In memory of my uncle Shah

My uncle, Shahriza Hussein, passed away on Saturday two weeks ago. It was a tough time for me, and I felt that one of the better things I could do was to write a column about it. It wasn't so much an obituary, as an attempt to make sense of what was running through my head.

I wasn't the only one on cyberspace to have noted his passing:

As I wrote in the article, funerals are more for living; so was my column for that week. I'm not sure what he himself would have made of all this fuss.

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posted on Friday, February 05, 2010 - permalink
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Contradictheory: Malaysian Hollywood?

I surprisingly got a bunch of favourable responses for the last Contradictheory article about how hard writing is. Somebody also emailed me, asking how they could be a writer, and what does it take.

Here is my reply:
Dear Sir,
The "group of writers" that I mentioned are actually the writing staff for Creative Development Unit of Astro. Our sole job is to write scripts for Astro productions (and to make sure that they are good, of course!).

We did have an interview session late last year. I'm afraid it was not as well publicised as it could have been, but we have our quota for this year already. We may hire again, but I cannot guarantee when it will happen.

If you send an email to then the person in charge will hopefully put you on the list for future job opportunities.

You asked, "what does it take to be part of the group?". Now, here is roughly what we learnt from the last round of interviews:
  1. We asked that everybody who wanted a job to email a sample of their writing. About half failed to do so. We didn't give those people a job.
  2. We asked those whose writing we thought showed promised to come to an interview. About 10% of those didn't or couldn't come to see us personally. They didn't get a job with us either.
  3. Of those that came for the interview, we asked if they understood scriptwriting jargon like "three-act structure" and "turning point". About a quarter said they did, but they obviously didn't. Some of those insisted they were right in being wrong. They didn't get a job either.
  4. About a third of whom remained came in for a second interview. One person told me with the upmost confidence that her rambling sample story (that had no clear point nor a plot that I could describe in less than fifty words) was "post-modern" because it took place in the 24th Century. She didn't get a job with us.
  5. Those that survived all this went into a one month training session, where they learnt (or relearnt) how to write, including what phrases like "three-act structure" and "turning point" meant. 40% of those did not manage to submit homework on time regularly. They are not part of our team right now.

I hope you appreciate that the one thing you need to become a writer in television is dedication to the craft. You must really want to write so badly; so much so that you already have a lot of writing done in your own spare time just because you love it. You must want it so
badly that you even write when you're "not in the mood" to do so.

You must accept that you are probably not yet "there" as a writer, and probably have a long, long way to go. Humility and an awareness of hubris will be your references. You believe that everything you write can still be better. You know this, because when you give your writing
to honest friends to comment on, they tell you the glaring truth that it isn't really great yet.

Lastly, it really helps if you enjoy telling other people stories, and you are not shy in entertaining them. Really makes the work worth doing, I find.

Best of luck, don't stop writing.

Yours sincerely,

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posted on Monday, February 09, 2009 - permalink
Your idea has its merits
Hmmm... now I want to write!
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Contradictheory: Thoughts not expressed

The original draft for last Sunday's Contradictheory column was much longer than required 900-word limit. This was partly because I wanted to write lots about self-censorship in life in general, but mainly because there's so much of it in the entertainment industry as well.

As it was, they cut out a bit I talked about Ghost. I think it was because of space rather than of anything offensive. The paragraph was this:
Yes, it's a game of guesswork. We generally look at what has previously been allowed as a basis. Once, horror films were taboo but recently things have been different. We even did a whole series about a ghost this year, which we felt was never at any risk of being banned because, (a) Our ghost looked like Naz Rahman, who isn't scary in the least; (b) It wasn't really a horror story about the supernatural, but a love story about two people who can never be with one another.

I think all of the examples come from Popiah Pictures productions. If you want, you can try figure out which came from which. The specifics are not that important, anyway.

Other examples that I could have used, but didn't:

...and so on and so forth.

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posted on Tuesday, October 14, 2008 - permalink
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Now I'm international!

Some of you may have noticed that I have been promoting Ghost a little. I have no shame. I freely admit that. I even wrote that down in a national newspaper column. But in fact, the column wasn't really about television, or about the business of writing; it was about the serious business of how racism limits both opportunities for employers, and for the general public. I contrast that with the hiring policy of Popiah Pictures, and of how every one of different races just get down to the business of doing good work. They even gave it a nice title: A ghostly glimmer of hope. Positive, forward thinking, optimistic.

I guess I must have hit a chord or something, because guess what I see in a newspaper when I'm in Singapore? My name, and bits of my article on page A9 of Monday's issue of My Paper. It's strategically placed right above a piece about how Pak Lah's declining popularity, including the issue of race relations. What headline does my piece get? Why should ethnicity still matter - on Malaysian job opportunities. To me, this headline has a slightly different spin on it - it sounds like I'm complaining about the situation. Well, surely the article will put them right, right?

Erm. Perhaps not. Because in transferring the article, they also edited out all references to the TV show and to Popiah Pictures. As a result, the tone is a little more negative - a complaint without a balm to soothe it.

Don't get me wrong. I'm very happy to now be internationally syndicated. I didn't even know it was happening. I'm flattered like a bemused pancake under a steamroller. And I'm very comfortable with how the editing team at the Star have treated me. It's just that others who read My Paper might get the wrong impression of what I think.

At least 'Dzof Azmi' is a unique Googlable phrase.

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posted on Wednesday, February 06, 2008 - permalink
Can you quickly come up with your posts for eps2 and 3 of Ghost, now that u can wiew them online while u're abroad?

BTW, check out and help fill up missing cast info ;)
No need to be ashamed :) It's quite good - trying to catch as many episodes as I can - and I admit I'm getting quite a crush on nazrudin.
i can't seem to locate what your blog is REALLy about.
maybe i'll read through it again later.
Anyways, thanks for stopping by my blog!
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Notes for Ghost Episode 1

For those of you who have not seen the program yet, 8TV has been generous enough to put up episodes on their website. This is a Good Thing, and I am grateful to whomever in 8TV it was who came up with this policy. (Incidentally, because I am currently out of the country, even I haven't had a chance to see it on Malaysian TV yet!)

Well, I know there were some people out there who liked reading the notes I did for Realiti, so I'll try to do the same for Ghost. However, because I was not as involved in this show, they'll be a little more sketchy, and more from the point of the viewer - less insight, more outside.

The number one thing I worry about when I first saw the pilot was: Is it clear enough? Is it clear what is happening in the episode, and does it unambiguously set up what is going to happen in the rest of the series? A very clever man once said that if your third act doesn't work, the problem is in the first act. Similarly, if you can't relate what happens in the final episode with what happens in the first... well, damnit, we should have rewrote the first.

Or at least make it clearer. So, the notes below are spoilers which explain what's going on in the episode.

So, I hope you're satisfied with the first episode, and that it sets you up for the rest. I think I've outlined above all the clues in the episode that relate to the murder. Please note that (as far as I'm concerned) this episode already introduces three potential suspects, excluding Eza or the possibility of a suicide/accident.

However (and this is important), Ghost is not one of these shows where all the clues have been laid out before hand and viewers will be able to figure out whodidit straight away. There are a lot of stories to tell, and although there are a few things you can guess at, there are also herrings of the red (or at least pinkish) variety. In fact, anyone who can even guess at the actual murder before episode 7 or 8 is possibly psychic or has inside knowledge of Ping's brain.

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posted on Monday, February 04, 2008 - permalink
"Ghosts actually affect the world around them, but do so unconsciously. It's when they want to deliberately interact with physical objects that things become difficult."

OK. I'll accept that.
One word.

hi!m a big fan of the series.i really love the intro song.plz give me some details.n i cant access to the past there any way i can get the whole series?thnx!
Wow! Huraian yang menarik.

Aku juga sedang membuat ulasan bagi musim ke-2.
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Thoughts on 8TV's new series: Ghost

If Dzof has peeked from under the anonymous bedcovers of the Internet, it must mean that he has something he thinks is important to say. Well, true:

Yes, Popiah Picture's latest production, Ghost, is making its debut this Sunday. As far as involvement goes, I feel I had less of a hand in this one than I did in Realiti, for all sorts of reasons, but mainly because I tried to jam too many things into one day.

The trailer above should give you a good idea what the show is about, but I wanted to write a little about the history of the show, and what guided us through its various machinations and incarnations.

Truth be told, the very initial idea came from Ping, and I never really questioned how it really started, but we seemed to agree that it should be two things: (1) A detective whodunnit - who killed Zack Imran?; and (2) A love story about what happens when want what we can't have.

For the detective part of things, I remember that we used Veronica Mars a lot as an example, and a lot of how clues are revealed as part of the larger story arc is basically either setting up or eliminating suspects. The final solution of how Zack died was settled even before episode two was written. So, no Sashi, it wasn't a case of "the manager in the parking lot with a candlestick".

I personally worry that it may be a little complicated, but we have trust that 8TV viewers are smart enough (and weaned enough) with modern entertainment that they can figure out how things fall into place.

For the love story, this is clearly set up from the very beginning, when Eza is dumped by her boyfriend Adzam in practically the second scene of the show. If you think this is a case of will-they, won't-they, then you're right. I don't know how clearly it's articulated in the final product, but the idea is that Adzam had his own particular reasons for dumping her, and then when those reasons are turned around, he looks for reconcilliation. And, yes, in effect Zack acts as the nth party in all this.

As for the "ghost" bits... well, we didn't delve too much into it. I had an idea that Zack should reveal his powers slowly over the season, much like Clark does in Smallville, but that idea was thrown out in the end. It's a slight shame for me, because I thought it would make for a nice third story arc, jiving nicely with the rise and fall of the other two arcs, but hey... I'm just a writer.

So, although on the surface it looks like we moved away to something more thriller-based, at the end of the day, like for most of life, it's still about love.

(AND, if you should happen to be on facebook, you can join in the fun by adding yourself to the group It's Ghost, not Hantu to keep track of the latest updates.)

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posted on Thursday, January 31, 2008 - permalink
yay veronica mars! looking fwd to the detective side, loved the vmars and the concept.
Ah, so you did read my email. ;)

I know who killed Zack Imran - it was Ping! And you! All of youse! Youse whacked him!

Cheryl Samad rocks! :P
Boo! U updated!! Congrats!!!

And, I'm very very sorry but I missed the first epi... I had everything planned, staying home to watch it but I kinda got carried away with my little thing on my own page.

Sorry lah kawan! Can you get me a recorded version or something close to it or not?!
i love ghost.. hehehe i mean the series yer. the lead role, cheryl and naz make a perfect combination also all the supporting roles, memang best cos the acting so natural.

credits to sumer2 yang involved in this series.. memang gempak & best :) keep it up the good works.
love the show soooo much. please upload in utube k, as im only depends to my laptops. nice drama. love u bang naz =)
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Three writers

My mum pointed out that last Sunday was a notable day for our extended family. For the first time ever, three of us had an article each in the national newspapers; My mum with her piece on reforms to the Child Act, my uncle with his sentimental musings of vacations past, and me with my heretical prediction of the end of books.

Of the three of us, my mum is the one least likely to label herself a professional writer. Her background is law, her writing is about law (and at home, her word is practically law as well). She originally started when asked by the New Straits Times to provide pieces on human rights, but now has extended to 'hot topics in law'.

My uncle is an extremely experienced writer, as well as being editor of Auto Magazine for years. He used to do a column in Audio File in the Star, and so is used to the rigours of deadline-based journalistic-style writing. He has just completed a novel of a family set against the history of Malaysia, stretching from the death of JWW Birch, through the travails in between, up to the chants of Merdeka.

And then there's me. Not a writer by training, but only guided by passion, and directed vaguely by being dipped in an environment conducive for writers and gently tugged by osmosistic pressures.

It just seems a little strange, than for a family who doesn't really have an ancestral tradition of writing, that we've ended up at this point.


posted on Tuesday, August 07, 2007 - permalink
Your article in the star is kewl.
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Contradictheory debuts

The more eagle-eyed of you that know me may have noticed a familiar face waaaay down in the bottom left-hand corner in the StarMag section of today's Star. Yes, it's an old photo of me before I gained weight. More importantly, it's next to a column with my name next to it.

Geddit? Column? My name? Can you say, "will be in regular print"?

Yes, folks. I have finally taken a foot out of the cloistered and relatively anonymous world of script-writing and planted it firmly in the spotlighted waters of op-eds. I have, in fact, been given no set areas to write on - a free rein on my reign, as it were.

Of course, it hasn't all been rosy. I tried very hard to get them to put my favourite photo of me, but they insisted on something a little more recognisable. They tried to tell me it was a good thing, but I know better the privilieges and advantages of anonymity. I did manage to get them to not mention my educational history, though. I'm happier that way, it's a Dzof thang, you understand.

I also suggested the name, Contradictheory. I would love to say that it's because I believe the duality of man represents most of life, or that I'm always in for a good fight. Honestly though, it's because I like puns.

Today's article is partially based on a post I wrote almost a year ago, and I have to say I enjoy reading the earlier one better. I think it has something to do with the fact that I was tired, annoyed, hot, sweaty and naked when I wrote the earlier piece. Indeed, how can you bare your soul without baring your body?

Anyway, I suppose you want to read it:
Suffering for the write stuff

WHEN I mention to people that I am a writer, the reaction is nonplussed.

Writing strikes people as one of these amazingly idealistic but impractical things to do. It’s not really a way of earning a living. You’re so lucky, they say. You sit in front of your PC and write. You put words down, and they pay you money for that. In Ringgit, even. You’re so lucky.

They call me all sorts of things. Romantic. Imaginative. Inspiring. One word they don’t use – but I’m pretty sure many think of – is “lazy”.

...more at The Star website

Update: (14 Jan 2007) Two (thankfully positive) responses (here and here) were published in today's Star. It's a good feeling to find that there are people who identified with what I wrote, and makes up for the fact that some people didn't really like it. Happy me.

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posted on Sunday, January 07, 2007 - permalink
Congrats, dude! Looking forward to more every weekend now..
Every fortnight, actually. But thanks for the support.

Actually, the article's gotten some negative feedback, so at the moment I'm feeling all... what's that word again when you feel like vomiting in a dark, small bucket?
don't like you la.. You never reply text messages...
Read your article, congratulation.
congratulations... a celebration. a cuppa tea and a slice of cake calls for a meet up!

chels.. dzof needs to be reminded that his inbox is full , which means that the will have to delete some of his messages, such that he will be able to receive new messages.. so

dzof.. please let go of your old messages... such that new ones can come through! :)

hugs and love!
Hi Dzof
Came here because your mom pointed me to your blog. I remember you, from the days you used to contribute your book reviews to Anyway, I am no longer with that outfit but I still keep in touch with your mom regularly. She told me to check out your blog. And here I am. Hey, negative comments or not, you're a columnist... and I can say, hey, I actually know a columnist in The Star. Cheers, Krista
hie nice articale on the star for the sake of contradicting posted a message above still ther misplaced but ummm... message me? Need hot heated debates to breate... My parents are pushovers they hardly put up a fight or a stand on any issues...
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