Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy Happy New Year...

Listening to: 11.11 - Regina Spektor

Less than 6 hours from now, and it'll be 2007.

This year has felt as if it was 15 months to me. Time tends to stretch when you're kept busy with work and your hobbies. Especially when its your first job...

It was also the year where a small bunch of folks in Penang started a tiny alt-film club. Attendance has been decent, with 10 to 12 people per screening. As of now, we haven't decided on a name...

Anyways, I'm avoiding Gurney Plaza at all costs. It'll be jammed to the brim with hordes and hordes of people, and I don't want folks jumping up and down on my car. Its pretty hard to get spares for an Oldsmobile...

I'll be spending the night with some pals, including several who are in a band. Mr. Jack Daniels and Dr. Jim Beam will be joining. If it means waiting till daylight for the alcohol to drop to the legal level, so be it. Once again, its hard getting spares and collision repair for a 1961 Oldsmobile. And Life has no "Load Saved Game" you can use if you ever get killed.

Drive safety. Drive wisely. Mr. Daniels can be a good friend, but never let him get behind the wheel with you.

So Happy 2007 to everyone!

And Selamat Hari Raya Aidil-Adha to the Muslim bloggers & readers like Walski, Kris, and Yasmin. And who could forget Menj too, despite his bile regularly thrown at those Khristiens, Boodheests and Hindues?! :-D

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Who Knew Suburban KL Could Be This Depressing?

Question: What do James Lee, Tan Chui Mui, and Ho Yuhang have in common?

I) They use a lot of long drawn-out shots in their works
II) They believe film must be used to project the glory of one's race.
III) Very little dialogue is used in their movies
IV) They believe Turkish Star Wars is the best movie... eva!!

A) I only
B) I and III only
C) II and III only
D) IV only

To get the answer, read the review below...

A month back, I met Tan Chui Mui at a screening of various short films at Han Chiang College. My friend and I chatted with her and her pals on bits and pieces of stuff about local alternative films and our still-unnamed film club. Her directoral debut "Love Conquers All" was set for release on Dec 21st. I got several leaflets for her movie, and I was going to be her unofficial "Minister of Propaganda and Advertizing" in the Penang area.

The film had won a couple of awards at the 11th Pusan International Film Festival earlier. All the more to see it, methinks...

Come Dec 21st and I went with several friends to the theatre. There were only five people in the theatre at first... all my friends. But later, we were joined by two more pals and later another ten strangers came in and sat at the back.

One thing I hate about Malaysian cinemas are the barrage of commercials they roll before the film actually starts. Back in 2000, ads never exceeded 15 minutes total. Now, you have to endure 35 minutes of propaganda for beer, cameras, cellphones, cellphones with cameras, sanitary pads, cars, "lifestyle massage chairs" and other stuff. You pay RM9 for this assault on your eyes. Something must be done...

We Malaysians need to act on this commercialist overload. Not by tossing rocks, popcorn, or small animals at the screen (that will get you kicked out), but with sarcastic remarks whenever those adverts play. Feel free to make fun of how Jessica Alba probably never drank more than one sixpack of Tiger in her life. Or those insurance ads where a typical Malaysian family is running around in a field of buttercups and fir trees that probably isn't near Tanjong Malim.

Hey, if you have to endure 30mins of adverts, you may as well make the best out of a terrible situation. Always look at the bright side of life... as Monty Python says.

Anyway, back to the film... which started after the irritating 35 minutes of commercials. Our heroine/protagonist/airhead Ah Ping (Coral Ong) has just moved over from Bukit Mertajam to a suburb of Kuala Lumpur. She gets a job behind the counter at her relative's economy rice stall, located inside a coffeeshop... that looks just like the thousands and thousands of Chinese coffeeshops spread out around the Malaysian landscape.

One thing Tan Chui Mui succeeds in this film is to make everyday items & objects seem mundane and at worst... depressing; all-metal chup-fan stalls, generic kopitiams in single shoplots, public phones, even the all bright-orange bowls, plates, chopsticks and spoons that Ah Ping, her cousin Mei (nicely played by Jiun Jiun Leong), and her aunt uses for their meals. A sense of suburban loneliness and ennui haunts most of the film; occasionally broken thanks to the young Mei with her young optimism and childish but amusing innocence.

In comes Stephen Chua's character, John. Taken in by Ah Ping The Small-Town Girl, he starts following her around to the point of creepiness. And this is where I call Ah Ping an airhead. Because when you have a dodgy looking stranger shadowing you through dark streets and proclaiming his crush on you, basically you should have alarm bells going off in your brain and your hand ready around the pepper spray. But no... she eventually falls for John, even after he takes her on a psycho ride in his Ford and refusing to stop the car unless she professed her love for him. And John's car went on and on till next morning, finally running out of gas in Mukhsinland.

To explain that word a little, they both ran out of petrol near a rural village (kampong). From the urbanized brick n’ concrete of Lee, Ho, and Tan’s world, John and Ah Ping had crossed through the portal into Yasmin Ahmad’s dimension. I expected to see Orked pedaling past on a bicycle at some point.

And here is where our benevolent, all protecting Film Censorship Board displays its numbing ridiculousness: John steps up to the front door of a village house and wishes… “TOOT!” And again… “TOOT!”

Hm, did he say “Fuck you”? No

Did he threaten “Hey old man! Open the fucking door NOW or we’re busting in… ‘Straw-Dogs’ style”? Nope.

It was “Assalammualaikum”, the Arabic greeting. Apparently non-Muslims and Muslims aren’t supposed to greet each other in a language used by Muslims, Christians, and sometimes Jews from the Levant and Arabian Peninsular. Funny, as my Muslim friends and I have done that on many occasions ever since primary school, untill today.

Well, I can now sleep soundly knowing we’re on the right path to much-needed racial and religious understanding in this country. Under the benevolent eyes of our moral defenders in the Censorship Board.

Later, a side character utters “Kan Nin!!” back at Ah Ping’s economy rice stall, uncensored and unbleeped. That means “Fuck You!!” in Cantonese. The censors obviously missed that one.

* * * *

"Girls are stupid. They think love conquers all..."

So says John to Ah Ping, after they both meet his Thai or Indian cousin at a mamak stall. He explains his "cousin" apparently gets a new girlfriend frequently... and then manipulates them into prostitution. A forecast of what's to happen. A warning. Straight from the lion's mouth. And still, Ah Ping hangs onto him.

Love Conquers All. As my friend who came along pointed out, perhaps thats the irony in the title and plot. And love conquered all in this film. All, including Reason, Logic, and Streetwise-ness. Which made Ah Ping cheat on her current boyfriend in Penang and hook up with this... person.

Perhaps, as my friend added, its TC Mui's way of criticism of the media and society's view on the concept of love & relationships. On societal norms that pressures single folks to quickly look for a mate as fast as you can... speed over compatibility. "Happily Ever After", "You're not complete without a man/woman", "When you getting married? You 24 already ah!"

But at the end, where one story ends sadly, another may just be beginning… fuelled by cheeriness and optimism.

Those of you who've seen "Rain Dogs" and James Lee's "Beautiful Washing Machine" would have observed MANY similarities between the three films. No surprise the three directors and have been involved in each others films, in one role or another. Like Lee and Ho, Tan Chui Mui uses visuals extensively to tell the story. You'll find little dialogue between characters. The scenes and their body language shall tell the story more than their own conversations.

James Lee's cinema style is prevalent here... characters are filmed with their backs to the camera and followed around. You'll see it in "Washing Machine". You probably saw it in "Rain Dogs". And you'll see it here too. Complementing the use of visuals and less dialogue are the very long outtakes. However, sometimes those loooong scenes will drag on focusing on the character(s) who seem to be doing something like walking, or using the phone. And then the sudden cut to the next scene...

And this is where I have the thankless task to throw a brick or two...

Tan Chui Mui does well in her first film in shrouding the suburban KL scene with a fog of depression. However, as another friend put it, she doesn’t really do much to tell in a new angle, the all-familiar cautionary tale of a girl who falls into bad company in the big city. I found the use and execution of the long takes to be very overdone and repetitive, nearly making the movie unbearable. A few were somewhat pointless, like the one of a coconut palm filmed against a backdrop of blue sky. Nice perhaps, but does it add to the story and background of Ah Ping & John hanging out in the front porch of the kampong house?

While The “Beautiful Washing Machine” and “Rain Dogs” transitions its scenes somewhat finely but with bumps here and there, Tan does hers rather suddenly. It’s as if you’re driving at 80 on this segmented concrete bridge, and each segment is five to six inches higher than the next.

It would be great if the Three Directors explore new grounds and innovations in their filmmaking, especially the cinematography. I fear that eventual reuse/overuse of the same formula in their next films may result in disappointment amongst local film-goers who have been looking towards fresh offerings from Malaysia’s alt-film world.

Despite its drawbacks, Love Conquers All is a decent, although rough debut for Tan Chui Mui. There is room for improvement in her later works. All in all, I have to give Love Conquers All 2.5 stars out of 5. To be more accurate, 5.3 on a scale of 10.

Another review by Ben McKay at Kakiseni.

How about another by Swifty?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Do They Know it's Halloween?

Listening to: Nothing

Penang to the Klang by bus takes an average of 5 hours, assuming your coach doesn’t stop at that traffic purgatory called the KL Pudu bus station. As I had not bought my ticket a week in advance, the only Saturday ticket left was on an "SE Ekspres" bus. My favourite company “Triton” had all sold out. For those of you who had the misfortune to ride "SE", you might have some horror stories of dirty seats and insane drivers who will take an aging bus with a dead-stiff suspension close to the speed of sound, perhaps overturning a few Kancils in its wake.

On my first trip with “SE Ekspres”, the bus was barreling straight through at 110kph, even through those treacherous downhill bends before Ipoh. When it rained near KL, the driver would not slow down from 100+. The Dutchman and his girlfriend sitting at the front will have some very interesting stories to tell their pals when they got back. The second trip was much safer, but I spotted two roaches crawling on the seat in front of me. The old man seated there didn’t notice. Well, perhaps what you don’t know about won’t kill you…

Fortunately, the bus operator for yesterday’s trip could not provide an “SE Ekspres” coach, either because the old wreck had broken down or had crashed en route to the Sg. Nibong station. They offered a “Bandar Ekspres” instead which was much cleaner, although the rear suspension was pretty fucked up. The driver was safer, though it was a little unnerving when he overtook that fuel tanker in the Ipoh tunnel. It was almost 8PM when I arrived.Klang has seen a rapid growth in development during the past 6 years when I was in the States and Penang. New townships have sprung up; more McMansions, cookie-cutter terrace houses, and identical shophouses where estates used to be. A whole lotta oil palm trees had been bulldozed over for a new township, ironically named “Bandar Botanic”. Glass seemed to be the rage among architects, as many of the buildings constructed in the past 3 years appeared to use it in liberal doses, despite the tropical climate.

Sunday morning, I set off in my family's old BMW; an ageing 2nd-hand car purchased many many years ago from an uncle. In an unsuccessful quest to find the legendary Istana Mat Deros, I took a journey to neighboring Pandamaran. It had been a while since I drove the car, and because of its age it had developed several interesting traits; the fuel gauge was always at “F”, and Reverse takes several seconds to engage. At least the Straight-5 engine was still reliable, although it consumed more petrol than before…

Well, I hope you had a nice Xmas on Monday…

Sunday, December 24, 2006

I Got Coal This Christmas!

Listening to: Nothin'

I'll be back home in Klang/KL this Christmas weekend. A well deserved (or perhaps undeserved) rest from the past two weeks at work; where my team and I have been rushing to meet deadlines before the Xmas season. That explains the lack of updates to this site lately. Apologies for that, assuming if anyone reads this...

As for me, I got not just one lump, but three train-wagons full of coal from Santa. But every cloud has a silver lining. I sold them all to the local power station for a fair bid of money. Now I can buy myself an iPod to replace that CD/MP3 Discman of mine. Ho Ho Ho!

Anyho, Merry Christmas to you all!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Hillarity Of On-Blog Advertising...

Listening to: Nuthin...

I've decided to keep my site free from adverts, especially those automated ad panels on the sidebar. Thats because AdSense tends to take words from your articles, and then display irrelevant advertisements that coincidentally had those words in it, sometimes (if not mostly) to hillarious effect. For example, I could be writing about the risks of a potential nuclear
holocaust from North Korea, and then Adsense will display an advert about meeting Jewish women (you'll probably have to go to Penang for that), or buying yarmulkas online.

Complain on your blog about your
Sony television that broke this afternoon, and you'll get a link to a shady website guaranteeing you a PlayStation 3.

Talk about Kramer from Seinfeld's racist boob on TV, and next thing you know you have links to breast enlargement pills & pr0n sites on that little panel on the right.

Another one is this method called Pay Per Post where you get apparently get paid to whore... I mean endorse products and services in your blog entries. Now thats great if you write an adblog about Al's Line N' Tacles and your blog's about your fishing hobby. However, its a little er... contradictory if you're an anarchist in Malaysia and blog about this great credit card deal thats only applicable to US residents (excluding US islands territories and Puerto Rico). Or lets say you blog about how corporate interests has fucked up music & how you only listen to bands which no more than 5 people have heard of and have emo hair... and then next write an asskissing glowing review about Paris Hilton's newest album out on MTV. Way to go you sellout!

To Adsense's credit, if they're not situationally hillarious, they're much less irritating than those damn popup ads. Especially those that flash "
YOU ARE A WINNER!! CLICK HERE!!" at 200 frames-a-second, as if they're trying to give you seizures.

Two cases in point...

Put Jesus (Jersey No. 6) in midfield, next to Landon Donovan...
(pic from

Where religion & sex mix

And by the way, a post I agree with...

Monday, December 11, 2006

I'm Busy, Don't Bother Me!

Listening to: The Corrs Unplugged

I've just gone to that newly opened Borders bookstore in Penang. The slightly disturbing thing is athough in the States, Borders is considered as yet another chain bookshop which you can find in almost every strip mall, by Malaysian standards their selection is considered "diverse".

I got meself a music mag & a Tintin comic and now I'm reading about what The Shins are up to. So I won't be posting stuff 'bout last week's gig & movie at 60 Weld Quay, or me being at Paku's recording for their new album.

Here are a few links for you instead:

The Best Page In The Universe (it says so!)

The Asylum

Run your own nuclear power plant

Its Dot Com!

Welcome To Ancient Egypt!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Ultimate Act In Kiasuism?

Listening to: Nothing again...

Kiasu: A Hokkien Chinese phrase (Kia-Su)
that means "afraid to lose". In colloqial Malaysian and especially Singaporean terms, this is a psychological fear of losing out or appearing inferior.

Among the Malaysian and Singaporean Chinese (although this applies to all ethnicities today), a harsh social and economic environment of cutthroat competition has caused many to adopt a kiasu mentality in their life and retations with family, friends and society itself. Singaporeans were, and still are considered by many (including Malaysians) to be ultra-kiasu... however in the 90s, fast paced development and the eventual economic meltdown in 1998 has led Malaysians to levels of kiasuism occasionally rivaling their Singaporean counterparts.

But still, the consensus is Singaporeans hold the No.1 spot for Kiasuism. You can celebrate that fact, Singapore... and perhaps declare a National Kiasu Day for that too...

The kiasu mentality leads to all sorts of amusing stories, as the overly competitive person applies it everywhere to the point where courtesy and civilized behavior is sacrificed for personal "prestige" and selfishness. Examples that you may be kiasu:

  • Getting a new BMW 3-Series just because your neighbor Mr. Woo just bought himself an Audi. (Meanwhile, they're both laughing at my "junk" Oldsmobile 88 from 1961)
  • Overtaking me in my Oldsmobile 88 just after I passed you in your new BMW on the expressway. For some reason, no car is permitted to pass you in your new car, especially one from 1961. And you have to do it with NO INDICATOR and nearly clipping my front bumper in the process.
  • At a restaurant/hotel buffet, you pile an obscene replica Mount Everest of food on your plate... not because you intend to finish it but because you paid $30 for it. After all, its your right to do it, no? Nevermind that half of the food will not be consumed by your greedy gut and left to waste.
  • You always compare your children to Mr. Lim's children, who always gets full A's in their exams. And you have to forcibly enroll them for piano lessons, violin lessons, karate classes, Mandarin classes, ShiFengshou rapid calculation classes*, in addition to the extra classes they area already taking after school.
  • If you're Singaporean, you drive across the Causeway to Malaysia so you can buy cheaper groceries, and save $40 in the process. Nevermind that it takes you at least 4 hours and 1/3 a tank of gas.
  • If you can't have it, nobody can. You'll go all out to discourage or sabotage others trying to achieve something; be it some material item, success, or their lifelong dreams simply because you know you can't, or are too scared to try to achieve it for fear of failing and appearing a "loser" to others. See: dog in a manger

For my brethren from Yankeeland, equivalents of kiasuism include the following; the dog in a manger scenario, "following the Joneses", overcompetition, or consumerist sheep mentality. Example: Malcolm's mum from "Malcolm In The Middle". Actually, that describes most suburban parents in the West nowadays... but that's nothing compared to Singaporeans and Malaysians.

Anyway, this has to be the most disgusting act of kiasuism ever applied. Surprise, surprise... It had to be done by a Singaporean:

Flat dweller hanging condoms out to dry irks neighbours

HANGING laundry out to dry from a flat window may be acceptable, but condoms?

A Singaporean high-rise dweller is said to have resorted to recycling used condoms by “air-drying” them from the window of his flat, according to a report in China Press.

More than 100 used condoms were put out to dry, according to a disgusted neighbour.

The woman, known as Tan, was quoted in the daily as describing the act as “gross and disgusting”.

“This is sickening. You can see from afar that some of the condoms had turned brownish,” she said, adding that the unit belonged to a middle-aged man living with his wife and two children.

Tan, who has been staying there for more than 20 years, said the act should not have been allowed by the authorities as it was unhygienic, especially when it rained.

“Rain water will be dripping from the condoms onto pedestrians walking on the ground below,” she pointed out.

> Nanyang Siang Pau reported that 94 people at a religious camp in Nilai, Negri Sembilan, were believed to have come down with food poisoning on Wednesday after consuming fried mee and rice with other dishes prepared by the organiser.

So far, 85 had been discharged after receiving outpatient treatment while nine others were warded at Hospital Tuanku Jaafar Seremban.

It is learnt that most of the participants started to feel unwell after lunch, with the first patient sent to a nearby clinic at 5pm the same day. By 11pm, the organiser had to hire a bus to send the other participants to the hospital for treatment.

According to the hospital's medical report, 90% of the victims experienced dizziness, frequent vomiting and diarrhoea.

A total of 712 people, aged between 14 and 28, participated in the camp held at a private college in Nilai.


FUCKING GROSS! I hope the council fines his ass off so he'll realize its not just pure revolting to hang out his condoms to dry, but also cheaper to buy new ones instead. Anyway, I doubt he knows that condoms are single-use items only.

* In the mid 90s, there was this craze among folks to send their kids to learn ShiFengshou Rapid Calculation. Developed by Professor Shi Feng Shou (duh!) from China, you could apparently do arithmetic in seconds without a calculator.

My younger sister was among those pressed by parents to learn how to count sums like '43 X 31', '423+23', etc. & etc. by mental power. Well, she left after 2 months and RM200 (U$55) in total fees, including 8 Saturday afternoons lost.
Eventually parents Malaysia-wide realized an RM50 calculator (batteries not included) would, though a little slower by 0.5seconds... accomplish the same thing with much higher accuracy. Plus, it does square root too! And you don't have to pay RM100 a month to learn how to use it.

Suffice to say, the Shi Fengshou branch in Klang is now an empty shoplot.

Friday, December 08, 2006

In Praise of Polyurethane

Listening to: Nothing

Polyurethane (PU) is a plasticy-rubbery material resistant to many forms of damage that would usually destroy/deform other stuff like fiberglass, plastics, and metal (well, deform it in this case). Anyway, the reason why i'm writing this is not because of a potential U$29 check from the Alliance For The Polyurethane Industry (API) but rather two incidences in the past month or so.

At my workplace, we have hi-tech machines which uses a particular component made of a tough temperature-resistant material. It was tougher than the previous material we used, but the problem was it was too tough. It more than occasionally damaged the sensitive substrates we use in our production floor, creating scratches or dents in the substrate material. Also, it was pretty expensive to fabricate these components; about RM600 per piece. This damage and high sticker price got the management breathing down our necks.

Then someone decided to use PU instead, which was just as durable, and much cheaper. Problem solved. For now.

The second incident happened just yesterday when my colleague's Suzuki Swift got rear-ended on the way to work. From the photos taken with his cellphone, the rear fender was initially badly dented .An ordinary fender would be permanently damaged badly at that speed. But being made of PU, the rear fender resumed its original shape eventually save for a small dent above the exhaust.

But he's still claiming from the other guy...

Ok, I better get to sleep now before I start talking about Teflon or Vectran. Lack of sleep does "wonderful" things to the mind...

Monday, December 04, 2006

A Question To Anyone Reading This...

Listening to: Nothing at the moment

If there's actually someone who reads this, I have something to ask. Can you explain what James Lee's "Beautiful Washing Machine" is really about?

My take is its about the "spirit" of the machine who escapes its confines of a green washing machine and its preset role to clean and wash stuff. In the form of a young woman. However, even in human form it ends up being taken for granted by its masters, used, abused, and distrusted.

That reminds me, I've gotta do my laundry....

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Upon seeing this movie, I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced...

Listening to: The Execution Of All Things - Rilo Kiley

I downloaded and watched a Turkish movie called
Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam, or known as "The Man Who Saves The World" several months back. Filmed
during the early 80s, this movie was supposedly a Turkish (duh!) remake of Star Wars, hence earning it the unofficial title of "Turkish Star Wars". At that time, foreign films were difficult to import into Turkey, leaving local directors the choice for remakes with a all-Turkish cast, setting, and an ultra-low budget. Among the result of reproducing sci-fi blockbusters with cheap sets, costumes and a low-budget, my friends... is called "Turkish Star Wars".

Godawful this film may be, but it holds a centain camp value... thus qualifying it for the "So Awful, Its Great" category. At least for me...

I will be writing a review later so you can decide whether to or whether to NOT see this movie. I don't wish to reccomend it and later receive death threats from some unknown persons who felt they had wasted their Streamyx "broad"-band to download this monstrosity of a film and a further 90-plus minutes to see it.

Meanwhile, across the coastal expressway, a massive structure has been slowly rebuilt throughout the past year into a shopping mall. My housemate mentioned that construction on the building was interrupted several years ago due to financial difficulties. Under new management, construction was resumed and just yesterday, this Death Star of a shopping complex was finally opened.

The thing with Penang Island is there are too many malls for too little people. The opening of a new shopping complex tends to scavenge a majority of customers from the other previous No.1 mall on the island. Hordes of shoppers descend upon the new one like a mass of consumerist herd animals, blocking roads in the area and raising traffic and tempers dramatically. Those ever stuck in Gurney Drive on a Sunday afternoon know what I mean.

As for the previously hip complex, it now has to deal with a drop in customers. And when another newer mall opens, the results are even worse. The high-end tenants move out, and the pirated DVD stores move in... preferably on the upper floors.

When asked about their status as the Newest Mall in Penang, officials from Queensbay only had this to say:

I'm not the one too keen over this. I tend to keep away from gargantuan malls as I don't feel good in the strangest of places like long lines that make me wait and especially mall parking lots. I just hope they have a "Rock Corner" over there... one stocked with nice records like the branch in "1-Utama".

In the meantime, I now have to deal with heavier traffic everytime I exit the junction...