Saturday, August 22, 2009

Body2Body - 2nd Edition

I have just been told that Body2Body is going into 2nd edition by next week. The first 1000 copies is almost sold out. Kinokuniya and Times Pavilion are already out of stock. Damn.

I've always wished it'll do well but even this caught me by surprise. But extremely pleased, nonetheless.

We're getting there, people.

Seksualiti Merdeka!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Body2Body Launch

The launch is scheduled to start at 4 pm. That was 5 minutes ago. I’m still looking for a parking space at Dayabumi. I’m late. But, then again, have I ever been otherwise? To my unpleasant surprise, however, the people at The Annexe Gallery are very prompt. Almost German-like. Certainly very un-Malaysian.

I was ushered to a seat right in front of center stage (which wasn’t really a stage but a just a mic and a stool) as soon as I arrive. At first I thought it was reserved for writers or more explicably writers who are reading to the audience (already I was letting it go to my head) but when I saw my mother (the only woman in the place wearing a tudung) take the vacant seat next to me, I realized they were just filling in spaces.

Reading his story, currently, is Brian Gomez and he looks exactly like his photo in KLue a while back. Down to his cargo pants, tshirt and army cap. A simple dresser he may seem (as opposed to me, dressed in a sandy taupe Massimo Dutti sweater coupled with a Club Monaco shirt adorned with a black knit tie), I look up to him because he has a published book of his own, Devil’s Place. More so, his discussion on What Do Gay People Eat? is both funny and intriguing.

As Brian finished his reading and returns to his seat, Amir, the host, begin to talk about me and, of course, my father’s name, and why it’s the only reason I was included in the book. I joined in the laughter just to be polite. Seriously, I have been getting that stick ever since that other Nik Abdul Aziz came into power. So you can imagine how friggin’ long that was. It’s like being Paul McCartney and is constantly asked to sing Yesterday. Still, unlike Sir Paul, I’m willing to tolerate it every time I meet new people.

Anyway, I was primed to come up and read my story (which I volunteered for a weeks back, not because I wrote a masterpiece) but since I haven’t got hold of the actual book just yet, I was given a pass to get myself acquainted first with the edited version of The Friendship Dictator.

Taking my place in the meantime is Shanon Shah. I may look up to Brian Gomez, but as far as Shanon is concerned, his accomplishments are the things I can only dream about emulating. He’s a singer, songwriter, he won a Boh Cameronian Arts Award, wrote the successful play Air Con and even has his own Wikipedia entry! And judging by the reading of his essay Muslim 2 Muslim, he is one hell of a writer too. His talk about being different, especially in a Muslim world where the unusual are normally ridiculed and tormented, evokes a deep sense of emotion. Perfect, considering if before I have to upstage Brian Gomez, now I have to upstage Brian and Shanon as well. No pressure, right?

In the end I managed to make it through. Not great but well enough, I suppose. My jokes didn’t work and I even got tongue-tied on my own words. But, hey, there’s a first time to everything.

Another writer, Cheryl, came up to read her piece as well and hers just about ends the reading segment. As a sign-off, Amir announced that they are now planning to create another Body2Body but in BM. So, another open call. Am I up for it? Let’s just finish the day off first.

As everyone start to mingle, Pang (one of the editors) shouted for the attending writers to gather at the end of the room so that anyone who wants their books signed can do so with ease.

So I made way there, thinking how many would actually come up to me and to have their books signed? At least by going up reading earlier they can put a face to my name. Little to my surprise at the end of the room is a long table covered in white cloth with empty seats aligned on one side. This is going to be a proper book signing session! I am gob smacked. Never have I thought I’d be on the opposite side of the queue at a book signing session. This is so exciting! And it gets better. Just as I am making myself comfortable, Shanon Shah pulled a chair and sit right next to me. This is so fucking cool! I wonder if I can ask some tips for the Kakiscript Playwriting Competition.

But the best part of all, he doesn’t carry all this accomplished aura around him. He is really easy to talk to. And, opposite to what he displayed earlier, carrying a serious tone of voice while reading, he is quite a jovial character. At one point, when I realized this is a proper book signing and I don’t have any pen on me, I asked Amir, who happen to walk by, ‘Amir, do you have any pens?’ Know what Shanon say? ‘Kau tanye die ade pens ke tak? Nasib baik die tak bukak seluar,”

O… M…Geeeee!!

Shanon Shah just made a dirty joke at me! And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the ultimate ice breaker. Once two strangers share a dirty joke, awkwardness is no longer a possibility. By the way, Amir did hand me a pen. The one you write with, that is.

In between signings and chatting up fans (him: many, me: none), we managed to talk a bit more (and I just want to point out that my story comes right before his so we were like duos in a tennis match, taking turns hitting the ball) and one thing I realize why he is so easy to get along is he reminds me so much of Ikzal. In fact, they are almost exactly the same. If they are both seated side by side, I’d be downright confused. Soon I was giggling thinking about the uncanny resemblance.

After doodle-ing about 30 odd books, I managed to get Brian’s and Shanon’s signature, including Cheryl’s for my own copy (it’ll be priceless!). And as an added souvenir, I received a Seksualiti Merdeka t-shirt from Annexe.

The book is launched, now let the feedback come. That what’s on my mind as I walked back to the Dayabumi car park with a proud mother in tow. That and the new nickname Shanon just gave me.


Body2Body - Out Now!

I just googled ‘It’s not the kill but the thrill of the chase’ and found out it’s part of a Deep Purple lyric from a track called ‘Knocking at Your Back Door’ which is actually interesting considering what I am going to talk about today.

Anyway, I swear I saw that phrase printed on a food packaging somewhere but now that I think about it, that makes no sense at all. But I do love that phrase. I loved it so much that it stuck with me throughout these years. And I am reminded again of that intriguing phrase today as I am writing this.

I have my kill. It’s there for public viewing. Spread across Kinokuniya, Times and Borders all over the Klang Valley. At a price, of course.

Ideally, I would have preferred to emerge into the local literature scene with something like My Legendary Girlfriend or I Love You, Beth Cooper. A story about love from a man’s point of view told in an incredibly humorous way. But I guess being one of the 23 contributing writers for an anthology about gay, lesbians and bisexuals in Malaysia would have to do in the meantime.

However, despite whatever minor inhibitions I have about writing for Body2Body, make no mistake I am still damn proud of my work. As I have said before, what I have achieved by just sitting in front of my computer, typing rubbish, for just one whole day (as compared to you office working folks doing it for the whole week) is nothing short of a miracle. And, maybe it won’t be a runaway bestseller like a Harry Potter novel but I do know this – it’s one hell of an important book. Plus, it’s controversial. Really up my alley. Because, seriously people, one thing about controversies, it gets people talking. It elicits response. Even powerful and emotionally charged at times. Nobody remembers what happened at the end of As Good As It Gets. But mention M Butterfly and people will recall. Or Sorority Boys for the younger generation for that matter. It’s how I started out his blog anyway. And how eventually I got myself into trouble. But that’s old news.

But, as I said earlier, The Friendship Dictator (in the end, I couldn’t come up with a better title) is my kill. What next? A natural progression would be to write up some more short stories. I mean, how hard could it be, right? Well, unless you’re me (already I can hear Watai saying, ‘negatif!’). I am much too comfortable with my life. I live in a nice home, I drive a German car. Sometimes I go see a movie, sometimes I go out with friends. Sometimes I go out with even more friends. Sometimes I meet a nice girl. Most of the times they don’t want to meet me. And that’s even before Thursday.

I don’t live in the slums of Rio. I haven’t discovered my own Nazca Line nor have I, on a whim, decide to go on an African adventure in Zambia. Shit, the farthest I went was to Australia where I stayed at a posh hotel, went to theme parks and pet domesticated kangaroos.

Damn, I need to get out more.

The only things I know are football, food and women. Probably in that order too. And what man does not know about football and food anyway? Women? Who are we kidding? I know jackshit about women. What man does?

So, in the meantime, while I seek around, if possible, for new ideas for my own anthology (cewah berangan), tell me what you think about The Friendship Dictator.

At stores near you!

BODY 2 BODY: A MALAYSIAN QUEER ANTHOLOGY is in limited release. More than 100 Malaysian shops that normally stock Matahari Books titles will NOT be carrying it. Because this is a special book that, erm, deserves special treatment :-)

Let's support the 4 shops that have it right now:

1. Kinokuniya KLCC, in the Social Science section (Tel: 03 2164 8133)
2. Times Pavilion (Tel: 03 2148 8813 )
3. Times Bangsar Shopping Centre ( Tel: 03 2095 3509 )
4. Silverfish Bangsar ( Tel: 03 2284 4837 )

As well as these 6 that will be stocking it in the next few days:

5. Borders The Curve (Tel: 03 7725 9303)
6. Borders Berjaya Times Square ( Tel: 03 2141 0288 )
7. Borders The Gardens (Tel: 03 2287 4530)
8. Borders Tropicana ( Tel: 03 7727 9203 )
9. Borders Queensbay Mall, Penang (Tel: 04 646 8758 )
10. Bookzone Penang ( Tel: 04 226 5585 )

Please call ahead to make sure it's in stock, and reserve if you wish. You can cite the title or the ISBN: 978-983-43596-9-0 .

If you want to be absolutely certain of getting it, you can order online from Kinibooks:

Kinibooks is run by Malaysiakini, an organisation whose take on expressive freedom I find more agreeable than the stance taken by, erm, some actual bookshops.

By contrast, it will be more widely available in Singapore from next week. It's primarily the Singapore orders that have ensured that the book goes into its 2nd print next week.

For those outside the region, there's Amazon:

Thank you for your support lah :-)

Friday, August 07, 2009

KL's Comedy Scene

In Down To Earth, when Lance Barton’s life was taken a slight too soon by an incompetent angel, Heaven agrees to give Lance another body to continue his life on earth. The body is one of a wealthy but greedy, old white man. The thing is, Lance was played by Chris Rock. And he’s an aspiring comedienne.

One of the first things he did with his newfound wealth is to buy a small comedy club where he can practice his materials every single night. And this is where I thought, why don’t we have anything similar here in KL? Not the rich, old guy thing but the small comedy club scene. And it soon became one of my life’s ambitions to check out one of these establishments myself if I ever get the chance to travel abroad. To this day, the farthest I ever got was to Gold Coast. Not exactly a renowned comedy scene. Plenty of dolphins and koalas but not so much in the form of Russel Peters in sight. Besides, I went there on a family vacation. The wildest night time activity was going doner-kebabing. For take away. From a middle-eastern eatery right across the street opposite the hotel entrance where we were staying. The meat was wicked.

Anyway, not all is lost, because comedy has finally found its way here! Yeay! I should probably wish for a strip joint to be establish here too. Who knows maybe that will also come true. I’m thinking Lorong Haji Taib.

Anyway, back to comedy. Thanks to my new fav local mag, Time Out KL, I was made aware that we do have our own comedy scene right here and it’s been around for more than a year now. My first show was coincidentally their 1st anniversary and I was quite lucky as they were having a special night and they have 8 comediennes to perform that evening (it’s usually 5 or 6 at most). For 10 bucks, that’s one hell of a bargain. Even the likes of Douglas Lim and Harith Iskander were among the attending crowd that night. So you can imagine this is something promising going on here. And that’s why I haven’t missed a show yet. Even if one time it did cost me a photo opportunity with Yuna. But I’ll op for Yuna the next time around.

But, as with any shows, you tend to have a bad one once in a while. Like last night, for instance. It wasn’t really disastrous but it did lack the usual energy. But you have to give them some credit. Most of them are first-timers and amateurs. It really takes some guts to go up on stage and try to make people laugh. Comedy is tough, man. Jerry Seinfeld said that.

I felt sorry for Davina. She’s Miss FHM September 09 and the only female comedienne of the Comedy Thursday scene (apparently, she’s a little loony too). Last time she was on was during the 1st year anniversary and she was quite good that time. She talked about the calendar photo shoot and how fake she looked from the end result (she looks to possess the smoothest arm pit ever!) and it’s always an interesting subject to discuss. Especially when you have a large male crowd. But her horoscope angle last night did not hit off quite as well. But, come one, she’s miss September. She could just stand there just holding the mic doing nothing (which she did for a few times) and still be pleasing to the eye even if only dressed in a pair of sneakers, cargo pants and hoodie.

But there were a few lifesavers yesterday. Notably Jimmy North, a Canadian expat with an American accent and just loves life in KL. He performed his updated version of his ‘I Hate Singapore’ song and got the crowd to sing along the chorus. I mean, come on, how can you not love that?

And the always funny Kavin and his legendary curry-flavored condom story. He found it being sold out of a vending machine at the airport the first time he landed in UK. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Chicken curry or mutton curry? That’s Kavin’s line by the way.

Apart from the TOKL organized show, we have something called the The Comedy Club KL which came up recently. Now this is the more pimped up version of stand-up comedy. No first timers here. Only well established comediennes are invited to perform and, yeah, mostly from abroad. So, no 10 bucks entry charge. More like RM50 plus. But guaranteed laughs. I haven’t tried this yet. But maybe soon enough. Like TOKL’s, their shows are monthly and held towards the end of the month as opposed to TOKL’s early month trend.

Truth be told, KL is still light years behind the likes of London and New York in terms of the comedy scene. But the scene is growing. I can now jot off visiting a comedy club in the states from my life list. Because black and white jokes are so yesterday. As demonstrated by the Young Comediennes of Malaysia, we can take the racism jokes to a whole new level.

Just another thing to do in KL. Oh, by the way, I drove there last night and the show ended at half past eleven.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

A Night of Comedies

I have been frequenting Time Out KL’s Comedy Thursday for the past few months. I mean, 10 bucks for a good 2-hour of stand-up? Who wouldn’t mind that? Especially in these dire times.

It’s held the first Thursday of every month and their previous ‘homeground’ has been Little Havana at Changkat Bukit Bintang. But since Little Havana are going under new management and a considerable amount of renovation at the same time, TOKL has moved its comedy nights to the Velvet Underground at Zouk.

Now, I know the Changkat area so I’m familiar with the sweet and free parking spots. For Zouk, on the other hand, I have never been to the damned place. They never had anything that really made me want to check it out over there. Until last month that is. Since I have no clue where the parking lots are (and if I do, they’d probably cost me another tenner at least) and one could only imagine what the traffic is like at that part of Jalan Ampang at around 9 pm Thrusday evening. It’d be hell.

So, I thought, why not go there by train and just walk the distance? It’ll be night time anyway so it’ll be pleasant. I figured they would end right before midnight so that would provide me ample time to hop on the last train home. Sounds like a plan, eh?

As it turns out, as I expected, the traffic was nightmare and I, for once, am glad to be on the sidewalk making considerable pace compared to those in the cars. And it was a pleasant walk. It was cool, a little breezy. A bit deafening from the traffic noise but all was well. Even Zouk turned out to be a very nice place. Velvet is certainly cozy. The air-conditioning was well ventilated. Plush cushions everywhere. And a lot roomier too than Little Havana. I didn’t have people brushing against my shoulder every 2 minutes.

And the show? Well, let’s just say if there ever was a Papi Zak fan club, I would very much like to sign up.

But this when things start to become rather askew. Despite it says 9 pm as starting time, Matt Sully (the host) only came on stage a quarter before 10. That it turn push the end time a little beyond midnight and that means train services has ended for the day.

Like it or not, I had to get a cab, at double rate since it’s past midnight, but couldn’t get all the way home because I had to pick up my car at Taman Melati. So instead of saving a few quid on petrol and traffic headache, I ended up spending more than if I had bothered to drive myself all the way to Zouk and pay the damn inflated parking charges!

Well, today is another brand new Thursday of a new month and it’s at Velvet again. Would I go? Haven’t decided yet. But if I do, I’m certainly not going there by train.