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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Typing Out Loud

So in a couple of days I'll be participating in a bit of a talky session thingy about self-expression with the wife, and like good organisers, the people running the event gave us the questions that we'll have to address a week prior to the event so that we could prepare. 

They're interesting questions in the sense that I've never received them before, so I know that I will personally have a tough time articulating the answers come crunch time, so I'll brainstorm some stuff here to have some sort of an idea of what I'll say on the event day itself. So here goes.

1. When did you start to really express yourself?
Tough question. I guess I've been expressing myself ever since I could remember. I a particularly fond memory would be the time when my friends and I made up a fictional chain narrative amongst each other in class while we weren't paying attention to what our teachers were saying. They were weird stories involving digimon, space pigs and professional wrestlers.

But I guess the question is, when did I really start to express myself, and I guess the question means when did I start expressing myself on purpose. And I guess the best answer I can give is when I started blogging. That was a start to a lot of things for me. Thinking about things and exploring ideas and putting those thoughts and explorations on a page, making them tangible things instead of randomness that was floating around in my head. I don't remember what actually sparked me to want to make a blog, but I do remember what opened my eyes to self-expression, and that was an English Literature course that we had to take in our TESL foundation semesters. Those lecturers taught me how to read poems and stories with a critical eye, and I've been learning ever since. I feel like I've come a long way since then, but I know that I have such a long way to go still.

2. What importance do you see in self-expression?
I think it's a human thing, to express yourself, or at least to want to express yourself, either in the form of poetry or songs or films or stories or even just conversations that we have with each other. We have this innate need to tell other people what is on our minds. Maybe that's hard-wired into our brains or maybe that's just me, but I feel like everyone wants to share stuff that's in their heads with other people.

To me, it's a question of whether or not you're aware that that's what you're doing. Once you are, you do it on purpose, then maybe you feel the urge to get better at it. And that's my never-ending struggle for the past several years. Just trying to get better at expressing myself to other people.

But why would you want to get better? Why aren't you happy with just being able to express yourself period? (I added these questions myself)

Honest answer is, I don't know. Maybe it's just my way of keeping myself from being happy. I think I secretly get a kick out of making myself feel inferior and incompetent, because I do that so often it's unhealthy.

Or maybe I want to get better so that I can eventually hear other people say "hey look at that guy, he's so competent at expressing himself in his chosen method of self-expression!" and I'll feel happy about myself when I'm validated like that, feeds my ego and stuff. Maybe. I don't know.

3. How did being able to express yourself change your life (or didn't)?
I think it opened my eyes a lot more. I feel like I notice more things, nowadays. Things that I probably wouldn't have noticed when I wasn't expressing myself on purpose. Like, I wouldn't have been able to appreciate sarcasm as much as I do now if I didn't use it myself as much as I do.

And I don't think I would be able to appreciate a lot of other art too, like songs. I write the odd song every now and again, and it has allowed me some insight into the amount of work and creativity that it takes to produce songs, and I feel like I can appreciate (or not appreciate) certain songs with more certainty now compared to back when I didn't engage in the act. I can say things like "man, that must have taken SO MUCH WORK to get done!" or "nikhirim malaih gila dia ni buat lagu camni ja," just when listening to stuff, because I have an insight into what it takes to get those things done. And that goes to other forms too, like video or film-making, writing, even sports. But of course, like I said earlier, I'm still learning so many things, so I always leave room for myself to be wrong.

4. Do you have a method to build confidence or to shake off nervousness?
I think confidence is one of the bi-products of experience. So whenever I'm nervous as eff or when I don't feel confident before a performance or whenever I'm doing stuff in front of a group of people, it helps to remind myself that I'm super super nervous right now because I haven't done this a bunch of times yet. I'm going to suck at this one right here, and that's okay, because I have to suck a whole buncha times before getting kinda sorta good at it (yes, that's a Jake from Adventure Time quote). And giving myself permission to be bad at something is so liberating, like you wouldn't believe. So yeah, embracing my mediocrity is what I do.

5. What are some common myths about self-expression that you, through experience, have doubts about?
I don't know about any common myths about self-expression, so I had to google it. The results weren't that many. I couldn't find anything relevant in the first page of the search, so they must not exist, right?

All joking a salad, I did find one thing that said self-expression was related to narcissism. I guess you can sort of see it that way in the sense that when you express yourself, you're essentially spilling your guts in the form of your words and thoughts for all the world to see and kinda sorta imply that you're saying "HEY LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME I HAVE STUFF TO SAY LOOK AT MEEEE (noodles)", but I don't know.

I feel like learning how to express myself has allowed me to be more empathetic too. I feel like I understand what it takes for me to produce a certain something and the kind of courage that is necessary to be honest about yourself and your views in a world where conformity is valued so much, that it helps me understand the plight of other people who are expressing themselves too, or at least who are trying to express themselves. I feel like we're all working towards making ourselves understood by other people when we can barely even understand ourselves most of the time, it makes it easier for me to put myself in the skin of other people and try to understand why they see things the way they do and why they express themselves the way they do.

6. What problems do you still face when expressing yourself, and what problems did you experience in the past?
One of the things that I've always struggled with is figuring out what I think. I feel like 99% of the time, my mind is a floating space of nothingness and to extract something, anything out of it requires exertion and effort. So that's always a struggle for me, finding something to think about. Like my videos. I struggle so much with them, because like I said, 99% of the time I have no idea what to talk about, especially when asked to talk about something. It just goes blank.

I go through this so many times. I'd have thoughts and stuff floating around in my head, things that I find interesting, but as soon as I click on the Word icon or the "Tweet" icon, my mind goes blank. Absolutely nothing. All of a sudden I have no memory of what I was thinking so profusely about just literally two seconds ago. And so I scroll through Twitter and think "oh look at all these people that have interesting stuff to say" and wonder how they did it.

7. How did you manage?
I still don't know. I think saying it aloud helps. And nowadays I like to record myself on the phone using the voice memo app thing on the phone. Most of my voice memo stuff are random melodies that sometimes come into my head and I hum them out to the phone so that I don't forget them in five seconds.

I also started an idea bank about a year ago. It was during a challenge I made for myself to write everyday on my blog (what a failure that turned out to be), but I feel like that helped. I needed to catch myself in a train of thought and quickly jot them down and save them in my twitter drafts so that I can go to my laptop later in the day and read from those drafts to know what I was going to write about that day. That idea bank thing was super helpful because sometimes I would have five thoughts a day, and somethings I would have zero thoughts a week, and being able to extract one idea a day from that bank was super helpful in getting me to write so much more than I had ever written before. But like everything I do, I stopped doing it at a certain point because me and consistency are like oil and water. I should probably start that again.

8. What's your advice to people who are afraid to express themselves?
I would have to ask first, why are you afraid? What are you afraid of? If it's that people are going to laugh at you, then chances are, people don't really care. All people care about is themselves, and if you're not directly affecting them in any way, then express away. if you're worried "what will people say about me?" or "what will people think about me when I do/say this thing?", chances are, those people are asking the same exact questions to themselves. Everybody is worried about their own selves, so don't worry about them. They're already worried enough about themselves as it is.

If you're afraid that nobody will care, then I'll probably borrow Bo Burnham's words: If you can live your life without an audience, you should do it.

Because if I've noticed anything about self-expression and stuff, things have a way of finding their own audiences. They might be small, or they might be weird, but they're real, and they're supposed to be there. Care more about the quality of your product than what other people think about it. Because if you're happy with what you've made, then you've already gained one fan. Yourself.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

What You Need To Know Before Buying A House

So a couple of weeks ago, I made a video about the preparations one has to go through before investing in property. You can check out the video here:



As I said in the video, there are a few things that we need to find out about before going on our journey towards purchasing property. 

One of the firsts steps on that journey for most of us is getting a loan from a bank in order to buy that house. Now, when we go to the bank, they won't just give is money willy-nilly. They take into consideration a few things, namely these four: your Debt Service Ratio, your risk profile, the price of the house you intend to buy, and you Loan-To-Value ratio. What we'll be discussing in this blogpost is the Debt Service Ratio, or DSR for short.

Whoa, that sounds highly technical! What does that mean?

DSRs are basically a percentage. Some people are have a 50% DSR, other people have 60% DSR. The percentage basically shows how likely or unlikely it is for you to be able to pay back your loan to the bank. The lower your DSR percentage, the better, as it shows that you have a higher chance of paying and lower chance of not paying your monthly repayments.

 But how do I know how much my DSR is?
Good question. I'll walk you through how I get to know my own DSR.

For convenience's sake, let's say that I get a monthly income of RM3000.

Firstly, I add up all my monthly payments that I have to make.
Rent (RM300) + Car repayment (RM550) + Phone Bill (RM100) = RM950

And then I add to that the amount of money I would have to pay every month if I were to purchase the house I want. Let's say that's RM1050. So,
RM950 + RM1050 = RM2000

Next, I divide that number with my monthly income.

RM2000 / RM3000 = 0.66

Finally, I multiply that number by 100 to get my DSR percentage.

0.66 x 100 = 66%

So that's my DSR if I wanted to buy a house that required me to pay RM1050 every month to the bank.

And that's it, really. To wrap it up:
1. Add up all your monthly commitments.
2. Add to that the amount you will pay every month for the house.
3. Divide that total with your monthly income.
4. Multiply by 100.
5. That's your DSR.

Remember, the lower your DSR is, the better your chances of getting a loan from the bank to buy your house. Aim for getting below 60% DSR, as lots of banks take that as the typical cut-off point.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Merchant (PART 2)


***

Veena reached a hand into her bag and looked for her doodle book that she always carried with her. As she was looking for it, it suddenly went dark.

For a small moment, she thought that she had somehow gone blind, as she could suddenly hear screams from where seemed to be the inside of her head, but then she heard Amar’s voice saying “Alah, blackout ke?” and she heaved a sigh of relief.

It seemed as though the whole campus’ electricity had been cut off. Even the street lights were dark. Being a campus that was a considerable distance away from the nearest main road, they couldn’t see just how badly the area had been affected. All they knew was that the cafeteria and all the buildings around it was out of electricity.

“Haiz, at time like this got blackout also ha?” She asked almost to herself.

“Okay lah, we postpone meeting lah kan?” Amar suggested while standing up, bag in hand right after the ruckus of the group died down a little. He probably wouldn’t be able to continue watching his Running Man episodes, so he figured he’d probably go out for shisha with the boys.

“Hey, cannot! We need to prepare the performance! Don’t got time already!” Shirley rejected the motion, looking to what looked like the silhouette of Amar.

“Yeah, we should probably find somewhere else to continue the discussion,” said Hani into the darkness of the cafeteria. Their eyes were adjusting to the darkness and they could make out each others’ faces in the dark now.

“Okay, so where should we go?” Jasmin inquired.

“Hey, is it just me, or has this cafe gotten really quiet?” Rafiq suddenly asked.

The group fell silent and tried to listen for all the other people that filled half of the cafeteria with them just moments earlier. 

Pin-drop silence.

“La, phone ada torchlight, guna ajalah!” Amar said while taking his phone out of his pocket. To his horror, his phone was dead. “Alamak, takdak bateri plak, Fiq, suluh tengok!”

Rafiq took out his phone and pressed on the home button several times. Nothing. His phone had died on him too. “Phone aku pun habeh bateri!”

Everyone else at the table quickly took out their phones and checked too, only to find out that all their phones would not turn on for them.

“Okay, this getting really creepy now! Let’s go out of the cafeteria first,” Shirley was trying her best to keep calm, but she knew that she was failing.

“Yeah, let’s just go outside,” Hani said while putting her bag strap over her shoulder.


They left the table and headed for the door.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Merchant (PART 1)

"Merchant was suggested by Muzakir Xynll. Thank you.

***

“So who’s going to be the merchant? Shylock? Shylock kan?” Amar’s voice rose above the commotion that was wont in the campus cafeteria as he addressed the rest of his group members. He intended to get the meeting done as quickly as humanly possible so that he could go back to watching Running Man. He just jumped on the bandwagon three days ago in order to impress his Facebook crush who was a big Running Man fan, he found out, and he was still on season 2. He had a lot of catching up to do.

“Yes, Shylock,” Veena chimed in as she fanned herself with her floral-motif hand-fan. The warmth and humidity of the cafeteria had always bothered her, which made her want to get out of there as soon as she could as well.

“Wait,” said Shirley, raising her hand so that she was noticed, “shouldn’t we pick which scene we want to do first before we assign the characters? What if we lastly pick a scene that Shylock never have, then how?” 

“Yeah, betul. So which scene we want to do?” Jasmin had to raise her voice to levels higher than usual for her to be heard by the whole group.

At this point, Rafiq, Hani and Wida flipped through their Merchant Of Venice textbook, seeming to look for a suitable scene.

“Alah, pilih ja whichever scene pun, the easiest one to do, kita buat kerja senang!” Amar put his hand on the table since he didn’t bring his textbook.

“Cannoooot like thaaaaat!” Shirley turned to face Amar. “This is 30% of our marks okay? You think what?” Her grip on her textbook tightened as she was saying this.

Amar sighed. He forgot that he was in the same group with Shirley, of all people. “Okay la, faster choose which scene want to do!”

“I think we should do the scene in the, apa tu? Courtroom? When the trial is happening, where the pound of flesh thing is said,” Hani put forth her suggestion.

“Ha, Madam Ros suggest that one too, right? We can try that one,” Shirley opened her textbook and looked for the scene.

“Tengok, pilih scene yang ada Shylock gak. Aku dah tanya dah awal-awal tadi kan?” Amar said silently to Rafiq while rolling his eyes, to which Rafiq shook his head to show his agreement with Amar.

“Okay, so in this scene got quite a few characters, so we can choose. We want to choose on our own or draw lots or how?” Shirley said while examining the script in the textbook.

The group went quite for a little while before Shirley said, “We draw lots la ha? Easier like that. Veena, you bring book or not? Can do cut the paper to draw lots?” as she gestured to Veena sitting right beside her.

***

Looks like I'll need to spend a little more of my time on this one. To be continued.

Click here for PART 2


Sunday, March 27, 2016

I Need Your Help

So I've noticed that I've not been writing as often as I want to, apatah lagi as often as I need to in order to hone the craft. And the things that I do write nowadays are mostly non-fiction, when in my heart, I want to write more fiction. I'm giving myself a lot of excuses as to why I can't do it, and being the weak person that I am, I give in to these excuses and it keeps me from doing things I tell myself that I want to do.

One of the main excuses that I give myself, however, is that I don't have anything to write about. Which is sort of a ridiculously weak excuse because we're surrounded by so many amazing things around us that to be uninspired should be almost unthinkable.

So here's where I need you, dear reader of this post, to help me out. I would like to ask any of you who are willing to drop into the comment section of this blogpost a one-word suggestion for me to write a piece of fiction about, very much in the way of a writing-prompt. Some examples would be: iron, power, camera, idea, etc. I am going to base my next blogpost on any one of your suggestions, and I'll make the suggestion the title of the story and remember to credit the person who suggested it. If it's from an anonymous user, I'll credit it to "anonymous".

The blogpost after that one will be based on one of the comments on that post pulak, and we'll go on like that until the end of the year (this is my hope, at least). By the end of the year we should have quite a number of stories on our hands, and I'd love to have the knowledge that you helped a big deal in making that happen.

I come to the blog to ask you this because, I think it's no secret now that I hold my blog readers most dearly to me. I tell you guys the things that hit closest to home. Here is where I go to become vulnerable, and to know that some people appreciate that and keep coming to read is very heart-warming on my part.

But of course, I'm not forcing anyone to do this. There is no compulsion here, I am just asking for your help is all. Help me become a better writer, and I shall be entirely grateful for it.

May peace be upon you.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Walked Out Of Cinema

So earlier I went to watch a movie (I won't name the movie because I don't want to influence your decision in whether or not you want to watch the movie), and it turned out to be the first time I'd ever deliberately walked out of a cinema hall in the middle of a movie purely because of how much the movie made me suffer. It started out terrible already, but I stayed seated in hopes of it getting better, but it never did. Just when I thought it couldn't have gotten any worse, it did. And for that, I needed to get myself out of there and put myself out of my own misery.

Everything about the movie was insufferable, but I'd like to highlight the audio aspect of it. All of the dialogue up until the half hour mark (which was when I exited) was dubbed, and dubbed so obviously and so badly. One would think a film-maker would opt for dubbinh because the audio on set was unusable, mainly that the noise in the background was too much to allow for an enjoyable movie-watching experience, but the amount of noise in even the dubbed audio was as if they deliberately put the microphone they used to record the audio right next to a table fan. I don't know what they were trying to achieve in doing this, but the word "annoying" keeps coming to mind.

Plus the music scoring. Oh my goodness the scoring. It was the straw that broke the camel's back, on top of the terrible-ness of everything else. It was as if the person in charge of the music was trying extra hard to ensure the movie turned out intolerable. They did a wonderful job at demonstrating what not to do when you're supposed to do the music for a movie. Kudos to them.

Notes to self if I ever find myself in a position to make movies:
- Audio is super super super important. Never take it lightly. Remember that less is more.
- Respect the audience. Always.
- Never shoot your first draft. Or even your second. Or even your third (you get the idea).

If watching the movie has helped me in anything, it has helped me in seeing that you don't need to be good to get on the silver screen. You can be downright terrible and some people would still pay to put you in the cinemas. That has to change. For my own sake, as a person who occasionally watches movies.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

If Only

So if you're a regular reader of this blog, you probably would have noticed that lately I've been a little down in the dumps. Or maybe you haven't, I don't really know for sure.

I feel like one of my biggest sources of discontentment right now is that I feel like I am not on a road that will take me closer to my ambitions. I feel like my reality and my ambitions are such disparate things that it becomes tough to cope with. I'm not saying I haven't been trying, but golly has it not been easy.

And I've been thinking this whole day about why I have these ambitions. Why I can't be content with the life I lead right now. Why I can't realise that a life of no ambitions and aspirations also means a life of no disappointments. Why I can't just stick to the road I'm currently on and if I absolutely have to, then make a difference on the path I am already on.

This path is comfortable. It's safe. There is little to no chance of me losing my job (if I think I have it within me to hold myself back from punching a Ministry officer in the face, I think I'll do alright). All I have to do is go to school when I'm supposed to, go to class when I'm supposed to, go back home when I'm supposed to, and I'm golden.

I'll make enough money to live an OK life. Sure I won't be rich, but being rich is for people who take risks, and why would I want to do that when I can take little to no risks in life and be safe financially, right? Lagipun, dunia ja semua tu. Duit bukan boleh bawak pi kuboq. Kerja cikgu ni kerja mulia. Stay on this path and you'll be rewarded in the hereafter.

Life would be so much easier if I simply gave up on my ambitions. If only I had it within me to say to myself "you don't need to pursue these bizarre dreams of yours! You already have a job that provides stability and safety for you and your family! That's all you need, really! Stay put and you'll be happy, someday! One day you'll realise that this life ain't too bad! You get to hang around children! You love that! You get to feed your family consistently! You love that too! You get a whole lot of holidays! I know you love that!" And so on and so forth.

If only I could be content with these circumstances, I'd be a much happier guy. If only these ambitions would just go away, I'd have peace of mind. If only I were more bersyukur a human being, I wouldn't be as stressed out. If only I wasn't such a selfish prick. If only.