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: