Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Kim Ping Pong

Tuk, tuk, tuk, tuk.

Twas the sound of the ping pong ball as it bounces its way around the table. I am watching Pele and Damon take one each other in a game of ping pong. They have a distinctive style, both of them. Pele has a more chaiyenyen (easy going) approach, while Damon, being the Taiwanese born and bred that he is, displaying more style and panache than the rest of the group put together. Having said that, they're not really playing, just pinging the pong around.

And I'm not really interested in their styles either, for now.

"You know," I turn to my coordinator, Mr Seo, "there's something relaxing about the sound of the ping pong ball going tuk tuk." He merely nodded his agreement.

And as I watch them play, the thought crossed my mind that perhaps they're playing for the sound too.

Tuk tuk.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Forever and Eva

Ladies and gentleman...

...I'm in love.

royale2

I knew of Eva Green before, and I think she is quite attractive. But there was one scene in Casino Royale (the bathroom scene, when she and James Bond were giving each giving the other their dinner suits), and she wasn't wearing much, if any make up at all. I felt that I was seeing her for the first time, her beauty lighting the screen with such magnificent radiance.

And she took my breath away.

*I've been looking for a still of that scene, but I couldn't find it. So for now, this is the best no make-up substitute from the film. Thanks Shu :>

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Eve

As a SWAT team closes in on the building, one of the baddies warned his comrades:

"All right, listen up guys. 'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, except for the four assholes coming in the rear in standard two-by-two cover formation."

Theo, Die Hard.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Director's Cut

You are driven.

Driven by a passion, a love, a desire so strong that it overrides each and every one of your senses. Your mind spins endlessly, twisting and turning each and every single possibility, leading to the agony in your heart, and the darkness that lies just beyond the reach of your vision.

I lie in bed, and I wonder.

It's deep into the early morning. In a short time, the sun will rise, marking the beginning of a new day, the beginning of one which will make a difference. A big or a small one. But a difference nonetheless.

I lie in bed, and I wonder.

I have been going full tilt for the past few days, finalising the preparations for my film. And, if it is possible, that tilt will be even fuller as I strive to make the film itself. A four-day shooting schedule has been finalised, the actors has been confirmed, the camera is ready to practically rock and roll.

And yet here I am, at almost 6 in the morning...and I wonder.

I wonder about the decisions I've made. I wonder about the angles I've taken, whether it correctly portrays that I intend to capture within each frozen moment of the film, flashing past the audience's eyes in a millisecond. I think of the actors, about their level of comfort with their roles, and wonder how much more detailed the storyboard could be. A little more time, perhaps.

A little more time.

I wonder if the other filmmakers go through this....this...sleepless, restless, life-draining existence. If Steven Spielberg agonises over every single detail in this way, or if he spends the night before a shoot watching the Seven Samurai, The Searchers, Lawrence of Arabia and It's A Wonderful Life, a list of films he apparently watches before every film he makes.

I think of Ang Lee, the guy who broke barriers to make Brokeback Mountain. Watch his visual excellence, then marvel at "he who never storyboards any of his films", including the visually laden special effects underrator that is The Hulk.

I think of Wong Kar Kai, who only outlines his movies, rather than script them properly. A process that Zhang Ziyi has described as "delightful" when working with the man on 2046, but a process that would have crucified me if I had tried to go into a film in the same way.

I wonder if he, if they, ever wonder of their ways. If they ever wonder at all. Or whether they step into the set on that first day, confident and poised that their every shot, their every thought, their every action, their drive and their passion is there for everyone to see.

I go into this film with almost 6 hours of sleep in almost three days. A most unhealthy of approaches. But it's OK.

I'm driven. Driven by a passion and desire that burns in my lungs, seeping through every single pore of my existence, to make this film to the best of my abilities. I have found my spark, the zenith of my existence, that which others have found, and I intend for it to burn me through.

For it is this spark, this fire that drives each and every one of us to do what we do. To push us through the dark hours, to break down that wall in our way, to force the strength in our veins when our minds, our body, our spirit tells us: "No more."

Our heart, our passion...drives us.

Driven, I tell you.

And after that...I...we...

...shall wonder no more.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Letters from Namyangju

It's a strange feeling, a strange place to be in.

I'm here in the mountains of Korea, at Namyangju Studios, at one of the most well equipped film complexes this side of Kim Jong Il's nuclear weapons. It's some hours away from Seoul, which means that it's even more hours away from Jeonju.

The winter bites hard here. It has begun snowing, albeit in flakes and flicks rather than hailstorms and apocalyptic proportions that no one predicted. No one but those from tropical countries anyway. We all went out and savoured that moment for a bit. Whooping delights rang through the mountain air, escaping our thoughts faster than the misty breathes inside.

So I am here. We are all here, to edit our respective short films. Much drama, much tragedy, and much sacrifice has been made in order for us to be here, to cut our films into pieces before slowly knitting them together again. The hands move, the fingers tap, the mouses click.

And once in a while, Damon would shout out. Or, perhaps more accurately, he would shriek. "AARGH, ARGHH!!"

In my head, one (crow) flew above the cuckoos nest.

I am here, amongst all of this...and I can't edit. In the parlance of the Mr Writers of the world, the juices run dry, the brain is shut, the inspiration is no more.

In the parlance of this particular thinker...what the fuck am I doing here?

But alas, this post was never intended to rant, or to rave. Not yet, anyway.

This post is meant to recognise, and to respect. To remember.

I no longer read. Not like I used to. I had often used books as a tool in the past to relax. Sometimes to escape, yes. I can't escape that particular accusation, though I wonder of who could. But mainly it is to immerse myself in worlds unimaginable otherwise, to delve into the psyche of characters so twisted, so diverse and colourful that I am no longer myself.

I am Frodo, as he struggled with all his might to reach the volcano bit in 'Lord of the Rings' to destroy it. I am...

...struggling to remember my favourite characters. With the aside from Jacen from Star Wars. No one jumps to mind right now. No one.

The point being, I read a letter from my friend before I came here. She had written it prior to my departure, prior to my new found life as one of the five filmmakers selected for the Asian Young Filmmakers program. A boost to the ego, this, or a sham of magnificent proportions?

She had written of something about beans. About leaving it behind in class in science experiments over the weekend, before coming in the next week and marvelling at their exorbitant growth rates. A strand only, perhaps, but a wonder to marvel at when you are all of ten years young in the world.

She had written of a particular nice discussion we had over her birthday dinner. Relatively quiet Italian restaurant, brilliant (and expensive) food, beautiful girl to look at and to get to know...and I was talking about Star Wars.

Or more specifically, about Jacen. Jacen Solo, the son of Han and Princess Leia. I talked about Anakin. I talked about a lot more, but these were the two mentioned in her letter to me.

For the life of me, I can't remember what the exact wordings were. One wonders whether one would be able to remember it should one remain with one's derriere stuck in this pallid existence (is it pallid or palid?) of a conference hall. To the left, a stage used for presentations that this place was built for. To the right, a small ping pong table set up to aleviate our boredom.

You'd think that being on the final stretch of a journey tempered with difficulty, and with much love...we'd be raring to go. Raring to stitch together the pieces that we had lovingly crafted in our dreams, further refined in our living daylights, and painstakingly mastered in reality. But no. I can't edit.

I've no juices left. And I'm getting off tangent.

"The discussion about Jacen, about his philosophies and yours, was interesting and complex," was probably how the letter went halfway through. "I want to take you home and we can cuddle together and make out until you have an erection and then we can make sweet love" is most definitely how it did not go.

That much I remember.

I had forgotten the delights of escaping, of immersing, of revelling the joys of being another character. I remember that night clearly, carefully breaking down and reconstructing his finer points and flaws. I had known this character inside out, much like I had known others from other books. None had influenced me as much as Jacen.

There were none that I had wanted to become more like than Jacen. Feel free to correct me on that particular sentence structure...but I had forgotten how to become. I had forgotten how to take a step back, and to look at my films, my videos, my life and my friends in a different light, as another character.

As someone who is not me.

I had forgotten to look at the falling snow on the mountain, and not thank my motherfucking lucky stars. They hadn't shone much as of late. They hadn't shone at all, but now, at 6:20am, I don't need them to shine.

I need to shine.

To look at the can of Gatorade next to the monitor and not think, "If I take a sip now, it's going to cost me another 800 won to buy a new can."

To go outside, cold as it bitingly is, and see the flakes once again fall on my nose. My hair, my head, my heart. For it to cool the fires stoked inside.

To read a book, and once again become another...in order I could become me as a whole. More of a whole.

And to plant a bean in a dark room, leave it over the weekend, and then come in...and marvel once more at the magic of life.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Hero of the Day: Alex Zanardi

Five years ago, on September 15th 2001, former F1 driver Alex Zanardi was leading a race in Germany in what was the first major sporting event in the world following the September 11 attacks.

He suffered a spin late on in the race, and in trying to regain his racing line, was hit full on by Alex Tagliani. The accident nearly cost him his life. He survived, but even more tellingly for a racing driver, he lost both his legs. Such an event would've broken a lesser man.

But not Alex.

He got himself two prosthetic legs, and began the long road to recovery. Not only in life, but also in his racing career. Against all odds, he started racing again two years after the accident, driving touring cars in Europe.

On Saturday, he stepped back into a Formula 1 cockpit for the first time in over half a decade. In what is the most sophisticated and physically demanding motorsport vehicle in the world, he completed lap after lap after lap.

DELL Formula BMW World Final 2006

By the end of the day, his best lap is only a second shy of regular BMW driver Sebastien Vettel, Germany's next big thing and a driver half his age.

But that's not why I'm writing about him.

Not the fact that his comeback was against all the odds, or that as a Formula 1 driver, he was not very successful (or very lucky, I should point out).

No.

The reason why I'm writing about him is that five years ago, he made a decision.

When others would have folded under lesser circumstances, when he himself is on his deathbed...he made a decision to live.

He decided to fight for his life.

DELL Formula BMW World Final 2006

And as far as I am concerned...he won.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Friday, November 24, 2006

Babelling about Borat

Two movies I'm most excited about (click on title for trailer):

Babel

Babel-movie-02
Gael storm: He will rock your world.

The most anticipated movie that I've waited for since...well, since X-Men 3. And before that...Munich. In a year that's loaded with a fair number of decent watches, that says something. With X-Men 3, it's the fanboy in me. With Munich, it's the filmmaker in me, wanting to see a personal dream pan out on the big screen (read 'M for Munich'). It's a similar case with Babel.

From what I've gathered so far, Babel deals a lot with the notion of language. The title itself is derived from the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel, whereby people were supposedly driven by their arrogance. Believing themselves to have the capability to be bigger than God, they build a tower to reach to the high heavens, only to have the big man upstairs confuse them by having them embued with different languages. Not being able to understand each other, the tower was never finished in the end.

This story reflects that, in its multi-character perspectives. There are several main characters in this, with the main stars being Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. I am most interested, however, in Gael Garcia Bernal's turn in this. I've seen him in The Motorcycle Diaries and Y Tu Mama Tambien, and he has always impressed me with his verve. He has an incredible screen presence, and word on the street is that he's approached to be the villain in The Bourne Ultimatum. If it's true, then, in addition to this movie, he'll complete his transition as an actor from 'one to watch' to 'one you'd bet your life on'.

OK, I'll stop Babel-ling about him now :>

Borat
Sacha Baron Cohen-5
The Baron Cohen: Staines massive

Now, Borat has been getting a lot of mention in the press elsewhere. In fact, it's already opened pretty much everywhere, and is already the most successful comedy in history ($15 million parlayed into $90 odd million at the time of writing...and that's just in the U.S.). So much so that Sascha got himself a nice $30 million deal with Universal, making him the highest paid British actor at the moment. For those not in the know, the fuss is about him going round pretending to be a Kazakhstani journalist and ask people stupid questions.

But the other reason why I'm very much looking forward to the movie...is the man himself. I've followed his career from the very beginning, when all he had was a small five minute segment on a 30 minute fake news show in England. I lived in Staines for a while (where he came from), and all my friends could say to me was, "Yeah, Fikri, Staines massive, innit?" (a catch phrase from his Ali G. character). Now to see him become this huge international star is...

...well, wow. Never thought it would happen. Quite unbelievable, and yet at the same time...pretty damn exciting :>


I'm also looking forward to:

The Good Shepherd
About how the CIA came about. An ensemble cast with Matt Damon, Angie Jolie, Robert De Niro, Billy Crudup, Michael Gambon, Alec Baldwin, Joe Pesci. Directed by Bob De Niro himself. If that doesn't get your attention, I don't know what will.

Blood Diamond
How about Leo D's second movie in as many months? You tend not to see him for a long time, but when you do...he's everywhere. Movie's about people wanting to get their hands on a priceless diamond somewhere in Africa (haven't Hollywood made enough movies there? What about Asia?). Directed by Edward 'I'm gonna Last Samurai your ass' Zwick.

Bobby
About the night Robert F. Kennedy died, and how people's lives were affected by it. If you think the cast for The Good Shepherd is good, then you'd be bowled over by this one. Anthony Hopkins, William H. Macy, Laurence Fishbourne, Elijah Wood, Lindsay Lohan, Heather Graham, Helen Hunt, Demi Moore, Martin Sheen...and the dude from the Mighty Ducks movie (Emilio Estevez). In fact, that dude is not only acting in this one, he's also the writer and the director. Plus, Bryan Adams is penning the main theme for this.

I'm A Cyborg But It's OK

Korean movie by my favourite Korean director Park Chan Wook. He's more well known for his visually graphic movies about revenge, which is why this movie is about...love. Love between mental patients anyway. Sounds like fun...but even more so when one of the patients is Korean singing superstar Rain (or in Korean, the less cool sounding Bi). He makes his debut in this one, and am most interested to see how he does.

The Fountain
Time travelling sci-fi fantasy drama romance thriller whatever about a man trying to save his wife's life. But who cares what it's about? Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz and the guy who married her (Darren Aronofsky). In other words, he who gave us Requeim For A Dream. And Clint Mansell is scoring. But perhaps most impressively of all, believe me when I tell you: no CGI.

The Last King of Scotland
Actually, it's about an African dictator (what did I say about Hollywood films there) Idi Amin, who, if haven't already guessed, is not Scottish, let alone it's king. Forest Whittaker plays the lead role, and from what I heard, his performance is to die for. And mind you...that's the only reason why I'm excited about this film.

The Queen
From The Last King of Scotland to The Queen. About the Queen's perspective in the aftermath of the death of Princess Diana. Much like the movie above, I'm anticipating this movie primarily because of Helen Mirren. Personally, I think that she is arguably one of the finest actresses in the world, not just because of the quality of her work, but also because she is incredibly hardworking (five projects in this year and the next alone, according to IMDB). Plus, I want to see how Michael Sheen fares as Tony Blair. Should be fun :>

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Identity

As I was walking up the stair,
I met a man who wasn't there.
He wasn't there again today.
I wish, I wish he'd go away.

- Hugh Mearns

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Bimbo Post - Superman Returns

So it was that I was pottering around town a few months back. Of course, when I say town, I mean a place where you can do some Seoul searching.

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!! (falls over backwards and die from laughter)

(comes back to life)

I digress.

Anyways, I walked around town with a girl who I only met once before, having a super time (see what I did there?). We came across this small shop by the corner, stocking all kinds of things from years gone by. Old cards, action figures, even types of sweet.

And then I saw it.

A bird? A plane?

No.

P1030557

It's SUPERMAN!!!!!!!!!!!

(John Williams' tune runs through my head)

Jeng jeng jeng jeng jennnnngggg.....jeng jeng jeng.....
Jeng jeng jeng jeng jennnnngggg.....

P1030558

...JENG JENG JENGGGGG!!!!!!


As fantasies of yesteryears flooded me, I approached the lady at the counter.

"Kegosen olmaiyeiyo?"

She puts down her battered paperback, looks at me straight in the eye and tells me that she loves me.

Yeah right.

But she did say that it wasn't for sale.

(runs to the top of the building and jumps off out of despair)

(suddenly, I realised that I can fly. So I floated down where my cute Korean waited for me)

"Otdoke?"

"Kenchana," I said. "Nanen Superman iyeiyo."

She laughed. And so did I.

I leave you with this.

P1030559

UP...UP....AND AWAY!!!!!

*A response to a challenge by the Paradoxical Fille.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

What A Day A Difference Makes

I have a habit of writing emails to my friends back in Malaysia, telling of my escapades here in Korea. Sometimes, something truly exciting happens, like a proper film workshop, or if I happened to go on an interesting trip somewhere. Most of the time, however, I run through the motions.

Even when that happens, however, I write nonetheless. It is what I call "making metaphorical mountains out of metaphysical hills."

So once in a while, I'd go on making such mountains from hills. And the response I get from those who do reply is a positive one. By and large, they are in the mould of "Wow! Your life over there is so exciting! My life over here is so boring!"

Perhaps not in those exact words...but it's definitely the most common underlying message.

Which is interesting...because for me, my life is boring. Not that I'm upset about that, it's just that it's not particularly interesting to me. And I'm living it.

So in reply, I asked one of my friends to clarify a bit further. "Well," she started, "it's because you seem to be doing a lot of stuff, while I'm just here in the office."

A fair comment, which remains valid despite the fact that I myself spend a considerable amount of time in my own office (though for very different reasons). Though not that big a deal in itself, in my idler moments (should that qualify as a word) on a train or on a bus (since I find myself doing a fair amount of travelling these days), I find myself thinking about this.

About this oh-so-interesting life of mine.

I came to realise that it's not so much the interest. Never so much about what it is that I do, and yet everything about it.

It's different. To their life, to the day before, and to the day that will come. It is that difference that strikes them, the difference of the things that I do that makes things seem...interesting.

And I must admit that this is partly calculated. I wake up everyday, and I always intend to do something different. To meet different people, to eat different food, read different books (maybe a magazine today), buy a different brand of coffee (Java Coffee instead of Coffee Bean), walk a different path (the backroads instead of the main way). There's a certain amount of routine, of course, but looking at the larger picture...I don't really like it.

Reading that bit again, it all sounds kinda hypocritical, paradoxical...not making much sense. Even to me.

But that's OK.

It's what makes me different.

Perhaps you'd wanna try it.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

What Dreams May Come

I haven't been writing a lot, as of late. One can point to a variety of reasons or excuses. Not enough time, not enough inspiration, not enough whatever. The end result is only and exactly that.

I haven't written. Simple as that.

But I have been reading. A fair amount. Books, online stuff, scripts (my own and others), even travel brochures.

I clicked and clicked, and I came across this.

Now I feel like writing again.

Thanks, Gurustu.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Brand New Day

I couldn't sleep throughout the whole night. Not in the tossing and turning kind, mind. I was at the computer, not wanting to sleep. My mind active, my soul singing, my heart troubled. Why, I wonder. Actually, I didn't so much wonder as to be in denial. I know why.

I knew why. In such a state, lying in the dark waiting to fall asleep would probably be a recipe for disaster.

So I was up. I edited videos, replied mails, wrote mails, worked on the storyboard.

And then the sun came up. Slowly, but surely, it rose.

I looked at my watch. Three hours before my next movie. I've been watching movies galore at the Pusan International Film Festival. One of the best things about this fest is that it's set at a port city, which means that one of the main locations is on the beach. So I decided to get dressed, and go for a walk, if only to gladden the heart and free my mind.

After all, it's rare that I'm up at this hour. Even rarer that I'd be anywhere near a beach.

As I walked towards the beach, the fresh air entered my nostrils. I was intoxicated, not only by that, but also by the sights and sounds of people going about their life. Starting the day, a new day. They all seem happy, probably excited by the prospect of an international film festival in town. I see people making the most of it.

Then I got to the beach. And I see the moments then I tend not to see, drowned in the mountains of work and depression, carried forth from one day to the next.

I see people with their loved ones, with their friends and their family. I see those by themselves, sitting on the beach, reflecting, and those jogging along the shore, driven by the desire that every exertion, every muscle strained further, brings forth the pain that stretches our mortality, giving us life. I see the moments of opportunity, people fishing in the sea or those rushing into position to take a picture, a moment that may never come ever again.

Well, I see a moment that comes every day. A moment that reminds me that, no matter the problems of yesterday, we all get a new chance to start all over again.

P1030881 copy copy

It's a brand new day, people.

Let's make the most of it.

*For more, click here.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Mind the Gap

"Fikri," said my coordinator, Mr Seo, "why is there such a big difference?"

We're sitting down on the steps inside the viewing room at the film office. It's the High Definitions workshop, and people are busy buzzing about. All of us (me, Pele, Damon, Kirsten and Tascha) get to shoot with the HD camera and make something out of it. Right now, everyone is prepping for Kirsten's bit. I'm supposed to be doing the same, but I am not sure what I'm supposed to be doing, so I decided to sit down and just chill a bit.

It's going to be my turn next.

"Difference about what?" I answered with a question, looking at the crew setting up the lights, before turning to him.

"Well," he began, "I've read your script, for today."

"And?"

"I feel..." he paused, searching for the words to convey his feelings. His mastery of English is very competent, far more than many of the others. "I felt really...depressed!"

I smiled. "Well...it's only supposed to make you question, rather than go the whole hog."

"Yeah," he half agreed, but maintained his course. "But it's so not...you."

I raised my eyebrow. "What is not me?"

"You're very...funny, very witty. Always have a smile on your face, always laughing and smiling."

I laughed. I had to. "Ah, thank you. I'll take that as a compliment."

"Yes, but," he continued. I can see that he feels that his point is not clear enough, though I get what he's trying to say. "Why are you movies different? Why are they not funny? Why are they so...depressing?!"

I had to admit, he's got a point there, one that I realised myself sometime back. "Well, truth be told...I don't know. I always start with a blank page," though in truth, everyone starts with a blank page (or monitor), "and I let the ideas come to me, or maybe I have the ideas before. But...depressing ideas tend to be more interesting, for some reason."

"But..." he started again, before letting out a long sigh. I see the look of resignation on his face. I smiled inside, quietly knowing that the points levelled at me are not too far from those I level at myself. If any, I am my own worst critic; never quite satisfied with I have achieved, no matter what it is.

Flashback to 1999; end of English Literature class in Forest Hill. Ms Ryan Tucker, the helper teacher who gives a hand to some of the kids that are falling behind, sat me down for a bit. Not so much because I was falling behind. If anything, it was the opposite. "Fikri," she started. "I noticed that you were unhappy with the assignment marks."

"Well, yeah," I said. "I thought I should've done better."

"You can't think like that, Fikri," she continued. "If you do, then you'll never be happy with that you have achieved."

That memory came flying back as I looked at Seo's face, a thousand questions still etched into every pore.

But he didn't ask. I let it be, for now.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Lov Actually



Trailer to a short movie made by my good friend Tan Meng Yoe, better known as TMY (though I have a tendency to call him MY). This is the trailer to the final movie he'll make in university.

Back in university, we were the go-to guys for movies and videos. My modesty says that that's probably not very accurate of our actual abilities, but my heart and everything else said that it was a lot of fun to work with him. We had the same classes, similar interests, even conducted a bloody workshop together. That was interesting :>

Throughout the years, he and I have made plenty of movies (mostly stupid, fun types, and mostly by him). We've taken to comparing ourselves to Quentin Tarantino (me) and Robert Rodriguez (him). This stems from a deal that we agreed upon, in which I'll work on his movie for RM1, and he'll work on mine for RM1 (similar to QT working on Sin City for $1 and Robert Rodriguez helping out on Kill Bill for $1).

But despite all of that, he's been far more prolific. While I have my ideas (and do get off my arse to do them sometimes), he gets off his arse all of the time. This results in a huge number of videos, during which I have killed, been killed, tried to kill, been killed again, fell in love, sat on a chair in the background, have a glass bowl smashed over my head, told lame jokes, got my marriage proposal rejected, interviewed, and objectified.

(If you're wondering: The Door, The Door again, Psycho 3, Psycho 3 again, A Quiet Delight, Captivation, Takau 1.5, Irregular Instances of Madness, The Wife-less Guitarmen, Budding Filmmakers, and I Objectify You)

And if it weren't for Shazana, I would've fallen in love again, too. Drats.

And to MY: It's been a good four years, mate. I'll miss seeing 'Superratty Films' pop up on my screens. But this is not the end, for you and I...we are one.

Here's to a better tomorrow.

Cheers.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Confessions of A Dangerous Mind

My friend Erin was bored recently (actually, reading her blog she seems to be always bored), and decided to put up this post.

"Because I'm feeling so "free", I'll do the following...
  1. I''ll respond with something random about you.
  2. I'll challenge you to try something.
  3. I'll pick a color that I associate with you.
  4. I'll tell you something I like about you.
  5. I'll tell you my first/clearest memory of you.
  6. I'll tell you what animal you remind me of.
  7. I'll ask you something I've always wanted to ask you.
  8. If I do this for you, you must re-post this on your blog.
... If you comment on this post."

So I left a comment, and kinda forgot about it for a bit. Turns out she actually did it, which meant that now I have to do the same for you. She said I didn't have to, but...it'll be interesting, I reckon.

Oh, and here's what she said about me:

"1) You speak French. Will be very good with the ladies.
2) Have a bimbo post on your blog. Especially since your posts are more intellectual/meaningful/deep than mine.
3) Yellow. Like corn. Coz you can be so corny.
4) I like your corny jokes and your openness about the love you have for your family.
5) Hmm, I did always see you with Anna last time walking around corridors of Monash.
6) A Llama. Think Emperor's New Groove.
7) Erm, I'll take a rain check on this."

What a load of rubbish, I thought.

I'm already good with the ladies :>

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Fast Food Nation

Far more indispensable than food for the physical body is spiritual nourishment for the soul.

Mohandas Gandhi
_____________________________________________________

It’s funny how in this age, with wireless connectivity and 3G technology fast becoming an essential ingredient of everyday life, the distance between people have grown further. I say funny, because I thought that technology is supposed to bring people closer together. Easier to call and say hello, or for a line to be dropped online. Life is supposed to taste nice, rather than undercooked and stale.

Someone suggested to me that technology does bring certain people closer together. It’s people’s social circle that have changed. Perhaps that is the case for some, but for me the bigger picture does not reflect this.

The general claim is that people are too busy. Admittedly, our daily schedule leaves little to the imagination. In place of meeting up with friends is a fair amount of unfriendly meetings, not something to whet your appetite. Perhaps that is true, but it doesn’t mean neglect is an excuse.

We have all the right utensils to stay even more in touch. Mobile phones are the order of the day. More and more people have laptops, fast becoming a necessary accessory amongst the hip and the happening.

Wireless connection zones are becoming as commonplace, allowing people to get wired with the latest and keep going on the go. Going online is as easy as ordering a latte at Starbucks Coffee.

Since you’re reading this, chances are you’re online right now.

Everything is becoming easier, more instant. It's more Big Mac with Coke rather than a seasoned fillet mignon (medium rare). The window of opportunity for people to keep in touch is opened wider than ever before you can practically jump through it. And yet you’d be lucky if people poke their head through to even say hello.

Why is that? Maybe you’re not the sort of person to just call up others on a whim. I can well understand that, but keeping touch doesn’t mean that you have to cook up a full-blown telephone conversation. A sprinkle of SMSes might be a better recipe, not necessarily to organize a night out (because, as we’ve already established, people can be quite busy), but just to say hello and whet your appetite.

I get the impression that some people are probably afraid. They are afraid of the perceived rejection if others don’t reply their SMS or answer their call. They prefer to get out of the kitchen rather than stand the heat.

No one is totally immune to this feeling. But along with this comes sense of fulfilling your duty. You’ve tried to reach out, do all that you can to keep in touch.

Maybe they’re right. Maybe the other person really doesn’t care about them. Or, more likely, they don’t have credit or the time then and there to reply. But at the very least, you would’ve done your part. You’ve played your role. And in reality, in all walks of life, that’s all that any of us can do.

Do our part, and hope that others will reciprocate.

It may not be face-to-face communication, but if you do wait for that to happen, then chances are you’ll be waiting for a while. We’ve already established that people can be busy with the things that are going on in their lives. A short call, a quick SMS, or even a one-line email is enough to do the job, to just say hello.

Some would argue that the need to do so is diminished by the fact that our loved ones know that they are in our hearts and minds, and we in theirs. I won’t deny that. We do think about others a lot. Our friends, our family, and most certainly our special loved ones. But unless we do something about it, unless we tell them, then they won’t know for sure that they were in your thoughts.

Only then will they truly know what and how you feel about them.

Life is good, but it can be so much better. Drop a line, say hello, and add a little flavour to your life.

Fikri Jermadi thinks that the Double Cheeseburger is good value at RM2.50 (before tax).

*An unpublished article written late 2005.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Bad Education

“The best education in film is to make one. I would advise any neophyte director to try to make a film by himself. A three-minute short will teach him a lot. I know that all the things I did at the beginning were, in microcosm, the things I'm doing now as a director and producer."

Stanley Kubrick - filmmaker

Friday, August 25, 2006

Norwegian Wood

A new bookstore opened in Jeonju recently, a branch of the probably biggest book chain in Korea. Having some time to kill after watching a movie with my friend Pele, we went looking for it, not entirely sure of where it is.

After about 15 minutes of going into the wrong roads and alleys and backing up, we finally came upon it. You can practically still see the new shine gleaming against the setting sun. Quite beautiful, actually, and we went in excitingly.

I guess only book afficionadoes would understand when I lay the scene out upon you: shelves beyond shelves of books, magazines, and more books. There's a little tingle whenever I see a bunch of such items layered together in mass bunches. I can't quite explain the feeling (a feeling I've had since I was young, right up there with a child's excitement inside Toys R Us), but that's the feeling that engulfed me nonetheless as I made my way through the racks.

Eventually, I came to the English fiction, much smaller than their Korean counterparts. Not at all surprising, mind you, for English is still not that well used in Korea. But I'm drawn in like honey to the bee nonetheless, quickly flicking through their collection.

And then my eyes rested upon it. It.

My finger peeled it from its book ends, being squashed in between two other books by the same author. I had thought of buying it before, but that thought had first occured around a year ago, maybe more. And I still haven't got round to it.

So now I did. I took it, tucked it under the issue of Time, and went off to the counter to pay for it.

Tingling.

Hero of the Day: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

ole!

Welcome back, Ole Gunnar.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Otnemem

I sit down, practically bristling with excitement. The bowl of ramen in front of me is ready to be consumed, hot steam rising visibly slowly, before embering into nothingness.

I had been downloading some episodes of the X Men cartoon of the mid 90s as of late. Tonight, the download for the 'Night of the Sentinels' episode was finally complete. This episode, out of all the episodes, struck my chord the hardest. Here, the X Men were assaulting a government building where records of registered mutants were being kept. While making their getaway, one of the team members, Morph, was struck by one of the mutant-hunting Sentinels. Wolverine, feeling a sense of loyalty and togetherness, goes back in desperation to help him. Cyclops, however, had other ideas, blasting Wolverine senseless with his laser optic powers. He knows that had Wolverine had his way, they would have lost both Morph and Wolverine.

This was the one episode that struck me because I credit it as the first time that I came across adult material (no, not of that kind). When I say adult, I mean the portrayal of adult-like emotions, like jealousy, rage, disappointment, frustration, and bitterness, to name but a few. At that point in my life (perhaps around 10 years old), I had been fed a steady stream of cartoons like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Transformers, Doraemon and Japanese serials like Ultraman, Gaban, Black Masked Rider and Cybercop (I remember trying to make the big Cybercop gun out of shoeboxes! :>). Enjoyable, mind you, but they miss the mark somewhat.

X Men marks the spot, so to speak. Watching it, I feel like there's something there that's beyond mere entertainment, that it addresses issues worth considering (and issues that would become every more prevalent in later life, like discrimination, and love). I saw how Wolverine reacts to the love between Jean Grey and Cyclops. I felt sad at how Rogue has arguably the greatest powers of all the mutants (because technically she can absorb anyone's power), but yearns for something as simple as the human touch.

And I admire the fierce loyalty that Wolverine displayed for Morph in trying to go back for him (and the extreme dislike for that sissy boy Cyclops for ruining all that).

So I sat down, and watched the episode. They break into the facility, they go back out, they get attacked by the Sentinels, Morph gets hit, falls unconscious, Wolverine wants to go back, Cyclops says no, he starts off anyway, Rogue takes off her gloves and absorbs Wolverine's energy so much he gets knocked out, the team boards the Blackbird...

Wait.

Hang on. This isn't what happened.

Where was the bit where Cyclops shot Wolverine? The one moment that had been bored into my mind for over a decade? Where was that moment when Cyclops, not Wolverine, betrayed Morph?

I waited for the whole scene to pan out. I waited, with increasing agitation, for that moment to pop up again. It's got to be here somewhere...

But it isn't. And it wasn't.

I felt very uncomfortable. I slowly realised that maybe one of the most important scenes I had deified, a most affective scene that had a big impact on me...

...never existed in the first place.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Seung Won aygay

Cigem, Seung Won kwa kaci ita.

Aju ceymi issoyo.

Kenyang.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Heroine of the Day: Suraya Jermadi

There are few times when I wished that I was wrong. Completely, totally, utterly wrong.

"Remember that time when you went to watch the movie and Ibu picked you up late because of me?"

I had to smile when I saw that message pop up on my MSN. That must have been a decade ago, a long time ago in a galaxy far away.

"Yeah, of course I remember," I wrote, "I waited for two hours. Should've called Ibu or something."

"Yeah," she said, allowing herself to be momentarily blanked by silence. "I'm sorry about that."

I laughed. Somehow, time is not just a great healer, for it can also be a stand-up comic by itself, rendering moments of fear, anger and frustration into laugh-out-loud moments viewed later through the kaleidescope of life. "It's OK."

It's through that same kaleidescope that I look back to four months ago, wondering and even deeply questioning my sister, Yaya. I had doubted that she had the temperament, the temerity, and the tenacity to pull things together and make things work. To rise above herself, be more than she had been before.

There are few times when I wished that I was wrong. That was one of them.

"Yeah," she wrote. "You wanna know what happened?"

"OK," and a small mystery in history was solved ten minutes later. A moment not recalled for a while, but one that came back with such aplomb, answering questions asked but lost in those ten intervening years.

My wish came true, for I am wrong.

Yaya proved me so.

And I couldn't be happier.

I'm proud of you. You have done well thus far. Keep the faith, and know that the good moments and the bad lasts not forever.

And if they do, then you only need to turn and see me standing there next to you. With you.

I love you.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

everybody's dying.
everybody.

the past week, uncle's mother died.
this morning,
my aunt died. my favourite aunt.
the four of them would enter our house,
with her holding a plastic container.
its a cake, that she baked
thats full of love.
she's no longer with us.
no more cake,
baked with love,
from Along Noridah
:'(



one by one,
returning to their landlord...

Suraya Jermadi (c) 2006, ntoxic8d

*This post was written by my sister on her blog on 9th July. It is about one of our favourite aunts, who passed away recently. I pray for your soul and for your family, Along. Though you are no longer in pain, you left us much too soon.

*Read Death Eater.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Winterburn

Q. Which German footballer has no winter equipment?

A. Tim Borowski.

*Iqbal Halim (c) 2006

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

To Sarah Jane...

"Love should never be a secret. If you keep something as complicated as love stored up inside, it could make you sick."

Otto Octavius, Spiderman 2.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

These Are My Memories

I got home from my grandmother's house. Tired, I emptied the contents of my pocket unto the bedside table. My eyes caught a selection of wallet sized photos on the table.

Thinking of what my friend had said previously, I picked them up and looked through them, and am reminded of the happy moments the photos triggered, stolen though they are.

I put them back in my wallet, turned off the light, and fell into bed.

*Written on March 23rd.
*Read Strings of Attachment.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Today...

...I stood Last.

Twice.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Strings of Attachment

It was a cool night. I had slid the windows open, letting in the refreshing air that is unmistakably cool in every sense of the word. The humidity whooshed away, having spent the whole day ensconed in the room.

Behind me, my friend, visiting from Singapore, was flicking through some of the pictures that I have on my desk. I had made it a habit to have pictures of my friends and family on my desk, just to remind me of what’s important in life.

I laid down in bed, willing to let the fatigue wash itself out of me. On the mattress I’d laid out for him on the floor, Zul was near the end of the picture collection. His hands flicked the photos one behind another, his eyes quickly registering the picture in front of him.

Seeing that he’s near the end of the picture collection, I offered him another, smaller, batch, from my wallet. He took these, and began flicking through them as well. I provided a running commentary of the story behind the photos.

“And that was after dinner, during which we had satay...can you believe she doesn't know what ketupat is...and that was at the ball last year, you remember that...”

“I think you’re too attached lah,” he mentioned suddenly. That got me a bit. “What made you say that?” I asked.

“Well, you hold on to the memories,” he replied without looking up, “and, though it’s not a necessarily bad thing, I think that might not help you move on.”

“Perhaps,” I began to counter him, “but these are the memories that I hold close to my heart for a reason. They’re the people that I love and care about. These photos just reminds me of the moments.”

“Yeah, but I think you’re too attached, alright…and I think that…well, it’s difficult lah.” I get what he’s saying at, funnily enough, and can see his point.

He finished flicking through. We talked a bit, before he turned in for the night.

I left the light on for a bit, and flicked through the photos myself. Here, a picture of my and my friends at Kuala Selangor, after a seafood session. There, my mum teasing my little sister by putting birthday cake cream on her face.

Of me and my friends in the M Lab.

Me and my friend in my room, as we took pictures of each other.

A group shot of my colleagues at the property company I used to work for.

A passport photo of my grandmother.

Of my and my cousin when he surprised me with a visit to my house.

Of me and my friend at the ball.

A surprise birthday party for my friend, an event fraught with difficulties to organize and coordinate, but one which the smile on her face made up for.

A picture of my cousin and his girlfriend, given the night that his mother died from cancer after two weeks in hospital (the event which kicked off two years of personal hell). “I just wanted to thank you for everything you’ve done for me and my family,” I remember him saying. “I’ve nothing else to give you.”

There were more, but I didn’t want to finish flicking through.

I put the pictures on the bedside table, and turned off the light, not quite feeling sure of myself.

Perhaps he’s right.

*Written on 18th March 2006.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Post That Won't Mention Anything About X-Men (Except For In The Title)

It's slightly past midnight, and I'm dithering, alternating between doing work and chatting with friends. The clock ticks loudly in the background, so much so that I can still hear it above the music blaring from the laptop.

The doorbell rings, the intercom monitor showing Pele's face. He's dressed casually, almost as if he's ready to sleep. But I know that he's not. And I know why.

I open the door for him, almost inviting him in. But he didn't move to. "Come on man," he says, killing the pretend face I try to put on. He knows it. "You know it, man. Come on."

I do

Changing quickly, and saying my goodbyes to the unsuspecting, we descend a flight of stairs, going straight to Tascha's room.

"Yo," Damon says, looking up as I step through with an 'anyeong'. "He's here."

In essence, 'here' and 'there' are mere words that we use to indicate, rather than tell the truth. A world that we see, rather than feel and truly know. But this is not the time for such mindless philosophical ditherings, for the night is not the time for such endeavours.

The night is for acknowledgement, and recognition. For not only knowing, and remembering, but also showing.

Damon, Tascha, Pele and Kirsten knew. They remembered, and they showed. With time, others followed suit.

So, for those who remembered, and for those who showed...

...thank you.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Beastiality

"No matter where you go, no matter what you do, no matter what troubles you may encounter in life - there are nine hundred million people in China who really couldn't care less. So you might as well have a good time."

The Beast, X-Men Legends

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Heroine of the Day: Joanna Lee

A lot of people say a lot of things.

A lot. Of People. And a lot. Of things.

They may say those things for effect, or for fun. Or even, sometimes, for nothing at all. They may say it because they think the occasions fits it, even if it's not true. Or they may say it regardless of the occasion, or its truth.

Rarely do people show it.

Show what?

Well, show what it means. Back it up. Make a stand. Say that "You're a good friend, and I appreciate you," and then show that they appreciate it.

That's not to say that they're not good friends, or that they never mean what they say. Not at all.

But when someone does show it, when someone does go the extra mile...

...well, that shows something. It touches my heart, and warms me no end.

Joanna Lee did that. She went the extra mile. Knowing that I wouldn't be able to watch X Men until mid June, she decided not to watch it until then. By choice. It doesn't matter that there may be other reasons for her to hold it off, she says that I'm a part of that reasoning. And I believe her.

Because she has shown me that she deserves to be believed.

Now I know that when I make the Last Stand, I won't be standing alone.

Thank you, Jo. I appreciate it.

And that, I do mean.

Friday, May 26, 2006

The Last Stand

I woke up this morning, lying unmoving in bed for a second, a minute, an hour, a year, an eternity, for time has become irrelevant for the listless.

For the Last Stand has been made.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

A Golden Silence

I flipped the phone off, placing it gently on the table as Damon did the same. "Who was it?" I asked him.

We're by the lake, rounding up an enjoyable evening's walk by taking in some of the sights and Saida (Sprite). The sun is setting slowly but surely, bathing all with a soft, golden ambience. The wind blew softly, gently, gently.

I felt inspired enough to make a phone call to a friend in Malaysia of the setting, knowing how she would enjoy such a scenario. Damon made a call at the same time, yabbering away in Chinese to someone.

"Kirsten," he said, cracking open his can of green tea. "Ahh," came my reply, slowly nodding. "I thought you might have called your girlfriend."

"Waiyo?"

"Well," I began, my gaze tracking two ducks chasing each other across the surface of the lake, "it's such a nice setting. Romantic, even. I figured you might have called your girlfriend to tell her of that, and that you're thinking of her or something."

"No, it's not good."

Now it's my turn. "Waiyo?"

"If I call her and tell her that, she will be angry. It is not nice for me to be here and to tell her that I'm in a nice place right now, because she is not with me."

"Ahh," I mused, sipping my Saida. "That's a good point."

Should've thought of that before I called my friend, then.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Beautiful Dancer

A windless draft dragged in a drifting debris. A small feather, floating mindlessly and aimless in my humble abode.

I laid on the bed, writing notes of inspiration, and words of wisdom. My inspiration and my wisdom, at any rate.

I spotted it as it descended in front of the screen. I watched it closely, as it almost landed near the keyboards. Then I made to grab it, but the draft of my own hand pushed it away, floating ever higher.

I tracked the little critter, and moved my arms about ever quicker, trying desperately to catch it in my hands. It teased me, laughing as it dances in the air. I pursed my lips, a frown forming on my forehead.

Now it's annoying.

I placed the laptop on the desk, and, with careful precision, made a grab for it with both hands. It feels as if I had it. I looked up.

There's nothing there now. So it much be in my palms. Only one way to find out.

I opened my palm slightly.

It flew out of there, almost in a hurry. No!

It pirouetted in the air again, spinning a beautiful turn near the window. It turned once more, waving its goodbye, before floating outwards into the world outside.

I smiled, and shook my head.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

A Cold War

I feel cold.

I reached over for the blanket, covering myself from head to toe. Yet I know, at the same time, that it is not the coldness of my body that I seek comfort from, and protection against. It is the one in my heart, emptying away its own resounding beats.

"He was crying on the phone," read the text on screen. "You know that he never cries."

Hardly ever. How I know. And yet it is that knowledge that gnaws at me, biting away slowly at the pieces of emptiness that lies within. A battle I can't fight, a war I can't win.

It's crap being powerless, unable to do anything at all, to shield those you love against the rain of hurt.

Especially if that hurt is like mine.

The cold emptiness within.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Twilight Zone

"No form of art goes beyond ordinary consciousness as film does, straight to our emotions, deep into the twilight room of the soul."

Ingmar Bergman - filmmaker

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Impossible Is Nothing

Last week, I went to watch Mission Impossible 3. Despite not being particularly excited by the trailers and teasers (watching them, you wouldn't know what the story is really about. Except that Tom Cruise is unbreakable, but you know that going in), I was glad to get to it, marking the end of a week long movie festival that is high on substance, but usually low on style.

And guns. And explosions. And girls. And gadgets.

Sometimes...you want to watch a movie with good actors, a compelling storyline, and a sense of cinematography that takes your breath away.

At other times...you just want to watch people get their heads blown off.

That time was last Friday. So no one actually gets their head blown off, but there were more than enough style and panache to keep me company.

Another reason why I went to watch it is not just for the sake of watching it. My friend and I watched it at the end of the Jeonju International Film Festival, and as the end of the festival.

For me, however, Mission Impossible is more than just an end.

It is the beginning. The beginning to the summer season. The beginning to big budget, mindless fun kind of movies. The X Men and the Superman Returns and the Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and Click and The Fast and the Furious 3 and The Da Vinci Code and Miami Vice and World Trade Center and...

...well, I think you get the point.

So, Mission Impossible is OK at best.

But that's OK.

It's not what I'm looking for.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Arithmetic

Early January, 2005. T'was a cool summer's night in Singapore (but then again, almost every night in this region is a cool summer's night). I'm visiting my friend Zul, taking advantage of his hospitality before he shoots of to Australia. He drove aimlessly, taking in the city lights and vast, empty roads.

We've often been mistaken for each other, me more than him (being the only two Malay guys in Communications does that for you). Our kinship, however, is based on far more than race alone. In many respects, he's more like a brother at times, giving me guidance and pulling me along when I needed them. More often than not, he's spot on with his views (even if I don't like them at times).

He had just returned from New Zealand on holiday, and was telling me what it's like. "Here, check this out," he said, popping in a CD into the player. "I think you'll like it."

The song, Arithmetic by Brooke Fraser, opened up, the orchestral strains accompanied by a beautiful piano composition. Then Brooke started singing, her voice almost breathless. I felt almost the same, the lyrics words of poetry that resonates within my soul and taking me away. Far away.

As the song came to an end, I couldn't help but smile at the thought that somehow, things always work out, one way or another. Everything kinda adds up in the end (arithmetically or otherwise).

Oh, and for once, Zul is wrong. Kinda.

I didn't like it.

I loved it. Still do.

And now, I have it.

Thanks Jo. :>

Sunday, April 23, 2006

A Bird? A Plane? No, It's....

Q. What do you call margarine with wings?

A. Butterfly

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Nonsense

I wrote the last post.

And I don't understand it.

Nice ending, though.

Monday, April 10, 2006

"I can't live with refusing this."

"It's strange," said Carl, "to think of oneself as an assassin."

"Think of yourself as something else, then," Avner retorted.

It is now 1am, and I can't sleep. My mind wanders, and things are in my head right now.

So I'm online. I remember that right now, Arsenal and Manchester United do battle at Old Trafford, on the other side of the planet. So I turn on a live match tracker from Football365.com , and leave it on as I periodically flick between it and other windows. A pretty pathetic way to follow a football match, but it'll do for now.

I need to listen to something. Tired of Old Blue Eyes for once, I choose to turn on the trailers, and ran through my favourites: the X Men one, Spiderman 2 (always reminds me of why I want to be a filmmaker), until I get to Munich.

"We are supposed to be righteous," Robert pleaded to Avner, his eyes begging for understanding. "I lose that...that's my soul."

Nothing is bothering me in particular right now. Nothing is troubling my mind. I am comfortable, and healthy.

So why am I here right now?

I am here, I guess, because I choose to be. I choose to come here, to write, and to expose my thoughts on the white screen, hoping that somehow, a distance will add clarity. I hope that by writing, it gives me an avenue, a road, a path, a floating piece of silver lining glistening of the wetness of the road, that will lead me somewhere else. To another piece of silver lining.

Maybe even gold. The pot at the end of the rainbow.

For that is what life is about: choice. Choosing, and acting on that choice. Dealing with the consequences, which involves making another choice. And so the cycle continues.

The first bit is easy. A little tricky at times, but manageable. It's the second bit that's a little difficult at times.

And on nights like this, absolutely fucking difficult.

"You think you can outrun your fears? Your doubts?"

I realised, a few weeks ago, that nothing will be the same again. Amid the foolhardy wishes of those who refuses to say goodbye because it isn't goodbye (which means that I get nothing), and those who genuinely refuses that void in their life.

Things will be different. For better or for worse, but they will be different. The end of an era, in the words of the Hollywoodsmith, a new beginning.

Now I choose to get on. To move with things. To give the best I could, even when it seems to be nothing more than pouring hope down a black hole, hoping that in the end, when the chips have fallen where they may, I will be vindicated. To do what I feel is right, and to become a good brother, a worthy friend, a son to be proud of.

To be a better person.

Because it feels strange...to think of myself as something else.

*Inspired by an email written by yours truly in the early hours of April 10th.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Death Eater

Why are we afraid of death?

We know that it's coming, sooner or later. In some cases, sooner rather than later. Mortality is one of the few certainties of life. Ironic, I think, that the only thing you can be certain about in life is that it will itself end.

But why are we afraid of it?

I feel that death in itself is a mirror, for mortality forces us to confront both ourselves and those around us. The unfulfilled dreams, the wanting relationships, the lack of connectivity and life that probably should have been done years and years before. Death not only tells us, but shows us in the worst ways possible that we, as human beings, as friends, brother, son...

...have failed. Whether we actually have or not is probably another story, but the feeling of being able to do more hits hard.

I don't know whether that's why you are probably afraid of it. I don't know it at all. But I know this much.

Until my dying day, when I myself will pass on, and my soul will depart from this realm of mortals, of the certainty of life and its own end...

...I will always feel that I should have done more.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Dreaming of Me

Late Friday afternoon, I received a call from a friend. I talked to her a few weeks ago about meeting up, but nothing came of it until now. After exchanging the usual pleasantries (“I knew it, you can't live two weeks without me...”), she surprised me with something.

“I had a dream about you.”

“EH?!” was all my educated mind could think of in response.

“I had a dream about you. It was just the two of us, and we were dressed in white.”

“In white?”

“Yeah. You were wearing a white tuxedo. And you look good. I mean, really good.”

“Wow. Hmm...that's interesting. Can I put this on my blog?”

“Of course! By all means!”

“Cool,” I said, actually allowing the thought of someone thinking that I'm good looking sink in (even if it's in their dreams). “Is there anything else? Am I a good dancer? Didn't step on your toes or anything, did I?”

“Yes, I mean, no...Yes, you're a good dancer, and no, you didn't step on my toes. And I remember you didn't wear your glasses.”

“Ah. Was that why I was good looking? Are you trying to say that I'm not good looking in real life?”

“NO! Fikri..." she exasperated, probably shaking her head at the other end of the phone.

“OK, OK.”

“But yeah, you didn't wear your glasses. And you looked really...passionate.”

This is too much. “Passionate?! How so?”

“I don't know, you just had this look about you. And we were dancing to a slow song. Every time I hear a slow song I think of you.”

“Really?” Pause. “Is that a good thing?”

“Yes, of course it is.”

Then the conversation moved on to other stuff which I am not prepared to divulge here. But at least we've learnt a few things today.

I am good looking, passionate, and a really good dancer.

Might have been the tuxedo, though.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

M for Munich

I had waited, and waited, and waited. It happened...and then I waited again.

The wait was, at times, sheer agony. Since I got wind of it, in fact. Since one year ago, when what seemed like a brilliant idea wrapped inside a ludicrous timeline infected me with enthusiasm.

There were moments when temptation certainly hits me, pulling at the strings of my heart. Go on, said the voice inside. It's not going to hurt.

But I had refused. I had resisted. I nearly fell, but I stood tall.

In case you guys were wondering, I'm talking about a movie called Munich. Made by Steven Spielberg, and starring Eric Bana, Geoffrey Rush and Daniel Craig, it centres on the revenge assassinations arranged by the Mossad after the 1972 Olympic massacre of Israeli atheletes. It was nominated for several major awards at the recent Oscar ceremony.

For the longest time, I myself had wanted to do a movie about Munich - subject of interest for me. When I heard that Steven Spielberg got himself on the case, I was split. A part of me couldn't wait. A powerful true event that impacted the world, in the hands of an equally powerful filmmaker – no, make that storyteller – dictates an equally powerful movie that could change the world.

The other part of me thought, “Fuck, he stole my idea.”

So the movie was made. Against a stacked timeline (Spielberg was also doing War of the Worlds and producing Memoirs of a Geisha at the same time), it was released in time to be considered for the Oscar awards. It was released in the cinemas, and in Malaysia, on the streets. It was calling out to me, the pulling at my heart's strings, the apple to my Eve.

But I had refused. I vowed to catch it in the cinemas, on the big screen, if it's the second to last thing I did.

This I did. And it was good. Very good. Even if I never live to tell the tale of Munich in my own way, I don't have to. Three hours later, I walked out the cinema that early Wednesday morning, feeling that it was worth the wait.

I felt vindicated.

And it was a very good feeling.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Taking Grants

“I was talking to my friend the other day about you,” said a friend of mine recently.

We're in her room. I hadn't seen her for a while, and thus time is made up with plenty of heart to heart sessions.

“Really?” I asked her, always intrigue when something like this comes up. “What did you say?”

She looked away for a moment, searching for the right words to say. “I said that you're a really nice guy, and that when I went through difficult times, you were always there for me. But sometimes I wonder...” her voice trailed off, not really sure whether to go on. “...whether he knows that people take him for granted.”

“Yeah,” I answered the unasked question. Her face lightened slightly, apprehension giving way to relief. “I do.”

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Morning Glory

The point of reference for new day is tricky, for it merges ambiguously rather than split definitely. A slow movement from the night before to the morning after. The line between old and new is something more translucent, difficult to see rather than feel.

And so it proved as I walked out that early morning. The cool air descended, suggesting that it might rain sooner rather than later as it seeps through my skin. Past experience moulded with new insight suggested that it won't be happening any time soon, but that doesn't mean that it won't happen.

The way something is isn't the way something always will be.

“Take care of yourself in Singapore, OK?” My grandmother stood at the door. She looks at me, almost desolate, her heart probably yearning to grab me and make me stay. This trip follows on the heel of a number of other trips, and perhaps she had missed me.

No, make that definitely. Though, like I said, the line between perhaps, maybe, definitely and absolutes are less than that.

“I will,” for my heart yearns for the same thing. But the time comes when we do the things we do, make the choices that we choose...and live with it. We don't always get what we want.

For that same reason, we don't always choose what we want.

The morning sun peeked before the clouds, a friendly presence providing light and guidance, before becoming angry in its glare as morning becomes noon. But we're not there yet, so for now...friendly.

The birds chirped, singing songs that thrills my heart. I don't understand them, nor will I ever will, but that's not important. Understanding, with the head and the heart, is not required here. You let go, cutting the ropes, and falling back into what simply is.

A lone jogger came from the other direction, stepping lightly. Surprising, for an old man. I looked at him, as we get closer. He turned his head up, and his eyes gave it away. An old man whose age defies the spirit that lies at his heart. A young, happy one. I smiled at him, and nodded. He smiled back.

“Assalamualaikum,” he greeted me, wishing peace upon me. “Waalaikumsalam,” I responded in kind. Without stopping, in an instant, he was gone, but that moment stayed with me. A moment of happiness, in contrast of the deep hurt the night before. I am reminded that last night, last week, last month and the years before...is not my time. Not yet.

My time will come.

In the mean time, I took a deep breath, and walked on, facing new challenges and posers. New questions and answers. New days and nights.

New...life.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Mirror on the Wall

The man looks back at me, mirroring my every movement. He eventually stops, eyes resting upon mine. There are bags underneath, reflecting a sense of desperation, restlessness even. The two day stubble adds to the weathered look.


I look old, I thought to myself. And then smiled.


I feel old.


The eyes searches themselves. Dark brown. Black? Maybe that's just me. Or perhaps it's the new frames, my first new pair in almost seven years. Longetivity has always been a feature of mine, for better or for worse.


For better or for worse. Sounds like a wedding vow.


A vow with myself.


I kinda hate that.


I trail my fingers along my jaw, feeling the small stubs of my beard standing firm. I feel even older.


I smile to myself again. I do that a lot these days, a daily indulgence that masks over the rawness that I feel overwhelmed with. Not necessarily a bad thing, mind. Don't get the wrong idea.


A lot of people get that these days. The wrong idea. But at the same time, perhaps they're digging at something deeper, something far more substantial than dark brown eyes, new pairs of glasses or two-day old stubbles.


Maybe they're getting the right idea.


Just in the wrong way.


I smile.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Revenge of the Susanna

I got tagged by my friend Susanna of Veritas Project. Basically I have to write of five weird habits about myself. Believe it or not, I actually had to have a little think about this, given that what is weird to others may not be weird to me. After some thought, here is my list.

1) I have to wet my hands before I eat. This is especially so when I eat with them (which is quite often). Even if I'm using utensils, it's something I have to do. Why? I don't really know.

2) I don't like to swallow seeds. Apple seeds, watermelon seeds, orange seeds, the lot. It's partly because I don't want to be a seedy guy (ho ho), but more to do with the fact that when I'm young, my grandmother told me that if I eat the seeds, there would be trees and plants growing inside my stomach.

3) I have to drink at least two glasses of water in a row (when I do drink water). For some reason, one is not enough. In particular, I have a full glass of water before I have a meal. I read from an interview with a rugby player that it's a good way to keep yourself from getting dehydrated.

4) I ask questions like "Why is real estate management called real estate management? Is there such a thing as fake estate management?", which I consider to be a good way of digging at the things which we take for granted, the things people don't really think about, but which others consider as stupid.

5) I am lame. I don't think it's weird, actually, but I ran out of habits. And others would classify it as weird.

OK. Have a nice day.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Proud and Prejudiced

"...you have bewitched me, body and soul, and I love... I love... I love you. I never wish to be parted from you from this day on."

Mr Darcy, Pride and Prejudice

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Layers, Donkey

It's been a long and tiring day.

I tried my damnest. I tried to hold it all back, but it is threatening to spill out, a dam waiting to burst.

Come on, I thought to myself. You're stronger than this.

It was getting a bit much. I'm in the kitchen, and I am trying to help my grandmother. But it seems just like everything else: the more I try, the more I fail.

I stopped momentarily, hoping that the pause will give me respite.

It didn't. If anything, it feels worse.

The closer I get to the core of the issue at hand, the heavier the tears felt. Now it's on the outside, no longer a metaphorical river, but a literal flow of unconstrained proportions.

I can't hold back.

I went to the sink, and washed my hands thoroughly, making sure that there are no bacterial residues. I want nothing more right now than to bury my face in my hands.

Bloody onions.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Sorry Goodbye

Apparently, sorry seems to be the hardest word.

For me, I find goodbye to be even harder. It seems much more final.

And I don't know how long it'll be until the next time.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Sweet November

Sentinel

Liquid Metal

Illusion

The Roots

Slasher

A Wilted Flower

* Taken during a photograph hunt on 8th November 2005.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Moments in Time

Our lives are made up of moments.

There are moments of joy, of happiness, of love, but there are also moments of anger, of frustration, of bitterness and of despair.

And yet, it is these moments that defines us, the moments that will shape us into who we are. There will be moments when all else will fail. Our own will, our faith, we ourselves will be tested like never before, desperately crawling at the invisible wall we face.

And wonder what will happen next. How we will survive.

But then comes along the good moments. Nothing is forever, and nothing is truer than this cycle of temporality. The good shall replace the bad.

Moments of happiness, of joy, of love, of life itself, for these are the moments that we live for.

These are the moments that make it all worthwhile.

So I thank you now, for all the moments that we’ve shared together, the good and the bad, and for making it all worthwhile.

Above all, I thank you for being you.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Chicken Little

It's time for some lameness.

Q. When you poke a chicken with a chopstick, what does it become?

A. Chicken chop.

Lamen.