Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Merchant (PART 1)

"Merchant was suggested by Muzakir Xynll. Thank you.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Click here for PART 2

Sunday, March 27, 2016

I Need Your Help

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

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

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

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

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

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

May peace be upon you.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Walked Out Of Cinema

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

If Only

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 7, 2016

Why I Like Questions

So as I've said in my previous post, I've been trying to get through answering my emails lately, and even though they take up a lot of time (more than I thought answering emails would), I enjoy trying to answer people's questions. I like them all the more when they get real specific.

I like it because firstly, I feel like I'm doing something with a clear purpose, which is writing something to someone who genuinely wants to know a certain something. Secondly, it gets me thinking a lot. It makes me think about what I'd do in certain situations, sometimes situations that are new to me. 

As I've said before, I don't like talking about the same thing over and over again (oh, the irony). These questions help me think about new things to think about, new ways of saying things, new situations to put myself in, while still compelling me to stick to my principles. And I guess that's why I appreciate the questions I get. They allow me to think about things that I wouldn't normally think about.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Giving Life Advice

So I've been getting emails asking me questions about life and stuff, specifically about decisions that they will have to make in the near future that will affect their future. On the one hand, I feel honoured to be on the receiving end of such questions because it makes me feel like they trust me enough to seek out my input on important things that are affecting or will be affecting their lives (assuming that these questions are truthful in some capacity, of course).

But on the other hand, it also puts me in a spot where I am seeked out for life advice, when I myself am not all that experienced a person. Sure I have gone through some ups and downs in life, but I certainly am in no position to be telling anyone what they should or should not do.

I have gone through what I have and it has equipped me with a certain worldview that I have no problem sharing with anyone who is willing to listen or read. And in response to these emails, that is all I try to do. I give them my input on the matter, being quick to admit that I do not know the full story as my knowledge of the situation is only limited to the information supplied in the email. In most cases, I do not know the sender of the email personally nor do I know their surroundings, people they care about, people they have to take into consideration as well when making a decision, circumstances that are beyond their control, etc.

So in answering any question directed towards me, I just admit to the sender what I would do if I were in their situation (or at least what I think I would do, because a lot of these situations I've never found myself in before). I'd just list down the questions that I'd ask myself before making a decision, what different answers would entail me doing, what I consider important in my life and why I would choose one thing over the next.

I try my best to not tell anyone what they should or should not do, because in doing that I feel like I place myself in an imaginary higher ground, as if I knew more than other people, as if I were wiser and less prone to making mistakes than other people, when in reality, that isn't the case at all. 

There's always a huge possibility that I am absolutely worse than the sender in making life decisions, and I always admire these people that send me these emails because they took the time and had the guts to reach out for help when they need it, and that's more than I can even ask of myself most of the times.

And so I try to help, in the capacity that I can, and give input the only way I know how, which is to put myself in their position and speak for myself. If they follow what I have to say, that's great, and it would be even better if they disagreed with what I said because they found an even better way to deal with their situation, and I'd be happy to have been able to spark that thought within their mind, the thought that was better than mine.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Thinking About Making Shorts

So I recently watched the movie that won Best Picture at the recent Academy Awards ceremony called Spotlight. It’s a portrayal of actual events of the work done by a newspaper team in Boston uncovering the actions of the Catholic Church who covered for their priests who were regularly molesting children. It’s a really cool story if you’re into that kind of thing, with a really great cast who carried the story in a respectable manner, in the sense that they understood that the story was bigger than themselves, and so they did not allow their own strong personalities to steal the story’s spotlight (pardon the pun). 

And since I’ve been in this “movie/motion picture” kind of mood lately (triggered by the Oscars), I had thoughts of making short-films. I’ve shot several videos throughout my life now, but not a single short film yet, and I feel that if I want to take this movie-making seriously, the first step would be to make a short film. And so I went back to watch two of my favourite Malaysian-made short films, Mat Luthfi’s Rokok Dan Kopiah as well as Yasmin Ahmad’s Chocolate.

When I first saw these short films, I was in awe of how amazing they were, the main question in my brain being: how do you write something like that? It seemed beyond me to understand how a person can make short films (or at least good ones).

But after re-watching them as I did a couple of nights ago, I couldn’t help but notice some flaws here and there, things that I would have probably done differently, would have re-written, re-shot or whatever. This is most probably my hubris acting up again, but it sort of made me feel like, hey, I could probably pull something like this off.

I shared those two videos on Youtube and a person shared with me her favourite Malaysian-made short film. It was called “Kingyo” and was written and directed by a Malaysian dude by the name of Edmund Yeo. It was a story about a couple of people in Japan who were talking about the past and how their relationship and circumstances has changed since their initial breakup. My summary of it doesn't do it any justice, so I would recommend you watching it if you’re curious.

Kingyo was definitely more complex in its composition, both in writing and directing, but it was still simple enough to be able to follow from the beginning to end. They were able to achieve that because it was a longer film kot, but still, I appreciate it very much.

It also made me wonder about how this Malaysian person who was able to tell a very Japanese-y story with an entirely Japanese production crew as well as cast, set in Japan. I found his take on the story rather beautiful, and how a foreigner was able to capture all that within 25 minutes was mind-boggling (I hyperbolise, but yeah it made me wonder).

The person who tweeted me the video also inadvertently introduced me to an app called “viddsee" (because the short film could only be watched on that platform). It’s a neat app that collects lots and lots of short-films that were made from all around Asia, and anyone who has the app is able to watch all these shorts for free. It’s a treasure-trove for a short-film geek, or anyone who is interested in Asian stories in general, so if you’re into that kind of thing, I would definitely give this app a go.

Going back to my feelings of hubris, I feel ready to make short-films and suck at doing it. I only need to start writing them and think about how to pull them off later. And therein lies the real challenge. Starting.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Keceramukan Pasca-Oscars

So earlier today was The Oscars, and my twitter timeline was full of Oscars-related news. Lots of awards being doled out, and I find out yet again that there are just SO many movies that I have yet to watch. I should definitely have a run of watching all the nominated movies, at least the ones up for Best Picture, no? The movie that ended up winning (called "Spotlight") I had never even heard of, so that goes to show just how much of a movie buff I am. The only movie ended up winning anything that I had watched was Mad Max: Fury Road (it bagged 6 Oscars).

But reading all the Oscars news made me think about how people in those nominated movies had worked in order to get as far as they had. They day to day work of screenplay writers, directors, producers, actors, et cetera in taking something from the realms of imagination to the realm of reality. Turning a spark of inspiration into blood, sweat, and tears to showcase motion pictures on cinema screens.

And while correcting the spelling of standard three kids in their activity books, I couldn't help but feel an overwhelming urge to put myself in a position to be involved in such an endeavour (making a movie, not correcting people's spelling).

Not to put down the noble profession of primary school teachers, not at all. Indeed, the very foundations of art appreciation is built in the classrooms of primary schools. It's literally and figuratively where people learn their ABCs, and without the ABCs, a significant number of words in both the Malay and English language could not be spelt properly, so having these three letters in people's lexicon helps very much.

But I suppose it's the selfish person within me who lusts to be in the thick of things rather than being at the foundations. It's my own vanity that makes me want to be in front of the camera instead of in the classroom. It's the hubris in me to think that I'd be more dedicated in making movies than in making lesson plans. It's this sense of entitlement that comes with myself that thinks that I deserve to pursue my dreams, however outlandish they may be, just like any other person in the world and not settle for something safe and a sure thing. It's this stupidity in my youth to think that I'd be able to make it in showbiz, when in reality what is more likely to happen is that I'd crash and burn, be forced to do stuff I have no passion in just to pay the bills.

As long as I have these internal struggles, the ones that will suffer the most are the children. They deserve better from me. I thoroughly believe they deserve better than me. I am a mediocre teacher with grandiose delusions about making movies. One has every reason to believe that I would be just as mediocre (if not even more mediocre) at making movies too.

So now I'm torn between being mediocre in a classroom, or being mediocre in film. And if I'm honest, my self-pitying behind would choose the latter in a heartbeat.