Monday, May 30, 2011

Live @ TAS: Singer-Songwriters

It's funny how a series of performances called "Live @ The Actors Studio" is held at klpac. There probably is an interesting story behind it all, and there probably will be a time I would hear it, if I still remember the curiosity.

As I was getting ready to leave for klpac earlier in the evening, my mother suddenly noted that I was going by myself. She didn't like the idea at all, and asked why I didn't ask him to go with me. I had no answer for it. I'm perfectly capable of getting myself there and back, and there is no need to drag along one who's totally not interested, and waste his time. I pacified Mummy by promising a text message the moment I've reached, and I was on my way.

One thing I really like about klpac and TAS productions is their punctuality. The shows always start on time! This was to begin at 8.30pm. I walked into the building at 8.20pm and saw a file of people in front of Pentas 2, going in. I had to use the bathroom first, so I went. By the time I came back out, I could hear Joe's (presumably recorded) voice through the speakers, reminding everyone that the show would begin soon, and no admittance would be allowed once it has begun. I quickly made my way there. I was given a little slip on which I had to sign, as a consent to being "recorded", because the entire performance would be videoed - at least, that's what I think it was. Actually, I was in too much of a hurry to read what was actually written on the slip. I sincerely hope it isn't:

I, my name, IC number: my IC number , am a dumbass who'd sign a slip without reading it first, just because I'm told to.
my signature


The show began with a serious warning about the three cameras set up around the stage (anyone who didn't want to risk appearing in the video should leave), turning off mobile phones (may interfere with recording equipment), no drastic movements (may "disturb" the recording) and no photography (only the official photographer designated by the sponsors had the right to take photos). The last (and ONLY) time I was at a live recording was the time I was part of the "live audience" for the taping of 4 episodes of "Colourful Mixture", starring Joanna Bessey. It was a comedy, about life revolving around two couples of different races - an English girl and a Malay guy, and a Chinese girl and an Indian guy - I think, for I never actually saw the series on TV. I remember at the time, we were only warned to switch mobile phones off - there were no bright, blinking "APPLAUSE" signs or "LAUGH NOW" or anything like that. When the plot got funny, everyone laughed. When a scene concluded, everyone applauded. It was natural and simple. Pardon the digression.

The show was made up of two sets - the first consisted of 19-year-old Devon Chew, hippie duo Markiza and Peter Hassan, and Khairil M. Bahar, the one with very good showmanship. In the second set were Tony Leo (and a backup guitarist whose name I didn't catch), Wani Ardy and The Husband (she said he insisted on being called so) and Ian Chow (and an accompanying cellist whose name I didn't catch as well). Each performer played 3 songs, and took turns doing so. It was the most straightforward, therefore the most boring type of scheduling. The guys in the first set made it awkward as well, as each mentioned at least once "Now, it's my turn".

I don't know how seasoned these performers are, but I presume they must definitely be way more experienced than, say, someone like me (note: people tend to think I don't get stage frights, being in the teaching profession, but that's not true - delivering a lesson is very much different from delivering, say, a song or a prepared speech). I get seriously nervous when I have to sing to a real crowd, and just prior to going on-stage, I'd usually be shivering, in temperatures that otherwise, I wouldn't even require a jacket. It'd happened more than once, and each time, even my teeth were chattering (and I know it's not from the cold!). I don't suppose the musicians would be consumed by nerves, but they sure gave me the impression. The 19-yr-old looked positively petrified to the point of almost talking gibberish when introducing his songs, and the hippie woman moved and spoke like she was high on something! Thank goodness for Khairil M. Bahar - he was a natural, with pleasing (perhaps rehearsed) spontaneity, and funny too. The performers in the second set were much better, perhaps being even more seasoned, or having had more than enough time to warm up and lose the nerves.

It is expected, I assume, that I comment on the music, and be honest doing it. Yes, I have to be honest. I wasn't blown away. Although several songs were engaging enough, most were just plain and repetitive, and a few made me gaze at the intriguing lighting and smoke, and try to make sense of the nonsensical (but very pretty) pattern they formed. I know nothing of songwriting, but if it is anything like normal writing (which, obviously, I do excessively) giving every piece all you can afford, even if it means fewer numbers at the end of the day, means a world of difference, compared to say, just giving enough to complete a piece. I don't know if I make sense. I hope I wouldn't insult anyone saying this - I felt most of the songs lacked variation and the performers who attempted the American accent simply sounded odd. If I have to pick favourites, they would be Wani (love her voice best!) and Ian (I've been previously acquainted with his songs, so I might be partial).

The show ended close to 11pm. There were friends around, so I took the time to hang out and catch up, at the same time to wait for the crowd from another (much bigger) show to jam their way out of klpac first.

I sat on a bench at the Resource Center. My friend got me a cute, little bottle of orange juice, and I was struggling to uncap it when a middle-aged man with his sparse hair pulled back in a tiny pony tail (in school, when one's hair is still too short to make a real pony tail, we'd call it a duck tail!) walked past me and waved a can he had in his hand at me.

"Have a beer!"

I smiled politely and said I already have a drink (which I was still struggling to drink).

He took off somewhere, and then came back and started a conversation with me. Did I enjoy the show? Where am I from? What do I do for a living? What is my name? He said he's the guy who oversees everything with regards to the show and the live recording *laugh*. He doesn't have a proper title, but people have described him as Producer or Executive Producer *laugh*; he is what we'd call one-leg-kick *laugh*; he'd worked every department and undertook every role in his career so he knows how to supervise them all *very proud laugh*; after a hard day's work, the cast and crew always celebrate! *laugh, then gulp gulp gulp the beer down*

He took leave by giving my hand a hearty shake. "Nice to know you!"

I never thought I'd say this, but it was kinda nice to have "known" Bert too. That's his name, and his company, which produces commercials, sponsored the recording. A while after he'd gone back to merry-making with the other crew members, one friend asked who he was and why he was talking to me. The other friend laughed and said I must've looked so lost and lonely, sitting there, that the sight struck some paternal instincts in the man and compelled him to approach me. Ha ha. I no longer know where this post is heading. Ha ha ha.

*Ahem* Now, for the one important question before I end this already-too-lengthy post: would I consider going for more local singer-songwriters shows in the future? Well, given my not-so-favourable comments on the music earlier, Reader, you may be wondering. The answer is yes. Sure, I don't find their music as good as those I'm accustomed to enjoy, and sure, I don't think they sang as well as I'd like singing to be, but everyone has to start somewhere. They may not be anywhere near "international" standards yet, but if they worked hard on improving, they will (I hope) get there someday. Meanwhile, they deserve support for their effort. Also, it's not like I didn't enjoy myself - I did!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Romantic Men In Literature

Say, Mr Darcy. How many girls do you know who swoon over this character? Let's not talk about those who don't read, or who don't read Jane Austen. How many do you know, who'd read Pride and Prejudice, and didn't go gaga over Darcy?

What about Charlotte Brontë's Mr Rochester? How many do you know, who'd read Jane Eyre, and not fell in love with him? I myself am in love with Mr Rochester. I want to be loved by someone like him - with a lunatic wife or not, as long as she's kept out of my way (right, that's not exactly true... just the hour messing up my logic, reason and coherence).

So, what is common between these two characters, that we like so much? I'll tell you what - they're both created by female writers. Yes, they are men as we'd really like them to be, as we'd truly want them to be. Real men are not like that. Real men, even the "best" ones, are a far cry from these ideal make-up of what women really want. Too bad for us.

Now, I am going to rest my head upon my pillow. When I do that, will sleep come to me? Will this mind consent to relax and spare me this unrelenting consciousness till the sun rises? Gosh, I hate sleeplessness!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Ten Years

It was just a little past 8 in the morning. I wasn't, at the time, accustomed to rising that "early" from bed, but I heard sounds, voices, and for reasons unknown, I got up, sat at the top of the stairs, safely out of sight, and observed. There were two men at the door, talking to my mother. A part of me knew something very serious, very wrong had happened, even before my frantic sister dashed up to inform me.

The two men were police officers. There'd been a fatal accident. Fatal. Phone calls were made, and soon, a family friend came and we were on our way to the hospital. The hospital morgue. Throughout the journey, the gravity of the situation didn't sink into me. A myriad of thoughts flew through my mind, tumbling about, crashing into each other, racing to convince, to calm, to comfort. This must be a mistake, I kept telling myself. Perhaps someone robbed him, took his wallet and his car. Perhaps he loaned his car to someone and left his wallet behind by mistake. Perhaps. Perhaps. We were at the morgue. We were brought to the drawers where the bodies were kept. The staff was about to pull one open when the family friend stopped him, and made him double-check the label. He did, and then he did.

The instant I gazed upon the familiar, well-loved faced, eyes closed as if in deep sleep, it was as if a blast composed of everything horrible hit me in the face. My entire world as I knew it collapsed. I remember shrieking, losing control, and hurling myself forward. I remember being held back, being dragged out. I remember, in that brief moment, amidst the anguish and confusion, I registered the blood stains, the deep gash on his chin, the open fracture on his arm, and I remember how pain and agony shot through every part of me and tore my very sanity to shreds. Those were all I could recall clearly. Everything else was hazy and inconsequential. The purchasing of a coffin and a final resting place, the funeral, the miscellaneous arrangements - all of which I had to personally do or oversee, were a mess of vague scenes my memory refused.

And now, ten years have passed. Has it been that long? Really? I do not feel I have progressed much in coming to terms with his being gone, nor have I "gotten over" it, if one can indeed get over such things. I feel as if the pain is permanently wrought in me, and the void in my life will always be.

In the early, very difficult days, I could not so much as think of him without breaking down, or stare at photos of him without tearing up, or speak of him without sobbing. I could not sing Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again without getting choked up mid-song. Solitary moments were spent mourning to my heart's content, and nights were spent dreaming about him in my sleep. The dreams – how they haunted and tormented me – my wildly undisciplined subconscious mind conjured a crazy variety of manners in which he came back, or existed in a different dimension I could visit, or never left in the first place. It was pain renewed every morning, waking up and realising it was only a dream, and he, still gone.

I was a Papa's girl in every sense. I wanted both to be the daughter he'd be proud of, and the son he never had. I wanted so much to please him, and to be like him. I listened to the music he loved and I learned to sing all the songs he did. I watched as he made, improvised, and fixed things around the house, and I learned to do the same (to the best of my ability, which is still, nowhere near his). I demanded stories from him and never got tired of the same ones repeated again and again. I tagged along on fishing trips and felt slighted when once, while I was in university, he went out to sea and didn't take me. When he called to brag about his catches, I grumbled about being left out. Papa laughed at me, saying it was an all-men excursion, and he couldn't have taken me along even if he wanted to.

He spoiled me - I know he did. As a little girl I might not have known it as a fact, but I'd always known that if I did something bad (which was quite often), it was much safer to tell Papa than it was to let Mummy find out first. As I got older, I realised while he always laughed at me for, say, not being able to do any sports (anything that involved running, or balls), or not being able to play decently his favourite tune on the piano, or not being able to paint a horse that remotely resembles a horse on the lantern he handmade for me, he was actually extremely proud of the things I could do. For instance, I published my first story for children when I was 14. It was in the Sunday paper and he read it over and over. He analysed the piece, part by part, and explained to the family why it was such an awesome piece. I myself didn't think it was really as great as he made it seem. I've never had anyone paid as much attention to anything I'd ever written, as Papa did my silly fairytale that morning.

Perhaps it is simply natural for one to idolise one's father. Papa was the cleverest, the strongest, the funniest, the everything-positive-est man I know. He never fell ill, he never came across a problem he couldn't solve or work around, and he never lost a night's sleep over troubles or worries. He was so immortal in my naive eyes I could not imagine him otherwise. I remember, once, when I was still very young, I watched my aunt trim my grandfather's toenails. I remember thinking that when I'm all grown up, I will sit by my would-be-elderly Papa and talk to him, listen to him reminiscing, while I trim his nails. And I remember I felt a pang of panic and sadness at the thought of the day he would be old and frail. I guess I should derive some comfort in that it is something I needn't face now.

I think of him often. In fact, I think of him, in one way or another, directly or indirectly, almost every single day. Would he be proud of me, the person that I am today, despite that I am neither very successful nor happy in life? Would he still frown upon my tendency to be so much less social than he thought practical? Would he laugh at (but is secretly proud of) my newfound passion in climbing, the way he did at my obsession with martial arts?

Time is supposed to heal. For me, however, time has only numbed my senses and dulled my mental faculties such that I can no longer tell if it is that sorrow follows me, or that I obstinately choose to embrace it.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Monday Blues

I saw them, in stunning, bright hues, on a Kingfisher in mid-flight. The early morning sun's rays upon it made it shimmer in all its magnificence and glory. Although it was a tiny little thing, and I saw it for only a fleeting moment - it was a lovely sight!

Happy Monday, Reader =)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Writing For The Sake Of Writing

Do you believe that I can write half a thousand words about nothing in particular? It isn’t that I have nothing better to do. I do. In fact, I have obligations far more pressing, requiring way more attention and effort that I care to give. Having to do something and wanting to do something are two totally different matters. Right now, I want to write. I want to write so much so that I’ve decided it is not a crime to afford myself a half hour’s time to write – even if about nothing in particular. Of course, it also isn’t that I actually have nothing to write about. I do. I can, and actually do, oftentimes, write about anything and everything – little matters, insignificant incidents, encounters, excerpts of conversations, observations and contemplations, wishful thinking and silly fantasies – just about anything at all. No, I have decided to write about “nothing” not because I have nothing to write about. It simply is that, at this very moment, there is nothing specific that I wish to share with the world, to justify writing it here. It is a funny contradiction, if you really thought about it – wanting to write to share with the world, but not wanting to share at the same time. Perhaps it is as I had once put it – that we bloggers (since I write on a blog, I suppose I am technically a blogger, though I tend to think of myself more a writer than a typical blogger) are all attention-seekers. Perhaps it isn’t that I wish to share this much (or this little) of my life that I have been sharing here, in this space, all these years, but that I just needed a little attention from the world. Perhaps I needed to know I am not so completely invisible, inconsequential and ignored as I constantly feel. Perhaps all I needed was the knowledge that somewhere out in cyberspace, a small handful of Anons are reading me, sharing my thoughts and – dare I say it? – enjoying the read. In these days and times of fast-paced living and selfish pursuit, very few care to stop and appreciate anyone at all. I do not deny the possibility that I am guilty of it just the same as people around me who I feel do not appreciate me. Although I suppose it would not be wrong to say that we should not need to feel appreciated in order to feel good about ourselves and what we are capable of, I must say to be appreciated is truly awesome. There is no need for the blatant declaration of “I appreciate it”. In fact, the several times I’ve had that said in my face, it turned out the speaker only said it for the sake of saying it, or in place of something (s)he would rather not put in words, or because (s)he couldn’t think of a better response, and in fact, meant none whatsoever of it. Just in case a small handful of friends reading this right now feel slighted, thinking I’m accusing them of non-appreciation, I need to stress that this is just another soliloquy of mine, put into writing. I certainly do not mean to direct any messages - hidden or otherwise - to anyone.

There – it wasn’t all that hard to do.

It’s amazing how much better I feel right now, as compared to the way I did when I started. Thank you, Reader, for the little attention you have showered upon this poor, obscure, plain and little writer.