Saturday, 18 May 2019

Ovens, Eid and Ads

Hey all! It's been a bit of a slow week, so not much has been happening... you know things aren't terribly exciting when the most thrilling thing that's happened is your discovery that the decade-plus-old microwave oven is actually a multipurpose oven that functions as a conventional convection unit too, arf arf. So now I'm baking stuff in the microwave, wheeee!

That's not entirely true (I mean, I am baking stuff in the microwave...) - just last night my mum and I met up with Terry to treat him to a belated birthday dinner, so that was fun. And this week a series of advertisements for the upcoming Muslim celebration of Eid (or Aidilfitri, as it's called in Malaysia) were released by KLIA Express that features my music, which is always cool. It was a simple job with the same motifs used across three ads in the series, but it's always nice to get to work on commercials and jingles (which I don't do nearly enough of), and the ads themselves are cute. 

For my non-Malay-speaking friends, it's about an elderly couple who are heading home for the holidays and they accidentally leave a bag of cookies behind in a cafe. Thus the story unfolds from the perspectives of the couple, as well as a male customer in the cafe and a waitress - each ad consisting of a different point of view. Here are the first two ads that have been released. I'll post the third one when it's up! (UPDATED May 22: It's up!) Enjoy (and don't forget you can highlight the words below if they're too hard to read.) ;)


Tuesday, 14 May 2019

More Than Alright: A Tribute to The Kids

Just last week, the ABC network in the US went on a TV-show cancellation spree and got rid of a whole bunch of their series. Among the casualties was a charming comedy that premiered last September and which I promptly fell in love with: The Kids Are Alright. The show is set in the 1970s (specifically, in the first season, 1972), and tells of the Clearys, a devout Catholic family where the parents Mike (Michael Cudlitz) and Peggy (a Emmy-worthy Mary McCormack) have eight children... all of them boys! Therein lies the sheer awesomeness of this sitcom as we watch the hapless mom and dad maintain control of their chaotic, testosterone-driven household — (mostly) successfully keeping their spawn in line through cutting one-liners, physical smacks on the head (it was the 70s), or guilt-trip-inducing religious doctrine.

As a (lapsed?) Catholic myself, I found myself loving the church-related humour (one highlight was when the middle child Timmy, through whom this story is told, uses a paten — a communion plate — as a "souped-up Jesus" ping-pong paddle). Then there was the fact that each of the Cleary boys is so clearly defined, each with his own distinct personality and character traits... and each actor plays his part to a T. Seriously, it's difficult to cast kids in shows, especially kids with solid acting ability and comic timing, and yet they got it perfectly right here.

In the above photo, dad Mike and mom Peggy are with Baby Andy (the only Cleary child who hadn't yet been clearly defined). Next in line is Lawrence, their oldest child of age 20 who joined — and left — the priesthood; he is the most political of the kids and his liberal ways of thinking often clash with his father's. The second-eldest is Eddie (the guy in the brown suit in the pic; clearly they were lining up according to height): sweet, naive, a little obtuse sometimes but smart in his own way; the only one of the boys with a serious girlfriend, Wendi, whose role as only the second central female character is a crucial one in manoeuvring the shift in women's rights and "new" thinking versus matriarch Peggy's "old" perspectives and practices.

In the green suit is Frank, the third Cleary child, who early on in the series was a bit of a bully but the writers found their rhythm with him and made him the brown-noser of the group: the do-gooder who annoys everyone by trying too hard and being comically righteous. His ultimate goal in life is to please his Mom, who he worships and who, in his eyes, can do no wrong — and this almost-creepy but absolutely hilarious personality trait makes him my second favourite of the brothers. In the blue suit is Joey, the charming playboy of the Clearys: a smooth-talker, possibly a hoodwinker, sex- and money-minded, always thinking of the best way to make a quick buck or to cosy up to girls — but ultimately with a heart of gold.

In front of him is the central boy Timmy, a performer who craves the limelight and spends most of his time trying to find his path to fame (the show is narrated by the real life "Timmy", grown up, on whose life the sitcom is loosely based). Then there's William, the book-smart boy of the bunch, who plays 17 musical instruments but, unlike Timmy, isn't interested in being in the spotlight; the boy genius who spends too much time reading (according to Mom). And last in line above is little bespectacled Pat, the oddball of the group who's always in his own little world ... a worrier and a hypochondriac with flights of fancy that make him as child-like and weird as he is hilarious... my absolutely favourite character.

TKAA quickly became my favourite new series that was launched last year. It's sharp, well-written and funny, with a host of well-developed characters that promised the potential of numerous mix-and-match pairings and storylines. On top of which, Peggy Cleary is a force to be reckoned with — played with fiercely sharp comic pathos by McCormack, a mother who clearly loves her children but is also exhausted and exasperated by them; whose sharp tongue and snide rebukes are a highlight of the series. The parental Clearys are set in their ways, protective of their family and their faith, and — in the spirit of the 1970s —aren't nearly as politically correct as one would like... which, fascinating enough, adds to the innocence of the time and the comedic sharpness of the writing.

So: going back to its appalling cancellation —ABC seems to have royally screwed the pooch with this one. For the life of me I can't understand why a show that has such a tremendous array of talent, laden with the potential to go on for years, would get canned. Sure, the ratings aren't great, but, confoundingly, there were other series of similar or worse ratings that got renewed (including Bless this Mess, which has only aired four episodes as of time of writing, whose premise isn't entirely original and whose pilot episode was simply "meh", IMHO; and Single Parents, a show that also features kids but who are all unrealistic and most of them downright unlikeable ... apologies to SP fans: I started off liking the show but it gradually grated on me). The fact that I've not written about a television show on this blog since... I don't know when... probably Supernatural's season 5 ... is also a testament to how much I adore TKAA and how I'm hoping against hope that somehow there will be a reversal of its fate. (Sidebar: Supernatural will end with its upcoming Season 15(!!), and yet I haven't written about that... this sentence notwithstanding.) 

Eddie with his girlfriend Wendi (left), and mom Peggy
What's funny is that I'm not even a child of the 1970s, and yet I love TKAA. I get most of the references. I love the authenticity of the show's depiction of the era. I love the Cleary brothers, their chemistry and their chaos as a troupe (dinnertimes in the Cleary household are especially a highlight). I love the uniqueness of each character in a show with 10 central characters (11 if you count Eddie's girlfriend Wendi); I love the cleverness of the writing that allowed virtually every character to have a moment in each episode (no small feat) — in fact, the best episodes feature all 10/11 of the characters pulling almost equal weight in making the episode work. This is a show that, I predict, would earn award nominations (at the very least for Mary McCormack, if not Cudlitz... also possibly Best Casting? Best Ensemble? Best Comedy??) ... and yet the network is inexplicably being incredibly short-sighted by giving it the shaft.

Here's another crucial aspect of The Kids for me. As someone who undergoes challenges with depression, especially in light of the difficulties this year and last, the show was a bright spot of my week, and reruns have been comfort food. I've watched each episode numerous times, and somehow I laugh each time; I sometimes even catch jokes I'd not heard or understood the previous times before! Losing such a positive element in my life, at this point, is not just disappointing; it's downright heartbreaking. I almost cried when I read that the show had been cancelled, being unable to imagine why a TV network would not see what a gem and an asset it has in its hands. (I was also in a deep funk over SPN's final-season announcement, just FYI.) Maybe it just needs more promotion and nurturing to find its audience. The audience it has thus far, though, are loyal, committed, and outraged (sign the petition, won't you?).

Full disclosure: I'm not in the United States. The fact remains that TKAA has managed to captivate a guy who grew up all the way in Malaysia, on the other side of the world, in the 1980s, who has zero ties to the era or the location, and yet is able to be moved into laughing or empathising (see: the Vietnam episode) with the characters. That is the power and the cleverness of the show. I think ABC is stupid for not giving it more of a chance to find its audience... not just within the States, but internationally. It clearly has the potential to make such an impact, worldwide. (It has sure made an impact on Mark Hamill.)

I'm not sure what the future holds but it's barely been a week and there has been fan uproar about the cancellation, including planned protests in the US. I don't know whether any of it till be successful in bringing about a reversal of fortunes, and I wish I could play a bigger part in keeping The Kids alive (#SaveTheKidsAreAlright). But whatever happens, as of time of writing there are two episodes left, and I will relish them with bittersweet gratitude / resentment. I'm grateful for having this one season (23 classic episodes), and I'm grateful to the cast, crew and creator of the show for having treated us to the Clearys. I can only hope and pray that their time isn't irrevocably and undeservedly cut short.

Monday, 13 May 2019

The Cammies 2019

Where was I? Oh yeah, the Cammies. April 28, 2019, at Pavilion Hotel in Kuala Lumpur. It was a really cool event, especially since I was leading the band for the evening and had been working with a great cast of singer-dancer-actors (six of 'em) for a couple of weeks prior to the event. I had no less than four full songs in the evening's proceedings, including an almost eight-minute opening number, which was awesome. The theme of the night was "Mulanya Di Sini", or "This Is Where It Begin", which basically references how each of us, artist and spectator alike, got into the arts as a participant or audience-member. So the songs and scripted entertainment was conceived with this theme in mind,  and directed / designed by my dear friend Chris Ling. I'm happy to say that Chris's unique touch was evident throughout the night: a creative, entertaining, mostly drama-free (in a good way) evening that was also expedient (previous Cammies ceremonies have been known to have gone on for hours and hours!). Here are some pics!

Four of the performers of the evening (from left): Anwar, Tria, Nave and Kai
The cast and band chilling in preparation for the festivities (Pic by Kevin Theng)
The boys in the band! (Pic by Kevin Theng)
I won't take up too much of your time with more words that you have to read (heaven forbid!), so I'll leave you with some live video of songs being performed, including written commentary as per my Facebook music page (sorry for the illegibility due to font colour and what-have-you; if it's too difficult to read, try highlighting the text). Enjoy!

The Cammies... No, Wait. The Keyboard Conundrum

So what else has been happening? Oh yes, of course: on April 28, Sunday, I performed as part of a band for the 16th BOH Cameronian Arts Awards!! Yes!! It was a lot of fun, though pretty stressful because of a faux pas with a keyboard I'd borrowed. You see, I don't currently possess my own rehearsal / performance keyboard, so I asked my friend E if I could borrow one from her, figuring she'd lend me an older, much-used instrument. However, she ended up lending me a brand-new keyboard that belonged to her boyfriend, and I later on discovered he'd lent it to her without even having played it himself, making it that brand new! Now, I don't know about you, but personally I wouldn't think to lend an expensive item to anyone (partner or no!), especially if I hadn't had a chance to use it myself... much less allow the person borrowing it to lend it to someone else! ... but yes, in this case, that did happen.

And then I accidentally bumped the keyboard into a wall and created a couple of visible scratches and a very noticeable dent, and all hades broke loose.

Do you see the dent? ARGH.
I had to confess to E what I'd done, and she in turn had to tell her bf, and (to put it lightly) he didn't seem all that understanding of what had happened and purportedly kept saying he "wanted it back in the condition he had lent it out in", which if you ask me was "unreasonable" in the sense that the damage had already been done. Now, don't get me wrong, I take full responsibility for the damage, but I asked E to engage him in ways in which we could rectify / resolve the situation. I offered to give him financial compensation, or send it for refurbishing... "Ask him what he would prefer," I requested of E, only to be told: "He says the same thing ... he wants it back in the same condition." It was rather frustrating. And yeah, he has every right to be pissed off, but sulking over it isn't going to solve anything; discussing it and finding a satisfactory solution would have been preferable. 

I even reached the point of telling E that one solution would be for me to buy the exact same keyboard and give the brand-new item to him, while keeping the dented keyboard for myself since I need a keyboard anyway. But you know what? That was a sucky option. The keyboard wasn't that great. I didn't really want it. And did I really want to spend in excess of RM3k to do this, when I've been struggling with financial difficulties as it is? Oy!

Apparently he said, "Imagine if I'd lent my car and you scratched it... how would you feel?" Firstly, my dear boy, I wouldn't have lent it out to my girlfriend. Secondly, I wouldn't have allowed her to lend it out to someone else... someone I didn't even know! Thirdly, if these first two points were moot and the damage had already been done, I wouldn't expect the borrower to buy me a new car and keep the dented car himself! I would expect him to compensate me for the damage or fix the dent first prior to returning it... both of which were options I was willing to fulfil! Gah!

Long story short, I found out that refurbishing it was doable, but it would take about 6 months for the parts to arrive, don't ask me why. So E and I finally reached a "solution": she would take the keyboard back, and when I am informed that the parts are in stock for the music company to fix it, we will arrange to get the keyboard refurbished. In the meantime, apparently she's going to hold on to it and not return it to her boyfriend until the fixing has been done... which, personally, I think is rather odd since... you know... a relationship shouldn't be built on such apprehensiveness and downright fear, but that's none of my business, so what do I know? Anyway, neither here nor there.

If it sounds like I'm being pissy, I probably am. Between this occurrence, and the gripes in my previous post, it hasn't been entirely smooth-sailing for my mental-emotional state. That said, don't forget that this blog is a venting space: what I type might sound harsh, but it's really just me puking out all these thoughts so they're out of my system. Like I said, in the above scenario, I take full responsibility and was willing to do what it takes to fix the problem, short of buying a new keyboard altogether and keeping the damaged one. I think that's reasonable. Or rather, I don't think that's unreasonable.

So yeah, that happened. Now where was I? Oh yeah, the Cammies. Um, you know what? Let me start a fresh post since this has become a whinge-fest. I'll be right back. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, 9 May 2019

The Balcony Refurbishment

Hey all! So. Since my personal Facebook profile is no more (deets to come when I have the energy to write about it), I thought I'd go back and recap some of the things I've been up to since coming back from Perth in early Feb (marking 3 months since I've returned). One of the key things I've been working on is making my room/home as comfortable as I possibly can. The place is still a mess; despite the big clean-up/out of early last year, 90% of the house is filled with old crap belonging to my folks. The good news is that Mum has lately been Marie Kondo-ing the place, and I'll be following suit.

But in the meantime, I thought that I'd start smaller; so, in March, I decided to refurbish and redecorate the balcony that's connected to my bedroom. You see, it's pretty much been left to become a dust- and dirt-collection spot since we moved into this house circa 2004; as you can imagine, there wasn't very much to look at out there. In fact, it had been so neglected that it was pretty gross. Here's a nice 'before' pic, for your enjoyment:

So I bought myself some paint and set to work, and as of March 20, the place has had a makeover! Here's a step-by-step of its progress; first with the fake grass carpeting; then with a wall decal and the first couple of plants. (Sidebar: the wall decal has ended up being a pain in the buttocks because they don't stick too well, but I suspect that's partially due to the hot, humid heat outside! Oh well, live and learn, eh?). Click on the pics for bigger views:


Gradually my garden grew... little Ashley has even given it her official seal of approval! (Because she kinda does look like a seal...)

And over time, I've added more decor, plantlife (real and artificial) and accoutrements...


... And these developments are ongoing, leading us up to how it looks like as of today (including the lone money plant on the far side of the balcony, arf):

What do you think? Not bad for about a month and a half's work, eh? It's a comfy, cozy place to hang out on now, that's for sure... although it belatedly occurred to me that, because the air-conditioning engine is out there (from which the hanging plants are hanging), it means I'm going to have to have to clear everything out of the way whenever the aircond guys come to do a service (gas top-ups and what-have-you). That includes clearing away the plants and gathering up the grass carpet because the cleaning/service tends to be wet and dirty work. No matter, it means I'll have a reason to clean under the grass carpet once every six months or so, heh!!

That's about all for now. Come back soon for more updates and recaps! This blog lives on as my venting/sharing space – much like the balcony, it's got a new lease on life!!

Sunday, 5 May 2019

The Pre-/Post-Perth Penang Posse!

Hey all! I'm writing this new post in my hotel room in Penang, where I've been having a little holiday since last Friday. Yup, I hopped on the bus on Friday morning and skeedaddled it all the way to this little island up north where I grew up... the primary reason being to have a lovely little reunion with JUDI!!! YAAAAAY!!!!! Judi's been travelling for the past 6 weeks and this is her final stop with her beau Adrian before they head to Perth to start a new chapter of their lives together. (Judi, of course, is from Perth, so it's a homecoming for her.) Yeah, the timing is a little bit iffy because obvs I'm no longer there, but that's the way the cookie crumbles, I guess. Anyway we got to spend quite a bit of time together this weekend, checking out the sights, smells and sounds of Penang (which has changed significantly in the past few years), not to mention stuffing our faces till bursting point! Oy vey! Here are pics of the hotel room I'm in, though I probably should've taken the pics before I unpacked... arf!

The other reason for coming to Penang is, of course, to get my mind off certain arts-related matters that have led to my below-mentioned deletion of Facebook, but (as I said), we'll get to that. I've also got more arts stuff to retroactively update y'all on (all two of you who read this blog), so I'll do recaps later on. But for now, suffice it to say that this little vacay is to stop myself from overthinking (and overfeeling) about a certain musical that's currently being staged, about which I am still really rather furious (I'm looking at you, The Actors Studio). BUT... more on this to come.

Until then, let's keep focusing on the good stuff... this Penang visit! It's best told through photos, of course. But basically Judi, Adrian and I met up on Friday night, and we walked around and tried to find good hawker fare to dine on. We found a couple of coffee shops but the food wasn't all that great and was rather pricey, though we did manage to find some cendol/ice kacang-type desserts, which was nice on such a humid night. We ended up (as we oft do) at a mall and enjoyed some Starbucks, haha. Then it was more of the same on Saturday: walking around town trying to find nasi lemak for breakfast (and not really succeeding); checking out the touristy areas around Beach Street (my parents' former workplace and my old post-school stomping grounds), taking pics of street art, and marvelling at the general gentrification of the entire area – that mix of both cool urban development and hipstery pretension. Here are some photos.

Chilling at Starbucks on Friday night!
At a street art alley in the touristy area.
My, that's a big cock.
More street art... or should that be ark?
Sometimes you have to temple your expectations.
Ade being just a touch overenthusiastic.

More street art photo ops.
Obligatory street art selfie.
Judi and Ade also got to hang out with some of my Malaysian mates, namely Mike and Anrie (from KL) who, by pure coincidence, were both in Penang to celebrate Anrie's birthday. So I managed to catch up with them at the (slightly overrated and definitely overpriced) Chinahouse and we had coffees, cakes, and a good ol' birthday/bitchin' session, arf. Judi and Ade (who wandered off to resume their search for nasi lemak) eventually joined us, and a gay ol' time was had by all. 

Happy birthday Anrie!
Why are the 2Chens so adorbs?

When friends converge!
Later that evening, Judi, Ade and I caught up with Kevin and Irinna (as well as Dylan and Dylan's aunt, i.e. Irinna's sister), and we took a drive into Butterworth to have dinner at a hawker centre there, which was definitely a much more satisfying experience than our little venture in city on Friday night. That was followed by dessert at a Korean shaved ice place, which was yummy... though by which point we were pretty full up!!!

At the Korean dessert place.
Earlier, at the Butterworth food court.
Generic threesome shot at the Korean dessert place.
Finally, today, Sunday, Judi, Ade and I had lunch at a nearby chicken rice place, followed by a visit to Paragon Mall to walk and shop. By today the three-day affair had taken its toll and we were sluggish and overfull, but hey, it's not a trip to Penang unless you're stuffed to beyond bursting point, lol. Ice-creams and coffees at the mall, followed by tea-time cake/toast and more coffees and teas, before the three of us returned to my hotel and chilled out lazy-style until it was time for me to grab a Grab for Jude and Ade to go to the airport, sadface. 

Awkward Grabcar selfie.
Post-shopping stupor bed snuggles.
Sad because Judi and Ade have to go. :'(
Waaaah!! Bye-bye for now, Judi and Ade! Miss yeeee!!!
The evening ended for me (apart from updating this blog) with dinner with Kev, Irinna and their kids, plus Becky and her daughter Isobel (both visiting from the UK), and Irinna's sister, at an all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ place. Suffice it to say, I ate all that I could eat. And now I'm going to be feeling this full and bloated for days to come, arf arf. More pics:

Kev's apparently the master of the Korean BBQ.
It's Becky! Hiiiii Becky!! (And Isobel!)
Well, that's about all for now. In the morning I'll be back on a bus to KL, so my next update will be from back home. I leave you with a few more photos of Penang street art (namely those that featured doggos), and a profound message. Till then!