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.