Written on 6/20/2005 02:05:00 pm by sikapitan

Guys, I'm really sorry for not writing in Undergrounduate. Frankly speaking, I haven't found anything new in the realms of social reality for me to comment on. I mean, I've done corruption, glamorous murders etc. Thus, I am now concertrating on a new Side Project. It's in Malay because I realized I haven't written in Bahasa for quite some time. Be warned though: It isn't about politics,sports,feelings,news or anything serious. So click at your own peril.




Written on 6/09/2005 10:00:00 pm by sikapitan

“I baru lepas tengok Savvy tadi. Comel la jugak…”.
I replied, “Oh…baru nak tengok? Waktu launch I dah usha…”
“Itu MyVi laaa..ini Proton Savvyy.”

Even before it begin, Proton got off to a bad start in Undergrounduate’s Unofficial Car Review. What is in a name? I cannot quite place it, but history has suggested that cars with names that sound dodgy will never take off. The Fiat Panda is a well-built car, but it cannot hold up against competitors like the Jazz or Scenic simply because it has been disadvantaged by a lousy name. In Malaysia, we have the Juara as the Champion of the most oxymoronic name one can put on a car. It does not look like a Juara in the first place, and well apparently, the rest of Malaysia does not need a Champion in their house. BMW and Mercedes has decided to play it safe and use numbers to mark their cars, while Porsche and Ferrari stick to exotic sounding names like Cayenne or Modena for theirs.

In Savvy’s case, jokes have already passed about the name at the mamak between my friends and me. It’s unfortunate that they came up with a name not dissimilar to Perodua’s MyVi. I’m sure it wasn’t their intention to sound the same, but it does seem rather like Proton came out with the car 2 weeks late.

Yesterday night, as are our newfound custom, FreDo and I went to the nearest Proton showroom. Imagine our disappointment when we looked inside the vast showroom and saw only one black Savvy on display. Compare this to Perodua’s attempt whereby the whole showroom was filled with MyVi of different colors and specs. Perhaps the reason why we have only one Savvy is that there is only ONE version available now. Proton has continued with the strategy of introducing the most basic model, as was in the case of Waja and Gen.2 before going out with the higher-end spec models later.

Perhaps it’s a case of testing the waters, but as an intelligent consumer, I believe that it is really an attempt at checking out how the car will perform in real-life condition before committing the factory to produce more. And for that very reason many Malaysians have delayed the purchase of a brand new Proton till everything’s settled. It’s a vicious cycle. If Proton is not willing to commit, with confidence, on its new models consumers will cast a wary glance rather than admiration. At the same time, if Proton were to come out with all guns blazing and a manufacturer’s defect surfaced then they will be in deep shit.

The car itself looks promising, with silhouettes of Peugeot 106 (yeap, it’s ONE – you don’t see it in Malaysia) in its design. The front bonnet though, looks a bit weird, with its angle a bit flat for my liking. The front end looks modern enough, but FrEdo commented it is huge with a hint of CRV in it. The side profile is its strongest point, with taut lines running along the side and slightly flared wheel arches befitting the beautiful multi-spoke rims. If the side is its Julia Roberts, then the rear must be Eric Roberts. Simply said, it looks weird, like a mashed-up combination of different designers’ ideas. The central exhaust pipe looks sporty enough, but a 1.2 engine and more than heavy-looking panels would ensure it is not a view any hot-rod Kancil will fear.

However, the most distinguishing feature I see in this car is its miniaturized “accessories” (sorry-out of words). I mean, the door handle, signal stalk, right down to its controls (like temperature and ventilation) are made for hands much smaller than mine, and I don’t have huge hands to begin with. Even more perplexing are the small air-cond vents they put in the car. Even a Kancil has bigger vents than in the Savvy. It will definitely make it an extremely hot interior, which is a pity because it looks rather fetching.

The materials on the seats are of better quality than the MyVi, but the front two seats need better head support. The gear is in a good position, and the centre column housing the CD player and other controls looks better than MyVi’s. It appears that the interior has followed on Gen.2’s success in looking modern and expensive. Let us just hope that it does not follow Gen.2’s quality defects. One problem though is its steering. It does not look good, and does not feel right for the car of this size. Furthermore, you cannot adjust it for rake or reach, and it is so far away from the dashboard and the display. It makes for a less than satisfactory driving position.

One _______ commented that the doors “feel solid”. This is the interesting part about Malaysians. I’ve always wondered what are they trying to find by closing the door as hard as possible, or checking out the engine bay, or rocking the car up and down. Is it possible that we are genetically engineered to be car mechanics? Old and young, they check out cars without really looking at the parts they could really assess. I mean, are they trying to look at the engine and determine if it will run faster just by its looks? Only when the suspension fails would you get the wallowing effect those people who keeps rocking the car is trying to find. It’s a mystery unlikely to be solved by me.

Anyway, without getting the chance to drive either one, I have to say the MyVi offers more bang for the buck, but the Savvy has its own charms. It looks classier and its interior feels better. Maybe if it wasn’t for the disappointing quality level of its predecessors I would be more favorable. In Proton’s defense, the Savvy is truly a Malaysian car – designed and engineered by a Malaysian company. The MyVi, on the other hand, is basically the Daihatsu Sirion. Interestingly, in a recent Autocar review, the Sirion paled in comparison to its competitors in the UK. It is a car with abilities; it’s just that it is not the best in any of them. So kudos to Proton for its brave initiative. Pity the marketing and name, though.


Stand up...


Written on 6/06/2005 11:56:00 am by sikapitan

I was in Bukit Merah for the past 3 days, and plus last week was my final week in ZiCo, so I apologize for not being able to post anything new/fresh. After 4 weeks and 4 days working in a law firm, I have come to this very simple yet life-altering conclusion – I don’t enjoy “law” anymore. At first, it was interest that drew me to legal studies, and then I view it simply as a tool to get rich. Now, I have realized that it is NOT the best means towards the end (which is to get rich bloody quick). I knew it all along; it is just that the sight of young men and women working tirelessly day and night in cold, soulless rectangle cage took its toll on my active imagination. I am in a perilous state - sure of where I want to go, just not sure how to get there.

Well, last week was a slow week in terms of news (as usual), but one news stood out – but not because it’s in the front page, mind you. It appears to be another weird case of impulsive decision-making (see National Service) by the Government when they propose that the National Anthem be played before the screening of movies in the cinema. Apparently, we are all heading towards a state without identity, where we can’t tell whether we are Malaysians or not, and citizens turned on the country without batting an eyelid, and losing in everything except making the longest something to everyone else. To counter all these and more, simply stand up before watching… let us say Black Hawk Down… and sing the National Anthem!

Wonderful! Fantastic! Superb! Brilliant! No superlatives can describe this idea, which will manage to undo years of patriotic neglect in the souls of our beloved citizens and turn them into flag-carrying, world-dominating Malaysians. You will one day walk out of the cinema feeling very Malaysian, and very Boleh. You will jeer every time the screens show something unpatriotic, like loving an Indonesian, or working in Singapore. You will all rush every time Malaysians need another sea-conqueror, mountain-climber and roti-canai maker. Your name is the first in the list every time your company needs someone to march on National Day. You will sign 500,000 times every time Malaysia wants a petition to stop another war. You will stop criticizing the Government.

Please, if you cannot see sarcasm, then you are in the wrong place.

Let us look at the practical side of this. I watch a show at least once a week, so at the end of the month, I would have gotten my dose of the “patriotic” medicine 4 times – certainly more than what the doctor prescribed. But am I a better Malaysian than those who don’t go to the cinema at all? Does singing Negaraku forge a deeper love for my country? Would I jump at the chance to stop an invading army if I go through this regime?

On the other hand, would it further alienate the growing number of intelligent youths who can see past mere showpiece attempts? Today’s youths (and I guess they are the target audience of this campaign) are complicated, argumentative, independent, intelligent and most importantly, diverse in their train of thoughts as compared to generations before. This is the direct result of economic prosperity, education through the global media, and a generally less simple social environment. In other words, it would look foolish.

It’s simple enough for me to sit down here and say that this or that is stupid, foolish and anything else I’ve used before; but the truth of the matter is this is the perfect example of haphazard thinking. The true judge of an effective proposal is in its implementation. So far, it appears that no one is taking this idea seriously- not even the ministers. Almost everyone I interviewed (and that means 5 people-not exactly the perfect test group) say that it is stupid, incomprehensible, and foolish. I’m not against people putting up proposals, but when one consider that the government is an institution which we entrust to lead us, it is unacceptable that the best they could come up with is a proposal to play Negaraku before every show.

How do you judge patriotism anyway? Who decides? The more pressing issue is when every time someone raises objection against the government he is considered as unpatriotic. I love my country, and I definitely support the present government (for lack of better alternative perhaps?) but I do know that if I were to stand up in a public forum and question government policies I would be labeled as unpatriotic. Patriotism, in my understanding, means the love for your country. While it is true that to a certain extent the government, as a representation of the country and its people, deserve the outmost respect and patriotic spirit. But we must never forget that the country lives on, while government, at least theoretically, don’t. The people of that particular country are the one that shapes the nation, and if the people cannot raise its voice or decide in their right mind without being called unpatriotic, then something is definitely wrong with this picture.

Think before saying. Go figure.

Mata Sepet


Written on 6/01/2005 10:18:00 am by sikapitan

This is an entry published in the MSN.Spaces site, dated April 14 and the only one that generated any sort feedback. One of which came from Yasmin Ahmad herself (but hey, it's the Internet age, how can we tell?). It's reproduced here in all its "glory", un-edited with all the errors remaining intact. Enjoy.

Chapter II - Movie Review: Sepet
Expectation is a weird thing. It certainly is a wonderful tool for cheering someone up ("Don't worry, you'll find someone better"). Expectation drives you on. In fact, it could be said that it drives the whole world on. I mean, National Budgets are based on expectations; company policies are based on expectations, going to school is based on expectations (whether yours or your parents doesn't matter now, does it?).
And yet it is the biggest cause of heartaches and dissapointment. Seldom do you get upset over something you didn't expect. I mean, you don't get broken-hearted if Cameron Diaz marries another guy because she wasn't the one you were expecting. But I also believe that one of the greatest pleasures in life is getting something MORE from what you expect. Like 7a's instead of 4, 3 goals instead of a draw and such.

I guess after years of being disappointed and delighted by expectations when it comes to movies, I have developed a knack for lowering or raising my expectations. I mean, everyone was saying that "Without A Paddle" is going to suck big-time but I held my nerves and persuaded them to part with their RM9 for the tickets. I like it when I'm right. It was stupid and cliche but boy did I (and more importantly, them) enjoy it.

But I can't help but be biased before I stepped into the cinema for Sepet. I mean, EVERYONE said I should watch it. I guess I should have taken note who those EVERYONE is. I mean, it's not like I'm disappointed. Far from it. It's just that I thought my mind would be challenged, or my spirit moved. I expected something like The Pianist or AADC (POYO), but instead I got something else that's pleasant nonetheless but less inspiring.

Those who say that Sepet is ground-breaking or controversial are probably persuaded by the main theme of this movie which is mixed relationship. It is controversial to a certain extent. I mean, a Malay girl who prays diligently and wears baju kurung but so comfortable with touching the opposite sex is bound to raise a few eyebrows. But for the really controversial you've got to admire films like "Isteri, Perempuan dan..." and "Spinning Gasing". I mean, mixed relationship isn't something new. Our James Bond spoof Jefri Zain was banging some Chinese chick in the 70's if I'm not mistaken.

So if it isn't so fresh and mind-challenging, what makes it good? Simply put, it is well made. Sometimes people don't realize that lousy execution of a good story would spoil its inherent goodness, and that a simple story can be an excellent movie if properly executed. I mean, what is CLOSER if not a complicated love mess, but an excellent script and good acting made it a great watch, IMHO.
I guess that's what I got out of Sepet. It is like one of Yasmin Ahmad's Petronas commercial. It looks good. It sounds good. And the acting is good. I mean, I'll still put the Hari Raya ad where the guy looked like he was riding a motorbike but was actually "perah kelapa" as one of my favourites.

The whole film was beautifully shot. Unlike Rashid Sibir's attempt at being clever, this one could borrow the tagline from Volvo- "stunning simplicity". I mean, like the shot at the pier on the lake of the two main protagonists, Orked and Jason. It really looks great. And it's a lesson to all filmmakers that you don't HAVE to switch focus to the face everytime one of the character is speaking. We are not stupid as to mistake the voice as someone else's!!

The acting was simply superb. Again, real acting is when you don't seem like you're acting. For example, Ellie Suriaty is a natural, Erra Fazira is not. It's not that Erra's a bad actress, it's just that she won't be a great one. Sharifah Amani (Orked) should be a great one, if given the chance.It's just that I don't see her to be the popular star, which is a pity. It's sad that Malaysians glamorize half-baked "actors" like Khai or Vince while people like Sharifah never gets the chance to grace the cover of magazines. Oh..before I forget, the girl who played Orked's friend, Lin, turns in a commendable performance worthy of some sort of recognition.

But the real praise must go to Ng Choo Seong (Jason). I believed that he really carried his role well, to the point that I cannot imagine another person handling that role. He looks so sincere and natural in his acting. Unlike Sharifah, he has to deal with a whole lot more. I mean, he really looked like the typical Ah-Beng tyko-wannabe in the early scenes,and your favourite boy next door in his scenes with Orked. It goes to show that there's more to Malaysian cinema than Farid Kamil and Yusry.
He doesn't look like a hero though. And Sharifah doesn't look like a heroine material. This is the problem then. You can't keep turning out arty-emo movies like Sepet all the time. The novelty of having not-so-good-looking main actors will surely die out someday. Yasmin Ahmad can't keep taking them for her movies, less they become like Farid Kamil who IS stuck behind Prof. Mohaideen's ass. I mean, where do they go from here?

The setting of Ipoh certainly manages to capture the not-so-kampung yet non-urban vibe. I hate the cliche that there's only two sides in Malaysia- kampung and KL. Nonetheless, certain aspects of Sepet I find troubling. I can't quite see why she would choose Jason over the "Boyfriend", who IS malay but looks Chinese and an even closer resemblance to Takeshi watever his name is. In fact, there's hardly anyone who looks like the typical Malay guy in the movie. Harith Iskandar certainly isn't.

Speaking of which, Sepet certainly did not put in the issue of parent's consent into the mix, perhaps trying to avoid the cliche but instead turned it into something of a fantasy. The boy is a Chinese VCD-seller whose future is debatable. The parents of Orked never questioned her choice until Jason was involved in some fight with a gangster.

There might be a few more gripes I could think of, but it's late, and frankly speaking, I'm just being annoying. I enjoyed the movie, minus the whole emotional drama at the end. It's a great lesson to other film-makers, serious film-makers. Malaysians must take a hard look at what they want to do before executing it. An expensive film doesn't necessarily translate into critical acclaim, as previous international awards show have proven. It is usually the simple stories, told in an exciting way, that gets international recognition.
In the end, I have to say it's a thoroughly enjoyable movie, but is it realistic or simply a fragment of an imaginary Malaysian society pretending to be reality?

And here's the response from Yasmin:

"...Sepet certainly did not put in the issue of parents' consent into the mix..." - sikapitan

and so you see, ultimately, 'sepet' is about possibilities. "you don't have to understand people to love them" was the contention. if you can bear to watch 'sepet' again, this time with the above in mind, i think you may find things falling into place, insyallah. the maid who rules her employers, the peranakan mother's reaction to an indian poem, the love that happened in an instant at the video stall, the parents who did not mind the boyfriend's ethnic background, the maid who liked thai music, etc. i threw many stereotypes out the window, simply because most if not all of my characters were based on real people, and THEY laugh in the face of stereotyping.

"your job is to love us, not understand us," said orked's mother to her father. i suspect Allah put us on earth to love each other, so we can finally learn to love Him.anyway, thanks for watching 'sepet', and for dropping by at the storyteller. Published By yasmin ( - May 30 11:41 AM

My point is that: I should bloody hell watch what I'm saying, because sometimes people do read my crap. Nasib la aku tak kutuk lebih2....