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Monday, May 29, 2017

Get To Know Me?

So there's been this picture going around on Twitter, and people are writing facts about themselves, and it's made for some interesting reads so far.


I've been intrigued for a couple of days now and I would like to engage in it. The only part that I personally don't quite like about it is that it asks for likes from others. There's nothing wrong with it, I'm just not a fan, like I'm not a fan of Beyoncé. Nothing wrong with her, I'm just not a fan. Similarly, I'm just not a fan of the concept of exchanging likes for actions, so I'll just write down some facts here.

1. I'm not a fan of Beyoncé. Nothing wrong with her, I'm just not a fan.

2. I used to write and record Malay rap songs at www.soundcloud.com/inianwarhadi . I miss doing it.

3. I pretend to not care about people not watching my videos anymore, but deep down, I do care. It makes me feel like I'm not worth anything to anyone anymore. And that sucks.

4. But I know that that is untrue. Some people still do watch my videos. And I'm grateful they exist.

5. I almost never feel like I fit in with any group of people. I always feel like I'm the most expendable person of any given group.

6. I feel like everything I do is mediocre. The formula is "me + verb = mediocre".

7. I'm 177cm tall.

8. Once when I was nine or something, I spelled "belimbing" as "bembiling". I have been carrying that mistake with me ever since.

9. I have just recovered from a mumps fever. Worst week of 2017 so far, hands down.

10. I've fractured two bones throughout my life so far. My left wrist when I was 8 (fell off monkey bars), and my lower jaw when I was 21 (took a knee to the chin when playing rugby).

11. I like hugging people I like, but I'm always afraid that the other person tak suka, so I keep it to myself sampai they come in for a hug first.

12. I believe I'm the least talented of all the people I know.

13. I don't know.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Syed Joyce

So there was this boy, nine years old, Syed. He was waiting for his mother to come pick him up from school. His mother always told him to wait for her at the bus stop in front of the school until his mother came. So there he was, waiting at the bus stop in front of the school. 

He'd been waiting for an hour at that point. His mother did say when dropping him off that morning that she was going to be late picking him up from school that day. Syed knew it was work-stuff. Stuff grown-ups do. Stuff he didn't have to think about, so he didn't. 

But this was the first time his mother was late. He didn't know what he was supposed to do. His friends had all gone back home with their parents. He had hung out with them until then at the corridor, playing tiang and eating nuggets that was sold by the makcik in front of the school. And now he didn't know what to do anymore.

He looked to his right and saw that a classmate of his was sitting there too. A girl. Her name was Joyce. Joyce was reading a book. It looked like an English textbook. Syed's other classmates would call here Joystick to make fun of her. She would shout at them and they would shout at her back. Then she would say the B A B I word and then the boys would report it to the teacher and she would have to apologise.

"Apa tengok, babi?" Joyce asked after she noticed that Syed had been staring at her for too long.

Syed frowned and replied with, "Kau la babi, ler!"

"Jangan tengok aku la babi!"

"Kau la babi, LER LER LER!" Syed raised his voice so that he would win the fight, but shifted his gaze to the puddle in front of him. In the puddle he noticed a dead fly. He'd never seen a dead fly before. He knew though, that it was dead, because its legs were facing upwards, and it seemed as if it were taking a nap on the water.

He went down to the puddle to get a closer look. Hunched over as he was, he tried touching the dead fly. It didn't move, so he pulled the fly closer to himself using his index finger. He pinched one of the fly's legs between his index finger and his thumb and lifted it closer to his face.

He could see the fly's two big eyes, its big black butt, it's legs even had some hair on them, and it's wings. At some parts the wings looked like they had no colour, but at other parts they seemed to be colourful, like a rainbow colour reflecting off of it.

He put the fly in his palm and cradled it there, making sure that it didn't fall off. He said out loud, "Woi tengok ni woi!" forgetting that his friends had left him.

"Tengok apa?" Joyce asked.

Upon realising that he was only there with Joyce, he said "Takde pape!" And stuck out his tongue to Joyce. Joyce responded in kind and continued reading her textbook.

Syed looked at Joyce and looked at the fly and looked back at Joyce and got an idea. He walked over to Joyce and held out his hand that had the fly in it and showed it to her face.

Joyce looked at the fly and then looked at Syed and then looked back at the fly and laughed. "Dia dah mati ke?" Joyce flicked the fly to the ground with her finger.

"Ish, kau ni!" Syed started bending his knees to pick the fly back up, but before he could do that, Joyce stepped on the fly while saying "inalilah."

Syed pushed Joyce away from the fly and shouted with tears in his eyes, "Kau mana boleh cakap inalilah! Kau Cina, mana boleh cakap!"

Joyce stuck her tongue out and walked back inside the school gate to go sit at the empty school canteen.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Grey Areas

So earlier today I was listening to the latest Freakonomics podcast episode called "Earth 2.0: Is Income Inequality Inevitable?" and one of the guests said something to the effect of "any argument that puts something as entirely good or entirely bad is incredibly naive," and I found myself nodding along to the statement.

Just a couple of hours after listening to that, I watched Anugerah Meletop Era on tv with my parents, and even though a large portion of the show made me cringe, I was reminded of the above quote when my father said in passing that the award show was a way of redistributing wealth. I found myself nodding along to that as well.

For all the ads both on and off ad-breaks, it did provide a platform for musicians to work. It gave the performers, stage hands, costume designers, make-up artists, producers, camera crew, lighting people, etc. an income. It allowed people of all stars and stripes who just want to get by, get by. For all the promotion of consumerism that happened on the show, it allowed a whole bunch of people a way of fending for themselves in the capitalist system they live in. And for that, one cannot say that the show is all good, or all bad. It occupies a grey area.

And I think most things in life are in the grey area. Most things are not all good, nor are most things all bad. Living a life of prayer is "good" in the sense that one might position themselves better in the sight of their chosen deity, but time spent in prayer is time spent away from helping fellow people, and service to others is real important too. And any time taken engaging in community service takes away time from family. And time spent with family isn't spent working to earn a living income to pay the bills and put food on the table. And so on and so forth the arguments go.

The sign of an enlightened mind (at least in my view) is a mind that is on the lookout for good things in bad things and bad things in good things. The first step of course is to be able to acknowledge that such a reality exists. Once one is able to accept that reality, it becomes easier to spot those shades of grey. I'm not saying it's easy (it gets super tough a lot of the time), but it does get easier.

One thing I don't like about it is that thinking this way makes me doubt a lot of things. I am filled with self-doubt about most of my decisions in life because I know there are bad bits that come with the good bits, and I'm not confident enough in my own judgement to be real sure about any of my own judgements, which is why a team is always helpful in any of my endeavours. They allow me perspectives outside of myself to lean on in times of doubt.

Which is why sometimes I am jealous of people who aren't aware of grey areas. Some people seem to be able to see the world as black and white and there isn't much wiggle room at all in between. People who aren't aware of grey areas are able to live less doubtful lives, and are able to make more confident decisions, I feel like. I used to be like that. I used to live believing that I knew right from wrong all the time, and right can only be right while wrong can only be wrong, end of discussion.

But that view of the world lacks empathy, it lacks kindness, it lacks awareness, it lacks perspective. And given a choice, I'd probably want to be aware of grey areas. While I do live most of my life in doubt, nowadays, I also get to be all high and mighty in my head because I am aware of grey areas, and I can sit on a high horse and pity the people below me who don't have the perspective that I do. Berlagak kan? Ugh, I disgust me.

So yeah, grey areas. They're a lot more of a thing than I'd like them to be, but we've got to live with them, a lot of times in them.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Mindfulness, I Think

So hello again.

I had a school meeting earlier today, and because I'm terrible at paying attention during meetings, and because I didn't bring a book with me to read, I decided to reread some of my own blogposts (because I'm a narcissist).

The first thing I wrote this year was about trying to be more focussed, and establishing that I could only focus on doing one singular task for twenty minutes at a time. At the time of reading earlier today, I had completely forgotten that I had had that thought, that I had made up a strategy to regain control over my own day-to-day productivity. I was (and still am) disappointed in my current self for forgetting that real simple thing, but also somewhat proud of my previous self for having written that thought down so that I would be able to remind myself of it.

As is obvious, I have not been keeping to that plan. I've stopped writing for a long while now and I'm certainly not proud of that. I don't know what I've been doing, really. A whole bunch of school work, some watching of Netflix shows, reading some pages of the book of the month every now and again,  but mostly just looking for Youtube videos to watch and refreshing Twitter a lot. I shake my head at myself. Shake shake shake.

Life was a tad more productive in the twenty-minute-at-a-time phase of my life (now I'm speaking as if it were years ago, padahal baru berapa bulan ja). I think I'll go back to that. I'll have to readjust my cycle of tasks in life to twenty minutes again and try to stick to it for more than a couple of days this time. And probably try to write more in the process, too. Let's start with this post.

You reading this would not be privy to this, but I just took an undeserved Twitter scroll-through. I even indulged in watching a five-minute Twitter-video I didn't need to watch. This is exactly what I'm trying to combat. My own unmindfulness of what I'm engaging in in contrast to what I'm supposed to be engaged in while going through life.

I've got to try to be more mindful of what I'm doing at any given time. And as much as I like listening to Tim Ferriss' podcast who talks about it with a lot of his guests, I find that when I try to put it into practice, I disappoint myself more often than not.

One of the ways in which he recommends to increase mindfulness is to meditate every day. But as much as successful people like to talk about how the practice has helped them with their lives, I still don't see myself as a person who meditates. But if I'm honest with myself, the issue isn't really about identity. It's me being lazy. It's me being unwilling to spend an hour of my life sitting down with my eyes closed and spend it thinking about my breathing. I know I'll get restless, I know that my mind will wander to all sorts of places, I know that I will fail, and thus I don't even start.

It's a recurring theme in my life. Things that I think I'll be bad at, I won't engage in. I have to have some sense of confidence that I can achieve a thing before starting doing a thing. I place this unproductive emphasis on confidence in my starting of doing things that it stops me from doing things. I lack courage. The courage to try and fail, the courage to do something that I might be bad at, the courage to be humiliated. I'm a coward in that sense, I believe.

This would be the part of the post where I try to come up with suggestions to improve myself. Something like "I should find the courage and be less afraid of failure, because the path of successful people is a path of getting up after multiple failures". But I'm tired. And I don't know. I just, don't know.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Writing and Brick Laying

So yesterday I had a bit of a conversation with a friend and we talked about writing and stuff. This friend has a short story published in a FIXI book as well as a few other short stories floating around the internet. On top of that, he has written and shot a couple of short films. Additionally, he writes and performs some poetry every now and then. He wouldn't identify as a writer writer, but he writes from time to time.

We talked about writing and how he wrote was that he needed a story first, before he can write. He has to already have an ending in mind in order to start and finish writing something. The downside to that, he told me, was that it takes months and months before he gets an idea of something to write about, so he'll usually spend months just not writing anything because he's waiting for something to write about.

I introduced the analogy of a house. He needs the already finished house in his head first, before he can start laying down bricks. And when he finally does, he tries to build the house as closely as he can to the vision of the house that was already in his head. And I think that that's a good way to write. Already have a finished story in your head, and type out whatever words that most closely resembles what is in your mind.

Thing is, I think that that's how I should write as well. I think that I need a vision of a finished house to pop up in my mind before I can lay bricks if that house is going to be any good. Tapi masalahnya is that I've been waiting years and years for that vision of a house to come, but it has never come, so I shouldn't start writing yet. But on the other hand, I feel like if I don't write at all, then absolutely nothing can be achieved. Waiting won't do me any good. And by the time the vision of the house finally does come to my mind, I haven't laid bricks for so long that I'll be rusty by the time I do start the process.

So what I do is that I try to lay the first brick first. But then the thing about me is that once I lay down the first brick, I scrutinise that brick so intensely that I end up throwing it away. In writing terms, I write the first hundred words, and allow myself to attack that hundred words until I believe it sucks and is not worth building with and end up deleting that word file entirely. Which doesn't help getting anything done either.

My friend asked me why I even bother laying bricks in the first place, and my answer was that it was because of my desire to be a writer. I want to be a writer so bad that I do it anyway, even though I suck at it every step of the way. Writing is something that I want to do consistently, and well, at the same time if possible. And he nodded in understanding.

Here's to brick laying.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Faris (Part 1)

The azan woke Faris up. "Astaghfirullahalazeem!" he said a little too loudly and quickly made his way to his locker and put on his jubah and kopiah. "Mandi japgi ajelah!" He rushed to the surau, took his wudhu' and tiptoed into the prayer hall, hoping nobody would notice his tardiness.

He got as far as three steps into the surau before Abang Firdaus turned around and made eye contact with him. Faris averted his gaze to the floor while proceeding to pray solat sunat rawwatib qabliyah right where he stood, a little further back than his usual spot, but this was an extenuating circumstance.

I'm in for an ear-full this time, not to mention having to skip breakfast later. Allahuakbar, why didn't Omar or Faizul or Amsyar wake me up? I always took the trouble to wake them up. Ukhwah konon. If this is how it is, don't expect me to wake you guys up anymore in the future. Faizul can forget about ever getting to use my toothpaste ever again. Omar can stop using my comb after this. And Amsyar, well, I'll stop eating next to him. There. Assalamualaikum warahmatullah, assalamualaikum warahmatullah.

***

After the morning's Subuh prayer, all the orphans in Teratak Nurul Solihin gathered as they always did in their respective usrah groups with their respective naqibs. Abang Firdaus was Faris' naqib, and he started the session as he always did, with the al-Fatihah and by thanking God by blessing them with a beautiful morning, even with the rain, which might have made it a little more tempting for some people (at this point, he tried to make eye contact with Faris, but Faris was looking downwards) to sleep in, but with iman, we were able to gather here in this surau today.

He continued by asking everyone in the circle to turn their Quran translations to Surah al-'Isra, ayat 79 (which was on page 290 on their copy). "Faris, tolong bacakan terjemahan ayat tu."

Faris kept in the sigh he wanted to exhale. "Dan pada sebahagian malam, lakukanlah solat tahajud (sebagai suatu ibadah) tambahan bagimu: mudah-mudahan Tuhanmu mengangkatmu ke tempat yang terpuji," Faris still refused to make eye contact with his naqib.

"MashaAllah, okay, dalam ayat tu kan, menerangkan kenapa pentingnya solat tahajud ni kan," Abang Firdaus started his lecture. "Kalau kita tengok apa yang Allah cakap disitu kan, Allah tak cakap, kan, 'kalau boleh, buat lah', tak kan. Allah cakap 'lakukanlah' kan. Allah cakap buat je, lakukanlah, kan. Kat sini kan, Allah suruh kita tunaikan solat sunat tahajjud, jadi, kan, pentinglah sebenarnya solat tahajud ni kan? Walaupun kita panggil dia solat sunat kan, tapi kalau kita baca ayat tu kan, lebih kepada suruhan kan? Ha, jadi nyata lah disini, kan, yang kita sebagai khalifah Allah, kan, kena lah tunaikan, kan, solat tahajud ni, kan? Tak boleh miss. Kan? Kena pentingkan dia, sama je macam solat fardhu, kan? Haa. Itulah kenapa di sini kan, kita bangun awal sikit daripada orang lain, kita qiyam dulu tiap-tiap pagi sebelum subuh, kan. Tak lama pun, sejam je pun kan? Haa. Ada apa-apa soalan tak?"

As usual, no questions were raised that morning, even from Faris, who was on the brink of tears.

Friday, March 10, 2017

"Bad" Pieces of Writing

So I am currently sick. I've got a flu situation going on and a headache that won't go away, so that's a thing. I started noticing that my nose was running yesterday while I was teaching in class, and today it seems to be building towards a climax. As I'm typing, I feel like it's already at the climactic point of the sick day, but the thing about sick days for non-doctors is that we never really know when it's over until it's over. So I'll just have to endure it.

I wanted to start typing a monologue just now, and I got about 100 words in before I gave up on it and started writing this post instead. I didn't know how to start writing the monologue so I watched Mike Birbiglia's My Girlfriend's Boyfriend to listen to how he started his hour. After the welcoming applause died down, he started with "So about five years ago, pretty much everyone who I knew started to get married". So he started telling his (true) story by clarifying the context of the story. He wanted people to know that it was in the recent past, and it was about people getting married.

He continued to explain that he didn't believe in marriage, saying that it was insane. And having watched the one-hour-and-fifteen-minute thing before, I knew that by the end of the story, he said he got married to his current-wife, Jen. So what happened within that hour-and-fifteen-minutes was a journey of a guy who didn't believe in marriage to finally getting married. The main character goes through some trials and tribulations, overcomes some difficulties, and finally develops into a person who can accept being married to the person they love. So there's a very clear "from here to there" story type of situation going on, and I like that structure a lot.

And when I was trying to figure out where the story my character was trying to get to from the first hundred words, I couldn't come up with an answer. Trying and failing to figure out a story is no fun. Add a headache and runny nose to the equation and the result is even less fun. So I ended up bailing on the story, because I felt it was too tacky. I was trying to pull a lot from my own experiences as a teacher, but still trying to make a work of fiction. And sometimes that helps, but in this instant, it didn't because I feel like I was trying to inject some drama into a story that didn't have any. At least that's how I view my own experiences as a teacher. Lots of perceived misery, but objectively rather smooth-sailing all around.

I had the thought of "maybe Mr Birbiglia's story was so interesting because his life was an interesting one and he thus had interesting stories to tell, and mine isn't at all interesting, that's why I can't put down anything even half as interesting on the page". But then I am reminded of a screenwriter I follow on Twitter's advice, which was "just finish that first, bad draft, because you can't fix something that isn't there to be fixed."

So maybe it would be in my best interest to write that uninteresting thing first, and then after I've finished it, figure out how I'm going to turn it into something interesting? It sounds like a lot of work, and I'd be putting myself in a vulnerable position by making a "bad" piece of work. I don't want to finish something I would consider bad. I'd much rather have not made anything at all, instead of having made something "bad".

But of course, that works against my interest, because at the end of the day, everything I write is bad, if not to me then to someone else. And because I think I have real good taste in writing, it'll be even harder for me to finish making something "good enough" for me, because the bar's set so impossibly high. I want to achieve what I wrote in one night to be as good as what somebody else took a long long time to perfect and edit many many times. Memang susah la kalau macam tu.

So let's try writing that "bad" piece of writing, Anwar. That's your first step, okay?

Here's to finishing "bad" pieces of writing.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Maybe I'll Write A Monologue

So yesterday I watched a couple of short 20-minute plays at Revolution Stage. The first one was a monologue entitled "Menanti Datangnya Tuhan", and the second one was an ensemble piece called "Boneka Betina". I liked the latter more than the former, both because I felt like it was a more interesting performance both in content as well as in delivery.

Menanti Datangnya Tuhan was the second monologue I have watched this year. The first one was Every Brilliant Thing, staged by TheatreThreeSixty. It was an hour long and addressed how the protagonist dealt with depression (which was by keeping a list of the things that made him happy). As he developed his list, he grew up and we got an insight into this person's life story. It was funny at times, heart-breaking at other times. I liked it very much.

The other day, I had a conversation with Sharifah Amani, and the conversation got to a point where I told her that I wrote sometimes, but not scripts or stories or anything. Just blogposts. And she said that that's okay, you can turn those blogposts into monologues. All you need is to just recompose the entries for the stage and you've got some pieces on your hands. And that idea has stuck with me.

To the point where I keep going back to my experience of watching Every Brilliant Thing the other day and figuring out ways in which I could pull off something as interesting. It's been on the back of my mind for about a week now, but I still have no idea how to pull it off.

But after I watched Menanti Datangnya Tuhan, the thought of "hey, maybe it doesn't have to be gr8 m8 8/8 for me to start writing something for the stage?" Maybe I just have to start writing something, or at least pick a thing I have already written about and re-write it for the stage, as Sharifah Amani suggested. Can't be too hard, kan? Takkanlah among the 433 posts I have written so far, takdak satu pun yang worthy of rewriting?

Then I think about what kind of performance I would want to watch. It's not something like Menanti Datangnya Tuhan, where the protagonist would pretend to talk to themselves. I don't find that interesting to watch. I liked Every Brilliant Thing because the protagonist was addressing the audience. He was telling his story to the audience, who were very involved in the telling of the story (to the point where some members of the audience received some items on his list and were asked to say them out loud during the performance). I think that's a more interesting angle to approach a monologue.

I've also been watching a comedian named Mike Birbiglia on Netflix. I like him very much. He has two specials out, and I've watched them both. How he approaches his specials is very story-telly, very much like a monologue. Like, "here's a thing, at first this happened, then another thing happened, it reminded me of this other thing that happened, but getting back to the story, this thing happened as well, don't you think it's funny when you're in this kind of situation you think about xyz? Anyway, afterward, this other thing happened, and I guess that's that."

Wow, I've never actually tried to write a whole monologue in that form before. That was a weird experience. I think I've just made a monologue structure for myself to follow. And if I know me, I love having structures to follow. It's a pretty cursory structure, vague would be an understatement, but it has provided me with a vision of a skeleton of a monologue. Now that I've made a structure template for myself by trying to impersonate Mr Birbiglia, maybe I can start writing my own hour-long monologue? But what story would I want to tell? That's another thing I have to dwell on.

At this point I'm feeling like I just come up with these questions to answer before I get to writing just to procrastinate from actually writing something to perform. In my brain, it's equal parts "I have to solve this problem, or else how am I supposed to write?" and equal parts "Don't worry about it, just write, man." And it's tiring having to deal with these inner battles while still needing to worry about going to school and having your lesson observed by another teacher and having to write a minit mesyuarat for the PIBG and all these other things that I wouldn't mind not having to worry about. But there I go creating excuses for myself again. Sigh.

Here's to Mike Birbiglia. If you have Netflix, check him out. He's nice.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Saving Up

So I had a little conversation with a film producer the other day. I told him of my intention of being an actor one day and he said that's cool, but he advised me to be prepared financially before I take the plunge. He found it helpful himself, because before he was a film producer, he was an engineer. He was on his way to the HR office to hand in his resignation letter when he thought to himself, "Eh, lepas ni aku nak survive macam mana?" so he put the letter back in his pocket and gave himself two years to get financially ready for resigning. Two years later, with enough money stored in the bank to sustain his life for a whole year without making any extra income, he did just that. And today he's doing okay for himself. He's not rich by any stretch of the imagination, but he has enough, and enough is good enough for him, especially when his day to day consists of focussing on doing things he loves doing.

I am doing that right now. I want to be financially ready for myself and for my family, so that I won't have to stress about how to pay rent for a whole year, because I have already thought ahead of time that transitioning between jobs will not be the easiest thing in the world. I'm glad that circumstances has allowed me to be frugal in spending and my upbringing has equipped me with the foresight to be prepared for the worst while still hoping for the best. Because honestly, leaving a steady job with a consistent paycheque is scary. To not be certain of where next month's money for rent is going to come from is super stressful, and is way out there in terms of me being in my comfort zone.

But I feel like it's something I have to do. I don't actually have to, but then of course I don't actually have to continue working for a monthly salary, either. I only actually have to survive, and take care of those who depend on me to survive, I think. And to that end, I have put in a lot of work already, and will continue to put in the work necessary to make ends meet at the end of the day. I guess it just comes down to me being a dreamer. A person who feels like a life not spent doing what one loves doing is a life less lived.

Or maybe it's just curiosity. I want to know what would happen if I were to pursue acting full-time. I want to know if I have what it takes to do it, and keep doing it. I would like to find out for certain, instead of just wondering about it in my car for five minutes after I've parked it before clocking into school. And whether I succeed or fail, it doesn't matter. What would matter is that I found out what the answer was. I already know what the answer to me being a teacher is. I don't like the answer, but that answer remains unchanged. I just want to know the answer to the other "what if?" in my life that I haven't been able to shake off for years now.

Here's to dreams. Or curiosity. Either one, doesn't matter.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Of The AMUK Preview and Revolution Stage

So this past week has been an interesting one. For starters, the AMUK play team finally staged a preview for the Damansara Performing Arts Centre (DPAC). Our director told us that our performance was "in no way bad," so that's okay. All four of us stumbled with our lines at some point, but we got through it and delivered the story that we needed to tell. It was a bit of a relief that we got through it, but now we wait to hear back from DPAC to see whether or not we get to stage our play there for the public to watch and scrutinise.

It was the first time I staged a play in eight years, so of course I wanted to do a good job at it, but at the same time I also think that in reality, I delivered a really rusty performance (at best). This might be because of the sheer amount of time I have spent away from stage acting. Not to say that I was any good at all eight years ago, but I felt more comfortable on stage back then than I did the other day. This could probably be attributed to the difference in the amount of time we spent to prepare for the respective plays. In Lela Mayang, we practiced for around five months, contrasting with the less-than-one-month of practice we spent on AMUK. So comparatively speaking, it makes sense that I was more comfortable staging Lela Mayang as Andak than doing AMUK as Michael, as I spent more time as the the former than the latter.

But even knowing this, I still feel like I should re-train myself as an actor. The last acting class I took was eight years ago, so it makes sense if I have lost touch with some of the basics. In an effort to re-learn those basics, I shall be attending an acting workshop that shall be conducted by Fauziah Nawi tomorrow. I am feeling nervous for it, both because it'll be my first time in an acting workshop in a long time, and also because it's Fauziah fudging Nawi, man.

After registering, they gave me a script and said that seven pages had to be memorised for the purposes of the acting workshop. I've always thought of workshops as people going to without having anything with them, and the teachers/facilitators will provide the knowledge one needs on the day itself. This is the first time I've ever experienced a workshop that asks their participants to memorise something before getting there. And I'm not the best memoriser (said the person who wants to be an actor), so it's been a struggle for me so far, and I haven't even gone to the workshop yet. Having said that, it's a challenge I welcome. If I can get through this and put the work in to be okay at this, then I might convince myself that I'm not making a huge mistake here, that me pursuing acting is something substantial.

Also, I've have attended career talks by Sharifah Amani, Sharifah Alesya and Bront Palarae. All established actors within their own right, and in Amani and Bront, people I have been looking up to for years now. A performance space called Revolution Stage organised these talks where these people who have been in the world of acting for a while come and share their stories as well as what they know about how things work in the scene. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend these talks and listen to what they had to say in person. Overall, it seems that it isn't easy being an actor that wants to do Good Work in Malaysia, because great scripts don't come by very often, and when they do, they might not be the actors that the directors have in mind for the roles, so it's tough.

In the Bront Palarae session, he was surprised to learn that I was interested in becoming an actor. Somehow, he knew that I wrote things here and there, so he recommended that I became a writer instead. He said something to the effect of "Malaysia needs more writers, not actors". And after listening to what he and Sharifah Amani had to say about the "industry" (as they put it), I can't help but agree. Looking at the kinds of stories that are on the big screen as well as on TV, one can't help but wonder if quality writings for the screen only come by once every five years in Malaysia. I'd love to write for the screen, but I don't really have a story to tell quite yet. Plus, if I'm being honest, and this might just be my vanity talking, the desire to be in front of the camera is currently stronger than the urge to be behind it.

I'm glad that I found the Revolution Stage. I now know of a space in which I could try out stuff for the stage. Maybe I could start writing things for the stage and perform it to a small audience there. The people behind Revolution Stage have invited me to do so, if ever I write anything I want to stage. Maybe I can try churning out a monologue and see where that takes me. It would mean I would have to change up my writing style a little bit for the stage, but it's an intriguing idea. Maybe I will. I most probably won't, due to my track record of procrastinating everything to the end of time. But maybe I will.

I recommend you guys try and check out Revolution Stage to see what's going on over there, if you have an interest in these sorts of things, of course. They're @RevolutionStage on twitter and facebook, so give them a search if you want.

Here's to taking steps in a new direction.

Sunshine Blogger Award Tag 2k17

So I was tagged by a certain Nurul Afifah to do a Sunshine Blogger Award tag thing. I thank Nurul Afifah for tagging me, and I shall answer the questions that you have provided. I am reminded of how fun it was to do these things. However, I don't think I'm going to abide by all the rules in this post, mainly because I am a super lazy human being. I apologise for that. I will, however, list down some questions that you may want to take back with you (person who is reading) and maybe write your own answers to. Tiada paksaan, of course.

Here are the questions from Nurul Afifah and my answers to them:

1. Introduce yourself in five words.
Person who doesn't know anything.

2. If you never have to work and never have to worry about money anymore, what will you do?
If I don't have to worry about money anymore, I would still work, I think. Just a very different job, though. I would want to act in as many Netflix Original series' as I could. And during intervals when I don't want to do that, I would write and perform my own rap songs. And during intervals when I don't want to do those two things, I would write short stories and novels. And during other intervals, I would take up improv comedy classes at UCB Los Angeles and teach what I have learned to Malaysians.

3. What is the craziest thing you have ever done?
I don't know how to quantify crazy, so I can't really be sure what of my answer here. And I don't know what qualifies as crazy, either. A lot of the things I do make sense to me. I reason things out with myself before taking decisions. Some might turn out to be bad decisions, but that's because I was, at the time, misinformed or under-informed about certain aspects of a thing. Also, because I allowed biases that I have to take over the decision-making process. I really want to answer your question though. So, what would I consider crazy? I think it was pretty crazy of me to rap on stage. Like, kurang siuman jugaklah for me to think my songs mattered enough to have other people listen to them live. So yeah.

4. Favourite movie of all time, and why so?
I keep going to Toy Story 3, because I can both cry and laugh within the same amount of time. I also love I Am Sam for the same reasons, but a lot more crying too.

5. Share with me your quirkiest nickname and how you got it.
I don't have any nicknames other than Abang, really. A fellow teacher once kept calling me Ibrahim, because of Anwar Ibrahim, but that's about it.

6. What is your greatest weakness?
My self. But oh what a boring answer that is. What about my self is the weakness? I don't know. I feel like I have bad thoughts from time to time, and those thoughts make me weak-willed. Super-low self-esteem stops me from doing things that matter to me. Ego makes me not show love and affection to my loved ones when they need it the most. My bad bad memory makes me forget important things. My desire for certain things stops me from living a fulfilling, guilt-free, meaningful life.

If the question was fruit-specific, the answer would probably be buah mata kucing.

7. What is your greatest strength?
My desire and ability to sleep lots and lots.

8. What is your best childhood memory?
One of the best that I can remember at the moment was a time when I was seven, we were in Dunedin, New Zealand at the time. I don't know how exactly, but my brother and I got our hands on one of those toy soldiers that had a plastic parachute tied to it on some string. I remember us going a few floors up of a nearby building and releasing it to the ground. I remember having a lot of fun. Our fun was cut short, however, when the wind blew the toy paratrooper into a nearby tree. We never reclaimed it from the tree, unfortunately.

9. If you can only keep five possessions, what would they be?
My phone, my laptop, both their chargers, and my wedding ring.

10. What is the biggest character turn-off for you?
The inability to admit when they are wrong, or even entertain the possibility that they might be.

11. If you could have any superpower (must be a skill, not something like time-travel or immortality), what power would it be and why? 
I think it would be the ability to read a whole book just by touching it for one second. I think that would be pretty cool.

***

So those were the questions from Nurul Afifah. Thank you again for the questions. Here are some from me:

1. If you had a time-machine, and that time machine could travel both backwards and forwards in time, when would you travel to and why? What would you do there?

2. What's one thing you've spent too much money on but don't regret?

3. What's one thing you own that you should probably throw away but never will?

4. What's something you thought was true for a long time until you found out that you were wrong?

5. What is the best possible future discovery or invention?

6. What is the worst piece of advice you have ever received?

7. Do you think you are "weird"? Why or why not?

8. What was the last question you answered "I don't know" to? Did you ever try to find out the answer?

9. If you were forced to work a job that you're not passionate about for 20 years, but you get to choose what that job is, what would it be?

10. What has art (paintings, literature, movies, songs, etc.) taught you that nothing else has ever been able to?

11. Nak makan kat mana?

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Young And Malay [Book Review Script]

Young And Malay book review

Assalamualaikum wbt and hello there

in this video i’ll be reviewing this book right here

[what is the book about]

Young and Malay: Growing Up In Multicultural Malaysia is an essay compilation book that was edited by Ooi Kee Beng and Wan Hamidi Hamid, published by Gerakbudaya Enterprise.

Inside are nine essays from various writers who are young-ish and identify as Malays.

In the introduction, one of the editors of the book tells us what the book sets out to do, 

and what I understand from it is that they wanted to collect some essays about these writers’ experiences of growing up in Malaysia.

From reading the book, it became obvious to me that they weren’t given any strict guidelines or rules to follow,

So we get everything from one writer’s experience as a Malay boy in a Chinese school to another person’s critique on Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s 1970 book, The Malay Dilemma.


[what i liked about the book]

With an essay compilation like this, one cannot expect for all of the pieces to be amazing, but I did appreciate a few more than some others.

I like that this book tries to get the malay people of Malaysia to tell their own stories of their upbringing and their roots. 

Reading about these writers’ experiences growing up in different parts of the country, and even growing up outside of the country was great.

It allowed me to gain a better insight into what other people’s lives were like and the kinds of thoughts they had as young Malay people, and I appreciate this book for that.

I also liked that a lot of these writers picked apart the mainstream narrative and were critical of what they were told as young people. 

They go in depth into what formed their views of what Malayness has become and analyse why it has turned into what it is today.

As I said earlier, one writer even put aside sharing stories about their upbringing altogether and instead criticised The Malay Dilemma for the length of the essay.

In and of itself, it’s a worthwhile read, especially if you’ve never found any reason to doubt The Malay Dilemma.

But I have to admit that I don’t see it being a great fit for this particular collection. Nevertheless, I still enjoyed the essay.

[what I didn’t like about the book]

One particular essay, however, I did not enjoy very much. 

It didn’t fit into what the book said it wanted to do, nor was it all that interesting to me.

The second essay in the book started off with a review of a punk rock show they attended once.

Then continued to list down all their favourite punk rock bands of the past.

Then started recommending the reader some other books to read.

It was as filler as it could get, and people could skip that essay without having missed all that much.

Another thing I found lacking about the book was that all the contributors of this book were very much opposed to the way the country was run.

Not that I’m disagreeing with their views in any way, but I do feel like it made the book lean heavily one way politically, without having any voice to balance it out.

I would have appreciated the book even more if the contributors were from a wider array of political views.

That way, a clearer picture of Young and Malay people could have been portrayed.

[nak rekemen buku ni kat sapa]

I would recommend this book to people who are interested in alternative narratives. If you don’t understand why anybody would dislike Dr Mahathir Muhammad, then this book is a great starting point.

Overall, I like the book and I find it interesting 

I hope a newer volume will come out some time in the near future because I want to read about more Malaysians talking about being Malays.

The book we’ll be discussing next week is Gantung by Nadia Khan.

If you have any questions, you can send them to my email iniuntukakusahaja@gmail.com or tweet me @inianwarhadi


And that’s it for this video, may peace be upon you!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

My (Limited) Experiences With Theatre So Far

So through participating in this play that I’m in the middle of getting ready for, I’ve been able to meet actors that have been in theatre for a lot longer than I have. One has four years of experience, with more than twenty plays under her belt. Another has been involved in theatre for six years. How I got to find out these things is by asking them. I have found that I have been curious about other peoples’ experience in acting. And through asking them about their experiences, they have asked me about mine, because they’re good at having conversations. And so I’ve had to answer that question more than a couple of times now, and I still struggle with my own story. In this post, I shall write my own story with theatre and the stage, so that my own version of my own story is clearer to me.

I don’t remember exactly how, but when I was in Form Five I found myself involved with some older people who had experience in Kelab Kebudayaan. They were Form Sixers who were from a different school. I think they were the ones who got an acting coach to come to our school and conduct acting classes. This was my starting point. I struggle to remember what my thoughts were at the time, but I do remember being enthusiastic about it. I also remember there being very few people who shared my enthusiasm. If I remember correctly, the training sessions were held weekly, and we started with nine people, and as the weeks went by, nine turned to seven. Seven turned to six. Six turned to four. I guess people didn’t see the point of it all. After about a month or two, the coach stopped coming, and understandably so because there were just too few people who were interested.

I was partly to blame for that as well. I remember training sessions were from 4pm to 6pm, but I would bail halfway because rugby training started at 5pm. At the time, rugby was definitely more of a priority for me. I had people who depended on me, and as a senior who was also the coach’s son who was also the team captain, I held a lot of responsibility in that team, so I gladly went. But of course that meant that the few became fewer. And I could only imagine how not-fun it was for only two or three people to be around for theatre training. I wouldn’t blame any outside coach seeing it as a lost-cause to drive all the way to a school that apparently doesn’t care.

I continued about my life after that without thinking about theatre or acting all that much at all. Until a couple of years later, when I was in teacher training. A lecturer of mine wanted to stage a play and asked for people who were interested to audition. I knew that I liked being on stage from all the English Club and literature activities that we consistently had during our foundations, so I was excited to have a go at it. I was pleased to find out a couple of weeks later that I got cast as one of the male roles in the play. I played the older brother of the lead character, and I loved it.

Through getting ready for that production, we were exposed to acting training and workshops to help us put on the play successfully. By the end of the experience, I had fallen in love with theatre. My lecturer was very supportive and coached us all very well. She made us believe that we could do it, and defended us against some criticism thrown our way. I’m very thankful to her for presenting me with the opportunity to explore that realm. 

That was my first experience staging a play. I wanted to immediately start working on another play after that. I had one more year before heading off to Macquarie University. There were whispers of there being a musical theatre in the works. I even went for an audition for it. But it wasn’t meant to be. The play fell through, everyone got busy with other things and I didn’t pursue it outside of campus either. I started having thoughts of participating in Macquarie’s theatre club when I got there.

But when I got there, I got scared. I passed by the theatre everyday to and from class. But I never went in. I never inquired. I never put in a serious effort to try out for anything. I didn’t even go to any staging of anything. I got scared, and I stayed in my comfort zone. I hung around people who didn’t want to do theatre. I didn’t seek out any opportunities to allow me to find out more things about theatre. I just stayed away, because I was scared of being the only Malaysian there. Of being around strangers, first language users, people who were probably already friends with one another. I didn’t want to put myself through to awkwardness of being the “new guy” who was also a foreigner. For two years, I was scared.

I came back to Malaysia and spent my final year of teacher training being busy with what final year students are busy with, and by this time, I had been out of theatre for so long that I didn’t spend any time thinking about it at all. I still found myself going to the Penang Performing Arts Centre a couple of times to watch some shows, but overall I didn’t make the time to be a performer at all.

My next opportunity came at the end of my second year as a full-time teacher. A whatsapp group that I was a part of posted a call to audition, and I jumped at it. I went for the audition and got the role. Rehearsals were weekly for three months, and we were getting paid for it as well, so that was good. However, by April I had to end my involvement with the production without ever staging the play because I needed my weekends back, as well as I didn’t feel comfortable with the script. Not because it was against my morals or anything like that, but more like I felt like I didn’t fit in the role at all and it wasn’t a story that I felt very passionate about telling.

After that, I remained out of theatre until this AMUK play came about. I found out about it through an call for actors to audition on twitter, I went to audition and am now part of the cast. If this play gets staged, it will be my first time acting on stage since the first time I did  it in 2009. Eight years separate the two experiences. That’s a lot. Too much. I hope the next experiences will come at a much higher frequency. And I’ll work towards making that a reality.

Here’s to theatre and experience.

When I Do My Thinking

So this week has been a real busy one, and I’m not begrudging it. The main reason for this busy-ness is the theatre rehearsals that I have been attending every night of the week. I enjoy rehearsing, but it takes up the whole of my night. I end up arriving home late and tired, so I’d just end up going to bed without having done any writing. I wake up in the morning both wanting so much to fall back asleep while also having to prepare for school in the afternoon. This is me giving excuses as to why I haven’t been writing on the blog as of late. Bad Anwar, bad.

Yesterday, during rehearsals, a producer asked me what I look like when I think. The only answer I could give at the time was “I do most of my thinking in the shower”. And this morning, while I was in the shower, I thought about that answer. I asked myself whether that answer was actually true. And to a certain extent, I think it is. But the kinds of thoughts I have in the shower tend to stay there. I am aware that I am thinking, but I am unaware of what I have been thinking about by the time I get out of the shower. I never really figure stuff out. I just sit there and marinate with random thoughts for as long as droplets of water are hitting my body.

The producer also asked me what I looked like if I were thinking on the sofa (because in the play, I play a character who is siting on a sofa, and he’s supposed to be thinking). So I answered truthfully (?) that I don’t think on the sofa. I watch Netflix on the sofa. And so he asked me to act that out. And it was a fun rehearsal session where we got to explore some things. But then I still wanted to know when I did my thinking, if it wasn’t in the shower. And I wanted to know when I figured stuff out, because it’s rarely done in the shower.

The answer that I arrive at is when I’m writing. Before and while I write, I think. I try to form a cohesive thought, and convey that cohesion (or lack thereof) in the writing. I ask myself, “okay so what am I thinking? What happened that made me think about that? What does this and that mean? Why do I think that? Am I wrong in thinking this? What makes me think that I’m right? Is this or that a problem? If it is, how do I solve it?” and so on and so forth, until I think I have nothing to write anymore about that thought, or at least until I’m too tired to continue typing anything else.

Besides that, I also form thoughts and opinions while having conversations. I find that when I’m trying to hold a healthy back and forth with another person, I tend to examine what I say. I form my sentences in my head and do what I can to make sure they make sense before vocalising them. I self-correct and self-doubt almost everything that comes out of my mouth, so that means thinking is happening. I also like it when people ask me questions. In forming my answers, I think about stuff and get stuff figured out before or while throwing my thoughts out there. Another thing I like about conversations is that I can hear a different (and probably better-informed) perspective to my thoughts so that I can build a more informed understanding of myself and the world around me.

I notice that I like it when I have to materialise my thoughts. That way, I can look at them, listen to them, stare at them, examine them outside of myself and be in a better position to be critical of them. That’s why I make an effort to write my thoughts. That’s why I like it when in-depth, thoughtful conversations happen to me. Because then I get to learn about myself, examine myself and possibly, ideally bring myself to a better perspective of myself and the thoughts I hold.


Here’s to writing and conversations.

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.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Losing People

So earlier today I received word that my father's former headmaster passed away. Some would probably wonder why that would be a thing, but in my family it is. This late headmaster was like a father to my father. We (the kids) were familiar with him because he liked to be at the school even after retiring. He'd come around the house and chat it up with my father every so often and my father would always welcome him. We were too young to pay any attention because we had playing on our minds at all times.

But as I grew older, I understood that this man meant a lot to my father. My father would tell us that when we were smaller, the man would watch over us and make sure that nothing bad happened to us. He took care of my brother and me when we got circumcised. He even drove us to and from the clinic. He took good care of the rugby team, and would even go to the extent of staying with an injured player at the hospital overnight.

My father had more experiences with him, of course, because he knew the headmaster since he was a teenager. Now that my father has four sons, two of which are full-time working adults, the headmaster has passed away. I can only imagine the memories that my father must be going through in his own mind. The headmaster was family to us, to my father in particular.

It's tough negotiating these feelings. I'm sure my father feels deeply saddened by his loss. And as a person who loves my father very much, I am saddened by the fact that my father is sad. But my father is my father and he doesn't cry in front of us (or at least he tries not to). My father tries his best to be as composed as he can appear in front of us. He is the source of wisdom for us. He has to be. It's his self-assigned duty. And even though a loss this bad would leave him devastated and confused, it clashes with the image of "knowing and composed father" that he's spent years in developing for himself.

So even though I want to be there for him, I feel like it's not my position to be the shoulder that he cries on. My mother's there to fill that role, and I'm glad that she is.

After typing this, I realise that I don't have to keep to these pre-assigned roles that have been established. If I reach out out of love, I don't think it would be denied. But I don't know. I don't know what to do, how to navigate these feelings and these sorts of situations. All I can do is write them down so that I can try to figure it out for myself and cry lots and lots while writing.

And at this point I realise that all of these reactions that I'm saying my father has are assumptions on my behalf. I'm assuming what my father would feel based on how I would probably react if the same would happen to me. I don't actually know how he's reacted to the news, because I haven't asked. I am too afraid to, I suppose. I guess I have projected my own emotions unto my father and that's unfair of me to do. I apologise.

Here's to shoulders to cry on.