Sunday, 28 November 2010

But I'm Still Not Good Enough To Perform At Funfairs

It's been almost a month now that I've started taking up guitar lessons. The motivation to do so came from the self-realisation of how little I know whether what I'm doing at the moment is correct or actually just plain wrong (my hands hurt when I play for longer than an hour. That has got to be a bad sign, hasn't it?)

Some acquaintances brushed it off as being a waste of money, saying that with the advent of the Internet - and more notably, Youtube - learning stuff online has become cheap and effective. "There are so many people in cyberspace who take the time to produce really good, informative instructional videos covering all sorts of topics ranging from what kind of make up to apply for a dinner event to how best to go about training your tortoise to leap through deathly rings of fire. Thus, it goes without saying that there are tons of instructional videos on guitar playing. Why waste your money on lessons?" they argued.

It's true that the interwebs does help in learning. A LOT. I'll be honest right now and say that I've downloaded a fairly large number of videos myself and if it weren't for those videos, I'd still probably be holding the guitar upside down or back-to-front. However, there's something about the human interaction that takes place during teaching that can never be replaced by any online lesson. The awkward mistakes that are corrected on the spot by a stern rap on the knuckles, say, or the simple nod of approval at having perfectly nailed that riff - these are things which make learning more meaningful.

Though it's a bit embarrassing to admit, another personal reason why I took up lessons was nostalgia. I wanted to remember my days learning the organ - the songs I had to repeat for two to three weeks because I sucked at playing them, the scales that tangled my fingers worse than a messed up ball of yarn and the sight reading which I have never really understood.

I'm still not good at playing the guitar and my left hand still hurts at having to hold down those damn bar chords, but at least I now know the 5 posititions of the A minor pentatonic scale and their correct fingering! Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to practise my hammer ons and pull-offs for a bit for next week's lesson.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Hungry at Half Past One In The Morning Did This

When I was growing up in primary and secondary school, I didn't have that much of a chance to stay out of the house and explore the local geography. This would be in direct contrast to a boy of similar age living somewhere in say, Kampung Orang Asli Donglai Baru, Semenyih. However, it is understandable for my parents to be naturally worried that their firstborn son might be led astray by the bad influences of video game parlours or shopping malls should they let him go out too often. At least in the rural village, the biggest threat would only probably be the rabid, flea-infested neighbour's dog.

So when I reached the legal age to go outside and stay outside after 7 p.m. - if there's ever such a thing - you can imagine what it was like for me. Details are a bit hazy, but I think it did involve a lot a walking, perpetual sweating and a pair of dead tired legs by the end of the day. I really enjoyed not being at home at night partly because of the stuffy atmosphere in the house (still is) and partly because I was fascinated at how colourful the nightlife was. Simply put, I was like a moth hypnotized by the soft blue glow of a pendaflour light and I loved every moment of it.

But I'm older now and that excitement has worn off. A bit. Still, these days I do enjoy the occasional nocturnal escapade, especially if I have the spare dough for it since driving around the relatively quiet streets at night still uses fuel and fuel costs money; not to mention the late night supper of nasi lemak and iced milk tea. And it is usually during these late night suppers that I bump into young parents with their even younger children also enjoying the food on their plates.

Now, it strikes me as odd that such young children (I'm talking about as small as 3 months old) should be wide awake at such an ungodly hour, and eating while they're at it. Once, I came across such a family at 2 plus in the morning. Eyh, what's that about? Don't these kids need their sleep? I thought babies were supposed to be asleep more than half of the time and what's this I see?

I may not be in the best position to talk about the disciplining of bedtime habits of children since (a) I don't even have some of my own and (b) my own sleeping habits aren't exemplary - as you may be able to judge for yourself by now. But to me, it's still a bit weird and downright wrong that these parents should be bringing their children out at such an hour, especially if it's only to socialize with like-minded friends with children of their own. Even worse than that would be the parents that bring their children to the extra-late night markets that go on until the wee hours of the morning. Surely that can't be healthy, right?

Has the influence of nocturnal vampires (and to probably a lesser extent, the Twilight series) finally gotten to us? I don't know. I'm going out for a late night supper to clear my head now

Saturday, 9 October 2010

It's Crystal Clear, Isn't It?

I may or may not have mentioned this in the past, but I am blessed to have spent quite a good number of years growing up abroad, Edinburgh to be more precise. Though my memory is hazy when it comes to details, there are bits and pieces from that period of time which are very clear and vivid to me. Let's see...I remember going to Sciennes Primary School and running around the school grounds during recess. I remember having a red-haired boy as a best friend; Robert was his name. I also remember jumping up and down the apartment till the person downstairs (Mr McKenzie was his name, wasn't it?) came upstairs and blasted my parents for not taking care of their offspring.

Yes, good memories in all.

Another thing which I remember well is a game show that was on air at that time. It was called The Crystal Maze and it had me glued to the telly whenever it was on. And why wouldn't I be? A team testing their skills in a maze the size of two football pitches with a bald host named Richard O' Brien who talks nonchalantly makes for a fascinating watch, wouldn't you agree?

Intermission: I'm watching a clip of it on Youtube as I'm writing this

It was thrilling to watch the drama unfold as each member of the team took turns to play games testing them in terms of skill, strength or intelligence and if they failed to complete the challenge in the set amount of time, they'd be 'locked in'. On the other hand, if they successfully completed the game, they'd acquire a crystal which buys them more time for the final act - catching gold tokens flying in a flurry in a giant crystal dome.

According to Wikipedia - and the few comments I've read so far on Youtube - it was a massive hit among viewers; very fitting for a game show prepared on a massive scale. A healthy number of commenters have also cried out for a new season but I don't think the producers are in a hurry to build another giant maze after tearing the previous one down several years ago.

Is it too much to ask for to have The Crystal Maze replace some reality shows on Malaysian telly?

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Axe Rock

I was blessed with the opportunity to go to a boarding school when I was in Form 4. However at that time, it wasn't so much of a blessing as it was a display of authority on the part of my parents, but I was too young and too foolish at that time to realise (or rather, admit) the benefits a boarding school had to offer a growing young adult like myself.

Besides learning how afternoon prep sessions are actually just siestas in academic disguise and packets of Milo can be subject to ironing to become a sort of crunchy biscuit, I also learned to listen to what some people might call rock kapak or 'old school rock'. Some might cynically point out that most of the songs are just sappy love ballads sung by skinny men with long hair in tight jeans, but hey, who cares?

XPDC. Wings. Search. Lefthanded. BPR. Slam. Spring. You name it, I listened to it.

I still remember how a couple of friends and myself would be lying on the chilly floor of our dorm during the cold weekend nights when the hostel was quiet because most of the students were back in their hometowns enjoying themselves. A cassette player would be playing and we'd be singing along softly - or loudly, depending on the song - until we either dozed off without realising it or the warden came in and whipped our sorry asses to sleep.

Ah, good times. Good times indeed.

The funniest thing about it all is that most of my friends who also went to boarding school would have the same memories - late night sing-a-long sessions accompanied by friends. And though they don't talk about it, I deeply suspect that they also had their fair share of getting a taste of the cane for staying up way past bedtime.

So is rock kapak actually a universal phenomenon among students in boarding school? If so, it should probably be made a compulsory co-curriculum activity. Better than whatever rubbish it is that's played these days.

P/s - given this knowledge of my personal history, it's amusing to see the surprised look on my friends' faces when I tell them I listen to Malay songs. Is it that weird?

Friday, 17 September 2010

Mari Beraya!

Is it already a week into Syawal? By golly, time sure flies doesn't it? Even if you're not having fun and are stuck at home feeding the stray cats that come begging for food every day.

So yes. Life is about to resume as normal as the week draws nearer and nearer to a close. Those still enjoying their days back in their hometown will most probably start sighing while packing their bags. I'm not too familiar with the feeling as I've been back in Kuala Lumpur since the 3rd day of Raya. My sighing would be when I'm forced to drive on the roads this weekend when everybody - and I do mean everybody - comes back.

Speaking of which, that just happens to be the thing I despise the most about Kuala Lumpur when it comes to Raya. Which bright spark came up with the tagline 'Raya di Kuala Lumpur sebulan!' I wonder? What was the purpose of it in the first place? Was it a desperate attempt to trick people into coming over to the house and finish off the abundance of Raya cookies? (our house still has about 3 containers worth of cookies, by the way) Or was it to make the effort of spring-cleaning the house worthwhile because if not you're not going to clean the house to show it to other people, why would you clean it at all?

Whatever the reason, all I know is that for the next two or three weekends, the roads will be full of cars with people in them smartly dressed for the occasion of pergi beraya. This in itself is not a bad thing, but please, can we just try taking turns holding open houses and not have everybody opening all their houses at the same time? Pretty please?

By the way, my house is always open; you don't have to wait until the weekend to come over. Just let me know in advance that you're coming so that I can scour the kitchen for any other cookies that need to be disposed of quickly.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Is It Safe To Come Out Yet?

Yes, I kind of developed a phobia of putting my thoughts into writing lest people find them disgusting and started hating me.

Well, it might have taken me close to a year but here I am now, on what is hopefully the road to healing.

Watch this space