Tuesday, January 01, 2008
Sunday, July 01, 2007
Thursday, May 03, 2007
Robert Zimmerman and de Niro
Paris, Texas - end of the world
New York, New York,
good bye girl
And they meet
on Blaker Street
or the Park that is Central
I watched the sun go down
down down beneath the ground
and it's a new day,
it's a new dawn,
in New Amsterdam
The stranger in the moonlight,
looks stranger in the moonlight
And we meet
on Blaker Street
or the Park that is Central
I watched the sun go down
down down beneath the ground
and it's a new day,
it's a new dawn,
in New Amsterdam
New Amsterdam by Travis
Sunday, April 29, 2007
Pesta Buku Antarabangsa KL di PWTC telah menjadi acara tahunan yang wajib sejak lebih kurang 5 tahun yang lepas bagi saya. Sebenarnya pagi tadi agak keberatan nak pergi sebab melihatkan masih banyak buku-buku di rak buku yang masih belum disentuh (!) Minggu lepas pulak saya baru saja beli buku 'Tamerlene - Sword of Islam, Conquerer of the World' oleh Justin Marozzi di MPH. Buku pemberian bos saya, '7 Habits of Highly Effective People', juga masih belum dibaca.
"Israel lebih hebat dibanding AS. Di Vietnam, AS mengirim 6,000 penasehat militer membantu Presiden Ngo Dinh Diem dan gagal. Di Singapura, Israel hanya mengirim 18 perwira untuk membangun angkatan perang negara ini. Hasilnya fantastis, angkatan perang Singapura menjadi kekuatan militer yang tercanggih ..." - Lee Kuan Yew, From Third World to First.
"Yang bisa membantu Singapura hanyalah Israel. Sebuah negara kecil yang dikepung oleh negara-negara Muslim..." - Menteri Pertahanan Singapura, 1965.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Travis - The Boy with No Name
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
The Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) countries are at sixes and sevens these days and seem unable to make a convincing case for the legitimate rights and concerns of the Muslim world in its dealings with the West, and, more particularly, with the United States, where most Muslim nations continue to be regarded by the neo-con Bush administration and its cohorts in the pro-Israeli sections of the American media as “terrorist” states or states providing “support” or “safe havens” to anti-Western terrorists.
The OIC itself has become a largely ineffectual organisation concerned more with the minutiae of drafting hollow-sounding resolutions and summit declarations than with matters of substance. The OIC was unable to do anything to prevent the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 or the invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003. Nor was it able to do anything to prevent the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in the summer of 2006.
Nor has the OIC been able to take any steps to persuade Israel to stop its brutal military actions and acts of state terrorism against the Palestinian people or the building of a monstrous Apartheid Wall around the West Bank on land stolen from the Palestinians.
The OIC has also not been able to take any steps to persuade India to stop its reign of terror in occupied-Kashmir – in which more than 70,000 innocent Kashmiri Muslim civilians have been killed by Indian troops since December 1989. India’s reign of terror has turned occupied-Kashmir into a territory resembling a concentration camp, while the OIC has sat by looking the other way and twiddling its thumbs.
This is not to say that the OIC countries could have taken on the US militarily to prevent it from invading Afghanistan or Iraq; but the OIC oil-exporting countries could certainly have acted in concert with non-Arab members of OPEC to impose an oil embargo on the oil-hungry United States (the world’s biggest consumer and importer of oil) to put pressure on it to desist from its misadventures in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Instead of taking any such steps, however, the OIC oil-exporting countries have been content to cash in on the rise in oil prices triggered by the Iraq war, earning a windfall of hundreds of billions of extra dollars in the process. The oil-exporting OIC countries seem to be totally unconcerned by the fact that those windfall profits have been earned at the cost of the lives of hundreds of thousands pf innocent Iraqi civilians that have been killed during the US’s invasion and occupation of Iraq.
Now, Iran seems to be next on the list of OIC countries against which the Bush administration is planning military action – using as an excuse Iran’s uranium enrichment programme, which Iran says is meant entirely for peaceful purposes and aimed at producing fuel for the nuclear power plant it is building with Russian help, but which the United States claims is actually aimed at producing nuclear weapons.
The Bush administration used the cooked-up charge that Saddam Hussein’s regime possessed “weapons of mass destruction” including nuclear weapons (now known as “weapons of mass disappearance”) as an excuse to invade and occupy Iraq in 2003.
Now, four years later, the Bush administration seems to be getting ready to play the same “nuclear weapons” card as an excuse to attack Iran. Meanwhile, the OIC, as usual, is sitting doing nothing and looking the other way as Washington’s orchestrated drum-beat for an attack on Iran grows louder and louder.
This sorry state of affairs underscores the need for the OIC countries to find another leader of the caliber, stature and independent-mindedness of former Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to represent the Muslim world in its dealings with the United States and other Western countries.
Mahathir Mohamad, 82, stepped down as his country’s prime minister in November 2003, after 22 years in office, making him Asia’s longest-serving leader,
In his book “The Malay Dilemma” published in 1969, before he became prime minister, he wrote that the Malays had been marginalised during the colonial era (when the then-Malaya was a British colony) and castigated them for apathetically accepting second-class status.
Mahathir towered over his country’s politics for more than two decades, His pragmatic policies won him much popular support and helped transform Malaysia into an Asian economic tiger. Thanks to his policies, Malaysia, today, is the most technologically advanced and most industrially developed OIC country.
Throughout his tenure as prime minister, Mahathir continued to create waves with his frequent barbed comments about the West and its policies towards developing countries.
In his opening address at the 10th session of the OIC summit in Putrajaya, Malaysia, on October 16, 2003, Dr Mahathir was again at his acerbic best. To thunderous applause from the gallery, which included representatives of 57 Muslim nations plus Russian President Vladimir Putin and Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Mahathir let fly with a stinging statement.
“We are actually very strong,” he said. “1.3 billion people cannot be simply wiped out. The Europeans killed 6 million Jews out of 12 million. But today the Jews rule this world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them.”
His comments created a storm of criticism in the West, but Mahathir said later that such criticism only showed that the Jews did indeed rule the world.
Four days later, in a speech in the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta on October 22, 2003, he launched another blistering attack on the West, accusing countries that he called the “great practitioners of democracy” of “terrorising the world.”
Dr Mahathir did not name the countries. But he is an outspoken critic of Israel, the United States and Australia. He criticised states that launched “massive retaliation” for terrorist acts.
“We see states launching massive retaliation, not just to curb suspected terrorists, but his family, his home, his village and his town. It would be ridiculous to think that such attacks do not terrorise the innocent,” he said.
Mahathir Mohamad has long been a champion of the economic rights of developing countries and one of the most outspoken critics of the West’s policies, including globalisation.
On October 20, 2003, just eleven days before he was due to step down as Malaysia’s prime minister, he reflected in an interview with the Bangkok Post on his 22 years at the helm and – as always – spoke his mind: on terrorism, global trade and democracy.
Mahathir transformed Malaysia from a tin and rubber-producing economic backwater into the 17th biggest trading nation in the world and a model of development for other developing countries.
After becoming prime minister in 1981, Mahathir set about putting his ideas into practice, following the example set by Japan, transforming Malaysia from an economic backwater, an exporter of rubber and tin, into a manufacturer of electronic equipment, steel and cars.
His prestige projects included the world’s tallest buildings – the Petronas Towers – and the transformation of a palm oil plantation near the capital, Kuala Lumpur, into the world’s first “Multimedia Super Corridor” – a cyber powerhouse intended to rival California’s Silicon Valley.
With an average annual income of $ 7,500 per capita (ten times Pakistan’s), Malaysia, today, is a rapidly industrialising country, exporting electronic equipment, petroleum and liquefied natural gas, chemicals, palm oil, wood and wood products, rubber, textiles and a wide range of other products.
Mahathir’s policies have also given the country an infrastructure as good as that of most developed nations, with modern highways, airports, ports, telecommunication and internet networks, power grids, schools, colleges, hospitals and some of the world’s best tourist resorts.
When the Asian economic crisis erupted in June 1997, (triggered by the collapse of the Thai baht), Mahathir blamed foreign currency traders, including US-based financier George Soros, for what he termed a worldwide Jewish conspiracy.
“We are Muslims and the Jews are not happy to see Muslims progress,” he said in October 1997. We may suspect that they have an agenda but we do not want to accuse them…If viewed from Palestine, the Jews have robbed Palestinians of everything but they cannot do this in Malaysia, so they create a financial crisis instead.”
Mahathir was heavily criticised by some in the West for those remarks, but he remained characteristically unrepentant and continued to lash out at the West’s economic policies, which he said were aimed at keeping developing countries poor and making the rich countries even richer.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
300 Spells "War" For Iranian Culture
Iran denounced Hollywood's latest blockbuster film 300, depicting the 480 BC battle between the Persian army and a band of Greeks, as "hostile behaviour which is the result of cultural and psychological warfare," according to a Reuters report.
Last week's North American opening of 300, while Tehran is embroiled in a standoff with Western nations over its nuclear program, led Iran and its film fans to see the movie as a Western effort to vilify their nation through history.
The film sold an estimated US$70 million worth of tickets in its first three days, setting a new record for a March release, the film's distributor Warner Bros. Pictures said on Sunday.
But Iranians were clearly offended at the way their ancestors were portrayed in the film, inspired by the tale of 300 Spartans under King Leonidas who held out at Thermopylae against a Persian invasion led by Xerxes in 480 BC.
The government, lawmakers, and Iranian Web logs (blogs) denounced the movie, which depicts the huge Persian army as ruthless but repeatedly outsmarted by the Greeks who are only defeated in the end by treachery.
Even though the film by US director Zack Snyder has only just hit theaters in the US, poor-quality pirated copies are already available in the Iranian capital.
Government spokesman Gholamhossein Elham branded it an insult against Iran, where the first Persian empire emerged to become the world's most powerful in the sixth century BC before it was conquered by Alexander the Great two centuries later.
"Not only would no nation or government accept this, but it would also consider it as hostile behavior which is the result of cultural and psychological warfare," he told a regular press briefing on Tuesday.
"Following the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Hollywood and cultural authorities in the US initiated studies to figure out how to attack Iranian culture," said Javad Shamqadri, a cultural advisor to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, according to a BBC report. "Certainly, the recent movie is a product of such studies," Shamqadri said.
Daily newspaper Ayandeh-No carried the headline "Hollywood Declares War on Iranians," BBC noted.
The paper said, "It [300 ] seeks to tell people that Iran, which is in the Axis of Evil now, has for long been the source of evil, and modern Iranians' ancestors are the ugly murderous dumb savages you see in 300."
Four MPs urged Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and Culture and Islamic Guidance Minister Mohammad Hossein Saffar-Harandi to ask other Muslim countries not to show "this anti-Iranian Hollywood movie," ISNA news agency said.
Iranians take great pride in their history and the empire they founded, and any perceived slight against that heritage often sparks criticism across the political and social spectrums.
An Iranian circulated a petition against the film on the Internet, saying the film was both "fraudulent and distorted," according to a Reuters report.
"It is a proven scholarly fact that the Persian Empire in 480 BC was the most magnificent and civilised empire," the protest letter to the filmmakers said.
Western historians have often said the battle was the first major conflict between the East and the ancient Greek city states, seen as the cradle for Western values.
This is not the first time Iran has protested over its portrayal in films made in the West.
There was outrage over the 2004 epic Alexander which showed the Macedonian general easily conquering the Persian Empire.
Positive Reviews in the West
In contrast to the angry reaction in Iran, 300 has earned largely positive reviews in North America, despite or because of its decapitations and battlefield carnage.
Scottish actor Gerard Butler stars as Leonidas, the hunky king of the Spartans, who leads 300 of his warriors to glorious death at the Battle of Thermopylae against a massive Persian army commanded by the fey king Xerxes (Brazilian actor Rodrigo Santoro). Zack Snyder (director of Dawn of the Dead ) directed the adaptation of comic book writer Frank Miller's graphic novel.
Audiences were "hungry to go to something that looks this unique," said Mark Canton, one of the film's producers.
Even though 300 is tailor-made for male moviegoers, it also rated highly with women, because the filmmakers enlarged the role of Leonidas' queen (played by Lena Headey) to make her a "true partner" of the king, Canton said.
The opening for 300 ranks as the third-highest for an R-rated movie, behind The Matrix Reloaded (US$91 million) and The Passion of the Christ (US$83 million).
300 also opened in a few small Asian markets and it would reach Britain in two weeks, said Canton. Action-packed period epics, such as 2004's Troy, often do much better overseas.
"AS he advanced (with his army)… the forests were converted into open plains; the earth shook, and the hills moved; the lofty grounds became levelled and the road rocks flew off in shivers, and the large rivers were dried up to the mud."
The army of King Darius of Persia facing Alexander the Great at the battle of Gaugamela? Or King Xerxes swarming King Leonidas and his Spartan warriors at the narrow pass of Thermopylae? No, it was an excerpt from our Sejarah Melayu or The Malay Annals, the most celebrated of historiographies ever written in the history of the Malay court. It was the story of Raja Suran, whose army was rampaging city states with its might.
The chronicler of Sejarah Melayu was Tun Sri Lanang, believed to be the one of the Bendahara of the Johor Sultanate. He wrote with a mission: To provide legitimacy to his kings and their ancestors.
Little wonder they traced the lineage of Malay kings to as far as Iskandar Zulkarnian (as Alexander is known among the Malays).
Raja Suran, a descendant of Alexander, was an Indian king, but as recounted by Sejarah Melayu, he was very much part of the Malay court history.
Sejarah Melayu is mostly history but partly fiction. One has to discern which is history and which are myths, legends or court gossip.
The stories in Sejarah Melayu are episodic, so they are potentially "cinematic". Many anecdotes from the book have been made into local films — the strong man Badang, the story of Singapura dilanggar todak (Singapura attacked by swordfish) and, of course, the clever boy (Hang Nadim) killed by the king, not to mention the evergreen lore of Puteri Gunung Ledang.
For the record, there are various versions of Sejarah Melayu, the above text is from Dr John Leyden’s translation of 1821. When it was published, it had an introduction by no less than Sir Stamford Raffles.
But it is the description of Raja Suran’s army, among other things, that had baffled me since I first came across the book decades ago. How could one film such a sequence?
Filmmaking back then was about actors and action and little else. Yes, movie is magic for it creates a make-believe world one would never imagine possible. We feast on illusions of reality when, in fact, we are merely watching recreations.
But filmmaking has improved by leaps and bounds. One would never imagine making The Lord of the Rings the way Peter Jackson did.
All those thousands (perhaps millions) of warriors and fighters of all shapes and sizes would not have been possible without the advancement in computer-generated images (CGI). Jackson’s own Weta Digital was responsible for the CGI effects you see in the trilogy. The Two Towers alone contains 600 effects shots.
The Matrix Reloaded was another landmark in film technology. In the second segment of the Matrix trilogy produced and directed by the Wachowski Brothers, the incredible "Burly Brawl" scenes were done with the latest state-of-the art technology.
Actor Keanu Reeves (Neo) is seen fighting not one but hundreds of Hugo Weavings. And of course, The Matrix, the first film, made famous the "bullet-time" sequence.
Watching 300 reminded me of what the future of filmmaking holds. I am sure 300 is rewriting filmmaking. It has the look, the beauty and the style that is redefining future filming. 300 is not about the incredible story of human bravery but how the story is told. It is not about what one can achieve from technology but how technology is changing the film world — for better or worse.
I have a lot of complaints about 300 — particularly the glamorous violence and the stereotyping of Leonidas’ nemesis, the Persians. But let’s concentrate on how the story of the Spartan king and his 300 warriors comes alive on screen.
It would not have been possible had special effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen not come out with Jason and the Argonauts in 1963. Star Wars (directed by George Lucas), The Abyss (James Cameron) and The Matrix and Sin City (co-directed by Frank Miller from his graphic comic and Robert Rodriquez) all have perfected the art of special effects.
Poor Ralph Bakshi. He attempted to film The Lord of the Rings in 1978. He didn’t do justice in adapting the novel nor enlivened the screen with the kind of effects Jackson had at his disposal three decades later.
But he did something that started many people thinking about a new possibility — combining animation and live action in cinema. His experiment was, to say the least, awkward. But it was precisely that awkwardness that inspired the director of 300, Zack Snyder, to render live action with virtually nothing but digital technology.
Why spend so much money to send expensive actors to remote locations? Snyder locked himself and his actors in a warehouse in Montreal and later spent a full year choreographing 10 special effects companies to assemble the digital puzzle. Nothing is real except the main characters in 300.
Everything else was created digitally — landscapes, even people, horses and elephants. It is a film devoid of sets. Everything is computer- generated.
Editing, too, was more painting than traditional "cutting" of film sequences shot.
The film maintains its graphic comic look while pursuing a new and visually stunning cinematic style. And it cost a lot less.
Who cares who was Leonidas or Xerxes or if the bulging bodies of Spartan warriors are attracting more buzz than the only significant lady character in the movie (that of the Queen of Sparta played by Lena Heady).
Or whether the real King Xerxes was actually androgynous as depicted by scene-stealer Rodrigo Santoro. The way I see it, 300 is the future of filmmaking.
The next time anyone wants to film the story of the invading army of Raja Suran,
just think digital. It could be shot with a "digital backlot" approach the way 300 was. In the case of 300, it turned out to be a visual feast, yet remained faithful to the original text. Any takers among our filmmakers? (Source: NST)