Wednesday 28 April 2010

How the Devil was reponsible for Putrajaya

The very entertaining Malay film Iman (1954) is about an old geezer who makes a pact with Iblis (the Devil): his soul in exchange for youth! He signs the contract (in blood, of course) and is transformed into Ahmad Mahmood; obviously Ahmad Mahmood circa 1954 lah.

In order to demonstrate how powerful he is, the Devil proceeds to build 'mahligai yang cantik sekali' (the most beautiful palace). He waves his black-clad hand, and lo! This is what happens:

On the one hand, you have to give the Devil his due: his instant method of construction doesn't involve the exploitation of migrant labour. It also, aside from the puff of smoke in the beginning, doesn't seem to involve much damage to the environment: no trees were felled.

This structure is meant to be grand, imposing, and totally out of character with its surrounding area. There would be no love here, just diabolical ambition. (What do you expect when the Devil is your architect? He didn't even consult the client, but went ahead and built just-like-that!)

So now you know where the design inspiration for the Prime Minister's Office in Putrajaya came from:

The government, for obvious reasons, does not want you to know all this; the folks there have enough public relations headaches as it is! This is why Iman is not even listed as a film in the official Finas database. Coincidence? I think not! But now, the truth can be told. Ain't you glad I'm around?

* Dedicated to all Malaysians who love conspiracies -- which is, let's face it, all of us.

Saturday 24 April 2010

Pop gurindam for SM

(I was asked to ulas the book Sultan Pun Blog on stage at its launch this evening. But I decided to read this out instead. Much of what passes for Malaysian pop culture is excruciatingly banal, but credit must be given to Sultan Muzaffar for being one of the earliest -- and still one of the most popular -- entertainment bloggers in the nation. I believe that his original impulse, or throb, must have been of love. Syabas!)

Selamat petang to all tuan dan mem

We're here to sambut the book by SM

Although near the new Istana Negara

Sultan Pun Blog tak guna cukai anda

According to pakar bidang seksologis

S and M can mean sadis dan masokis

It's often thought as bukan cinta biasa

He knows spanking is part of asmara

SM and pop ditakdirkan go together

They are toast with kaya AND butter

But I can't watch Akademi Fantasia

I find it more fun to listen to Perkasa

Despite kesesakan lalulintas of KL

He will not miss P. Ramlee or PGL

Watching a play lima kali is no hal

It's an addiction, but it is still halal

He has two chapters on filem Sepet

But doesn't include any filem rempit

We all sedia maklum Siti's majesty

But he should explain rahsia Mawi

He can sing praises of seronok gila

When writing of Cinta dan Rangga

But menyumpah with funny vitriol

When describing Cinta Kolesterol

If we want to be gila babinya honest

Our pop culture bukanlah the mostest

Too many folk want to play safe only

Castello wants us to eat biskut Julie

Budaya is not just films, song or stage

It is also how kita PILIH untuk engage

Sultanmuzaffar is a pelopor bloggerati

He helped kembangkan our vocabulary

Some pak menteri do not like bloggers

Then again, some politikus are bonkers

If democratic New Media they tak nak

Feed these guys to a flying pontianak

Tuesday 20 April 2010

Scenes from TRAPPED BY MALAYS (1907)

It's one of the novels that I was most looking forward to in the list I had posted earlier of English novels about this country that were written before the country was officially created. Maybe it's the title:

Trapped by Malays: A Tale of Bayonet and Kris is an adventure story aimed solidly at a young English audience a century ago, most of whom would never have been to Malaya.

I now have the book, and these are (rather fanciful, of course) images from it. Click to enlarge and read the captions:

And some extracts, all from the dialogue of white blokes:

"I think they [the natives] are untrustworthy. They dislike us for religious reasons as well as for taking possession of their country. and, in short, there are times when I can't help feeling that we are living on the slopes of a moral volcano which might burst forth at any moment." (pg 41)

"How are you going to get tight hold of a savage's tooth when you can see him ready to pull out his kris, and your hands are trembling like banana leaves in a storm?" (pg. 50)

"This long, narrow Malay peninsula is cut up into countries each ruled over by a petty Rajah, and these half-savage potentates are all as jealous of one another as can be." (pg 64)

Can't wait to read the whole thing. If you want to get the book, let me know and I'd be glad to be of service.

Monday 19 April 2010

Does reading make you white?

Poster for the 5th anniversary of Borders in Malaysia.

I love Borders, but why only mat salleh kids here?

(Photo via Daphne Lee on Facebook).

Saturday 17 April 2010

A hypothetical Malaysian by-election

An MP has died
No time for condolences
The scrambling begins

Local, interviewed:
"Alive, he did nothing much
Dead, he's quite useful."

Merajuk is cute
When done by politicians
Who do not get picked

Nomination day
Alas, projectiles are hurled
Play nice-nice, children!

In this little town
The economy's booming:
Just ask the hotels

No concerts come here
The big crowds at ceramah
Make up for lost fun

"Think of all we've done
For the people here!" he roars
While the roads get paved

TV says one thing
Internet news, another
Look into your heart!

Disgruntled voter:
"I can't stand any of them!"
Potential spoilt vote

Polling day is tense
Do those buses bring phantoms?
Everyone's shouting

People wait for news
Will they say 'Takbir' or 'Foul'?
Depends on who wins

The town's quiet now
The new rep seems quite healthy
But you never know

Saturday 3 April 2010

Yasmin and Malaysian cinema, now in French & Portuguese!

Recently, two different countries hosted screenings of Malaysian cinema. The first was France (which also included Singaporean movies) and the second Brazil.

I attended both to represent my documentaries The Big Durian and Malaysian Gods, and I wrote essays for both catalogues about Yasmin Ahmad, whose films were, of course, also shown. These are how they look, scanned:

Both events were actually initiated and curated entirely by the cultural workers (to use a nicely Marxist term) in both countries, with very little help from Malaysian associations. I heard from both places: "We sent emails to [insert name of relevant government agency tasked with film promotion here] but, after a while, no one replied." And no one from the Malaysian embassy in Brazil even bothered to turn up for any of the events.

But why dwell on the idiocy of Malaysian bureaucracy? Dozens of Malaysian films were shown in places where no one had ever seen any of our films before. So that must count as a good thing.

And my huge thanks to the hard-working organisers and hosts who made the events proceed with nary a hitch: Jeremy Segay and Eva Markovitz in Paris; and Tati Leite and Arndt Roskens in Rio.

P.S. Brazil was a magical place!