Friday, 27 February 2009

Blog & Roll Friday: I Wrote This For You

Hello Pretty People,
I'm hoping to add a weekly feature to this blog called Blog & Roll Friday. Every Friday I will feature a blog that I enjoy reading. Tentatively it'll be every Friday, but this is subject to change. Hopefully this will be the first of many more features to come.

This week's featured blog is "I Wrote This For You". I recently discovered it through a blog which discovered it through another blog which...anyway that's not important. What is important is that it's conceptually and visually beautiful (and clever).

Click on the post title to go to the blog. Then enjoy.


Since We're On The Oscars

Here is some footage from previous awards shows on YouTube. Now, these moments are what I call highlights.

Unfortunately I cannot embed them here, so please open the links.

Unexpected: Halle Berry winning Best Actress in 2002 for her role in Monster's Ball. Click here.

Humourous: Julia Roberts winning Best Actress in 2001 for her performance in Erin Brokovich. Click here.

Touching: Kary Antholis and Gerda Weissmann Klein accepting the Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subject, One Survivor Remembers, in 1996. Click here.

Shocking: Sacheen Littlefeather declining to accept the Best Actor award on behalf of Marlon Brando for his role in The Godfather, in the 1973 show. Click here. Sacheen was later revealed to be a Californian actress named Maria Cruz.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Oscars 2009

I watched the Oscars on Monday. For many years I've tried to watch the Oscars if I could, and then after that I usually wonder why I bothered.

While the format for this year's show was noticeably different (5 previous winners giving away each acting award and the other awards presented as parts of the movie making process), nothing unexpected or awe inspiring happened. Pretty much everyone who was expected to win in the major categories fulfilled predictions—Slumdog Millionaire swept nearly everything and Meryl Streep lost yet again!

While there were a few laughs here and there, nobody did or said anything remarkably funny or stupid which wasn't scripted, although Danny Boyle did look endearing during his Tigger moment. And the clothes were all so-so, nobody wore anything particularly inventive (Halle Berry in 2002) or particularly stunning (Julia Roberts in 2001) or particularly ridiculous (Bjork was nowhere to be found, dang it!). Honorable mentions go to Penelope Cruz, Alicia Keys and Sarah Jessica Parker, who all looked gorgeous, albeit predictably conformist. Side note: Meryl Streep is unarguably one of the greatest actresses alive, but she wore a frumpy potato sack of a dress. Her daughter looked more of a star than she did. Get a new stylist, will ya Meryl?

There were a few highlights: host Hugh Jackman breaking into song in the opening sequence, Heath Ledger's family graciously and touchingly accepting the award for Best Supporting Actor and the musical medley directed by Baz Lurhman with Beyonce and Jackman. But the best moment for me was the performance of the songs nominated for Best Song. Here, Bollywood and Hollywood really blended into a scintillating swirl of colour and music. (All staged and choreographed, no doubt, but admirable nonetheless). There were the dizzying dancers and drummers in over-the-top Bollywood garb spinning beautifully on stage as A.R. Rahman sang "O Saya" from Slumdog, and then there was John Legend singing a Disney song ("Down to Earth" from Wall-E) in a sharp Prada suit, before both sang together in the last number, "Jai Ho", which won the Oscar.

Speaking of A.R. Rahman, when I first heard his acceptance speech for Best Song, I thought it sounded terribly cheesy, but upon reflection, it's actually quite profound:
(A)ll my life I had a choice of hate and love. I chose love and I'm here. God bless.
My fellow Malaysians, choose love.

Monday, 23 February 2009


I waited till I was grown up: 12, 13. Then 15, 16. Then 18. Then 21.
Then 30. Then 40. Then 50.

I waited till I was told what to do,
then I waited for people to stop telling me what to do.
I waited till I finished my chores,
then I waited till I could get someone else to do them.

I waited to discover myself. I waited for others to discover me.
I waited for respect. I waited for recognition.

I waited for inspiration,
for my pen to catch fire and my brush to strike like lightning.
I waited for the melody, then I waited for the right words.
I waited for the light, then I waited for the right model.

I waited for a reason, a calling from God, an angel's touch, the voice within.
I waited for a dream, then direction, then motivation, then ability, then influence, then power.

I waited for my leaders to lead. I waited for them to keep their promises.
I waited for peace. I waited for tolerance. I waited for justice. I waited for freedom.
I waited for the bad things to go away and I waited for the bad people to fall down.
I waited for my hero, I waited for my saviour.

I told myself to wait till I finished school, till I got a job, till I got a car, till I got a house, till I fell in love, till I got a girl, till I got married, till I was rich, till I was retired.
Till the time was right.

I waited all my life, and life passed me by.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

N.B.: This post contains no spoilers but may not make much sense if you haven't watched the movie.

I watched Benjamin Button the other day, and greatly enjoyed it. Not in the way that I greatly enjoyed "The Return of the King", but more in the way one feels about an exhibition of particularly well painted watercolours by a gifted artist.

The movie begins with a hospital scene where Daisy Fuller (played by Cate Blanchett), an old lady, is talking to her grown-up daughter Caroline, and asks her to read a diary, written by the eponymous protagonist of the show, played by Brad Pitt. As the words from the diary come to life, the hospital scenes weave themselves in and out of the narrative.

There were some critics who felt that these scenes were jarring and unnecessary. I agree that they were jarring—the hospital is in New Orleans but seems completely removed from the gorgeous New Orleans you see in the rest of the movie—it just looks like any other hospital room. Hurricane Katrina is looming ever closer—you can hear the wind growing wilder and see the hospital staff getting more frantic each time you return to the hospital. The scenes here seem do not use the rich visual language found in the rest of the movie, and thus seems a lot more closer to the real world: the light is harsh white, the room looks modern and Hurricane Katrina is going to happen, as we know it did.

Without these scenes, the whole movie would have felt like a fairy tale, a beautifully crafted one, but a fairy tale nonetheless, and this would have made it difficult for the audience to accept and relate to it, or to think about the questions it poses. The use of the diary in the hospital room is actually a clever devise because it justifies the unrealistic atmosphere found in many of the other scenes: the beautiful light which never disappears, the perfectly clouded skies in the day and the star sprinkled ones at night, the faint glow of lights in Old New York, the calming low hum of insects and the happy chirping of birds. Juxtaposed against the hospital scenes, we view the rest of the movie as Daisy does when she lies dying—as memories: real but tinted with nostalgia.

Remember that a baby being born old and then growing younger is completely against human reason, so without the hospital scenes, we would mentally reject it as an entertaining but outlandish story, thus limiting our ability to connect to it. But I think David Fincher, the director, wants the audience to actively engage rather than simply observe. Daisy is remembering her past (or rather Benjamin's past) with its joy, confusion loss, and it is this past which has bought her here. I believe Mr. Fincher wants us to share the human emotions of the protagonists and let them resonate within us, allowing then a reflection on our own experiences and memories. I would not say these scenes were unnecessary; they ground the movie to reality and convince us of the authenticity of the story and its relevance. Unfortunately, the deathbed/diary method is now rather clichéd, perhaps there were more exciting methods Mr. Fincher could have used to achieve his intended results.

Another criticism against the movie is Brad Pitt's rather dull performance, and I think it is a valid one. He is passive in much of the film, but Mr. Fincher has said that this was deliberate—he is a character upon whom impressions are made. I think that this was a right move—the fact that he is aging backwards is already enough for the audience to handle mentally and visually, so we forgive the lack of dynamism on Benjamin's (and Mr. Pitt's) part. No doubt others will be less merciful.

In fact, as many have pointed out, the whole movie can feel a little slow-going at times. Sure, Benjamin does things, meets interesting people, goes places and falls in love, but there is no one Big Event, one big climax, one big resolution. The biggest external event would have been World War II, and there is a stunning scene here, but it doesn't last long and Benjamin quickly moves on: besides that one scene, the war has hardly affected him and it didn't change his personality at all.

The pacing is inconsistent as there are quick-moving scenes and there are scenes where nothing much happens—we're just looking at Mr. Pitt looking at people or things. But I think that this portrayal of Benjamin's life is the movie's hidden genius (intended or otherwise). In any life, even one remarkably lived backwards, there are times when things go by slowly just as there are times when things go by quickly, there are small things that actually impact us hugely, and Big Things which are supposed to but don't, and nothing much happens a lot of the time. Remember that this is a portrayal of a whole life, not just a part of it, so there is a sacrifice of depth for breath. As a movie this may not be very compelling to watch, but as a reflection of a life it is fairly credible, and to do so via such a beautiful (albeit imperfect) movie is a great achievement.

The only constant in Benjamin's life is Daisy—she is like an reappearing element in a large set of paintings. Without her, or rather, without his undying love for her, the movie would just be collection of soap opera episodes from the title character's life. And even with Daisy, the film can indeed feel too episodic, with one story after another held by the scenes in the hospital. After the movie I immediately thought of Forest Gump, and it turns out that the movies share the same screenwriter. Like Forest Gump, there isn't much a plot arch to speak of, whether this is a desirable or not is a highly subjective matter for another day.

In my view, Mr. Pitt is actually an inspired choice. While a lesser known actor may have brought more emotional depth or physical dynamism to the role, he could not have done what Mr. Pitt did, i.e. be Brad Pitt. Let me explain. A large part of the movie shows how Benjamin grows younger; we first see him as a child in a decayed body with a wrinkled old face. The only thing of Mr. Pitt we see are his eyes, otherwise, it is impossible to tell (or believe) it's him, and this is where the side effects and makeup are used brilliantly: you hardly notice them because they blend so well with the scenes. You simply accept that you have a frail, hunched up old man in front of you and are oblivious (at least during the movie) to the fact that it's probably a very clever side-effect which took some effort and technical virtuosity.

As the movie progresses, there comes a point when Benjamin looks like how Mr. Pitt looks today, and the result is really quite startling: I could hear myself thinking, "Oh my gosh, it's Brad Pitt! It's really him!". Later on, the effect is even more amazing, because Benjamin looks like Brad Pitt did when he was twenty-something: a very young, very blonde, very handsome and very wrinkle-free actor. It's like unwrapping an unfamiliar package only to be surprised by something you've already seen, and few actors besides Mr. Pitt have the star power and recognizable good looks to pull it off effortlessly.

Ms. Blanchett as Daisy Fuller is likewise brilliantly cast. She says in the movie, "Dancing is all about the line." And her line is perfect: her slender figure fits Daisy's profile as an accomplished dancer flawlessly. Either Ms. Blanchett can dance really well or they must have used a double for some of the scenes! Mr. Fincher exploits her good looks well throughout the movie—her graceful silhouette, poised demeanor, angular face and very, very straight hair enchant in every scene. (The fact that she hasn't been nominated for Best Actress at the Oscars this year is a no doubt an outcry).

The movie tackles many themes and questions simultaneously: loss and death, how love works, letting go of others, how time is unexplainable and yet its effects are unavoidable, how we value youth and how fleeting it is, growing old, how we view old age, how we choose to live life, and how volatile but indispensable memory is. Note that these themes have been tackled by many other directors before, and while some might be touched by Benjamin Button, I expect many won't. The film also requires a lot of patience and perhaps a certain frame of mind to watch. No doubt some will find sitting through almost 3 hours of the movie frustrating when there is no real payback (eg: Sauron is defeated, Middle Earth is saved). Like I said, nothing really happens a lot of the time.

The movie has 13 Oscar nominations (rather than the 12 I stated in a previous post). I'm not sure if it's worth that much attention, but it is no doubt a good film, at least in my books. Let's see how many Oscars wins at the ceremony tomorrow!

Friday, 20 February 2009

Nants Ingonyama Bagithi Baba!

Re: Lion King the Musical Casting

Dear Mr. Producer,
Please cast me as Pumba in the upcoming show. I think I would play the part quite well. If that role is unavailable, please cast me as the rear of the rhinoceros in the opening sequence. Attached is my CV. Thank you.

Algernon deWeizer

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Mad Libs

If you simply recruit people, you will have all these problems...You may take naked photos in your home, but you must make sure the public do not get to it.
Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar, (as reported in The Sun, pg. 2, 17/2/2009), commenting on the recent public circulation of revealing photos of PKR Assemblywoman Elizabeth Wong, who has offered to quit all her posts.

This isn't the first time the Home Minister has said something that offends my sense of reason. Remember the remarks about detaining the Sin Chew Daily reporter under the ISA "for her own protection"? Then there was the request that Malaysians "not to make heroes out of criminals" in the wake of the controversial death of A. Kugan, who died in police custody, although of course he was just speaking "generally". This from a former law minister!

He's officially taken over Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz (another former law minister) as Malaysian politician I would most like to (verb). However, coming in at a very, very close second is former MB of Selangor, Dato' Seri Mohamed Khir Bin Toyo:
It's the right thing to do...It's good that there is a trend in Malaysia now where embattled elected representatives readily resign from their posts...This is about public morality...whether the pictures were taken with or without consent is another matter.
(As reported in The Star, pg. N8 & N26, 18/2/2009)
Hmmm...that's funny. He didn't seem to have the same views when he himself was involved in a string of scandals, controversies and allegations of corruption (too many to go through here). He also seems perfectly comfortable with a man being Deputy President of MCA after video recordings of his adultery spread to the public via DVD. In fact, why didn't those calling for Ms. Wong's blood now call for a ban on his nomination for Deputy President? Hmmm...

Oh, what an ugly circus! Sigh. How on earth did it get to this? Amir Muhammad is right: Malaysian politicians really do say the darndest things! Go buy his book people! Only RM 25. It's got nice pictures, so it' s worth your money. Trust me.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Life of Pi? Dekat bahagian Algebra kot?

Don't you just love Malaysian bookstores?

Ed: I found out that the book is actually bi-lingual. The English version is on the reverse. It's entitled "New Politics—Towards a Mature Malaysian Democracy" and is written by Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah.


I thought about what I thought about the other day. (Well, yes, that's me, I think a lot). Soon after I wrote the previous post I felt I maybe I didn't get it quite right. Not that what I said was untrue, but that I was seeing it from the wrong perspective. And aren't so many things dependent on perspective?

When I dug deeper beyond the first layers of shock and discomfort, I looked at what I was angry about and why I was angry. Yes, I am angry, and yes, I am angry about many, many things, and because of many, many things, and yes it makes me uncomfortable. But upon reflection, I think that for the most part, I am angry about the right things. I am not frustrated that I misplaced my keys or that I spilt ketchup on my favourite shirt. I am not angry that someone said something mean to me, or that I was overcharged for a drink at a café.

Instead, I am angry at many circumstances that I wish were different, and I am frustrated that there is little I can do to change things. I am angry about certain things happening in my country (as well as in the world at large). I am incensed at the bigotry and racism I hear around me. I am frustrated to have to admit that sometimes it's idiots who say these things that encourage authoritarianism and racialism amongst our leaders. I am angry at our leaders.

I am disappointed that some of my countrymen are worked up about the wrong things, and are misplacing their energy. I am angry at how much corruption and abuse or power is prevalent. I am tired of excuses. "This is Malaysia la" is not a reason, it's an excuse. A cheap way to say "I can't do anything" or a fast way to say "I don't care". I bitch about people who are inept and ignorant and apathetic and inconsiderate.

I rant about the injustice my peers and I face. I am outraged that the very people who perpetrate this injustice deny it exists. I am angry that I have so few options and so few recourses but so many, many obstacles. I am angry that we ALL face the same. I am angry that while I try to hold on to my principles and ideals and dreams, so many others want to burst my bubble and impose their ideas of what is right on me. As if they know better. I am tired and sick of having to justify myself, of being judged. I am angry at people pretending to be nice. I am also angry at people not pretending to be nice, actually. I am tired of invisible walls and unmentionable barricades. I am tired of being told what I should do.

I am not saying that I am only angry at worthwhile things. I definitely get angry at stupid things, too: that McDonald's raised their prices and shrunk their portions (have you seen the McFlurry cup?), that the jams in town are maddening, that people cut me in queues. But that kind of anger and frustration comes and goes. Yes, I rant about it too, but with no more fervour or frequency than I would usually do. I don't think it's those things that cause my current pessimism and bitterness.

It's those 'bigger' things that make me boil. It's those things, swimming in my head, that make me patronising and sarcastic and bitchy and obnoxious and hapless and helpless. Of course, since I realise this, I have to start keep everything in check, in perspective, balanced. I can't let my anger define my attitude and turn me ugly. I can't let it overwhelm me or impair my civility. I don't want to be someone people avoid, someone constantly fulminating.

I have to learn to calm down, or rather, cool down. I have to give people space and listen, to return to the person I once was proud to be. At the same time, I don't want to throw in the towel and not care anymore, I don't want to embrace the apathy I despise. I don't want to be indifferent to the things that I should be angry about, just because I don't like to be hot under the collar. Sure, it isn't nice to be pissed-off, even if it's about the right things, but it's far, far worse not to be.

Monday, 16 February 2009


I listened to myself recently. I actually listened. I was shocked. I didn't like what I was hearing.

When I'm speaking nowadays, it seems that more than anything, I want to push people away. Whenever someone tries to hold a conversation with me, I will start to incessantly rant like a mad dog about some issue or another, force-feed my views, bitch, patronise, act like a know-it-all, swear like a sailor and/or just spew unnecessary sarcasm. And I do all this like a runaway train which can't stop. I can imagine this negativity, not to mention verbosity, puts people off wanting to go beyond "Hello" the next time they see me.

I don't think I was always like this. I mean, yes, there were times when I was upset, depressed, pissed-off, tired or frustrated over something, and my speech at those times may have been less than gracious. But I was always proud that for the most part, I listened before I talked, and when I did talk I talked sensibly and kindly. I asked about how people were and sincerely wanted to know. Even when I was mean or annoyed I was controlled or good-humoured about it. Nowadays I just don't give a damn about any of that.

And nowadays, I'm just angry. About many, many things. And I don't know how to manage all this negativity, all this discontent. So my words reek of bitterness. Sure, I wasn't a walking ray or sunshine before this, anyone who knows me knows that, but I don't think I was a constant fuse waiting to blow either.

And because I talk to so few people nowadays (not by choice), those who are nice enough to speak to me will have to bear a tirade of fury because my anger is now concentrated inside rather than spread out over a wide net of social contacts. Confounding this is the fact that I don't often get to do things that give me great satisfaction or comfort. And to make things even worse is that the things that I do do regularly exasperate, annoy and/or bore me.

Maybe I need a hobby to calm me. Stamp collecting or knitting or something like that. Or maybe I should just do what I should have done ages ago: run away to Tibet and be a monk. I've always wondered what yak butter tea tastes like.
A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
Luke 6:45

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Post-Valentine's Post

I hope you had a good day yesterday, with or without a romantic other, because love can be given to anyone and in so many ways: far more ways than the florists, chocolatiers, jewelers and card-makers of this world would like you to believe.

Below is from the brilliant Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. I know it's past Valentines, but enjoy anyway.

Ah, Love!

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Happy Valentine's

Dear World,
To the lovers out there: have a nice one today (and tonight).
To the singletons out there: it's good not needing to spend money on other people right now.

I love you all,

Friday, 13 February 2009

Royalty and Loyalty

There are a few things I would like to say in light of the recent so-called 'Constitutional Crisis' in Perak. I am not a politician nor a constitutional lawyer, these are just my views. Let us remind ourselves that the issue is legal, political, social, cultural: no one's dying here, so let's all try not to be reactionary but debate things as sane, civil adults. We must let the law take it's course, not call for heavy-handedness.

Which leads me on to my first point: I think we should stop with this "Use the ISA" rubbish. Some think it's some sort of a convenient fly swatter: utter idiociy. The use of detention without trial or due process violates fundamental human rights and international treaties and conventions against arbitrary imprisonment and the use of torture. People lose their liberty, dignity, health and sometimes lives when (man)handled under the ISA.

It is democratically, and more importantly, morally wrong to use this measure, and to even contemplate doing so betrays the baseness and immaturity of those who ask for such. If there is real treason against His Royal Highness the Sultan of Perak, it is a violation of the law, and whosoever who does this or is suspected of doing so can be arrested, detained, charged and tried in accordance to the law and due process.

The two main individuals whom the ISA has been called to be used against are, as you know, DAP Chairman YB Mr. Karpal Singh, for calling to instigate legal proceedings against His Royal Highness, and Datuk Seri Mohd Nizar Jamaluddin, for refusing to step down as MB of Perak upon the order of the Sultan. Both of these acts supposedly constituted treason against His Royal Highness.

Let us first remind ourselves what treason is: it is waging war against the Monarch by arms and violent means, or intending to kill, injure or dethrone him. Firstly, there is no such thing here. Both were merely challenging the correctness of the Sultan's decision by civil and legal means awarded by the law, not his authority, and obviously neither used violence or force. Furthermore, the Rulers of Malaysia are not immune to legal proceedings thanks to an amendment in the Federal Constitution that was made (ironically) by the BN government in 1993 to remove Ruler's personal (although not official) immunity.

We must also remind ourselves that while "Kesetian Kepada Raja dan Negara" is within our Rukun Negara, so is "Keluhuran Pelembagan" and "Kedaulatan Undang-Undang". Let us also remember that one of the objectives of the Rukun Negara is to "Memelihara satu cara hidup demokratik". We live in a country where the rule of the Monarchs are not absolute but subject to the limits imposed on them by the Federal Constitution and the Constitutions of the respective States of Malaysia. Their word is not law, nor are their actions free from moral judgment or public scrutiny.

If we argue that treason is mere disobedience or worse, mere disagreement, then we are going back to the feudal system of the Dark Ages (well, obviously Malaysia was non-existant at that time, but that is besides the point). Let's think hypothetically for a second. The Sultan of, say, Pahang declares: I need an armed army to wage war against the Sultan of Selangor and Johor. All men of fit health between the ages of 18 and 55 must join this army. Would it be treason to disobey? What if he said: every mother in Pahang is to kill her eldest son. Would it be treason to disobey? The fact is that the Sultan must still act within the law, democratic principles and within moral rules.

Furthermore, we must also remember that monarchies are hereditary, and thus, arbitrary. They are not elected officials, there is no democratic legitimacy inherent in their positions beyond that which is granted by the law shaped by the democratic process. Their existence and continuance (not to mention their lifestyles) are dependent upon the grace and generosity of the people in whose name they rule. It does not work the other way around.

Yes, we must understand the fact that they are symbols and Heads of the country and their respective states, and are thus to be granted due honour and respect. But their authority and power lies upon that symbolism which we the people accord them, not upon their own persons or achievements or contributions. They led no armies to win wars of independence nor did they make huge contributions to the development of national or state infrastructure. Symbols are only as powerful as what we make them to be, and if we were to revoke it, as republics have done, then they cease to be so.

The Yang di-Pertuan Agong is a symbol of Malaysia as is Head of the country, and thus respecting him is like respecting the idea and sovereignty of the country, but Malaysia is not a symbol or a product of His Royal Majesty. The country is not formed or operated by his political beliefs, nor his personal will. He is meant to be a formal and neutral Head. He is Head of the government not in the sense of the 'leader of the ruling party', but rather as Head of the government as the embodiment of the nation state. The same could be state of Malaysia's constituent states.

I am of course by no means calling for a republic of Malaysia. If we praise and adulate our Rulers when they say what we want when we want, and then say "Off with their heads!" when they don't, then we want nothing more than robots or puppets on thrones. We can't have our cake and eat it. Rulers are human too: they have their own views and minds and personalities, they may make errors as anyone else may.

Sometimes, like now, some of their decisions have ramifications on their subjects. And sometimes, again like now, it is not completely clear whether the decisions or orders made by them are made in-line with the law, whether they are right or wrong, and this is when we must be least reactionary, allowing the law to run it's due cause and allowing the civil democratic political process to resolve matters. The rule of law holds that no man is above the law.

But to even have to come to this stage is highly, highly regrettable. Because the Rulers are meant to be formal and apolitical, and because are not elected officials, the less they deal with politics the better. We should avoid situations where we need (or allow) our Rulers to make political decisions. Yes, of course they have the prerogative to do so, but the less they are given chance to exercise those rights and make value judgements, the more formal their roles will remain.

We must remind ourselves, both those who agree and disagree with His Royal Highness's decision, that he has put his personal reputation on the line, beyond his formal office, and allowed himself to come under fire for it. In the first place, he should not have been put in the position. Let us not forget that the objectionable and embarrassing events which led to him having to interfere in the first place; crap like this does not happen in mature democracies.

Unfortunately, before the dust has even fully settled on this crisis, it seems like another grand messy affair is coming our way: the Selangor state government may face a Perak-style debacle soon, according to the news today.


There has been a lot happening in the past few days since I posted: devastating bush fires in Australia, and a constitutional crisis of sorts in Perak, amongst other things. On a personal level I have done a lot of thinking about a lot of things, and they not been easy things to think about.

So why aren't I publishing anything? Patience people. I have actually been writing a lot; I've either just not finished the pieces or found the finished ones unsuitable for publishing for one reason or another. I've also been figuring out what links to put on the blog, as well as how to organise them, so I beg your indulgence.

By tonight or tomorrow at the latest, you'll see something meaty here.

In the meantime, please do read this: "Perak, A Constitutional Crisis" by human rights lawyer, Mr. Malik Imtiaz Sarwar.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Let My Country Awake

by Rabindranath Tagore (who became Asia's first Nobel Laureate when he was awarded the 1913 Prize in Literature).

Where the mind is without fear and the head held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by Thee into ever-widening thought and action;
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

May my country likewise awaken to such a morning.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Happy Thaipusam

Dear World,
If you happen to be a Hindu ccelebrating out there: have a very Happy Thaipusam!

I'm going to have to take public transport today because Kuala Lumpur's traffic will probably come to a standstill in some parts, but it's ok—I can give and take when it comes to things like this.


Saturday, 7 February 2009

Hot N Cold

Katy Perry got it just right.

My friends in Europe are either complaining endlessly of the cold or in mindless awe of the ridiculous snow levels (re: Malaysians), many loudly proclaiming the fact on Facebook via status updates and putting up numerous photos of themselves making snow angels or walking on snow covered streets with white cars, white trees and white rooftops and white people in black coats.

Now, why the heck didn't it snow like this when I was there? Sheesh.

My friends in Australia are facing deadly heat waves and are hitting the beach to cool down.
There were reports of cold spells in Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand, countries which usually use air conditioners to cool the air down! Maybe Malaysia will see snow in the not-too-distant future, and I won't have to travel to somewhere cold to get frostbite!

Someone else got it quite right as well: "We had better make sure we don't come to face a global environmental crisis, because unlike an economic crisis, we may never recover from it."

Friday, 6 February 2009


I've made many changes to the blog—some obvious, others less so.

I'm hoping the colour scheme's alright; I've used a fairly muted colours so as not to turn anyone off. If you think they are too boring, well, really, I'm not that interesting a person anyway.

At least now with the layout sorted, I don't have to worry about it for a while, and can just get to the job of writing more posts.

Must Watch Movies (Early 2009)

This is a personal list of movies I hope to catch early this year. No doubt Summer will bring in a new slush of Hollywood fare, and I will have to pick and choose again. In no particular order:

Sigh. It's not even playing in the cinemas anymore. Well, you see, I was supposed to watch it but thanks to an unintended blunder on the part of a friend, I had to pass. I guess now I'll just have to wait till the cheap VCD comes out.

Some critics liked the film and some hated it, the same way some liked "Moulin Rouge!" and some hated it. This mixed reaction is unsurprising—after all, Baz Luhrman's films are exercises in style more than in substance, so just enjoy the ride and don't expect anything else.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
I was at first not keen on watching this movie—it seemed a bit gimmicky, dull and over-hyped. But it's garnered 12 Oscar nominations, so c'mon, it's gotta be worth something, right? Or maybe it was just promoted to death to the Academy. I'll have to judge for myself.

The main storyline of the movie is from a short story of the same name by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Trivia: The movie rights to Fitzgerald's famed novel, "The Great Gatsby", has been recently bought-over by Mr. Luhrman.

Revolutionary Road
Set in 1950s America, the film is about a married, stuck-in-surburbia couple, the Wheelers, who live (ironically) on Revolutionary Road. Kate Winslet's portrayal of one half of the frustrated pair won her a Golden Globe for Best Actress.

Reports have said that it is a faithful adaptation of Richard Yates's celebrated book of the same title—now I can get my hands on the cheap movie tie-in paperback. Heh.

Slumdog Millionaire
The screenplay is adapted from a book by Vikas Swarup called "Q&A" (which has now been rebranded with the movie's name). This modest film (at least in comparison to typical OTT Bollywood fare) has also got a lot of Oscar attention. 10 nominations including Best Picture, to be precise. It has done remarkably well outside of India, winning a host of awards including Best Picture at the recent Golden Globes.

This is either one of those unexpected masterpieces or good-but-over-inflated by awards movies, so I'll have to see which.

The Reader
This movie is based on the German book "De Voleser" by Bernard Schlink, which has been translated into English (and duly picked by Oprah for her book club). It revolves around the love affair between a young Michael Berg and train conducter Hannah Schmitz, and how he later learns about her part in the third Reich when he goes to a postwar Nazi trial as a law student. It's a theme is perhaps best understood and most often faced with by Germans—they call it 'Vergangenheitsbewältigung', roughly translated as 'coming to terms with the past'.

Ms. Winslet won the another Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Schmitz and the movie also stars the incomparable Ralph Fiennes. I don't think the movie is hitting Malaysian shores due to it's sexual content, unfortunately, so I guess I will have to find 'other means' of watching the movie.

I am really, really hoping that this movie won't suck. I read the graphic novel by writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons, and found myself agreeing with the consensus that it was a masterpiece of it's genre. Ok, not like I'm a connoisseur of graphic novels, but I deeply enjoyed "Watchmen", so I'm hoping the movie will be respectful of its source.

Having said that though, Mr. Moore has openly distanced himself from the movie, saying he will not watch it, and has asked to be uncredited. He has had similar disputes and disappointments over many Hollywood adaptations of his graphic novels, including "V for Vendetta", "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" and "From Hell".

The graphic novel itself has a complex plot and deals with knotty philosophically and psychological themes. Expecting a two and a half hour movie to convey the experience perfectly is to ask too much of a movie. One must understand that movies are movies, not books or comics. Film is an independent medium with its own limitations and advantages. I still hope it won't suck, though.

OK, this movie has Philip Seymour Hoffman AND Meryl Streep AND Amy Adams. AND they're playing priests and nuns. AND it's set in 1960s New York. AND it's from adapted from a Pulitzer-winning play. How could anyone not want to watch this movie?! How? Sigh, unfortunately again, thanks to our friendly film censors, this won't be playing on Malaysian screens and I will simply have to support piracy. Don't blame me for this, it's beyond my control.

A movie about a gay rights activist played by Sean Penn. Definitely, definitely, not coming to Malaysia.


As you may have noticed, my selection leans heavily towards films with (Western) award wins/nominations and there are no foreign language films or local films on the list. Not that I don't watch these films, in fact I count many local and non-English films as all time favourites, it's just that there aren't any that have come to my attention and grabbed my interest. Call me a snob, but I refuse to watch Cicakman 2.

Sources: Wikipedia, IMDB, and the New York Times online.

(Edit 8/2/09: I've corrected a few typo and grammatical errors, but more importantly, I forgot to include Coraline, a stop-action film adaptation of Neil Gaiman's children's book. I am a fan of Gaiman (and stop-action films), although I have not read this particular book.)

Tuesday, 3 February 2009


Last week I was away for a short family holiday, I was thus unable to post. For me the concepts of family and holiday don't work well together, but the trip turned out better than I expected.

Unfortunately, I've not been completely well since Friday, although I am feeling better now, and of course I was busy with so-called academic pursuits on Saturday and Sunday, which always makes Monday a 'Do Nothing Day' thanks to the hours of literally mind-numbing classes.

I also have to change the width of the blog layout, because as it is, it's far too narrow. After that, and after getting well, I will post more, and more substantially, or at least I will try.