Sunday, December 31, 2006

Farewell 2006, Welcome 2007

Earlier this year, I was told that 2006 would be a bad year for me. You know those Chinese horoscope thingy that's in your face everywhere you go during Chinese New Year. Honestly, you turn on the tv and there's some feng shui master telling you what you need to do to protect yourself from bad luck or how much you need to spend on renovations so that you have the right chi at home. Am not a particularly superstitious person, but you got to admit that this sort of thing can be quite interesting. So there I was, being told by the books, by the feng shui master on telly, by the DJ on the radio stations that us Dragons need to be careful.

As I spend the last 20 minutes of 2006 reflecting on the year, I really have no idea what was so bad about it. Aside from having 5 months off work, which was by choice, the rest of the year has been nothing less than exciting. Perhaps the most worrying part of it all was the relocation back home. It took awhile, and still is, to really settle down and figure out what I want to do and where I'm going to go from here. But I'd rather look at it as an unfolding of a new chapter of my life. And so far, the journey has been good.

2006 for me is a year of discovery. I have been blessed with the good fortune of meeting new friends and colleagues; getting job offers via a phantom agent; meeting mentors who are going to be great supporters of my work and discovering new avenues in a field that I want to stay in.
This year has also been particularly important in the growth of family ties and old friendships by just being here, at home.

Here's to a fabulous start to 2007!
May the New Year bring you joy and happiness, and all that your heart wishes for.

The new job

Had a week off before starting work on the 16th. My first day at work was the Open Day weekend. Was stuck at our dept booth for almost 8 hours both days. Torture. But I got to meet some of the students which was good. I had a hard time trying to picture myself back when I was 18, a college newbie. Somehow these kids seem very much younger than I remember myself to be.

My office is still in the works. It's literally the size of the bathroom in my Moorpark apartment. In addition to that, Joe and I will be sharing it. I guess the diet better start soon.

Everyone's been asking me about the job. I can't tell how it's all going to turn out yet since classes only begin on Jan 8th. I have a sneaking suspicion that I'm going to have to work hard on getting the kids excited about Stage Management. I can hear David snickering.

Anyhow, December is December. Full of birthdays, anniversaries and festivities. It's a great month, my favourite.

Post birthday get together at La Bodega

For the first time, my friends have decided to be brutally honest about how I look. I assume they got me this i-care eye massager for a reason. My permanent eyebags may be starting to look too permanent. What a thoughtful gift!

Before I knew it, Christmas was just around the corner. Spent half the day at Lisa's with the god family and dinner at Chili's with the group. Popped by at Dom's the night before. Quiet weekend, but eventful at the same time.

Wonder bricks!

I made it to NYC after all! AND to San Fran, Washington DC and the rest of the United States... all in just 3 hours.

Stopped by at Legoland on my way back to LA. The highlight of the park was Mini USA. In actual fact, I just about realized I paid USD57 to see only that. For those of you who have yet visited Legoland, I'd say that unless you're a Lego fan or are travelling with younger children, you can almost pass it up if you run out of time during your stay in San Diego.

Mini USA was really fascinating. I remember spending hours playing with my Lego set when I was a kid (of course back in the 80s you didn't quite have the variety you find in Lego stores today - Star Wars, Pirates, etc.) and never even thought of half the things these people did with them. Well...building miniature cities and buildings...honestly.

Mini USA

mechanical boats that move

From LA (Mann's Chinese Theatre, Hollywood) to DC n(US Capitol)

Mardi Gras (the float travels around the block); Daytona Racing

San Francisco (Pier 39); Godzilla in town (this is the guy whose job is to play with the Lego dollhouses and to make sure everything is running smoothly)

AND...NYC - this for now. The real thing another time.

Mount Rushmore - the best thing about the picture is the bird

Just like any other theme parks and places of attraction, you've got to have busts. Shakespeare and Marilyn's other Lego buddies include Queen E, Arnold the Governor and Beethoven.

After 3 hours of Lego, I was more than ready to go. I also decided there and then what I would get for a certain little boy for Christmas.

Balik Kampung Part I

It's Dec 31st. I have half a day to finish posting for the year. Back to my balik kampung trip. It was nothing more than pure exhaustion. Christie can bear witness. Managed to catch almost everyone I wanted to see, plus Erika!

Needless to say, this 16-day trip has done some damages to my bank account, what with stocking up my personal library, Christmas shopping and the 2-week car rental. Nonetheless I got a great deal, thanks go Christie, on the car. They gave me a PT Cruiser for less than half it would normally cost much to my surprise; AND much to THEIR surprise, I had said, "do you by any chance have a honda or a toyota instead?" ie. give me a economical, reliable, use-friendly Japanese car please. The guy looked at me as if I was crazy. They didn't have any. Fine.

Thanksgiving was a couple of days later. No turkey grilling on the PPH rooftop. Megan invited the whole gang to her parents'.

The very next morning, or should I say a couple of hours after we went to bed, Christie and I did the unthinkable. We went shopping. Yes, we did. It's the American Boxing Day so to speak. We were out at 530am and got to the outlets by 6. Every year, thousands of people camp overnight outside stores for bargains. It's like everyone's gone crazy and have loads of dough to throw away in just a few hours. The lines in the stores can rival those at Disneyland. AND if you're lucky, you might even get your 30-second of fame on national tv. ABC's Eyewitness News have been covering this once-a-year shop mob at Camarillo.

The next day, I popped by at the Learys and spent some time with them, the Nolens and the Gilmores. Stacie made this incredible raspberry cheesecake! Don't think the dessert plates needed any cleaning after we were done.

Couple of days later, it was time to visit the Pattersons in San Diego for a post Thanksgiving weekend. It's always so nice to see them, my adopted family really. Plus I had the pleasure of meeting George for the first time after all I've heard about him.

It's never really a San Diego trip until I see Lauren. For some reason, I keep reminiscing back to the days when we shared that lovely Malibu townhouse with Rachel, our third housemate. Making smores by the fire, knitting (like spinsters!) and having endless parties...which led to endless cleaning sessions.

Lauren suggested breakfast at Naked Cafe. Sorry folks, not even one single half naked guy was there to serve us. But I got to say the blueberry-banana pancakes I got made up for it.
I was flipping thru the menu while waiting for Lauren and couldn't help taking a second look at what I thought I had read wrong - something called Malaysian Mocha on the beverages page. What in the world is a MALAYSIAN MOCHA? The first thought that came to mind was MILO. Wait...are they selling a cup of RM1.20 (USD 0.35) milo for USD 4.5??? What a rip off!
When the waitress came to take our orders, I asked, "What is the Malaysian Mocha? I'm Malaysian and I have never come across something like that in my country." She was dumbfounded for about 5 seconds before she answered, "Well, it's a chocolatey drink, with an Asian flavour to it. It used to be called the Asian Mocha but Malaysian Mocha sounded better."

This, my MALAYSIAN friends, is the Malaysian Mocha. It has CINNAMON in it! When do Malaysians put Cinnamon in any drinks?

Friday, December 01, 2006

I'm 30!

33 more minutes and I can no longer say I'm a twenty-something. While I don't feel any older today than I did yesterday, it's still a little overwhelming to think that a decade of your life has just gone by. 10 years. What have I done with my life thus far? - most dreaded question of all times (the second most dreaded question of all times - when are you getting married?)
Check back next month, I may have an answer for you then. :)

So, I thought I had it all planned out. For my 30th birthday I was going to go to NYC. But alas, due to unforeseen circumstances (like getting a new job) I've had to cut short my trip to the States. So here I am...sitting at a computer, 19 minutes till my 30th birthday, blogging. Now you may think that I'm disappointed. This is where you've got it all wrong.

Shawn and Vonessa took me to dinner last night and we had the best creme brulee ever. Today, I spent the day with Christie and Joshua, had a pre-birthday night out with my Pep peeps, got a birthday pizookie (thanks for the treat, guys!), and my phones haven't stopped beeping from the many birthday msges from home and wherever in the world the rest of you are.

It doesn't matter where I am or what I'll be doing tomorrow. I am extremely blessed.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Back 'home' for Turkey Day

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends!
I thought I would be missing turkey day this year, but somehow I made it back in time for another feast. Nope, no turkey cooking on the top of the theatre roof. We were invited to Megan's this year. It was great to see the old gang again. Funny, since some of them didn't know I was coming.

It's my 4th day in LA. The Gilmores are great. Thanks for letting me invade your home for two weeks, guys! Well, if you think about it, they got a better deal than Shawn and Vonessa who put me up for 3 months last year. I miss the Martins.

When I got out of LAX on Monday, the first thought that came to mind was 'f***! I'm in KL! Why is so hot???" It was about 85 degrees fahrenheit, but in just 2 days the temperature dropped by 15 degrees. Welcome to Los Angeles.

Anyway, am having a great time. Lots more people to see next week.

Christie and I are doing the crazy day-after-Thanksgiving shopping tomorrow. We'll be out the door by 5:15am. Trust me, that's late. It is 11:32pm now and there are already people standing in line waiting for the stores to open. So, time for bed.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

See you soon!

Alright peeps - mark your calendars! I will be back in La-La Land between November 20th - December 6th...yup, in just about 2 weeks' time.

Jim, Brooks, Zac, Victoria, Christie, Vicki, Don, Cassia, Sarah, Erika, Stan & Angela, Lauren, Jonny Mac, Anne, Jason, Dustin, Doc - can't tell you how excited I was to hear from you all again, and I absolutely can't wait to see you guys! San Diego folks - I will be popping by for a day or two as well.

Am starting a countdown calendar. 12 days to...

JAMBA JUICE!!! (you have absolutely no idea how much I miss my Mango-A-Go-Go, the cravings are unbearable)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Butterfly Lovers - The Players

How's this for a start? Photos taken on stage on Sunday, October 15th.



Monday, November 06, 2006

Back to real life

It's November.
September and October flew by in a swish! I told myself I would try to keep up with my blog and even start a stage manager's blog to document my first Asia production ever...but alas, it was all but a fleeting dream...or rather, yours truly was in self-denial - thinking that there would be time to write. I DID start a stage manager's blog, but am embarassed to say that I only have 2 entries in it. And I also started a travel blog, thinking that I would somehow have the time to travel to a few exquisite places in 2007. HAH.

Butterfly Lovers completely took over my life for the past 2 months. It closed on October 15th, after a weekend of extended performances. Since then, I have been busy with post production work, and pre-production planning for the re-staging of it next year. A few surprises are in the making, unfortunately I am unable to publicly announce them. It is impossible to sum up my feelings and experience working on this show in just a paragraph or two. But in short, this has been an exceptionally exciting production to work on in terms of learning and discovering the way things work in this part of the world and fitting yourself into the big picture; making connections (and realizing that it is indeed a really, really small community); and gaining another extended family.

In my next few posts, I will track back to rehearsals in September thru the closing of the production. Am sure you will be entertained with the stories and pictures!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Cocooning Butterflies

21 days till tech. 31 days till opening night.
Astro promo to air.
Radio interviews to be done.
Press conference on the 5th.
Costumes in the making.
Rehearsals at 3 different venues.
Cast recording till 3 in the morning.

Pretty much sums up where I've been in the last 7 weeks.

Friday, July 07, 2006

World Cup blues

I'm working my way towards a normal life again. Meaning, after this weekend (Monday at 6 a.m.) yours truly and millions of other World Cup devotees will welcome back what we've lost in the past few weeks - sleep. 2-4 hours seem to be what most of us are getting each day. You (my American friends, that is) will have no idea as to how the World Cup has impacted our lives. Managers, Directors and CEOs of companies anticipate high leave-taking weeks as June approaches, while mamak stalls start preparing their new creations for their football watching customers - eg: Roti France, Roti England and Roti Brazil.

As with most international events, the World Cup is no more than an assembly of world class players. Players who have emerged as celebrities over a series of football matches, years of hard work and training and not to mention, the occassional 'talent' factor. However, do not make the mistake of expecting consistently hard core world class matches throughout this event. If you do so, you will be greatly disappointed.

The "greater" teams have been disappointing this year. England, no matter how much they are putting the blame on Christiano Ronaldo for causing Rooney's red card, did not play well (I guess I'd better watch what I say. I may be getting some hate mail from friends later.) Here you have most of the world's top players in a team, but they were each playing an individual game...okay, perhaps Gerrard is an exception. What's up with Lampard and his 21 misses? Anyhow, I am depressed and heart broken that the World Cup has now become the Euro Cup. I cannot believe France beat Brazil in the semis. If you ask around, the matches that were most exciting to watch were those of mid-level teams (eg: Ghana). And who wants to see a team win a match via penalty shoot out? I don't.

I guess I am done with my soccer rant. The past few weeks have been unexpectedly busy and eventful. Charlene and Alice were in town from HK. We enjoyed a great eating weekend.

Indian breakfast (that cone thing is called paper tose); as Alice has yet tried durian, my friends and I decided to give her THE best souvenir from Malaysia

On the work front, I went to Singapore a week and a half ago for an interview at The Esplanade. It went pretty well. Spent the night with Pam so we managed to catch up before her wedding, which is tomorrow.

After a series of unexpected events, the director of the company invited me to a meeting at the Ministry of Arts and Cultural Affairs last Tuesday. Apparently he didn't realize that he had been selected to be part of the newly formed National Arts Council. The whole event was pretty funny actually. Firstly, neither of us was dressed appropriately for a meeting at the Ministry. But circumstances were such that we had to go as we were. Next, once we got in, I realized that I was sitting in the midst of VIPs, including ministers and Dato's and Datins at the meeting. I was the only who was not a part of any real organization and was probably 2 decades too young to even be present. You can probably imagine how awkward it was.

We spent two and a half hours discussing the arts situation in the country, went over the 5 committees that have been formed under this council, talked about the council's missions and future developments, etc. We have been in need of an Arts Council for many moons now, and it looks like the Ministry is finally taking some serious steps. Much emphasis was placed in preserving cultural arts as well as the development of local works and artists. What was interesting was the fact that we weren't just talking about the performing arts. We were looking at a much bigger picture - education, tourism, etc. As much as I felt awkward being there, it was just thrilling to be sitting there listening to the plans which will slowly be taking place. All in all, the answers to the questions I had with regards to the arts development situation in my country were unravelled within those two hours. Funny how things work out at times.

Side note:
Took Dad to Jogoya at Starhill Gallery for a sumptuous Japanese Buffet on Father's Day. This place is HUGE! And they have everything from sushi to roasted bbq duck to chicken masala. It is supposedly a Japanese buffet, but they do offer a variety of western and eastern food as well.
The sashimi is fab! Very fresh. The interior is modern chic, with a tropical flare around the food presentation areas. There are visible cooking and food preparation stations which makes walking around the buffet areas more fun.

Sushi, sashimi; coconuts; soups

Fresh seafood; veg samples

Hot seafood platter; indian dishes

Happy Birthday Christie and Vonessa!

Friday, June 23, 2006

An update

What are you doing this weekend?

If I were you, I'd be at Furious watching Back of the Throat. Watch out if you should write me this weekend and complain about being bored.

Read Sara's Furious blog a few days ago, and couldn't help but feel the exact same thing she's going thru (minus the baby, that is. now...wouldn't THAT be news?). I meant being in time out. The difference is - she's on temporary time out from FTC, where as I'm in a situation quite the opposite. Am not going on a self pity rant, but while she says she watches the rest play from her "time-out rug", I have no source from which to watch them play at all. BOT will be the first FTC production which I will not be a part of. In a conversation with Brad a few weeks ago, I confessed (regretfully) that I sometimes hate getting ensemble e-mails. It makes me depressed about coming home, and not being able to participate in any FTC stuff. There's nothing worse than being a part of something which you don't feel a part of.

So...thank goodness for blogs. Some days I see Christie and Damaso online and we get to catch up for a few minutes. Word has it that the production is going very well. Everyone's actually getting sleep! If that is not a good sign in theatre, I don't know what is. GET OUT THERE AND SEE THE SHOW! And please...DON'T.BE.LATE.

While every FTC ensemble member is busy slaving themselves away for opening weekend, yours truly is busy planning a weekend eating-trip for Charlene, who will be arriving in a few hours time from Hong Kong. Can't wait!

Butterfly Lovers rehearsals are going well. Am anticipating a lot of work in the coming months. There's loads to do outside of my regular stage manager's duties. Word has it that IMG has picked up the show and will be selling it as a touring production.

Last week, the directors called me in for a meeting about my 'future plans'. For some reason, they like me (...for now. I have yet shown my true self to them) haha. I decided to be honest with them and mentioned what my ideal career would be. Whether or not what we talked about will materialize is another matter, but for now, there is great opportunity for me to finally embark on a career in managing and presenting in the performing arts. While our discussion began on a somewhat modest scale of programs for next season, in no time it escalated into long term plans with no boundaries.

Also received a reply from The Esplanade in Singapore a week ago, and the Production Manager asked me precisely about my career plans. Until I came back to KL, I was quite contented with the idea of being a freelancer since I would still very much like to design. The ugly truth is that it is just not practical. We have a lack of stage managers in this city. Why? There is little appreciation for stage managers, perhaps it's more accurate to say that there is little appreciation for the profession in itself, and not the person doing the job (anyone here can be a stage manager, hence it's just 'another job') - the pay is crap, and after years of slaving yourself in the name of 'art', you will find yourself penniless, not being to afford a decent living and with no job advancement opportunities. Yes, there are exceptions and you've got to pay a price for doing what you love. But at a certain point in life, one would have to start making plans for the future. Whether you want to or not.

On a more personal note, I have greatly disappointed a close friend by informing her that I will not be present at her wedding in LA due of work. Though I may not be a very expressive person, there is a huge part of me that puts the people in my life high on my priorities. Over the years I have disappointed more people than I can keep count of, and I feel that this needs to change. While I consider work and theatre my life, there is a need for me, at this time, to start working on a more balanced lifestyle. There is no doubt that I will still jump at every opportunity to work in theatre, but for now, I'm thankful for being blessed with a chance to finally focus on moving forward with my career in the arts.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

furious theatre company
by Yuseff El Guindi
directed by Dámaso Rodriguez

Previews: June 21 - 23 2006
June 24 - July 29 2006
Tickets: $15-$30
Box Office: 626.356.PLAY
For more information, visit Back of the Throat.
Make a date with furious today!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

How many dumplings can you have in a day?

Yes...there are still China posts! I realized that if I don't finish posting these, I will never get them done. Enjoy!

Friday, May 5th 2006
If you remember, when we first got to Xi'an we visited the Great Goose Pagoda (also known as Big Goose Pagoda in Chinese). Naturally, if you have a 'Big' one, there must be a 'Small' one. Hence, today we visited the Small Goose Pagoda.

See...the first characted in Chinese (from Left) on the sign says "small"

Courtyard; that's a rice blending machine? well, maybe more like rice crushing machine

This building houses a bell (photo courtesy of WW); this is called the Dragon tree and if I remember correctly, it is about 800 years old

If you think the Small Goose Pagoda is just a miniature of the Great Goose Pagoda, you are wrong. You still have to c-l-i-m-b it. And that was just exactly what we did. Though, this one's a little different...and you'll see why.

Diagram of pagoda construction

This one's for moi
So, climbing this pagoda is a little different. The height of each floor decreases as you keep going up. On each floor, you have windows (by the time you reach the higher floors, they are more like pigeon holes) on two sides of the pagoda. When we first started out, we could walk to the door-height window and look out. Soon, you had to bend and watch your head, and later (if you're like Wang Wei who's about 6'), you would start looking like a prawn...or shrimp.

Sorry...we didn't use a flash. But the picture on the left was taken on the 3rd floor, and the one on the right probably on the 6th.

By the time we reached the 8/9th floor, we were crouching.

Once you got up to the highest floor, you can choose to climb a 90 degree stairway, get out thru a trap door...

to see a polluted view of the city of Xi'an. I hope you get better weather when you visit. It's also a little cloudy today.

The Ultimate See-No-Eat (or even touch!) Food
Alright...I have seen a lot of unappetizing (is there such word?) food around the world. But this has made it to the top of my list. This man was selling some kind of caramel-looking candy outside the Small Goose Pagoda.

What he does is this: He starts with making a tube out of the candy liquid. Then he places it in his mouth and starts blowing. No, there is no stick, no straw, nothing. He puts the candy in between his lips, blows and shapes it into animals and then ties it off at the end.
Care to taste someone else's saliva? You've got to pay for it too.

...not so cute...

Drum and Bell Towers

Situated in the city center of Xi'an, they were built in 1380 and 1384 respectively. In ancient times, the drum that was housed in the tower was used to tell the time, and was struck once every day at dusk.

Bell Tower

The building is surrounded by intricately crafted panelled doors, which convey stories of legendary people

Managed to catch a cultural music performance (photo courtesy of Wang Wei)

You've got to ring the bell three times.

City view from the top

Walking thru the ancient city towards the drum tower; market

Drum tower

Check this out!

Each of these drums have different functions. They are labelled according to the weather and season - eg: "rain", "wind" and even "harvest" (i believe)

Lanna is posing in front of the biggest drum in the world.

Exhibition in the drum tower:

Food Food Food
It's lunch time again, and we're back at the food market. Okay, there's got to be a proper name for it but I can't find it in the DK guide book and online. So I'll just have to ask Ren and add it in another time.

Lunch time crowd; these grilled-food stalls are everywhere...and they offer everything

...even goat's that what it is?; candy floss; huge bread

...yes, they do display the raw meat before cooking them; fried dumplings

butcher; grilling device; anyone for goat's head? poor thing...

that's a cooking pot believe it or not; even larger bread/wrap

we had to have our grilled lamb again (trust me, eventhough the stalls may look unkempt, there is something about the grilled lamb, it's the spice they use, absolutely delicious!); No "PLUMP JUICE" today

See my smug face? It's because of what I have in the mouth

When in Xi'an, you've got to try their SIU LOONG PAU (or just called "bao zi" in China). Xi'an is famous for their paus. Apparently we're in the right place. There was a line outside the entrance into this 5-storey restaurant. And it was PACKED inside! was worth the wait.

Queue; Siu Loong Pau dipped in sauce; we had three baskets of them. Be very careful when you eat these paus. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that there is soup wrapped with the meat inside the dumpling...and it is HOT. The trick is to bite it gently on one side so that you can extract the soup before eating the dumpling.

More dumplings!
Ren invited us to visit her aunt and uncle, whom she hasn't seen in 6 years. Her aunt said she was going to make us some dumplings for dinner. was not "some" dumplings. It was "a lot of" dumplings!

We got there at 5pm. They live about 15 minutes away from the city center in a tiny flat with several other relatives. There is nothing like visiting the locals when you're visiting new grounds. You learn and observe so much of their lifestyle, it beats reading books and watching documentaries anytime.

We helped make dumplings (that's Ren and her aunts); dumpling ingredients; that's my hand...I guess my face didn't make the cut

They even made their own wraps from scratch; can you guess how many dumplings they made? Each plate had about 30. That's 120 dumplings on our table - plus more in the kitchen. No, obvoiusly, we didn't eat them all.

Stuffed. Called it an early night.