Friday, June 30, 2006

Yumi Dumi Doo

I checked the time nervously. Why wasn't she here yet? My colleagues Rita and Soo Lee were also bore worried faces, and Eina was not any less anxious about her friend's late arrival. Flustering backstage during the matinee show for Cartoon Network Live!, we could hear the sounds of the ongoing fiesta coming to a close. A miscommunication problem led to Ala coming late for the post-show Character Meet & Greet session, and she was currently situated in the middle of a nasty jam in town. Eina, already geared up in her Ami costume, looked at me squarely between the eyes and said, "I have a feeling you might have to jump in for Ala..."

Me? Doing a professional mascot job before hundreds of high-maintenance children and their even more high-strung biological caretakers?

The shrieks of a thousand toddlers touched unmeasurable decibels as the confetti cannons burst a colorful shower into the sky. The show was over.

"GET HER IN THE COSTUME NOW!" Eina screeched.

As I yanked on the skin-tight black bodysuit, I could see in my head the two main stars of Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi emerging from their secret hideaway to welcome a swarming frenzy of pint-sized fanatics, only for Yumi to trip over her foam-padded rockstar boots and land on her oversized head, of which the impact would cause it to pop off and fling across the room to cause a hairline fracture in the skull of an unsuspecting nanny, threatening the welfare of each baby held in either arm. The kiddie adulation as well as my occupation as Assistant Events Manager would come to a shocking halt, as I get my face kicked at by the underaged mob with a simliar verocity that Santa would receive had a boy from a broken home ripped off his snowy white cotton beard, rendering the Westernized image of Jolly Old Saint Nicholas... not so jolly.

Despite the fantasy of failure, a job to be done was a job to be done. I stepped into the purple costume and got zipped up by Soo Lee and Rita, who then enclosed my limbs in fuzzy flesh.

"You can dance right? The important thing is that you can dance," Eina stressed.

To have satisfactory body coordination was one thing, but to showcase it whilst inside a completely new body that I'm only given a few seconds to adapt to is another.

Still, I somehow had no regrets telling Eina beforehand that I was curious about giving the whole mascot thing a shot if Ala couldn't make it on time. A retard craves to be loved from time to time. Even if it is by miniscule strangers who will never know who I really am, but would sell their souls to shake an enourmous four-fingered hand.

Yumi's hollow head was lowered onto me to rest upon my shoulders. My vision was entirely pitch black, save for three small holes covered with a thin mesh to form the eyes and mouth. Yumi's head was abnormally tall with her eyes placed way above my head, so only the mouth was of optical benefit. I had to work up a crowd with all five senses cut down to a fraction of their acuteness for the next half hour. And to think that all people see from the outside was a happy bouncy smiling idiot from La La Land.

Eina is also good to go, and it's showtime. Soo Lee swings the door open to the blaring helium-voiced theme song of Cartoonival. A human hand grabs my cartoonified one to guide me out to the screaming masses, with fuschia-haired Ami leading the way. The latex platform soles numb my feet from the raw sensation of walking as I wave briskly to the families thronging to the Meet & Greet area.

Once they usher Eina and I into the safe confines of the queue-rope enclosure, Soo Lee and Rita flip into strict crowd management mode. I do my retard jig to the music, and get the occasional tap on the shoulder by my popstar compadre to remind me that I have to go crazy on my air guitar. I forget that Disco-very the motherfunker is no more. Yumi the wild child of kawaii must rock the house.

Soo Lee and Rita start letting the families in for the photo-taking. A sponsor representative is armed with her chunky purple polaroid camera. The children stream in from the queue like autumn leaves on a bubbling brook. Just when I am getting accustomed to the easygoing pace, the leaves transform into logs, and the brook into white rapids. I am pushed to and fro, my body squeezed and twisted in strangely-positioned bear hugs. I step on several feet without being able to apologize. I grope around for a hand when I hear my colleague encourage the nervous children to "Shake hands!". I pose for cameras I can't see. The heat is intensifying. My shoulders are sinking under the weight of the Yumi's head.

All these difficulties pale in comparison to the moment a father strides in with his baby girl hoisted on his forearm. She looks straight into my meshed mouth and cries a cry that embodies a most gruesome murder of merriment.

The minutes start to stretch and I feel the heat seeping through to my bones. Once the crowd dies down, my colleagues and co-workers start devising ways to pose with Eina and I. One of the venue personnel who works closely with us on the show wants to join in, and asks where I am so we can pose together. Rita points to me and lets the laughter let rip. I want to pull the middle finger at them, but if only I had one.

Once the Meet & Greet session comes to an official close, my office company close in for a snap,

and make sure...

that they revel in the opportunity...

to bully a colleague...

by keeping her in her costume...

for those few minutes longer.

I hear someone saying that the mascots need to get out of their costumes before they faint, so Eina and I wave our goodbyes and get ushered back to the the backstage area. My head is removed, and everyone around me gasps. I don't understand why until I bend down, and bodily fluids rush from my hair to the floor. I am mega-drenched.

My colleagues help peel off the costume and I slump into a chair. They stare at me in wonderment at me and at a feat that was far from what was expected in my scope of employment. Eina congratulates me on a job well done, as so does Ala, who had arrived in the nick of time to watch me perform her role in the last few minutes. If the Cartoon Network directors find out that their character was portayed by a professional retard they would skin me alive. But I don't care. I am delightfully dizzy and laughing uncontrollably, the only thought in my head being the last that anyone would have expected:

Let's do that again!

Friday, June 23, 2006

For Naomi

I'm going out of my usual anecdote-style postings to pick a fight with some folks... and I need all the help I can get.

To the disappointment of some however, it doesn't involve jackhammers, tommy guns or molotov cocktails.

Those who personally know me may be aware of how riled up I can get about animal cruelty, to the extent that I have boycotted one of my favorite make-up brands since news broke out about its shady process of ingredient testing. Three years ago, I tried to make a loner effort in rallying against a baby elephant's mistreatment at The Royal London Circus (The Malay Mail *almost* picked up my story but the circus owner quickly stumped out my accusations). And now, a fresh incident has come to my knowledge from the Remember Sheena Campaign blog. It bears slight resemblance to some news that I shed some light on last year.

Reading about Naomi made me frustrated because I felt helpless. Sad because it was so uncalled for. Insulted because it happened in my own country where I and so many other citizens know better. Hopping mad because it seems that nothing is being done about it. This time round, I've popped a blood vessel. And retards can get quite ruffled when they pop a blood vessel.

The webpage explains the case in detail, and if you believe in the cause, your signature would be highly appreciated. (If you're a Malaysian, including your IC number would help in providing credibility to the list.)

The Justice For Naomi's Death Petition

Once I get a significant-enough number of signatures, I will be printing it all out and posting it to the local Department of Veterinary Services, as well as the major newspapers.

If there is an error in trying to post a signature, you can also copy the following text, amend it if you'd like to add your own comments, and email it back to me at

To: Department of Veterinary Services, Malaysia

Re: Justice for Naomi's Death

Naomi, a nine-year-old tabby cat, was slightly ill so on 23rd March 2006, her owner, Raihana Souket Ali (of Bukit Mertajam, Penang, Malaysia) had decided to board her at a government clinic - Jabatan Haiwan Bukit Mertajam (JHBM), Penang.

Based on the clinic's promises to look after her, Naomi was left in its care. Four days later, when Raihana's family returned to collect her on 27th March, they were informed that she had died.

The family could not find out when exactly she had died, but Naomi was found lying in a very small cage, infested with flies and ants. Upon investigation, it was revealed that she had been locked in there since she was admitted, and had not been fed water or food the entire four days she was there.

JHBM officials refused to take responsibility and deflected the blame between each other, claiming each had thought the other would feed Naomi. But no one did.

Three months on, Raihana struggles to accept how Naomi has died, and she has desperately fought for justice over this unspeakable tragedy. She has made complaints to officials and their heads, including a letter she sent to Mr Mohd Radzuan bin Malek, Dept of Veterinary Services, Headquarters, Wisma Tani, Level 2, Podium Block 1A, Lot 4GI, Precient 4, Federal Government Administrative Centre, 62630 Putrajaya. She still awaits a reply to this day.

The death of Naomi was completely avoidable, and with one case of inexcusable human error being made public, who knows how many more animals have died or risk suffering and death under the careless hands that run JHBM.

I strongly urge for:

1) The Malaysian Department of Veterinary Services to conduct a thorough investigation into the case of the needless death by starvation of the feline patient, named Naomi, between 23rd March and 27th March 2006, at Jabatan Haiwan Bukit Mertajam (JHBM), Penang, Malaysia.

2) Immediate action to be taken against the individuals employed at JHBM, who were directly and indirectly involved and consequently responsible for the death of Naomi.

3) All animals under the care of JHBM from this day forth to be treated with adequate care and respect in a clean and healthy environment, in conjunction with universally stringent policies and regulations regarding hygiene and patient welfare that stand in any other animal hospital/clinic in the world. For JHBM employees to constantly monitor and ensure, to the best of their ability, the mental, emotional and physical well-being of their patients during their stay at the premises.

Sincerely yours,
-IC Number (if applicable)-

I will print out the letter for you and send it together with the petition list.

Hopefully together we'd be able to make a difference about the ignorance about animal abuse in Malaysia.

Thanks a ton people. Like, totally.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

It's hard being a 'Tard

If you have been awaiting my return to the blogosphere, I offer my sincerest apologies.

Absence should never be without reason, irrevelant of how exceptional.

(Us retards have special needs, donchano.)

Excuse 1: Graduation
For those aware of the misadventure of me enduring shabby communication and deflection of blame between multiple academic institutions who are involved in my course and inevitably my graduation, the worst is finally over. I attended the ceremony in May, where I got to wear an ill-fitting hat, sit in a row of what could have been my college friends if it weren't for an administrative slip-up, clap nonchalantly for two hours, and step up on stage and exude enthusiasm in receiving an empty scroll. Ah, such is the attainment of fulfilment. At least my parents were happy. And I managed to stuff my face with raisin rolls.

Hip freakin hooray.

Excuse 2: Work
My company brought in Grease The Musical in June and Cartoon Network Live! less than two weeks later. If you can imagine every aspect of work that ensures the success of two international large-scale stage productions back to back, and then split that amongst one managing director and three rookie chicks, you get ultimate chaos. Okay, maybe one notch above ultimate chaos. To come out of it unscathed would be a scandalous claim. But there were of course those rare times where I could step out of the box and see myself getting somewhere with the things I did. And getting a hug from Bubbles isn't such a bad reward either.

It's still the word, have you heard?

The Powerpuff plan to elude the overgrown babies failed miserably

Excuse 3: Rehearsals
Broken Bridges is going to be the biggest production that the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre would have ever put up to date. There are plans for the opening night to possibly double as the official launch of the venue as the founders have yet to hold one since its first year of operations. The pressure that's mounted on this project is, as you can see, naturally massive. The two methods of getting to Sentul is either hitching a ride with an ensemble mate and bracing the hour-long jam, or taking the train and a 15-minute walk which altogether totals to a similiar duration. I've been doing so every other evening (combine with Excuse 2 and lo and behold a very worrisome pair of parents) and starting from this weekend til showtime, it will be a daily affair. I've learned loads so far and my performance skills have made a noticeable improvement, but it's far from being a walk in the park. I've injured my leg twice and suffered a severe relapse of asthma since rehearsals commenced. Musical theatre is jolly good fun, but no joking matter.
On an incredible note, my director Joe Hasham has come across my account of the audition. I thought I was going to get emotionally flogged for my honesty. On the contrary, Joe loved it so much that he has requested to have the two parts published in Living Arts, a monthly newsletter by The Actors Studio. Joe, if you're reading this, this incident has not been of much assistance to me in the blushing department.

The melodies are memorable but murder to memorize.

Excuse 4: Movies
Promotion for The Flowers Beneath My Skin is finally kicking off. Think Online will be featuring an article on the movie soon, and I had a little chat with the editor Chris which brought back wierd and wonderful memories of the shoot. If I'm not mistaken, Think Online is also helping to organize the premiere at KLpac in July in conjunction with a showcase by Furniture, whose leadman provided the musical score. I've been informed however that KLPac is fully booked until the end of the year. We'll see how things go.
As for S'kali, an article by the Perantauan team and I has just been submitted to Vida! magazine, and an interview with the cast will be published the July issue of CinemaOnline. Also, the official website for S'kali is finally up and running. It's very much a no-frills hub for info, but features may be added on as it gets closer to opening date. There are a few screencaps for your viewing pleasure, and the 20 sec and 71 sec trailers are available for download. If you're curious as to why my face seems so strategically placed on almost every page, then yes, I paid the webmaster. In Sterling.

S'kali-wags & CinemaOnline mascot, Cinammon the sexy b*****d.

Retardation Nation should be back in working order for now. In the meantime, for those who may have a slight interest in my literary pursuits, the Inkyhands online mag has included one of my stories in its May issue. It's a relatively old piece, loosely based on a real experience which some of you may recall, that I decided could be put to some use at least.

With all this brouhaha going on, I must admit I'm not being much of a daughter, a buddy, nor a girlfriend. It's been tough to multi-task, but it's remarkable to know that those around me have the patience and understanding to allow me to do what I need to do at such a dire period that requires me to be calculative with the kilojoules I burn for meal time, rest time and potty time. I'm truly grateful. To those who know who you are: Bless your cotton socks.