Monday, May 01, 2006


Yang-May Ooi's Lit Blog has now been officially christened Fusion View and has its own domain at
Following overwhelmingly positive responses in the two weeks since I launched the blog, I decided to upgrade the site hosting ahead of schedule, with additional user-friendly features.
As a subscriber, you don't have to do anything - you will be automatically notified of new updates from the new site.
If you have bookmarked the old site in your Favourites, you will need to change the bookmark to refer to this new site at
To read the latest blog entries, click here to go to Fusion View where I have posted The Recipe for Hairdryer Duck - with a photo of how to blow dry a duck...
Thank you to all my many subscribers and to all my friends and contacts who have given me such enthusiastic support for this blog. See you all at the new site - just one click away!
All the best

Friday, April 28, 2006

Power to the bloggers

[Summary: Bloggers are increasingly influential as independent voices outside of conventional news media. How do they challenge the perceptions or worldview we sometimes take for granted?]
An article in The Guardian (18 April 2006, Technology) reports on a finding in a technology study that bloggers are becoming a strong influence on society by dominating public conversations and creating business trends. Bloggers can wreak havoc for companies by raising awareness and campaigning against the corporations or their products. They can also become independent sources of news and opinion outside of the usual media multinationals or (in some countries) government-controlled press.
It made me think about how we perceive the wider world we live in. We get our news usually from the radio, TV and papers. We go to see films and plays and buy CDs that we've read rave reviews about. We choose freely to go to or buy what interests us. Or do we?
Have you noticed how many traditional media sources suddenly have nothing but Tom Cruise in them, or the latest Harry Potter, or the new Madonna album? And after a week or so, it's as if they never existed and we're reading about the next big thing to go and see/ listen to. Why is that? It's because this kind of news is driven by the marketing people with the biggest budget to spend - like the person with the loudest voice in the room, they drown out everyone else.
Look at the recent Academy Awards. The Academy members vote for the best film and so on. The production companies that sent out DVDs of their film to all the members got more votes in general than those that didn't. It's only natural of course that the members would be more likely to vote for a film that they've seen - and that was easy for them to see. It seems to me that it's the same for the print and TV/ radio media - their time is limited and they have to sell copy in a competitive environment: if the big thing that they are being sold by a publisher's marketing team is Harry Potter, they cannot risk losing out by not reporting it.
It's like when I travel - I like to hunt out an obscure restaurant or cafe with great food and ambience that only the locals know, rather than go to what's been recommended by all the tourist books where all I'll get is the tourist experience with other tourists. The risk is that I might end up in some dive with horrible food and an unpleasant evening - but that's a risk you run even with a so-called recommended restaurant. But the reward might be a treasured memory forever and that feeling of real exploration that is so difficult to attain in our ordered, modern world.
I feel a similar sense of exploration seeking out interesting blogs. The thing about bloggers is that on the whole they are not paid to blog. They do it out of passion - so you can get quirky, off-beat or unusual information from them or alternative views that are not dependent on selling the morning's paper. You can also hear the individual voice and heart of the writer. They'll tell you about a book or film they love because they love it and not because they've been sold on it in a press pack by clever marketing people. The downside, though, is that there is no editorial control so you may need to wade through a lot of self-indulgent verbage before you get to the gem. And there is no guarantee of the journalistic truth or integrity - so you shouldn't always believe everything you read. I still read the solid news media like The Guardian or Newseek, but when I want a change from the same-old, same-old being told what to read and see and think, exploring the blogosphere can be fun and strange and curious.
If reading my blog is an early foray into the world of blogs for you and you'd like to explore other blogs, here are some ways you can do that:
  • At the top of this page, there is a button in the banner that will take you to the "Next Blog". This will randomly shoot you into another blog. It's always a different one every time. Once, when I was exploring I came across this amazingly beautiful site:
  • Go to Google and type in a topic of your choice followed by "blog" and see what comes up eg music blog, malaysia blog etc
  • Go to (there's no "www") and type in a "tag" (ie any keyword) in the Search box and see who/ what appears.
Please do come back and leave a comment to let me know what you've discovered.
If you're a regular web traveller and all this is a bit old hat for you, I'd love it if you could leave a comment and share some of your "travelogues" on the net and recommend any blogs that might be interesting for me - and the other readers - to visit.
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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Trade you my paperclip for your house?

With property prices shooting through the roof, you need to be creative these days if you want to own your own home. To give you an idea of the madness: a car parking space in London was going for over £30,000 a little while back - it's probably worth a lot more now. And it's not just in the UK - it's happening all over the world.
Kyle Macdonald, a young Canadian, has found the answer. Since July last year, he has been bartering his way up to housing ladder. He started with one red paper clip. He has literally traded up via various better and better items - including a doorknob, a generator and a van. Today, 27 April 2006, he is offering a trade on an afternoon with rock legend Alice Cooper. Now what's that worth to you and what will you trade him for it?
Check out his website at and see for yourself.
In an interview on a Canadian website (, he explains how the success of his project is almost entirely dependent on his free blogspot website and other free web tools eg for displaying photos and videos and emailing. He says he has "never made a single outgoing call to a media outlet or solicited a trade from a single person" - the people he has traded with have all come to him via the website.
From how far he has progressed in the last 9 months, It looks like he will be the proud owner of his own home very soon!
I am sure many people will be inspired by his project to try out bartering as a way to trade their way up to their dream. We all do each other favours every day and in the business world, from small enterprisese and solo professionals to big companies, it's common to exchange expertise, services, products and goodwill. I guess what he's doing is not that different - just more focused!
So what will I be trading in the next little while to take me closer to my dream? Well, my dream is for this blog to reach 500 subscribers by May Day (1 May) 2007. So this month, I'm putting up three free copies of my novel to be won in exchange for readers subscribing to this blog. Since its launch about 10 days ago, I've had 20 subscribers so it's a great start - but still a long way to go. I hope you can help me reach my goal by telling your friends about this blog.
What would you like to trade in the coming few weeks to take you closer to your dream? Why not tell me about it by leaving a comment? Maybe I, or the other readers of this blog, could help you towards your goal in some small way.
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Legal texts can be fun! The real life Da Vinci Code drama continues.

[Summary: The judge in the Da Vinci Code plagiarism case has inserted a code into his judgement that has got the world reading legal texts for fun at last]

The Guardian reported today (27 April 2006) that Mr Justice Peter Smith, the judge in the plagiarism case brought by the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail (HBHG) against Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, has apparently inserted a code into his 71 page judgement on the case. Brown was vindicated by the judgement which ruled that he had not plagiarised HBHG.

The lawyers reviewing the judgement, living up to lawyers’ reputation for “having a keen eye for detail”, noticed odd italicisation in the text that they first thought was typographical errors (typical: blame the secretaries!). But then they worked out that the first few letters spelt “Smithy’s code”. Hmm, I wonder how they are going to record the time they spent puzzling over that one – chargeable or non-chargeable?

The lawyer who broke the first snippet of code, Dan Tench, has apparently been offered a front page spread in The New York Times if he breaks the code. So no doubt the race is on among fans – or hopeful celebrities – to beat him to it and get their 15 minutes worth of fame.

You can read the full Guardian article by clicking on this link:,,1762351,00.html

Do you want to have a go? You can get a copy at* I expect that you’ll need to drink lots of coffee and pinch yourself regularly to stay awake – my own experience of legal texts is that they are not usually edge-of-the-seat stuff!

Personally, I think all this is a conspiracy to get more people to train as lawyers and judges by selling them on the idea that writing legal papers is just like writing thrillers…

*Thanks to Lee-Anne for her great detective work in finding this link to the case for me!


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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Simon World blog

You may enjoy exploring the wide world of bloggers out there so from time to time, I will be sharing links to the blogs that I read.

Simon World – A blog by an Australian living in Hong Kong. He catches curious news in Hong Kong, China and Asia – a good round-up of what’s happening down in the streets.


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We all look the same - no, really, we do

[Summary: Are films and shows colour blind at last?]
I was intrigued by the recent furore over the casting of Chinese actors in Memoirs of a Geisha. The argument went something like this: the story is about a geisha in Japan and a geisha is a particularly Japanese construct so the actors should be Japanese. Our very own Malaysian superstar, Michelle Yeoh was grilled in many interviews about this. Her response, quoted in many publications, was that no-one complains when Americans play Germans or Brits play Italians. Indeed, Meryl Streep has played just about every Caucasion nationality under the sun. Though, to be fair to those who criticised Geisha, Meryl never has tried to play an Oriental. (Fortunately, the custom of white actors "blacking" up to play black or other non-white characters is now very much unacceptable.)
A website that's been around for awhile came to prominence during this controversy. Set up by Dyske Suematsu, an Asian-American, it asks: do all Japanese, Chinese and Koreans look the same - as some Westerners might say. You can do an online quiz and see your results instantaneously. I thought I would be pretty good at telling each of these groups apart but scored only about half! It's fun and challenges one to really look at one's preconceptions about racial stereotypes. Have a look at it at
Looking beyond stereotypes in the movies, it has been heartening to see Oriental actors taking on more and more mainstream roles where the emphasis has not been on kung-fu high kicks or hard-done-by bound-feet woman. Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan have been significant in raising the profile of Chinese actors on the international screen. But Chow Yan-Fat has taken things to the next level, playing in thrillers where he's more comfortable wielding a gun than high-kicking (The Replacement Killer) and in romantic movies as the male lead (Anna and the King). He is tall for a Chinese man and that probably helps get him into the A-list! Ling in the Ally MacBeal series, as played by Lucy Liu, is fascinating and charismatic for being tough, sexy, and smart - not for being Chinese. The role had been written as a minor part without race in mind and when Liu auditioned, she was so good, they hired her long term and expanded the character.
In Under a Tuscan Sun, we notice Sandra Oh as the heroine's best friend - it's great to see an Oriental in a regular role in a regular drama where all the characters could just as easily be Caucasian. And oh yes, her character is also lesbian. The beauty of this subtle film is that it just takes all that in its stride and what shines through is the friendship between the characters. On her website, the Canadian actress is quoted as saying, "If there's another f@*#^*g show or movie about New York and everyone's white, I'm gonna f*#@!*g die. That is so unacceptable."
On the UK stage recently, a young Chinese lad, Matthew Koon made history as the first Chinese Billy Elliot. An Asian and a black boy have also got the lead role in this musical, based on the film. The director of the show is quoted as saying that it was important to him to be colour blind in casting for the role - what mattered was the talent of the boys. In Malaysia, of course, stage productions of Western dramsa have always had a mix of races in the cast, reflecting the ethnic mix of the country so this news may not be such a big deal in that context. But in the UK, I feel that this is a huge leap forward for a Britain moving towards an acceptance of itself as a multi-cultural country.
And to really befuddle us all, the recent movie TransAmerica has a woman, Felicity Huffman, playing a man who wants to be a woman. In a now infamous scene, the actress wears prosthetic male genitals in her role as the man who would rather not have those genitals. Now how confusing is that?
But all this just goes to show that we really all look the same - Caucasian or Asian/ Oriental; male or female. What looks the same under all the stereotyping and outward accessories of gender is a common humanity and these films and shows challenge us to go beyond first impressions to look at the person before us. So in years to come, when my hair goes completely white, I shall not wear purple - as the poem goes - but I shall become blonde and no-one had better dare say that I look weird.
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Sunday, April 16, 2006

What's up this month - April 2006

I am very excited to launch my Lit Blog. Please do have a look around.
What's all the fuss about?
You've heard of fusion food, a blend of Far Eastern cooking and Modern British cuisine. Well, this is a fusion blog - a synthesis of my Malaysian-Chinese heritage and my British life today. You will find posts on writing and books, films, food, updates on how my next book(s) are coming along, profiles of people I find inspiring, unusual or interesting, explorations of questions that intrigue me and also, a little bit about what's going on in my day-to-day life. Plus the chance to win a copy of The Flame Tree and to be entered into future prize draws - all for free.
So what does that mean, exactly?
Most of you probably know what a blog is, but for those who don't, it's short for "weblog", an online journal. "Lit" is short for "literary". So this is a personal space where I can share my writing on, well, writing - and also, the other arts and delights that can be an oasis in our hectic lives.
I will update this blog once a month at least, with occasional additional postings in between. Although this is a blog, the posts will be more like "articles", with a bit of structure and theme to them, and so, hopefully, they will be a good read.
What's in this blog for me to read, then?
To help you navigate round this blog, a summary of my latest posts for April 2006 is listed here. Click on the title to go straight to the full "article".
Curious Legacies: My Grangmother's Recipe for Soy Sauce Chicken: I've been collecting notes for a memoir of my childhood growing up in Malaysia and my coming of age in England. I got to thinking about all the people who have been in my life. Some of them, like my family, are a part of me and others, like friends and my partner, have become an important part of my life. Others have come and gone or just passed through. But many have left something behind - curious legacies that, taken together, make up the fabric of who I am. In these notes, I write about some of these curious legacies. Today: My Grandmother' Recipe for Soy Sauce Chicken
Holy Smoke, What a Relief!: Dan Brown wins the plagiarism case brought by some of the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail (HBHG). The verdict: he did not steal their ideas. So what does this mean for me and for writers generally?
Reflections on "Searching for the Wrong Eyed Jesus": Not a review exactly, more like thoughts and reflections prompted by this moving film. This is a documentary that is "a spiritual journey (which) explores the "Soul of the South" and a world of marginalised white people and their unique and intense home-grown culture" (BBC Four summary).
The World's Best Restaurants - really?: Another article about food - we Malaysians are crazy about food. A list has just been published of the world's best restaurants but are the world's best restaurants really those that are fancy, famous and expensive? I don't think so. What do you think?
How doth your garden grow?: There's nothing like a pretty garden - whether in the UK or Malaysia - to get us talking. Add your comment and tell us about gardens you love, wherever you are in the world.
Also, have a look at the "Site Navigation" section of the sidebar for help moving around the site.
What do I do now?
I hope you will subscribe to receive free email notifications of blog updates, and for the chance to win a copy of The Flame Tree. Subscribe now.
All subscribers will also be automatically entered into future prize draws to win books and other gifts. Coming up soon, an interview with Caro Fraser, and author of the best-selling Caper Court legal series, plus the chance to win a copy of her latest book A World Apart
What else?
You can also join my blog community by adding your comment to the posts. Sometimes I ask my readers to update me on what's happening in their area - I'd love to hear from you. Why not share your thoughts and local knowledge with a world-wide audience - eg. see the post "How doth your garden grow?" to add your comments* on gardens in Malaysia, Singapore, England or wherever you are in the world.
To find out more about subscribing/ unsubscribing and my subscription policy, click here.
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*For my comments policy, please click here.