Thursday, 24 June 2010

How P. Ramlee anticipated Facebook

One of the running gags in Masam-Masam Manis (1965) is that Cikgu Shaari (P. Ramlee) posts updates on his relationship status on the inside door of his closet.

Since he's a bachelor who lives alone, it wouldn't be 'logical' for these updates to be read by anyone other than himself. But the film's canny use of cinematic space actually draws us into a cosy complicity with him; there are several moments where he addresses the camera (and therefore us) directly. So the updates that he posts are simultaneously private and public, since his 'wall' can be seen by his 'friends' (here interpreted here as: anyone who has paid to watch his movie.) The distinction between private and public space thus collapses.

It's uncanny how not only his blurring of private/public space but his relationship updates are similar to what we now have with Facebook.

Maseh Bujang = Single

Dah Ada Kawan = In a Relationship

Burong Dah Terbang = It's Complicated

In this respect, P. Ramlee showed himself to be a nujum (seer) like the one he played in Nujum Pak Belalang six years earlier.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

10 haiku for KL driving

Stuck in traffic jam
You can control your road rage
But not your bladder 

Your IQ shoots up
Listening to BFM
In a SMART tunnel

Guy in the next car
Do you know him from somewhere?
Green light; moment lost

A tall hitchhiker
Is he safe or dangerous?
Someone might find out

Whoever can solve
Our taxi-getting problems:
Stand for elections!

Think of the farmers
They are blessing this downpour
We are in gridlock

Streets are newly-washed
Huddled motorbike riders
Start leaving shelter.

A brave spotted cat
Starts crossing a busy road
Drivers, please be kind!

Cars barely moving
There might be an accident
Misused for 4D

"Beep!" exclaims your phone
You text: "OTW"
Your friend will get it

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

ROJAK in The Sun & NST today

(click to enlarge and read it properly.)

The Sun interview can be read here.

The book is not even in shops yet! Will keep yawl updated ;-)

Thanks to everyone who came to the launch! It was hectic and fun, as usual.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

GOL? The first web project by Matahari Books

So there I was, chatting with Danny Lim a few weeks ago (it was a virtual chat: he is in London doing his Masters), when we thought that a World Cup book by Malaysians would be a good idea.

Then it became a website. Because a website can be much faster, more spontaneous and interactive. And the website is

Gol? features nine Malaysian writers and the site is bilingual.

Each writer will describe the experience of watching the matches. Because the World Cup is nothing if not a social phenomenon. Six of them will be in Malaysia all the time, two will be in South Africa part of the time, and one will be in Indonesia part of the time. They will be encouraged to watch the matches in public spaces (such as mamak restaurants). So it will be a mix of not only sports writing but personal narrative and (dare we say it?) sociology. One of the writers, Umapagan Ampikaipakan, proudly admits that he knows nothing about football.

The writers count among my favourites. I have reviewed books by Shamini Flint and Pipiyapong before, so you can check 'em out for yourself. Danny is, of course, the compiler of The Malaysian Book of the Undead, one of the first Matahari Books titles. His photo-essay on KL street demonstrations was also in New Malaysian Essays 2.

We hope you enjoy it. Please bookmark, spread the word and (when the articles start coming in this weekend), do comment!

If this works out, stay tuned for more web projects ;-)

Majulah sukan untuk negara!

Sunday, 6 June 2010

First Malay actor in a Hollywood movie. From THE SPIRAL ROAD (1962)

Ibrahim Pendek (1932-2003) was in over 30 movies. The best of them, like Ali Baba Bujang Lapok, Hantu Jerangkung, and Anakku Sazali never made a big deal about his height :-)

When I saw him at a Finas function sometime in the 1990s, he was still very happy to talk about the month he spent in Hollywood, and it's not just because of the annual royalty cheques he got.

Three other points of interest:

1. As this film was shot in LA, did the rest of the team know what he was saying in his Malay dialogue? It's not subtitled, and is therefore meant to sound 'nonsensical' to its target audience.

2. The reason for Rock Hudson not being interested in a pretty woman is now quite clear, in retrospect.

3. He's not the only actor in the book to have a self-explanatory stage name. There's also Zainal Gemok.

Friday, 4 June 2010

We're still doing the layout and I can't confirm for sure, but this might be the final image in 120 MALAY MOVIES

This is a book that has taken me two years to write, it will weigh in at over 400 pages, and I'm quite sad to say goodbye to it. I have to soon stop tinkering with the thing; it will be a complete entity that can't be changed! But, at the same time, I also want it to be released soon, so I can only hope for the best. And somehow, this picture of Mat Sentul captures that feeling.