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Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Remembering 2020 (Part 2)

 To read Part 1, click here.

Blogging huh? I recently listened to a Good One podcast episode where the host (Jesse David Fox) spoke to his friend and former fellow blogger Kelly Conaboy about their blogging heydays in the late aughts early tens, and it reminded me of how much I used to care about blogging. I would actively put in the effort to make sure that I wrote on here consistently and would feel bad for going through months without blogging. How I didn't know I actually wanted to be a full-time writer yet at the time, I will never know. I think that is worth exploring, but maybe in a different post. In this post, it's Part 2 of my 2020 wrap up.

April

So by the time April rolled around, I had already written a full first draft of a play script and I was feeling pretty chuffed about it. I was riding that accomplishment high all lockdown long. Lucky for me, at the beginning of this month, a local production company (RedComm) put out a call for writers to submit their work samples to them for them to choose who could join their first ever online workshop thing. I submitted two things: a sitcom idea and the play script that I had just written the month previous. I ended up getting to join the workshop to develop the sitcom idea.

I was part of 8 participants, and it was held over Zoom, and the workshop was conducted by Malaysian screenwriter Rafidah Abdullah with help from producer and CEO of RedComm Lina Tan as well as tv and film director Shamyl Othman. Basically we worked on our idea in the span of five days and got it to a point where it could be pitched to networks and funders. It was a very eye-opening experience for me, learning how to take the kernel of an idea and developing it to become coherent enough for other people to get what I was trying to do. I learned how to write a logline, a treatment, how to write scenes, how to make an idea "pop". Plus, I also got to listen in on the other writers' ideas and their processes. It was a very cool experience. This experience would also pave the way for me to get a job at RedComm as a writer in September, but we're getting ahead of ourselves here.

Pasca Sini also released DMB as a single in April (20 haribulan 4, 420 gitu). DMB has been quite well received by many people in our listenership. It's not stacking the kind of numbers that Dichotomy did, but it's definitely looking like it's gonna be a staple at our live shows nanti when we can do that again.

May

May was mostly empty in terms of activities for me. I got to go back into the Ripple office by the middle of the month, after working from home for two months. It was nice to be able to get out of the house again, and it was nice that the number of cases at the time were consistently below a hundred a day (remember those days? Good times). I liked being able to be around work friends again, feeling a little bit more normal as the days went by. It was strange in the beginning of course. At any one time at the office, there weren't more than ten people (from an original fifty), and we were distancing from each other physically. But we got to shoot in the studio again, so that was cool.

Also, Pasca Sini organised our very first online streaming gig at Angkasa Space. We roped in our friends Motherwit and W/SH to play with us too. It was our first time in a long long time playing music together again, and it felt good to be able to do that again, but it also felt super strange playing a show that had no audience members, just camera crew there. Also, my in ear monitor was on the fritz throughout the show, so I wasn't able to enjoy it as much as I would have liked. But overall, it was a super nice time to be able to play music again with the band after going such a long time without playing anything.

June

There weren't much going on in June for me either. I recorded a storytelling video for Kaki Seni in which I read from a book called Shadows that was written by Maya Zaharudin and illustrated by Shufitri Mohd Shukardi. The experience was cool, as it felt like I was doing voice-over work for cartoons. I got to make up different voices for different characters and play around with my voice in fun ways. But because I hadn't used my voice that intensely in such a long time, by the end of the second take of reading, my voice was really cracking up, and I'm glad we didn't have to do it a third time.

Besides that, this was also the first time the state borders had opened up, so my family met up in Kuala Krai, Kelantan to visit my grandfather who had recently lost his wife (my grandmother) during the lockdowns. I remember trying to go to Kuala Krai the first time while the borders were still closed the month previous, and we were turned away by police as we were entering Bentong, Pahang.

It was cool to be able to gather with my parents and brothers again. We hung out as we do whenever we're in Kuala Krai, tried to teman Tok Ayah and visited Nenek's grave.

Sometime towards the end of this month was also the first time I got to shoot The Nasi Kandar Show with DestinasiTV. They texted me asking if I'd be interested in hosting for a new show of theirs and I was like "You want to pay me to eat and talk in front of a camera? Sure, why not?" I'll talk about it some more in July.

July

This was the month in which I stopped being a part of Thelaki and Ripple Media. I had been there for almost two years (since September 2018), and it was time for me to move on and see what other things I could do outside of creating videos for the internet. I even made a farewell video for Thelaki's Youtube viewers. On my last day, I wrote personalised hand-written letters to everyone I cared about in the office thanking them for being a part of my life in their respective capacities. I had never done such a thing, and it felt nice to do. I think I'll keep the practice for myself in the future. It was a cool two years of my life, learning for myself that there is a future for me in a predominantly creative field. I got to do some pretty cool things with some pretty cool people. I met some amazing people who will forever stay in my thoughts and prayers. 

July was also the first time I got hired to write as a freelance for a TV show (the show title sounds like Slub Milky Mouth). I was tasked to write three episodes, and this was a massive learning experience for me as well. I got to participate in writer's room discussions. I got to pitch ideas, get my ideas shot down, learn the script format for this particular show and draw from my teacher training to come up with games that could be used for the show.

Besides that, I got to speak on a forum in Publika that discussed the topic of "Breaking Perspectives About Good Influencers In Malaysia". I was the only person in the panel who had no idea what he was talking about, but at least I was able to make the socially-distanced audience laugh a handful of times throughout the forum thing, so that was cool.

And another thing that happened in July was my first time ever being involved in a live sketch comedy show. I was pulled in by Harith Iskander to rehearse for and perform at the Blackbox in Publika a show called Lawak Mantul, which was staged on the 24th of July. It was a fun experience, as I got to work with the funniest people I know (such as Mozek, Farid, Mad Sabah, Abe, Prakash, etc.) in front of a receptive and socially distanced audience. The show was also streamed live on Facebook, or so I was told. There are a few clips from it here. I talked about it on a Mentol Pecah podcast episode and went into detail about how the experience was for me. You can listen to it here if you'd like.

This month was also the month in which I went to see a psychiatrist for the first time. I went to Pusat Perubatan Universiti Malaya with my wife, and we both met doctors that day. Taka got diagnosed with Bipolar 2 and got medication. My diagnosis was more "low mood" or something or other, nothing too serious that needed any medication. We spoke about this at length in a Buah Mulut podcast episode, if you're interested in the whole process.

This was also when we went to Perak to shoot a few more episodes of The Nasi Kandar Show. I got to bring Taka along on this trip and it became like a work trip for us, as during the day I'd be shooting the episodes, and in the evenings we had time to go around Ipoh, walk around and see the sights together. It was a nice time to spend with each other, and the food was nice. The Nasi Kandar Show has allowed me to be in the more public public eye since the beginning of IniAnwarHadi, as I started being recognised by people I wouldn't expect to recognise me (mostly people in the food biz, but also the layperson who watches Youtube content). I felt like I was getting exposure outside my niche for a bit, and it felt familiar but also strange at the same time.

All in all, quite an eventful July ya nampaknya?

August

August was taken up by mostly writing scripts for the aforementioned show. I did a bunch of writing at a new space that I like called Safehouse KL. It's in TTDI and it used to be IntunNation. It's a chill place and I liked being there. It felt like I was a cool kid doing work among other cool kids. Boleh la takat nak pretend.

I went to watch a live standup show by Mad Sabah. He's one of the best standup comedians in Malaysia right now, and the hour that he delivered that night really was such a fun and sakit perut gelak kinda night. I went with Taka, and she enjoyed it very much as well. I recommend catching his standup whenever things open back up again.

I also went on a family vacation in Melaka during this month. My mother's side of the family organised a family trip for us to go to Melaka. We rented a homestay type place and stayed there for a weekend. We played games and baca Yasin and ate and chilled. It was a nice time.

The Pinball Monkeys also performed on stage for the first time since lockdown in August. I don't remember much of the show, as I am wont to do, but I do know that it felt great to be doing improv again with the Pinball Monkeys compadres. 

At the end of the month, Pinball Monkeys launched our Patreon page and improvised sketch comedy podcast. It's a weekly podcast where each episode is 20-30 minutes of improvised silliness made by Mozek, Farid and myself. We have so much fun making it, foreal. And in this iteration of the podcast, we feel like we've finally found a form and rhythm that works for us, in which we get to consistently make stuff that we like and let other people listen to them.

September

A lot of September was taken up by theatre rehearsals. I was involved in two out of the seven short plays in the show called Romansiprokal: Darah Malam Pertama and Fault Sapa. All the short plays were ones written by the Penang playwright Yusof Bakar. I went to Revolution Stage quite regularly to rehearse the plays and it was good to be able to spend time with my theatre director friends again.

I also attended a local film festival at this time. It was called Pesta Filem Kita and it was held at Ruang by Think City KL on the 12th of September. I was able to sit in on a masterclass by U-Wei Hajisaari, listen to some forums, talked a little bit tu Amir Muhammad, and watch a handful of short films made by local film makers. It was a nice experience, but I did end up feeling rather lonely, as I did not go with any friends (I don't even know who in my friend list would even be remotely interested in going to this type of thing) and although I met a few acquaintances when I was there, it did feel like a solo activity for me in the end, which was fine, but I did long to feel like I belonged, as can be easily predicted.

On the 15th, it was my first day of being a full time writer at RedComm. Towards the end of August, I had gotten really antsy about my job prospects. I knew that I wanted to be a full time writer, but how and where? I had no idea. I had applied to a bunch of places to become a writer, and in my desperation I even ended up sending in my resume to places that needed content creators. But I knew I wanted to be a script writer. I wanted to write for the screen. I had been wanting to write for the screen for a long long time. And I finally got to make it my full time job. It felt super nice and reaffirming and satisfying and anxiety-alleviating. I'm here now. I'm so grateful.

Pinball Monkeys performed once at The Joke Factory while still continuing to upload weekly sketches on our Patreon page. Pasca Sini also performed at a live stream show called Sadtember with some other local rock bands in the line up. I don't know if they're ever going to release the full show, but here is us playing DMB on the night.

October

I started October with staging the Romansiprokal plays. It was an anxiety-inducing time also, since Covid cases were going back up to triple digits. On top of that, I was down but not out with a runny nose and cold (it wasn't Covid, but I still didn't want to get my fellow theatre pals to catch what I was having, so I had my mask on almost all of the time). It was nice to be able to do theatre again, but our run of shows had to be cut short since the number of Covid cases had made it untenable for us to continue with the staging anymore. It was sad, but it was also the right thing to do.

Besides that, Pasca Sini recorded a live session at Reka Karya for the Youtube channel (click here to watch). It was a fun time. We also shot the music video for our song Fikir Sebelum Bertindak in the later half of this month. It was shot at Petai Belalang studio, and it was also a fun time recording that one.

I also spent a lot of this month writing my first telemovie script (it's a musical, too). It hasn't been shot yet, as of this time of writing, but I am excited to see how it turns out.

November

This month was taken up by a lot of rehearsals for the aforementioned musical that I wrote. I didn't do much at the rehearsals, since the cast was doing a lot of dance practice. I just ended up sitting in a corner and writing drafts for other scripts I was working on at the time. 

I also guested for two different podcasts that weren't Mentol Pecah. Once for the Mulut Murai podcast made by the people at Safehouse (I like this episode muchly). The other is for the How To Malay podcast, with Mozek and Qam (this was also fun).

Pasca Sini released our first full-length album called Emo Department on all streaming platforms on the 20th of November. It consists of twelve tracks that we have been working on since 2018 with the help of our producer and friend, Shaheir Jibin. We really like how the album turned out. It's a bummer that we can't tour it, but we look forward to playing the songs on the album on stage whenever it is safe again to do so. Until then, have a listen to it and be emo with us.

December

The final month of the year, I was mostly on the set of Slub Milky Mouth (bukan nama sebenar), making sure that any rewriting could be done quickly and scriptwriterly. It was a new experience for me, seeing a show being shot on a multi-cam setup in a huge closed studio. Each member of the cast was very talented and sung and danced their way to getting the job done.

Besides that shoot, I was also involved in a script-reading workshop-type thingy at Lot'ng for a play that is scheduled to be staged sometime in the middle of 2021. We met up three times in three weeks and we helped the playwright hear what his script sounded like out-loud so that he can make adjustments where he feels necessary. I look forward to going into rehearsals for that play, as the cast members seem super cool and I'd get to work with Chris the director again.

Right after the shoot of that Milky Mouth show, we started shooting for the educational show I had been writing a script for. I was on set for the episodes that I wrote to make sure that the cast pronounced things correctly and that they got all the facts straight. I was also there to rewrite what needed to be rewritten. It was a huge learning experience to me in terms of finding out what is helpful and not helpful for a writer to do in their script. I also got to see some actors in action, and make up my mind about how to go about being an actor in the future if I were to ever be cast in a screen thing nanti (primarily learn my lines well before coming on set, and listen very carefully to what the director has to say).

Pinball Monkeys also published our first comedy album called Semua On The Spot. It is a collection of all our favourite sketches that we've made at our Patreon page, and we like it very much. We had so much fun making the sketches, and we hope you give it a listen to have just as much fun as we had.

***

And that about wraps it up for my 2020. It has been a sucky year, it's true. I didn't get to tour with Pasca Sini, I couldn't perform more shows with Pinball Monkeys, I couldn't hang out with my friends, I couldn't travel anywhere most of the time. But it's also been a year of blessings for me. I finally got a job a screenwriter, I got to meet some amazing people, I got to be a part of the best comedy podcast in Malaysia, I was able to be a part of publishing both a music album and a comedy album, I got to spend a lot of time with my wife, I got to spend quality time with my family and friends and I learned how to cook. There is still much to be grateful for in my life.

I hope your 2020 wasn't too bad either. May 2021 bring us more joy and serotonin.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Remembering 2020 (Part 1)

So 2020 was a great big yikes, wasn't it? Who would've known that things would go south the way that it did? I guess, Bill Gates, in that one Tedtalk video. But nobody else, probably! And how we've rued not taking heed of the dude's Tedtalk. But I feel that I am getting ahead of myself. Ehem.

Every year for the past handful of years, I've done a month-to-month wrap-up of the things I've done throughout the year, so that I may remember the year that was, and document it for my future self's reading pleasure. And I shall be doing it in this post. Will it turn out to be in two parts like in previous years? I doubt it, but let's see!

January

Ahh, January. Such wonderful times. A time of blissful ignorance. So naive. So young. So free! I kicked off the year by playing a New Year's Eve show (live shows, remember those?) with Pasca Sini at Impero Studio, Ara Damansara. We ended up playing like an hour or so late. We dressed up in button ups and blazers. We really wanted to play a good show. We played an alright-ish show. Kami dah mengantuk, semua orang lain dah mengantuk, tapi tibai ja lah. Oh how I miss it. HOW!

January was also when I first read and rehearsed for the first of only two theatre productions that I'd be involved in throughout 2020, 24 Jam Dalam 37 Tahun (directed by Chris Ling and written by Khairi Anwar). I remember bawling the first time we did the read at Lot'ng. There's this one sequence where the main protagonist (played wonderfully by Shah Shaha) was asking my character at that moment (his father) like 50 questions back to back to back. It really did me in real good. We started rehearsals on the 29th of January and continued to rehearse until the first of March.

We also experimented with the first iteration of the Pinball Monkeys Podcast around this time. We did a few recording sessions, but we were happy with none of them, so they ended up never seeing the light of day. Having said that, I still had a good time recording them. Lots of laughs were had. Cumanya the episodes became unwieldy and hard to figure out, jadi we didn't feel comfortable putting it out to the world. We'd finally figure out how to do it later in the year during lockdown.

I was also a guest on Syafiq Syazim's podcast called Dramatic Dialogue where he speaks to people mostly in the local theatre scene about their experiences and thoughts on theatre and the arts in general. I really like guesting on podcasts, and I aim to be a Paul F. Tompkins in the local podcasting universe, meaning that I want to be in any and all podcasts made round here if I can. I was still working at Thelaki at the time, so he came by Sri Pentas and we recorded the episode there.

I played one Making Shit Up show and one Pinball Monkeys live show at The Joke Factory in this month, both of which very fun, I'm sure. Masalahnya I don't remember what happened in those shows anymore, such is the temporal nature of improv shows. But I do know how they made me feel, and they made me feel amazing.

February

A lot of February was taken up by rehearsals for 24 Jam Dalam 37 Tahun. I was around Lot'ng a lot, with my fellow actors Shah Shaha and Anissa Azis. We worked through the play, sorted ourselves out and became as prepared as we could've been going into the staging of the play that would happen the following month. It was my first time playing multiple roles in one play, and I've always wanted to do that. I've always seen it as a rite of passage towards becoming an actor. I've always, in my own little head thought that I wasn't a real actor until I can bawak multiple roles in one play, and I'm super glad that I was entrusted with doing just that by Chris.

I was also an extra in two music videos in this month: for Ariff Bahran's Usah and for The Venopian Solitude's Camaraderie. The shoots happened on consecutive days in one weekend. Quite the busy weekend, but it was fun and nice to be on a set with friends.

Pasca Sini played our final pre-Covid show on the 28th of February. It was called Jenuh Kampoi, and we played at Tala Records in Gasket Alley PJ. It was a cool show with cool people. Kami macam biasa, tak tight, but we had fun. The show was supposed to be the first of many many shows that we planned for our 2020 nationwide tour to get the word out about our debut album (that would eventually be released in November 2020) and we were supposed to be on tour with I Lost The Plot and Timemachine, and it would've been such a nice string of shows, I'm sure. Tapi apakan daya. Kita hanya mampu merancang, gitu.

March

The month it all went downhill. But not before having a few highs in store for me!

I did my first ever BFM radio interview to promote the play 24 Jam Dalam 37 Tahun with fellow actor Anissa. I relistened to the recording of it, and I feel like the first half was rough in terms of me being able to give good answers to the questions asked by the DJ (Sharmilla). But I finally got to set foot in the BFM office, and they have like the best pantry, it's so cool, and the view is so nice, I was super jealous as Ripple's pantry wasn't even half as good.

We started our staging of 24 Jam Dalam 37 Tahun on the 5th of March, and it lasted two weeks (taking Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday off). We put up eight shows, and I think all eight shows (or maybe it was seven?) ended up being sold out. That was a first time for me too, to have a sold out run of a show. It felt great and gratifying. I think it's the best play I've ever been a part of to-date. We had plans to re-stage it later in the year, but, y'know, Corvid. 

In the play I got to play five different characters, and figuring out how to pull that off was a challenge, but I managed it. It was such a satisfying experience, to embody the characters and tell the story of Haikal to a willing audience. The play ended up moving many people to tears, just like it did when I first experienced it. There's so much heart and honesty in it, it breaks your heart. Khairi wrote a super powerful piece, and Chris directed it immaculately, as one would expect from the great Chris Ling. Shah's performance as Haikal was amazing, Anissa did a great job, the sound design by Kir was onz, the theme song made by Takahara Suiko was spot on and the set made by Adry was cool esfak. It was great all round and I'm super grateful to have been part of this production.

While the play was going on, I squeezed out some time to play with Pasca Sini at Gasket Alley again for a very pop punk heavy show. We wore Oasis-inspired clothes and covered Don't Look Back In Anger, because Oasis are pop punk as fuck. I also got to send my youngest brother off at the airport for him to fly to Romania. He did a semester over there under a student exchange programme thingy, and it was cool to see him study oversea like that (although because of Corveid, he ended up doing all of his classes online. Kesian kat dia). It was interesting to be at the airport at the start of Covid. It was the emptiest I had ever seent it. It felt very ominous.

A day after we wrapped the 24 Jam Dalam 37 Tahun production, the government announced the first Movement Control Order. That was huge news. We were very grateful that we were able to conclude our production before the announcement. Throughout March, we were already macam was-was about everything dah. Sanitizing our hands all the time, sanitizing the Lot'ng blackbox before every show. And then the MCO was announced, and we were to work from home until further notice. We'd never done that before at Thelaki, so it was interesting to me to see how we would navigate having to still make video while being at home. We figured it out, of course, and made quite a few videos from our respective homes. I like this one in particular, where we talked about our daily routines when working from home.

I remember the first time I went on a grocery run during the first MCO. I was staying at my in-laws at the time and I was given a list of things to get. I went to Aeon and Tesco to find all the things that were in the list. I remember the line at Tesco being super super long because of the limit in the amount of people allowed in the shopping area at any given time, as well as the social distancing that was required of us while in the line. I waited like an hour and a half kot kalau tak silap, just to get into Tesco. 

This was the time that felt most apocalyptic to me. Everything was familiar, but surreal. Seeing all the shops closed like that. There was palpable fear in the air, and everyone was extra careful with everything. But there was also a sense of "we're all in this together"ness whenever I made eye-contact with strangers. Like we were saying to each other, "stay away from me, and together we'll beat this thing." It was weird, and cool, but mostly strange. I remember listening to the latest episode of The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green at the time and feeling like "Fuck, this is really happening. Fuck." But at the same time, "we'll get through this. It'll be a while, but we will get through this." I really recommend you listening to the episode, it's great.

I didn't like this period at all though. I didn't know what to do with myself. I struggle with staying inside all day everyday. It made me realise just how important being out and about was to me. I am a much more social creature than I give myself credit for.

I ended up giving myself the goal of writing a play script in two weeks. I met my goal and shared it with one friend so that they made me accountable. The first draft is finished, and I have no idea when I'm going to get started on its second and subsequent drafts. But I finished writing my first ever play script, so that is one thing to feel grateful about.

***

Well, looks like I've run out of gas here. I'll continue with part 2 esok, I hope. Have a happy new year everyone. May the next year be much much better than this one.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

What Am I Now?

So I was talking to a friend the other day, and the question of what we currently were came up, and I found the question interesting. Mainly because I have become so used to defining myself by my ideals, my aspirations, what I aim to be in the future. And I've written extensively about what I've done in the past in the form of those whole-year wrap-ups I do here on the blog. But rarely do I ever look at myself in the present and try to pick my current self apart in an honest and thorough manner, so I thought it would be an interesting exercise: to get down and dirty with my perception of my actual current self and see what's there, or rather: here.

So immediately what comes to mind when somebody asks you "what are you?" is to switch the question to "what do you do?" and that's an easy enough question to answer. I do many things (eat, sleep and poop, primarily), but in answering that question, it is common convention to answer with your full-time job, and so I am an online video producer for a digital media brand called Thelaki. I make (produce, write and host) weekly videos over there. I get paid to do it, which astounds me, since I have zero formal education in the matter. Everything I have learned in order to do what I do for a living right now, I have learned through experience, through doing, through trial and error. I have reasons to think that I'm good at what I do, and I also have plenty of reasons to think otherwise. I have a great team around me and we get the results that we do because of the combined efforts of everybody in the team.

Besides my full-time gig, I also do these other things on the regular, as readers of this blog might already know. I act semi-regularly. I have been involved in a handful of productions within these past couple of years in an acting capacity for me to be comfortable enough to say that I act. I am currently rehearsing for a play that will be staged in a couple of months, so I am a "working actor", so to speak. I would like to someday be a "full-time actor", but that will require more time, work and luck to be a thing. I don't know if I'm a "good actor", but I don't think that I'm a "bad actor" (not in my definition of "bad actor", anyway). I used to go to casting sessions more regularly, but nowadays I audition less and less. Maybe because I have a high failure rate as an auditioner (just like every other actor) and I take failure very poorly, so I don't audition so much anymore in order to save myself from all the heartbreak. But also maybe because the best acting jobs I've gotten so far did not come from cold auditions but from people knowing me personally and knowing what I could do and wanting me to do it in their productions. Maybe because I put myself out there on stage and on Youtube regularly enough for me to not feel like I need to go to audition rooms sangat, and value the exercise of building an audience organically, and trusting that if I gain enough of an audience people would want to work with me more because you never know who's watching.

I also play guitar in a band called Pasca Sini. We play pop-punk, and pop-punk bands are not most known for their virtuosity, which allows for my mediocre playing of the instrument to be passable. I play live in front of audiences every so often and the band has a small small following that I'm very grateful for. We're in the midst of recording our first full-length album that we're excited about sharing with everybody who's willing to give it a listen.

On top of that, I am an improviser. I feel comfortable saying that because I improvise in front of audiences semi-regularly, more often in the short-form format but also sometimes long-form, and I usually have fun every time. I don't think I'm a "good improviser", and I wish I knew how to accelerate my improvement in terms of ability to be funny at the drop of a hat, but I hope that with practice comes incremental comedic-ability gains.

So those were the things "I do", but it doesn't actually fully tell you and me what "I am". I could approach the question by saying who I am in relation to other people. I am grateful to be able to say that I am a husband. A flawed one, I think, in the sense that I feel like I disappoint my wife regularly. I let her down more often than I would like, and new days bring new challenges and shed light onto how I could be doing better as a life-partner. But I'd also like to think that I'm getting better at it. I think I'm a better husband now than I was three years ago, and that's something to feel okay about, I guess. I'm not a great problem-solver, but I think I do listen sometimes, and I learn from my mistakes, sometimes. I try to show my wife that I love her whenever I can, and I encourage her to be autonomous and live her life to the fullest, with or without me.

I am a friend. I'd like to think that a handful of people in this world don't mind having me around. I don't know if I'm a "good friend", but I try to be one in my flawed ways. I try my best to avoid being a "bad friend", however I understand the term. I encourage my friends to be their best selves, I avoid being a burden to them, I always try to be honest with them, I do my best to be wary of doing and saying things that make them feel bad, I apologise when I do, I pay for their food sometimes, I share jokes with them, I try my best to listen, I put in the effort to spend time with them. But I also find it hard to find words that are encouraging or motivational when they need it, I sometimes allow myself to get too busy to spend time with them, I forget to keep in touch, I am a terrible interacter in a group setting, I get distracted very easily, to name but a few of my shortcomings. But I am grateful that my friends exist and that they don't seem like they mind me existing.

But what am I when not in relation to other people? What am I as a standalone person, a solo-project? The format that makes the most sense to me in order to answer this question is the "I am [noun]", kan? I am a privileged Malay-Muslim guy living in Malaysia. I am a deodorant-wearer. I am a silly goose who is also a fan of silly geese. I am a disappointment. I am an ambitious MF. I am a lazy MF. I am an MF Doom fan.

But I can also approach this question with the format "I am [adjective]". I am tan. I am taller than the average Malaysian (the average Malaysian male is 164-168cm tall). I am affectionate but cautious with my affection. I am unfunny, but goddammit am I trying. I am flawed. I am sleepy, most of the time, and I am hungry a lot of the time. I am tired. I am forgetful.

The format I'm most comfortable with, is (I think) "I am [verb]". I am trying to be a better person. I am working towards having more empathy for people. I am learning how to better be of service to those around me. For the most part, I keep my thoughts to myself, unless I'm writing on this blog. I am trying to be more compassionate, considerate, and generous. I am trying. Sometimes I fail, and sometimes I succeed, but most of the time I'm just trying.

I am human. I am dancer.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Starting With Why

So I just finished reading a book written by Simon Sinek called Start With Why (2009). I think I remember hearing one of my favourite internet people, Mike Falzone recommending people read it in one of his podcasts (alongside another book called The Creative Curve, still on the lookout for that one), so when an office-mate of mine shared that they had the book in their possession, I asked to borrow it for a while (leel crocodile), and I managed to get through it in two weeks and a half (hooray).

I don't often write about the book I've read immediately after reading it, or at all, as the archives of this blog can attest. But I ended up having jumbled thoughts after reading Start With Why, so I turn to this blog to figure my thoughts out.

Basically the whole book can be summed up in a TedTalk he did around the same time jugak. If you've watched the TedTalk, you've basically read like 80% of the book. Simon argues that successful businesses are successful because they start with and continue sticking with why they exist in the first place. Simon elaborates it better and I have no desire to regurgitate what he has already spoken about at length, so if you're really interested, go ahead and watch the video.

I like the idea. The idea that you go in to any venture or endeavour with a core belief, a foundational philosophy. It sounds nice. It reminds me of when I first learned about pholosophies of education back in teacher training and how important it was to have not only a national philosophy of education but also a personal one, and how having one immediately empowers a teacher in their efforts within the classroom and school. It provides teachers focus about why they're doing what they're doing. It enables teachers to be clear about their role in the bigger scheme of things.

A lecturer of mine (Madam Mariah) helped me and my fellow TESL classmates come up with our own individual philosophies of education, and I treasure that exercise very much. Unfortunately the only copy I ever made of it was sent in to Madam Mar and has been in her possession since, so I haven't been able to revisit it.

But Simon Sinek was talking mostly about business, and why business-people and entrepreneurs needed to start with why in order to be successful at what they do. Maybe that's my first dislike about the book. I am such a non-business-person (or at least that's how I perceive myself to be). I do desire a comfortable life that is free from financial turmoil, but I have no desire to be a millionaire. I do not want to be a CEO of anything, I do not want to be a boss, I don't like the idea of being "at the top of the food chain". I like making stuff, I like telling stories and I like making people happy. So this book is already not a great fit for me, since I have no admiration for successful businesses and how they got that way. 

The book talks at length about how great Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Herb Kelleher and the like are, in a way that rubs me the wrong way. It read to me like Simon was trying to say: hey, here's why these people are billionaires and you aren't. He didn't put it in those words, but that's what it felt like. And I have zero love for billionaires, so it's very easy for me to dislike any person who tries to espouse messages that sound like "billionaires are good". I am of course not denying that their contributions to modernity are great. And on the surface, how Simon argues that they got there sounds alright, but he of course only talks about part of the picture, parts of the picture that support his thesis statement, as you are wont to do in a book that tries to argue for something. It doesn't take into account or even address the positions of privilege these people had in their lives to be able to do what they did. It didn't elaborate on how these people were/are problematic in their ways. It all sounds too "from zero to hero-y" for me to be able to take it without a bunch of salt.

But at the end of the day, it is a self-help book, not an academic book, so it has no imperative to be more critical than it has to be in order to make its arguments sound sound. Its main aim is to inspire, not inform, so whatever information that doesn't help with the inspiring bit would be edited out of the book, I'm sure.

Which was why I was surprised by the bit that tried to sound academic when it tried to draw parallels between brain anatomy and his argument of start with why. He talked about how his golden circle was similar to how the brain is built, how the why was the limbic part of the brain and how the hows and whats were the neo-cortex. That part sounded so psuedo-sciencey to me, it was hard for me to take it very seriously at all. And he tried to argue that parallel by himself essentially, not even bothering to quote any actual scientist or brain researcher person for the argument to try to carry any weight.

And I guess the part that disappointed me the most after reading the book was that it never laid out any real instructions or road-maps for his readers to be able to figure out their own WHYs. There wasn't a list of questions, or a set of steps or anything in that vein that would allow a reader to gain clarity of how to figure out their own why. He did vaguely talk about how he came across his own why, but I never really felt like he helped guide me around that question. What was my why? By the time I finished reading the book, I didn't come closer to it than when I started. I knew that I had to find it out. I just didn't know how. And I really thought the book would tell me. But it didn't. And I'm disappointed. Now I have to do all this hard work in figuring it out for myself, and I'm fundamentally a very lazy person, so I will most probably end up just not figuring it out sampai ke sudah. I wanted my hand to be held through the process, tapi dia takmaw pegang my tangan, and I'm sad.

Maybe the omission allows him to sell his seminars. "How To Find Your Why by Simon Sinek". Thousands of dollars for two hours. Boleh kaya oo. 


Maybe I'm just being cynical. Maybe the book was good at bringing out my cynicism. Maybe I've just turned into a cynic at one point and refuse to take active steps towards self-improvement by pointing out how everything else is wrong and how I cannot take steps towards self-improvement until everything is perfect, which will never happen because perfection doesn't exist.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Remembering 2019 (PART 2)

To read part 1, click here.

July


So in July we (Mozek, Farid, Prakash, Henry and I) did our first Pinball Monkeys show at The Joke Factory, under the guise of "Mystery Show" on a Thursday night (4th July). Pinball Monkeys do long-form improvised comedy, as opposed to the more familiar short-form improvised comedy that people have gotten to know through shows like Whose Line Is It Anyway and AIIA Improv. The Joke Factory has their own short-form improv comedy night (Wednesday nights), and I am more often than not part of that line-up, but long-form improv is not something very common in the Malaysian comedy scene (at least not through my observation of it). I have been a fan of long-form improv since I started listening to long-form improv comedy podcasts in 2014 such as Improv4humans, Comedy Bang Bang and Spontaneanation (RIP), and it had always been a dream of mine to do it myself, but I thought it would never happen for me in Malaysia because most people simply did not know what it was, and I'd always thought that I'd have to wait until I moved to Los Angeles and register for Upright Citizens Brigade classes for me to actually do it.


But thanks to the efforts of Mozek in pushing forward the idea, the long-form was tested out twice and finally approved to be a regular monthly show at The Joke Factory. It's been loads of fun learning how to do it well with semi-regular rehearsals and discussions about how to improve as improvisors, and even though no two shows are ever the same, they have all been well-received by the audiences. I still feel I have loads to learn in terms of being an improvisor, but I'm glad that I've been given the chance to do long-form improv in front of live audiences. I hope this continues to be the case, and grows in terms of frequency and scale.

In July, I also got to tick another thing I'd always wanted to do off my list, which was do a MaiTry Nasi Kandar episode in Penang. Making it with Mirza and Helmie was a lot of fun. We stayed at a Sekeping hotel in Georgetown, and we also got to shoot the MaiTry vegetarian episode punya main part at the hotel. We stayed there for a weekend, and since Penang holds a special place in my heart, the trip was a memorable one.

Pasca Sini performed four times in July, the first weekend playing ROTTW's Battle Of The Bands thing called Soundstage (we didn't get past the first round), the third weekend playing two shows (one at Rumah Api, one at Angkasa Cheras), and the fourth weekend playing at Angkasa Cheras once again. We were feeling pretty tight as a live band during this time, as we were playing a lot of shows back to back, and that felt good.


August



And feeling tight was very important and good for the show that felt like what we had been working towards throughout the year, which was the Naib Johan Music Festival at Impero Studio, Oasis Damansara. It was organised by my brother and Pasca Sini bassist, Boy, with his small team of dedicated people. The line-up was super impressive, full of some of the most exciting bands to come out of the underground music scene, and the show ended up being sold-out. It was definitely one of the highlights of the year in terms of shows that we got to play, and I think we'll always remember August 2019 as the year we first did Naib Johan and had a blast doing it in front of our friends in the scene.


Pasca Sini played two other shows later in the month at Livefact Kota Damansara and at Impero again, but I have very little recollection of what happened at those shows.

I also recorded an episode of Naurashares on the 7th of August. It was a live TEDtalk-like show thingy that was recorded for television, and I had to speak about my hardships in life and how I overcame them, in hopes of providing people with some inspiration to get through their own hardships. To be honest, I don't think I've had that difficult of a life. I'm a middle-class Malay Muslim man in Malaysia, how hard could life be with all this privilege, am I right? So the choice to have me on the show made me go "Me? Really?" But I didn't turn it down because as the Malays say, "rezeki jangan ditolak". What I'm most proud of about the talk was that I was able to make the audience laugh a handful of times throughout my fifteen-minute slot, so I guess that made it feel like it was not for naught. I haven't seen the finished episode on TV ever yet, and I don't plan on watching it ever either.


September



A lot of September was taken up by my acting workshop's Task 1, in which we were required to act in a play directed by a professional director (in this case, it was the great Chris Ling), and the play we staged was an original script by Arshad Adam called Playing God. I was cast as Tri, a male prostitute who because a national celebrity, and went on the talk show called Playing God to fulfil his mission in life. Anything beyond that would be spoiler territory, so I'll stop there. The process was tiring but fun. We had three weeks to get the production show-ready, and we hustled until it happened. Chris put us through a rigorous process for us to be able to truly pull off the show, and the end-product was quite the spectacle. Being able to work with Chris again was great, and sharing the stage with Kak Dzeelfa, Kak Tini, Abang Rahim and Kak Tria was a wonderful experience. I learned a lot in terms of using feelings and impulses that were familiar to turn into someone completely different to become Tri, and I value the whole experience highly.


In September, Mirza suggested we start a new show on Thelaki called Yeh Meh, which is basically our spin on the other Youtube show Dope Or Nope. It turned out to be rather well-received, and we've had fun doing it so far. My favourite episode is the one in which Helmie and Ijal are doing the hosting, talking about ten things we bought for them from DAISO. I had a blast being behind the scenes for that one, and it came out real good after editing too, so I'm glad about it. It's turning out to be our best-received series on the channel, so I'm very thankful that Mirza suggested this idea and that we went with it, because it's been great!

There wasn't much else that went on in the month, as rehearsing for plays takes up a lot of one's time, but Pasca Sini did go into the studio to record a live session that's not out yet, so I'm not at liberty to disclose what that thing's all about quite yet.


October



In October, Pasca Sini started going into Shaheir Jibin's studio to record tracks for our first album. The process already started with Pola Pikir Positif, but the rest of the record kicked into production in October. Recording new songs is definitely a tough process, both creatively and technically, and we're doing the best we can really. We hope that we get to release the album in 2020, and that enough people give it the time of day for us to continue playing music for people for years to come.


Thelaki was hired to make a travelog video of us going around Perak, so Mirza, Helmie and I got to go around Perak doing outdoorsy-type things that I would normally avoid (ATV riding, rock-climbing, white water rafting and caving), and I have to say that I had loads of fun doing it. Mirza and Helmie are fun people to hang around, and to be able to work with. It was a chill experience, and I appreciate that so much.

I also had a video shoot with my wife for a client I shy away from disclosing. We spent the day hanging out in and around KL, saw what sights KL had to offer while camera-people followed us around shooting our interactions with each other. It ended up feeling a lot like an extended date with cameras, and we had fun doing it, so that was cool.


November



I personally played two flagship shows at the end of November at AOR Fest in Alor Setar, one for Delude and one for Pasca Sini. At the beginning of the month, I was asked by Shaheir if I could play guitar for Delude at the AOR Fest show that was happening at the end of the month since Haikal (Delude's real guitarist) wasn't able to make the show, and I immediately said yes, because playing for Delude had been a dream of mine since 2007. I practiced guitar for the four songs setlist they sent me pretty much every day, and I was super pumped for it. At that same show, Pasca Sini were also playing, but Syawal (our vocalist) and Thoriq (our lead guitarist) could not make it to the show, so what the band decided to do was to assign me as the vocalist for the show and have Sahaq and Wish cover on both guitars. This was major for me as I had always wanted to be the lead singer of a band, but my not so merdu voice had always been the penghalang utama.


Three or four days before the show, it turned out that Faridzul (Delude's bassist) couldn't make it to the show too, so I was asked if I could play bass instead, so of course I said yes and on the 30th of November, I got to play as part of Delude and sing for Pasca Sini. It was such a great day, and I loved being able to do both things.


November was also the month in which the BMW Shorties were held. The BMW Shorties is an annual short film competition (held by BMW, I guess?) to highlight new local film-makers, and Taka and I were involved in one of the shortfilms submitted this year: Khairi Anwar's Ralat The Musical. Taka and I both had small roles in the short that featured Fimi Don, Tasha Shilla and OG Ahmad Daud, among some other theatre friends such as Mawar Roseka, Maza Maamor and Megat Adli, just to name a few. It was a big cast, for a short story with big heart, and it even won People's Choice Award in the Award show proper, so that's a nice thing to have been a part of.


I also hosted a few educational videos for Bahagian Teknologi Pendidikan in KL. I was approached by one of the producers for the show who happened to be a senior of mine from Kolej Sultan Abdul Hamid, and he asked if I would be interested in hosting some web-videos teaching secondary school kids some grammar, and I said I was down as long as I was getting paid, and we arranged for a couple of shoot days and they have been shot. It was interesting being able to see and experience how differently the BTP shot videos from how I had become accustomed to making them by myself and at Thelaki, especially in terms of scale.

December


At the start of December, Pasca Sini played a music school recital show as guest performers. At that show we got to see a whole bunch of kids take turns playing their chosen recital songs, either on drums, guitar or vocals. It was pretty cool getting to see these young people learning how to play instruments already, and they looked like they were having fun, so that was nice. I hope they continue to play and contribute meaningfully to the Malaysian music scene in their own capacities.


Pasca Sini also played two other important shows for the band: Rantai Art Festival and My Chemical Romance Tribute. The first time I'd heard of Rantai Art Festival was in 2007 or 2008 when Hujan played there with like hundreds of people in the audience, and somebody from like a storey above capturing that performance on video, making an impact on me about both Hujan and Rantai Art Festival. In my mind, they both became big deals. And this was the first time Pasca Sini played at Rantai Art Festival, and even though we played to a significantly smaller audience (probably around 20-30 people), it was fun to do and to be a part of.

The My Chemical Romance Tribute show was played in front of a significantly larger audience (the show sold out Angkasa, so like 300 people were there). It was a big deal because for as long as we have been able to play guitar, we have been playing My Chemical Romance songs as a band regularly. When we're in the jamming studio and we don't know what we want to play, our default had always been I Don't Love You. Whenever I was alone, I would play Cancer. When we heard MCR were getting back together, we introduced Teenagers into our set list. So even though I wasn't able to make it to the show (I was at a family vacation trip and Sahaq covered for me on guitar duty), watching the videos from the night made my heart explode. So much love, fun and energy throughout the night, all united by their love for a band that changed our lives (MCR). It was a very important night, and I'm glad Pasca Sini were able to be a part of it, so I am grateful for Ze Spooky for inviting us to play jugak.

We have one more show to go. On New Year's Eve we'll be playing at Impero again for Underground Music Festival. Lots of bands, three stages, lots of fun also, so if you'd like, come on down and hang out.

In December I also got the biggest news in my acting career up until now, which is that a short film that I acted in will be screened at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. The short film is called Benevolent Ba, and was written and directed by the very talented Diffan Norman. If you'd like to watch the trailer, click here. The short film was shot in August last year, and I didn't receive any update about it whatsoever until the day the film poster was made public, which was on the 11th of December. I was super surprised by it, and to this day I'm still kinda riding the high of realising that moving images of me will be shown in Salt Lake City Utah for a bit next year. I'm very grateful for Diffan for having me on for the project, and for everyone who was involved on that set for making it as good an experience as it was.

Besides that, I also got cast in a small role in a web-series thing that'll be published some time next year. I am unable to disclose what that project is, specifically, but I will say that it was my first time playing a doctor, and the script was silly and it should be a real fun watch when it comes out.

***

A thing I would like to add at the end here is that I played in weekly short form improv shows called Making Shit Up at The Joke Factory a lot of times this year (maybe, like, thirty or something?) and they're always fun to do, and I am grateful that I get to keep doing it and keep getting called back to perform it for people.

I also formed deeper friendships with people I started to get to know last year, so that's been great. They know who they are, and I am very grateful for their continued friendships with me.

And that's it for this year's wrap-up. It's been a whirl of a time, and I look forward to what other adventures I get to go on in 2020.

Cheers.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Remembering 2019 (PART 1)

So here we are again, with the year wrap up. I did this first in 2017 and continued in 2018. I have grown to like this activity very much because it will allow me to convince myself that I didn't just sit on my ass and do nothing for 300 days straight, as my mind would have me believe. It allows me to see where I have fallen short, and where I have done okay, and be grateful for all of it. I also get to be thankful for  all the people that have been responsible for making the things happen, and that counts for a lot. To look back at my life with both a critical and a kind eye is something I aspire to, and this exercise is an attempt at fulfilling that aspiration.


1. Write three short plays. I certainly did no such thing. I instead found myself writing weekly current-events-type things for Thelaki Show, in which would include two short skits that were aimed at making people laugh, or at least lol in our direction. Do I feel bad that I didn't end up writing three short plays? Totally. But did I end up feeling like this whole year has gone by without me ever writing anything? Not exactly. I wrote for work, and it was hard, and a lot of the things I ended up putting on the page and on the screen I ended feeling pretty okay about, so I'm not too bummed about it really.

2. Submit short film for Short and Sweet. It's laughable how not done this ended up getting. I didn't even end up being in the theatre category for anything (although I was offered a role in one play that I had to turn down because of scheduling issues). Short and Sweet ended up being so far back in my list of priorities this year, that I absolutely forgot that it was a thing I wanted to do langsung. Again, I sooth myself from this failure by reminding myself that I did end up writing, producing and acting in a handful of online ads for clients (such as this one or this one) who hired Thelaki to make videos for them, and that kind of feels like making short films (albeit less narrative-driven, more iklan-like). They all felt very DIY in the sense that our team was tiny tiny (all of three people including myself, usually) and we usually were not allowed a whole lot of time to make these videos (typically less than three weeks from conception to upload), and I wrote scripts and made storyboards and everything, so that's something to feel okay about, I guess?

3. Act in more things. I did not put in a whole lot of effort in going to auditions for stuff throughout this year (because I guess I've had my heart broken too many times by the process, revealing that I am a fragile fragile boi), and all the acting gigs I did end up acquiring were stuff with people who were already familiar with my work and wanted to work with me. I also feel like I acted a lot for the stuff I was doing with Thelaki, particularly the odd sketch or two in certain TLOGS, if not for the Thelaki Show stuff. I was part of stage projects that were great, such as Playing God, Syyy! and Nadirah, and short films that were great such as Ralat and Benevolent Ba, all of which had great directors at the helm, so I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute.

Now that those three things have been addressed, let's take a look-see at what 2019 actually had in store for little old me:

January

I kicked the year off by being part of Pasca Sini's music video shoot for our latest single called Pola Pikir Positif. We (as in our bassist and my brother, Boy and our band manager Arep) rented out a nice-ass house in Taman Tun Dr Ismail and we spent the whole day there just recording the music video for that. I wasn't too tight on the git-fiddle when it came to playing that song, but by the end of the day of recording that music video, we had played it so many times that I ended up being able to play the whole song with my eyes closed. It turns out making a music video for a song really makes you practice the song many, many times. It was our first time recording a "proper" music video in the sense that we hired an external music video director to shoot and edit it, rented a location to shoot it, hired make-up and set designers (thank you Hannah and friends), so it was all in all a fun albeit tiring experience. 

Pasca Sini ended up playing two shows this month: one at Rumah Api (our first ever at the legendary venue, to an underwhelming reception if I may say so myself) and one at LiveFact, so that was cool beans.

Over at Thelaki, two notable videos ended up making somewhat of a splash by our standards, which were the Maitry Burger Lembah Klang video and the first Maitry Cabaran Jangan Gelak video (which ended up being our most viewed video of all time as of December 2019 at 264k views), so that was cool. I remember pitching the idea of a Try Not To Laugh Challenge video to our Brand Lead and him saying "okay, cool, go ahead", and being surprised at how well-received it ended up getting like months after it had been published. This video alongside the Lelaki Tengok Kpop video taught me that a video can reach its audience later in its life than intended, as I had previously thought that if a video didn't take off within a week of being uploaded, it was a flop. Rupa-rupanya tidak. It can gain lots of viewers even after months of being online, and that views for certain videos comes in waves, as long as those videos are not really time-sensitive.

February

For a significant part of February, I tried not eating rice at all for a month. It had always been something I was curious about but afraid to try out because of my overwhelming love for rice in all its edible forms. I finally did it this month because I thought it was a good video idea, like one of those Buzzfeed-type do-a-thing-for-a-month-and-see-what-happens type videos that tend to gain a rather large viewership. I started in the final week of January and finished in the final week of February, and recorded the whole journey (although the video did end up being uploaded in March). I was glad that I did it, although I didn't have too much fun doing it as I was missing rice a LOT. I learned a lot through the experience, and the video did end up gaining a decent viewership, so I guess it was worth it.

Pasca Sini played the Hacktick showcase, where I got to witness first-hand for the first time just how amazing Hacktick were on stage, and how much their supporters truly loved their songs. Their EP was one of my favourite records from 2018, and getting to open for them was a great experience. I dare say that it was one of the starting points for a wonderful friendship between the two bands. Pasca Sini also played another show at ATASbyBijanFX later in the month. 

I also went bungee jumping for the first time in my life on the 4th of February 2019. I did it for a MaiTry video and we did it at Sunway Lagoon. It was just as terrifying and fun as I had expected it to be, even though we grossly over-estimated how high the jump actually was after the fact (we thought it was closer to 50 metres, when it was actually around 20 metres ja sebenarnya). The video didn't do too well in terms of views, but man did I have fun doing it.

I also went with my wife to a DopsTV video shoot, in which we talked about being married to each other with an old Youtube friend, Aiman Azlan. The actual recording was a whole lot of fun, as I got to get silly as much as I could, but the published version had cut out A LOT of those silly parts, I guess in service of staying true to the DopsTV brand, which is not known as a channel that promotes a whole lot of silliness. We recorded for about an hour, and only 35 minutes made it to the final cut.

March

I enrolled in an intermediate acting class run by Revolution Stage at the start of March, and classes were on Sunday mornings. There were initially five people in the class, but as the months went by, it ended up being four, and it was a nice class to be in, coached by Revolution Stage's own artistic director and founder Abang Wan. The class was chill, but I ended up learning loads.

I played my first show in Ipoh with Pasca Sini on the 2nd of March at Insider Satellite, opening for Tell Lie Vision from Singapore (if I'm not mistaken). It was a band-tengok-band show, mostly, but we ended up having fun anyway. I got to eat nasi ganja Yong Suan for the first time, so that was very nice.

It was a particularly busy six weeks for me, starting from the third week of February up until the very last day of March because of Thelaki work, Pasca Sini stuff and theatre work all coincided very closely with each other. I was involved in two plays staged in the same month, which was Nadhirah (13-17 March) and Syyy! (27-31 March), so rehearsals were pretty much every day, if not for Nadirah then for Syyy! then for Pasca Sini. I got very little sleep in this month, but it all ended up being fine and we managed to pull it all together in the end.

Nadirah was great because I got to work with some great people in the production (cast was great, director was cool, stage manager was great), and I got to act in an Alfian Sa'at play, which is a big deal for me as I had directed an Alfian Sa'at piece just last year (The Optic Trilogy). I even got to perform it in front of some pretty big deal people, such as Sharifah Amani, Redza Minhat, Farah Rani and Iedil Putra (they came to watch because they had staged the play too, at some point in the past). I don't know if they particularly liked our version of it, since they didn't tell me if they did or not. But I'm glad we got to do it!

The Syyy! play was a Hatta Azad Khan piece that directly inspired the hit series Pi Mai Pi Mai Tang Tu. I got to play the role played by Imuda called Budin, probably because I was the most Northern Boy of the cast. We had fun doing it, and the people that bothered to come watch seemed to have a good time watching the play, so that was cool.

April

Pasca Sini played one show in Melaka, and that one also felt a lot like a band-tengok-band show. We played as a three-piece, as Thoriq wasn't able to make the trip. My brothers Aiman and Ainul were able to make the trip though, so we got to hang out for an extended amount of time, which was cool, since it was rare for the four of us to hangout at the same place at the same time.

The start of April was also the start of rehearsals for the 16th Boh Cameronian Arts Awards (BCAA). The BCAA was the equivalent to the Tony's in the US, so when I got the call from the director Chris Ling to be one of the hosts for it, I lost my shit and said yes straight away. The BCAA was an awards show that celebrated the stage arts in Malaysia, so the hosts had to put up a musical of their own, so this was also coincidentally my very first musical to be a part of. The rest of the cast were like legit theatre people, legit singers and dancers (Tria Aziz, Kai Chalmers, Nave VJ, Melissa, Jia Xi), while I was a puddle of farts, so I definitely went into it feeling super insecure about all of me. I was definitely 6th of 6 in that list of talent, and felt it every day. I cried multiple times in the bathroom while on breaks during rehearsals because of how bad I felt, especially in the dancing department, as I was terrible at it.

But all the cast members were super professional and un-judgemental. They were there to do their jobs, and do it well, and that was also expected of me too, so I did the best that I could. Chris was super super supportive and never allowed me to believe that I was less-than anyone, and always reminded us and me of why we were doing what we were doing, and that was super important. I was moved to tears while singing and dancing in that rehearsal space in TTDI because of his reminders. Our choreographer Kenny Shim was also such a supportive sweetheart, and believed in me enough that when I was finally able to do the dance steps, he was like "see? I knew you could do it!" and I was like "aww, thank you so much Kenny! Okay now don't cry don't cry we're rehearsing now, don't cry".

I put in SO MUCH hard work and time to get even close to the level at which all the other hosts were operating at, and by Award night itself on the 28th of April, we had as close to a flawless show as I had ever been a part of, due to the efforts and competence of everyone involved, from the Stage Manager (Michelle Yip) to the musicians (Nick Choo and his team) to the technical team to all the people on stage. All came together to manifest the vision of Chris and had a ball doing it.

I also got to act in an online advertisement that never saw the light of day (or at least, not that I'm aware of). It was still a fun shoot though, and it was my personal first time working on the same set as The Ming Thing brothers, so that was cool.

May

The first of May was an important date for Pasca Sini, as they had won an online contest for bands to see who could open for Mayday Parade when they came to Singapore on the first of May, and Pasca Sini won! Unfortunately for me, the news came too late as I had already booked myself for an ad shoot on the same date, so they boys went there without me, having the wick-edly talented one and only W/SH covering for me. 

The shoot was for a Raya ad for Traveloka, and can be watched here. I had only gotten three hours of sleep the night before the shoot, so I was sleep-deprived throughout, but it ended up being a fun shoot anyway, and we got a lot done within the time that we had on location. The video itself turned out okay, and I dare say that I'm not too embarrassed by my performance in it.

In May, I also directed a play called Kenapa Tak Tukar Nama. It was a twenty minute script about the struggles of a Chinese Malaysian wanting to convert to Islam in Malaysia without wanting to change her name. I worked with two actors for this, namely Natasha Mohdali and D'Zulhakem (aka Akem), and it was kind of a breeze. The actors were cool, got their work done in a timely manner. My directing of it was minimal, particularly in regards to the set. We staged it at Revolution Stage. I made surtitles for it, which is rare for an RS play, and got my brother Aiman to be the surtitle operator on the show days. Audiences seemed to be okay with the performance, and it was my first paid directing gig, so okay lah at the end of the day the actors were happy, the producers were fine with it. Cuma the writers ja I didn't feel like they fuxt with the staging too much, so that made me feel a lotta bad for a little bit, but hey, whadaya gonna do, right?

Pasca Sini also played shows at Merdekarya (to an audience of four people, I think?) and at Impero for a buka-puasa potluck-type show, which was cool and alright.

For Thelaki, we shot and uploaded a sahur video that was super fun to make. The not fun was of course the waking up in the crazy early hours to shoot them, but we ended up having fun eating together and making jokes. I even ended up cooking at home for Mirza and Helmie for the video, which was a fun thing to have done, so that was cool.

I think we also shot an iklan for Giant during May, since the video was uploaded in June. I conceptualised, wrote, storyboarded and produced the video, and it turned out okay enough, I guess. Storyboarding was really a thing I learned to appreciate a lot this year, mostly as a time saving tool for when we go to shoot a thing. At least with a storyboard, we're not figuring out a shot while we're shooting on location. With a storyboard, we already have a good idea of what the shots are going to look like, and how many of them we want/need to take, so I've really come around to liking storyboards a lot and appreciate storyboard artists.

June

The 18th of June was my very first time doing stand-up comedy. I went to The Joke Factory's open mic and put myself down for a three minute slot on the night, was nervous as all hell, got on stage, told my jokes and stories, and left the stage feeling okay about doing it. I'd been wanting to do it for the longest time (probably since 2017), and I finally got round to doing it, and I haven't done it a second time, mostly because I have not written anything to go on stage with, so that's not great, but at least I've done it ONCE.

Pasca Sini played three shows in June, once in Publika for Fete De La Musique, once in Nilai for an international school's sport's day thing, and once at Impero again for a Raya get-together type sitch. It was chee.

Yeah, June was a rather chill month for me, I guess, filled with more Hari Raya-type activities, and also going to my wife's band's album launch. It's called Hikayat Gundik Berirama, and it's one of my favourite albums of the year. It took five years to make, so be sure to try and give it a listen however you can (I would recommend getting it on their Bandcamp page).

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And that's it for the first half of the year. I'll get on writing the second half soon enough. Until then, 

Cheers.