Friday 28 September 2012

S+S Musical, in brief

Just some brief notes before I fly off tomorrow, since poor Alvin will not be able to catch his own show.

1. HAH! - Started off okay, ended up crass. I mean, cat fight? Not much story to it.
2. Detention - High school. Touched on lesbianism, a bit of a story to it, but rather crude and... Well, high school.
3. The quest (something like that) - rather nicely done, prince in search of Cinderella theme, but the cast's voices were rather weak.
4. Background music - rather sweet, single man in search of a wife goes for a date auction for charity. An awkward bit of twist at the end, and we kinda expected a little more cabaret style dance/moves from their get up.
5. Disorder in the court (?) - very witty. Loved it. The lawyers all break out into song and dance. The cast was overall very good.
6. The geongxi is a vamp - HILARIOUS! Traditional Chinese vampire story meets twilight. Very well done! The acting was good and the singing... Ooolala!

I'd say the serious contention is between the last two.

Monday 24 September 2012

Welcome to the Book Launch And Birthday Bash!
Welcome to the BLAB Bash!

I'm uber excited that you're here - this means that we can start our party! What do you need? Nothing much. Just make yourself comfortable, pick up your drink of choice (mmm, a lovely strawberry tea for me!) and prepare to get a little chatty.

First of all, the book launch!

I'm proud to unveil Stories from A Place To Call Home!
Orphaned at twelve, Daniel has often prayed for God to grant him a new family. Two years later, his prayer is miraculously answered: Emily Lee, grieving over the untimely loss of her son Matthew, has persuaded her husband to let her adopt a boy to fill the void in her heart.

But being adopted wasn't as simple or wondrous as Daniel hoped it would be. Matthew's friends resent his intrusion into their lives, getting him into trouble. Edmund Lee, a self-made man, ridicules his faith, telling him frankly that he doesn't believe Daniel would ever amount to anything.

And just when Daniel begins to feel comfortable and secure enough in his new family, he tears it apart again by disagreeing with his adoptive father's business principles.
Will they ever accept him for who he is? Will Daniel ever find a place to call home?

This e-book compiles the character development pieces written to define the main characters in the musical "A Place To Call Home", as well as other flash fiction written in an effort to work through snarly areas of the plot line.

So... if you watched the musical last month and you loved it, or even if you couldn't catch it because you're far away from Penang and only know me through the interwebs, here's your chance to find out more about the people who have been hounding my brain since last year.
The e-book is now available (for free!) on Smashwords in like a gazillion formats (epub, kindle, PDF, online viewing, and more) as well as Goodreads (online viewing or epub).

P/S I've got my first review here! Thanks, KK!

And now, to the Birthday Bash!

You see, the BLAB acronym actually has a purpose.

blab [blæb]
vb blabs, blabbing, blabbed
1. to divulge (secrets) indiscreetly
2. (intr) to chatter thoughtlessly; prattle

I'd like to give you, my readers, a chance to know more about me, as well as for me to learn more about you. Since I'm turning 28, I'm going to blab 28 random facts about myself and in turn, you can post facts about yourself, either here in the comments, or on your own blog (link back here so I can visit you!) - how many, that's up to you!

Here it goes:

  1. When I was a kid, I really really really wanted to have blond hair. I thought it was really pretty. I still think it's pretty, but I love my hair as it is now.
  2. There was a time... when I was about 7, maybe... when I thought it would be an easy life to be a gardener. For a few days. Until I realised... it involved worms. And sun. And sweat. And hard work. *silly kid*
  3. Almost every time I hear really good worship music, I see in my mind this lovely dancer covering the altar with ribbons, flags and interpretive dance.
  4. I really wish I could dance. And be that dancer.
  5. I'm actually really shy. *blush*
  6. I used to eat Hokkien Mee (prawn noodles) every single day in school from 1995 - 2001, except when they weren't open. 
  7. Since I left school, I hardly ever eat Hokkien Mee anymore. 
  8. I'm technically allergic to prawns. Except I don't really care. :)
  9. I actually prefer C.S. Lewis' Narnia and Robin Hobb to LOTR. (shh... don't tell the die-hard Tolkien fans).
  10. Sometimes I smile and wave, and talk to people, and go back thinking - who on earth were they? Where/when did I meet them before? 
  11. I hate auditions.
  12. That's why I write my own scripts and act in them.
  13. I finished NaNoWriMo at least 3 times. I'm still trying to make something out of those drafts.
  14. I go just a little crazy at book fairs. Well, maybe more than a little. It's like when a woman sees shoes....... (or a guy sees gadgets)
  15. I decided not to be a journalist because I don't like talking to people. 
  16. And then I found out that as an auditor, I need to talk to a lot of people :(
  17. On weekends when my parents aren't around, I sometimes don't talk for the whole day.
  18. I have another ten random facts to go and I'm about ready to kill myself, or at least bash myself in the head of thinking of such an idea. HAHAHA.
  19. The reason why I really hate games is because I hate losing. 
  20. I don't really know what my favourite colour is. I mean, I like pinkish and reddish stuff. And purple. But somehow I always seem to buy things in blue. 
  21. I often need help colour coordinating my clothes (and no, I'm not colour blind).
  22. British accents. Mmm. British accents, all the way.
  23. "I'll stop at the end of the chapter" usually means "I'll stop when I realise it's three a.m. and I have work tomorrow".
  24. I meet a lot of random people ALL THE TIME. And sometimes, how I meet them is a convoluted story in itself. 
  25. I love driving long distance. 
  26. Sometimes, the only reason I'm up-to-date on current news is because of Twitter. 
  27. I fail at being Chinese. I still can't differentiate between Mandarin and Hokkien and I really don't understand any other dialects. 
  28. Despite that, some of my spoken English takes on distinctively Chinese grammar usage. I suppose I don't live in a vacuum. 
There. Finally done. That actually took me all of 2.5 hours. 

Over to you! 

Sunday 23 September 2012

#fireplace: on the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month...

Haggai 2:18-23

I first read this passage a long, long time ago, and reading it, immediately thought 'hey, twenty-fourth day of the ninth month - that's my birthday!' I've learnt since then that the Jewish calendar isn't the same as our current Gregorian calendar, so doesn't exactly refer to 24 Sept, but all the same, there's this feeling that hey, this is for me.

The book of Haggai begins rather dismally. The people of Judah have sown much, but reaped little. They've tried hard to get things going, to get things done, but nothing much is coming to fruition. Then God asks this: Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house [the House of the Lord] lies desolate?

It's a tricky question, but one which I still think is relevant today. Of course, we don't have to build a church building. We have more than enough. We have humongous buildings, even. But the question remains, what are we doing to build the House of God even while we are busy building our own careers/lives/families/empires?

It may sound like it's going to fall back on what man can do for God, but if you read Haggai, it's a series of progressions, of how God leads the people.

The first call, the first question above, comes on the first day of the sixth month. When Zerubbabel and the people of Judah obey and reverence God, God in turn commissions them. And so on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month, He stirs up their spirits to work on the House of the Lord. 

On the twenty-first day of the seventh month, God encourages them again, saying: "Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land. I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations, and I will fill this house with glory. The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine. The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former, and in this place I will give peace."
(On an aside, strangely enough, this resonates with me at this time. As we celebrated Malaysia Day last week, I wrote about wishing peace over Malaysia. While I was worship leading that weekend, I also recall declaring over the church that the latter will be greater. Coincidence? I don't know.)

Then on the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, God spoke twice through Haggai. Once, to declare his blessing over Judah, and the second time, declaring his promise over Zerubbabel - and I believe that promise is for me too.

I think in my heart I've wandered far and wide, at times. But the calling is still strong and sure; that as you turn your face towards God, as you set your heart upon Him, and you affirm His Word over your life, He will do great things with you.

Be blessed.

Thursday 20 September 2012

Monday 17 September 2012

Cover reveal: Stories from a place to call home!

Just got this from my friend Daniel:

Some tweaking is yet to come... but it's almost there!

Tentative launch date: 24 September 2012

Sunday 16 September 2012

Malaysia: we wish you peace

Sabah, 2009
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:27

And we wish you this peace, Malaysia. I wish you this peace. This peace that surpasses all understanding; that in the midst of troubled and troubling times, your people will still stand firm in faith and belief. Faith and belief in what? Not in a person, not in a man, not in a party, not even in God really, because that has and will always be a dividing point in this nation, but faith and belief in Malaysia itself, as a nation.

It sometimes seems to me that we, as a nation, are in a state of collapse. As peaceful as we may seem on the outside, we are a nation at war. We are a nation at war with ourselves. We are a nation struggling to define who we are as a nation. Malaysia goes beyond the simple categorisations of race, language, or religion. There is no easy way to define what is truly Malaysian or what is not. And that’s the beauty of it, as well as our downfall.

There are so many things that can unite us. Our common interest in food. Our love for all things cheap. Our multilinguistic capabilities. Strangely enough for this non-sports person, our badminton. So many little things, and so many great things, make us one. And when we are away from home, we allow these things to unite us. We identify with our fellow Malaysian more than those of our own race. Why? Because we are Malaysian. Because we are not simply Chinese and Indian and Malay and Iban and Dayak and Orang Asli and Kadazan and what-have-you anymore. Our cultures have changed. Our mindsets have changed. We are Malaysian first by culture and upbringing.

And yet, we allow these very things to divide us. We allow the sneaky thought in our heads that because you are of a different race, you are lesser than me. Because you do not speak my language, you are lesser than me. Because you do things differently than I do, I do not need to accept your ways. Oh, it’s easy to lay the blame on one race and one religion and say that this divisiveness stems from them. It’s easy to allow that to divide us, as we have always done.

But as a nation we need to grow up. We need to realise that this is not about them and what they’re doing. It should not be. There should never be an “us” and “them” in our nation. There should only be us, the all-inclusive kita. This is about where we want to go and grow as a nation, as a country. This is about claiming Malaysia as our own. Not as our own for our race. Not as our own for our religion. But as our own, to belong together.

And I wish you this peace; that whatever may come, you will live knowing that Malaysia is more than a concept in our heads, or something to be grasped for our profit, but Malaysia is who we are in our hearts.

Happy Malaysia Day.

Selamat Hari Malaysia.

Friday 14 September 2012

#review: Short + Sweet Theatre Penang

I managed to catch Short + Sweet Theatre Penang on Thursday night and found it very sweet, but hardly short. Well, with 11 short plays of around 10 minutes, total run time was around 110 minutes. Adding in the opening intro to Short + Sweet as well as introduction of cast, directors and playwrights after the show, the whole production took slightly more than two hours.

Rather reluctant at the moment to give it an grading in terms of overall production, but I would say that on a whole, I liked it a whole lot more than Indicinelive IV.

A rundown of the plays (more or less in sequence):

1. Echo (Toby Teh)
The play centres around a blind girl auditioning for an acting role. The thing that irked me from the start was the awkward speaking style of the actress. I initially thought that she had a speech disability or some mental deficiency before I realised she was blind (dark glasses might have worked better than closing her eyes all the time?). I don't know if that was the way she really talks or it was an assumed accent, but I think the play would have been more solid if it was more evident that she was perfect for the role and the only reason she's not being considered was because she was blind.

2. Away from     , away from      . (Ankoku)
This monologue plays on the politics and hardships between three generations of one family. I saw the original play acted by the playwright himself during the Short + Sweet Workshops in April, and all I can say is the actor did not quite flesh out the passions and raw emotions inherent in the script. I think it was difficult for Rio to play all three characters (the shifts in characters were not obvious enough), so maybe having three separate actors for the three generations instead of one playing all three might have worked better.

3. Smart Phones Stupid People (Jackie Ashkin)
The awesome Jackie Ashkin (whom I worked with in Broadway Penang) wrote this one, about an iPhone, a dangerous wild animal, and two crazy friends out in the Sahara. Okay, so I read this script during the Short + Sweet Workshops in April and I must say I was pretty disappointed with the final product. Sorry. I blame it all on the director, though. In my opinion, keeping it simple and subtle would have enhanced the story. As it was, the fancy costumes, blatant attempts to sexualise it, and the over-the-top acting, as well as that strange ending with the Vote sign just made me... confused? (Also, too much panting and shivering involved. There are other ways to show fear than shaking.)

4. My Home (Wong Lay Chin)
I am having difficulty coming up with a blurb on this because I don't read the Chinese characters in the programme. Surprisingly, I enjoyed it, even though I didn't really understand the song they were singing. It was stunningly well acted.

5. Love is a Four Letter Word (How Han Ming)
The blurb says: Nice Guy and Jerk engage in a battle of jokes and pickup lines to win over Nice Girl. Um. This was one of those plays where they break the walls and speak to the audience. Plus point was that they were intentional about it right from the start. Minus point was that the whole play was pretty pointless.

6. We Were Made Fools (Yasmin Bathamanathan)
This was a very real, very gritty play about how migrant workers ended up in Malaysia. The acting was solid, with the actors putting realistic accents that fit with the scene. Loved it, despite not getting the point of the dance in the beginning of the play.

7. The Martyr (John Harris)
The play was about two people discussing life at the funeral of their abuser and I liked it up to the point where the two actors suddenly broke the scene by talking about missing lines and doing it with the script, and arguing. After that, I was just plain confused. Again, what was with the weird chicken costume? However, I did feel that the actors were more fluent when they broke the scene and spoke in Malay.

8. Confessions of Perfection (Yvette Chan)
Great performance by Gowri, and a good script by Yvette. (Blurb confused me by saying "two teenagers confess..." when there was only one.) The part I didn't get were the awkward motions in between staging. Was that supposed to mean/represent something?

9. Small Talk Really Stinks (Terence Toh)
This was good from the beginning until the end, and I think drew the most response from the crowd. Wouldn't be surprised if this got the Audience Choice Awards. We could identify with both characters right from the start and it was very Malaysian, very local and very funny. The only problem I had with this script was HOW COULD YOU TEAR A PAGE OUT OF A BOOK?!?! SACRILEGE!!! My heart stopped. Poor book. *tears*

10. Somnus (Catherine Ooi)
In this one, Danny takes his insomniac wife on a trip to the countryside in the hopes that she will finally get some sleep. It seems like she doesn't. A rather dark little play, but pretty well done.

11. Drive All Night (Mark Sasse)
Two major thoughts emerged from this play. One, the kid is cute, and two, the actors were too young for the script. This very teenage cast wasn't quite believable in a play about a guy who drives all night after a quarrel with his wife and is confronted by various radio programming which forces him to rethink his marriage. Also, I do believe from his motions that his driver's seat is on the left of the car. I'm guessing that he (and the director) either doesn't drive, or at the least, they don't drive in Malaysia.

So that wasn't a rather short and sweet review of the Short + Sweet Theatre.

There are two more runs at Stage 2, Penangpac (Straits Quay) at 8.30pm on Friday (14/9) and Saturday (15/9). Tickets are RM28 for adults and RM23 for students, TAS and senior privilege card holders.

Call 8991722 if you want to book tickets! (Especially for Saturday).

Sunday 9 September 2012

fireplace: How do I know that I love God when I don’t feel anything?

It was a question that came up during our last Headstart meeting. Or well, something like it, anyway. It’s probably been paraphrased quite differently through the many days it’s been running through my head.

For some reason, I remembered the song “Do you love me?” from Fiddler on the Roof.

(Golde) Do I love him? For twenty-five years I've lived with him, fought him, starved with him. Twenty-five years my bed is his. If that's not love, what is?
(Tevye) Then you love me?
(Golde) I suppose I do
(Tevye) And I suppose I love you too

The thing is, we’re so full of Hollywood stories, where love is nothing more than chemistry, sex and emotions that we don’t know how whether we love when we don’t feel the emotions. It’s great to have emotions. But sometimes, you don’t. Sometimes you’re so numb that you don’t feel anything anymore. And you wonder; does that mean that you’ve given up loving? Does it mean that what you’ve experienced isn’t real? Does it mean that there is nothing there anymore? Does it mean you’ve lost your faith?

And I said something that I’ve been believing for a long time now, as trite as it may seem, that your actions prove your love. What keeps you serving in church when you don’t know why you stay? What keeps you hoping and wishing and worrying when the easiest thing is to just give up and go home? Or really, why do you worry that you don’t love God unless you really do?

It may not be the best answer.

I don’t know if we were made with the capacity to keep loving when all feeling is gone. I don’t know if it’s alright to not have any feelings anymore.

But on the other hand, that is what keeping faith is.

Holding on through the broken times.

Saturday 8 September 2012 - an interesting collaborative site

Yuin recently introduced me to this cool collaborative site:
It's probably been around for ages. Hah. But well, better late than never.

What it is:
Baaaasically, people post random artsy stuff, whether it's a video, picture, drawing, writing, etc... and then other people get inspired and post other random artsy stuff, citing their resources (i.e. the prompt or collaboration or or post or other stuff on the site that inspired them) and this makes other people get inspired and post other random artsy stuff, citing their resources and... well, you get the drift.

So, I'm there with the handle annatan but I'm still figuring things out. (This might take a while). And it's currently being buggy enough that it tells me that I have no records when I have two. Or maybe I did something wrong. =(

BUT because I get all excited and tweet stuff, I HAVE THE LINK to tell you that this week's #fridayflash is up here. Cos I was trying it out and cos I well, I wanted to do a dialogue tale. Hehe. =)

Most flashes will resume here soon.

Friday 7 September 2012

This addiction may very well beggar me

So, the thing about being a reader, is really not having enough time to read, and yet having countless books to delve into.
See, there was this sale. Or actually, not really a sale, but a cheap book fair/event/thing. And I got all these lovely books in front. I've probably already read Eddings' Malloreon trilogy, or at least I think I have, but it was a steal, getting all 5 books in 2 volumes at only RM17.90 per volume (as compared to the normal price of approximately RM30/book). Besides, I like re-reading Eddings. If you look to the left, there's one shelf of unread books. If you look to the right, there's another shelf of unread books. The one slightly above has been read. Multiple times. So no stress there.
The other thing about being a reader, is really since there are so many things to read, I have less and less time to write. I think something needs to be done about that.

p/s there's another book sale until this Sunday. God, please protect my wallet.