Best TV Series of 2018

I can practically call this one the best Netflix TV series of 2018 since each and every one of them are available on Netflix. It’s not that there are no other good TV series on other streaming services, it’s just that many of them are the sequel to previous year’s series. Plus the fact that I can easily and legally watch only Netflix in this country. Sure there’s Amazon Prime now but the content selection is not so desirable compared to Netflix. Maybe once Disney+ comes out later this year, Netflix will have a run for their money. Without further ado here we go - the best TV series of 2018 according to me. In no particular order.

Star Trek: Discovery
After after a long 12 years hiatus, the long awaited Star Trek made for TV series is finally here (remember Star Trek: Enterprise?). Set a decade before the events of the original Star Trek series, Discovery explores the Federation-Klingon war while following the crew of the USS Discovery. In this series, apart from travelling with warp drives, they also travel using spore drives. An organic propulsion system to make instant jumps across the mycelial network. Sounds preposterous? Hey in Star Trek, no technology is beyond reach. This show features Malaysian-made, former Bond girl star - Michelle Yeoh. Ask me a nerd who does not love a Star Trek series and I’ll show you a liar.

Queer Eye
A reboot of the popular hit series Queer Eye for the straight guys, aired about a decade ago I think. The new Queer Eye features the same fabulous 5 gays giving decor & fashion advice to hopeless Americans. I know everyone have the hots for Jonathan Van Ness right?

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
If you grow up watching Sabrina The Teenage Witch, whether the original 70s series or the 1996 remake, you’re in for a shock with the 2018 reboot. Chilling Adventures features a darker more sinister theme compared to the 2 previous editions. If you remember Sally Draper from Mad Men, she’s almost grown up now and took a leading role in this chilling teenage drama series.

The Good Place
Where do people go when they die? Many believe one will either go to heaven or hell depending on how good or bad they’ve been on earth. The Good Place tackles this question in comic kind of way when Eleanor Shellstrop was mistakenly sent to The Good Place after she died when she clearly did not deserve to go there in the first place. Why was bad girl Eleanor sent there in the first place? Did The Management screw up somewhere? Is there really is a Medium Place? Watch The Good Place on Netflix to find out!

Kim’s Convenience
Kim’s Convenience is a heart-warming Canadian comedy series based around the lovable Mr Kim and his family. It’s funny and witty and if you did not fall in love with Appa by the end of the show, there’s clearly something wrong with you.

The Haunting of Hill House
This series is not your typical jump scare horror flick. There’s something deeper behind the haunting of Hill House, something to do with the history of the house and it’s former residents. You’d thought the haunting would stop once they moved on with their lives right? Well apparently not and things started to get scarier once a family member returns to the Hill House and die there. It’s a horror series with a lot of twist and turn and the ending will shock you!Look out for the bent neck lady!

The IT Crowd
The IT Crowd is a ridiculously funny British sitcom originally released over two decades ago but I only cared to watch recently on Netflix. Being an IT guy myself, I can totally relate with this series. Too bad there’s only about a dozen episode of the IT Crowd on Netflix, not the total 25.

Marvel’s Iron Fist
The first of the many Marvel made for Netlfix series, if you’ve read Marvel comic books before, you’ve probably heard of Iron Fist. Danny Rand, a survivor of a plane crash which killed both his parent, returns to New York from a mythical place called Kun Lung with a fiery fist and some badass kung fu moves. Like Bruce Wayne, Danny inherit his parent’s riches but (naturally) he has no interest in the family billions but dedicates his life with fighting crimes and saving lives. Iron Fist was cancelled after just 2 seasons.

Marvel’s Daredevil
After Iron Fist, I was enticed to watch Daredevil. To get a little bit of backstory, I watched the movie first which starred Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner. After being involved in an accident with chemical spills (a likely story), Matt Murdoch lost his sight but enhanced his other senses and also he could see via sonic vibrations (like a bat). Apart from that, Daredevil is your typical crime-fighting vigilante who kick bad guys asses but also run afoul of the law.

Marvel’s The Punisher
The last of Marvel’s made for Netlfix and also cancelled superhero series, The Punisher tells the story of ex-marine Frank Castle who seeks to avenge his wife and kid’s death and also taking law in his own hands. Despite possessing no extraordinary superpower, Frank Castle could really take a beating which would have finished lesser mortals. Jon Bernthal is made to play Frank Castle and I’m really sorry to see this show ends.

Narcos: Mexico
After 3 seasons of Narcos: Colombia, Narcos: Mexico is a companion series, different from the parent show. Like its namesake, this one focuses on the illegal drug trade in Mexico, how the Guadalajara Cartel rose to power and the beginning on the war on drugs. I enjoyed this thrilling show just as much as the one with Pablo Escobar and the Cali carteleee.

Jack Whitehall: Travels with My Father
Comedian Jack Whitehall travels to a few Asian and European countries with his conservative father to comic effect.

Money Heist (La Casa de Papel)
What happens when a motley crew of seemingly ordinary criminals try to rob the Royal Spanish Mint? A lot actually when they’re guided by a criminal mastermind called The Professor. Watch the thrilling twist and turn as this series go. One of the few good Spanish language series on Netflix.

Anti-ICERD rally and the perils of misinformation

Image from Malay Mail Online 

On December 8th 2018, about 80,000 people thronged the streets of Kuala Lumpur in protest of the government plan to ratify the International Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). Yes you heard that right, the malays in Malaysia is protesting against the end of all kind of racial discrimination in the country, meaning these lot surely love their discriminatory policies here.

A little background story. ICERD was initiated by the United Nations (UN) in 1965 to deal with global racial intolerance but in Malaysia, it was perceived as a threat to bumiputra special privileges (Article 153) and Islam. Malaysia is one of only 18 countries in the world that have not ratified ICERD which include the likes of North Korea, Myanmar, Angola, Bhutan & Brunei. In the muslim world, all muslim-majority countries have ratified ICERD, except two which are you guessed it, Malaysia and Brunei.

On September 2018, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad addressed the UN General Assembly where he said the government has pledged to ratify all remaining core UN instruments related to the protection of human rights. Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin raised concerns about ICERD’s impact on bumiputera privileges in Dewan Rakyat. He questioned whether different rights or special status of bumiputeras will cease to exist after ratifying ICERD? Khairy’s comment was picked by Utusan Malaysia which reported that ICERD would threaten the special positions of Malays and Islam in the country. What followed was a series of protests that brought conservative forces together and culminated with UMNO and PAS announcing a mega rally against ICERD.

While several ministers stressed that “reservations” can be made to preserve Article 153, the idea that ICERD would overwrite Article 153 had become public perception. ICERD Article 1(4) specifically say
Special measures taken for the sole purpose of securing adequate advancement of certain racial or ethnic groups… shall not be deemed racial discrimination, provided they shall not be continued after the objectives for which they were taken have been achieved.
Countries are allowed to ratify ICERD with reservations, which works like a caveat. Some countries have made reservations so that the convention would not supersede their constitution. Thailand for example does not interpret and apply the provisions of this Convention as imposing…any obligation beyond the confines of the Constitution and the laws of the Kingdom of Thailand. Nepal meanwhile stresses that nothing in the Convention shall be deemed to require or to authorise legislation or other action by Nepal incompatible with the provisions of the Constitution of Nepal [source: UN Treaty Collection].

Given the examples, Malaysia can ratify ICERD with similar reservations to put to rest concerns that it would affect the Federal Constitution. Muslim majority countries like Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Qatar, Iraq & Afghanistan that practise syariah law but have ratified ICERD. Some countries have also made a reservation so that ICERD cannot supersede its syariah law.

So the crux of the matter is, ratifying ICERD should be a non-issue since it can be implemented without affecting bumiputra special rights (read: crutches) that they seems to love so much and even more so the position of Islam as the official religion. However UMNO, PAS and other far right groups have hijacked this issue and manipulated the sentiments of conservative malays for their benefit and score brownie points for their cause. And I am ashamed to say that my in-laws have fallen hook, line and sinker to this ploy where they wholeheartedly supported the protests against ICERD. Some even took down to the streets of KL that day for absolutely no good reason.

I suppose for simple-minded people without much exposure to the global effort to end racism and discrimination, having certain parties playing on their racial and religious sentiments is all too easy. They have this unfounded fear that the malays will lose their special rights - university & housing quotas or even more ridiculous - the position of Islam itself will be threatened when ICERD is ratify. Tell that to Saudi Arabia for goodness sake. I’m sure not many of them actually looked into what ICERD is really all about and just follow the herd mentality to simply oppose for the sake of opposing. This is especially true for my PAS card-carrying members in-laws.

So children, the moral of the story here, don’t just oppose or join something without knowing in depth what are you fighting for. I actually rolled my eyes when they claim this anti-ICERD rally is not much different than the Bersih rallies that I had attended before. How a rally for a clean and fair election is similar to a pro-racism rally is beyond me.

While the government in its wisdom finally decided against ratifying ICERD, the damage is already done in term of the country’s reputation in term of eliminating racial discrimination.

This post features excerpts from The ICERD Outrage article on Malaysiakini.

Port Dickson short getaway

It does not feel right for us to let 2 months of school holiday go by without taking the kids somewhere nice (our hometown does not count). But the thing about last minute reservations is, they are always more expensive than early bookings. Like it or not, that’s the way it is. The small 2-bed room at Corus Paradise Resort in Port Dickson cost us around 300 ringgit for this Christmas eve trip.

Living further south in Semenyih, the journey to Port Dickson (PD) took us just slightly over an hour. The parking lot was crowded with tenants but we managed to squeeze into a parking spot. As I said the room was tiny, just enough to fit 2 queen-size beds, a couple of chairs and that’s it. Not ideal for our family of 5 but we had to make do. It’s the only hotel with a beachfront and swimming pool. We’ve looked at a few AirBNB place but none were actually right beside the beach or the ones that do is beyond our budget. After checking in, the kids did not waste time getting into the swimming pool. Later we had a little swim and dip in the sea just outside the hotel.

Port Dickson beach does not exactly offer sandy white beaches or crystal-clear water but the beach is relatively clean with the odd rubbish here and there. The water is mixed with darkish sediment but it is still swimmable. We frolicked around the beach until sunset before returning to our hotel room.

In the evening I took my wife out for dinner in PD town. There’s a few place to choose from but we ultimately settled for a regular tom yam restaurant near the PD waterfront area. The food not bad but not exactly stellar. On the way back we say a fun fair that looks pretty interesting to especially for the kids. However after some quick calculation, the rides are going to cost us at least 20 ringgit each, that’s over a hundred ringgit for all of us. Wish we had some money to burn but it is the week before the school reopens and you know how much that’s gonna cost. So we decided to skip it altogether. Perhaps another time.

The next day the kids went for another round of swimming and bathing in the swimming pool. As always, Linda and the girls took the free breakfast buffet while Adam and I drive around PD town looking for a breakfast place. There’s no way I’m going to pay 32 ringgit for a lousy hotel breakfast buffet. It would be a great dishonour for my asian values. We did found a decent restaurant just outside town and it cost half what the hotel charges.

Before going back, we stopped by the army museum along the main road going out of PD. You can’t miss it, it’s literally at the main junction between PD and Teluk Kemang. There was a steady stream of visitors to the museum, not exactly crowded but alive. There was no entry fee whatsoever which probably explains the poor upkeep of the place. Some of the exhibit rooms have no functioning air-conditioner or proper ventilation making them really hot and stuffy, not conducive to visiting at all. As a result, some visitors (ie me) would not want to spend too much time in the building as we quickly make our way out to find fresh air. Honestly I think people would be more than willing to pay a nominal fee to keep the place running better and more visitor-friendly. It’s a shame really because there’s much to learn from many of the historical and informative exhibits.

And that conclude our short holiday getaway to PD. To be honest, I will not be thrilled to visit the town again any time soon. There’s simply not much for us to do except bath in the sea water or swimming pool. Nothing much to do that do would not cost us an arm and a leg to be precise.