Zarzis to Lampedusa and Medan to Penang

The distance from the town of Zarzis in Tunisia to Lampedusa in Italy is about 260km. It is just a touch shorter than that between Medan in Indonesia and Penang in Malaysia. The parallel between the two pairs of cities struck me when I was reading an article about young men running away from the current north-African/Arab world chaos and seeking refuge in places like Italy and France.

Young men in North African have for years crept into southern Europe in search of economic freedom and a better life. I think Zinedine Zidane was one of such people – he and his family had left Algeria searching a better life in France. Just as North Africans stole into Europe, Indonesians have gone to Malaysia for years.

The similarity between the Gibraltar and Malacca straits must however, end there surely. When Kiddo was born, Tress and I sought out an Indonesian maid and was referred to an agency in Port Klang. The office was within the office premises of a local UMNO divisional office. UMNO is of course, the dominant ruling party which is the bane of Malaysia. It struck me as curious that a maid agency had its office within the local UMNO premises and I didn’t like it one bit.

About a year after employing the maid, when I wanted to renew the contract and work permit, my worst fears were realised. The maid’s passport was a fake, and all paperwork produced out of that local UMNO office were forgeries. I could not renew the work permit except through the same local UMNO office.

It was a systemic and institutionalised corruption. The local politicians were the local warlords controlling this illegal trafficking of Indonesian women. The machineries of government were exploited to line the coffers of the party and its members and as usual, it is the people – the maids and their employers – who were the victims.

Years down the track and we continue to hear of illegal immigrants from Indonesia going through the borders of Malaysia with little or no impediments. The corruption is systemic and widespread. Indonesians can become naturalised as Malaysians as long as they can pay. They are encouraged and become supporters and voters of the ruling government in return.

Whereas the Italians of Lampedusa accepted the Tunisians from Zarrziz out of humanitarian ground, in Malaysia it was the almighty moolah which drove matters and determined outcomes. The distance between Tunisia and Italy may be similar to the distance between Indonesia and Malaysia but in many other aspects, the difference is probably gaping as the bald patch on Zidane’s head.


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Can You Hear The Drums Fernando?

I attempted to educate myself on the issue of drums yesterday and looked into the issue of electronic versus acoustic drums. Other than costs and logistics (electronic version has heaps more parts and wiring) experts are totally divided on which is better.

The practical and artists prefer the acoustics whereas the techno types prefer the elec because you can basically record and manipulate it on the computer to generate other works. Parents and those who live in crowded places prefer elec as you can use headphones and not disturb others.

While you can control volume better on elec, volume control isn’t the primary reason for opting for elec. The volume is also a function of playing style – naturally if you have someone who goes all out and bang away it will be louder. My cursory reading also suggests you can control volume reasonably well on the acoustics but it is an art.

The purists naturally prefer the acoustic as it allows the artist to exhibit his repertoire. They point out that it is the preferred version in concerts – from rock to jazz to classical and even Broadway.

I am sure there is more to it but I think for a total lay idiot like yours truly, I’d probably come away at the end of whatever further research I do, concluding that the jury is still out. (I think on this basis I’d stick to whatever I have now…if I had a drum set).


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