Sunday, August 29, 2010


The vampire genre is a tired genre. But the vampire film Daybreakers spins it a little differently. I am not going to comment on how good or bad the film is, but there are some useful writing pointers in it:

1. There is always a new angle to an old theme.

Vampires are done to death. We’ve had mafia vampires, romantic vampires, clannish vampires, monster vampires. Daybreakers introduced virus vampires. Vampirism in this text is not a magical advantage but a plague/ disease caused by a virus. (The Underworld series had that idea too, but didn’t follow up the idea on a grand scale) This allows the old theme a science fictionish angle eventhough it is not totally legit. And it is a complicated disease. One who gets infected, will experience body shut down but retains his capacity to think and act. The body having no further biological activities will not deteriorate, will not get other diseases, will not age. The body is dead but preserved and retains its soul. As bizarre as it is, the writer calls this ‘immortality’. The body will continue operating this way as long as it is fed with human blood. Deprivation will cause the body to turn into giant bats (I know it is lame.)

Look out, Michael Jackson!

2. Moral dilemmas always make a story more interesting.

Now, as the story has taken the turn mentioned above, the writer puts in moral dilemma to give the hilarious theme weight/ substance.

a. Once there are too many people turning into vampires, the rest of humanity which is not infected is left with two choices – turn voluntarily into vampires or to resist. If they turn, they’ll become the ‘immortal’ undead, dependant on human blood. If they resist, they’ll be fed to the growing vampire population.

b. Once a cure is found, the vampires face two options – to turn back into humans and gave up their ‘immortality’ or to remain vampires and live miserably.

There are a host of other dilemmas too, on the personal level:

a. Will you turn your own family to save them from being killed even if it is against their wish?

b. Is suicide an option if you cannot accept living as a vampire?

c. What happens when there are more vampires and there are less and less humans to feed on while blood substitute is not yet found?

"Just because I am using a microscope that doesn't mean I'm in a legit sci-fi"

3. When dealing with an overdone genre, find a point where you can reverse an aspect of the genre:

Many modern vampire films picture vampires as superior – they’re beautiful, do not age, have unnatural long lifespan that can only be cut short with violent accidents, stronger, have special abilities. The humans are the ones pining for the vampires or pining to be vampires.

In Daybreakers, the humans look more beautiful than the vampires (But then, I was looking at Ethan Hawke). The vampires are pasty-looking and have strange jaw structure (I was looking at Sam Neill, who isn't much of a looker these days).

What is this? A Harper's Bizarre photoshoot?

4. Writing with conviction will help strengthen even the most outlandish idea.

Daybreakers thinks of the situation on a large scale. No more little vampire covens and rogue vampire running around solo. Cars are built with daytime viewing apparatus. Subways are subwalks. Blood is the new sugar. The society comes alive only at night – schools, offices, all open at night only.

As a conclusion, Daybreakers writes about the dilemma of mortality versus immortality, while the truth is nothing can be immortal in fiction and become interesting. Death is too interesting to be put aside in fiction, or anywhere else.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


This is the final torture I'm going to put you through. No more 'artist' stuff after this.

I also tried to draw other than people. I tried buildings & structures, but never became good at it. Few pieces came as acceptable but that was the end of it.

This is Metropolis in 3B, 4B

This is ToxiCity in 0.7 Artline marker. I was very attracted to the idea of dystopia when I was in a beautiful 'Lord-of-the-Rings' place. Now, braving the traffic at 7 am, the idea is no longer romantic or courageous to live through.

And this is the electricity pole in front of my room, a sight from my window on 122, Frederick Street, Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand.

And I planned to do a modern graphic novel version of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I got as far as the main character sketch and found out that I enjoyed writing the STORY more. Words are easier and faster. Anyway, with words people can correct you. But these things you draw – you’re stuck with it as it first came out. No one ever had his/ her painting edited.

This is the monster. There are days I think of myself as the monster.

Victor Frankenstein. There are days when I think I am Frankenstein. But that is only creatively speaking.

This is the painting I made for my first creative/ fiction writing mentor, Gaynor Corkery, entitled The Storyteller. It is acrylic on a pre-primed painting board. so, it was a easy. Before I gave it to her, I smartly photocopied the painting. It was huge. Imagine the photocopy boy's dismay when he was given the task!

And this is a promotional poster I made for my first batch of students’ stage play ‘Merdekakan Cinta Ratna’ back in 2002. Those were good days.

So, what happens now? Drawing, unlike writing is a skill that deteriorates very fast. I had to start from zero to gain my mediocre skills back in 1997. And that 1997 skill was trained since 1980! So I guess, drawing and painting are no longer practical to me. Last week, I drew a beaver on the whiteboard to illustrate the idiom ‘eager beaver’. My students said ‘oh!’ in unison, so I guess I still got the moves!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Setiap orang mempunyai pandangan masing-masing tentang hal seni tampak. Ada yang lebih meminati dan berkecimpung di dalam seni tampak bercorak abstrak dan ada yang memilih untuk menggambarkan alam sekitar dengan cara lebih realistik. Saya berada di dalam kelompok kedua kerana saya suka meniru alam sekitar. Oleh itu, saya suka melukis potret. Kemahiran melukis potret adalah kemahiran paling komersil di dalam seni tampak kerana sebaik sahaja anda menunjukkan potret yang agak-agak baik kepada kawan, mereka pasti akan mahu membayar anda untuk lukisan potret ahli keluarga dan yang tersayang. Tak percaya, cubalah sendiri (dengan berbekalkan potret yang agak elok dipandang mata).

Lukisan potret saya cuma suam-suam kuku dan saya belum teruji kerana saya asyik melukis wajah-wajah orang yang ‘cantik’. Lukisan potret menghadapi ujian paling getir apabila melukis wajah tua etnik Melayu yang retak seribu. Saya belum cuba.

 Ini adalah potret yang saya lukis ketika sedang hangat menulis ‘Bukan Legasi Lalang’. Entah kenapa dengan penuh berilusinya saya membayangkan Hang Jebat seiras dengan Keanu Reeves! Sungguh tak patriotik tapi wajah inilah yang menggerakkan BLL ketika itu. Umur saya ketika itu 22 tahun. As single as an amoeba.

Perhatikan apabila kita menggunakan pensil warna (LUNA pilihan saya - tabiat lama sudah nak dibuang) sesuatu warna bukanlah solo tetapi campuran banyak warna. Kuning bukan kuning, tetapi banyak-banyak warna yang kelihatan kekuningan. Banyak campuran warna diperlukan untuk mendapat tona warna kulit yang digambarkan ‘putih kuning’. Dikatakan di dalam Hikayat Hang Tuah yang Hang Jebat warna kulitnya ‘putih kuning’. Dua perkataan ini, membakar dalam imaginasi kegadisan saya (the female gaze).

Saya cuba keluar dari zon selesa dengan melukis wajah kanak-kanak Kurt Cobain dengan warna air. Kurang kemas kerana saya cuba menangkap aura ‘grunge’ dan warna keputihan dan kekuningan untuk menangkap aura ‘innocence’ di dalam potret ini.

Saya juga suka meniru. Potret Edward Scissorhands ini ditiru dari foto pegun tapi saya tukar latarnya menjadi biru-hijau (turqoise) supaya nampak kontra dan tidak terlalu suram.

Ada juga potret yang dihasilkan kerana imaginasi semata-mata. Sesudah membaca ‘Catcher in the Rye’ saya terus melukis potret Holden Caulfield.

Ada lagi. Tunggu.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


I was going through a serious pre-Aidilfitri spring cleaning and found that stuff I had when I was 20- 24 years old are deteriorating fast – yellow, dry and brittle paper. Even the arcrylic is chipping off. The pastel crayon is becoming dust thin. So, knowing that the Internet is probably the most stable place for keeping memories – until the world runs out of order and all of us are just fighting for food, water and air, I’ve decided to ‘immortalize’ my mortal stuff here.

I was a bit of an artist. I mastered every medium except oil for the simple fact that it is costly and very difficult to handle. I love arcrylic the most because I can just layer and layer the canvas, or the cardboard or the TV box until I receive the intended product.

I went through this ‘gothic’ art period WAY before they parade the style in Berjaya Times Square. But I wasn’t a goth girl. It’s just that black is such a moody colour and it is timeless too. Black became the base for many of my artwork.

This trio is called ‘Despair Death Irony’ in oil pastel. Cheap. Like NZ dollar 2.30 per box. Remember that I had to work in a cherry farm for the only summer I’ve got in New Zealand while others flew home. Go figure. I wish I was cheerful when I was 22. But I wasn’t.

I had no idea why on earth did I drew this. But Allah SWT has a plan for me. I had no title for it then. But I do now. It’s called ‘Motherhood’ in 4B, 5B & 6B.

 I took Mythology 101 and a series of artwork came about based on Greek Mythology. I didn’t really like Greek mythology but I just play along so I could produce a decent folio for the lecturer who was impressed that I could draw and colour well. The others in the course were too drunk to do anything. Think about it, I was the only one sober, by virtue of my birth.

This is my rendition of Hades – in 2B pencil.

This is entitled ‘Walking Through the Gates of the Underworld’. Did not know what was going through my mind. In colour pencil & oil pastel.

I have more.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Goodreads & lain-lain: Pengurusan (Hidup di Internet) Asas

Alhamdulliah,setelah menerima emel bertalu-talu dari Najibah, Jualiana Es, pengarang Nisah Haron, Aina Dayana, saya telah mendaftar masuk ke dalam GOODREADS. Bukannya kesombongan atau ketidakeprihatinan yang membuatkan saya lewat menyertai laman ini yang telah pun memuatnaikkan gambar kulit buku dan komentari buku yang begitu banyak (pada pandangan saya itu sudah cukup banyak), tetapi ialah ketidakcukupan waktu dan kejahilan menggunakan Internet. Jadi ia menjadikan proses menyertai sesuatu laman itu tersekat-sekat. Kadang-kadang jika subjek terlalu lama untuk dimuatnaik dan sesuatu yang lebih penting mendatang, saya akan tinggalkan begitu saja. Dan apabila saya kembali ke komputer beberapa hari kemudian, saya akan memulakan proses yang telah ditinggalkan dari mula.

Tidak semua penulis itu mahir selok-belok di Internet walaupun penulis itu rapat dengan komputer/ internet. Saya selalu menganggap Internet itu bagai perpustakaan yang besar. Saya datang dan saya baca. Jika saya mahu anggap Internet seperti suatu tempat sosial atau tempat berkawan, cara saya membawa diri juga perlu berubah.Saya akan jadi mesra dan terbuka. Melayari wikipedia itu mudah, tapi bila mula bersembang, saya agak kekok (kerana itu tiada akaun facebook).

Seorang kawan dunia fizikal yang bernama Siti Yusriza Abdullah berasal dari Alor Setar ("You can take a woman out of Otago, but you cannot take Otago out of the woman") pernah merungut, "Anda telah tulis 6 buku cerita, tapi kenapa nak emel pun terlalu susah?" Saya menjawab dalam hati: 6 buku cerita ditulis dengan tangan di dalam 2 buah diari ketika menghadiri mesyuarat-mesyuarat dan ceramah yang biasanya off-tangent, dan juga ketika menunggu ikan yang digoreng jadi rangup dalam minyak panas, sebab itu ialah lebih mudah, berbanding dengan menulis di hadapan komputer dengan Internet terpasang dengan hanya beberapa minit terluang. Dan apabila 2 diari yang telah penuh ditulis ini saya taipkan ke dalam komputer dalam microsoft word, ia sebenarnya suatu proses yang pantas.

(Jam 6.55 pagi, Ahad, selepas sahur & Subuh, ketika SEMUA ORANG sedang tidur)

Saturday, August 7, 2010


There’s a hot gossip in the workplace these days. A few colleagues are saying that the size of the circumference of Earth’s rotation in its orbit has reduced and that makes us, Earth-dwellers, actually having less than 24 hours. In a jest, I said that the scientists should start revising the number of hours we experience in a day and a night.

But really, being so close to the way how the sun moves (that determines our time for prayers) I don’t think we are having less time than what we in the past. It is only our perception of time have made us think we have less time.

The element of distraction is the worst culprit. I should have an hour of writing my story but I wrote this entry. Previously, I should had time talking with the boys but I watched a B grade martial art film with them instead, so they would stop talking. The element of distance being travelled is another. During weekdays, there are trips and driving to and fro to be made over 50 kilometres in a day.

Most importantly, the kind of preoccupation you have over making sure that things are done ON TIME. And being in school, the calendar is like a mission chart.

Patriotism Month. Being a resident writer I must write a 15 minute drama for the kids to act in. I must warn them about them about the faulty public announcement system.

Ramadhan – school is dismissed half an hour earlier. Fish-hunting trip. No more instant dinner.

The PMR trial – one more week. It’s do or die, for both students and teachers.


Trial paper grading – it all come down to this.

Aidilfitri – only a few things grieve me more than a celebration before a public exam.

• Two weeks of time after the holidays before the real PMR


PMR - if it's ever to be abolished, I shall remain, but think of all the tuition centres being closed down, and the reference book publishing industry will suffer. Life as we know it will change. No more tuition fees, more storybook time - Hooray!

Post-PMR programmes – which are actually a lot harder to organize than lessons.

Life goes on until

See, just ticking off the calender in breakneck speed makes me think that time is running faster than it ever has. If I get to be 75, will the clock slows down? Or I’ll be just like what I am now – hurtling down the cliff of time.