Friday, December 18, 2009

Year End Update

This year has passed by in a haze. Nothing seems to have changed in general although my boy has already started talking and I am finally getting somewhere with my new music. My music and my boy are tied together. I have Sidd to thank for lighting the fire in me to make music again. The way things are with music in this country it is a waste of time to pursue a commercial avenue with it. But that shouldn't stop me from making music and recording.

My best work is still ahead. You haven't heard anything yet. I have new music playing all day in my head and there aren't enough hours in the day for me to put it down. My guitar playing has also gotten better. My fingers are calloused and can do things it couldn't a year ago. Nothing gives me more freedom than playing the guitar. The guitar is my drug and mistress. I have become a guitar addict.

The guitar was my best friend growing up too. I wasn't the most social kid even though I grew up in a boarding school and had a lot of friends and people to deal with. When I wasn't on the football field I was in my room alone just noodling on the guitar. More often I just explored the fretboard and came up with my own stuff rather than play songs. I was learning by trial and error. That was always more fun.

I became a songwriter by default because people were always asking me if that was my song I was playing. The truth was I wasn't really thinking. I just played what sounded good to me and I guess it became part of me. Taste has something to do with it. Anyone can play the guitar but it takes taste and intuition to come up with music that is listenable.

Although I am not interested in releasing my music commercially anymore, I am happy to be able to share it with my son and the people who like it. I will be putting up all my future songs for free download. There will be volumes of stuff when I get done with it.

At the end of the day looking at my boy bop his head while I play him a new tune is enough to make me feel good. I don't need to play Rock the World for 20,000 people anymore or have a video on TV like a few years ago to be fulfilled because I've been there and done that. It's overrated. Staying home and playing with the kid is so much better.

The new single "Death Defying Stunt" is on it's way to being mixed. I am happy with it so far. Listening to it gives me a new lease of life. Wait for it. It rocks!!!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Done

After years of writing my book on and off, I think I am done with it. It has resolved itself. Now comes the slow process of editing. Ideally it would be great to find a proper editor to go through it, but that seems a bit far fetched.

I am happy with the arch of the story and the how I was able to tell it. Now it's about cutting out the unnecessary bits that will make it flow faster. I am no Hemingway but like him I try to keep my prose simple and let the story and characters draw you in. Of course you might not be in the least bit interested in the subject matter or where the story goes but I am happy with the way it turned out. I am glad I took my time.

Now that the book is done I am working on my next album. Being scatterbrained never helped anyone. I am glad I did one thing at a time without putting pressure on myself. Having no publishing or record company breathing down my neck is great. I am my own boss. Unless someone is going to give you a huge contract and take care of you and champion your music, there is no point in selling your soul away by signing any deals. Do it on your own with whatever resources you have.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Recording

I have been spending hours each night after my boy sleeps writing songs and just practicing the guitar in preparation for recording. One thing I realize is that music is just part of me and the guitar is my best friend. That has been the case since my early teens. Part of me will always be the anti-social boy who would rather spend his days in the room noodling on the guitar rather than go out and do anything else.

My new songs are more adventurous but not too far out to be experimental. Experimental usually means unlistenable to me. That is one place I won't go. I have always tried my best to find hooks and catchy chords or melodies to carry the song so people will find at least something interesting about it. My voice is average at best. My guitar playing is utilitarian and not fancy but I can do certain things that are distinctive to me that I don't hear anyone else doing. You'll have to hear my songs to know what I'm talking about.

Lately I have been practicing different techniques on the guitar that I want to use when I record. They require some technical ability in order to be played cleanly and accurately. Recording requires precision. I am sloppy most of the time because I normally only play when I am writing a song rather than just to improve my guitar playing for it's own sake. But now I am doing both and I find it gives me a sense of purpose.

The next hurdle is trying to record everything on my own. New technology has made things easier. People are making music on their laptops these days so I don't see why I can't do the same. Equipment is also becoming more affordable. Recording at home will give me more flexibility. I don't have to waste time travelling to the studio. These days I don't even want to leave the house unless I have to. I have everything need at home.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Guitar!!!

My boy Siddharth and I were watching something on TV recently when he turned to me and said "itar". I can't remember what band was playing but I looked at him puzzled at first. He gave me a frown, got off the sofa, went to his playpen and pointed to his toy guitar and said "itar" again. Then I realized he was referring to the guitar the guy was playing on TV.

It is another major milestone for him and he knew it as well because he was grinning and going around the whole day saying it. Whenever he says something we understand he seems more happy than usual.

I am still waiting for him to say car because he keeps pointing to it and saying Papa. Anything that has to do with me is mostly Papa to him. Even the guitar was Papa not long ago.

Because of Sid I have been playing more guitar than usual. He is the one who keeps me on my toes by pointing to it, wanting me to play. If I don't humour him he starts making noise. Normally I play him the "Tigger and Pooh" theme song or "Twinkle Little Star" but now I have come up with a bluesy theme song just for him since he likes to groove to a good rhythm. He could be a drummer the way he taps his hands and feet in time.

Now even when he is asleep at night, I am in my little room downstairs working on some new songs and playing for the fun of it. Somehow he has gotten me interested in playing again. Before he came along all my guitars were collecting dust in the store room.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

My grandmother and Michael Jackson

The death of Michael Jackson made me think a lot about my grandmother. That might seem odd to a person who doesn't know me but my fondest childhood memories are definitely tied to her and Michael Jackson.

Thriller was the first album that I ever owned. I was 9 years old at the time and I played that tape everyday, all day until it wore out and then I went out and bought another one and another one..

My grandmother used to love to see me do the moonwalk. She would give me RM10 to do the moves for her in our living room with the music playing in the background. That gave me more money to buy more tapes. $10 was a lot of money for a kid back then. I had never been so excited about anything before so she wanted to share my excitement.

I was never an extroverted child and was always a bit shy. However when the music came on I always did my thing. She became a Michael Jackson fan because I was a Michael Jackson fan. That was all we talked about at one point. What a wonderful grandmother she was to indulge a kid like that!!!

She might not be around anymore but I think about her all the time. No one ever made me feel more loved than she did. Life was simple and uncomplicated back then.

As for Michael Jackson, the fact that he created a bond between a child and his grandmother is enough reason for me to always be his fan. It is a big loss to the world that he is no longer able to do that for other people. But his music is timeless and will live on long after we are all gone.

My boy is going to be dancing to "Beat it" one day, I know that for sure. When Billie Jean came on in the car the other day he was grooving to the bassline and smiling at me already.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Papa!

Siddharth is 14 months old now. He babbles all day and seems to have inherited his mum's talkativeness. Right now the only word he says clearly and repeatedly all day is "Papa". I have heard him say "Mama" a few times along with a few other words but for some reason all he wants to say these days is Papa. He wakes me up in the morning by pulling my blanket and saying Papa.

When I ask him where is my car is he points to it and says Papa. When he wants me to play guitar for him he walks to the room where I keep it and says Papa. He even refers to the keys and the door as Papa because he points to it, looks at me and wants me to take him out.

I wonder why a lot of kids say Papa before Mama or Mummy. From what I have read the first word most kids say is Dada. My wife might be a bit jealous from hearing Papa all day but it is only a matter of time before he starts saying everything else and talking properly. Sometimes it sounds like he is trying to have a conversation with us already. He understands almost everything we say now. When I tell him to do something, he knows what I am talking about. Whether he wants to follow what I say is another matter.

It's becoming more fun as he grows older. He is a happy boy most of the time and smiles easily at everyone who will play with him. If he could only settle down once in while or have a good nap and also sleep through the night, we would have the perfect boy. Right now he still needs to run himself ragged and fight sleep before he settles down.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Necessity, the mother of invention

Plato's Republic is one of the most influential works of philosophy and political theory because of it's dialogue on the meaning of justice and society as well as Theory of Forms, the place of poetry, and the immortality of the soul. His famous allegory of the cave did wonders to illustrate our nature and how we go from seeing shadows projecting things from outside the cave to actually going out and seeing the real thing.

I am not going to discuss the Republic in detail because honestly, I can only remember parts of it, and whoever is reading this will probably roll their eyes, call me pretentious, and fall asleep anyway. However, some of the stuff from it does relate to my life.

Anyone who says studying philosphy is useless is probably an accountant who's idea of a meaningful life is auditing other people's companies until midnight or an ambulance chasing lawyer whose idea of literature is Dan Brown novels. Neither of them are happy or enlightened I can assure you. I am not either but at least I know that I am not.

Anyway, my old buddy Plato hit the nail on the head when he said, "necessity is the mother of invention." That is something I can really relate to. Discipline is not my strong suit. I normally do things out of necessity and only when they need to be done rather than just for the sake of doing it.

However, I will travel great distances, carry a few heavy sample bags and sell more goods than any of the salesmen who work for my company, when the time calls for it. I am no born salesman but I find my own way of doing it because if there's a will, the way will present itself. My livelihood depends on it after all. I have a family to feed.

Although I used to apologize about being a scatterbrain and borderline ADD case in the past, these days I don't waste my time doing it. There are other things to concern myself with. I know "what" I have to do and "when" I have to do it. The "how" is where the invention comes in and that can be fun. Everyone has their own way of doing things.

Taking care of my son has also made me step my game a little bit more. My wife has gone back to work so I am helping out more than I used to. Changing diapers, bathing him or washing the shit from his ass is easier than some people make it look. My wife normally does it but when I have to do it, it is done in record time, before the kid has time to make noise and resist.

My son can already understand instructions these days even though he may protest loudly. I never waste time negotiating with him. All I tell him is, the faster I wash and change him, the faster he can go run around and play. Grabbing him and doing a fast job of it is the only way for me. It works because lately he sits quietly till I'm done. He sometimes gives an amusing look as if to tell me, "that's not how mummy does it". Well, "I am not mummy am I? You can give mummy a hard time later but for now sit quietly and don't make me have to wrestle you."

We still have his "terrible two" phase to look forward to. I am trying to build myself up to handle it. He is still not a good sleeper. His mum has been co-sleeping with him. That was her idea and it does work to some extent but it has made him more attached to her, especially at night. He still needs to suckle for comfort. If it was up to me the controlled crying would have solved the problem months ago.

The upside of it is that he is still being breastfed. It would be great if we could keep doing it till he turns two at least. He's a lucky boy. I was only breastfed for a few months as a baby because my mother was already pregnant with my sister when I was three months old so it disrupted her lactation. My wife was never breastfed at all as a baby. It wasn't encouraged in the Chinese community back then apparently.

We know better now of course. So that is why she is so determined to give our boy all the extra nourishment he deserves. She is already expressing her milk at work so she can make sure he is fed while he is at the nursery. It is necessary to find ways and be inventive when you're a mother because necessity after all is the mother of invention, like Plato said.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Nursery

We started sending our boy Siddharth to a nursery recently and he took to it quite well after a while. Naturally, the first few days involved a lot of crying. His mother was crying too although it was done discreetly in the car. How can you not cry when you have to leave your child crying with someone else and just walk away as if it's not a big deal?

I was told that some fathers cry too but I didn't allow the waterworks to start in my case because I kept thinking I was going to see him in a few hours anyway. What's wrong with letting him play and make new friends. It's not like I am leaving him at an orpahanage never to see him again. But having said that I felt apprehensive enough to want to go back and wait outside the gate at the nursery or equip the place with CCTV cameras just to check in with what's going on.

Sidd settled in fast and seemed to be enjoying himself until he came down with a runny nose and cough which was then followed by a terrible viral fever. Just before that he also came down with diarrhoea. All that happened in the first two weeks. I guess he wasn't used to the germs lurking in the place.

Swapping germs and catching illnesses is the biggest downside to sending your child to a nursery. Siddharth has a habit of putting things in his mouth and licking things. It's hard to control unless your eyes are on him all the time. Even then he will throw a tantrum if you stop him from doing anything. Keeping the place clean might help but there are so many kids in a nursery and you can't possibly sterilise every area 24/7.

If you've ever had your child sick, you know it's a nightmare. It's bad enough when it's a runny nose and a cough. When the high fever starts suddenly in the middle of the night, you can't help but panic a little. In Sid's case the fever came very suddenly and it went up to 104degrees. It was his first time running a high fever so we panicked.

Giving him paraceutemal and sponging him down to cool his body is all you can do to bring his temperature down. There were a few tough nights having to deal with that. I am glad we invested in a good thermal thermometer and had the paraceutemal ready.

It turned out that he had the roseola virus because his face was covered with some sort of heat rash after the fever subsided. Apparently that is a classic symptom or roseola. The doctor said it is nothing to worry about and is very common. The only thing to do is to monitor his temperature and keep it down. Febrile fits are only known to happen when the fever is allowed to get too high.

He still has a runny nose and is still coughing today but at least his fever hasn't come back. We just have to let it run it's course. It good for his immune system to fight these things off. He is will be stronger for it but quite honestly I would rather not have to deal with the fever again.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Resilience

Lately, I have been wondering if it is at all possible to preserve the happiness and resilience that a child has. We all know how miserable life can be when we grow up and have to deal with unreasonable situations and people you would rather not have anything to do with. It is impossible not to hate certain things and if you're like me chances are the things that you hate will rub off on you and make you a cynical bastard. The glass will start to seem half-empty rather than half-full. After that you will probably just do what it takes to get by rather than be optimistic about the dreams that you want to achieve. A mole hill will seem like a mountain and you are Sisyphus trying to push the rock up repeatedly.

Some people may call it reality and part of growing up or being practical while others might see it as creating imaginary obstacles for yourself. I don't know, psychobabble bores me these days. I am too old to be blaming my parents or others for how I turned out. Maybe I am just built to be predisposed to misery.

My concern now is to make sure my boy doesn't turn out the way I did. I am no serial killer or menace to society but I can be downright unpleasant when things bother me. Rather than solve the problem I sometimes make it worse. I am working on that and am getting a bit better at making the best out of unpleasant situations rather than rant about it unnecessarily. Taking myself out of the equation and thinking about someone else's wellbeing helps a lot.

For now I am just marveling at my boy's fearlessness and sense of wonder. The boy seems happy at even the smallest things sometimes. He is already walking faster than I can and was even showing natural ability when kicking his little ball around the living room the other day. I didn't teach him that, he just did it on his own. The trick is to let him be free to do his thing and help him if he is in a tight corner. Why get in the way of a happy child doing his thing? Just stand there and enjoy it. Let him fall and get up on his own.

Right now he gets up almost as fast as he falls. There is no fear or second guessing involved. The more obstacles you put in his way the more he wants to get past it. It is a trait most kids have from what I have read. However most of them lose it as they grow up. I can only hope my boy stays that way because it will make adulthood a little easier for him. There are a lot of obstacles up ahead. Resilience would be a wonderful trait to have.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Birthday Boy!!!

Siddharth turned last one last week and announced it by walking from one end of the living room to the other, on his own. Without me holding him and getting in the way he moves freely and is a lot happier. At this age all he wants is the freedom to practise his newly acquired skill.

It's fun to have an active kid who likes to move and play all the time. When he is happy, smiling and laughing away, there is no greater joy. But when he is in one of his moods then you just have to ignore him or find something to distract him and calm him down. Lately he has introduced some high pitched screams into his repertoire of things to grate on us and get our attention. It is cute only for a while. If he goes on and on, like when he's fussy and overtired, then we are in for a long day.

We had a small birthday party for him with family and friends last weekend. He was probably wondering what the fuss was all about but he seemed pleased with his fancy Pocoyo themed cake and presents. The cake looked impressive but the poor boy didn't get to taste much of it because his mum is reluctant to introduce sugar into his diet too soon. Hopefully by his next birthday he will make up for it by grabbing a chunk and making a mess of it like kids always do.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Best laid plans..

The whole controlled crying idea of mine was halted in it's tracks by my wife and mother-in law before I could even try it for one night. I tried my best to go through with it, even really psyching myself up and doing all the research I could beforehand. Best laid plans always go awry and in my case even before I had a chance to do anything.

My boy's molars are coming in one by one. So that is the cause of the disruption of his sleep and wakeful nights, according to my wife. It would be cruel for us to just let him cry when all he wants is to be comforted during his painful moments.

I still think that most of the time he cries for attention and is unable or unwilling to settle himself to sleep without us being there. The teething is one thing but sometimes he smiles and want to play at 4am. That surely is unacceptable.

He will be a year old in a couple of weeks. His teething will continue for another few more months at least, maybe even longer. I have a very patient wife who is willing to nurse him back to sleep every night no matter how many times he wakes up. She is a saint and he is very lucky but I doubt if that is going to teach him proper sleeping habits.

It won't be long before he can walk himself out of the room and do whatever he wants. If he can't sleep through the night by then, we might have a real problem. Just imagine us fast asleep and him walking around being a hazard to himself. That is a scary thought.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Controlled crying

It looks like I have no choice but to employ controlled crying to get my boy to fall asleep on his own. He has not slept through the night since he was born. It will be difficult and might take a few days or a week according to what I have read. Heartbreaking as it will be, my wife and I have no choice but to do it. We were expecting him to gradually fall asleep by himself and sleep through the night by now but that is just not going to happen.

Waking up frequently and not going to sleep easily is already second nature to him. He has had great difficulty with colic, reflux and teething. It has been one thing after another since he was born. All these things break the sleep cycle. Now that he can crawl and stand it's like he doesn't want to miss out on the fun by sleeping at all no matter how tired he is.

Sleep begets sleep and lack of sleep equals a wired and demanding child who just doesn't want to settle down. That's what we've been dealing with for the past 11 months. Unless you have been in the same position as us you will not understand the toll that it takes after a while. My wife can't remember the last time she slept more than 4 hours a night.

Now that our boy can crawl and stand it is even more difficult for us because he will get up and want to crawl out of the room the minute he wakes up in the middle of the night. And when you try to put him back down he will fight and wrestle with you. He wants to be free to move without being put back down.

I am all for my child being free to move and explore his surroundings, but not at the ungodly hour of 4am. Sometimes he will cry for two hours resisting sleep while my wife tries to put him back down. She is the only one who can get him to sleep at night. If I pick him up he wants me to carry him out of the room to play.

There are hundreds of articles on babies with sleeping problems online. I have probably read all of them. There is no easy solution than to let them cry it out everynight until they learn to settle down on their own. We have already tried it a few times only to abort it because we don't have the heart to listen to our baby cry uncontrollably for more than half and hour. Just five minutes feels like hell. It's excruciating in case you don't know.

Even our paediatrician says it doesn't hurt babies to cry it out. That is the only way they can learn sometimes. In fact, if they cry it out and fall asleep on their own they will wake up happier because they learn to sleep longer eventually. A well rested baby is a happy baby. If you give in to their cries it will become a self-perpetuating cycle that will continue until the child grows older. They will only become spoiled and cranky all the time expecting you to give in to their tantrums.

It'll be tough but I am going to have to bite the bullet and do the controlled crying, starting tonight. I will probably get opposition from my in-laws and wife after a while because like I said, who can bear a baby crying inconsolably for any length of time. I myself will probably give in. But we need to sleep so it's better to suffer now and get some sleep later. All of us need to sleep or else someone is bound to go crazy one day.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Frugal times

It is not an exaggeration to say we have to pay to live. That's why they call it "cost of living." Even when you're dead there are costs to be met, as in funeral expenses and such. Unless you have a lot to live for it can almost make you wonder what's the point of it all.

The more comfortably you want to live, the more bills you have to pay. If you are lucky enough to make ends meet and save for the next generation then you are ahead of a lot of people. A large population of the world still live hand to mouth.

I am glad I still have a steady income and can pay the bills and take care of my wife and son. It is not something I take for granted. These are tough times but I am not going to complain. It could be a lot worse. People are getting laid off left and right all around he world.

Apart from eating out less and ignoring the things that need to be fixed in the house, I don't know what else I can do to be frugal. My entertainment expenses have been slashed. I am no longer spending money recording music or buying equipment and guitars. Books and cds are too expensive these days, so unless it is something I really need to have it will have to wait or be forgotten.

Actually, if you really think about it, we really need very little to live. It is what we want that does us in. Desire and craving for things that are beyond our means is what creates problems. That is why some people are in debt and living on their credit cards. I hope that never happens to me although it could easily happen if I don't watch it.

I wish I had saved more money when I was single but to be honest I wasn't making much back then. These days even though I am making a lot more, it is still damn near impossible to hold on to anything after everythings is paid for. Sometimes I wonder where it all goes. However, if I sit down and really calculate properly it is very obvious.

I guess it all comes down to management. I need to manage my life and finances a little better. I wouldn't want my kid to have nothing in the future just because I wasn't good at managing things now.