Sunday, 28 January 2007

Name Dropping at Bangsar

My second Readings event could be one of the better ones, despite the homoerotic slant of some of the pieces that were read (and the constant flogging of Silverfish New Writing 6, which had contributions by some of the readers). It also exposed the conservative, antiquated mindset I was trying to evict from my tormented skull.

I was glad to see Sharon, Sharanya, Burhanuddin and Ted Mahsun again. Jordan MacVay and Lainie were a sight for sore eyes too. I finally met Amir Muhammad, producer of the senselessly-banned film The Last Communist, in person. Ruhayat X showed up with copies of his pop magazine Elarti, and I managed to snag a copy. Also met the Madcap Machinist, and thanked him for his kind comments on my contribution at a poetry blog.

And I was, like the last time, overwhelmed by the vibes given out by all the creative minds there.

Tuesday, 16 January 2007

One Big Fish

I hate it when my throat is sore, because it deprives me of a host of delights and sensations. Like the "new" KFC Alaska Fish Burger, the centrepiece of which is claimed to have thirty-percent more content than McD's Filet-o-Fish patty. Against conventional wisdom, I paid the nearest KFC outlet a visit to have a go at this new offering (before the doctor's visit yesterday, and the ensuing days of pseudo-sadhu hell I'll be going through). I had no high hopes.

Yes, it only looks big on paper.

There was a bit of information on the fish I was eating on the tray liner. No exaggerated comparisons to shark and whale size (like that other KFC fish burger), or testimonials made by fake Mexicans. They actually researched the Latin name for the Alaskan pollack, and provided a list of seafood along with their Omega-3 content, which combined, effectively spelled, "Alaskan pollack from the Bering Sea, the same place where suicidal fishermen hunt crab, is rich in essential oils that are good for you. Healthy munchies for the discerning diner!"

Only sounds good on paper? Bingo.

Pollack (or pollock) is a widely-caught fish, along with the half-dozen kinds of fish listed (including cod, salmon, sea bass and Alaskan king crab), making it vulnerable to over-fishing. Everybody likes it, and is the choice fish of every fast food joint. Now you know there's nothing distinctive about that "100% Alaskan pollock" shtick.

What made the pollock stick in my memory was a snippet that I read (but forgot exactly where) that mentioned a "war" between Canadian fishermen and seals over fish - a great source of motivation during the annual Canadian seal cull.

It's not a bad idea for businesses like KFC to branch out, but if the pollock is going the way of the cod (European authorities have recently raised alarms about rapidly-declining stocks), we won't be seeing any Alaskan fish burgers by 2020.

But by golly, I hope they don't go extinct before my throat heals.

Saturday, 13 January 2007

Soggy Friday Bites

1:16pm   Things are not so good at home, you see. It's showing here.

If you've read the news, you'd know that half the country is looking like New Orleans after nature's bitches, Katrina and Rita, threw their hissy-fits. And like those awful days, many of the politicians (even from the affected home states) seemed to have other concerns - no surprise there. The media isn't helping, I think, by suggesting things like minimum donation amounts and adopt-a-village schemes. I've already sent a cheque, thank you.

While my feet are still high and dry here, I feel emotionally swamped as the first few weeks of new things at work overwhelm me. I can't find anyone else to depend on. The weekend brings no relief - I've also been working Saturdays.

The Mongols are not happy with how we are dragging our feet over the murder and body disposal of one of their own. Some of us are glad that Genghis Khan is long dead; others worry about a similar fate, as is the wont of citizens in Third World countries.

There's also this post service blues-thingy, which is really old news made fresh.

Can things get worse? Sure they can - and I'm optimistic about that.

8:20pm   Can you get a plate of rice at a mamak restaurant for RM1.50? I just did. Of course, it was just a small plate, and I'm a regular. The uncertainty caused my CynicSense™ to go haywire, making me count my change twice.

10:25pm   The Templer roundabout and the stretch of Old Klang Road under the NPE were unusually congested. Turns out there was a police roadblock; the men in blue were also calling it a day. Driving past, the side of my car bumped onto some police equipment. I panicked, stopped and wound down my car window. My first brush with the law turned out to be an anti-climax as an officer waved me off, while the drivers behind me reached their boiling point. I gratefully sped of - within the speed limit, of course.

10:40pm   It's drizzling, and I'm standing under the canopy of the local burger stall. The fantastic smell sharpened my hunger pangs. I told you the plate of rice was small.

"...and to you all out there on this Friday night," the radio DJ chirped in Malay, "yes, you the late night workers, those of you driving home late, and the brother at the burger stand..."


"...ah yes, the brother at the burger stand, grillin' them patties for the hungry. Coming up, we have Gwen Stefani and her hot little number, 'Wind It Up', just for you, right here on Hot FM."

I turned to the brother at the burger stand and asked, "Someone you know?"

"No way, man," he replies. He looks just as bewildered as I am by the happy coincidence.

As always, the burger tasted great.

But don't you just hate the way life tries to prove you wrong?

Thursday, 4 January 2007

Me, Anonymous Author?

Some career choices are like sand-traps; once you get in, there's next to no chance in getting out. This holds true for most of us who don't have the willpower to just drop everything and chase dreams. I've only met one such person in this country so far. For me, that spoke volumes.

The IT industry as a whole had begun sliding into stagnation oblivion when I picked up my scroll. By the time I recognised the signs it was already too late. Seven years later, my outlook on IT dimmed completely. I was considering other options.

Like writing, for instance.

This other career choice looks just as precarious. Anybody can be a writer, but good writers are exceptionally hard to find. Or maybe I'm just not into literature. When I was much younger, I scorned artists, looking down at a profession that's usually associated with unstable incomes, eccentric behaviour and incestuous cliqués, not realising (again, until it was too late) that such a stereotypical Hyde was lurking within my own developing psyche.

By the time I discovered my budding and barb-covered muse, it looks as if all the good stories have already been written. I've tried my hand in writing fiction before, and it's hard. All the great ideas have been taken and written to death. What's left for those waiting in the wings?

I'd be perfectly happy writing - whenever the inspiration's around: sitting at a PC, hammering away at the keyboard, my nostrils teased by the aroma from the half-empty cup of white coffee lying on my other table (there will be no other weird smells, because I endeavour to keep my den relatively clean). Being misanthropic, I'll probably need an agent to handle the entangling social and financial issues regarding publishing and marketing.

What? I may have to attend public events like book-signings, launches and writers' circles?

Darn, I knew there was a catch.

Artists are bad enough, I should think. What are even worse are celebrity artists. Once they reach a certain amount of fame, something in them dies. That also happens when their mindset changes. I've noticed that my muse visits me when there's this pall over my head (maybe she's been visiting other similar people, the flirt). Whatever friends I have told me I'm too dark, neurotic and cautious. Go out there and live a little, they said. Take a few chances.

Hey, I am toying around with the idea of becoming a writer (and here I am, writing under an alias I won't be using in the future). That's pretty dangerous, don't you think?

I see myself doing nothing but writing for the foreseeable future, even after I leave my current company. But local publishers aren't keen on writers who prize anonymity. Given my opinions about my government and society, I'm not comfortable having my articles tagged with my real name. I'm quite certain that if I toned my act down, the most potent force behind my muse shall dwindle, driving her to seek shelter elsewhere.

But, why not? Does anybody know B. Traven? Me neither. Nor have I read any of his books (sorry, I only read English). But he pulled it off, writing a best-seller under an alias and ultimately, took all clues to his his real identity to the grave.

That has a certain appeal; I don't like being famous, I don't want the kind of attention JK Rowling gets (from housewife to best-selling multimillionaire author - great fairy tale, but not for me), and I certainly don't want to get up on stage in front of thousands of strangers to receive some prize. That sounds paradoxical because writers depend on the reading public for their livelihood.

Then again, that's just like me.