Yes, something bothers me. According to the World Bank 36% of the Malaysian population reaches tertiary education. NationMaster provides similar numbers. So it’s safe to say roughly one in three Malaysians go to college. The Higher Education Ministry disputes the numbers – it’s 40% they say – apparently the World Bank didn’t count those doing A Levels or its equivalent. Even so, Malaysia is behind countries like Thailand, with 45%, and South Korea, with 98%.

If education is the key to knowledge, and if knowledge is power, and if that power is the power to shatter the chains of ignorance and prejudice – then I’m concerned. Never mind the quality of local education yet. The escalating brain drain coupled with these numbers suggests a future where everything will remain just about the same. Books and freedom of expression – and ideas – are powerful things. The unbelievably (hilariously) long list of things censored and/or banned in Malaysia speaks volumes about the lengths to which the government will go to keep the people in the dark. Consider something as silly as Zoolander to something as serious as The Origin of Species. Banned, the lot of them. Right along with a host of books discussing Islam (Western writers know nothing!) and books with titles like: How To Talk To Your Child About Sex. The nation is being pushed back into ignorance while being simultaneously chided, scolded, and nagged to get an education. Talk about mixed messages.

What’s the point of an education, then? YouTubers are hauled to jail for making a parody of the national anthem. Bloggers are arrested for their opinions. Cartoonists are accused of sedition. Opposition newspapers are shut down for “inciting public unrest.” Press freedom has declined to a point where more African countries rank higher than Malaysia on the Worldwide Press Freedom Index. There is a veil being drawn across the country in the name of national security. Yet in the name of national security, there cannot be a veil. Racial and religious tensions flare up every now and then because many still live under a rock. We cannot mommy a population about what films are suitable or not and expect them to mature at the same time. We must read widely because literature can open eyes, and because nobody will get far on MPH bestsellers alone. We must be allowed to speak because that is a byproduct of an educated society. In fact, all these things are a byproduct of an educated society. It’s how nations grow up.

I hold to the quaint idea that knowledge leads to truth and that the truth will set you free. Free from things like ignorance, fear, and prejudice. That is the point of an education. Granted, going to college doesn’t necessarily equal getting an education. Neither does one have to go to college in order to be educated. However, the tertiary enrollment numbers in Malaysia mean either most do not have the opportunity, or most do not care to even try. Oh dear, either way, oh dear.

They told me yesterday. I’m not Chuck Norris. I cried like a baby. A helpless little baby. My bravado evaporated and I wept and shook.

There’s so much I still want to do. Yet I can’t.

I will die tomorrow.

I’ve gotten religion. It was a decision I made after much thought. I called a priest this morning and asked him to baptize me. I talked to him about making me a priest too. He said to give it some time, it was a big decision. The biggest, I said, and hurry up about it. I’ve become a new man.

The priest asked me what I would do if I were to be freed. I said I’d be a useful member of society. I’d get a job. I’d pay my taxes. God forgive me for evading the law for so long. I’d obey the traffic signs. Help old ladies cross the street. Tithe. Donate blood. Go to the villages in the remotest jungles and bring stacks of Bibles. Read the newspapers. Vote.

No longer will I knock down anyone in my way. I’ll be polite. I’m not going to plot to take advantage of the old and the young and the weak, only those who deserve it. I won’t live recklessly. Life is precious. I realize that now. My life is precious and I’ve wasted it.

I know now ignorance of the law is no excuse. My advice to everyone reading this: don’t be ignorant. I know mixing around with bad people is bad, so bad. Please. Don’t make my mistakes. Mistakes have consequences. I was brash and stupid back then. Reckless. You must understand. I know I didn’t until justice caught up with me.

Justice is good.

I cannot tell the government to abolish the death penalty. That means nothing coming from a dead man. I feel no anger or hate. There is no one to blame, but I forgive you. Forgiveness comes easy toward the end. If my words do nothing to persuade you that sentencing another human being to death is wrong, please read on. Sentencing another human being to death is wrong. God said not to murder.

I have so much potential. I’ve only been born. I’ve only just started thinking about life and death. I think about good and evil. Love and hate. I see life differently. Even the colors have changed. How does it make sense to snuff out a life like that? So if it’s not too much trouble, please overlook decades of debate and the rule of law.

I may have lived like the law didn’t apply to me my whole life. I just ask for an exception. This one last time.

Save your pity. Don’t judge me. Don’t. Laugh. Cry.

NELL: Nothing is funnier than unhappiness, I grant you that. But—
NAGG: Oh!
NELL: Yes, yes, it’s the most comical thing in the world. And we laugh, we laugh, with a will, in the beginning. But it’s always the same thing. Yes, it’s like the funny story we have heard too often, we still find it funny, but we don’t laugh any more. (Pause.) Have you anything else to say to me?
NAGG: No.

Samuel Beckett’s Endgame rang true. It was a mess of inanity scattered with blistering lines like “nothing is funnier than unhappiness.” It hit me where Waiting for Godot hit me a long time ago. The sheer meaninglessness of life. The futility of human will. The emptiness of God. Beckett explores such themes in both works. Absurdist theater isn’t the most accessible stuff around. Waiting for Godot, when it first opened, was largely derided. Audiences walked out. Seasoned critics scoffed. People didn’t get it. But prison inmates did. In 1954, Beckett received a letter from Luttringhausen prison in Germany that reported the play’s triumph. “Your Godot was our Godot,” the anonymous letter writer said. The inmates knew what Waiting for Godot was about because they, unlike the theater critics, could actually see the walls keeping them imprisoned. Beckett’s worldview was bleak and black. One character in Endgame, after an attempt at prayer, cries: “That bastard! He doesn’t exist!” In a world without purpose, where hell is other people, where everything is nothing – the laughter masks a fury so searing that I begin to wonder what kept Beckett going if he really did believe what he wrote. The man might as well have committed suicide. He didn’t, and died an unremarkable death at 83. I suspect he didn’t buy everything he sold. It could have been part of a personal quest for truth. It could have been Beckett’s way of testing, discarding, and refining deep internal conflict. I think of him as generally misunderstood. I picture him a quiet man. A happy man.

Three days of nonstop live music. Free. The streets of Austin are awash with weirdos and hipsters and geeks and demigods. Oh mighty and awesome SXSW, we bow before thee. Asobi Seksu. The Dodos. The Dears. Yuck. Surfer Blood. The Strokes. Bright Eyes. I missed Noah and the Whale, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, DeVotchKa, The Twilight Sad, Great Northern, The Naked and Famous, and Matt and Kim – and a whole bunch more – for the simple reason that there’s only so much awesomeness an individual can handle at one time. Highlights: Owen Pallett’s cover of Joanna Newsom’s Peach, Plum, Pear; seeing Okkervil River – twice. Lowlights: Conor Oberst ranting about the US “bombing children in Libya,” and just about “any country with a -stan“; The Dodos not playing Park Song. But no need to lose sight of what really happened. The past three days have been enough to restore my faith in humanity.

A tire that goes on a killing spree? Sounds awesome. I was disappointed. And there was so much promise. At 85 minutes this film starts middling way before the middle, its smugness unable to carry it past its smug no reason philosophy. Cool poster though.

Spring break in Austin has been great so far. There was: floating down the San Marcos river, seeing a copy of the Gutenberg Bible at the Harry Ransom Center, tasting that burrito at Chuy’s, smelling music down at 6th Street. The Twilight Sad or Okkervil River? Has to be one or the other. Gah!