Monday, December 31, 2007

Dreamcatcher

We are all mortals. Our bodies, though strong, can't defy time.

One day, we will die.

What matters most is the legacy we leave behind.

Did we become all that we are capable of becoming? Did we make the difference that we came here to make? Did we pursue our dreams when all around us thought we were chasing illusions?

Only those who dare to rise are able to lift themselves above horizons.

Only those bold enough to chase dreams...

...are the ones who catch them.

*From a WWE advert promoting Wrestlemania XX. I leave this year and this thought with you. Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Make Me Whole

Make Me Whole
by Amel Lerrieux

Darling I want you to listen
I stayed up all night, so I could get this thing right
And I don't think there's anything missing
Cause a person like you, made it easy to do
I've waited for so long, to sing to you this song

Cause your eyes are the windows to heaven
Your smile could heal a million souls
Your love completes my existence
You're the other half that makes me whole
You're the only other half that makes me whole

I think the angels are your brothers
They told you about me, said you're just what she needs
And I find myself thanking your mother
For giving birth to a saint
My spirit flies when I say your name
If there's one thing that's true
It's that I was born to love you

Cause your eyes are the windows to heaven
Your smile could heal a million souls
Your love completes my existence
You're the other half that makes me whole
You're the only other half that makes me whole

You make my dreams
Come true over and, over again
And I honestly truly believe
You and me are written in the stars
I live my whole life through
To giving thanks to you

Cause your eyes are the windows to heaven
Your smile could heal a million souls
Your love completes my existence
You're the other half that makes me whole
You're the only other half that makes me whole

*For the record, Amel Lerrieux has the voice of an angel. :>

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Light Our Darkest Hour!

"It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light."

Aristotle Onassis, shipping magnate.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Red Light District

I set up the camera, twitching with the balance of the tripod to ensure that the video will come out looking balanced. Flicking a glance over to the ladies on the right, May Yee and Carol is standing with Mit, trying to coax her into the mood of saying something for the camera. "Just say what comes to mind," I hear the voice of May saying. Mit, for her part, still looks slightly petrified.

It is a warm morning at Jacob & Rawlins. Not being a usual spot for me, I can nevertheless appreciate the environment and the relative peace and quiet we have here. All the more useful for the occasion: the recording of a video for an upcoming wedding.

"OK, ladies," I announce, grabbing their attention. "Ready to roll."

Mit, still slightly nervous, sits down in front of the camera regardless. "I'm still not sure of what to say," she protest, as if that would make a difference.

No one knows what they ever want to say in front of the camera. Not even me at times, though with time itself, that has gotten better. I still hate acting, however; however bad or inexperienced my directing is, it is still miles better than my acting.

Being behind the camera, then, is a better alternative to being in front of it.

"OK, and we are...go." I raise a thumbs up, indicating that the video is rolling.

Something about the red light, I reason, that shakes people into such nervousness. What could it be? The fear of public re-broadcast of your words? The anal compulsion when it comes to one's looks? The...

...the idea that what you're saying is, for once, being recorded, and kept for posterity?


"People are afraid of cameras and recorders," my lecturer once said. "It is a medium that provides for endless reproduction and preservation of your opinions."

Scary, I suppose, when you think that what you have to say can be recorded forever.

But then again, even records can be erased.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Villains of the Day: Joel Surnow and Robert Cochran


Rare are the posts posted of my heroes. Even rarer are the posts of my villains. A large part of that has much to do with the fact that I don't have any...

...until now.

Joel Surnow and Robert Cochran are the executive producers and creators of the television show '24'. It is arguably the hottest, most exciting television show that I have ever seen.

Yes, I have been attracted and followed many television shows before. Friends and The Simpsons are always good for a good laugh, Heroes was interesting in the first season, while I even managed to catch into some of the Gray's Anatomy craze for a short while.

But by and large, the desire to sit down week after week, for my fix of weekly drama, really didn't light itself.

A part of that, I suppose, stems from the fact that my life already has enough drama as it is. An even bigger part of that comes from the lack of any real excitement about any TV show. None of them has enough of a hook to keep me even remotely interested to tune in next week.

Until 24 came along.

The premise (the events within the season takes place in a single day) is as unrealistic as it can be, but let not that get in the way of good storytelling, of effective character building, of unexpected twists and turn, and of an impressive ability to go through an entire day without eating or sleeping. For once in my life, I am hooked to a TV show in every sense of the word.

So, 24 is good. Then why is Joel and Robert the villains of the day?

Because 24 is arguably the hottest, most exciting television show I have ever seen.

It is the one of the most addictive drugs I have ever taken, the amongst the sweetest of scents I've ever smelt, arguably the most beautiful woman I've laid my eyes upon, in real life or otherwise...

It is slowly taking over my life. Buying the DVD, there is no chance that I will get through a week, nay...a day, without the want, the need, to watch it, back to back, non stop, all the way through from the first hour till the last.

It incapacitates me, reduces my ability to work, play, and even rest.

It is a drug, and I can't stop taking it.

DAMMIT!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Kit Kat

It peeked its eyes up at me, hopefully. A soft meow escaped from its mouth, before it quickly shifted its attention elsewhere.

"What are we going to do with it?" I asked Desmond.

We're sitting in the living room, the TV, having been watched by us, now watching us with its roles reversed. 'The Condemned', a movie we bought starring Stone Cold Steve Austin, lost out to the little kitten now known as Ashley.

"I don't know," came the answer. He had picked up the kitten left in a box by the side of the road. It is a cute little creature, one that is easily amused by the simplest of things, and the shortest of strings and digits.

It is a position that we have been in; the desire to take care of something so small and fragile no doubt a familiar one. But beyond that, when the moment of actually being responsible comes, it is one that is frightening. Slightly scary, it has to be said.

It need not be. Being responsible is difficult, but there are ways around it, ways to overcome it, just like everything else.

As yet, we have yet to decide whether to keep it or not. Letting it go now, I must admit, is not one option that will comfort me. Short though the time may be, now that it's here in my life...

...a part of me, a big part of me, wants it to stay.

The other part of me thinks of the contract signed with the landlord, one that, if I am not mistaken, calls for pets to not be kept.

Like I said, the barriers in place.

And like I also said, the barriers that can be overcome...somehow.

I looked over to Desmond. "Hey man," I called. He looked over to me. "Damn you, man."

He laughed, at the same time as I did. "Thanks, mate."

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Thank You, Rod Stewart

The wind hailed outside, smashing my windscreen with its ammo of assorted rain drops. The night promised to follow as the day, the drizzle having been non-stop since late afternoon.

I drove on further, fiddling with the radio tuner as I did so. It has been a long time since I minded being stuck in traffic. Unlike many, I began to enjoy the aspects of a traffic jam in the Klang Valley as that wouldn't have been available otherwise. There is a solitude that comes with the space and time vacuum. Many have decried it, but I find that, in the ever swirling world that is fast becoming my own, such moments of solitude can be godsend.

And then there are moments when the last thing you want is silence.

"Come on, come on," I whispered, running through the preset radio stations. "Play something good...I want to sing..." Somehow, the conspiracy worked: there are no good songs playing. Certainly not one I can sing along to. I eventually left it on Lite, settling instead for the voice of the DJ.

"Coming up next, the original version of the song made popular recently by Sheryl Crow...Rod Stewart with, 'The First Cut Is The Deepest'."

I had not heard this song for a while, and know even less of the lyrics, but given the lack of options, my ears perked nonetheless.

"I would have given you all of my heart
But there's someone who's torn it apart..."

...how apt, I thought...

"And she's taken just all that I had
But if you want I'll try to love again."

Sometimes, there are just some songs, movies, things, objects, people, time, that somehow reaches out to you, and pulls at your heart.

"Baby I'll try to love again but I know..."

And usually(though the word usually can never be used with much confidence in this context), they come from the most unexpected of sources.

"The first cut is the deepest
Baby I know the first cut is the deepest
But when it come to being lucky she's cursed
When it come to loving me she's the worst..."

I smiled to myself, the rogue amber from the traffic light illuminating my face. I smiled not because of that, but because of the happiness that comes from having belted that song out loud. Moreover, it comes from having belted out that which laid dormant within my soul for a long time.

"I still want you by my side
Just to help me dry the tears that I've cried..."

Within a second, the light changed to green.

"And I'm sure going to give you a try
And if you want I'll try to love again
Baby I'll try to love again but I know..."

And outside, the rainy night continued its torrent hailing.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

La Dolce Vita

One late autumn night, the disciple woke up crying. So the master asked the disciple, "Did you have a nightmare?"

"No," he answered.

"Did you have a sad dream?"

"No," the disciple sniffed, "I had a sweet dream."

The master was perplexed. "Then why are you crying so sadly?"

The disciple answered quietly, while wiping away his tears.

"Because the dream I had can't come true."

*Taken from the Korean film, A Bittersweet Life

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Digital Divide

Just the other day, I came upon my old collection of music CDs. It was and still is an eclectic mix of songs, singers and lyrics, one that should not be discarded so easily.

Except that I did.

Now that I have my laptop almost with me wherever I go, I find the need to dig out CDs becoming less and less...needy. Being very much a child of the digital age, I have taken to downloading, sending, and receiving songs amongst my friends.

All the while, my old collections sits alone, gathering the dust, and biting it for good measure (yes, Queen is amongst those hidden in the sleeves).

I dusted them off, and took it downstairs to where the CD player is. I have had that since 1999; a loyal servant, it has kept me much company through the lonely nights of the winter of 1999, inspiration through my high school exams of 2000, and melancholic appreciation of the first time I had my heart broken in August (September?) 2004.

I only recently took it out of storage to plug an empty looking space in the living room; it, too, has become a victim.

I put on the CD, and leaned back in the couch, letting the events of the day wash over me. It struck me, as Queen's "Bicycle" echoed against the surrounding walls, that this is a form of the digital divide. Not one that happens between the 1st and 3rd world, nor one between the urban and rural communities. It's not even the one taking place between the class reality that is Malaysia today: between the haves and the have-nots.

It is here, right now, live, the one that divides me from a technology that I no longer depend on. One that had given me much pleasure and satisfaction in the past, but superceded by the simplicity of the mobile: wireless Internet, laptop, mobile external hard drives with thousands of songs that would take 3.4 days (it says here on my iTunes) to play through, back to back. The digital divide, I realise, happens even on the smallest of stages, in our every day lives, on technologies that may still be current.

Just not as current as the latest one.

And I think back to the songs that aren't on my hard drive, to the singers who whose immortality merely extends to the spherical existence afforded by my old CDs.

Frank Sinatra.

Andy Williams.

Nat King Cole.

Queen.

And Britney Spears.

Now, as for my cassettes...

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The James Dean Syndrome

"Only the day after tomorrow belongs to me."

Friedrich Nietzsche, philosopher

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Fallacy of Democracy

I've never given much stock to the notion of seeing something with my own eyes. After all, we, as human beings, are blessed with at least five senses (some says that intuition, that whisper in your heart, is also a sensory tool). Thus, my opinions are always formed with a combination of this five sense. Preferably, all should be present; in reality, things are not always perfect.


And that, I believe, is a good way to describe the Machap elections: imperfect. I had expected a degree of that quality, but what I got was imperfection in droves. It opened my eyes to the fallacy that is democracy in Malaysia. To see with my own eyes, rule after rule broken, with nothing more than a slap on the wrist as punishment, angers me. Serious politicking were made, acts which influenced further the outcome of an election, but with the immediate punishment one would mete out to a child caught with the hand in the cookie jar.


Having said that, though the trip to Machap was an eye opener, my eyes started closing when the sun rose highest. I was stationed to record the proceedings outside the election compound at Sekolah Kebangsaan Melaka Pindah. Eleven o'clock onwards, the stream of people became a trickle, the misdemeanours repetitive. Late afternoon, I was struggling to keep awake. Such was the boredom and lack of activity around the are. The heat and lack of sleep the night before didn't help, but after the adrenaline rushed morning, the second half of the day was disappointing, to say the least.


It turns out that the action were much more consistent elsewhere, with Komas my colleagues right in the middle of it. Unfortunately, for some of them, they were also in the middle of being harassed by officers of the law. They weren't helped much by their leaders, who spent more time kow towing with the locals rather than keeping their eye on the ball. From what I heard, their inability to keep the ball and run with it (ie be more responsible when their underlings needed help) was absolutely pathetic. The fault, then, lies with pairing of the teams. More thought should have been given regarding this issue, though perhaps a lack of time counted against this.


And it seems that despite recording a lot of the misdeeds, Mafrel will not really be doing anything other than hand over the footage and discuss the issue with the powers that be about the whole electoral process. I suspect that similar things have happened in the past, and yet it seems that the lessons were not learned all that well.


In conclusion, I will end this with the sixth, whisper in the heart sense: anger. Anger at the fake democracy, anger at Mafrel's possible inaction and almost definite lack of influence to make a real difference, and perhaps more importantly, the incompetency of the respective group leaders to protect my friends when they needed it.


*Written after the Machap by-elections mid 2007.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Shattered

It fell to the ground, splintering into a million indescribable pieces. They struck my foot painfully, pain shooting from my senses as quickly as the blood that came out of the open wounds.

But I wasn't so concerned about my foot, nor the pooling blood. My eyes were inextricably linked to the shattered pieces.

All one million of them.
__________________________________________________

"The stars are beautiful tonight," Nate proclaimed. I merely nodded my agreement, taking a long puff of the death stick stuck between my fingers. When we say beautiful, in Malaysia, it means that you can just about make out the shapes of the stars amongst the fog of the night.

We are outside of the house, me leaning against the curve of the back of my car, while Nate, with another death stick in his hand, is standing. Shirt tucked in, tight shorts, with slippers (my slippers!), he seems a perfect comedic figure in a Hollywood movie. The character created for laughter.

Next, Des sits cross-legged on the floor. He had finished his cigarette, and is leaning back on his arms, gazing upwards upon the night sky. Shirtless, he nevertheless pulled off his look well. "Yeah, it is. Quite clear, ah?"

Once again, I remained silent, the only sounds exhaled from deep within me, the recess of the poison that slowly seeps through the veins.

"Fikri?" It was Nate's voice. I looked over to him, shirt tucked in and all. "You alright?"

"No," is my answer. And with that, yet another long drag. Then a smile. "But it's OK. Everything will be alright."

We both looked away, and exhaled. It had been a long day.

Des took another drag of his own cigarette, and then asked a question about...Taoism, of all things. Nate leaned back and started, clearly in his element now.

"Well, with Taoism, and in fact with a lot of other religions as well, you have to consider that they think that satisfaction and happiness can be found just by being minimalistic with your lifestyle. The idea is that you don't take the stuff that you don't need."

Drag, and exhale. "That's why a lot of them are vegetarian. They believe that they don't need to kill animals in order to live a fulfilling life. It's just the basic stuff. You have the clothes on your back, the food on the table, a roof above your head..."

...a pause, pregnant in its dramatic shortness. He looked over at me, at the right moment when I flicked my gaze over to him, and it pierced right into the very essence of my soul, a deliverance that few help and advice ever achieved.

"...what else do we really need?"

I looked away, onwards and upwards to the fog covered stars.

Good question.
__________________________________________________

It may have been shattered.

But it's still my heart.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

No Doubt?

I am currently in the midst of making another short film, entitled 'Room'. It is a short film that is half-shot in Korea (South, of course) and Malaysia, and a production that is supported by my old uni, Monash.

What inspired me to do it? It is the notion of shooting a short film in two different countries, one that is not a common thing to be done for indie films. The idea came to me just as I was about to leave Korea, and I set about constructing a whole short film around it; the story follows a man who pursues his dream to become a filmmaker to go to Korea. While there, however, he finds himself missing his girlfriend more and more, and memories of their time together flashes back into the present.

Well, that's the idea. I have to admit that it is the spark to make a movie in two different countries that drove me to shoot myself (so to speak) over a period of less than a week. No crew, no camera man, no nothing. Just me...and the camera.

In essence, that is all that you need. But to drive that essence further, you need...passion. A spark for the spark.

It is that spark that I found myself looking for as I lay down on the park table/bench with Joanne in my arms and the candle wax threatening to sneak into my armpits. "What the hell am I doing here?" I thought. "The acting's terrible, the script is not great, the plot has several holes in it...I'm not ready."

It's that moment of doubt that creeps in, one which anyone can relate to. It is an illness, a disease that can lead to the destruction of dreams, and the hesitant moments that can take away achievements from the jaws of success.

For the director of a film, it can be fatal. It is a position of high regard, however big or small the production is, and a director is the party host, the man who sets the tone for the production. It is his satisfaction that everyone seeks for, the thumbs up at a good shot or the clap of the hands at the 'perfect' lighting arrangements.

Thus, doubt must not be, for if it creeps, then it crawls, grows, walks, runs, and bulldozes the production into smithereens.

So why am I doubtful?

I am doubtful because of the compromises that has had to be made to...well, almost everything. The location, cast, scheduling, camera shots, even sound, thus far in the production. I am doubtful because of the lack of support from some people. I am doubtful because...

...I am human. And it's only natural for it to creep in, for it to cloud the positives, of which there are quite a number.

Thus far, I am happy with my cinematographer, Temme. She's not experienced in making movies, but does have a keen eye on what makes a shot beautiful. I am thankful for Monash for their equipments, for Kerry Ann for her commitment as my assistant director, for Eunice for her great (and I do mean great) make up, and for those who have supported this production.

I am thankful for these people, for giving me the chance to make this movie. Good or bad, there is nothing else I want to do in life.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Heroes


"When the chips are down, and you're at the end of your rope you need someone that you can count on. And that's what you'll find here - someone who'll go all the way, who'll protect you no matter what. So don't lose hope. Come on over to our offices and you'll see that there's still heroes in this world."

Allen Francis Doyle, private investigator

________________________________________________________


The 'Angel' television series ran for more than five years, racking up over 100 episodes during that time.

And yet, the most memorable character for me was Doyle, a half-Demon who appeared in 10 episodes.

And the most memorable part about him is the quote above, which has been in my head for the past 9 years.

Perhaps now I can exercise the (half) Demon.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Hero of the Day: My Half German/Half Japanese Baby

Heroes rarely come in the shape and form in which you expect them to be.

Thus, the hero of today is not quite what you expect it to be. Nor is it for the reasons you expect her to be one, either.


For she has given me companionship through the lonely nights, ever loyal and steadfast in nature. She's easy to turn on, and to slip things into (provided that they're of the right size, of course).


She has lead me to laughter, moved me to tears, driven me to succeed, and mocked me to misery. Yet/Thus, I am inseparable from her, for without her I couldn't write my scripts. Without her, I couldn't edit my videos. In a sense, she is my muse. I have slept with her, cried with her, anguished over the pain she went through when she became ill with an infection.


Once, I had to keep her permanently plugged to the life support machine, for her heart had grown so week. In fact, the situation was drastic enough that I had to arrange for a heart transplant...and conduct the operations myself. I sought the best cures that I could afford, for she is my baby.


My hero.


My life.


I love you.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Parent Trap

Parents don't know everything.


There, I've said it. They don't know everything. They most certainly don't know best. Many others may be willing to testify the same sentiments, and even carve those very sentiments into stone. But before that gets into overdrive, let's rein in that fever pitch right now.


Dad”, I wrote in the SMS, “Need help with the phone lines. Need to install it at the new house. Any ideas how much they cost, and how to go about it? Thanks.”


I had expected a response that detailed a rough estimation on the basic costs and what I could expect from them.


What I did get was actually a precise, concise exercise in how to sit back and learn from your old man. “Son,” he called, his response a clear verbal one down the line. “There are two things to be considered here. In order for you to get a phone line, you must have an internal connection and an external connection. Here's what you have to do...” He went on to lay down a masterplan so simple and yet complex that my mind almost boggled for a little while.


But then again, this is my dad. Had there been more time, I might have even been treated to a little history of how the telecom company was formed (and how this public utility was plundered into private entity by a greedy and corrupt government that does not care about a large strata of the society during the non-election season. But I digress).


Parents.


They may not know everything.


But they still know a lot.


Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Starting Point

“How vain it is to sit down to write, when you have not stood up to live.”

Henry David Thoreau, author
____________________________________________________

I have been posting a lot of quotes as of late. The idea of doing so, and of this blog in general, is to essentially give you a nugget. A nugget of information and inspiration, for information empowers, and inspiration makes you fly, but a nugget nonetheless.

A part of that is due to laziness, I must admit. But the bigger factor is that it serves as a moment of inspiration for me too (yes, I need that nugget once in a while).

My mind, for the most part, works as a 24/7 idea factory. No idea is too big, no information thought process is too small. It's like a never-ending cycle, but it is a pleasant one. The flow of idea is usually sparked by small and everyday things. Over time, they gestate, grow, develop and are finished as Optimus Prime.

As the Petronas Twin Towers.

As the bank balance of Bill Gates.

If not in actual size and physics, then certainly in execution contrasted to the starting point. And the starting point, for every filmmaker, writer, director, storyteller, is the same.

A blank page.

The metronomics of progress, time, and information spread (see, information again) has transformed us. Whereas the filmmakers of yesteryears would punch away at yellowing typwriters, on yellowing pages, the modern day, 21st century, RM10-is-a-decent-price-for-a-cup-of-coffee metropolitan creator of worlds, words and wisdom would tap away on the mobile notebooks, laptops, notepads, and what have yous. Which gets smaller and smaller over time as well.

But if the medium is replaced, the process, the starting point is not.

It's still a blank page, however and which ever way you look at it.

And, thus, here is the crux of my recent shower of quotations: It fills that empty page. Not in the sense of the physical gap that you might see on your computer screen right now. But in the spiritual sense, in the sense that jars me right to my soul.

I need to write. It may not necessarily be the ideas that float around in my head, but it is the nugget within which they gestate, age, and grow.

And with the posting of each quote, each picture, each single line joke, I am not breaking the writing process. In truth, I never stop writing. My father, a man of great wisdom if, at times, nothing else, hammered into me the basic truth of being a storyteller.

You need to read, and you need to write.

Rare is the occasion when I find something that could be so simple and yet so true rings louder above almost everything else.

Thus, in the quotes, and the single line posts, what I am doing is writing, and not breaking the process.

So...you want some milk to go with that nugget? :>

*Wishing a Happy Eid Mubarak to my fellow Muslims . May this festive season bring you and yours the very best of good luck and happiness. Assalamualaikum to all.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Celebration Time

"Remember that the reason you’re in the festival is because you made a terrific movie. Once the lights come up after the first screening, there’s no telling what’s going to happen next. So don’t postpone your celebration. Enjoy it now."

John August, filmmaker

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Until My KL Sings...

As I seek the identity from my past,

Looking for meaning, searching for my soul,

A piece of your life and your soul I near,

To quench this thirst, to satisfy my lust.


At the KL Sing Song I searched high, I seeked low,

As if in a dream, my fantasies came true

Between the lines the words reside,

More than Siti, more than Mawi.


Thus this is my hunting ground,

A place to portray your life and your soul,

From one corner to another,

I won't ever stop,

Until my KL sings...


Adi Iskandar

*A translation of Sehingga KLku Menyanyi.

Postcards from Heaven




Optimist Prime

"Optimism is what being a photographer is all about. You look through the lens at the ugliness in this world, and there's always some beauty to find."

Michael Bay, filmmaker

Monday, October 08, 2007

Disturbia

Are you happy?” I asked my mother, sipping the tea as I did so.


It's late night. Or perhaps early morning, depending on which side of insomnia you fall into. At this rate, however, it is late at night, for my body ached with yawning tiredness. And yet, there's something that keeps me awake still.


Yes, of course I am,” she replied. It had been the only time of the day when we were able to sit down and have our little chat. It has been a long time since I did so, and the path to this day had been littered with little arguments, heated debates, drawn out misunderstandings.


Thus, given the minefield that we both had negotiated to get here, I sense a little in reserve on her part. And more than a little on mine, too: it's too late (or early?) in the day to get into more arguments.


I have a beautiful house,” she continued, “and I'm finally settling a lot of things properly.”


Things could be better, of course.” She had paused, and yet that sentence come on like a train that never stopped. Never lost its momentum. “There's the thing with grandma. And your brother was admitted into hospital recently.”


A small chill went down my back. Cliched as it sounds, that's what it is regardless. “Why?” I asked, erecting another layer of defence to filter the concern. I think I succeeded, though a part of me wondered what has become of the world when a man filters his concern for his own brother.


Perhaps its just the man in the middle himself, rather than the world around.


He had a series of rather serious fits,” she continued after a matter, having sipped her tea. “I was around at the time, fortunately, and called for an ambulance. Thankfully, it worked out OK, though he spent three days in the hospital. Didn't think he enjoyed it very much.”


The conversation continued in this pattern, a conversation that deepens the sinking feeling in my stomach. It is a feeling that is alien, for it has been away for a while, but at the same time, there is enough elements that are familiar to root it into one category that I have visited time and again. Into a void of seeming unending darkness.


That of irrelevance.


Sitting there, at the table, I felt somewhat irrelevant as details of that particular episode unfolded in good time. A crazy, and somewhat inexplainable feeling. But it is what it is. A sense of disconnection with what was a part of my everyday life.


Now that I am no longer living with my family, it is easy to wrap myself in this cocoon of mine. I know not of my brother's (further) ailments, my sister's achievements, my grandmas' antics, my mother's trials, and even more of the tribulations where that came from. But at the same time, there is a sense that what I've been going through these past few weeks, that of (re)constructing a life of my own is what is necessary.


But it doesn't mean that I like it.


And thus, that void of disconnection, that feeling of irrelevance, calls out to me once more.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service

James drove the Aston Martin on, smoothly caressing the steering wheel, quietly telling the car that it needs to turn up the steep road before it actually does. Next to him, his wife looks excitedly out the window, exclaiming at the sheer drop on the other side of the barrier.


Then James tells the car to stop. It does so, rolling slowly to a standstill.


She turned to look at him, a hint of surprise making her seem ever the more beautiful. Her smile curves slightly upwards, almost at the same time as her eyebrows, asking James why they had stopped.


James returned her smile, the one that couldn't quite bring the words to his mouth. He let his actions do the talking, leaning over to her, kissing her lightly on the cheek. He then reached slowly to the glove box compartment, unlocking it and unveiling ceremoniously a bottle of France's finest.


Oh James!” she squealed with delight.


As if by magic, a pair of champagne appeared out of thin air in James' arms. He flipped expertly, and gave one to her. She took one, and he uncorked the champagne bottle. The loud pop was followed immediately by laughter, as the overflowed wine bubbles made their mess in the car.


Not that James was in the slightest minding it.


They settled after a while, her in his arms, looking into the distance across the furthest of seas.


What do you think will come of us, James?” she asked. “Won't there ever be a time when you will have to leave me?”


He lazed his gaze over hers. Her eyes, blue and sparklingly beautiful, never failed to delight him, to tease his heart strings and make it sing. This time, however, there's a sense of apprehension, a grey cloud that formed on the horizon.


He leaned over and planted a small peck on her forehead. “Don't worry, my sweet,” he reassured her. “We have all the time in the world.”


His warm voice makes her feel all fuzzy inside. This really is what love is like, she thought to herself as she snuggled herself ever closer. It feels nice.


What happened next seemed to slow time itself. In the distance behind them, a quiet rumbling almost thundered its way into existence. James instinctively turned his eyes upwards, against the rearview mirror. A light blue Thunderbird was rising fastly into view, becoming ever bigger in the mirror.


It is the person in the passenger seat, however, that chilled him to his bones.


It's Blofield!” he shouted. “GET DOWN!”


He pushed her head down, trying to hide her from view, while retrieving his gun at the same time.


Blofield made the pass, leaning out of the window, a sub machine gun in his hands. He fired it, shattering the windows of the Aston Martin into mindless, chaotic debris. And then, almost as quickly as he appeared, he ducked back inside his car.


James unlocked the safety on his gun, and rolled outside, straight into a shooting position on his knees. He fired, but the shots hit nothing as the car went around the bend and disappeared from sight. He threw it to the floor in frustration.


It's Blofield!” he said, turning back towards her. “I don't know how he managed to...”


And he couldn't finish his sentence.


She lies there, unmoving. Her head slumped to her right shoulder, as her hands covered the bullet wound in her stomach smeared with blood. Her eyes were wide open with shock.


A tremor shook his body, deep from inside of him. No no no no NO NO NO came the voice from within. He rushed around to the other side of the car, almost tearing the door open off its hinges, and cradling her simultaneously. NO NO NO NO NO NO NO....


Time seemed to stop once again, but James wouldn't be able to tell you that. He wouldn't be able to tell you anything, as the pain in his heart threatened to overwhelm his every sense of existence, on this plane and the next. He wouldn't, couldn't begin to put the slow throbbing his heart felt, and yet the sheer loudness of it ringing in his ears. He couldn't even hear his own screams of anguish that tore into the silence of the Mediterannean sea like a lion's roar.


He couldn't.


No one could.


Eventually, a police officer trundled along on a motorcycle. It was almost comical, the presence of a law enforcer when the enforcement of the law itself could have prevented this. The policeman, however, was blameless as he looked in through the driver's side. “Is everything OK?”


James looked up at him. “It's OK, officer,” he said “She's just resting now. We have all the time in the world,” his voice soft at this juncture, before looking into her eyes, those eyes, for the last time. He closed them slowly.


We have all the time in the world.”


Monday, October 01, 2007

Ramadhan

Q. What kind of food can be eaten during the fasting month without breaking your fast?

A. Fast food.

Ho hum :>

The Pen, Mightier Than...

In writing, we express.


It's almost a natural form of expression, one that we can't help but do. Much like seeing letters and words that we recognise; we can't escape from comprehending the meaning between the lines. Born into us from an early age, engineered so that comprehension is but a split second between awareness, recognition, and forced acceptance.


Thus, in writing, we express. At times, the writings reflects that which resides not in us. Not deep in our hearts, anyway. The writing mirrors that which is on the mind. As it stands, it is now 1:16AM on Thursday morning, September 27. Soon enough, the time will come for me to sleep forcibly, for tomorrow there is an appointment at 11AM that I have to go to.


Forcibly.


Thus, this is what is on my mind right now. This, and others. The others...I shan't divulge here, now. If ever. The other has the capacity to render even the strongest of men motionless. Their bodies may move mechanically, but the drive, spirit, heart of the matter no longer resides there in them. Thus, they become motionless, in the sense that they have less motion.


Tis a concept that may not be grasped immediately, but then again, this is not a philosophy lesson.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Friday, September 14, 2007

Sehingga KLku Menyanyi

Memburu identiti di danau warisan,

Mencari erti, mencari insan,

Cebisan hidup dan jiwamu ku dekati,

Memuaskan dahaga, nafsuku dipenuhi.


Di KL Sing Song ku mencari melulu,

Gitar hatimu memetik jiwaku,

Seperti pelangi dibalik awan,

Seribu warna, amat menawan


Cincin hidung dan bibir merah,

Bagaikan dibuai, mimpiku menyerlah

Lirik tak tersangka disirat erti,

Kalahkan Siti, tewaslah Mawi.


Tempat inilah aku memburu,

Untuk mewajahkan hidup dan jiwamu.

Lari ke sana, lari ke sini,

Ini ku teruskan, sehingga Klku menyanyi...



Adi Iskandar


*A poem written specifically for the experimental documentary, Sehingga KLku Menyanyi.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Spy Who Loved Me

Q. What do you call someone who eavesdrop on a phone conversation between two condoms?


A. Rubber tapper.


Ha ha :>

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Shop Till You Drop

The consumer culture rears its ugly head, forcing a look at the most despicable and yet most necessary of evils that exists.

So...suffocated. Intoxicated, driven, even, by the energy of the crowd, the throng of the masses.
And yet...what are they doing here?


What are all these people doing here?

I lean over the rail, looking at the throng of masses making their way to...well, wherever it is that they're going to.

And I wonder what the world has come to.

The shopping mall has become the quintessential spot of gathering for many people. In Malaysia, at least, a major part of that reason is because of the availability of cinemas...which is coupled with the lack of stand alone megaplexes. Nowadays, multiplexes are only built in multistorey malls.

It's an ingenious trick, really, one that really pulls in the crowd on Wednesdays (cheap movie day) and the weekends (no work days). A part of that crowd includes me, but a big part of me...wants to be anywhere but here.

"How do you get about in KL if you don't have a car?” asked the interviewee of a video that I edited recently. “And where do you go if you do have one? Just...shopping malls. One suffocating mall to another.”

The thing is, the entire existence of some people has become so ingrained with that of the shopping mall. The mall has given rise (and rise) to the needs of people, needs that didn't exist in the first place. How many clothes shop do we need? How many shoes shops does one has to traverse to find a good pair of shoes? For that matter, how many malls do we need? If you live in the Damansara area, you have three malls within spitting distance alone (though you have to spit a fair amount).

It is an illness that threatens to engulf us, that will one day, one way or another, will prompt us to look in the mirror and ask ourselves, “When does it stop? When does this all end? When is it enough? Where is the white line that I should have watched out for long ago?”

That line was gone long ago.

And as I look at the people moving their way through, I can't help but feel that the chances of us building new lines, new boundaries within which to maintain our humanity, and stand alone from shopping malls, diminish. In more recent times, even offices and service apartments have been included as part of the shopping mall package. Your life, therefore, is all in one little space, cramped with the lives of many other people.

Hmm.

Monday, August 13, 2007

One Track Mind

The race is on, for people to open their minds. To be able to think wider, to consider other possibilities, and to come up with new and innovative solutions. Hell, even our Prime Minister is banging on about it. The development of human capital, he calls it.

To me, this is not the correct race with the right objective. The point, I feel, should not be for people to open up their mind, but for people to replace the track that it is on. That is to say, to not achieve the state of the one-track mind.

What is the one-track mind?

For me, the one-track mind is the direction in which the thinking is directed. Having an open mind, the ability to consider many other points of view is, while desirable, is pointless if one comes to the same conclusion on the same issues every single time.

In other words, while the person is able to think of the pros and cons, he or she will inevitably move in the same direction and come to the same conclusion that a person who wouldn't be able to do so do.

Does that make sense?

I like Chris Rock. He's one of my favourite comedians, partly because he's funny, but mainly because his humour is grounded in the truth. “Everybody is really, really keen on being somebody with a political identity,” he said. “I'm a Republican, man, I'm a Republican, so I'm against abortion,” he mocks, “or, I'm a Democrat, man, I'm a Democrat, so I'm pro abortion. But you know what? I think that whoever makes up their mind before they come across an issue is a fucking fool!”

You can't put it any better than that.

Of course, it is still possible to be open minded and come to the same conclusion reasonably. I mean, that is what reasoning is all about, right? To make decisions that are based on sound truths, rather than half-baked lies. But for the most part, in my opinion, the opinions of others are still made on a narrow, fast speed track.

And that is the case in Malaysia still. Boy and girl go into a secluded area? They must be making out or having sex. It is completely impossible for them to merely talk.

Boy calls up girl, he must be having the crush on her. Not likely for him to just call up and say hello as a friend.

That guy is Malay, therefore he must be a Muslim. Can't separate in the mind of the fact that race and religion are two completely different characteristics altogether.

Someone says Assalamualaikum, it must be only from one Muslim to another. People forget that the phrase has NOTHING to do with Islam, merely the expression of greetings in Arabic that says, Peace be upon you.

Try that on a Chinese here, and see how he or she reacts.

And yet it goes on, the call for the development of the first world mind in a third world country. But in my opinion, based on my observations thus far, that won't be achieved unless people strive not only to have an open mind, but also to put that mind on the shifting track.

To not have the one-track mind.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Blankety Blank

"I love writing but hate starting. The page is awfully white and it says, 'You may have fooled some of the people some of the time but those days are over, giftless. I'm not your agent and I'm not your mommy, I'm a white piece of paper, you wanna dance with me?' and I really, really don't. I'll go peaceable-like."

Aaron Sorkin, screenwriter

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Music Of My Heart

Q. What do you call a bunch of condoms playing music together?

A. A rubber band.

Ha ha. :>

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Elephant & Castle

Q. What do you call an elephant's nose moving around in the water?

A. Swimming trunk.

Ha ha :>

Monday, July 23, 2007

In The Name Of The Father

A name. In the eyes of others, officially or otherwise, written or spoken, that is the one thing that people will know first of you.


It is the first impression, some say, but in truth, it is a judgement that they deliver. A snap decision made, one that will live until it is overturned on appeal. It's just that somehow, the word 'judge' and its variants have a negative connotation. “I don't judge people,” many would say.


Wrong, bitch. That's all you ever do. That's all every one can do. To look, and to judge.


The wise and the worldly will retain their judgement, but know that it is not final. That with further evidence presented, with more of the onion peeled, that judgement ultimately and usually changes by the layer. It is once you get to the core of the person, once you know every facet of their make up, that your judgement of them is totally and utterly final.


But then again...can one ever really know a person all the way to the core?


So, a name it is, then. The first layer of our protection. A good name can give a good impression. A meaningful one, the rise to interesting conversation pieces at a dinner party. A weird one prompts second takes, third takes, and so fourth and fifth, before the pronunciation of its intonation correctly matches the aimed cadences of each syllable. Or somewhere in that region, lest the victim gives up and gives in to the demand of the masses.


A plain impossible one merely changes his or hers, making it more Western, more Christian, more Muslim, more easy for the white folks to say it without spilling their Earl Grey's.


Dropping it? To go without a name? Impossible, an act so alien that reception of it borders amongst those meted to traitors.


Thus, a name it is, then. A heavy duty to have, to carry a name that would convey to the world in that instant of first judgement, an accurate portrayal of yourself.


Especially if its not your own.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Friday, July 20, 2007

Waiting On You

"90% of filmmaking is waiting."

Dr. Mahadi J. Murat, filmmaker and lecturer.

*Depends on who you are. If you're the photographer, I'd put it closer to 95%.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Untukmu

The soothing wind blows, and it carries me through,

And in a single flash, you come back into my mind,

Memories of yesterday seeps through the night,

The time we spent together, I'll remember for all time,


Even though we are now not standing here together,

My love still burns bright right here in my heart,

The certainty that we'll be together,

To bring back life to our words,

The promises of love,


We're both together going our own ways,

And we're apart just for these moments,

One day once upon a time, our love will

It will burn deeply inside, the gardens of out heart,


And even though you're far out of my sight,

You're never far from my mind,

And that is what love is, the trust that's deep within

And all my love is only...just for you.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Winds of Change

Angin bayu, membawa diriku,

Sepintas lalu...ku terkenangkan mu...


I am sitting on the bus, enjoying a short but unfulfilled nap. Then again, I shouldn't be expecting one: the distance between the location and the crew accommodation is less than five minutes by car (and less than twenty on foot). Somewhere next to me, on the other side of the coach, the make up artist, Fifi, continued what he had started.


Memori silam meresap malam,

Kenangan bersama, ku simpan selamanya...


The strains of familiarity tugged at me. I open my eyes wider. It is an old song that is calling out to me, more than ten years deep into my consciousness.


Walaupun kau pergi jauh dari disini,

Cintaku masih bersemadi di hati,


And in the flash of a moment, I am back. Back to the end of 1994. The furore over the World Cup of that summer had long ended, and now is the time of great change. Twas the metaphorical winter of upheaval: we were to move to London. All of us, the whole family, a decision made by my mother's desire to continue her studies.


Back in the present, others heard the song just as I did, and started to sing along, lending the lyrics a greater.


Keyakinan kitakan kembali,

Menghidupkan semula,

Janji pada cinta


3rd January, 1995. I am in the Golden Club Class cabin of the MAS aircraft. The plane had started to taxi down the runway, and I look out the window, the blinking reds showing the way forward for the pilot, for me, for my family.


Showing where we're going.


In my hands, I am holding on to a farewell gift, a thick cartoon book of Calvin and Hobbes. It had been a present for my mother, but as she had correctly predicted, I was to get far more out of it than she ever would.


The plane took off, a deep feeling pushing my stomach downwards, and I would not sleep for the next 12 odd hours.


In the coach, the singing had risen to a crescendo, everyone hitting the chorus with much aplomb.


Kita bersama mengejar mimpi,

Terpisah sementara ku pasti,

Suatu hari nanti, cinta kita bersemi,

Kembali menerangi, mekar di taman hati,


Sometimes, it is somewhat interesting how I am able to recall almost every detail, every feeling, every emotion that was once there in me. A movie, a song, can trigger a river of memories. It is not always a good thing, however, but now, looking back for a moment and seeing the red lights behind, seeing how far I've come...


Walaupun jauh pandangan mata,

Ku yakin kau kan tetap setia,

Begitulah tujuan, keikhlasan di jiwa...

Dan cinta ku, hanyalah...untuk mu.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Sleepy Hollow

The sound of footsteps come and go,

Tip tapping their way to and fro,

As they make their way through the sleepy hollow,

Searching evermore, for the perfect Milo.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Click!

Click!


The lens shutter made a silent sound, as I once again snapped a member of the crew in action. The sound, however, is audible only to me, an imaginary sound realised and timed to perfection in the trappings of my own mind.


I pressed for the review, and, satisfied with the result, headed over to the said crew member to show him the man of the minute.


That man might well be the man of the hour, judging by his smile. “Wow, when did you get that?” he smiled, his teeth slightly yellowed by the nicotine abuse. “Just a moment ago,” I said, showing him my own teeth in return.


He shook his head, and carried on with his work, a certain spring bouncing his step further.


I smiled to myself, happy that slowly, I am integrating into the way of things.


Things have been slightly slow in that regard, trying to weld myself into the group. Not quite helped by the relative weakness of my own mother tongue, a shame that I try to actively rectify, at the very least, I've been able to converse with them without truly making headway.


Until now, for the picture that paints thousands of words has saved me much of the effort.


I spent some time musing about this possibility, about how, with a simple snap, I am able to get further than my own words will. I came to realise that with the picture, what I am showing them is not just them in action, or at work.


No, the gift of photography allows me to show them how I viewed them. How people other than themselves viewed them, even in that split second of the surreal click.


People know what they think of themselves. Rightly or wrongly, that is a view that no one else will ever be able to give to them. By the same token, they won't be able to take the position of others, to view themselves from a completely different body. I read somewhere that in the old days, the Chinese used to fear those who took pictures of them, for, in looking back at the end product, they believed that the picture has captured their soul. I can't be in two places at once, must have been the thought that ran through their minds.


More pertinently, I can't be me looking at the someone else looking at me.


Though the modern generation won't give rise to the same effect, deep down, I suspect that similar feelings (negative or otherwise) are brewing. Fortunately, these has only been positive thus far, making it an experience that is positive for me as well.


Click!