A Little Bit on Honesty

To be honest with all of you, after I had posted up the last entry – I was not very happy with it. There was something missing in the entry, that even after I read it over, it felt dishonest and untrue. I was very grumpy after I posted the entry and the more I thought about it, the grumpier I got. I stormed upstairs and though I promised Eizwan that we can catch up on Supernatural – what I really intended to do was to sit in bed while he watched and grump to myself while admiring pictures of Kim Myung Min.

Here's a picture of KMM for my own pleasure.

Here’s a picture of Kim Myung Min for my own viewing pleasure.

And these are the days when I am grateful for Eizwan’s presence.

Even though this episode is a Castiel friendly episode, it was not enough to entice me. In between surfing more pictures of Kim Myung Min, I was mulling why did I not like that entry. What was I trying to hide? Eizwan had switched on the TV and was ready to put Supernatural on the PS3. A lesser husband would not take time to notice his wife’s distress  and would have just continued on watching.

But this is Eizwan. This is why I married him.  He could see I was not happy. He asked me to talk through about why I was not happy about that entry. And then we spent hours dissecting what went wrong with the last entry.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the King of Dramas. I am inspired by the show. But why I am inspired by the show was probably not quite the honest part. I had written several drafts before the last entry, correcting it over and over and yet, I could not get to where I wanted. Usually when I struggle to write something, rather than writer’s block – it’s usually because I’m being dishonest with myself.

Eizwan hit it right on the nail when he asked me about my last blog entry. Sure it is inspiring, someone who would do anything to get what he wants. But that isn’t the only reason why the drama affected me so much. He pointed out the points that I kept talking about the past few days. My favourite part of the show is Anthony Kim’s character. There are plenty of arrogant, cocky and hyper-capable characters out there like House and the current Sherlock Holmes from Sherlock. But very few of them are like Anthony, who is arrogant, cocky and hyper-capable but prone to constantly breaking down into tears. Unlike House and Sherlock, who are barely aware about how flawed they are, Anthony is fully aware of his flaws. He wears power suits despite being completely and utterly broke. He teeters in between the realization that he was not who he once was and the delusion that he is still the powerful CEO of Empire Productions that produced the best Korean dramas of all time.

It is this strange balance of these two extremes that really caught my eye, to be able to write such a finely crafted character. With most cocky characters on screen, rarely would the characters acknowledge their thirst and desperation to succeed – they are always so sure of themselves. With Anthony, you are privy to see his desperation to go back to what he once was despite his outward self-confidence. The internal battle is played with very little melodrama (or the occasions when it is played with melodrama – it is taken to the extreme for laughs). I admire a writer for being able to create a character so nuanced and balanced and yet unbelievably cool.

As it is a satire, the King of Dramas use plenty of rom-com clichés to move the story forward. But what I did not expect was that every cliché was turned on its head so that more than half the time, I had no clue how the story was going to progress. When the writer, Go-Eun wakes up from a clichéd coma with amnesia, I did not expect it to be a prank that she plays on Anthony. Anthony’s response was a classic, over-the-top soap response: he pulls her close to him and declares desperately: ‘If you can’t remember me, at least remember me with hatred from what I did to you’…only to find he’d been punked by Go-Eun.

Or in another frequent K-Drama cliché, when Anthony gets the large sum of money from the Watanabe group for his drama, I half expected the storyline to go by the way of Anthony falling for say, the daughter of a respected CEO and thereby creating a love triangle between Anthony and the writer, Go-Eun as it would have played out in most Korean dramas. What I did not expect was for the Watanabe Group to actually be a front for the Yakuza which inevitably, raised the mundane stakes of getting a drama onto the tv screen, to truly a matter of life and death.

It is this delicate balance of playing around with tried and tested drama tropes and cliches, and then turning them on its head every single time that won me over. It is hard to be over-the-top without being too silly or falling into the Wayan Brothers category. The King of Dramas was too smart for all of that – it’s aware that they are being over-the-top and yet, it is played with so much sincerity that despite being chased by gangsters and a constantly vengeful Chairman bent on destroying our hero – it is believable.

And as I watched, I was exhilarated. I could not predict each sequence like I usually do when I watch movies (one of the reasons why I found Skyfall deathly boring) and I became more invested in the characters. None of the characters developed ‘normally’ per se and more than once, when the actor Kang Hyung Min’s conscience is pricked and we see a spark of humanity in his soul, it’s immediately extinguished by his love of money. In some characters, there are no redemptions, they may be good in their own way but they’re not going to change as they do, in a grand Hollywood style. If they’re petty, chances are they’re going to remain petty despite the occasional glimpse of a conscience, throughout the drama.

But as I sat down to write all of this, none of this came up. Instead, I wrote the entire cliché on why I loved the drama. I could not tell any of the reasons why I truly loved the drama. As I went to bed last night, with the first draft ready to put up – I thought, perhaps I did not want to bore any of you reading an in-depth analysis about The King of Dramas. Or perhaps, I did not want to come out as a Korean Drama fan-girl as though it was some form of low entertainment that I did not want to be associated with.

After I had posted, I was aware that I was very angry. And Eizwan asked me why don’t I write about it, about why I cared for the drama. I made up excuses – it’s boring, who cares? I can’t find a way to write about this as interestingly as possible. But I was becoming more aware on why I can’t. If I am staring at the screen for ages, it is because I know it’s too raw for me to deal with it, too difficult. It is not that I don’t want to deal with it but that I am so used to packing up emotions in a tidy little box and shoving it as deeply as possible to the recesses of my mind that I am unaware it exists.

Which is funny. As a writer, I would think I would be more used to mulling about how I feel about things. I spend a lot of time analyzing myself and people around me, to understand how I feel. But I have always known, and it pains me to say this, is that my greatest weakness is my inability to be completely honest with myself.

During the Director’s course I took part in London, one of the things I had to do was act as though I was in love with a housemate of mine but it was in secret and I was fully aware that it was an unrequited emotion. I failed at the task miserably because I could easily hide feelings like that. The task was intended to teach aspiring directors on how to get actors to feel the role.

A piece of plank displayed more emotions than I did on that day. Our teacher watched my classmates try miserably for 10 minutes to get some emotion out of me when she announced to the class that, ‘Adlina by nature, closes her feelings up. She doesn’t let them show and so it’s hard for her to be openly angry for instance, because it’s not the way she does it.’

She did not mean it unkindly. That is who I am, as a person. I think I am good when it comes to frustration and happiness. But when it comes to disappointment, to fears and regrets – it is not that I do not let it show. Rather, I don’t even acknowledge their existence; they’ve been shoved in that box, deep in the back of my mind. Sometimes, I don’t even know why I’m sad – I just know that I am sad and frustrated and I keep it in.

Harry was an actor turned director. She pulled me aside then and asked me to think about a situation, a moment where I loved someone but the love was unrequited. And to bring it up to the front, to let the feelings through. ‘And then I want you to act it out.’

Before any of the previous male companions could claim that they were the ones that came to my mind – surprisingly, the first words that came to me was the SC. It brought forth a torrent of anger, disappointment and rejection that I knew existed but had hidden away and it all came out at once.

Harry was pleased. And she asked me to hide this emotion but keep it at the forefront of my mind as I acted.

The result was just pure electric.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about that day, about how been given permission to allow myself to feel, everything came out all at once. At that time, it made me a better actor and I knew that if I were to be honest with myself with my own fears and doubts, I would be a better writer. If I was not so afraid to admit to myself my own weaknesses and my own failings – despite how vulnerable I would feel, my writing would be better.

Each time I struggled with a piece of writing – I know a part of my brain had decided to hide the truth. After much soul-searching, I knew why I couldn’t write any of that. A part of me is really afraid that I can’t write. I’m afraid that at the end of the day, for all my criticisms of cliches and tropes – that is exactly what I depend on when I write, because when I come to the crossroads, I take the path more commonly taken. Because it is much easier – or because I believe it makes me look good. I’m scared of writing something so different because of how it will be received. Heck, when I watch The King of Dramas, I’m not even sure I have the wit to come up with half the stuff they wrote.

I’m really sorry that The King of Dramas never got the ratings or the ending it deserved. I wish I had that kind of skill and talent to write the way they had, to create characters that I could love so deeply – to take all the cliches that I’m so used to and throw it back at myself. I wish I could take a path less commonly taken and not be so scared to do so. I wish I could see that I was taking the most commonly used path as opposed to patting myself on the back and saying ‘I’m certainly taking the road less taken’.

And the true reason why it was so hard to admit why I’m crazy in love with the show? I really, really wish, that for all it’s unpolished writing, the horrible ending it had, the strange inconsistencies the King of Dramas had, I could write half as well as the writers of The King of Dramas had.

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Just a little bit of Drama

It is but a quiet beginning to 2013 for me. While my good friends have been struggling with a heavy schedule and sharing fantasies about the various colleagues, bosses and acquaintances that they would like to stab with a pencil/knife and/or set their cars on fire – I have no such fantasy. It has been a quiet January for me which altogether is not that bad.

But I live in Malaysia and despite telling myself that I do not want to keep up with the Joneses I can’t help feeling the pressure to share about how hard this January had been and I too have a number of people that I would like to stab with a pencil.

The unfortunate truth is though, the only people I would like to stab with a pencil would be the local postman – and that for throwing my books that I ordered from Book Depository into the porch. It is sacrilegious for books to treated that way – sure I get that Mr. Postman is very busy, and that God forbid that he would take the time to leave a note asking me to pick up my stuff at the local post at a more convenient time. It only makes perfect sense for him to take my precious books and throw them into the porch like it was discus practice.

Perhaps I am being unkind. Perhaps there were rabid raccoons on my porch and they were scrambling to get into the house and attack my kitties. Damn those raccoons.

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“Do you want to spend your life here? And one day, in the far-off future you’ll tell your kid, ‘Your mother once had  a dream,’ and leave it at that? Dreams aren’t made to be memories. They’re made to be achieved.”

– Anthony Kim, King of Dramas

Anyway, fantasies on attacking the postman is certainly nowhere as exciting as stabbing VIPs with pencils. To feel the need to stab a VIP suggests that there is some sort of drama with the VIP that can only be alleviated through random acts of pencil violence. My life has been so quiet that the only drama I have in my life right now is The King of Dramas, which in tumblr speak, is giving me many, many, many feels. Despite its terribly disappointing ending – it was probably one of the best and fun dramas I had seen in a long while.

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This is Anthony Kim. He is not terribly good looking. He is an all around asshole in the series. But I am in love with him. It’s okay, before you feel the need to snitch to Eizwan, he knows. He is always the first to know when I openly declare I’m in love with another man. He is usually quite supportive too.

I’m one of those people, those saps who can find certain literature, tv shows and movies can change my life. And when I think about my life – about turning points that change my life, I can pinpoint various pieces of literature and TV shows that made me who I am. A painfully awkward 13 year old feeling out of place? The X Files. Trying to figure out these strange emotions towards the opposite sex that I feel in my heart as a teenager? Pride & Prejudice with a healthy dose of Sailormoon. And of course, during my dark days in the SC – it was those lonely nights of watching the now defunct BBC Entertainment for my dose of Doctor Who.

Some people believe in omens and signs – and they look for them everywhere. For me, it comes through dramas or books or mangas. As I’ve said a million times over probably by now (or at least it feels like it), I am still recovering from 2012. I’m trying to embrace my life as it is and as it will be, not so much as I hope it would be and this drama came at the right time, like a friend assuring me I’m doing the right thing.

The series isn’t perfect. There is an incredibly disappointing ending as a result of the series’ real life battles with ratings but from episode 1 to 16 (17  and 18 is an extension demanded by the broadcasters, presumably since their follow up drama was unprepared to take up the slot), it is witty, sharp, satirical and very heart-warming. For me, it’s inspiring as we follow the footsteps of the all-around jerk Anthony Kim, the best drama producer in Korea whose fall from grace inspires him to climb back and exact revenge on everyone who had wronged him. He has one last chance of making a comeback, and he is partnered with the inexperienced but idealistic writer, Lee Go-Eun who serves (or at least, tries to anyway) as his conscience. Of course, as the series progress we watch him change to huge asshole that he is to the…not-so-big asshole that he will become.

I can relate to Anthony Kim – and hopefully not in the way I’m a major asshole. But I can relate to feeling lost and unsure in life, the desperation to find a way and find success. I like that despite the odds being stacked against him, he uses every means possible and if you watch the drama, it really is every means possible to win. Despite some of his methods, shall we say, is less than kosher – you keep rooting for him to win. What I’m trying to say, and it is a pretty sappy thing to say, is that this show is what I really need right now, I need to believe that working hard and a belief in your dreams can make you go far.

I may be presumptuous to say a particular show is going to change my life. I do know when it has a potential to do so: when I  become overly obsessed about it, when I cannot stop thinking about it. And even if this drama does not change my life, it came right around the time when I needed it most, like an unexpected friend.

The show has ended and I am not exaggerating when I say that my nights are now going to feel a bit empty. I’m going to miss the characters on the show, the camaraderie and will have to satisfy myself with just watching reruns (well, just forwarding it to my favourite bits pretty much) The obsession will die out soon as I have plenty of things to do, plenty of things to read: I do have about 5 books waiting for me, and another book on the way from the UK, ready to be thrown into my front porch. For now, I’m quite glad that I got to catch this show and very grateful for it giving me inspiration when I need it.

 

Goodbye 2012, Hello 2013!

Eizwan tells me that I have a poor habit of looking back to yesterday and then moaning about how much I have not done for the year. Or I could look back at the past years and only focus on the bad and the terrible and not see the good stuff I had done.

2012 as some of you may or may not know – had been a very difficult year for me. Mostly emotionally it was very poor and a chunk of the gains I had made in 2011 – like weight loss, my health – I had let it slide. I spent a lot of 2012 with introspection, not necessarily the best kind. More like ‘Woe is me’ of Shakespearean proportion and I have spent more time obsessing on past sins than Lady Macbeth ever had.

Thankfully, I am not like Lady Macbeth. I have yet to convince Eizwan to murder his boss.

So, a retrospective look at 2012 – here we come.

The Good Tea Company

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Stacking up our tea

2012 was the year The Good Tea Company really took off. I had been toying and being rather coy about the idea of starting a business but 2012 was the year I really took the plunge.

You can say that starting a business is nerve-wrecking. But that would be an understatement. I think the accurate analogy would be akin to throwing yourself off a cliff without having a parachute on. And hoping that maybe you could build yourself a parachute as you plunge down at the 32 feet per second x per second.

But it has taken off. I have a product with a gorgeous design (designed by my brother) and a small but hopefully growing following. Sometimes when you run a business, you think you’re crazy. Like would anyone taste this tea and think ‘Cor, that’s the best tea I ever had!’ or would they think ‘They headed all the way to India to buy meh tea?’.

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One of our successful tea hampers that we sold at The Curve for Eid

The doubt is giving way to confidence that The Good Tea Company has brought in some of the best teas in the world. Yes, I’d go that far. I love the teas I bought, I can make a tea lover out of a non-tea lover and on a lousy day, nothing makes me feel better than a hot mug of Afternoon Tea. I think about it so fondly as though it is my own child. And our teas have a great following amongst my small but growing customer base with some customers obsessing over teas that I never thought you could obsess about.

So. How about it, readers? Willing to give it a shot? Head on over to The Good Tea Company or you could always drop me a line at adlina[AT]georgia-gw.com.

Unfortunately, you can no longer message me on FB because

I’ve switched off Facebook.

Sometimes, you have to know what is debilitating and soul destroying. Facebook was doing that to me – each time I checked it, I felt lower and lower despite knowing full well that people go on Facebook to show off. No one actually goes on Facebook to say the full truth i.e. ‘I’m showing off pictures of my wonderful children because I need to make myself feel better because really, they are brats that I feel like throttling and killing and my loving husband is actually a douche who only comes home around midnight. And I think he might have a mistress.’

I used to feel like I am raining on people’s parade by doubting their happiness. Perhaps they truly feel the need to share their happiness with their friends. Perhaps they really are genuinely happy and successful as they fly first class to London to party it up with the Rolling Stones.

Either way, it was eating me alive, going on Facebook was like putting a microscope on my own flaws. Look at me, rotting at my home, not flying First Class (heck, not even flying Air Asia last year) and not shopping in Paris. What am I doing wrong?

And therefore, it was time to get off. I’ve killed off Instagram even though I adored their filters (although, I stopped like it as much after College Humor made their Instagram parody. It made me feel utterly common) and deactivated it for a while. I might go back online when my sister heads to Australia for her PhD and since she practically lives on FB.

A New Home

Speaking of rotting in our home, I was not kidding. Eizwan and I currently live in a rental, in our bid to be as independent as possible from our parents. But it’s an old house and bits and bobs of the house has been falling apart. When I mean falling apart, I mean, plug points melting to a pile of plastic goo, ceiling almost collapsing from water log and our current favourite, a toilet that keeps backing up because the plumbing possibly dates back to the Roman era.

When our landlady sweetly asked to increase our rent, I threw a massive temper tantrum for a week and made the decision on behalf of the family to buy a new house since rental and mortgage were nearly on par to each other. It took a while for Eizwan to get on board and when he finally did – we hunted for a home. We signed November last year and we are on our way to a house ownership!

The keys should be handed over in end Jan and Eizwan and I, and our three cats (because this is the year we added a new kitty to our brood!) will be moving to our first owned home.

The Third Cat

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Marty is on the right, Nadal is on the left. Marty is the cutie pie that loves to irritate all the cats in the house.

This little kitty adopted us, not the other way round. A small manky kitten made her way into our backyard and despite shooing it away countless of times, she kept coming back.

I’m a firm believer that you don’t adopt cats – cats adopt you. It was a difficult transition at first, our cat Marie is a real gangster and showed her true mafia colours on the kitten. It’s been more than 8 months now and we are one big happy family.

Our cats are Nadal, Marie (short for Maria Sharapova) and Marty (short for Martina Hinggis) No points for guessing who they’re named after.

Adlina the Hippy/Masterchef

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Spicy Miso Ramen – during my ramen craving times.

My sister frequently accuses me of when I like something, I never go ‘Hey, I gotta take my friends and family here to try out this cake! It’s so good.’ It’s always, ‘Wow, this cake is amazing. I gotta MAKE this!’ She said, if I could, I would probably make my own shoes and handbags if I like a design.

2012 was the year of experimentation food wise. I have cooked so many cuisines the past year, experimented on some of the most difficult cooking stuff and done some Mad Kitchen Experiments. Roasted sambal anyone? I’m sorry I can’t share the recipe yet – the sambal I made was so potent, I nearly killed Eizwan. There are some recipes that have become staples in both my home and my mother’s household – the Dry Chicken Curry and Mapo Tofu being our favourite.

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Peanut butter brownies – I have killed some friends with these brownies. It’s okay – they died from happiness.

Unfortunately, I had never bothered to document my successes that I frequently sit down and wonder – what on earth did I make that day? So the aim this year is to document everything down so that I no longer have to figure out, what on earth did I make that time. I am hoping to build an epic kitchen so I have a place to do all my Mad Kitchen Experiments as safely as possible.

So what is there to look forward to in 2013?

The Good Tea Company

I am extremely passionate about this company. I want it to grow, and I want Malaysians to have access to great teas. One of my fondest memories that I cherish is sneaking off from class to have dessert and tea with my best friend in uni. That’s how I feel about tea – you can have it on your own, as you sit down to write but it’s better when you have a good friend and a good dessert in front of you and have long conversations with a good friend.

A bad cup of tea is just that, a bad cup of tea. But a good cup of tea makes you smile, makes you feel warm inside. I want everyone to have a chance to have a great cup of tea to accompany them as they build up friendship and love.

Writing

If you noticed, 2012 was a dismal failure when it came to writing. I wrote a few business plans, completed one short story but struggled to do anything else. I see myself first and foremost as a writer, despite having my own tea company.

This year, I want to complete a novel and then to try and get it published. I’ve said this before, year on year and had failed to keep up my promise. But I got my tea company up and running right? So, even if it means a lack of a social life this year, limiting it only to the Garoupas and close friends – so be it. It’s time to let my writing take priority.

Adlina the Hippy

I let myself down in 2012. I let my health slide and I stopped taking care of myself. I pined so much for something I could not have that I stopped looking at the now, looking at what I could do today. Perhaps, I am not meant for what I was pining for and perhaps, I will get that chance in the future. My mother reminded me that perhaps God intends me to have a differing role than everyone else and that it isn’t a bad thing.

This year, I am going to put me first. I am putting my emotional and physical well-being as priority. It’s true what they say – you can’t take care of others when you’re not taking care of yourself. I want to focus on my ambitions and my dreams and I want to have a more holistic view of my life.

And since I’m a hippy, I’ve started this year by tossing out all my face care products out and doing my face using only natural products. No, we’re not talking about natural face care products. We’re talking putting the contents of the fridge on my face. Yeah, I never do things the easy way.

2013 is going to be a great year. I can just feel it.