Monday, July 28, 2008

Bowling for Gen

Wahai kekandaku Gen,
Engkaulah yang terpenting dihidup dan dihatiku,

Bagaikan mangkuk yang ku letakkan nasi,
Di laukkan ikan panggang berasam pedas,
Secelit ku suap, sambal tumis mu,
Kaulah terindah,
kaulah mangkukku.

*For Genevieve Tan :)

Friday, July 25, 2008


"To wake up in the morning and think, today, let's fillm something that people willl be talking about for years to come."

Paul Verhoeven, film director

Ice Age

Age is a very important thing in Korea. Being born one or two years ahead or behind can mean all the difference to people here, for they will start addressing you differently, think of you differently, look at you differently (not necessarily up or down, just...different).

Nevertheless, age is important. In this case, it's important in the sense that it's almost always directly proportionate to the experience that you gather (or perhaps more accurately, the chance to gather the experience). It is this experience that makes or break your film production: knowing how to handle the actors, how to plan the shots, how to even self-censor yourself (in a good way, meaning to limit your vision of grandness to within a $3,000 budget) at the early stage of scripting and planning.

Nevertheless, though experience is an issue, it is not the reason I am sitting here writing about it.

The main issue at hand is age. As in...I am arguably the youngest bugger to set foot in my classroom. Ever. What helps my case is that young Korean men have to attend national service (a real national service, not the joke that is the unity programme we have in Malaysia) for two years. Incidentally, I wouldn't mind being put through such a programme myself. Done properly, it can build real discipline, fitness, and strength of body and mind. However, it does take away two years of your life, which works to my advantage in a way.

If winning non-existent 'youngest student' competitions is my aim. It's not, though I tend to be younger than most of my classmates since high school.

Nevertheless, it gap is nowhere near as big as it is here. Here, the majority of my classmates are hitting their late twenties, with some reaching the halfway mark of their fourth decade. Some are married, some have businesses, some have made movies, some, some...

...have actually done something with their lives. They've made an impact, a difference of the sort that I can only dream about for now.

It does make me feel my age, despite the plaudits that do come my way. It does make me ask myself, to paraphrase Wesley Gibson from 'Wanted', "What the fuck have I done lately?"

And the answer, in the face of such age and experience, would be...absolutely fuck all.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Language House

"Actually, we shouldn't tease her so much," I told my friend.

We were laughing about our friend's Malay, which, given that she's not a Malay herself, sounds quite funny. "I bet that's probably how our Korean sounds like to the Koreans."

"True," I said, "but in a way, she's been born and bred in Malaysia for so many years. I would think that someone who had that background would have been more receptive and more able to speak Malay properly."

Perhaps 'proper' needs to be further defined here. Proper being 'able to speak and say things correctly'. Of course, not everyone will be able to speak perfect Malay (or perfect Korean, for that matter), because the idea of perfection, in this case, varies from on to the other. A case could also be made for the standard of competence, but in this case...not sounding funny would seem to be a reasonable criteria.

"Perhaps she only ever hang out with the Chinese back home," a friend motioned. It was a good point, I pondered. "But if that is the case, why do people do that?" I asked.

"Well, the education system doesn't look as kindly upon non-Malays and their language and culture."

"No, the culture I get," I tried to make myself clear. "There are plenty that's wrong there. But the language, I mean. How come Malay is not well-known or well-spoken by someone who has spent the first twenty-odd years in Malaysia?"

It was a question that I had posed at the time, and a part of me couldn't remember what the response was. Nevertheless, I think it is a question that's somehow stuck with me for a bit.

I mean, a person born and bred in France (though not necessarily French) would be expected to be able to speak French rather well. The same goes for Korea. Truth is, language can be picked up easier than one thinks, and you don't need to spend a decade in order to speak good French or Korean.

Nevertheless, I digress a bit. The point I'm trying to pose here is why many non-Malays (and by non-Malays I mean the Indians and the Chinese, mainly) can't speak Malay well, despite having an optimum situation to do so.

Perhaps a part of the answer lies in our power of English: it's quite good, and it would serve as the escape valve should one can't express oneself in one's mother tongue. The situation is not the same in Korea, where I would roughly estimate that four out of five Koreans can't speak it well, because every single thing here is done in Korean (so there is no need to flex the English muscle).

It's different in Malaysia, though, where English definitely ranks amongst the top two of someone's preferred mode of communication (and in many cases, the undisputed number 1). Perhaps that is a legacy of our colonial which case we should also probably be able to speak passable Portuguese, Dutch and Japanese as well, given the colonial whore that we used to be. Strains of their culture, however, remain.

Perhaps the bigger part of the answer to the bigger question lies here. Not learning or speaking Malay well may well be a reaction to unfriendly non-Malay policies (or perhaps more accurately, policies that are too friendly to the Malays). Perhaps it is a form of reliation to the lack of support to Indian and Chinese schools. Maybe the sense of patriotism and belonging to Malaysia is just not quite there. But then again, the same could be said for minority languages and cultures in a lot of other countries. France, for example, bans the use of headscarves in official places (like schools, though people can still wear it outside). Nevertheless, a non-French born and bred in France would still probably be able to speak French really well. Not stuttering, not forgetting what the words are, not mixing up the grammar.

The same applies to Korea, who don't quite ban anything, but do have arguably the most ignorant of populace I've ever come across. Of course, this doesn't apply to every one, and it's not necessarily a negative comment. Rather, their focus is much more inward, much more unto themselves, that the world outside, the religions of others, don't matter much, if at all. As such, few take the impetus to truly understand this notion of 'the other' (and the ones who do, spends time trying to convert people to Christianity. Sigh).

However, the more I think about it, the more I reckon that the perception of language could well come into play here. By perception, I mean 'glamour'. French, with romantic notions attached to it, could make one very popular with the ladies. The same goes for Spanish, Italian, perhaps even Portuguese. German and Dutch, on the other hand, would score marks for their masculine image (it sounds rather rough to me). Knowing any of the Chinese dialects means that job in Singapore will be easier to come by.

But Malay? I don't know where Malay stand in all this. I don't know what kind of perception it has amongst people, but I do know that it doesn't quite rank along with French or Korean when it comes to glamour (despite the fact that you could survive rather well in Indonesia and parts of southern Thailand).

But then again, would a Malaysian go to Pattaya when they can go to Paris?

*Earlier part loosely based on a real-life conversation.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Reminder, If Nothing Else, Of The Things That Truly Matter In Life

dearest brother(currently in korea),
i wish u happy birthday. miss you loads. hope i have enough money to come visit you soon !
losta love,
little one. :)

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Happy days :)

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Battle Hardened

Sometimes, you just realise that there are moments that you cannot win.

No matter how hard you try to break away from the shackles of the past, inevitably the things said or done before will come back to haunt you one way or another.

Sometimes, you just can't win.

Thus, the lesson to be learned in such situations... to pick the battles that we can win.

And leave the rest to the dusts of the memories past.

Monday, July 07, 2008

I Worry

Earlier this week when I was going up the escalator with Hazwan at KLCC we saw a man, stiff, lying on the floor at the food court. There were a few security guards surrounding him checking his pulse and waiting for him to respond. Slowly Hazwan and I walked away but we were still looking at the poor man who was unconscious. A second later I saw my father, lying on the floor unconscious, in his white shirt, still wearing his that man. I quickly turned away and started walking in the other direction.

I keep worrying about my dad from time to time, about whether he is OK or is in trouble. He has a vulnerable heart which can attack him anytime, especially when he’s stressed out. He tries to stay fit and takes his meds on time. But with his job, running around, up and down the stairs, rushing here and there, i really cant imagine how he does it. Sometimes I would stare at him and wonder how he manages it. He is already 60 plus and has been through a lot. I worry that he might collapse anytime Im not there to help him. I have a habit of wanting to be a hero and save all my family members from troubles. Its such a bad habit til i cant stop imagining things. Like the time when a 2 motorists circled around my dad and smacked him straight in the face, stole his glasses and phone and his bag in the car. I heard his trembling voice on the phone telling me what happened to him. And believe it or not, straight away I imagined me being there kicking those f-tards asses. Bodoh gila. But quite cool. In reality, i could only stay angry and sad for my father and start accusing all the motorists for hurting my father. I dont want to ever see him or imagine him in trouble without me being there. After me and Hazwan went back to the escalator, that man who was unconscious wasnt there anymore. I wonder what happened to him after we walked off. I wonder whose father or son that was...

My dad is the kind who would knock on his daughter’s door in the morning she opens the door. He would wait even it if takes a few minutes. He would keep calling even if she doesnt want to answer. Thats how annoying it is. And when she finally opens the door, he’d say:

“Dont lock the door. You can get your asthma attack anytime especially when you sleep and if your door is locked, I wouldnt be able to save you.”

He’s not the perfect father but i can see he tries to be. Just that his ways of showing it is really weird.

*Written by Suraya Jermadi on her blog, The Untitled Piece.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Hero of the Day: Josh Woodward

It has been a while since I last wrote about a particular hero of mine. Not that I've been running out of candidates, mind you, it's just that for the most part, though there's a 'shortlist' of people that I've had in mind, I just don't feel particularly bothered to write about them, for some reason or another. At least, the timing doesn't seem to be too right, for the most part.

Until now. Not that it's just a matter of timing, it's also a matter of actually feeling like I want to write.

And today, I want to write about Josh Woodward.

I want to write about him, mainly because I think he's a talented musician. Some of his songs are absolutely grade A stuff, and it will tickle your fancy if you like people like Jason Mraz and John Mayer. I'm not saying that he's exactly like them, though, because I do think that there is something that is distinct not just about his voice (duh), but also the lyrics that he writes. They somehow feel literal, and yet manages to maintain some form of subtlety, allowing you to bring in your own interpretation. An example of this can be found in the song 'I'm Letting Go' (see below), from his latest album, 'The Simple Life'.

And here's the rub. All of his songs are available for free, which you can download from his website. This is the second reason why I'm writing about him. With Youtube and other video-sharing websites sprouting up like mushroom these days, almost any Tom, Dick, and Koko Kaina can be heard at the drop of a pin (or, rather, the click of a mouse). But to allow people to download their songs? To actually encourage people to do so? And to tell those who do download them to spread the word? While many view the Internet as a supplementary tool for distribution, to be used for marketing and the like, Josh uses it as the mean as well as the end.

And, for those of you who did take time out to check out my short film, 'At Rainbow's End', you'll notice the song, 'She Dreams In Blue'. Initially, I had wanted to go with Moby's 'Temptation', but as I figured it might cause some copyright issues, I sought other alternatives. Googling Creative Commons songs, then, I came across Josh's website, which lead me to the song. At that moment, I changed my mind, not just because there's a bigger chance of not getting sued by Josh (and he did allow me to use his song for 'Rainbow'), but also because it's...better. In every way. Now 'She Dreams In Blue' ranks fifth in my iTunes chart, out of over 1000 songs.

So here's to you, Josh. Take it away :)

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Me (You+He) = Rob

*A film written, directed and produced by Veknesuaran Thiagarajan. Edited and produced by Fikri Jermadi.