Friday, December 30, 2005

Let's Go Retro - 2005

The year 2005 has been one of:

Sting: Took pride in being the only fan in Malaysia who brought a friggin' glow stick.
Force of Nature: Really forced us to deny the call of nature.
Fete de la musique: Talked like a retard, moshed like a rocker.
Buena Vista Social Club: Old-timers on instrumental crack

Bangkok: Won a trip to catch the MTV Asia Aid, met amazing people, saw Alicia Keys flub her lines
Cameron Highlands: Magical faraway place, fantastic company, rolled downhill in a barrel, f***ed up my knee (on separate occasions)

Killed my hair
Turned Japanese
Looked like an auntie
Grew up in 30 seconds and became Karina
Perfected a groove

Agony and boredom combine
Severe relapse of the acting bug

Had a funny valentine
Became a friend again
Met a familiar stranger
Let go of a betrayal
Learnt - and remembered! - the national anthem

Ticked off

It's really strange... after typing all this out, I still feel like it's been such an unconstructive year.

Best wishes to everyone for the next.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Friday Frolics

My friend Zona invited me and a few other old college mates to be part of a live audience of her new show, Everyday's a Friday at - keep an eye out for the coincidence here - TGI Friday's at The Curve. Zona was shooting two shows back to back: 7 to 9pm, and 9 to 11pm. I asked her to reserve two spots for me for the second shoot.

My friend John and I arrived at the outdoor shoot, comprising of rowdy diners, harsh lights and people scuttling around with cables trailing behind them. I found Zona discussing something with the host Serena C in the sea of hoopla. I tripped over some wires before calling out her name. She spun around and looked thrilled to see me... almost relieved. I sniffed a waft of conspiracy.

The first show was still being shot so John and I were seated inside the restaurant to wait for the next one. I met up with Keith, an old friend whom I haven't caught up with in ages. I was wary of John feeling left out, but the tables were turned when Keith and John recognized each other as old school mates. I tried looking busy with my camera and cellphone while John and Keith engaged in copious amounts of masculine banter.

During the last segment of the first show, we were taken outside to a table together with a couple of Zona's friends. I introduced myself to them.

"I've seen you before.... You're DISCO-VERY, right?"

Thus the chaos with Nazrul and Veronie began.

The last take was shot and we were herded to the back of the restaurant where the audience members for the next show were to be fed before the shoot. The buffet table was furnished with empty catering trays. The schedule was lagging a fair bit, and our stomachs started throwing b*tch fits. John was getting tired and decided to leave. Half an hour later, the food finally came: Caesar salad, garlic bread and buffalo wings. We ate until food was spewing out of our ears, and then a crew member came over to our table: "Hey! Don't get yourselves too full yet... You'll be given more food on set after this!"

We all paused, romaine leaves and shreds of poultry dangling from our lips.


We were abruptly ushered out into the open again and shown to our table. A crew lady then announced through the microphone:

"You are going to be served some food... Please, PLEASE take your time with it because we need the food to last for the entire shoot."

Now how hard would that be?

As far as we've been told, it's a breeze.

Zona came to check on us during the technical set-up. She brought along a little orange friend (the one she's holding in her right hand)...

... before reverting to her display of producer prowess.

Nazrul & Veronie

A crew lady came to our table and said "Okay. So who's going to be playing the game later?"

Keith, Nazrul and Veronie all shot their forefingers at me. Secret Operation Get-Retard-On-TV: affirmative.

This particular episode was being shot as a Chinese New Year Special, with celebrity guests DJ Non from Mix FM and actor Chew Kin Wah.

After the interviews, a 'game table' was pulled up, together with two opposing teammates from the audience. The objective was to squeeze the liquideous extract out of WHOLE oranges into a large margherita glass until it is full, then to get your fellow teammate to finish the 'juice' the fastest.

Serena explaining the game...

...which was fun...

...until I saw Kin Wah...

...dip his fingers in.

The other team beating us by a few seconds. I bet that cow was already practicing backstage.

Can't you just TASTE that fresh golden goodness? Mmmmmm-MM.

The other team won. Fortunately, the prize was to be shared between the girls. Unfortunately, it was another drink. But in front of a live audience, you always have to look grateful for free alcohol.

I gave the margherita to the other girl and sat down at my table. My friends praised me for my gusto. I still felt depressed, especially since my pasta... didn't taste like pasta no more.

Half past midnight: It's a wrap!

It was a late evening that was well worth waiting for. I made new friends, caught up with old ones, ate great food and flashed my retarded mug on TV. All for the price of a glass of dirty orange juice. It was the deal of the decade.

All I gotta do now is make sure the kids don't play with the remote control when everyone is back at my aunt's place for Chinese New Year.

*Thanks to Zona for the invitation and Nazrul for the nonstop camera-clicking*

Thursday, December 15, 2005


Strong words were exchanged: intimidating threats, heartwrenching confessions, monumental epiphanies. It was enthralling to witness. Then the thought gouged me in the eye: This is gonna be big... And I am sooooo not ready for it.

This week marked the start of rehearsals for my first commercial film. It's a project that has been in the works for years, and to see it blooming is a most satisfying rush. The cast reading through the final script together for the first time felt like magic. The new crew were creating their master plan in another room, their rowdy discussion reeking of novelties and algorithms.

Last night before the rehearsal, while the crew members and I were tucking into gastronomic sins at the mamak, Arivind the director called for my attention from the opposite side of the table.

"You know, you're going to have to start kissing tonight."


"Yes, tonight! Because I can honestly tell you now, if you don't practice for it, it's going to look like crap on camera..."

I stared down at my meal; my garlic naan drooped over the plate in disillusionment.

I had entered the audition room as a naïve freshie adult, ready to take on the world, with high hopes, huge dreams, one hand in her pocket and the other giving the peace sign. One and a half years down the line, I am a frail old geezer, conscious about her looks, pessimistic about her achievements, suspicious of her credibility and wondering how the heck she's gonna tap, from the deep recesses of her soul, that sprightly evergreen sucker for love.

But have to admit, I can't say I'm not a *tad* excited.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Julius, Seize Her

I sat with right eyebrow significantly arched, left eye narrowly squinting, mouth slightly agape. I could imagine my face making its cameo appearance on a chat screen, contorting itself in a jerky animated GIF file, an emoticon worth a laugh or two with online mates.

It was then when I officially deduced that when it comes to Shakespeare, I'm just not down with it.

After watching The Merchant From Venice in 2000 and Robert Bolt's A Man For All Seasons last year, I left the theatre brimming with the intellectual deftness of a potato.

Julius Caesar is the third and decidedly last production which has shaken the foundations of my monolingual stature. Dilettante, who was featured as an actor, invited me to come and watch the play as a belated birthday present. "Don't worry, I could grasp what was going on quite easily, so I don't think you'd have much trouble understanding it either", he assured me. Perhaps, I thought in this case, I should impart trust sparingly to a law student.

I went to catch the show with my platonic husband Ashvin, whom had expressed interest in the show a few days before. As part of the initiation ritual of patronage to the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre, we got lost. After an hour and a half of traffic blunders, we managed to arrive on time, and found our (very good) seats inside the chilly and suspectibly hazy space of Pentas 1.

The lights dimmed and upon the utterance of the first line, my autonomic nervous system went on hyperdrive. This is in English? I tried to focus, partially attributing my lack of it to hypothermic temperatures. I hung on to every word which sounded familiar in my pitiful range of vocabulary. I glanced at Ashvin, who seemed to be devouring the scene wholeheartedly. It wasn't long before I began to wonder what I was doing there... why I even bothered trying.

Dilettante then rushed up on stage and I got girly-girl excited. I, for a moment before remembering that it was not a talent show, regretted that I did not bring along a banner and parade his swoon-worthy face on my customised teeshirt.

He stepped off and I collapsed back into the 90-minute maze of incomprehensible drama. If this adaptation was already considered as simple and straightforward as it could get, then I could kiss my appreciation for the art goodbye.

Ashvin and I waited for Dilettante to emerge from backstage after the show. I gave him a thank you cum congratulatory hug, and Ashvin heaped compliments on his performance and the play on overall before the bashful thespian got called back for a briefing.

On the rainy drive back, Ashvin pointed out the climax scene that was beefed up with haunting audio booms and strobe lights. He joked that we went to see a play as an alternative recreational activity from the usual club outings, and we still can't escape.

I very much appreciated Dilettante's present and was inspired by his natural talent. I took pride in catching the names of the characters. I thoroughly enjoyed the suspenseful sound and light effects. I also thought the minimalistic set design was magnificent, the acting was impressive and Samantha Schubert's bountiful bosom was an admirable sight. But for me to stay comfortable in my zone of retardation, I would accept a Jim Carrey movie marathon any other day.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Skin Deep

Last night I could hear my mom calling me downstairs to open my presents. "Hold on!" I replied from the bathroom. I continued to press as hard as I could, fingernails sinking into tender flesh. The sight of blood vessels bursting under the skin did not deter me. My cheek stung and turned a bright raw pink. But I could not stop. I HAD to get it out...

I wish to share something which I have told no-one about before. Even my closest friends would only vaguely know about it, unaware of the full picture. And as I turn 23 today, I feel that letting this out will be a good start to getting older.

It all started when I was 14, when my big sister called me into her room. “I want to show you something. Come really close…” She placed her fingers on my nose and I felt a small pinch. She showed me a yellowish substance on her fingernail.

“There! That’s a blackhead.” She explained. “They are the little black dots on your skin. It’s dirt and oil that is clogging your pores.”


“Yeah. It’s gross, right?”

“I went to the mirror and looked at my face. There were little black dots all around my nose. I decided to give it a go myself and consequently sealed my fate.

I suffer from a behavioral condition called Dermatillomania. It’s linked to, or is a possible strain of Body Dysmorphic Disorder or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It causes the patient to create ‘neurotic excoriations’, or self-inflicted wounds by picking, scratching, digging or peeling.

In my case, the body part that suffers the most is my face. I can spend hours at a time almost every day in front of any accessible mirror: pressing, prodding, squeezing any pock marks and possible imperfections. The moment I start, I fall into a dissociative state – almost like a trance, where I lose all track of time and place. If I am lucky, I snap out of it at the bark of a dog, or the sound of someone coming up the stairs, but most of the time I end up resuming what I’m doing. By the end of a skin-picking session, my face is swollen with red marks which may stay for days. A lot of the time, I end up attacking something that was never there, ironically resulting in blemishes I was aiming to get rid of to begin with. There has never been a time when my face does not have at least one scab or inflammation from my own doing. The scars that form are deep and visible up close.

I have a naturally good complexion, so I don’t know the real reason why I do it. Maybe it is the challenge of removing something so unbelievably small and almost unattainable. It could be the notion that my face is infested with impurities that ruin my skin, and I feel that the most effective way to feel perfect is to make sure that every pore on my face is clean. It could be that I use the pain as refuge from negative thoughts, from anger, sorrow or plain stress. It could be all, and even more. What I do know for sure is that immediately after every session, I feel immense guilt and self-hatred wrenching up my insides. I feel worse than I’ve ever been… damaged, fragile and worthless.

When my mom first found out about my bad habit, she told me off and from then on, threw words at me like ‘neurotic’, ‘weak-minded’ and ‘abnormal’. I knew there was something wrong about doing it from the very beginning, but I was in denial, and the urges were uncontrollable. In school, I would come to class with large, hideous scabs covering my nose. I found it hard to look at friends and teachers in the face. As the years went on, I ‘graduated’ to other areas of the face: my forehead, cheeks, chin, jawline, eyebrows, and even the corners of my mouth. Every nook and cranny.

A year into the disorder, I followed my mother to her visit to the dermatologist. I wanted to see if I was able to seek professional help. In the consultation room, I described my problem to Dr. Tan. She gave me a scornful glare, and said, “You know what is wrong with you? NO time management, and NO discipline!” She started lecturing me about how to live my life as though she knew me from birth. She shot me down like a groveling runt. My mother, sitting next to me, egged her on and said she couldn’t have agreed more to every comment. I had never felt so humiliated in my life. I was so close to leaving the room, but being the submissive teenager I was, all I could bring myself to do was nod and smile like it was nothing. The encounter left me scarred, figuratively and literally. From that day on, I knew I was on my own.

The only other person outside the family who was fully aware of my problem was my first boyfriend in 2002. He didn’t understand why I did it, but he knew that it was affecting me on a profound level. I started wearing layers of makeup to college. At times I was so ashamed of myself, I couldn’t even stand having face-to-face conversations. All his attempts to keep me from doing it failed. One day he cupped my face in his hands. “Why do you do this to yourself? Stop, please stop…” His voice was shivering with desperation. All I could do was look back at him through tears and be lost for an answer.

I am often told that I have ‘nice skin’, even by skin centre consultants. I never know how to react to it. Little do people know the pain I've gone through to hide the truth. Every time I get complimented, whether on my face alone or my overall appearance, it makes me hate myself even more, because of the pointless abuse I inflict on my body. It makes me wonder if I truly deserve what God has given me as a vessel for my being. The pangs of low self-esteem force me to run to the nearest mirror, and the vicious cycle continues.

Only recently did I find out that what I have been suffering from is an actual disorder. On a whim, I searched the words ‘skin picking’ on the internet last year. I was shocked to come across countless medical websites that documented cases of dermatillomania. I matched all the symptoms. I read a torrent of comments made by girls in my exact position, who had no idea they were not suffering alone. I finally gave in to my denial; with it came a wave of relief.

I have heard of simple solutions: Don't spend more time in the bathroom than you have to. Keep the lights off if possible. Invest in high-quality beauty products. Always give yourself something to do. Such suggestions only relate to avoiding the stimulus and temporary alleviations, but they don’t tackle the problem head on. From now on I am trying to get through this through sheer will power and changing my frame of mind. It has been hard but I know I will get there eventually. Those not in my shoes may wonder how something so easy as quitting can be made into such a groundbreaking task. But just like any other vice, it is not. I have become emotionally and physiologically dependent. It consumes me like a drug. It has been doing so for almost ten years.

By making this confession, I am not looking for help, sympathy or attention. I instead want to shed light on a serious matter that is often conveniently shrugged off as a trivial habit that can be quickly fixed. I hope that others who are also facing what I am going through will know that there is nothing wrong with sharing it with others; if anything, I hope that it will help them realize that the condition can be overcome, because I know that doing so has sure helped me.

My birthday wish is for people to stop making judgements about those who may be so easily misunderstood... For all girls to not just believe, but know that they are beautiful, no matter what the beauty magazines say.

That, and also for me to enjoy a mean slice of tiramisu tonight.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Seven Ways in Rainy December

Crumbling under the pressure of mob1900 and Muddy, here are my forty-two answers to six soul-searching questions.

Seven things to do before I die :
1. Bungee jump
2. Meet the remaining Beatles
3. See the Northern Lights
4. Cultivate my telepathic abilities
5. Open a can of whoop@$$ on someone who deserves it
6. Inspire the creation of an anime character
7. Find my roots

Seven things I just can't do :
1. Linguistically prove my ethnicity
2. Leave a tap dripping
3. Say 'No'
4. Sit still to old-skool disco
5. Roll my tongue
6. Parallel park
7. Set a good example to kids

Seven celebrity crushes :
'Wah-keen', not 'Joe-kwin'.Ewan2D GorillazMs. JolieJohn LegendStingI don't fancy Bruce per se, he's just a freakin' god.

Seven often used phrases/words :
1. Retard
2. Yoyoyo
3. Are you serious?
4. Shite
5. Excuse me
6. Sorry
7. Thank you

Seven things that attract me to the opposite sex :
1. Benevolence
2. Creativity
3. Patience
4. Funny faces
5. An open mind
6. A love for music
7. Eyes that tell stories

Seven tags :
1. You
2. and you
3. and you
4. and you
5. and everyone else
6. including your mother
7. and her chicken too.