Head in the clouds, haze in the gallery

Snow introduced me to someone as I came back from my work break. We very briefly talked to confirm that I previously worked in Kakiseni, and then

  • Me: What do you do?
  • HY: I flip books.
  • Me: Oh, okay. *walks back to desk to work*
  • Snow: You’re done with small talk? That was so small a talk…
  • Me: That was a lot of talk for me.

My mind is a cloud at work today. Possibly because I sat through two long sessions of electrocuting my butt in physiotherapy. Or because I’ve been editing numerous complicated multilingual citations in some texts.

I paid for petrol earlier today, and nearly drove off without filling up the tank. It’s not the best day to be an editor.

On the plus side, I’ve been watching the setup of Between States, an exhibition that uses the haze crisis as a starting point of examining Southeast Asia and its identity*It has little robots, and a copy of the ASEAN Agreement of Transboundary Haze Pollution**, moving pixels, medical records, and embroidered jackets — it’s almost like a collection of curios, and I’m keen on it. Also not often I get to see such an interesting exhibition with only four(?) works in a commercial gallery space. Having funding is always nice.

Don’t think I’ll be able to see the exhibition properly until after the opening, which is always the worst time to see a show. It is, however, the best time to get free wine and curry puffs.

Sze (who is curating this) mentioned the ideas behind this project quite a while back, which was difficult to visualise. I’m glad to have an opportunity to see the finalised exhibition (as in, it’s in Malaysia), especially given my personal interest in regional politics regarding the haze. I’ve been disheartened by the larger curator programme Sze is currently enrolled in (which resulted in this exhibition) after Sabahan art collective Pangrok Sulap was censored in Escape from The Sea, but I have faith in Sze’s personal politics and her trajectory as a curator. Can’t say this about a lot of people. Certainly can’t say that about some of the people I see wandering around in the gallery now, who I cannot help but see as the apologist faces of censorship***.

Hiding in the office and working now. Might duck out for some free booze later on, like a proper arts scene person. In the meantime, trudging through my deadlines as my own personal response to the haze in my mind.

**It bugs me that there’s nothing in the Agreement about disclosing haze information to citizens in ASEAN.
***in other words, 吃死猫, but these are the faces I recognise — even that meaning has changed. Where once I saw Borneo beloved and (vital/rare) allies, now I see them as compromised compromises.

Tech stuff

I finally have my laptop back (and thus, access to my blog). So many things have happened that I thought I would write about, but now that opportunity presents itself, I find the will does not match the intent.

I recently watched the Apple keynote, and the rather creepy iPhone X that has Face ID.

I have a middling interest to pick up an iPhone 7, but I’m so turned off by the lack of a headphone jack. I didn’t sink a few hundred ringgit into my RODE microphone (and months of wrangling with customer care) for it to freely dangle from my phone. The only fixes I’ve seen look unwieldy. Was suggested I return to the camera route, but I have two DSLRs that need fixing and not a lot of desire to enter the world of reinvesting in lenses.

Maybe I’ll compare the new iPhone to the next Google Pixel phone, but a few brief months on Android has left me unable to shake this uncomfortable feeling that this damn device is putting me under even more surveillance than I’m used to being spied on.

I was recently demoted as my friend’s top data leak, and I am a bit conflicted at how miffed I am. Inner troll big. Inner troll strong. Inner troll wants to take a photo of your face with geolocation and tag you. I don’t know where the inner troll comes from, but it’s best not to allow it to grow. Hrm.

I kind of love the new videos I’ve seen, where humans issue commands via interfaces that sense brain signals through skin. Maybe the future is inevitably full of security fears, just as it is sekarang. But maybe I will get  my VR immersive reality sooner rather than later.

The latest season of Bojack Horseman was a pleasant surprise — I thought it was a thoughtful journey through Bojack’s selfishness and deep self-loathing, and the invisible ways we inherit trauma. Wasn’t expecting that from an animation, but, why not? I was observing how terribly flawed he was, and while I recognised shades of them, I was glad that overall I didn’t relate to his character — his crushing insecurities and damage.

I wish popular anime had less focus on fanservice and more explorations of humanity central to their theme, but that’s like hoping for a rehaul of the manga industry.

Currently listening: Amber Arcades — Fading Lines
Currently reading: Sonny Liew — The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye
Currently watching: Bojack Horseman (S4)

Lasagne / Herding cats / BDSM / Pew pew

Made my first lasagne. Turned out quite well. Channelled my memories of Nithiya making working up a bechamel sauce when I whisked mine together.


The resistance. Trying to surprise both Jac and Juans is like herding two miserable, suspicious cats. So far, I’ve had more success literally herding cats. I should think about this.

Went for a BDSM workshop, in an artspace/home I was falsely convinced is named New Caledonia. Chi too said it was an excellent way to spend Mother’s Day.

In a really unsurprising way, I’m already friends with most of the people I met at the workshop.

It was largely conversation based, with a demo session at the end that was quite interesting. Went to the hardware shop a few days ago — and I’ve gotten a friend to volunteer for practice.

Throwing a little pizza + BDSM party some time soon! Not everyone coming will be into BDSM, but that’s okay.


Sculpting dildos, BDSM, and pottery. I’m morphing into MegaLesbian. Pew Pew, pew pew.

Currently listening: Best Girl Athlete — All That
Currently reading: Lauren Beukes — Zoo City
Currently watching: Grimm series

Birthday / Driving / House / Tour

Had a birthday so good, I think my heart bursted.

Started unlikely, with 1)  a shopping trip 2) with Juans, 3) in 1 Utama.

I needed a shirt for a function, and I hadn’t had jeans that fit for half a year. Drastic weight loss left me with a wardrobe where the few things that fit were years old. Nearly thirty kilos shed in three weeks. I lost the weight of a whole child. What a miserable few months of recovery that was, I was so weak.

Now that I’ve regained my health and could go out again, I desperately wanted jeans I could wear without a belt. Wearing the belt reminds me of the drastic weight loss, and being sick, I hate it. Preferably this new pair would last for another five years, which seems to be the average amount of time I take to buy a new pair of jeans each time.

Ten years ago, I walked into Levi’s, told the butch salespeople I was looking for jeans from the men’s range, and walked out with the first pair of jeans they handed to me that I could wrap around my waist. I liked that they understood I wanted it to be completely fuss-free. Five years ago, I walked into the same shop, was happy to see terse butches still worked in sales there, and repeated the same process. I kind of thought it might go the same this year as well, plus some comments from Juans, but I was mistaken.

Shopping with Juans is interesting, she’s quite meticulous and has some knowledge about how clothes should fit. This time, I tried on several pairs, of various cuts and colours, in a few different shops. I had never seen my legs in skinny jeans before, I had no idea my calves were so big. Or maybe skinny jeans do that to legs. At least now I finally know what my former colleague Shan was wearing all along (I think).

Also got my first pair of shorts in years! Finally! Last two pairs of shorts: one from a budget shop in Kelantan, last year. Went to visit Chi for an emergency, was so stressed out about him being abused by authorities, I forgot my luggage. Another four years ago, visiting Penang with family. It didn’t cross my mind at all we would stay by the beach instead of George Town. A gigantic crotch hole tore into those shorts a few months ago before I went to Kelantan, I’m surprised they even lasted that long. Both pairs came up to RM10 combined. I’ve been wanting a proper pair since I lived in Melbourne, so I guess this has gone on a while.

  • Me: These shorts look like a school boy’s shorts. Why would anyone want to get-
  • Juans: –Well, I can think of a few-
  • Me: –No! I mean, I’m gonna stop you right there.

Shopping lasted quite a few hours too, but I think we were totally done with the experience towards the end. Malls can really sap the life force out of a person. We did manage to sneak in some pretty satisfactory sushi though, and stopped short of ruining our dinner.

We went to Jac’s, carpooled for dinner to Lau Heong, then went back to Jac’s for cake, music and conversation. Jac baked a ginger spice poached pear cake, which I loved. She doesn’t want to be a baker, but I think she could rock it. It was kind of weird to see her not working. Jabber had such a time, so many women with long hair for him to fawn over.

It was such a good day, I wonder why I keep I can’t seem to think of how good this birthday was, without thinking of how awful or uneventful (by design) some previous ones were. 17 years after my 17th birthday — the last I would have at home in Ipoh. Crying into my beef teppanyaki garlic rice in Ipoh Parade’s food court, after dinner, miserable at how angry mom was to have to “do something” for my birthday, Gazel barely there. being ordered to feel gratitude. A super shit birthday following that in college, walking home with just one shoe, broke, no more cell phone, more family drama than I thought possible.

I think generally growing up without good birthdays, and not having much change in my first years away from home left me with an impression that birthdays are generally shit, and that the good things then are due to other factors. It feels like a silly belief, but I know that’s not entirely true, I just don’t enjoy the possibility of unnecessary vulnerability. Now that I look back on my college days, I know I also always avoided letting people know, or firmly played it down, or moved the celebrations to another day. I think it would have really upset me to have asked for a nice day and ended up with a shit day out. And then it just became a thing.

It’s nice to have an experience that breaks away from the last ones. I think I should try again next year to celebrate on my birthday itself. I don’t want to forget that I should invest in trying to make some days special for myself. And maybe I don’t have to avoid beef teppanyaki so much — since now memories of shit birthdays are so long ago, and the recent ones are so happy (including the sudden birthday kiss too).

I started driving for Grab car. Only two trips so far.

First trip was quite intense. Four Chinese girls, talking loudly, about relationships and studies. Didn’t really understand the Mandarin they were speaking.

I thought there was no way the second trip would be more intense. Then five burly male athletes got into my car. They were louder, their Chinese more incomprehensible (Hokkien/Teochew? + Mandarin) and my car felt so heavy, and this trip lasted to a sports centre in Shah Alam.

I don’t know if I can keep this up.

Had a moment last week to think about how happy I currently am. I’m emotionally fulfilled, my life is rapidly stabilising, my health is improving, I’m getting job offers, and I’m largely at peace even with turbulence around me.

Turbulence. I’m not sure what to do. I’m losing a housemate to circumstances beyond our control. I feel so much sympathy for her and her (now ex?) boyfriend, but can only hope her path eventually leads to happiness, despite the severe odds stacked against her.

I’ve had opportunity to realise that even though I cannot count on family for a lot, I can at least be sure they’re not out to actively mould and gaslight me into a version of Lainie they want to see.

I’ve mostly stopped gritting my teeth.

Lil surprise last week when I found out I was definitely leading a Reading Art tour in Ilham Gallery next month.


A lemniscate

Morning read. The magician who creates an illusion, the messenger who oversees the writers. I think my woo woo cards want me to write today.


Update: (I met a pretty cool woman who wears lemniscates!)

I am bent over a drain at the shower, pulling away hair tangled around a plastic knob. I open my mouth, push my fingers in, and pull out a strand. It is tangled with others. Soon, I am pulling out the slimy clump that nested behind my throat. My threat feels great — clear. An old blockage removed. I pull it out into the drain thinking I’ll clean it later, hoping none of the people behind me can see what I’ve just done. I don’t really care if they do. My hair reaches just above my shoulders here. 

A girl is racing tortoises. There is a small structure in front of her, a tiny multi-storey shed with red barn walls and Chinese tile roof. It is old. The top storey has a set of barn doors that stretches the entire floor. The bottom two storeys have two sets of barn doors each. 

She says it’s an antique. People used to keep small animals or insects within such structures. At competitions, they would open the doors and let their pets fight others. Cruel past. The rooms aren’t considered spacious enough now, the ceilings rather low. She suggests you could keep something that enjoys confined spaces, like beetles. But she keeps small tortoises. 

Started doing daily tarot card readings recently. I have little idea what I should be doing after I draw a card, but I can learn. 

Today I pulled The Fool. What I read explains this card is supposed to mark new beginnings, but I felt like I just did the same old (met up with friends, attended tiny art talk, saw an exhibition, gatecrashed an event). I did have a big talk with Rach though. Maybe that will lead to new things. Or maybe I’m just trying to fit the day into a card. 

Because I itchy backside, I drew another three cards: A Wheel (I forgot the name), Justice, and Hermit. I should have made the effort to read up on these. 

This is quite fun, like having a thought of the day calendar that will last forever in content and always be kind of random, within the set amount of cards. Seems about as relevant too. 

Jac suggested Hermit meant I should spend time pondering the other three cards. 

The best part about regaining my health has been the ability to breathe even though I’m tired or winded.  

At the turn of 2016 I was determined to be more present and listen to myself. I’m disappointed that towards the end of the year I put that on hold and allowed myself to get sicker and sicker, assuming I could power through work until I found time to rest — which did not come in my entire term of employment. My body fell apart. I could hear myself, but I wasn’t listening. I really feel like a frog that got cooked in a slow burning cauldron, and now I have to rediscover everything about myself. 

For 2017 (not a new year’s resolution but I guess it’s hit January/February), I’ve learnt being present also means paying attention to what I observe, and that the more difficult and disciplined decision can sometimes be to step back, and do less, or do something else. 

I just hope I have no other major stresses to deal with for the next few years. Nothing of this scale. The heart is fragile, and the sense of self too. 

Met up with Rachel today. Lunch and evening dinner! I have not been doing well at catching up with my beloved Honeybunnies. Yet I think of them every day. 

It’s interesting to see how our talks now goes beyond work, family and relationships. 

We’re both INTJs. Maybe we need an outside perspective when we talk about our emotional decisions. 

Dinner with Jac. Tasty food. Even better lighting. Spent the time mutually admiring our new found beauty under a flattering light. 

Didn’t take any medication today but blood glucose was still healthy when I came home to measure. I had kuih, fruits, plenty carbs the whole day. I’ll need more discipline to not let this info lead me on a trail of self-destruction and carelessness with nutrition. 

I realised today grief can be written into the body. Sounds so woo woo, but it feels true. Once I had the realisation, I could see how it was written into mine. I should see if any research exists on this. Was wondering how do I communicate with a body, even my own? Is it through dance? Is that as horrifying as it sounds? If there were dance therapy in PJ, shouldn’t I already know of it? Is this a personal failing or does it not exist? Or is all movement a form of therapy?

I would probably loathe dance therapy. I mean, I think given some conditions I would try it, but I would transfer all that loathing onto myself if I figured out through all the effort that I was mistaken. 

I met up with Shu who now works as social media manager for Kakiseni. I had some questions about the updates he posted on the new Cammies. He had confidently mentioned on Twitter to my query that the new “best of” categories in Cammies would remain a points-based merit system, even though they were doing away with the traditional awards categories. I thought it would be better to follow up offline to get a conversation because I would flood the timeline otherwise. 

I have some familiarity with the former Cammies model, having worked on the project in various roles. The initial suggestion to move to the weighted system was also my suggestion — it created new problems as it solved old ones, but it was a system that still worked. 

But it turns out Shu was actually not informed on the mechanics himself as he had been busy with his own theatre show while the meetings were happening to discuss this. Many of the questions I asked were greeted with “I don’t know”. I was a bit diaapppointed. 

He mentioned judges now have two tiers; associate judges who compile a shortlist, and executive judges who award based on the shortlist. There is an elimination for shows which don’t meet a minimum score requirement. But different categories are scored differently. And the previous system was set up to recognise niche achievements and individual strengths  — say, an indie show may not evenly compete with a big budget production across all categories, but could focus on Best Original Script and Best Featured Actor rather than Best Costume or Best Set Design. I also don’t understand where the executive judges come in. If there is a points-based system, wouldn’t the judges only have a say if the points were a draw?   Does it stop being based on merit at some point? That would easily benefit the big productions. The snazzy pretty likeable works. 

The points naturally provide a hierarchy, that is the whole purpose of having judges assign scores to various facets of a show. And the total points for a dance show is very different from the total points for a musical theatre show. Also, which numbers in the score are used by the executive judges? Eg: how does a play that submits under Best Ensemble (eg: 10 pts max) weigh against Best Featured Actor, Best Supporting Actor (eg: 10 pts each, 20 pts max)? There is so much math in an awards show, because it’s a points-based merit system. It’s not flawless, but it’s designed to minimise flaws, bias, and human errors. 

He didn’t have any answers, and worse, I think the questions were new to him. They’re pretty immediate for those familiar with judging, I should think. He’s new, but his colleagues have been there — some for years. Someone should brief him. Maybe I need to corner Lynn or one of the judges and ask what is happening in her portfolio. Is that too super nosy? Hrm. 

I just hope there’s a grand plan that makes sense that I just don’t see right now because the person publicly explaining it hasn’t caught up with the issue yet. But I guess since it’s happening soon, I don’t have to wait long to find out either. If this were still under my comms portfolio I would have a million alarm bells ringing. I feel guilty, but I’m a bit relieved this isn’t my responsibility this year. Looks like a lot to learn and figure out. 

Found myself verbalising some thoughts lately. I’ve been speaking more the past year, even in public events. It’s so strange. But it helps pull the various threads into a more concrete idea that can be examined and kicked around, which is nice. Not so airy fairy. 

I’ve been jotting down notes on the theatre shows I’ve been watching, for my own reference. I think in the last four years working in Kakiseni, I stopped being an arts writer and focused more on pulling the voices out of artists, opinions from writers. I haven’t had time to really sit down and put my thoughts down more coherently and less intuitively. 

Before I publish my opinions on individual shows, I want to take time to consider if my views on theatre have changed — especially considering how the performing arts landscape has evolved in recent years. How am I position myself within reality and possibility? It doesn’t feel right to publish before that self-examination, but I think I also need to give room to the slight chance that this may not result in any significant difference in opinion, or evolution. Or that I may flat out fail to identify them right now. Or that this is unnecessarily wanky. Even if I don’t think so and I can rationalise it. But it’s possible I’m lying to myself. 

Maybe like other issues, talking with someone else instead of trying to map it out alone would be more helpful. Why would this be an exception anyhow? It’s not like I have any beliefs about the purity of opinions. In a lot of situations, the workshopped compromises work better than rationalised ideals. 
Hrm. I should sleep on this. 

I start work soon/next month. Visual arts. It’s gonna be a whole other beast. I’ve always liked reading about it, and consuming it, but I’ve not had much formal experience working on it. Some as artist, and organiser, and curator, and editor, and writer (okay upon listing all these down I realise I do have formal working experience, just less compared to the performing arts world). Just go to sleep, gdi Lainie. 

I believed the dream for a while. 

I had forgotten I was once kidnapped and had escaped. It was a huge kidnapping ring. We were imprisoned in a large house. I shot tiny ball bearings from a home made ratchet device on the day we escaped. Ran around retrieving them from the floor even after things were over. 

I was in the study looking at my friend. Almost in tears. I asked if I had forgotten. Could it have been real. She walks to a safe/small cupboard and brings out a light blue and white flyer. It’s a medical thing. It’s a number for mole women to call if they need psychiatric help to recover from trauma. I have deeply suppressed these memories and they come flooding out. I had escaped on Dec 20. 
I don’t know how I could have forgotten. I worry I am losing my mind.