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My Short Films

Monday, August 31, 2009

Food Porn at BE. SWEET ON.

Yes, it's National Day. Merdeka. Merdeka. But I'll talk about that later.

For now I would like to talk about this BE. SWEET ON. dessert shop I visited on my last night at Seoul. Despite having returned from Seoul for a week, I am haunted by memories of its sublime dessert.

"Be. Sweet On" the sublime dessert shop

Outside "Be. Sweet On."


The tiny little place is located at Hongdae, it has some interesting interior decoration. Look at the luggage piled on the floor, it's part of the decoration.

Customers in Be. Sweet On dessert shop

BE. SWEET ON dessert shop decoration

Be. Sweet On.


The restaurant's pretty new, started a few months ago, the chef graduated from Japan.

Here's a video of BE. SWEET ON.



Here's me and Ming Jin's wife, Tomoko.

With Tomoko at the BE. SWEET ON dessert shop


I cannot remember the name of the food they served us, it was so delicious that immediately its name disappeared from my brain and they merely existed purely in the form of its exquisite taste. As I took small bites of the food, I didn't want to eat so quickly, wanting the eating experience to last as long as it could. Ah, it was ecstacy, it was food porn at is finest!

I nearly wept.

(Ming Jin took the photos below)

Food porn

More food porn


... now, if only I can remember the names of the dishes.

UPDATED: Oh, the pink one's something like 'fram boiser' and the tart was 'tarte titan'. According to Ming Jin.

There are more photos of BE. SWEET ON on Tomoko's blog (Japanese only) here and here. She went twice, lucky her!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Visiting Namdaemun Market and Insadong on my last day in Seoul

Eating blissfully


22nd of August. Saturday. My last day in Seoul. Decided to do some sightseeing instead of catching some films at CINDI.

The first place I went to was the Namdaemun market, which reminded me of Petaling Street.

Sadly, the historic gate of Namdaemun had been destroyed by arson last year. All I could see was this.

Nandaemun is no more


Hopefully the gate will be restored to its former glory.

As for the Namdaemun market, this is me giving out a dramatic cry of manliness.

Dramatic cry of manliness at the Nandaemun market


I tried some food.

Once again, like this cinnamon pancake thingie.

Eating blissfully


And dumplings.

Nice jiaozi


I then went to Insadong. A place well known for its cafes, art galleries, antique shops etc.

When I arrived at Insadong, there was a demonstration by activists to help North Korean refugees. I wondered whether the girl in the North Korean soldier uniform was really a North Korean.

"Help the North Koreans refugees!"

I wondered whether the girl was really a North Korean



Insadong's crowded with people.

Insandong is crowded


I noticed a little girl in pink who hugged her mom happily and excitedly when the mom tried playing one of the ocarinas for sale. But they then went on to look at other stuff. Too bad I couldn't capture the earlier image with my camera.

Mother and daughter shopping at Insandong


I then headed to the Insadong Arcade (or rather, that's what I think it's called) for, er, some emergency that involved my bowels.

More of Insadong Arcade

The Insadong Arcade is pretty surreal

People walking up the Insadong Arcade



Here's me, trapped in a photo.

Trapped in a photo frame


After that I headed to Hongdae again, there was the flea market going on at the park, and I wanted to visit this artist who could draw some kickass portraits. I wanted to have an awesome portrait done for myself.

I first saw the artist a week earlier, I wanted her to do a portrait of me then, but she was closing. I was disappointed.

When I was there, she was drawing this restless little child.

Cute little girl's bored when having her portrait done

Little girl doesn't want to have her portrait done






Unfortunately for me, when the artist was done with the little girl, she rejected me... again cos the child was supposed to be her last customer for the day (even though she recognized me, and was genuinely surprised to see me really visiting her one week after the first rejection). As cute and pedolicious the child was, I couldn't help but feel an overwhelming sense of resentment towards her.

Ming Jin then suggested a film idea of a man who decided to stalk a painter after getting rejected by her in two consecutive weeks, I might just do it... making the film, I mean, not the stalking.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Cinema Digital Seoul Film Festival 2009 party (... or one of them)

One more day left in Seoul.

Yesterday was my last day in KOFIC lab. Mr. Oh has finished the colour correction and we also got ourselves some nifty end credits too. Once I return to Malaysia tomorrow, Ming Jin will be working on the sound mixing with Soundwave, then the film transfer. Too bad I won't be able to see all those. But I'll be excited to see WOMAN ON FIRE LOOKS FOR WATER having its world premiere at October's Pusan International Film Festival in glorious 35mm. *sob*

Ming Jin, Mr Oh and I in front of KOFIC


For the past 10 days, Sandy had been the one taking care of us, picking us up from our service apartment to the KOFIC office every morning, translating for us, taking us to cool places for lunch and dinner. Thanks Sandy!

Sandy, Ming Jin, Mr Oh and I in front of KOFIC


The Cinema Digital Seoul Film Festival (CINDI) had started a couple of days ago. Ming Jin won Best Film and Best Director awards for THE ELEPHANT AND THE SEA at its inaugural film festival two years ago, and last year our TV movie, KURUS (or DAYS OF THE TURQUOISE SKY) was in competition as well. Although we don't have a film in this year's festival, we were, of course, given passes, and were allowed to go to their party last night :D

I like the party in CINDI, it's pretty small and intimate, everyone gets to mingle with one another,

CINDI party


Here's Lou Ye, whose film SPRING FEVER 春风沉醉的晚上, was the opening film for CINDI. I really liked his previous film, SUMMER PALACE 頤和園, which banned him from making films in China because 'he did submitted the film to Cannes without approval from Chinese censors'.

With director Lou Ye 娄烨

Ming Jin and I with Lou Ye 娄烨


Sandy dropped by briefly with her niece (visiting from US) to say bye bye to me. It was up until this point that I noticed that my normally spiky hair wasn't spiky any more. Should have brought my gel with me.

With Sandy and her niece


CINDI program manager Miyonne finally getting to eat. (background's Tomoko, Ming Jin's wife)

Miyonne eating, Tomoko in background


From left to right, Paolo, Tomoko, Miyonne and me.

Paolo, Tomoko, Miyonne and I


Singapore-based Malaysian artist/ photographer/ filmmaker Sherman Ong. His film FLOODING IN THE TIME OF DROUGHT is in competition at CINDI.

With filmmaker/artist/photographer Sherman Ong


With Paolo.

With Paolo


After that I decided to pull the Nyan Nyan pose, which was made famous by Korean and Japanese models, as displayed expertly by Miyonne here.

Cat family


I like doing the Nyan Nyan pose too.

Nyan Nyan pose

Thursday, August 20, 2009

An Interview with Justin Isis


Justin Isis lacks abdominal definition


For me, literature should be as exciting and energising as pop music. I am now 37 years of age, and of a generation for whom pop music was both a personal journey of discovery and something that has always been there. I suppose that for those younger than me, at least the 'has always been there' part of this description must hold, if not all of it. It has been a source of puzzlement to me, therefore, that the sensibility of pop music – all that is best about it in spontaneity, daring and role-play – somehow has not managed to permeate the world of literature. I don't mean this in any superficial sense, that authors should all start wearing shades and writing in American hipster slang (by golly!). No, literature need not relinquish any intellectual depth by learning from pop music – it can even gain some.

Because, for me, interests in literature and pop music were equivalent and intertwined, when I first started having work published, I thought about the entire project through a pop music sensibility. My first collection,
The Nightmare Exhibition, was a 'concept album', in which the title story provided a meta-narrative for the other stories. This, for me, was only the start, or so I thought, until I found that my 'concept albums' were being broken up by publishers who would reject and accept stories with no regard for the song-cycles to which they belonged, who did not care for my pretentious collection titles and who gave me little or no control over artistic presentation.

I had thought that any artistic path should resemble that described by David Bowie in the song
Star:

I could play a wild mutation as a rock'n'roll star.

However, some years of the oblivious plodding attitudes prevalent in the world of publishing made me despair of such a thing. There was no David Bowie of literature.

This could be a long story, but I'll cut it short. Justin Isis got in touch with me over the Internet, after reading an online interview of mine, and my faith in literature has become invigorated, precisely because he is a writer who understands the lack of vision in literature as it currently exists. He is also a writer quite capable of the wild mutations that make pop music, at its best, so vital and exciting.

Not long ago, an e-mail from Justin Isis to myself contained the following:


I feel like writing is at least twenty or thirty years behind music... Music seems to have reached a total point of convergence, where genre doesn't really matter anymore. Writing still seems very genre stratified. I also feel like writing is really lagging behind in using technology. I don't mean stupid shit like the Kindle or e-books or whatever, but I mean actual programs for generating text or producing fiction, or database-programs that could be used for combining or mashing up texts based on common words or phrases. If you Google literary mashups, there is like nothing serious that comes up. I really can't believe that I may be the only person that gives a
shit about this.

I really feel like writing now has the potential to be a thousand times better than writing has been in the past. It should be, but no one seems to be doing anything about it. I feel like Susuki is properly "of its time" in that it feels to me like where writing should realistically be now, rather than everyone who is writing like it was still fifty years ago.


It was after reading this that I decided that I must interview Justin Isis, and put that interview out there (on here). And that is what I have done. I hope you find the results exciting and arousing.

-Quentin S. Crisp


Why is Autechre better than Martin Amis?

For the same reason any music is better than any writing, at least for me. I think at least that's why the music of Autechre is better than the prose fiction (or essays, whatever) of Martin Amis. I don't think I can judge whether Autechre the musicians, Sean Booth and Rob Brown, are categorically 'better' than Martin Amis the person. I think Martin Amis may be better than them from a strict biological standpoint, in that I know he has a number of children and has succeeded in passing on his genes. I'm not sure whether Booth and Brown have children or not. I guess to work this out in the Richard Dawkins sense, Martin Amis's children would have to take on Booth and Brown's children in some kind of tournament fight or Mortal Kombat situation. I've tried Googling whether they have children or not but I can't find anything.

Then the next question - this question - must be - IS - why is music better than writing?

For me at least, music is better than writing because of its greater subtlety and lack of definite meaning. I'm not really interested in the idea of communication through art, and I don't really care about stories or characters or settings. All that really interests me is texture. Felipe Alfau said in an interview that writers should "certainly not [support themselves] by selling their books as jewelry." My own view is pretty much the opposite of Alfau's; I'm only really interested in writing that is like jewelry. Note that I don't mean this in the sense of purple prose, excessive description, "vividness," etc. What I usually enjoy in writing are lines or passages in which the combination of words produces an emotional effect in me similar to the effect produced by the combination of sounds in music, or the combination of visual phenomena when watching a film or a beautiful scene in real life. For some reason, definite verbal meaning, symbolism (of the one-to-one correspondence kind), cliches, "redemption," "epiphanies," character development, social commentary etc. seem to destroy the "jewelry" effect that the writing I enjoy has. This is why I prefer listening to music in languages I can't understand, and why I used to prefer science fiction stories with made-up words and nonexistent or impossible technologies. But I feel like most science fiction writers are just as eager to explain and define everything as everyone else is, which is why I don't read them as much anymore.

At the moment music seems to me to be at least thirty years ahead of writing, probably due to technology. Music seems to have converged, whereas writing still feels stratified. And any kind of sound, even if it's just atonal noise, seems to me to be something good, but cliched writing seems unbearable. Music seems more democratic in that sense, which is another plus. Music can also be performed and enjoyed communally, whereas reading and writing are solitary. Etc.

But I know someone will read this and get pissed off, so I'll be democratic and say that neither music nor writing is "better," they're just different.

At the end of the final episode of Sapphire and Steel, Sapphire and Steel are trapped for eternity in a cuboid cell of nowhereness out in the black void between desolate, uninhabited stars. What would have been the result if, instead of Sapphire and Steel being trapped in such a way, it had been Scottish singer/musician Nick Currie aka Momus, Magibon from YouTube and Marilyn Manson?

This doesn't seem like it would be a healthy situation. Momus and Manson are both very abstract, while Magibon is concrete. M&M also create (despite what Currie might claim) very "heavy" art, usually based on intellectual concepts, whereas Magibon's is relatively liberated from "ideas" (but no less "deep" for that). In terms of personal dynamics, I also can't see it working. M&M's respective projects and outlooks seem at odds with each other, and Magibon would seem to have little in common with either of them. This seems like it would turn into some kind of Huis Clos situation with them all torturing each other for eternity. Then again, they might all get along and form some new kind of experimental family. I think I would prefer the latter option. I think it would be like the opposite of Huis Clos, which Sartre never really gave us. Presumably the opposite of Sartre's hell would be a heaven where everyone is in a room with the two other people alive who complement them perfectly. I've considered trying this in real life by booking a hotel room with Hitomi Kanehara and Tsubasa Masuwaka, but neither of them responded to my invitations. I wonder why Tsuu-chan at least hasn't replied yet; maybe her husband is holding her back. To be fair he does have good modelling skills and his haircut was really good, at least like a year and a half ago.

Returning to your answer to the question before, given that you find music preferable as an artistic medium, is there any specific reason why you are now concentrating on writing? (I should add, that I'm personally glad you are, since I think literature needs someone like yourself, who, apart from anything else, can see how behind-the-times and lacking it currently is.)

I think the only honest answer to that is an inherent lack of talent. I have spent a lot of time making music, some of which I liked, but I'm really not talented enough at composition, singing, or playing an instrument to justify the time spent doing it. I think as a child I started writing because writing seemed to be just making things up and playing with words, which seemed fun and easy. In contrast, I never thought anything like "I can do this too" when listening to music. Instead I thought something like "Holy shit, how did a human create this?" Laziness is probably a factor as well. I've never been a Protestant, and I don't enjoy work of any kind. Writing doesn't seem like work to me. If it seemed like work I probably wouldn't write. Any time I'm writing and it starts seeming like work, or I start thinking too hard, I usually take a break or stop doing it. The times when it starts to seem like work are when I usually start producing disappointing writing. I have to say that I don't understand the idea of writing as some kind of Protestant career choice with workshops and schedules and a set number of revisions and everything. I don't think writing can be taught, and I've never respected any living writer enough to want to have them tell me how to write. This isn't because I think I'm so great, just that it seems absurd to me for someone to tell anyone else how or how not to write. If you're a writer you'll write regularly and develop your own style by always reading and writing, and that's it. Mistakes will be corrected naturally. Everything else is just a way to make money. If anyone reading this wants to learn how to write like me, send me money and I'll tell you, or else send clothes from the following brands: Vanquish, Jack Rose, Buffalo Bobs, Gennaro, etc.

I noticed an apparent contradiction here. One of the virtues of music that you mention is that anyone can do it, which seems in conflict with the idea of focusing on writing because of lack of musical ability. I'm not sure if there's much point to this question, because I feel I understand, anyway, how music is at once more egalitarian (because easier) and more difficult than writing, but, if you feel there's anything interesting to say about it, the question is, what do you think the reason for this apparent contradiction is?

I feel like it's easier for me to write on what I would consider an "attention-worthy" level than it would be for me to create music on that level. These questions are making me want to get back into music, which I might have to do at some point. If I feel like I've exhausted writing at any point I'll probably do that. I still have a fair amount of ideas for it. Then again, there are already enough musicians creating music that I feel satisfied without having to do it myself. I feel like writing is "behind" in that sense. I still get excited by music, but next to nothing in writing excites me. There are a ton of artists where I'm looking forward to their next albums; not as many living writers where I care what they do next. This is all completely subjective and probably sounds like bullshit. In an interview Neil Gaiman said something to the effect that he preferred writing comics to writing novels because novels had a longer history and he felt more daunted by it, whereas he could break new ground more easily in comics. I've heard similar sentiments expressed by other writers who supposedly feel daunted by the world history of literature. To me that's bullshit. I think writing gets progressively better as the world ages. 19th century writing seems better to me than 18th century, and 20th century writing seems better than 19th century. There's no reason why 21st century writing shouldn't be better than 20th. Anyone who says otherwise is probably an academic.

That brings me nicely to a question I was contemplating anyway: who are the few living writers whose work you look forward to, and in what way are do they differ from other living writers?

Fuck this is going to be awkward...um...you, Kanehara, Natsuo Kirino...Houellebecq is always good, and Ligotti. I can't think of anyone else off the top of my head. I'm sure I'm leaving out really obvious people. I was actually hoping you wouldn't ask this question, but I feel like I have to attempt some kind of answer. Grant Morrison. They differ from other living writers in that I enjoy reading them. Elfriede Jelinek is good. Ben Marcus. M. John Harrison. Can Xue. I'm just trying to think of living writers I like now. I'm not sure to what extent I really look forward to new books from them. The amount of books to read seems endless, and for the most part I don't worry whether the writers are alive or dead. I don't like anything Booker Prize, Pulitzer Prize, or for the most part Nobel Prize except for a few like Jelinek, Kawabata and Maeterlinck. I think Pierre Guyotat is still alive.

I like that Can Xue seems like a little Chinese indie kid, shitting on "political and social" writing and just writing about her soul and her fantasy worlds. I wish more people would do this. I like writing that is more like a physiological process or a religious expression rather than some means of entertaining readers with stories and characters. I should add that 90% of my writing contains stories and characters, so I'm at least partly a hypocrite.

Your story 'The Plot' was printed in issue 17 of the Postscripts journal. I believe that it's a relatively early story. Seeing it in print now, how do you think your writing has changed since you wrote it?

I'd prefer not to be represented too much by something I wrote when I was 19. Other than that I don't think my writing has changed that much, except that it's hopefully less hit and miss than it was back then. During that period I don't think I was really capable of pulling off the ideas I had. I didn't really have a focused direction for my writing either. Every story I wrote back then was in a different genre, different format. I wrote plays, poems, lyrics, long experimental stories, and was working on a novel. There were attempts at more realistic, New Yorker-type stories as well, but they were real failures. I was never thinking about publication though, and I still don't really worry about it too much. I started writing when I was 13 or 14, and back then I was very arrogant and assumed I could write well, but I couldn't. I did read a lot as a teenager, pretty much constantly in my free time, but for the most part none of it meant anything to me. I didn't understand the idea of emotionally connecting with a book or writer, it all just seemed like an intellectual exercise. Even to this day I don't really emotionally connect with American or English literature.

Please sort the following into those with yuugen and those without, adding any commentary you deem necessary:

Sapphire and Steel, Morrissey, Robert Aickman, Morning Musume, Will Self, pandas (the species), Clive Barker, Carey Mulligan, Lena Zavaroni, Maeda Ken, the Amish, Thomas Hardy, Jeff Koons, nalle, Momus, William Blake, Harry Merry, Gary Marie, Silvio Berlusconi, Bettie Page.


I feel like all those shows, groups, people and animals have yuugen to some extent. I like all of them. I'm not sure what's happening with fashion right now. It seems like there's some kind of visual-kei/host-kei crossover into "V-host." Has anyone come up with the idea of EGL hosts yet? Gothic, Byronic, aristocrat-looking hosts that treat you like you've stepped into an early 19th-century drawing room, while serving tea and/or alcohol. I'm sure this already exists somewhere, but I haven't seen it yet.

Morning Musume seem to have lost yuugen. They might regain it, though. Give them another ten years. They're definitely black-veiled now, though, and they don't matter at all at the moment. Conversely, I'm getting a strong yuugen vibe from Onyanko Club. They're 80s, real 80s and not "00's revival 80s." They're still uncool. There are ideas there. Someone just uploaded two of their albums; search for "Onyanko Club" on this blog and you'll find them. I'm not sure how much longer I'll be into them for, although Yuuyu is still doing it for me now.

"Hot" or "yuugen" for me right now: Sapphire and Steel, Robert Aickman, pandas, Carey Mulligan, Lena Zavaroni, Maeda Ken, nalle, Harry Merry, Gary Marie, Silvio Berlusconi.

"Not" or "not as much yuugen at the moment" for me right now: Morrissey, Morning Musume, Will Self, Clive Barker, the Amish, Thomas Hardy, Jeff Koons, Momus, William Blake, Bettie Page.

I'm digging the detached and illogical ambiguity of Sapphire and Steel, Aickbon, and the music of nalle. Berlusconi seems cool to me now; I like that he doesn't give a shit. A year or two ago I was obsessed with pink clothes, idols, ganguro and ugly teenage fashion from the late 90s. Now I'm more into "adult casual", onii-kei, and I'm starting to get back into hip-hop. I'm not so much into anguish, depressing worldviews, or the past at the moment either, so Morrissey, Hardy, the Amish etc. feel out for me. I still love Maeda Ken, but he's starting to feel a bit two years ago for me as well. Same thing with Nakata Yasutaka, who I was obsessed with in 2007.

Talking of fashion, yuugen, etc., if you were Christina Applegate, and you were about to go out on your first date with Sun Ra, what kind of outfit would you put together for the occasion?

It would have to be Egyptian and GOLD which would suit me fine. I would dress like my namesake. It would have to be dignified because Sun Ra is of the Angel Race and not into b-kei or anything. If I were Christina Applegate I would only be 5' 5", which isn't actually a lot of height to work with compared to me now, but I would have 35-23-35½ measurements which could fill out a lot of outfits nicely. I might go for something like Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra but with more GOLD. Is this date taking place in winter or summer? If it was winter I would get probably some kind of white boots and maybe leggings. It's a first date so I would dress somewhat conservatively, with tasteful GOLD accessories. I think the look I would be going for would be Egyptian goddess casual; the Elizabeth Taylor shit is good but looks too formal to go out into restaurants or anything in, and especially not dancing.

Your story 'I Wonder What Human Flesh Tastes Like' is being made into a film in Japan. How did this come about? Are you excited?

It came about at Waseda when Edmund gave the story to the director, Kong. I'm pretty excited in an abstract sense. I want to get over there and get involved. Everyone involved seems very talented and onboard with it. The crew is mostly the crew from Edmund's recent film Kingyo, which was fantastic, and has been amassing domestic and international attention. I feel like all my stories should be filmed probably; once again I'd do it myself but filmmaking isn't something I'm talented at. I do look forward to more collaborations with Edmund and anyone else. If people want to know where I'm coming from, I'm into Alejandro Jodorowsky, Luis Bunuel, Bergman, Fellini, Antonioni, Tarsem, Shunji Iwai, Shinya Tsukamoto, Toshiaki Toyoda.



Things have moved on a little in the cuboid of nowhereness where (?) Momus, Magibon and Marilyn Manson are imprisoned for eternity. There's only one television set, with one remote control unit. By chance, all three of them happen to settle on the sofa at the same time. Currently showing, on different channels, are Sapphire and Steel, Morecambe and Wise, some survival thing with Bear Grylls, a wildlife badger special with Johnny Kingdom, the film Jubilee by Derek Jarman, Pan's Labyrinth, The Muppet Show, Daily Cooks Challenge with Anthony Worral Thompson and Merrilees Parker, re-runs of The Mickey Mouse Club, with Annette Funicello, and The Unbearable Lightness of Being. How do you think this situation would develop? Do you have any advice to our three cosmic captives as to how they could avoid a fatal deterioration in personal relations in this situation?

The Muppet Show seems like the best option, or possibly the Mickey Mouse Club. I feel like some deterioration in personal relations is inevitable. We have to assume that over the course of eternity, each of the three will assume every conceivable relationship with the other two, and that this permutation of relationships will be repeated endlessly, in the manner of Nietzsche's eternal return. But rather than see this as a negative stagnancy, I prefer to think of it as a creative mechanism or generative algorithm. Presumably a new race would be created from MMM's repeated fucking, and this race would be informed by the cultural knowledge of the three. Conflicts in this knowledge would in the Hegelian fashion form new syntheses and viewpoints. As for the physical dimensions of this race...since animals on islands have a tendency to become physically smaller (dwarf elephants, for example), it seems like the MMM race (Momansibons?) would eventually shrink as well, probably to pocket-size. Since MMM's bodies would be the only available biomass to be reconstituted, the physical mass of the entire race could not exceed MMM's combined weights - although, conceivably, the total population could still number into the hundreds. As for their appearance, MMM all have long faces and slender, ectomorphic body types, so their interbred descendents would likely share these features. It would be an elfin race of miniature cavemen armed with tremendous abstract knowledge in the form of legends about the world before/outside the cube, which would of course have only an abstract/"Dreamtime"-like reality. I assume the meanings of the television transmissions would become increasingly abstract as well. A typical scene would be something like thirty young, vestal Momansibons being physically piled on top of the remote control and crushed to death in order to depress a button and change the channel, accessing the dimension of the terrible deities Morecambe and Wise, who would be consulted for advice on an upcoming pilgrimage to the other side of the cube; and by chance, perhaps, the button would be depressed long enough for the entire colony to be bathed in the cathode vision of Annette Funicello, an enormous and beautiful monster singing in the language of the gods.

I believe you've been preparing, for some time, material for three separate short story collections, under the titles Girl Revolution, Welcome to the Arms Race and I Wonder What Human Flesh Tastes Like [I think I've got the last title wrong, so please correct me if so]. Could you tell us something about the significance of the titles, how they relate to the stories, and what your plans are for these?

Those are all the finalized titles. The Human Flesh story collection is almost finished, and then I intend to just give it away as a zipped file to anyone who's interested, or send it out piecemeal to literary magazines maybe. Girl Revolution is the sequel to it, another short story collection. Welcome to the Arms Race is just all the science fiction stories I've written and am writing. I'm not sure what form it will take.
 
Human Flesh is really depressing and literary, I guess it's more classicist in that sense. The influences are like Mishima, Tanizaki, Kawabata, Akutagawa, Flaubert, Huysmans and Morning Musume.

"Girl Revolution" is Gyaru Kakumei translated into English, which was the name of Sifow's company. I decided to use it, just because it seemed stupid and inappropriate, but also because I like Sifow. I was originally going to call it Revolution Girl Style Now!, which if I remember right was a Riot Grrl zine or album or something put out by Kathleen Hanna, who I also like.

If Arms Race is ever finished and published as a book I will probably retire from writing anything science fiction. It's not something I'm interested in pursuing long term. I actually really hate anything like space opera television shows with robots and aliens or Star Wars or anything like that. The only science fiction writers I really like are J.G. Ballard, Cordwainer Smith, and that's about it. Alfred Bester. Delany has some good books but even he has spaceships and everything and I can't bring myself to finish his books sometimes. My favorite is The Einstein Intersection.

Now for the sinister thirteenth question. I don't really understand the voting system for this, but there's been some talk about Thomas Ligotti not being on the list of nominees (or perhaps of past winners) of the World Horror Convention Grand Master of Horror award. I wondered if you had any thoughts on the matter, and who do you think should be the grand master of horror?

I don't know. Haruki Murakami? His prose style is both horrifying and bland, like rotten catfood.

I feel like poetry is quite a neglected literary form these days. Even novelists have more chance of being thought of as relevant cultural figures today than poets. For instance, just about everywhere I go in Wales, something or other seems to be named after Dylan Thomas. People obviously noticed that he existed, which doesn't seem to happen for poets today. I can't imagine anyone in the future naming things after poets writing today, not necessarily because there are no good poets, but because the form seems to have been forgotten somehow. It's as if people have decided that popular music entirely sastifies the poetic urge in humankind. I feel like poetry, in common with horror, is not just a literary form or genre, but an entire realm of human feeling. People can say things like, "You have no poetry in your soul!" And yet just about nobody reads poetry these days. For that reason, I felt like asking if there's any poetry that you particularly like. (PS. I think poetry interests me because it is like a song in which all the music is already contained in the words. I think that's a great skill. One thing that lyricists generally lack is the ability to make their words stand alone, because the words have no integral music; that has to be supplied by someone else. I like the idea of some singer writing something that crosses the line from lyrics to poetry and realising that his/her art has become complete, so that when the band say, "Okay, let put this to music then", the lyricist can say, "No need. I've already done it. The music is now inseparable from the words.")

Wallace Stevens. He seems the most advanced and threatening poet I've ever read, probably. Robinson Jeffers I also like. I liked Eliot a lot as a teenager but apart from Four Quartets he doesn't appeal to me as much anymore. Some of Hart Crane is really good. Saigyo, Dogen. Li Bao. I remember a Galway Kinnell poem "The Dead Shall Be Raised Incorruptible" that had some great lines in it. Mina Loy. Baudelaire. I feel like poetry will probably come back again at some point. It's gotten academic now but it will probably come back again, there are always people who get into old things and then end up making something new.

Events have moved on, and in the Cuboid of Eternal Incarceration, to which Momus, Marilyn Manson and Magibon were consigned, three million years have passed. The Momansibons, ever more tiny, are a thriving and curious race, their culture as crooked and intricate as some ancient bonsai. The bureaucracy of the powers who first consigned their (still living, but minuscule) ancestors here is such that they have lost track of this Cuboid's occupants and declared it vacant. In any case, just as new graves are dug directly on top of old in a crowded cemetery, so it has been decided that new prisoners must be consigned to old Cuboids. And so it comes to pass that, three million years after the first ancestors of the Momansibons arrived in this cuboid, two strangers enter into this realm. They are Can Xue and Kingsley Amis. Almost immediately after their arrival, Can Xue fills in a complaint form and sends it in a message pod out into the void. Kingsley, disgruntled, asks her what her complaint was. She keeps her silence, and he deduces that she is complaining, once again, that her first choice for co-prisoner was Sun Ra. Relations continue to deteriorate when Can Xue claims the only room with a view of the nearby emerald sun of the burnt out Koda Kumi system. As time passes, Kingsley Amis notices that the hummus with his name on it in the fridge is going down faster than he is consuming it, and he suspects Can Xue of sneakily spreading it on her Ryvitas, though he is puzzled by what appear to be small, fairy-like, but slightly gothic ectomorphic footprints in the chickpea-based foodstuff. Can Xue, meanwhile, has noticed strange manifestations in their bleak new living quarters. For instance, on one occasion, pausing outside her room, she is sure that she hears a chorus of tiny voices intoning, "Bring me sunshine". Stepping inside cautiously to investigate, she notices a scrambling in the shadows as of beetles or small rodents, and when she flicks the light switch, discovers a wickerwork effigy left burning in the corner of her room. At first she wonders if Kingsley Amis is practising black magic on her, but when she confronts him with this, he seems baffled and affrighted. He, in turn, wonders whether Can Xue is attempting some devious ploy to drive him insane. I wondered if, making use of your skills in futurology and associated fields, you could predict how the situation might develop from there.

Whatever else Kingsley Amis might be, he is first and foremost a gentleman. He would react by confining himself in his room for a while and working on a novel on his typewriter, which would be subtly altered during the night by the Momansibons. Amis would come to suspect the existence of some form of small, undetectable, and conceivably beneficient entities set on affecting his writing, just as the writer does in the Stephen King short story "The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet," which details an almost identical situation.

I predict that, as usual, Silvio Berlusconi would save the day - an unbearably ancient and cybernetic Silvio Berlusconi made into a living Fascist cartoon through millennia of plastic surgery and rejuvenation treatments, a retro-Futurist Berlusconi resembling a combination of Mussolini, Mafarka the Futurist from F.T. Marinetti's novel (both Mafarka and Berlusconi have eleven-meter long penises), and Bugs Bunny. Accompanied by Mara Carfagna and Noemi Letizia, he would penetrate the no-space Cube directly and liberate the captives, giving them new jobs in the Italian army. The entire Momansibon race would be put to work powering a single small windmill, beside which Amis and Can Xue would live, hopefully together, with their son Martin Amis II. How they would get together and produce this son is beyond me, but it feels fated to happen eventually. Two people alone in a Cube can oppose each other, but when placed in a foreign situation filled with Italians, they're more likely to band together. Anyway, the gay, Fascist, half-Chinese Martin Amis II would use his father's Momansibon-assisted typewriter to produce experimental fiction about penises, which he would then send back to the original Martin Amis using Italian time technology. The original Martin Amis would assume these dispatches from the end of the universe were a joke and refuse to publish them under his own name, although they would make sporadic appearances in Japan under the name Eimi Yamad- OH FUCK! We probably shouldn't tell the public about this!

I'm not quite sure how to frame this question. I am thinking of Annette Funicello, and feeling myself grow serious. Let me put it this way, do you think that there's a torch called the human spirit that is worth keeping alight and passing down through history, and, if so, what place do you think writing has in that process? The position we're in at the moment, it could be said that it's hard to conceive of a posterity for writers or anything much now, or at the very least, it's easier than it's ever been before to understand the fact that there is no posterity, really. Under such circumstances, do we draw closer to an understanding of the essential meaning of writing, or are we simply forced to realise that it's essentially meaningless? I'm thinking of Bowie's song Five Years, in which the impending apocalypse forces the narrator of the tale to leap into a visionary Blakean plane of consciousness in order to render the five years left an eternity. At one point, as the song ascends from despair into Blakean revelation, he sings, "Your face, your race, the way that you talk/I kiss you, you're beautiful/I want you to walk." I think I might like to address such a line to Annette Funicello, but to whom would you most like to address such a line - an exhortation to know oneself and one's own beauty and LIVE? Also, how do you think you would answer all of this if you were Annette Funicello? Also, if you were still Annette Funicello, would you be prepared to go on a double date with myself, the person to whom you (as Justin Isis) would most like to address the mentioned part of Five Years and William Blake? What would be your suggested activity for such a date?

The human spirit is the ability of humans to function imaginatively and conceptually. The individual ego or self is developed through absorbing and rearranging sensory information, but the underlying self is unconscious and animal. I see writing as the unconscious reacting almost like an immune system to outside information - that is, the unconscious or underlying mind expressing itself through arrangements of language. I don't consciously think of ideas or phrases, they just manifest in my mind as if by magic. If I don't have a conscious say in what I write, how can "I" claim to have written it? All of the real work is done unconsciously by the nervous system, which forms stories around experiences like a cell forms a protective membrane around certain substances. The conscious mind just edits for presentability and form. Therefore writing is fundamentally religious.

I'm not sure whether writers can communicate in any real sense with anyone other than other writers, or people whose minds tend to arrange information in the form of written stories. For most people, television and film provide the experience that middlebrow novels or whatever used to. But writers continue to be born. I feel like writers now should focus on fulfilling their biological and spiritual destiny as writers rather than worrying about meaning or posterity. The nervous system doesn't care whether art is entertaining or topical or not, it just wants to get the art out, in the same way your full bladder wants to empty itself of piss.

I think if I were Annette Funicello I would say something like, everyone has been born for a reason and has special talents they have to develop, but the meaning of these talents isn't always clear. Nevertheless they still have to progress in becoming who they were meant to be.

As to the person I would like to address, I think it would have to be Egg model Yuma Takahashi:

http://ameblo.jp/yuma-takahashi



In her recent purikura, Yuma has been wearing a small hat; I feel like Yuma's hat is "jaunty" somehow; that it has transcended existence and attained yugen. I feel like Yuma is alive. I would tell her not to sell out and start being serious or think once she reaches a certain age she has to stop wearing her hat and start wearing something more conservative or start acting like a housewife or whatever. I think I would also show Yuma concentration camp footage, footage of slums in Mumbai, Somalia, etc. to remind her how lucky she is, and that she shouldn't feel guilty for being this lucky but instead should enjoy it more, because any other sane human in her position would. Guilt at being privileged is the ultimate luxury, but one I find distasteful. I realize it's immature to find hypocrisy distasteful, but maybe I'm immature. I imagine that being Yuma and realizing that other humans live in relative poverty and filth must be the ultimate feeling of entitlement and peace. The tragedy is that everyone takes their own circumstances for granted. But being an Egg model is not something to be taken for granted. Therefore I would sing Five Years to her.

I think in my present form, I feel like if I went on a date with Yuma I would just start crying, or most likely in real life I would just act slightly distant and "above" her so as not to put her off. But if I were Annette Funicello I could relax a lot more and enjoy things.

For some reason I imagine us being chauffered around by Natsume Soseki, looking handsome in a busdriver's uniform and sporting his characteristic late-19th-century Japanese mustache. I imagine that everyone would have a "gay old time" at some kind of hot springs resort with an adjoining amusement area with ping pong, etc. We would all stay overnight and sit around listening to "Lorelei" by Cocteau Twins. I wish that was happening now.




Justin's blog.

Quentin's blog.

Chomu.

Thank you.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

大馬新晉導演殺進威尼斯影展 (China Press, 18/8/2009)

She (Rukino Fujisaki) looks at the goldfish


Here's an article from China Press. Didn't get to scan it, but link to original article is here. During the phone interview I was asked whether I was representing Japan at the festival, since Kingyo's a Japanese production, but I actually listed the film as a Japanese-Malaysian co-production. Rest of the blog post will be written in Chinese again.

哈罗, 我是杨毅恒。 今天和大家分享来自中国报的访问报道。

大馬新晉導演殺進威尼斯影展

朱燕芬恭喜恭喜報導

(吉隆坡訊)本地年輕導演楊毅恆,短片作殺入本屆威尼斯影展!

第66屆威尼斯影展即將在9月開鑼,曾拍過數部短片包括《神秘雞飯》、《信》等,並曾在本地導演胡明進作品《大象與海》及全新長片《遺情》中擔任製片的楊毅恆,其于日本完成拍攝製作的短片《金魚》,在他未有預料之下,成功跑出入圍了本屆影片的“短片單元”!

只有25歲的楊毅恆之前在澳洲某大學主修英國文學和市場學,之后才進修了一個電影製作課程,但目前他在日本早稻田大學修讀2年的電影系碩士班,而這部《金魚》的製作資金,就是來自其大學附屬的電影部門。所以,這部日語短片除了他之外,幕前幕后所有人員都是日本人。

他表示,他是在最后一分鐘才決定報名,沒想到真的入圍。“我之前只是想‘博一博’,因總覺得威尼斯影展對我而言是很遙遠的事,所以前幾天收到電郵通知后,真的很驚訝!”

他表示,校方為了鼓勵他,將會贊助他到威尼斯出席影展。由于是日本資金,班底又全是日本人,是否表示他這次將以“日本代表”身分參展?他笑說:“我也不知道,不過,我在報名時是同時填上馬來西亞和日本,畢竟我是馬來西亞人嘛!”

除了楊毅恆,之前大馬導演何宇恆曾憑《太陽雨》入圍“地平線競賽(新浪潮)”單元;另外楊俊漢的《死了都要賣》(Sell Out!)亦獲“威尼斯影展影評人週之青年電影獎”。

靈感來自諾貝爾作家著作

楊毅恆透露,《金魚》故事的靈感,來自于日本諾貝爾獎作家川端康成的短篇故事《金絲鳥》,全長25分鐘的片子在日本秋葉原取景,主要講述一大學教授付費聘請一位曾是他學生,並與他有過婚外戀情的“秋葉原女傭”陪伴他出遊聊天(在日本稱Akiba Maid,即該地車站前會有很多打扮成女傭的女孩在等待“主人”聘請她們伴遊),並從兩人的對話與回憶中,帶出他們曾面對的生活與三角戀情關係。


大馬新晉導演殺進威尼斯影展 (China Press, 18/8/2009)


其实我之前的作品, 《信》 LOVE SUICIDES 灵感也是来自川端康成的短篇故事。 不知道为什么, 这几个月看了很多不同的日本作家的名著, 寻找灵感, 但是最后总是觉得跟川端康成比较有相应。 可能因为他写那些短篇的时候, 年龄也跟现在的我差不多。 (1924, 川端康成写金丝鸟的时候也是二十五岁)

这两天用中文写的部落, 好像也没什么回应, 读者们是不是被我的烂文笔吓走了呢? 嘿嘿。 好, 下次再聊!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

《金鱼》入围威尼斯影展短片单元。 杨毅恒: “像到了‘神坛’” (Sin Chew Daily, 15/8/2009)

I was on Sin Chew Daily last Saturday, didn't know about it until some friends told me via Facebook.

The article, which was about KINGYO going to next month's Venice Film Festival, is entirely in Chinese. But I was quoted as saying that "a friend of mine mentioned that going to Venice is like going to a 'Pantheon'." (actually I was quoting an interview article I read from my friend, Singaporean filmmaker Eva Tang 邓宝翠" (in 2002, she was the first Singaporean filmmaker in history to get her short film into Venice Film Festival, we met in at the Berlin Film Festival earlier this year)

I'll include the entire article below. (The rest of this blog post will be written in Chinese...)



嗯, 大家好, 我就是杨毅恒。 这部落平时是用英文来写的, (因为自己的中文文笔蛮乱七八糟的)。 但是既然在下的短片“金鱼”入围威尼斯短片单元这好消息是中文报纸刊登的, 我就用中文来跟会对中文的读者们打个招呼以及分享这文章吧。

(这文章好像是上个星期六刊登的。 )

《金鱼》入围威尼斯影展短片单元。 杨毅恒: “像到了‘神坛’” (Sin Chew Daily, 15/8/2009)

(吉隆坡14日訊)大馬新晉導演楊毅恆執導的短片《金魚》(Kingyo)成功入圍本屆威尼斯影展短片單元(Corto Cortissimo),他對這次有幸入圍感到興奮不已,還高興到睡不著。“我將在9月5日動身飛往威尼斯,有朋友說威尼斯影展像是‘神壇’,有幸看到很多名導,所以我非常期待。”

威尼斯影展與康城影展、柏林影展並列為世界3大國際影展,也是世界上最悠久的電影節。今年的威尼斯影展將於9月2日至12日期間舉行,這次一共有27部短片入圍本屆威尼斯影展短片單元。恐怖片大師史釗活哥登(Stuart Gordon)將擔任短片單元的評委會主席。

在這次短片入圍名單中,《金魚》是以日本和馬來西亞聯合出品短片的名義入圍。在這之前,何宇恆曾在劉德華出資提拔的“亞洲新星導”計劃下,以《太陽雨》入圍威尼斯影展“地平線競賽(新浪潮)單元”。當時《太陽雨》也被歸納為“香港影片”。

楊毅恆目前是日本早稻田大學電影系重點栽培的新銳導演,這部在東京實地取景的短片,是他在看完川端康成1924年作品《金絲雀》後,衍生靈感所拍攝的短片。“我覺得故事概念很吸引人,也心想如果這故事發生在現代的話,又會如何發展。”

他表示,自己是以實驗性的雙頻手法拍攝《金魚》,“短片左邊畫面專拍男主角,右邊畫面則拍女主角,雖然曾有MV採用過這樣的拍攝手法,但對我而言是新嘗試。”他6月中才在秋葉原拍完這部短片,而威尼斯影展短片單元在6月底截止報名。“家人知道我執導的短片入圍威尼斯影展後,比我還要興奮呢!”

李安是這次威尼斯影展評審主席,問他可希望見到李安?他表示“當然希望有機會和他碰面啦!畢竟他是華人之光啊!有位新加坡導演朋友對我說過,到威尼斯影展就像到了‘神壇’一樣,可以在同一個舞台見到很多我仰慕的導演,這對我和工作班底是很好的鼓勵。”

問他可是第一次出席這麼大型的國際影展?“我今年有到柏林影展,因為他們每年都會挑選來自世界各的200位新晉導演,然後一起上課交流,但我這次是有作品入圍,和年初到柏林上課的心情截然不同。”

楊毅恆早前特地從日本回馬參與巴生創意節,大會當天特地播放他的多部短片,包括他為這次創意節特地拍攝,在巴生城南老街彭亨井一帶取景的最新短片《午後河畔》。目前,他人在首爾參與其監製、胡明進導演電影《Woman On Fire Looking For Water》的後製工作,23日才會回馬。

楊毅恆小檔案

今年25歲的楊毅恆,深受父親楊立群(前大馬寶麗金唱片掌舵人,常以筆名楊劍發表影評)影響,學生時代已愛上電影。他在西澳Murdoch大學完成雙聯學位(主修市場學,副修英文文學)後,再修電影製作。他目前是日本早稻田大學電影系重點栽培的新銳導演,曾參與監製電視電影《Cinta Tiga Segi》、《Kurus(Days Of The Turquoise Sky)》及電影《大象與海》。他編導多部短片,包括2006年的《Girl Disconnected》、在《2008年BMW短片獎》一舉拿下2獎的《神秘雞飯》(Chicken Rice Mystery),《信》(Love Suicides)除了曾到巴黎參展,接下來也會到克羅地亞、西班牙等影展放映。


当我接受星洲日报的电话访问时, “神坛”这两个字突然浮现在脑海中。 我是想起了我朋友邓宝翠(新加坡导演)的一份访问报道。(我们俩是在今年二月的柏林影展认识的, 7年前她是首位入围威尼斯影展的新加坡导演。) 她用了“神坛”来形容威尼斯影展。 因为这样, 威尼斯影展这遥远的梦想, 也不知不觉变了心目中的“神坛”。

能入围真的很荣幸, 也很惊讶。 虽然自己是说“像到了神坛” 但是还是会带着平常心去威尼斯, 过后也会继续为下一个作品筹备。

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Demonstration in front of Hongik University on Korean Liberation Day

Went to the Hongdae area again yesterday for the Seoul Fringe Festival. I'll post up videos of some of the nicer singing performances I saw when I return from Seoul (Youtube has disabled commenting and video uploading for Korean users).

It was the Korean Liberation Day, and I thought I saw a demonstration in front of the Hongik University. In this video, you'll see me posing handsomely around the 40-second mark.






I wasn't exactly sure whether it was a demonstration, or, you know, an opposite of a demonstration. A patriotic, nationalistic celebration for Liberation Day?

There was definitely some Liberation Day celebration thing going on at the courtyard of Hongik University.



But when twilight came, I was sure there was a demonstration going on. To see the demonstrators and liberation day celebration happening at the same place was interesting.



Demonstration against Media Block in front of Hongik University

Protesters demonstrating!

Demonstration against some policy

Speakers leading the rally


We asked a guy and heard that the demonstration had something to do with some media block policy. I wonder whether that's related to the real-name verification law thing that caused Youtube to disable all its features from Korean users.

Massive rallying!

Girl wearing Korean flag





Protesters of all ages


I saw a news crew too.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Colour grading WOMAN ON FIRE LOOKS FOR WATER and exploring Samcheong-dong

Third day in Seoul. Finally began work on the colour grading of WOMAN ON FIRE LOOKS FOR WATER in the Digital Intermediate Lab in KOFIC. Here's Ming Jin and I 'posing' with our main actor Chung Kok Keong in the lab.

'Posing' with WOMAN ON FIRE LOOKS FOR WATER main actor Chung Kok Keong


That's Ming Jin working hard.

Ming Jin working


And this is our DI technical expert Mr Oh. He is a wizard.

Ming Jin and Mr Oh


Here's what it's like to work in the DI lab.



It was pretty hard work. We were in the lab from 10am to 6pm.

Me pushing a boat

Ming Jin carrying the boat


After that Sandy brought us to Samcheong-dong for dinner. The Samcheong-dong area is near the president's house, it has many art galleries, shops and cafes. Classy area.

Traditional looking building in Samcheong-dong

Cafe in Samcheong-dong

Yet another nice building in Samcheong-dong


I tried some cold noodles.



And some Korean pancakes. Yummy.

korean pancake


After that we went for a walk around Samcheong-dong.

Samcheong-dong at night

Through the alley

"View Terrace of Couples"

A shop in Samcheong-dong

Cafe in Samcheong-dong

Shoppers in Samcheong-dong








After that Sandy brought us to a nice place to have some traditional Korean dessert.



Me in the dessert stall


I had this really interesting-tasting cinnamon soup with persimmon.

Interesting tasting cinnamon soup with persimmon

Cinnamon soup with persimmon



We will resume work in the KOFIC DI lab on Monday. Perhaps I'll do some exploration around Seoul throughout the weekend!
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