If your car was manufactured by Microsoft...
by Chief Alchemist a.k.a Wiley Chin - March 31, 2005 Posted: 12:54:35 PM EDT
At a recent computer expo (COMDEX), Bill Gates reportedly compared the computer industry with the auto industry and stated,
'If GM had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $25.00 cars that got 1,000 miles to the gallon.'
In response to Bill's comments, General Motors issued a press release stating: If GM had developed technology like Microsoft, we would all be driving cars with the following characteristics:
- For no reason whatsoever, your car would crash twice a day.
- Every time they repainted the lines in the road, you would have to buy a new car.
- Occasionally your car would die on the freeway for no reason. You would have to pull to the side of the road, close all of the windows, shut off the car, restart it, and reopen the windows before you could continue. For some reason you would simply accept this.
- Occasionally, executing a maneuver such as a left turn would cause your car to shut down and refuse to restart, in which case you would have to reinstall the engine.
- Macintosh would make a car that was powered by the sun, was reliable, five times as fast and twice as easy to drive - but would run on only five percent of the roads.
- The oil, water temperature, and alternator warning lights would all be replaced by a single 'This Car Has Performed An Illegal Operation' warning light.
- The airbag system would ask 'Are you sure?' before deploying.
- Occasionally, for no reason whatsoever, your car would lock you out and refuse to let you in until you simultaneously lifted the door handle, turned the key and grabbed hold of the radio antenna.
- Every time a new car was introduced car buyers would have to learn how to drive all over again because none of the controls would operate in the same manner as the old car.
- You'd have to press the 'Start' button to turn the engine off.
Why would anyone visit a biscuits website?!?
by Chief Alchemist a.k.a Wiley Chin - March 30, 2005 Posted: 11:08:01 AM EDT
That thought was echoing inside our heads when we (Flo, Andrew and me) were asked to pitch for a local biscuit manufacturer's website and online branding project. They export to 24 countries and they are BIG IN JAPAN, alright. But, still...
Andrew, our evil Art Director, spoke the unspeakable during our brainstorming session. Yep, 'Why visit a biscuits website? And for goodness sake, biscuits are so boring!!!' (We dunked him into a cup of coffee to put some senses into him, like you know, dunking Marie biscuits into kopi-o, remember?)
So, yesterday morning, we drove 3 hours down south to Batu Pahat, Johor. I made the decision to be really honest with our client about this unique pain of a problem that was swirling in my head.
Yeah, why would anyone do that, visit a biscuits website?
I said what I needed to say.
And I guess we were quite convincing during the presentation to the management because when we finished speaking, we got a round of applause (very disorientating experience, this clapping thing after a sales presentation) and then later, a big bag of all types of biscuits.
We are looking forward to work on this project.
BIG TIME inspiring people!
Oh, and the journey back was great fun! We were rocking to Dire Straits, Queen, Eagles, Chicago, etc. Ahem, go to Summit BP for cheap fixes on your cravings for classic rock CDs.
Flo was head-banging to Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody(!??)
Bismillah! no-,we will not let you go-let him go-
Bismillah! we will not let you go-let him go
Bismillah! we will not let you go-let me go
;-) Don't quote me on that.
HOOT! HOOT! HOOT! Let's SWiRL it.
by Chief Alchemist a.k.a Wiley Chin - March 28, 2005 Posted: 8:53:50 PM EDT
After many months of planning, designing and coding and integrating, our Content Management System, Codename SWiRL is finally ready to be shipped.
Our first project that will use our newly-minted CMS system is BP Petronas Acetyles SB.
Great job, Lydia, Flo and Andrew!
Let's slay the dragons!
John Perkins : Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
by Chief Alchemist a.k.a Wiley Chin - March 28, 2005 Posted: 3:13:43 PM EDT
I read about John Perkins', 'Confession of an Economic Hitman' on the latest issue of the mag, 'Over the Edge'. On Sunday afternoon, I went to MPH Subang Jaya to look for this book. I couldn't find it. I guess it's not here yet. But I would really love to get my hand on this one. So, this conspiracy thing is for real after all. The events and happenings of our world is indeed shaped by the elites within the US government and powerful US-sponsored organizations and rich corporations of America.
I got the book at Kinokuniya, KLCC 2 days ago.
What is an Economic Hitman? Here's what the author said;
JOHN PERKINS: Basically what we (Economic Hitmen) were trained to do and what our job is to do is to build up the American empire. To bring -- to create situations where as many resources as possible flow into this country, to our corporations, and our government, and in fact we’ve been very successful. We’ve built the largest empire in the history of the world. It's been done over the last 50 years since World War II with very little military might, actually. It's only in rare instances like Iraq where the military comes in as a last resort. This empire, unlike any other in the history of the world, has been built primarily through economic manipulation, through cheating, through fraud, through seducing people into our way of life, through the economic hit men. I was very much a part of that.
Taken from the site, Democracy Now!
Confessions of an Economic Hit Man: How the U.S. Uses Globalization to Cheat Poor Countries Out of Trillions
Here's the book at Barnesandnoble.com: Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.
About the author : John Perkins
Do you remember how the previous chairman of Proton, the late Tan Sri Yahya Ahmad died in a fiery helicopter crash with his wife?
Makes you wonder, does it not?
Did you say jackal?
Ugh, let's eat nasi-lemak and down it with teh-tarik kurang manis.
Keep your head-down, you don't want any trouble, do you?
Here's my commentary on the book;
'Confessions of an Economic Hit Man: How the U.S. Uses Globalization to Cheat Poor Countries Out of Trillions', by John Perkins
LRT TV Ad : Back to Square One
by Chief Alchemist a.k.a Wiley Chin - March 28, 2005 Posted: 1:37:24 PM EDT
I guess politicans do need to win political mileage by 'championing their race'. It's odd that our so-called 'elected leaders' are the stumbling block to the achievement of our national ideals.
Since when are Malays the only rude people in this country? Get a life. Look around you. Can we be aware of our racial reflexes? We all have our strengths and weaknesses. But I think some basic human shortcomings are not the monopoly of any race.
The ad is a humorous take at the lack of consideration among young people. Can we see beyond our superficial, racial pre-occupations?
One step forward, two step back.
Blogs, Conversations and Technorati...
by Chief Alchemist a.k.a Wiley Chin - March 25, 2005 Posted: 8:39:36 PM EDT
A voice in the river of human conversations...
I stumbled upon an interesting tech company called Technorati.
What's so interesting about them?
In their own words,
'Technorati is the authority on what's going on in the world of weblogs...Technorati is a real-time search engine that keeps track of what is going on in the blogosphere — the world of weblogs...
Technorati displays what's important in the blogosphere — which bloggers are commanding attention, what ideas are rising in prominence, and the speed at which these conversations are taking place. Technorati makes it possible for you to find out what people on the Internet are saying about you, your company, your products, your competitors, your politics, or other areas of interest — all in real-time. All this activity is monitored and indexed within minutes of posting. Technorati provides a live view of the global conversation of the web'.
If you are unaware, around the year 1999, a website called 'The Clue Train Manifesto' (CTM) came onto the collective consciousness of the World Wide Web. In its list of 95 theses, the CTM was like the first light of the breaking dawn that allow us to understand the Internet phenomenon. Many savvy Internet pioneers took notice and looked into the future of the Web and how the Internet will impact the many aspects of human society.
Clue Train proclaims about 5 years ago;A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter—and getting smarter faster than most companies.
Here are the these of the CTM theses No. 1 to No. 20.
Markets are conversations.
- Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.
- Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.
- Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived.
- People recognize each other as such from the sound of this voice.
- The Internet is enabling conversations among human beings that were simply not possible in the era of mass media.
- Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy.
- In both internetworked markets and among intranetworked employees, people are speaking to each other in a powerful new way.
- These networked conversations are enabling powerful new forms of social organization and knowledge exchange to emerge.
- As a result, markets are getting smarter, more informed, more organized. Participation in a networked market changes people fundamentally.
- People in networked markets have figured out that they get far better information and support from one another than from vendors. So much for corporate rhetoric about adding value to commoditized products.
- There are no secrets. The networked market knows more than companies do about their own products. And whether the news is good or bad, they tell everyone.
- What's happening to markets is also happening among employees. A metaphysical construct called 'The Company' is the only thing standing between the two.
- Corporations do not speak in the same voice as these new networked conversations. To their intended online audiences, companies sound hollow, flat, literally inhuman.
- In just a few more years, the current homogenized 'voice' of business—the sound of mission statements and brochures—will seem as contrived and artificial as the language of the 18th century French court.
- Already, companies that speak in the language of the pitch, the dog-and-pony show, are no longer speaking to anyone.
- Companies that assume online markets are the same markets that used to watch their ads on television are kidding themselves.
- Companies that don't realize their markets are now networked person-to-person, getting smarter as a result and deeply joined in conversation are missing their best opportunity.
- Companies can now communicate with their markets directly. If they blow it, it could be their last chance.
- Companies need to realize their markets are often laughing. At them.
Read all the 95 theses here : http://www.cluetrain.com/
Now you can go to Technorati's website http://www.technorati.com/ and find out what's happening in the web now through these blog conversations. What people are talking about form and influence the realities we live in. The last time I looked, there are 8,120,775 weblogs watched.
At the homepage, you will know what people are 'talking' about in their conversations.
If you are a marketer, you should spend your time understanding the 'conversations of our inter-networked society'.
And if you are a blogger yourself, you can find out who are linked to you and also how you rank in terms of your 'influence and importance' in this constant river of human conversations.
Here's what people of this world are talking about...
Take that, wayang kulit!
by Chief Alchemist a.k.a Wiley Chin - March 23, 2005 Posted: 12:38:37 PM EDT
That was what I said when I saw this 'out of the box' medium for story-telling.
How poetic, how dramatic, how...apt a medium...how...
Erm....words fail me.
Let's me try this again.
'What do you get when you mix 'the visual poetry of watercolor, the lyrical brush strokes of Chinese paintings with the engaging drama of Wayang Kulit'?
Did you say Alchemy?
It's called Sand Animation.
YES, you get this inspiring piece of animation work here, http://mail.lynms.edu.hk/~cwk/sand.wmv
(NOTE: A 9.18 minutes show, requires Windows Media Player and plenty of patience, if you are on a dial-up)
And more here;
The Story of Ferenc Cako:
Welcome to Ferenc Cako Official Web Pages
Noam Chomsky : Hegemony or Survival
by Chief Alchemist a.k.a Wiley Chin - March 22, 2005 Posted: 7:38:30 PM EDT
America's Quest For Global Dominance.
I remember quite clearly the months immediately after the 911 tragedy. Those were unforgettable times. More importantly, I remember, while the whole of America seemed to have been caught in a frenzy of flag-waving patriotism and xenophobia, a clear distinct voice of intelligence and reason was heard above the outrage.
I was inspired by this voice that spoke a language of transparency and unclouded reasonings, with razor sharp analysis that cut through the prejudices, fabricated lies that had most of the world wrapped-up at that time.
Curiously, I must say, this voice had a name I once knew.
Noam Chomsky. A professor of Linguistics at MIT.
Yes, Noam Chomsky. I've struggled through his linguistics textbook as an undergraduate. I am sure it was an inspiring piece of intellectual discourse (!) but I guess I had other more important things to do then :-)
But I think I have a short memory...
Last night, I went to MPH, Subang Parade and bought his book called:
Hegemony or Survival : America's Quest for Global Dominance, by Noam Chomsky
And then, when I should be sleeping early and wake up for a morning sales call, I stayed up late and read through the first 2 chapters till the early morning hours.
I went to sleep with melancholic guitar strains stirring in my listless mind, echoing Mark Knofler's words, in his drawn narration, whispering;
Treachery and treason - there's always an excuse for it
And when I find the reasons, I still can't get used to it...
And what have you got at the end of the day?
What have you got to take away?
A bottle of whisky and a new set of lies
Blinds on the window and a pain behind the eyes
Scarred for life - no compensation
I will, hopefully blog and share about this later. Or write a book review on it.
Ah but I have tons of things to do and many many books to read.
Sepet: Integrating the Other
by Chief Alchemist a.k.a Wiley Chin - March 16, 2005 Posted: 4:13:54 PM EDT
Keywords: Sepet, Yasmin the Story Teller, Ah Loong, Orked, A Malaysian Love Story, Race Relations in Malaysia, challenges of a multiracial society, inter-racial marriage, racial polarization, review, critique.
I remember I had a quote pasted on the inside of my pencil case during my pre-U studies some years ago.
It sounded something like this;
'If you belong to your society or a culture, it can be said that, whilst you are the beneficiary to a framework that helps you understand your life and its meanings, you are also a victim of its prejudices and moral failings.'
I’ve since lost the original quote. But I think the gist is there. To me, this quote captures the paradox of our quest as men and women to belong.
It intrigued me then. It still intrigues me today.
And within this context, I must say I am very impressed with Yasmin Ahmad, the storyteller of Sepet, the Movie. I don’t think there are that many 'Malay artists' who have demonstrated the ability to transcend their own cultural views and enter into the soul of The Other.
Lat, Usman Awang…who else..?
Malaysian Chinese writers? Not that I know of too.
Before someone screamed, 'What about Malaysian writers in English', I have to say, yes, a few of our writers who wrote in the English Language touched on very similar themes. KS Maniam, Lloyd Fenando, Ee Tiang Hong, Wong Phui Nam, Salleh Ben Joned, Shirley Lim, etc.
Let me just say, Yasmin tells a better story. To me, her story-telling is effective in carrying the complex issues and sensitive theme of our multi-racial society without losing its audience. But most important of all, Sepet is a story with a heart. Within its core, there's a warm, all-embracing voice that speaks of a set of beliefs and ideals that we really do want to believe in, especially in a world like ours today.
We live in a plural society and we spend most of our lives within the fences of our own cultures. It takes tremendous sensitivity and courage to climb over the fences. You get castigated, sometimes you get killed.
I remember when I was an undergrad at University of Malaya. It was disturbing to see how everyone seemed to huddle only amongst their own racial types. One day, a group of us (mixed bag of nutcases) went up to the Vice Chancelor (unlucky him, he was trying to enjoy his mee curry at the cafeteria) to express our 'concerns' about 'racial polarization' within the campus. We spoke and he ate. He didn't look at us. And strangely enough, this kind and learned gentlemen, a respected professor in Malay Studies, denied there was racial polarization in the campus.
'I don't agree with what you all say. Look around you. I don't see racial polarization here at all.'
And so we all looked around us, over the tables and benches. I remember there wasn't a table that was really representing our nation's ideal of racial integration. Oh wait, a Chinese guy was eating roti canai served on a bright orange plastic plate with his chap-fun friends. Well, that doesn't really count, does it?
Yep, it was then obvious to him that he was quite wrong. He scanned the cafeteria and then looked at us. He wasn't smiling. But we caught the irony of the situation. We persisted in trying to convince him that something needed to be done.
And he agreed.
But he asked us to go see the Deputy VC of Student Affairs.
The 'RIGHT channel', we were told.
So the next day we went to see the 'right channel'. And we were given a long yawning tale about how great it was in the 60s when there were 'barn-dances' and 'panty-raids' in the students' hostels and condoms under the benches beside the varsity lake. To end his 'siok-sendiri' tales, the Deputy VC told us that he's got absolutely no problems mixing with other races because he plays golf regularly with his Chinese businessmen friends.
So it was that the Chinese students eat their 'chow-fun' at night at SS17, the Indian kids would disappear into Brickfields and the rural Malay students will hang-out at Pantai Dalam.
At the residential colleges, the 'Bumigeois Malays', with scholarship money, nice cars and all, would eat out at Bangsar's KFC, PizzaHut or McD and come back licking Baskin Robbins ice-creams while the rest of us eat mass-cooked 'college food'.
It was pretty fragmented, this campus life we had then.
Yes, Yasmin Ahmad, the director of Sepet, crossed those fences. Not only that. She survived the world beyond her cultural comfort-zone and came back to tell us how beautiful and how ugly the other side of the fences can be, with great sensitivity and compassion.
If you have watched all of Yasmin's famous Petronas ads, you would have noticed the consistent, undercurrent theme of 'engaging and integrating the Other' into our lives. I hope she will inspire many of us, Malaysians, to be fence-climbers.
Cultural integrators? Yeah, that's us, Malaysians!
Read my blog on Sepet: The Movie here:
Check out the Sepet: The Movie site here:
Explore Yasmin Ahmad's blog here:
Web Design & ROI Model
by Chief Alchemist a.k.a Wiley Chin - March 15, 2005 Posted: 3:17:35 PM EDT
Keywords : Web Design, Multimedia Design, Web Designer, Brand Designer, Interactive Design, Return On Investment (ROI)
From my interaction with a lot of media designers, whether they are graphic designers, web designers or interactive application developers, they seem to face one common problem. They complain that clients do not appreciate the value of their design work. Yes they enjoy doing their work, but no, they can't live decently because they are always paid lowly, if they are paid at all.
This is a common complain among knowledge workers. Because the client can't hold the 'product or services' with their hands, somehow, their work is seen as less valuable. Yes, even doctors and lawyers have the same complain. I've heard from a general practitioner who runs a clinic at Klang that some patients call for advices or walk in for a 30 minutes consultation and walk out refusing to pay because they didn't buy any medications from the clinic.
The question is, how do you put a value to your knowledge in relation to the impact it has on your clients' business? Yes, what is the ROI (Return On Investment) for your ideas and services?
At XiMnet, we have developed a ROI Model on the work we do for our clients, whether it is a web design project, a multimedia development job, an interactive marketing consultancy, an Internet or web application development project, etc.
In short, if you want to put a value to your services, you need to measure it against your clients' business objectives. And you need to argue your case. That itself is a science. Not rocket science but maybe slightly bordering to 'nuclear physics'. :-)
For a start, you can, if you want, browse through our resources page. There are some good articles about issues you and I face in them.
Web Design, Usability Design, Application Design, SEO & Animation Resources
So you want to be a web designer..?
Designing A New Human Habitat & Brand Manage a Nation?
by Chief Alchemist a.k.a Wiley Chin - March 14, 2005 Posted: 5:59:56 PM EDT
Keywords : Design, Human Life, Meaning, Branding, Nations
I have some unusual thoughts these couple of days. I guess I've been reading too much of newspapers.
Let me put those thoughts down for you to consider. Now, before I do that, I want you to understand these are thoughts I would consider 'out of this world', myself. So don't do this at home or try to change the world because you figured it could help mankind.
OK, here goes...
SONY got itself a new, non-Japanese CEO recently. His name is Howard Stringer. He's a Brit. Apparently it's a big deal that the average Japanese didn't quit eating sushis or drinking sake for 7 days to protest the ascendance of a whiteman onto their most celebrated corporation.
That's an interesting thought. Now I am going to stretch it further a bit.
Have you noticed how badly certain countries are run? You know what I mean...within context, isn't it great if a country or countries can acknowledge they need external help (like Sony, Nissan, etc) and get together as a team to agree and then recruit a PM or President from across the world to run their country for them?
Think about that.
What? Did you say people have too much of national pride to admit they haven't got their marbles together to run their own country?
Oh, how's eating tapioca for the rest of your life marinated with national pride? Wait, try this. You, your children and your children's children, all eating tapioca for the rest of their lives, marinated by 'national pride concerntrated'.
I don't know.
Why prolong the sufferings of the masses if everyone know that they are no nearer to solving their own problems (yes, to acknowledge they are too much a part of their own problems) with the leadership and management resources they have?
Why can't a country hire a President for a fee?
Well, I know this is not very politically correct. Yeah, it's just a wild thought. But it's an interesting thought for me, irregardless.
Here's another one.
Have you have worked in an office with a central aircon? Did you notice someone is always suffering inside an office. If it's too cold, those who love the hot tropics (shall we call them, Hornbills?) will flap around with their thick sweaters and squawk. If it's too hot (we are talking about perception here, not absolutes...), individuals who likes to 'default their air-con temp setting to 16 celcius', (and shall we call these people, Penguins) will hole themselves up and dream of the Artic wind with mouth opened.
So think about it.
What a pain this is to everyone. Now, how about shipping all the 'Penguins' to cold climate countries in exchange for all the hornbills who would squawk with joy to sun their feathers (bodies la...) in the tropics?
Makes no sense?
Well, if you are someone who cares about the environment, imagine how much you atre able to reduce the waste of energy and resources and also manage our planet's energy consumption optimally.
I know, this sounds really crazy. Like I said, I had these thoughts. ;-)
Well, I know we human beings are not only rational beings. We are also emotional animals. Still, just for fun, check out this article I picked up from Design Observer. Reflect on that.
Better Nation Building Through Design
New Iraqi flag, Rifat al-Jadirji, 2004
When a new CEO takes charge, often at the top of the agenda is a new logo. What better way to project the enterprise’s newly redirected mission, not to mention the authority of the new regime?
Someone must have been thinking along those lines in Iraq, where the beleaguered interim Governing Council this week unveiled a new flag design. And a handsome design it is: a pure white field representing the freshly reborn nation, a blue crescent standing for Islam, twin blue bands for the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, and a yellow stripe for the Kurdish population.
Iraqis, however, don’t seem to be buying it.
Read the entire piece here : http://www.designobserver.com/archives/000140.html#37
I am done with this.
Leave this blog item now and go get a life. ;-)
*Excuse me, are you mean you a Feng Shui master?*
by Chief Alchemist a.k.a Wiley Chin - March 12, 2005 Posted: 12:07:15 PM EDT
Here's the quick answer, NO.
Now let's get on with the story. ;-)
People always wear a puzzled look when I hand them my business card at business functions, sales meetings or even in social gatherings.
'Didn't you say you run a web design and Internet application development company?', they would ask. And 'You sound like some kind of chemical laboratory technician!' will be their final pronouncement.
Well, it's like this...
For a start, an alchemist is not a chemist. :-) Alchemistry goes back a long way. Simply put, an alchemist is, the practitioner of 'the art of alchemy'. Hrm...
In Dictionary.com, 'alchemy' is defined as;
'A medieval chemical philosophy having as its asserted aims the transmutation of base metals into gold, the discovery of the panacea, and the preparation of the elixir of longevity'.
So you see, I am not a blacksmith. And please no, I am not a Fengshui master. I am not even a bit into Fengshui! I don't hope to take over from Lillian Too. I think there's one Lillian Too too many already. What with all those 'little lillian toos' (yes, pun intended) talking metaphysical nonsense all around us.
Actually, I've adopted the metaphor of 'the transmutation of base metals into gold' for the website design, Internet application development and interactive marketing simply because, in my view, there's an engaging parallel between the dream of the medieval alchemist and the internet solutions developers of today.
In other words, he who is in the business of Web and Internet solutions must perform the act of 'transmutation' before he could deliver real values to his customers. As a matter of fact, the true worth of his solution offerings depend entirely on his ability to fuse 'magic' and integrate them into his clients' marketing and branding initiatives.
An Internet Alchemist takes 'raw materials' from the World Wide Web and through an ideation process and development strategy, fuse and transform proven technology, design aesthetics and marketing ideas into 'killer-apps' or a sustainable online profit-generating model for our clients.
Let's simplify this thing!
Design Aesthetics + Proven Technology + Marketing Ideas = Sustainable Results, Profits (Alchemy-driven).
Yes, that's what we do at XiMnet Malaysia.
Yes, we do web design, that's true. Yup, we do Internet application development, Online branding, permission-marketing, content management system. We even do content development. But these are all 'raw materials'. These are base materials, or commodities as some might say. These elements need the process of alchemy, before they can bring the magic into your business. So if you are looking for the 'gold-nuggets' in your business using the Internet, do yourself a big favor. Don't go looking for a blacksmith to hammer out rusty hoe for you.
Get The Alchemist and his team of dragon slayers at XiMnet Malaysia!
Note to novices : If you want to pick-up the art of Interactive Alchemy, you can check out my resource page here: Web Design, Usability Design, Application Design, SEO & Animation Resources or get a quick-start with So you want to be a web designer..?
Sepet : Beyond A Malaysian Love Story
by Chief Alchemist a.k.a Wiley Chin - March 10, 2005 Posted: 11:34:15 AM EDT
Keywords: Sepet, Yasmin the Story Teller, Ah Loong, Orked, A Malaysian Love Story, Race Relations in Malaysia, challenges of a multiracial society, inter-racial marriage, racial polarization, ideals, purity, review, critique.
I finally went to watch SEPET on Tuesday 8th March with Flo & Andrew at Sunway Pyramid.
Though I've heard so much about it from so many people and read all the reviews, I must say I was not prepared for the whole experience.
It was beyond my expectation. It was great story-telling. There were weaknesses in the movie if you want to pick on it but I would give it 4 and a 1/2 stars over 5.
It's better than all the Hollywood movies I have watched the last couple of years. I think perhaps only Dead Poet's Society was that soul-stirring. And yes, it's way beyond Puteri Guning Ledang of 16 Million. I was numbed when I walked out of PGL. I was inspired and touched deeply (yeah, I won't try to give you all those macho s**t ) when I drove home after Sepet.
Sepet is a moving story. It is also a very artful piece of drama that weaves the themes of Malay-Chinese racial relations and the issue of nationhood within a simple plot of a love story.
The Movie Site : http://www.sepet.com.my/
The Director's Blog : http://yasminthestoryteller.blogspot.com/
I am not doing a review but I am going to dig a bit into the movie. I think what Yasmin has done in terms of political and race relations analysis and commentaries is unparalelled in Malaysia. She got away with very deft nuances which I think the censorship board might not have picked up. But that's her art. The only other Malaysian works I've seen that use this art as effectively was Mat Som by Lat. The comic strip, not the movie. To an extend, Lat's Town Boy can be seen as a precursor of Sepet. I am sure Yasmin was inspired by the storyline and exploration of the cultural identity of 'the Other' in Lat's Town Boy.
If you hate movies to be taken apart, don't read beyond this line.
I like Yasmin's treatment of a difficult Malaysian theme. I will try to reveal the beauty of the symbolic story-telling as I could see them. But this is not comprehensive. If I am inspired and if I do find the time, I hope to write a proper critique of this rare but successful attempt at engaging a theme not done before in Malaysian movies.
A Love That Transcends Racial and Cultural Barriers.
The Chinese migrant's story of failed adoption of his new homeland. The struggle of a prototypical economic migrant in his attempt to achieve union with his adopted homeland and the shadow of his past that prevents him from consummating the relationship.
The story weaves together an emphatic story about the struggle of a migrant race in Malaysia and their attempt to breakaway, to reinvent themselves, to redefine who they are in relation to their adopted land, beyond the long shadow of history, cultural confines & socio-political lines that force them to take on their limiting identity, roles and ultimately their meaning of existence and destiny.
A Chinese boy falling in love with a Malay girl and goes through a series of events that ends 'tragically'.
Lost Dragon and Caged Rabbit
Maggie thought the price of her love, a timid rabbit in a cage, was too expensive. Loong was looking for for the 'rose of his love' all around town but couldn't buy it for all the money he has. He didn't find the elusive flower but stumbled upon Maggie, a past he is trying to breakway from. But he is again coerced into an unhappy union.
In the next scene, Loong tries to escape from a shophouse’s back staircase but was again caught be Maggie who finally let him leave, with a threat to get back at him.
Great use of symbolism, the caged, the searching, the shophouse and an escaping Loong.
Chinese Family Dinner
Stuffing chicken to choke the words out of a cynical father/husband who was showing disapproval about Loong's relationship with a Malay girl.
Very deft symbolism. 'You only know how to eat, you are all about eating, food is everything to you. Just eat another piece of chicken, we don't need your opinion about this!'
Keong : An Unreachable Itch in Hospital Scene
Loong is aware of his longings and tries to seek out his love, to fulfill his a yearning for a pure union with his beloved. Keong couldn't get to his itch and his talk degenerates into a physical desire, provoking an erection at the thought of the “malay girls in wet sarongs”.
A Bumigeoisified Orked
A chic, made-up Orked (bumigeoisified) being driven away in a red 4 wheels drive with other rich Malay kids, looking at Ah Loong with sad, longing eyes. (Nice touch, Orked looks a little like 'Lolita' here, albeit a reluctant one). Are we heading towards a materialistic culture that will polarise us and destroy our dream as a nation? Are we going to forget our ideals as a plural nation with a single destiny and discard the deep longing for the unification of our selves for crass materialism and westernizaton?
Attempted Gang-style killing of Ah Loong
Ah Loong's past caught up with him at the backlanes of the shops. He is confronted by the master of the 'business district'. Can he break away from the role that's limiting his true desire to live the Life he wants; to love, to belong and to be truly fulfilled, or will he be coerced into replaying and re-living the stunted lives of his father and his ancestors? Between the struggle of 'material subsistence' and the desire to love and to belong to the adopted homeland, which will be triumph? Between the 'boss of the streets' and the pure hearted Ah Loong, who will win the fight?
Clueless Abah in Journey to Airport
Crying mom and daughter and a clueless father, moralizing out of context at the driver seat. Good juxaposition of the emotionally intense and the ridiculous.
Annoying handphone ringtone “Pick up that bloody call la”. Pure fun.
Super great features
Great acting by Sharifah Amani and 3 lovely songs by Sam Hui.
The Ending Disputes
I wonder why Yasmin didn't end the movie with the gang-style killing of Ah Loong and Orked's fruitless search for him in her Abah's old red volvo. She would have said it all with poetic brevity.
I've received a couple of requests to help track down the 3 songs by Sam Hui. Here they are:
These songs should be included in Sam Hui's Greatest Hits collection. Tip, you can get it from your neighborhood's Ah Loong. ;-)
Check out another of my blog on Sepet: Sepet: Crossing To the Other Side
Smoke on the water......*fuyuuu*....
by Chief Alchemist a.k.a Wiley Chin - March 4, 2005 Posted: 1:02:24 PM EDT
We did karaoke last night.
My colleagues had wanted to have some fun on my birthday (yeah, at my expense). As you know, karaoke sessions do always become a battle of songs and vocal chords. Yep, egos too. I've been to those with 1 or 2 lousy singers hogging the mikes, singing their mind-numbing numbers all night through. The rest would just become a part of the brown sofas in the dim room, with only their fingers doing ' dit* dit* ' on their handphone keypads.
But last night, we had fun at e-Box, Club Syabas, PJ. Though the songs were mostly el-cheapo version of the originals, (...why must they use girls wearing bikinis in all the songs? Don't they know the meaning of context?) it was a clean and well-lighted place. And it was near our office.
We all sang last night. As usual, Andrew sang the most (he hogged the mike, he was probably hallucinating about himself being Jon Bon Jovi or Bryan Adams!) and Flo did too. Lydia and Deborah sang occasionally. I sang...but we all had a fun time goofing around with rock songs.
Hey, we ROCK!!! XiMnet ROCKS!!!
I am sure we will be barred from going there from now onwards. But honestly, I think we weren't 'the baddest'. There was a Mat Rock in the next room. He was pretty atrocious at mimicking Awie, or whatever he was attempting to do with his vocal chord. The waiter told me he's a regular and he's drunk. He sounded like a garupa fish begging to be thrown into the water again...or whatever...I've heard of people who got murdered in karaokes because they were freaking people out with their 'singings'. That fella last night, he qualified for the 'Delete Key'. The manager was trying to switch off his mike from the counter. Yeah, he was that bad.
We warmed up in about 5 minutes and forgot about him. We sang Eagles, Beatles, Bon Jovi, Deep Purple, CCR, Bee Gees, Billy Joel, Cranberries (!!?), etc, songs like, 'New Kid in Town', 'One of These Nights', 'Love will Keep Us Alive', 'Proud Mary', 'Have you ever seen the rain', 'Twist and Shout', 'Yesterday', 'Can't Buy Me Love', 'It's My Life', 'How Can You Mend A Broken Heart', 'First of May'...ZOMBIE(!??) and so on.
Lydia did a soul-strirring rendition of Michael Bolton's 'Go the Distance'. We were all sobbing by the time she finished. :-)
But what's worth saying is, I saw Karen Carpenter in her original video clips. Oh wow, that was a long time ago, The Carpenters. Karen Carpenter reminded me of my primary school teachers. :-) Yes, the Karen who had aneroxia. She looked a little gaunt in some of those song clips.
'Rainy days and Mondays always make me cry...'
What a voice...
After 3 hours, we wrapped by doing a super mean rendition (my opinions only...) of Deep Purple's 'Smoke on the Water' and 'Soldier of Fortune', edgy vocals, journey-weary melancholia and all.
O wait, wasn't the last song, 'Smoke Gets In My Eyes'? Erm...I think it was Leo Sayer's 'When I Need You?'
I was hoarse all this morning.
by Chief Alchemist a.k.a Wiley Chin - March 3, 2005 Posted: 12:53:56 PM EDT
I got this from Soo-Inn of http://www.graceatwork.org/.
This is dedicated to those who know the pain of loss and are still looking for the reasons to fight on.
GRACE@WORK MAIL 09/05
(March 4th 2005 Edition)
eCOMMENTARY: It Was Late In The Evening It was late in the evening, February 24th 2005 I sat down to enjoy my new DVD player. I put on one of my all time favourites, Ridley Scott's BLACK RAIN.
As the opening song sounded I felt something. I was tired but I wasn't feeling sad.
Yet I was.
Then I remembered the date. It was my dad's birthday. But he has been gone for two birthdays now. It was also the date Hee Ling died.
Back in 1993.
It has been twelve years. But of course you never forget. I remember inhaling, smelling her scalp, trying desperately to imprint her smell forever in my memory. I remember Stephen falling asleep next to his mother's body, with his toys. When I asked him why he had done that, he replied 'just in case mummy wakes up and can play with me.'
But of course mummy never woke up again.
She was gone.
And I was lost.
In the lonely days that followed, I tried to numb the loneliness by watching movies on VHS tapes. It was the first time I had joined a tape club. The first two movies I borrowed were THE MAMBO KINGS and BLACK RAIN. In retrospect these may not have been the best movies for a new widower to watch. But they were the first of many I watched in those long, lost lonely nights. And their songs have become part of my personal sound track. Two in particular. 'Beautiful Maria of My Soul' (MAMBO KINGS) and 'I'll Be Holding On'(BLACK RAIN).
But as I look back, perhaps those were precisely the right tapes to borrow. Their stories and their songs helped me to feel my loss.
'And the taste of you remains
clinging to paradise
But as the distance from you grows
All that my heart ever knows
Hunger for your kiss
Longing for your touch
Beautiful Maria of my soul'
(Beautiful Maria of My Soul — MAMBO KINGS)
I played that song again and again. I had known sorrow before. But February 24th 1993 taught me that I knew nothing of sorrow. And therefore perhaps I knew little of real life. Without Hee Ling by my side I found myself helpless, a child. Without her wisdom, I made a number of bad errors. One tragedy gave birth to another.
I also discovered that the church community was ill equipped to help people in complex painful situations. I am still discovering that today. Perhaps the evangelical communities I belonged to were better at formulating doctrines. And committed to an activism that sought to win the world for Christ. But they were often paralyzed when faced with the complexity of human tragedy.
And so they left you alone. Or kept you at a distance. On a night like this I realize afresh how lonely the last twelve years have been. But I also realize how far I have come. The grief will always be part of my life in some way. But at least it is now part of my life.
Not cutting into my life.
I often wonder how I have been able to survive and grow through all this, knowing how weak I am. In his book, COURAGE & CALLING, Gordon T. Smith tells us that we need two things to be able to persevere in any desire to live a meaningful life — the grace of God; and the encouragement of friends. On a night like this I realize that my life is living proof of what Smith teaches. I think of all the friends that the Lord brought into my life at just the right time. In the quiet of the night, their faces flash by me. And I smile.
I really do not know why you chose to stand by me, why you risked grace, especially when I fumbled, and indeed as I continue to fumble.
But you did.
I thank you one and all.
I pray the Lord repay you for your kindness and more. But finally it is about God and His grace. I have absolutely no doubts about that. If the Lord had not held me fast I would have fallen away.
I never would have survived.
'I'll Be Holding On' is a survivors's song.
'Well my life is made of sand
It flows right through my hand
Each day I make a stand
And I'll see it through
I'll be reachin' for the light
I'll be wearin' out the night
And you know I'll be alright
I'll be holdin' on.'
(I'll Be Holding On — BLACK RAIN)
Trouble is we are not told where he finds the strength to hold on, nor are we told what or who he is holding on to. I know. I clung on to Christ for dear life. Only to discover that He was holding me tight. On a night like this I understand again why friendship is such a key theme of my life and ministry. I understand again why I want so much to help people understand and experience the grace of God. On a night like this I understand why Psalms 37:23-24 is so dear to me.
'The steps of a man are established by the LORD
when he delights in his way;
though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,
for the LORD upholds his hand.'
As I saw BLACK RAIN again, I saw, again, the story of a down
and out policeman:
---who suffers terrible losses
---who experiences spectacular failures
---who at his darkest moments, finds friends in unexpected places
---who learns how to function in a new world
---who doesn't give up
---and who finally moves out of a victim mind set to a place where he takes moral responsibility for his life.
May be more to the choice of this movie than meets the eye. Whether in VHS or on DVD.
Write me at: email@example.com
PS. This piece was written last week.