Sunday, June 11, 2017

Of Ramadan Past 

Sunday, May 7, 2017

A season for cherry blossoms

Spring has sprung,
It's time to clean the cobwebs
Off minds and blogs 🌸 

Friday, May 27, 2016

Mencari Eleanor di Pulau Roosevelt

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt
Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis
Dua imej Wanita Pertama yang berbeza. Eleanor Roosevelt, ikon Wanita Waja dan Jacqueline Bouvier-Kennedy, ikon Wanita Bergaya, mewakili dua era yang berbeza. Era pasca Depression dengan New Dealnya dan Era Perang Dingin dengan Bay of Pigs Fiasco. Eleanor dikenang sebagai 'A Woman Of Substance' yang mengheret negaranya daripada kancah kemurungan ekonomi, manakala Jackie dirai kerana membawa Style & Elegance - Gaya dan Kecanggihan - ke Rumah Putih era 1960an.

Tiada hadiah untuk tekaan tepat wanita yang menjadi buruan dan pujaan media untuk menghiasi muka depan akhbar dan kulit majalah. Ternyata sifat cermat dan sederhana bukan ciri-ciri yang melariskan jualan majalah dan meningkatkan pendapatan daripada hasil iklan.

Main Street, Roosevelt Island

Peta menunjukkan kedudukan RI antara Manhattan dan Queens
Dah masuk hari ke empat saya jadi Orang Pulau. Bukan Pulau Bukom atau Pulau Belakang Mati, tapi Pulau Roosevelt di antara Queens dan Manhattan. Dinamakan pada 1971 sempena Presiden Franklin D. Roosevelt, tanah sekangkang kera berukuran hampir dua batu panjang kali 800 kaki lebar ini melalui beberapa pertukaran nama bergantung kepada penghuni dan pemiliknya.

Daripada Minnehanonck kepada Varkens Eylandt (Hog Island), Manning's Island, Blackwell's Island dan Welfare Island (1921-1971), Roosevelt Island (RI) beralih tangan daripada kabilah Orang Asli Lenape/Canarsie kepada Gabenor 'New Netherlanders', Kapten Inggeris, negeri dan bandaraya New York.

Meskipun kecil, tetapi dikenali sejak abad ke19 melalui penjaranya, hospital untuk banduan - Penitentiary Hospital, NYC Mental Asylum dan hospital untuk pengidap cacar - Smallpox Hospital, yang kini hanya tinggal runtuhan sejarah. Pendekatan perawatan sakit mental yang tidak berperi kemanusiaan membuat Nellie Bly, perintis kewartawanan siasatan menyamar sebagai pesakit di Women's Lunatic Asylum. Hasilnya buku yang berjudul Ten Days in a Mad-House (1887).

Namun, stigma lalu tidak menghalang orang kenamaan seperti Kofi Annan, Setiausaha Agung PBB suatu masa dahulu, dan Sarah Jessica Parker (pelakon siri TV Sex and the City) menghuni pulau ini.

Woody Allen, pembikin filem 'art', juga turut merakam kecelaruan cinta dalam filemnya Anything Else yang menampilkan pelakon genit, Christina Ricci.

Di luar kompleks apartment awam yang bergagasan kesamarataan, hasil rekaan arkitek Jerman yang disyaki berfaham Komunis, kami memintas sapaan wanita-wanita separuh umur dengan cocker spaniel dan rokok menthol yang teruja dengan bayi cilik yang dibawa bersiar-siar di pagi indah.

Pada malam harinya di laundromat, pelbagai rupa bersimpang-siur --- Caucasian, Redneck, African dan Asian (mungkin juga dari PRC) Amerika --- berebut mesin-mesin pencuci dan pengering yang berfungsi. Menjalani rutin kehidupan seharian di pulau yang sejarahnya mungkin tidak mereka peduli.

Pun begitu, saya yakin akan temui jua roh Eleanor di pulau ini suatu hari nanti.

Info dipetik dari wikipedia.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Business Of Beauty Magazines

Beauty sells, brains don't

Moving from news to feature writing was like shifting from a sweatshop to a boutique. I was fortunate to be transferred from the tyranny of the shop floor under an MCP to be part of an intimate team headed by a Benevolent, Emancipated Woman. 

The magazine section was given reign over the whole of the fourth floor. There were clusters of workstations for Jelita, Her World, Fanfare, Penghibur, Jaguh, Puspa Niaga, Malaysian Business. We---the pool of feature writers---had to gather materials for all the publications. I was assigned to cover product launches, press conferences and wives' association meetings; conduct profile interviews with women profesionals, businessmen and entertainers; compile beauty, health and household tips. But there was always the constant reminder at the back of my head---that magazine writers had to look for new and creative angles since their stories will only hit the news stand 90 days later, not the next day or the following Sunday.

But Content was just the Handmaiden. Cover was the Queen. First Women might have inspired and encouraged women and girls to realise their ambitions and improve their stations in life, but uncoiffed, bare-faced, bespectacled women simply didn't shout, 'Buy Me!', from the pegged lines of the Mamak's news stand. Cover girls still had to be 'dolled up' by make-up artists, hair and fashion stylists, and their best angles highlighted by photographers.


Hence, there had to be a mix and a balance in the content featured. Ministers' and high-ranking wives must be featured alongside female ministers and high-ranking females in the army, navy and Air Force. Career tips gave side glances to 'petua-petua rumahtangga'. Home-cooked food jostled for space with fine dining dishes at five-star hotels. Home decor competed with commercialised interiors for readers' attention.

The women magazine's content might have appeared 'realistic' by its attempt to capture both the Professional Women and Housewives' markets but there was also a sense of contradiction and dissonance. Busy, career women then had no time nor interest to keep abreast of the latest trends in fashion and beauty products and were too plain anyway to grace its cover. Not all high-ranking officers' wives were cover-friendly either. Inevitably, the magazine fell back on Pretty Women - beauty queens, models, singers, actresses in professions that were deemed frivolous but integral to the media and fashion industry - to sell its copies.

The more copies sold - to women with disposable incomes and allowances - the more advertising content and revenue filled up the magazine's pages and coffers.

"Consume compulsively, consume conspicuously
Consume, consume ..."

was the beauty magazine's mantra. How else would people know that a woman had arrived, albeit via her husband in most cases, if not through her lavish life style and purchases?

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Navigating the newsroom I

News Editor, Samani Amin,
was detained a week after
I was hired.
There were two other rookies---SS and MM---who reported to work on the same day on that hot and humid June morning in 1976. Like me, the two of them had failed their first attempts at the HSC examinations. Hence, they were elated to be chosen from the throngs of applicants and short-listed candidates who sat through the rigorous written tests and the gruelling interview sessions.

There were no formal in-house training in those days. We were thrown into the deep end and had to frantically thread water to keep afloat. SS and MM were eager beavers who wouldn't think of taking a tea break or playing truant before they obediently handed in four copies of their news stories into the stack of wire trays at the center of our corner. I tried to toe the line but, somehow or other, I was always late for the company transport (if one was available) or had inadvertently forgotten to book a photographer for my first few assignments.          

It made perfect sense then that I was the last of the rookies to earn a 'by-line' or credit to my news reports. It was well into the first month of our probationary period when Saad Hashim, who took over as news editor after Samani was detained, finally granted me my first by-line. It was based on a write-up of a PC by the Paper Dolls, a Filipino transvestite performing troupe. I was moved by his charity. He had generously overlooked my occasional tardiness and absent-mindedness. Alas, my joy was short-lived when he had my last name wrong!

How could he mistook a Badarudin for a Jusoh? Was he pulling my leg? Or was it just an after-thought? No matter, Nazir and my work-mates celebrated my first by-line. They assured me that I had grasped some rudiments of news reporting, that I was not totally out of depths. Still, I felt that I made through the three-month probationary period by the skin of my teeth. And my suspicions were confirmed when I was assigned to Jelita, a new women's magazine in Malay published by Berita Publishing (BP), the newly set-up magazine section on the top floor of the NSTP building. 

Although writing for magazines, especially women's magazines, was deemed as 'fluff' (imagine light and fluffy as cotton candy), it was a great opportunity to have well-known literary writers---Adibah Amin, Zaharah Nawawi and Salmah Mohsin---as mentors.

Endearingly known to underlings as Kak Adib, Adibah Amin was chosen as the first editor of Jelita. Like other fans of her popular column in the NST, As I was Passing, I was smitten by her keen observation and erudite writing style. Not only was she a graduate of the University of Malaya in Singapore in the early 1950's, but she was a former headmistress of a reputable all-girls residential school, a published author of two novels---Bangsawan Tulen and Gadis Sipu---by the time she was fifteen, a script writer and actor for radio dramas, and a champion of women's rights "within the accepted boundaries of Eastern culture"---mengikut batas-batas sempadan budaya timur!

(It was through Mad magazine that I was acquainted with the caricatures of Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem---the icons of the Women's Liberation Movement in the 1960's. Some of Moon's 'groupie' friends at the Jay Bee Blues' Pot-Parties in the early 70's had gleefully supported Women's Lib---not by burning, no, but by dispensing with their bras---much to the delight of the band boys and their male hangers-on. 

When I was swotting for my Malay Literature paper in Form Six, I learned that the fight for 'women's emancipation' in pre-WWII Malaya was, ironically, championed by progressive male writers. Syed Sheikh Al-Hadi and Ahmad Rashid Talu were two authors who delved into taboo topics such as Love Marriages and Modernization of Malay Women in terms of education, movement and attire in their novels, Hikayat Faridah Hanum and Iakah Salmah?, which were both charged of being plagiarized.)  

I was full of admiration for senior journalists and editors like Cheong Mei Sui and Adibah Amin who went about inspiring and blazing the trail for junior reporters such as myself without so much as torching their undergarments. In fact, they were the epitome of femininity, with their demure clothes, dainty gaits and breathless voices. I felt rough and uncouth whenever I crossed their paths.   

I didn't know much about Mei Sui's background but Kak Adib had a ready-made role model in her mother, Ibu Zain (Zainon Sulaiman), an 'emancipated woman' who published magazines in the late 1930's (which was 'a first' for a Malay woman in the pre-Pacific War years) and ardently fought alongside her male compatriots for Malaya's Independence. 

Featuring 'First Woman' in male-dominated domains---First Woman Minister, First Woman Doctor, First Woman Judge, First Woman Director of a Government Agency, First Woman President of the Pan Malaysia Lorry-Owners Association, so on and so forth---was thought to inspire young women and girls to reach for greater heights in their chosen career paths.

However, in the actual newsroom, apart from Kak Adib and Mei Sui, very few women held top management posts. Many were content to be sub-editors and head Women, Features, Entertainment and Literary desks once they became wives and mothers. It was pretty much male-dominated and patriarchal. The male reporters in the Malay papers were, unabashedly, Male Chauvinist Pigs (MCP) and the females just shrugged them off and went about their work unfazed by the raunchy vocabulary of the editorial floor. 

Newspaper organizations then resembled large clans who tolerated members' idiosyncrasies and looked out for each other's welfare. Even the terms used were familial---Pak Samad (Ismail), Abang Samad (Said), Kak Sal and Kak Jee.                  

Big Sis---Fauziah Samad aka Jee

Best Buddy---Jalil Salleh aka Juwie
Role Model---Adibah Amin aka Kak Adib

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Jelita's 40th Anniversary & Pertama's Meet-up at Puteri

N.B. Badarudin and Rohani Pa'Wanchik, Editor of Jelita in the Nineties
It seemed only yesterday that I walked through the glass doors of the NST building as a wet-behind-the-ears cadet reporter in June '76.

Although my maternal grandfather worked as a typesetter for Warta Malaya, and later Utusan Melayu, in pre-World War II Singapore, I had never dreamt of being a journalist or a writer.

My primary school ambition was to be a Veterinary Surgeon or, in simple childhood parlance, an animal doctor.

When young Malay entrepreneurs launched their boutiques, hair and beauty salons in PJ Section 14, Ampang Shopping Complex and Wisma Central in the early '70s, I harbored fantasies of being a fashion designer cum boutique owner, a hair stylist or a beautician.

The reality of not having sponsors to finance my education in fashion and aesthetics forced me to pound the city streets for sales promoter jobs, waiting on restaurant tables and, finally, reporting the news for a BM daily. Since I had zero experience in writing, not even for the school year book, I had to hike up a steep leaning curve for the first few days, weeks and months. I struggled with the Five Ws & a H, keeping up with what the Source was saying and, at the same time, jotting down the key points on my reporter's note book, organizing the news story in my head while on the bus, taxi or company transport, rushing for a typing spot, hitting the keys of the Olympia (when I had never attended a single class in typing), juggling three sets of carbon copies, avoiding Pak Samad's scrutiny as he made his newsroom rounds and let out his signature lion's roar, shuddering before News Editor Saad Hashim's bark, squirming at male colleague's risqué jokes and double entendres, and taking the late night bus home, mentally and physically exhausted.  

Writing features for magazines was a vacation compared to the pressure and pace of covering and reporting news for dailies. In the beginning, it was exciting to interview entertainment and sports personalities, entrepreneurs and politicians, then it became a daily grind to keep tabs on the activities and goings-on of wives' associations, the latest recipes, beauty tips, so on and so forth.

Father Fortune smiled in the form of the suave suede-suited and bow-tied GM, Encik Mansor Wahab, who approved my university scholarship to attend a Program in Creative and Descriptive Writing at the University of Malaya. When my plan to gain admission into ITM---to escape a miserable home life---was dashed in '74, I was the only one in my sixth form class who didn't raise my hands when the class teacher asked who among the forty something of us bright boys and girls aimed to enroll into university. I just wanted to pass my examinations and get a job that will make me financially independent. I accepted the fact that, being born in Singapore, I wasn't eligible for either state or federal scholarship.

Most of the members of PERTAMA (Persatuan Wartawan Wanita Malaysia
or Women Journalists Association of Malaysia) at the High-tea meet-up
at Puteri Restaurant, 27 Feb 2016
Approximately three years (1993-1996) was spent on writing the proposal,
applying for funding, directing the research work and editing 
the first drafts of the manuscript 

The Preface by Rohani Pa'Wanchik, President of PERTAMA in 1996.

The published work was funded by the Canada Research Council
and launched by Rafidah Aziz, 
Minister for Trade and Industry in the 1990s