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Monday, May 25, 2015

A Post About Sleep

One of the things that I never seem to get enough of is sleep. I seem to always be in the mood for a good nap (or two). I always try to sneak naps into my day, more out of necessity than anything else because "sleepy" has somehow become my default setting.

Nowadays I have to drive an hour to get to school and an hour to get back from school. I can usually go to school in the morning smoothly enough (even though it takes a lot of singing at the top of my lungs to keep me awake throughout the trip), but the return trip isn't too easy. It's at the end of work, and I'm usually exhausted. Plus, i've most probably just had lunch, and being in the air-conditioned car, it's a very conducive environment for people (me, specifically) to fall asleep. I usually have to stop by an RnR midway and take a fifteen minute to nap the drowsiness away, or else risk falling asleep on the wheel.

I wasn't always like this. I remember wondering while I was a tween "macam mana orang boleh tertidur dalam kelas?" because it seemed like such an impossible task to me. There was a teacher there to listen to, and catch you out on sleeping, and there was never a moment that allowed any sleepiness to prevail, because when the teacher was out, the class would be so noisy.

The first time I felt sleepy in class was in Form 4. I even terlelap sat. I don't remember what class I was in, which teacher was in front or anything, but I do remember thinking, "Alamak, macam mana aku boleh tertidoq ni?" since it was such a new thing to happen to me: to feel sleepy while in school. Ever since then, I would always be sleepy in classrooms that weren't able to hold my interest for more than five minutes at a time, including (but not limited to) institute lectures, tutorials and talks/forums.

Feeling sleepy all the time like I do now sucks, because you know you're not performing in a way that is optimal. Your energy levels aren't at their best, and your brain just isn't as activated. You get reckless, you forget things, you're slow at processing things. I try my best to not let it be a hindrance, but I know that it's still there, and I could do so many things so much better, if only I weren't as sleepy all the time. 

It sounds like I'm making excuses for myself. I probably am. But even if I get hours and hours of sleep in a day, I always wake up and move through my day the same: feeling drowsy. I would love to shake it off, but until I learn how to, I'll learn to live with it being a reality of mine and just try to manoeuvre my way through life in between naps.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Fangirling M Nasir

One of the people I look up to the most in the local music scene is M. Nasir. Not too long ago, I bought a CD that compiled some of his greatest hits, from his Kembara days to his collaboration with Malique of Too Phat, and what I noticed from listening to all those songs was that his songs don't sound dumbed down at all, either musically or lyrically (although not all of his songs' lyrics were written by himself).

M. Nasir is one of the names that is highly regarded throughout the country and has achieved immense commercial success. What amazes me is that even though he enjoys huge commercial success, he doesn't take the music he produces for granted, ever since he came on to the scene in the 80s and keeps finding new ways to express himself artistically even to this day.

What one would notice upon hearing the songs in that album that I have is the range of styles of the musical endeavours he chooses to undertake, from 80s rock in the song Hati Emas, to really experimental stuff in the song Di Balik Cermin Mimpi. He keeps it fresh and interesting, to the joy of the listeners, and I feel, to his own joy as well.

As a person who produces art, one has to be constantly interested in what one is doing in order for the people listening/watching have a strong reason to be interested as well. One does not keep being interested in doing the same thing over and over again, but that seems to be the route of many an artist in this day and age. The main reason being, in my unsupported-by-evidence opinion, because they are afraid that if they change it up, people will stop listening to their stuff, and stop supporting their artistic undertakings since people in general hold an inherent dislike of the unfamiliar.

I personally hold a high regard towards M. Nasir because he doesn't do that. He doesn't try to keep doing the same things. He always tries to keep it different, keep it fresh. And even when he does that, he continues to become commercially successful. People don't really seem to care that Keroncong Untuk Ana and Lagu Jiwa Lagu Cinta sound so different. They enjoy them both just the same, albeit for different reasons. And M. Nasir continues to experiment with the projects he wishes to undertake. Who would have thought that he'd collaborate with a rap artist to come up with such an epic song as Mantera Beradu? That song came from so far left field, it hit us like a truck. I still can't get over how amazing that song is.

I hope to have the courage to be as interesting and diverse in my artistic undertakings, whether they be musical or literary. For that to happen, I need a wide range to draw from, so I need to study up a lot on a lot of things. Let's hope I get to go somewhere with these dreams of mine.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

One Hundred And Twenty One Words


Firdaus felt like flipping his laptop over. The only thing stopping him was the lack of cash in both his wallet and his bank account (he only had one) to cover the cost of repairing the self-inflicted damage. He had been staring at his laptop for a good fifteen minutes now, three times longer than it usually took for him to type the first few sentences of his daily piece. He needed something to draw on, but nothing came to mind. He shut his laptop and stared blankly at the bouquet of flowers sitting in front of him, and read again the card that came with it that read “I’m sorry for your loss. Your mother will be sorely missed.”

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

How Do I Know If I'm Doing The Right Thing For Me?

A question that I got a couple days back during the forum I went to recently was "I don't know what my passion is. Whenever I'm doing something, I always wonder if it's truly my passion or not. How do I know if what I'm doing is the right thing for me?" and I liked that question, because I am currently going through that phase, that "searching-for-your-identity" phase. My answer to that person's question went a little something like:

Firstly, you don't need to limit yourself to just one or two things. If you find that you enjoy or like doing several things, do all of them as much as you can with the amount of time that you have. For instance, I've found that I like to do quite a few things, and I try to do them whenever I feel like doing them. I've made videos, written on my blog, compiled my writings to form a book, made music, rapped, danced, edited and published a zine, taught, volunteered, became a social media consultant, acted both on stage and on camera, skateboarded, organized events, and a whole buncha other stuff that I can't recall at this moment in time.

Does doing all this mean I'm not focussed? Probably. But I'm fine with that. If you watched this Steve Jobs' speech (click here to open it in a new tab), then you should have gained an insight into why allowing various dots to exist in your life matters. We need to trust that at the end of our lives, if we're fortunate enough to have lived a several more decades, we'd come to see that all those dots connect in ways we would have never imagined. At least that's what I try to keep holding on to. I've even written a reflection on the speech on the blog a couple of years ago: click here to open that reflection in a new tab.

So in conclusion, try not to limit yourself to doing only one or two things. Do what your heart desires, and as long as it brings no harm to anyone around you, it should be alright.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Realising That I Can't Speak

So a question I get sometimes is "how do you build up confidence in speaking English?" I usually have a go to answer for that, and I'm actually surprised I haven't written it down here yet, so here I shall share that answer.

Back in school, I was never much of a speaker, especially during classes. I could somewhat talk to a certain degree when I was with friends, but I virtually clammed up whenever a teacher was present in class. A former teacher once commented to my father that "Anwar speaks more in just one video than he did throughout his school days." That should give you an idea of what kind of a student I was.

I always knew that I had some degree of proficiency in English (reflected in the exam scores I get), but I was seldom in a position to speak the language other than talking to some of my English-speaking friends (there weren't very much of them) every once and again, as well as when I was singing-along to English songs. So I ended up getting very little practice in speaking in English.

I wasn't too concerned with this reality after SPM, or even after my year-and-a-half teacher-training foundation. I was forced to have a think about it during my first year of degree studies back in the teacher training institute.

It was during a tutorial session for the subject "Philosophy of Education". The lecturer split us up into groups, and naturally I went into the group with the rest of the guys (there were only four males in the class). We started talking about irrelevant stuff in Malay (as per customary in group discussions). It was all going along just like any other tutorial session we had, until the lecturer came up to me and asked me about what my thoughts were on the topic at hand.

You see, I had formulated an answer in my head already. The ideas were all there. But nothing came out of my mouth. I just sat there staring blankly with an open mouth. Things got so awkward that the lecturer walked away from me. It was so embarrassing for me that I was forced to have a think about what happened. I was going to be an English teacher, but I couldn't even speak two words to a lecturer? I immediately felt bad for all of my future students who had to have such an incompetent teacher such as I.

After class, I went back to my room and had a think about what I needed to do. I knew the only way for me to improve my speaking ability was to practice speaking, but how was I going to do that? I spoke almost entirely in Malay with my classmates, and suddenly speaking English with them was out of the question because it would have been so weird and awkward. 

I looked around my room and my eyes landed on my laptop. I opened up the laptop and thought to myself "I can talk to the webcam! Record myself speaking and listen back to it and criticise myself. That's practice!"

So I did that. I talked to myself through the laptop for five minutes at least, everyday for three months straight. I could feel myself improving after about a month, and it turned out to be one of the most beneficial things that I have ever done for myself.

I'm glad that I didn't make excuses for myself. I could have easily said to myself "Ugh, this is hard. I don't want to do it!" or "Everyone's going to laugh at me! The embarrassment!" or "Nanti orang kata aku lupa diri, dah takmaw mengaku Melayu!" or "Macam mana kalau orang kata 'hak elah, eksyen ja Anwat tu dok cuba nak speaking plak!' nanti aku dah takdak kawan!"

Giving in to all those excuses would have dragged me down and kept me from making myself better. I wanted to be the best for my future students, thus I took steps that were manageable for me in order to reach that goal.

Plus, come to think of it, if I had such negative people as my friends at the time, I would wonder what I was doing with such company in the first place. I would want to be a supportive friend, a positive friend, a friend who helps his friends achieve their goals, ambitions and dreams. Why was I hanging out with people who were doing the exact opposite? Was having negative, unsupportive and hateful friends better than not having friends at all?

Fortunately for myself, I found a way to bypass all that. I didn't bother anyone with my daily banter in front of the laptop (except probably my roommate, sometimes), so that was good. I also found that once I took active steps towards wanting to speak in English more, more opportunities to do just that presented themselves for me. I found that my friends were actually supportive and were able to understand what I was trying to do. I found that interactions with lecturers became easier (though not entirely fluent, I was  definitely improving). I found that once I started looking for those opportunities, they presented themselves to me rather smoothly.

And today I am a full-time teacher who is trying his best to teach year 3 students on a daily basis. I am capable of carrying a conversation in English okay-ly, alhamdulillah. I do still have a lot more improving to do though, so I'll continue working on myself to become better.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Al Jazeera Exposé

I've just finished watching a video by Al Jazeera English. An exposé of the Sedition Act 1948 and how it's being used by the Government to silence those who have the gall to criticise it and its decisions in public. It's an interesting watch, so if you have 29 minutes and would like to have a look, click here to open the Youtube video in a new tab. What I'll be discussing in this post pertains to the video, so it'll make so much more sense if you've watched the video.

While watching the video, I couldn't help but notice how they portrayed Malaysia as a place where everyone in the rakyat were shown to be people who supported the opposition, and that the biggest issue everyone has in their lives is the Sedition Act. Nowhere is it said that, of course, but that's the general feel of it. It was as if Malaysians from Kedah to Johor until Sabah were taking to the streets in protest, and people left right and center were being put in jail for doing just that. When in reality, I'm just chillin' here in my room thinking about what to write on my blog (and sedition laws were certainly not anywhere near the top of my list). You're just there chillin' having a read on your screen. A lot of people in the kampung are just chillin' with their families or friends or whatever, watching Maharaja Lawak or something. A lot of people in the cities are just chillin' blowing shisha smoke while talking about Steven Gerrard (finally) leaving Liverpool. 

Pokoknya, the way they portray reality doesn't necessarily represent reality. One has to understand that the video-maker has a set amount of time to insert as much information as they need to, and to make it as interesting as possible so that people would watch it. Would a half-hour about how 27 million Malaysians are coexisting, and a small percentage of that is taking to the streets for half-a-day make interesting watching? Probably. But it's not as compelling and dramatic as portraying thousands and thousands of people being unhappy and fighting for their basic human rights of speech and expression against a corrupt and nefarious regime.

So when consuming a piece of information, we need to keep in mind that the makers of the thing make decisions as to what to include and what not to include in the piece because of the limitations of the medium they are using, as well as because they have a specific agenda or message to put across and are trying their best to convey it to us, the consumers, and by doing so, have to neglect some pieces of information that will jeopardise their agenda. Whether it's right or wrong for them to do that is a different question entirely. What we need to focus on is understanding that things are put in a certain way for a reason. We have a responsibility to ourselves to ask "why" in our heads, and come up with reasonable answers so that we're not susceptible to being easily manipulated by the content creator.

I am a content creator myself, so please be critical of my writings, videos and songs as well. I welcome it. 

Impian Ferrari, Usaha Kancil notes

So I just got back from talking to a whole bunch of university students with Aiman Azlan and Azhar (a senior from my alma mater) about the topic "Dilema Gen-Y: Impian Ferrari, Usaha Kancil", and I'm super sleepy, so I'll share with you guys the question-sheet we got before the forum and the notes I scribbled down cincai-ly in preparation for the forum.

1. Bagaimanakah kaedah yang diambil oleh ahli panel ketika bergelar mahasiswa untuk berjaya dari segi persatuan dan juga akademik dan bagaimana usaha yang diambil itu dapat membuahkan hasil yang hebat seperti “Ferrari” dan adakah usaha ahli panel seperti kancil tetapi hasil nya sehebat Ferrari atau sebaliknya?

Saya rasa rezeki itu di tangan Allah. Dia bagi apa Dia nak kepada siapa Dia nak. Key here is "expectation management". The root of all disappointment is expectations. Kita jangan take the attitude of "aku usaha banyak NI, awat hasil aku banyak ni ja?" Kita akan ada kecenderungan untuk lihat Allah sebagai tak adil. Dak, focus on our performance. That's what really matters. Results are out of your hands. Apa aku buat dulu?
- volunteered for a lot of stuff (charity stuff, dance, leadership positions - because nobody wanted it)
- concentrated on what I liked doing or what I wanted to learn :- arts, theatre, book club, zine-making, etc.

2. Generasi Y kini boleh dikatakan majoriti membesar dengan gajet, jadi ini memberikan factor negative dan juga factor positive kepada gen-y tetapi adakah gajet ini boleh menjadi pemangkin kejayaan kepada gen-y pada masa kini?

Depends on how you use your gadgets, really. Set goals, then think about how you're going to achieve those goals. Gadgets can be a tremendous help in achieving those goals. Manage it well and it becomes a friend, but manage it teribly (like me) and it becomes a hindrance to productivity.


3. Masalah yang paling besar dihadapi oleh gen-y ialah impian nya besar mengalahkan gajah tetapi usaha nya pula sangat kecil mengalahkan semut dari segi akademik dan juga gen-y kini masih ramai yang tidak cakna dengan isu semasa walhal gen-y inilah yang akan menentukan kejayaan Negara masa hadapan.

Read. Love knowledge. Light that fire first! Then the willingness to care about whatever's going on right now akan timbul. Why? Awat nak taw pasai perkembangan semasa? How is it relevant to them? If it's not, then takdak sapa pun akan kisah. Pasaipa nak amek kisah? Lain orang amek kisah pasai benda lain sebab: blogging, tweet, bleh sembang pandai, cari income, want to make the world a better place. Have a why and minat/action tu akan datang. Plug: kisahhabis.com .

4. DUIT, DUIT dan DUIT ini merupakan benda yang penting kerana pada zaman ini semua nya memerlukan duit, jadi bagaimana ahli panel mengunakan duit yang ada untuk memulakan kerjaya masing2. Soalan ini juga dituju kepada moderator yang mempunyai sebuah syarikat. Adakah duit ni memberi kesan kepada impian setiap gen-y yang besar seperti “Ferrari” ini. Jika ianya memberi kesan apakah langkah yang ahli panel rasakan dapat membantu?

Rasa kita kena ada kebolehan untuk guna apa yang kita ada. Great to be resourceful, but maximising the resources that you do have is of utmost importance as well. Kalau ada duit banyak tu, draw a plan yang sesuai untuk modal yang kamu ada, and commit to it. Jangan half-hearted punya effort ja. Give it your all, and make it sustainable.

*

Of course, the actual forum went very differently from what I had written down, and I ended up on referring to the notes a couple of times during the two hour session. Nonetheless, I hope you benefited from reading my scattered thoughts put down in writing.