Saturday, January 22, 2011

Teohlogy: The Word According to Patrick Teoh

Title/Author: Teohlogy: The Word According to Patrick Teoh
Publisher: ZI Publications
No. of Pages: 303
ISBN 13: 978-967-5266-15-7
Price: RM38

In a nutshell
(Tiru-ed (copied) from back cover synopsis) With his trademark razor-sharp wit, Teoh in his aptly-named Teohlogy (Elaine, hats off to you! I thought the name was brilliant! :D) articles, previously published in the now defunct Off The Edge (OTE) magazine (I missed you :( *sob* Jason Tan, I thought you and your team did one helluva good job!) from the years 2005 to 2010, shares his views on Malaysian life, topical affairs and issues that concern the ordinary Malaysian, with a generous sprinkling of realism, humour and provocation. (TAKE NOTE!Text Color For mature audience only....)

What I liked
Firstly, it has to be the cover! I thought it was a pure work of genius. First, it's so 'Patrick' (to me and my hubby lah at least). Second, it sets the tone of the book. Third, creative :) I usually get quite turned off seeing the author's profile pic, all perfect and poised, smacked right on the cover, but this one...this is the first one that I'd proudly hold in my hands and don't mind reading it in public LOL

Secondly, and most importantly, the articles, because behind its humour and seem-to-be-toking kok articles, there's truth in them. Since they were written way back in 2005, you'll realise that 'Wow,...we haven't changed much!' Whatever mentioned here 5 years ago still hold true today! Sadly funny or funny, sadly; however you wanna put it, but true. See if you agree:

1) Dirty toilets (Getting a good, workable AND clean toilet here in Malaysia is like finding a needle in a haystack)
2) Water which still needs to be filtered (we pay to get clean water; water that we can drink right from the tap, but what do we get? Sigh)
3) Unscrupulous cabbies (the article Patrick Teoh read at his launch, Edible Unity, pg. 207)
4) Our nonchalant approach to emergencies; when an emergency is termed as 'When the patient stops breathing.' (Relek Ah Beb, pg. 101) You see, we only 'care' when people die. The more people die, the more we "care" (Handicapped Care, pg. 13). Yours truly, is guilty as charged. If not for TBH's case, I wouldn't be reading about politics. If not for Altantuyaa's death, I wouldn't have started caring for the state of our country.

But some things have changed, as highlighted in Growing Up, pg. 154 (one of my many favourite articles in this collection). We...
1) have lost our sense of humour
2) are becoming more sensitive (in a negative sort of way)
3) are now Malay, Chinese, Indians, or Lain-Lain (others) as opposed to Malaysians

The best place to read Teohlogy is under a coconut tree with your other friends who also like to sit under a coconut tree, drink and tokkok (Sorry-Ah Boss, pg. 109). Then you can read one chapter, or two or more, then sit longer and tok more kok. Summon enough rage and courage, then stand up, walk away from the coconut tree, then do something about all the kok you've talked about under the coconut tree with your friends and Patrick Teoh. Vote, voice your opinion, join rallies (those which fight for a good cause and talk sense one lah of course), then ask them all to buy Teohlogy.

As you read the articles, you'd notice that many are kinda linked to each other, or rather 'hovering' over similar issues, because why? Because we never change. That's why Patrick even thanked all YBs of Malaysia for providing him with ideas for Teohlogy! If not for them, we won't have entertainment LOL

I have to admit, I'm not much of a magazine person, so I only purchased OTE when it has various interesting topics in one issue. So, I am so darn thankful that I can now read all of Patrick Teoh's articles in a book! (Btw, ZI Publications, are you planning to do the same with Farish A. Noor's articles too? I'm a big fan of his as well hehe I'm sure when that happens, it would be a big hit too! :D)

Once again, kudos to Chin Yew for his great illustrations! Not easy work, I know ;)

And kudos to ZI Publications for work well done (again!)! Good job on the glossary too :)

My verdict? 4/5 (Cured my Monday blues ;))

My letter to Patrick Teoh...
Dear Patrick,

On a very blue Monday afternoon, I did what I usually do when feeling blue, log on to your blog, http://www.niamah.com/. To my horror, THERE WEREN'T ANY NEW POSTS!!! Then another day, the same thing. Then another. I forgot how long but 3 days was already too much. WHERE ARE YOU?! I DEMAND TO BE ENTERTAINED! So. I tweet-ed you and asked why was your blog not updated?? I wasn't expecting any replies, 'coz I know you're a celebrity and have thousands of followers. Where got time to entertain one small fry like me, right?

But I was wrong. You replied! And ever so polite some more! I was shocked. Plus, I wasn't the only one who was asking you about it LOL! So you see what happens when you go MIA? You have to answer to all of us loyal fans haha So, Patrick, please don't go MIA on us again! If you plan to, please tell us in advance lah ok... hehe

Oh, and...Patrick, you rocked your book launch! I think Jason Tan should learn to speak like you haha But then again, there is and will only be one Patrick Teoh in this world :))

And....thank you for signing my copy!

Thank you ZI Publications for sending me a copy of this much-loved book :))

Oh...! Oh! Guess what I found in MPH recently?? Drum roll please....

woooooo ahhhh......








(All pictures courtesy of Benny Khoo)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Following the Dragon Tattoo trail

Just recently, a colleague of mine came back from a one-week holiday in Korea. I asked her if she visited "those famous 'romantic spots' featured in their drama series." (Mind you, I'm not a fan. I came to know about them through my sister who's one)

There are many other places that are made famous because of drama series and books, and have now become tourist trails such as New Zealand (The Lord of The Rings), Phi Phi Island (The Beach), and recently, Sweden (Larsson's Millenium trilogy). Have you visited any one of them? I hope to visit New Zealand one day :)

"The Swedish capital Stockholm now has its own version, based on Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy, as Carmen Roberts has been finding out. To watch the video, go here."

I have yet to read the novels, as I'm currently reading something on child development :) (Lots of non-fiction for me lately!)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A_Bookaholic Interviews Cornelia Funke, Author of Reckless

Finally! After months of waiting, here's my interview (via email) with Cornelia Funke, the author of Reckless. Thank you Odelia from Pansing, for helping me arrange this :)

Cornelia is a multiple award-winning German author of children's fiction. She is best known for her Inkworld trilogy (Read the first part, Inkheart. Loved it :) My brief review here. Inkheart won the 2004 BookSense Book of the Year Children's Literature award. Inkheart was followed by Inkspell, which won Funke her second BookSense Book of the Year Children's Literature award (2006). The trilogy was concluded in Inkdeath (published in Germany in 2007, English version Spring 2008, American version Fall 2008.

Have you always wanted to be an author?
No, as a child I wanted to be an astronaut as Neil Armstrong had just landed on the moon and I was obsessed with Star Trek. But then I found out you have to have military training and I abandoned that dream. I also wanted to be a pilot at some point- and many other things but I never thought I could be a writer. It seemed to be a magical profession, something no normal human being could do. When I was young I didn't even know what my favourite writers looked like and I for sure never thought I could meet one.

What’s your favourite book/story?
The Once and Future King, by T.H.White, but I also love William Goldman's Princess Bride and The Lord of the Rings and.......so so many other books. My favourite fairy tale by the way is The Six Swans.

What are your writing habits? Any peculiar ones?
That changed a lot over the past few years. When I still lived in Hamburg and my children were small I used to have very regular writing times, but in the last five years I had to travel very much and my children live a very different life and need me in another way as Ben is 16 and Anna is 21. So I learned to write wherever and whenever I can as I need it every day-at least a little portion. I am addicted to it as much as I am addicted to chocolate. This year I once again hope to just be at home and write, which means I go to my writing house (which is in my garden) after I did my emails in the morning and write there until Lunch. Then I continue writing until I pick up Ben. I make dinner for him, we watch his favourite car or cooking show - and I do some more writing while he is i-chatting with his friends. A perfect day :)

What’s your favourite spot to write and/or illustrate?
My writing house is my favourite spot to write. It is filled with books and what children send me. It has a huge old Indian table and a sofa and a chair and a fire place and a lemon tree in front of the door. My illustrations I do at the main house, either in my dining room or in the living room where I have a drawing table.
Which do you prefer – writing or illustrating? Which one usually sparks your imagination?
I prefer the writing. But the illustration is a wonderful thing to do once I am finished with the writing. It makes me visit my stories in a very different way and it feels very different to work with pencil and paper instead of words. I love to listen to audio books while I am drawing which is such a treat.

On "Reckless"
What inspired Reckless?
Reckless is the first story that I found thanks to someone else. One of my best friends, Lionel Wigram, usually produces movies (he produces the Harry Potter movies and the Sherlock Holmes movies with Robert Downey) and we worked on a script idea of his together when we found the Mirrorworld. At that point it was just the idea that there is a world where all the fairy tales we know are reality. I loved that idea so much that I finally asked Lionel for permission to use it for a novel. As he had make me find that world we worked on the plots and the characters together so Reckless was also the very first book of mine where I allowed somebody else's imagination to have a huge impact. If you ever want to write a story try to do it with a friend - it is a great adventure!

As for the world we found - it took me a while to figure out how to get there. First it was a door, but then I read about mirrors and all the stories and secrets connected with them and I thought: yes, that is the perfect entrance. I also felt that the fairy tales in the world behind it shouldn't just be fairy tales in general but that the Mirrorworld should be a version of a 19th century world and have the same geography as our world. Which means that you only find trolls in the northern countries (unless they emigrated:) and that every country has the creatures and fairy tale motives we find in its folk tales. For part 1 I read German, Austrian and Slowenian fairy tales, for Part 2 English, Swiss and French tales. Part 3 is supposed to go to Russia, Part 4 to Spain and Part 5 may take Jacob to JApan, but let's see. In my experience a story always has its own will!

How long did it take you to write it?
It took me almost three years, as I already worked on another book when Jacob Reckless came my way, which will come out in 2011. Normally it takes me about two years to write a book but it also took longer because I wrote in German but worked in English with Lionel and we always had to translate in between to keep on doing the story together.

What were the challenges you faced when writing the story?
It was a beast of a story. It liked to hide from me and make me get lost in its labyrinth then suddenly show me the way! It was such an adventure. I had never had such an impatient and thoughtless hero and he made me try to find a style that suited him. I wanted the language to be short and fast and more modern, to fit Jacob and his temperament. The Inkworld need a totally different language and pace.

It is always a wonderful challenge for a writer to change and develop one's style and language. The first time I did that was with Thief Lord and I remember that I had 13 drafts at the end. With Reckless there were 6 or 7. Of course it was also a great challenge for the first time working WITH someone. As Lionel knew the characters as well as I did he questioned me much more than any editor would dare and it was incredibly inspiring to work like this but of course also much more exhausting. We are working on Part 2 and now it is already much easier because we built the world and found our rhythm together. In fact I will be done with it by the end of the year and its' sooooooo much fun to write it.

What are your favourite characters in Reckless?
Hmmm, I guess Jacob is my favourite because he reminds me very much of my son - and he is my male alter ego and makes me feel very free and reckless while I am writing his story. Though.......on the other hand I LOVE Fox. I think I never creeted a character that is so much like me. And then there is the Dark Fairy and Valiant and Will and ...as you see, I love them all!

How did you come up with the names like Kami’en and Hentzau?
For Kami'en I looked at the Polish word for stone as I always thought the Goyl come from the East and its mountains. As for Hentzau- he is Lionel's favourite. He created the character and he gave him a name from one of his favourite movies: The Prisoner of Zenda.

Thank you for your time, Cornelia.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

March 8: Time for Real Change by Kee Thuan Chye

Title/Author: March 8: Time For Real Change/Kee Thuan Chye
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish
No. of Pages: 363
ISBN 13: 9789814328333

(Written for Malaysiakini.com)

An inspiring chronicle of change
Review by Jee Wan
http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/152887
Jan 9

When we won the Asian Football Federation Suzuki Cup, our PM declared 31st December a public holiday, claiming to support the 1Malaysia concept of "People First, Performance Now". Hurrah, hurrah.

But when our PM attended a Christmas celebration at the Catholic Church Archbishop residence, the PMO directive ordered the church officials to remove crucifixes and prohibit them from singing hymns and praying, saying it's to protect the prime minister's Islamic credentials.

Here we are shouting 1Malaysia this and 1Malaysia that, but know not how to respect the tradition, culture and beliefs of another religion? What message are we sending out to the public and the world at large? That we are still immature even after 53 years of independence?

That even our own leaders can't walk the talk?

That's just the tip of the tip of the iceberg. And our opinion would probably sound very biased to those who only read the mainstream media or who have been constantly reminded and instilled with fear of change.

But seriously; if we want to see improvement and real progress, we need to change. Change the way we think. Change the way we perceive things. Change for the better.

A wise man once said, "He who rejects change is the architect of decay." So, let this book, 'March 8: Time for Real Change', open your mind. Read it and then, tell me and those whom I share my stand with, if we're biased.

'March 8: Time for Real Change', is an upgraded and revised edition of the 2008 original, titled 'March 8 The Day Malaysia Woke Up', put together by Kee Thuan Chye.

This edition is divided into 3 sections - Where We Are Now, Back to the Beginning and Where Do We Go from Here, and contains 42 essays altogether.

The ones in Where We Are Now discuss major issues that have happened since March 8, 2008 and reflect on whether the country is better or worse off.

Back to the Beginning consists of essays and interviews selected from the original book, which bring us back to the beginning of March 8, helping us to reflect and learn from our mistakes before moving forward. Lastly, in Where Do We Go from Here, we look forward and reignite hopes for a better future.

Hoping for real change
Spread sporadically throughout the book are comments and opinions shared by Malaysians from all walks of life, young and old, expressing their hopes for real change - each very moving, especially the ones written by determined, hopeful youths.

The essay that tugged at our hearts was the one written by Kee (right), titled Merdeka on March 8, which reminded us of what happened three years ago - the joy that spread like wild fire and camaraderie that had the right ingredients for the now 1Malaysia.

Everyone did their part to make a difference. There were those who came back from afar just to cast their votes, those who volunteered to help out at the polls and those who attended the numerous ceramahs during the campaign period, to see change. And change is what we got.

If this can't convince people that we can make a difference, then I don't know what can.

There are also brilliant interviews in this compilation. We enjoyed the ones with Raja Petra Kamaruddin (RPK) that had a rather suggestive title, How Big Are Your Balls? and Steven Gan in We Stand with the Underdogs.

It goes without saying that the interview with RPK is not without some bluntness, wisecracks and Malaysian slang slipping in every now and then. Not only did it tickle us to the core, but it made us ponder on a few things.

We liked what he said about fear. "Once you keep fearing and fearing, everything takut, gangster-lah, takut ini-lah, takut itu, I tell you we will never move forward." And how can one learn not to be scared? "...set an example, and you get people to join you."

And we found the last comment he gave in regard to Umno ruling by sheer intimidation, so true. Don't blame the musang for eating the ayam, because that is its basic instinct. If you want to blame, blame the one who opened the door to let the musang in, i.e. people who gave the power to the parties to do so.

We Stand with the Underdogs, is an interview with Steven Gan, the editor of Malaysiakini, who's also a dedicated, rare Malaysian journalist. In this interview, Steven shares with us about his experience and challenges working with an independent media.

The second half of this interview focuses on being an underdog and supporting those in the same position. "I think if BN happened to be out of power, we would be standing with them. It is part and parcel of the fact that there has to be some check and balance, and we need to play that role."

Sweet success
Like many other Malaysians, he too, shared the sweet success of March 8. He said, "I think the most meaningful thing that came out of it is that there can be a change in government without riot", further proving that we need not fear change, because we can handle change.

This book reminded us that change is possible; that there is hope for a better Malaysia. It helped us recollect what has happened and reignited that fire in us again, to want to make a difference.

Youths and those interested in knowing a little more about politics besides the ones you have read in the mainstream media would appreciate this book, as it gives a clear picture of what we have achieved thus far and what our future holds if we don't do something about it today.

Please do not to turn a deaf ear and blind eye to politics; it's not dirty if you're fighting for peace and justice.

If you've never really cared about the future of Malaysia, then 'March 8: Time for Real Change' might just make you want to care about it now.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Brothers by Yu Hua

Title/Author: Brothers/Yu Hua
Publisher: Picador USA
No. of Pages: 600
ISBN 13: 9780330452755

In a nutshell
‘Brothers’ is about two stepbrothers, Baldy Li and Song Gang, who were brought together by death. Song Gang’s dad married Baldy Li’s mom after Baldy Li’s birth dad died tragically in a grotesque and comical incident. In the beginning I was a little put off by some of these explicit scenes and the constant use of vulgar language (and not to mention also the detailed descriptions of butts!). But after putting up with all of that, I was rewarded by a very heart-rending story of the stepbrothers who grew up in Liu Town, a small town in Shanghai, during the Cultural Revolution. Baldy Li, crafty and crass, while Song Gang, his total opposite, honest and gentle, are fiercely loyal to each other until they both fell in love with lin Hong, the most beautiful woman in Liu Town.

What I liked
Definitely the humour and charm that made up for its vulgarity. There was this scene where a bunch of kids were supposed to relay Baldy Li’s undying love for Lin Hong by saying, ‘Baldy Li wants to court you. Are you ready?’ Curious, they asked Baldy Li what’s ‘to court’, to which Baldy Li replied, ‘To court means to marry someone, to sleep together at night.’ Giggling, they repeated his message to Baldy Li, ‘Baldy Li wants to court you! Get married! Sleep with you! Are you ready?’ and trod off. Baldy Li called out to them not to mention about the sleeping and marrying part. Half way through their journey to meeting Lin Hong, they totally forgotten the word ‘court’ and they happened to chance upon Poet Zhao (One of Baldy Li’s nemesis) who overheard them arguing about it. So Poet Zhao told them the word should be intercourse. So when they arrived at the knitting factory where they were supposed to call out that message to Lin Hong, they ended up shouting, ‘Baldy Li wants to have intercourse with you!’

The relationship between Baldy Li and Song Gang. I salute Yu Hua and his translators for being able to capture such an important element of the novel so well that I cried and laughed with the stepbrothers throughout the whole of volume 1. As different as night and day they were, the stepbrothers were inseparable. Song Gang, being the elder brother, made a promise to Li Lan, saying, ‘Even if I only have one bowl of rice left, I’ll give it to Baldy Li to eat, and even if I have only a single piece of clothing, I’ll give it to Baldy Li to wear.’

‘Brothers’ would be a pleasurable read if you can put up with the perversion and vulgarities. But Yu Hua kind of prepares you for it at the very beginning, because if you can’t bear the explicit descriptions of Baldy Li’s butt-peeking experience and the grotesque narration of Baldy Li’s stepfather, Song Fanping, hoisting Baldy Li’s father from a cesspool, then you either put the book away or be mentally prepared for more outrageous ones like hymen-inspections and talks of women body parts.

To Note:
Originally printed in two parts (2005 & 2006), ‘Brothers’ has officially sold more than a million copies in China. (The current version I have, are the two volumes combined into one book) The first part tells how the stepbrothers live through Cultural Revolution and how they looked out for each other when they had nobody else to rely on. The second is about how everyone was trying to survive during the ‘shift’ of China’s economy.

My verdict?
4/5

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