Sunday, August 31, 2008

The museum and the railway

Half of the National Museum is undergoing renovation and will open in October. But the new galleries that are open, Colonial Era and Malaysia today feel thin on exhibits.

On one wall, a photo captured a sign that read: "Tell the world we want Malaysia August 31 1963 Sukarno & Macapagal are mad, gready[sic], & big crooks" You thinking what I'm thinking?

Muzima Cafe is not exactly a restaurant fitting such an important museum. It's like a self-service canteen at home, from the melamine plates to the plastic tablecloth, except with spicier food. I had fried tilapia and grass jelly.

There is the temporary Malay World exhibit adjacent that mainly shows that Malays are all over the region and how batik is made. The permanent museum is being built in Putrajaya.

The old KL station is pretty empty today except for the dingy hotel and the buses stopping there. Equally interesting architecturally is the KTM headquarters right opposite it.

KTM headquarters KTM headquarters

Happy 51st Merdeka, Malaysia!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

[Rewind] The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

Watched The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor on the IMAX screen at Times Berjaya Square, the smallest IMAX my brother's ever seen. At RM 11 (~P150) adult, RM7 child, it wasn't so bad. On Wednesdays, it's even cheaper: RM7/RM6. The love scene was cut out (welcome to Malaysia!). At least they only mute expletives, not bleep.

I can't hate the cast because these are people I am fond of: Brendan Fraser, Michelle Yeoh, Jet Li, the Wongs (Anthony and Russell). I miss Rachel Weisz. Lots of cheap laughs. My million ringgit question is: Were there plastic bra straps in 1947?

Friday, August 29, 2008

Cake for two

In which the day's events are recollected in an affected colonial English manner, decidedly genteel but not altogether old fashioned. Can you hear me enunciating Every Single Word?

At noon today, my friend M met me at the door of the restaurant by the gate of the sprawling college grounds. Said place is frequented by dignified society but by no means new. "Pleased to see you again," he said as he ushered me to the first table.

"So," I began,"How are things in our beloved D------?"

"Astonishingly well," was the cheerful reply."Days are superbly sunny and marvelously long. And all of D------ is on the beachfront half-naked."

"My,my,"I laughed, pretending to be embarrassed for the youth of D------.

Alas, M knew better. "But of course you are not bothered at all about such things."

Over cakes and tea, we compared each state's contribution to the continent's gene pool and disagreed for the better part of three hours.

"To say that the Empire's southern faction is a more handsome lot is utterly unfair," he sneered. "One must consider the entire package."

"You are correct," I sneered back as I set my cup and saucer on the black marble. "However, the precious pupils in D------ are hardly the bookish sort."

"Hear, hear," he clapped in sarcasm. "Regardless of my enjoyment in seeing you seethe, I must leave. The little ladies of the court are waiting for their scones."

"By George, the scones!" I gasped. I had forgotten them in my carriage. We looked at each other, terrified that a scone-free Friday afternoon in August would reflect how poorly we were taught in the academy. I shuddered.

"No matter," he said as he put on his gloves. "Let them eat cake."

Speaking in British English has a troubling effect on my state of mind (and writing). Thanks to M for lunch at C------- K--------. Hope to see you before you leave for B-----.

Mister Donut @ SM Megamall

After renovation, Mister Donut at SM Megamall is now a few notches classier. Is it turning into Red Ribbon or Le Coeur? I wonder. There are now rice meals with egg, a slice of tomato and cucumber: chicken sausage, chicken krainier, spicy Hungarian sausage or triple sausage (one of each kind) for P68 ala carte or P88 super combo (with softdrink and three Smidgets--Munchkins in Dunkin Donuts speak).

There's also pasta: meattie spaghetti (such spelling!) for P43 ala carte and P65 super combo, and cheezy meattie spaghetti (agh!) or fettucine for P55/P77.

The snackwiches, and single and double donut combos are still there, but there are new items such as the P35 fondue with a choice of chocolate or strawberry dip, three Smidgets, three mallows and three wafer sticks. My reading of the menu is that they do not offer coffee with the meals so that people will still buy the donut combos and in the end, that will still be the main product. Smart, eh?

Ma described the cheezy meattie spaghetti as very kiddie party-ish. I thought the fettucine was fine, except for the cheese product grated over it. If it's not parmesan or a hard cheese, why push it?


There is a woman who brings her children to Megamall every day to beg from customers of food outlets. I didn't bother to read what was written on the card the kids leave on the table, but whatever the reason may be, the practice is lamentable. There must be a better way to promote honest labor.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

National Art Gallery and National Theatre

Susurmasa Timelines, the 50th anniversary exhibition of the National Art Gallery in Kuala Lumpur is divided into six sections: Prehistory and Indigenous (strikingly Polynesian and Native American elements in early Malaysian design), Empires of Maritime and Commerce, Illustrated News, Malayan Beauty (mainly portraits of women), Iconic Works, and Contemporary.

There were many children literally running around the gallery, which was good and bad. Perhaps they were too young to appreciate the art but maybe exposing them to art would be good for them later on. *fingers crossed*

I thought that considering batik and digital photography as art forms alongside paintings is a step in the right direction. My favorite piece: Lee Kian Son's Yee Yang Series "Soul and Form" from 1973.

The nearby National Theatre has a roof worth photographing.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Kulay sa Tubig

The 25th Kulay sa Tubig Invitational Watercolor Competition Exhibition is ongoing at the Art Center, SM Megamall until September 2. The judges appear to favor solid dark backgrounds or simple subjects over busy compositions, with exceptions, of course. Toti Cerda's "Give Peace", Fernando Sena's "Happy Toys" and Lester Rodriguez's "You've got a friend" were not among the winning entries, but they were the ones I liked most, perhaps out of nostalgia, since they were all about childhood from a girl's perspective.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Bukit Bintang: the malling experience

Packing as many malls as the area between EDSA Central and Robinsons Galleria but closer together, Bukit Bintang is the place to beat in KL when it comes to shopping.

Catchphrases: value buy, no trying, buy three free one

cosmo's world cosmo's world

Berjaya Times Square
Huge, but there are reasons why it is not advisable to build a 10-level mall. Home to the biggest indoor theme park, Cosmo's World (above). Many cheap retailers.

Plaza Berjaya
Nothing exciting, I'm afraid.

Sungei Wang
Think old Virra Mall, except more claustro. A mix of cheap clothes and upcoming local designers, crafts and souvenirs when merged with BB Plaza.

Lot 10
Strikingly green outside but still too dark inside to be a premier shopping place. Go for Isetan.

KL Plaza
Tenants seem to be moving out. The only signs of life are in the tiangges in the mddle.

Starhill Gallery
Looks and feels like a hotel because it's connected to the Marriott. It's hard to tell where the lobby ends and the mall begins.

The place to see and be seen in. But for such a classy place, the restrooms are very dirty.

Among the shoppers, there were many women covered in black from head to toe with only their eyes showing. (Abaya, if you're going to be very particular about it.) I used to feel sorry for them (but of course I don't understand them), until I saw them shopping. Their purchasing power is the stuff of envy.

Monday, August 25, 2008

National Mosque + Islamic Arts Museum

arabic islamic centre

Masjid Negara (National Mosque) was closed to non-Muslim visitors when we went (it was Friday), so we just walked up the street towards the Lake Gardens...

To the Islamic Arts Museum, which was high on my list of must-sees before I came to KL.

It is my favorite place in Malaysia, not only for the exhibits but also for the structure. The domed ceilings are beautiful and unexpected. Light and water are important elements in the structure.

The special exhibit until October 25 is called Beyond Orientalism, which shows the influence of Islamic art on the west, notably the works of Theodore Deck, William Morris, Tiffany & Co, Cartier, Matisse, Klee, and Kandinsky. The exhibit also notes the origin of the paisley design from the "boteh" motif. Just looking at the pigments used in Islamic art, it is evident that this tradition has left a mark on artists everywhere. Interesting that Islamic art and Celtic art are very similar. I'm inspired to do some decorative work.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Disclosure @ Galeri Petronas

I was thoroughly impressed by Ahmad Zakii Anwar's survey exhibit at Galeri Petronas, Suria KLCC. Not so much by his acrylics such as his signature series, The Smokers, but by his charcoal on paper works, most notably Devotees (2008). His fingerprints are everywhere, but the quality of the work is first-rate. His still life series of fruits look better than life. The exhibit, which ends today, features more than a hundred works arranged into six stations.

Zakii went into art full-time at 36 after a successful advertising career. His figures in minimalist compositions are sought after.

I wish we could have an ASEAN art exchange so that we could see what is happening in the Southeast Asian art scene and learn from each other.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Malaysia Tourism Centre and Menara KL


garden trees

Malaysia Tourism Centre is off the Bukit Nanas LRT station. The building is beautiful, but I found the actual tour information lacking. They offer 20 minutes of free internet, which is helpful. There's a also a Cocoa Boutique and a craft store nearby.

Menara Kuala Lumpur (KL Tower) is the fourth tallest telecommunication tower in the world at 421m tall. It stands atop Bukit Nanas forest reserve. The observation deck is 276m high. This is what I saw there.


I induced the dramatic effect--it was actually sunny and slightly hazy.

songket songket ladies
There was a cultural show for the tourists. This dance is about the songket, the fabric that the ladies are holding.

Please tell me I'm not the only one who finds this ridiculously funny, even if I'm shooting from behind. Hindi ko kinaya yung mga dance steps! I don't believe that 00:45 and 1:00 are really Malaysian. Di vah?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Ad nation, part 2

Why weren't there many billboards in KL? Because everything else already is one. The waiting sheds have such big neon signs over them that you'd think they were store fronts. The flyover posts are efficiently flat for ads. The fridge on the left deserves a second look. The series of bank ads, which includes the one on the right, was witty. "Growing old, mandatory. Growing up, optional."

monorail station covered with ads

If my hair would end up that way, no thanks. Now you know where rambutan comes from.

One for M, one for C, one for the new bride, one for me?

sign in the toilet of a mall