So 2018 has been an interesting year indeed. Not only did I manage to neglect my blog the most I have ever neglected it since its inception, I got to do so many things that I would never have expected myself to be able to do within just a year. So here I shall reflect on most of those things. I'll probably forget some things, and embellish on some others, but that is to be expected of your old boi Anwar.
January 2018 Goals Revisited
So I went back to the first blogpost of 2018 on this blog and I definitely feel like I was in such a different headspace back then than I am now. This is to be expected, of course, since one wouldn't expect to stay the same person after twelve months, but it's interesting to see what I was concerned about back then and compare them with where I am right now, and how these to moments connect to each other in interesting, fun ways.
The first thing I wanted to (fail to) do was write and record my final two book reviews on my personal Youtube channel, and wouldn't you know it, I actually didn't fail to do that. Sure, it took me a month to get it done, but I got it done, and it was fine. I think the last one where I talked about Anarkis is one of my favourite reviews to rewatch, simply because I got to act in it a leel bit more than any other book review video I made. Still doesn't change the fact that I dislike the book. I still think it's not a good book.
I also said I wanted to write a fictional zine. I finished 2017 by writing a non-fictional zine called 0307 which contained five stories from my adolescent years (one story for each year from 2003-2007, hence the title), and I guess I thought I would continue to write stories into 2018, but my gosh was I wrong. I totally failed at writing anything in terms of creative fiction this year, and that is a doo-doo on my part.
The last thing in that early-year list was that I wanted to learn more about script-writing. I did end up signing myself up for a theatre script-writing class around July (I think), but acting and directing commitments made me have to pull out of that class after three months, because I simply wasn't focusing on that class at all, not to mention my terrible attendance record of the class. I skipped more classes than I went to, so that was definitely a sign that said "yo, you should definitely do something about this", and I ended up just menarik diri from that one. Maybe I'll rejoin a version of it in the near future, but we'll see how it goes.
I also reread the last time I did this year in review thing, and I went from month to month, and I think I like that format for now, so I'm going to do that. It's a good thing that I was a lot better at putting things I was supposed to be doing in the calendar in my phone than I ever was, so that makes it easier to go back to all the stuff.
The first notable thing I did in January was sign up for and start attending Revolution Stage's First Time Director Workshop, a six-month training programme that aimed to teach amateur directors how to direct theatre. Classes were held every Saturday morning, and I even wrote down five entries in this blog talking specifically about what I learned in each of the first five classes I attended. It was a new and strange undertaking for me, but I so desperately wanted to get my foot in the door of local theatre, and I saw this class as a way of doing that. Two hundred ringgit a month was an investment I was more than willing to make in order to immerse myself more fully into theatre.
I remember the first few classes, being a stranger to pretty much all of the other students in attendance and keeping relatively quiet a lot of the time, being afraid to speak out of turn or of revealing the corny human being that I actually was deep down. I didn't exactly know what I was getting myself into, but this decision to sign up for this workshop is definitely one of my favourite decisions this year.
I was still a teacher in January, and in the middle of the month I found myself involved in bringing the school touch rugby team to a tournament nearby. To my surprise, they lasted until the last day, albeit only getting to the finals of the Bowl category (the third best category after Cup and Plate) and ultimately losing. My role was not much more than the teacher who drove the kids to the tournament, looked after their belongings when they were roaming the school they were not a part of, and occasionally telling the kids to put on their shoes because their game's coming up. I am not a good coach at all, I have found, and I have zero patience and zero drive to get these kids to play better rugby. I was just there to make sure that none of their flip flops got stolen, and in that I was successful (I think).
Also, Pasca Sini played two shows in January: the first was opening for Gurryshang at their EP Launch at IntunNation TTDI, and the second one was a show at Impero Studios, Empire Damansara. We also shot a music video for the song The Best Sides around this time. That was fun, as we got to sneak our equipment up to the rooftop of Boy (my brother)'s apartment building and record some footage before being told to leave by the guards of the building. The video's up on Youtube now, and there's also a brief shot of the aforementioned guard in the video at minute 1:59, if anyone cares to watch.
I don't know if I've ever said this on the blog, and I can't be bothered to go back and check, but I was the Setiausaha Agung PIBG of my school for a whole year since early 2017. And February 2018 was when I was to step down from that post and hand it over to a more able person (a monkey smashing a typewriter would be a step up from me as secretary, if we're being honest).
I absolutely despised my time as a Setiausaha Agung PIBG. I honestly believed that I was the worst person to have the role from the one hundred plus teachers who were teaching the school at the time, and probably the worst person in Selangor. I did not like secretarial work in the slightest, and having to go attend monthly PIBG meetings was unpleasant at best.
I was terrible at paying attention, and paid more attention to the kuih-muih and teh tarik at the back of the room than I did to what the PIBG actually discussed. All of the people in the PIBG were wonderful people doing Good Work for the children and the school, while I was the slacker there who was looking at his phone 99% of the time. Not only did I not know how to prepare a competent meeting minute, I couldn't write letters, nor keep track of important documents. Iw as terrible at keeping in touch with the YDP, NYDP, Headmaster and Treasurer, and I think I did more harm than good at the end of the day. I was terrible, and had a terrible time doing it.
I was absolutely relieved to relieve myself of those duties when the Mesyuarat Agung PIBG 2018 came and went. I don't remember who the baton got passed to, and frankly I don't really care. I'm sure anyone who got that role was automatically a million times better at it than me, by virtue of not being me.
I also found myself starting to attend meetings at Bahagian Pembangunan Kurikulum in Putrajaya in this month. I was part of a team of education practitioners that were responsible for helping make LINUS a better programme. I have zero idea why I was part of that team, since I was and continue to be an incompetent education practitioner, but the people there were cool enough and they let me eat their snacks and invited me to breakfast and all that, which was cool.
I think I started listening to "R U Talkin' REM Re: Me?" during one of my trips to these meetings. The podcast was a continuation of Scott Aukerman and Adam Scott's last music-related podcast "U Talkin' U2 To Me?", and I'd already loved the U2 one, so I knew that I was in for a great time in the REM one too.
Pasca Sini also shot and published another music video in February, this time for the song Untuk Mereka Yang Tidak Berpeluwang. We had been playing weekend touch rugby at Taman Rimba TTDI, and on one of these outings, we brought our instruments and camera equipment along to shoot the video there, so you can see people playing rugby in the background of that video pretty consistently.
March was when I started the bookmeets. So earlier this year (in January, I think?) I started talking about organising a bi-weekly book club sort of thing, where a handful of interested people could gather in real life and talk about books they've agreed to read within those two weeks. Each of those gatherings would be called a bookmeet. Attendance to each bookmeet was not compulsory, so members could pick to attend the sessions they were interested in, and not go to the ones they weren't. Each bookmeet's book would be suggested by a different member of the book club, so everyone got a turn to talk about the book they really wanted to talk about.
I wanted it to be small scale so that it would be more manageable. I limited the number of members in the book club to 15 people, and all of them had to live close to Shah Alam, since the main place we were going to meet was Shah Alam's Section 13 library called Perpustakaan Raja Tun Uda. I put out a call on social media for a person who would want to help me organise this thing, and a person by the name of Alia popped up, and she was great. She helped a tonne with making sure that things kept moving and bookmeets were happening.
Our first bookmeet was in March at the aforementioned library, and I moderated the session, choosing to discuss John Green's latest book "Turtles All The Way Down". If I remember correctly, six or seven people came, and we rented a study room in the library to hold that bookmeet. All in all, we ended up doing seven out of a planned ten bookmeets throughout the year, and it's not that bad, I guess. The project kinda just fizzled out after June, and I don't think anyone was really super disappointed by it not continuing. It was an attempt by me to get together a group of people who might be interested in the same thing (books) and allow for a safe space for these people to be excited about the same thing together at the same time. I don't regret that I attempted it, but I do wish it kinda went a little better.
But how could it have been better, Anwar? Thank you for asking. It could have been better if the book club members ended up being friends with each other. I kinda feel like for most of the group, we gathered for an hour and a half and then just went our separate ways until the next one came up. I don't know. I kinda also wished that it didn't just kinda fizzle out, y'know? That people were still excited about the next one, and continuing the project. But it wasn't an exciting enough project for that to happen, and I get that, and I take responsibility for that, since it wasn't really a main focus of mine. I filled my time with looking for theatre and music things to do, the book club became more of a back-burner project for me, and thus it couldn't have been as successful as I wanted it to be, because I didn't put in enough attention into it for it to be that.
But maybe also it was just not a good undertaking to begin with, maybe? People are busy, and schedules change all the time, and people have lives to attend to and service, and who really has the time to go meet up with a bunch of strangers once ever two weeks to talk about a book you half-read, kan? Lagi baik they spend their time with their loved ones, friends or with other books. Or maybe it's not anybody's fault. Maybe the idea was alright, but the timing was off. Maybe it was destined to fizzle out, since all the people involved were not in the most stable stages of their lives. Maybe the only thing that this bunch of people (myself included) shared in common was their interest in books, and not much else, so there would always have been a barrier to the group being friends with each other? I don't know.
I'd just like to take this opportunity to thank Alia for all her help during the short-lived Shah Alam Book Club's life. If it weren't for her, zero things would have happened at all. She went to more bookmeets than I did, so committed was she to the project, so I owe her a big thank you.
Another thing that happened in March was I met The Ming Thing for the first time. I went to their office asking for a job, since I knew that I would be out of a job come April. I knew it was a long-shot, since I did not have too much skill to offer, and they're like super successful and all that, but I felt that I needed to at least ask for it. It would have been better to receive a "no" after asking than to not have asked at all. If nothing else, I got to meet two of my favourite local video-makers in the flesh, and that would make me plenty happy already.
I went to their office and talked to them for about an hour. They're super nice people who are busy all of the friggin' time, so them clearing an hour to talk to me meant a huge deal to me. They heard me out and let me down the nicest way possible, and I left the meeting just being glad that I got to talk to some real cool guys doing real cool things.
Besides that, Neck Deep came down to The Bee, Publika and I got to go watch them. I am relatively new to being a listener of Neck Deep, and I'd only ever listened to their 2017 album The Peace And The Panic, and I only listened to it because I knew they were coming to Malaysia and my brother Boy got us tickets and I wanted to have a good time, so I ended up knowing only about half of their set that night, but it was a fun time nevertheless.
Pasca Sini played at Universiti Islam Antarabangsa for an event called MATi 2.0, and we shot some footage there to use in the music video for the song I'm Not Good At Being Alone Anymore, which is up on Youtube right now (man, we put out three music videos in three months. Not too shabby at all). It was a nice show, where we had to bring our own backline (drums and amps). I think people ended up enjoying it, but I can't say for certain, since I collected no feedback forms afterwards. Thanks to Umar for having us for the event!
We also played our EP launch show in this month on the 24th at the Impero Studios rooftop to celebrate the release of the physical copy of our double EP "Hardly Do I Find Myself Speechless, But You Have Rendered Me So / Everything Looks Cooler In Japanese". It was a super nice show, with more than 60 people in the crowd, and we served overcooked barbecued chicken and drinks. It was a fun time. It felt really nice to have our friends there singing along to a lot of the songs and having fun together. It helped with our self-esteem as a band, since some people seemed to actually care about the band and the songs enough to take the time to learn the songs, come to our show, and sing and dance along with us, so that was super cool. It kinda said to us: not only do we like the songs, other people do too; and that felt validating. A super big thank you to everyone (and I mean everyone) who came to have a good time with us. You all made that night possible.
It was also my last month as a teacher. There was nothing particularly memorable about it. I remember being asked by so many teachers about my resignation, whether or not I could even do it (some people even doubted the legality of my resignation), why I would do such a thing, about my future plans, et cetera. That was a bit of a chore, but ultimately it helped me become more and more sure about my decision to leave the profession. When I was justifying my resignation to all these people, I was also re-justifying it for myself, and it was nice to hear to certainty from my voice when I talked about wanting to resign. It felt reassuring.
On the last day of school, the KL Shakespeare Company came to do a performance at my school. I went to watch during the periods that I didn't have classes to go watch, and it was great. They did a modified version of Macbeth using puppets, dance and song to get the students to participate in the story-telling process. It kind of felt like a sign, that what I was doing (transitioning from education to entertainment) was the right thing to do, even though it's most probably just a happy coincidence on the part of the universe.
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the good people of SK Raja Muda for being patient with me as a teacher there. They must have seen my incompetence and decided to tolerate me anyway, which was very kind on their part. They were friendly and accommodating. They still invite me to hang out at the school and outside of it every now and again. I was not allowed to leave the sesi petang Whatsapp group because it was a friend group, not a work group. It just so happened that 99% of the people in the group were working as teachers, that's all. I'd like to thank Puan Jamaiah in particular, for being very nice to me and humouring me whenever I drop silly joke attempts. She listened to my concerns and I felt very much that she wanted me to succeed. It's always nice to have someone like that in your corner.
The last week of March was my first show as a theatre director. It was a monologue called Matte Love, a story told in six fifteen-minute monologues, and I was assigned to direct two wonderful actors (Alang and Own) to play one role interchangeably, depending on the show days that they were available to perform on. Working with them was when I saw just how good one had to be to be a professional actor, and the bar was really high. These two actors were amazing, and I felt like we collaborated to put up the show together. They learned the lines very quickly and put on stage such wonderful performances that I have become fans of theirs. It was good that my last days of being a teacher were filled with rehearsals. I wasn't able to dwell in any mushy feelings about missing school or whatever because I had work to do, a show to put up. I ultimately had a great time directing that show. Thank you Alang and Own for that.
I started April with an acting role for the play Mayat, written by Hatta Azad Khan and directed by Akid Jabran. The cast consisted of the students of the First Time Director's Workshop, and it was in this play that we really started to bond with each other, I think. We had to rehearse together for hours in the night, and afterwards we would just lepak at the mamak, sharing stories about each other with each other. It was a short play (less than 40 minutes) and we had a short time to rehearse for it (about a week and a half). We got through it, and we got to learn from a really good theatre director, Akid Jabran by acting for him. He was a chill dude who stayed chill throughout the rehearsal process. He was punctual, and didn't drag rehearsals for very long. I admired his chillness and self-confidence. It seemed infectious, and I seemed to get some just by being near him. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Akid.
I also went on a trip to Banjarmasin, Kalimantan on the first weekend of April with my wife and my in-laws for a distant relative's wedding. It was the first time I had ever gone to that side of Indonesia, and we got to see what a wedding over there looked like (a lot of Jasmine flowers were involved). We also went on a river cruise there, where we got to see a lot of people who lived on the riverside waking up and taking their morning showers by the river. It felt weird, watching people go through their morning while we were touristing right by, but they must be used to it by now. A big thank you to my in-laws for letting us go on that trip.
The second half of the month was taken up by delivering talks at three higher learning institutes (one in Melaka and two in Penang) and rehearsals for my second task in the Director's Workshop, which was to be staged in early May. In this task, each student director had to choose a 15-minute script by themselves, look for their own actors, and have the show ready to put in front of audiences by the first week of May. I chose the script Malam Pertama by Ridhwan Saidi. I sent a direct message to him on Instagram asking for his permission to use the script and he was gracious enough to allow me to put up the show for a small small fee.
I chose that script because it was one of the first short plays that I remember liking, having seen it only a year before. I chose my friends Airah, Iman and Qayyum to act in it, and they were wonderful enough to agree to doing it and commit to the rehearsal schedule that I had set. We had fun rehearsing and I got to hangout with my friends in the process, so that was great. They were also very patient in the bump-in and the staging process, so to them I am very grateful.
I was also casted as an actor for another student director's play that would be staged on the same night for the same show (it would end up being called Teater Kompilasi, since there were four shows being staged in one night, one after the other). I was the male role for the play Kopi Tiga Suku, adapted to the stage by Dzeelfa Zainal from a short film script written by Nadia Khan. I got to act alongside Roro, a very talented actress, who was the lead of the play, and the experience rehearsing for this play was also a fun one. I got to bond with Kak Dzeelfa and Roro, and we remain friends to this day.
The first week of May was the run of shows for Teater Kompilasi (which the student directors modified to Teater Komplikasi because of the things we had to endure to put that show up). It was energy draining and it was great fun. My wife got to watch me act in Kopi Tiga Suku and was very critical of my performance, which was good because it allowed me to want to be a better performer. She also became a fan of Roro while watching her perform with me, so that was good. Thank you to Kak Dzeelfa for casting me as an actor for this one, and thank you Roro for being wonderful.
And of course, 9 May 2018 was voting day. I wrote all about it in a previous post, which I'll link to here. I guess I'll just reiterate that I am grateful that I was a part of this historic moment in a small small way, and I hope the Malaysian people continue to take power into their own hands and make the people in power more accountable for their actions.
I also delivered a few more talks this month, at Global Movement Of Moderates (RIP), UiTM Skudai, UiTM Shah Alam and UiTM Segamat. The GMM one in particular was interesting because I was there to teach people how to make videos, so it was like an IRL tutorial session of how to shoot and edit videos. I also got to talk to Syafiq Yusof, since he was there to deliver a talk with his father, Yusof Haslam. Syafiq seemed like an introvert who was keen on observing, but we didn't really talk too deeply about anything in the ten minutes we were able to chat. Thank you Raja Azraff for inviting me to that event.
I had two plays to rehearse for in this month: as an actor in We Speak Of Love, written and directed by Remi Eldhani (one of the directing students) and as a guitarist in After Earl, written and directed by Jude James. My acting partner in We Speak Of Love was the aforementioned Airah, and she's always a delight to work with. Remi is an enigma with strong visual sensibilities, so to be a part of the set he made for that play was great.
After Earl was the first time I'd worked with a theatre company outside of Revolution Stage, which was Kudos Production. It was an English theatre company, and they were staging the show at The Gardens Theatre in Midvalley Megamall. All I had to do was sit near the front of the stage and play my guitar when instructed, and that I did. I ate a lot of Family Mart sandwiches during this time, since it was also Ramadhan and rehearsals started right after maghrib, and those sandwiches were the quickest thing to get and consume mess-free.
Pasca Sini played a show at IntunNation again for Jack-It, and it was a lot of fun. A small crowd, but we got them to stand up and move to the music, so that was cool.
The first week of June was the staging of We Speak Of Love. Not a lot of people came, and some people who did come weren't too happy with the show in the end, and we absorbed all of that feedback and moved right on along. All in all, I was just happy to be performing with friends, and hanging out was cool. Thank you Airah for being patient, Remi for letting me act, and Roy & Wawa for being great.
My wife departed for her band's European tour around this time, and I continued to be the guitarist for After Earl. Hari Raya Aidilfitri came and went and I spent it in Kedah with my family, for the most part.
I invited a few friends over to my house for a bookmeet/open house type thing, just because I wanted to, and we hung out, talked about the book The Power by Naomi Alderman which was suggested by Hajar, and after that we played Settlers Of Catan which was brought by Mozek, who also brought super nice cookies (he never makes meh cookies, all of them are always fire-emojis-for-days). That was a fun day. Thank you to Mozek for helping out that day, and thank you to all the five people that came.
Later that night I went to the Boh Cameronian Arts Awards at Hilton KL on the invitation of Remi Eldhani. I got to get all dressed up with a blazer and tie and all that, eat hotel food and meet a whole bunch of arts practitioners. I sat two rows behind Sharifah Amani and her crew, and they were stoked af for their friends who were nominated and won awards throughout the night, particularly Kandang, which had Ashraf Modee Zain, who ended up taking away the Best Performer Award for his role in that play.
I learned that I was still largely ignorant about 90% of what Malaysian Performing Arts had to offer. I only knew about two or three shows that were talked about that night, and it made me realise that I had so much more to learn if I wanted to call myself an arts practitioner in Malaysia. Thank you to Remi for bringing me along to attend the Award show.
Also, throughout May and June I had been sending out my resumé to companies that might be interested in hiring a writer, copywriter or a social media person. I had been going to a handful of interviews here and there within these two months. Towards the end of June, I was interviewed by a small branding and marketing company based in Kelana Jaya called IDTG Asia, and they were interested in having me on as a social media copywriter. I went for a meeting with the CEO, Shane, and she was a pleasant person to talk to and seemed like a cool person to work with. It felt like I was out of a regular job for a while now and I wanted to get back on that daytime-job-having horse, so I was keen on joining the company, as they were keen on having me on board.
The final weekend of June was the run of shows for After Earl. I got to perform at the theatre at The Gardens, which was the nicest stage I had ever gotten the privilege of performing on, and I played the guitar for all the five shows. I had to buy myself fingerless gloves because of how cold it was inside the theatre space. It was a cool experience, being the musician for a stage performance. I've always looked longingly towards the musicians of any stage performance, and to be one in this production was great. Thank you Kudos Productions for having me.
I shall continue writing about the months July through December in part 2 of Remembering 2018, which should be up in a few days. Until then, take care.