Friday, 29 August 2014

Forever Lat

Of all Malaysian cartoonists, arguably none have left a deeper mark on readers than Datuk Mohammad Nor Khalid, beter known as "Lat".

Few are unfamiliar with his accounts of his formative years, travels and travails, as well as his succinct graphic commentary on local and world affairs, for which he has won much praise and accolades. Many have noted the accuracy in how he captures details of what he sees, and the sensitivity and insight in how he presents his observations and conveys nuances.

Therefore, MPH Group Publishing is proud to be issuing reprints of evergreen titles Kampung Boy, Town Boy and Kampung Boy: Yesterday and Today, which were launched in conjunction with the grand opening of MPH Bookstores' Nu Sentral flagship today and the upcoming Merdeka celebrations.

Ge re-acquainted with the story of a village boy growing up in rural Perak, and his subsequent migration to a town setting during his teenage years. The protagonist's hijinks and scenes from a seemingly distant era are bound to tug a chord among other kampung boys and girls.

MPH is also publishing Forever Lat, a new compilation which features works published in local news dailies, as well as some new and unpublished ones.

This will be his latest compilation, after Dr Who?!: Capturing the Life and Times of a Leader in Cartoons, released in 2004.

Smile, laugh or maybe shed a tear as you revisit past events and issues depicted within and realise that even as the years go by, some things - for better or worse - never change.

Like a lighthouse in a storm, Lat's works shine upon the things that matter, things we should never forget even as we hurtle towards the future along with the rest of a fast-changing world.

Forever Lat
MPH Group Publishing
168 pages
ISBN: 978-967-415-246-8

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Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Bookmarks: Twittering Turkish Publishers, Children's Books, Etc.

So, yes, I'm doing this again.

Writer Phyllis Rose's "extreme reading experiment" and the resulting "bibliomemoir".

"In their obscurity, these books might be dull, bad or even unreadable; they might, in fact, be a total waste of her time," Rachel Cooke writes in The Guardian. "But she also felt certain that, should she embark on such a scheme, she would find herself on the readerly equivalent of virgin snow, for who else would have read this precise sequence of novels?"

Seems children's books are popular at the Shanghai Book Fair. But beside the old argument that the sector is saturated, there are other challenges. For one, it's easier to create books for older children than younger ones, a chief editor of a publishing house claims.

"Here, artists often draw after the writers have finished stories, and that creates a barrier," says Zhuo Qing of one Children's Publishing House. "But in many other countries, many writers can also draw themselves. And they will consider many details of a book including how it feels when it's touched."

Never thought of that.

Also, it's not just about good writing and storytelling, but understanding what and how children think, says Zhuo. "Some young writers decided to quit after initial trials because they found it is very hard to become famous quickly in this area."


Friday, 22 August 2014

Masterclass In Session: 30-Minute Meals With Sara

If there's anything food-loving Malaysians are starved for, besides good places to dine out, is time - more so for urban-dwellers. After a long day at the office and long hours in traffic jams, sweating behind a stove (and maybe doing laundry by hand) is the last thing on their minds.

So we eat out, commuting and enduring more traffic jams along the way. But outside fare is not necessarily healthy, as online entrepreneur Sara Khong learnt.

"The full attention I gave to my newly established online fashion business led me to give up the luxury of home-cooked food altogether," says Khong. "Meals consisted of takeaway chicken rice in Styrofoam boxes or nasi lemak in brown paper. The pizza delivery guy became a familiar friend; when I was at my busiest, I had pizza for every meal for a few days straight!"

Unsurprisingly, this lifestyle began taking its toll.

"I lost a lot of weight, looked scrawny and sickly, and had little energy to do anything I enjoyed," she says. "Going to the doctor was a monthly affair."

Faced with this, Khong decided to dine in more often. She began formulating strategies and tips that enabled fast, less-hassle cooking with the help of modern kitchen appliances and useful household items utilising the latest technology.

Over time, her health returned and she found joy in her work and her quest to simplify and speed up the preparation of certain Malaysian dishes, as well as sharing her gospel of fast home-cooking on social media and her online lifestyle portal,

(Yes, kitchen experiments can be fun, as I can attest.)

Now, her time-saving tips and recipes can be found in Malaysian Meals in 30 Minutes, the newest addition to the MPH Masterclass Kitchen series.

From kitchen organisation, food storage guidelines and selection of kitchen tools, utensils and appliances to tips on picking quick-to-prepare dishes and cooking them faster, let Khong show you how you can whip up a dish - a full meal, even - within half an hour.

Pick from one of the many featured hawker-stall staples such as wantan mee, nasi lemak, Portuguese grilled fish and BBQ chicken wings; then pair it up with a sago gula Melaka, sweet potato soup, or maybe cekodok and drinks such as teh tarik and chrysanthemum tea.

One thing all of these recipes have in common is that they use few ingredients and prep time for everything is short - or as short as she can make it.

"These few meals should be fast to prepare and use common ingredients which are readily available in your pantry and refrigerator," she says. "It should be one of your favourite foods, made so frequently you need not refer to a cookbook and can prepare speedily."

And you won't necessarily need the knife-wielding skills of a three-star executive chef.

Khong also recommends maximising the use of whatever you have in your kitchen. Those clunky chicken scissors can slice chillies, long beans and spring onions, and you can cut up an onion with an apple corer. Got a gas stove with multiple burners? Use 'em all if you have to, but keep an eye on them.

Still not enough time? She also provides menu suggestions for some typical meals. Living near Jalan Alor during her childhood is perhaps why virtually all her book's recipes are all warung, kopitiam or mamak stall fare.

The point is, ultimately, to get busy people eating healthy - or at least, healthier than usual. Cooking your own meals is one way - you manage what goes in and determine the size of the portions. Plus, you'd gain some essential life skills in the process.

"My aim is for this book to be more than just a collection of good recipes and nice photographs," writes Khong. "I want it to be a practical guide to inspire busy people to start cooking. If you can't cook during the weekdays, try to at least cook on the weekends. I encourage you to eat in!"

For more tips and recipes - not just for cooking - visit

Malaysian Meals in 30 Minutes
Sara Khong
MPH Group Publishing
178 pages
ISBN: 978-967-415-073-0

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Wednesday, 20 August 2014

MPH Quill, Issue 42, July to September 2014

Yes, MPH's Quill magazine is still being produced. This issue has radio and TV host Azura Zainal (whose masterclass on hosting we'd published.

(Yes, I may have skipped an issue or two. Work and all that.)

Highlights include:

  • Leon Wing looks at smartphone addiction and highlights some serious mishaps involving the devilish devices.
  • Charmaine Augustin goes from broadcasting to gourmet foods with her venture Passion Doux. Shantini Suntharajah speaks to her about her sweet business.
  • Shantini also chats with HR consultant, cat lady and maestro of macarons Anna Tan on coaching, cats and cakes.
  • HANDS Percussion and their latest production, Tchaikovsky on Gamelan, is also featured in this issue. Several of my colleagues attended the performance last night.
  • Juan Margrita Gabriel went to Pulau Banding and the Belum Rainforest Resort and was captivated by what she found there.
  • Who's "Storm Chase" and how did he/she end up contributing these tips to "rescue your relationship"?

All this and more in this issue.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Masterclass In Session: Franchising With Sofia

The franchise industry in Malaysia has always received strong government support. But while many businesses have benefited from growing franchise opportunities, many potential franchisors and franchisees don't know where to start.

With the release of Sofia Leong Abdullah's Guide to Franchising in Malaysia, the latest volume in the MPH Masterclass series, the author hopes to help them out.

Sofia Leong Abdullah is the founder of her own franchise consultancy. Her vast experience in multiple industries, including hospitality, food and beverage, property management, make her eminently suited to advising aspiring entrepreneurs on franchising.

She also had stints as the franchise brand manager for Roasters Asia Pacific (M) Sdn Bhd, which brought (and later bought) Kenny Rogers' Roasters; and CEO of the Malaysian Franchise Association.

"The franchise business model is very interesting," Sofia notes. "It allows existing businesses to grow in ways that would have been very difficult to do on their own, while giving aspiring entrepreneurs a chance to become businesspeople in their own right."

Even so, misunderstanding abounds. "Franchisors are often in the dark about the kinds of preparation that goes into getting their businesses ready to be franchised," she says. "On the other hand, potential franchisees mistakenly expect to be handed everything on a silver platter."

This book is an extension of her efforts to help grow the franchise business in Malaysia. Readers will find information on franchising, such as its history in Malaysia, and some of the more popular sectors that use this business strategy: food and beverage, education, services, and so on.

Learn what franchisors and franchisees should expect before embarking upon a business, as well as potential pitfalls and tips for success for each of the sectors highlighted in this book.

Myths of franchising as a risk-free business model are busted. And few could imagine that brands such as Singer and Bata were among the first franchises to enter Malaysia in the 1940s. "At that time, we simply recognised them as two international brands, not franchised outlets," writes Sofia.

Aspiring franchisors and franchisees can also expect some case studies, as well as a look at the legal issues in franchising, and where to find additional support and information.

"Running a franchise consultancy gives me the chance to share my experience and knowledge of the industry with keen businesspeople eager to start franchising," says Sofia. "Now, writing this book allows me to reach out to far more people than my consultancy alone could ever achieve."

Overall, the success (or failure) of a franchise depends on the people who run it. "Any form of business comes with its own set of challenges and it's how you overcome these challenges that determines the longevity of your business," says Sofia. "Franchising merely provides the new business owner (the franchisee) access to a working business system."

Sofia Leong Abdullah's Guide to Franchising in Malaysia
Sofia Leong Abdullah
MPH Group Publishing
146 pages
ISBN: 978-967-415-223-9

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Friday, 1 August 2014

"Remember Us"

This book was, in retrospect, reviewed on impulse.

But the "emissary" said I just had to, had to read it. Maybe she was that blown away by the tale of that 14-year-old who followed her dad to Gaza.

To a certain degree, I was. Perhaps you'd be, too.

A book that does more than tell stories

first published in The Malay Mail Online, 01 August 2014

Palestine has always been an emotional topic, so I've largely stayed out of it. But a tiny piece of Palestine arrived at my desk, begging me for a look.

"I visited an NGO and they gave me this," said the emissary, who even bookmarked a couple of what she thought were the best parts.

Remember Us: Stories of Struggles, Hopes and Dreams is a project by Viva Palestina Malaysia (VPM), a group of NGOs pushing for the creation of a free sovereign Palestinian state.

This book puts together poems, short stories and real-life accounts of what's going on in the area by residents and visiting activists. What's striking is that the contributors and the "creative editors" are all women.

Even before I opened the first page I knew what I'd find inside. The Malaysian pro-Palestinian bias is pretty thick, and while some also blame certain quarters within the Palestinian resistance for their role in prolonging the conflict, none of the contributors seem to feel that way.

Most, if not all of the non-fiction accounts, read like dispatches from oh so many online news portals that have been bringing the horrors of the conflict to audiences, telling them of their sojourns into hostile territory and of the lives of those who live there.

An old woman who kept the keys to her home that she was driven away from, clinging on to the hope that she would return to it.

The frustrations of a young lady whose life and pastimes are dampened by daily power supply interruptions.

Another young lady's visit to a foreign country (mine) and her written exchange with American academic Noam Chomsky (really?).

Yet another young lady's anguish and fury at the death of her friends in the hands of Israeli forces, which she says makes her a "terrorist" because "I want the Palestinian refugees to get their land back, and I call the Israeli army a group of cold-hearted murderers all the time."

She makes a particular mention of one young victim. "Haneen did not know what a cold-hearted murderer is... She was a 6-year-old girl who was split into little pieces while in bed. Haneen was too young to die. But who cares about Haneen's death, anyway? She was a terrorist, too."

Among the several Malaysian contributors was a 14-year-old girl (by now I'm all "where are all the men OMG so embarrassed for my gender") who was brought to visit Gaza by her dad, the chairman of VPM; it's her adventure that this book's emissary was gushing about.

Said 14-year-old's short entry ends with a small punch in the gut: "I hope one day I will get the chance to visit Gaza again to volunteer and make myself useful, instead of just finishing their limited supplies of food."

Now, the editing could be tighter, the flow between stories better managed, the cover better designed, and the overall narrative tips heavily towards the Palestinians. But all this melts under the heat of the emotions that emanate from the pages. One can't help but wonder...

What would life for these people be, devoid of the fear of missiles in their living rooms, their roofs collapsing on top of them at night, being picked off by snipers or stray bullets while buying produce at the market, and being dragged away from some checkpoint by armed men, possibly never to return?

What would these people achieve in a world where the air is clean, free of the smell of explosives and burning flesh, chemicals from supposedly forbidden weapons and the wails of grieving fathers, mothers and children? Where they are allowed to live like free people should?

What would it take for the world to stand up, cast aside its collective historical and mental baggage, and do something to make it happen? And not just in the territories occupied by Israel?

It's perhaps a pity that we only get to hear 20 or so voices here, and even these may be forgotten, silenced and swept away by yet another tide of hate, anger, grief, outrage and indignation raised by a fresh salvo of bombs and bullets.

But to resign oneself to this would be an act of surrender, and none of the contributors — Palestinians and Malaysians alike — want to do that just yet. As long as there are those who speak up from and for the occupied territories, the plight of its people — and hope for their freedom — will never be forgotten.

This book is a project by Viva Palestina Malaysia. More information on VPM can be found at their web site; more information on the book can be found here.

Punctuation for one paragraph in this version has been changed. The previously supplied Facebook link is bad; the right Facebook page appears to be this one.

Remember Us
Stories of Struggles, Hopes and Dreams

Zabrina A. Bakar and Husna Musa (editors)
Wise Words Publishing (2013)
178 pages
Mix of fiction and non-fiction
ISBN: 978-967-12261-0-0

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Web site: