He Does Work In Mysterious Ways

This is a true story and it happened in a place called Pahrump in the North American state of Nevada, which just goes to show you town planners the dangers of giving weird names to a) babies and b) towns. 

How would a kid like it if you named him Pahrump?

Any guy with half a literary bent would immediately tell you that it rhymes with Harumph and that, surely, cannot be good. 

I digress, however, and you must forgive me for it is an occasional hazard of growing old. 

As I was saying, the picturesque town of Pahrump had a brothel and it had a church and the twain, as you can imagine, heartily disliked one another. 

It was, however, a cordial dislike bordering on indifference and based on the sound economic principle of – shall we say? – static market share between the non-warring but coldly antagonistic parties. 

But Rita “Here They Are” Diamond, the splendidly endowed owner of Diamond D’s, the said brothel in question, had the keen business sense of a Mark Zuckerberg and thought nothing was too big for this business: she was looking to grow her stream of recurrent earnings. 

In three words – ok, four – she wanted to expand. 

So you can imagine the consternation, nay, the unparalleled rage of the pious parishioners of postcard-picture-perfect Pahrump when they discovered that Rita “Nice Lungs” Diamond was beginning construction on an expansion of her brothel.

“The wages of sin is death,” thundered Pastor Billy “Fire And Almost” Brimstone on the Sunday following the revelatory discovery. But Pahrump’s tax department disagreed, sadly noting that the wages of sin was actually unreported.

 Pastor Brimstone was a deeply religious man who agonised over the minutiae of religion – could Noah possibly have included termites on the Ark? – and believed his flock should fight fire with fire. 

So his local Baptist Church started a campaign to block Diamond D’s from expanding – with morning, afternoon, and evening prayer sessions at their church. 

Old Billy was smart. The pious prelate may have known which class – Smoking or Non-Smoking – the luxuriantly endowed Ms Diamond would inhabit in Eternity but he was taking no chances in the Here and Now. 

And, lo and behold, It Happened and It Was Good. Work on Diamond D’s progressed right up until the week before the grand re-opening when lightning struck the whorehouse and burned it to the ground.

Perhaps the brethren should not have been that smug, so self-satisfied. Well, they were as proud as pea soup and you know what they say: you should never be proud of your humility.

“I’ll show them power of prayer,” growled Rita “Big Jugs” Diamond and proceeded to hire America’s Demon of Damages Melvin “Be Afraid” Brezinski to sue the piety out of Pahrump’s pleased-as-punch parishioners.

According to Associated Press, Ms Diamond sued the church, the preacher and the entire congregation late last week on the grounds that the church…” was ultimately responsible for the demise of her building and her business — either through direct or indirect divine actions or means.”

In its reply to the court, the church vehemently and vociferously denied any and all responsibility or any connection to the building’s demise.

And now I leave you with the end of the AP story and it is reproduced verbatim.

The crusty old judge read through the plaintiff’s complaint and the defendant’s reply, and at the opening hearing, commented, “I don’t know how the hell I’m going to decide this case, but it appears from the paperwork, that we have a whorehouse owner who staunchly believes in the power of prayer…. and an entire church congregation that thinks it’s all bullshit”.

Does that deserve an Amen or what? 

Forget The Womb; Just Stop At Tomb

Things are going crazy out there. 

The latest: a 27-year-old Indian man plans to sue his parents for giving birth to him “without his consent”.

What’s next? A woman taking a baseball bat to a fast food outlet for lack of beef? 

I tell you, the world may be really going to hell in a hand basket. 

– Back to the legal eagle. No one has seriously challenged Jho Low a.k.a Felonious Fatso for resident poster-child for birth control but Mumbai businessman Raphael Samuel is putting up a stiff fight. 

He told the British Broadcasting Corporation that it was wrong to bring children into the world because they then have to put up with lifelong suffering.

The bitter businessman thought he could prove it too. He first pointed out that the leading cause of death was birth. Having laid down that shyster-slick legal foundation, he invoked echoes of Thomas Hobbes – “life is nasty, brutish and short” – to claim that everyone was born “naked, wet and hungry.” 

“Then it simply gets worse,” the morose merchant concluded mournfully. “Don’t you see?”

It is well known that ignorance of the law excuses no one. In India, it also excuses no one from practicing it.

Mr Samuel, of course, understands that our consent cannot be sought before we are born, but insists that “it was not our decision to be born”.

So, as we didn’t ask to be born, we should be paid for the rest of our lives to live, he argues.

Apparently, Mr Samuel’s mission has its roots in a philosophy called anti-natalism – a school of thought that argues that life is so full of misery that people should stop procreating at once.

In fact, Mr Samuel was ceaselessly haunted by the awful and hellish knowledge that somehow, somewhere, a baby was being born every twenty seconds or so on Planet Earth.  

It was something he brooded over constantly, sometimes in the dead of night, and he thought the incessant production should cease immediately or – and here, he choked back a bitter sob – “it would all end up in tears.” 

Woody Allen knew it would all end up in tears but he thought about these things more in a sort of rueful abstract. “Life is full of misery, suffering and loneliness,” the wannabe saxophonist once said. “And it’s over much too soon.” 

Raphael did not know Woody and secretly suspected he would not like the fellow one bit either. “What kind of name is Woody anyway?” demanded the embittered entrepreneur indignantly. “I mean, that’s the whole problem right there…too many Woodies!” 

Maybe there was always something slightly off-kilter about the mournful Mumbaikar. Here was a man trapped in a woman’s body – for nine months and only then was Raphael born. It seemed he had never got over that initial introduction to the world. 

That was then. The once-irate industrialist is now a freshly minted debonair-dandy-about-town. Meet Raphael Samuel, whose face peers out of advertising hoardings and whose address women write to daily proposing marriage.

What is the moral of this tale, you may ask? 

It is simply this: Some men are born famous, other men achieve fame but Raphael talked to the BBC and got fame thrust on him. 

Then he hired a really good publicist.

Sharks Just Wanna Hear Jazz

Here’s the latest breaking news all the way from Australia. Sharks like to kick back to the sounds of Herbie Hancock, even some Wynton Marsalis, but generally sneer at any Bach, Brahms or Beethoven. 

Researchers at Sydney’s Macquarie University have discovered that sharks can recognise jazz music but are confused by classical music. 

What’s all this got to do with the price of fish, you might reasonably ask, and you would be right too except that Sydney’s restaurant owners, emboldened by the news, have begun charging more for shark’s fin soup on the reasonable grounds that a Herbie Hancock-appreciating fish was surely more desirable than one that liked, say, Conway Twitty? 

“What’s all this got to do with the price of fish”? demanded the Australian government indignantly, appalled that taxpayer funds were being used to find out stuff that seemed as relevant as the previous shark finding from the same Macquarie University. 

The aforementioned 2015 finding, however, did cause a frisson of excitement to ripple through Australia’s surfing community after said university discovered that the mushy stuff between the teeth of great white sharks was, almost always, a slow swimmer. 

More seriously, the shark research addressed issues of animal cognition. For sheer mindlessness of research though, the prize goes to a 2015 “anti-hysteria” kit that a local Malaysian university claimed could ward off “evil spirits” for the whopping price of RM8,700 a pop. 

To the bewilderment of psychiatrists from Guatemala to Greenland, the kit used such cutting-edge paraphernalia as chopsticks, salt, lime, pepper spray and formic acid. 

Reuters reported the whole pseudo-scientific, tragi-comedy with a straight face and a stiff upper lip but, mercifully, little has been reported about the kit or its creator since. 

Australians tend to take sharks seriously as there are at least 10-20 shark attacks in the country every year. Here, the Aussies would be well advised to take to heart an interesting piece of cutting-edge research from no less than Saturday Night Live.

Researchers there have found that sharks only attack a person if said person is wet. 

Back to the original research in question. 

The Macquarie researchers, led by Catarina Vila Pouca, trained juvenile Port Jackson sharks to swim over to where jazz was playing, to receive food. It has been thought that sharks have learned to associate the sound of a boat engine with food, because food is often thrown from tourist boats to attract sharks to cage-diving expeditions – the study shows that they can learn these associations quickly.

The addition of classical music, however, confused the sharks which couldn’t differentiate between the two musical genres. 

Vila Pouca added: “Sharks are generally underestimated when it comes to learning abilities – most people see them as mindless, instinctive animals. However, they have really big brains and are obviously much smarter than we give them credit for.” 

Anyone who’s seen the film Jaws would probably go for both the “big brains” as well as the “mindless, instinctive animal” theory. To put the great white shark in its complete, brutal perspective, the original name suggested for the Peter Benchley-written film was Gnaws. 

The World According To (Some) Millennials

About a third of millennials in the United States are sort of flexible about the shape of Planet Earth. 

The statement above should terrify you about the ability of the younger generation to look after the world, or at least their ability to stop themselves falling off the edge of it.

In fairness, the statistics only relate to the US but that’s no reason for all of us to feel smug. We are all, in various ways, inter-connected.

OK, let’s be clear here. A third of millennials don’t actually think the Earth is flat. The YouGov survey simply revealed that only 66 per cent of American 18-24 year olds were absolutely convinced that they are currently standing on a celestial orb. The remainder seemed content to take alternative suggestions like, but not limited to, a flat Earth. 

And the phenomenon seemed to be confined to millennials: almost 96 per cent of over-50s knew the Earth was spherical. 

If one were an optimist, one could take comfort in the fact that these millennials were so, well, open-minded.

Brace yourselves folks, going forward, you might see a lot more Donald Trumps’ coming out of the woodwork. 

History generally credits Galileo Galilee as the first person to discover the Earth’s shape although many Greeks think that it might even have been Pythagoras way back in the 5thCentury. 

That the Earth is round has been confirmed over and over again not least by satellite photos of the planet from outer space. 

Astronomy is a pretty exact science much like zoology. Example: there are precisely 350 varieties of shark not including the loan, pool and the UMNO variety.

In short, the notion that the world was anything but round was thought to have been dispelled ages ago. Sometime in the 19thCentury, however, the “flat Earth” theory resurfaced almost as a conspiracy theory. Indeed, the first “flat Earth” conference was convened in the US last year. 500 people attended but we have reason to believe that at least 300 were psychiatrists who were there as observers. 

These people were like those who voted for Brexit: they had made up their minds and didn’t want to be confused by facts. 

People these days like to make fun of millennials as being self-centred, avocado-toast loving, technology driven, fearless young men and women who are choosy about jobs and passionate about the environment.  

Or to put it another way, millennials are the only ones who need a smartphone and a laptop to go online to find that they don’t have very much left in their bank balances. 

But who are we to talk?

Ours was the generation who made a millionaire out of the guy who invented the pet rock. We were the same guys who made a mess of the environment and ours was the generation that lived in – possibly – the best time of all in the sense of the cost of living.

I found a job almost immediately after I graduated and I changed jobs fairly easily. A group of us friends rented a four-bedroom, double storey house in Bangsar in 1984 for the princely sum of RM450 a month! Life was relatively comfortable back then. 

And we bought our first house in our early thirties. 

Most millennials are too busy paying off student loans to think of houses. And, let’s face it without parental support, few can even dream of owning houses. 

So spare a thought for the millennial. And who are we to mock their worldview, if you’d pardon the pun?

Between 2009 and 2018, our Malaysian world went from being flat to round to crooked.