Category Archives: EZ 35

Fair Game? Freedom?

Resize_Bersih3_NileBowie1When Malaysia’s independence was declared in 1957, there was no rift among those from different colors, races and religion. It was a pure and sincere show of unity when our forefathers fought together in order to have a place that they could call home. It was then Malaysia for Malaysians. Cooperation was flawless.

Today so often after many years of stability, the notion of people come and go does not really apply to most Malaysian leaders, be in the politics, associations or private companies.

They are very reluctant to abdicate their positions. Many even build a family dynasty within these organizations where the children so to speak are groomed to be the crown prince and princess who will take over the throne when the time comes.

The best take in this fairy tale is that the leaders built these empires through the legacies of fighting for the benefits of the people who wished for a better future. This is how heroes were created in the olden days but in today’s modern world, heroes become leaders through a democratic election process.

Although the United Nations consistently persuades all countries to conduct a fair and free democratic election process, most election procedures are said to be free and fair but the baggage usually comes with many unpublished accounts where the losers would have strong objections of the system not being fair and not being free.

The last two Malaysia elections saw the emergence of an opposition party, Pakatan Rakyat loosely formed together by three main parties with the Democratic Action Party (DAP) seen to anchor the voice of the Chinese community whereas Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) is on the other extreme, safe guarding and preaching Muslims’ sacred rights of religion and teachings.

Sandwiched in the middle is none other than the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) led by the infamous former Deputy Prime Minister, Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim who was removed from office following sodomy charges.

Although not actually having the same principles on how to run a country, these three amigos do have a common enemy that is the current ruling coalition party, Barisan Nasional (BN) comprising several component parties.

BN has been around running the country for ages and is made up of a pie majority of UMNOs and the leftover remaining small pieces are shared among the Chinese, Indian and East Malaysian parties.

The acute frustration is that BN won the last election but the opposition party, PKR won the popular vote. Hence the Malaysian society that was once united 50 odd years ago now stands in a limbo of what I like to call a hot tub politics – meaning even though everyone loves being in a hot tub after a hard day’s work, not everyone is agreeable with the temperature. The best is to be the one controlling the taps. What’s new?

Our neighboring country Thailand has been in this hot tub politics for the past 15 years when the ruling party once led by Thaksin Shinawatra won every election, until the opposition party just took to the streets and staged mass protests that sometimes turned violent just to cripple the economy hence toppling the government.

The last demand the opposition wanted was to have an appointed government rather than an elected one simply because they cannot win but they still want to take charge. They have no doubt succeeded in destroying the economy and deterring any foreign investments but ultimately both sides were losers when the army flexed their muscles, abolished the government and took control of the country in the name of stability.

Some may say that this coup is unconstitutional but I personally have the opinion that this is best scenario the Thais have before the whole country falls into an uncontrollable and undesired unrest like that which happened or is currently happening in countries such as Syria and Egypt. Then what?

Malaysians have been pretty much controlled when it comes to violence, probably because we have been through May 13 and it was a black page in our history. Today, Malaysia has removed its controversial Internal Security Act (ISA) and demonstrations are allowed. It definitely seems that the country is slowly changing and heading to what many deem as a more democratic nation where the people have the freedom to voice out. Is this a good or bad move? Are Malaysians ready for such liberty?

I guess the main worry here is that the majority, especially the younger generations, are happy to be able to have their voice heard but what if a peaceful demonstration turns into an ugly riot? There is no doubt that all of us want a better life and most will not be satisfied with what we have today but look forward to having more tomorrow. Then some will point the finger to the powerful and rich claiming that they are not playing a fair game or to put it bluntly – corrupted or dirty.

It is always so simple to criticize others and not blame ourselves for what we are today. It is always other people’s faults and we are usually always right. Sad to say that most will only become aware of how lucky we are when the situation turns bad and the sufferings eat into their own lives and families. Only then there will be regrets as many are just mere blind followers joining in the fun of it.

Somehow it makes these people feel ‘great’ as they are doing something good for the nation although they usually know near to nothing about the cause. But there is no doubt that they act as if they know everything. At the end, the winners will only be the few smart ones leading the pack if they succeed in their so called ‘revolution’. If they fail, then the winners will be those in power as they would have crushed the uprising.

Like it or not, the losers are always the people. Worst of all is that we are the ones choosing and somehow, sometimes, some of the chosen ones just are not what we expected. Tough! That’s life!

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Rome: 10 things not to miss (PART 2)

06 Pantheon

Originally Rome’s famous ‘Temple of All Gods’, the Pantheon was twice destroyed, twice rebuilt and now stands as the most complete structure in this ancient city. This wonderful example of 2nd Century Roman architecture boasts mathematical genius and simple geometric calculation that would impress todays’ modern architects. The Patheon contains the tombs of several Italian kings and Raphael, the famous Renaissance painter. This must-see site is actually not far from Piazza Navona and the Trevi Fountain.

07 Luxury Paradise

Tired of old architecture and wanting to indulge yourself with some luxury items? The few streets leading to Piazza di Spagna are where all luxury stores exist side-by-side. Italian and international brands such as Prada, Gucci, LV, Jimmy Choo, Tiffany, Versace and other big brands can be found here. The term ‘shop till you drop’ does not apply here as if you are not careful, you can end up ‘shopping till your wallet drops’! If you want to take a break from the expensive shopping experience, then the Spanish Steps is a good place for people-watching.

08 National Museum of Rome

Unlike museums in most countries, the National Museum of Rome is not situated in one location, but is made up of a set of museums located all over the city. There is actually a combo ticket that you can purchase and it is valid for a few days, enabling you to visit all its museums. These include the Baths of Diocletian, the Palazzo Altemps, the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, and the Crypta Balbi, all for just one price! Although items exhibited are among the world’s most important archaeological collections, but these artefacts may sometimes be too much to absorb especially for those who did not pay attention in their history lessons during schooling days.

09 The Vatican City

With an area of approximately 110 acres and a population of less than 1000, Vatican City is the smallest international state in the world. The easiest way to this magnificent mega structure is to take Metro Line A, stop at Ottaviano San Pietro Musei Vaticani and then walk a few blocks. It is highly recommended to pre-purchase a ‘skip the line’ ticket, better yet, with a guide. This is because entry lines into the Vatican City are painfully long and one will just be wondering around aimlessly, especially if it is their first time. Having a guide will not only save the queuing time and make your tour interesting, but it also provides the opportunity to visit other cultural sites including Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica. Remember to send postcards with Vatican City stamps to your friends and loved ones at the end of your visit.

_DSC3284_F10 Pizzas Pastas & Coffee

You can find pizza on just every corner in the city. One must have a bite of those hot freshly baked pizzas with golden crust and a touch of char on the edges. Other than that, pasta is the most important cuisine in Rome and to cap it off, you must relax and have a sip of Italian coffee to complete your Roman trip.   

10 Dark Secrets of Romeo & Juliet

The tale of two star-crossed lovers of English literature isn’t just a tragic romance revolving around forbidden young love. Here to let you in on the dark secrets of Romeo and Juliet, EZ brings to you the most bizarre anecdotes behind one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays. So pay close attention! Read between the lines and you’ll find many hidden aspects to the play, some outrageous and some just plain weird.

Juliets-balcony-Verona-Italy-1024x6821. Borrowed names

Shakespeare, who has been credited as the inventor of many English words and being very innovative in delivering insults was apparently not that good a name-giver. Oh, yes. He borrowed (or stole, depending on whom you ask) names from other famous tomes. Dante’s Divine Comedy is the most direct inspiration for the names of the rival families ‘Montague’ and ‘Capulet’ as they appeared side-by-side in his work. And the star-struck lovers? Luigi da Porto coined the names ‘Giulietta’ and ‘Romeo’ in his novel, which was published 65 years before Shakespeare’s play.

2. Which version do  you know?

There were not one, but three different editions of Romeo and Juliet! Now don’t go splitting hairs with production directors yet. The first edition, published in 1595 is considered a ‘bad quarto’ for errors and writing errors. Four years later, the second edition was published. This edition is the most used version of Shakespeare’s prominent play, even more popular than the third edition (1623).

3. Rage on Romeo

Psychoanalytical literary critics see Romeo’s nature as aggressive, displays ‘ill-controlled, partially disguised aggression’. You can’t disagree with that when most of the hero’s misfortunes stemmed from his spontaneity and violent reactions; killing Tybalt, eloping and committing a double-suicide with a girl he barely knew, all within a week.

4. Some critics hated the play

Back in the 17th century, prominent writers, critics and philosophers grovelled about the play and some even called it a failure for not ‘following classical rules’ of drama. Samuel Pepys, British Member of Parliament, said that ‘it is a play of itself the worst that I ever heard in my life.’

5. Bring on the sexual jokes

Page after page of the play is filled with sexual jokes. Crude euphemisms, innuendoes and double-entendres are scattered throughout the play, thanks to characters like Mercutio and Sampson. You might want to swear children off Romeo and Juliet until the inevitable.

6. Hi, we just met. Marry me?

Would you marry a person you just met? It happens in this play, as Juliet asked Romeo to prove that his love for her was honourable. So they married in less than 24 hours after they met.

7. Roller-coaster romance

Take a step back, and another look at the story of Romeo and Juliet. You’ll find that all the events in the entire play covers a short span of four to six days. Romeo and Juliet got married the day after they met and consummated their marriage before killing themselves. Well, that escalated quickly, didn’t it?

8. Pedo much?

Yes, you expected young love as the central theme for Romeo and Juliet. But for a girl to meet a boy, get married and have sex at only 13? Some girls have only barely started puberty at that age. In this day and age, Romeo would be guilty of statutory rape.

9. Romeo was bi…sexual

Would a male buddy make passing mentions about your libido? Some readings of the play have found Mercutio, Romeo’s best friend, to have a homoerotic desire for him as the borders of friendship blend into sexual love. In other words, Romeo was gay for Mercutio.

10. Just another Shakespearean theft

The beginnings of the storyline can be traced to the 1476 Italian story titled ‘Mariotto and Gianozza’ by Masuccio Salernitano. It was then adapted by another Italian a century later, then translated into French before making its way into English as a narrative poem and finally, into a play by Shakespeare. Just like how he ‘borrowed’ names, Shakespeare ‘borrowed’ the greatest love story of literature. How’s that for originality?


Next time you run out of things to say at a party, lighten up the mood by flaunting your literary side like a true Shakespearean with these niblets of trivia.

Art Basel Impresses Hong Kong

Galleries_PekinFineArts_17May2014_03121Art Basel Hong Kong’s second edition opened in dramatic fashion as Berlin-based artist Carsten Nicolai’s latest audio-visual installation ‘α (alpha) pulse’ lit up the Hong Kong skyline, setting the stage for a spectacular weekend of art for everyone.

Pulsating light patterns were projected in synchronised frequency across the entire facade of Hong Kong’s iconic 490-meter high International Commerce Centre (ICC) which also happens to be the world’s 7th highest building. Like a lighthouse the tower radiated prismatic pulses into the city, much to the awe of the island’s residents and visitors.

Visible from numerous locations across Hong Kong, the installation, which appeared each night of the fair, was also available on an accompanying mobile phone application, adding another layer of accessibility for art enthusiasts as well as the public.

The high-profile annual event which took place from May 15 – 17 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) featured 245 premier galleries from 39 countries and territories. Among the renowned galleries that took part were Anna Schwartz Gallery, Pearl Lam Galleries, Lehmann Maupin and ShanghART.  With over 50 percent of the participating galleries having exhibition spaces in Asia and the Asia-Pacific region, Art Basel cemented its deep commitment to and success with the art community in the East.

Attracting over 65,000 visitors, the quality of the artworks brought in and the high level of presentation drew many new and returning collectors from around the world as well as curators, patrons and trustees from leading museums and institutions such as Paris’s Louvre,  Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, and  Washington’s Smithsonian American Art Museum.

‘We are extremely happy with how the show has gone. We have met and made sales to new clients including great connections to visitors in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and the Philippines. The show is as active and the same level of quality as any European or American fair,’ enthused Nicholas Nahab, Sales Director of Marian Goodman Gallery (Paris, New York).

Not exclusive to connoisseurs, Art Basel Hong Kong was also supported by a strong public programme including the Asian debut of Art Basel’s popular film sector. This 3-day programme saw the screening of 49 films by 41 artists, represented by participating galleries. Highlights of the program included works by international artists such as Takashi Ishida, Dinh Q. Le and Hong Kong artists Kwan Sheung Chi and Christopher Doyle.

Bien Venice!

_DSC0087Widely acknowledged as the ultimate exhibition in the field of contemporary arts for over a century, the Venice Biennale has established itself as one of the most prestigious cultural institutions in the world.

The two major summer festivals that alternate annually for Venice are undoubtedly the Art Biennale and the Architecture Biennale. Both Biennales are universally recognised as the most important art festivals in the world. This year, the highlight is on the architects and there are representatives from 40 countries participating in this prestigious event.

With the Biennale exhibitions mainly held at the Giardini and Arsenale, this year’s event is helmed by renowned Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, with the theme Fundamentals. The theme was chosen by curator Koolhass with the intention to further study how architecture is exhibited around the world and what happened within this century through modernity, continuous political changes, technological developments and such.

‘After several architecture Biennales dedicated to the celebration of the contemporary, Fundamentals will look at histories, attempt to reconstruct how architecture finds itself in its current situation, and speculate on its future,’ states the festival director.

This was also an occasion to revisit and recompose knowledge that may have been forgotten or that have not been discovered to enhance new ideas and generate fresh understanding for sustainability.

Although it is an Architecture Biennale this year, many national pavilions have been erected to showcase collaborating artists and their presentations. This includes digital art, sculptures, photography and installations. This teamwork was further endorsed by the Jury of this year’s Architecture Biennale when both the Korean and Chilean participants won the Golden and Silver Lions for Best National Participations. Both participating architects were working with artists in collaboration.

As this is one of the most important exhibition in the arts world and with this year’s title of Fundamentals, many participants tried very hard to express but it is sometimes hard for the general public to completely comprehend the actual message the participants are trying to relay due to difference of political, culture and education backgrounds.

Bringing together and connecting the significant events in the architecture world for the past 100 years, the United States was smart enough just to present a simple yet convincing showcase of its architectural production abroad and achievements for the past years with its theme of OfficeUS.

The Russians were slightly crowded in their pavilion choosing a booth space exhibition style that tried to squeeze in the participants. On the other hand, the Japanese’s theme of A Storehouse of Contemporary Architecture hit spot on as it made one feel just like walking into a store with the intention to tell the story of unparalleled architectural development by a country that underwent drastic modernization to catch with the Western world.

However, China’s Mountains Beyond Mountains intention of capturing modernity by looking into the framework of its architecture, demands in depth exploration to further understand.

The Malaysian Pavilion with its theme of Sufficiency captured some attention when this small, multiracial country from the East showcased their architectural talents on hanging collapsible cages curated by Dr Lim Teng Ngiom. There were 21 architects and three collaborative artists involved in this year’s exhibition.

Biennale Curator Koolhaas, along with the Harvard Graduate School of Design and many other contributors, had worked on a two-year project, The Elements of Architecture. The project presented at the Biennale explores the fundamentals of our buildings by any architect, anywhere, any time. It is one of the must-see exhibits that is exciting yet interesting.   

This year’s Architecture Biennale will be open from 7 June to 23 November. The trip is highly recommended for those who are somehow related to this field, and for those not involved in the arts, it will be a valuable learning experience in addition to visiting the charms of Venice.

Malaysian Team Returns to Venice with ‘SUFFICIENCY’

The prestigious La Biennale di Venezia 2014 welcomed Malaysian artists and architects whose artwork is being showcased at the 14th International Architecture Exhibition. The festival will be open to public from 7 June – 23 November at the Arsenale, Venice. EZ speaks to the curatorial team.

Under the patronage of Pertubuhan Akitek Malaysia (PAM) and the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE), Malaysia has the privilege of participating in the festival for the third time. Local artists and architects were invited to submit their works of art to present a collaborative effort reflecting the Malaysian team’s theme of Sufficiency.

The architects were invited by PAM to submit their proposals based on a set of criteria. The Curatorial Team led by Team Leader Dr Tan Loke Mun, Curator (Design) Dr Lim Teng Ngiom and architect Sarly Adre Sarkum shortlisted the winning entries to 21 pieces.

The team of 24 participants comprising a mix of established and emerging architects in collaboration with artists and multimedia designers, worked closely to present alternate ideas of Sufficiency.

Speaking on the participants’ collection, Dr Lim says, ’This year’s presentations are different from the previous years, simple because the participants are different. The collaboration between architects and artists is a natural one and more of this should be encouraged.’

SUFFICIENTLY SUCCINCT

According to Team Leader, Dr Tan the theme Sufficiency was inspired by his personal observations and findings whilst driving the sustainable agenda under the Green Building Index (GBI) back in 2009. ‘I found it frustrating to be always just sustaining and even then we are on losing ground. I then became aware of another path of thought. This being sufficiency — where one does not need more to thrive but just enough.’

The Malaysian Pavilion illustrates the call for minimal by using suspended pet cages to display the artworks. ’The cages carry a story of sufficiency as they are recognized as ‘sufficient’ habitat for various domesticated animals. They are light, easily portable and make little demands on transportation. When put together and suspended, they can become quite surreal,’ explains Dr Lim who came up with the concept and design.

COLLABORATING ARTISTS

’Architects have always worked in collaboration with artists and sculptors. This year we decided from the on-set to invite several artists to take part and also collaborate with us on the exhibition,’ explains Dr Tan.

Notable participants presenting their work as collaborative artists are architects Suhaimi Fadzir and Indra K Ramanathan, and sculptor Ramlan Abdullah (teaming up with Z&SR Architectural Ventures).

Contemporary artist and sculptor Ch’ng Huck Theng also made his Venice debut with his latest collection titled Conversation, which includes Who Should Help? depicting six bronze figures surrounding one that is in distress.

’Being invited to exhibit along with top Malaysian architects for the Venice Biennale 2014 was not only a surprise but also an exciting challenge for me as an artist,’ says Ch’ng. ’My work for Biennale looks into why professionals, in this case the architects, are coming together and sharing their brilliant ideas to create future buildings and spaces that will contribute towards providing sustainable supply for human’s fundamental needs.’

Malaysian Pavilion opens with ‘Sufficiency’ at the 14th International Architecture Exhibition.

The opening was officiated by MATRADE CEO Datuk Dr Wong Lai Sum and attended by members of the Malaysian team led by Dr Tan Loke Mun, Curator (Design) Dr Lim Teng Ngiom and PAM Chairman, Chan Seong Aun.