Sunday, 23 March 2008

Bangsar Book Talk Brekkie

While I am contemptuous of some mainland Chinese's eating habits and flaunting of wealth, I wouldn't mind trying some dog - it's supposed to be good for my asthma. Relax, no dogs were harmed in this production.

To be repeated 500 times on a chalkboard: A blog is not a message service.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

This month's MPH LitBloggers' Breakfast Club was one I didn't intend to miss. Chuah Guat Eng (whom I saw at last month's Readings) and Wena Poon were the featured authors.

The first thing I did was home in on the buffet table. My heart sank when I failed to spot any chicken mayo sandwiches. It killed the mood for the coffee. The egg and tuna mayo sandwiches were just as nice, but couldn't they do something to prevent the bread from drying up?

Both authors introduced their works and revealed a bit about the creative process and experiences involved, before getting down to reading from their books.

There were definitely two distinct personalities and storytelling modes at the fore. Wena radiated gregarious enthusiasm as she read and voice-acted Dog Hot Pot, a humourous take on responsibilities, morals and cultural differences revolving around exotic canine delicacies. Every detail is carved out and presented in bold, chiselled features.

Chuah, meanwhile, was the paragon of quiet, regal dignity while reading a passage about two pretty men. The ambiguity in the characters and settings allowed some leeway for the reader's imagination, like the pictures in a colouring book.

Did someone say Chuah was from Rembau?

The Q&A session that followed took an odd turn when Wena asked Chuah a question. Now this is how it should be, I thought with approval. Definitely some yin yang mojo at work.

Both draw upon different sources for their works. Wena's experiences during her travels made Lions a very "global" collection of stories about Singaporeans living abroad (like herself). Chuah's Old House was built on memories and images spun out of the air. A nod at Wena's canine hot pot story came in the form of an anecdote about a stray pup that wandered into Chuah's yard and died mysteriously.

When asked about memoirs that aren't memoirs, Chuah expressed dislike, and reckons books like those should be classified as non-fiction. Wena was of the opinion that too much inclusion of real-life experiences into literary fiction lessens the degree of art involved.

That being said, she also voiced her frustrations in warding off reader assumptions that Lions was partly autobiographical, even though some of the narrators were men. Then Chuah chipped in with another anecdote where readers got the gender and race of the narrator wrong - thanks to the way she writes - but thinks it's cool to let their imagination run wild.

During the schmoozing session that followed, Sharon Bakar told me how she found one of my published articles, and gave me some positive feedback on it. She initially didn't know I wrote the piece; members of her circle know me by my other Internet handle. She also assuaged my doubts on panning a bad book and reservations on reviewing books with objectionable content.

I had to miss out on the Readings later that afternoon because I had other plans. It was a good session, though - a good portent for the rest of the day.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Doraemon, Japanese Cultural Ambassador

Japan's tendency to give in to escapist fetishes every time there's a crisis simply astounds. The ImagiNation has conferred Doraemon the title of Anime Ambassador. The earless technotronic cat with the hammerspace pocket and a phobia of mice was feted by the Japanese Foreign Minister in a ceremony commemorating the occasion. As if babysitting Nobita wasn't enough.

I've always known the Japanese to be kooky, but they break the mould so often it's a cause for concern. And we're buying their cars? Watching their shows? Eating their cuisine? Soon, they'll be voting other notable characters into the Cabinet. Dr Black Jack for Ministry of Health, anyone? What about Initial D's Takumi Fujiwara for Ministry of Transportation? Death Note's Kira would make a great Minister of Justice (Ryuk can be deputy). Ministry of Women and Community? Helloooo, Kitty! And of course - Ultraman for Prime Minister! Which one? They can vote for it.

On the other hand, there are far too many candidates for Ministry of Defence. Oh well, if they can't find one, they can always make one. The Japs are creative, they are. It's not so strange, considering their difficulties in facing reality - and they couldn't even pick a bank chief from a pool of real people.

It'll be interesting if this fad spreads abroad. How would a Mickey Mouse Presidential Campaign look like? "Sarkozy Out, Asterix In?" Probably good for France. Too bad about Malaysia - right now all we have is Cicakman.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Italiannies Does Not Really Suck

Was Antoine de Saint-Exupery, author of The Little Prince, killed by his fan - a WW2 German fighter pilot? If true, it further underscores just what war really does - and why it should not be waged at whim. Too bad all the recent warmongers don't read (much).

The moment we got into the pasta (my salmon fettuccine, to be precise) we knew we'd been hoodwinked. Or maybe we should've asked, "Why does Italiannies suck, anyway?"

FunnyBunny and I have heard lots about why the franchise has garnered so much flak from the general public. Immediate family members and close friends handed out thumbs-down verdicts. They said the same about Singapore hawker food as well, but we found evidence to the contrary. All that was in the background and fading fast as we tucked in with gusto, despite our growing guts.

I suspect that some Italian foods are an acquired taste, with the use of herbs and all. The portions are huge; you won't have room for dessert unless you're really hungry, or if you send back the bread. We made the mistake of eating too much bread (for which we were admonished by the floor manager) and we had to pack the lasagna home.

What we ordered was good. Service was nice. But with its mammoth portions, above average prices and all that cheese and olive oil, Italiannies is not a place for everyday dining.

Come to think of it, maybe something went wrong with my culinary experiences in Malacca, too. I'll have to do more research before making a return trip.

Sunday, 9 March 2008


Internet connection is slow. Are people hogging up the bandwidth for the latest election results? It appears so. Some web sites were practically bottlenecked to non-existence.

I know I shouldn't be celebrating, being a fence-sitter and all, but I can't shake off the fact that the premonition I had while driving to work on Friday just came true:

Siput Sungai Separa Nilai - HANGUS!1

That would look good on any paper.

Against the odds, some major "villains" have fallen to the ire of the public. Notable exits include Zainuddin Maidin, the National Front's facsimile of Baghdad Bob. After vilifying the online community for months, some of them decided to show him that bytes do translate into ballots.

To add insult to injury, his biggest bugbear made it into Parliament. Jeff Ooi takes his place as the new Big Cat of Jelutong. It remains to be seen if he's a worthy successor to Karpal Singh. Most notable of wins is Teresa Kok's. Frankly, I wasn't too surprised. The smear campaigns screamed of desperation and failure of imagination.

They had expected some losses. They had dropped some unsavoury candidates. They surrendered their fate to the people and were sent packing. Was it true that the polls were announced early to deprive a certain someone a chance at power? We'll probably never know, because if that was the case, it blew up spectacularly. Losing a few districts is one thing. Losing entire states is a totally different matter.

But winners shouldn't start popping champagne just yet. They did that in '69 and look what happened. Now that you voters put them in this spot, you have to help them deliver - and deliver they must. Otherwise this display of people power will be nothing more than one colossal farce.

1 Malay, translated means "Semi-Valued River Snails - BURNED!" To be served with a big slice of schadenfreude.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

For Me, The Fever Ends Now

Next week, or sometime next month, we're getting a new government. The run-up to the results are heating up the airwaves. But it doesn't affect me, since I'm not a reg-

...I think I just outed myself.

Well, I had written an angry rant about lefties who keep counting down to today with their blogs and generally getting my goat, my cow, my chickens and ducks - not to mention my prize European wild hog - by insinuating that it's the fault of me and my ilk if the government doesn't change next week, because there weren't enough votes to turn the tide against an allegedly rigged election.

I say, if you don't have much faith in a system you're willing to try anyway, you shouldn't complain.

Good luck, anyway.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Reservations On Romania

Romanians take a cue from their national hero Vlad Tepes and thoroughly skewers Tony Bourdain over the draculaean portrayal of the country in an episode of No Reservations. His thoughts on the issue raised the ire of Romanians worldwide (seven-hundred-odd replies(!) and counting), particularly his choice of Russian drinking buddy Zamir as his fixer. Didn't he learn anything from Uzbekistan?

"Disco with bellydancing and flaming margaritas? Not-so-fresh offal barbecue? Shopping for weird wedding presents? Sexual harrassment -slash- Cold War torture routine in a Turkish bath? Quality television!"

Aside from that, I didn't think ZeroPointZero had a choice. Each episode costs money: airfare, luggage, equipment, meds and drugs, bribe money and other expenses - not to mention all the time and effort invested. Scrapping the episode might incur serious financial repercussions. Other questions beg to be answered. What part did the Romanian authorities play in this? Were the locals as surly and hostile?

Perhaps they should've had some reservations when it came to Romania. It would've been better to call it No Expectations.

The expressions of "disappointment" were predictable. He makes the best of another botched episode (Beirut, no thanks to Israel and Hezbollah) and suddenly he's the next Anderson Cooper. No Reservations is a reality sitcom where the surly embittered fifty-something (usually) pokes fun at local customs and abuses himself for our entertainment. Keith Floyd's shows were a more genteel version of it, while Jeremy Clarkson does the same with anything on wheels.

Come back to Malaysia, Tony. We'll promise you a better time. Andrew Zimmern? Angry mob.