Friday, September 27, 2013

White boy got soul

An FB friend introduced me to John Newman. It's been ages since I  hear a white boy got soul (Justin Timberlake don't count). John's raspy baritone brings to mind stuff like Living in a Box's Room in Your Heart, definitely a lovely stroll down memory lane of halcyon high school days.

Enjoy and have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Our customers are no good to us dead

Good marketing is not just about getting more customers, but also to maintain the existing ones.

Sometimes the universe surprises you, in a good way.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Never leave home without a good knife

Sing-a-long in Javanese!

*Stolen from Facebook, hence the tiny quality.

The song is about the process of having a wedding for Javanese families. Traditionally, the family would gather for a meeting to discuss division of labour; roping in aunts, uncles, cousins, etc to help out. Either the parent(s) of the bride/groom heads the endeavour or a family elder is tasked with the coordination of the needful for the event. No need for wedding planners.

I love how well the songwriter included the various elements of the kenduri like rewang (hanging out to help cook, decorate, etc), lining the palm of the host with a money-filled envelope before taking your leave and many more. The title of the post is a reference to how many ladies like my grandmother (and yours truly included) would never depart home for a rewang without our own knife with which to work. After all, the host may run out of knives for you to use or have inferior blades of the kind of sharpness and size that you do not favour (too many people have small, blunt knives. I check out the kitchens). I remember freaking out my grandmother's neighbour as I peel onions with a six-inch (not including the handle) chef knife. But hey, my knife was beautifully sharp and of great heft that slicing and dicing was a breeze.

However, the rewang tradition is slowly being eradicated as our lifestyle change; we can no longer depend on the commitment of families and neighbours with the catering (with perhaps a souvenir from the host for their time and energy in the form of a kain batik/pelekat, etc) and prep, everyone is so busy. Unless you live in a close-knit kampung or community, you are better off engaging professional caterers to get things done. Granted, your event will look like those in the magazines (assuming you have the budget for it), but the camaraderie of showing off your skills, developing talents and just hanging out together gossiping but the uncle who was chased out by his third wife as you peel onions will no longer part of the communal memory.

Ah well. That's the price of progress, innit?

I'm a little teapot, short and stout ...

Little teapots have big ears. And eyes.

Big time.

Don't drink and drive.

Don't nap while you drive.

Don't text/WhatsApp/take Instagram pictures while you drive.

And most definitely, don't take drugs and drive.

C'mon ... do people have to tell you that?

Friday, September 13, 2013

What is truer than truth?

Title stolen from Isabel Allende in this video.

The following two videos underscore how story telling goes beyond mere entertainment. In the ancient days of my motherland, we have the penglipur lara, the storyteller, who travel from village to village, sharing stories, news and relating historical myths of the ancient kings. Their stories gave wings to the imagination of the ordinary folks and their arrival was much anticipated.

Technology and globalisation have changed the way stories are narrated. The penglipur lara may be dead for hundreds of years, but his stories continue to be told in different media. This is the power of stories: it evolves, are adapted and become incorporated into another narrative. In a way, stories are immortalised beyond the lives of the tellers.

But have we ever examined the origins of the stories we consume? Who delivered them? What was their intention? Were their sources right? What inspired them?

Herein lies the danger of the single story narrative.

I will admit to being guilty of the same thing. You tend to swallow what was told to you, especially as children. I am sure that many of us grew up with all kinds of stories about the "other" people. People who don't look like us, don't behave or pray (if they pray!) like we do, don't think like we do. Some of it is relatively harmless (or not); like mothers of the old admonishing wayward children to behave or "The benggali* will come and catch you!"

The more malevolent were like, "If you have to choose between killing a snake and a (insert ethnic/religious group of suspicion), it is better to kill the ethnic/religious person." This is about dehumanising the other person, making them alien and difficult to identify with. It would also make it easier to denigrate them, and to look down on them.

I am struck by her words about how the people in power made the definitive story and this could be used to dispossess the people, hijacking their history and culture. When a story is repeated over and over again, somehow it gained the veneer of truth and became accepted as a fact. This is some particularly profound for me, as my ethnic group is often painted as lazy, lacking initiative and always looking for a shortcut to solve problems. This perspective of our former colonial masters was countered by the eminent humanities scholar Syed Hussein Alatas in his book The Myth of the Lazy Native (which I will admit to having yet to read). But this idea of Malays being lackadaisical, etc has been so tightly woven in the nation's narrative, that it is difficult to disentangle. And like a self-fulfilling prophecy, we make it come true.

Like Ms. Adichie, the stories I write in my head (and occasionally pen down) often feature people from other countries because I have been steeped in American and Western culture, thanks to a steady diet of books, music, television and films.


While Ms. Adichie felt that Asian and African and South American and other non-white writers should be working towards developing narratives that is a contrast from the Western world view, Ms. Shafak felt that the manifestation of identity need not be utterly personal, so one could write from the viewpoint of people who is not oneself. 

To her, the most important thing is that the story need to be informative and well researched, written to evoke emotions and perhaps, create connections and empathy. One must not be limited to one's nationality, gender and sexuality. It is a very liberating thought, but I do believe that one should be free to tell the stories that speaks to one. However, it does seem that white authors get more leeway than non-white authors, who are expected to write only about their own culture and experiences.

Ninot Aziz, a celebrated Malaysian author, is reviving the hikayat, the folk tales and legends of  the Nusantara. Although the stories are sourced from Malay folk tales, she believes that the cosmopolitan nature of the stories transcends any cultural dichotomy and will speak to us regardless of our background.

Her book, Hikayat - From the Ancient Malay Kingdoms is up for the Anugerah Buku Perpustakaan Negara Malaysia - RTM. Please vote for her here. The author name is Ninot Aziz and the ISBN number of the book is 978-967-61-2540-80.

Here's to more excellent stories coming out of Malaysia!

* corruption of the word Bengali (someone from the state of Bengal in India). Usually the Sikh or other Bengal ethnic man who wore a turban and was an itinerant merchant of cloth and other household items during the pre and post Independent Malaya.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Ylvis is in da house

Y'know, just like the given name of the late Mr Presley.

Get ready to tune up the volume and boogie!

Biology lesson here ...

 and wildlife musings ...

I'm sure this question kept many awake ...

... and the search for your one true love ...

I love how the songs are so reminiscent of the soaring, sweeping pop anthems of the 80's and 90's belted out by powerhouses like Whitney Houston and Peabo Bryson and Spandau Ballet. And yet ... *snerk*


*Snagged all from Ilona's blog here.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Never tell a bitch to drop a size

I've never heard of the original song nor am I interested to watch the MVA controversy with Miley Cyrus twerking to Robin Thicke.

But this? Is awesome.

NSFW. You have been warned.


Monday, September 2, 2013

Down the rabbit hole to tripping the acid fantastic

I first came across this song on Supernatural, the television show that ate my brain (not that I could spare the little grey cells, so little do I have them) in one of the most fabulous opening scene in the history of television. I love the imagery evoked by both the melody and lyric of this song; silk-wrapped menace stalking in the shadows on midnight, propelling you towards a path less travelled, much like the seduction of a pooka taking you on a midnight ride.

For the record, I have always found Alice in Wonderland (in whatever incarnation) truly creepy. Adventures are all fine and well, but seriously, the story is like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas for children. Incomprehensible, fueled by mind altering substances, tripping you into dream-like experience that is quite likely to be damaging one way or another.

But all those are the reasons that make this song the perfect anthem to many urban fantasy novels. Simon R Green is a British novelist with more than two dozen novels under his belt. Mr Green first caught me with his Nightside series, a noir horror fest of a London underground parallel universe called the Nightside where it's always three o'clock in the morning. Gods and monsters abound in the Nightside, and everything is out to get you (literally).

I love the way he fleshed out this world with the Timeslips and aliens from other dimensions marching side by side with ancient evil and primordial soup fear distilled into its purest form. The protagonist, John Taylor, is a private investigator with an unusual gift, a sly tongue and a penchant for white trench coats. He tries to do the right thing, which could go horribly wrong in the Nightside. He often ropes in friends and enemies to help solve the case of the day; colourful characters like Dead Boy, Suzie Shooter, Razor Eddie, and many more. If you are a fan of noir, do give this series a shot.

Mr Green also have another series about the Drood family, chronicling the (mis)adventures of Edwin Drood AKA Shaman Bond, the man with the golden torc. The series is a nice rollicking adventure in the psychotic vein of the James Bond series, with over the top villains and crazy magical technology to add LSD to the action sequence. The series are fun to read, but re-reading value is rather low for me.

He has several other book series, but I've only come across the first book of the Ghostfinders series. Sadly, I don't find it as fun as John Taylor's investigations so I didn't bother with the rest. However, I am intrigued by the Deathstalker series, but not piqued enough to invest money for it.

All in all, if you're into urban fantasy and are looking for a new author to try, go ahead and give Mr Green a shot.