Sunday, May 28, 2006



I have this compromise to avoid reading trash. I just wait for the movie adaptation. And such is the case for Dan Brown’s ‘Da Vinci Code’. Although the book is rubbished by the critics, it is perhaps not fair for me to lump it as garbage because I haven’t read it (and still don’t have any urge to read it in a hurry) and should not judge it before going through it , but I never like books that ride on hype and always feel distaste when I find that millions of people who never read any fiction in their lives start praising the book as the best they ever read. Probably right too if that’s the only book they ever read (with the exception of may be the children books from the Harry Porter series).

So when the film opened and despite the bad reviews, I went to see it in one mid night show a couple of days back. One main reason I wanted to particularly see the film was because one of the first scenes was actually filmed in the Lourve – just goes to show that Da Vinci Code has very powerful influence and even the Louvre will prostitute itself if it feels there are gains to be made. And as this is not mean to be a review of the film, all I want to say is that what struck me most about the film was that I now understand why the government of Malaysia did not ban this film and perhaps even gleefully promoting and hyping it with all kind of documentaries on the National Geographic channel relating to this book on ASTRO –our very own ‘satellite’ TV , weeks before the film opened here.

Although the Malaysian main ruling party (UMNO) is far from being a fundamentalist Islamic party hell bent in proselytizing Islam , it is not averse to prove a point or two about Islam or promoting anything that is to Islam’s benefit if opportunity arise. Why not? Simply put, I think the reason why the government allowed Da Vinci Code be screened here is because the book and the film’s main proposition is that Jesus is just a regular bloke , like the Muslims believe all along but not God (or part time god) as average Christians believe. This is very naughty of the government to do, knowing fully well that it may hurt some fundamentalist Christians and Catholics’ feelings ( but not the ‘cafetaria catholics’ who just pick and choose what aspects they like of the religion – as one of the opus Dei fellow memorably exclaimed early in the film). Seems like any films or books rubbishing other religions apart from Islam are perfectly OK here . It’s quite strange that sometimes back an animated film ‘The Prince of Egypt’ was banned due to the depiction of Moses (which hurts the sensitivity of Muslims who are against depiction of prophets ) but not a film that gives strong argument about Jesus having a wife and sired progenies that survive to the present time (which goes against both Christain and Muslim beliefs). But I guess for the Malaysian government, the main argument that Jesus was just a regular Jew more than make up for a little apocryphal blemish of claiming that he ran away, got married and have children and lived quietly in France or somewhere in obscurity.

Having said all that, I not proposing Da Vinci Code to be banned, far from it. I think all films should NOT be banned full stop. And so do I like the film? All I can say is that it does not make me want to go and read the book and yes, it’s too noisy. Too much distraction by out of placed background music ,just another typical Hollywood summer blockbuster and though I did not hear anybody tittering when Jesus’s heir on earth was finally revealed , I felt quite cheated. Lucky I do not spend precious time reading the book.

Friday, May 19, 2006


Amir and his communist

“The film’s not perfect; in fact, it’s one of Amir’s less polished works” - Review of Lelaki Komunis Terakhir by Jeremy Mahadevan. In NST 18 May 06.

I’m a very lazy man and I don’t feel it’s worth it to spend time chewing over things that don’t get me quite worked up (which unhapilly happens to be most things really). But I kinda love Amir’s old writings in his old ‘perforated sheet’ column in old NST literary pages in the good old days of early nineties, so I guess I can say that I’m kinda quite worked up when there’s anything to do with Amir’s creative outputs.

So when he made his first film ‘Lips to Lips’ I went to see it with great anticipation. Although there were a few nice ‘amiresque’ moments –my wife’s one memorable scene was about ‘that shoes smelling scene’ as she put it - on the whole the film was rather amateurish to my eyes and quite a dissapointment but okay, this is his first so; forgivable. But who am I to pronounce judgement when this film got invitations to be screened all over the globe.

Then there was his ‘Six shorts’. I’m too daft to understand this kind of ‘artistic’ nonsense so I can’t make any real judgement other than to say that it’s a complete crap. But who am I to say since this crap did win at least one award from Singapore Film Festival . And then he came up with ‘The big durian’ concerning some thorny issues in Malaysia in the mid eighties. Another crap to my aesthetic taste . The only memorable scene to me was when, was it Salleh ben Joned(?) ranting about all kinds of things and saying that HARAKAH is crap. Now this got me very worked up because I kinda support Harakah which is of course the organ of PAS the islamic party of Malaysia which I absolutely adore ( honestly). And who am I to say that this film is forgetabble as it was the first time that a film from Malaysia got selected to be screened in the Sundance film festival and even shortlisted for a minor competition in asian documentary section and again travelled all over the world on film festival circuits.I did not hear if it ever won anything though.

After three duds I thought well I’ll take a rest and did not watch his next output which I can’t even recall what it was about now. And then BOOM! ‘Lelaki Komunis Terakhir’ brouhaha.

To tell the truth I think Amir should kiss the feet of those that banned this latest ‘creative’ output of his. This is godsend. Such publicity and notoriety! You are up there old cock! The only way now is up old cock! Judging from the rather polite reviews and that little statement (above) by probably his friend who reviewed the film in today’s NST (which in itself is a very strange thing for the govt to allow: reviewing film that is banned?? How monty pythonesque !) I don’t think it’s an earth shattering film. It’s not even a film strictly speaking of course. Just a whimsical documentary which isn’t exactly BBC horizon or one of those illuminating channel 4 documentaries. “One of Amir’s lesser polished work?” Crap by other name to me . My guess is, if it were to screen in the cinemas it might sink without a trace after a couple of days but my guess can be wrong too as I’ve been wrong on many things before .

I think Amir is inwardly aware that he has checkmated the silly government of Malaysia and is right now tittering in the dark somewhere and gloating over the stupidity of the Malaysian government decision which don’t do anybody any good at all. I think Amir is fully aware that he is on top of things now, like the great chess grandmaster Kasparov who recklessly sacrificed a pawn to gain an advantage over his opponent.

Now that you are really somebody to be noticed I hope you’ll finally come up with the REAL film that I think you’re capable of. I’ve always dreamed of Malaysia producing our very own Coen Brothers and may be you’re the one . I hope to get really worked up with your next film.

Sunday, May 14, 2006



i first heard and (came to love) khaled's lilting rai music many years ago and over the years i came across his music at all kind of odd places...pat pong bangkok, those small streets which back packers and white tourists hang out in hanoi and bhakor jie in lhasa Tibet, in luc besson’s manic and great film ‘the fifth element’ (the taxicab chase scene music was "Alech Taadi" and can be found in his album N'ssi N'ssi ) and surprisingly to me even in car stereos of my fundamentalist /extremists ustaz friends in my home town,

And last night I was surfing tv channels in my hotel room in saigon when I was stopped in my track by this great arab/rai music which I thought was khaled’s (on one French channel which showed a French/arab ‘road movie’ about a Tunisian illegal immigrant selim trying to bring his young and very sick sister to italy for treatment and aided in this caper by a fellow Tunisian drug courier jeff) . But it turned out that this music was not by khaled after all.

I did not get to read the final credits and since I did not see the film from the beginning I couldn’t find out whose music this was and if anybody know about this film i would appreciate it if you can let me know about this film’s sound track.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Creative writing workshops

The other day, I finally brought my 85 yr old chimp to ride a roller coaster as I long promised but as I ‘m a very responsible father and I know I would be worried sick if he were to ride it alone I joined along, though I know full well that I can’t do any thing if anything goes wrong. And since I did my wife wanted to try too and of course our elder son also joined in. In short the whole family except our daughter who was elsewhere rode the roller coaster for the first time in our lives. What an experience! My wife said she felt like she was momentarily dead and came back alive (strange that she knows how death feels like). I thought I might have passed out for a few seconds during the loop but my chimp only wanted to do it again. So much for adventure for me. It’s nothing but torture .

But it gets me wondering how can all those idealists stand torture and stand their ground. Those political prisoners with the fingernails taken off with plyers, penises clipped with electrodes and so forth. As for me I’d own up to anything at the mention of penis. I’ll never make a good soldier or anarchist. I’m a coward just like most of YOU too.

So what do thinking cowards do? They just read serious fictions. How sad….but I’ll just leave to others to play heroes and blow themselves up. Talking about serious fictions; I just finished reading a couple of fine essays in old Harper’s magazine and Atlantic monthly which dealt with creative writing workshops and courses (which are mainly responsible for the explosion of these literary works that are getting more and more inbred by the day ). Lynn Freed “ My years in the creative writing gulag” (Harper’s Magazine July 2005) is a full 8 pages of whinnying about her experience teaching creative writing classes and how hopeless and delusional most students of these writing workshops and MFA were. And what luck that I immediately stumbled upon Rick Moody’s “Writers and Mentors” in The Atlantic Fiction issue 2005 which act as a nice counterpoint to Lynn Freed gulag years . His essay was about his experience as a student of creative writing classes and oh, what a bunch of useless twats these creative writing teachers were !

Sounds like a bad marriage to me but it can not be that bad if these classes occasionally produce writers the like of Ishiguro and McEwan. Never mind all those thousands who are left on the wayside and come back to earth and become normal human beings. But some of them are equally gifted but just don’t have the luck (don’t burn all those manuscripts just yet )…

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