Monday, 29th October, 2012 § 2 Comments
Wednesday, 3rd October, 2012 § 1 Comment
I’m almost finished with this book. It’s not bad. It’s no great shakes but it’s not bad. CERPEN (literally, ‘short story’) is an anthology of Nadia Khan’s early writings most of which first appeared in print in several local magazines. Mixed in with the stories are a couple of never-seen-print-before short-film scripts she wrote hoping some producer will throw money her way for the rights. Girl has dreams. Good for her.
I’m no literary critic and if you’ve been following my blog you would heartily agree so I cannot go in depth into a review as to why such and such a book is lovely. If I like it, I like it. And I like CERPEN. It’s…cute. They aren’t cute stories but that’s how I felt. Even after I’ve read ‘Puaka Pak Jaha’ which was far from cute. Oh, and while reading this book I discovered she is the daughter of Hatta Azad Khan who wrote “Syy!”, arguably Malaysia’s best sitcom of the 1980s. So that would explain her writing genes.
Now I feel like picking up Kelabu, the author’s FIXI debut. I already know the twist in the story (damn you, Internet!) but not the whole story.
Monday, 1st October, 2012 § 3 Comments
I have been remiss with regards to this blog. I have excuses of course. Oh, loads of them. Ramadan, work, family, just laziness. But the real reason? I haven’t been reading anything worth writing about to the point that I actually took a break from reading. A bookworm who doesn’t read! Just stop breathing, why don’t I?
But here’s a new month. Hopefully a fresh start. Let’s get crackin’.
Tuesday, 4th September, 2012 § 8 Comments
Besides amassing books I have little time to read, I also like collecting anything related to Star Wars be it books or toys. When I discovered in Facebook that a Malaysian designer plans to present ‘Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope’ in the form of a wayang kulit (shadow puppets) I was intrigued. The designer goes by the name ‘Tintoy’ Chuo and he is the founder of ActionTintoy Studio, specialising in character design.
The whole idea of presenting Star Wars using shadow puppets came about when ‘Tintoy’ Chuo got the idea to introduce the practically extinct form of entertainment (shadow puppets, not Star Wars) to today’s generation. He chose to fuse it with Star Wars because he figured it would have a better chance of capturing people’s attention and besides he loves Star Wars. Work with something you know and love, I always say.
And to start things off he and friend Take Huat have painstakingly carved out two characters in the style of a wayang kulit puppet and of course those characters had to be Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker.
Guys, seriously, those are just awesome! I even learned a few things about this particular ancient cultural heritage. For example, these were based on Malay-style wayang kulit puppets which according to Chuo tend to be more sturdy and solid, more ‘meat’ on their bodies. Javanese wayang kulit on the other hand are leaner. Also most of the puppets traditionally have only one movable arm. Only a few characters have two movable arms and those tend to be the talkative ones. In traditional wayang kulit, a character known as Pak Dogol is ambidextrous because he’s normally used by the Tok Dalang (the puppeteer) for exposition and comic relief. ‘Tintoy’ Chuo has hinted that C3-PO will be the Pak Dogol in his version. If you don’t know which one is C3-PO, he’s the golden effeminate one with the British accent.
Also check out the detail in the puppets above. Luke Skywalker or ‘Perantau Langit’ for this version is standing on top of his X-34 Landspeeder while holding his lightsaber in his left hand and binoculars strapped around his waist. Darth Vader (or ‘Petaka Derita’ although I suggested ‘Sang Wira Derhaka’) with his lightsaber poised for battle, strides on his Imperial Star Destroyer. That’s a nice touch seeing as how traditional wayang kulit puppets’ feet are usually carved with their feet astride something as well. Vader being the bad guy holds up his claw-like hand but the fingers on good guy Luke’s hand is pushed back. I discovered that the bad guys in wayang kulit always have their hands posed threateningly while the good guys hold it in deference. In this case, it could be interpreted as Luke using the Force to push Vader away.
‘Tintoy’ Chuo is serious about this project. He’s already at work designing the droids and although he did not mention it I believe he will, if he has not already, work on the Princess, Han Solo and Chewbacca. The problem he has now is to find a Gamelan group who could adapt and perform at least three of the iconic songs from the movie: the Star Wars opening theme, the Mos Eisley Cantina song and Darth Vader’s theme otherwise known as ‘The Imperial March’. Musicians don’t work for free so ‘Tintoy’ needs a generous grant from someone to finance his project. Anyone? Anyone?
Oh, and I must mention something:
I NOW OWN THESE TWO COOL PIECES! ’Tintoy’ and his team have created two Star Wars-inspired puppets that just oozes professionalism and exquisite workmanship. Not even uber-collector Steve Sansweet has these. Not yet, anyway.
These aren’t mass market products but if you ask him nicely he might bash another pair for you in his studio. You can search for him on Facebook under the name Tintoy Chuo. Tell him Khairul sent you. The “Peperangan Bintang” project also has a Facebook page here.
You can also click on the ActionTintoy link up there in the first paragraph and check out his other works.
Shadow puppets and Star Wars. I never thought I would see the day when someone thought mixing those two would be a good idea for a project.
(DISCLAIMER: All characters and related materials are trademark, copyright and/or registered trademarks of their respective license holders and/or owners.)
Monday, 3rd September, 2012 Comments Off
Here’s what I love about Ted Naifeh’s book. It’s basically a story with a familiar theme: a young girl moves to a new place and a new school and has to make new friends. Except there are strange goings on in her new place (her granduncle Aloysius spooky old house to be precise) and there are even stranger things in the woods of her new neigbourhood.
But those aren’t what I love about this book. They are great and familiar tropes but what hooked me in was the dark route the author chose to take. There are at least three instances in this collection that would make the unreasonable parent throw this book in disgust and petition the local and school library to ban it from their shelves. Without spoiling it too much, two kids get eaten by a night creature (one of them was bullying the other so it was a comeuppance, but still…) and a baby is exchanged with a goblin and the baby sold at the Dark Market in Goblin Town. Well here’s the thing, these disappearances were not resolved in favour of the humans at all. The goblin gets to stay in the crib pretending to be a human baby at the story’s end (Courtney is told that human babies are kidnapped and sold to strange creatures all the time and besides in this case the baby’s mother wouldn’t know the difference anyway) and it was only mentioned in passing that the bullied kid would be missed by no one. No mention at all of what the neigbours thought of the missing bully.
Well, I guess I did go and spoil it after all. Here’s one more: the only reason the night creatures visited the bully was because they were told to by Courtney herself. So this is a story about a kid who ordered a hit on her tormentor. Now you see why I love this book. It tickles my dark soul and pushes all the right buttons in me. If you’re still shocked, let me assure you that all the violence and auctioning of a baby happens ‘off-panel’.
Courtney soon discovers her weird granduncle is actually very nice but he does have a secret which he eventually shares with Courtney. This first volume is a collection of four previously published graphic novels in which were in paperback and black and white. This time around the adventures of Courtney Crumrin is bound in hardcover and in colour and if you are just as weird as me you should get this book and share with your little siblings or children. They’ll thank you for it.
Friday, 31st August, 2012 Comments Off
To celebrate Malaysia’s 55th year of independence, I spent the day watching these on DVD:
Lelaki Komunis Terakhir (The Last Communist) and it’s sort of sequel Apa Khabar Orang Kampung (The Village Radio Show). The former focused on Chin Peng, the last leader of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) and the latter features interviews with the remnants of the mostly Malay-Muslim members of the CPM now living in exile in a small peaceful village in Southern Thailand.
Last Communist is sort of a biographical travelogue of Chin Peng. Amir Muhammad also interviews the current residents of the towns where Chin Peng used to live and operate in when he was the leader of the CPM, some of whom served as guerrillas fighting the British . One interesting interview was with a Mr. Salehuddin, who was literally seduced by a beautiful CPM recruiter.
I must say I enjoyed Apa Khabar Orang Kampung more as I, and I daresay most Malaysians, know next to nothing about the lives of the Malay members of the CPM. I was fascinated with one old survivor who talks about the time how he operated on his paralysed legs himself while in the jungle. It was damnable, he said but it worked. His legs healed!
Despite being unabashedly communist in ideology, they are devout Muslims. There is a mosque in the village and religious classes for their children. They insist they are not traitors but only joined the Party because they wanted the then Malaya to be free from foreign rule be it the Japanese, British or anyone else.
If you don’t like history then both documentaries will bore you. There are hardly any war stories or lurid details of how living in the jungle was like. All they have are experiences of the people who we never read about in the history books and to me that is interesting enough. Lelaki Komunis Terakhir and Apa Khabar Orang Kampung have both been banned by the Malaysian government from general release for being a threat to national security. How interviews of people who served ‘the other side’ over 40 years ago could be a threat to the nation’s security mystifies me but the DVDs are still available so if you ask Amir Muhammad nicely he might sell them to you.
And that’s what I did this Merdeka Day.
Sunday, 12th August, 2012 Comments Off
Only two reasons why I even bothered with this book. Firstly, I’m sort of a fan of the show. I like history and some of the items that are featured are very interesting. Second, the book was like 60% off at Amazon. Can’t resist a bargain.
The book is surprisingly good. Just like the show, it has a bit of humour and Rick is a natural storyteller. It’s not difficult to tell stories I suppose when a lot of zany characters walk through your door looking for some quick cash. In fact, from what Rick tells us the show is a sanitized version of a typical day at the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop. Practically ignored while he was growing up because his parents were too busy working, Rick Harrison feared as a child that he would never see adulthood because of his seizures that would relegate him to the bed for days. This was where he would spend his days reading any books he could get his hands on and he credits those days as his real education. He also has a natural gift for numbers. So the bald overweight guy with the smoker’s laugh isn’t actually a dumbass.
His employee Chumlee though isn’t as book smart and looks it while his son Big Hoss is smart but doesn’t look the part. They both get to tell their stories (they were meth addicts in their teens and cleaned up their lives while their other meth buddied didn’t). Rick’s dad The Old Man also pitched in but it’s Rick’s book so he gets most of the pages.
The most interesting part of the book for me was when he describes some of the characters he has encountered in the twenty years he’s been working in the pawn shop. There’s the billionaire who browses in his shop without buying anything ever but everytime he comes in, there’s a new girl by his side. There’s the Asian lady who looked like a bag lady but took out a roll of hundred dollar bills from her sock to make a purchase. The family who live their lives as professional gamblers and visit the Gold & Silver whenever they need cash for the casinos (which is often) and the thieves and conmen who sometimes get away with their scams and causes Rick to lose thousands of dollars. And then there’s Bizzle. The Bizzle story is amusing, touching and just a little bit heartbreaking and he’s one of those people that you would never meet if you were not managing a pawn shop.
It is a well written book. A Tim Keown is credited alongside Rick Harrison as the author and I’m guessing he’s the ghost writer. I usually avoid ghost written memoirs but Rick’s voice comes out loud enough in this book that I believe that Rick actually did the writing while Mr. Keown merely polished the rough manuscript.
A surprisingly deep book about a hustler with a heart.