and it’s human nature to fear that which we don’t understand. It’s not right to say that LGBTQIA+ is wrong when we don’t know anything about LGBTQIA+ in the first place, and I respected him for that.

Both of these lecturers are Muslims – the old man is a Malay Muslim while I’m not too sure about the associate professor; his accent sounded Sabahan, so he could be a bumiputera. I’m not too sure. Either way, when you’re speaking as an academic, in an academic capacity in a lecture hall in a lesson meant to impart knowledge to your students, you have a responsibility of sorts to draw a line. You have a responsibility to realise that your audience isn’t made up of 100% Muslims, that there are queer folk and non-Muslims within your audience as well, and it’s your responsibility to make sure your content is catered to them as well. It’s your responsibility to make sure they’re not alienated by your words, by your lecture, and it’s something not many people here understand. Is it unprofessionalism at work, that inability to separate the bigoted person from the unbiased academic, or is it just how we as a people are? Are we just incapable of recognising that we are not alone in this world, that this world was not made for us to walk alone?

I can’t say I have the answer for sure.


[53/365] Duality

A few days back I had a presentation, so I figured I might as well dress nicely for the occasion. White shirt, black pants, dark blue scarf, and a light floral vest to add some flair to the whole ensemble. I’ve been told that my style is peculiarly mine – it’s not avant garde or whatever, it’s just me. The clothes I wear fit no one else but me, not the way I put them together as an outfit. I’ve been told that a lot, so I’ve largely given up on asking people how I look because they’ll inevitably say that I look like me. 

My outfit aside, the presentation was a mess. I’m the kind whose work performance is largely affected by my emotions, and to say I was upset would be an understatement. My partner and I were originally slated to present our assignment at the 10am tutorial class, so I went early just because. We worked on our respective parts of the presentation separately and I thought I should be there early and give my partner my part so that we’d be ready on time. Come 9.45am, my partner sauntered into the building, booted up their laptop, and proceeded to get started on their part of the presentation.

9.45am. Fifteen minutes until showtime, and they’re only just getting started on their presentation. I was getting irritated then, because I fucking woke up at 4am to finish my part. My partner said they went to sleep at 3am doing laundry. Fucking laundry. You couldn’t spend another fucking hour to finish your presentation? What were you doing before you did laundry? This partner of mine, they’re involved in a lot of things and those things take up a lot of their time. I understand co-curricular activities are important in making you a standout graduate, but to the point where you don’t even have the energy or time to finish your actual assignments? The assignments for your fucking major, that you’re going to university for? That’s bullshit. That’s fucking bullshit.

So. Fifteen minutes until showtime and they’re fiddling about making their slides. They finished ten minutes past 10am, and by then the lecturer had already locked us out. I have no problems with this, I think he’s a great guy and it’s perfectly understandable, but it doesn’t change the fact that we thus would have to wait another two fucking hours for the next tutorial class. Way to waste time, asshole. The fuck did I get to the building early for? I could’ve had brunch elsewhere and then show up for the 12pm slot. I don’t even mind going to class early – it’s the fact that we’d agreed on doing the presentation at 10am and your irresponsible ass decided to get started on the presentation 15 minutes beforehand and not managing to finish it on time to the point where we had to go for the next tutorial class. Who the hell fucking does that?

I was upset the whole day, honestly, but most importantly I was still upset during the presentation and so I fucked up because my head wasn’t in it. Bad habit, I know, but it’s hard when your partner is like that. Thought I would’ve learned my lesson from last semester but apparently not.

I actually mentioned my outfit in the beginning of this post for a reason. A friend of mine told me over lunch that he’s impressed at how I balance femininity and masculinity in my bearings. He said it’s a nice balance of both, that I’m manly without coming off as butch and feminine without coming off as weak. I swear like a sailor but smile like a lady. Plays video games like the gamer guys but also super into Korean boygroups. He told me it’s impressive and that it’s a unique style I have, and for the longest time I couldn’t figure out if he was insulting or complimenting me.

I naturally assume the good from people most of the time, so it’s pretty hard for me to understand sneaky insults like that – if it even was an insult. For the most part, I could see where he’s coming from – my bearings are manly in that my gait is quick and powerful, and I mostly walk alone without any need for companionship. I won’t deny that I intimidate people somehow, but that also applies to my ladylike side – I like makeup and I question things and I stand up for what I think is right, and I like beautiful things.

Thinking about it, though, who doesn’t like beautiful things? Is it a purely feminine thing to like floral patterns and handsome men? What about my love for the men’s range when it comes to leather goods? Leather briefcases are hot and I love them – does that make me manly? What defines manliness and ladylike behaviour anyhow? Can a woman not be powerful in her stride? Can a man not be a fan of Cath Kidston? Limiting qualities to only one perspective is so restricting, somehow.

And what does that make me, someone who displays characteristics of both? This duality of humanity, the personification Yin and Yang in one form? I do wonder. People are fluid and ever-changing, and I’ve never thought it mattered to be more feminine or masculine. I project a tough exterior because I’m vulnerable and I want to protect myself, and I pay attention to makeup and my clothes because I want to look beautiful. Ultimately, it’s what the heart wants. It’s what we want to be. It’s not about being feminine, masculine, both, neither, or whatever – it’s about doing what makes you happy. Doing what makes you safe.

If that makes me a duality to the eyes of common folk, then I’m fine with that. I’m just one person who wants to be comfortable in their own skin, and manly or not, that’s not going to change.


[51/365] Injuries

It has been two weeks into the new semester, and all in all it’s been rather odd. For one, I haven’t had a single night of proper sleep at all since I came back to uni. It’s unlikely for a university student to get proper sleep and all that jazz once they start suffering for the sake of their academic life, yeah, but I’m not talking about sleeping a full eight hours each night or anything like that. Rather, I haven’t been able to sleep without waking up in fits and starts, or feeling like I’d woken up from a nightmare I can barely recall. That bothers me more than not getting a full eight hours, if I’m being perfectly honest.

And it’s probably because I was fairly sedentary and inactive during semester break, but my muscles hurt like all hell. My legs feel like they’re not even mine by the way they’re hurting (neither does my brain seem to be working, judging by that sentence. what does that even mean?). I’ve got bruises in places it’s impossible to bruise, and I can’t move without my back cracking every few hours or so.

To put it frankly, university and stress together culminate in one very injured Kai, but the problem is I don’t even know what’s stressing me out. I just am. And it pisses me off.

Fiction, Vignette

[50/365] drabble : untitled (pt. v?)

The Coroner is well used to death; it is his job. He is surrounded by its reminders, tasked with deciphering its riddles. The Detective hunts down the culprits, the death-bringers, the ones who inflict pain unto others, but it is the Coroner who pieces together bodies torn apart and flesh rendered asunder, who finds the method to the madness. The hunter moon, the divining sun – that is how they have always been. Death and its machinations are no strangers to the two of them, not when they have been standing knee-deep in blood and bone for so long.

He forgets that death, as naturally as it comes to those in their profession, is anything but natural. Not when it’s a product of malice, malevolent intent burning through the air. Not when it’s meant as a gift, to induce suffering and pain, for the enjoyment of the broken. Not when it’s inflicted on a helpless soul, specific in its arbitrariness.

Not when it’s a present to one of their own, a man too young to face evil unparalleled.

He is well used to death, but the Rookie isn’t. Not to the kind of death he is used to. As he shuts the door to the Rookie trembling even in his fitful sleep, he thinks about the elderly lady with horror in her eyes, her head in a cardboard box, a present for the Rookie.

“When did we lose the capacity to feel?” he wonders aloud.

The Detective, leaning against the door to the room opposite, silently wonders the same.