Monday 31 December 2007

Another book launching simultaneously

What an embarrassment of riches. Looks like New Malaysian Essays 1 will not only have Sufian Abas as a launch-mate.

Chuah Guat Eng will unleash her first volume of short stories, The Old House, at the same time and place. Guat's previous book was the novel Echoes of Silence (1993) and she has since been busy with matters academic.

I do have a copy (autographed, natch) but have not read it yet. And if you (yes, you) wanna get your hands on the book, you know where to come.

Wednesday 26 December 2007

'Apa Khabar Orang Kampung' DVD now on sale

Yes, my documentary is now on sale courtesy of Singapore's Objectifs Films. It is without cuts and rated NC16 (not suitable for those below 16).

It can be ordered from anywhere around the world here.

Friday 21 December 2007

Amcorp Mall this Sunday

My final flea-market push for the year will be this Sunday at Amcorp Mall, PJ, from 10am-5pm.

I will be flogging the book and ... a DVD. The exact location: 2nd floor, next to Popular bookshop.

Datanglah kalau sudi. Kali terakhir untuk membeli-belah sebelum menyambut kelahiran Yesus Kristus!

Thursday 20 December 2007

Out of the Top 10

MPH Local Non-Fiction Bestsellers
for the week ending 19 December

1.Teh Hong Piow: A Banking Thoroughbred
Author : Bowie, Paddy

2. 1957 - 2007: Chronicle of Malaysia (Fifty Years of Headline News)
Author : Mathews, Philip (Editor-in-Chief)

3. Growing Up in Trengganu
Author : Awang Goneng

4. Confessions of an Old Boy: The Dato' Hamid Adventures
Author : Kam Raslan

5. In Good Faith: Articles, Essays and Interviews
Author : Zaid Ibrahim

6. Judging the Judges
Author : N.H. Chan

7. News from Home
Authors : Chua Kok Yee; Shih-Li Kow; Rumaizah Abu Bakar

8. The Certain Way to Life's Riches
Author : Peter Yee; Alexandra Ng

9. Rahsia Raja Lelong
Author : Eruwan Gerry Norsen

10. Secrets of Self-Made Millionaires
Author : Adam Khoo

* Yes, after 10 consecutive weeks, the book is nowhere to be found in the Top 10. But that's OK because:

a) Unlike, say, the film box-office or pop singles chart, what goes down can come up again. Witness the case of Kam's and Zaid's books, which were both not around last week.

b) 5,000 copies in the first three months is quite good what.

c) I own five of the books here, and I am glad others are buying them too.

Tuesday 18 December 2007

Six teasers for 'Flower in the Pocket'

How can one not be proud to have a colleague like Liew Seng Tat? He has a funny bone in places that other people don't even have places.

Yes, his movie Flower in the Pocket, a bilingual comedy, opens this Thursday in four GSC cinemas: MidValley, One Utama, Pavilion and Gurney Plaza.

Monday 17 December 2007

Oh look, a year-end list!

I managed to see, in the cinema, 14 of the 21 widely-released local films of the year. (There used to be a time when I would make it a point to watch all, but this year I somehow wasn't up to it).

Although no one's asking, this is my ranking anyway:

1. Mukhsin
2. Anak Halal
3. Puaka Tebing Biru
4. Zombi Kampung Pisang
5. Jangan Pandang Belakang
6. Waris Jari Hantu
7. Syaitan
8. Chermin
9. Kayangan
10. 1957 Hati Malaya
11. Diva
12. Cinta Yang Satu
13. Impak Maksima
14. Orang Minyak

I missed the following:

Haru Biru
Qabil Khushry Qabil Igam
9 September
Budak Lapok
Nana Tanjung 2

My own co-directed, much-delayed Susuk should be out sometime in the middle of next year. It's basically done, but the studio wants to release two of its other films first: Dunia Baru The Movie and Sepi. Mwahaha!

Friday 14 December 2007

Recommended: ANAK HALAL

Saw it last night. Although not a perfect film (Why on earth would we want to watch a perfect film? Wouldn't it be as intimidating as knowing a perfect person?) I am amazed anew at Osman Ali's empathy (heart), energy and skill with actors. If nothing else, this film is significant for finally making a credible leading man of Farid Kamil (!)

If Osman's earlier, underrated film Puaka Tebing Biru reminded me of old Malay movies, Anak Halal is like gritty Bollywood. As such, some would flinch that it's all 'too much', which is fine. But the excess is wedded to a generosity of spirit, which makes it all right by me.

Osman has been creating a consistent cinematic world since his graduation short in 1999 (also called Anak Halal), a world of sensuality, underdog camaraderie, outrage, provocation, pathos. He always goes that little bit further than anyone else would dare to – just to get that little bit closer.

Thursday 13 December 2007

Simultaneous book launch

A bonus! New Malaysian Essays 1 will be launched simultaneously with this:

Who is Sufian Abas? His first published short, My Chicken Story, was one of the highlights of Silverfish New Writing 1 (2001) that I edited. Weighing in at only 3 pages, it was darker, funnier and bitchier than an entire Mami Jarum movie. Then he had a few shorts in Wilayah Kutu (2005). But other than that he's been notoriously slow.

Now, inspired no doubt by the success of Malaysians who have been published abroad like Tan Twan Eng and Preeta Samarasan, he has awakened to unleash the first volume of his collected fiction!

Nantikan kemunculan
Kasut Biru Rubina: Koleksi Pop Fiskyen Untuk Jiwa2 Hadhari Vol 1. The launch is Saturday, 16 Feb, 8pm at the Annexe. But you'll be hearing about the launch many more times closer to the date, fret not.

Wednesday 12 December 2007

Interview in The Jakarta Post

Proving it's two strikes you're in as far as film festivals go

By Paul Agusta. 12 December. The Jakarta Post.

Neither of the documentary films Amir Muhammad of Malaysia has in this year's Jakarta International Film Festival (JIFFest) have ever been screened publicly in his own country. They were banned; The Last Communist was rejected after initial approval due to the outcries of an influential conservative newspaper, and Village People Radio Show was banned before it was born, having been deemed a sequel to its notoriously naughty big brother.

"I've learned not to anticipate anything. After all, Ching Peng's (the last communist from the film's title) memoirs were sold openly and it was not banned," said Amir of the banning of his films. "The Information minister, Zainuddin Maidin, had a beautiful explanation of this discrepancy: `Malaysian's don't read books'."

"The irony is that I just wanted to show it on three small digital screens and the book has been read by more people than those three screens could pack in even if it played for a solid month," said the constantly smiling filmmaker and author, who just celebrated his 35th birthday on Dec. 5.

"Both were released in Singapore at one cinema, and then on DVD," said Amir.

"They were also both sold to Korean TV," he added. "The Last Communist even made it into 30 film festivals, and it got positive responses in Berlin and Toronto," Amir explained.

Back home, the Malaysians who forked out 10 ringgit (Rp 27,000 or US$3) at pirated DVD stalls to see what all the fuss was about were left scratching their heads.

"The main response I heard was `Full of old people talking only'. I guess they were expecting an action movie," Amir said.

"Even the die-hard leftists who saw it were disappointed," Amir explained. "So I managed to disappoint both conservatives and radicals."

Whatever the fate of the two films in their land of origin, they have garnered a lot of interest abroad, and not only because of the banning controversy, but also due to the experimental approach Amir takes to documentary filmmaking in general.

Know for his surgically sharp wit, this law school graduate who never practiced because he never felt it necessary to take the bar exam, has consistently pushed the boundaries of what documentaries are assumed to be, while affectionately dissecting the complex irony that colors the way of life and being in his homeland.

Yet, according to Amir, it was Indonesia that inspired him to do both of the films now on JIFFest screens.

"It all came directly out of my experience of making The Year of Living Vicariously, where a lot of it consisted of interviewing people about their memories," Amir explained.

The Year of Living Vicariously (2005) began as documentary of the production of Indonesian director Riri Riza's Gie, a film whose backdrop is the communist drama of 1960s Indonesia. However, while Amir was on set, he started asking actors and crew members what they knew about the events of that time. What he got was what he refers to as "inherited memories". "So I wondered what the Malaysian equivalent would be, and that was about the same time that Chin Peng's memoirs were released. Chin Peng was the last secretary-general of the Communist Party of Malaya," Amir explained.

"I read the book when I got back to Malaysia, and I was struck by the towns he grew up in. So I wanted to do a road tour as I was not familiar with those towns," Amir said.

"So it (The Last Communist) is a map of two different kinds of landscapes, the physical one and the one mapped by memories and myths," Amir explained.

"Seeing that Malaysians are much less politicized than Indonesians, most people ended up talking not about 'the communist era' but about their own livelihoods, so I kept that in," Amir said.

Amir feels that the main function of documentaries is not to impart information, but to communicate a sense of place.

"Documentaries are a branch of cinema rather than a branch of news," he said. "But art isn't the doily on the table; art is the material of the table itself."

He continued: "If it is obvious that your intention is to lecture or hector, people's responses will be programmed from the opening minute. I think that if you are very sure of what your film will be like before making it, why bother making it? I think that filmmakers should challenge themselves too."

* The Last Communist is to be screened on Dec. 14 and 16 and Village People Radio Show on Dec. 12, 13 and 14. For more information go to or phone (6221) 31925115.


MPH Local Non-Fiction Bestseller List

1. Growing Up in Trengganu
Author : Awang Goneng

2. The 2008 Tong Shui Monthly Planner
Author : Joey Yap

3. The Unmaking of Malaysia: Insider's Reminiscenes of UMNO, Razak and Mahathir
Author : Ahmad Mustapha Hassan

4. Malaysian Politicians Say the Darndest Things (Vol. 1)
Author : Amir Muhammad

5. Chronicle of Malaysia: 1957–2007 (Fifty Years of Headline News)
Author : Mathews, Philip (Editor-in-Chief)

6. Feng Shui for Apartment Buyers - Home Owners
Author : Joey Yap

7. Memulakan Bisnes Sendiri (Edisi Kemas Kini)
Author : Ainon Mohd

8. Xuan Kong Flying Star Feng Shui: Your Guide to the Flying Stars Feng Shui System
Author : Joey Yap

9. I Walked the Dollar
Author : Dr. Saiful Bahri

10. In Service of the Law - Simplicity & Greatness: Tun Suffian's Legacy
Author : Salleh Buang

1. This is my 10th consecutive week on the list. Woop woop!

2. I am thrilled that Awang Goneny is #1. I started reading his book and it's terrific. Very nicely published,too.

3. Joey Yap must have a writing desk in a very auspicious location to manage three titles in there.

Monday 10 December 2007

'Evening is the Whole Day'

I am going through this phase when I just can't read contemporary fiction. But I hope to snap out of it by the time Preeta Samarasan's debut novel Evening is the Whole Day is released in March. [correction: May!]

A description at Amazon says that the novel "illuminates in heartbreaking detail one Indian immigrant family's layers of secrets and lies, while exposing the complex underbelly of Malaysia itself."

I have no idea who she is, to be honest, but she writes some terrific blog comments over at Sharon Bakar's joint – her elucidation of atheism makes a great deal of sense, not to mention her defence of the word apartheid (but not ethnic cleansing) for Malaysian race-based politics.

Complex underbellies are A-OK with me. Go Preeta!

Sunday 9 December 2007

Gloomy Sunday

To call Malaysia a dictatorship would be an insult to the millions who had to live under the likes of Stalin, Pol Pot, Marcos and Suharto. But the peculiar aspect of Malaysia's illiberal democracy (to use a phrase that Rustam Sani either coined or popularised) is to be confronted by small bits of dehumanisation on a regular basis.

I was manning a booth at the Bar Council this morning, to make up the numbers. After all, the crowd shouldn't have consisted solely of lawyers, activists and undercover cops! It was, also, a festival to celebrate human rights – an inconclusive and sometimes maligned concept, true, but which should include the basic right to assemble peacefully.

And it was a peaceful gathering, despite the Falun Gong activists' loud propaganda machine just next to me. But right from the start, the police made their presence very much felt. I've never had cause to be angry at the police. They are, as the saying goes, just doing their job. But shouldn't their job involve better things than snooping around, taking surreptitious photographs and telling people to disperse? How many crimes can be solved with greater speed if these very same men and women in blue (or in plainclothes) were to instead get cracking on them?

I've never been a demonstrator type. The banal truth is, I simply don't like to be part of a huge crowd; I don't even attend concerts. In fact, the only real demo I have ever taken part in was in a foreign country, where I was shocked to see the authorities actually cooperating rather than being intimidating.

Watching the spirited and principled young lawyer Edmund Bon (left) getting taken away by a swarm of blue, simply for refusing to take down banners, left me with a feeling of sadness. For some reason I couldn't quite summon outrage, but it was indeed sad to see that we have come to this.

A student at an MMU screening of The Big Durian a few days ago asked me what a 'perfect government' would be like. I daresay that since governments are composed of imperfect human beings, there will never be a perfect government. The very quest or presumption of perfection is fascist. But there can be a much better system of checks and balances; for each of these imperfect institutions – the executive, legislature, judiciary, police force, media, civil society – to then create, through negotiation, a system that allows for not just stability but difference. Stability without difference is inertia. And how can we move forward from inertia?

The weather was gloomy this Sunday but it did not quite rain. Those who commit the literary sin of pathetic fallacy will not be able to say that the sky cried. There were no tears, of the real or allegorical variety. But there was a sigh – if you cared to listen.

* Photos by SN.

Friday 7 December 2007

The cover painting

All covers of the New Malaysian Essays series will feature a Malaysian art work by someone I know. As I don't know all that many artists, the series might be shorter-lived than I initially thought...

The first cover features a detail from Ahmad Fuad Osman's oil painting titled Hoi Hoi...Apa Ni? Dia Kata Hang Salah, Hang Kata Dia Tak Betoi, Sapa yang Salah Sapa Yang Betoi Ni??!! Hangpa Ni Sebenaqnya Nak Apaaaa??? It was made in 1999, measures 252cm by 272 cm, and is used courtesy of its owners Pakharuddin & Fatimah Sulaiman.

I have known Fuad for about a decade and this is among his more striking works. It was painted at the height of the reformasi era but even without the political context, I like how lacking in serenity it is. Choosing it as the cover is my way of anticipating how the Malaysian public would welcome a book of damn long and frequently argumentative essays.

Thursday 6 December 2007

Site of the day

The Malay Concordance Project has the searchable, Romanised texts [although not fully available for download] of many Malay manuscripts dating from the 14th century to the 1930s ... and it's always being updated.

I shall certainly be spending many hours on it from now on.

What a great idea for the university to have started it! (No, it's not a local U).

Wednesday 5 December 2007


MPH Local Non-Fiction Best-Seller List
for the week ending Dec 2

1. The Unmaking of Malaysia: Insider's Reminiscenes of UMNO, Razak and Mahathir
Author : Ahmad Mustapha Hassan

2. Malaysian Politicians Say the Darndest Things (Vol. 1)
Author : Amir Muhammad

3. May 13: Declassified Documents on the Malaysian Riots of 1969
Author : Kua Kia Soong

4. Feng Shui for Apartment Buyers - Home Owners
Author : Joey Yap

5. Memoir Shamsiah Fakeh: Dari Awas ke Rejimen Ke-10 (Edisi Baru)
Author : Shamsiah Fakeh

6. In Service of the Law - Simplicity & Greatness: Tun Suffian's Legacy
Author : Salleh Buang

7. Malaysia and the Club of Doom
Author : Syed Akbar Ali

8. My Rewards
Author : Chong Kah Kiat

9. Bukan Kerana Pangkat: Tun Dr Ismail dan Masanya
Author : Ooi Kee Beng

10. Rahsia Raja Lelong
Author : Eruwan Gerry Norsen

1. This is the 9th week on the chart. The trajectory so far: 2-1-1-1-1-5-1-5-2

2. 6 of the books are by or about Malaysian politicians!

Monday 3 December 2007

Where I will be this Sunday

Do join us!

I doubt if I will be well enough to, you know, march, but I will be there for the second half of the programme at CM.

Wednesday 28 November 2007

I want my MT...erm, [V] !

I don't watch television (shockingly enough, I don't find my attention span up to it), but I do like appearing on it once in a while.

So here I am being interviewed by Nicholas Saputra last week for a Channel [V] programme that will air next month. I am babbling about the book and my movies.

I worked with Nicholas in 2004 and would like to do so again, since he's such a level-headed type. By contrast, some of the Malaysian quote-unquote stars one has had to deal with in this vale of tears are screeching banshees!

* Photo by the award-winning Chris Chong, with whom I am now working on a secret book.

Tuesday 27 November 2007

Singapore civil servants do the darndest things

During one of my interviews to promote the book I mused, perhaps rashly, that "Singaporean politicians are more media-savvy, so they won't do or say anything that might embarrass them."

Thanks to Ben Slater for the heads-up. Ben is younger than me, but he has a most recommended book, Kinda Hot, which actually galvanised me to start publishing non-fiction books when I read it last year. I made sure to name-check him in my interview in this month's TELL magazine too.

Monday 26 November 2007

Malaysian movies in Jakarta

My documentaries Apa Khabar Orang Kampung (Village People Radio Show) and Lelaki Komunis Terakhir (The Last Communist) are just two of several Malaysian movies to screen at the 9th Jakarta International Film Festival next month. The others are Mukhsin, Love Conquers All, Flower in the Pocket, and Chalanggai (Dancing Bells), all of which I cannot recommend highly enough. All the pemutaran are gratis!

Also showing are several films in a P. Ramlee retrospective: Bujang Lapok, Hang Tuah, Labu & Labi, Nujum Pak Belalang and Laksamana Do Re Mi.

This is a rare chance for "old" and "new" Malaysian cinema to screen in one function. I will, of course, have more to say about P. Ramlee in the book 120 Malay Movies, since he will be the director with the second-highest number of films in it.

Despite its ubiquitous macet, (a word I find myself using even in Malaysia) Jakarta is one of my favourite cities. So it's a shame I will miss the festival, but the two documentaries will be represented by Danny Lim, who is so busy he has not updated his site in exactly two years.

Friday 23 November 2007

20% discount for first edition

To celebrate the fact that we are now in our 3rd edition (in the space of 3 months!), I am offering a 20% discount on the remaining copies of the first edition solely at Kinibooks. So now it is a mere RM24.

I am so happy that it has sold almost 4,000 copies in the first two months. This is faster than I expected. So in the spirit of the film producer David Teo* (who gave his director a Mercedes for the fact that Jangan Pandang Belakang is the most successful local flick), I wanna spread some of the lurve around!

The price in actual bookshops remains the same: RM30.

The reason I wanna support Kinibooks is because it's run by Malaysiakini, the best newspaper in the country, despite the fact that it does not distribute paper.

* I have my own David Teo anecdote which I was saving for my sensitively wrought memoirs but which I might as well blurt out now. I hardly know him. But during the time when Lelaki Komunis Terakhir was being banned and discussed in the papers everyday, we found ourselves at a function in the KL Convention Centre. He came up to me and said, "You punya filem komunis ah, banyak publisiti oh ... kalau release sekarang ah, boleh untung oh!" Then he walked off.

Thursday 22 November 2007

How Rafidah Aziz will help promote my book

(This is for the launch of the latest Times bookstore at KL's latest shopping mall).

Date: 23 November 2007
Venue: Times bookstore at Pavilion KL
Time: 9.30am till 12pm


Arrival of Guests & Media
Arrival of Guest-of-Honour, Dato Seri Rafidah Aziz, Minister of International Trade and Industry
Welcome Address by Dato’ Ng Jui Sia
Speech by Dato Seri Rafidah Aziz
Opening Gambit comprising the book signing activity by 5 authors (Daphne Lee , Lydia Teh, Rehman Rashid, Amir Muhammad and Florence Thomas)
Author-related Activity
GOH tour of Times bookstores and demos (self-help kiosk, PDA) led by Mr Ong Khiaw Hui
Proceed to early lunch/refreshments

Author's Roles:
For the launch mechanism, the books of all attending authors will be printed on the backdrop of the stage.

Dato Seri Rafidah will sign on a large book located in the middle of the backdrop and this will be followed by all the authors signing on their books on the backdrop.

After all books are signed lights and music effects will precede the opening of a hidden door on the backdrop which will take all guests into the bookstore.

Some authors will be participating in pockets of entertainment. The pocket entertainment will be held inside the bookstore when Dato Seri Rafidah begins her tour. For example, Chef Wan has agreed to make the GOH of Merdeka Salad to try.

We have also asked some of the other authors to participate by reciting poerty or reading a passage from a book.

(end of press release)

I wonder if Wanita UMNO leader Rafidah Aziz will make reference to the fact that the shopping mall is built on the grounds where one of the country's most famous girls' schools, BBGS, had stood for a century?

From the Consumer Affairs Dept. of Matahari Books

Got some feedback from the least likely site today; it read:

hmm nak komen skit pasal buku 'malaysian politicians say the darndest things' tuh boleh tak,aku dah belek buku tuh kat kedai buku,tapi tak belilaa,off the edge tiap2 bulan promo buku tuh,hmm nih nak cakap pasal qualiti paper dia,ok sebab dia guna paper woodfree 80 - 100 gram?
tapi masalahnya payah nak belek sebab paper keras sangat,so kalau vol.2 keluar try guna 60 - 70 gram,lembut sikit.

So I replied:

130 gram, actually.
sebenarnya the third print run (masih untuk volume 1) gunakan kertas yang lebih lembut dan pudar tapi tetap recycled :-)
3rd print run akan ada di pasaran mulai bulan depan :-)
kalau nipis sangat, tak leh dapat kertas recycled yang memuaskan, dan juga kekadang sedikit transparen dan akan spoil gambar2 kartun yg ada.
recycled itu penting atas sebab-sebab ontologi, kerana buku itu sendiri merupakan kitaran semula petikan yang sedia ada.
off the edge akan promo bulan depan juga, tapi mulai januari akan promo vol 2 :-)

It's not the most elegantly written of replies but, hey, it was not even 7am. And it's not like I was replying to someone who'd actually purchased the book. Mwahaha!

Wednesday 21 November 2007

Take this with a fair-sized Siberian saltmine

cash advance

Get a Cash Advance

#1 for the fifth week :-)

MPH Non-Fiction Bestsellers
for the week ending 18 November

1. Malaysian Politicians Say the Darndest Things (Vol. 1)
Author : Amir Muhammad

2. Chronicle of Malaysia: 1957–2007 (Fifty Years of Headline News)
Author : Mathews, Philip (Editor-in-Chief)

3. Feng Shui for Apartment Buyers - Home Owners
Author : Joey Yap

4. Eh! Wat Yu Talking?: Chronicles of Malay Humor
Author : Syed Ali Tawfik Al-Attas

5. My Story
Author : Lim Goh Tong

6. The Sky is Crazy: Tales from a Trolley Dolley
Author : Yvonne Lee

7. Honk! If You're Malaysian
Author : Lydia Teh

8. Fortune & Feng Shui 2008: Horse
Author : Lillian & Jennifer Too

9. Memulakan Bisnes Sendiri (Edisi Kemas Kini)
Author : Ainon Mohd

10. Rahsia Raja Lelong
Author : Eruwan Gerry Norsen

* I wanna get my mitts on the book at #2, actually. You can find out more here. It's a good idea and can take pride of place on my non-existent coffee-table. But it's RM120!
* Had an enjoyable talk session with the illustrator of the #4 book last Saturday. He is actually in the food business and operates from some very successful food courts.
* For the first time since I started tracking this list, there are 4 books by women!

Monday 19 November 2007

He had a mischievous glint

Just got word that Pak Malik, who was interviewed in our documentary Apa Khabar Orang Kampung, passed away two days ago. This brings the number of Malayan-born members in that village (comprised of the Communist Party of Malaya's 10th Regiment) even lower; certainly not much more than a dozen. They were among the pioneer batch to march across the Thai border in 1955. He never settled back in Malaysia after that.

He is the third interviewee to pass away since our shoot (which was only 15 months ago). He was in his 80s and had a lung ailment.

One of the reasons for the ban was a sentence he uttered in it, about the ability of Malays to keep secrets. This wry observation, delivered in an infectiously mischievous tone, was construed by the Censorship Board as "an insult to Malays."

He did not have much by way of possessions, but his face was testimony to an eventful life, which is more than can be said for most.


Front & back

Jangan lupa adik-adik! The launch party is scheduled for 16 February – and this time there will be food!

The book is in a different paperback size than the norm:

Design by Norman Teh of Bright Lights at Midnight!

I shall leave it to you art lovers to correctly identify the painter whose work we use on the front :-)

Now we are knee-deep in proofreading and layout ...

Sunday 18 November 2007

Banned by ASTRO

My short Checkpoint was initially supposed to be screened on ASTRO but I have just been informed that the in-house censors have rejected it. The main reason cited is that it "touches on sensitive issues between Malaysia and Singapore."

Really? It's such an affectionate portrait.

So I maintain my record of never having screened on Malaysian TV. Ironically, Checkpoint has been screened several times in Singapore with no problem, and can be obtained quite easily on the 6horts DVD in Malaysia.

I am so glad I am now doing books. Not having to deal with these tremulous uncles and aunties (not necessarily in age!) who control film and TV 'content' is beginning to do wonders for my spiritual well-being:-)

Do you think if I had made a movie version of Malaysian Politicians Say the Darndest Things, it would have been allowed?

Around the Web we go

The book has been around for two months and these are the reviews/commentaries that can be found online:

1. MStar by Salhan K Ahmad (13 September 2007) (in Malay)

2. Anuar Manshor (17 September) (in Malay)

3. The Star by Rizal Johan (18 September)

4. Kakiseni by Zedeck Siew (24 September)

5. Ted Mahsun (28 September)

6. Eyeris (29 September)

7. Prima Rusdi (30 September) (In Indonesian)

8. Fadz (3 October) (in Malay)

9. Maverick SM (14 October)

10. Asia Times by Ioannis Gatsiounis (9 November) In Chinese here.

11. Fisha Fawwaz (13 November) (in Malay)

Thursday 15 November 2007

Pelancaran Buku dan Forum Diskusi

Sumbangan Gerakan Kiri untuk Kemerdekaan dan Pembinaan Negara

Memang tidak dapat dinafikan bahawa sumbangan gerakan kiri dalam perjuangan mencapai kemerdekaan dan membina negara bangsa Malaysia adalah besar dan penting sekali walaupun dicatatkan atau tidak dicatatkan dalam sejarah tanah air kita.

Golongan kiri terdiri daripada golongan-golongan nasionalis kiri dan golongan-golongan sosialis daripada KMM, PKMM, AWAS, API, BATAS, MDU, GLU, PMGLU, AMCJA dan PKM sebelum merdeka hingga PRM, Parti Buruh, Sosialis Front, Sosialis Club Universiti Malaya dan Kesatuan-kesatuan Sekerja selepas kemerdekaan. Mereka mewujudkan gerakan kiri untuk memperjuangkan kemerdekaan demi masyarakat yang adil dan demokratik.

Walaupun golongan kiri sudah membawa sumbangan dan berkorban besar untuk tanahair dan rakyat kita tetapi mereka dipinggirkan dan dikeluar dari arus perdana selama ini akibat daripada tekanan penjajah sebelum merdeka dan kuasa pemerintah kanan selepas merdeka. Sejarah dan jasa-jasa mereka sengaja dikikiskan daripada catatan-catatan dan tulisan-tulisan sejarah negara kita selama ini.

Sampailah masanya kita membicarakan sumbangan dan jasa gerakan kiri secara terbuka dan kembalikan kedudukan sebenar mereka dalam sejarah negara kita. Oleh itu, Strategic Information and Research Development (SIRD) akan menganjurkan satu forum diskusi tentang sumbangan gerakan kiri untuk kemerdekaan dan pembinaan negera. Buku-buku memoir tokoh gerakan kiri akan dilancarkan; buku-buku gerakan kiri and progresif juga akan dipamerkan serta dijual pada hari tersebut dengan harga yang istimewa.

Kita berasa bangga dan amat bersyukur kerana seorang tetamu yang terhormat SHAMSIAH FAKEH, pejuang nasionalis kiri yang disegani oleh penjajah British akan bersama-sama dengan kita dalam perbicaraan dan pelancaran buku ini.

Butir dan Aturcara Pelancaran Buku dan Forum Diskusi:

Tarikh : 18 November 2007 ( Hari Ahad)

Masa : 9.30 am – 1.30 pm

Tempat : Dewan Perhimpunan Cina Kuala Lumpur & Selangor

1, Jalan Maharajalela, Kuala Lumpur


9.30am Kehadiran Tetamu

10.00am Tayangan Filem “ 10 Tahun Sebelum dan Selepas Kemerdekaan”

10.30am Kehadiran Tetamu Terhormat : Shamsiah Fakeh dan Ahli-ahli Panel

10.35am Upacara Pelancaran Buku:

· Memoir Shamsiah Fakeh– Dari AWAS ke Rejimen 10

· Memoir Abdullah C.D (Bahagian Kedua ) – Penaja dan Pemimpin Rejimen ke-10

11.00am Jamuan Ringan

11.30am Forum Diskusi:

“Sumbangan Gerakan Kiri untuk Kemerdekaan dan Pembinaan Negara”

Ahli-ahli Panel:

· En. Rustam Sani (Ahli cendekiawan awam, Ahli akademik, Penulis kolum dan Penyair terkenal di Malaysia)

· Dr Rohana Ariffin (Bekas Pensyarah University Sains Malaysia)

· En. Yong Kai Ping ( Chinese Editor, Malaysiakini)

1.30 pm Bersurai

Datanglah Beramai-ramai bersama kami membicara sumbangan gerakan kiri sebelum dan selepas kemerdekaan dengan lebih mendalam.

Kemasukan – Percuma

Sebarang pertanyaan sila hubungi Ms Choong atau Zul 03-79578343 / 79578342

Wednesday 14 November 2007

Competing in France

My banned-in-Malaysia documentary Apa Khabar Orang Kampung will screen in competition next week at the Festival of 3 Continents in Nantes, France.

I will not be able to attend due to my back injury (besides,I am actually due to be in France twice in the first quarter of next year). So I gave away my plane ticket to my able cinematographer Albert Hue, whom I can entrust to enjoy the wines on my behalf. I have worked with him three times: Lelaki Komunis Terakhir (2006), Apa Khabar Orang Kampung (2007) and the forthcoming Malaysian Gods (2008). Since I won't be doing movies after that for some time, we might collaborate on a book instead.

The DVD of Apa Khabar Orang Kampung will be released in Singapore next month, God willing.

Tuesday 13 November 2007

Back at #1

MPH Local Non-Fiction Best-Sellers for the week ending 11 November.

1. Malaysian Politicians Say the Darndest Things (Vol. 1)
Author : Amir Muhammad

2. My Story
Author : Lim Goh Tong

3. In Good Faith: Articles, Essays and Interviews
Author : Zaid Ibrahim

4. Malaysia and the Club of Doom
Author : Syed Akbar Ali

5. Onn Ja'afar: Pejuang Terbilang (Pengasas Sebuah Negara Bangsa)
Author : Fadzil Abdullah; Kassim Thukiman; Md. Zin Idros

6. Samy Vellu, As We Know Him
Author : Chitra Vasu

7. Total Financial Planning
Author : Goh Chai Siong ; Chin Kim Sin ; Sam Leong ; et al

8. I Walked the Dollar
Author : Dr. Saiful Bahri

9. Kalau Ya, Katakan Ya!
Author : Dr HM Tuah Iskandar Al-Haj

10. Memoir Shamsiah Fakeh: Dari Awas ke Rejimen Ke-10 (Edisi Baru)
Author : Shamsiah Fakeh

In an ideal world, Samy Vellu will NOT outsell Shamsiah Fakeh. But we do not live in an ideal world.

This is its seventh week on the chart. So this has been the trajectory so far: 2-1-1-1-2-5-1

I have started compiling quotes for Volume 2. Wish us luck :-)

'The basic rule of democracy is the right of all citizens to challenge...'

Pre-BERSIH, Prime Minister Abdullah 'Saya pantang dicabar' Ahmad Badawi had asked people to tell him the truth. Award-winning fictionist Beth Yahp splendidly takes him up on it.

Photo by Danny Lim.

Sunday 11 November 2007

Indonesian film titles

Just saw Mendadak Dandgut (which I enjoyed) and I think it's a great title. My mind wandered to a few other catchy titles of past Indonesian films. This is easier for me because, unlike you, I have a book on the subject (Kalalog Film Indonesia 1926-2005) and it's even autographed (courtesy of Prima Rusdi) by the writer JB Kristanto.

So here is a pretty random, alphabetical list of a dozen from the 470-page tome:

Adikku Kekasihku
Akibat Hamil Muda
Akulah Vivian (Laki-Laki Jadi Perempuan)
Atas Boleh Bawah Boleh
Beranak Dalam Kubur
Cinta Dalam Sepotong Roti
Depan Bisa Belakang Bisa
Gara-Gara Gila Buntut
Kejarlah Daku Kau Kutangkap
Membakar Matahari
Novel Tanpa Huruf 'R'
Secawan Anggur Kebimbangan

There is a Malaysian equivalent published by Finas, but it's so much less colourful and hence not worth quoting from ... for now.

In the meantime, here is a music video from the film, which is playing in Cathay Cineleisure:

Quote of the day

Finished reading the book; this is from the second-last page, when the octogenarian is interviewed by Mastika:

Mastika: Apa pandangan Shamsiah terhadap Malaysia?

Shamsiah: Peninjauan terhadap pembangunan di Malaysia harus dilakukan dengan turut meninjau pembangunan di seluruh dunia. Kita tidak boleh hanya membandingkan keadaan Malaysia kini dengan 50 tahun yang lepas. Kita bukan sahaja memerlukan ekonomi yang maju, malah kita juga perlu mempertahankan keadilan dan hak asasi manusia, mengurangkan jurang antara kaya dan miskin serta tidak mengkategorikan golongan berdasarkan bangsa dan agama. Itulah kemerdekaan yang kita mahu. Pemerintahan yang hanya dikuasai oleh segelintir hartawan, cendikiawan Melayu dan bangsawan bukanlah sesuatu yang kita mahukan.

Saturday 10 November 2007

'Unwelcome Words'

That is the title for the essay I am writing for New Malaysian Essays 1. The subtitle (!) is 100 Word Meanings that Cannot be Found in the 2007 Edition of Kamus Dewan. You will be surprised that even 'rempit', in the manner now used by us, is not in that dictionary.

Most of the words will be found here. Needless to say I will need to cross-check with Kamus Dewan to make sure the words are NOT there. I will be happy to email the essay to you if you wish to peruse it – especially if you happen to know some slang terms I do not. Just contact me :-)

The title 'Unwelcome Words' is a homage to an epistolary story by one of my favourite writers, Paul Bowles. Reading it as a teen, I was so excited that it mentioned Kuala Lumpur! So now Kuala Lumpur is writing back, as it were.

Friday 9 November 2007

Back in print: Shamsiah Fakeh

For decades the name Shamsiah Fakeh has been synonymous with rebellion: How could a beautiful Malay girl join the communists and become such a high-ranking member?

Her years in jungle warfare and exile to China have been the subject of much speculation, including unfounded rumours that she killed her child to avoid getting slowed down.

She is back in Malaysia but unwell (in her 80s what). Her memoirs were first published in 2004 but the publisher UKM bowed down to threats by the Establishment and withdrew it from circulation. It has now been brought back into print and can be ordered. I can't wait to get my grubby hands on it.

This story of perempuan komunis terakhir (heh) is a pithy, personal one that defies the orthodoxies of both Right and Left (she ended up leaving the communists anyway); she took risks when others around her opted to go with the herd. Wajib baca!

Thursday 8 November 2007

TYOLV teaser

Am currently laid up in bed with a slipped disc (!) and don't feel like saying much about it now.

But ... I just wanted to share the Internet premiere of the teaser for my documentary The Year of Living Vicarously (2005).

This is the most fun shoot I have ever been on, and it involves two firsts – my first exposure to Indonesia; and my first time working with Azharr Rudin (here as editor) – that would continue to have such a positive effect on my life from then on. The DVD for this as well as 6horts and The Big Durian are still available in very limited quantities at Silverfish and Kinibooks.

Sunday 4 November 2007

'Punggok Rindukan Bulan' gets Krishen Jit ASTRO Fund

Azharr's movie received a RM10,000 grant from the second Krishen Jit ASTRO Fund, set up to honour the pioneering spirit of the late theatre director. It is one of four shortlisted projects out of 27 entries. More here.

Erm, the cast and crew list, as well as production photos, will be posted at Da Huang in the next two days, promise!

Saturday 3 November 2007

Now in libraries

This probably isn't the coolest thing to get excited about, but so what? I should be one to talk.* The book can be found in the PJ Community Library!!! How efficient of 'em to keep an online database. So if you are too sengkek or pokai to buy it, get thee to a library!

*I was a librarian in secondary school. It was compulsory to join at least one uniformed association. All the cool (or hot) boys were in the Band or the Cadets. I got chucked out of both the Red Crescent [for failing a multiple-choice Biology exam] and Scouts [for failing to learn more than one way to tie a knot] before finding my true home!

Thursday 1 November 2007

Selling 'Flower in the Pocket'

Flower in the Pocket is a delightful movie by the young Liew Seng Tat. It recently won the top award at the Pusan International Film Festival – but don't let that put you off! It also won the Audience Award, perhaps the first time a Malaysian film has ever done so.

A short promo:

It is produced by Da Huang Pictures, the company run by Tan Chui Mui, James Lee, Seng Tat and myself. (Yes, I actually go to an office. Sometimes). When Mui asked me to join the company I was sceptical at first; I didn't realise then what a very serious person she is!

People who have seen Seng Tat's short films will know he has a warm but off-kilter and, well, deranged sense of humour. His first feature utilises all his strengths to great effect.

The movie is releasing in limited cinemas from 20 December, but, inspired by the example of Tsai Ming-Liang (on whose KL-set film Seng Tat worked as crew), we are pre-selling tickets from now. Independent digital movies hardly ever gross much when released, partly due to people's perception that these movies are difficult, wanky and/or boring. We wanna change people's minds with Flower in the Pocket. After all, a difficult, wanky and/or slow movie can hardly win an Audience Award, can it?

(Unless, of course, the other films in the festival were even more difficult, wanky and/or boring, but we shall leave that thought aside for the mo).

So! We will be flogging pre-sale tickets at The Annexe Kuala Lumpur this Saturday and Sunday. And some of us will be in costume. You have been warned. Our booth is part of this event:

Wednesday 31 October 2007

Bumped off the top by the late 'casino king'

MPH Non-Fiction Best-Seller List
for the week ending 28 October

1. My Story
Author : Lim Goh Tong

2. Malaysian Politicians Say the Darndest Things (Vol. 1)
Author : Amir Muhammad

3. The Unmaking of Malaysia: Insider's Reminiscenes of UMNO, Razak and Mahathir
Author : Ahmad Mustapha Hassan

4. In Good Faith: Articles, Essays and Interviews
Author : Zaid Ibrahim

5. As I Was Passing
Author : Adibah Amin

6. The AirAsia Story: How a Young Airline Made It Possible for Everyone to Fly and Become a Runaway Success
Author : Sen Ze; Jayne Ng

7. Gravedigger's Kiss
Author : Tunku Halim

8. Makan Gaji Tetapi Kaya
Author : Shamsuddin Abdul Kadir

9. Ada Bagus Bagusss
Author : Dr HM Tuah Iskandar Al-Haj

10. Growing Up in Trengganu
Author : Awang Goneng

Tuesday 30 October 2007

My, erm, first solo show!

I don't wanna say too much about this, let it be a surprise! (Mostly because I am still writing it...) But it's a One Night Only deal, so miss it and weep.

You can also confirm attendance on Facebook.

Poster by Saharil Hasrin Sanin. He not only draws and dresses well, he's one of the writers in the upcoming New Malaysian Essays 1.

Monday 29 October 2007

The lost communist

Later that night, after the wrap of Punggok Rindukan Bulan, the director and I celebrated by watching 1957 Hati Malaya.

There are some fascinating moments in there (especially a shot involving a book sponsor) but I couldn't help noticing that the Chin Peng scene had been deleted. I know such a scene existed because I know the actor who played him, and the line he had to say.

So as it is, this 2 hour-plus movie of events leading up to our proclamation of Independence has literally no mention of the Baling Talks. But it manages to include our current Prime Minister's father (played by Rahim Razali) and Kavita Kaur shouting "Hidup Melayu!"

Was the scene deleted by the filmmakers or the censors? I don't know if this counts as major news, but perhaps an intrepid journo from Malaysiakini can find out.

Sunday 28 October 2007

It's a wrap!

Azharr Rudin's movie Punggok Rindukan Bulan (whose English title is This Longing) wrapped its 10-day shoot yesterday, 6:30am, just as dawn was breaking over our final location, Senibong Beach, where the lights of Singapore seem very close. Despite some challenges, we were on budget and on schedule.

Our 13-year old lead actor Saeful Nazhif Satria is a star! He is seen here behind the Assistant Director Hairul Askor Salleh, as they look to our main location, the imposing Bukit Cagar Flats:

More photos and production info will be added soon at Da Huang Pictures.

Meanwhile, if you have not seen any of Azharr Rudin's previous work, you might wanna check out his DVD The Amber Sexalogy.

Tuesday 23 October 2007

#1 in MPH for the third week in a row :-)

For the week ending 23 October :

1. Malaysian Politicians Say the Darndest Things (Vol. 1)
Author : Amir Muhammad

2. Confessions of an Old Boy: The Dato' Hamid Adventures
Author : Kam Raslan

3. In Good Faith: Articles, Essays and Interviews
Author : Zaid Ibrahim

4. As I Was Passing
Author : Adibah Amin

5. Eh! Wat Yu Talking?: Chronicles of Malay Humor
Author : Syed Ali Tawfik Al-Attas

6. The AirAsia Story: How a Young Airline Made It Possible for Everyone to Fly and Become a Runaway Success
Author : Sen Ze; Jayne Ng

7. Gravedigger's Kiss
Author : Tunku Halim

8. Makan Gaji Tetapi Kaya
Author : Shamsuddin Abdul Kadir

9. Menjejaki Jutawan Senyap
Author : Dr.Rusly B.Abdullah

10. 44 Cemetery Road: The Best of Tunku Halim
Author : Tunku Halim

Hmmm. I think I am beginning to understand how this 'Local Non-Fiction' best-seller list works. It is for all local books except Malay fiction (which has a separate list). So that is why it includes three fiction titles in English.

Sunday 21 October 2007

Singapore launch party

The shoot actually wrapped early today! So I have time to blog this:

A few years ago I was appointed something called Associate Artist of The Substation. This means, I suppose, that I can get events like this! Since it would be boring (for me) to launch just one book, I asked three other Malaysians along, so we can have a makan and minum party.

Do come if you happen to be in Singapore. Dina can't make it but will be represented (or impersonated?) by teacher/performer Charlene Rajendran, which should entail a whole different barrel of fun.

Poster by SN.

Monday 15 October 2007

Off to JB

Very early tomorrow, almost a dozen of us will be going down to Johor Bahru for two weeks.

This is for the shoot of the movie Punggok Rindukan Bulan, which is written and directed by Azharr Rudin. Most of the story takes place in the Bukit Cagar Flats that are about to be torn down. We have to keep the cast list a secret until we finish shoot.

I should be back around the 29th. Internet use will be intermittent before then, since the budget does not allow for a hotel with WiFi. Dang.

Saturday 13 October 2007

Selamat Hari Raya

The nationwide search for our first astronaut made me instantly think of Diffan Sina's Wanita Cosmos, my favourite Malaysian short. (If I ever make something as good as his 4-minute piece, I will be quite, quite content).

And lo! Here is Diffan's Hari Raya card:

Thursday 11 October 2007

Screening in Taiwan

A bunch of Malaysian students in Taiwan organised a screening of several films to promote discussion, and one of them was Lelaki Komunis Terakhir. The audience of around 75 then had a lively and wide-ranging discussion. If you wanna know what was discussed, go here. (Erm, it would help if you can read Chinese).

I personally think this sort of thing is far more worthwhile than all those prestigious international film festivals that our press releases (including those written by me!) always bang on about.

Wednesday 10 October 2007

Art photo

The only time my mug has been featured in an art gallery (as far as I know) is in this large photo taken and Photoshopped by Yee I-Lann:

The scrawled text is my written script to my short Friday, which is part of (ahem!) my 6horts DVD.

And the air bandung is CGI.

Tuesday 9 October 2007

#1 in MPH !

What a wonderful Raya present! Thank you very much for your support. I am also happy that Where Monsoons Meet, a significant book, has entered the best-seller list without the benefit of any promotion.

Local Non-Fiction Best-sellers
For the week ending 7 October 2007

1. Malaysian Politicians Say the Darndest Things (Vol. 1)
Author : Amir Muhammad

2. In Good Faith: Articles, Essays and Interviews
Author : Zaid Ibrahim

3. I am Muslim
Author : Dina Zaman

4. Confessions of an Old Boy: The Dato' Hamid Adventures
Author : Kam Raslan

5. Eh! Wat Yu Talking?: Chronicles of Malay Humor
Author : Syed Ali Tawfik Al-Attas

6. Where Monsoons Meet: A People's History of Malaya
Author : Musimgrafik

7. As I Was Passing
Author : Adibah Amin

8. Secrets of Millionaire Investors: How You Can Build a Million-Dollar Net Worth by Investing in the Stock Markets
Author : Adam Khoo; Conrad Alvin Lim

9. The AirAsia Story: How a Young Airline Made It Possible for Everyone to Fly and Become a Runaway Success
Author : Sen Ze; Jayne Ng

10. I Love Stocks: Your Guide to Profitable Trading (Third Edition)
Author : Pauline Yong

New photo

My new profile photo was taken during the No Black Tie Merdeka Day reading this year. It's by Vignes Balasingam , who is such a talented photographer that he has succeeded in making me look not too fat. As Sam Fuller said in Win Wenders' The State of Things: "I like colour just fine, but black & white is more realistic."

PS. I enjoyed the session at No Black Tie so much (I am always wittier when the audience has had a drink or three) that I have decided to return for, erm, a solo! Jangan ke mana-mana.

Monday 8 October 2007

Corporate responsibility

A certain mobile telecommunications giant has purchased 100 copies of the book to give to its employees. And I am even invited to give a talk there in early November.

This is such good news that I will consider switching to its service ... as soon as it improves its coverage.

Sunday 7 October 2007

Details of the next book

Title: New Malaysian Essays 1

Publisher: Matahari Books

Length: 250-300 pages

Dimensions: 17.8cm X 21.5cm

Brian Yap
Amir Muhammad
Burhan Baki
Aminuddin Mahmud
Saharil Hasrin Sanin
Sonia Randhawa

The first part of a planned annual series, this book features new work by 6 Malaysian writers. Each writer gets at least 30 pages to explore a non-fiction topic of his or her choice. They can be in the genre of polemic, ode, lament, journalism, memoir, travelogue, rant ... anything that rocks their boat. Published as a large-format rather than conventional paperback, with a funky design scheme, there are also pictures, drawings and advertisements galore!

Launch date: 16 February 2008.

Friday 5 October 2007

#2 in MPH !

MPH Local Non-Fiction Bestseller List
For the week ending 30th September 2007:

1. In Good Faith: Articles, Essays and Interviews
Author : Zaid Ibrahim.
RM 30.00

2. Malaysian Politicians Say the Darndest Things (Vol. 1)
Author : Amir Muhammad
RM 30.00

3. Confessions of an Old Boy: The Dato' Hamid Adventures
Author : Kam Raslan
RM 32.00

4. Eh! Wat Yu Talking?: Chronicles of Malay Humor
Author : Syed Ali Tawfik Al-Attas
RM 12.90

5. As I Was Passing
Author : Adibah Amin
RM 32.90

6. I am Muslim
Author : Dina Zaman
RM 30.00

7. The Unmaking of Malaysia: Insider's Reminiscenes of UMNO, Razak and Mahathir
Author : Ahmad Mustapha Hassan
RM 38.00

8. The AirAsia Story: How a Young Airline Made It Possible for Everyone to Fly and Become a Runaway Success
Author : Sen Ze; Jayne Ng
RM 31.92

9. Secrets of Self-Made Millionaires
Author : Adam Khoo
RM 49.90

10. The Certain Way to Life's Riches
Author : Peter Yee; Alexandra Ng
Our Price : RM 31.92

Random observations:

1. I am kept off the top post by an actual Malaysian politician!

2. The book at #3 is a word of fiction lah. Hello?

3. One way to become a self-made millionaire is to write a book on the topic and charge almost 50 bucks.

4. I wonder why the authors in the top 7 all seem to share the same religion.

5. The authors in the bottom 3 all want to help you get rich.

It's nice to know that my old friend Faisal Tehrani is #2 on the Fiction list, too. I will not read his novel soon because I am only reading fiction by dead authors at the mo.

Wednesday 3 October 2007

Moves up 2 notches

I just realised that the Kinibooks best-seller list actually lists the accumulated total rather than the total of the past week. So it's the 5th best-selling item that Kinibooks has ever sold.

Monday 1 October 2007

RIP Silverfish New Writing series

In the global or even local scheme of things, the fact that an annual literally anthology will have no further editions is hardly in the same league as worries about whether the Chief Justice of a country might be a corrupt bugger.

Still, the shock announcement that the Silverfish New Writing series will soon release its final (7th) edition is an impoverishing one.

Imbas kembali

Perhaps the sales figures no longer justified such an enterprise?

No one's asking for my opinion, but I will give it anyway. I feel the series should have stayed as a focus on Malaysian and Singaporean writers. It could have then become a reference point for writers and readers interested in this area. From the third issue on, it started to lack a distinctive character when too many foreigners started pouring in. (Does this make me sound xenophobic? But no one complains when, say, The Booker Prize restricts itself to only writers from Britain and 'the Commonwealth').

It shall be missed.

In search of Father Albert

At our Amcorp Mall flea-market booth yesterday, a kindly priest named Father Albert bought a copy of the book, had it autographed, paid for it, and then forgot to take the book with him! (Or perhaps we forgot to pack it together with the purchases by his friend Tony, who bought an amazing 8 copies). So Father Albert, if you are reading this, let me know how I can get the personalised copy to you. After all, it has your name on it and my scrawled message "Let us pray" that I don't think will be apt to give to others. My email is matahari.books [at] .

Friday 28 September 2007

In four weeks' time

Yes this is ample notice, but in Singapore one must plan ahead!

Poster by the ever-talented SN.

You can even RSVP on Facebook, a site which sucks up much of my time.

Thursday 27 September 2007

Debut at #7

From Kinibooks just a moment ago:

The only place you can order it if you happen to live outside Malaysia and Singapore :-)

Wednesday 26 September 2007

Back at Amcorp this Sunday (uh huh uh huh)

Me and Shahril Nizam will be back in the groove at the Amcorp Mall flea market this Sunday, 10am-5pm, to sell the books.

This will be the last Sunday we can do this for quite a while, as for me the following Sundays are booked up with other matters promotional, festive and cinematic.

We should be somewhere on the first floor and I shall try my darndest to get a better location this time! Do drop by if you can.

Tuesday 25 September 2007


Saw this English translation of a local novel at a bookstore:

Picked it up. Couldn't browse as it was wrapped, which I always find irritating. So I only had the blurb on the back cover to read. And this is what it said (I am not altering a single letter):

He is not the one who blaze all this thing happened. He only defend his family dignity who were brutally murdered by somebody. Hence, does he find guilty because of killing his aims, just return the vengeance?

The book is published by Creative Enterprise, one of the most successful publishing houses in our fair nation.

Monday 24 September 2007

In bookstores

Malaysian Politicians Say the Darndest Things can now be purchased at most bookstores in the country.

It is in all MPH shops, as well as Borders, Kinokuniya and Silverfish. You are less likely to find it in Times and Popular.

Please note that the version in bookstores is the second edition. It has slightly thinner and slicker (but still recycled) paper.

The remaining copies of the first edition can only be obtained at Kinibooks or at one of the events where I sell the thing myself.

Saturday 22 September 2007

'Where Monsoons Meet' back in print

A few months ago I wrote two articles for my NST column.

The paper refused to print the longer one (since plagiarism is a touchy issue there) but printed the shorter one.

It was about Where Monsoons Meet: A People's History of Malaya, an illustrated book (reminiscent of those A Beginner's Guide to ... thingies) that looks at our country's history through a Marxist, progressive type of lens. There are many historical books coming out now, but none takes quite the same approach. At the time I wrote it, the book had been out of print for over a decade.

Imagine my surprise when, after reading my article, a publisher called me up to say that he intended to bring the book back into print in time for Merdeka.

He appears to have been a few days late but ... here it is now, and also in bookshops, and it includes my article as Foreword.

Thursday 20 September 2007

Where else we will be this weekend

We are setting up a booth to flog the books at the opening of artist Sharon Chin's exhibition tomorrow, Banned Books & Other Monsters. It's a multimedia, interactive kind of exhibition, although the invitation card is intriguing enough to not use a single picture and so I have no idea what to expect...(Although Kakiseni has lots of spoilers.)

Yes, it's in the same building (but not same floor) as the launch but it should be a slightly different crowd. The 'visual arts crowd', as it were.

We will also be at KLPac just before the start of Comedy Court: 10th Anniversorry Show on Saturday night. I have been a fan of Comedy Court for as long as it has existed! Although I have not seen their recent shows, this will be a great time to catch-up.

After the Amcorp sales and buka puasa, we will be at The Attic, Bangsar, from Sunday 8pm. Apparently The Attic Book Club members have chosen it as their Book of the Month :-)


Tuesday 18 September 2007

Sunday @ Amcorp, jom!

Did a phone interview with Bissme S of The Sun today. I told him that I will be selling the book personally at the Amcorp Mall flea market this Sunday (10am-5pm). He was shocked as he'd never interviewed a writer who would do such a thing: "The rest of them are kinda snobbish, they only do readings at bookshops or book fairs..."

Actually, there are quite a few writers, mainly those who write in Malay, who sell books personally. Their books are often not in the shops but are literally carried around. 'Snobbish' is hardly the word for them.

But I want it both ways: I want it to be in major bookshops, and I also want to push the thing myself, damnit!

So I like the idea of non-bookish venues. By sheer coincidence, the very format of Malaysian Politicians Say the Darndest Things is meant to appeal to non-readers. And non-readers are everywhere!

I am glad that I now have a distributor (MPH) who will stock it at bookshops in Malaysia by this weekend, and then Singapore. (In the meantime, the only place you can get it is here). But it would be so boring to just dump it at the shops and not do anything else. Where's the fun in that?

Maybe it's because I am involved in movies and all, but I do enjoy the vulgarity of promotion. Plus, I get to meet some interesting new folks that way. I was at our launch-day flea market stall for only an hour on Sunday morning, but chatted with the son of a prominent political figure (who expressed cautious support but didn't actually buy the book, the cheapskate).

So, do come to Amcorp Mall this Sunday and we can meet. Shahril Nizam will be there too, with his book If Only.

And I am always on the lookout for alternative venues. I want to sell it at the UMNO General Assembly later in the year. I am told there are many stalls outside. How do I get access to one? (I only hope that not all UMNO members are like Muhammad Muhammad Taib, who cannot read English, or the book won't sell at all!)

Monday 17 September 2007

Images from the launch (1/6)

I'd like to thank everyone who turned up!

I am not sure what I babbled during my speech but I was happy to see so many people. It was a bit of a crush so I must apologise for not having had the time to speak to many.

Special thanks (ahem!) to See Ming and Sek Thim for buying 10 books each. Who needs patrons when you have book-lovers like these?

We have now shifted 426 books by the end of the launch day. The busiest sales venue was the actual launch at The Annexe (188 books), followed by the Amcorp Mall flea market (78), postal pre-sales in Malaysia (62), midnight sale at The Attic Bangsar (22), pre-sales in Singapore (15), the Mont Kiara flea market (13), the Freedom Film Fest last screening (10) and the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (8). Another 30 (as the book comes from the printer in packs of 30) I have set aside for the media and complimentary copies to folks such as venue sponsors and proofreaders.

From now on, Matahari Books will always have public book launches rather than those invites-only things. And the next time, there shall be food!

"But...but...what about the remaining 574 books of the first edition?" I hear you ask.

Well, as I'd said earlier, it will not be sold in bookshops. They will instead be sold directly at several venues this coming week. Details will be announced as they become available.

You can now also order it online (from anywhere around the world) at Kinibooks. Do support this virtual bookstore as one third of the price goes to Malaysiakini, a more decent 'newspaper' than our other news organisations that actually use paper.

But the book can no longer be at the launch price of RM20. After factoring in printing costs, the posters and buntings, the space and PA rental, commissions to the sales people at the non-Annexe venues and so on, I find that I am still in the red! But that's OK because I wanted to get it out there first to the people who would most appreciate it.

The following photos are by Nikki Tok. The artwork on the wall is by Hishamuddin Rais (you can read more about the series, in Malay here) except for the first one, which is by Danny Lim.

The others I would need to thank are: Evelyn, Pang, Chung Wei, Lennard Gui, Llewelyn Marsh, Joe Kidd & Saiful Razman. And to Brian Yap and Sharanya for reading.

Do you recognise anyone in the following photos?