Tuesday, February 17, 2004

A Non-Writer's Journey - Beginings

Among one of the things that I told myself that I would try to do and finish within this year is another screenplay. It has been close to 2 years since I completed my first one and I felt that it was about time that I tried to get another one out. The blog entries that I have been putting out for these past few months have partly been for the purpose of keeping me in practice with writing and an exercise in creative expression. Part entertainment, part therapeutic and part confessional, these blogs have helped me keep the creative juices flowing and help me organize some ideas in my head.

I have had people who asked me where I learned to write the way I do. It bears repeating that I am not a writer by trade. I have never trained in the art of being a writer other that the basics that one would get from high school and college. I don’t aspire to be a writer for I don’t think that I have the aptitude for it much less the skill to write anything remarkable. What I write usually comes from gut instinct on how the story flows from one point to another rather than the strict conventions of structure. I humbly believe that in its simplest essence, my writing comes from the need for me to tell the stories that I have in my head. These half formed stories and images sometimes seemed to shout out demanding to be heard and that is when I am driven to write them down. I have several notebooks filled with story ideas in varying degrees of completeness and details. Some were no more than bullet points while there are others that came close to complete screenplay treatments. I can never tell when or how these ideas come to me. For all I know I might have been a storyteller in a past life or they are just ramblings from a demented mind. Regardless of their origins, I continue to feel passionate and driven by them.

The story for the screenplay that I’m planning to write this year has been knocking around in my heard for a few years now. It has gone through several incarnations in my notebook over that time and I finally feel that it is now in the flow that I feel confident enough to try to attempt to expand into a full screenplay. Being more of a visual person, the first step that I would have to do for this type of undertaking is to break the story down into scenes to see how many scenes I needed to have to tell the story. One tip that I learnt from the experience of writing my first screenplay was that the best way for me to do this is to get all these screen descriptions written out on medium sized Post-it notes and post them on large piece of cardboard or even to the world. This creative device allows me to visually see the progression of the story as well as allowed me to keep the bigger story firmly in view when I need to rearrange scenes. I guess that one can call it a version of the storyboard but made up of textual descriptions on post-it notes instead of pictures. It is also nice to be able to check scenes off from the board after completing them and have a visual representation of the progress of the piece.

It is only once I get this step squared away that I really dive into the writing experience.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Post Scripts from The Edge (of Sanity)

Brain. Freeze. Can’t. Think. Writer’s. Block. Must. Stop. Speaking. Like. Captain. Kirk.

PS: Got my DVD copy of Star Trek V: Undiscovered Country today and thus completing my classic ST feature film collection. Hopefully they would re-release the ST: TNG feature films in this collector’s item edition someday.

PPS: They are going to start showing “The O.C.” on Ch8 beginning this coming Saturday at 10:45pm. I am so looking forward to seeing this show after reading so much about it on TWOP. The main male leads are simply delish eye candy and the HoYaY level on this series is in the category of 1st season Smallville and 2nd season Angel. I am definitely counting the days before this series comes on air.

PPPS: Amazon.com has put up the “Popular: Season One” DVD set on pre-order status and I, of course, have put in my order. This series only ran for 2 seasons in the States which was a shame because it was really funny and had a lot of potential. I found out about the show when the showed both seasons on TV2 awhile back. The show was funny, campy, had a lot of style and of course nice male eye-candy.

PPPPS: The holiest of holy grails in DVD is finally coming as they are finally going to release the 1st Star Wars trilogy in a 4 DVD boxed set later this year. The news is that they would put the 1997 special release edition instead of the original theatrical version which is fine by me but has been criticized by some of the purist. Regardless of the controversy, I’m just happy that it is coming on DVD.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Oh Pacey, you idiot!

S finally called me to tell me that he would be coming to my house this weekend. He most probably wants to check out the new home entertainment system I bought. I would most probably be spending a lot of time in front of it since I finally got my copy of “Dawson’s Creek: Complete Season 2” yesterday. It would be fun revisiting the whole Capeside crew again as well as getting a fix for my Josh Jackson addiction. BTW ... Season 2 was when they introduced Jack who later in the same season came out of the closet. The character would continue for many seasons of the series but the rumor was the actor who was playing Jack was really upset that he had to play a gay character. He may not like it in the beginning but we get to watch him grow into and became more comfortable with the character over the years.

It took me a while to figure out why they choose “Superstitions” for the theme for this week’s Friday Five. I kept on wondering about it until I happened to glance at the calendar on my desk in the office and realized what date it was. Very sneaky of them.

1. Are you superstitious?
I guess that you can say that I am a bit superstitious about some stuff. The way I see it some of the more popular superstitions do actually have some grounding in real life if you look at them closely. Some of the more famous examples of this are the superstition about walking under the ladder or the one about breaking a mirror. Both could be seen as a warning to avoid unnecessary accidents. Of course there are other superstitions that are really out there and are hard to understand how they come to be. Of course living in Asia just adds on several layers of fun superstitions to the mix. The main point of it all is that, while it is good and well that we have all these superstitions, we should not let them rule/control how we operate in our daily lives.

2. What extremes have you heard of someone going to in the name of superstition?
I personally know someone who bought a house and renovated it at 10 times the cost of the house he purchased all because the feng-shui of the house was all wrong. He basically tore the whole house down and built it up with the goal of maximizing the feng-shui results. Every piece of brink, furniture, paint color, tree and even the fish in the house had to be approved by a feng-shui master before he allowed it into the house plan. I asked him why he even bought the house in the first place if he had to tear in down and spend the obscene amount of money he did and he told me that it was because the location the house was located was good for feng-shui. For something that was designed to attract wealth, the house really put a dent in his pocket that I have to wonder if it is really worth the time.

3. Believer or not, what's your favorite superstition?
My favorite superstition is a local Malaysian superstition that if you hear or smell anything strange in the dead of the night, especially at Thursday nights, you should never comment on them lest something supernatural/undead followed you home because you called to them by your comment. This used to scare the crap out of me as a kid especially when I started sleeping on my own bed alone. I still believe in this superstition till today and would never make a comment about anything out of place at nights if I don’t have to. I mean ... why tempt fate?

4. Do you believe in luck? If yes, do you have a lucky number/article of clothing/ritual?
I absolutely believe in luck and lucky items. Some days it seems that I need to get all the luck tokens cashed in to just get through it. My lucky number is 7, my lucky color is navy blue and I have a piece of petrified wood set in a ring of gold and bronze alloy that my late grandmother gave me which I consider to be my lucky charm that I wear always.

5. Do you believe in astrology? Why or why not?
I do sometimes read those astrology predictions and some have uncanny parallels to what was happening in my real life that it is hard not to think that there is something more to it. I would say that I don’t discount them out of the gate but I would never let it rule my daily life.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Explorace 01-04, Airdate: 11 Feb 2004

Previously on Explorace, team Ayaz and Ahsan (Team DoubleA) competed against the team of Choon Heng and Phillip (Team Uncle) in last week’s race that started at the grounds surrounding Sultan Ibrahim Building, Johor Bahru. Route 1 took half of the two teams clue hunting at several houses of worship near and around Harmony Street while the other half of the team had to cycle across town to the Hutan Bandar Recreational Park to solve their task of finding the scientific name for a particular orchid plant for Route 2. At the end of their task, Route 1 competitors ended up at a Sikh temple where they were served a very difficult breakfast to finish before proceeding to the next task. To get the golden key, Route 1 team had to travel to Kota Tinggi Waterfall Resort to participate in an obstacle course before diving into the cold waters of the waterfall to find it. Route 2 team had to travel to Pekan Nenas Pineapple Research Center and perform the easier task of harvesting 20 pineapples to get their gold boxes. Both teams were directed to their rendezvous point at Senai TC Arapaima and Tropical Fish Sdn. Bhd. Mini Zoo where there race really got exciting. After completing a task that involved gulping raw ostrich eggs among other things, both teams were directed to make their assigned VW Bug road-worthy before racing to the finish line at Dataran Bandaraya Johor Bahru. Team DoubleA crossed the finish line first but not before barreling their car into the other cars that were parked at the finish line. For a time, their win was still up in the air as they were previously warned that they could be disqualified from the race for their reckless driving. In the end the race marshals, in a controversial move, decided to declare Team DoubleA as the winners of this leg of the race and move forward to the second round on the condition that they had to pay for all damages that they caused.

Race 4 of Explorace Round 1 this week started at the grounds in front of the historic site of the Portuguese fort of A’Famosa in Bandar Melaka, Malacca. As it was with previous races, the two teams that were competing this week were the team of Yoges and Simon against the team of Shaiful and Keat. They showed some of the pre race chatter between the two teams this week which was a bit odd as I don’t recall they did at previous races. The pre race conversations focused more on how they were friends even if they had to compete against each other in the race which I thought was refreshing considering we only saw pre race trash talking between the contestants in previous installments at this point. There was also a notable absence of a local official to flag the racers off this time so Daphne had to start the race herself. I noticed that Yoges seemed to flinch visibly when Daphne started the race with the air horn which caused me to wonder if he was a bit nervous at the start of the race and was taken by surprise with the loud horn or if it was Daphne who blew the horn too close to Yoges’s ears.

In a refreshing change this week because the first clues did not involve visiting a place of worship for once, Route 1 contestants of Simon and Shaiful were directed to take a trishaw ride to the bus station and take a bus to get to Bukit Serindit where their first trivial question waited for them at a local terompah (wooden foot clogs) factory. From the very beginning both contestants decided that to think of a strategy of trying to get a lead over the other this early in the race was pointless and that it would be to both their advantage to cooperate to figure out how to get to their first clue. I have to say the decision of not working on a strategy to screw the other contestant over was quite noble of them but in the end didn’t really make for an exciting race. Both contestants arrived at the bus stop at 7:45 and found the correct bus to take to get to their next destination.

In the meantime, Route 2 contestants of Yoges and Keat were also directed to go on a trishaw ride to the taxi stand where they were to take a taxi to Bukit Katil where they had to find the Soon Hee Honey Bee Farm. Both teams were exceptionally friendly and chatty with the trishaw rider which further solidify my assumption that both teams were taking things easy for this part of the race. They were not too consumed by the race like the other racers that we saw before and I actually found this to be a bit refreshing for a change. After the short trishaw ride, both contestants arrived at the taxi stand at 7:55 and each got a taxi easily enough to get to the next destination. Yoges, who seemed to be savvy and familiar enough with the other more famous racing reality show, immediately asked the taxi driver if he knew where exactly was the place that he had to go to. After receiving a non-committal answer, he offered to use his mobile to find out but it was declined. Once the journey started it was clear to both contestants that the taxi driver could get them to Bukit Katil but was not familiar with the area enough to find the exact destination. Keat had to stop and ask the direction from a local shop while Yoges used his mobile to call the operator to get the number for the shop so he could call them to ask for directions. This turned out to be the better strategy as he was able to get the correct directions quickly and reach the bee farm first at 8:28.

While the contestants in Route 1 were waiting for their bus, they were told that their teammates in Route 2 failed to pay for their trishaw ride and now they had to pay for them. I’m sure that it was an honest mistake on their part but this incident made me wonder if the race officials didn’t have any sort of pre race briefing for the contestants to tell them that they were responsible for all the expenses incurred during the race. Simon called Yoges, who was on his way to the bee farm at this point to confirm about the non-payment and reminded him that he should ask the driver next time if he was suppose to pay for the trip. I would think that this is a good strategy because the last thing you want to happen to you in a race of this nature is to build up bad karma from not paying the person who was giving you the ride so that you can win the prize money. Just before getting on the bus, Simon went around to ask what a “terompah” was which I found to be quite funny as I would think that most Malaysians would be familiar with what it was. From what I could tell, Simon was genuinely in the dark about what it was and had to take a few minutes before figuring what it was after having it described to him by a local. This unintentional humorous moment was only the first of many for this hilarious installment of Explorace.

After getting off at Bukit Serindit at 8:25am, Route 1 contestants were told that they had to wait outside the terompah factory for at least 5 minutes as the factory’s operating hours only started at 8:30am. I found this to be a bit funny as this reminded me of the ‘bunching’ that always happens to the contestants in the ‘Amazing Race’ just when they were trying hard to keep their lead. It was also hilarious to see how everyone was just standing around waiting for 8:30 to come around. While waiting, the two contestants were trying to guess what they had to do there if they fail to answer their trivial question. I would have imagined that it would be clear to anyone seeing this that they would be making terompah if they fail their trivia test but it seemed that this option never crossed their minds when they were trying to guess what they might have to do. After guessing badly about what they might have to do, the contestants were given their trivial question which they both fail to answer correctly. At this point, I was wondering how the race marshals would decide who gets to answer the question first if both contestants reached the checkpoint at the same time. Regardless how they chose who goes first to answer the question, both contestants had to complete the penalty challenge which involves them making 10 pairs of terompah from scratch.

While his partner was trying his hand at terompah making, Yoges had to search for the next clue envelope in a marked honey bee hive as the penalty challenge for failing to answer his trivial question in the allotted time. We did not see the briefing given by the beekeeper on how to handle bees but I would guess that the briefing was either too short or Yoges forgotten most of the briefing in his hurry to get to the clue envelope from the way he kept getting stung. It took him at least 3 false starts before being able to carefully remove the hive frames from the box in order for him to get to the green clue envelope which he finally did at 8:37. While this was going on, Keat was looking for the honey bee farm at the wrong place. In fact, the show editors even put a really hilarious caption that said ‘8:29 Keat – Lost in Bukit Katil’ to tell us that he was still unable to reach the next checkpoint. It took him an additional 5 minutes before he found the correct honey bee farm and began his penalty task just as Yoges finished his. The clue that was hidden in the bee hive told them to go to the Melaka Raya Bridge using the marked bicycle assigned to them and get the next challenge envelope there. Keat seemed to take longer than Yoges to complete the bee challenge as he spent nearly 20 minutes at the bee farm compared to Yoges’s 9 minutes. When Keat finally began his cycle to the next checkpoint, Yoges was already in the lead by 20 minutes.

When we returned to Route 1 contestants, we see the still deep in their terompah making. We saw them painting the terompah base with the traditional red color as well as cutting up what I assume was the inner tube of an old bicycle tires into smaller pieces. I have to be honest that I still can’t figure out where the small pieces of tire go on a terompah. I don’t think that they go on the top part of the terompah as they usually use plastic for that part at least on the terompah that I’ve seen before. (Anyone who can enlighten me on where those tire pieces go on the terompah is welcomed to leave a friendly comment at the end of this transcript). In a later confession, Simon complained that making the terompah was not as easy as he thought as he had larger fingers that he kept accidentally hitting with the hammer. We also saw that both contestants got helpful pointers from the factory workers on how to make the terompah although I have to say that Simon really got the short end of the deal in this case. I’m not trying to be mean but I have to say that I laughed out loud when I first heard the old man who was teaching Simon how to make the terompah speak. This old man was mumbling the instructions like a person who had lost all his teeth and had a swollen tongue. I could not understand a word he said and I wondered how Simon could make heads or tails of the instructions. Simon was still making his 10 pair of terompah when Shaiful finished his at 9:30 and was given the clue to the next check point. The clue instructed them to use another set of marked bicycles to cycle to the Crocodile Farm at Ayer Keroh.
Somewhere between the honey bee farm and Melaka Raya Bridge, Yoges must have took a wrong turn or something as Keat was able to catch up with him even when Yoges started this leg with a 20 minute lead. Both Route 2 contestants arrived at the Melaka Raya Bridge at the same time at 9:25am. When they arrived at the bridge, they were directed to don the provided wet suit and abseiling down the bridge to the base where they had to find their golden box hidden somewhere among the craggy rocks at the bottom of the bridge. It took both of them nearly 20 minutes before they reach the bottom of the bridge and began their search for the golden box among the rocks. It was Keat who found his first at 9:47 and he was the first one to go off by jet ski to Pulau Besar where he will rendezvous with his teammate before beginning the team challenge. Yoges found his golden box three minutes after Keat and quickly jumped on the jet ski to try to catch up with Keat who was currently leading. In a confessional, Yoges related how he was told by the jet ski instructor to take the jet ski out to deeper waters as it was easier for the jet ski to pickup speed on deep waters compared to shallow waters near the shore. By following this tip, Yoges managed to close the gap and arrive at Pulau Besar at exactly the same time as Keat did at 10:30. For most of their time in Route 2, both contestants were racing neck to neck with neither holding the edge over the other. They now had to wait for their partners from Route 1 to arrive before then can begin the next leg of the race.

For most of the bicycle race to the Ayer Keroh Crocodile Farm, Shaiful was able to maintain a respectable 17 minutes lead in front of Simon. He arrived at the Crocodile Farm at 10:10 which meant that he had to cycle for almost 40 minutes. In a confessional, Shaiful remarked that he had not cycled that long before and it was lucky for him that they were provided with police escorts who help stop traffic for him as he raced to Ayer Keroh. The next challenge that the contestant had to do here was to get the clue envelope for the next destination. The problem was the clue was tied to the tail of a crocodile and that the contestants had to walk up to the crocodile to get it. Since Shaiful arrived first, he was in the crocodile enclosure first to get his clue. The contestants were briefed about how to approach these crocodiles safely and I’m sure that medical personnel were on hand nearby but I couldn’t help thinking that this was really risky. In his first attempt, Shaiful managed to bring the crocodile up to shore but it snapped to when Shaiful tried to reach for the clue envelope. It was only after the second attempt when Shaiful manage to get the clue envelope off the tail of the crocodile and was directed to find the golden key in the nearby ‘haunted house’ fun house. After a short search in a surprisingly bright ‘haunted house’, Shaiful found his golden key and was on his way to the Anjung Batu Jetty for a ferry trip to Pulau Besar. Simon was trailing by 25 minutes at this point and had the same reservations after seeing what he had to do for the next clue envelope but he was able to complete the given task just in time to catch the same bus as Shaiful who unfortunately lost the lead that he had built up to that point due to bus schedules. Both contestants reached town on the same bus at 11:25 and got on separate taxis to get to the Anjung Batu Jetty to catch the 12:00 ferry to Pulau Besar.

Once Route 1 contestants arrived at Pulau Besar at 12:15 and once they were reunited with their teammate, they were tasked to find 4 Explorace tags on the island which would be exchanged with 4 items that would be part of the next challenge. Both teams start off this tag hunt at 12:20 by trying to find the water tank where one of the tags was located. Both teams were given a map of the area but I assume that the actual locations of the tags were not marked on the map since the contestants still had to ask from directions from the locals to locate these tags. For most of the time, it seemed that Shaiful was luckier in finding the tags as he was able to find 3 of the 4 tags single handedly thanks to the help of the locals. It was actually funny to see how the locals reacted to the contestants’ request for directions. The most memorable reaction I remembered from the episode was when Shaiful asked for the directions to the wishing well from a local who asked him if he actually believed the stuff about the wishing well. It doesn’t sound that funny when you read about it but trust me that it was really hilarious on screen. Both teams managed to find the 4 tags at about the same time and exchange them for a water tank, rubber hose, wet suit and compass. They were taken to their next check point on what has to be the worst looking van still moving in the country. It was really hilarious to see this wreck of a van with absolutely no windows at all tooling on the road to the next check point. This van scene came so far off center that it just underscored how wacky the race was this week.

Once they reached the checkpoint they were allowed to open the golden box which contained the next clue that told them to use the items that they got from exchanging their tags to prepare a jet ski for a quick trip back to the Anjung Batu Jetty before catching a bus at 16:15 to go to the final race destination at the A’Famosa Waterpark and Resort near Alor Gajah. After the buildup about finding the 4 items in the previous task, it was disappointing for me that we did not get to see how the contestants used the items to prepare their jet skis. At least we were told that at the end of the jet ski trip, Shaiful somehow lost his glasses which would really be a major hurdle to overcome coming this late in the competition. For the first time in the competition, all four contestants were on the same bus going to their final race destination which was the A’Famosa Waterpark and Resort which they arrived at 17:20. At 17:35 the two teams began the race to complete their final task which involved solving several clues given to them by using the compass that they got in Pulau Besar. Team Yoges and Simon ran into a slight disagreement with each other when they ran into problems trying to figure out how to work the compass but they managed to solve all the clues at 17:50 which sent them to the nearby small stream where they had to build a raft from the bamboo and tire tubes provided to them there. Team Shaiful and Keat was still trying to complete their clues when Team Yoges and Simon completed their raft and was already in the water by the time the other team arrived to build their raft. After the short raft trip, Team Yoges and Simon reached the other end of stream and were escorted to the finish line at the Resort’s Cowboy Town where they were greeted by Daphne with a somewhat out of place sounding “Howdy Boys!” greeting. I have to say that I always thought that the A’Famosa Waterpark and Resort Cowboy Town was tacky and seeing how they decided to end this week’s race did not change my impression of the place. They had a bunch of people who dressed up as American Indians dancing around the wining team who were presented with something that I guess was suppose to be a medicine staff accompanied with a blast of confetti as they are declared the winners for this race by finishing ahead of Team Shaiful and Keat by a measure of 10 minutes.

The way the race ended this week, while I thought was unnecessarily tacky; further underscore my assertion that this must be the wackiest race we have seen so far. Not only was it the wackiest race but with the race clocking in at close to 11 hours it has to be the record setter for the longest race ever on this season. I would doubt that we would see the rest of the races running this long. While I must say that the race was a bit drawn out due to the distances that the contestants had to travel, the funny moments, both intentional and unintentional; really made this episode memorable for me. Both teams who were in this week’s race was surprisingly refreshing in their good guy approach to racing but in the end only one good guy team can win the race. This time around, that distinction fell on the team of Yoges and Simon whom I will fondly remember after this race as Team Chatty. They will follow in the steps of the previous three teams into the second round where more challenges will await them.

Next week, Explorace moves on to Georgetown, Penang where two more teams will compete against each other to secure their place in the second round.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

These tired old bones

I’m too knackered tonight to finish the latest Explorace write up tonight but rest assured that I would post it up on this site as soon as possible so please continue to watch out for this space. I’m actually considering posting these weekly Explorace transcripts on Thursday after the race beginning this week instead of my current practice of trying to get them in before I go to sleep on Wednesday nights. Hopefully I would be able to write a better recap after getting a good night’s sleep instead of after staying up for a few hours like I did for the past few races. I also hope that the notes that I scribble down during the show would be clear and detailed enough for me to write the recap the following day because I could no longer to write the transcripts while the show was still fresh in my mind. I believe the wonderful contributors at TWOP actually recap the tapes of their shows instead of the shows directly like I do. I guess that if I wanted to be serious about it I could get myself a VCR and tape the show so I can recap them from the tapes but at the moment I don’t really see the need to do so. The Explorace transcripts that I offer here are more for entertainment purposes instead of an actual archive of events and I don’t really make any money off writing them.

Initial thoughts about the race tonight? Definitely not as exciting or suspenseful as the race last week but it was not without its redeeming qualities that set it apart from the other races.

PS: E finally SMSed me today to apologize for forgetting my birthday (again) this year. I was too excited to hear from him again to be angry with him about it.

I'm such a pathetic sap.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Explorace 01-03, Airdate: 04 Feb 2004

Previously on Explorace, team Hana and Syari faced off against the team of Ayu and Zoro in race that started at the grounds surrounding Kuantan Mosque, Pahang. Route 1 took half of the two teams hunting for the green clue envelope in a dark, wet and slippery cave of the Sleeping Buddha Cave Temple at Gua Charas while the other half of the team had to complete a 10 km canoe race to Tasik Chini Resort in Route 2. The next clue brought Route 1 team to Club Med, Cherating where they had to snorkel in murky waters to locate the golden key while Route 2 team had to drive a trishaw to a batik factory where they tried their hand at batik painting. As the team of Hana and Syari thundered ahead of the competition, team Ayu and Zoro faced the physical challenges with some difficulties which cause them to lose valuable time. By the time that the teammates reunited for the team task that the salted fish processing factory, team Hana and Syari had a considerable lead over the other team and managed to keep that 40 minutes lead to the final task which involved them digging up jigsaw puzzle pieces buried in the beach and completing a puzzle. In the end, team Hana and Syari complete their race first and qualify to be in the second round of competition with grace and good humor which earned them the nickname of “Team Spunky”.

Before starting this week’s episode transcript, I have to put down my two cents worth about the show’s opening theme song. I’ve listened to it for the past 3 episodes and really tried to find some rhyme or reason for this ghastly show signature tune. I have to say that I think that the jangling electronica bleating of a song that they use in the beginning of each Explorace episode has to be the worst show credits theme that TV3 has ever produced in its history. It seriously sounds like a bunch of monkeys sat down in front of a keyboard and pounded out this monstrosity that not even a tone deaf person could love. I sincerely hope that the marketing folks TV3 would change the theme song for future seasons as clearly the current one they have for this show does not help in terms of establishing a favorable impression of the show. They really need a theme song that people can instantly associate with Explorace when they hear it as part of the branding strategy for the series and not something that the audience would instinctually try to tune out like the one they have now. I just had to put this down and get it off my chest before moving on to the race action this week.

For the 3rd episode, Explorace pits the bothers team of Ahsan and Ayas against the uncle and nephew team of Choon Heng and Phillip in a race that started out at the Sultan Ibrahim Building grounds at Johor Bahru, Johor. The race destination on Explorace this week is a personal favorite of mine because my family is originally from the area and I personally know some of the places that they have to go to for their clues. As usual for this race the teams were split up into two teams pursuing different routes in their race to get to the finishing line first. In Route 1, CH and Ahsan had to look for an imam of the Masjid India at Harmony Street in Johor Bahru for their trivia question while in Route 2, Ayas and Phillip had to cycle to a recreational park in the city of Johor Bahru called Hutan Bandar and find a local there who would have the envelope with their questions. Both teams were flagged off at 7:20 from the starting point to race to their first checkpoint.

Ahsan was the first person to reach the location of the imam of Masjid India at Harmony Street for his trivia question which he had to answer within 30 seconds. As with other contestant on previous episodes, the trivia question proved too obscure for him and he had to complete the penalty task for failing to answer the question. The penalty task for Route 1 this week involves the contestants going on a clue envelope hunt from one place of worship to another on Harmony Street where several places of worship for all the major religions in Malaysia are built almost a stone throws away from each other. I am not sure if this is intentional but in all three episodes of the show, the first task of the race involved a place of worship in it somewhere which is a bit unimaginative of the producers of the show considering places like Johor Bahru have much more to offer. Regardless, the clue that Ahsan was given at the mosque directed him to find his yellow clue envelope at the Johor Ancient Chinese Temple at Jalan Trus. He was closely followed by CH 3 minutes later at 7:33am who failed to answer his trivia question as well and had to look for his red clue envelope at the same destination.

While the temple hunt was going on, Route 2 participants were cycling across town to the Hutan Bandar Recreational Park to find the person who would give them their trivial questions. For most of the race, Phillip seems to be right behind Ayas and they even managed to share a friendly moment together while cycling to their first checkpoint. It was Ayas however who arrived first at 7:43 and found the person who would give him his trivia question. After failing to answer his question, Ayas had to complete his penalty task which involved looking for the next clue in a tower at the nearby Orchid Garden. He went to the first tower that he could see and immediately wasted some of the lead that he had looking for the clue at the wrong place. I would think that him having to jump over the locked gate of the tower he first went to would have tipped him that he was at the wrong place. Phillip also seemed to have done the same thing when he had to complete his penalty task after arriving at 7:54. With the help of some kind park visitors, the two contestants learnt of the other tower near the Orchid Gardens where they were suppose to go to. The clue that they found there directed them to search the Orchid Gardens for the scientific name for the orchid plant specified in their clue.

When we return to Route 1 participants, we found that Ahsan was again the first person to reach the Chinese temple and got his yellow clue envelope which directed him to go to the Raja Mariamanan Indian Temple for the next clue envelope. He was closely followed by CH who arrived three minutes later at 7:37 who was directed for his next clue envelope at the same location. The two arrived that the Indian Temple three minutes apart and got instructions to proceed to the Sikh temple at Jalan Trus for their final clue envelope. Ahsan was still leading when he arrived at the Sikh temple for the final clue which tells the contestants to board a bus from the Johor Bahru Post Office Bus Station to the Kota Tinggi Waterfall Resort after they finish a breakfast provided to them. CH arrived a few minutes later and had to complete the same meal before being allowed to proceed to the next destination. I didn’t exactly catch what was served to them but I did recognize a serving of chapatti on their plates so I will assume that they were served typical Sikh dishes. I’m not sure if they tried to rush through the meal or something but we found out that both contestants ran into trouble finishing their breakfast. CH must have tried to eat too fast that he seemed like he was choking at one point and had to throw up what he had already eaten into a nearby dustbin. Later we would learn in a confession that Ahsan ran into the same problem and also threw up what he ate. I would be surprised if this didn’t offend anyone at the Sikh temple and that the shows producers had to do something to apologize to the temple caretakers for this unfortunate incident.

After finding the scientific name for their designated orchid plant and returning to the park staff who had the clue to their next stop, the two contestant in Route 2 were directed to go to the Johor Bahru Post Office Bus Station to board a local bus to Pekan Nenas, Pontian and find the Mardi Pineapple Research Center to complete the next task. Ayas was briefly reunited with his teammate who also had to get on a local bus to go to Kota Tinggi Waterfall Resort at the same bus station after the synchronized puking incident. Team Ahsan and Ayas arrived first at the bus station and left for their respective destinations ahead of CH who was still trying to finish his meal and Phillip who was trailing not too far from Ayas. Up to this point, the race was still close with both teams separated from each other by a matter of a few minutes.

For their next task, Route 1 contestants were required to get a marked taxi at the Kota Tinggi Bus Station to drive them to the Kota Tinggi Waterfall Resort where they were suppose to find a local staff there who would have their next clue. Ahsan maintained his lead to arrive at the resort at 10:25 before CH arrived ten minutes later. We see the same problem that the contestants faced in the 1st episode with the vague clues provided when the two contestants had to work hard to find the correct person who had their clue. Ahsan wasted much of his lead when CH found the correct person first to get the clue that directed them to complete an obstacle course and climb up to a waterfall known as Air Terjun Dua to find their golden key in a pool of cold water at the bottom of the waterfall. We did not get to see the full obstacle course race but they were points during the race that seemed to suggest that CH was leading but it looked like Ahsan was the first to finish the course and begin the trek up to the waterfall. Both contestants seemed exhausted after the obstacle race as both could be seen walking up the steps to the waterfall slowly. After a short search for their next clue and the golden key with rescue personnel standing closely by in case they accidentally run into any problems in the water, both contestants were directed to proceed to the TC Arapaima and Tropical Fish Sdn. Bhd. Mini Zoo at Senai and wait for their partner before beginning their next team task.

In the meantime, Ayas arrived at the Pekan Nenas Mardi Research Center at 10:20 closely followed by Phillip five minutes later. They both had to find a particular person who was waiting for them in the middle of a pineapple orchard for their next task. After an infuriating search for the correct person, Ayas arrived at the second checkpoint and was directed to don protective gear for the next challenge which involved picking 20 pineapples from the orchard. Phillip was still walking trying to find the correction but when he found out that the other contestant had already passed by to the correct location he broken into a run. In the first example of the use of reality show editing conventions we’ve seen on Explorace, credit must be given to the editors who edited this sequence as they abruptly switched the soundtrack that was playing up to that point to something more urgent to accompany the scene with Phillip running to the next checkpoint. At the next challenge checkpoint, Phillip was able to take a very slight lead over Ayas by finishing his harvest of 20 pineapples first and was directed to search for the biggest pineapple for their next clue and golden box. Phillip correctly deduced from the clue that the biggest pineapple referred to the huge pineapple replica that was located at the research center entrance while Ayas was still looking for it in the pineapple orchard. As Phillip tried in vain to keep the slight lead that he had by getting a ride to the entrance, it was Ayas who arrived first after getting a ride on a motorcycle and found the next clue that instructed them to meet their teammate at TC Arapaima and Tropical Fish Sdn. Bhd. Mini Zoo at Senai. After a short search for the concealed panel on the pineapple replica, Phillip was also on his way there with clue and golden box safely in hand.

Both teams were in a taxi race now to reach Senai to begin the next stage of the race. In his taxi, CH was reminded that the speed limit that the taxis were allowed to drive at was 60 km/hr and that the driver could only drive up to that speed. This particular segment will have more importance later in the episode. In another taxi, Ayas called his brother to ask if “Uncle” was behind him. I found this to be a bit hilarious as this was the first time that we find out that the contestants were referring to CH as Uncle and this gives me the license to call Team CH and Phillip as Team Uncle from this point onwards. Team Uncle managed to snatch the lead from Team Ahsan and Ayas when they arrived first at the TC Arapaima and Tropical Fish mini zoo at 12:03 where they had to find 4 Explorace tags from 4 animal enclosures. The first was in the Arapaima, a really huge fish, pond, the second was in the possession of Bobo the Sun Bear and the third was in the middle of the crocodile enclosure. Both teams were neck to neck when they came to the fourth and final tag where they both had to finish a raw ostrich egg before being allowed to open the golden box with their golden key to get the clue for the next stage. I was astounded by the actual amount of egg that the contestant had to go through as it seemed that an ostrich egg could nearly fill up a normal-sized water jug. I have to say that the final sequence of that task was a bit disgusting as they sloppily gulped down the raw ostrich eggs which they promptly got most of it on themselves.

At this point of the race, Ahsan ran off from the checkpoint thinking that the finish line was close by and that the race had finished. In the meantime, Team Uncle managed to open the golden box to get their clue which instructed them to proceed to the X-tra Hyper Market to a local Volkswagen enthusiast fair aptly called BugFest for their final challenge. After realizing his mistake thanks to Ayas’s loud shouting, Ahsan rushed back to his brother and it was at this point that the infamous nose dive that they have been using on the promos for the show took place. It was a really bad spill that could have been easily avoided if Ahsan heeded better judgment against running over park benches in his hurry to get to his brother. It was a good thing that the medical personnel was on hand to treat the resulting nose bleed but by this point I found the brother’s recklessness a bit disturbing and knew that something would go wrong soon for them. Once the brothers collected their wits and figured out how to get into the car that they were provided with, they were also on their way to the BugFest where their team task was to wash their assigned Volkswagen Beetle car, reinflate its tires and drive it to the finishing line at Dataran Bandaraya Johor Bahru.

Team Uncle arrived first at the BugFest at 13:04 followed closely by Team Ahsan and Ayas two minutes later. When they arrived, Team Ahsan and Ayas received a reprimand from the race marshals for reckless driving as they made their way to the BugFest. They were clearly warned that reckless driving was valid grounds for them to be disqualified from the race if they did it again. After the sound warning, they proceeded to their final task of making their assigned antique Volkswagen Beetle roadworthy to the satisfaction of the race marshal before being allowed to drive to the finish line. Just before they left for the final race, we saw the race official briefing the contestants on how to properly handle a Volkswagen on the road and further reminded them to drive safely. In a very close race, both teams enlisted the help of locals to get to the Dataran Bandaraya Johor Bahru first. However it was team Ahsan and Ayas who reach the finish line first at 14:20 but not before them barreling nose first into the other antique Volkswagen cars parked at the finish line.

They replayed the scene again in slow motion as the audience now got to see how it happened and the stunned reaction of the people around. Even Daphne Iking, the host for Explorace, seemed stunned by the incident which quickly prompted the race marshals to confer as to how this would impact the team’s standing in the race. We were not really shown the extant of the damage but it was clear that people were angry that their priced antiques got damaged through reckless driving. Team Ahsan and Ayas were reminded again that they were warned before that they would be disqualified for reckless driving and endangerment if they did it again and not their fate was in the hands of the presiding race marshals not that they had this accident. In a riveting sequence, audiences were show the gravity of the incident but it was quickly turned into a farce when the race marshals decided to award the win to Team Ahsan and Ayas on the condition that they pay for the damages that they have caused to the car owners. This turnabout on the part of the race marshals ruined the race ending for me considering the buildup that the show editors had put in leading to this incident. It would be a happier and more satisfying twist at the end if Team Uncle had won this race because the other team was disqualified for dangerous driving.

In a closely contested and sometimes fairly riveting race this week, we have the exciting action marred by the debatable finish. Teams that purposely endangered themselves and the production crew traveling with them should clearly be reprimanded if not outright disqualified from the race. I would think that TV3 could ill afford to have an accident on their hands thanks to bad judgment on part of the future contestants. I seriously believe that the decision of not disqualifying Team DoubleA (Ahsan and Ayas) for reckless endangerment sends out the wrong message especially when we want to see fewer road accidents and safer roads in Malaysia. Although the editing markedly improved for this episode and the tasks fairly interesting, the ending of the race this week left a bad taste in my mouth. I sincerely believed that Team Uncle was more deserving to move on to the next round instead of Team DoubleA who the show producers declared as the winner even after they clearly violated race regulations.

Next week Explorace goes to the historic city of Malacca with 2 more teams competing to get through to the next round.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

A break from holidays

I’ve got another work day tomorrow before I go away from the office again on account of the Thaipusam public holiday on Thursday. I should have taken the whole week off but I decided against it since I have to be around the office while my boss is away on his vacation. I did however request for this coming Friday off so I would have 2 days plus the weekend to celebrate my upcoming 31st birthday on 7th February. I don’t have anything planned yet but I do have to go to a family dinner for my father’s birthday which falls 2 days after mine. I also have a younger sister who shares the same birth date with me so you can imagine that February has always been quite a busy month for us. Coincidently, all three of us also share the same Chinese astrological sign, the Ox, as I was born 24 years after my father and my sister was born exactly 12 years after me.

I didn’t get to do much during the Aidil Adha holidays this past weekend. My dad was still working in Tioman Island so he couldn’t be with us for the holidays. Not that it was not uncommon for him to be absent during the holidays but I would thought that this would change once he retired. Anyway, my mum decided to finally rewire the old house which is about time considering that we have been having some brown outs every time someone plugs in something new. She got some extra money from her new contract and used that to do up the house and build up her garden. The minor renovations were still ongoing when I came back so we had to bear with a bit of dust on Aidil Adha morning. It could have been worse since we didn’t get the power back on until the previous afternoon. We did have to get new light fixtures as well as some of the ones that we had were really old and in need of repair.

Aidil Adha for us would usually be a minor affair with most of use would gather together for a special brunch that my mum would whip up for us. Most of the time the meal would consist of ketupat nasi, rendang daging, sayur goreng and what ever else that we got from the neighbors when we exchange our dishes with them. This year both of our neighbors were in town so we actually had quite a spread of different dishes to tuck into at brunch. After brunch, we would usually just sit down in front of the TV or entertain any guest who might come. We usually don’t expect to receive any guest during Aidil Adha compared to Aidil Fitri but sometimes our friends do drop by and they are always welcomed to do so. Of course my aunt and my cousins who live close by would always come to our place, on any holidays actually, to have tea with us.

I didn’t get a lot of time to fiddle around with the new TV and home theater system that I just bought before going back to my parents’ house. Partly because the new TV was so big and heavy that it could easily break my current TV bench which I didn’t remember to take into account when I bought the TV. The solution to my problem was of course to go out shopping for furniture which I was a bit hesitant as I wasn’t keen to get anything new until I move into my new apartment but considering I couldn’t actually just leave the TV in the box, I finally gave into the temptation. The obvious place to get a nice TV bench was of course IKEA I was trying to avoid because of the prices. I spent 2 days with my mum during the holidays trying to find a serviceable alternative but all choices seemed to lead me back to IKEA.

It was a bit surreal for me to go to IKEA with my mum. It’s the same for me when I go shopping for anything with her. We both share the same passion for shopping which infuriates my dad when he has to tag along with the two of us. Since he was not around this time, we left for IKEA and arrived just after opening time which meant that we almost had the whole place to ourselves. We went to one display after the other and spent nearly 4 hours there before leaving with our purchase. She wanted to look at some several solutions for the gust room at home and found a few that she liked but couldn’t buy them then because the car wouldn’t be able to take them with my new TV bench. Yes... I did buy my first IKEA furniture and although I still think that it was overpriced, I have to say that I’m happy with the purchase. My new Oppli TV bench, now loaded up with my home entertainment system, stands out in my living room in a good way since it is now the centerpiece that anchors the room.

I have both my new TV and HT system all set up for this upcoming holiday weekend for me to go through at my own leisure. I’m looking forward for my father’s dinner as well as possibly getting a call from E and S for my birthday. I keep on expecting them to call me but sometimes they don’t which really bums me out. Of all the people who would wish me a happy birthday, E & S are the ones that I really look forward to even after all these years. When they do remember my birthday and call, it just lights up my day and I’m sure that I would have a good year ahead. Of course if they forgot, which happens more times that I would care to admit, there is a part of me that would feel as if there is a gaping hole in my chest that is threatening to swallow me whole.

To think of this is really depressing.