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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Jemputan Membaca Buku 2017 Video Script

Assalamualaikum wbt dan salam sejahtera.

Tahun lepas saya start buat review buku. Lebih kurang sebulan sekali saya akan post satu video dimana saya bincang sebuah buku. Saya cakap tentang apa yang saya suka dan kurang suka tentang buku tersebut serta saya rekemen kat siapa buku tu.

Tahun ni saya akan sambung buat, pasai saja syok-syok nak buat. Dan jugak pasai saya masih lagi rasa macam kita tak cukup sembang tentang buku-buku yang ditulis oleh penulis Malaysia. Saya nak lagi ramai orang bincang pasai pendapat depa tentang buku yang ditulis oleh penulis Malaysia, dan ini adalah salah satu usaha saya kearah mencapai matlamat tersebut. Plus, saya memang jenih buat palataw.

Format review saya most probably akan sama ja dengan yang sebelum-sebelum ni, pasai saya tak terpikiaq lagi macam mana nak buat cara lain yang senang bagi saya.

Saya akan habaq awai-awai buku apa yang akan saya review pada bulan-bulan yang akan datang, supaya hampa boleh baca sekali, kalau hampa nak. Review akan di-upload pada akhir bulan  yang disebut.

Untuk bulan Februari kita akan review Young and Malay, edited by Ooi Kee Beng and Wan Hamidi Hamid.

Untuk Mac, kita akan bincang Gantung, ditulis oleh Nadia Khan.

Untuk April, kita sembang pasai buku Peninsula: A Story Of Malaysia by Rehman Rashid.

Mei, kita akan tengok buku Brave New World, by Azmi Sharom.

Untuk bulan Jun, kita akan try buku Assalamualaikum: Ulasan Tentang Islamisasi Di Malaysia yang ditulis oleh Zaid Ibrahim.

Julai, kita akan baca dan bincang buku Sekolah Bernama Kehidupan, ditulis oleh Asmar Shah.

Untuk bulan Ogos, kita akan try baca buku Alif Lam Lam Ha ditulis oleh Kru Universiti Terbuka Anak Muda.

Dan pada bulan September, kita akan bincangkan buku Anarkis, ditulis oleh Khairul Nizam Khairani.

Kalau saya rajin, saya akan tambah lagi buku selepas tu, tapi setakat ni, buku-buku tu yang saya nak bincangkan untuk tahun 2017, inshaAllah.

Kalau ada cadangan penambahbaikan cara saya buat video atau cara saya bincangkan buku-buku ni, bolehlah tinggalkan komen di ruang yang telah disediakan dibawah.

Kalau ada soalan lain, boleh emel atau tweet saya di iniuntukakusahaja@gmail.com dan @inianwarhadi respectively.

Dan kalau hampa suka dengaq podcast, saya ada podcast dengan isteri saya dimana kami sembang tentang perkara-perkara berbangkit. Boleh jumpa di soundcloud atau itunes, namanya BuahMulut. Kalau hampa suka dengaq dua orang sembang-sembang kosong saja-saja untuk mengisi masa lapang, boleh la try dengaq.

Sekian saja kot untuk video kali ni.

May peace be upon you.

Good Columnists and Being Sure

So I was scrolling through Twitter the other day (as I do on any given day), and I came across an article that was talking about a joke involving George Michael in the movie La La Land. It's a quick two-minute read, so if you'd like to read it, Here it is:




The full article can be read here.

Through reading this article, I realised why I was a bad columnist. It's self-doubt. Or rather, the way it currently manifests in my writing.

While reading the article, what became immediately obvious to me was the way in which the writer was so very sure of what they were saying, or at least they had the appearance of being sure. There's a certain sure-about-themselves-ness that is present in articles written by "good" columnists. It makes sense if I think about it, because these writers are most probably well-read in their fields and they can write with authority on the topic in which they have been given the task to write, because they studied the subject matter and put in real work that is necessary for a good piece of writing to emerge.

The way I see it work is, a person thinks up of something to write about, or alternatively is given a topic to discuss in their writing. They then study up on that subject matter for hours, days, months, even years to get a firm grasp of what they were about to write about. Then, after that extensive research, they get to their documents and start typing. If any new questions emerge, they'd find material that would help them with being sure about what they had to write about. That's how it works. That's why people are paid to write those columns. Because a lot of hard work has to be put into writing a convincing article.

I have a lot of self-doubt because I am not as learned, nor do I put in the effort to read up on the topic at hand. Take this particular article, for instance. I could have quickly Googled "how do columnists write" or something similar, but I didn't. I just sat down in front of my laptop and typed away. When I encounter a question that I cannot answer, I do not do my research or find the answers through the miracle of the internet. I instead say "I don't know" or something similar and rest at that. Lazy work, I think anyone would agree.

And because I have self-imposed rule to write as many words as I can in one sitting, I end up elaborating that self-doubt and analysing why I don't know the answer to a certain thing or explore why my views on a subject matter is flawed and self-critique, right in the same article, as those doubts pop into my head. Because it's easier than spending time reading up on a subject matter that would require me to learn something new. I choose not to hide those doubts because it allows me to put more words on a page, and that makes me feel good. I can say to myself "ha, tengok tu, boleh pun tuleh banyak! Hang rajin betui Anwat!" when in reality, it's self-deluding to think that.

So for me to achieve the "sureness" that good columnists possess, I will have to be willing to put in the work. I will have to be more rajin in doing my research and find out the answers instead of being okay with just "I don't know and here's why". But I most probably won't, because it's too much work, and the good feeling that I get from putting words on a page is a lot more fulfilling than the work required to actually produce a cohesive and well-written article. So I'll most probably continue doing that until it feels like it's not enough anymore. Then, maybe, I'll start researching things before writing stuff.

Here's to hoping.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Of Lil Yachty and Open-Mindedness

So earlier today I watched a video made by Anthony Fantano on his channel "Needle Drop", and the latest video at the time of writing this is him putting forth the opinion that the rapper Lil' Yachty might be the incarnation of rap's punk phase. He puts forth the argument that Lil Yachty is clearly rebelling against the foundational idea of what makes rap music good and seems to be deliberately doing the opposite of what should be deemed as "good" rap just because. Even if it's not exactly the opposite, I think a lot of people can agree that it's very different.

And Anthony does a good enough job of articulating why he thinks what he thinks, to the point where a person such as myself can follow the argument well enough to think that I understand where he's coming from when he says these things. Kudos to him for that. As a person who considers himself a fan of the music made by acts that are influenced in some way or another by the classic punk-rock acts of the 70s, I got intrigued by the thought.

The classic punk-rock acts were not "good" rock musicians. They had a primitive mastery of their instruments, they couldn't sing very well and their lyrics were as straight forward as they come, and that was what made them great. Because they rebelled against the idea that "good music" had to be a certain way and proved that "good music" could take on a wider definition. even to this day, most acts that would associate themselves with the term "punk" would not pride themselves in technical traditional musicianship, or at least not any "punk" acts I'm familiar with.

And Lil Yachty seems to be doing the same with his music, says Anthony Fantano. Anthony listens very very widely and has deep knowledge about music in general and also about musical movements and trends, so I trust his opinions when it comes to music, because I know it's coming from a very informed standpoint. Because i trust his opinion, I wanted to listen for myself what ideas Lil Yachty had to offer on his latest solo full-length release "Lil Boat".

I listened to half of it for the first time while on the way to school this morning. I tried to listen from the point of view that Lil Yachty not trying to be good in any way, rather he just wants to express and make a certain type of music that he felt comfortable making. I struggled with it. Through the handful of tracks that I went through, I couldn't quite get why I would want to listen to them more than once. I'm still entrenched in the mindset that the only rap worth listening to was "good" rap.

While parking the car at my school, I started asking myself why it was important for me to "get" Lil Yachty. He wasn't a musician that falls within my tastes in music. I don't find his songs pleasant. But why did I feel disappointed by this fact?

The answer that I have come up with is that I feel like whatever I listen to right now, the songs that I consider "good music", is a sonic comfort zone for me. And by me only listening to the things that I like, I'm afraid that I'm also inadvertently wallowing in my comfort zone, and if I stay in comfort zones for too long, I feel that my mind closes up on me and I slowly but surely lose the ability or rather the inclination towards trying to be open-minded about things.

If I can't bring myself to listen to music that I don't particularly like, how am I going to gather up the wherewithal to listen to opinions and points of view that I don't particularly like? If I lose the inclination to listen to people who have differing opinions and points of view from myself, then I will also slowly but surely lose my will to empathise with people who are different from myself. And I value that ability so much and am trying hard not to deteriorate what little of it I have in me as it is.

So I think there is a legitimate reason for me to try and listen to music I dislike and find out why a person might like it. I don't have to like that music myself, but I think it's important that I put in the effort to understand the appeal of what I personally find unappealing. Because at the end of the day, it might help me build empathy within myself by trying to listen to something as someone else might listen to it. And I think that's a valuable thing to pursue.

Here's to listening to new, "bad" music.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Kalsom-MASCA KKB

So yesterday I had the pleasure of attending an English workshop run by Kalsom-MASCA at a camp site in Kuala Kubu Baru, Selangor. Kalsom is a non-profit that tries to help underprivileged secondary school students by organising camps that focus on getting the students to learn about English, History and Math as well as equip them with leadership and organisation skills that they may find useful in their lives post-school. It's been going on for years now, and this year was my second time joining them to help the students out.

The session that I got to attend last night was a role-playing session, where each group was asked to adapt a chapter of the novel that they were supposed to be reading (Dear Mr Kilmer by Anne Scraff) into a short play and perform it on stage. Afterwards, the group was asked to present their discussions about the chapter on stage. Each group had seven minutes to do all that, and I had to evaluate how well each group did and by the end of the 10 chapter presentations, choose the top 3 from the bunch.

Watching all the students work together to put together a workable script adaptation to portray the main ideas of each chapter was great. Some groups really showed that they understood the core of the text and what it was trying to say, and delivered it succinctly and efficiently with the limited amount of time they had. It made me wish that I had a similar opportunity to explore literature in the way that they had back when I was a teenager (ugh, I still have yet to come to terms with no longer being a teenager myself). It would have definitely helped start my love towards the arts a lot earlier than I had, and I would probably set about a different path.

But of course hindsight is 2020 and I have to live with my choices and make the best of the opportunities that come my way in the future, not dread the choices I made in the past and begrudge these other people for the opportunities that they have. That's a very negative way to live, in my estimation, and it doesn't help me achieve anything. Best be thankful for what I have and work towards building a more ideal future for myself with the resources at my disposal.

At the end of the session, the hosts asked me to give a bit of a wrap-up of the evening, and as I was utterly unprepared, I talked about the first thing that came to my head: the importance of literature. I couldn't bring myself to tell these students that literature is important because of this, this and this, so I asked them to use the remainder of the evening thinking about why literature is important. I shared with them why I value literature myself, which was that literature was what started me on my journey towards understanding and practicing empathy. Sure, I have a long way to go on the journey, but if it weren't for literature, I don't think I would have even started the journey and still be under the impression that I understood what empathy meant.

I don't know if they actually went back to think about it. If I were in their position, I would just want to go back to my bed and sleep before tomorrow's activities. Looking back at it, maybe just asking them to think about something wasn't the best way to get them to think about it. Maybe I could have said something more thought out, more thought-provoking to start he thinking process. But as I sit here, typing and staring at my mug of coffee, I can't come up with what that thought would be. There's something for me to chew on for a bit, at least.

Here's to literature and empathy.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Trip To Kuala Tahan

So this weekend I had to attend a trip to Taman Negara Kuala Tahan, Pahang with the male teachers from my school. I can't say that these kinds of hiking/fishing/bro-out-with-bros trips are my cup of tea, but it was mandatory, so I went.

My favourite part of the trip was that we got to explore the river there called Sungai Tahan. Going up that river with a boat felt like a trip through Jurassic Park. Everything looked so picturesque and tranquil. The trees looked majestic, the water was as clear as I'd ever seen river water, the people manning the boats seemed super chill.

Another thing I liked about the trip was that we weren't the only ones staying at the hostel that was booked for us. There were also some travellers who were spending some nights there. I got to meet a woman from Albany (which is a place south of Perth) who at that point had been travelling for more than two years around Australia and South East Asia. I asked her what the most interesting thing to have happened to her was, and she told me of how she broke up with her then-boyfriend while on the road after two-weeks of travelling and being left at a mall parking lot with her stuff.

Instead of heading home from there (which was something I would've done), she continued her journey and she said that it was the best decision she has ever made. She said that she had grown so much within the amount of time she had been travelling and that she has gotten to learn things about herself that she otherwise wouldn't have. She said she's now more comfortable being by herself, but at the same time has no trouble navigating new people either. I think it's safe to say that she was one of the most carefree people I have met in my life and seems like she can take on anything else life has to throw at her. I guess that's one of the things that happen to people who travel the world alone.

Another person I met was a Swiss dude who had finished his Master's degree in Linguistics and is now just travelling South East Asia. He talked about what it's like in Switzerland, that there mainly were two sides to the country, namely the French-speaking side and the German-speaking side. He pointed out that the French-speaking side were more left-leaning in their political views, while the German-speaking side was more right-wing. He said that this put the country in a weird position, to a point where he questioned why were they still just one country, since they seem to view the world so differently, but he ended that thought with "I guess money keeps people together". As much as I wanted him to elaborate on that, he looked super sleepy while talking (it was close to midnight when we had that chat), so he voiced his intention to go to bed, to which I responded with encouragement.

I envy their ability to just leave their homes and go on a journey of self-growth and learning about the world and its peoples, but at the same time I also understand that at the moment my focus is on serving those around me and achieving my own set goals, that do not (at the moment) involve travelling around the world. I want to build upon my skill-set, strengthening my ability to do the things I want to be good at, and travelling around the world has to be put in the back-burner at the moment.

An ideal situation would be that my journey towards self-actualisation and community-service would take me to places I've never been before. I'm not ruling that possibility out, but it doesn't look like it's going to happen any time in the near future for me at the moment. I just have to try to focus on the positive things around me and even though I sometimes find myself in less-than-ideal settings, I have to look for the things that can help me learn new things and help people in need. It's tough, but it needs to be done.

Here's to learning and helping.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Changing My View Of The Doctor

So I've been reading this book called "Young and Malay", which is a compilation of essays from 9 people who identify with being Malay and different degrees of being young. It was edited by Ooi Kee Beng and Wan Hamidi Hamid, if you'd like to look it up.

I shall be reviewing this book in a couple of weeks' time, even though I'm almost finished with it, because I still have a video to make before I make that review video. But for this post, I just want to highlight one aspect of the book, which is that the majority of the writers in this book cite Tun Mahathir as being instrumental to their own development of their understanding of the Malay identity, and after reading a lot of them, I have to admit that I have similarly been affected by Tun M's prescription of what a Malay was or is.

Back when I was growing up, my father was the main distributor of knowledge and wisdoms for my brothers and me, and whatever he said had to be taken wholesale as the truth. And my father would always sing Tun Mahathir's praise, leaving me with the impression that this Prime Minister was the ideal Malay human being around. Nothing bad was ever said about Dr M, at least not around me, so that must've meant that Dr M had no flaws at all. I never questioned that notion, and grew up being comfortable with that belief.

Then towards the end of my teenage years, I finally read his book, The Malay Dilemma. Even though my father had a copy of the Malay version of it, I never felt interested to have a read of it, until I found an English copy in a Popular book store in Penang. After reading the book, I was so enchanted by it and held an even higher view of Dr M. I couldn't believe that this masterpiece of a book wasn't used as a compulsory textbook in school, because I felt that it was that important that people knew about all these things he wrote about in the book. I remember thinking, it all makes sense to me now. It makes sense why I am the way I am, and why people around me are the way they are. This is the truth!

In those days, I would never understand why anybody would have anything bad to say about Dr M. He was the undisputed exemplary Malay, and how anybody would be able to substantiate any negative claim about the man would be a mystery to me. Sure, no human being was perfect, but Dr M was the closest who came to achieving perfection.

Then I started reading more widely. I started reading the writings of people who disliked him. I learned about what he did in the past, while he was Prime Minister. I learned about how he manipulated the law and the media to get his way and to justify to the people the things that he did. How the Malaysian political landscape was forever changed by his influence. How so very flawed a piece of writing "The Malay Dilemma" actually is. I learned that he was a great politician, but that "politician" by definition could only be an insult. I finally understood that my admiration of him was by design. It was exactly how he wanted to be seen by people, and using the power that was at his disposal, made it a reality. I'd like to think that, through opening myself up to these opposing perspectives, I now have a much more sober perspective of Tun M, the very fallible human being.

This book, Young and Malay, to me, is a good starting point for people who do not know why someone would dislike Dr M and would like to know why. None of the writers in this book have anything good to say about Dr M, and back their stories up with good references and well-reasoned arguments.

Here's to viewing things objectively.

Monday, February 6, 2017

First AMUK Rehearsal

So remember that time when I auditioned for a play? I am pleased to be able to say that I was accepted into the production as part of the cast. Yesterday was the first script reading of the production and it went well.

We held it at the director's apartment which was nice and cozy. He started the session by introducing himself as well as all the other members of the team and what their roles were. For the cast members specifically, he mentioned why we were chosen. The rest of the team is pretty young, relative to me of course. I am the second oldest in the team, the oldest person being the director himself, so I didn't feel like I was as "lit" as everyone else (if that's what people say these days).

After the introductions to each other, we we introduced to the play itself. The director told us what the story was all about and why he felt it was interesting. He communicated to us the vision of the play so that we would all try to head for the same goal. The playwright was also there and added why he wrote the script and what he hoped the script would achieve when performed.

Then we got to reading the script. The director made it clear that the lines were malleable, and as actors, we were granted the liberty of saying and/or changing them as we saw fit. So for a good two hours, we read through parts of the twenty-minute play and picked it apart and discussed why certain lines were crafted the way they were and how they might achieve their goals better by being put in a different way.

It was an interesting process for me because the environment of this rehearsal was so different from my previous (limited) experiences in theatre. In plays that I had been involved in before this, the script was gospel and trying to change a character's lines was akin to blasphemy. If the script was already good and properly edited, then I understood why that had to be the case. But some scripts haven't been thoroughly edited and require picking apart and putting back together to make sense of it all.

The director and playwright were understanding of that fact and recognised that the script was yet to become a finished product, so they welcomed the questions and editing. I in turn appreciated their humility and professionalism in taking into consideration our input and applying them in an effort to get the best script we could possibly gain from the story that was to be told. I was glad that we were invited to be critical of the script and not just take it all in passively. This made me feel like I was able to connect with the script and the team more because we were building the narrative together as a unit rather than disparate pieces of an incongruent puzzle.

I look forward to future rehearsal sessions and continuing this journey with the team.

Here's to humility and professionalism.