Wednesday, May 16, 2018

My 9 May Experience

So it's been an interesting few weeks, with Pakatan Harapan winning, Najib resigning, the 1MDB papers being released, and Anwar Ibrahim being released from prison. Overall, there is this sense of optimism in the New Malaysian air. Everyone seems to be swept away by this feeling of euphoria, from achieving something most thought was impossible. It's a good time to be Malaysian, that's for sure.

All of this would not have happened if people didn't go out to vote the way they did on the 9th of May 2018. I had the privilege of helping people vote by being a Petugas Pilihan Raya (Election Officer), in the capacity of Pemandu Arah Pusat Mengundi (PAPM), or Voting Centre Guide (?). What the PAPM are tasked with is to facilitate people in their manoeuvring of the place where they were to vote. My Voting Centre was a school (the school where I was last a teacher), and in that school were four Streams or Saluran. Which Saluran you were supposed to be a part of depended on when you were born, with the oldest voters being in Saluran 1, and the youngest in Saluran 4. The PAPM are the people who helped voters get to their designated Saluran, and help those less able to walk on their own to provide wheelchairs if needed and be the facilitators of their movements throughout the voting process.

In this post, I'll write about my experience being a part of this historic moment as a PAPM.

Honestly, I didn't choose to be an Election Officer. My school picked me, for whatever reason they did, and I went along with it. I went to the first briefing in November of 2017, I think it was. It was held at the city hall, and almost all the Election Officers of the area were in attendance. We listened to the Powerpoint presentation the Suruhanjaya Pilihan Raya people had to give us, and we were informed of what our responsibilities were. We were also given a file with the slides as well as a book with all the relevant material pertaining to being an Election Officer.

They were helpful things to have, and if I'd bothered to read through the material, I'm sure I would be a lot more knowledgeable about the electoral process than I am. Alas, I was me, and at the time I wasn't too stoked about the process. I was pessimistic, and thought it wasn't going to change much. Thank goodness I was wrong.

We didn't get any updates about the elections until they were announced sometime in April. By this time, I had already resigned as a teacher, so I went to school to get clarification as to my status as an Election Officer. Was I still one? If I were, what was I supposed to do?

The nice people at the school told me that I was still an Election Officer, and that any citizen could be one, regardless of job status. I was to report to the Ketua Pusat Mengundi, the Head of the Voting Centre, who was a teacher. I also had to hand in a passport sized photo to the school clerk to make this thing:

The above thing is called a Pas Pusat Mengundi (Voting Centre Pass), and only people with these passes were allowed to be in the Voting Centres, besides the voters themselves, of course. Anyone who wasn't voting there or did not have a pass were not allowed to be in the Voting Centre. This made sense because if people who had no business being there were there, it might cast doubt on the voting process, as those who had no business being there might be up to something, something that might tamper with the election results.

A day before the elections, we were summoned to the Voting Centre to set up the place. We went to the district's vote-counting centre and retrieved the things we needed to set up our individual Voting Centres. 

As you can see, there were a lot of people there. My Voting Centre brought 15 people to check and carry the stuff back to our Voting Centres, and there were quite a few Voting Centres around the area. What we had to do was to make sure everything that was supposed to be there was there, and if they weren't, to claim it from the SPR Officers who were there to facilitate. Once everything was accounted for, then the Ketua Saluran would have to report to the SPR Officers and get the blank voting ballots and indelible ink.

Since I was a PAPM and was only there to carry a wheelchair, some umbrellas, some posters, some banners and other things, I didn't have much to do there. I was mostly just waiting around, watching people do their thing, and try to help when I could.

Each Election Officer got a t-shirt to wear on the day (ours were all sized XL and bigger), and some even got caps to wear. These were not obligatory apparel for the Officers, but it did help us look the part. I'd like to imagine that people who saw me there wearing the shirt on election day had no doubt about what I was doing standing there at the Voting Centre, telling people where to go.

After that whole process, we carried the stuff back to our Voting Centre and set up the stations. I helped with setting up the registration table as well as putting up the banners that informed people of what the stations were. Others set up the actual voting rooms and made sure that directions were available for people to follow to their designated Saluran.

On the voting day itself, we gathered at the Voting Centre at 6.30am, had breakfast and set up the places even more. We put fans where it was most helpful, set up the laptops for registration purposes, put up tapes to make sure the passage from the registration table to the voting rooms were clear, made sure everything was as ready as it could be to receive voters.

At 8.00am we opened the gate for voters. voters showed up as early as 7.15am. They really wanted to get in early and have it done to enjoy the rest of the day. It was a good move on their part, in my opinion, since people started coming in big numbers as the day went by. The peak time people were lining up was at about 9.30am-10.00am. The lines were really long and people had to wait in line for up to three hours just to vote. 

As a PAPM, I did my best to manage to traffic. I pointed people in the right direction, and listened to people when they expressed that the lines were too long.  Saluran 2 was particularly long. It was a Saluran for ageing people. Not particularly old like 80, but definitely on their way. I felt sorry for them having to stand around for such long amounts of time, so I made sure that they would only line up in the shaded parts of the school. I also carried benches from the school canteen and arranged them along the line so that the voters could sit down while waiting in line if they wanted to. I did the same for Saluran 1 as well. Their line wasn't as long as Saluran 2, but they definitely had to wait a lot longer than I would want an 80-year-old to wait. People in wheelchairs started coming in as well, so I was tasked to help them move through the voting rooms.

I didn't sit down for hours doing all this. The traffic slowed down a little bit as mid-day came. I went to have lunch and got to sit down for a little while while others took my place in giving people directions, pointing out which Saluran was where and helping people move around.

I resumed my duties until the end of the day, and by 4.00pm my feet were screaming into my brain to retire. Fortunately for me, the final hour of the voting day did not see so many voters coming in anymore. I could sit for longer periods of time. 

When 5.00pm finally came, we packed up, carried all the benches back to the canteen, cut off all the tape, took down the banners and posters, and called it a day. I went back home and napped.

While I was working as a PAPM, I could feel the energy in the air, an energy of change. People were out to prove a point, the point being that the people had had enough and wanted to take what little power they had into their own hands to turn this country around. A couple of times I was holding back my tears just thinking about if the Federal Government actually did change, and the changes that would come with it. 

No more culture of fear, no more getting away with theft of public funds, no more sucking up to those in power only to benefit yourself, more accountability, more transparency, more freedom of expression. These were/are my ideals, and even though I wasn't very sure that it would be a reality, I liked the thought of it so much that it moved me.

I stayed up until 4.00am that night. They still wouldn't announce it, but the Astro Awani screen did say PH=113, and that was enough for me. With that I went to bed. I woke up to a New Malaysia, and it has been an amazing ride so far. Here's to a better Malaysia for all of us.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Thoughts On Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino

So yesterday, the Arctic Monkeys released their latest album called Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino. People who have been reading this blog since the very beginning would know that I am a huge Arctic Monkeys fan. So much so that I even named the blog after their first album. In this post, I shall share my thoughts about their latest studio release after listening to it on loop for the past 30 hours.

We first received word about the album when the Monkeys released promotional material concerning the album about a month and a half before the album dropped. When I found out that it was going to be named Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, I got excited. I liked the fact that it was a name of a place, which hinted that the album might well be a concept album (and I like me some concept albums). I thought that it would be a collection of songs telling stories about the goings on in this mysterious hotel, and they pretty much delivered on that count, just not in the way that I had expected them to, as I’ll discuss later in this post.

But before that, I’d also like to recount that a few recordings from a closed live-show pre-album-launch got on Youtube and I checked them out to see what I might be able to expect from the album. I only listened to them once, and the vibe I got was that it was a movement towards slower tunes, closer to the ones presented on Turner’s side-project The Last Shadow Puppets’ latest studio release. I was also reminded of Cornerstone, for some reason, and that excited me since Cornerstone was one of my very favourite Monkeys songs. 

After my first listen in my car on the way back to Selangor from Johor, I thought to myself, “This will be the most difficult Arctic Monkeys album to listen to yet.” I didn’t get it. I thought Turner had traded in his ability to write catchy melodies with more drab and matter-of-fact tones. No particular lines jumped up at me either. Nothing quite as memorable as “He’s struggling the notion that it’s life, not film,” or “I’m sure that you’re still breaking hearts with the efficiency that only youth can harness.” The sounds weren’t urgent, drums were as minimal as can be, guitars as sparse as it has ever been on any Arctic Monkeys record, with only the bass doing some interesting things every now and again. I sighed and pressed the bridge of my nose by the end of the album.

They had certainly delivered in one trademark Arctic Monkeys department, which was making sure that no two albums sounded the same. This was certainly one of the main appeals to the band, in my opinion, and part of why I like the band so much. I always liked that they always wanted to grow and do different things with every full-length release. But after the first listen to Tranquility Base, I was now asking, “Had they changed to something I now disliked?”

As with most albums I listen to, I cannot trust my first listens of albums all that much. There have been plenty of albums in the past that I grew to love over time (Kendrick Lamar’s GKMC took me three-months to properly “get” and now it’s one of my very favourite albums of all time). So I persisted. I knew there was something I didn’t “get” yet about the album. And I sought to find out what that was.

I was surprised to learn that I started enjoying some of the songs in Tranquility as soon as I played it the second time. I found myself nodding my head to Star Treatment and swinging my hips to Four Out Of Five during my bathroom break at the Machap RnR. This was encouraging. I still didn’t quite get anything about the album at all, but I was more and more acclimatising to the sounds presented on the album and found them to be enjoyable, if on the slower side of my preferences.

When I got back home, I listened to an interview Alex did with BBC Radio 1 about the album and what they were trying to do on it. The interviewer, Annie Mac asked interesting questions and I gained a better insight into what the album was about. For example, I found out that the Hotel was on the moon (whaaa??) and how social media tied into the album.

On my next listen, I did what I only do with albums from artists I care about: I listened to the whole album while having the lyrics in front of me. It proved to be a great move for me in improving my enjoyment of the album by many folds. I now see that the whole album is set on the moon, with markers such as “So when you gaze at planet Earth from outer space, does it wipe that stupid look off of your face?” in American Sports, and “Cute new places keep popping up around Clavius,” in Four Out Of Five, with Clavius being one of the largest craters on the moon. Indeed, the title of the album itself should have alerted me to this fact, since Tranquility Base is the site on the moon where Armstrong landed back in 1969. I was just ignorant to this fact before looking at the Genius page.

Besides being on the moon, another aspect that I admire about the album now is its critique of our infatuation with technology and social media and how Alex talks about how it affects people’s lives on the moon. “Still got pictures of friends on the wall, I suppose we aren’t really friends anymore. Maybe I shouldn’t ever have called that thing friendly at all,” Alex muses on The Ultracheese. He even seems angry in She Looks Like Fun where he says “There ain’t no limit to the length of the dickheads we can be.” 

In the interview I talked about earlier, Alex said that he somehow felt that writing Tranquility Base felt like writing the first album, only he couldn’t quite put his finger on how they were similar. If I had to hazard a guess, I would submit that in both albums he was singing through the eyes of a persona who is in a singular, specific place. In Whatever You Say I Am, the persona is talking about his thoughts and the goings-on around Sheffield, whereas in Tranquility Base, the persona is speaking about this imaginary world on the moon with a taqueria on the roof. This is different from the other albums, where there wasn’t quite the specificity of location consistent throughout the individual albums. 

I’ll end by concluding that Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is Arctic Monkeys’ most ambitious album to date. It is a concept album in the sense that the whole album is set in a specific place and tells stories relevant to the place. It’s not quite as cinematic as Kendrick’s GKMC, nor does it (in my opinion) pull off the no-guitars rule as well as Mountain Goats’ Goths. It’s not the easiest of listens, and it doesn’t have a standout “hit single” in the discography, so I think this will be their least popular album so far.

But I’m still proud of the boys for being brave in their musical choices. They’ve never failed to reinvent themselves with each album, and they’ve continued to do that with this one. Even though I had every reason to expect them to change up their sound, I never thought it would be as drastic and radical. I like that they can still surprise long time listeners such as myself. I am going to continue listening to this album for a while, and while it may not be in my top 4 Arctic Monkeys’ favourite albums, I still cherish it and continue to be a fan.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Theatre and Resignation

In the immortal words of Staind’s 2001 hit single, it’s been a while.

A lot has happened since the last entry, but I guess the biggest news occupying my mind is that I have resigned from teaching. As of the first of April 2018, I ceased being a national primary school English teacher after 4 years of assuming the job.

Consistent readers of this inconsistent blog would know that it’s been a long time coming. I’ve expressed my thoughts about being a teacher multiple times on this blog, so I think it would come as no surprise for anyone who knows the history of my feelings about it. Currently, it just feels like I’m on a holiday, like a semester break, as if I’ll be returning to school in a week’s time. But I know that’s not going to happen, and I don’t know how I feel about that.

My immediate concern now is how to manage my time so that I don’t just waste away at home doing nothing but sleep and refresh my Twitter feed all day long. I have three big life-long dreams, and I should draw up a roadmap illustrating exactly how I’m going to be able to reach those dreams, setting a trajectory for myself that is built on habits and practices that contribute towards my getting closer to what I want. It won’t be easy, and I’m pretty sure 15 consecutive daily naps isn’t going to help a whole bunch.

A thing my father told me a couple of nights ago struck true: build a skill. I need to be able to do something, and do it well in order to survive, and that’s true about the world we live in. I spent 5 and half years training to do teaching, but now that I’ve found that that’s not where my heart is, I have to spend time training to do something else, so that I can be great at it, so that people will pay me to do those things. I already know what I want those things to be (writing, acting and playing music). I just have to work hard to be better at doing those things. I don’t think I’m particularly bad at those things. I just need to be excellent at them, and excellence takes time and hard work. If anybody needs an okay writer, actor or songwriter, hit me up.

Besides that, I have also been continuing along my path in theatre directing. To anyone who cared that I have not been more consistent in writing about it, I apologise. The combination of school, band practice and theatre practice is not conducive to me putting writing on the blog as a priority. 

I have directed my first piece of theatre in my life. It was a monologue in a show with six monologues, with each monologue being a piece of a bigger story. We received the script two weeks before the show and worked with our assigned actors throughout that time. I got two actors who would rotate the role between them throughout the five-day run of the show. The role was Syakir, who is the main antagonist of the story.

At first I got the actors named Own and Zikri, but then after two practice sessions, Zikri had to pull-out of the show because of his work commitments. He was replaced by Alang and together Own and Alang, I tried my best to breathe life into Syakir the character. It helped that Own and Alang were amazing actors themselves, so there were some instances that I didn’t even feel like I was directing, since the choices they were making and the performances they were giving were so great. When I did step in to direct their creativities and energies, they were receptive, listened well and executed the directions so well, I was in awe most of the time.

Last week we staged it, and they never disappointed with their performances. The whole point of the character was to make the audience feel uncomfortable and dislike the character Syakir, and I think by the end of each night, they achieved that goal. Own in particular was even more amazing on stage than during practice, even when he set such a high bar during practice already. Alang was amazing from the very start, and to think that he only had four days to work on the monologue to get to where he was during the staging astounds me. Both of them have shown me that I have so much more to improve on as an actor. I thank them for working with me and for being such great collaborators.

The third thing would be that the band I'm a part of, Pasca Sini has been busy organising and playing shows to promote our songs. We played an EP launch show at Impero Studio, Empire Damansara which was super fun. It was also the show that kicked off our first leg of our Everything Looks Cooler Tour. Last weekend we went to Alor Setar to play our second show of the tour. The third and final destination of the first leg of the tour shall be in Pahang, but I won't be able to play in that one because I'll be going to Indonesia for a family trip. For more information about Pasca Sini, you can go to Pasca Sini's instagram @pascasini. 

And that's about it for a small life-update post. I hope with my resignation, I will have more time to spend doing things I like, building myself up to become the person I want to be, undertaking the vocations I was to pursue and write on this blog more. But I am weary of making any promises, so we’ll see how it goes.

Here’s to the future, and making the most of it.


Monday, February 12, 2018

Directing Workshop: Week 5

So the last class was a Sunday afternoon class, which meant that I was a hungry and sleepy person before and after the class. I forgot that I was sleepy when the class started, since we talk about listen to things I care about as a person right now. I alleviated my hunger midway through the class by excusing myself to go eat in the middle of the class. Mm, food. If I were a better manager of my own time, I would have eaten before going to the class, but I manage my time terribly, so I go eat only when the gastric kicks in.

We started off by talking about how there were conflicts and crises in stories. Conflicts were things that were in the way of our main character’s main goal. Crises are small(er) conflicts along the way that the main character may or may not engage in, but ultimately do not hinder the main character from reaching the main goal.

We were supposed to bring and present our chosen 15-minute scripts to the rest of the class, telling the class what our script’s all about, the theme explored in it, the conflict and the crisis on the pages. We spent a good forty-five minutes or so going round the group presenting our scripts to the rest of the group/

The script I have chosen is called “Malam Pertama”, written by Ridhwan Saidi. It’s about two strangers who just got married and are going through their first night together, but they speak different languages so there’s a translator there with them in their bedroom translating for them. I think the main theme explored is the awkwardness of the first night of a marriage between two strangers. Their main goals are to get to know each other better. The main conflict is the difference in language. The crisis is the translator, who is both the facilitator and also the factor that enhances the awkwardness in the bedroom.

What I’ve gathered from trying to analyse and listening to all the other analyses of 15-minute scripts is that short plays (or even short stories) don’t necessarily fit into a traditional story mould (a traditional story mould being the story has a beginning, middle and end). A short story sometimes just wants to point a thing out, such as mine wanting to point out an awkward thing by making it absurd. Some short stories can be character-centric, saying “isn’t this character interesting/weird?” by showing how the character is interesting or weird. Other scripts still can just aim to deliver an image into the audience’s mind, showing for example, a scene right after a car crash.

I guess one can mould a series of events into a beginning, middle and end, and if the script doesn’t connect the dots very well in the script, or maybe connect them in a way that doesn’t suit the director’s taste, then the director would be able to shape it into a form that more pleases them. But of course, if the initial form on the page is displeasing to the director, why did the director choose the story in the first place? Maybe they got paid? Maybe they weren’t aware what they were doing? Who knows?

We also talked about performance concepts and performance forms at the very end. Performance form being a choice from realistic, experimental, pantomime, musicals, et cetera, and performance concept being the art pieces that surround and inform the staging of the play (such as music, advertising, mood, lighting, graphics, et cetera). I don’t think there’s much to add on that.

Next week will be a week off, because of the Chinese New Year holidays, so we’ll resume classes the week after that. Until then,


Friday, February 9, 2018

Directing Workshop: Week 4

So in this latest session we started talking about how to analyse a script, from the apparent to the less-than-apparent. What is apparent on the page are things such as the title of a script, its writer, the characters in it, the stage directions, etc.

To get to the less-than-apparent stuff, Abang Wan asked us to use questions as the key to gaining access to it, mainly the 5Ws and 1H (what, where, who, when, why, how). By asking all these questions, we get to dive deeper into a script and therefore gain a better sense of what the script is trying to do and what story it's trying to tell.

Abang Wan is of the school of thought that when a script goes from the page to the stage, the director is the main story-teller (instead of the playwright), so there are certain liberties that the director is able to take in order to tell a story on a stage. However, before the director can take those liberties, they have to respect the script by analysing it as thoroughly as they can.

The director must get to know the playwright, why they wrote a certain piece, what their thoughts are, what scripts were written by the same playwright  around the same time, what the playwright's critics say about them, what their tendencies are, what they value in a story, what environment were they writing in, and so on and so forth. This is done to respect the writer and understand the core of the written story.

Once that step is done, a director can start diving into the theme of the script. What is the main thing that the script is trying to say? What are the recurring ideas in it? The director decides whether or not they want to keep the main theme. If not, then the director has to find a way to highlight different themes within the same story (not the easiest thing to do, I imagine).

The director also has to find out what questions are being raised by the script. These questions can form the main Acts in the story, as discussed in this Lessons From The Screenplay video here. I like the idea that is put forward by Michael in the video, that Acts are questions that are asked by the story and an Act beginning when the question is first asked and an Act ending when it is answered.

A director also needs to analyse the characters in the story. A director needs to understand their motivations, why they say things the way they say them, their relationships with each other, their relationships with themselves, etc. A director ideally needs to get to a point where they know the characters even better than their actors will. This is so that the roles are cast as well as they can be, and any questions that the actors might have about anything relating to their characters can be answered by the director without wasting much of either's time.

After rereading my notes, I've noticed that in the four weeks we've been going for this workshop, there's not a whole lot about the elements of story in our discussions. We don't talk much about what a story consists of, story structure, what makes for a good story, and similar questions geared towards servicing story. Given that my understanding of the director's job as being the main story-teller, I find this lack of story-related questions a bit peculiar.

But at the very end of my notes for this week, I wrote "find out matlamat utama kita punya watak utama, dana apa yang menghalang dia daripada matlamatnya," and that's like the first thing about what makes most stories, stories: a character wanting a thing, but is kept from the thing by an obstacle or obstacles. So that's comforting. I hope more story-centric discussions happen in the coming classes. I'll also have to do my part by asking story-related questions, if those discussions are going to manifest themselves.


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Directing Workshop: Week 3

So I didn’t go to the workshop last week because my brother got engaged, so I was there to be a part of that important moment of his life. I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t able to attend. Fortunately for us, the first thing that was discussed during this third session was what was done the previous week. 

The group said last week they continued the activity that was done in the first week, which was the draw/explain activity thing. Abang Wan also started talking about the roles of the director, but didn’t elaborate too much on it (since I’m guessing they ran out of time?).

This week, Abang Wan continued with his explanation of what the roles of the director include, and focussed on “choosing the script”. He said the director has  few things to consider before choosing a script, even if they liked it. Things such as whether or not the director is equipped in terms of knowledge, time and money to manifest the script on stage are important to consider.

One person asked if it was okay that a director chose a script that had already been staged and staged it exactly the same way (albeit with different actors) as its predecessor. Abang Wan didn’t like the idea, but it wasn’t wrong per se. Then we got into a discussion into whether or not it was okay.

I posited that it would be as if a person painted a painting that had already been painted before, in exactly the same way that it had been painted. It wouldn’t be wrong, per se to do that, but people would definitely put the value of the original higher than the value of the copy. It would be wrong, however, if the painter copy tried to pass it on as an original work. That’s a person taking credit where credit is not due, a corrupt practice indeed. The person making the copy needs to be transparent and honest about their work and clarify that it is indeed a copy and accept the feedback for what it is.

One person put forward that because a previous work had already been staged, there’s no reason to do it again the exact same way it was done in the past. They said that even movie remakes put their own spin on the story being told, because there’s not much point in telling the same story twice in the exact same way.

I suggested that because of the temporary nature of theatre performances, there might be a solid reason for a story to be restaged in the same way. Because what is performed on the stage begins and ends with the staging within that hour or two, and it’s not recorded on film or tv, then staging it again could be bringing the story to new, younger audiences. 

A play that I watched and loved when I was twelve might not continue to be told by the time I turn 28, and so out of love towards to play and what it had done to me, I would probably want to retell the story so that new twelve year olds might be able to watch and experience it in as close a way as I had all those years ago. In that regard, re-staging a play seems well-justified. But again, the onus is on the director to make it clear that it is a re-staging of an original work done by such and such so as to be transparent about the work of art.

That was a nice little discussion we had near the end of the session. Next week we are expected to bring along 15-20 minute scripts to the session. What we’ll do with them, I don’t quite know yet. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Until then, cheers.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Get To Know Me Again (21-30)

Here’s the third and final part of the Get To Know Me thingy where I answer questions 21-30. For answers to questions 11-20, click here. For answers to questions 1-10, click here.


21. I think every time the Auditor General of Malaysia publishes their report for the year, I get this overwhelming sense of “man, banyaknya duit yang dibazirkan begitu sahaja.” The marked up costs that the Government spends on things is borderline criminal, and I don’t know who should be taking responsibility for all that waste. 

Also, when we came back to Malaysia from Sydney, we received the receipt for our tickets, and we found out that each economy class ticket cost around RM12,000. That was outrageous to us. We put in a few inquiries as to why it cost so much. Never got an answer.

22. That a person may bear the sins made by another person.

23. Theatre practice has always been a nice place to meet new people, for me. Comedy shows may also turn out the same, if somebody introduces me to new people. I find people in theatre and comedy pleasant and easy to have fun with.

24. My favourite food would be nasi dagang. What I crave changes from time to time. I just ate a nasi lemak just now, so I’m craving nothing in particular. I think the thing I’ve had to stop myself from eating too often is KFC. Man that stuff’s so unhealthy, but so goooooooood.

25. I don’t re-watch tv shows, unless they’re reruns and nothing else is on. Ever since I’ve depended solely on Netflix for my shows, I haven’t returned to any other show except Breaking Bad and Rick & Morty.

26. This is a question I wish my friends would answer instead of me. But if I had to say something, probably bad puns, slow speech speed and soft-spokenness.

27. If I had to name a name, Qayyum would probably be it, even though I think he would disagree. But I think all of my friends are unlike me. Qayyum included.

28. The most traumatising moment of my life happened when I was studying in Sydney. A person made a fake Grindr account (Grindr is like Tinder, but specially for gay people) using my pictures that they took off of Facebook and details that they knew about me, including my phone number and home address. I received no less than ten strangers’ text a day ranging from “hi” to “sex?” for about three days. On the third day, one person even came to my house and wanted to come in. I turned him away, and stayed scared for the rest of the week. I changed my phone number shortly afterwards. I reported the account and got it shut down after a while. I even went to the police to see what I could do about it, to which I got an encouraging “there’s nothing we can do about it,” from the people in uniforms. It speaks to my privilege that this was the worst I got it. Many people have it way worse, and I empathise with them.

29. I learned this from a Jeffrey Archer book: be on time. If you can’t be on time, be early.

30. I’ll probably never get married again. Once is enough to last me a lifetime.


That was nice. I got to write. Yay!

I hope it wasn’t too boring for you, dear reader.


Get To Know Me Again (11-20)

Here are my answers to questions 11-20. Click here to read questions 1-10.


11. In most situations where it’s a social gathering, but I don’t know anyone there, or more realistically, the person I do know is busy talking to someone else or doing some other important thing. Like when it’s a kenduri and the only person I know is the groom/bride. So then I’d be like, “eat, don’t make eye contact with anyone, eat, don’t make eye contact with anyone, oh no I made eye contact with someone, smile, nod, continue eating, don’t make that mistake again.”

Equally as out of place for me is when everyone else there has work to do but not me. No one gave me a task to do, so I’d just be there looking at people being busy. That’s a weird spot to be in. I just wish somebody would give me something to do so that I don’t stand out as this lazy person who’s only shaking his leg and checking his phone every five seconds. I find myself in this situation a lot when it’s raya korban season and all the Men would be cutting up the cow and I’d be there without a knife, awkwardly just watching all these Manly Men go to work. Sometimes a considerate Aunty would give me something to do, and I’m always thankful for that.

12. I think I’m pretty unapologetic about what I like, in terms of art. But sejak kebelakangan ni there have been revelations about artists doing terrible things, and those are the ones I find tougher to admit to liking. Some examples would be Louis CK and Kevin Spacey. They have done terrible things, and I hope they never do those things again, but I can’t say that I’m no longer a fan of their past works.

13. Every time I see people littering, I get really angry inside. Another thing that can get me on a rant is ignorant people who talk about a thing as if they were the leading authority about it. Oh man do I dislike that.

14. I don’t know that I “belong” in any fandom per se, but I am a fan of certain things that a lot of other people are also a fan of (such as the Arctic Monkeys, Rick & Morty and Dynamic Banter). I guess for the former two, it’s that some people tend to think that just because they are a fan of that certain thing, it makes them better than other people who aren’t fans of that thing. I make Dynamic Banter the exception in this example because I’m pretty confident that people who are fans of that podcast are aware about how weird their taste in podcasts is, so they keep it to themselves and to each other most of the times. But I can’t say that I have met another living breathing fan of the podcast ever, so I don’t really know. This is just based on feel alone.

15. I sleep, most of the times. If that doesn’t work, I watch some stuff on Netflix. If that doesn’t work, I go meet up with friends.

16. I think it would be the day when I spent the whole day with my wife indoors watching Stranger Things 2. That was a nice day. But of course, too much of a good thing will turn into a bad thing (too much water, you drown. Too much food, you die. Etc), so any good day will turn into a nightmare jugak if I have to relive it everyday (but you know this).

17. Almost immediately, but I am almost immediately ready to be proven wrong as well. I don’t think I can refrain from judging people immediately, because I think that’s just how I am wired. But I try to keep my judgements to myself at all times, unless people ask me about them. If it’s negative, I’d be reluctant to answer.

18. Nasi lemak, a laptop, a guitar and a bed.

19. Nothing quite jumps out to me as the most satisfying thing I’ve done, but I have done things that I’ve found satisfying. Every time I finish a writing project is a satisfying feeling. A lot of times when I write a song to completion, it is satisfying. When I’ve successfully staged a play, it is satisfying. A good game of rugby is satisfying as well.

20. Snakes. Or hamsters. Imagine whacking a piƱata as hard as you can, only to find hamsters in it. You just killed a whole bunch of hamsters. 

Or bombs that explode when you hit them. 

Or your bills for the month. 

Or a collection of your Facebook statuses from 2009.


The next post shall be the answers to questions 21-30 (click here to read 21-30).


Get To Know Me Again (1-10)

So I saw that people were answering questions from this picture thingy on the twitters and I wanted to do it too, but as some might know, I don't like the concept of likes in return for effort, so I'll just answer all the questions here in this post because I WANT TO.

1. Basically it's just my Youtube name twitterified. Why that became my Youtube username was because apparently AnwarHadi was taken, and I didn't like the idea of numbers in a username, so I got around that by using "ini".

2. A lot of people have inspired me throughout my life. But I guess the question is in present tense, so the people that I can think of who inspire me right now include Mike Falzone, Scott Aukerman, Haruki Murakami, Joe Swanberg, as well as John and Hank Green.

Mike Falzone is a person who makes videos on Youtube, is a stand-up comedian in LA, and runs two of my favourite podcasts (Welcome To Our Podcast and Dynamic Banter). He's funny, honest and an unrelentingly kind person. I don't know how he does it, but he keeps making videos and podcasts that are not only entertaining, but provides perspective well beyond his years. I believe he thinks deeply about life around him and the relationships he has with people and is able to deliver advice in the most admiral way possible, with a good dose of humour and reality.

Scott Aukerman is a comedian, podcast host, tv show host and tv producer. He hosts my favourite podcast of all time: Comedy Bang Bang! Through listening to him, I have been able to be more and more comfortable with my own sense of humour. He has shown me what it means to be unashamedly yourself and honest with what I think is funny and rolling with it, not apologising to anyone about what weird things I find funny (this mostly relates to word-association stuff). He's loads of fun and is incredibly competent at keeping a conversation going while always finding a way to throw in as many stupid jokes he can fit into it. 

Haruki Murakami is an author. Every time I read any of his writing, I come away rejuvenated with a desire to write. I don't know what it is about his way with words, but it allows me to tap into my own creativity and makes me go "there is no right way to write, so just write."

I mainly know Joe Swanberg from his work on Netflix's original series "Easy". I love the series, and I want to be able to write and direct stories like that one day in the future, telling the stories of my people in what feels like an honest, heartfelt and sincere way.

John and Hank Green are among other things, people who make videos on Youtube, writers, entrepreneurs, and podcast hosts. I mostly spend time with them through their podcast "Dear Hank and John" (or as John likes to think of it, Dear John and Hank). It's a comedy podcast about death where I get my dose of dubious advice as well as the latest news from Mars and AFC Wimbledon. I love how wise, funny and honest they are on the podcast, and I can only hope to be able to be that way in a decade's time.

3. I do more than I don't. I'd rather people have a positive view of me than a negative one, and that sort of dictates the way I treat other people, to a certain extent. But I am also a fan of living my truth, and if I am unhappy about certain things from certain people, I let it be known when it is asked of me. I try my best not to be hurtful, but sometimes my personal weaknesses (such as my inability to articulate my feelings, my bad choice of words, my carelessness, etc.) end up hurting people I'd rather not hurt. 

4. Right now, starting my career as a non-teacher.

5. Be kind to people.

6. I have three: writer, actor, musician. If I can be all three at the same time, that would be my dream job.

7. Maybe Holden Caulfield from Catcher In The Rye, but as a middle-aged adult. I'd like to know how he views the world now, how he tries to help (or not help), and just have a nice long conversation with him over coffee or tea.

8. My earliest ambition that I can remember was to be a pilot. I loved it whenever planes passed overhead (which kid doesn't, kan?),  and I would stare at them until they got out of sight. I was fortunate enough as well to be able to go on a few plane rides as a kid, and I loved the experience. I kept that as my answer to "what is your ambition?" until I was 15.

9. I don't really identify as any specific cartoon characters right now, but maybe Bojack Horseman would be the closest one I can relate to (without the being rich and famous part, of course).

10. There are plenty on my list of skills-to-work-on, but if I had to choose one, it would be the ability to write 5000 words of fiction in 6 hours everyday without fail. The more realistic version of this is of course somewhere nearer 500 words a day.

I'll work on these ten questions at a time, so the next post will discuss questions 11-20 (click here to read 11-20), and the one after that would be 21-30 (click here to read 21-30).


Sunday, January 14, 2018

Directing Workshop: Week 1

So this year I decided to sign myself up for a theatre directing workshop. It's organised by the good people of Revolution Stage (Bandar Utama). It involves weekly classes that span six months, and by the end of the workshop, each participant will get a chance to direct a real play that will be open to the public. I am one of the ten people that have signed up and I hope to learn a whole bunch from this experience.

I found out about this workshop through following Revolution Stage's instagram account. They posted about it and I immediately signed myself up, since being involved in theatre is a thing I want to do more and more of. Plus, directing is something I'd like to be able to do down the line, so it makes sense for me to learn about it sooner rather than later so that I am ready if and when those opportunities arise. I am going to use this blog to journal my experience of the workshop and reflect on what I have learned so that I don't forget everything I'll be learning from this programme.

Yesterday was the first class of the six-month workshop, and I had a good experience. We introduced ourselves to each other and shared why we signed up for the workshop, and then the instructor introduced himself. His name is Khairunazwan Rodzy (I'll call him Abang Wan) and he's been in the theatre game all his undergraduate and professional life, which amounts to a couple of decades' worth of experience. He's directed everything from the smallest to the biggest of stages, and has multiple Istana Budaya play directing credits to his name. He's a low-key, chill kinda guy with a great sense of humour.

One of the first questions we had a go of answering around the circle was "What is a director? Apa itu pengarah?" We got a range of answers from "a director is a person who directs" to "a director is a leader". My answer was: a director is the main story-teller.

I listen to podcasts regularly, and one of the genres of podcasting that I've been listening to more and more these past few weeks have been interviews with screenwriters and directors. One of the main things these highly successful professionals keep going back to is story-telling and the art/craft of story-telling, so it has shaped my understanding of their jobs as being first, story-tellers. It's just that their chosen medium of story-telling is film and tv that make them directors. And that makes sense to me.

People trust the director to tell the story the best way they can, and that's why the director gets to call the shots; because of that trust other people have in them to tell the story in an effective way, by putting the camera here versus there, and getting the actor to say these things versus those things. It's all to service the story, serving the purpose of story-telling.

Directors aren't the only story-tellers on set, of course. There are the actors, whose job it is to tell the story of their characters, the art director, whose job it is to tell the story of the settings the stories take place in, et cetera. And when a script is put in front of these story-tellers, all of them read it differently, because they're different people with naturally differing points of view. If one script is put in front of ten people, then ten different ways of telling the stories come out. It's the directors job to pull all these story-tellers together and say "okay, this is the story we want to tell, and we're going to tell it like this. Everyone needs to be pointing in this same direction, to achieve this thing, this story," and a good director is able to do this well, in my opinion.

One of the activities we did that I liked demonstrated how important it is that the director is able to communicate their thoughts to their team effectively. Each of the ten participants had to draw a picture depicting a story that was written by somebody else. Then one by one, we went to the front of the class and get the other participants to draw exactly what we drew on our piece of paper just by using the spoken word. We weren't allowed to use gestures or show our picture to the rest of the class.

It was a nice activity that showed to me how important it is for the director to be able to convey both the big picture and the small picture to their team. If all a director ever talks about is one of them, then people wouldn't be able to carry out the task quite as well. It's when everyone on the team is on the same page about what big picture they're drawing and what smaller pictures they're focussing on at any one time are they able to craft what the director intended all along. Directors really have to be mad-skilled communicators to be able to do their jobs well, in my opinion.

I'm looking forward to the next class and discovering what we'll be learning in it. I'm also looking forward to bringing snacks (because a three-hour workshop does work up an appetite) to share with the rest of the class.

Here's to communicating clearly.