Wednesday, February 22, 2006

"Ode to Common Things" - Pablo Neruda

the common shaker
Originally uploaded by yasmin the storyteller.
I have a crazy,
crazy love of things.
I like pliers,
and scissors.
I love
and bowls -
not to speak, or course,
of hats.
I love
all things,
not just
the grandest,
small -
and flower vases.
Oh yes,
the planet
is sublime!
It's full of pipes
through tobacco smoke,
and keys
and salt shakers -
I mean,
that is made
by the hand of man, every little thing:
shapely shoes,
and fabric,
and each new
bloodless birth
of gold,
carpenter's nails,
clocks, compasses,
coins, and the so-soft
softness of chairs.
Mankind has
oh so many
Built them of wool
and of wood,
of glass and
of rope:
ships, and stairways.
I love
not because they are
or sweet-smelling
but because,
I don't know,
this ocean is yours,
and mine;
these buttons
and wheels
and little
fans upon
whose feathers
love has scattered
its blossoms
glasses, knives and
scissors -
all bear
the trace
of someone's fingers
on their handle or surface,
the trace of a distant hand
in the depths of forgetfulness.
I pause in houses,
streets and
touching things,
identifying objects
that I secretly covet;
this one because it rings,
that one because
it's as soft
as the softness of a woman's hip,
that one there for its deep-sea color,
and that one for its velvet feel.
O irrevocable
of things:
no one can say
that I loved
or the plants of the jungle and the field,
that I loved
those things that leap and climb, desire, and survive.
It's not true:
many things conspired
to tell me the whole story.
Not only did they touch me,
or my hand touched them:
they were
so close
that they were a part
of my being,
they were so alive with me
that they lived half my life
and will die half my death.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Advertising and its Nemesis.

Originally uploaded by yasmin the storyteller.
It has always been a mystery to me.

When I first came back from studies abroad, I spent most of my time at home with my late grand aunt, Mak Ara. My parents were both working, so for six blissful months of unemployment, I helped Mak Ara wash clothes, hang them out to dry, and also in the kitchen, preparing lunch for when mak and abah would come home.

Once the chores were done, she would shower, and afterwards I would comb her hair in front of the television set.

The afternoon television programmes back then had much fewer ads than these days, but the occasional ones would always solicit responses from Mak Ara, mostly disdainful.

“Agaknya orang yang buat iklan ni ingat kita bodoh, apa,” she would mutter under her breath. (transl. “The people who made these advertisements must think we’re stupid.”)

Even back then I knew there was something seriously wrong with ad people, and how completely out of touch they were with reality. Which was why I nearly fell off my chair when someone suggested I joined the advertising industry.

But joined it I did, and through these years, I have never found any evidence to suggest that perhaps Mak Ara was wrong about ad people, as a whole.

I mean, what do you call people who suggest to Asian women that they look better fair, and that having dark skin is something they should feel bad about? Or people who go out of their way to make women who are short and fleshy feel inferior?

What do you call people who lower the strength of a product for a few months, and then raise it back to its previous state, just so they can say that their product is now stronger than before? (Actually, wait a sec. Those are marketing people, not advertising people. Oh well, same diff.)

We put one product into three different bottles, so we can give them different personalities and price points. That way, we can cash in on people’s insecurities and deceive them.

Even those among us who claim to be God-fearing would, without batting an eyelid, show fat, juicy food items in our posters and television commercials, but serve to our customers much lesser versions of the stuff.

A vehicle, when launched, is described as very spacious, but when these mothers start crawling around our streets and highways, it becomes patently obvious to everyone with eyes that it’s actually quite small.

Why hasn’t anyone cried foul yet?

Why? Because it’s not a matter of life and death, I guess. Far more pressing matters at hand, in the life of the average person these days. And also because folks have long since wised up to the wiles of advertising and marketing.

Now if only the advertising people themselves would wise up to the fact too!

Unless we start recognizing that today’s consumers are far more intelligent and value-conscious than we give them credit for, our days are numbered.

In India, the dairy farmers formed a cooperative called AMUL (Anand Milk Union Limited) on the 14th of December 1946. This began with a handful of farmers who felt they were short-changed by middlemen who bought their milk for pittance, but packaged it and sold it at many times the price for which it was paid.

Today, AMUL is a cooperative where the 2.4 million farmers are themselves the shareholders of the company, and because these farmers are totally in touch with real people, they sell the finest milk and milk-based products at prices even the working class can afford. No lying, no wiles, no over-pricing, no short-changing. Just good value products for regular folks.

AMUL is now the biggest milk producer in the world, well poised to cause the demise of its European and antipodean counterparts.

Perhaps it’s time to wake up and smell the roses.

Ali Mohamed, the Chairman of Leo Burnett Advertising, my professional partner and personal soul mate, once told me about a time he balik kampung for Hari Raya. He’d gone over to his widowed grand aunt Mak Jarah’s house to pay her a visit. Just as he darkened her doorway, he heard her holler from the kitchen to the other members of her family.

“Tu dia, orang kerja menipu dah datang!” (literally translates to “Oh look! Here comes the professional liar!)

Grand aunts. The nemesis of false advertising and deceptive marketing. God bless their souls. (Grand aunts, that is.)

Monday, February 06, 2006

"Voices" screening postponed by a week to Friday 17th.

Originally uploaded by yasmin the storyteller.
The reason for it? I showed the rough edit of "Voices" to Kamal Mustafa, my cinematic guru, and he asked some fundamental questions which gave me some ideas on how to improve the film by at least 100 per cent!


But please bear with me, as I return to India this Wednesday evening to do what I need to do, so you can watch an even more powerful documentary on the 17th.

Ted, over to you, sayang.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

"Voices At The Bottom Of The Pyramid". A private test screening. Only 10 seats available.

Here it is. The more or less final cut of my very first documentary, assigned to me, and financed by, my employer, Leo Burnett.

It is mostly about the working class women of India - their dreams, their fears, what they think of multi-national companies, how they form their own companies to survive, what they hope for their children, etc.

It's slightly over an hour long, and I'm keen to gauge some emotional/practical response to the film.

I'm afraid this time around only 10 peeps are allowed, as I would like to reserve some space for internal staff of Leo Burnett.

To book a place, click on comments below. Real names only, regulars get priority, first come first served. Standard rules apply.

Our beloved Treasurer, Ted, will keep tally. Enjoy.