Wednesday 29 October 2008

Fun for the weekend

On Friday night I will be at our book launch, of course. Jom!

On Saturday night I will attend this:

It's a free screening of local short movies by a bunch of bright young things. Jom!

On Sunday morning I will take part in this:

This will be my first Terry Fox run and I hope not the last. Entrance is with the purchase of a RM25 t-shirt. Jom!

And I have tickets for the Sunday night show of this:

Erm, jom!

Everything he does is magic

Mahathir Mohamad: An Illustrated Biography by E. Yu (MPH, 2008, 123 pages)

The first factual error in this book occurs in the very first panel, in which the birthday of our erstwhile Prime Minister (and current leading blogger) is stated as December 20. This is actually his “official” birthday but I always found it hard to believe because he did not seem to have much in common with laidback and fun-loving Sagittarians like myself.

True enough, his actual birthday is July 10. (It was not uncommon for folks born in the pre-war era to have registered birthdays that are different from the actual ones). So that’s all right then.

To say this book is a hagiography would be like saying a porcupine is a bit on the prickly side. But it is a riveting read because what is left out is just as interesting, if not more, than what has been put in.

You find out that, when he was a doctor and budding entrepreneur, he changed cars several times. But you never find out that, when he was PM, he also changed deputies several times.

Here are just four names that are conspicuous by their complete absence: Lee Kwan Yew, Musa Hitam. Tengku Razaleigh, and Anwar Ibrahim. Surely they could have added more spice.

Comics don’t have to be cuddly. You need only check out Persepolis or, closer to home, Where Monsoons Meet, to know that. But in its attempt to repackage or rehabilitate a famously prickly personality as a faultless hero, Mahathir Mohamad: An Illustrated Biography takes away some of the edges that surely make him such a fascinating subject to begin with.

True, we already have an anti-Mahathir comic book in the form of Zunar’s Cartoons of Tun and Others. But this new book is more ambitious because it aspires to the sweep and scope of biography. We learn how he was a diligent student (but shy around the girls), a caring doctor, a quick businessman, devoted husband and father, and then visionary politician and honoured statesman.

Although it is a feel-good book, there are certain hints that can invite different readings if you are of a suspicious disposition. For example, a montage of his political rise shows him addressing the hungry masses. But what he is quoted as saying is merely “Pot…pet…pot…pet…”

What gives? If the author didn’t want us to get distracted by small details, the speech bubbles could have been omitted; we need only see the aspiring leader’s fervent gestures and the crowd’s enthusiastic response. “Pot…pet” is normally shorthand for trivial banter, if not outright nonsense.

Another is a drawing of the protagonist praying, where the speech or thought bubble is left to contain only a string of dots. Does this mean he is mumbling or thinking nothing? Enquiring minds want to know!

A final example illustrates the leader’s fondness for horse-racing. There is another horse that seems to be catching up, but that rider is straining to make sure he doesn’t overtake the Prime Minister. Is this a veiled critique of the way he held back the careers of others, or more generally a sign of the feudalist nature of Malay(sian) politics that brooks no opposition?

Feudalism is the key to Dr. Mahathir’s controversial legacy. As the first national leader to not emerge from an aristocratic family, he represented the rude but necessary jolt of triumphant egalitarianism. His style is akin to the brashness of America rather than the ossified traditions of olde England. But when elements of feudalism started to creep in during his long leadership tenure, it was finally up to the people to decide that enough is enough.

Rather curiously for a comic by an ethnic Chinese, this book swallows The Malay Dilemma’s racial essentialism with nary a whimper. The greedy villains in the first part of the book are invariably Chinese and we are not invited to read the causes of the economic backwardness of the Malays in any other way. In fact, this divisive discourse is celebrated in the final page as then responsible for the harmony of today!

Despite everything, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. I got to see things I never thought I’d see, such as the leader in the shower (does he really keep his glasses on?). I look forward to many other comic books about famous Malaysians who are heroes, villains, or – as is most often the case – somewhere tantalisingly in between.

(Malay Mail, 29 October 2008).

Tuesday 28 October 2008

SUSUK dvd ('snippets')

1. I am told it has been released nationwide.

2. True to form, it has also been pirated, including online.

3. I don't get any royalties from the pirated editions.

4. But wait a minute! I don't get any royalties from the legitimate edition either.

5. Caveat emptor ;-)

Friday 24 October 2008

#5 for the second week

MPH Local Non-Fiction Bestsellers for the Week Ending 19 October

1. Mahathir Mohamad: An Illustrated Biography
Author : E. Yu

2. March 8 the Day Malaysia Woke Up
Author : Kee Thuan Chye

3. Resipi Bonda: Koleksi Masakan Tradisional Melayu
Author : Hajjah Teh Mohd Hassan

4. Life is an Open Secret: You, Me and We (18 Inspirational Stories from Ordinary Life Experiences)
Author : Zabrina A. Bakar

5. Buku Untuk Filem: KAMI
Author : Fariza Azlina Isahak

6. Joey Yap's Pure Feng Shui
Author : Joey Yap

7. Buat Duit Dengan Rumah
Author : Shamsudin Abd Kadir

8. The Malays: Their Problems and Future
Author : Syed Husin Ali

9. The Malaysian Indians: History, Problems and Future
Author : Tate, Desmond

10. Duit Banyak Bertambah Banyak
Author : Hazeline Ayoup, Norfaiezah Sawandi, et al

Wednesday 22 October 2008

Steal this book!

Utopia Trauma by Rahmat Haron (SuaraSuara, 2006, 54 pages)

When watching the film Kami on the first day of Hari Raya, I was pleasantly surprised to see a book of poetry being repeatedly plugged. We see it being stolen by one of the lead characters, it is quoted a few times, and it even features in the final scene, which is one of quiet grief.

Well, here is that book! It was published two years ago but is enjoying a new lease of life thanks to its cinematic exposure. If you are as anarchic as the movie character (who comes to a bad end, by the way!) you too will sneakily ‘liberate’ this book from a nearby shop. If you are bourgeois like the rest of respectably society, you will pay for it.

And if you are really smart, you will notice that the title of this article is the title of Abbie Hoffman’s hippie classic. (Perhaps Rahmat Haron is a kind of hippie, too).

The cast of Kami is quite pretty but this book is not pretty. Which is not to say it’s ugly. It is more like a howl, a drowned scream, a lurid cry. The words sit restlessly upon the page; they leap out at you, like maggots will leap out from the pan of a canine corpse that is being fried. (Omigosh, where did that image come from?)

Utopia Trauma distills the pain of being alive and sensitive in world where no one really cares. This existential torment is sometimes obscured by marijuana smoke or the distraction of a former stranger’s body, but it never goes away.

Where, then, do we place Rahmat Haron? His poetry is political but sneers at sentimental slogans. Instead it revels, in sadomasochistic fashion, in the pain of others, which also becomes the poet’s own pain. And be warned: There will be blood. And also pus, sperm and crap – all quite literally.

Images of death and martyrdom, from actual wars around us, dominate, but it’s also acknowledged that the ashes of these mostly unnamed martyrs will help a better world to blossom. Meanwhile, there is also the walking wounded of the contemporary undead: people who just refuse to experience anything. We are made to see that people in the first group, unheralded as they were, are of greater value.

Utopia Trauma demands to be read aloud, in as disruptive a way as possible. Much of the poetry has an incantatory style. This isn’t usually the soothing chant of a medicine-man but the vengeful shriek of a ghost, such as the narrator of the poem about Bakun.

You would think there is not much room for humour in the midst of all this misery. True, there is a dearth of dirty limericks that can be scrawled on lavatory walls later. But Rahmat’s mocking echoes of gentle and pop platitudes do bring out some laughter in the dark. I could have sworn that a KRU lyric is also defiled (on page 13, no less).

There are also drawings – intricate, vulnerable and confrontational, sometimes all at once, they become a miasma of staring eyes, spilled fluids (if the book were in colour, you will see red), and spiral whorls.

Sociologists might see Rahmat as a symbol of subterranean angst; here is a Malay who is disenfranchised and not in the least bit privileged. But, as the book’s publisher Raja Ahmad says in his Introduction, Rahmat is primarily a poet rather than a symptom. As such, he represents his own voice. Among local poets working today, it’s hard to find an equivalent, because Rahmat’s worldview is fixedly against not only capitalist excess but religious sentimentality.

His use of Indonesianisms evoke similar rebel-poets from across the pond, principally Chairil Anwar and Wiji Thikul. Chairil died at the age of only 27 (of, among other causes, syphilis) but his poems, especially Aku, were strident and unsentimental calls to arms. Wiji is the poet who mysterious disappeared during the Indonesian reformasi protests but left behind a stirring line: “Hanya ada satu kata – lawan!” (there is only one word, resist!).

So yes, we do have Rahmat to do our resisting. Or is it too presumptuous to say he’s speaking on our behalf? His challenge is for us to also feel and to break out of our own cocoons. Although there is much pain in the world, those of us who do not want to feel will forever be shut out from the rahmat (blessings) that this same filthy and profane reality can occasionally offer us.

(Malay Mail, 22 October 2008)

Saturday 18 October 2008

#5 on the non-fiction (?) best-seller list

MPH Non-Fiction Bestseller List for the Week Ending 12 October

1. Mahathir Mohamad: An Illustrated Biography
Author : E. Yu

2. Blog Merentasi Halangan (Dwi Bahasa)
Author : Dr Mathathir Mohamad

3. March 8 the Day Malaysia Woke Up
Author : Kee Thuan Chye

4. Resipi Bonda: Koleksi Masakan Tradisional Melayu
Author : Hajjah Teh Mohd Hassan

5. KAMI: Buku Untuk Filem
Author : Fariza Azlina Isahak

6. The Malays: Their Problems and Future
Author : Syed Husin Ali

7. Dilema Melayu
Author : Mahathir Bin Mohamad

8. Lim Guan Eng: Dari Penjara Ke Tampuk Kuasa
Author : Wan Hamidi Hamid

9. Keganasan, Penipuan & Internet: Hegemoni Media Daulah Pecah
Author : Hishamuddin Rais

10. Rahsia Buat Duit dengan Internet: 10 Langkah Mudah Menjadi Usahawan Dot.Com
Author : Wan Mohd.Syazwan Wan Sukri; et al

Friday 17 October 2008

Ghosts, Threesomes & Taxis

There will be a Halloween multi-book launch of:

The Malaysian Book of The Undead by Danny Lim (Matahari Books)
Taxi by Khaled al-Khamissi (ZI Publications)

together with three mini-books (collectively known as Tiga) published by Oxygen:

Lost in KL by Bernice Chauly
Kayangan by Ruhayat X
Pasca Manusia by Sufian Abas

Venue: Rahsia Restaurant (click for a map to the location).

31 October, 8-10pm.

Dress: Ghosts or Egyptians. Or come as you are lah.

There will be food and entertainment.

To confirm your attendance and for further enquiries, do contact . Space is limited, so priority will be given to those who RSVP :-)

Poster by Ruhayat X.

H for Hair


Thursday 16 October 2008


Magandang araw!

I had to cancel my Bali trip.

But I should, however, make my third trip to Manila next week, for this:

Wednesday 15 October 2008

Oh, Anna!

A personal highlight of the Pusan International Film Festival earlier this month was meeting iconic actress Anna Karina (ask these handsome guys to tell you who she is) and finding her so chatty! Blast from the past indeed:

Photo by Abe Ferrer of LA.

It's a wrap!

At 11:30pm, at a Ramly burger stall in Kampung Baru, we wrapped the six-day shoot for the revised version of Malaysian Gods.

It will not use any images from the first version (which screened for one day, and has now been deleted) but it will have about three sentences in common. Other than that, it is much wordier, set in many more locations, covers a year of protests rather than just one day, has a rock score and, oh yes, features interviews that are entirely in Tamil. As such, it is my first Tamil movie.

The Big Durian (2003) had 19 hours of rushes. The Year of Living Vicariously (2005) had 55 -- but to be honest, most of that was because I didn't want to look like the only one on the Gie set who was not running around and working. Lelaki Komunis Terakhir (2006) went overboard with 83 hours and I don't regret a single minute. Apa Khabar Orang Kampung (2007) slimmed down considerably to 20 because we stayed in only one location.

Malaysian Gods (from now this will refer to only this definitive version) is the leanest: we shot only 12 hours. I'm much more precise about what I want now. Perhaps the experience of working on the 35mm Susuk helped. (Even though that film did break the Grand Brilliance record for the most cans of film: 239).

I look forward to showing Malaysian Gods to you in December.

Tuesday 14 October 2008

Proof that Danny's book will sell

Results of a poll over at Utusan Malaysia:

Short story contest!

I have nothing to do with this, but I am helping to spread da word. It's about time a regular contest like this is held again.

27 October 2008 - 31 March 2009
In Support of Malaysian Writing in English

MPH Group of Companies has collaborated with Alliance Bank Malaysia Bhd as our main sponsor and the Malay Mail as our official media partner to create a national short story prize in support of the arts and to encourage Malaysian writers to showcase their literary talents. The Prize is also supported by the Reader’s Digest, Seventeen Malaysia, Discovery Channel Magazine, The British Council, the National Library of Malaysia and the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage.

We aim to promote the following objectives through the administering of the Prize:
To encourage reading and writing in the English language;
To recognise new writers and give them increased confidence to pursue writing as a career;
To make more widely known the work of rising literary talents;
To encourage more people to write about their lives in Malaysia; and
To highlight a diversity of cultures, voices and viewpoints.
We hope that the creation and administration of a short story competition with substantial prizes, courtesy of Alliance Bank, will help foster talented Malaysian writers to move on to publishing books of their own. It is also a platform to encourage Malaysians to write about their lives in Malaysia, overcoming ethnic, linguistic and cultural differences through the common language of English.

Two categories
The competition is divided into two categories: adults and teens. There is no specific theme for the adults category; for teens, the theme is ‘Staying and Leaving.’ The Prize is open to Malaysian nationals and residents only. The word count for the adults category is from 2,500 to 7,000 words and 2,000 to 4,000 for the teens category. Stories must be previously unpublished and each writer is only allowed to submit a maximum of two entries.

MPH as administrators of the Prize will select a longlist from the entries received, from which the judges will select a shortlist of six stories. The winner of the adult category will receive RM5,000 cash, a laptop and magazine subscriptions; the other five shortlisted entries will each receive a laptop and magazine subscriptions. The winner of the teens category will receive RM2,000 cash, a subnotebook and magazine subscriptions; the other five shortlisted entries will each receive a subnotebook and magazine subscriptions.

Entry forms
Entry forms are available at all MPH outlets and in MPH Quill and can be downloaded from The competition is free for MRC members and Alliance Bank cardholders; otherwise, a minimum purchase of RM10 from any MPH bookstore is required. Entries are to be sent by post to MPH Group (M) Sdn Bhd or dropped off at collection boxes in selected MPH outlets. Emailed entries are not accepted.

For full terms and conditions, please log on to:

For other information, please contact:

Ms. Kuah Sze Mei
MPH Group (M) Sdn Bhd
Lot 1, 1st Floor, Bangunan TH
No. 5, Jalan Bersatu, Section 13/4
Petaling Jaya, Selangor
T: 03-7960 7334

Mr. Eric Forbes
MPH Group Publishing Sdn Bhd
T: 03-7960 7334

Thursday 9 October 2008

Info about the book

Title: The Malaysian Book of the Undead
Compiled by Danny Lim

Publisher: Matahari Books
Illustrations: Mohd Kadir
Layout: Kris Khaira

ISBN: 978-983-43596-4-5

Length: 115 pages
Price: RM20


The Malaysian Book of The Undead
is a compendium of multicultural ghosts, spirits and emanations. Discover their origins, characteristics, and, whenever possible, how to make sure they stay away from you.

This chatty and occasionally ironic guide is sure to come in handy each time you hear something go bump, or even “kak-kak-kak-kak-kak”, in the night.


Malacca-born Danny Lim is primarily a writer and photojournalist. His features and photo essays have been published locally and internationally by the Far Eastern Economic Review, The Smithsonian Institute, Vogue (Italy), Off The Edge, The Sun, The Edge, The Nut Graph, The Malaysian Insider and Malaysiakini. He is the winner of two local awards for a short documentary and a regional award for his feature photography. This is his first book.

Launch date: 31 October 2008. Details will be announced next week :-)

I will be giving away 10 free, autographed copies to bloggers in Malaysia who email me on 31 October at . Not a minute before that date, y'hear? And if you are not a blogger, well, it takes only a few minutes to rectify that.

Wednesday 8 October 2008


No, my column in today's Malay Mail has not been dropped. I just didn't have the time :(

But what HAVE been dropped are these two illustrations for the book that Matahari Books will be publishing. The first is for churel and the second for hantu kopek (a.k.a hantu tetek).

Both are rather fanciful, as you can see.

More details on the book will be announced tomorrow -- including how you can win free copies!

Wednesday 1 October 2008

Selamat Hari Raya, Maaf Zahir Batin

Graphic taken from Awangpurba.

I will be in Pusan from tomorrow to Tuesday. My mobile phone will not work there, so don't panic if you can't reach me :-)