Saturday, December 30, 2017

The People Who Made My 2017

After rereading the last post, I couldn’t help but notice how me-centric it was, and that made me uncomfortable. It was as if I did all the things I did throughout the year because I was me and I am awesome. The plain truth is that the year wouldn’t be anywhere near as enjoyable a year if it were not for the people who spent their time and energy on doing stuff with me. So in this post, I am going to mention a few people who have made my 2017 the year it was. This is not an exhaustive list. It's just those that I can remember at the moment. I am grateful for them and they are of very high value to me.


My Wife
This year was the first year we moved into our own rented apartment. We have learned tremendously about one another and she has helped me through a lot of hard times throughout the year. One particular instance was when I was down with the mumps fever. She nursed me back to health throughout, fed me, made sure I didn’t have to move a muscle if I didn’t have to, and drove me to and from the various clinics and hospitals we ended up going to. She continues to be the main person who keeps the podcast up and running. Many a time I would only remember that I had a podcast to record because of her reminder. She continues to push me to work hard to make my dreams come true, the constant reality checker and motivator at the same time. She has stayed patient listening to and sometimes building on my lame, lame jokes. She continues to be my best friend, and for that I am grateful. 

My parents and brothers
I think I’ve been able to talk and joke around with my parents more than I ever have this year. I would like it to be even more, but slow and steady does it, I suppose. In addition to that, I think 2017 has been a year in which I’ve been able to hang out the most with my brothers in recent memory. I’ve definitely spent a lot more time with Boy than I have in a long long time, now that I’ve moved to Selangor. Aiman has also stayed with me for a while during his holiday here. Same goes to Ainul. We’ve been able to just hangout as we would as friends and talk and joke around with each other, and I treasure our time together. I like being close to my brothers, because I think they’ve turned out to be cool and funny people. I love them lots and I wish only the best for them.

In 2017, Mozek has grown to become a person I regard as a dear, dear friend. I’ve spent a lot of time with him this year, and I’m grateful to him for sharing his time, thoughts, books and cookies with me. Conversations with him often go on for hours and hours, where we talk about a range of topics, including (but not limited to) mental health, the craft of writing, hiphop all the way to just plain ridiculousness. I have learned so much from him throughout the year, yet I still feel like I’m only scratching the surface of the amount of knowledge and insight that he has to offer. I root for his success in all his pursuits, and I hope we will be able to spend more time in the future hanging out with each other.

Pasca Sini
Boy, Thoriq, Syawal, Arep and Palie have made a huge impact on the second half of my 2017 by inviting me into the band. I’ve always loved music, and have been a fan of Boy’s in particular ever since he started writing songs as a teenager, so it’s great to be able to play those songs with him and the rest of the band on a regular basis. They’re good fun, and we’re doing what we can to keep it fun while being serious about being able to play more and more shows as time goes on. If you haven’t listened to Pasca Sini yet, I would encourage you to (songs are available on Spotify and Youtube), because I certainly like the songs.

AMUK Theatre Cast and Crew
I spent a lot of time rehearsing for this 20 minute play, and I think I’m so fortunate to have worked with such great people. I don’t know if I could have worked with a better director than Jamal Raslan after not acting on stage for 9 years. He is flexible, a good listener, attentive, a great communicator and positive. The rest of the cast was wonderful too. Esther was professional and patient. Aishah was cheerful and energetic. I wasn’t able to spend as much time with Karan as I’d want, but he got the job done. I got grow closer to Umar, and he’s just a sweetheart. It also helps that he’s unrelenting at trying to come up with pun-based jokes, so I had a great time playing with words with him. Kasih was wonderful. I’m glad I got to know her and I look forward to her growth as a person. Mia was also a great person to have met. I like that she also has a tendency towards punnery. She also seems to know a great deal about the local theatre scene, since she’s been in it for quite a while and has acted in more plays than most people. I’m glad I got to play with all these people and I hope our paths cross again in the future.

Anis, Fikri, Ezzah and Azhar have shown so much dedication and perseverance in making the ApaKesah project a reality, and I respect them so much for coming week after week to make those videos with me. We all have the same goal of encouraging more constructive and critical discussions in the Malaysian internet space, and ApaKesah was our vehicle for that. We’re currently on hiatus because a majority us have personal things to attend to. I hope to be able to continue the project, but even if that doesn’t happen, I’m glad to have been able to work with these wonderful people.

TheatreMob is an improv collective that Umar started for anyone who wanted to do improv theatre, so I joined and got to meet two other wonderful people: Iman and Airah. We’ve played together four or five times throughout the year in front of people and probably double that in terms of practice. Practice sessions are loads of fun because the four of us are very open to making it that way. From relative strangers, we have grown closer together, and I look forward to playing with this group more and more in the coming months and years.


There’s more people I could thank for making 2017 as enjoyable as it was for me, but I’m afraid I do not possess the power of memory nor the stamina to be able to point them out in this piece of writing. I would like to thank them regardless. If you have, in any way, entered and affected my life in the past year, I thank you very much and I wish you all the best in the future.


Monday, December 25, 2017

2Q17 Wrapped Up

So it’s the end of 2Q17 and I’ve been wanting to write down what the year has been for me for about a week now. I know that I have done some things that I’m proud of, while also grossly disappointing myself in some regards, so writing them down will make it clearer to myself what those things are exactly. Merely having fleeting thoughts about a thing or two while I’m sat criss-cross-applesauce underneath a running shower shall not suffice. Let’s start from the beginning then (here’s one of the many instances where documentation of things one has done helps).


I started the year off by editing a book for FIXI called MicroMalaysians, which is a collection of really short stories (150 words or less). I did that pretty fine, and I think I ended up with something satisfactory. The illustrator of the book, Caryn Koh had a lot to do with how amazing it ended up looking. I really liked the art she put in the book, and it made the book a lot more enjoyable of an experience. I am grateful to Amir Muhammad for asking me to do it. 

There was, however, a bit of a thing with this book. I edited an ending of a story to make it (in my opinion) more cohesive. I thought that was within my realm of responsibility, since I was the editor. But the writer emailed me asking for clarification as to why I did that. I answered as honestly as I could and explained to her why I thought that my changes made the story hit better. I also apologised if they felt slighted in any way by my editing choices and asked them if they wanted to revert to the original ending. They never did reply to that email, so until today, I feel a sense of serba-salah over it.

As I was reading through what I wrote in this blog in January 2Q17, I said that I wanted to make short films. I remember coming into the year being really enthusiastic about that prospect in my mind. But to nobody’s surprise, that didn’t end up happening. I didn’t write any short film scripts, let alone attempt to produce one. Maybe daily life got in the way. Maybe I’m just terrible at executing my ideas. I guess we’ll never find out.

I started rehearsing for AMUK with the initial team that was to preview it for Damansara Performing Arts Centre (DPAC). The rehearsals ended up taking a lot of my time, and I loved the experience. Being busy with theatre was wonderful. We ultimately failed to get on the DPAC bill, but after a bit of a shuffle in the cast and some rewriting, we staged the play in September (I’ll write more about it in the September portion of this post). All in all, a busy but uneventful month.

I went to an acting workshop run by Fauziah Nawi’s team. It was held at their headquarters somewhere in Ampang. I got to meet her in real life and act in front of her. I was the only attendee there who bothered to attempt to memorise the material that was given a week in advance. Overall, I don’t think I did very well. I think I was sleep-deprived when I went there, because I remember being very tired throughout the thing. I got to see other acting-types and it was quite a range of people, from the very shy to the uber-confident. I also got to see Syafie Naswip act in the flesh, so that was cool.

I met a producer-type there too. I talked to them about script-writing and how one might go about doing that. They promised to send me some material to study, and took my contact details. About a week later, they invited me over to an event their company was holding, promising access to more actor/producer types so that I may gain some useful contacts. I had to “help” out in the running of the event with the promise of free food. I went and helped out, ending up being nothing more than an errand boy for the event. At the end of the day, no contacts were established, and no written material was sent my way. I learned that not everyone wants to help you. They just want your help is all. I didn’t mind helping, but I don’t think I’ll be doing anything similar ever again.

Besides that, I auditioned for a theatre company called TheatreSauce. Their HQ was somewhere in Subang Jaya. I memorised two monologues in English (or at least I thought I did). Completely failed at delivering them come crunch time though. I did terribly, forgot almost everything, and ultimately failed to get a callback. The directors and producers on the other side of the table pitied me, rightfully so because of my pitiful performance.

At the very start of April, my wife and I gave a joint talk on the importance of social media and how to use it at the Kuala Lumpur Drama Festival. We spoke in front of about two hundred disinterested people, and most of my jokes fell flat. I don’t know if our content was of any use to them. But most of the audience did stay for the whole talk, and most had the courtesy of seeming attentive (a handful dozed off while another handful found more interesting things to do on their phones).

This month was also the start of ApaKesah. I put a call-out on instagram to ask if anyone was interested in making videos that were similar to the now defunct SourceFed. Several people reached out, and I thinned the applicants down to four people: Ezzah, Anis, Fikri and Azhar. They showed the most amount of interest and dedication, so I knew I could trust them with helping me making those videos a reality. We held our first meeting on the 22nd of April. We would post our first video a month later.

I started going to improv practice in UIA this month, thanks to the invitation of Umar (who was also the AMUK playwright and huge performance-arts-enthusiast). Ever since, we’ve practiced seven or eight times and performed in front of audiences like four times throughout the year. I like that this activity has been a part of my year.

ApaKesah recorded and posted our first few videos this month. We shot everything at my house, since my house had a nice blank wall and was sufficiently quiet for the shoots. Everybody chose their own stories and wrote their own scripts, with minor edits from myself. I shot the very first video while going through my worst week of the year in terms of health. I had the mumps and everything was pain inside my brain and jaws. If you look closely to the video in which I introduce ApaKesah, one would notice my swollen cheeks. It is the only thing I notice when I watch that video, or even when I see the thumbnail.

I wrote a short story called Syed Joyce and read it aloud in front of a bunch of people in UIA. They were receptive towards it, and I like that story. I wrote it after watching Taika Waititi’s short film entitled Two Cars, One Night. I like that short film very much.

I wrote nothing on the blog in June. This is disappointing. It often seems to be the case that whenever Ramadhan rolls along, I just completely stop my will to write anything at all. I haven’t found out an effective way of managing my time between writing and doing other Ramadhan-and-Raya-related stuff. I’m still looking.

I perform with my wife at If Walls Could Talk at Gaslight Cafe. Walls is a monthly poetry event where poets new and old recite their material and snap their fingers in agreement/awe of their fellow poets. It was my very first Walls event, and the venue was packed to the brim, since it was an anniversary event. I recited my pieces poorly, while my wife mesmerised everyone in attendance with her songs.

I wrote and directed my first short play for the performance bit of my school’s Raya celebration. I cast some 9 year old students of mine and they did a wonderful job. The script was my last blog-post of the year, before this one, so that’s wonderful, Anwar.

I performed with my brother’s band “Pasca Sini” for the first time at Habit Art Cafe, Alor Setar. We opened for Killer Calculateur. It was fun, but we wished our former drummer was able to make it to the show.

This was also when AMUK resumed rehearsals since we stopped at the end of February after previewing it at DPAC. It took up a lot of my time and I was happy about it.

I was also a guru pengiring for a students’ trip to Cameron Highlands. I got to endure the stresses of a teacher taking a hundred kids on a field trip. Having said that, I got to hangout with some of my 9 year old friends, so that was cool.

August was also the last time ApaKesah uploaded a video. We have been on hiatus ever since because two of the hosts had a child, while another got married. We hope to continue doing it, but we don’t know when exactly we can reconvene.

I was an invigilator for UPSR. I had to be a runner, which meant I was to roam the halls to brings things from one class to another, while also acting as an escort to anyone who had to go to the restroom. All in all, it was a boring affair, and I don’t know what I would’ve done if U Talkin’ U2 To Me wasn’t there to entertain me along the way.

I wrote another script for my school’s Hari Malaysia celebration, but I wasn’t able to direct it because I had meetings to attend in the run-up to the celebration, so another teacher had to direct it for me. I don’t mind the script, but I do like the Wonder Girls Raya script a lot better.

AMUK was staged this month. This meant a huge deal to me, because I hadn’t acted in a play since first falling in love with it in 2009. I loved the experience, I loved the team, but I wish I did better. It was a 6-show-run, and there were two shows where I forgot the same chunk of the script, even though never forgetting that bit in rehearsals. My best performance, I feel, was the rehearsal round we did the day before the first show. I don’t think I did terribly on the actual show days, I just didn’t do as well as I wanted to.

I wrote an istagram post after the experience. It went: First time I did theatre was in 2009. Second time I did it was this past week. Fell in love with it the first time. Still in love with it 8 years on. May this be a path that continues to bring more serotonin into my life. Thank you to everyone that made it happen. Everyone was wonderful. Thank you for the patience, the laughs, the tears, the time, the food, the feedback, the understanding, the companionship and the experience. A big thank you too to everyone who came to watch us tell some stories. Thank you.

I also played my second gig with Pasca Sini, the first in Klang Valley. It was at the rooftop of Empire Damansara, and by this point, the band took me in as a permanent guitarist for the band. I’ve always wanted to play music regularly in front of people, and this was a sort of dream come true for me.

I got to play two shows with Pasca Sini, one in Sungai Petani and another at Empire Damansara’s rooftop again.

The improv group that I was a part of (called TheatreMob) also performed two nights in UIA. We had fun with it and I wrote another instagram post at the end of it because I liked the experience so much that went like this: I spend a lot of my time listening to improv comedy podcasts (specifically improv4humans, Comedy Bang Bang, Spontaneanation, With Special Guest, and more recently, Off Book). Ever since I started listening to improv comedy in 2014, I've always wanted to do it myself, and in 2017 these people have enabled me to, albeit in a more theatrical, dramatic, irl kinda way. I am grateful to these people for being my improv-enablers and I hope we continue to have fun doing it.

I was the MC for two school-related events: Sukaneka Day and Jamuan Kelab Guru. I had to wing it most of the time I was on mic, because that was just the nature of the events. Instead of concentrating on getting words right, I just focussed on having fun on the mic, trying to amuse myself with bad jokes. I ended up being mildly entertained by myself, even though some others found my banter less than pleasurable (I think).

I also conducted an idea-pitching workshop for UiTM students. It was my first time conducting a workshop all by myself, and in my opinion, the attendees were already adept at coming up with and pitching ideas. I had a bunch of fun talking to them though, brainstorming and listening to what they had to say.

I was involved in the recording of Pasca Sini’s latest EP (which should be out early 2Q18). We went to our producer’s (Shaheir) house and recorded four songs in the span of a weekend. It was a fun process, and I’m excited about letting people listen to these new songs. I like them very much.

I also wrote a zine all by myself for the very first time. It’s a collection of five personal short stories from my days as a secondary school student (one for each year). I’m proud of myself for completing this personal project. I don’t complete a lot of my projects and to have followed through on this one feels good. It’s called “0307” and if you dear reader would like a copy for RM10 including postage, send an email to asking about it.


That’s about it for the (in my opinion) noteworthy things I did this year. It was an alright year. I just wish I wrote more. I just wish I didn’t stop writing. I’ve gotten back on the horse with this zine, but I do need to continue if I want to stop disappointing myself.

I hope you 2Q17 was nice. If you would like to list down the things you did this year like I did, you are welcome to. If not, then I wish you all the best in everything you do in 2Q18 and beyond. Stay hydrated everybody.


Sunday, July 23, 2017

Wonder Girls: Misteri Kehilangan Kuih Raya

So last Friday, my school held a Raya celebration thingy. I was put in charge of coming up with a performance for the Tahap 1 kids, so I wrote a short short play and got my standard 3 students to stage it. It went alright.

I'll put the script here for two main reasons. One, to archive it on the internet. Two, to allow anybody who needs a short 4-minute script to play with children to get a copy of this one, if they so choose. If I could add a third reason, I'd say that it's because I particularly like this story, but that's vanity speaking.

Here's the script:

Wonder Girls: Misteri Kehilangan Kuih Raya written by Anwar Hadi

Pada suatu hari, terdapat tiga orang kawan: Wani, Wati dan Wawa. 

Wani: Hi, Saya Wani!
Wati: Saya Wati!
Wawa: Wawa!
Wani & Wati : Kami Wonder Girls, dan kami suka tolong orang!
Wawa: Wawa!

Pada hari raya yang lepas, semasa mereka baru selesai menolong seorang makcik membawa barangnya balik ke rumah beliau, mereka didatangi oleh Amir yang memberitahu mereka suatu masalah yang dihadapinya.

Amir: Wonder Girls! Saya ada masalah dan saya perlukan pertolongan kalian!
Wani: Apa masalahnya Amir?
Wati: Ha’ah, kami bersedia untuk menolong!
Wawa: Wawa!
Amir: Baiklah Wonder Girls. Kuih raya di rumah saya semua hilang! Dan bila saya tanyakan jiran-jiran saya, kuih raya mereka juga hilang!
Wani: Wah, ini adalah suatu misteri!
Wati: Ha’ah, misteri kehilangan kuih raya!
Wawa: Wawa!
Wani: Betul juga cakap Wawa, kita memang patut tolong!
Wati: Ha’ah, jangan risau Amir, kami akan cuba selesaikan misteri ini dengan segera!
Amir: Baiklah Wonder Girls, terima kasih dan selamat hari raya!

Dan dengan itu, Wonder Girls menziarahi semua rumah untuk bertanya tentang misteri kehilangan kuih raya untuk mengumpul maklumat yang mungkin bernilai untuk siasatan mereka.

[Wonder Girls bertanya orang kampung dan menulis nota dalam buku nota mereka]

Tetapi selepas dua jam mengumpul maklumat, mereka tidak mendapat banyak maklumat yang berguna.

[Wonder Girls duduk keletihan]

Wani: Macam mana ni kawan-kawan? Kita tak dapat pun maklumat yang berguna!
Wati: Ha’ah la. Dan hari sudah pun suntuk. Nanti kita tak dapat beraya pula hari ni.
Wawa: Wawa!
Wani: Cadangan yang baik Wawa! 
Wati: Ha’ah, lagi baik kita pergi beraya dan makan dulu untuk mengembalikan tenaga kita supaya kita dapat berfikir dengan lebih jelas!
Wani: Jom ke rumah Uncle Ravi!
Wati: Ha’ah, jom!
Wawa: Wawa!

Wonder Girls pergi ke rumah Uncle Ravi dan duduk untuk makan bersama tetamu-tetamu lain. Semasa mereka sedang makan, Wani ternampak seseorang sedang mengambil kuih raya yang banyak sekali.

Wani: Eh, korang. Tu Faris kan? Banyaknya kuih raya yang dia ambil!
Wati: Ha’ah la, entah-entah dia la yang mencuri semua kuih raya orang lain!
Wani: Kita patut tangkap dia!
Wawa: Wawa!
Wani: Kenapa pulak Wawa?
Wawa: wawa wawa wawa, wawa wawa wawa.
Wati: Ha’ah la, betul cakap Wawa tu. Lagi baik kita ikut dia, tengok dia bawa semua kuih raya tu kemana. Dengan cara itu, kita dapat jumpa semua kuih raya yang lain juga!
Wani: Good job Wonder Girls! Jom kita ikut dia.

Wonder Girls mengikuti Faris secara senyap-senyap sehinggalah sampai ke sebuah rumah yang buruk dan tampak kosong. Bila sampai ke rumah itu, Wonder Girls nampak Faris meletakkan kuih raya diatas meja disebelah katil dimana terlantar ayahnya yang uzur. Wonder Girls sedar yang Faris hanya mahukan suasana raya di rumahnya dimana tiada sesiapa disitu kecuali ayahnya yang sakit.

Wani: Kesiannya Faris. Kita beraya meriah-meriah, tapi tiada sesiapa pun tolong memeriahkan hari raya Faris dan ayah dia.
Wati: Ha’ah la, kesian Faris dan ayah dia.
Wawa: Hmmm, Wawa!
Wani: Apa? Wawa ada idea?
Wawa: Wa. Wa.
Wati: Ha’ah la, idea yang terbaik! Betul kata Wawa yang kita patut ajak semua orang datang ke rumah Faris dan bawa segala jenis makanan yang mereka boleh bawa supaya dapat memeriahkan suasana raya di rumah Faris untuk ayahnya!

Dan dengan itu, Wonder Girls menjemput semua jiran mereka untuk beraya di rumah Faris bersama ayahnya yang sedang uzur. Faris dan ayahnya sangat berterima kasih terhadap jasa baik Wonder Girls dalam menolong mereka mengecapi suasana hari raya yang meriah semula.

Sekian, terima kasih.

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 . 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.