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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Historical Events That Happened On 31st August. The Reliability Of History Books.

And thus, National Day has arrived. To Malaysians, 31st of August is a day of joyous celebration and display of bandwagoning patriotism. Celebrate of what? Independence? Independence from what? The Brits?

Ironically, a day of joy in Malaysia happens to be a day of sorrow of our former rulers as 31st of August also marks the day of Princess Diana's death eight years ago. The birth of a nation, the passing of the princess of hearts, both on the same day.

Curious to know what other historical events have happened on this day, I went to Wikipedia to seek answers. And here are the more interesting ones:

1056 - Byzantine Empress Theodora dies suddenly without children to succeed the throne, ending the Macedonian dynasty
1888 - Mary Ann Nicholls is murdered. She is perhaps the first of Jack the Ripper's victims
1897 - Thomas Edison patents the Kinetoscope, the first movie camera.
1920 - First news radio program broadcast in Detroit, Michigan.
1931 - Production of Ford Motor Company's Model A ends, with 4.3 million produced.
1939 - Nazi Germany mounts a staged attack on Gleiwitz radio station, giving them an excuse to attack Poland the following day, starting World War II.
1957 - The Federation of Malaya gains its independence from the United Kingdom.
1962 - Trinidad and Tobago become independent.
1991 - Kyrgyzstan declares its independence from the Soviet Union.
1997 - Diana, Princess of Wales, dies in a car crash in Paris.
1998 - North Korea reportedly launchs Kwangmyongsong, its first satellite.
2004 - Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ is released on DVD and VHS in stores across the United States, selling approximately 4.1 million copies by the end of the day.


So, does that mean that Trinidad and Tobago and Kyrgyzstan are also celebrating their independence day today? What about the others? Does Mel Gibson remember the 4.1 million copies of DVD he sold on August 31st? Probably not.

The comments on yesterday's articles left me absolutely mortified and horrified due to the suggestions that our country would've flourished even if we remained under British colony. Surely you jest, my friends? The blood shed by our forefathers to achieve independence, were they all for naught? Oh, I am so heartbroken.

All right, enough with my over-the-top bandwagoning patriotism. Yes, identity is an abstract subject, but many people are proud of their so-called 'identity' today. But how can 'Malaysian identity' be defined? The unique culture and tradition developed by us after acquiring independence? The feeling of pride for what we have now? Mamak stalls and Manglish = identity of Malaysians?

Or is it deeper than that? Like, based on the latest blog entry in Petaling Street Blog by John Ling, 'devoting yourself to what was set in stone by the founding fathers of Malaysia. Values like tolerance, openness and honor; and ideals like social justice, true equality and freedom from oppression'. What were Malaysians (Malayans?) like before independence? Were we less tolerant, open and honourable? Was there less emphasis on social justice and true equality?

Freedom from oppression? Oppression of the Brits? Which brings me back to the question I posed yesterday. How bad were the Brits when they colonized Malaya? Were we economically, politically and socially messed up? Were all races turned against one another? Constantly feuding? A post-apocalyptical land without law? Was it a hierarchical society? Perhaps in the past, all lands were owned by the Brits, thus we didn't really have anything? When we were invaded by the Japanese on WW2, it was said that the cowardly British Army ran away to save their own hide, leaving the Malayans to their own fate.

History books tend to give the British Colony a very unflattering portrayal, but how accurate are they? This may be controversial, but to tell you the truth, I was never really impressed by the so-called heroes who fought against the 'British oppression' on the 19th Century, people like Tok Janggut, Maharaja Lela and er, a couple of others whose name I can't remember, whose failed rebellions against the Brits led to the loss of their own lives, and also those who followed them. What did they achieve except to prove that they weren't doormats? But wouldn't that be too high a price to pay? Why are they regarded as heroes when everyone of them failed so badly in their campaigns?

Because their courage and determination to fight for what they believe were inspiring? Or are they merely inspiring because the history books said so? What would have happened if these rebellions have never occurred? When negotiating with the Brits, how much did those historical 'heroes' actually inspired Tunku Abdul Rahman? How big a role did these 'heroes' played when the Brits finally relented and granted independence for the Federation of Malaya?

I'm curious, thus I ask. The National Day is not just a day of celebration, it's also a day of self-reflection and contemplation. And these are what I have been contemplating.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

What Will Happen If Malaysian Independence Was Never Achieved.

A thought-provoking conversation left me curious, and perhaps an idea for an alternative reality novel or a movie.

What will happen if, let's say, we are still under British rule? What happens if, 48 years ago, we never achieved independence? What if 'Merdeka' never occurred? I am not well-versed in local history, and whatever details that helped me get an A in SPM four years ago were pretty much forgotten.

If we were still ruled by the Brits, are we going to be like, say, pre-1997 Hong Kong? Was that so bad? Is our culture going to be so Westernised that we'll end up losing our own identity? What about our arts and our literature? What will they become? Will English remain the main language of our country? (didn't see that happening in HK though) Will local writers who write in English become more accepted while Malay writers struggle for acceptance?

What about our films and music? What are they going to be like? Predominantly English as well? Or will there be room for acceptance for other languages? What was the main fear of the continual colonisation of the British? That our language and culture will disappear? That our economy will be seriously screwed? Are all these going to happened if Merdeka was never achieved? What do you guys think? If someone is to make a movie about a parallel universe where Malaya had never achieved independence, what will it be like today?

Monday, August 29, 2005

My desired film adaptation of the Hang Tuah vs Hang Jebat folklore

Two days away from National Day, I shall join the patriotism bandwagon keep with the flow and make the entries of the next few days Malaysian-centered even though I am in foreign soil.

I've always wanted to make a Hang Tuah movie because they are accessible to Malaysian audiences. After all, anyone who didn't forget about their secondary education can definitely remember this guy, and the release of high-profile Puteri Gunung Ledang last year helped too (though by how much, I don't know). So yeah, the most effective method for me to sell out is to make a movie about this famous folk hero. To those who are unaware of Hang Tuah, here's his info from Wikipedia.

Hang Tuah was a legendary Malay hero during the Sultanate of Malacca in the 14th century. He was the greatest Laksamana, or Admiral of the Sultan, and a ferocious fighter. As youths, Hang Tuah and his four companions, Hang Jebat, Hang Kasturi, Hang Lekir, and Hang Lekiu, killed a band of pirates and two people who had run amok at a village causing havoc. The Bendahara (equivalent to Prime Minister in modern terms) of Malacca spotted their talent and recruited them to work in the palace.

During his work at the palace, Hang Tuah killed a Javanese fighter known as Taming Sari who was under the rule of the Majapahit Empire and was presented with a Keris - an ancient, but lethal, weapon. The keris was named "Taming Sari", after his owner and was believed it would empower its owner with invincibility.

Hang Tuah was later accused of adultery with the King's maid, and in a hasty decision, the King sentenced the innocent Laksamana to death. However, the death sentence was never carried out, instead Hang Tuah was sent to a remote place to hide by the Bendahara.

Believing Hang Tuah to be dead, Hang Tuah's companion, Hang Jebat, furiously launched a revengeful rebellion against the King, forcing the entire population into chaos. The King regretted sentencing Hang Tuah to death, since he was the only person capable of killing Hang Jebat. Eventually, the Bendahara recalled Hang Tuah from his hiding place and was given full amnesty by the King. After seven days of fighting, Hang Tuah managed to reclaim his Taming Sari from Hang Jebat, and killed him in close combat. Shortly after his closest companion's death, Hang Tuah disappeared and was never seen again.

Hang Tuah is famous for the quote : "Ta' Melayu Hilang di-Dunia" which literally means "The Malay race will never vanish".


Riveting stuff eh?

Originally, I wanted to make a shlockfest where Hang Tuah is resurrected from the dead to kill people, ala Freddy Krueger or Jason style. Lots of blood and stuff involved. Campy b-movie stuff.

Thus I came up with another idea. To do MY version of the Hang Jebat vs Hang Tuah story. You see, I've never been a fan of Hang Tuah, feeling that he's merely the imperial lapdog who didn't have the ability to make decisions for himself. Hell, I despise people like that. I think he would really go eat his own poo if the Sultan ask him to. Unlike Hang Jebat, a manly, courageous, honourable man who was willing to do anything just to prove a point. A man of his own principles... like me.

Therefore, my version of this folklore will be different, it will be like Infernal Affairs. With Hang Tuah being the Andy Lau character and Hang Jebat being the tragic Tony Leung character. So, here you go:

SWIFTY'S VERSION OF THE HANG TUAH VS HANG JEBAT FOLKLORE

While serving the Sultan, Hang Tuah and Hang Jebat were the finest warriors among the 'Five Malay Musketeers', and best of friends as well. However, Hang Tuah was secretly serving a dark sect committed to causing the downfall of the Empire, he was a mole, the one feeding valuable information of the imperial palace for an evil cause. Hang Jebat knew about this, and he was asked to investigate Hang Tuah.

Alas, Hang Tuah was a skirtchaser, a lecherous bastard, he was found having an affair with the Sultan's maid, which pissed the Sultan off verily. Sultan ordered the execution of Hang Tuah. Of course, the death sentence was never carried out as the wise Bendahara, who was in cahoots with Hang Tuah, had whisked him to somewhere safe.

But Hang Jebat was angry. All his efforts in investigating the dark sect Hang Tuah was working for were ruined because of the impulsive actions of the Sultan. Thus, with the suggestion of the other 'musketeers' (Hang Lekiu, Hang Lekir and Hang Kasturi), Hang Jebat had to pretend that he was going to the 'Dark Side' by launching a vengeful attack against the Sultan, to avenge his deceased 'friend'. At the same time, he was hoping that his actions could attract the attention of Hang Tuah's dark sect, that they would approach him and made him their member.

Alas, even though he managed to seize hold of the palace, his plans couldn't work. The ruthless Bendahara played mind games with Hang Jebat by tossing the rest of the musketeers off a building, and onto er, a trishaw, thus killing anyone who knew Jebat's true motive and identity. At the same time, the Bendahara brought Hang Tuah back to the Sultan, convincing him that only Hang Tuah could kill him.

At the same time, a subtle 'Lost in Translation' style romance would develop between the desperate and angst-ridden Hang Jebat and one of the king's concubines (a nod to one of the theories that Hang Jebat seized hold of the palace because of a Sultan's concubine, and not because of Hang Tuah).

The Sultan granted Hang Tuah full amnesty and sent him to kill Hang Jebat. We will see Hang Jebat sitting at the Sultan's throne, waiting for Hang Tuah to come in. While being in the palace, Hang Jebat had managed to seize hold of some valuable evidence that could prove Hang Tuah's affiliation to the dark sect. That he was THE traitor.

But who would believe him? Hang Tuah snickered at Hang Jebat. He had the love and support of the entire empire, while Jebat was widely regarded as the 'bad guy'. Both Hang Tuah and Hang Jebat drew their twin kerises and started fighting.

The entire Malacca watched their titanic battle for supremacy unfold at the roof of the palace. Both displaying insane swordfighting skillz! But Hang Jebat had the upper hand and he could've easily delivered the killing blow, but mercy stayed his hand. After all, Hang Tuah was still his best friend, despite his sins, there was no way he could kill him. Killing him would complete his descent to evil. He didn't want that to happen.

The Bendahara appeared, nodding sagely at Hang Jebat's choice, and praising him for his efforts in exposing Hang Tuah's agenda... then, as Hang Jebat was about to relax, the wily old man stabbed Jebat with a dagger, sending him lying on the ground in agony. After that, the Bendahara asked Hang Tuah to kill Hang Jebat, and be remembered in history as a hero forever. Otherwise, Hang Tuah's secret identity would be known to the whole empire, and this time, the old man wouldn't help him escape anymore.

Fearing that his heroic legacy would be tainted, Hang Tuah immediately did what the old man said, and killed Hang Jebat. Much angst ensued. Hang Tuah may have been remembered a hero forever, and Hang Jebat, a villain. Yet... yet he couldn't wrestle away from the guilt that grip him. He retired from the imperial guards not so soon after.

And was murdered by assassins sent by his dark sect. His body was never found again.

THE END

Sunday, August 28, 2005

This is my 'Malaysian Dilemma'

National Day is drawing near (31st of August), so it's obvious that the lovefest for Malaysia is going strong in the blogosphere. Definitely the best moment to display your inner patriot, aye? Many people have been blogging about social problems faced in our country recently, really big, heavy, major stuff that involve politicians, the trends of the nation and the mentality of people nationwide.

I am still at Perth, so I've not been following the Malaysian news that much. (over here in Australia, people are more concerned with er, Corby) So what can I say about Malaysia to display my sheer patriotism? Join the bandwagon and diss Xiaxue for dissing KL? Oh puh-lease, I don't even consider her important enough to be bothered by her opinions.

So I shall tell you a tale of what happened to me not too long ago.

Last semester, I had a flatmate from Austria, pretty nice and friendly gal who always brought her boyfriend over to our flat. The boyfriend's name is VJ. Near the end of the semester, I lent her a couple of my DVDs when she asked for them. One of them happened to be Sean Connery's 'The Name of the Rose', based on the Umberto Eco book I've just read back then (I haven't seen the film though). The girl was swift, she returned me all the DVDs I lent her two days later, all of them except for 'The Name of the Rose'.

The girl and VJ were apologetic, they told me that they took the DVD to their friend's flat to watch (as their friend was the one who had a DVD player). But their friend, Stef, had flown off to USA with the DVD and will not be around until the second semester. I nodded, saying that I understand, and that I will wait until then to get it back from her. My flatmate was going back to Austria, but VJ would be staying for the rest of the year for his studies. He gave me his mobile phone number. I kept it.

Weeks went by, after spending the mid-year break in Malaysia, I came back to Perth and saw Stef. I asked her about the DVD, she stared at me, FLABBERGASTED, saying that the DVD was never with her, that VJ was the one who should've taken it. I called VJ, and was greeted by the sound of his voice message. I assumed he didn't switch on his phone.

Then, many days later, after many non-stop calls to him, I realized that he NEVER switches on his phone. Obviously, the guy had stopped using this number. At that time, I already knew that it was impossible for me to get the DVD back, they've already lost it. But I couldn't let him slip away just like that.

I saw Stef in a library one day, and asked her for VJ's new number. Once again, she stared at me, FLABBERGASTED, saying that she had no idea, but told me I could find VJ in the flat she used to stay. (she had moved out to stay off-campus)

Let's cut the story short. I managed to find out that VJ wasn't staying in Stef's old flat, in fact, both of them moved out last semester and they are currently staying TOGETHER, yes, outside, off-campus. So, what have I been dealing with? A lying bitch and a cowardly scum who didn't even have the guts to claim responsibility for the loss of something he borrowed.

I was angry. I hate being lied to. And I do not remember ever being lied to like this since I came to Australia.

You know what's the saddest part?

VJ and Stef are Malaysians.

I got screwed. And I got screwed by my fellow countrymen. I am ashamed and embarrassed that Mother Malaysia had produced lowlife trash like them. My heart shattered like a hall of broken mirrors as I wept inwardly that the country had fallen to this. This whole issue has ceased being merely about a DVD. In fact, it had never been about the DVD. And I am determined to immortalize them forever with my words. With the text here.

The aforementioned duo are pretty rich, yet they didn't even DARE to pay up for a DVD they lost. What's this? A noble display of frugality and thriftiness? Or mere cowardice and the inability to claim responsibility? What is this whole habit of lending borrowed stuff to other people? What is this whole habit of lying through your teeth to protect your own hide for a mundane matter? What is the whole habit of being such a craven and having to escape responsibilities?

I do not weep about the decisions or policies made by the government, neither do I have the gall to point out the social ills that have slowly seeped into our society. I weep for these tiny little matters, for these insignificant little people, for their stupidity, for their irresponsibility, for their cowardice, and most of all, for the fact that they are Malaysians as well.

My country is sick. She shares my anguish, my agony, my unshed tears. What joy will the National Day bring? What joy will the loud singing of the national anthem bring? What joy will the waving of the Malaysian flag bring? How can there be joy when the majority of its future leaders have degenerated into such pusillanimous pussy, er, cats?

Malaysia is in trouble, and the National Day will be a time of mourning and reflection for me.

Fantasy-genre bandwagoners...

... just a couple of days after I posted my narcissism article, which very much pointed out my disdain and exasperation of people asking me whether my whole 'narcissism and huge ego' were genuine or not (I never felt that I should dignify questions like this with an answer, I mean, what do you want to hear? "Yar! I am narcissistic and egoistic! Thus I am automatically evil! Rot in hell!" or "No, I am quite seriously a modest and humble person, in fact, I am the most modest and humble person in the universe?" or "Yes, but I have a sad and tragic past for being such an egomanic"? or "Oh noooo, I am very nice, really, tee heee, I'm just pretending, tee heee heee"?)... someone asked me the exact question. What the-! (Sorry, you know who you are, dearie, just that this is too much of a surreal and weird experience to be left unmentioned).

I think one of these days, I might have to write another thingie about narcissism since not everyone might actually get the whole point I was trying to convey in my previous one. Hmmmm.

But anyway, Seems that people are generating some Narnia hype these days. It'll probably fulfill my prophecy of becoming one of the biggest films of the year (duh!).

It's funny how many people are reading fantasy books these days. Who should we thank? Harry Potter? Or Frodo Baggins? Whenever I was at a bookshop back in Malaysia, I see a group of people gathering before the Lord of the Rings books, explaining the history of elves and dwarves, then exchanging insults in Elvish.

Of course it has to do with the films, what else could it be? Before the films came out, when I was still in high school, reading fantasy novels almost seemed like a sin. But then, in Catholic High, people were indeed BANNED from bringing novels there to read. There was once when I was sitting by myself, minding my own business, reading one of those lame Dragonlance books when some dumbass prefect came over and snatched it away from me, an expression of horror and righteous fury etched upon his unattractive features, to him, I seemed no different from someone who had just smoked pot, or set the school on fire.

I had to write a letter to get back my Dragonlance book, not because it was a good book, and I believed I've actually read the book once already. But because I was outraged that such an atrocious deed could be committed against me by these narrow-minded semi-literate fools. Who are they to shame me for merely indulging myself in such intellectual pleasures? Ah, yeah, non-intellects.

When I was in Form 1, back in 1997 (before Harry Potter-mania swept the world and have all kinds of people wanting to slash a lightning scar on their forehead, and long before the release of the LoTR films), I had just fallen in love with fantasy books. Unfortunately, my introduction to this genre happened to be the shitty Dragonlance series (which I recommend all of you to stay away from, except for the first six books written by Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis), thus I was buying any Dragonlance book within sight, my usual shopping spree in Singapore consisted of me buying Dragonlance books. Thinking of it again, I realized how foolish I was.

Other than Dragonlance, I was also enjoying such fantasy books like the Narnia series, and yeah, Lord of The Rings, and George R R Martin's first book in the Song of Ice and Fire series, Games of Thrones, which surprised me by its violence and sex scenes. They were such great books, I felt, so much better than the silly RL Stine and Chrisopher Pike nonsense I used to read! So much complex than the hundreds of Enid Blyton books I had! It opened a whole new world for me.

Alas, most people I knew were still reading the latest RL Stine Fear Street book, and the gal sitting next to me was telling me ceaselessly how great the Sweet Valley Twins books were. Whenever I recommended them some fantasy books that I've been reading, I was greeted by blank stares or dirty looks, or both simultaneously, although I have no idea how is that humanly possible.

During the end of the year, there was a class presentation for English, where I decided to educate my classmates about fantasy literature, of its history, of its social impact, of its symbolism, of its cultural influences. Well, I hoped I've done that, but I was only 13 then, so I was only capable of explaining about the races we see in fantasy books all the time, and then a brief review of Lord of the Rings book.

It was entertaining. I got 9.5 out of 10 from my teacher. My classmates cheered and clapped because unlike the majority of the others, I wasn't droning monotonously. But that was it. It made no difference. I remained the weird guy in the class, greeted by a mixture of pity and scorn... okay, it wasn't THAT bad. But the heartfelt emotionally-wrought oral presentation I gave was forgotten the next day. Sweet Valley Twins remained everyone's favourite book, along with the latest Fear Street book where teenager 1 heard of the death of teenager 2 and started freaking out when she was being stalked until she found out that stalker was teenager 3, a close friend.

I continued reading fantasy books, so many of them that I started getting more picky. I developed a distaste of Dragonlance and Terry Goodkind's 'Sword of Truth' series, remained one of the many poor fans who waited George R R Martin's newest instalment of the Song of Ice and Fire series for more than HALF A DECADE!!!! Went through the likes of fantasy (to a lesser extent, scifi) authors like:

Gaiman
Eddings (just his Redemption of Althalus book though, which turned me off from the rest of his stuff)
Pratchett (whose writing style is imitated by millions)
Feist (who peaked with his first book, and went downhill since then)
Hobb (Liveship Traders was good, but would be better if the ending sequences were reshuffled)
Pullman (read the first book when I was 12, read the rest of them when I was 19, amazing eh?)
Tad Williams (the Otherland series, not his fantasy one)
Moorcock (Elric books)
Terry Brooks (Shannara series are LoTR rip-offs, but that's common knowledge)
Mieville (guy's books can't be categorized, thus I agree with him calling his own works Weird Fiction)
Rowling (yeah, I read my sister's HP books)
William Gibson (read Idoru years ago, but finished Neuromancer just last week)
Neal Stephenson (Hehe, Snow Crash)

And many more by fantasy authors I can't remember, and neither would you actually care. But no, I never bothered with the Wheel of Time series, I was thinking of reading them when the whole thing is completed, but I have no idea WHEN will that happen, and judging by the comments of his ex-fans (or readers worldwide with the exception of his most loyal, apologetic fans), I doubt I would really want to read his stuff.

Discovered the incredible Malazan books by Erikson that, along with George R R Martin's A Song of Fire and Ice series, raised the bar for fantasy books so much that I started becoming more selective on the fantasy books I read. Once I was exposed to the very best (in my opinion though) in the genre, the rest of the stuff just became formulaic and silly. Thus I moved on and experimented with books of other genre and other older more, er, highbrow stuff introduced to me by Justin.

Yet I find it funny how many people have jumped into the fantasy bandwagon during the past few years. Of course, saying 'fantasy' bandwagon would be rather inaccurate, maybe I should just say 'Tolkien' or 'Potter' bandwagon instead. It's a good start, but there are many fine fantasy writers out there waiting to be explored, it's just a matter of whether you want to give them a chance or not. (And the last few lines started sounding like a rehash of my broaden your horizons entry written couple of weeks ago.)

My genuine opinion of the Lord of the Rings books? Quite surprisingly, I happen to be one of those few who loved the movie much more than the books even though I read the books first. (I've been hearing too much "Bah! I just read the LoTR books after seeing how cool the movies are, but they suck!" from people). I found them boring and slow-paced, especially the Sam and Frodo parts (I already knew that they were gay then, so their portrayal in the films didn't surprise me), but the war scenes involving Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas were definitely more interesting. But ultimately, LoTR is something I appreciate for being so influential, and the efforts put in world-building were quite amazing as well (my favourite part of the books were actually the Appendix, where I get to read about the histories and backstories of people and places), but I wouldn't put a lofty 'best fantasy ever!' title upon it.

Narnia? Enjoyable stuff. Especially the ones with Edmund in it. After all, unlike his siblings, he ain't a goody two shoe, which is a good thing, considering my personal annoyance with goody two shoes. Hm. But that's a story for some other time.

Anyway, this was meant to be a 'Hah! I told you so' entry for the many people who made snide comments and scornful snickers at my face because of my love of reading fantasy books back then. But I realized that most of them don't really know about the existence of this blog, which is quite a waste. And considering the length of this post I've written, I'll be crazy if I delete it, so...

*Clicks PUBLISH POST button*

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Revision of Kirksman87's "A Hundred Dollars"

My comments in bold. Kirksman87's in regular text.

Life was never an easy one for me. Life consists of, hard work, hot and humid working conditions and the nasty smell of smelting iron and the loud “thank!” that goes off each time a worker hits the white hot rod. The crack of the whip held by those slave drivers were music to anyone in the factory’s ears. There was practically nothing to look forward to in life except the strong smell of onions and stew served by the Church every Sunday evening.

Life was never easy for me. Life consisted of hard work, hot and humid working conditions, the stench of smelting iron, and the loud “thank!” that went off each time a worker hit the white hot rod. The crack of the whip held by those slave drivers was pain to our ears. There was nothing to look forward to except the pungent smell of onions and stew served by the Church every Sunday evening.

Justification: Grammatical errors and tense agreements fixed. “nasty” in “nasty smell” is a weak adjective, replacing it with “stench” also eliminates needless words. The crack of the whip being “music” to “anyone in the factory’s ears” carries mismatched connotations because the previous sentences have established life in the factory as being an ordeal; “pain” isn’t exactly a melodious replacement, but it fits the context. “practically” is a needless adverb; deleted. Ditto “in life.”

Deprived of education and parental love since birth never helped my journey to success. Every day I would stare at schools like an old man waiting for his dead son to return from war. I envy them. The children who were fortunate enough to have education in a school, neat uniforms and most importantly, parents.

Being deprived of education and parental love since birth never helped my journey to success. Every day I would stare at schools like a child gazing through a candy-store window. I envy them, the children who were fortunate enough to have had a school education, neat uniforms, and most importantly, parents.

Justification: The original simile didn’t make sense. The imagery of an old man awaiting a son’s return clashed disastrously with the original situation of a young man longingly staring at a school. The replacement isn’t exactly poetry either, but is at least functional.

But, never mind for if God has decided to put my fate as such, I shall accept it and make the best out of it. What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger I believe and I promised to use whatever skill or opportunity I have to make my life and the life of my people, a better one. Albeit seemingly impossible, I never gave up and thought of ways to achieve that.

But no matter, for if God has decided to write my fate as such, I shall accept it and make the best of it. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, I believe, and I promised to use whatever skills or opportunities I have to make my life and the lives of my people better. Although it seemed impossible I never gave up, thinking of ways to achieve it.

Justification: “Never mind” is replaced with “no matter” in the first sentence to match the rest of the sentence’s rather arch phrasing. Several phrasings corrected to help the passage flow better.

I started stealing the leftover iron which would be later used to make steel. I would sell them to train companies and rival companies and they would happily buy them without much question. The low price always helps. I started accumulating the money I received from selling the leftovers. Even my minuscule monthly pay of 10$ a month was kept safely under my pillow. I would also buy street drugs and sell them to my fellow workers who used them to escape from the pains of the real world. Cannabis was always a crowd favorite for how easy it is to conceal and quick and strong effects.

I started stealing the leftover iron which would have been used to make steel; I sold it to train companies and they bought it without question. The low price always helped. I kept the money from the sales under my pillow along with my miniscule monthly pay of $10. Sometimes I bought street drugs and resold them to my fellow workers. Cannabis was always a favorite for its quick, strong effects and ease of concealment.

Justification: Shorter sentences combined, needless words cut out, nearly halving the paragraph and giving it a tighter impact.

I never got caught, but after sometime I decided it was time to stop. One night, I took my items and most importantly, money and ran away from that terrible place I called home for 21 years. I started working as a dishwasher and eventually worked my way up to being a Chief Chef. I was only 25 then and with the money I accumulated, I started with opening a tiny stall where I’d sell food after work. It was extremely tiring for I’d wake up at 5.30AM to prepare for my day job and yet sleep at 12AM after finishing off my night job.

I never got caught, but after some time I decided to stop. One night, I took my money and possessions and ran away from that terrible place I called home for twenty-one years. I worked as a dishwasher and worked my way up to Head Chef. I was only twenty-five then, and with the money I saved, I opened a tiny stall where I sold food after work. It was extremely tiring; I’d wake up at 5:30 A.M. and not sleep until midnight.

Justification: Mostly just removing needless words and redundancies.

One day I decided, this wasn’t the way to do it. I quit my stable paying job and ventured into the food market. I was approached by a nice gentleman who claimed he was the owner of a very successful string of businesses. He suggested I join him in a joint venture and I trusted him. I invested all my money. All 30,000$ praying to succeed in this venture.

One day I decided this wasn’t the way to do it. I quit my jobs and ventured into the food market. I was approached by a nice gentleman who claimed he was the owner of a very successful string of businesses. He suggested I join him in a joint venture, and I trusted him. I invested all my money. All $30,000, praying to succeed.

Justification: Very few changes really, just a few needless words and repetitions trimmed.

We did very well and I quickly covered my original investments with the help of his restaurant’s good name and my equally good cooking. Soon, I was invited by to cook in top cooking competitions around the world, and made my name in a competition called “Gohan”. I was quickly recognized as one of the world’s top chefs. I sold off my shares in the shop and opened another shop called “Posh Delights” serving strictly French food. By now, I even had cookbooks. I’d show them how to cook a certain dish, get it documented and get paid just like that.

We did very well, and I quickly covered my original investments with the help of his restaurant’s good name and my equally good cooking. Soon, I was invited to top cooking competitions around the world, and was quickly recognized as one of the world’s top chefs. I sold off my shares in the shop and opened my own French restaurant, calling it “Posh Delights.” By now, I even had cookbooks. I’d show them how to cook a certain dish, get it documented, and get paid just like that.

Justification: Fairly self-explanatory; no major changes.

Success really got into my head and I forgot about my original intention of contributing to the society. Not a single cent was donated to anybody and I started being extremely arrogant. I’d even pay huge amounts just to get some photos of myself shot nicely, and also makeup done.

Success went to my head, and I forgot about my original intention of contributing to society. Not a single cent was donated to anyone, and I became extremely arrogant. I even paid dearly for nicely-shot photographs of myself.

One fine day, I was walking at the back streets, something that I don’t do often. I saw a trail of money in the huge drain amounting to approximately a hundred dollars. Not wanting to get my clothes dirty, I just ignored it. After all, for each 30 minute show I’d earn over 5000 dollars, what’s 100 dollars to me?

One day, while walking the backstreets, I saw a trail of money in a drain. It amounted to approximately a hundred dollars. Not wanting to dirty my clothes, I ignored it. After all, for each thirty-minute show I earned over five thousand dollars; what was a hundred to me?

Suddenly, I heard screaming voices of a child at the back. I turned, and saw a child in the drain. She had just tried to use a stick to collect the money, and somehow dropped into the drain.

Suddenly, I heard a screaming voice at the back. I turned, and saw a child in the drain. She had fallen in trying to use a stick to collect the money.

I panicked! Yet I still refused to get my clothes dirty, so I used a stick instead asking the girl to cling onto the stick. She was too confused and frightened to hear what I was saying and kept struggling. Eventually, the struggling stopped and the child stopped moving. I was so frightened and angry that I just jumped inside and pulled the child out. She laid motionless with her eyes wide open. At that very moment, I thought of my life in the past. Everything that I said I would do, but never did.

I panicked. But I still refused to dirty my clothes. I used a stick instead, asking the girl to cling to the end. She kept struggling, too confused and frightened to hear what I was saying. Eventually she stopped moving. I was so frightened and angry that I jumped inside and pulled her out. She lay motionless, her eyes opened wide. At that moment, I thought of my past. Everything that I said I would do, but never did.

I felt like an animal. An inhuman bastard. I cried and stared at the pile of money that “caused” the death of that beautiful girl. Then I thought again, the pile of money didn’t do anything. It was I who caused the death. Because of my vanity, that child was dead. I had achieved everything I wanted in life, but I never contributed to my people as I had said I would.

I felt like an animal. An inhuman bastard. Staring at the pile of money that caused the death of that beautiful girl, I cried. Then I thought again – the pile of money didn’t do anything. It was I who caused the death. The child was dead because of my vanity. I had achieved everything I wanted in life, but I never contributed to society as I had said I would.

After that day, I donated half of my wealth to Human Welfare organizations. I pushed for the equality among races and strived to spread awareness of the importance of education to the public. Not everybody appreciated my efforts, and I was even shot in the knees. The damage, so severe that till today I cannot walk. I will never stand again, I cannot cook as I did and I am not as rich as I was. My life has changed so much, but I am very satisfied and happy albeit not being as rich as I was. I found out that money, is just one of the little things in life. The most important thing, is to help others. Life’s too short to be selfish.

After that day, I donated half my wealth to human welfare organizations, pushed for equality among the races, and strove to spread awareness of the importance of education. Not everyone appreciated my efforts, and my life has changed much; but I am satisfied and happy, despite not being as rich as I was. I found out that money is just one of the little things in life. The most important thing is to help others. Life’s too short to be selfish.

Justification: The knee injury was removed due to coming completely out of nowhere without explanation and contributing nothing.

Till today, I cannot get over the fact I let a beautiful child die. I still visit her grave every year to pay my respect. My life has changed, thanks to that 1000 dollars and dead child. I don’t know if it’s a blessing in disguise, but it really did change my life and hopefully the lives of many others..
But I cannot get over the fact that I let a beautiful child die. I still visit her grave every year. My life has changed, thanks to that dead child. I don’t know if it was a blessing in disguise, but it changed my life and – hopefully – the lives of many others.

Justification: A thousand dollars corrected to one hundred, as mentioned previously, then removed completely for detracting from the impact of the dead girl. (title be damned).

Verdict: This is a competently written, Horatio Alger-ish story with a predictable moral. No other real comments. The re-written version has a better flow and less discrepancies than the original Kirksman87 could probably continue in this vaguely didactic vein without any trouble, but next time, try for some complexity and a less obvious “life lessons” approach.

-Justin

Friday, August 26, 2005

The brilliance of Yasunari Kawabata


At first glance, Yasunari Kawabata wouldn't seem to fit the conventions of a Nobel-prize winning author. He doesn't overreach for big themes, he doesn't make grand pronouncements about the human condition or the inevitability of war and discrimination; and his prose style (at least in English translation - I've tried reading the original Japanese and it ain't easy) is lucid and free of fancy diction. None of his books are intimidating, plus-sized tomes crammed with psyche-penetrating monologues and dissections of the spirit - far from it, in fact: you could read most of them in a day, or a couple of hours if you're fast. There are few large, decisive gestures: Kawabata's characters don't embrace life so much as stand outside of it looking vaguely perplexed and distant.

But Kawabata's simplicity is deceptive. It is not the same as the simplicity (or perhaps "simple-mindedness" would be a better term) of Western writers like Steinbeck and Hemingway. The simple substitution of a synonym in some of his lines of dialogue, barely noticeable, can signal immense shifts in tone and purpose. This spareness is alternately beautiful and terrifying: Kawabata is spare not because he aims to reduce his style to some empirical formula of concision, but because he perceives a vast nothingness at the heart of the universe, not separate from life but pervading and infusing anything and everything.

Kawabata is not "big-hearted." He does not "love" his characters in the sense we might be accustomed to. They often seem like impersonal dots viewed from the outside, on a vast stage of nature. And his character development is ambiguous - the characters possess traits, to be certain, but they are sometimes little more than sketches. This is not to say that they lack realistic motivation; on the contrary, they are all too human. But their thought processes are not detailed with the obsessive precision of, say, Mishima. Because that would be tedious. Kawabata carries on from Akutagawa the ability to make his epiphanies more like tiny porcelain figurines rather than bloated, pages-long revelations.

It's not so much that his work is devoid of conventional dramatic elements - far from it - it's just that the overwhelmingly understated tone has a curious flattening effect: is the apparent death of Yuko in Snow Country, say, of any more import than the falling snows themselves? Or witness the gut-wrenching lightness used in Beauty and Sadness when the protagonist's casual mistreatments of his wife lead to her miscarriage. I've never read another writer that can wield understatement like Kawabata. When most writers try for it they do so out of some perceived need to seem sophisticated by avoiding laughable hyperbole. Not so here: everything is flattened and removed, a vast Earth seen from space in which tiny points of beauty stand out like jewels.

As a Modernist writer, Kawabata is more than capable of incorporating surrealist imagery; simultaneously, he feels no need for gimmicky structural tricks: the talking, disembodied arm in his story "One Arm" is described with the same austere detachment as the board movements in The Master of Go. His stories are full of inexplicable or unresolved elements that don't thematically connect so much as suggest some kind of cohesion. This extends to his life. Kawabata committed suicide - why? He didn't leave a note. Unlike Mishima, whose motivations were made pretty explicit by his life and work, Kawabata - as in his work - explained nothing.

Indeed, his Nobel lecture explicitly condemns suicide as "not a form of enlightenment." Was his self-inflicted end, then, a betrayal of his principles, or a final devestating irony? I have no way of knowing for sure, but I suspect he'd probably say something like "They're not opposites."

So long, Kawabata-sama.

-Justin

Thursday, August 25, 2005

T.M. Umar's "avant-garde" tale of revisiting Malaysian Independence through time-traveling

On Thursday, August 25th, 2005, Edmund Yeo sent me T.M. Umar's script-story "The 50's Project" with the intention that I would edit and/or critique it. I set to the task with aplomb, only to find that the text consisted of nothing but implausible dialogue in the service of some kind of time-travel plot to discover the origins of Malaysia. There was nothing of narrative or grammatical interest. Faced with my assignment yet unable to continue reading, the only thing I could do was apply William S. Burroughs' cut-up technique to the text, interspersed with any random observations that Umar's subliterate nonsense prompted in me. The results are as follows. T.M. Umar's text is represented in regular font. My comments are represented in bold. The original text is presented mostly in excerpts, as to inflict its full length on readers would be an unpardonable offense.

"You asked for a written works, ja?Well, here's a draft original screenplay I made for a skecth of this Merdeka day. People told me it was funny but the story somehow cannot be accepted due to the nature of certain activities. The script has to be edited at the moment for proper viewing."

The 'nature of certain activities' almost certainly refers to Umar wanking and smoking crack instead of honing his English language skills.

The 50's projectwritten by T.M.Umar
Kassim, sitting on the chair trying to understand the complicated text of the history of Malaysia’s independence. While harding his way understanding the billions of text, he soon gone with the wind
*Sound background (Slow-motion)Malaya... British... Malayan Union MU MU MU This just in, Manchester has set another goal record beating Liverpool. Oh wait, here goes another one, it SCORES*WHOAAAAA!!!!*

'MU MU MU' made me think of the Omega Mu fraternity in 'Revenge of the Nerds'. That was a good movie. It showed pussy, it had Devo-like techno action, and Dudley 'Booger' Dawson. What was Harvey Pekar thinking?

Kassim sits back at the chair. Then came his two friends, Mothi and Mang Kok
Kassim
-Wassup Mothi! Wassup Mang Kok!

Wassup my niggas!? Fo shizzle my nizzle!

Dr. Strangelove
-Well yes my son, I just finished touring around the time. I was about to tell you the experience but I think I should leave you concentrate on your studies. You know it's very important, Yes…
Kassim
-But dad, I want to use the time machine for study purpose! I want to go back to the 50's to see how our country gets our independence!
Dr. Strangelove
-...Why? You don't know ah?
Kassim
-Just want to learn more detail, DAD.
Dr. Strangelove
-AORH! Detail! Yes…

Now this brings back memories. Once I, too, asked my dad if I could use his time machine to travel back to the 1950's. But it was not to learn more about Malaysian independence...no, it was to bag Gidget. I couldn't stand the thought of that bastard Moon-Doggie staking out the surfer-girl pie. The only similarity between my experience and Kassim's is that my dad also responded 'AORH!' and threw his vodka bottle at me.

Dr. Strangelove
-CAN, my son, you may borow the TIME MACHINE TM, but bear in mind my son. Don't you ever try to alter anything in history. You do remember the time paradox thingy I explained to you before, yes...

In this scene, Dr. Strangelove is instructing his son about the 1970's krautrock band CAN, whose seminal albums, replete with tape manipulation, pre-trance grooves, and extended instrumental sections paved the way for 90's indie bands like Tortoise, as well as much of the post-rock movement in general. The albums to get are "Tago Mago" and "Ege Bamyasi" Their vocalist Damo Suzuki is also an interesting character.

The actors goes backstage, while Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Abdul Razak discuss the ordeal of getting independence.
Tunku Abdul Rahman
-I doubt that they'll counter us with the term submarine.
Tun Abdul Razak
-Why is that?
Tunku Abdul Rahman
-They say, if we want independence, we must have submarine.
Tun Abdul Razak
-It doesn't make sense. Why would British counter us with that kind of question?

Unbeknownst to Tunku Abdul Razak, the question does make sense. The inability of the British to recognize countries without submarines is widely known, so much so that the landlocked Sweden has responded by withdrawing ABBA: Gold units from British Tower stores.

Tunku Abdul Rahman-They want proof that we got ability to control our lands. Somehow I'm still figuring out how to convincethem to accept the deal.

More important for actual Malaysian independence was the battle-rap victory of Malay rapper "O-Flow Skillz A-MED" over MO-Lester, an MC from South Croydon. Contrary to popular belief, the standard policy of the British government in granting independence to its colonial territories was to pit a British rapper against an indigenous rapper in a head to head rhyme assault. The winning thrust, to which MO had no comeback, was as follows:

"So much crunk flow that the Brits disappear
I'm shutting down your rights like Dr. Mahathir."

Kassim
-OH NO! ... I think I got an idea. Guys, help me drag

At this point, Mothi and Mang-Kok, following Kassim's orders, outfitted their friend like a Thai ladyboy. Kassim went in 'drag' for the rest of the story.

Later...
Kassim (As Tunku Abdul Rahamn)
-So, how do I look?
Mothi
-Oh my god.

Mothi was soon overcome by the site of his close friend dressed as a woman. Kassim's already fey figure was accentuated by the clinging diaphanous draperies of Thai silk."Come here lah!" Kassim incited his friend lasciviously."AORH! AORH!" Mothi barked, much like a seal. Their union was soon consummated in the back seat of the time machine. Kassim's baby grew up to be Lee Kuan Yew!

Mang Kok
-You know for sure, this is the most stupid idea ever made in history.

In this passage, Mang-Kok is not referring to Kassim's drag, but is in fact metafictionally referring to T.M. Umar's decision to write the story.

Kassim
-Uhh… No, you’re just in time. (Whispering to Mothi)Who’s this guy?
Tun Abdul Razak
-Let's go! We're going to make Malaysia.

To make Malaysia will require the following:
-2 teaspoons of sugar
-3 pats of butter
-icing sugar
-flour
-chopped hazelnuts

Sarjan Donald Dark
-I am Sarjan Donald Dark, and the reason we have this meeting is to discuss The Independece of the Malay Lands. As you were saying Mr Tunku Abdul Rahman Mmkay, leader of Parti Perikatan and your task here is to have us agree for independence mmkay

Donald Duck was never actually on South Park, outside of T.M. Umar's twisted fantasy world. But just imagine: "JUST SAY MMMKAY FLLLSHHBTHHQUAA!!!"

Sarjan Donald Dark
-Continue… Sir Noah Dick. But do you have what it takes to control this so called Malaysia after you have independence

As far as I'm concerned, someone called "Sir Noah Dick" can control just about whatever the hell he wants to. It's gotta be the manliest name ever, immediately behind Stone Phillips and Wolf Blitzer.

Kassim
-Mr Noah, The reason we came here is to seek Freedom, not taking a test of wits. You hear me? I said we want Freedom, INDEPENDECE, In my homeland, my country. If you do not let us set free… then this Communist would be happy to plow around the villagers and citizens while you drinking whiskey and smoke 50 pounds.
Sarjan Donald Dark
-Communist? Now this is getting interesting

Donald Duck echoes my thoughts exactly. At the mention of communists drinking whisky and smoking '50 pounds', I thought Umar was going to start talking about dimebags or something. Alas, it was not to be:

Kassim
-I don’t ask much, We want FREEDOM! When I said Freedom, we meant it, And we want it.

YOU CAN'T FIGHT THE MOON!

Sarjan Donald Dark
-But still Tunku Abdul Rahman did prove us something, he prove the spirit that he and his member has what it takes to control their own lands.

As Tunku Abdul Rahman looked down at his member, he realized that, much to his dismay, it did not have what it takes to control its own lands. His member, he decided, was sorely in need of some VIAGRA. Unfortunately it was the 50's and the drug hadn't been invened yet, so he was forced to resort to smuggling a durien in his Spiderman underwear. RAHMAN-SENSE TINGLING!

Kassim
-He told me to tell you we got our own word of independence…
Mothi
-Well?
Kassim
-Uhh.. MERDEKA!

Kassim's sneeze at this point is not to be taken for the actual Malaysian word of independence, which is "tingledingleblooberflop."

Kassim
-You guys no want coffee? Aiyo, you guys.

At this point, I became physically incapable of reading any further. Thanks to T.M. Umar, I have incurred incurable brain damage, and learned nothing whatsoever about Malaysian independence. I'm sure any actual Malaysians out there might want to protest at this point that their country was not actually founded by three cross-dressing boyscouts with a time-machine, Donald Duck, and Dr. Strangelove. It's in your hands!

T.M. UMAR 4 LIFE

Justin .

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Swifty Reviews 'Kicking And Screaming'

Sent my short film to Mumbai today, that's the second country I've ever sent it to. Then, with a Japanese friend of mine (not the one mentioned in yesterday's blog, heh) accompanying me, I went to the city to seek a movie to see. After all, it's been more than a week since I saw 'Wedding Crashers', I always feel bad when I've not been to the cinema for more than 7 days.

Was originally going to see 'The Skeleton Guy', but due to the insistence of my friend, we went for something more lighthearted instead. And thus, we went for Will Ferrell's tenth film of the year, 'Kicking And Screaming', which was originally released before 'Bewitched' and 'Wedding Crashers' in US.

He sucked in 'Bewitched', he was great in 'Wedding Crashers', and well, this is a kiddie film, so it's impossible for me to judge him here. In fact, this review is going to be short, there's not much for me to say. Unless you've never seen a single 'underdog' sports film before, it's impossible for you not to know what's in this movie.

If you do not belong to the target audience, you'll probably think that this film is crap, and I will not argue against that. But Will Ferrell is funny here, and he'll wring some laughs from you, better than he did in Bewitched.

This is a story of a guy, Phil, who grew up having an overly competitive father coaching an unbeatable soccer team. When his own son was traded away by his father (yes, the heartless grandpa traded grandson away so that his team could be better) to the last-place team, Phil takes over the team as the coach and attempts to defeat his own father.

I think that is more than enough for you to guess the storyline by now. After all, almost every single sports film I've seen has these few plot points:

- The main team is a team of likable misfits.
- They are branded by losers at first.
- There's this indestructible champion team out there.
- Some changes occurred, responsible by either the coach or some players, our underdogs start winning games.
- There will be a MAJOR CRISIS that endangers their championship dreams.
- Coach gives an inspiring speech before a match, or during half-time.
- Despite their crisis, they play their hearts out against the indestructible champion team.
- They either win or lose. Most usually win. Even if they lose, there's still this feel-good feeling you get in the end. Like them earning the respect of their opponents and the love of spectators nationwide.

In fact, I can't think of a single sports film without the plot points mentioned above. Hm.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Swifty Felt Dirty After Watching AV.

AV stands for adult video, which is pornography. AV is also the name of a HK film this year by Edmond Pang, who is part of the HK New Wave responsible for such wonderful black comedies like 'You Shoot I Shoot' (about professional killers trying to film their tasks for the entertainment of their clients) and 'Men Suddenly In Black' (adulterous husbands trying to cheat on their wives, filmed like a slick suspense triad/cop thriller, with the husbands being the gangsters and the wives being the cops).

I was watching the latter last night. It's a comedy about four university guys trying to hire a Japanese porn actress for a fake film, and then have sex with her. Brilliant idea huh? This entry, however, is not a review about that movie (which you can find here if you are interested). It was before I posted yesterday's entry about the post-creativity depression I felt.

I was watching it with Justin, Justin's girlfriend and another Japanese girl who shall be referred as No-chan. No-chan is an adorable little girl who, despite being my age (and even two months older), looks just like a little girl, a stoned little elfin girl with tiny slit-like eyes and a wide wide perpetual grin on her face. Usually wearing a rather oversized hat, she tend to wander on the university campus aimlessly... well, not really aimlessly, but you almost felt that she was aimless. It's hard to describe. She's an innocent little girl who is constantly shy and flustered, or looks like it. Yeah.

Anyway, originally, only Justin and No-chan visited me at my flat last night to watch a DVD, Justin's gf wasn't there. So I popped AV into the DVD player (I was in the mood for a light-hearted HK film, the other choice was 'Kungfu Mahjong' which is a Wong Jing film, who is incapable of making a good comedy anymore). The film started with a guy talking about his sexual escapades with a chick he met via Friendster, and then we moved to a sex scene.

No-chan stood up immediately and said politely that she left something in her flat, and she needed to retrieve it. So she scurried away. She came back 20 minutes later with Justin's girlfriend, and we continued watching it happily ever after.

It wasn't until today that I knew what truly happened. Poor No-chan was traumatized by the opening scene, thus she ran off to get Justin's girlfriend to accompany her while watching the film. And because of this, she will never look at me the same way again. Dum dum dum.

I feel kinda dirty.

Well, at least I think she did enjoy the film in the end, despite the numerous sex scenes she had to endure.

Creative works that made me want to LIVE

It has come to my attention, mostly through the previous post, that Eliar Swiftfire has been suffering from the ever-traumatic post-creative depression. Being familiar with this myself, I have decided to alleviate the condition by posting a list of all the creative works that have ever made me want to LIVE. Seeing as I'm a pretty negative guy, it's taken a while to get this much. If any of disagree with any of this you probably have bad taste (kidding), but prove me wrong by posting your own shit in reply.

J-Pop Music Videos: Ayumi, and especially Utada. I still remember the first time I saw the 'Traveling' video. It was like the psychotropic inverse of every gloomy bullshit U.S. 90's alt-rock video. The colors, the synthetic pulse, the oranges turning themselves inside out, Cubic U dancing around like a pink-haired sprite in glam clothes...I wanted to jump around with pure joy. I watched it like twenty times in a row. It still feels like the future.

Shochi Aoki's Fruits Magazine: If this chronicle of (mostly) Harajuku street fashion somehow fell through a hole in time and space into the hands of any avant-guard art circle in the first half of the 20th century, they'd probably assume that the future turned out like they wanted it to rather than it being the capitalist nightmare it actually is. As far as I'm concerned, just a quick glance through Fruits fucking annihilates Andy Warhol, the Sex Pistols, and the goth movement, although it wouldn't have been possible without them. I don't know what these kids were thinking. For all I know, they're all posing assholes. But in my eyes, every single one of them is ten thousand times the artist I'll ever be. Kogaru, ganguro, gothic lolitas - popsicles stabbed in the face of public taste. They are trying to kill this shit now and bring back the conservatism. I don't see YOU doing anything about it!

Old-School Doctor Who: The triumph of linguistic nonsense over boring science fiction "logic", realistic behavior, and high seriousness. The late 60's/early 70's run achieved heights of insanity that have rarely been equalled by anything. Characters would spew bullshit about time-flow analogues and excitonic circuitry in order to facilitate plots about clay dinosaurs, Atlantis, comedy devils, and "The Celestial Toymaker." Any suggestion of actual hard science was quickly confounded by absurdity: recall the episode in which all problems were attributed to "space pressure," or the Doctor's inane explanation of how the TARDIS can be 'dimensionally transcendental'. The early pretense to being educational makes it even more ludicrous: by the time they got to 'The War Games', the historical settings were inextricably interwoven with alien Time Lords and S&M-suited, laser-wielding guards. In its own way, more anarchic than any of its contemporaries, and certainly anything now. Consider the premise: literally ANYTHING can happen in the next episode. The settings span all of space and time. Science fiction, fantasy, comedy, drama, historicals, Westerns...there was nothing they didn't do. The Doctor is the ultimate individualist/outsider hero.

The Illuminatus Trilogy: Hundreds and hundreds of pages of poorly written nonsense, all of it true. The line between pornographer, mystic, and conman is demolished. Give this thing to an impressionable teenager and you'll set them on the Robert Anton Wilson-friendly course for life.

Akutagawa: His suicidal "vague uneasiness" about the future. His ability to condense love and death into miniature porcelain paragraphs. Most of all, the way his work makes most other writing seem like bloated nonsense.
I've heard some people say that their favorite authors are the ones they'd like to meet or spend time with. Akutagawa is probably the only author I'd want to meet.

Italian Futurism: Futurism, more than anything, makes me want to rush out into the night screaming at the top of my lungs with a hammer and a vial of acid raised in the direction of the nearest museum. F.T. Marinetti and pals made their absurd declarations against cultural stagnation seem like the most exciting thing imaginable: every paragraph, every sentence explodes with vitality, hatred, fury, love. To my mind, Italian Futurism eclipsed Surrealism and Dadaism simply by the force of its rhetoric.
They wrote manifestos on anything and everything, and the tone was always the same: destroy conservatism, replace with insanity. This might seem like a fairly trite artistic pose, until you realize they seriously intended to remove pasta from Italy and blow up the moon so they could replace it with an electric light. All of this is delivered with the most incantatory, inflammatory wording conceivable - it would have to be, it would be laughable otherwise. Think about it - no matter how hardcore you think you are, would you ever seriously make a statement like "War - the world's only hygiene" and expect to get away with it? Much less actually follow through with it and get yourself killed in a war like many of the Futurists willingly did? The incredible presumption, the glorification of war, the absurd impulse to destroy European culture - there's no way they could have gotten it to work unless every other line was poetry.
Futurism is out of fashion and it's not likely to come back in: when "fascist" becomes a term of approbation, then maybe it'll have a chance. Not likely, eh? Doesn't matter. The best of the manifestoes completely obviate the need for the actual existence of the artworks they portend. These lines stay with me:
"You have the high honor of being loved by us, sapper-soldiers at the avant-guarde of an army of lightning."
"We will succeed in sculpting the astral body of woman with the chisel of an exasperated geometry!"
"Time and space died yesterday. We already live in the absolute because we have created eternal, omnipresent speed."
"Art, in fact, can be nothing but violence, cruelty, and injustice."

Homeless psychos, semiliterates, and non-native English speakers who take to prose with ambition: The only way to reinvigorate the language is to get these guys to do it for us. I've met psychologically shaky indigents in soup kitchens with blogs they maintain from public libraries whose prose style shit-kicks Burroughs a hundred years into the past. I've seen kids with only a rudimentary command of the English language post reviews of junk they love on Amazon and wind up with incredible, heart-shreddingly poetic sentences I'd have never dreamed possible. And I've seen unbelievable, unintentional comedy from writers who've never finished a book in their life but still think they can pen a masterpiece. I'm probably more influenced by this stuff than I am by many of the supposed 'classics.'

Cerebus: One man marching to a beat of his own for thirty years. Just knowing it exists is proof you can accomplish anything even if you about kill yourself in the process. The insane digressions, the technical proficiency, the over-reaching literary ambitions, the bizarre issue-long essays about feminism and the Torah...oh, and the perfect ventriloquism of actual historical figures functioning as characters, Gerhard's photorealistic backgrounds, the character depth, and the obstinate, unforgettable aardvark. Saying "ahead of its time" is a little inadequate.

Neon Genesis Evangelion: Evangelion feels like Anno's personal letter to the viewer, while managing to mean wildly different things to different people. I credit it largely for being able to end on a sustained note of disgust - something that takes an incredible amount of daring given the bullshit expectations of most audience bases. This is unadulterated fourteen hour catharsis.

Music: Why narrow it down? Your tastes change over time, but the high you get from the best of it is the same. Music can make you want to live, it can soundtrack the half-forgotten dreams that surprise you with their strangeness on days when you sleep in too much, it can provoke murder, caresses, everything.



-Justin

A wave of melancholy...

The wave of melancholy that assaulted me since I've finished my short film, 'Forced Labour', continues.

The past three days have gone by with a flash, and I've seemingly been going through them listlessly, aimlessly. It doesn't help matters when it is the beginning of the semester break, where I can't use my studies to keep myself occupied. I live in the Student Village of Murdoch University, in a flat where I share with 3 other people. To my horror, all 3 of my flatmates will be gone for vacation or others during the break, thus I will be the only person left in the flat. Two have already left, another will be in two days. I am filled with dread.

Despite the fact that I am usually a loner who prefers doing things by himself (I like taking walks in Perth city by myself sometimes, feeling uncomfortable or impatient in groups), I can't deal with the feeling of loneliness. You wonder, if that's the case, how could I wander in the city by myself? Well, even though I was usually by myself, I wasn't truly alone, there would always be strangers and well, some other soul nearby, and that alone is comforting. I am an Outsider, but when there ain't any other 'Insiders', I'm nothing.

I've been falling asleep in front of the TV in my room for a few straight days, I fell asleep watching old reruns of David Letterman (May episodes where we have guests like Samuel L Jackson promoting Star Wars 3), and last night, MAD TV.

Can you believe this? Despite how funny it was, I dozed off watching MAD TV, and I didn't even realize that. When I opened my eyes again, I saw some minister preaching about Jesus and Christianity, but doing it in such an over-the-top manner that I thought MAD TV had yet to end, and I giggled briefly... until I realized that there weren't any of the familiar canned laughter you hear in MAD TV, and that the whole speech was way too long for a skit. I switched of the TV and slept after that.

I slept again just now, when I was watching a supposed two-hour celebration of Channel 10 which showed old footages of some of the biggest Australian stars right now when they were just starting out. It was funny to see the likes of Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce being in a crap soap opera like 'Neighbours'. To the uninitiated, this is a crap soap opera that launched the careers of Crowe, Pearce, and Kylie Minogue, and it's still showing every weekdays, at 6:30, I know, because it's the show that comes after Simpsons.

This blog is obviously becoming increasingly boring to most. What is there to read when I am not in my previous sarcastic form? When I wasn't spoofing some dumb blog of some dumb 'film reviewer'? What is there to read when I'm not even reviewing a movie? But then, what do people usually expect from this blog? I've originally used this as a place to write articles, but what is there to write anymore? Yes, perhaps i should continue jotting the numerous console RPGs I've completed in a distant past, but I'm just not in the mood for this now.

But why am I still so moody and melancholic? It's 2:10AM right now (there's no time difference between Malaysia and Australia) while I'm writing this line. It's two hours before my usual bedtime. I used to have lots of things to do during my nightly Internet surfings, chatting in forums, chatting with people via MSN, looking up some film news or anything else of interest to me et cetera, all these usually kept me occupied and entertained. Yet for reasons I cannot comprehend, even if I attempt to do what I usually do, I'm still going to feel melancholic.

I hate this feeling of vulnerability and emptiness. This feeling of aimlessness and helplessness. It's even worse when so little people can actually understand this feeling. Or even care. But am I really seeking attention? Desperate for people to send in comments saying stuff like 'awww, you'll be okay', and 'ah, i understand how you feel'.

I've just broken a rule I set for myself with this entry, which is to talk about my personal life instead of the filmmaking or writing endeavours I'm involved in, or the usual affairs that interest me. After all, this blog is more about what I think about certain issues, and how I feel about these, but I tend not to post about what I feel about myself or my own life, because it's too incoherent.

I had been seeking some film festivals last night that I can send my short films too, and I've narrowed down my choices to two events held in Albania and Mumbai, India. And why am I suddenly shifting the topic to this? I have no idea. It's probably a habit. Or defense mechanism.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Swifty, After Sending His Short Film To Tokyo, Suffers From Painful Post-Creativity Depression.

Post-creativity depression is a painful feeling. You feel empty and depressed because you've finally completed something you've been working on for ages. I had this feeling when I finished the first version of Forced Labour almost four months ago. And that lasted for almost a week.

I've just sent Forced Labour to the Con-Can Internet Film Festival, and I'm already starting to feel the first few effects of post-creativity depression. Sweet November starring Keanu Reeves and Charlize Theron is playing on TV right now, and it's a pretty depressing movie, thus it's not helping things much. (and it's not THAT bad a movie, despite Keanu's wooden acting)

Post-creativity depression is kinda similar to post-RPG depression (the feeling of emptiness you get when you've finished a RPG. Usually, I would start a RPG immediately after I've completed one to diminish this horrible feeling, and it does work). Strangely, I seldom feel depressed after finishing a written work, perhaps because I usually spend less time and effort in writing compared to filmmaking.

Back when I was writing fanfics, I tend to churn out one work after another that I don't have to suffer any of these. When I committed myself to finish 'Slam Dunk: Inside Stuff' for nearly three years, finishing it gave me a feeling of relief and excitement. Relief because it was long overdue, excitement because I was looking forward to my future personal projects.

'Forced Labour' is a much different case. I started working on it since February, and THOUGHT that it ended on May, but it stayed with me, continuously 'telling' me that it's not over, and that there's a much better film within the rough cut version I did. And thus I reworked the entire short film, cutting it down to a third of its original length, changed the entire mood (less hard rock, more jazzy and funky), tone (less humour, more serious) and storyline (a backstory is developed for a main character, hence the new flashback scenes filmed).

Now that it's all done, all I can do is seek film festivals and competitions to send this to. I'm not sure whether it'll be selected by any of them, all I can do is keep my fingers crossed. What future film projects do I have? I haven't decide on that yet. Writing projects? Undecided either. I need some time to calm down, readjust, I need to get over this. Can't let this mourning period last for long. For now, just have a look at two screenshots from the film.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com


Image hosted by Photobucket.com

UPDATED: 14th of January 2013

FORCED LABOUR never got into CON-CAN Internet Film Festival. In fact, it never got into any film festivals at all. Almost 7 years have passed since I made it, and what I learned back then had been invaluable. The feeling of having a group of people willing to help me indulge in my lifelong dream of becoming a filmmaker is something I cannot explain nor describe.

In 2009, with a few more filmmaking experiences, I would end up winning the Grand Prix at the CON-CAN Internet Film Festival with a short film called FLEETING IMAGES. But this would never have happened if I never made FORCED LABOUR before that, with all my supportive friends.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

What Nationality is my film?

Okay, I've pretty much finished editing my short film, 'Forced Labour', the only thing giving me fits now is the end credits. Having some problems as I realized that most of the characters (in fact, all but one) are nameless, so how the hell are audiences going to know if I put the names of the characters (yeah, they have names in the script) next to the names of my cast members?

Or perhaps I'll just stick with a simple 'Featuring', and then followed by names of my cast members? Decisions, decisions.

Have to get this done as soon as possible so that I can send it to this Internet film festival in Japan, followed by numerous other film festivals I can think of. However, there has been something that's been bothering me for quite a while.

Which country is my short film representing?

Is it a Malaysian film? Or is it an Australian film?

I have once asked James Lee this question back when I was in Malaysia last month. He told me that this is sorta decided by who's the one financing the film, or the filmmaking crew.

All right, 'Forced Labour' is pretty much produced by Justin and I, an American and a Malaysian as we are the ones splitting our money for most of our expenses. But since I'm the one spending more (I didn't charge him for the equipment and gadget used for the short film), it makes it more a Malaysian-financed film.

As for the filmmaking crew. Well, idea's developed by Justin and I, then he's the one who wrote the script, but after that, the ones behind the filmmaking are mostly Malaysian, or I would say, it's pretty much a one-man crew as I was the director, cameraman, editor, sound editor, props guy, occasional lighting guy and et cetera... soooo, the 'majority' of the crew would be Malaysian. *winks*

So, all these factors prove that this film IS a Malaysian film, and Malaysia should be the country I'm representing if I take part in film festivals.

HOWEVER...

I remembered James Lee mentioned something about the cast as well. And these questions bother me verily.

"Does a Malaysian film has to be ABOUT Malaysia and Malaysians?"

"If the main cast are mostly Malaysians, then this is easily a Malaysian film. But what if it's not?"

We'll look at the second question first. There are eight cast members in the final version of Forced Labour, one Malaysian, two Singaporeans, an American, four Australians. (and an uncredited cameo of this short film's very own Malaysian filmmaker)

Soooo, 50% of my cast members are Australians, wouldn't that 'Forced Labour' an Australian film? After all, it IS shot in Perth. Although this is not a film ABOUT Australians and Australia either. It's a gangster drama/black comedy, but none of the characters made any claims that they were AUSTRALIAN gangsters, and there weren't any notable Perth landmarks I inserted into the film.

Oh, the film's in English too. But I doubt that would help make things simpler.

Some of you might already feel that "all directions seem to point that this is a Malaysian film!" after reading what I've written above.

There had been this rather annoying misconception among the public that a Malaysian film has to display Malaysian characteristics. What Malaysian characteristics? An obligatory shot of the mamak stall? People speaking in Manglish mixed with Chinese or Malay? Some coconut trees? What else? A Malaysian flag in the background?

'Forced Labour' is a film mostly financed by a Malaysian, and made by a Malaysian, what is it? Can it still claim itself as a Malaysian short film even though it has NONE of the characteristics mentioned above?

But seriously, is it really true that a Malaysian film HAS TO have those that I've mentioned above? I remember asking the very same question to someone I met in uni, and the guy agreed. I paraphrase him: "OF COURSE! A MALAYSIAN FILM HAS TO SHOW MALAYSIAN CULTURE! IT HAS TO HAVE MAMAK STALLS AND EVERYTHING SO THAT WE CAN RELATE TO IT! WE HAVE TO SHOW OUTSIDERS OUR CULTURE!!"

What is 'Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon'? It's financed by Hollywood, has a crew of people from either HK, Taiwan or China, directed by a Taiwanese director, featured a HK actor (Chow Yun Fat), an arguably Malaysian actress (our own Dato Michelle Yeoh), a Taiwanese (Zhang Zhen) and a Chinese actress (Zhang Ziyi). Til this very day, I've not heard anyone giving me a satisfying answer. However, most regard it as a Taiwanese film because of its director, just like how Hero is regarded as a China film because it is made by a Chinese director (despite being also financed by Americans).

You can't call Lord of the Rings an 'American' film either. Yes, it's financed by Hollywood, but it's made by a mostly (I think) New Zealander crew, based on a classic series of British books, and have a cast from different countries. A New Zealand film? A British film? A Hollywood film? Seems more likely the latter, but this is seriously confusing the heck out of me.

What is Malaysia looking for from its independent filmmakers? Films about Malaysians and Malaysia and Malaysian culture? Being patriotic and nationalistic is one thing, but what about films not about the above? Are they still Malaysian films? Or because they are not about Malaysia, Malaysian culture and Malaysians thus they cannot be regarded as Malaysian films?

Perhaps a film is easier to be categorized by having a nationality. But is that so important? This is still a rather ambiguous topic to me. And it's confusing the heck out of me, man.

Tasukete kudasai? Help?

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

An Amusing Email Regarding Fanfiction.net's New Rule. The Uselessness Of Online Petitions.

I received this email yesterday.

Dear Writers and Readers on Fanfiction.net:

I'm writing to inform you about a new rule the
Webmaster of ff.net has imposed: they've
forbidden us to answer the reviews. Yep,
you're reading correctly.

At first, it was believed that this was just a rumor,
but some days ago a writer friend was punished
because she answered her reviews in the chapters
of the fic.

Many people think this is very unfair because
that's the only way we have to communicate
with our readers. It's the only way they can know we
read their reviews; we read new opinions and make
friends.
We don't like this new rule, and we're writing to
ask your help.

It's very easy. We're making a list of people who
are against this new prohibition. To collaborate,
you just have to add you ff.net user name and email
address so that they'll be sure we haven't written up
unknown names just to fil l up the space.

Easy, isn't it? If you agree with us, add your user
name and e-mail down below. Then send this to all
your friends at Fanfiction.net until it reaches 200.
When it has 200 names, send it to
support@fanfiction.net
(and to ghani-chan@hotmail.com, please! just to know
how many people supports us)

Thanks for your help! Together we'll hopefully
made a change at ff.net, because this is a web site
for
fans who are looking to have fun, reading and
writing, and a part of that is the reviews and
the answers, right?

If you've already received this, please forgive.


This is followed by a bit more than a hundred over people who signed their names. Naturally, I didn't bother with it as I don't visit the place anymore and I don't wish to affiliate myself with this vile site either.

Once again, the merry staffers of fanfiction.net have proven to be the idiots they are by reinforcing another silly rule that redefines stupidity. And I feel sorry for the people who really signed their names for this petition, because quite seriously, I doubt they will succeed.

When ff.net enforced the rules to remove all NC-17 and real-person/celebrity fanfics few years ago, a couple of online petitions were launched, with THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS of people signing it. The furore of the people was unrivalled, it was inspiring, it was gripping drama.

Oh, and they failed.

The NC-17 fanfics never returned, neither were the real-person/celebrity fanfics.

Maybe, just MAYBE, a MIRACLE might happen, and the ff.net staffers might be affected by the great sincerity of their dear members, immediately changing their evil ways. They'll put up a major apology on the front page to those they have wronged, and immediately say that they won't enforce this new rule anymore, allowing readers and reviewers to chat happily ever after.

I can never see the point of online petitions, and I've never seen an online petition succeeding before. You may name me a few that have succeeded, but I will give you 435435830583095809530958 of them that failed. The chances of seeing a successful online petition are as high as seeing the Malaysian football team win the World Cup Finals, which is, well, pretty damned near zero. Really. Online petitions are just as useful as convincing a hardcore Avril Lavigne fan that his/her idol is not a ROCKER.

So, you intend to start an online petition, and you got shitloads of signatures, were you really expecting whoever you're sending the petition to REALLY feel strong enough to give in to your demands?

"Ooooh, there are so many people who have signed this online petition, maybe I should LISTEN to them and CHANGE MY MIND because of them!! Yippee!"

I can still remember 5 years ago, when the Japanese pop group, SPEED, disbanded, countless members of my mailing list (yeah, PSML was once dedicated to SPEED before I changed it into something to further my own ends) decided to start a silly little online petition, bombarding SPEED's record company with emails, BEGGING them not to separate their most beloved group. At that time, even though I was a mere 16, I was sensible enough to know that something like this wouldn't work, thus I never got involved.

5 years have passed, each of the girls have faded into obscurity, none of their solo careers took off, and whoopsie daisies, they remain PARTED. I don't see the company doing something like:

"Aaaaah, I can still remember, FIVE YEARS AGO, there were a number of ONLINE PETITIONS and thousands of emails asking us to put the girls together again. Maybe we should do this NOW! We'll listen to these online petitions!!! After all, the fans definitely KNOW the business MUCH MORE than we do!!!"

The bottomline? Online petitions are freaking useless. Let's say some oversensitive, humourless and petty little twit decided to pick a fight with me by starting an online petition because he or she has had enough with my narcissism that is, for some silly little reason, offending to him or her. Imagine, a self-righteous person doing thus:

"THIS ONLINE PETITION IS TO DEMAND ELIAR SWIFTFIRE TO TAKE DOWN HIS VILE WEBSITE AND BLOG BECAUSE HE SAYS VILE AND SPITEFUL THINGS TO US! AND HE IS TOO EGOISTIC! I'M A NOSY BUSYBODY WHO HATES IT WHEN PEOPLE ARE EGOISTIC EVEN THOUGH HE HAS NEVER DONE ANYTHING TO ME BEFORE! COME, MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS! LET'S SIGN THIS ONLINE PETITION AND TAKE ELIAR SWIFTFIRE DOWN! DO THIS WORLD A FAVOUR!!! WE WILL SEND THIS TO HIM AFTER THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE HAVE SIGNED HERE!!!"

And let's say, he or she has succeeded by magically conjuring that many signees. When I, the bane of mankind, views these, what will I do? Choose one of the following:

(A) "Geewhiz... so many people hate me, I will take down my site and blog and strive to be a better man!"

(B) "I am so afraid! oh no! I must take down my site immediately to make these people happy!"

or

(C) "Wha-? HAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHHAHAH! *wheeze* AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH! BAAAAHAAAAA! *pants* HAAAAHAHAHHAAAA! *gasps*

I'm definitely going to rid myself of the chance for publicity and go with (A) and (B). Yeah.

But that will be in another life.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

My Very First Acting Audition

It was a quarter past two, Swifty wandered down the empty corridors of the Education and Humanities building in his university, searching for 'TELEVISION Studio B', the place where the audition was going to be held. He was not nervous, even though this was the very first audition he had been to.

In a distant childhood, he had once thought that he was competent in acting, yet these thoughts were shattered by a tragic turn of events. And as he continued searching for 'TELEVISION Studio B', he was gradually overwhelmed by a flood of painful memories.

1992. He was 8. Standard 2. Cosplaying as a Ninja Turtle, he strutted around the stage for a graduation ceremony, showing his insane kungfu skills where he could leap high up in the air, do a few somersaults, and then land on the ground and do a couple of backflips. Instantly, he was given celebrity status and local legend in his primary school, everyone started calling him 'Ninja Turtle' for the remainder of his primary school years.

It was amusing at first, but since then, he started trying desperately to do something that will shake off this image.

1996. Last year in high school. Aged 12. His class put up some cheesy stageplay about a goody-two-shoe sister convincing her black-hearted, unfilial siblings to visit their ailing mother one last time. And when she finally did, mother was already dead, and each and every single one of the siblings started weeping and lamenting about how they never treated her well enough. It was a powerfully pretentious melodrama with overwrought angst and silliness.

He played one of the siblings, the only male in the family. He turned it into a one-man comedy skit. It was a campy performance, where he went totally overdramatic when screaming for his 'dead mother'. It was overacting at its finest.


Swifty shook his head, chuckling softly to himself at the ghosts of this long-ago memory. He could remember the thundering applause! It was the crowning of a prodigal comedy actor, a graduation from primary school with a massive bang. Walking down the stage, parents of people he didn't know came to him, singing praises, telling him how talented he was in acting, how he had stolen the show...

A notice was pasted upon the door of TELEVISION Studio B, saying that the venue of the audition had been changed to AUDIO Studio A, which was just few doors away. Swifty sighed in annoyance, and continued his long trek towards the new venue just a few doors away.

More memories came, hitting him squarely in the head.

Blinding flash.

1998. Form 2. He was 14. Two years have passed since his last stage performance. Now a budding scriptwriter, he was given the task of adapting the Christmas Carol storyline for a class presentation that was supposed to be seen by everyone else in the school. He got screwed this time. Working with a partner, he gave his partner his part of the script, asking his partner to make any necessary changes. Unfortunately, his partner didn't return the script to him (with ZERO changes) until a day before the performance, thus the other actors and actresses were never given the chance to read the script.

The presentation was a flop of massive proportions, everyone had to carry a copy of the script and read the lines during the performance. It sucked. They were rained by loud boos, jeering and catcalls. Swifty, who was playing Scrooge snapped, allowing himself to be possessed a demon of madness that had been lying dormant within him. Cocky and arrogant, he snatched the microphone from everyone else and ANSWERED THE AUDIENCE.

He told them that he LOVED them.

He repeated that when they continued booing.

"BOOOOOOO!"

"I love you all."

"BOOOOOOOOOO!"

"Yeah, I love you all."

"BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"

"Ah, thank you. Give me more, I love you all."

He turned into a heel from WWE, working the crowd over with his badassness. He was The Rock before he became popular, he was Triple H throughout his entire career, he was Ric Flair throughout the many decades of his illustrious wrestling career.

That got him blacklisted by school authorities, and he was the only one who took the blame for the failure, not the partner, after all, he was the one who stood out, he was the easy target. Since then, none of the stage performances involving him were ever on stage...

Blinding flash.


Swifty entered Audio Studio A. It was empty. There was nothing. Just chairs. And bags. Frowning in confusion, he wondered whether he had entered the wrong place or not.

He stepped out of the Studio, a woman, who had just returned from a cigarette break, walked towards him. Swifty wrinkled his nose at the smell of smoke. He could never stand those.

"Are you here for the audition?" she asked.

Swifty nodded.

Then, memories of his last few years in high school that were hiding in the deepest recesses of his soul emerged abruptly.

2000. He was 16. Just a month and a half before he would be elected as president of the English Language Club (also known as the Literary, Debate and Drama Club) and work miracles upon the long-dead club that would allow it to rise from the ashes for the very first time in decades, he was just a normal committee member trying hard to make a name for himself and the struggling club. He developed a sketch for Teacher's Day, but it never got through because some teachers with serious hearing problems accused one of the cast members (Alanded/Alex, Swifty's mentor, whom he dragged into the club) for pronouncing 'Fight' like 'Fuck'. It was a mindlessly entertaining play meant only for laughs, yet the school authorities remained adamant in their attempt to keep Swifty down.

A year later. Swifty was president of the English Language Club, riding high on the wave of success as he had helped turned the club 180 degrees, he was at the peak of his career. The club was more active than it ever was, its amount of membership propelled it to become among one of the elite clubs in high school.

Yet he was held down again.

The club was presenting a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde-type story duo acting skit. Swifty's two friends were in the lead roles, one playing the schizophrenic whilst the other played the victim. Swifty was invited to guest-star as the evil counterpart of the poor scientist. The audition was successful, but that night, Swifty was phoned by the ENGLISH LANGUAGE SOCIETY TEACHER ADVISOR, telling him not to act in it during the final performance because it was a DUO ACTING. Thus, the president of the English Language club was prohibited from acting in a skit put up by his own club... even though the audition had given him the greenlight.

There were more painful memories, like the one where the conspiring, scheming, biased bastards from his school pulled the plug on Swifty's painstakingly planned Drama Night during the last minute without prior warning, effectively ruining Swifty's efforts in pushing his beloved club into the annals of high school history. These painful experience left him angered and cynical.

Unlike primary school, the star that once shone so brightly had dwindled into nothingness. Whatever future he had with acting was gone. His passion for it died as well. The school authorities were merciless, and they had succeeded in their vile efforts to keep Swifty down.

Years passed by, Swifty turned into a filmmaker, and managed to put himself in the two short films he was in, out of necessity. The first short film, 'A Boring Story', an incredibly introspective piece about loneliness, or perhaps a PARODY of incredibly introspective pieces about loneliness. He had a non-speaking, uncredited cameo role in his upcoming short film, 'Forced Labour' as well, which he will attempt to complete by this week...


When asked about through email about his acting experience, Swifty was vague with his answers, telling the woman, Jean, that he was merely a filmmaker trying to understand the feeling of being at the 'opposite side of the camera'. She accepted the answer without anymore questions. But she knew not the painful secrets Swifty had been hiding throughout the years.

The woman handed Swifty an excerpt From the script, so that he would know which character would he be playing. It was a story of a young woman who died, and as a ghost, she returns to her home, wondering whether she can move on, or continues haunting them. Her lover is a wreck, and there will be very romantic scenes featuring her trying to let go of the man she loves.

... that subplot happened only in Swifty's imagination. Unfortunately, there's no 'lover' role, and no romantic scenes involved. Swifty happened to be auditioning for the role of the 'asshole brother who didn't give a damn when his sister, the main character, died'.

AAAAAAAAAAARGH! Enough with the third person talk, it's giving me a major headache.

The short film is in Mandarin, because the ones involved in this project are all Singaporeans and they want to make something that can be accepted by their country, I think.

So yeah, my line was:

"BAH! STOP PRAYING! IF DAD WERE ALIVE, HE WOULD'VE BEEN EMBARRASSED BY THIS!"

And I delivered this line (numerous times) with GUSTO. With STYLE. With ROGUISH CHARISMA. With IMPECCABLE MANDARIN SKILLS.

Then, I walked to the sofa and watched TV. A bastard without a doubt. The deepest, most complex and conflicted character in the short film... despite his one line.

And now, I wait and see whether I've been chosen for the role, this is going to be interesting.
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