February 20, 2014
Where I'm Coming From: Fatimah Abu Bakar - Poskod Malaysia

A brilliant interview with Malaysian actress Sharifah Amani’s mother, Fatimah Abu Bakar. Wise and open-minded. Compulsory reading for anyone wishing to understand the concept of ‘race’ (or lack thereof, in Mrs Fatimah’s case), the state of Malaysian media and how to raise your children right.

January 28, 2014
The Janet Pillai Interview


Janet Pillai (Photo credit: AQ Koh)

With her trademark mop of salt-and-pepper hair, Janet Pillai sits at a table in Hillside’s Café Gusto, scribbling away into a journal. She doesn’t look up until I place a box of Chinese New Year crackers in front of her. Breaking into an impish grin (another Janet trademark), she greets me for our impromptu interview-slash-breakfast. 

As a theatre lecturer and heritage activist in Penang, Janet established Arts-ED, an arts and heritage education centre for children which runs various community outreach projects. Janet’s work has won her various accolades, from being named one of DiGi’s ‘Amazing Malaysians’ to a BOH Cameronian Arts Award, and most recently, being featured by Penang Monthly as one of 16 exceptional women in the state.


Janet gracing the cover of Penang Monthly in April 2012 (Photo credit: Penang Monthly)

I first met Janet in 2009, when she roped me in for a cultural mapping project for Arts-ED. It was an invaluable experience, and I learnt more about my hometown than I’d ever done before.  It also introduced me to a community of people passionate about heritage education and youth engagement, not least Janet herself. I both admired and feared (just a tiny leetle bit!) her blunt and outspoken nature, which was tempered by a dry sense of humour and her genuine concern for everyone around her.


One of Arts-ED’s community performances (Photo credit: Arts-ED)

Unfortunately for Penangites, Janet has now retired and moved to Kuala Lumpur. Given that Janet’s always encouraged us young ones to record the oral histories of our elders, I decided it was time to turn the tables on her instead. We met up last week during her brief trip back to Penang, where I peppered her with questions on her childhood, the inspiration behind Arts-ED, Malaysian bureaucracy and the silent advantages of a hotel room:

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August 7, 2012
That Effing Show

A show after my own heart, with an impressive team, including Ezra Zaid (publisher of Zaid Ibrahim’s Saya Pun Melayu*) and Mark Teh of the Five Arts Centre. (Random observation - it’s an all-male cast. Where are all the female Stephen Colberts of Malaysia?? Clearly I must do something about this and address this gaping hole in the Malaysian media industry when I get back.) One of four shows currently featured on online Malaysia-based TV network PopTeeVee, here’s how That Effing Show describes itself:

That Effing Show is a satirical news show that laughs, pokes fun and points out the (often) obvious and not-so-obvious absurdities of Malaysian socio-political life. In addition to the “liberal/progressive news-commentary thingy”, the show embarks on special projects such as the wildly viraled I Am A Macha music video, and the ASTRO World Cup ad spoofs.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is an obvious reference, but the creators also like to think that they suckle at the comedic breasts of P. Ramlee, Monty PythonSaturday Night LiveThe Late Show with David Letterman and Jangan Ketawa.

Bonus points to the Show for starting their 81st episode ‘Crimewatch, KL’ with the opening line from Ben Folds’ song, ‘Effington’! It’s a place we all want to live in…

*Upon further googling, I found out that Ezra is Zaid’s son, and that he’d recently been arrested by the Selangor Islamic Department (Jais) for publishing the Malay translation of a book by openly-gay Islamic scholar Irshad Manji. Looks like both father and son aren’t afraid of controversy. 

June 23, 2012
Bersih 3.0: Online Resistance and Malaysia’s Digital Hidden Transcript

Photo credit: Australian National University

I just finished my exams for this semester! Yay! It also means I’ve completed all the undergrad requirements to get into Honours, so assuming I don’t fail any of my Arts subjects this semester, I’m going to spend next year conducting some Serious Political Research (as opposed to the frivolity of these past three years…).

But talking about Serious Political Research, I just wanted to share my final research paper for the pre-Honours unit I did this semester, Power (yes, that’s the name of the unit. Talk about short and sweet). It examines the Bersih 3.0 rally held in Kuala Lumpur on April 28 this year, and how it managed to garner the extent of local and international support it did. I really wanted to post it here because I don’t think there’s enough rigorous academic analysis of Bersih 3.0 out there yet, so hopefully my essay can help shed some light on what happened that day, and why.

Thanks to my parents for their support while I was writing this; especially Dad for taking out a one-month subscription to Malaysia Kini, just for my assignment. 


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May 12, 2011
Perdana Leadership Foundation Essay Competition 2010: ‘Malaysia in a Globalised World’

This is the essay I submitted last year to a national essay-writing competition organised by the Perdana Leadership Foundation and MPH Bookstores. It won first prize - which is slightly confusing as there is a grand prize winner (Eric Lee of HELP University College), which technically means I came in second. But I suppose a prize by any other name tastes as sweet (sorry, I make terrible Shakespeare references). I do however really mean what I wrote in the essay, though to be honest I censored myself and tried toning down my criticism of the government. You can read the full essay after the jump:

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