Columnist

Colin Boyd Shafer

Colin Boyd Shafer teaches social science at a college in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Aside from writing/ranting, he concentrates most of his time doing documentary photography, trying to create a dialogue around sensitive issues. You can follow his work at ‘Colinizing Photography’ on Facebook.

Miss Transgender Malaysia 2011

OCT 30 — The event was called “Fashion and Sense” but behind this euphemism necessary in a “conservative” country like Malaysia was the national... READ MORE

Losing the race

OCT 19 — The topic of race is often referred to as “sensitive” in Malaysia.  In other words, don’t talk about it in public — and incessantly in... READ MORE

The Malaysian witch hunt

SEPT 13 — With news of the death threats against a Malay man for saying he’s gay, ridiculous 8TV commercials over Ramadan belittling Malaysia’s... READ MORE

1 Canadian

AUG 4 — Every July, I go back to Canada to let everyone know I am still alive and reconnect with those who don’t do the cyber-family thing. Most... READ MORE

Flexible in the wrong places

JULY 5 — Singapore is known as a strict and inflexible country. Malaysians like to make fun of Singa“bore” and its rigidity, laws, and uptight way... READ MORE

The arms trade and our collective future

MAY 31 — Oil, sex, drugs and weapons. In both legal and illegal ways, all four of these industries make more money than I’ll ever see. However,... READ MORE

The sissies’ movement

APRIL 27 — Kuala Lumpur April 18, 2050. We had a dream and the dream came true. Looking back on it all now, I feel a sense of nostalgia.  The Prime... READ MORE

Dear Ocean, sorry for your loss

MARCH 29 — When we look out at the ocean, we feel inspired. It is opaque, it is grand, it is romantic, it is bigger than we can ever be. Not so... READ MORE

Protesting for love

FEB 23 — Before coming to Malaysia almost three years ago, I asked my friends at home what they knew about this distant land. Sadly, most referred... READ MORE

Scattered beliefs

FEB 17 — This weekend I was in secular Singapore. Oddly enough, I found myself involved in “energy” and “spirituality.” By the end of the weekend,... READ MORE

To blink or not to blink

FEB 9 — Since my first days in the country, I realised Malaysia was anti-blink. While it is “pro” many things, such as censoring movies and eating... READ MORE

The case for critical Islam

FEB 2 — I was excited to hear that Ziauddin Sardar, described as “one of the finest intellectuals on the planet,” was in town.  Born in Pakistan,... READ MORE

The next Kitty Cafe

JAN 26 — I’m sure that at one point or another, everyone who hears of a good business idea proclaims, “I wish I had thought of that!” It doesn’t... READ MORE

Don’t read the signs

JAN 19 — People learn their zodiac sign at an early age, and with good reason. Astrology is big business.  For example, most newspapers and... READ MORE

The Nuclear Club and the 21st century

JAN 13 — I write this article from Hiroshima, Japan. In this city on August 6, 1945, an American bomber dropped a nuclear device code named Little... READ MORE

Tolerant of death threats, intolerant of gays

JAN 6 — When I first watched Joel Burn’s “It Gets Better” video, I was moved to tears. To think that so many young people were committing suicide... READ MORE

Getting to know ‘the other’ in Japan

DEC 28 — My late grandfather was an American fighter pilot in the Second World War.  He fought in the skies over the Pacific, against the hated... READ MORE

Malaysia’s disability

DEC 21 — I spent four summers as a counsellor at an Easterseals camp for youth with disabilities. I have worked at many camps, but I especially... READ MORE

The joy of scepticism

DEC 8 — If there’s one thing I enjoy, it’s scepticism.  I know the word has a pessimistic connotation.  It is a word used synonymously with doubt.... READ MORE

Warning: This article is about race

DEC 1 — Recently there was an article in The Star regarding the state of HIV/Aids in Malaysia. It ended: “Malays had the highest number of... READ MORE

Choosing a strange path

NOV 24 — The other day I sent a Facebook event invite to some old friends. Their profiles were all about marriages and babies; most of them have... READ MORE

Her release and their continued struggle

NOV 17 — Social media sites have been bombarded by words of excitement, encouragement, and absolute elation upon news of the release of The... READ MORE

Choose a moral life

NOV 9 — Living in Malaysia has taught me how religiosity and morality are often used interchangeably. I grew up in a non-religious — but very moral... READ MORE

Whistleblowers for peace

NOV 3 — Already feeling down and out, I was walking briskly in the rain. Somewhere out of the clouds came a long whistle. This sound should have... READ MORE

The importance of activism

OCT 26 — The other day four of my friends wanted to go out for dinner. I told them to go on without me as we didn’t have a permit. After all,... READ MORE

Embrace the tap

OCT 13 — Twenty-first century humans like bottled water.  According to Earth Policy Institute (EPI), global consumption of bottled water doubled... READ MORE

Everyone can fly, but not everything can…

OCT 7 — Many jobs have safety equipment in the form of clothing. Doctors wear gloves, construction workers wear hard hats, deep-sea divers wear wet... READ MORE

The ‘Malaysian’ outsider

SEPT 30 — This week I was told bluntly by some friends I had not seen in many years that my belly had grown much bigger. In university I was... READ MORE

Me, Jakarta and a guy named Ricky

SEPT 22 — One Friday during Ramadan I found myself in Jakarta. I thought it would be an excellent day to take pictures of  the Istiqlal Mosque,... READ MORE

1 Love?

SEPT 15 — From what I understand, inter-racial and interfaith relationships are gaining acceptance in Malaysia. Films like the late Yasmin Ahmad’s... READ MORE

Baby dumping: Blame someone before someone blames you!

SEPT 7 — I am not an avid “Family Guy” viewer, but a good friend of mine is. The other day we were discussing how the show was recently un-banned... READ MORE

Attention, Malaysia! Pakistan needs help

SEPT 1 — Fourteen million people displaced, four million homeless, 1,600 dead — so far.  These are the numbers coming out of flood-devastated... READ MORE

The secret’s out… Malaysia’s worst jobs! Part 2

AUG 24 — Last week, I ran down the first half of Malaysia’s Worst Jobs rankings. As stated previously, I gained access to a Wikileaks document, and... READ MORE

The secret’s out… Malaysia’s worst jobs!

AUG 17 — It looks like the days of classified intelligence are over. Wikileaks.org recently released the Afghan War Diary. The site posted 91,000... READ MORE

The other side of tourism

AUG 11 — I have been fortunate enough to travel to many sights others only dream of. I have swum with penguins in the Galapagos islands, sipped... READ MORE

As gay as anywhere else

AUG 3 — Life for a gay person in Malaysia can’t be easy. After all, this “choice” of lifestyle is a crime. An act that is considered homosexual is... READ MORE

Faith in fashion

JULY 27 — One of my earliest social realisations was that there is a connection between how one dresses and how one is treated. At one point in my... READ MORE

Giving life to options in death

JULY 20 — I remember one day, long ago, we hit a bird with the family car. It didn’t die right away. But we knew the bird’s life, at least what was... READ MORE

Tips on tips

JULY 14 — Being back in North America reminded me of what it’s like to have service that is better than the food. My homeland puts Asia to shame in... READ MORE

Durian justice

JULY 8 — I would like to take a moment to discuss a serious systemic problem in not only Malaysia, but South-east Asia at large: Durian... READ MORE

What sports can teach us

JUNE 30 — Last week I got to enjoy the World Cup match between the United States and Ghana at a beach restaurant in Grand Bend, Ontario. It is a... READ MORE

Turtle pond photographers

JUNE 23 — With the digital camera revolutionising photography, we seem to be left with too much technology and not enough personal flare.  In... READ MORE

Parents, please don’t forget passion

JUNE 15 — As a teacher, I have had many meetings with parents and students. The topic of these meetings is often to inform me what their children... READ MORE

The sacredness of choice

JUNE 8 — I am fortunate to be able to choose what belief system works for me.  I could be a Christian, a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Scientologist, a Jew,... READ MORE

Rest In [green] Peace

JUNE 1 — The other day I enjoyed a stroll through the coffin exhibit at the National Museum. I was amazed to see the variety of ways Asian cultures... READ MORE

A Jew against Israel?

MAY 25 — A group sits around a table frustrated with Israel for its latest action.  They wish things could be handled differently. There is too... READ MORE

Somewhere along the East-West border

APRIL 27 — Living in Malaysia for almost two years has given me new insight into the socially constructed and highly subjective categories of... READ MORE

The Ingestocentric Food Wars: The right handers, the chopstickers, and the Spoon and Forkers

APRIL 20 — I am highly concerned about a looming war and I have decided to create a new word to explain why it may come about:... READ MORE

The search for 1 Malaysia

APRIL 13 — Recently I submitted a series of photos to the KL Photo Awards. The photos show children from five Asian countries including Malaysia.... READ MORE

Finding a home: Being Burmese in Malaysia

APRIL 6 — I recently returned from Myanmar. In a word, it was beautiful. No McDonalds or ATMs, few mobiles and televisions, many pagodas and... READ MORE

Uncomfortable skin

MARCH 31 — Recently I went to a dermatologist and discovered something about skin. This skin specialist’s office clearly wasn’t making its money... READ MORE

Goodbye meat!

MARCH 16 — I have not eaten red or white meat for almost a year.  Recently, I even said goodbye to seafood. I have completely given up eating... READ MORE

Sex education and the culture of confusion

MARCH 9 — At work, my computer’s homepage automatically shows the Top Ten most read articles from The Star. I have noticed a pattern in these... READ MORE

Let’s talk about canes

MARCH 2 — Before coming here, I never thought much about canes but when I did, it was usually in a positive light. Walking canes help the... READ MORE

Malaysia: A multi-bathroom-style country

FEB 23 — Asia’s toilets can shock the most seasoned traveller. An Asian public washroom — or “toilet” — causes an ethnocentric reaction in many... READ MORE

How to greet pedestrians

MAY 18 — One of the most beautiful elements of Malaysian culture is the simple greeting of a loose handshake followed by a touch of the heart.... READ MORE

My Mom, the angel

MAY 9 — Every Mother’s Day we try to tell our moms how much they really mean to us, but often our words fall short of expressing the exact... READ MORE

Mall-aysia’s mallitis

MAY 4 — When someone from home asks me to explain what I love about Malaysia, I really wouldn’t know where to start; the depth of culture, the... READ MORE