Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Jalur Gem-'hilang'

Independence Day fever is catching on slowly this year, but the blogosphere is thriving in spirit. A bunch of Malaysian bloggers are planning to blog in our national language tomorrow, and I'm feeling properly retarded. I tend to use Manglish a lot in a foolish attempt to mask the fact that I can't speak or read or write Bahasa Malaysia for jack. To prove what a 'teruk' case I am, kindly allow me to demonstrate:

Ibubapa saya dari Melaka dan Muar... sebab tu, saya berasa sedih. Kenapa? Kerana saya cakap Melayu macam pelancong. Malunya.

My parents are from Malacca and Muar... because of that, I'm feeling sad. Why? Because I speak Malay like a tourist. The shame.

Now do you believe that my 'B' grade in O'Levels stood for 'Blatant fluke'?

I thought this was the closest my blog was gonna get to displaying patriotism, but then I had an idea...

Why don't I learn the national anthem?



*Dear child, tell me it isn't so...*

Sorry mate, you did read that right. For the past 13 years of living in Kuala Lumpur, I have only been mouthing along. When I feel brave enough, I try and utter English-equivalent syllables. Advance Australia Fair is relatively more complicated in musical and lyrical structure, but I can still sing it as well as any sheila. Curse that Third Culture Kid syndrome.

To say that it's about time I master the words to Negaraku would be the understatement of the year.

SO! Tuan-tuan dan Puan-puan, in a tribute to the hazy, lazy, crazy country which has taught me how to withstand humidity, devour durians and appreciate the art of freeloading, here is my rendition of the tune that has placed me one notch closer to being a proud Malaysian.

(Watch in the following sequence to effectively observe slow & painful loss of hope)

Take One - Fabulous start

Take Two - The problem of sharing a room

Take Three - Almost!

Take Four - Funny how 'darahku' sounds a lot like 'negaraku'

Take Five - Did I get it right? (Wait - don't answer that.)

Happy Merdeka Day y'all - wave that Jalur Gemilang high!

Friday, August 26, 2005

Mr. Kudo-san

If memory hasn’t failed me, Ken was a girl killer. He was sweet when he wanted to be, but mischievous by default; he wore the conventional smirk of tomfoolery. His floppy mop of raven hair accentuated the rich olive tone of his skin, a result of his Venezuelan-Japanese parentage. His eyes were small and sleepy-looking, but always alert. The beauty mark strategically dotting his lower right cheek amplified his popularity amongst the female student population. He left in the early years of high school, right before we got a chance to reach the exciting bit of watching boys grow up.

I wasn’t very close to him, but he did leave an impact on me. From time to time I’ve wondered how that dude has been doing.

I reminisce the time when he swung his arm into my back like a baseball bat and yelled “You STUPID!” when I was made the leader and picked the 'wrong' person for our team in dodgeball. I sobbed to the PhysEd teacher afterwards. “Ken, why’d you hit her? No need to be so rough, she’s a girl,” Mr. Leo told him as he rubbed my back which ironically caused it to hurt more.

I reminisce the time when I actually felt like a somebody in school after being told to swim a lap of backstroke with him, one of the fastest swimmers in our class. We shot off doing our strongest backstroke but ended up veering into each other halfway, trying not to laugh as to keep our heads up, our slippery arms and legs thrashing side by side. We reached the end of the pool at the same time. I don’t think he thought much of it, but I sure did.

I reminisce the time when my low self-esteem developed into an anti-boy persona, and I once beat the crap out of him during lunchtime when I saw him causing mock trouble with a girl. He looked stunned, and so did the other boys, as I calmly strolled back to my corner of the room and resumed eating my cold rice and ginger chicken without a look of remorse.

I reminisce the time when I was made to do a short dance to “Summer Lovin’” and wore a garish pink and blue chiffon ensemble from my mom’s 70s wardrobe. The moment I sauntered out for my hand jive, the only person who caught my attention in the audience was Ken... pointing right at me, hand cupped over his mouth in stifled snickering, rolling backwards and slapping his crossed thighs. I couldn’t do anything but roll my eyes and continue my half-hearted lip-syncing.

All that was almost ten years ago. And I need not wonder anymore.

Jessica brought him along to make a surprise visit to Olivia’s birthday party... he had been living in Holland, and was in Kuala Lumpur for a week. A tall, lean frame clothed in rugged street wear, his hair was trimmed neatly into a short crop; his jaw had developed into a strong, bold square. The cheeky glint in his beady brown eyes was replaced with a tranquil gleam. His mannerisms were unhurried and deliberate, his deep voice switching between dense and buoyant, but always chilled.

Ken was a man.

Had he bumped into me on a busy sidewalk, I would have not passed him a second look. The only thing I recognized was the omnipresent freckle.

Then I heard the laugh.

And we talked like the good friends we never before were and I never expected us to be.

It was nice to meet you again, Ken. I’m so immensely sorry for your loss and I don’t know if I’ll be seeing you again anytime soon, but I’m sure Fate will continue to play its dirty jokes on us once in a while.

Pet shops suck

I normally don't comment on news articles, but this one just made me want to beat someone up.

Apart from the absolute need to purchase food and shampoo for my 2 dogs, I don't patronise pet shops because I believe that there are critters in much more need of a home at animal shelters. It's bad enough that superficiality has led people to breed animals simply for aesthetic reasons, chuck them in cold cramped cages and wait for the money to roll in. But woohoo, yeeha and whaddyaknow, some idiots decided to take that one step further.

Whoever thinks the Wonderful World of Pets is a world of wonderful shite, say 'Aye' and gimme an asprin while you're at it.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

What are you afraid of?

Today, the shortlisted participants for the official Malaysian edition of Fear Factor will be going head to head during the preliminary elimination round at Sunway Lagoon. Three of my friends are there, giving it their best shot, and wondering why I pulled out.

I've always been known to be the first chick to dive right into Fear Factor-inspired events. I have crazy memories of the first local AXN Fear Challenge at Plaza Mont Kiara back in 2002. Being a frail asthmatic, I freaked myself out by beating out other counterparts by a long shot in the heats when I held my breath underwater for over 3 minutes. And then there was the dipping of my entire arm into a tank filled up to the brim with crickets and roaches, scraping around the grimey bottom for one sen coins and having crewmen brushing the occasional bug off my shoulder (the stench was ungodly). And then there was the final stunt, scaling the walls cum obstacle course of the 4-storey car park from ground to roof. Whenever I chill at Starbucks, I sometimes switch my gaze to across the Plaza, at the thin long iron bar that protrudes from the third floor, reminding me of the abnormal nerve I had to waltz across it to fetch a soft toy velcro-ed to the end whilst dogdging an inflated swinging pendulum. The guy who finished the entire stunt the fastest won a trip to Europe. As for the rest of the finalists, we each got a mobile phone. Getting that far had its drawbacks... I was in more need of the consolation prize of a Swatch.

I was given a call from Singapore early this year informing me of my being on the reservation list to compete in a one-hour Malaysian FF-inspired special on AXN. The shooting dates coincided with the dates of my MTV Asia Aid trip to Bangkok. The lady remarked, "Funny you say that... There's this other girl who was facing the same dilemma, she won the same trip but she chose to do our show instead. I'm not trying to influence your decision, but you know... I guess that says something!"

I went for the trip and a month later caught a bit of the aforementioned AXN special, where people were dunking themselves in a vat full of manure like yau char kwai in black coffee. I sighed with immense gratitude.

This time, my friend Janet, who works in the very next block, invited me to immediate auditions for the real deal. I notified Risdan, the winner of the Fear Challenge at Mont Kiara whom I had befriended thereafter. He rushed down all the way from his Cyberjaya office the day I told him. Instead of playing the intended role of supportive accompaniment, Janet and Risdan wouldn't let me return to my office without registering for the show. I got a call a week later confirming my placement in Episode 2, to be shot sometime in September.

The participants are required for as long as 6 consecutive days, depending on how far they get in the competition, and that's Reason Number One. I've already used up a good part of my annual leave already going for castings, shoots and whatnot. So compounded with the fact that the RM10000 prize money is far from a guarantee, I'm not sure if it will be worth the commitment.

Reason Number Two is... As much as I hate to say this, I think I may be growing out of it. Ask me three years ago to eat witchetty grubs and I'll ask how many you can spare me. But the drive to be dared has diminished slightly enough for me to not be exhilirated about it anymore. I dread to attribute it to maturity - God forbid that I am past my prime. It could possibly be the concept of it just wearing thin in my books.

I can at least proudly say that I've had my share of the Factor. When Risdan, Joshua and Matthius told me last night that they were hoping I'd be there today, all I could do was tell them proudly to kick rock solid @ss on my behalf, and remain content for the rest of my days with my innate gift of self-humiliation.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Boogie Wonderland (Part 4)

The day stared fairly early for a Saturday; we were supposed to be at the Orange Dance Club by 11am. Bernard, Sin Yee and I took the LRT train together to Suria KLCC. We could have only hoped that Sharol would be making it too.

Emerging from the tunnels

Cab driver offering us a 'good price'


We arrived and sure enough, Sharol was there... utterly unprepared but looking as cool as a cucumber. We had no choice but to save the throttling til after the show.

The three group finalists were already sitting by the drink stall next to the club: Funky Sox, Interlocking Force and Dance Maniac. I met a friend there, Tony, who was part of Dance Maniac. He and I travelled together to Bangkok earlier this year to catch the MTV Asia Aid. We both were winners at a preview event at Zouk, after taking part in - Now how about that! - a freestyle dancing contest.

Tony (far left in pink) and his group members. Sharol looks disturbingly unperturbed.

We entered the club, where sponsor reps ran through the itinerary with us. We were listed as 'Dance Wannabes'.

Dance WannaWHAT?

Not like it was logically that much of a big deal, but I was downright offended. My group mates and I did not go through 2 months of gruelling practice only to earn the title of being just a bunch of try-hards. Apparently, Bernard also said that our attendance form back at The Dance Space was labelled 'Dance Dummies'. If we were wannabes, dummies, what-EVER, then how the hell did we end up being chosen in the first place to open a show as hyped as this? I assertively requested that the name be changed... heck, even 'Rexonians' sounded cooler. The rep said she would see if it could be done.

The stage is yours.

We dragged Sharol straight to the waiting room and started discussing details of our dance with him. Thankfully, he got the gist of it fairly well.

The three groups came up and chilled. They had gotten familiarized with the routine of staying cooped up here whilst competing groups performed their challenges during the months of competition. They gossiped, joked around, roughly ran through their final performances, and they were set. They didn't really mingle with us newbies. We plonked our mini compo on the floor, spun our song mix, and practiced for the first time EVER as a complete group.

Noon marked the first stage rehearsal. The sound was fine, our moves were smooth, but we were out of sync and our positioning sucked. We needed a lot of refining.

We conjured an introduction which was cool to watch and a hilariously fun to perform.

To everyone to whom I have vehemently denied that I look anorexic, I'm sorry... I take it back. ALL back.

I'm so excited. And I just can't hide it.

Bernard's wicked hat trick

Slipping on a banana in the most cringe-worthy way... haha, retard.

*Make you do a double take*

For some strange reason, our ending poses looked a little... off.

Once our turn was done, we were ushered straight back into the waiting room, and we ran through the moves again. And again. And again. We were worn from the past few days of marathon rehearsals, but we could not afford to rest just yet.

As the day ticked by, the term 'Wannabe' was still being used. I was getting pretty agitated at this point, and I started whining to the organizers about it. One of them just shrugged and said it was too late to change anything; it was written in the script. "The show hasn't even started yet, of *course* it can still be changed..." I growled. I was given an indifferent shrug, and I resumed my angry pout. It didn't take long for the weariness to settle into all of us.

Tired & tried

Dance Maniac was sponsored by Adidas. I was THAT close to nicking a pair.

The full dress rehearsal was due to start at 2pm. But with technical complications that come with shows that are shot in a "live" environment, the rehearsal was pushed way later than expected. After a few more hours of waiting, we got into our Rexona gear to prepare for the final rehearsal which eventually started at 3.30pm; the doors were supposed to open at 4pm.

Our dance looked heaps better by this time, however, I noticed that my body was not so responsive to the music... My moves were not as sharp, my caterpillar kicks felt like kickboard paddles. I realized that I had been using up more energy than expected for the first show reheasal and the waiting room practicing. My head buzzed with dread. I was starting to question my ability to give it my all for the real thing.

Off to a good start

Initiate Operation Booya

Stepping up

Slicing & dicing

Giving the brush-off

Putting my @ss into it

Ending is slightly better. Just slightly.

The full dress rehearsal was barely halfway when guests were already queueing outside. They were told to come back in an hour, including my friends who had to leave to be somewhere else in the next hour. The dress rehearsal got abruptly cancelled after my group's dance; it hit the organizers that they were running way past schedule. By this time, I was reaching the end of my tether. I was exhausted, distressed and irritable. All I was thinking about was my bed, some asprin and a good foot massage. "Don't worry, we're almost done. Just think about the money. let's just get it over and done with," my other members assured me.

The subsequent sudden announcement of the show about to begin barely gave Sin Yee and I any time to make-up, so we clumsily smeared on everything we brought and hoped we looked presentable. We were hurried back down to the backstage room, and the guests poured in.

I heard the hosts hyping the crowd up and my heart shrunk. The moves were left on repeat mode in my head... Rewind. Play. Rewind. Play. Rew-

The door swung open. "LET'S GO!" the organizer hollered.

Following instructions from the briefing session, we sat ourselves down on stage in order of our groups. It was a full house. My friends and family were found in various extreme corners of the club; they waved vivaciously and flashed good-luck thumbs.

L-R, top to bottom: Funky Sox, Dance Maniac, Interlocking Force, *insert cool name here*

Bird's eye view of the set. Hosts Kish & Hani are on the blocks.

The cameras rolled, the hosts did their thing, the judges were introduced, and the Dance Wannabes were called up to get the party started. We took our places and the first beats of 1,2 Step resonated throughout the club. I was on fire.

We grooved to Ciara amidst the ardent cheering. The moves materialized effortlessly and I focused on the style. I saw my mom and little sister roaring for me. I was loving every second, for the first two minutes.

And then, halfway through Lose Control... I really did.

The moves in my head just dissipated. *Poof!* No trace of it left.I don't think Houdini would have done a better job.

The next seven seconds - which equates to an eternity for a song with a gazillion beats a minute - was spent with me standing there like the dipstick that I naturally am, staring back at my fellow dance mates who were executing the moves flawlessly, step by step, and-five-and-six-and-seven-and-eight...

My life flashed before me. So did the glare from the video camera.

I wanted to die.

I missed two entire sets of eight beats, and only got back to it at the last few seconds of the song. The song finished, we struck our poses, the audience did their hurrahs, and we were ushered back straight upstairs into the waiting room as the show continued.

We had to stay there until the show had completely finished. We were not allowed to go down and watch and hang out with our friends and family. Bernard was fuming and was picking fights with whomever he thought had some form of power to change the rules. I didn't have the energy to raise my voice. I didn't understand, I had the moves ingrained in my head. It could not have, SHOULD not have happened. The past two months culminated in one fantastic phuck-up. Out of everybody, I had no idea I'd be the let-down. I staggered over to the nearest couch, collapsed over and burst into tears. Out of frustration. Out of disappointment. Out of complete and utter burnout.

"It's over, dear. No point in thinking about it anymore. We're free..." Bernard and Sin Yee tell me frankly. I did know that the crying was pointless and foolish, but I couldn't do anything else. The zip on my emotional baggage gave way big time. I snivelled tragically.

While his group was preparing for their last performance, Tony came over and pressed a reassuring hand on my shoulder. I gave him a meek smile and wished him the best of luck. My spirits rose high enough for me to walk over to the tinted glass walls to catch a small glimpse of his group making the crowd go nuts with their charisma, professionalism and gravity-defying flips. My group was called down for the results broadcast, and I was over the moon when Dance Maniac was announced the champions.

After balloons dropped from the ceiling and hugs were shared, I whimpered to my friends and family about my onstage floundering.

"You forgot? Really? I didn't notice... You guys looked good all the way," they all said.

That concerted response, together with outsanding video editing skills, will be my only saving grace when the Grand Finals airs on the box.

The experience of working with other novice dancers was mindblowing; the friction, the harmony, the mental and physical drain, the anticipation of showing to the world what you've got... even if it does end with a phuck-up, I wouldn't mind doing it all over again.

Cheers to the Rexonians! You guys rock.

You can catch The Rexona No Sweat Dance Challenge on TV3, Tuesdays at 7pm.

Visit Sin Yee's blog for her (less angsty) account of the show.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Boogie Wonderland (Part 3)

So the four of us were left on our own, going for classes without a care in the world. But it wouldn't be long until July 30 would come creeping around the corner, and we would eventually have to start worrying about the performance we were going to stage at the Grand Finals.

We were each given our event passes and dancing gear: the generic black sponsor-logo tee and flame-emblazoned bandana with the density of cardboard.

Unfortunately, as with most situations that involve more than two parties, things got a little misconstrued. Either that or I’m too polite to say that it was disgracefully disorganized. Take for instance this conversation, which I initiated with one of the event management reps:

“Okay, so the contract says that the last 4 classes will be allocated to practicing our final dance...”
“Yes, but these classes will have to be done in your own time, your have to arrange dates between the dancers so you can all meet up together and come up with something.”
“Huh? Sooo... these aren’t really ‘classes’, right?”
“Yes, they are, you still have to do it...”
“But-... You-... Nevermind. So we have to do this by ourselves, or are we supposed to get one of the instructors to help us?”
“Uhh... Up to you.”
“Uh, right. Which means we’re supposed to do this in the dance studio itself?”
“Up to you.”
“…Oookay. So these 4 classes… Are these part of the 12-class quota which we’ve been given to complete?”
“I don’t understand what you’re talking about. Can I call you back later?”

(She doesn't.)

For us to be allocated only four hours to learn and perfect a three-minute opening dance routine fueled my doubts about staging something that wouldn’t look like a primary school variety concert performance. Flashes of me reenacting ‘choo-choo train’ gestures to the Banana Boat Song in puffy sleeves and lipstick-smudged cheeks made me break out frequently in cold sweat.

After much arguing over the song selection, we settled with a combination of Ciara's 1, 2 Step and Missy Elliot's Lose Control - the latter song being a magnificent but nail-bitingly fast ice-breaker. Bernard mixed the two brilliantly and burned CDs for all of us. We rose to the challenge.

Luckily we managed to arrange 2 long sessions over a weekend with Lily, but only long after giving up the attempt to accommodate to everyone’s schedules. Sin Yee was visiting her folks in Perak, but we were sure that she wouldn’t have problem catching up later. Lily had come up with a riveting routine for us, but being our instructor, she inevitably was the only one who looked hot doing it. She had made sure that the most complex part of the performance - the 'Lose Control' sequence - had no repetition of moves. Alas, there is never an easy route to looking cool in this industry.

The beautiful Lily... who brought beer for the guys to chug down before kicking into high gear. Bless her good little heart.

This beat flows right through her chest.

The anxiety heightened after we still needed to arrange more rehearsal sessions on our own thereafter. Sin Yee was back but Bernard and I had barely memorized the moves in detail to teach her properly. With the fourth dancer being neither reliable nor contactable, and no more opportunity for guidance and supervision, we felt like sitting ducks. Sin Yee, however, managed to finally squeeze in a speedy one-on-one session with the perpetually busy Lily. And in an ironic twist, Sin Yee helped piece our act together.

Bernard and Sin Yee went shopping at Petaling Street for appropriate pants; due to financial constraints we eventually settled for whatever basic baggy denim we could dig from our wardrobes.

We ended up spending the last few evenings in Bernard’s condo gym in Kota Damansara. We toyed around with ideas for our solo parts and were getting our moves down just swimmingly... but we were yet to practice as a full group. We still heard of nothing from Sharol, and we had no choice but to loathe his seemingly casual absence.

Sin Yee warms up

Bernard brainstorms

Retard wonders where the gagging noises are coming from.

No honestly, who's got more bicep?

Eat that, rebel scum

We are sexy bastards

Bernard going through chorus

Bernard experients for solo interlude

Bernard doing some kick@ss shuffling

Sin Yee is an alien

Disco-very pays homage to her evolutionary ancestors

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Boogie Wonderland (Part 2)

I was informed that there were initially supposed to be six solo finalists but two were disqualified for reasons I'm unsure of. Not that the remaining were complaining. It was a nice eclectic mix as it was: Sharol @ Jack the freelance veteran (the dude who competed with me at 1 Utama), Sin Yee the ex-gymnast, Bernard the body popper... and the retard who thinks 'mambo' is a retro theme night at Zouk.

Classes were held at The Dance Space at Sri Hartamas. The cab rides there from the office during rush hour were financially and physically taxing, but all classes were already sponsored for us and therefore compulsory. Organizer representatives would pop by every now and then to keep track of our regular attendance.

Cardio Hip Hop was taught by Fellest on Tuesdays, Hip Hop by Lily on Thursdays. Fellest was thoroughly influenced by J-pop; his moves incorporated a lot of sharp angles, complicated arm patterns and DDR-like hopping. Lily on the other hand had a jazzy style, with lots of swings, slides, kicks and body rolls.

There was a time when TV3 came over to shoot us during one of Lily's sessions.

Lily (in black top, far left) showing how it's done. The solo finalists are lining the back row (L-R): Sin Yee, Bernard, Me, Sharol

Trying to keep up

Getting the hang of it


Making it obvious that I suck at TV without a script

Practice makes sorta kinda perfect (Slightly dark)

We were later told by one of the sponsor reps that the solo finalists would not be competing against each other for the RM1000 prize - in fact, all four of us will win RM1000 EACH, given that we attend every class and successfully perform a group dance at the Grand Finals. It sounded easy enough... or so we thought.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Boogie Wonderland (Part 1)

It was a sunny day in sunny June...

And like all other days, members of the public instinctively kept their distance from me.

I came across the hitz.fm Rexona No Sweat Dance Challenge roadshow at 1 Utama. Mom pushed me into open view, pride kept me there.

First was the limbo challenge. Some complained that it had nothing to do with dancing skills, others bitched about not being warned beforehand to avoid tight jeans. And - Now how about that! - I was picked the first to go. The limbo stick was lowered twice until it was barely 3 feet off the ground. I managed to scrape through and my hip hurt pretty bad. Everyone got past this round - even the people who fell on their knees and hands. Must be some new rules I'm not yet familiar with.

Second round tested creativity. I've never watched a Kuda Kepang dance let alone tried it. We were to pass around a two-dimensional horse and see what we could come up with whilst going around some traffic cones.

I must say I am quite a natural.

Elimination was based on audience support. We were all told to turn around, while the were randomly pointed out for approval behind our backs.

From 12 we were cut down to 4. Then came the freestyle round. We all danced together then took turns after tagging each other. Elimination once again was based on public noise. Competition was fierce and I didn't stand a chance. So except for my family screaming their lungs out, I cannot find any logical reason why I was chosen as the winner over this guy.

I was offered to walk away with RM300, but taking free hip hop classes and competing for RM1000 during the grand finals seemed much more tempting. For all I knew, the instructor might be cute!

So to the dismay of my family who was looking forward to a nice dinner that night, I signed the contract form. As for the dude in the yellow bandana, there was an 'extra form' available and it was offered to him since he sorta came second...

And so the madness began.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Akademi Fanaticism

My friend drops me off to work Monday morning and I see this:

I've seen people - even the most elite of our kind, cultured, rich and haughty - reduce themselves to primal masses of maniacs who would sell their souls to play their part in the hype.

I personally can't comprehend the frenzy backing up Akademi Fantasia... Is it the talent? The personalities? The hosts? The drama? The thrill of the SMS voting race? The catchy theme song and poorly proportioned dancing silver ball stick man?

Ticketcharge is kept on its toes during AF season, where people will flippin sleep outside the office from 4am the day before in order to get a seat close enough to the stage so that their fave contestant would be able to pass a glance at their glitter-and-magazine-cut-out banners.

Monday marked the first day of ticket sales for the Finals on Saturday. All were bought at Early Bird prices - the entire stadium was sold out before noon.

Man, I feel so un-happening now.

Join me on my perilous journey to the cubicle...