Yo, Dumped a Book Lately?

You know, it’s every reader’s guilty secret. This book dumping thing.
Book dumping happens to the best of us. It happens to everyone who reads.
I am sure we all started out eager to read everything and anything that came our way – I still read the small print on cosmetic bottles, the nutritional information on Danone Chocolate Chip Cookies (with Hazelnuts, of course), the ingredients of my Maybelline and ZA lipsticks, the awful bits of instructions which come with any gadget and gizmo. I guess once one knows how to recognise letters and words, there’s just no stopping us. It’s on autopilot I guess.
And then, there’s book dumping. Book dumping is that act which we voracious, greedy readers commit. Like moi. I pick up a book excitedly, read it for some 4 or 5 pages and then…. get so deflated because the book is NOTHING like the review I read some moons ago. Or nothing like I expected when salivating over the cover or the blurbs or the glowing praises.
The book becomes my personal burden. I am amazed that I even picked it up. But the perfectionist reader in me screams, “But how can you leave it unread? That’s absolutely unthinkable! Unfathomable!”
Therein sets in the book dumping guilt.
But you see, I can’t seem to finish some books. One in particular bugs me to no end. It’s still sitting like some fat cat on my shelf – Hemingway’s For Whom the Bells Toll. I thought I needed some literary inspiration. All I got was some inane mental torture. I can’t decide if the idea of war repulses me or the idea of that strange man’s writing (which for the life of me I cannot understand – errr, does that make me an intellectual moron?).
Of course, Daphne has written about it sometime ago and that I don’t have to feel guilty about not finishing a book. It’s my prerogative anyway. It’s my time anyway.
And yet! The other one is Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (see, I can’t even spell that man’s name!) which is so belligerently boring. He goes on and on about how guilty he feels about stealing from the old woman, whom he also murdered. How guilt is eating into him and how he believes everyone knows he’s committed such a heinous crime. And that’s all I know because I stopped at page 231. Yes, yes, hurray for me because I managed to read half of the book before I gave up in desperation.
I am trying not to feel guilty about book dumping because these days I try to select the kind of books I want to read, not books on someone’s must-read list, or some award winners of some competition or other. It doesn’t work for me.
I’ve decided that if I don’t want to dump books, I should be pickier about books I read. On my to-read list are quite a number of fiction and non-fiction (thanks to book-buying every now and then when I go to Borders and Popular in Queensbay Mall).
There’s Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat, Terry Pratchett’s Thud!, Eisenberg brothers’ Waiting for Your Cat to Bark, W.Chan Kim’s Blue Ocean Strategy (thanks to Rona for this true gem of a book), Jostein Gaarder’s Maya (yes, Mayakirana reads Maya!) and Kirk Cheyfitz’ Thinking Inside the Box. Plus, Best Pal loaned to me Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go which I haven’t started on yet! Tsk, tsk. (A side note: My all-time favourite books are The Little Prince by Antoine de St Exupery and Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder. The book I don’t like at all was VC Andrew’s very dark, very disturbing Secrets in the Attic which I read at 14 and which traumatised me for the longest time after!)
What’s your book list like and shhh… have you dumped a book lately? Do tell!

To Market, To Market, To Buy a Fat Pig…

Did I tell you I enjoy poking around flea markets, charity fairs, bazaars and yes, even morning markets like Chowrasta? The sights and sounds (and the bargains) are amazing. Sometimes I get intrigued by the kinds of innovative consumer items and products on sale. And of course, at times, I am so tempted to buy them all.
I have not been to Lorong Kulit for the longest time now but Sundays are the best days to go. I wrote about it once last year or was it the year before last? Anyway, I don’t go to buy much except fresh fruits and maybe, a look-see around Tuan Haji’s gems stall. You can read the post and find out more about Lorong Kulit. Lorong Kulit is open seven days a week but the best day is of course Sunday when all the traders and vendors come out in full force. Parking can be tricky as this area is bonkers on a Sunday. Try parking behind the City Stadium. Go before 9am or you will be in for a sweltering time.
The next market I love is the wet market. Some may despise it for it stinks – well – of everything! Of fruits, of meat, of fish, of vegetables. Of wet slippery floors and loud brash people. But that aside, wet markets have other stuff too. Like the Lip Sin market. On Saturdays and Sundays, you can find racks and racks of blouses, skirts and jeans on sale. And trinkets. All shiny stuff that we women adore. I’ve even bought bags at this market. Clutch bags for dinner, and casual holdall bags, whatever shape or size. Of course, they’re so NOT branded lah. There’s even a magician who sells magic kits and performs the odd trick or two at this Lip Sin market on Sundays. His name’s David – this I know because Nic is a closet magician and he’s bought magic tricks from David.
The other market I like is the Little Penang Market which is at Upper Penang Road on the last Sunday of each month. It’s a crafts-and-food market showcasing the best of Penang’s artisans and craftsmen and craftswomen. These people are the true entrepreneurs of their wares – they make the products themselves. I’ve met Mr Khoo who sells potted plants such as rosemary, basil, and other herbs (actually I bought a pot of gorgeous-smelling rosemary from him). I’ve met Mr Cheong who handcrafts items like letter openers, swords, bread tongs and more from discarded wood.
I’ve also met utterly creative women like Chiat Peng who designs a 101 things – she makes bags, earrings, rings, and lots more. I’ve bought two pairs of earrings from her before and I thought her designs were good (especially when I went to her blog and saw her designs there). In fact, my good friend Karen was commenting on how pretty my earrings were! Thanks Chiat Peng!
I also love charity fairs and bazaars for their unique items – the American Women’s Association of Penang organise good Christmas bazaars in December. And of course, the Japanese community in Penang as well. All one has to do is to keep one’s ears and eyes open and there’s a bunch of good finds in Penang any time of the year.
Thai product fairs are also my fave haunts. I like the mesmerising bling-bling clothes and tacky, garish, plasticky jewellery. I sometimes find the best skirt or blouse at these places (and I practise my bargaining skills too with these Teochew-speaking Thais). In Penang, Thai fairs are often held in shopping malls. The one I went to recently is at Midlands One-stop Centre. After shopping, you can slurp down a bowl of khanom jeen or tomyam and have your dessert of pulut mango too. What a way to end a shopping experience! Or for Nic, it’s a place to enjoy a good reflexology massage.
And then there’s jumble sales and garage sales. If you like these sales, you might want to check out Shopping with Soul Doctor who lives in KL and noses out the best car sales, warehouse sales, flea markets and more. I wish I were in KL!
These days, one can do more than buy a fat pig at the market!
PS. And I love going to Chatuchak in Bangkok. Even non-shopaholics will be impressed. This place is nirvana for Sophie Kinsella fans – from pets to furniture, from bags to clothes, from snacks to full meals – I mean this place is the cat’s whiskers! I have not explored all of Chatuchak so that will be a reason why I must go to Bangkok sometime soon!

Sighing over Supper…

Almost zonked out from sheer tiredness today.
Woke up early to meet a friend for breakfast at McD’s Sunrise Tower but let me tell you, I really don’t see what the big fuss is about. (By the way, my Godmother who is in her 50s, loves the McD Breakfast although she’s very careful about what she eats!) Really, if it weren’t for the stay-as-long-as-you-like environment and aircond, I would really have settled for some kopitiam somewhere in Gurney Drive or Pulau Tikus.
I am not a biggie fan of fast food. It’s not due to the fat and grease, either. I just don’t think it’s real food. I take fast food like McD’s or KFC whenever I am at airports so go figure. Fast food is the last option of mine. It’s a quick bite on the go, and a convenient food for those times when heck, any old rubbish will do.
Of course, at times I do get cravings for meat. During one of our nightly mahjong sessions, my cousin and I suddenly got this real hunger for KFC. We imagined tucking into nicely fried, crispy fried chicken ala the Colonel. We stopped playing mahjong for a while and we hopped into my trusty Baby (hey, don’t you name your cars too?) and we zipped into IJM Batu Lanchang for some takeaway fried chicken and yes, those cheesy wedges (that’s the only saving grace of this place, besides the fried chicken).
But once we had gorged ourselves silly (and became totally ‘jelak’ on the cheese and grease), we swore we’d never touch another fried chicken again for at least 3 months. That happens to us when we overstuff ourselves with all manner of KFC, or even McD.
The fast food topic came up again during lunch again today with a few friends. We were talking about fast food and WC said that yes, sometimes, he really has no choice when it comes to filling one’s tummy at 2am. It was the lesser of two evils – either nasi kandar or McD. He says he usually pops into McDonalds Greenlane (which is open 24 hours) after midnight and there’s a queue of cars at the drive-thru. And sometimes he has to wait for his orders to be ready. And yes, there’s quite a number of hungry folks at night.
It seems there’s also this double promo at McD’s Greenlane where you get two huge burgers or something. Oh, it happens after midnight. Who’d want to chomp on not one, but TWO burgers? Apparently, I may be the odd one out. Most people would happily do so! Supper or an early breakfast? Maybe both!
Speaking of supper, I try not to eat after 1am. It wrecks havoc on my system anyway and I can’t sleep after that. During my uni days, supper was the ‘in’ thing on campus. In USM, we always sought each other out for supper. And having supper during the much-loved Study Week (hey, it should be renamed Supper Week) is a must, on the assumption that a full stomach made revision and the retention of facts much easier.
But I had a roommate from Kelantan who would take the same old supper each night. Siew Peng was one year my senior and we shared a room in Desa Aman (with another gal so there were 3 of us in one supertiny room).
Each night, Siew Peng would cook a packet of Maggi Mee Kari the undergrad way – dump noodles into bowl, pour boiling hot water over, cover for 3 minutes and then dig in. Each night, the smell of Maggi Mee Kari would assault my senses, particularly on nights when I had no night classes or when I had no co-curricular meetings.
Oh, the smell of Maggi Mee Kari. Awful! It’s so ‘synthetic’ even Margaret my cat won’t eat it. Yet, night after night, Siew Peng walloped one whole bowl of it. And she was a tiny gal, mind you. She was truly ‘powered’ by Maggi Mee Kari!
On the other hand, Nic and his roommates had weird suppers. They’d make a feast out of it – imagine making soft boiled eggs (the really runny type) and mixing Brands Chicken Essence with the eggs and glugging (eating? slurping?) the whole mixture down.
Eeeeuuuuwww. Gross. And they do this after they each eat a bowl of Mamee noodles. It enhanced their brain power. Or so the guys justified their supper. See? I tell you, boys are oddities. Especially a bunch of bored boys whose idea of fun is permeating their hostel room with the smell of luncheon meat cooked in an electric sandwich-maker. That’s definitely another story for another time.
But supper. It’s so Malaysian, right? Where do you go for supper? Or do you make your own?

Waiting to See Ah Steve

I’ve been his closet fan for years now, starting with his first play – Stories for Amah – back in 2002. Stories for Amah was both poignant and funny and somehow when Mark was introduced before the play began, he seemed so young!
Over the next couple of years, I forgot much about it until one day I saw this write-up in The Star about my good friend, Jana who was acting in a play with Mark. They both co-wrote the play which they did in their spare time hamming around during their lecturing days in a local college here in Penang.
Somehow, they managed to put up the two-person skit at their college during a dinner/showcase for teaching staff that they decided to go one step further – produce a REAL play. That was how Cheet Chat the play came about. Incidentally Cheet Chat made its rounds in The Actors Studio Greenhall Penang and all the way down to The Actors Studio Bangsar.
I met Mark during one of those ‘after show’ moments – Jana gushed about his talent and knack for writing up a play in supersonic speed! By the way, Jana is also quite a whiz at play-writing and directing. She’s now continuing her studies in Universiti Malaya, doing her Masters in Performing Arts. Though I miss her desperately (and miss our raucous makan sessions at Sri Ananda Bhawans) I know she’s living the life she always wanted – to act, to entertain, to provoke!
In the end, we all became good friends, and he has come over to our apartment for some Ti Kuan Yin tea and of course, a good reading of the tarot! For fun of course. (People get upset and all tensed when you mention tarot… why is it anyway? Tarot’s a fun way to break the ice in any group gathering and allows you to talk more about yourself.)
We’ve also hung around Sri Ananda Bhawans too many a time for lunch, tea, dinner and supper so much so we joke to the maitre’ d (or head of the serve staff, in regular lingo) should give us all some discount or membership card.
Sri Ananda Bhawans is this totally Indian banana leaf rice restaurant in Little India, Penang. I’ve happily promoted this place to friends and family and wrote about it in a piece I did for the print edition of The Western Australian News, Perth. Man, DO I love this noisy restaurant!
Anyway, Mark’s family still lives in Penang. For the love of acting and writing, he has moved to KL. Yes, that baby-faced boy does work too (even playwrights need to eat and live) and he is quite the teacher at a private education institution in KL. I last saw him when he trooped home to the island for the Raya holidays.
And I will be seeing that madhatter again this Friday. He’ll be here at The Actors Studio Greenhall Penang to present his new play, Ah Steve, for the weekend.
So yes, I will be there, all rah-rah (minus the pom-poms) to revel in Mark’s storytelling again. His stories are deliciously wicked, makes humorous jabs at prudes and religion and allows us to relax and laugh at our sheer Malaysianness! He is authentically Malaysian and you’ll love his Hokkien – he uses this loud language in most of his plays though English or Manglish is his favourite medium of communication.
So do book your tickets quick and go catch Ah Steve in action!
Note: The show will be staged at The Actors Studio in Greenhall, Penang from March 9 till 11 at 3pm and 8.30pm. For details, log on to www.theactorsstudio.com.my or call 04 263 5400.
Learn more about Ah Steve in The Star…