Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Traffickers of Wistful Afternoons

“There are people who carry calm in the folds of their sweaters. People who
breathe deep while others drown. Margaret was one of those people and you knew
it right away. One day, I’d be asked to call her “Peg." All her friends do.

Standing in the farthest corner of my store, between Modern
Classics and A-Z, Margaret opened her heart. She told me about Aaron. How he
grew up in her living room. How her daughter worked two jobs and how her
son-in-law was hardly home, then not at all. It was hard, she said, but they
were happy together and made a family of it. She and Aaron did everything
together. They took long walks every day. She taught him difficult words and he
told her how he dreamed of flying.”

- excerpt from “Connections” by Jud Meyers, Columnist, ReTales,

I read this well written article a few days back and I have to say that it really left an impression on me. It made me think of how I got into reading comic books all those years ago. While it was not as heart tugging as the one described in the article, my relationship with comic books started as a means to keep me occupied on long train journeys between where we lived and where my late grandmother lived in KL. I think it was a 4 or 5 hours journey back then so I usually get around 3 or 4 old comic books to read each way. Back then they used to sell old copies of overstock comic books at the railway station news vendor and my dad would get me some from there. I don’t think they cost that much since they were usually the second hand comic books resold to the news vendors in bulk. Looking back, I wished that I had kept the ones my father bought during this period as they might be quite pricy nowadays to obtain but like many things from my childhood, I had to pass them down to my younger siblings as I grew older.

For nearly half of the 25 years that I have been collecting comic books, I’ve always got my comics from the neighborhood news vendors. Direct store specializing on selling comic books was unheard of outside of KL. I remember walking to the news vendor opposite the bus station in Kota Bahru every week to check if they had any new comic books to buy. I would usually have saved up all of my allowance, which was not that much, and buy as many second hand comic books that I could afford. I didn’t really mind it that some of it were not in the best quality as long as I could get my 10 year old hands on it to read. Once in a while, I get myself a treat buy buying a new copy of a comic book. Those were rare occasions when I get extra money for either Hari Raya or my birthday. I tried to look for that old shop the last time I was in Kota Bahru but the town has changed so much since then that I could no longer recognize it.

After the family moved back to KL, I continued to get my comic books from news vendors. I remember going to the ones at Ampang Park and Central Market to look for new comic books. By that time, my weekly allowance was already increased to the point that I could afford buying new comic books instead of only the second hand ones. In spite of that, the best times that I remember back then was the afternoons that I spend in their comic book bargain bins looking for old copies of the series that I was reading at the time. By this time I was already a seasoned collector looking for better quality comic books to buy, read and add to my growing collection.

It was after The Mind Shop open a branch at KL Plaza when I first got a taste of the comic specialty shop. I remember reading about it opening in the Star newspaper and going to find the location a few weeks before it opened. It was my first trip to KL Plaza alone and I distinctly remembered seeing the half finished shelves and the promotional posters on the door of the unfinished shop when I got there. The Mind Shop already had a branch in PJ at the time but it was too out of the way for me to go to. I waited instead for the KL Plaza branch to open and I got my membership card to the store the moment I had money to go and shop for comics there. They changed their location several times before I left to continue my studies in the US but I stayed with them throughout those years.

While I was in the US, the main comic book shop that I went to was Capital City Comics at Monroe St in Madison. It was my first introduction to a more sophisticated comic book culture and an experience which was very much different from the one I had back home. Not only did I get to fill up gaps in my collection from their selection of back issues but I also got to connect with like minded collectors who were similarly passionate about their comic books. I remember walking to the store after class every week to check out the new shipment of comic books. Through rain, shine and snow, the trek up from my apartment several blocks away to Capital City Comics was always one of the highlight of my week that I look forward to most.

I’ve been back to The Mind Shop ever since I came back after I graduated. They are now operating at Damansara Centerpoint and you would invariably be able to find me there around the end of the month to pickup my monthly pull-list. After 20 years of going to them for my comics, I keep telling them that I should be entitled to a lifetime membership to their store by now. Not that it would make any difference since my yearly membership fees are practically free now for me considering I spend what most people would pay for a house installment monthly at the shop. I guess eventually I would stop going there, either because I lose interest in adding more to my comics collection or the shop goes out of business – which ever comes first, but till then I would can always look forward for my monthly trip to the shop to get my monthly sequential art fix.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Chilling out at Lepaq

Pics taken at Lepaq Performing Arts Café, Desa Sri Hartamas.

Quite a cozy place to chill out listening to music by open-mic performers as well as hanging out with friends. The open living room concept really gives you the mood that you’re watching a group of friends perform for you at an impromptu party. Would definitely come to hang out here again when time permits.

Facebook group address :

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Stage Design - "Animal Farm" at KLPac

Some shots of the stage design taken at the recent staging of "Animal Farm" I attended at KLPac recently.

Monday, October 20, 2008

"Kisah Gadis" at KLPac

I rarely get to watch Malay theater so I'm definitely will be taking the opportuinity to catch this show at KLPac this week.
Actors Studio's Teater Rakyat Presents

Kisah Gadis

The double bill features two fantastic originals works - 'Mangli' and 'Gadis Jalan Burmah'. Not only will it be the first time both pieces are presented in a single showcase but it will also be the first time both are directed by Megat Sharizal (Teater Festival Malaysia 2004 Best Director for 'Tat Nenas')

Whether the women are telling their stories from a kitchen or a bench, the stories they share may not quite make an epic but are still painfully meaningful, moving and relevant.

This double bill marks the second installment of The Actors Studio's Teater Rakyat programme, the first of which was Anak Bulan di Kampong Wa' Hassan.

MANGLI (in Bahasa Malaysia)
How do you give life to someone who's already dead? At a bus stop, Idayu Sa'ayah meets her old friend, Aris Mat Tam, after years without news. Idayu begins to discover a very different Aris from the college classmate she once knew.

GADIS JALAN BURMAH (in English & Bahasa Malaysia)
The world keeps telling her that she is running out of time but 42-year-old Kartini Shuib thinks otherwise.

On her birthday, while trying to bake her own birthday cake, she contemplates whether or not to go out with an insurance salesman Kassim Rahman, upon the suggestion of her mother. But then, memories of her previous flings return to haunt her. What does it all mean? Is she really running out of time?

Tickets are RM25 (adults) and RM10 (students).
Special preview night on 22 October and Saturday matinee on 25 October at RM10.

Call 03-4047 9000 (KLPac) or 03-2094 9400 (The Actors Studio @ BSC)

Friday, October 17, 2008

New Portal Interface Woes

The new user interface to is really, really ill conceived and planned!

I’ve been a customer of their for years and have been using their internet banking facilities pretty much for most of those year. I have come to depend on that facility for almost all of my banking needs from bill payment, shopping and fund transfers. It has always been a convenience for me especially since banks have stopped operating on weekends which used to be the only time I could do my banking. It is not surprising then that I would be really ticked off to find the very service that made the banking experience with Maybank so convenient these past years so unacceptable with this new user interface.

They have set the bar quite high with their previous user interface. Their customers will have the same expectations that they have before when they login to the new interface. When those expectations are not met, having a screen that pops up apologizing for any inconvenience caused by the new interface is simply not enough. Changing the interface without a reasonable transition period for users to get use to the change also shows a surprisingly short-sighted planning on the implementation team. Were they not expecting the problems that people would have adjusting to the sudden change? I’m fairly sure that the change was done very recently since the last time that I used the interface earlier this month, it was still using the old interface.

A saving grace to all of this is that users are given the option of using the old (they are calling it the “classic”) interface on main screen that users come to when they type in the URL. Unfortunately, it is not implicitly clear how to get to the classic interface from that page. It took me a bit to realize that users are suppose to click on the box that tells the user that they could still use the classic interface to get to those pages. The site implementers would do well to have the link to the classic interface defined much more clearer to their visitors to avoid having their customer hunt for it.

Instead of making the new interface the default screens that customers see when they come to the site, they should have done the opposite and offer the new site as an option for early adopters to try out. As more people get a chance to get accustomed to the new layout, the better the acceptance of the new interface will get when it is implemented. It would even be better if those early adopters could give their feedback to the site designers that could be incorporated into the final design. If this opportunity was presented to the users in the preceding months then I can truly say that I was totally unaware of it. If it was then most probably notification of early adopter opportunities were not prominent enough to get the attentions of those who might want to try it out.

The worse sin of the new interface has to be the slow response and unpredictable login stability. It took me nearly 5 minutes to pay 2 bills that would have taken me less than 1 minute in the old interface. It was worse when my login got cut off in the middle of a transaction with only a pop up screen to apologize for the inconvenience of having to login again. While the transaction did not go through and I did not lose any money for the botched transaction, it was not an experience that I wanted to go through if I was in the middle of transferring a large sum through the system. It was really disappointing to note that such bugs in the systems were not thoroughly tested and fixed before the interface was opened to the public. I have to wonder if the project team responsible for the new interface considered all the possible scenarios for the user acceptance phase of their design and implementation project.

I do hope that the implementation team fixes all the problems that this new interface has and fixes them soon. It will be a blow to their customer’s confidence in using their internet banking facilities if this were not to happen. I would definitely be much more happier if they reverted back to the old interface and offer the new interface as a link for early adopters to try out while they work out all the kinks in the system. It is not fair for them to expect their users to accept a substandard level of service while they try to get their act together with the new interface.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

George Orwell's "Animal Farm" at KLPac

Back in the days during my secondary school, our English class section had monthly readers that we were all suppose to read, prepare book reports on and discuss them in one of the class sessions. Given that we were all 17 year old boys stuck in a boring classroom, most of these readers were quickly dispatched with just the cursory review and book reports prepared using parts of shared reports passed down from senior students who had read the same books the previous year. Discussions of them were mostly confined to whether we thought that the story made sense (for most that we didn’t fall asleep reading) and whether there were any dirty parts to the story to titillate our hormonally driven minds (most didn’t unless we made up those parts ourselves to liven the plot).

Other than a few that were the exception to the rule, most of these readers were forgettable for the 17 year old me. The ones that got me more excited about after reading made up the core books that have shaped who I turned out to be. These were the books that have influenced me deeply and invoked most memories of fondness of those years of self-discovery. George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” was one of them and still one that I love reading after all these years.

When we first started reading it, it was just a story of talking pigs. Being somewhat a history buff in secondary school, I went to the school library and looked up the events that were alluded in the story. Armed with the knowledge, I shared it with the class in my book report (yes .. I was a teacher’s pet for my English teacher) and we ended up having one of the most intense discussion of a reader that we ever had that year. I have to say that it was really the first time that I learned how satisfying these discussion could be. Unfortunately, I would not be able to experience the same rush until much later when I had to take Modern English Lit classes in collage prep school. Still, ”Animal Farm” has always been my favorite pieces.

“Animal Farm” will be the subject on stage presented by the Pentas Project Theatre Production group that I hope to see at KLPac this Friday. Looking at their production photos uploaded at the groups blog (, I think it would be an interesting one to watch to see how they realize the characters and the setting from the written page. While it will be presented entirely in Mandarin, which I totally do not understand, with the help of electronic subtitles and prior knowledge of the original work, I’m hoping for an enjoyable time. Although most would read it as an allegory to the events of Stalin’s rise to power after the Russian Revolution, I like to read “Animal Farm” as more as a cautionary tale of what happens when people abuse their position of leadership and the masses letting them get away with those actions. It would definitely be a timely reminder especially in the current local political climate.

Presented by Pentas Project Theatre Production

Animal Farm

They are idiots before the revolution; they are still idiots after the revolution

Adapted from a novel by George Orwell and script written by Ian Wooldridge

A political metaphoric performance presented by the most promising force of theatre in 2008.

George Orwell's scathing destruction of the dictatorial governance of Communism, "Animal Farm" was written in 1945. Yet, what is its relevance today? In 2008, Pentas Project will boldly question the complications of power and greed, capitalizing upon the boiling discontentment of the people and the strange political and social phenomena which is real life for many.

This is a shattering story of totalitarianism, desire, greed and corruption - forcing you to face the actual collective consciousness of the worst of human weaknesses.

Director : LOH KOK MAN
Chinese Script : TAN YAN TEE
Production Manager : AU SOW YEE
Lighting Design : LOH KOK MAN

Date & Time:
9-18 OCTOBER 2008 @ 8:30PM
12 OCTOBER 2008 @ 3:00PM + 8:30PM
19 OCTOBER 2008 @ 3:00PM ONLY
( NO SHOW ON 13 OCTOBER 2008 )

Venue :

RM 37

Box Office :
(KLPac) 4047 9000 / (TAS@BSC) 2094 9400

012-266 1579 / 012- 277 8871 /
Supported by KLPac + HSBC in the Arts + Colorganda!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Monday, October 06, 2008

AidilFitri ’08 – Raya Dishes (or Why I’m Feel So Bloated After Raya)

(R: Ketupat Nasi and L: Ketupat Palas)

Food is usually in abundance during Hari Raya at our household. Since everyone has their own favorite dish, my mum tries to make sure that we have one of each ready at the table for Raya morning. It’s almost tradition that we would always have 2 types of ketupat on the 1st day of raya, one being the usual ketupat nasi and the other being the ketupat palas which is made with glutinous rice and kidney beans.

(R - Rendang Daging & Ikan Masak Kicap, L: Ayam Masak Merah & Sambal Udang)

(Sayur Sambal Goreng)

Breakdown of who likes what – rendang daging is a must for everyone and my dad must have his daily fish dish so usually the Ikan Masak Kicap is his. My brothers love their Ayam Masak Merah and my sisters can’t do without Sambal Udang on Raya morning. Finally for me, I must have my Sayur Sambal Goreng – it wouldn’t be a Raya feast for me if it was not on the table. While it does look like a somewhat extensive spread, mum usually only cooks enough (with exception of the rendang) for the day with leftovers at most lasting until breakfast the following morning. I always wondered how she manage to do that even when we do sometimes get guest during the first day of AidilFitri.

(Must have plate on Raya morning)

With so much choices, I usually try to limit my plate only to the ketupat, rendang and sayur sambal goreng. Repeat the same plate for the next 3 or 4 times, you definitely get the main reason why I am in dire need of gymming after the Raya holidays!

(Raya cookies (clockwise): Pineapple Tarts, Chocolate Cookies, Chocolate Rice Crispies, Honey Corn Flakes, Dodol, Chocolate Chip Cookies)

Add to that the Raya cookies that we have at the house then the need becomes more urgent. My youngest sister is usually the person who makes all the cookies in our household having learnt the recipes from my mum and the older sister. We never really bothered with the more traditional cookies/sweetmeats other than the dodol since our family never really made them. We would usually buy the more traditionally cookies if we wanted them. The dodol however is a family tradition that we carried on and for this year, I had to make 3 batches of them thanks to a silly mistake on my part which made the first batch end up becoming more like rock candy rather than dodol. Thankfully the next 2 batches turned out ok or else we wouldn’t have dodol this year.

The Raya feast paled in comparison of having the family around for the holidays.