You tumble, I tumble

July 12, 2010 § Leave a comment

I’m not sure why, but I now have a Tumblr blog, Disquiet.

I did it because all the cool people have one. If you call me shallow, I will be deeply offended, but you will be right. Mostly, I started one because the Tumblr interface is breathtakingly easy and pain-free, and clearly geared towards more visual-oriented blogging. I don’t suppose my epic blog posts would fit well in Tumblr, but it is a nice way to share random links, images, songs, videos, and quotes.

Highly addictive, and like Twitter, a further encroachment on my time which could be better put to use writing, reading, writing, helping people, writing, playing with my dogs, writing.

Oh well.

World Cup things

July 11, 2010 § Leave a comment

There is nothing more disturbing than this year’s World Cup, because I went into it with the expectations of having Brazil there until the end. When they crashed out, I was all like, “Say whaaat?” I’m not even sure what made them go apeshit like they did. Are the Dutch really, you know, EVIL? Questions to ponder for the next four years. Right now, I’m thinking that Brazil went apeshit because they were guided by Dunga-Devil.

(Trust me, life is always much simpler when you have unvarnished, focused blame directed towards one thing, event, or person. Never fails.)

I had miniscule hopes for Ghana; logically knew they wouldn’t make it to the semis, yet I irrationally could not stop hoping for it to happen. Plus, so much hope resting on this team. After Ivory Coast came in, showed their nipples under skin-tight jerseys, and left, we’ve only ever had Ghana to rely on. I’ve been rooting for them since I saw them in 2006. Their crashing out at the Hand of God (and Mother Mary ) was so bizarre, emotional and disconcerting that I had to take a Panadol to relieve me from the stress of the game. (Fair enough – the game itself was exhilarating.) Up until then, I was all “Uruguay, Uruguay!” Uruguay has played very well throughout; and Forlan and Suarez made excellent moves together until Suarez became… yup… the Hand. Who says football support is ever reasonable? Anyhow, so that was the end of the Uruguay support. I think I’m still wondering why Gyan missed that penalty shot post-handofgodincident but perhaps that question will dim in time.

I mean, surely Suarez is a Parseltongue on top of everything else. But never mind, I will let it go.

So forgetting that, I didn’t come into the tournament expecting to support Germany. But support I did, because they mesmerized while on the pitch. They perhaps were not consistent; but they dazzled. I mean, Germany? Who would expect them to dazzle? But then they crashed out to Spain; in fact, they crashed out to Spain while appearing not to do a thing at all. Which is why I link to this article, because I ranted on Twitter, perhaps unfairly or perhaps correctly, that Spain played masturbatory football. However, the whole world (especially the half of the world with a better understanding of football than I do) seems to think they played exquisite football. I thought it pertinent that one of the comments in the article above was: “The perceived dullness of games involving Spain is far more a factor of how teams play against them as opposed to Spain themselves.”

See, I’m open to comments about Spain that talk about their non-masturbatory football. I’m open-minded and shit. Anyhow, links to stuff other eloquent, passionate people said about the games below:

  • Supriya Nair writes beautifully enough when she’s writing about books; but as others have often mentioned, she’s one of the rare few who writes about football like it’s intelligent (and intelligible) poetry. This is one of her more incisive pieces (full disclosure: I have, on occasion, been a “highbrow soccer dork” *facepalm*).
  • Over at The Run of Play, there was this excellent piece on the deliriousness of the two days of the semi-finals.
  • Despite knowing, intellectually, that Luis Suarez’s handball was “just a part of the game,” it must be said that I felt more like this. Again, let me just say – no one said football was reasonable. I mean, the refusal for video technology is to preserve the sanctity of the mess – strategic, on the pitch – or emotional, on and off of it.
  • Over at The New Republic’s Goal Post, I enjoyed Daniel Alarcon’s Best and Worst of the World Cup 2010.  Also, Leon Krauze’s list. Regardless of how I feel about Suarez, Uruguay as a team was strong – and Forlan? I’ve heard him been called Goldilocks, and a nancy boy, but he’s never wavered nor diminished himself in any way while playing. He WAS “graceful, charismatic and disciplined: utterly charming.”
  • And finally… the discovery of the tourney: not the first, nope… not the second… yes, the third. Again, I’ve heard him being called a goldfish… a tadpole… a Romantic poet… but he reminds me of a sprite I’d just like to sit with in a forest. What? Oh yeah, no, the guy plays football like… a sprite would; fleet-footed, swift, swooping in gently from corners.

David Harvey on the financial crisis

July 5, 2010 § Leave a comment

What Harvey is saying isn’t necessarily new, but the urgency is – and the animation just makes the end of the world seem more fun.

Your own private assholery, Joel Stein

July 1, 2010 § Leave a comment

Oh, the internet. Don’t you love it? Here’s why I do. You read something fuck-witted as the now infamous Joel Stein piece in TIME magazine titled “My Own Private India” and before you’ve even had a chance to sit down and carefully-formulate your thoughts, every other eloquent non fuck-wit has already blogged or tweeted about it. And while you’re hysterically coming up arguments with Joel Stein in your head, ranting and gesturing wildly towards the empty space beside your desk, they’ve gone all articulate and poised and written such lovely, sophisticated, logical responses to the fuckwit that is Joel Stein. While you’re still gesturing madly towards the empty space.

Which is not to say I’m frustrated. No. All I need to do now is link to those lovely, eloquent and (in the case of Kuzhali Manickavel, HILARIOUS) responses and my job is done. I don’t even have to write anything!

This, ladies and gentlemen, is Lesson 1 of Lazy Blogging. Enjoy!

  • Kuzhali Manickavel’s response. It contains these words:

I read this and could not help thinking that many years ago, in my own one number country, the same thing happened. White people began popping up all over the place and before we knew what was happening, we were the new fuckdoll for the British Empire. And they were here for a very long time. In many ways, they are still here and they will never leave.

So if you don’t read it, you’re pretty silly. Sorry, it is something that must be said.

But before I leave you with those eloquent folks (no, I’m not frustrated), may I just offer you a few words of my own?

Joel Stein reminds me a little of me. Do you gasp in shock? Yes, gasp away. He reminds me a little of me… but a Me from the Past, it must be said. When I first returned to Malaysia after living in Canada for about four years, I remember going to the mamak one day and losing it. The mamak is a Malaysian institution; it is sacred. (Imagine me saying that in the voice of Gemma Atterton in Prince of Persia; breathy and whispery – “It is sacred” and you’ll understand the importance of mamak to the Malaysian psyche.)

Anyhow, at the mamak, four years after being away, I ranted to a friend, “Why does the mamak not look like the Malaysia I remember?” And indeed, it did not. The influx of people from places as diverse as Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, and Indonesia (to name a few countries) meant that the good old capitalist practice of hiring foreign labour for shit wages was alive and well in Malaysia, particularly in the mamak.  Therefore, while the mamak is Malaysian insofar as it served calorie-laden Malaysian food cooked by Malaysian hands served by Malaysian people, this new mamak was showing me a new Malaysia – and making me question, at the same time, just what the hell does the term Malaysian mean. Why am I upset that people from other countries are making a decent living working at the mamak because it ruins my long-cherished idea of what a mamak in Malaysia should be?

I was ashamed, and still am, for that knee-jerk reaction – so uncomfortably close to the “Who are these people and why are they in my country?” reaction by nationalistic fundie-wundies (that’s fundamentalists, to you) the world over. Racism isn’t beyond me; and it isn’t beyond you, either. But I’d like to think that I differ from Joel Stein because I’m ashamed by my thoughts and reactions that have potentially racist roots – I’m not proud of them; and nor will I write 2,000 words on it or whatever and have it published in a magazine that is distributed all over the world and has enjoyed “stature” since it first saw light of day in 1923. It’s the fact that white people – white men – can get away with writing bullshit like this that’s and try to pass it off as “edgy, black humour”, or “satire” or whatever the hell – when it’s clearly RACIST DRIVEL MASQUERADING AS TONGUE-IN-CHEEK HEE HEE HEE – that makes me really mad. What gives you the right to be arrogant and presumptuous in your racist or sexist or classist beliefs? How is it that some of us are ashamed for having those thoughts while the rest of you can proudly wear it as a badge of honour?

It makes me really mad that a fuckwit like Joel Stein has now been paid more attention than he ever deserves, and will continue to increase his million-over Twitter follower count because people will be proud of him for “telling it like it is” and “upholding what America stands for,” and he will never, ever feel ashamed for feeling and thinking as he does or writing what he wrote, and he, in all likelihood, will never sit down and reflect on why the fuck he thinks the way he fucking thinks. Will he ever wonder how much of a role white, masculine privilege has played in making him Joel Stein? I doubt it.

But then I suppose I’m directing all my anger towards the wrong target. Why be mad at Joel Stein when he has an institution like TIME to support his bigotry and give him a space to air it?

On being soothed

June 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

My brain feels like it’s filled with fuzzy balls, dandelions, and lamb’s wool. Or something. Apologies to anyone reading this for the protracted silence on this blog. Another year older, and another year closer to learning how bowel-churning deadlines, the World Cup, and lack of sleep combine together to create an occasionally-drooling, occasionally-ranting Sloth Monster Extraordinaire.

I have met the monster, and the monster is me.

I had a good four days last week when I went over to Langkawi to visit my sister. Free from Bukit Monyet (where my sister had stayed on my previous trip, and which deserves its own book, much less blog post) and its many ghosts, real or imagined, I could enjoy the pace of Langkawi life for what it is – peaceful. And it’s a bloody cliché, for a true-blue city girl to come to Langkawi and find it “peaceful”, to find even its poverty “charming”.

Unabashedly romantic view of the sunset from the jetty point

The bird. (Famous Eagle construction at the Jetty Point, called 'Dataran Helang', or, Eagle's Landing. CHECK it out. It is hideous and that's the first thing you see when you arrive by ferry.)

And I don’t find poverty charming, but in Langkawi I have to remind myself NOT to, as otherwise even its poverty fits neatly into the tableau of the picturesque mist-covered mountains over the horizon of the blue seas and cows placidly chewing on grass and toothless young ‘uns running free with no underwear. It was relentlessly soothing.

Relentlessly soothing view of an the mountains on an overcast day from my sister's apartment

Each time I’m in Langkawi, I’m a little bit perplexed. Long touted as the ideal tourist destination for its beaches, the Langkawi of today is a sad mix of modernisation gone awry and nature modified to go astray. Though millions of ringgit were pumped in during the 90s to ensure that it would be our leading tourist destination, like many other projects started by the Malaysian government, it’s simply been forgotten.

Relentlessly soothing view of ships on water

For those of us who come in from other cities and sit about, revelling in the “peace” and marvelling over the bizarreness of having “nothing to do”, it’s all fine and dandy. But I always wonder what it’s like to be one of the people living there; those who know Langkawi as home, and who had put up with the encroaching modernity in the hopes that it would bring about sustained modernity, but who were only left behind with empty shells of buildings, a tainted natural land, and the influx of boorish tourists during every school break.

Relentlessly soothing view of greenery

Anyway, I’m back from Langkawi… and have been back for almost a week now, but have been ruined in the meantime by a super-drinking session that left me hungover for days. Add that to the mix of deadlines and late nights for the World Cup and I’m left with the kind of mental capacity that thought my puppy was a massive rodent out to kill me when it dashed across the living room.

Reading seems a MONUMENTAL effort, although I have started Wilkie Collin’s No Name, which is delicious, delicious fun. Captain Wragge is so repulsive, he’s also delicious. Also, I’ve been churning through some graphic novels and manga (courtesy of the friend who devised the evil concoctions that led to the Big Hangover), and will probably bore you all to tears with some meandering thoughts about those at some point in the next few days.

I’ve also written up the first part of my Angela Davis review-guide thingy, and am waiting for Part 2 to write itself, which I’m guessing will happen if I scrunch my eyes up real tight, focus, and do The Secret thing.

Free as a queer and still be straight?

June 16, 2010 § Leave a comment

I read Virginie Despentes’ King Kong Theory a few months back and have been meaning to blog about it, but was too awed by its raw power at the time to feel that I’d do a reasonably objective job. So I’ve been meaning to reread it again in a calmer, less-fawning state of mind, but that’s proving to… take quite a bit longer than I thought it would.

She has a short interview in the June/July issue of BUST magazine, and I found her answers to two questions particularly resonant:

Q: Women feel very restricted in the role of femininity, yet I don’t read about this sort of rejection very often. Why is that?

A: I don’t know. It’s hard, but once you say, “I am out of the market of beautiful women,” it’s easy. It comes out of dyke culture, because once you’re with women, lots of things don’t concern you anymore. I fell in love with a girl for the first time six months before writing the book, and that gave me lots of strength.

Q: Is there any way to be as free as a queer and be straight?

A: Not until men start real reflection upon themselves. If men want to stick to masculine values, it will be difficult to live with them and to have good relationships with them. For example, I’m always fascinated by the fact that men don’t feel bad that they always have to kill people in movies. I mean, every actor you like, you will see him killing someone on screen. And once you realise that, you really wonder, Why don’t they feel bad about it? How do they keep their dignity? For 40 years, we’ve tried to deconstruct femininity, and we’ve had some revolutions. If you don’t do the same thing about masculinity, then no, it’s going to be difficult for a straight woman to be as free as a queer.

When I mentioned this to a friend, she asked me if I was going to hit on her. I said no, but perhaps… the time has come to go queer in practice and not just in spirit/theory, or go asexual.

June 13, 2010 § 3 Comments

I am silent because of this:

Isn’t that a massive ball?

Also, because I am very good at planning and strategy; I’ve increased my freelance workload for the whole month of the World Cup. That is amazing, and I am now suffering, what with FIFA goons having no ounce of sympathy for Southeast Asian fans and scheduling the best matches at what is 2:30 AM for us. Ah, how we suffer.

But at some point I intend to post a guide (as opposed to review) of Angela Davis’ astounding Women, Race, and Class and a themed-review of several YA novels based on the Tam Lin ballad. I’m not sure if I should include thoughts on Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin, as well, as its hard for me to stay objective and un-fawning like over one of my favourite books of all time.

If you’re pregnant and you know it, quit your job *clap clap*

May 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

I picked up the New Straits Times this morning, and felt my serene Sunday vibes melt into a frothing foam of red-hot anger. There was a letter to the editor written by one Marisa Demori, the same Marisa Demori whom I’ve seen write in before not just to the NST but also to The Star and The Sun saying how maternity leave only incurred losses for employers, and how women who wanted to have babies should just go… collectively procreate on an island and raise their island babies away from the hardworking capitalists on the mainland. Or something to that effect, anyway.

Today’s letter can be found here, and if the link somehow disappears in the future, I’ve also scanned it and included the visual below:

Below is my response to that damned letter. I’ve sent it to the NST, but on the off-chance that they don’t print it, I’m putting it up here as well:

I refer to Marisa Demori’s letter dated May 30, 2010, titled “Maternity leave: Better for pregnant women to resign.” In the interests of clarity, I’ll assume from the name that the writer is female.

Ms. Demori has suggested that a woman, once pregnant, becomes delicate, and hence should resign from her job because “even the best work environments present some hazards and this will affect the health of both mother and baby.” This seems to be me rather ludicrous. That’s like telling someone not to ever walk on the road because a car might potentially hit them someday, because even the best cars are potential hazards. Pregnancy is a fraught condition for many women; yet it also a regular one. The normal “hazards” of everyday life can prove risky for pregnant women, yet we do not encourage them to sit on their beds and remain in their rooms for the entire 9 months of their pregnancy. There are ways in which women manage, control, and work around their immediate surroundings while pregnant – and this includes their career. Just because a woman is pregnant does not render her “unfit to perform her duties.”

Secondly, Ms. Demori seems to be an unthinking worshipper at the altar of capitalism. Capitalism is a system; human beings are the factors that make the system work. We do not bend ourselves to fit the system; the system must be altered to fit human needs. The last time I checked, women constituted half of the population. As mothers, they produce the labour that goes into the economy. I would venture to say that people are indispensable, Ms. Demori, and that no job or system is.

Thirdly, while there is a glimmer of reason in Ms. Demori’s argument that women be paid a pension for housework, it is also an indication of further myopic thinking. It will be great if we could come up with solutions to provide socialised child-care and housework so that both men and women who choose to have kids will not have to bear the burden of child-raising (an important goal for society at large, to be sure) on their own. However, I don’t see our hyper-capitalist government becoming rabidly socialist anytime soon. In the meantime, maternity and paternity leave is the only humane and viable solution for the masses of workers who have to juggle both a career and child-raising, be it within a traditional nuclear family, or in different circumstances. While the work of raising children and keeping a home is full-time work, it has no value within a capitalist system. It has been relegated as a “woman’s duty” because the conditions of power in our society are still very male-centric. I would assume that if men bore babies and did the housework, housework would have become a paid (and industrialised) “career” a very long time ago.

I suggest we stop trying to fit women into this grand, overarching human plan that is seen from only male perspective. (And as Ms. Demori has shown, it is not only males that are capable of being myopic and sexist.) It’s time we saw the world, and the solutions for its myriad problems, through the perspective of women AND men. What seems radical will perhaps start to make more sense, and solutions will seem achievable. Until then, viewpoints like the one propounded by Ms. Demori must continually be questioned, and regarded with suspicion. Human beings have a right to live within a system that fulfils their needs in the broadest possible sense, Ms. Demori. So to that end, I agree with you that “women should be reasonable” – and ask for as much as they want.

Grunt. Mumble. Grunt.

May 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

I realise that my blog’s heading says, “On the disquieting effects of everyday life” but I’m more likely to simply yammer on about the effects of books than anything else. This must be rectified. More of everyday life must be included. Hence, a summary of recent events of everyday life:

1) The worst possible smoked salmon angelhair at Delicious in Mid Valley. The sauce was watery, runny, bland; I’ve gotten a bigger taste-kick out of pureed baby food before than I could ever get out of this. This is not to say I steal food from babies when babies appear to not want the food. Anyhow, I’ve tried the pasta many times before at the Delicious outlet in Bangsar, and they always got the sauce right – creamy without being too thick; a tasty parade on my tongue without actually being a carnival. But it seems that any decent restaurant chain that opens a branch in Mid Valley is doomed to suffer the Curse of Yuckiness.

2) Robin Hood, the movie. Yes, yes, we’ve read the reviews, it sucks, why did I watch it? I’m a sucker for historical epics. No, that’s not true. It’s just that I’m a bit of an Anglophile, although that’s somewhat embarrassing to admit these days – I can see certain postcolonial theorists giving me dagger looks, or worse, the side-eye. I was expecting the movie to be a rather fun romp, the kind where you leave your brain slinking about by the popcorn stand outside while you head inside to the theater. But it was such a painful romp, this movie, all stolid and sober and brutal without any sense of lightness to leaven the landscape. Furthermore, I’m not sure why Russell Crowe thought he had an accent. I’m not sure why certain people thought he had an Irish accent. He had, for sure, his mumble-grunt more pronounced than usual, meaning that no one could understand what in King Richard’s hell Robin Hood was saying without straining their God-given ears. Cate Blanchett was a delight, but she was relegated to the wispy female role – the wispy female with deep reserves of strength, that is. I maintain my position: she should have played Robin Hood.

Put that bow and arrow down, and go bake some bread.

3) I have recently discovered Ellie Goulding. Her music will not move mountains or shatter your perspectives on life, etc., but they will sort of put a twinkle in your sleep-deprived eyes, and perhaps a slight bounce to your heels-ravaged step. My favourite song at the moment is perhaps ‘Black + Gold’.

Well, you’re my Venus, but you’re not my fire

May 19, 2010 § Leave a comment

The moment the latest issue* of VenusZine landed in my hands, I knew something was not quite right. And indeed, I have the power of the Oracle through sight and touch – the cover looked different, and damn, I thought… it feels different too.

And what do you know? The previous owners of VenusZine have upped and left us desolate, and a new team has taken over. Publisher Sarah Beardsley, owner of Venus Holdings, writes us a tepid note telling us how she’s “always been a passionate advocate for other women.” Great, but I thought this is a fun, smart, out-of-the-mainstream magazine I’m reading. But forgive me, I was wrong, clearly we’re at a leadership seminar.

I know that VenusZine is probably aimed at the BUST demographic – meaning, women largely aged 12 – 25. However, I’ve always enjoyed reading it. Compared to BUST, to which I still subscribe but which in the last few years has become a rather mainstream glossy mag for “subversive” women (pictures of vibrators towards the last few pages, obligatory masturbatory reading), VenusZine had a DIY-aesthetic that appealed to me. As it should have, since it literally began as Amy Schroeder’s stapled and collated zine from her college dorm room. I loved that its focus was resolutely diverse and varied, and not just a few pages of fluffy cool reading for the endlessly vegan-baking and knitting hipster set.

But now! Now clearly VenusZine is targeting a much younger demographic. Like, the Harry Potter demographic? The ridiculously large typeface adorning every page is both plain damned ugly and very suitable for a young girl who’s just learning to read chapter novels. Your grandma might also appreciate it.

A cover story, titled “The Babysitters Club is Back” is revealed to be a “feature” story that features… four questions with the creator of the series. Yup, count ‘em… four. The book reviews are pathetic. While the former VenusZine had about 3 – 4 pages covered in its ‘Reads’ section, the typeface was tiny – and I loved it. Pages were dense with information. Text wriggled for space next to the pictures. There was so much to read! So, so much!

Now, there are big white spaces big enough for you to colour in with your sparkly Crayolas or whatever. Strangely enough, the Art Director, Denise Gibson, seems to be the only member of the original Venus team who has stayed on – and yet she has allowed for this travesty of large type and chunks of white space hideousness to happen.

But the thing that irked me the most is the crappy writing. The Babysitters Club story is blah, the reviews are meh (the books chosen for review were… I just… what?!?), and there is a new section called ‘Verve’, which actually features a blurb titled “5 Gal-friendly Apps”. There’s a line in there somewhere that goes, “Here are our top picks for chicks.”

It’s been awhile since I was a “gal”, and I doubt I ever was a “chick”, so I’m sorry to say… you lost me there, VenusZine.

*Not so much the latest, as it turns out. It’s the Spring 2010 issue, while the Summer 2010 issue has already come out in the States.

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