the backstage epiphany

where reality is so subjective it's entirely optional

Category Archives: Arts

And then there were Nine

Me: Did Jessie get her tattoos here or did she get them all in Australia?
Becca:
She got them in Australia. Why?
Me:
I want to get new ones, so I’m on the hunt for a good artist. I didn’t like the one who did my last tattoo.
Becca:
What! Why do you want new ones now?
Me:
Because I have 7, and my dad says to round them up to 8 because 7 is a bad number for Chinese. And I can’t decide between two new designs so I figured I’d get both and finish off with 9 tattoos. Do you know if 9 is a good number for Chinese?
Becca:
I think 9 symbolizes completeness.
Me:
Oh really? You see — maybe my luck will change once I stop carrying around 7 with me!

It had been a while, longer than I realized, since I last felt it — that urge to get a new tattoo. Looking at my tattoos about 2 weeks ago, I realized I missed the adrenaline rush, the unforgiving screech of the needle, and the excruciating, yet intoxicating pain. And then I realized that I missed all that because I had relapsed into my pain-for-pain pattern, a pattern I haven’t gone through in more than two and a half years, since I got my last tattoo.

So I made an appointment with Julian Oh of Blackcat Tattoo Studio, who had been recommended to me some time ago, to have two new designs stabbed into me this past weekend. I’m not sure if it was because the foot is a much more sensitive part of the body or because I had forgotten how much the process hours, but the pain was blinding. Most of the time I was either sore from sitting with my leg up and foot twisted, or fighting the urge to twitch and kick, so much so that the next tattoo barely hurt in comparison.

I must admit that not since Kate Hellenbrand did my very first tattoo back in 2005 have I met an artist whose work I actually really liked — until now. Julian was extremely patient and allowed me to shift positions and stretch my leg when it was stiff and cramping, and he was nice enough not to tell me I was twitching and close to kicking him in the face. And so, besides being extremely effective in distracting me from all the things I’ve been ceaselessly worrying about over the past couple of weeks, these are the results of my 4-hour session with him:

It may be safe to say my tattoo-acquiring days are really at an end, because I’m of a certain age now and trying to embark on a career that involves people too young to be exposed to things such as tattoos and piercings. And even though I got most of my tattoos for a less-than-conventional reason, each experience was no less unique than the other, and if I could do it all over again, I would.

And here is the final tally of my tattoos, in chronological order:

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Something Wonderful

One of my favorite songs from 1965’s The King & I, also known as the doormat’s anthem:

This is a man who thinks with his heart
His heart is not always wise
This is a man who stumbles and falls
But this is a man who tries
This is a man you’ll forgive and forgive
And help and protect as long as you live

He will not always say
What you would have him say
But now and then he’ll say something wonderful
The thoughtless things he’ll do
Will hurt and worry you
Then all at once he’ll do something wonderful
He has a thousand dreams that won’t come true
You know that he believes in them
And that’s enough for you

You’ll always go along
Defend him when he’s wrong
And tell him when he’s strong
He is wonderful
He’ll always need your love
And so he’ll get your love
A man who needs your love
Can be wonderful

– Terry Saunders, Something Wonderful

Quarter after one

At some point, we just need to tell ourselves when enough is enough.

Picture-perfect memories scattered all around the floor
Reaching for the phone ’cause I can’t fight it anymore
And I wonder if I ever cross your mind
For me it happens all the time

Another shot of whiskey, can’t stop looking at the door
Wishing you’d come sweeping in the way you did before
And I wonder if I ever cross your mind
For me it happens all the time

It’s a quarter after one
I’m a little drunk and I need you now
Said I wouldn’t call
But I lost all control and I need you now
And I don’t know how I can do without
I just need you now

– Lady Antebellum, Need You Now

Lights, camera, dream

I spent this past weekend shooting for the new short film Every Breath You Fake. After months of mental preparation, weeks of physical realization and gastronomical abstinence, everything and everyone finally came together to make one little idea a reality. Suffice to say, what I had to do for this film was unlike anything I’d ever done in previous films. And even though it left me feeling a little violated, it felt good — almost exhilarating, even — to be able to stretch my abilities and bring my love for acting to a whole new level.

It was also great to be working with actors like Jackie Chow from Hong Kong, who is able to understand what is expected of him and be able to adapt to the atmosphere of a scene, yet still add his own touch to it without looking like he’s trying too hard. And given the nature of our scenes together, he helped me a lot by making me comfortable enough to be as natural as possible, even though there were a few unprecedented factors that somewhat crippled my acting on the last day.

The weekend of shooting reminded me of why I’ve loved acting ever since I was as young as five. Using my imagination to visualize scenes that the directors want, allowing myself to feel emotions that I normally try to suppress, and pushing my boundaries beyond what is socially acceptable, I’m extremely grateful to have been given the chance to be a part of productions like this. The hard part, as always, is when it’s all over and I have to wake up to the harsh and unpleasant reality of my life.

The only difference is that this time, waking up feels even more unreal than the actual make-believe of the weekend.

Keeping the old ways

A far cry from my usual purchases from bookstores, I bought these books by Enid Blyton yesterday for the World Vision children my mom and I are sponsoring. The two on the left are for my 8-year-old (I couldn’t decide between them so I got both and will send each one to her over the course of a few months), and the third is for my mom’s 13-year-old girl from Indonesia. We have yet to get bookmarks for them, and also something for my mom’s 17-year-old from Thailand, but we’re not sure what boys like at that age.

The last time I browsed the children’s aisles in any bookstore was when I was still young enough to read books by the likes of Enid Blyton, who was the first author I thought of when I read in the World Vision guidebook that sponsors are allowed to send their children little gifts. So when I was looking through the (limited) selection of Enid Blyton books, I was taken back to a time when I was completely fascinated by Blyton’s alternate universe, where goblins and pixies and gnomes existed and lived in complete, it seemed, harmony, and everything from trees to fireplace fenders could speak. Her stories about girls in boarding schools and friends getting together to figure out who stole violins and pearl necklaces inspired me by the age of 11 to become a writer, because I wanted to be able to evoke the same kind of imagery and emotion in my writing.

Now, years later, even though it’s evident that I have not acquired the talent and vision for storytelling, I want to be able to pass on this love of the classics that has been overshadowed by the current younger generation’s preference for Ben 10 and Spongebob, especially in a society that is becoming increasingly averse to reading. And until (or unless) I have children of my own, I will do it, book by book, for an 8-year-old girl, far away in South Africa.

Beneath the veil

Mrs Huber: I was going to keep your secret. It’s a shame you couldn’t trust me

Susan: You’re a piece of work, you know that?

Mrs Huber: Oh, Susan, let’s not be unpleasant. We can go back to the same friendly relationship we’ve always had.

Susan: I will keep my lawn looking nice. And I will make sure that my music isn’t playing too loud, and if I get some of your mail? Heck, I’ll run it right over, because that’s what good neighbors do. But from now on, when I run into you on the street and I say, “Good morning, Mrs Huber,” or “How are you, Mrs Huber?” just know that, inside, I am quietly — but decidedly — hating your guts.

Mrs Huber: Careful, dear. Let’s not say things we’ll live to regret.

Susan: Good evening, Mrs Huber.

Desperate Housewives, Season 1, Episode 4 –

Backstage at Dreamland

lea salonga

She’s the Voice the world knows as Princess Jasmine and Mulan, the girl who gave the world Kim in Miss Saigon and Eponine in Les Miserables, and the woman whose duet with Brad Kane every hopeless romantic listened to.

And she’s coming here. Well, to Singapore, at least, but close enough.

Now I get to fulfill my childhood dream of watching Lea Salonga perform live, after years of singing along to her in Aladdin, Mulan, Miss Saigon and Les Miserables. Oh, and that duet with Brad Kane, which went from being my favorite song to the bittersweet anthem of my greatest failure in love to date.

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My secret dream

This is probably my absolute favorite song to listen to when I just need to close my eyes, let out the breath I’m perpetually holding, and lose myself to the memories, the pain, the regrets and the exhilaration that came with them, and the feelings I will never be able to show.

Stars shining bright above you
Night breezes seem to whisper, “I love you.”
Birds singing in the sycamore trees
Dream a little dream of me

Say nighty-night and kiss me
Just hold me tight and tell me you miss me
While I’m alone and blue as can be
Dream a little dream of me

Stars fading but I linger on, dear
Still craving your kiss
I’m longing to linger till dawn, dear
Dream a little dream of me

Sweet dreams till sunbeams find you
Sweet dreams that leave all worries behind you
But in your dreams, whatever they be
Dream a little dream of me