Archive for March, 2008


Sunday, March 16th, 2008

It’s been ages since I last wrote. It’s not that I have had nothing to write about [God forbid]. I just needed a break after charging around non-stop for more than 5 years. So I did nothing but read, watch films, travel and catch up with friends for a couple of months. I guess you could say I stopped for a bit of brain food. It was good.

Anyway, I’m about to get down to work again. I’ve not only got to compose music for the next album, but I’ve also got to pen a couple of theme songs for movies. While I’m at it, I might write a script or even make a short film [hell, it seems everyone is at it nowadays, so why not me?]. On top of this, there is also the possibility of producing a compilation CD, making a music video [for someone else], and doing more film acting. Chuckle. Busy bee, thy name is potato.

Still, before I bury my head in work, I thought I’d show you some of the things I’ve been spending time with. It has not been all fun and games, but its been good. Don’t get too jealous. Smirk.


ELECTIONS 08 The recent Malaysian General Elections is a historical landmark in so many ways. It not only taught our out-of-touch ruling regime some humility, the country also emerged from it with the beginnings of a two-party political system. To me, the most heartening development is the maturing of public consciousness from divisive communal politics to one based on common interests. The mere fact that the opposition coalition won 49% of the popular votes means that we are likely on the verge of a new political economy in Malaysia. If you are as sick as I am of our country’s rampant corruption, politics of fear, institutionalized racism, abuse of power, media bias and general shoddiness, then join the call for reform [from either party]. The next election will be even more crucial. Get up to speed now.

ALTERNATIVE NEWS Given how biased the country’s mainstream media is, the last half decade has seen numerous political blogs and news portals emerge as alternative information channels. Some, like Malaysiakini and The Malaysian Insider, are professional, measured and journalistic – while others range from angry anti-government rants to partisan political blogs. Either way, if you are disillusioned with the state of mainstream journalism in the country, these sites are exactly what you need. All of them present news, analysis and critique that the government controlled media are barred from covering. Here is a selection of the best ones – check them out: [Malaysiakini], [The Malaysian Insider], [Malaysia Today], [Screenshots], [Kadir Jasin], [Malaysiakini TV].

To the extent that many of these sites are as guilty of pro-opposition bias as printed newspapers are pro-government, we should really be pressing to reform our media laws – so that more newspapers, radio and tv stations of various political persuasions can be established. In the longer term, that is the only way to keep the wolves away from the door of our new found democracy.


SIX DEGREES This book is a must for anyone interested in the effects global warming on our world [i.e. everyone]. The author applies scientifically accepted geological data to hypothesize planetary conditions if average global temperature were to rise from one to six degrees. The results are, amongst other things, super storms, rising sea level, global food shortage, floods and species extinction [including our own]. Some will argue that this is yet another example of fear mongering by hippy tree-huggers. But I don’t think so. The earth is heating up rapidly as we speak and it is already too late to save Greenland. The artic icecap will likewise disappear if current trends are not reversed quickly. It’s a pretty disturbing read, to be honest – but if you only read one book this year, let it be this one. [BUY]

AMERICAN THEOCRACY It is frightening how politics in the most powerful country on earth can be so driven by oil greed and religious fundamentalism. While it may not be surprising that a 20th century empire built upon oil would try to control global oil supply, the Christian fundamentalism that lies at the heart of recent American public policy is nevertheless genuinely depressing. One memorable section in the book describes how George W Bush, aside from being pretty dense, also believes in the idea of Apocalyptic End-time [belief that God will imminently end the world in an Armageddon]. Holy crap. Is it any wonder that he stood in the way of climate change reforms? And the good people of America let this man put his finger on the nuclear button? Thank God he is fucking off soon. [BUY]

THE TWO OF US Even if you’re not a fan of the English actor John Thaw [‘Inspector Morse’], you must not miss this biography. Written brilliantly by his wife and fellow actress Sheila Hancock, this is not so much Thaw’s biography as a retrospective look at their lives together. Other than tracking the rise of an entirely new generation of British actors [with an entirely different way of approaching acting], the book contains genuinely funny as well as moving moments. In an age when notoriety passes for artistry, it is inspiring to read about artists who approach their craft with an unyielding sense of permanence and respect. More than that, Hancock and Thaw’s story is a surely an example of how lifelong lovers can be parted by death yet not be defeated by it. [BUY]


THE BALLAD OF NARAYAMA If you like slow and thought provoking films, then this is one of the best out there. Set 100 years ago in an isolated Japanese village where old people are forced to die upon reaching the age of 70 and entire families are buried alive for stealing food, this Shohei Imamura masterpiece contains observations about the human condition that is both unrelentingly and [at times] shockingly brutal. That the film ultimately falls short of nihilism does not make it less gut wrenching to watch. The sequence near the end, where a filial but stoic son piggybacks his aged mother to top of Mount Nara to die, is frankly heartbreaking. The magic lies in how the film is oddly life affirming despite the relentless gloom. It won the Palm d’Or at Cannes in 1983. [BUY]

VISITOR Q Ever since I saw ‘Audition’, I’ve been fascinated by Miike Takashi. He is one of those filmmakers whom you either get or you don’t – there really isn’t anything in between. Here, he invokes prostitution, incest, drugs, necrophilia, rape, murder and plenty of cringe inducing set pieces to come up with one of the most deranged films you will ever see. Centered on a wildly dysfunctional family and its misadventures, the film is in equal part shocking, grotesque and funny – often all at the same time. But despite its depravity, the film is surprisingly conservative at heart. It’s almost as if Takashi is mischievously saying good things about ‘family’ despite it all [even if you haven’t the foggiest what it is he is actually trying to say]. Not for the faint hearted. [BUY]

RAIGYO ‘Pink Films’ are basically Japanese porn with serious narrative intentions. Directed by Zeze Takahisa, Raigyo is one of the best examples of this genre. Set amid a decaying landscape of dilapidated smoke stacks and polluted rivers, the film is more a metaphor of spiritual alienation than a mere skin flick. As such, the sex portrayed here does not titillate, the characters move in a dream-like world, and serial murder is nothing but release from pain. Such is the visceral power of the film that I was still reeling days after I saw it. The quiet narrative intensity invoked makes most films feel trite and indulgent. Put simply, this is one of most disturbing [though poetic] films I’ve ever seen. God only knows what dodgy men in darkened adult cinemas make of it. [BUY]


KOREA I went to Seoul in January to attend pre-promotion meetings for the release of ‘Television’ in Korea. I also appeared as a guest performer at a concert by ‘Peppermint Club’ – a 4-piece band fronted by Korean star Kim C – and partied with Kang Saneh [music legend], Yoon Do Hyun [rock superstar], Oh Jungwan [film producer], Lee Sunkyu [guitarist for pop band ‘Jaurim] and many others. I’ve always felt that one of the best things about what I do is the opportunity to meet new people while I am on the road – and this trip proves that yet again. Frankly, I began to miss the guys as soon as I left Seoul and I can’t wait to go back again. Despite the sub-zero temperature, it was super fun. Below is a video of the trip shot while I was there. Enjoy!

Watch the higher resolution YouTube version [HERE]

[NOTE!] You can also watch the hitherto ‘only-seen-in-Korea’ music video of a song I made for Samsung Korea last year [HERE].