Thursday, November 26, 2009

Tales from the Drunk Side: Freedom

I just came back from the launch of The Malay Mail. It is the best launch I have ever seen. The main ingredient is honesty. No posturing. No image bullshit. No wanting to be in the in crowd. No wannabes. We all just were.

Kudos to the organisers. They did a great job and everything went seamless. The entertainment was so good, a band walked up to me after the scheduled activities were over and offered to play for free.

I ran to and fro, looking for the organisers of the event. Sorry, dudes. The equipment belonged to the CEO band, and they were packing it up. Maybe next time, yeah? Email me and maybe we can set up something.

A lot of celebrities and friends came. I was touched when they actually cared about the paper. Shit, some even remembered some stuff I wrote about them. Some, good, others, bad. Oh well. Some people hate my work. It's no big deal.

For example, I believe Jessica Alba is a shitty actor. A talentless hack. But I'd fuck her.

That they even know The Malay Mail is a newspaper. You wouldn't believe the number of people I called, years ago, and thought The Malay Mail was probably some kuih or something. Or direct-selling.

Well. They would notice and know about it now. The big news is The Malay Mail (it's going to get the THE back, yay!) is going free. 100,000 copies, I heard. That's 100,000 copies IN YOUR FACE!

Freedom, baby. Freedom.

The person I wanted to meet most was my old editor - Zainal Alam Kadir - who was emceeing for the night. He taught me so much. I mean, this is one man who has empathic mimicry. The only one I know personally.

When he writes (Alam's column goes out every Thursday, starting in tomorrow's first free edition of The Malay Mail), you better read it. That kind of talent comes once in a millenium.

For years, I observed his management style. How he handles people. The most poignant thing I've gleaned from him is that people want to be treated as people. That doesn't mean being nice or nasty. Not necessarily. Just, well, be human. And LISTEN!

Everyone has problems. Everyone has dreams and aspirations. Likes and dislikes. You may agree or disagree with them. Hell, I disagreed with Alam countless times. If I count the days when I went back home, mumbling and talking to myself, my lips quivering and my mind locked in a righteous outrage - OUTRAGE! - at the stuff we disagreed on, I'd be well on my way to a hundred. I think.

The late Yasmin Ahmad told me, once, "You do not need to understand people to love them."

Amd that's true. I'm not gay or anything, though. And Yasmin sure was corny.

I sat down and talked to a lot of people about The Malay Mail. Thanks to all who came. Nice to see old and new faces.

Mostly, I was cracking jokes with Alam. He was perhaps one of the few who could understand the position I am in.

We talked about idiots, about old memories. Strange that in retrospect, every memory is a good memory.

We talked about people. It is very easy to judge people, to want to dominate and control them. To push their buttons. But that takes just too much energy. What a waste.

I believe in anarchy. The true form of anarchy is voluntary order. Everything falling into place like clockwork. You need to build the machinery, the system, but in the end, everything should run with or without you.

When I first started out as a journalist, I was told by someone wayy, wayy senior that in order for you to be a good worker, you need to make it so that everything depends on you. That without you, everything crumbles.

This is a fascimile. Something false. Constructed. Unnatural. And extremely, extremely insecure.

The results of being obsessed with it are two things:

1. You live your life as an insecure spiteful paranoid without any confidence whatsoever in your value or self-worth.

2. You can't go to Thailand and fuck prostitutes. In other words, your work consumes you.

That last one is important, because journalism, working for newspapers, is addictive. It's like a drug. Withdrawal symptoms may include writing movies, books, TV series and lots and lots of porn.

I noticed that the great ones, The Old Ones, they rarely if ever, talk about the business outside of the office. So tonight, it was all celebration after celebration.

Which was good, cause for the past three or four years, journalism was rarely celebrated.

We were accused of many things. Some, probably true. Others, probably not.

I do it, because it is the last of the romantic disciplines. No one can be a proper samurai nowadays. No one can be a musketeer. No one can be a proper privateer and roam the seas for treasure.

The very idea that journalists seek the truth - idea only - is romantic. Naive, innocent, beautiful and doomed.

Of course, I can't tell people I like journalism - in whatever form. People who enjoy things should never tell the pain-worshippers that they are not in pain.

Pain-worshippers are those who believe that pain is necessary for everything. Not really? I mean, not for everything, surely.

So yeah, man. I was in fucking agony. Oh, agony agony agony. Now leave me alone to enjoy my life in peace.

I was talking with Alam about this. About image, living in the present moment, bla bla bla. We also talked about closet homosexuals and people dying in vehicles.

Funny thing about image. I am in the school of thought that form follows function. In other words, the substance is all important, and the look as well as packaging is just an afterthought. Oh, how my eyes are open now.

Omnia mutantur, nihil inherit. Everything changes, nothing is truly lost.

- Ovid in Metamorphoses, as quoted by Neil Gaiman

Well, the content is the heart and soul of the matter. The form, is the execution.

I think about that because The Malay Mail's look will also change, starting tomorrow. The design and layout is changed. And the content must also change to suit the form.

Omnia mutantur nos et mutamur in illis - All things change, and we change with them.

- Lothair I, as quoted by Neil Gaiman

See, if journalists are merely cooks, getting the information/ingredient from the world out there and serving it in edible portions for easy consumption, then the design is the manner in which said dish is being presented. Presentation, man.

With the right presentation, you can sell a lump of charred meat for RM96. I had those steaks before. You can sell tap water for RM2.

Another important aspect is marketing and positioning.

Look at it this way. McDonald's serve what, one billion burgers everyday? Presentation? Zilch. Content? Crap. However, it is the most available meal one can get. I can pick up the phone now and get a McValue meal. In 15 minutes, I can order McDonald's Breakfast.

Journalism is also about teamwork. It takes a lot of people to fill in pages. Everyone performs a function, and no function is too great or too small.

So anyway, I was hanging with my teacher, my mentor and my friend. We talked about living lives free of hate, spite, anger, pettiness and pain.

Which is dangerous, cause a lot of journalism is about hate, anger, and righteous outrage. Without it, there would not be a need for newspapers. If the world was a Teletubbies episode, there wouldn't be newspapers. Teletubbies don't read newspapers.

I've never seen Tinky-Winky with The Daily Mail or The Guardian open, on a couch, after beating up Poo.

The trick is, I guess, to never let that get to you. To never let a need to dictate your life. Cause all suffering is, is desire. A desire for something else. A resistance to the present moment. A resistance to people.

Only when you are free of desire can you have the potential to be happy.

Oh, but I'm not happy. Oh, I'm in agony. Oh, agony, agony, agony, agony!

Oh well. The launch was last night. Tomorrow is a new day. I will sleep and wake up to a new tomorrow.