Saturday, June 11, 2011

Stopover at Malaysiakini: Of Banned Comics and the 'Hanya Kartun 'Ja' Approach.

Sometimes, living where I do at the present, it's easy to forget that despite all its modernity, Malaysia is still a country run by people who cling on to archaic laws when it comes to press freedom. I stay out of politics mostly, really, but sometimes reminders of this still hits home hard when it rears its ugly head.

Here's some background: There is this thing called the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) which has been in place in Malaysia for as long as I can remember. Our press and media has always been controlled, which is probably why when it became available, Malaysians pretty much took to the web like ducks to water.

However, the transition from web freedom to print freedom still doesn't do so well sometimes. Case in point: Zunar, a Malaysian cartoonist who produces political comics for the online newsite Malaysiakini.com, recently found his books of the same work on the wrong side of the PPPA's ban-wagon.


I have never written a review of Zunar's political comics, but for the time being let's just state first and foremost that I am not a big fan of them.

No doubt he is courageous to come up with what he draws, and openly, but from a comic reader's standpoint, I find most of his political caricatures have the subtlety of a cement trunk driving through a shopping mall. Not exactly to my taste, I like my comics less anvilicious. You know the phrase, "Show, don't Tell" and all that.

Of course, this is my preference, and it doesn't seem to matter for his target audience. Malaysiakini is purportedly an unbiased news site, but it cannot be denied that the majority of its reader base are anti-ruling party. So as long as his comics are critical towards the ruling party, there will be a fanbase who will like it irregardless.

Everyone is entitled to like what they like, of course. But the PPPA (and the people who control it) evidently do not think so. And so... they ban it. With the following reason:

”The contents are not suitable and [are] detrimental to public order."


And then to make it worse there's the whole sedition charge thing.

This a comics/travel/whatever I feel like blog, but one thing it is not is a political blog, so I will not go into detail on what should be obvious (how ridiculous this is), but I will say this really brings to mind of another work of literature/art that was potentially "detrimental to public order".

A couple of years ago, the literature section of a local Malay newspooaper, Utusan Melayu, published a short story called "YB Josephine". I read the thing, it was a "story" of how a "heroic matryr" assassinates a "totally fictional" member of parliament whose description suspiciously resembles an actual member of parliament (opposition side) the paper greatly disliked.

There was a great hoo haah over that back then, but in the end, no action was taken against the paper or the writer of the story as it was all "fictional". The going excuse was "Hanya sastera 'ja" (translation: "It's just literature").

While I may not like Zunar's work, I do believe in press freedom and his right to publish those comics (and retain his freedom after publishing them too). But I'm too much of a realist to expect the PPPA to go away any time soon. Many many things will have to change before that happens. (FYI, any political party who will agree to repeal the PPPA and the Sedition Act gets my vote in the coming elections).

But all for the tragedy, there is a lesson to be learnt here.

A precedence has been set.

As someone might say in the future: "Hanya Kartun 'Ja"

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Hotspot #23: So What Happens To Your Comic After You Die?

First and foremost, I apologize for the morbid subject matter. I am absolutely sure it's unlikely this is a topic you want to spend your weekend pondering over.

All that said, we all know we're going to die someday, but most of us don't like thinking too much about it unless an occasion gives us reason to. I'm sure some psychologist out the already has some fancy name for it but I honestly don't feel like going into web search mode right now.

I should mention that this idea first came to me while waiting at a funeral wake, but I never got around to writing about it until now. Contrary to common depiction in popular media, funerals aren't filled with grieving kids and weeping widows. In fact, there is a kind of grim cheerfulness in the atmosphere, and people you haven't seen for 20 years suddenly pop up. Like they say: Weddings and funerals bring people together.

Well that was what was said the other day when I was talking to a colleague about how death comes without warning. Like that old schoolmate who died in a car accident not too long after you guys graduated or your old maths teacher who passed away for cancer two years ago. And then there's always the grim possibility of the Grim Reaper deciding to pay you a visit personally.

But I digress. The hard question today is as the title says: What happens to your comic after you die?

Realistically speaking, I now live in Asia and driving on the road alone is so freaking dangerous that I wouldn't be surprised if it does me in. In addition, I am partial to doing dangerous stuff like you know, scuba diving and playing with fire. That's not what disturbs me. What disturbs me is that should the worst happen, what with my frequent hiatuses, no one would probably realize I'm missing, save the people who know me in real life.

I have to say this does fill me with some alarm as even though I go on hiatus I do have full intentions of finishing what I started, and leaving my stuff unfinished and on eternal hiatus due to creator existence failure is not really what I want to have happen. At the very least I should try and find some way to let my readers know that there probably won't be any more updates or something. The least I could do, you know?

Which brings me to the next question, I am guessing the majority of you guys keep your access passwords only to yourself, and probably do not write them down. So should something (touch wood) happen, would anyone else be able to update your site?

The answer is probably no.

So what kind of contingency plan can a creator come up with then?

It does make me wish that I had access to the typical villain's post-hero defeat's ability to have their evil lair magically collapse around them. Except I probably wouldn't have my website collapse upon itself, but rather, send out a message to someone I trust with a list of my website logins and passwords with a request they post a quick message to update.

Actually, I suppose I can include that instruction in my will too, but any lawyer who sees that will probably think I'm nuts.

But at least that would be something for them to do during my wake. I'm the type who would prefer to have a cheerful funeral. I'd hate to think that in addition to making people sad at me being dead, I'd be boring them too...

Friday, April 15, 2011

Stopover at GoDaddy: I Guess It's Time To Get Moving Again

So I've just renewed my lonelypanel.com domain for another... well... let's just say I've renewed it for quite a number of years.

Time to start making use of it again... now where do I start?