Thursday, March 29, 2007

Penang's Very Own Alternative Film Club

Listening to: Camera Obscura - Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi


A bunch of film buffs got together last November and started an alternative movie club. Every two weeks on Sunday evening, we'd gather at a dingy office space at 60 Weld Quay (near the Penang Island ferry terminal). Films screened there would be stuff not so well known in Malaysia, such as 'Elling', 'The Motorcycle Diaries', 'Porco Rosso', etc. Occasionally, we would have short films made by a couple of members before the main feature...

Now, we have a website for the group, with a rather straightforward name:

Its called the Penang Film Club

Yeah, i'm a contributor there...

* * * * * *

Andddd... we have a show THIS coming Sunday evening. 8PM.

This weekend's flick will be "Night on Earth". Directed by Jim Jarmusch (this same bloke also did 'Broken Flowers' and the 'Coffee & Cigarettes' series), this movie is about the lives of five different taxi drivers working in different corners of the world, and their encounters with their passengers.

From (rated 80% fresh):
In Los Angeles, a young female driver (Winona Ryder) charms her passenger--an agent (Gena Rowlands) who believes she’s found her latest movie star in the tomboyish cabbie. In New York, a man (Giancarlo Esposito) gets into a taxi and finds that his immigrant driver (Armin Mueller-Stahl) has no idea how to drive. The Paris segment features an angry sightless woman (Beatrice Dalle) who provokes her African driver (Isaach de Bankole). In Rome, Roberto Benigni is a taxi driver who confesses his odd sexual practices to a clergyman (Paolo Bonacelli) and is shocked when the priest has a heart attack. The film’s climactic scene in Helsinki follows a cabdriver who listens to a tragic tale from one of his three drunk passengers only to top him with his own, sadder story...

See you there...

Monday, March 26, 2007

I Went To Kiasuland And Yo La Tengo Beat My Ass...

Listening to: Yo La Tengo - I'm Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass


For some undetermined reason, most international bands mainstream or indie, would bypass Malaysia and head for Singapore instead. Yo La Tengo was among those who gave us the pass, and they were in Kiasuland for the Mosaic Music Festival. Unlike Glastonbury, Bonnaroo, or Roskilde, where you get all down and dirty with the chance to swim in a sea of mud like piggies …

"Oink... Oink..."

…Mosaic would be a prim and “proper” music fest at The Esplanade, which is a bunch of posh concert halls, exhibition galleries, and auditoriums overlooking Marina Bay. Seating here will be numbered… and expensive. Despite the average price of Sg$90 (RM200) for a good seat in the middle, the auditorium was packed. O yea… no photographs allowed.

There was no opening band. After a robotic introduction by the emcee, the band failed to immediately appear, and the audience started getting rather noisy. And then… the Trio appeared… kicking off two pieces from their earlier works… and later, the song “Pass The Hatchet” from their newest album “I’m Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass”.

From left: James, Georgia, and Ira

This whole track lasted a good over TEN damn minutes. Very… very… prog-rock.

Now, the thing about Yo La Tengo is they’ve been around for over 20 years, almost as old as me. Try as you might to pigeonhole them into a genre... YOU will fail. Lead guitarist Ira, drummer Georgia, and bass-man James has covered a wide variety of styles, most often putting their own innovation and twists to a particular genre they decided to do. Jesus & Mary Chain style shoegazing? Did that with a cover of the Beach Boys “Little Honda” among all else. Country? Ja! Ambient style electro music? Yep. Twee style pop? … its in their latest album, Track No. 12.

Working quietly in the darkened corner of the stage, was a bald dude tuning and preparing Ira’s guitars. For almost every different style of song they will next play, Ira Kaplan would swap guitars with the tech. I reckoned he went through around 5 guitars and did more than 8 swaps at least…

Even after this awesome sonicworks display of Yo La Tengo’s musical ability, I have to admit… I’m STILL not a fan, even after owning two albums, a single, plus an E/P that I fished out of the discount bin in a San Jose record shop this January. But lets just say that I do appreciate their music in a good way. As for the rest of the audience, it seemed the entire battalion of Singapore’s Yo La Tengo fans came out in full force tonight to have a good time.

The Trio left the stage, but later returned for an encore of two more songs. The first was just… to me… just got ‘interesting’ towards the end. Ira decided one more time to display his skills with his guitar by smacking his electric-guitar’s strings on his lap… an action that somehow produced a sound that melded coherently with the last third of “We Are An American Band”. For the last song which Ira decided to ask the crowd to choose, my request for “Little Honda” was drowned out by a cacophony of screams from the others for a whole other titles like “Sugarcube”, to “Danelectro”, to stuff which I’ve never probably heard. They settled on “You Can Have It All”.

Is Tiger Beer Singaporean?!

Sixty folks had the golden chance to meet them after the show. I was among them...

One of the lucky fans...

This girl above asked Ira if he's "enjoying the beer". When he said yes, she
said it is "our very own" Singaporean brewed stuff.


And me finally getting to meet Yo La Tengo.
(For mystery points, I've cropped the portion where I am)

The Trio and I laughing at a funny piece of trivia in the mag they were
signing. Seems like Ira doesn't own a cellphone... a perplexity for many folks
today, especially Singaporeans & Malaysians.

Milling about in the foyer, I chatted with a bunch of Norwegians who were at the gig. Apparently they’re with this jazz band known as the Jaga Jazzists, playing tomorrow. has a review here of their performance.

A couple of Singaporean bloggers were also there and wrote reviews.
And, you can download two of Yo La Tengo’s songs for free:

Beanbag Chair
Pass The Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Statistical Fact: Did You Know That...

Listening to: Monsters Are Waiting - Fascination


10,000 bloggers are women and 8,000 of them are liars, and 95% of statistics are made up on the spot...?
Trite but true...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Ass Pee Em

Listening to: Nothing again...


So the Sijil Penilaian Menangah (SPM) results are out, and as expected the media runs its stories on who got how many As' and how they got it. Its a yearly ritual

For those non-Malaysians who are wondering, the SPM is some mandatory exam for high school students in Malaysia in order for us to graduate. Near-equivalents include the O-Levels, GCSE, and of course, the SAT. Yes, I took it. I HAD to take it...

Ten subjects I signed up for, the last being "Principles Of Accounting". The rest were the core subjects of Malay Language, English Language, History, Advanced Mathematics (Calculus, Statistics), Modern Mathematics (as opposed to "Ancient Maths"?), Moral Education and the Big Three of highschool science; Physics, Biology and Chemistry. At that time, we were limited to a maximum of around twelve courses... and I already had my back full with ten.

I won't go into the details of my results... but it included 8As and a C6 for Moral Education.

Speaking of "Moral Education", the subject was supposed to forge us into "better upstanding moral citizens" (or something like that) through blind memorization and regurgitation of moral values and their meanings. Somehow we would become better persons by just memorizing the characteristics of what a "honest" person should be like, and the difference between "baik hati" (kindness) and "murah hati" (generosity). Not suprising that many despised this asinine subject, but there was no escape from it as it was compulsary in our educational system.

On that day in 1999, half an hour before the "Moral Education" exam was to begin, some students decided to brighten up the mood... literally. An old Datsun had been abandoned on the road between SM La Salle (that was my skool), and the Hin Hua Chinese Secondary School. Apparently it had been sitting there for weeks. The guys overturned the piece of junk... and... set it on fire. Yep, just minutes before sitting for an exam on a subject that supposedly makes us into upstanding, obedient citizens of Malaysia. The irony.

To this day, I wonder if those runts were just having a bit of fun, or sending a message to Najib that this subject (and to an extent, the nation's public educational system) totally blows balls. They danced around the burning vehicle like tribals, had their photos taken with the flames in the background, and only fled when the fire department's sirens came.

Reading today's paper, it seems you can now take more than TWENTY subjects in the SPM.

What's the point exactly???

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

I Went To Kiasuland And Rode The Subway...

Listening to: Nothing


I've been out for the past 4 days in Singapore, on a well deserved break. Any time off work is well deserved anyway. The hostel at Little India had no computer terminals and the connection at the internet cafe next door sucked. So all I could do was check my email.

Yeah, I know whatta saying... "Dude, you can go to another cafe around the corner!" True, true... but I have better things to do in Singapore than pay 2 Kiasuland dollars/30mins to burn my eyes out in front of a yellowed pc monitor, you know...

Shopping isn't one of them, however...

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Commujism Or Death!

Listening to: Nothing


I was reading today's "Questionable Content" comic... and nearly sprayed my monitor with the Jager+Sprite I was drinking...

Monday, March 05, 2007

No Wonder Penang's Bus System's Fucked Up

Listening to: Yo La Tengo - I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One


"Public transport" and "Penang" are two words that should never be in the same sentence without the word "terrible", "atrocious", "shitty", or any other negative descriptor. Everytime the conversation shifts to the island's bus service, my relatives or colleagues will NEVER have anything good to say.

Earlier I had a chat with this guy who's a member of the Bus User's Group, a commuters' organization pressing for better public transport in Penang. The bus companies, according to him, actually RENT out their buses to independent individuals/organizations, who then do the actual task of running the vehicles. That's right folks... he said "rent". So that explains the following:
  • buses departing based on number of passengers, not schedule
  • which means buses never arrive on time (very long delays are common, and we're not talking 15 minutes)
  • buses not sticking to their planned route... drivers will make detours if they find out their planned route is choked with traffic, which is inevitable in Penang
  • the lack of numbered buses, routes, proper schedules & maps
  • drivers (sometimes the same guys who rented the bus) trying to make as many trips per day
  • drivers forcing passengers of mid-route. "Ok! We'll stop in Burmah Road here. Semua turun! C'mon, get out! You going to Tanjung Tokong? Aww... too bad! Anyway, here's a 50sen refund"

After all, if you're an indie operator renting a bus from some guy who's too lazy to run things themselves, your objective is to make as much cash as possible by the end of the workday. Especially when you and your ticket conductor partner are paying RM200 (~U$53) to have your own bus for the day...

Maybe I should rent my own bus, get Tam from Church Street to be conductor and plow the route between Komtar and Bukit Jambul. That would be a sweet way to make extra dough in the weekends...

Thursday, March 01, 2007

PAKU-ed It On The Head

Listening to: Nothing


A local celebrity who was supposed to appear at the Oscars' in Los Angeles, apparently went AWOL due to a "wardrobe malfunction". Fortunately her partner who came along for the show did make it on the carpet, amidst the glamour, champaign, and flashbulbs. One Malaysian didn't get her chance at a small sliver of fame...

On the other hand, a bunch of Malaysians just left this Tuesday for the UK. My pal Lina's one of them, and her band "Paku" will be touring Britain, Ireland, and hopefully(?) France.

Nice shades babe!

Paku is signed to indie-label Deathstar Productions . Their publicist/manager was game enough to arrange a tour of the British Isles, which is something EMI or the majors won't do for you. Clueless record exec: "What? You wanna play at Glastonbury?! Er... anyway... I think your new album needs more 'cinta' & 'rindu' in it, plus we should add more synthisizer. And we've already chosen the front cover for you... designed by my cousin."

So far, they did an interview yesterday with BBC Radio's Adam Walton. Right now as I'm writing this... they're about to do a gig at The Monkey Bar in Swansea, Wales...

Then on March 4th, it'll be at Whistlebinkies in Edinburgh...

If you Malaysian readers within those areas in England are interested... go see them.

And then, where next & when? Gee, the website is all jumbled up... its hard to get show info at a glance. Hey Alan, streamline your webpage will 'ya?! Here's a good example if you need one! Simple, no Flash, easy to read, and information easily (and quickly) available. And yes, I've seen the Watson Twins live.

Ok thats it. Thank you for listening to WPNG. Goodnight and good luck...