Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Spare a few pesos...

How tough was life for Gabriel Garcia Marquez when he finished writing One Hundred Years of Solitude? As we find out in The Guardian, quite tough:
When his masterwork was finished in August 1967 and he and his wife went to the post office to send it to his editor in Buenos Aires they had only 53 pesos. It cost 82 pesos to send the parcel so they sent half of the manuscript.

"Afterwards we realized that we had sent not the first but the second part," he said. Luckily, the editor "was so eager to read the first half that he forwarded us the money so we could send the rest."
How very lucky indeed.

Here There Be Dragons.

Looks like more adventures are coming out of Middle Earth, written by none other than JRR Tolkien himself! From the grave... oooooooh~

In actuality, Children of Hurin, is edited and and painstakingly arranged by Christopher Tolkien (son of JRR) and is slated for an April release, just in time for my birthday. Hurray! I just hope it's not the snoozefest The Silmarillion was.

From the Tolkien Library:
Túrin is born into a Middle-earth crushed by the recent victory of the Dark Lord, Morgoth, and his monstrous army. The greatest warriors among Elves and Men have perished and Túrin’s father, Húrin, has been captured. For his defiance, Húrin’s entire family is cursed by Morgoth to be brought down into darkness and despair. But, like his father, Túrin refuses to be cowed by Morgoth and as he grows so does the legend of the deadly hero. In a land overrun with marauding Orcs, Túrin gathers to him a band of outlaws and gradually they begin to turn the tide in the war for supremacy of Middle-earth.

Then Morgoth unleashes his greatest weapon: Glaurung, Mightiest of Dragons, and he proves an unstoppable foe. As the Dragon carves a fiery swathe through Middle-earth there remains only one man who can slay him, but to do that he will first have to confront his destiny.
OMFG! Dragons! How cool issat!

Hold on! Morgoth? Isn't he Sauron's master? It's been a while so my Tolkien lore's a little rusty, but if Morgoth's in this one, does this mean the novel's set before The Hobbit and The Fellowship? Hmm...

Thursday, 22 March 2007

The People Behind My Namecard.

For those who have received my new namecard, and are wondering who the illustrator and designer is, well, wonder no more!

The illustrator is Ashrel, a brilliant pixel artist for a local mobile games developer. You can view his stuff online at ashrel.deviantart.com. I commissioned one logo from him and got back two - one based on my idea and one he came up with himself. I loved both and ended up using his idea for the logo on my namecard. My idea is the one I'm using on this blog right now.

For the card design, I called in a favour from the awesome and sexy Mark Lai. If you've seen the posters and buntings from e-Games, then you've seen his work. I think he did a nice job putting together the elements on the card, and I especially like what he did on the reverse side.

Thanks, guys!

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

From the pages of Mata Harian.

I translated this from yesterday's copy of my favourite Malay national daily, Mata Harian:

"I Could Have Done Better"

by Ahmad Darwin

GUNUNG RAPAT: Although there is no "top" SPM candidate according to the Education Ministry, Che Dik Sufian can count herself in the higher rankings of straight-A students, scoring 30 1As. However, this student from SMK Gunung Rapat is unhappy with her results, saying that she could have done better.

"I was aiming for 34 1As," Che Dik said, sobbing into her results slip. "After Che Amalina Bakri scored 17 1As, I knew I had to get double her results."

She scored 2 2As for Blogging and Texting, and 2 3Bs for Youtubing and Modern Mathematics. Her parents have tried to console her but to no avail. Che Dik plans to appeal to the Ministry for better results.

Asked to why she so desperately wanted to have 34 1As, Che Dik replied that it was her duty to her teachers, school and country. Now that she had failed them, she said that there was no point in living if her appeal to the Ministry did not go well.

Che Dik's parents, who are practising lawyers, said that they would support Che Dik in whatever she planned to take up in the future, but admitted that they would be happier if she considered Law instead of suicide. They also said that if only they had stopped her from resting at night and told her to study harder, then maybe Che Dik would have received the results she wanted.

Tips from Top-Scorers

Mata Harian talked to some of the Top-Scorers in SMK Gunung Rapat and asked them to reveal their secrets of success:

Yippie Yap (88 1As): "I kept late hours, not studying, but downloading recent episodes of South Park and Heroes. I don't need to study. I'm genius, maa."

Khwarizmi Salleh (42 1As): "If your mother kept a rotan and wasn't scared to use it, you'd study too."

Sam Suresh (96 1As): "The secret to success is to have an idol. Remember what he or she achieved. Picture that achievement in mind. Now picture you gaining that achievement. In my case, I imagined hiking all the toll rates in the region. I was inspired to get all the 1As I could."

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

All God's Children Can Dance.

"All God's Children Can Dance" is a short story from Haruki Murakami's after the quake. I've already read the book, but for some reason I can't remember what the story was about. Now, via Five Branch Tree, I find out that director Robert Logevall has gone and made a movie out of it.

Hurray! Bet that'll refresh my memory.

Monday, 12 March 2007

REVIEW: Mukhsin.

The minute I heard my first love story,
I started looking for you, not knowing
how blind that was.

Lovers don't finally meet somewhere,
they're in each other all along.

- Jalaluddin Rumi (Translated by Coleman Barks)
Yasmin Ahmad is probably the only auteur we have who actually has the guts to go against the grain of Malaysian movie-making and yet still be able release a movie successfully on our shores and overseas. With other excellent Malaysian directors being given the middle finger when it comes to releasing their features on local screens, it's a ray of sunlight in our dark, hazy skies to see a movie of pedigree like Mukhsin get released in Malaysian theatres.

I'm relieved Yasmin Ahmad decided to forego the dense intellectualism of Gubra, which I found more of an essay-as-film, rather than a proper story. Nice, but a little too high-brow for my tastes. Call me a philistine but I think I preferred Sepet's simpler love-story. Mukhsin is just that. It's a simple story of a first love between the 12-year-old Mukhsin (Mohd Syafie Naswib) and the 10-year-old Orked (Sharifah Aryana).

The two main actors carry their role with much aplomb, and it's easy to forget that they aren't veteran actors and this happens to be their debut feature. The other actors did well too, though I found Sharifah Aleya as the younger Mak Inom (previously portrayed by Ida Nerina in Sepet and Gubra) as a little off-putting with her constant English-speaking. (Was that intentional?)

The story's much more tighter than Sepet and Gubra, as Yasmin Ahmad does away with the blatant cultural soapboxing she's known for, and opts for a more subtle approach.

In one scene, Kak Yam, the family servant, is making ice cream through a combination of chocolate and milk. Her friend is looking on with surprise as she is used to single-flavoured ice creams. Kak Yam says something to the effect of: "It's better to enjoy a mixed ice cream. There's the sweetness of milk, mixed with the bitterness of chocolate. Two flavours combining. Isn't that more enjoyable?"

Since Yasmin Ahmad's previous films were about racial integration, it's not hard to see what she's getting on to here.

As a movie, Mukhsin's certainly a much better effort than Gubra, Sepet and perhaps even Rabun. I think it definitely deserved all the accolades it got. There's even a bonus for Sepet fans who were unsatisfied with that movie's ending. Talk about fan service!

Thursday, 8 March 2007

Happy Birthday!


On this day last year I quit my old blog, and started this new one which I had planned to focus on reading books and the art of writing. (Of course, it would take me another 2 months to actually start blogging proper.)

I think I've come quite a long way within the past year. Got to know some nice people (as well as nasty ones, but that comes with the territory I guess). Got some stories and reviews published. Yep, it's been a good year. Thanks to everyone who's visited, commented, linked, petted the cow, and licked the incredible amount of fonts on this blog.

Here's to more good years of blogging.

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

REVIEW: Hear the Wind Sing by Haruki Murakami.

UPDATE: My Wind/Pinball review can be found here

ISBN: 477002214X
Publisher: Kodansha International Ltd., (1987)
Paperback: 165 pages

Late last year, after finishing Haruki Murakami's Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman (read my StarTwo review), I went on a quest to complete my Haruki Murakami collection. I felt like I simply had to have every one of his books published in English to truly get into this author. I was lucky that Borders was having their 3 for 2 promotion for all the British covers of Murakami, so I managed to get them all, except for his two first novels: Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973. Though these novels have had their English translations published in Japan, Murakami doesn't want the English-speaking world reading them, because he thinks they're terrible.

Thanks to eBay, and an enterprising fellow in Japan who's stocked up on English copies of Hear the Wind Sing, I managed to get my hands on a copy. And at 6" x 4", such a cute copy it is! At that minuscule size, it's the perfect book to read on the Putra line at 8am. That's of course, if you don't doze off first. As is usually the case, the problem with first novels is that the writer hasn't found his voice yet, and this is especially true with Hear the Wind Sing.

The novel takes place within 18 days in the summer of 1970, and follows the aimless wanderings and ramblings of the nameless protagonist that Murakami is infamous for and also that of his friend, Rat. Murakami's signature icons and animals already start to appear in this book. Elephants, cats, wells, weirdo girls. They're there, but perhaps a little less underused than they will be in his later novels and short stories. Then there's his penchant for invoking Western culture. References abound from Gatsby to Dostoyevsky, Marvin Gaye to The Beach Boys.

Though this initial novel proves Murakami was already a writer with great ideas and adept in creating interesting dialogue, it also betrays a lack of skill in plotting. Did he pick that up later on? There is no discernible plot whatsoever in this book, just a college student aimlessly going through his life while waiting for his summer vacation to end.

I thought Hear the Wind Sing plodded along at an unbearably slow speed. Nothing that helps the story move along ever happens, and when a mystery crops up, they go unsolved, and the characters remain unbothered and indifferent. The dialogue continues throughout to hint at something more substantial waiting to be revealed, but that never seems to happen. Talk about pretentious! If this was submitted to Western publisher by an unknown writer, it'd be left rotting in the slush pile.

I'm currently working my way through his second novel, Pinball, 1973, and I'll be posting up a review of that quite soon.

For more on Hear the Wind Sing, Bookfox has a good review on his blog.

Italian Online Litmag Calls for Submissions!

Yang-May, who I was fortunate to have met two Saturdays ago, has posted up a call for submissions from the Italian online literary magazine, Buran:
The aim is to show what we call “Invisible Writing”: stories that we usually are not able to read because of the language (chinese, arab and so on) or because they are fading away into the great ocean of the web. We are collecting stories from all over the world.
You won't get paid, but how cool would it be to see your writing translated into Italian? (Answer: very.) The length requirement is a little weird though - between 5000 to 10000 characters? That's probably flash fiction length. 1000 words perhaps?

Next issue's theme is "The City" (a personal favourite), but they'd probably take on any other subject matter. Deadline's on March 19.

Give Flaviano an email at flaviano.fillo@libero.it or at redazione@buran.it

Get cracking!

Currently Available E-Books

Available from: Amazon | Smashwords | iTunes | Google Play | Kobo
Available from: Amazon | Smashwords | iTunes | Google Play | Kobo
Available from: Amazon | Smashwords | iTunes | Google Play | Nook