gambitch - now available in blue
Our constant efforts to reinvent ourselves reveal how much we fear our own images.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

I'll be honest, this was not the way I expected to end "that day".

I went down to the usual place, expecting to simply enjoy myself, and half-anticipating a certain surprise - which really doesn't count as a surprise anymore since I knew it was coming. But I stole occasional glances at my watch as the hours, then minutes went by.









... By then, I realized nothing was happening. And when the place closed 20 minutes later, still no one knew that it was "that day", and still no surprise.

I did my part. Took a front-row table, never turned my head back, avoided going to toilet even though my bladder was filling a wee bit. I didn't want to spoil the surprise they had planned for me.

Except they never showed up.

So I made the phone call eventually to the guy who was supposed to plan it. And instead of a surprise related to "that day", I had a totally different kind of surprise, that might have been closer to 'shock'. The news was bad, quite bad, and he was taking it pretty badly. He cried.

I saw shades of me in my darkest days. I reckoned I had to do something, and it had to be something bigger than talking on the phone. So I decided to pull a surprise of my own. I talked and talked, all this while quietly travelling to his place. And when I walked up the final flight of steps that led to where he lived, I took an unexpected turn in the conversation and told him to go look outside his door.

In a different context, this kind of stunt would be the stuff of romantic comedies, complete with a bouquet of flowers or some other gift. But this chap's a guy, as am I, and neither of us are homosexual, plus it's me who's celebrating "that day", not him, so I was empty-handed, as was he. Nonetheless, the surprise factor definitely worked out pretty fine.

So I spent the night at his place, talking to him some more without burning my telephone bill. He may have screwed his own life up a touch, and he was initially thinking I was about to give him a lecture. I wasn't. I knew better than that. It's not a lecture he needs, it's a friend who is willing to listen and understand. Lecturing is for teachers; my role this time was not to teach. He needed something else, an outlet for him to have some kind of carthasis (gawd, I haven't used this word in a while). And I knew this kind of thing could not wait.

Yes, I know, it's "that day", and I should be spending it happily. But I've already had my evening of happiness the day before. For those few hours, I was already the happiest little boy in the world. And I've already had my meals and listened to my songs for this evening. The pleasure was filling enough for now. But if I have a friend who's sad, I must do something for him or her (perhaps especially if it's a her...). I don't care whether it's "that day" or not.

This morning, he woke up about two hours later than he had planned for. But we had talked so long into the night, I knew he was physically fatigued, and so sleeping was the normal thing to do. I woke up a touch late myself, although I wasn't sleeping particularly comfortably. In fairness, neither was he, and perhaps he didn't - no, doesn't - realize how important that was.

Or how important it was, after a night where he probably cried himself silly before I talked to him, and was still blabbing silly stuff for quite a bit when I was talking to him, to have a good, relaxing breakfast. When he asked me about breakfast, it might have been a bit of a second-guess on my part that he meant something very simple and cheap near his place. I wasn't standing for it. He was going to study at the library downtown, so I decided quite quickly that we'd have breakfast downtown, something more filling, more nutritious, and eaten somewhere more comfortable and relaxing than some random fast food restaurant.

Now, I'm not the richest guy around, but sometimes I know what it means to pamper yourself a wee touch when it comes to meals, allowing yourself to slow down a little and smell the coffee (or in my case, orange juice). That was necessary to help him settle into a more comfortable mood when he begins cracking his books. He's got exams soon, by the way. Which was why I chose to have the breakfast in a quieter place downtown.

Only after all that was done, and after I was sure he could study in a more comfortable mood, having rid himself of the emotional stresses and burdens that prompted his recent collapse - at least temporarily - did I think it okay to leave him alone to study. I had work of my own, in any case, but at least I didn't have to worry about him for another few hours.

I don't want to see him fail. Sometimes, in him, I see shades of my old self, putting myself through some of the things that ended up leading me to my darkest hour. I know how that felt. I wasn't exactly too excited by the prospect of the same kind of thing happening to him. No, I was not about to see history repeat itself on someone else I know. That's why I'm putting so much energy in providing the support and encouragement he needs to slog through these crucial months. I don't have to; I'm not obliged to, just as everyone else isn't. But having fallen before, I know what it means to fall, and while I bounced back and came out somewhat intact, that's no excuse for me just sitting by and watching other people go through the same things I did.

That said, I did tell him one thing. I can't be there to keep on propping him forever, bailing him out whenever something goes wrong. I can only do it so many times. I might not be of help the next time he faces another bad moment, although I'll do my level best to try. Be it the next time something goes wrong in school, or if something unhappy happens at work, or if he has a big tiff with his girlfriend, or whatever it may be, I might not be of as much help as he or I would like me to be. So he's got to learn to take things a bit better, come to terms quickly, and move on and focus on what he still can save.

Looking back, it's a rather different way for me to spend the final hours of "that day" this year. Definitely I've never quite experienced anything like it. But I've had all my happy hours - thanks, it was really sweet, in that light-touch way - and maybe, even as I was helping this friend pull through his latest down moment, I might have found myself growing in a different manner. It's all philosophical stuff up there in my head at the moment, and I'm not necessarily making the most sense of it, but maybe, just maybe, there is a different meaning and value to spending "that day" this way this time, which makes it special in its own right just like some other ones I've had before.

That said, bro, you still owe me a nice chocolate cake, and a teddy bear with a pink T-shirt!

gambitch [ 11:13 PM]

Friday, April 20, 2007

I wish I knew how to better capture this evening.

The tea we had. The talk we talked.

Me continuing to show how much of an emo guy I really am.

You telling me to take it easy on relationships and just go all out establishing some starting permanent foothold on my career, like the guy my age I ought to be.

Us making a brief study on psychosis and the sad mental world of that Korean guy who ran riot in VTech.

Discussing our gay-ish and les-ish (oh, she IS les, sorry) friends.

Sharing on dreams and guessing what they mean.

You watching me tear my hair out a little, and yet both of us showing the patience deep underneath when the server jammed up that delayed our time of drink.

Me walking you through that part of town and just showing off (a bit) on how well I knew this area.

And how many other sweet and lovely little things in between.

But I'm not great at capturing everything with words.

So this is all I can do. Putting a placeholder on this blog while I lock the memories and the feelings offline, deep within, stored together with all the other memories and feelings I've accumulated.

With you, with everyone else, and today, with you.

Domo arigatou...

gambitch [ 1:47 AM]

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Short and Sweet opened tonight, and I was fortunate enough to catch it on the very first day. Always nice to be in the very first group of audience for a production, when there's that sense of anticipation for the actors as much as for the viewers. In that sense, both parties are virgin and eager, one could almost squeal.

Tonight's production features ten short plays, each about ten minutes long. That's the way Short and Sweet works, letting us get a very wide sampling of ten different shows in a single sitting. While it also means you won't get very many strong, enduring images for each of the ten shows, I would treat it as a kind of different experience.

Just The Three Of Us was the opening item, and really, it's kinda surreal when you've got the first play of the night happening to have some small bit to do with my day job. Yes, the background noise was commentary for Liverpool vs AC Milan back in Istanbul, so you've got this guy who's basically watching the game. Anyway, his good buddy comes in and talks about the latter's "damn hot" wife wanting a threesome. It sounds pretty good to the first guy, until he realizes it's not two girls on his guy buddy, but two men on the wife.

The guy puts it well - "it sounds really double standards, but eeeeee..." So two girls working on a guy is good, and two guys working on a girl is not? There's obviously the fairness argument, but there's also the whole point of there being a so-called moral difference when certain threesomes are good and certain are not. I tend to be of the position (no pun intended) that it's really relativist and ultimately defined by the parties involved. Not that the ones not party to the activity can't have their opinions, of course.

This one was pretty striking for an opener, but the second wasn't too bad either. Strangers talks about fantasies of the slightly BDSM-ish kind. Well, mostly that of a couple who loved indulging and engaging in fantasies. Fortunately for them (and us as an audience), this time it doesn't go so well, allowing them to conveniently have a chance to confront their fantasies. Which is when some beans spill and some truths out. What's interesting is how each pretended his/her favourite food was something when it was something else, only because they wanted to create an image to the other party that they like the more exotic stuff. The girl likes some simple local tidbit thing, but lies about being into some pasta. The guy's a pizza person, but bluffs by saying he prefers fish head curry. And other little stuff like that.

There are some truths mixed into the bag of bluffs, of course. And sometimes it can be funny. Like this exchange.

Girl: Your middle name is...
Guy: Shirley.
Girl: For real?
Guy: Um... yeah.
Girl: Of all the things you could tell the truth about, you chose that one. (slight laugh)

And the ending's pretty nice, too.

Guy: Hi. My name's Dan Shirley Tan. I like pizza... (various other introductory truths) ... And I hate fish head curry.
Girl: (looks at him, beat) Sounds like a pretty good fantasy to me.

Some of the lines are a bit too obvious, but the overall feel of this one's pretty right.

Out of Control was one of those off-beat ones. The whole thing operates around a passenger who basically got onto the wrong plane and took an eternity to realize the mistake. Somewhat exaggerated and melodramatic, and the corny lines don't help very much. When you look at the play synopsis, it seems an overly blatant attempt to play with the audience's mind, and the end product is, ultimately, funny but somewhat forgettable. Poking fun at cheap Thai airlines and their ladyboy stewardesses - among other things - has never been so ho-hum.

What If It's Bad News? is rather cute, admittedly. Young woman and her boyfriend go out on a picnic, basically part of an exercise to persuade him to read his dead father's letter to him. They basically go through this entire thing where, at various different points, both show some kind of sexual playfulness that's at once daring and bashful. I mean, hiding a box of condoms inside a picnic basket? Ticklish when you see it. Or that blushing deep kiss the girl suddenly gives to him. But that's so boyfriend-girlfriend-like, so it's all good. The ending is rather predictable, sure. But this play's probably a little more about process than product.

10,000 Cigarettes is, well, the kind of play where there's not so much story-ness to it. Four sisters talking about cigarettes and the beauty of it. Beauty which, I must personally add, I'm not appreciative or approving of. I'm a medical health phreak that way, not to mention seeing it as some kind of mental challenge to keep away from smoking. But I can watch the conversation and find the fun of it. A little bit regular fare, though. Not terribly poor, but not exactly striking.

I didn't have the strongest impressions of the sixth item, Of Love and Friendship. Two suppposed best of buddies having a bit of a talk that degenerates into an argument of sorts, all because one guy rather sillily loves a girl and sees no reciprocal response from her, and the buddy's trying to talk him out of it. Not in a terribly clever way, I might add. Their divergent positions on love lead them into some kind of conflict, the kind that might be familiar with some of us. The laid-back chiller's pretty interesting to watch, if potentially annoying as a friend if you had one like that. It's not a particularly bad piece of work, and it's got its funny moments. But for strength of impression, it's still not quite there for me.

Portrait in Black and White was actually written by a friend of mine, who's trained in medicine and likes theatre. No surprises how these two things cross paths in his work, talking about a woman taking a mammogram and having an initially uncomfortable conversation with the nurse handling it. Then the story tells itself pretty nicely. A couple of nice lines here and there, of course. A decent piece of work from the friend, it must be said. Up there with the better ones.

If you were expecting The Ice-Cream Truck to be all about an ice-cream truck, then sorry, it isn't quite. It's still a pretty nice piece of work, though. It does, at a point, explore the mental troubles a girl in high school has coping with the death of her father. I suppose she must love him quite a bit. But at the same time, there's a certain element of estranged-ness in the relationship, because the dad's attempts to cheer her up don't quite work, and you can imagine the dad's quiet vexation in not knowing how to fare better. He tries manfully, to his credit.

There's a moment where the girl describes standing up and punching her teacher because the teacher did the immensely silly thing of showing care and concern for her, care and concern which, I must add, she felt was rather fake. Doesn't help that she doesn't think the most of the teacher's classes and teaching either. Teenage angstiness? Maybe. I wasn't quite as angsty as a teenager, so I wouldn't know. But I've seen it before, people eyeing the world with cold skepticism and believing nothing is quite as sincere and true as it tries to seem. Overall, a nice work.

Fat is really quite a standard piece of work, with all the standard tricks you'd expect. You know, actors dressed similarly, quickly giving away the suggestion the two are mirror images of each other. That much is suggested even though one wears a jacket and the other doesn't, and both of them don't look terribly alike to each other. You see the one-sided ranting for the most part by one character, while the other character tries to be a little bit more consoling, just not to much avail. The mechanics of this one are pretty obvious from the outset, so from a literary perspective it breaks no real ground. This does give it a chance for us to assess the actors' abilities, but all I can say for the most part is that the verdict is 'inconclusive'. Which doesn't speak terribly well of this one.

The last piece of the night, Dead In A Box, is a slightly bizarre little one. I don't quite know how to put it. Is it again some kind of predictability in the way the story is set up? This seems to be the repetitive problem for so many of the plays. The line of development for the plot is rather painfully obvious, well, rather too often. So again it's down to the lines, which include the little bit where the female character talks about her having had a Brazilian. Not the man, but the waxing treatment. That, and the supposedly 13-year-old boy talking about having gone pubic and needing sleep after a shag last night (he's 13, remember, not 18), made for the usual smattering of sex references in an otherwise not-so-exciting story.

I was left thinking for a second whether we really need all these sex references, smoking scenes, and other such stuff to keep the plays afloat, even at ten minutes. I don't have a real answer to that, although it does seem that lots of scriptwriters turn to those little things. Does it give them a little moment of squealy thrill to be able to write those lines? And to be able to hear those lines being read in public? I don't know. But if these are some of the top scripts as picked by the organizers, then I'm not terribly sure. It's fun sometimes, like in Strangers and What If It's Bad News?, but the rest of the time it tastes a little stale.

Still, the night was generally enjoyable, and the acting was very much competent, though the shortness of the plays makes it difficult for people to stand out as being really exceptional. A nice change of pace from the regular 75-minute production based on one storyline that needs to be really solidly constructed. That's what I took the entire production for - bite-size tidbits.

Some other plays are coming up soon. In fact, theatre season is coming. Time to burn more holes in my pocket! Watch out for those reviews, folks.

gambitch [ 11:44 PM]

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Am I losing my touch?

I feel the powers draining...

I fear...

gambitch [ 3:01 PM]

Monday, April 16, 2007

Why does this ninth leg of TAR:AS feel so unsatisfying?

Is it because I knew - as did everyone else watching the show, I'm sure - that nobody was to be eliminated from this leg? Is it because of some more unimpressive airport behaviour by Mirna and... well, Mirna? Is it because Oswald and Danny didn't look that good for the first time at an airport either? Is it because there's just no kick in this episode's activities, even with the kung-fu stuff going on?

I don't really know. This episode just didn't have the spark.

It had stupidity aplenty though. Mostly from Mirna. And that's just the single best reason I can think of for booting her off this show for eternity. How such a person can be a lawyer in New York, I cannot imagine. And she gives Armenians a bad name too.

I'm just trying to forget the airport business, for the most part, and concentrate on something nicer, like... Hong Kong! Dry cleaners! Stunt sets! Kicking around! Signboards in Chinese! Pulling toy boats!

That didn't really work, did it?

Although I must say, Danny's expression in the stunt car was genuinely hilarious. I must say, too, that Dustin and Kandice were once again great to watch, when they chose to immerse themselves a little into the whole thing and kicked down those doors at the Roadblock with style. And of course, Mirna being thwarted in her attempt to take the Star Ferry to, and not from, Hong Kong Island!

But still, something feels empty and unsatisfying about this episode. Maybe it's what I heard the last time around about how Oswald and Danny took time to shop, compared to me seeing none of that here. Or maybe the show forgot, for just one episode (I hope), how to excite me.

Let's hope it gets better next week.

gambitch [ 11:19 AM]


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