Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Advice for Writers

The best rule that I've heard with regards to writing is that there are no rules. And the best advice I've been given with regards to writing is that there are only two types of writing: good writing and bad writing.

Take what you read below with a pinch of salt.

Getting Back to Basics with Your Writing

Advice from Writers to Writers Part 1 and Part 2.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Sonnet 138

by William Shakespeare

When my love swears that she is made of truth
I do believe her, though I know she lies,
That she might think me some untutor'd youth,
Unlearned in the world's false subtleties.
Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young.
Although she knows my days are past the best,
Simply I credit her false speaking tongue:
On both side thus is simple truth suppress'd:
But wherefore says she not she is unjust?
And wherefore say not I that I am old?
O! love's best habit is in seeming trust,
And age in love loves not to have years told:
Therefore I lie with her and she with me,
And in our faults by lies we flatter'd be.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Quote of the Week

An actress can only play a woman. I'm an actor, I can play anything.
Whoopi Goldberg (b. November 13, 1955), American actress actor and comedian.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Selamat Hari Raya/Eid Mubarak

Dear World,
I'm sorry this greeting comes on the third day of Syawal, but I have been busy with meeting friends and (of course) indulging in food.
I'm sure it's not too late to wish everyone Selamat Hari Raya, Eid Mubarak! To all travelers, please come take care on the road.
May the coming year be a good one for you.


Friday, 18 September 2009

The Pursuit of Happiness Simplified

You may have seen this already. But even if you didn't, you'd have known it deep down inside, right?

Image courtesy of the awesome graphic design site typcut.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

What does Umno value?

The Nut Graph's Ding Jo-Ann asks the question and answers it with the painful truth.

Click on the post title to read the article.

Someone Like Me

Ms. Pixie Lott shows us how it's done.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Happy Malaysia Day

Dear Malaysians,
Our brothers and sisters across the South China Sea deserve better than to be insulted every year by adverts saying "Happy 52nd Birthday Malaysia!" on the 31st of August. It irks me that something as critical as the birth date of our nation can not only be so casually forgotten, but negligently misrepresented.

Malaysia, as a nation, became a reality today, 46 (not 52) years ago. How would you like to be called 52 all the time when you've just passed 45 years? Not very much, I should expect. That we can't even get our facts right betrays our less-than-concerned attitude towards the welfare of East Malaysians. It's time we end the ignorance, end the abuse, and start being fair (like we promised 46 years ago).


Tuesday, 15 September 2009


Scared Indeed

It is not often that I use the adjective "otherworldly" to describe any experience, let alone one that only lasted two and a half hours. But that was what it was for me.
Thank you Ash for bringing me, Alex for hosting, and Elza, Toby, Patrick, Marvin and of course Nick for giving me something real.

Friday, 11 September 2009

T4YP's Hamlet: The Play's the Thing!

When it comes to plays, there are two opposite ways of approaching the (printed) source material before watching the performance. (My gut-feel is that most of the audience will take the middle road between the two.)

First there is the "ignore-it-completely" approach, where the viewer self-imposes tabula rasa before viewing, enjoying the story as it enfolds without expecting any of its twists or punch lines. Most new plays necessitate this approach because they would not be published yet, and since they are written for modern audiences, there is usually no need to go through the script to grasp the performance anyway.

On the other end is the "I-must-know-everything" approach, where the play is read (and re-read), deconstructed, dissected and then reconstructed, with every subtext, nuance, undertone and stage direction carefully studied. Background material is thoroughly researched and some go so far as to view a recorded performance or movie version. This approach clearly takes effort, and is more suited to (and needed for) plays which are decidedly complex and multilayered, and what body of dramatic literature can be considered more complex and multilayered than Shakespeare's plays? Further, within that body, which play can claim to be more complex and multilayered than Hamlet? Arguably, none.

A viewing of the play, be it performed by a collegiate am-dram club or a West End all-star ensemble, necessitates at least a prior familiarisation with the plot, more so than many of Shakespeare's other works, because it is complex both in terms of plot and language. Yet, even with this done, every new staging of Hamlet surprises because the play is almost always rearranged and edited to cut down on its full length of four hours.

Thus, as I watched TY4P's (Theatre for Young People) version at KLPAC's cozy Pentas Dua last night, I was driven to see how director Christopher Ling and his young ensemble would tell the tale, and I was not disappointed. The script was brisk and had a cut-and-paste feel, with earlier lines snipped and tucked into other scenes to good effect. The aesthetic was minimalistic, slick and dark (think lots of black and very few props), and as Pentas Dua is an intimate space, this proved a good decision—men in tights and brick fortifications would definitely have distracted more than enhanced the performances. Yet, I had the feeling that the starkness was due to a modest budget as much as it was a deliberate choice. This minimalism extended even to the cast, many who played multiple roles throughout.

Mr. Ling's no-frills approach had its shortcomings, however. The audience sat on both sides of the stage (the floor) and there was no clear backstage. The cast sat on a long pew on one side of the stage with a blue backlight, and as the play started the actors ran to the stage and cut straight to the action—a clever touch to start the ball rolling. The problem started however, when the play progressed, as actors moved to the pew instead of exiting offstage. As I sat on the first row, this proved distracting when cast members moved about and shoes clacked, and I had to keep reminding myself "don't look there".

Nonetheless, I was pleased with the play's overall artistic direction which lent it an air of modern relevance, and I found the liberal use of haze particularly effective throughout. It accorded the show at different times a dream-like surreality, an eerie chill or an aura of melancholy (it also nicely definined Sazali Sim's lighting).

The cast itself was adequate but inconsistent—at times I struggled to hear the lines and at others I felt them too loud, and the timing was askew here and there. Izmir Husein as the tortured Prince of Denmark showed great potential (save for a little nervousness). In what is arguably Shakespeare's most difficult role, he did his best in bringing out Hamlet's anger at those around him (especially in the scenes where he brutally chastises his lover and mother), and at delivering the many (in)famously knotty soliloquies his character expounds. I was however more convinced by his feelings of weltschmerz, confusion, loneliness and apprehension rather than his growing madness or vengefulness. This Hamlet seemed to need more of a hug than a dagger. That's not to say it wasn't a good performance—merely that Izmir brought out those aspects of Hamlet best.

In fact I felt the whole play was stronger in its moments of vague melancholy and vacillation rather than those of death-induced anguish, present danger, or burning hate, but one must remember this is a difficult play to balance even for established thespians, let alone our young performers.

The play was saved from being humourless by wonderful moments of comic relief in Polonious's (Dinesh Kumar) verbosity and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's (Gregory Tze and Tung Jit Yang) jocularity. Rachel Henry's Ophelia was thankfully controlled rather than parodic, but the other leads (Nick Dorian and Nabihan Yacoob as the King and Queen, Nur Zakuan as Laertes), while delivering their lines well, didn't quite seem as scheming, greedy, worried, guilty, angry or murderous as their parts required, mainly because their youth worked against them (and in the case of Laertes—I'm really sorry but she's just too comel la).

Hamlet's emotional and linguistic scope is so broad that is proves endlessly challenging to stage, and I am glad that T4YP at least met the bull by the horns. That same scope also allows for multifarious interpretations, and maintains the play's popularity four centuries after the Bard wrote it. I for one will be looking forward to this cast performing it perhaps a decade later, and if their potential is developed, I'm sure I'll have to pay twenty times more for the ticket, but I'll do so more than willingly.

Photos courtesy of KLUE and Candid Photography.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Willie Nelson Sings Rainbow Connection

I can't embed it but please click on the post title to view the video on YouTube. It's a beautiful cover.

Quote of the Week

"Fascism is more of a natural state than democracy. To assume blithely that we can export democracy into any country we choose can serve paradoxically to encourage more fascism at home and abroad. Democracy is a state of grace that is attained only by those countries who have a host of individuals not only ready to enjoy freedom but to undergo the heavy labor of maintaining it."
Norman Mailer (January 31, 1923 – November 10, 2007), American novelist, journalist, essayist, poet, playwright, screenwriter and film director. In a speech to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, 2003, just before the invasion of Iraq.

Top 10 Myths Pasal Merdeka

Fahmi Reza is, in his own way, a revisionist of Malaysian history. Mind you, he isn't hired by anyone to do it, nor is he in it for profit (his offers his work to view/download for free).

As I am one who finds it important to challenge official or accepted narratives, I believe he is an important figure in both revisiting our history and opening up debate on it (even his findings will not find agreement with all Malaysians).

Click on the post's title to read his short piece for PopIN. I know he says "Kalau tak percaya tengok aku punya movie" here and there, but if you you haven't actually watched his movies ("10 Tahun Sebelum Merdeka" and its sequel "Revolusi 48"), you really ought to (and where the heck have you been anyway?). They are available all over the internet. Just google the titles. Don't be lazy.

Thanks to Ash for the link.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Evanesco Extrafatto!

I've definitely overindulged over the weekend, mainly on food I cooked myself while trying out the new oven. I guess I'll have to repent and do lots of cardio the next few days.

Speaking of food, here's some food for thoughts for Potter fans"

Harry Potter and the Tremendous F-up

Harry Potter and the Fascist Ubermensch

These are critical views on a more general level, but there are plenty of minute (and not so minute) plot holes throughout the series.

I'm still watching the last Potter movie though. Wait..makes that movies.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Blog & Roll: For Book Lovers

Since I've not posted a "Blog & Roll" feature for so long, it's only fair that I post more than one blog in compensation.

These sites are all related to books (or stuff related to books). For the consideration of all fellow book lovers out there:

A webzine featuring articles and interviews on books, authors, poetry and literature.

Confessions of a Bookplate Junkie

Beautiful and interesting bookplates.

book lovers never go to bed alone
A tumblr featuring visuals of, yup, you win a cookie, books.

The Book Cover Archive
"An archive of book cover designs and designers for the purpose of appreciation and categorization".


Merdeka Day having just passed, thoughts on my mind have naturally circled around the state of the our nation: its past, its present, its problems, its place in the world and its future. Ever as I grow older, I have come to see my country's history and makeup as far more complex and multi-faceted than any Kurikulum Bersepadu textbook would have me believe. To learn and come to know more about it, as the famous song goes, is to love it more.

A recent incident involving a cow's head has been particularly upsetting and unsettling; it's moments like those that make me question whether anyone should be proud to be Malaysian.

Yet I remember a snippet of a conversation which provides a personal counterpoint. It happened during dinner with 2 friends at Dave's 1Utama not too long ago (the food there's pretty decent, if you want to know, and they open later than most places at 1U, and they have an outdoor area and no this is not a hidden advert).

I had not met either of them in a long while. She had graduated down under about a year or so ago and had started a new job recently, while he was visiting during a break from his work abroad. We were discussing the cities we studied in, and when asked about Melbourne, she said "Oh, I love Melbourne." So he asked her, "When are you was going back there then?" The conversation went something like this.

She: Oh, not in the near future. Maybe 2 or 3 years from now?
He: Oh, then when will you be there for good?
She: You mean live there? Oh no, I'll never live there for good. I mean I'd visit but I couldn't live there.
Me: Why can't you live in Australia for good? (I was puzzled because most graduates from developed countries I know never say something like this).
She: Because this is home.
I smiled and nodded sagely.
She: And you want to make a difference here, right?
Me (nodding again and smiling broadly): Yup, you do!
Then I almost giggled (I think I was both slightly amused and genuinely happy to hear someone so optimisitic).
She: Yeah! You wanna make a difference.
Me (still nodding and smiling): Yeah...Yeah...You do.