Archive for June, 2012

You Are Here.

My mother is in KL for a short trip. I brought her to Antipodean in Bangsar for coffee and a late lunch. Since we were in the area, I decided to bring my mother to VWFA to see Vincent Leong’s show — You Are Here.

Vincent is one of the few artists who takes on the Malaysian identity likeably (remember “Run, Malaysia Run“?), with a light touch.

Karya Ahmad Bahaya

Anyway, the naughty part of this exhibition is Karya Ahmad Bahaya. This is not the first piece of work Vincent has done of something withering. Karya Ahmad Bahaya looks like the follow up to another by Vincent, called meLayu (worth a watch).

There’s quite a lot going on here: photographs from within derelict buildings, juxtapositioned against views of local landmarks within the building’s broken windows or demolished walls. A collaborative effort with the public to produce a hand-drawn map of Kuala Lumpur (the graphic designer in me loves this, but it still feels too short of content to be awesome).  Light boxes with images of reflections taken from televisions — of living rooms, the outside world, and more*.

My mother and I walked around the entire gallery, pausing before the two photographs for “Keeping Up with the Abdullahs”. You can see they’re done like those really old school official royal portraits.

It could be like the general tycoon’s family portrait too, but then the humour of the objects they’re carrying in these pieces wouldn’t translate as well**.

Vincent Leong | Keeping Up With the Abdullahs 1 | 2012 | Digital C-print on photographic paper | 65 x 99 cm (img from VWFA.net)

Vincent Leong | Keeping Up With the Abdullahs 2 | 2012 | Digital C-print on photographic paper | 65 x 86 cm (img from VWFA.net)

My mother and I disagreed on these very “ketuanan Melayu” portraits of non-Malay families. I said the first portrait still looks Melayu-ish. Maybe because the “Malay” side of my family actually all look quite Javanese/Chinese.

My mother wasn’t really interested in the exhibition otherwise. At the end of it, something in VWFA finally caught her eye. She walked to the huge, floor-to-ceiling window in VWFA that looks out at the many boutiques across the road,  and asked “Is that a sale going on?”.

When I gave her a (perhaps slightly judgey) look…

  • Mom: What? I always say I am Jennifer Yeoh, not Jennifer Yeoh-gurt.
  • Lainie: Hah?
  • Mom: I’m not cultured.
  • Lainie: AIYOH

MY MOTHER WINS CRINGE OF THE DAY.

SHE WINS CRINGE OF MY LIFE.


*The Abdullahs are the easiest work to discuss, but I am more taken with the lightboxes idea. I need to take another look, the lightboxes were having some (electrical?) trouble the day I went.
**my family’s photograph from many years ago, when my aunt got married in Ipoh, and my grandfather only had ten grandkids (as far as I know):

After: Imports — a double bill (21st June – 1st July)

I watched a double bill production, Imports, at KLPAC. If you want to know whether you should watch it, the overall answer is: Yes. Can layan.

I won’t do a review, but these are some brief thoughts from the production:

  • Street Lamp Named Desire (SLND) and Methods work well in the short format — 30 minutes each is about right.
  • Of the double bill, Methods is the stronger of the two. It is denser, maintains a better pace, and the gedikness and bitchiness you see are quite effective. SLND could do with more editing and less faffing about — it is enjoyable, but at times tedious.
  • Methods and SLND are predictable in different ways. While both delve into love stories, Methods is the more traditional “Ahah! Twist at the end!” sort, whereas SLND is more an exploration on the idea of modern courtly love. And possibly insanity.

Overall, it was a decent night out. I won’t be handing them any awards, but I would still recommend it if you’re looking for a theatre production to layan.

WARNING: Heaps of spoilers ahead! Will ruin surprises in store!
Do not read if you haven’t watched it!

So, that’s probably gonna leave me with just one reader. Here goes:

“Method”, written and directed by Jude James, Adam and Juliet are newly engaged. Juliet meets Cat, an exquisite man, and plans for a dinner for her newfound friend. But Cat has a secret. One that will remind Juliet that love hurts. Real love bleeds.

1) The thing that bedevils promoting a play like Methods is that you can’t say “Some of these characters are gay”, because it ruins the “twist”.

Yet, if you’ve been to enough theatre over the years, never mind all the foreshadowing (including the appearance of mysterious strangers) — purposefully vague writeups and gay-friendly promos are big clues that a twist is coming your way.

Of the twists one could foresee while watching Methods, the Gay Theory pops up fairly quickly. Just sayin’.

2) There’s an energy to Methods I don’t understand — and it is Adam’s relationships.

I’d say Adam and Juliet is a realistic portrayal of an OTT straight relationship — that couple you can’t take seriously and don’t want to hang out with. You expect to see this relationship, especially in college.

Adam and Cat are an OTT portrayal of an unrealistic relationship. I don’t know if it’s intentional, but the effect’s quite jarring la. Can those of the murderous gay literati really date each other? Shouldn’t they have killed each other instead? I hope you don’t have expectations to see this relationship. Even in college.

Like two completely different writers wrote the relationships out. Maybe the actors had a lot of input and I was seeing the resulting differences?

3) I like the song selection.

Briefly talked to the director Jude James after the play. He pretty much said he was happy with the play the way it was, and that I should make of the play whatever I want to. It’s not meant to be very deep*. James has two feature plays coming up. After seeing some of his previous work in Short & Sweet (another one of those “Aiyah, I see the twist” plays), and Methods, I think I can layan his future work. Will try to keep an eye out for them.

Rehearsals for Imports (photo by AJ Ng, taken from Imports event page — click to visit)

“Streetlamp Named Desire”, written by Thomas Pang and directed by Marvin Wong, is a modern day fairytale down to the talking pigeons. The girl of his dreams is moving away; what is a lowly doorman to do?

1) All three actors from Methods are in SLND, along with Clarence Kuna (who plays the doorman).

Gonzalo (who plays Cat in the previous play) is a very experienced actor, and onstage with the other three, it shows. He dominates every scene, and his energy level is quite consistently high. Even as a pigeon that goes off on a Spanish rant every so often over his doorman friend’s awkward attempts at romance.

The others range from average to good, but they do get owned by Gonzalo, who is onstage throughout most of the production. He looks really comfortable onstage. He also kinda looks like you could plonk him in a backpacker’s place (ie: hut by the beach in Koh Lipe, Le Village off Chinatown) and he’d…never leave.

2) This is where I realise the trailer I watched for Imports had very little to do with either play. Also, everyone’s quite good looking.

3) I love the randomness of two talking (opiniated, bossy and manipulative) pigeons that may either be the result of a fantasy world, or a doorman driven mad by tedium and unrequited love.

4) I like the premise more than I like the writing — there were lulls in the play, bits of dialogue that made me impatient/bored.  This script needs an editor, and to borrow less obviously from awkward love stories.

5) Watching the play was like reading a comic book. Like an excerpt from one of the earths in Books of Magic, but far less magical.

6) Being the less rigid of the two, SLND also has the potential to be the much more engaging one. Can’t help but imagine it being better. If it were a bit more inspiring, a bit less lost-puppy, a bit more sinister, much wittier. If only the girl were more interesting to anyone besides the doorman.

SLND needs all the little touches and charms that it has yet to discover.

7) “You guys are assholes” is probably the truest line in Imports.

8) I can totally see how the tagline “Human relationships can require inhuman choices” works for both plays.

Anyway, I think this isn’t the kind of show where you’re supposed to go home and strain your brain trying to figure it out la.

If you decided to read the spoilers before going, don’t worry too much about what I have to say about it: just watch Imports, enjoy, go for mamak afterwards. It’s entertaining — and from what I read on Twitter, I definitely had a much better night than my friends who went to watch Prometheus. Heh.

I’d love to hear further comments from other viewers. Especially since I went on preview night.


*I may not be remembering this bit very accurately, but that was the impression I got from the conversation.
Also, Nick, I don’t know if this will make you murderous, but the “f”s are missing from the brochure.

Imports: “Human relationships can require inhuman choices.”

I’ve been offered two complimentary tickets for a theatre production called Imports. I kenal one of the directors, I haven’t been back at Indicine for a while, wouldn’t mind layaning a show, so why the hell not?

They’re also running some ticket promotions (some more interesting than others), so checkitout if you’re seeking some entertainment next week:

The Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre proudly presents “Imports”. A double bill featuring works by directors Jude James and Marvin Wong.

“Method”, written and directed by Jude James, Adam and Juliet are newly engaged. Juliet meets Cat, an exquisite man, and plans for a dinner for her newfound friend. But Cat has a secret. One that will remind Juliet that love hurts. Real love bleeds.

“Streetlamp Named Desire”, written by Thomas Pang and directed by Marvin Wong, is a modern day fairytale down to the talking pigeons. The girl of his dreams is moving away; what is a lowly doorman to do?


Dates: 21st–1st July 2012

Venue: Indicine @ KLPAC

Tickets: RM 28 | RM 18 concession (Students, Disabled, TAS cardholders, Thirstea™ Membership card holders)

Promotions:

  1. Ladies Night: 26 June (Tuesday), all ladies will enter for FREE.*
  2. Pink Night: 28 June (Thursday), all those who wear 3 major items of clothing (shoes, shirt, skirt, socks, etc) in pink or in drag, will enter for FREE.
  3. Buy 4 get 1 free upon presentation of receipt from affiliate businesses**
  4. Buy 10 get 1 free
  5. Groupon promotion (expires soon)

Terms and Conditions apply

*All FREE admissions are on a first come first serve basis and only redeemable on the night itself, subject to availability. **Chatime™ and Paradiso™.  (For Chatime™ members, please present your “Thirstea” card instead of receipt)

Promo Video (ie: what do their faces look like)

For more information (like whether your ex/paramour/father has RSVPed), please visit:
Imports @ Facebook


Comp tix did not come with any obligations. At least, not any I received or can feel 😀

Cannibals in Pakistan

I love it when Javad calls, because it usually means fun times and good food. We ended up on an impromptu trip to Bukit Tinggi, in Garden View restaurant, by the river.

Anyway, for whatever reason, we ended up talking about cannibalism. That picture above? Fiza is telling us about a family of cannibals who were found out in Pakistan last year. They ate corpses from the cemetery, sometimes they ate bits of themselves, and apparently they indulged in freaky black magic (I can’t tell  where the news ends and the urban legend begins).

Anyway, I just wanted to tell you, this is what people look like when you tell them about cannibalism:

"Holy fuck"

"Is she trolling us?"

I think we were just grateful we were already done with dinner.

Dear Diary, Bersih 3.0 really sucked.

So it’s June and I think it’s finally safe to talk about Bersih 3.0. My reluctance to address my attendance of the (supposed sit-in) demonstration had much to do with:

1) the politicisation of Bersih, which I am very tired of
and
2) the collective crazy of some participants.

I went to Bersih 3.0 for work, as a photographer. I was also supposed to be live-tweeting, but for whatever reasons (network flooded/rumoured mobile jammers), that did not work out at all. If I weren’t there for work, I would have been following updates of the rally from the safety of my home. Wearing my boxers. Eating Cheezels.

For Bersih 2.0, I had done my homework the night before. Gotten numbers of lawyers, bought my Good Morning towels, lil packets of salt, went with friends (and political tourists). Presumably had running shoes. When I was kettled in at Tung Shin Hospital, and tear-gassed, I had everything I needed to deal with it (and the relative comfort of knowing Kate, the Guardian journalist we were with, had witnessed the events).

For Bersih 3.0, my biggest preparation would have been an unplanned adventure the night before in Serdang, eating curry mee.

The next day, I took a train to KL Sentral to meet Kate, who was back in town to cover the Bersih rally again for Guardian. This time around, we were both sick as dogs and grumpy as hell about crowds, work obligations and the heat.

Malaysians, early for once.

I knew a huge crowd had already started gathering the night before — I had been in Dataran Merdeka, and somehow slipped behind the police barricades under some farce. Quite a few recognisable faces there, along with the Occupy Dataran crew (who soon had to pack up their stuff). Ahead of me, Pakatan supporters (mostly from PAS) were out in droves, flag waving, slogan-chanting. Felt much more like a political rally.

Malaysians love having the number 24 in their sial news. Rosmah's supposed RM24 million diamond ring, Liow Tiong Lai's RM24,000 license plate, or Teoh Beng Hock's death over alleged abuse of RM2,400. Pantang!

So I knew the official Bersih 3.0 would be hell crowded, and too political. Still, KL Sentral itself was alright. You could see the Bersih T-shirts speckled amongst the crowds, people taking group pictures. A few Lynas supporters. The train ride to Pasar Seni had two middle-aged men who made damn sure everyone else could hear their informed discussion on Bersih issues.

Central Market was so packed I couldn’t see who was onstage giving the speech. Nor could I hear anything being said. I asked around A LOT before I even figured out that it was Ambiga up front, surrounded by friends from the womens groups, possibly rallying the crowds.

Made our way to Masjid Jamek station, through the back of Pasar Seni where the police blockades were. The humidity was intense, and the crowd made it worse. There were some people sitting around here and there, but for the most part, I didn’t see many sitting down.

Polis, polis ‚ talked to some of them. Apparently the police force at Bersih had been given only half-rations from the night before, so they weren't in a great mood either, and prone to blaming protestors. Kate and I slipped through on the left.

Closer towards Masjid Jamek, where protestors were just milling about.

Kate and I were taking it easy at the sidewalks until an uproar started building up at the end of Masjid Jamek’s road. I knew then I had to get to work, so I forced my way to the middle of the road (and lost Kate). Years of partying in ridiculously packed nightclubs had given me the ability to elbow and boob my way through a crowd to *anyone*.

PAS Unit Amal guys started parting the crowd. I was in luck, it was Ambiga and Hishamuddin Rais. If I get pictures of them, I can go home, pop Panadols and have the day over and done with!

PAS Amal flers clearing the way for Ambiga, along with her bodyguards(?)

The first of one of the many times Ambiga would request rally participants be seated — I am still making my way towards her in this photo (before Nizar arrived)

Mostly lied my way past the PAS barricade (“Eh, I was inside just now, but got pushed out here” / “I’m with HER!” / “Angkat gambar, angkat gambar/ “I’ll leave right after”, etc), and made sure I was within a few feet of Ambiga.

All media persons out to get a good shot are vicious, merciless, and very rude. Kesian one of the womens’ NGO reps who got yelled at by a male photographer. “If you don’t want to be pushed, DON’T COME!”. It’s unfair, and I wanted to tell him off, but I was too light-headed by then to do anything but survive the heat and the pushing (my feet lifted off the ground a few times).

Another uproar — desposed Perak MB Nizar Jamaluddin had joined us, with his wife and young daughter.

Children — good for political mileage. Eating chocolates for energy.

Ambiga made her speech, I got my pictures. Of Ambiga, Hisham Rais, steering committee members Subramaniam and Andrew Khoo, and NGO people accompanying them. Nizar and family. I realised after the rally that Sze Ning was only a few feet away from me, but in the sea of people it would have been a minor miracle to see her. At this point, a man had been intentionally prodding and shoving my back — he was clearly out to antagonise and harass me, but stopped when I turned around just to observe more about him. Felt a bit uncomfortable that someone was out to make me lose my temper (he was standing near the PAS Amal guys, and had found a comfortable-ish spot where he didn’t need more space, but was reaching out just to push my shoulders).

They had wanted all of us to “duduk” while the speeches were being made, which would have been another minor miracle if possible, given how packed the crowd was where I had been. I have no talent for squatting, much less in that increasingly dizzying heat. I awkwardly hovered a lil bit, and photographed Nizar since I had somehow been turned around from Ambiga to face him.

PAS Amal guy making sure everyone is quiet for the speeches — most can't hear Ambiga anwyay

Then the best moment of Bersih happened: Ambiga declared the Bersih 3.0 rally a success and asked us to disperse.

“Yay, I can go home as soon as some of the crowd around me moves away!”

Of course, if that happened, Bersih 3.0 wouldn’t be the sensationalised political ammo for BN that it is today. Why didn’t someone just make Ambiga a huge “GO HOME” placard?

Then, an even bigger uproar than before.
“Dear god, today is never going to end”.

Kit Siang and Anwar joined the platform (I think it was a truck?) that Ambiga and Hisham Rais’ team were already on.

"Oh, fucking aces."

At one point, I had turned to the PAS Amal guy struggling to hold the line near me.

Lainie: I’m not being paid enough to work here.
PAS Amal dude: Saya volunteer.
Poor guy.

When Anwar’s political speech was done, and the truck pulled away, I resumed my business of trying to get out of there. My stomach was growling, and I could no longer tell if I was weak from the humidity (was already drenched in sweat by then), hunger or fever. Either way, I was in no condition to layan a crowd.

Part of the crowd that had dispersed. Many were just recuperating in the sparse shades found under the young trees between Pasar Seni and Masjid Jamek

Walked to Pasar Seni, trying to find Kate. Stumbled upon a huge gathering of people who had probably missed the order to disperse (I learnt later that though the likes of The Star tweeted the news, they were treated as malicious misinformation by gung-ho assholes*). The police trucks were there, and lines of officers.

*already very grumpy

I stood near the officers and took some photographs. They were clearly just posing as an intimidation tactic at the time, doing military-esque lineups, getting inspected, assuming battle stances. Protestors were starting to remove the barricades.

Barricades being removed. The ones who took the lead were middle-aged men, but everyone else followed suit soon enough. Like gotong-royong.

Police doing one of their many formations

Some guys with Occupy Dataran poster, beginning the sit-in protest in front of the cops.

Took some shots and left because I didn’t want anything to happen, and I certainly didn’t want to be around huge groups of people and police trucks after the dispersal order.

Police officers putting on gas masks and loading up tear gas guns— ie: time to go.

Central Market was all barricaded, so I had to take the pedestrian bridge. Trembled my whole way across, took quite a few breaks. I very nearly blacked out on my slow walk to the front of Pasar Seni. I was too tired to even pour water on my head, though the heat was quite nuts by then. I was hearing a faint buzzing. I think I only kept going out of sheer stubbornness and dislike for crowds.

At the bottom of the bridge, I stopped to catch my breath. Drink some water. Curse myself. A minute in, I hear the familiar booming sounds of tear gas canisters being launched. Then I see huge clouds in the middle of Pasar Seni, and people running towards me.

The charming sight of pillowy clouds of tear gas, yonder horizon. Fuck you too, BN.

I half-heartedly ran all of a few feet in front before the tear gas catches up with me. Aiyah, menyerah je, I can’t run faster than the air I breathe. I can handle tear gas (however awful), but it’d be worse if I pengsan here from being sick. Sat in front of Pasar Seni, got some salt from a nice old lady, felt the sting in my eyes and looked for an escape route. Train station closed. Babi.

Walked behind Pasar Seni train station (amidst shouts not to cause a stampede — at least some people were keeping their heads with them). Was very upset to see some protestors had brought babies and children with them. Are you fucking nuts? Do not attempt to hold a hostile government hostage with YOUR BABIES. Damn kesian.

Met some hipsters and friends. Some declared they were going to get their money’s worth by getting into Dataran Merdeka. Clearly with everyone’s mobile network down, information was very poorly distributed during the event (and even before). Still encountering people running away from tear gas, noses dripping, eyes bleary, coughing hard. Some were in good humour — apparently there was a change of wind direction where they came from, and the cops had tear gas backfire at them.

Saw a cab, left immediately. Ended up in a pub, cringing at the news as I watched footage RTM would play to death of protestors storming through police barricades and flipping over a cop car.

Hated all political parties a bit more — one for hijacking the event, another for handling it badly (though I knew both would happen). Sinuses impressively clear from the crowd dispersal gas.

Later on, cheered this website on: Dear Ambiga.

Went for a family dinner the next day and was asked by my aunt if I felt gungho about the tear gas. It’s not a surprising question, Bersih 3.0 is a badge of courage for some. At the very least, my own experience was marred by my fever and I should have known better than to attend, even for work.

Personally, I think wanting to get teargassed/arrested for a cause, or appreciating it, would make me an asshole. But feel free to differ in finding whatever values you do in being attacked.


• I have been seen in a Bersih 3.0 T-shirt. I purchased two — one for my mother, and another for myself. Consider this more about my loyalties for cheap T-shirts than Bersih. I wore a black T-shirt to Bersih 3.0.
• To be absolutely clear: I support Bersih’s 8 Demands. I appreciate the movement and the awareness its raised. But because I foresaw the political hijacking and lack of initiative/capacity to effectively limit it — I wasn’t there to support the rally, and if it wasn’t for work, I wouldn’t have been there at all.
• All photos © Lainie Yeoh 2012. Do not use without permission. Heaps more photographs available, contact my gmail account: lainieyeoh @ etc.