Friday, August 15, 2008

(Old school) Bird-baiting 101

If you notice, I try to update the links on the right panel as often as I can. It’s always a pleasure to come across Starians on the web every now and then. But recently I stumbled upon the Starian community on Friendster and felt rather inundated. There appears to be already about 520 members who have signed up on the Friendster Star Ipoh Group which has, as I had discovered, a slightly wider reach compared to the Staroba Yahoogroup with 475 members.

Being ever the amateur anthropologist, I undertook a careful study of social networking practices of Starians on Friendster and I make this observation: the mating habits of Starians have certainly changed a lot from my days.

In particular, I zoomed into some profiles of the boys still in school. I must say I was impressed. It appears pretty normal for each of them to have 50 to 100 “friends”. One chap even had 366. And I can’t even find anybody to go to lunch with.

I can’t help comparing the ease at which this current e-generation make friends to the cumbersome socializing efforts of old school Starians. With a Friendster account, surreptitious handphone, fair determinaton and basic understanding of statistics I can’t see how any of our budding Don Juans could fail to score with chicks. As I understand it one only needs to click the “add as friend” button and voila! one could already give Giacomo Casanova a run for his money. As evidenced by the list of friends one thriving member of Fivers 2008 has:

When I was in STAR, I swear I could only count my female correpondents on one hand. Yes, one hand. And even if I had 2 fingers amputated, I could have still managed it quite well.

It was so different back then. For our boys during the 80s, the norm would be to get pen-friends from other SBPs, notably from STF, SSP and TKC through more protracted means. At this point I don’t want to go into details about the various schemes we hatched to get to know girls from other schools. But invariably, this would involve using the “bertukar-tukar kertas soalan” ruse. With only low-tech communication means at our disposal, namely snail-mail and public telephones, our reach did not go far and wide.

I remember that it would always be a source of excitement for the whole dorm or classroom when one of our numbers received a letter post-marked KL, Seremban or Johor Bahru. It would cause more excitement if the envelope was in a pastel shade and had a slight scent emanating. There would be a sense of trepidation those moments before the envelope was opened because who knows what it would contain? I would say that everybody in the dorm would have a vested interest in the contents because a group photo of the pen-friend and her friends would open further opportunities for other long-distance correspondences.

I say that it’s too easy now. I’m not sure how meaningful the cyber-friendships are. I suspect if you have 366 friends you don’t get very distraught if one of your hot cyber-girlfriends does not reply your email for 2 weeks (or vice versa).

So as a fairly experienced member of the old guard, I would like to offer our schoolboy romeos an alternative low-tech system to make you stand out from the crowd. Just follow the instructions below and I guarantee you will stand out from the other soulless profiles.
Step 1:

Take note of your “angka giliran” for SPM (or PMR of you want to start early). You need only be concerned with the last 3 digits, because there are only about 120 students in a batch. Let’s say yours is 013 (which happened to be mine), then you would want to also find a friend from one the girls’ boarding schools with the same number. Come to think of it, there’s no reason why you can’t try this with a number of different candidates to maximise your returns. Come to think of it further, there’s no reason why you can’t use this tactic even if you have taken your SPM already (in 1975).

If you are not risk averse, you might also want to try these tactics with a Sekolah Menengah Sains student – be warned: your penfriend might or might not turn out to be a girl, but to each his own.

Step 2:

Pick up a piece of paper and write a letter to the intended recipient along these lines:


Seperti saudari, saya adalah calon SPM No. 013 tahun 2008. Sukacita jika saudari ingin bertukar-tukar kertas soalan peperiksaan dengan saya.

You need to sign off with your name, not your number. Of course, don’t forget your return address (preferably snail mail for that retro old school effect).

Step 3:

Stuff the letter in an envelope and write down as follows (by way of an example):

Calon SPM No. 013 (Tingkatan 5)
Sekolah Tun Fatimah
Jalan Tun Abdul Razak,
80000 Johor Bahru, Johor Darul Ta'zim

Step 4:

Stick a 30 sen stamp on the envelope. If are born after 1990 and you don’t know what this is, it’s a small sticky piece of paper that you paste on an envelope indicating that you have paid Pos Malaysia for delivering your letter to the recipient on the envelope. You can get this from any post office.

Step 5:

Shove the letter into a red post box and see what happens. Assuming the mail distribution systems of these schools work like they did during my time, the kind prefect on duty will ask around during prep and deliver your letter to the lucky recipient.
I’m assuming that you would have enough sense to know what to do next in trying to woo your target. Well, taking this to its logical conclusion, at some point you would actually need to exchange exam papers (and compilation tapes CDs). But remember, the "old school bird bait" eschews the use of digital communication, so cross off scanning the papers from your to-do list. How real old school heroes do it is to photocopy the exam papers (yes, photocopy machines were already invented during my schooldays) roll them up in a thick cylindrical shape, write your intended’s name and address on it, stick the requisite stamp and send it off. I still don’t know why we packed them as chunky batons rather than use large envelopes –it was probably something to do with lower postage costs but I can’t be too sure.

Phew! That sounds like very hard work actually (no wonder my rate of success then was zero). All right then, if this is too much effort and Friendster’s not giving you any joy there’s always Facebook. (I really have to sell off my Pos Malaysia Bhd shares soon).

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A cheerless future?

It’s easy to assume that my return to blogging after a long hiatus coincides with the recent OBW that we had last weekend. In a way it does although it’s not my intention to provide a review of OBW2008. In fact a review from me wouldn’t do justice as I wasn’t there for a sufficient duration. I really went for the STAROBA AGM, being an election year. I felt that I had to do my democratic duty to prevent lazy undeserving wankers from serving in the committee. Oh yes, since my batch (and my firm, in part) sponsored the rugby jerseys for the boys I was interested to see what value our advertising ringgit bought.

The rugger match that afternoon turned out to be between STAR and Sekolah Sultan Alam Shah (SSAS). It was the inaugural Arshad Ahmad Trophy annual match between STAR and SSAS. For those who don’t know, Arshad Ahmad is an old boy who taught and coached rugby in STAR and later went on to do the same for SSAS (he’s their current coach). It was the first time in my memory we played rugby against SSAS who I must say turned out quite impressively. It wasn’t just their smart Carisbrook kit (complete with matching socks) that proved that they meant business but it was obvious from their demeanour that these boys lived and breathed rugby. Of course, if these were MCKK boys in similar garb and mien, a thump on the head would prove to be quite necessary.

Our boys in contrast were quite a sight. The impact of their sleek new Cobratasha jerseys were significantly reduced by the shocking state of their …. socks.

It looked like they were undecided on whether to wear long or short socks and of what colour. Or in fact to wear any at all. But fashion sensibilities notwithstanding, I still had high hopes for them. After all, I was told that these boys were the Perak champs that year, demolishing MCKK 11 -5, in the process. There were moments when our boys seemed quite lost during the game but in true Starian spirit they rose to the occasion and delivered a 17-17 draw.

But during the game I was quite to disturbed to see a number of things.

Firstly, there was no “Cobratasha!!” battlecry by the rugger players. There were some noises made during the group huddle but not our familiar rallying call.

Secondly, while the match was going on, quite a number of boys were ignoring the match. Football games (which I’m sure were not part of the official OBW agenda) were going on with the players oblivious to an important rugby match underway.

Thirdly and most worryingly, the boys were not cheering. The old boys egged them on by hurling a barrage of old cheer songs (although some words slipped our minds) but we were met mostly with deadly silence. But encouragingly, there was one moment when SSAS was trying to convert and some noises were beginning to emerge. Were they going to chant “Push them back, push them back, way back!” like we used to do? But all the boys could manage was “Tak masuk, tak masuk!” like a bunch of unschooled fairies. At that point, I felt like just walking across the field to kick their sorry fairy asses.

I’ve heard this rumour that cheering is now banned in STAR but I refused to believe it. Why would anyone want to do away with a tradition that promotes self-esteem, camaraderie and self-identity? But apparently the school authorities do not see it that way: it should no longer be because it promotes the “bullying culture”. Like WTF?

I raised this issue in my batch’s yahoogroup discussion yesterday. Don commented very rightly, “Seriously, we are beginning to see the homogenization of the SBP. Traditions and individuality are being destroyed in the pursuit of churning out exam-scorers. In a decade, you won't be able to tell SDAR, SAS and STAR apart - might as well rename them SBP1, SBP2, SBP3.”

As I remember , the individuality of Starians were well-displayed during the 1986 PPM. We were in SMS Kelantan and at every basketball game we would be treating other (quiet) SBP denizens with our deafening renditions of “Ayak-ayak gantung”, “Dunlop”, “Rukun Tetangga” and other old favourites. So much so that the SMS Kelantan boys who got very pissed off (and by then were conscious of their nondescriptness) were planning to beat us up one night. The refreshing thing that came out of that was the boys from that other great cheering institution in KK felt it fit to put aside our usual rivalry and offer to lend a hand if it came to blows. Nothing happened and we quickly resumed our usual hostilities, much to everybody’s relief.

Anyway, in case cheering is reduced to an extinct anachronism in later years, I feel it to be my obligation to preserve at least a piece of our history in this blog. Show them how it's done, Pot and the lads …………