Serih Ireland: A Photo Essay
July 22, 2009

If you don't know it already (shame on you), I was born, to play futsal.

Ah, futsal... the miniature version of the world's game, or rather, the beautiful game, that is football. Ten men of two five-a-side teams running after the ball on a pitch ¼ the size of an official field brawling their way in the fast-paced tug o' war of egos with the aim of outdoing each other's wit and athletic prowess for, well... if they're like my friends, about 6 minutes before they lay flat on the ground gasping for air.

But it is what we do every Friday night; gasp for air. In fact, for the majority of us, it's the highlight of our week. Which is quite sad when you consider that it involves ten sweaty guys having a go at each other for 90 minutes.

Last Friday, however, we had the privilege of having an up-and-coming, aspiring photographer friend of ours Ihsan Khairir by the sidelines. Perhaps we could ignore, for the time being, that he was actually there to check if he could play; 'cos he was around the area. For he had with him, his trusty camera. A serendipity, all too fitting possibly, for him to capture the magic that is my footballing wizardry.

And upon witnessing the result of his exceptional photographic skill in capturing my athletic brilliance, I said to myself, “Damn I need a haircut...” and later, “Surely, this needs a photo-essay of its own.”

With that, may I present to you, a literary take on the real-time football match experimental film concept of 'Zinedine Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait'... 'Serih Ireland: A 26 Year Old Virgin'.

Yes, Serih Ireland. That's my name on the pitch... a mesh between my nickname in school and a tribute to arguably one of the greatest players to ever don the sacred Manchester City shirt, Stephen Ireland. Aptly, I can be seen in this shot working very hard at my pre-game warm-up routine: 'The Riverdance'; where I'll Irish tap dance around the field like the great Michael Flatley. Hence the title's connotation to virginity. Sigh.

I think this was a few minutes into the game (3, to be exact) where, as a trained professional, I needed a few gulps of Gatorade. So I had to direct one of the guys to run to the nearest 7-11 and grab me a bottle. To which he duly responded something really unpleasant, and rhymed with 'truck few'.

Oh, this is a good one. It was like a few minutes before half-time when I was just about ready to get back on the pitch 'til everyone called for time-off as it was, yes, half-time. Where I'll get back to the bench gulping down their drinks... as I was for the majority of the first half.

Right, don't be fooled by this one now. This is not 'The Riverdance'. I was actually telling Ihsan to get a shot of the others as well. Now while I do acknowledge the fact that my Cruyffian 'Total Football' orchestration was just too mesmerizing for his lenses, I still felt that the rest needed their 15 minutes of fame as well...

...before I get back into the frame of course. I believe this was the final existing shot of his from that night. And aptly enough, it was the last shot of the game as well. As you can see, I was in the middle of a rather acrobatic kick to, you know, end the game on a high. Which really happened judging by the distance of the ball from the goalpost.

Ihsan, thanks for making some time and sending me the glorious shots. And not quitting photography after this.

Ring me up! Before you go, go!
July 12, 2009

The thing about living in a household with two sisters young enough to fight over Barbie dolls is that, apart from having to surrender the remote to them and consequently sacrificing the TV to the Disney Channel 24/7, you're committed to spending half of your time at home, as their phone operator.

A large portion of my childhood was spent in the early 90s where cellular phones, were just as alien as cassette tapes today. Thus outside of school, the only mode of communication that I had with my friends was the home phone. And since the phone was shared by the whole family, it was only suiting that my usage of the phone was limited to discussing about school e.g. homework, timetable, schedule and occasionally, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Today, however, despite the advancement of cellular technology which has allowed children as young as 3 to own personal cellphones (my sisters included), our home phone remains as hot as ever between the two girls. Every time it rings, they race their way to the phone as if it's the Jonas Brothers on the line. Which may be quite close at times, to their despair though... when it's actually the Jega Brothers, our friendly neighborhood security guards. Never fails to crack me up.

As painful as they can be, the girls do strictly adhere to our parents' monthly cellphone allowance for them. A little too strict perhaps now that they've valued their cellphone minutes to be only second to the value of our house. Thus, their utilization pattern has been cellphone = SMS and home phone = calls. A rather smart approach if you ask me; with some room for improvement though. Especially when they are still sending short messages like "k", "totally!" and ":-)".

I've learned to ignore the phone when it rings. For as I mentioned, we already have two future national sprinters dashing their way to answer it. Unfortunately, the phone is located right beside where I spend the bulk of my time at home: on the couch, in front of the TV, when it's not airing the Disney Channel. So whenever it rings in the middle of a catfight between the ladies of Desperate Housewives -- to which I usually give my utmost attention to -- I'm left with no choice but to pick it up.

With 95% of the calls coming from either their school friends or cousins, picking up the phone would also mean enduring minor hearing damage as more often than not, girls their age collectively possess a vocal pitch worthy of fronting a mid-80s rock band. And in the instance of answering the call when they aren't at home, I'm usually led to having a rather lengthy phone conversation of my own...

"Hello, may I speak to Sarah?"
"She's not around."
"Where did she go?"

"Out with her mom."
"When will she be back?"

"In a bit."
"How long has she been gone?"
"About an hour."
"Who are you?"
"Her brother."
"What are you up to?"
"Nothing. Just hanging. Watching some TV."
"E! True Hollywood Story?"
"Yeah. No hang on, how do you know?"
"Ha ha... I know you. You're the 'loser brother'."
"Screw you."
"Mooooom... Sarah's brother is telling me to scr..."
"Toot. Toot. Toot. Toot."

Alas, it's hard to ignore the adorable sights of them talking on the phone sharing stories and laughing out loud though I, may be the subject of their mockery. The little girls who used to just pick up the phone, press some random numbers and pretend to be talking to someone have all grown up now. From talking to a dial tone, they're now talking to their peers with topics ranging from math problems to Hannah Montana.

I guess it's only to be embraced; that the girls are still using the home phone. For time flies. And I don't think it would be long before they could afford to fully use their own cellphones. Which would then, leave the home phone in seclusion, not ringing anymore and collecting dust before we actually decide to just terminate the line. A taste perhaps, of the changes to come.

Maybe I'll just savor the rings while it's still around. Not when I'm in the middle of E! True Hollywood Story though.

What's wrong here?
July 07, 2009

Let the page load and move your mouse cursor over the picture (for a while) to find out...

It's been a long day.

Romancing the Gallstone
July 04, 2009

Yesterday, in between the subjects that we usually engross ourselves in (e.g. cars, gadgets, sports, Hanis Zalikha), me and my friends we had the pleasure of discussing about something that was somewhat, out of our norm. An issue, or rather, a problem, if you will, that has been bugging us for quite a while now. One that had barred us from gaining that extra mile i.e. going beyond the reachable lengths in our social lives, if any. At the very least, it called us to get out of our comfort zone.

Some of you may wonder, "Could this 'problem' in reference pertain to the size of their genitals, or lack of it?" to which I would have to duly disaffirm "No, kind sir. I, unlike my friends, for one am not in the position to worry about being well-endowed."

For our issue of focus at the time was instead, self-confidence.

History has proven how self-confidence leads to outstanding heights among great men. Genghis Khan wouldn't have led the Mongol Empire, only the largest contiguous empire of all time and once the owner of Central Asia, without it. Napoleon wouldn't have shaped 19th century European politics without it. Barack Obama wouldn't have been the first African American president of the United States without it. Above all, my good friend Din wouldn't have picked up that blazing hot chick at the bookstore the other day, without it.

Lucky bastard.

But would it make any difference though? Cursing Din for successfully hitting on a girl after he'd inflated his own balls to approach her. He deserved it. For all you know they could be sharing a bowl of her favorite ice cream at this point of writing. He wasn't lucky. We were. We both found the girl but he was the only one with gonads worthy of enduring the warpath of a battlefield before approaching her; leaving me stranded in the midst of the aisles of novels stacking themselves up and forming animated faces on their covers ready to have a laugh at me in unison. At least that was how it happened in my head.

Among the many things that we talked about, were the underlying reasons that lead to our lack of confidence; particularly in the presence of a member of the opposite gender. I recall writing about how we roar like the king of the jungle in our own company but bring a girl near the table and we'll squirm away like little kittens. The way she affects the atmosphere at the table boggles the mind; the way she turns us, into these uncomfortable beings.

One minute, you'll have a bunch of guys talking like Mr. T; outdoing each other's bravado with stories about manly things e.g. exhaust pipes, with profanities to boot. The next minute, however, the very same people would turn into this group of over-sensitive men who'll give their utmost attention to the girl's stories even if they're about things that they've never seen in real life e.g. potpourris; sounding like Clay Aiken in the process.

Such timidity arises from a certain form of fear. The fear of faux pas; the classic social gaffe that has turned princes to paupers and riches to rags. A self-destructive error that happens without warning, let alone permissible control.

We were in the company of two very pleasant, newly-acquainted ladies recently and things seemed to be going very well with everyone at the table exchanging his/her favorite traveling stories. During which, one of the ladies shared a very inspiring tale of her hike up Mt. Kinabalu...

"It was no easy feat and I could barely catch any breath until, we reached the peak where none of it mattered. I was on top of the world!" she said, her eyes glowing.

"Wow! That's totally amazing! I wish to do the same someday!" I responded, my eyes glowing as well.

"Yeah, impressive. You must've been what... half your size back then?" a friend of mine, whom I shouldn't name here, swiftly reacted, with the straightest of faces.

Inevitably, the awkward silence that follows calls for me to ring up the waiter for the bill. And that rendezvous shall remain the one and only meeting we'll ever have with our new hiker girl friend.

While this may come as a surprise, the level of ignorance, as demonstrated by my good friend in the above anecdote, is all but rare among guys. Was he really saying it with the intention of demeaning the girl? I doubt it. It was merely an observation but what guys need to start acknowledging is that, with us, honesty, is not necessarily the best policy. When in doubt, shut the hell up. If only he had known that questioning a girl's weight is as big a taboo as say, I don't know, beating up the Jonas Brothers?

Ironically, apart from the fear that we have over the stuff that our big mouths could utter, there's also the fear of, yes, each other.

You see, one of the most satisfying feelings a guy could have is the enjoyment of making fun of his friends. Hence, what better platform is there for a guy to screw up then in the presence of a girl, in front of his friends. The guy who asked about the hiker girl's weight earlier would agree. It could happen in so many ways. From choking to mixing up words... I've seen it all, if not done it myself.

In closing, dear friends, if you do happen to have a pointer or two for us to overcome this perplexing situation of ours, please do share. For we would gratefully appreciate your insights.

Who knows? It may well make the world a better place. Or at least, the Jonas Brothers, spared from a good beat up.

Photography by Azalia Suhaimi

  • Asrif, b. 1983
  • Subang Jaya, Malaysia
  • asrifomar[@]gmail[.]com
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