Dying is no big deal: it’s living that’s the trick. – Red Smith, US sportswriter.

If anything can go wrong, it will. It’s Murphy’s Law, and Edward Murphy, an Air Force captain, should have been shot for it but he was promoted instead and his eponymous saying stuck around long enough to become an adage for the ages.   

There are others as well. There was Jonathan Wright who seemed to think that the world was horribly wrong because Wright’s Law is sinister enough: “Everything is just out of reach.” And the italics aren’t mine so you can just imagine the gravity of its  portent. And if you think that is bad, Wright’s Constant will cause you to abandon hope altogether. It simply states: “Nothing is easy”.

In short, Wright should have been shot ahead of Murphy.

We may conclude that there was nothing right about Wright and we’d be right but a constant is an inexorable, unchanging thing like pi, the mathematical constant.

Imagine you have just been born. There you are, naked, wet and hungry and you are then told that it (life) will get worse. 

I should have realised this a long time ago. Right back to the time when I was 6 and taken by my father, for the first time to school. You can imagine my astonishment  then, when I was woken early the next morning for the same thing. “What, again?” I cried, bewildered, and he laughed and said it would continue for the foreseeable future. 

I began to grasp it when I was 16 and grappling with the arcane mysteries of calculus. In frustration, I asked Mr Chan Lok Chin, our Add Math teacher: “Why should we learn this? It’s pretty hard.” 

Mr Chan regarded me with a grim, if bespectacled, eye. “Because I said so,” was his implacable reply. And that was that. 

Nothing was easy because everything was hard and that was how life’s cookie crumbled. 

Mark Twain observed that “All you need in life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure.” Hadi Awang would probably agree with him. Jho Low would certainly agree. 

In fact, he’s the sort of guy who’d make lemonade if life handed him lemons but then would find the guy handed vodka so they could have a party. Except for the nightmares about the police, you could say life rolled easy for him.  

But the average Mat Q Public would probably agree with writer Lewis Grizzard Jr who said that life was like a dogsled team. “If you ain’t the lead dog, the scenery never changes,”

The secret to life may lie in not sweating the small stuff and not taking everything so seriously or as cartoonist Charles Schultz noted: “Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today; it’s already tomorrow in Australia.” 

So we might as well take it easier; stop and smell the coffee as it were. We are all on the Hindenburg anyway and there’s no point fighting over the window seat. 



Sam: How’s life treating you, Norm?

Norm: Like it caught me sleeping with its wife

 – TV sitcom, Cheers

Malaysia’s former premier Najib “Fearless Leader” Razak was a conservative, which is English for a person who believes he deserves everything he’s stolen.

In that sense, he was an uncommon politician: he got caught. Which is why he now languishes in Kajang Prison where he’s only free to contemplate his navel and think up new and inventive ways to lose friends and irritate judges.

That was Malaysia for you. Justice was open to everyone in the same way as the Shangri-La. Fearless knew the feeling: he’d just received his lawyer’s bill. 

It was ironic in many ways. He used to be so busy that he hardly had time for himself. Now he was reduced to this: except for occasional visits to court, he was about as busy as a pick-pocket in a nudist colony.

To say it was depressing is to understate it to the 10th power. I’ve been to Kajang Prison. In the late 1990s, my former colleague, Murray Hiebert, was given a three month sentence – he served two – for “media contempt” and I used to visit him regularly. I found it a difficult place to be cheerful in: you had to talk to the prisoner through glass and mesh, and the place smelt of sweat and despair. 

Now Fearless was taking his case to the United Nations where there were only 10 million petitions before him. His lawyers had told him that the odds were stacked against him. What they didn’t tell him were his actual chances. They were threefold: zero, zip and zilch. 

Alas, poor Fearless. Over in China, his once-friend and helpmate in crime, Low Teck “Felonious” Jho watched sadly. Fearless found him simpatico the first time they’d met. He especially liked the way his mind worked and his interest got piqued after he discovered that Felonious’ thesis in Wharton had been on Bernie Madoff and the near-perfect crime.

Felonious thought that a person who wielded absolute power could do well-nigh anything he wanted. 

To prove his point, he demonstrated that, on any given day, Fearless could have been convicted of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements, or what the Prime Minister’s Department called a “press conference.”   

It was the Eureka moment for Fearless, a multi-billion epiphany that would lead to the almost-perfect crime had it not been for one tiny miscalculation: losing the general election. 

But Felonious hadn’t miscalculated. He made sure he wasn’t in Malaysia when the time rolled around for a general election – both in 2013 and 2018.

It can’t have given Fearless much comfort. 

Or confidence. 

It explained  the grim relish with which  Fearless read the paper on Monday. It reported that Felonious’ days as a protected  “intelligence asset” in China could be coming to an end. 

The source of the story was Bradley Hope, the journalist behind Billion Dollar Whale, the story of the looting of Malaysia by Messrs Fearless and Felonious. The leviathan referred to in the book’s title was the corpulent crook in China.

Hope revealed that Fatso’s chief protector in China had been convicted of, what else, corruption and so Felonious’ luck might be running out. 

The tubby thief was philosophical about it. Que sera sera, he thought cheerfully.

He’d packed more living in the last 14 years than many do in a lifetime.



The way my luck is running, if I were a politician, I would be honest – US comedian Rodney Dangerfield

I only realised what day it was after I’d scanned the paper. 

It was Friday the 13th. 

It takes all sorts of things to scare people. A child of six would undoubtedly be more terrified of a flu shot than, say, Dracula, while, at his age, Dr Mahathir is beginning to develop a fear of flowers. 

For many others, it’s airline travel: the hours of boredom, interrupted by those moments of stark terror. For Pas, the Islamic Party of Malaysia, it is, and always has been, the haunting fear that someone, somewhere in Malaysia, might be having fun.

For the writer Kurt Vonnegut, true terror was “to wake up one morning and to discover that your high school class is running the country.” Meanwhile, George Foreman feared no man “but the dentist.” 

Then there are the questions, like this excellent one from Steven Wright: “What happens if you get scared half to death twice?”

But I digress. We were talking about Friday the 13th, weren’t we? 

Historians are generally agreed that the apparent ill-luck attributed to the day grew out of the number of people that attended the Last Supper – the thirteenth one to arrive was Judas, the betrayer. The next day – Friday – witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus which makes it something of an eternal irony that it’s revered by Christians as Good Friday. 

Over the intervening millennia, the distaste has seeped so thoroughly into Western culture that a word – triskaidekaphobia – had to be invented to describe the human fear of the number. Lest anyone dismiss this as fanciful, one should note that Stephen King, the celebrated writer of horror fiction, suffers the syndrome. 

Their numbers aren’t tiny – over 15 million in the US – which is why businesses have had to adapt to cater to this segment of society. 

It explains why lifts generally don’t have a 13th floor button, despite having the floor physically. Most hotels don’t have such a floor either while airlines almost never have an aisle marked 13. Similarly, no ship has a 13th deck.

Other reasons, like the naming of future space missions after the 1970 Apollo 13, fall into the “I-told-you-so” category. 

Nasa scientists had decided to give the mission after Apollo 12 its rightful number rather than bow to superstition and an otherwise unscientific outlook on space travel. In the event, Apollo 13’s planned moon landing had to be aborted after an oxygen tank blew up.    

The mission is still considered a “successful failure” as its crew splashed home, unscathed. But the chastened scientists never used 13 for    subsequent launches. 

It’s also why we should never underestimate the power of ill-fated accidents occurring in unison. Like these inexplicable events that occurred on a fateful January morning in 2004.

He had to walk under the ladder on which a workman was perched installing his wife’s latest artwork when a black cat languidly crossed his path. Abdullah Badawi flinched before recovering to complete the remaining 13 steps to his door where an aide handed him an open umbrella for the rain outdoors. 

At that moment, the mirror in one of the bathrooms upstairs cracked. 

It was going to be a momentous day, reflected the premier. 

He was due to announce his choice of deputy premier that afternoon.