Saturday, 27 June 2015

Book Review: The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye (Sonny Liew)

"Hey, when you reviewed the book, did you know that Charlie Chan is made-up?"

Sonny Liew asked me this question after he read my review of The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye.

Truth is, I didn't know. I read the book under the illusion that Charlie Chan IS a real person. Sonny and Epigram's marketing revolved around the assumption that Charlie Chan is real, so naturally, I didn't think too much about it, and I read that book under that assumption, without questioning or assuming otherwise.

Blame it on deadlines, Blame it on my own ignorance. Blame it on my own blurness. Heck, I remember thinking how similar Sonny's art was to Charlie Chan, without ever making the connection. DOH!

On hindsight, I probably should have Googled "Charlie Chan Hock Chye" to see if he was real before actually doing the review, but hey, deadlines, work, yadda yadda etc etc. Sonny told me I wasn't the only one who made that mistake, but hey, it's still annoying that I did anyway.

I also had another problem when reviewing the book, particularly in a national newspaper. I didn't really want to put the spotlight on the more fiery political issues raised in the book, so focusing on Charlie's story instead of the politics allowed me to write a more objective (maybe a little tame admittedly) review that gets the word out there about the book.

Anyway, later, Sonny asked me - if you had known beforehand that Charlie Chan was fake, would you have written the review differently? Well, the short answer is, YES. Don't get me wrong, my previous review still stands, as it was written under the assumption that Charlie Chan is real. But had I been aware enough to realise that he isn't, I would have focused a lot more on Sonny's storytelling techniques, the way he weaved his "interviews" into the story, the different art styles he used, and the way he managed to tell the story and history of Singapore (and in a way, Malaysia), through the eyes of a comic artist. It is a masterful book, one, I fear, I did not do enough justice to in my original review.

But anyway, it grated on me that I made such a glaring mistake. So, Sonny, just to answer your question, here's what I would have added to the review had I known Charlie Chan was all in your head, haha. My previous review still stands though, since I wrote it from a different perspective altogether, but here's what I would have added in as well.


Title: The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye
Writer/ Artist: Sonny Liew
Publisher: Epigram Books

The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye is a biography showcasing the life and work of Chan Hock Chye, a pioneering but largely forgotten comics artist in Singapore. With a career spanning more than five decades, from pre-independent Singapore through its three Prime Ministers, Chan’s work reflects the changing political and economic environment in Singapore.

Containing Chan’s original illustrations, paintings and sketches, this is a groundbreaking work and labour of love aimed at recapturing the portrait of an artist, whose deep passion for comics and country is given a fitting tribute by award-winning comics artist Sonny Liew.

What I liked:

  • You can read my original review HERE for some of the other things I liked about the book. 
  • It's Singapore's history, seen through the eyes of a comic book artist. Whether it's Charlie Chan's POV or Sonny Liew's POV is beside the point, but this was a fascinating take on the subject nonetheless.
  • I still prefer the story of Charlie Chan over the actual story of Singapore though. I thought he was a fascinating character, and that Sonny really portrayed him pretty well (well enough that I thought he was real!).
  • It's a great history lesson, basically. If you wanted to know about the story of how Singapore was formed, and Malaysia's part in it, then this is like, one of the most entertaining ways to do so.
  • The way Sonny uses different art styles to illustrate Charlie's "work" really does add to the illusion that he is actually just "Presenting" the story of Charlie Chan.

What I didn't like

  • There really wasn't much I didn't like about the book, though I did think that some of political bits could have done with a bit more subtlety.
  • A few parts, especially the latter ones about the stationary company, were probably a bit TOO on the nose. No wonder the NAC didn't like it haha.
  • I also thought the book was a bit long and took a bit long to get to the point.

Where to get it:

Kinokuniya Suria KLCC. Last I heard they only had 30 copies of teh first edition left, but I think they might have gotten more already.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

8 Thoughts on The TGV Cinemas Family Friendly sessions

So, last weekend we took Baby Cheang to watch Minions under the TGV One Utama Family Friendly Session. I've wanted to go for this ever since I read about it, just to see how Baby Cheang would fare in the cinema.

Long story short, right now, she's way too young, and was fidgeting the whole time, climbing the seats, and calling out to the other kids to play. She did sit down to watch the show a few times, but only for a minute or so, then started getting restless again.

Anyway, the TGV Cinemas Family Friendly sessions are designed exclusively for parents with babies and kids. To make it more comfortable for the kids, the cinema volume is lowered and the lights are dimmed, not turned off completely. There are also diaper changing tables and dustbins inside the cinema hall for parents’ convenience.

They also had a set of "House Rules":

- Kids are allowed to ask "WHY".
- Kids can scream and shout, and let it all out.
- Kids can make new friends.
- Kids are allowed to move around.
- Proceed to the toilet for anything wetter than tears.

Apparently, the sessions are available in TGV Cinemas 1 Utama every weekend at 11am. Tickets are priced at RM20 each, and the sessions are only available at TGV One Utama. You can click HERE for more information.

Overall, I thought it was a brilliant idea to have a session just for kids. And they even had pre-movie activities where families could take pictures with the Minions (we missed that though), and goodie bags as well. I even got free movie passes because it was Father's Day! Whee!

Anyway, here are some of my thoughts about the whole thing:

1) Kids are alright
Now, I usually hate it when parents bring their kids to the cinema, but this time, the entire cinema was full of kids, and I brought mine as well, so I guess that's ok haha. I have never seen so many kids in the cinema in my life. They were crying, screaming, and running around. Parents were walking up and down the stairs carrying or chasing their kids, and if it wasn't for the fact that this was MEANT to be a session for kids, I would have been really really pissed off. But since it was, and I had MY kid with me too, it seemed ok.

2) The parents are alright too
I lost count of the number of times I exchanged knowing and exasperated looks at the other parents. It was like a kinship - we were all on the same boat, we knew what each other was going through, and we didn't give each other crap about it.

3) Softer audio
The softer audio was essential. I never realised how loud the usual movie audio until LL pointed it out to me. In the beginning, during the ads the sound was way too loud, and some of the younger kids were closing their ears. And surprisingly, when they turned the volume down later, you could still hear the movie clearly, even with all the kids screaming and crying. It makes you wonder just how loud the actual volume is, and whether it's safe for adults, let alone kids.

4) Brighter lights
It was a big help that at least it wasn't completely dark in the cinema. Baby Cheang got to explore a bit, and when I had to carry her around, at least I could see where I was going.

5) Baby changing stations
While we didn't use them, it was nice of TGV to provide baby changing tables in the cinemas. Though it might have been a better idea to have a separate room altogether. Yes, yes, I know the House Rules say to "Proceed to the toilet for anything wetter than tears", but there was no clear sign saying DO NOT CHANGE DIRTY DIAPERS HERE anywhere around the tables, so people will probably still do so, which, could turn out to be rather unpleasant for the cinema goers (and the cleaning staff).

6) Round and round and round
Ok, this has nothing to do with the Family Friendly session, but damn, that Wheels On The Bus song really does get around and around, doesn't it? As I was walking up and down the stairs trying to keep Baby Cheang entertained, I heard at least three parents singing that song to their kids to sooth them.

7) What goes on seats?
A lot of bums, that's what. The seats are just the normal cinema seats, and since the kids, especially the smaller ones, are gonna be crawling around the place and seats, I WAS a bit concerned about exactly how clean those seats were. Maybe it would be nice if TGV could sanitise the seats first, or at least provide clean cushion covers or something?

8) A place to play
Let's face it. Most small children aren't going to be sitting still for the ENTIRE two hours of a movie. It would be nice if there was a little play area for the kids to play in as well.