Monday, August 26, 2013

Last Days

I hold her hand in mind, our fingers intertwined, as we slowly made our way through the park. The sunshine blazed its glory, the tempers tempered by the cool breeze blowing.

There are people here. Plenty of them, walking, talking, smiling, laughing, living. An area of such green contexts: the trees, the plants, the grass, and…life. Everyone here is recharged, green and good to go. Nobody is in the red, at least not for now.

The lounging chairs appear to be available for all, for a small fee. We consider taking a few, but we didn’t know where to pay for it. Neglecting to feed this further, we consider feeding ourselves. Waffles, ice-cream, chocolates and drinks. All available at the stalls nearby, bustling with economy.

We continue, onwards and upwards, step by light step. It is a time to enjoy the moments, the seconds, the time of the two of us together and being alive.

Being alive.

We reach a part shadowed by the leaves and branches above. We sit down, wary of a little dirt, but then again, what are we if not the dirt, the earth from which our worlds are made. It is to the earth we shall return to in the end, after all, and it’s probably not such a bad idea to familiarise ourselves with them.

That, however, is in the future. Hopefully, way in the future. For now, carpe diem.

Eventually, I lie down on my back, cushioned by the cushion fashioned from my jacket. She remain seated, her hand stroking my hair as I look up, at her, beyond, past the branches and the leaves, the blue skies and the white clouds, into the space beyond.

I come back just as quickly, her warmth keeping me alive and grounded. The sounds of the birds distract, pleasantly so. Just enough to keep things singing and ticking over in my heart. My appreciation for green lungs grew, as much as my own expanded.

The conversation of others dulls in the background, murmurs remaining as insignificant to us as we are to them. Another couple, sitting against the tree trunk flick through a few pages of their books.

In the most public of places, we become more entrenched in our own worlds.

That’s OK, though. Lying down with the loves of our lives, becoming closer to nature, appreciating the birds and the leaves, breathing in and out…slowly, but quietly, being alive. I close my eyes, and I wander no more.

That’s how I would spend my last days.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

What’s The Colour Of Your Passport? – 5 cm

"Ultimately, I suppose, then, the difference that lies in whether you enjoy this film or otherwise, whether it truly strikes the strings of your heart or whether you simply deem it an enjoyable flick at the cinema, depends largely on how hot the Java heat is emanating from the depths of your soul."

An except from the film review of 5 cm I wrote for Thoughts on Films.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Surprised at a Smile

My friend ordered the food at Pappa Rich. We were hungry, it was dinner time, and we were looking forward to the food; of course, we know the reality may not match the picture, but as ever, the pictures looked so good.

She noted to the waiter that she noted the food should be less spicy. The waiter nodded slightly, communicating his understanding of the request, and moved away.

The food came, and she had the first taste. However, it was a little too spicy for her, and, being someone who is particularly particular about her food, became slightly agitated. She called for the waiter again, and repeated her earlier request, but the waiter appeared to be at a loss. Perhaps he failed to truly grasp what she was saying. After a few moments of awkward silence, my friend resigned herself to her fate, and the waiter, silently sighing sighs of relief, moved on to the next table.

From one perspective, perhaps a more complete order chit would have her write down her preference in the space provided. On further reflection, though, I wonder whether the space itself is a method through which language barriers could be negotiated.

Looking around, I then noticed that the majority of those who work in that particular Pappa Rich outlet appeared to be non-local. I say ‘appeared’, because Malaysia being Malaysia, categorising someone according to their skin tone it is not as easy you might think. Over time, however, you do develop a sense of who may or may not be a part of what Benedict Anderson define as your imagined community. It is a sense that further accentuates itself in a more foreign environment; you might be wrong, but you just know when you meet another Malaysian.

Just as surely, then, you could also see who is not Malaysian. At this and other such outlets, I notice how much we rely on other nationals. This is not a particularly new development, primarily because the very origin of Malaysia was built on the backs of foreign labour (and this continues to be the case in many situations). What I notice here, though, is how subtle shifting of structure in service industries has led to the decrease of human contact and interaction.

Consider this. You’re seated down, at an established kopi tiam outlet n established outlet selling kopi tiam and other such commodified culinary artefacts of Malaysia. You look through the menu, and the order chit is scribbled on with the code of the food and drinks you wish to order. On the right, space is provided for you to note down any special request you wish to make (perhaps this was something that my friend should have considered further). Once that is done, you call for the waiter, who will key in your desired products into the computer which will produce a receipt, which you then take to the counter to pay for at the end of the meal. It is incredibly possible that you could go through an entire meal without the most cursory of sentences, beyond the cashier themselves saying “RM34.70.”

Going beyond the service industries, I notice that quite a number of other endeavours are also moving towards that direction, conditioning the way we see things. Security guards are commonly of a foreign descent, and it is sometimes difficult to truly communicate with the very people tasked with our safety. In other situations, the human element have been removed completely in the paying for parking tickets at major shopping malls.

I do not wish to present a situation that sees us humans as being nothing more than energy cells for the machines to function a la The Matrix. After all, the above examples are nothing more than selected anecdotes illustrating my point in this particular article. Neither am I delivering a particularly scathing criticism of Henry Ford’s model, the advantages of which have helped to drive the industries of the world; lower costs accrued balances the balance sheets, allowing for more money to be moved within and without the system.

However, the adoption of such a mass production model adopted to simplify and save a few bucks may, in many respects, divide rather than unite. The lack of human contact beyond the most elementary of interactions may dehumanise more than anything else.

A certain truth emerges, then, in this potentially vicious cycle. Knowing less about a person makes it easier to fix certain ideas and impressions, a projection of identity that can help in the crystalisation of certain ‘truths’. Foreigners have always been looked upon rather suspiciously. I suppose this applies to ‘the other’, and even amongst Malaysians we have a tendency to form certain stereotypes. What chance, then, do the people with whom we have relatively little contact have of debunking these ‘truths’ simply because they have a different passport to us?

We could detect a certain irony in an article that simplifies in looking at oversimplification. Of course, this does not necessarily cover every single foreigner who has set foot in in a foreign land, and there are other factors are play here, such as a media that thrives on the creation of fear and politicians willing to manipulate the sentiments of the public, amongst others.

Nevertheless, it is the system that we do have. The alternative would have been to hire more local labour, or to further train the foreign labour to better satisfy the whimsical fancies of Malaysians who can, it has to be said, be very picky when it comes to food.

After we were done, he came to clear the table as my friend settled the bill at the counter. I gathered my belongings, and gave him a quick smile and thanks. He looked at me, a rabbit in the headlines caught off-guard by my smile and words.

Humans being surprised at a smile.

I'm pretty sure that says something about us.

Friday, August 09, 2013

A Love Eternal - Habibie & Ainun

"What of the more personal nature, however? The micro that is the family and the wife and the children? Such areas are not as commonly looked at, and this, in this respect, makes ‘Habibie & Ainun’ a unique film to begin with."

An excerpt from a review of Habibie & Ainun I wrote for Thoughts on Films.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Hipster Much? – KIL

"It’s also one of the first films I’ve seen to truly maximise the DSLR aesthetics I’ve noted many moons ago. Some of these aesthetics include a highly colour corrected post-production stage, fully usage of the depth of field, and a very strong and clean resolution in the presentation of images. The visual of the gun used to conduct such killings by LAB, with a very narrow depth of field, made for an interesting image. The camera, at times, peeking from behind ornaments or props, made it feel as if we are a part of the scene, waiting in hiding as we eavesdrop on these characters going about their lives. It’s all good here."

An excerpt from a KIL film review I wrote for Thoughts on Films.