Archive for October, 2016

Upon Hearing The News Celebration Tea

I made a brief FB announcement that I would be retrenched from work come Nov 30. The news spread faster and wider than I thought it would.

  • Juana: We have end of Kakiseni celebration tea
    Me: I still have a month to go kot
    Juana: Upon hearing the news celebration tea.

At our “Upon Hearing The News Celebration Tea”

  • Me: When I’m done with work, I’m going to treat myself to one indulgence: either I’ll buy a WordPress theme thing to customise for my blog, or I’ll buy a lot of avocados and have guacamole.
  • Juana: No to the avocado, you’re getting the WordPress thing.
  • (Of course my so-serious friend will pick the WordPress thing)
  • Me: Or maybe, now’s the time to start my dildo carving business
  • Juana: I am not the friend you have this conversation with.

We had some pretty good satay and half boiled eggs with toast and drinks. Talked about a range of things, including 5-year plans (which she quickly changed to 2-years, probably because she guessed the non-existence of the former). It was a good thing to consider. I had met Jac for lunch earlier and she’d asked me what was next.

To combine my answers to both: I want to work in an environment where I meet fewer people compared to my current job (I easily hit double digits in a week). I prefer small teams, and working with women/feminists. I want to learn new skills while flexing current ones. I prefer to manage myself, and have flexi hours. Positive social impact, please. I don’t want to be exhausted. I could do with one main client and a few freelance options. I would enjoy working on good festivals, and learning from them.

One of the things I learnt from Jac + Juana: I don’t sell my accomplishments or skills much. Even with all my faffing around online, I’ve rarely mentioned to people beyond colleagues (and even then) what my contributions are. I think I’ll have a lot more to put into my CV than I had thought of. And as Jac said, when I don’t claim credit for my work, I leave behind a vacuum to be inhabited by others. Minimally, I’ll have founded/co-founded the ASEAN Puppetry Exchange, ASEAN Puppetry Conference, and The Other Festival under Kakiseni. I don’t know if the programmes will continue without money being gifted for it.

I’m quite curious oh what’ll go into my cv when I have time to start on it.


Currently listening: The best of Mozart

Horizon

I have been let go of Kakiseni, four years after I first joined this new administration.

My last day is Nov 30. I was asked to send in a proposal for freelancing (at a much lower rate). I don’t know if I’ll take it.

I think I’m handling this, but also, I think I just forgot there’s a gallery I wanted to visit today. I looked up at the time, and it was already too late.

I’m uncertain, but I’m not afraid.

I hope drinking roasted rice tea instead of chamomile tea doesn’t exacerbate my insomnia.

I say at 10PM, like I’m fucking going to surprise myself with how this goes.


Managed to get a few minutes in the kitchen, knocked out a jar of extra-everything-but-basil pesto sauce!

Next up, hummus, since Jac came back from her travels with some zaatar (and a tongue too awakened for mild cafe food or water).

I think maybe I just like having a library of dips and sauces at home.


My work is so ephemeral. Every day, some work I do expires on the calendar — no longer relevant when the day passes.

On bad days, it feels like drawing blood from my finger, to feed the toyol everyday.

On good days, I tell myself even if it increases attendance by 1 person, it’s a good thing.

I feel the need to write about art and events boiling over in me. But festival. But listings. But everything. Maybe it boils over into this blog.


Had a disagreement with my project manager recently. In front of a relatively new/young volunteer and our content partners, who were both clearly uncomfortable and tried to divert the topic.

From the way my PM says things, talks about the compromises that may have come before, it feels like we work for two different women.

The one I work for is very clear that we as gatekeepers, on principle cannot censor artists. Certainly not before a work is even conceived. The path of least resistance is built on wrongful action. The one I work for understands that the money we receive is from the people, not from the private coffers of political parties. I have seen her go head to head with leaders in various ministries, on both state and federal level, to successfully defend the rights of an artist to various expressions, even if it goes against the status quo.

The one she works for seems to be on the path of least resistance. I am worried, and I need to follow up on this.


When I crane my neck and look upwards, I hear the sound of a frantic ocean in my ears. But it’s just my frantic blood, flowing so loudly I can hear it.


Currently listening: Yo Yo Ma – Bach Six Cello Suites (and the blood orchestra in my ears)
Currently reading: Princess Play — Barbara Ismail
Currently mangaing: The Legendary Moonlight Sculptor (new chapter! YEZZZZZZ! — better to read on mobile app with vertical scrolling, like Manga Rock)
Currently clicking: How the potato changed the world

Prunella

To be young is to sample? For all our criticisms of my generation for our “MTV attention span”, the events that appeal to an even younger arts crowd are even more prone to variety and short sets of performances.

Happy to have spent the night in a queer-friendly event, Nosegay. Saw some young drag by Cocoa Buttre (who wasn’t sure if there was a history of drag in Malaysia beyond Shelah. Like eh, hello, of course got lah).

Peter Ong sang Not My Father’s Son, and quite a few wept. But Peter brought the crowd back up with a diss of Trump and a giant happy singalong for his next song.

Singaporean poet Stephanie Dogfoot performed some poems full of deflective humour yet strong personality — she brought up a scenario of a party, attended by all the people she has ever been attracted.

Shh…Diam closed the night. I remember going for their early gigs, and being super happy at hearing the genderqueer songs. And then they performed in Jln Bangkung for one of the Malaysia Day celebrations, which may have been one of the first times I spoke to the band. And now, a gig with Shh…Diam seems to indicate that the event will be queer-friendly.


Was frustrated about some work relationships I had, but turned to older friends who suggested different ways to communicate. No harm in learning better ways of dealing with things. Sometimes I wonder what’s the point of my resume including previous leadership roles, or team roles — when the people change, a lot of it goes out the window.

Maybe the strongest thing I can put there is that I can turn to smarter and older friends and former colleagues in my personal networks.

Have to constantly remind myself not to turn defensive, work with what I have, manage what I can, and let go of what is beyond my control. And that solutions already exist, I don’t need to reinvent the wheel, I just need to be able to effectively communicate what the problems are so I can take a good look at them with someone else.


I finished reading Zen Cho’s Sorceror to the Crown! It was most enjoyable. I hope it becomes a series. I hope it’s already a series. Then I can go read them all now. I’ll just park the GoodReads link here for my reference.

It’s nice to read something that starts out deceptively half Jonathan Strange, half Harry Potter, and then turns all the whiteness on its head and deftly weaves in all these narratives I would have loved to have grown up reading.

I want more Prunella. She’s a bit Tiffany Aching, and Mak Genggang is a bit like Granny Weatherwax/Mak Cik Maryam — but in good ways. The book draws from familiar fantasy tropes that I have a comfortable relationship with, so all yeay over here. Also, I would LOVE to see a Mak Genggang series.

Screw waiting for comics to diversify, as far as I’m concerned, fantasy novels are doing better right now because Sorceror exists. I’d love to see more of the world in the Sorceror universe, and more sexualities too. But right now, I’m not pushing a wishlist, I’d just like to see the universe expand healthily without post-PC-add-ons of diverse characters left outside the canon, ala JK Rowling.

It’s also nice to be reading this in the same period while I deal with SEA deimperialisation writings — which is entirely a joyless affair.

Speaking of joyless, maybe I should do more reading about working with teams, but… But I don’t really want to…It sounds dry and boring as heck.


Watching Lucifer, a most trying TV show, but I feel compelled to see this through out of misguided loyalty to the comic book. Not that this self-aggrandising tv Lucifer is comparable with his comic counterpart.

I find the Mazikeen in the tv series so offensively reduced, and somehow sexed up like a BDSM horndog. I want the Mazikeen that slays the impossible against demons, and is feared/respected — not a “Maz” who wins barfights and pours Lucifer drinks.

Also: Detective Decker, the lead female star, is about as convincing as a cop as Jennifer Carpenter’s Debra Morgan in Dexter. They are not.


Currently listening: alextbh — alive
Currently watching: Lucifer — Lady parts (why do I watch this at all?)
Currently reading: Sorceror to the Crown — Zen Cho

Ilahi oluieh kuala lumpur

Olueheh? it is a chant an Indonesian man is teaching me. He and the women selling drinks. I have been fighting this super speed woman, not really a woman. It’s her birthday today. She needs to destroy me both as her next step and also as her old grudge. She may not recognise me still. I had seen her approaching on the screen of an intercom . They are following the chants from the screen. It ends with a secret phrase they chant into each other’s ears. I don’t know it. The Indonesian man (kinda looks like Jokowi) sees the panic in my eyes. Hands on my face. Arches me back and whispers it into my ears. Say it. He whispers it in my ear. Makes me say it. I know it protects me. Illahi oluih Kuala Lumpur.

Background of consciousness fading as the chase solidifies: Someone had been yelling a warning at me. Don’t do it! It is a female’s voice, young. We don’t know what powers she may have against me. I may not win. Even though in an earlier scene she was holding a bottle and said “we are blood”. She means she can tell who I am not because she can recognise my face, but that we have a similarity that calls out to each other. I don’t have a choice. They’ve already stormed the facility.

I am waking up, but when my eyes close I still see images. There is an open moth. Rotting teeth inside. The mouth was making a small o and now widening. Big grey spots on the non-teeth part of the teeth. I tell myself I need to get up. It is getting really hot, I can feel a heat enveloping me. I awaken and the image of teeth blurs away into the whiteness of the fluorescent light I switch on. Why am I tripping like this even after I stop dreaming? I’m sober. I’m not drinking or smoking anything. It’s like I was lucid dreaming awake, but with my eyes closed. I observed the teeth’s horror before realising: get up. I don’t want to see this.

Inglorious Maybanking

I don’t know how much of this is legislation, the limits of tech security or the failure of design — but I’ve been increasingly frustrated with my use of Maybank’s services.

I will list just one main complaint from the three services I use most, and hopefully this helps me manage my temper better the next time I encounter it:

  1. App does not support creating cashless withdrawals. If I forget my wallet, I will whip out my phone to send myself RM300 through any of the Maybank ATMs around. This is the handiest part of having a phone and Maybank account. But the app does not support it, so you’ll have to load the full website on Safari — it’s a dreary experience on a laptop. In an iPhone, trying to solve an immediate cash problem, it’s challenging, infuriating and sloooooooooow.
  2. Debit card requires manual reactivation every year for online purchases. This mean I could easily lose my annual subscriptions if my credit card lapses — and being an early adopter of various services, this means I automatically lose the great value packages I have if I miss just one payment. This is how I lost an excellent gmail subscription plan — I now pay monthly what I used to on an annual basis.
    The bank doesn’t offer a courtesy notification that the time period is lapsing, which I think is bank speech for “Go fuck yourself”. I was also told my card would be blocked from “gaming” websites, alongside gambling and (probably) porn, but the bank could not provide me with the list of websites blocked, nor could they provide me a whitelist. If this affects my purchases on MacHeist, Apple Store, or Steam — I will be grossly unhappy.
  3. The unambitious website has terrible user experience. And it begins at first glimpse of the homepage. That stupid popup that appears each time. What does it say? I don’t know or care, I have honed my reflexes into killing pop-ups. It’s bad enough when some recipe website is nagging you to join their mailing list. My bank has the same amount of dignity. Swat the pop-up away, greeted by ugly website I ignore, click login. Users will see their personal security image (chosen from ugly photos of various inane objects). You can’t hit “enter” after typing in your username, you can only manually click “next”. Some of these are small annoyances, but they add up quickly with the frequency of website usage. Much less if you know the experience will annoy from the start.I’ve been using Maybank2u for as long as they’ve had online banking, and it still feels as unevolved as when it first launched — even though they just had a makeover. My emails have adjusted over time, from Yahoo and Hotmail, to the behemoth of Gmail. My networks have gone from Friendster to MySpace to Facebook. Maybank? Maybank feels like it has missed every evolution of the internet. Just today, I had to click in various places to hunt down where my money went for different types of bills I have. The information hierarchy isn’t designed with the end user in mind, the website looks like it’s still in the 90s, and even the “request tac” system is cumbersome.On top of that, I wish the website could provide various financial services — for example, I wouldn’t mind paying a small subscription to be able to manage my personal finances and receive useful info visualisations from both website and app. Better yet, if I didn’t have to.

    I don’t think it’s an impossible ask — there are banks that do online and app services really well. Just not Maybank.

I think Maybank would best be served by redoing the entire design of the website — not necessarily a redesign ordered from the digital team of the agency doing their advertising, mind you. A proper website redesign from people who specialise in UX and web design. Declutter, and streamline what appears on the front page for new vs existing users. And the app could be much better too.

Probably won’t see this for many years. Banks are notorious for their traditional inflexibility, even if good tech isn’t associated with old internet

Currently reading: When race and class collide, the biggest challenge is using your voice.
Currently listening: Devendra Banhart — Foolin’
Currently watching: Eddie Izzard

Don’t let me be miss understood

I think it’s because I no longer trade music. The last mixtape someone sent to me was a year ago. It feels like I am far less passionate about reading music blogs, downloading new music, tracing a singer or songwriter’s steps through various bands and side projects. The only blog I really read these days is Last Year’s Girl, which I’ve been following for many years now. I don’t keep track of the artists I like when they show up on my HypeM radio.

Maybe there’s an invisible limit to the mind’s capacity for keeping a library of music. Maybe I’m so okay with listening to everything now, it no longer really matters who or what I listen to. I’ve gone through so many phases of music genres, that lacking one now, I feel like I’ve become a product of Mix FM. I’ve fallen into a routine where Sundays afternoons are the time for one particular Nina Simone album, and a limited selection of Billie Holiday, filling the house with familiar music while I attempt to do house chores.

Then again, my music memory for local music is increasing. I scout out videos for their performances, buy their CDs, go for their shows. I could just be relearning a whole industry, sometimes outside of the English-speaking world. But that doesn’t explain why I no longer listen to Manu Chao. Maybe I left his music behind on a Thai beach.

I just cleaned out my iTunes library. I had deleted most of my music library a while ago; making way for video editing, never to return. My iTunes was full of dead links. Scrolling through the list of artists I haven’t listened to in a long time, and didn’t miss.

I should ask a friend to recommend some music. But all they ever seem comfortable recommending are podcasts.

I miss those little things I had on the bottom of my tabulas: Currently listening. Currently watching. Currently reading. I should look up a plugin for that.

Currently listening: Nina Simone — The look of love
Currently reading: Zen Cho — Sorceror to the Crown
Currently watching: Catching up on Doctor Who episodes from Matt Smith onwards
Currently browsing: Patrick Flores — Southeast Asia: Art History, Art Today
Currently feeling: kind of productive

 

Police. Rallies. Fatigue. Recovery.

Just had a petty FB argument. the immature kind, over police brutality. Guy says I’ve never been in a police raid before. I say I have been, numerous times. He demands proof, and I find myself wondering why I am layaning him. I know this is just his joy, being condescending. It costs him little effort. And I realise there’s nothing in it for me except the realisation that this is another man who will suck up emotional labour under his irrational form of rationality, where only his words have weight and mine require a supporting case. At least I will do him the credit (for now) that I don’t think he’s only like this with females, although I’m not giving that credit based on facts I have. Certainly not from experience. And he’s just one of the many guys on my list who argue the same way, thank god women don’t behave like this. But beyond that bickering, the FB thread reminded me of earlier events.

Memory. Difficult memory. It is a time before smartphones existed, and I wasn’t even on Facebook yet (because I couldn’t remember my Monash email password). I had a lot of photos of a protest, but no place to store them. My photos of the event were lost when the guy who volunteered to archive them for me broke up with his girlfriend, and my photos were deleted along with his from her Flickr Pro. It was an acrimonious breakup. Her brief communication with me, very terse, was to basically say “no, the photos are really gone forever”, which made me wonder what the heck happened between them.

My photos are of violence. We’re surrounded by tens of men (and some women). Armed forces, “construction workers”. I photographed a Muslim woman praying, as the sun sets and homes are being torn down around her. As men tear down the walls of the homes around her, including her home, she continues to pray. She doesn’t look at me, the only person carrying a camera, but I know she is conscious of my camera’s gaze. It feels sacrilegious to be looking in on her prayers, but also sad. I had a brief moment of uncertainty about taking pictures of her, the actual standoff/protest is outside. There is no media present (except the police special branch with their video camera), they had been difficult to convince. There weren’t so many back then, Malaysiakini was still the main platform, along with the traditional media. We weren’t expecting a showdown. The “construction workers” are belligerent, behave like gangsters. They are holding heavy tools — spanners, and hammers. Mostly hammers. Their tool belts don’t look much used. Definitely not holding tools like paintbrushes or measuring tapes or pails. The villagers say these are not the construction workers, they’re local thugs hired by the developers. Everyone who isn’t with the village is wearing special red coloured cloths/strings around their wrists and arms. Even the armed forces. The activists are upset that the government has sent them, not to defend the villagers, but to join the thugs. We ask them what the arm bands are for. We ask them why they’re wearing the same thing as the construction workers. They do not answer. They get in formation.

One of the construction workers, unprovoked but ready for action, attacks a child — takes off his construction helmet, thwacks it on her head, hits her with a tool and kicks her to the ground. We bring the girl back — her head is bleeding. Her mother is very upset. The villagers are shouting in angry protest. The officers are not wearing badges or ID, only coloured strips around their wrists, blank uniforms. They rush in. The FRU have a formation. We are quickly disbanded by their violent efforts. I see them dragging off my housemate YX, who is trying to weigh herself to the ground. Another person dragged off in a separate direction. One of the activists punched as he is falling. My hand meets a large, mostly clear shield, with a stripe of red across. My hand leaves the shield, it’s bleeding. I am indignant, stunned, I hold up my hand to show my blood to the guy responsible, my face all WTF, his face invisible behind the helmet. Even as I do it, I wonder what I’m trying to prove. I do not believe in violent retaliation, even in a protest where we are being abused, but I am deeply frustrated. Adrenaline pumps. I don’t remember how the day ends. I only remember being back home after the protest, YX and I still rattled by what had happened in the day. In the time to come, I see months of the village children performing their story around Klang Valley in wayang kulit. It brings back nasty memories of corporate greed, government corruption, and helplessness in the face of brutality.

Some time after the violence, YX, YZ, Jerng and I take a wrong turn in Sentul and drive by a wooden house on a near empty plot of land. It has a homemade banner displayed, in Malay, decrying Umno and the government. We drive past, pull over, and decide to turn back to find out what is happening.

We meet a man who says that like other villages before, “construction worker” thugs have shown up along with the government’s armed forces, but none wearing ID. His is the last house standing in his village. The story is the same as before. The village has been there for decades. They are not illegal squatters, the government has withheld the papers they legally have rights to. The land is sold from under them, the “compensation” offered by developers is paltry, and comes with threats that the sum should be accepted if they don’t want any difficulties. Some families have taken the money, mostly out of fear, the few remaining families were brutalised. The man says it’s just him and his two(?) dogs now. The rest were scared and had left. We just missed the last family before him by a day. He shows us around the few remaining structures he has, besides his home, remaining in the village. The land looks bare. After the brief tour, invites us in his house to talk. I wasn’t carrying the DSLR then, there are no photos of what we saw. We take down his details. We call journalists. The man said he has called the journalists too, but none had showed up. Not even Mkini. We share the info with the activists who were defending the previous village, which had substantially more media, to inform them of the situation. The next time we drive by, his house is already gone. I never saw a single article about that Sentul village that was erased. My housemates suggest that maybe the traditional media would favour their advertisers and the government, and thus not cover the story. We wonder if the activists didn’t come because they couldn’t directly draw links between the developers and the state government. We are disappointed in Mkini. We don’t really have enough info to draw real conclusions, and no way of contacting the man now that he had moved (we hoped). When I see news for Kg Chubadak and Kg Railway, I already know how the story plays out. The activists from before have moved on to other causes (AFAIK). If there are rallies for such villages now, they are beyond my social circles. Eventually, I stop hearing about these things. Either from not reading the news, or from them not being reported. Other shinier news catch my attention, there is some substantial background guilt on this.

The last major protest I participate in, I watch a video of the IGP on tv, national news. He declares our group of protestors (fewer than ten ppl, mostly women) a national threat. The internet mob is fearsome. We had walked under 1km, having to cut it short to run away from the police. Under 1km, but our message brought on death threats, rape threats, and info on us individuals were dug up and being published online along with calls for violence against us. Facebook exists by now. I lose friends who are worried being connected will invite this violence into their lives. I remember the apologies sent to me. They mostly fear being raped.* They fear showing up on my FB friend list. I am numbed to the fear, but the logical awareness of my situation is there. There were so few of us, we would be easy to find. All in Klang Valley. One of us gets threats in her letterbox. Support from others outside my immediate circle is low. It is my first proper experience with the fatigue of activism — and I’m not even full time with activism, although a lot of my bread and butter at that age outside of the arts is through working for NGOs or social causes.

I show up for a few Occupy Dataran nights, but somehow never on the nights when there was violence, or if I did, I left before it started. I prefer other more fun types of events about reclaiming spaces, like parks in the daytime. I am doing political graffiti (which also involved running away from police), with friends and alone, although an encounter some friends have with the SB puts an end to it. I no longer do graffiti, although now I believe the walls publish the people to the public, and I believe in smaller circles of effect. I carry art tools in my green sling bag to selectively vandalise, censor or subvert messages that are harmful.

I am probably reading too much Adbusters. I am addicted to a collection of Focas magazines, and searching for Malaysian answers to it. I am writing for newspapers, in arts websites, editing a Malaysian LGBTIQ blog, designing posters for NGO events — all these things about ideals that don’t really pay the bills. At least not consistently. I go from thinking I’ll never need more money than to feed myself (and even then), to learning that people who need to pay the bills, properly pay the bills because I don’t stay with parents and can’t go to them for funds they do not have, can’t do things like ethical travel journalism because there isn’t a system that supports that. I am temporarily sheltered by kind friends. I look at a cheque I receive from TimeOut London. The conversion rate makes it generous pay, and it is one of the more substantial ones I have received for writing. At the time, I realise, if I wanted to keep doing this and make a living, I would end up writing for white people, preaching to the choir and not really communicating with people around me, constantly networking with editors I never met, and that ethical travel journalism still exists in a system of unethical or irresponsible travels and experiences. I work for a local news website with a lot of principles — and the only one with a clear editorial policy on corrections and fact-checking, not to mention ethical leadership and a clearly stated pro-LGBT policy. It’s not perfect, but it’s good for me.

I walk in Bersih. At first I am hopeful. For the 2nd rally, I even bring along a journalist, to get coverage for the rally and its message. It is the first time I’m in a local rally large enough for me to feel anonymous, although I keep bumping into happy friends on every street. I take the teargassing as part and parcel of the rally. By the third, I am disillusioned and frustrated by the political platform it has become for politicians I do not intend to endorse through my participation in these civil society protests. I attend to get photographs for the news website I work at/contribute to. When I am teargassed in this rally, I am sick and nearly as upset with myself for being there as I am with the person who ordered it. Eventually the politicians seem roped into Bersih officially. Now, the leaders of Bersih are signing (as individuals) political statements and endorsing undemocratic fuckeries. I see a need for Bersih, but I also see an urgent need for an audit of Bersih’s message — I don’t think they realise how many people will just not turn up, as opposed to debating with them on this.

I turn to other types of activism. I do community work. I’m in Chow Kit at 2am talking to homeless people and the urban poor in terrible Malay. I visit a squatter in his home, and leave with questions more knowledgeable people tell me to set aside first. I’m in Chinatown on Sundays holding the hands of old ladies who want to be manjaed for their pains and aches, have their wounds cleaned. Talking with men about the soup kitchens around town, meeting other volunteers. My Cantonese isn’t very good when it needs to be spoken. I am not good with too much socialising, I struggle to put names to faces I remember. Some of the other volunteers, I suspect those who have been at this for much longer, don’t bother to talk with me. I like it, but I also accept it’s probably because they correctly assume I won’t be around regularly in the long term. Street community work doesn’t suit me well — a lot of it is about building connections with the people, and I feel inadequate, tongue-tied, socially awkward.

The fatigue with dealing with the authorities, and even civil society activists, felt all-around constant. I think I embraced the weariness too early, too readily.

Then: Recently I went for a political rally organised by university students,. It had female leadership (as did Bersih). There were passionate speeches. Not many political faces. I didn’t go alone, I went with awesome friends. It felt like a proper civil society movement. I didn’t have to watch Anwar on a pedestal, being handed a microphone. Fantastic. It was smaller than Bersih, but it was more meaningful to me, because I didn’t have to wrangle as many internal conflicts as Bersih.

 


I also attended an art protest rally. While I have done art-driven demonstrations for social justice or political causes, this was the first time in ages I was doing it for art, which had been my entry point into protests when I first came to KL anyway. I believed strongly in the message, even if I didn’t believe strongly in the efficiency of the rally in getting results from the government. But I could still hope through it. I thought it was essential to add to the cause this idea — that we all cared enough to come together for this. It was a splendid rally. Full of art. Music. Poetry. Performance art, which I really liked. Some political commentary. It sparked media coverage, but also a lot of discussions amongst us. It became a catalyst for future action, which I’m still seeing today. It had the solidarity I needed. I even bumped into the activists I used to link arms with when protesting in villages — one of them I’ve been meeting while  volunteering at the soup kitchens/with the urban poor community. He is older and I wonder if his path has been similar to mine, although I am very certain his was full of much more activism and protests and direct action.

And so I think, slowly, the fatigue is ebbing. I accepted it too easily before. I think the trick is to manage the things I find toxic. And when I find causes I support, they really do recharge me. No more bad rallies for a while. But plenty of good people with good ideas and good energy. I am re-learning which goodness to let into my life, figuring out boundaries for my own sake.

This year, I was uncertain about whether or not I’ll join Bersih again. Definitely haven’t volunteered to bring any journalists around. I pushed off the decision making, thinking I wanted to read the official statement before deciding if I’m on board. The statement was published, but before I had the chance to read it, the EC’s extensive gerrymandering around Malaysia was making headlines. I meant to keep track of how Bersih would respond to the redelineation in regards to the rally, before making my decision.

Then a close friend’s wedding dates come along, clashing dates with the rally. I don’t intend to spend an eternity in Fiona’s doghouse for choosing a rally over her day. So I’ve been spared a decision I didn’t want to make. Hurray for straight people with the right to marry!

It’s good to be able to reflect on how the last two rallies went well. I don’t think I’ve had time to think about that lately. A lot of it has felt like I’m just aligning my interests with where my living expenses come from. But it also looks like I’m just hitting things like a pinball ball.

I recently rejected an offer to work in Singapore, and in the 7th month of austerity pay cut at work, I wonder if I made the correct choice.

But for now, all I need to think about is where I’m going to buy a shirt for Fiona’s wedding — as she already banned the entirety of my current wardrobe. Must. Avoid. Doghouse. I should have asked Bella if she’d go clothes shopping with me**. Months of hanging out with a stylist all the time, and I only think of this now when she’s in France. Crap.

I shouldn’t be up this late blogging. It’s against doctor’s orders. Ngeh.


*All the people who were fearful of direct harm to themselves were women. Because we understand that this violence affects us all, and it isn’t based on what we can control.

**I bet Bella doesn’t remember this, but she and Zal brought me shopping in 1 Utama for my prom dress when I graduated from Cenfad.

The Language Review

I watched The Language Archive recently with Jac and Bella. Tickets were steep, but worth it. It gave me a lot to think about. It was a pleasure to watch Sukania Venugopal stretch herself in various caricatures, and she had good chemistry with Zahim Albakri as her husband Reshton. I don’t think I’m quite done thinking it through, so I don’t want to blog too much about it.

I am perhaps most drawn to the idea of George, because we see him grappling with heartbreaking contradictions, at a big moment in his life: the woman he loves, Mary, is leaving him.

He works in the romantic setting of a literal language archive, a library of words. Shelves full of tape recordings of dying languages. He is most fond of speaking Esperanto, a language built on the idea that everyone can speak a common language with each other.

George had been finding Mary’s anonymous messages, which she leaves hidden around the house for him. Mary stubbornly denies authorship, but George recognises her language and handwriting, though he dismisses them as gibberish or poor poetry writing exercises. He is also equally dismissive when Mary accuses him of loving ideas, and not people — rationalising deaths of those close to him, and those caught in larger tragedies like earthquakes, and not shedding a tear. George confidently deflects those accusations — his grandmother had been old and ill, her passing was not unexpected, and Mary’s pet dog had never liked him and did not count as a person.

When Mary announces her will to leave George, we see his fear. At this crucial moment, he can’t find the words he needs to convince Mary to stay. If he has the ability to argue and defend, he doesn’t have the emotional maturity for pleading. To George, that is his moment of failure — the inability to inject the force of his true desires into his words, going through a rapid, intense and grand inner monologue cajoling Mary to stay, only to end it by verbally stumbling out a pathethic “Don’t…go…?” He watches as the feebleness of his reaction allows Mary to steel her resolve and exit the door.

George brings his feelings into work, and it doesn’t escape the notice of Reshton and Alta, his research subjects. George rants about them selfishly allowing their world to die by refusing to speak their Elloway language, long thought to be extinct in the world.

Alta gently tries to tell him that the world doesn’t die with the last speakers of a language. As a linguist, George centers his views on language. But worlds die first, followed by the language. The world of the Elloway is already gone, and what Reshton and Alta accept is that “no amount of talk, talk, talk will bring what is gone, back”. The sadness of that scene shredded my heart (also because Sukania is an actor who is effective when she chokes out heartbreak), because it increasingly related to George’s situation.

When a heartbroken George seeks out Mary in her new space, he tells her they speak a language together, a code that only husband and wife can decipher. A world of their own that is beautiful, and would be left to die if they were to separate and not speak that language anymore. Mary sadly replies she has never understood what George has been trying to say. It is the tragedy that follows when words fail.

Mary has found happiness, and lives in a new world. George finally walks away, but not before he leaves a tape with Mary — recordings of “I Love You” said in many languages for the archive. It is beautiful. And it is not enough. It’s a world that has died, and cannot be brought back by words, languages. George never finds love again.

I laughed so much during various points of the show.  Wept a fair bit too. And I returned to watch it a second time. So maybe the message that caps the show has merit: pain or pleasure, whatever the cause, the cut to the heart feels the same.

At least now I have an ATM card.

I went to my bank in SS2 this evening to get some errands done. It took a while, so by the time I emerged a pasar malam was starting to set up on the street. Worse, the exit ahead was blocked — stalls were being set up on either side and in the middle of the road.

One of the traders suggested I drive in reverse out of the road, since the entrance was comparatively clear, and there wasn’t any space to turn the car around. It wasn’t that far to the entrance, about 100m in cramped conditions, but definitely possible. And I happen to be quite competent at driving in reverse gear.

I estimated I had about 100m in a (somewhat) straight line to reverse down, no problem lah. So I made my way, and things were going fine. I went by two stalls with no issues. Then my luck turned. A middle-aged passerby decided on my behalf I had a problem, and started drawing my attention (while I was navigating a car through that tight space!) by shouting, and furiously  flipping his hands left to right at the wrist like he was fanning an invisible fire. I couldn’t even tell if he wanted me to edge left or right. He kept wincing at every inch my car moved, as though I would inevitably hit something. Given that I was angling my car through with barely a few inches to spare on either side, I can understand how I constantly looked in danger of hitting something — but the way he carried on, you’d think we were in a play, and my character already crushed a few of his grandchildren into Grandkid Juice with a tractor.

I wound down my window to tell him I was okay and didn’t need help, but he didn’t listen. Literally because he was too busy shouting into my car for not winding down the window so he could shout into my car. He then started shouting even more at me on how to drive, basically giving me instructions to do what I was already doing, and had been doing before he started shouting and distracting me.

Another middle-aged man selling vegetables then told him my window was down (good!), and somehow decided to override the chain of command by drowning out the other man’s voice, shouting out instructions  at me in even louder Cantonese (bad!), and using vocabulary beyond my understanding! (fuckdammit!) I don’t know if you can imagine what it sounds like to have two loud streams of bossy Cantonese directed at you, but it is highly stressful, like a choir of cardiac arrests.

Throughout it all, I told them both repeatedly in Cantonese:

  1. I can do this! Not only can I do this, but I can do it better if you are not both shouting at me!
  2. Stop following me! The first guy, in his eagerness to deliver his instructions, was following my car so closely he interfered with my driving
  3. And that the stupid hand flipping thing he insisted on doing was distracting and dangerous, as it was right above my view of the side mirror, which needed constant attention.

But of course the insanity continued. For a brief point I just stopped the car because I needed to refocus my attention on my car mirrors, over their demands. I saw an older lady took a look at what was happening, giving the most exasperated stare at both men. Which they did not notice at all, but was good for me to see. The hand flipping was still going on above my mirror, and I had a longing to respond by flipping something of my own back at him. Instead, I continued driving with my jaw clenched so hard my chin was touching my eyebrows.

Of course, my friends also send me hospital instructions where the main message is eat grass and Dont Get Angry

My friend Petra also (probably gleefully) sends me hospital instructions where the main message is Dont Get Angry

A part of me regrets not stepping out of the car to give the men a stern piece of my mind. Bring some rational and proportionate responses to this.  The way they spoke to me, like I was a bothersome task that had dropped in their laps — when literally, not only did I not ask for their contributions, I was actively requesting that they stop distracting me and let me drive.

But I didn’t, because there wasn’t space to even open my car door, and more importantly, I’m trying to learn to control my temper — around all idiots, including these hairless beasts on hind legs. I can still feel my blood pressure going up just remember the incident, so maybe I should have just indulged in my rage.  But then my blood pressure would be even more destroyed than it is right now.

Not everyone was being a jerk. Some people helped. Two women moved some oblivious shoppers out of the way. Another woman helped stop oncoming traffic so I could reverse my car out safely when I got to the end of the road. I thanked the women. I didn’t even look at the men when I drove away. I reckon  I’ve given them enough fodder to ngeh ngeh ngeh about when they humblebrag about their contributions to life today.

Upon reflection, every person in this scenario who was helpful was female, and every asshole in the way needed a kick in their dick. Damn that inpenetrable sense of authority so many inept men are shielded in.

I had a buka puasa dinner coming up with my ex-girlfriend after I was done running errands. We were in the midst of making plans, but I told her some stressful events had happened and I needed to eat some beef before we could continue planning. She got it. And I got 200gms of minute steak from Hello cafe.

the only kind of beef i need in my life

Met the ex at The X in Bangsar later (her idea, because her drinking buddies were there), and was much more relaxed from the beef earlier — which helped me to deal with the (many luxurious) cars in Bangsar, presumably driven by giant obnoxious cockroaches, and also the disappointing/uninspired food the restaurant serves. Not very good gin & tonic either, so I can’t even say you should focus on the drinks instead at The X.

Then we had ice cream down the road, checked out some ugly street art, and I got to name her food baby (Geri).

I’m glad I took that break before heading out. I don’t need meditation, just give me steak. (Preferably not from The X! Educated guess).