Losing things mysteriously in the cemetery

Time for another old post from my old blog!

I’ve been feeling rather backward and nostalgic recently, seeming to have temporarily lost interest in the present and the future.

Oh dear. =(

Sheylara

The following post first appeared on Sheylara.com on Nov 7, 2005.

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Dealing With Losing Things

I lost two items within two days last week. And both when I was out shooting this particular short film.

The first item is a Clinique eyebrow shadow. The second is my Olympus digital camera.

The Goonfather told me it’s because I didn’t pay my respects to the spirits of the cemetery in which the short film was filmed at.

On the set

Two days of filming, two things lost.

So, on the third day of the shoot, I waved hesitantly at the tombstones at random and apologised for being in the way. Well, I think it worked before I didn’t lose anymore things.

Do you know what that means?? It means I can’t put pictures in this blog until I replace my digital camera!

I just checked my bank account. I have $34 to my name, and I can’t even afford to replace the eyebrow shadow, much less the camera. And my birthday is still eight months away, so I can’t demand for the Goonfather to buy me a camera.

Well, so, that means no pictures.

There were no reports of any loss of items from the crew or from my co-star, so it means either I’m cursed or I’m just a hopeless scatterbrain. I hope it’s the latter.

In fact, I am a hopeless scatterbrain, as people who know me will agree.

On the set

Many people probably think I should be devastated for losing a camera but I’m not, really. I do feel a bit of a pinch because there are a couple of photos in there I really like which I haven’t downloaded.

But, apart from that, I am actually thankful that my dose of bad luck (assuming everyone has a kind of quota for good and bad fortunes) was spent on something so trivial.

In other words, I would rather lose a camera than lose, for instance, a kidney.

One should always put things in perspective. Unless, of course, one were to lose a camera and a kidney simultaneously, in which case it would be slightly more difficult to put things in perspective.

On the set

But one should always try.

I am also at the moment too happy to be disturbed by disappearing possessions because I have just acted in the coolest short film ever.

It is all very subject to taste, of course, but I just love this film, I love my role and I love everyone involved in the film. The last three days of shoot were totally enjoyable and exhilarating, despite the scenes being shot entirely on a narrow cemetery road infested with endless swarms of mosquitoes, a zillion different tribes of ants and all other kinds of miscellaneous unidentified bugs.

I shall blog about it at length after I get some photos from the production crew.

At the moment, I am still on a high. So, I think it’s about time to take a nap.

On the set

Ghosts are in the air… this month

I never used to know (or care) when the Hungry Ghost Month came unless someone specifically bugged me about it.

“Be careful when you go home tonight, there are ghosts wandering about.”

“Be careful in the toilet, don’t talk to anyone in there in case they’re a… you know…”

“Don’t look now, but I think there’s someone behind you…”

I hate you people. Go scare someone else.

I’d been scared to death of ghosts since watching The Ring in 1999, refusing thereafter to watch another horror film or listen to anymore ghost stories.

But the good news is that I kind of lost this irrational fear after (ironically) starring in a horror short film last year.

My director Jon made me watch several Japanese and Korean horror films for research and I survived those and the filming. I felt reborn after that. I could watch horror films again!

Otherwise, I would not have attended the screening of A Month of Hungry Ghosts last night.

I’m really glad I did now. The screening was part of the Golden Village Blog Aloud series, in which audiences get to interact with film directors and ask them questions about the film.

Of course, I only found out during the show that A Month of Hungry Ghosts isn’t exactly a horror film. It’s a documentary of the rituals and lives of very interesting individuals for whom the seventh lunar month is particularly significant.

There’s a touching account of a woman who has lost both parents and a son, so she religiously burns offerings for them every year.

There’s a young and pretty getai singer who’s been performing for spirits during the seventh month since she was six, whose parents have turned her getai singing career into a family business.

There’s an old wayang (Chinese opera) matron who relates anecdotes of her profession and her encounters with spirits during the seventh month.

The film crew also followed SPI investigators into sinister discoveries.

In the 99-minute documentary, you will be touched by the tales of these people and you will develop a new respect for this age-old Chinese tradition which you’ve always conveniently brushed off as a silly and annoying superstition.

One tale which particularly haunted me was of this woman who unknowingly placed her infant son on a table used to offer food to spirits duing the ghost month.

The next day, the baby’s body turned black and he died. Apparently, the spirits thought that her son was a sacrifice. Actual documented photos of this are shown in the film.

I cannot recommend this film enough.

I didn’t find it scary. Some parts are maybe kind of eerie, but I would use the words interesting, shocking, touching, delightful and inspiring to describe the film.

I was at first disappointed because I was expecting to be scared, since we were watching it on the first day of the Hungry Ghost Month, the day when the gates of hell are opened and all manner of spirits are allowed to roam our land among us uncontested.

But then, I was quickly drawn into the colourful narratives which revealed a wealth of information and surprises that my mind hungrily feasted on.

The Goonfather was simliary impressed and fixated on the film, although that didn’t stop him from trying to scare me halfway through.

There was a scene in which wayang and getai professionals explain why they always leave the front-row seats empty during performances.

The seats are for the “good brothers”, they say earnestly.

Apparently, if the seats aren’t kept empty, things always go awry during the performance.

At this point of time, the Goonfather leaned over to whisper to me, “The seats in the front row are empty. Got ‘good brothers’ watching the movie with us.”

I peered over at the front-row seats and shot back, “No lah! There’s one guy sitting on the leftmost seat in the first row.”

“Uh oh, I think got something sitting on him.”

Idiot.

At the end of the film, though, when director Tony Kern and producer Genevieve Woo came in to the theatre to take questions from the audience, they confirmed that they had indeed deliberately left the front row empty for the “good brothers”.

I wonder who’s the brave guy who sat on the corner seat.

The director also shared with us his encounter during a jungle excursion for a spirit-invitation ritual, where he almost got possesed by spirits. You can read about it in this TODAY report.

A Month of Hungry Ghosts doesn’t have the most polished cinematography and editing which you’d expect of a, say, Discovery Channel documentary, and the film starts off a bit sluggish as it establishes Singapore as a “world-class centre of business and culture” (as cited by the wiki page for this film).

Foreigners might find this of interest, but Singaporeans will probably be wondering when the scary stuff is going to happen.

But once the film is done with the expounding, you get taken on a surprise ride from which you won’t return the same.

A Month of Hungry Ghosts premieres at Golden Village on August 7.

Also, check out the Golden Village website to find out more about the Blog Aloud series. Next up is Money No Enough 2 from August 5 to 7. Watch the film before the official premiere and meet director Jack Neo to find out more about the making of his movie.

Today is the second day of the Hungry Ghost Month. There are 28 more days to go. Be mindful.

I worked in a haunted bar

So, I just found out that the “theatre” we’d been working in is haunted.

Our stage manager, who is apparently “sensitive” to spirits, can see them. Throughout the five days we were at the Q Bar, she saw a mother and daughter spirit always sitting or standing in a corner.

The Q Bar was one of our performance spaces and acted as our base where we met and put our stuff, so we spent a lot of time in there.

There’s also another female ghost residing outside the bar.

The security guards around the Arts House confirm that this is true.

We had a post mortem meeting today and all this was revealed after the meeting. We learned that there were times some of us even walked through the ghosts or sat on them.

OMG.

There were some moments I was alone in the Q Bar late at night.

But nothing happened to us in the five days we were there and our show went well without major hiccups so, if there were spirits, they must be benevolent.

But I think Sean (designer) was a little disturbed when he heard that there was a moment when he walked right through the skirt of the woman spirit, who was just floating in mid air.

Bendini (The Fun Stage) exploded into dramatic hysteria. “Why must they float around and scare people?? Why can’t they just behave normally??!!?!?!?”

Timothy (publicist) burst out laughing at that, but that’s Timothy.

We learnt that ghosts look just like us except that they have a translucent quality and they pretty much just go about doing whatever it is they do.

“Well, what is it they do?” I asked.

No one could tell me.

“When they’re walking along Orchard Road, do they go shopping?” Bendini wanted to know.

“Of course not!” said Richard (Little Red Shop).

I think ghosts (if they really exist) are misunderstood. Maybe most of them are harmless (I’m not saying all are). It’s the media that makes them into horrible, scary beings that eat people or whatever.

But I wonder. Do they have a purpose when roaming the earth? They allegedly can’t interact with objects in our plane and I haven’t heard any reports of them having their own objects. So what do they do? Aren’t they bored being restricted to sitting, walking and floating, maybe for eternity?

I would be. No computer games, no DS Lite, no camwhoring, no blogging, no going to parties, no reading books, no acting in plays and accidentally sitting on ghosts.

What a horrible existence.

I see living people

Today, my subject matter is a little weird because I woke up with PMS and I’m feeling grumpy.

Some of you may find it distasteful or disrespectful but you shouldn’t because it isn’t.

So.

You know how people like to talk to dead people?

Either in their thoughts or actually whispering the words or even wailing them out loud, I know people who talk to the dead.

I’m not talking about mediums or bomohs. I mean normal people.

Normal people, like you and me, go to grave sites or columbaries to visit loved ones who have passed away.

And we talk to them as if they can hear us.

Do any of us really think the dead can hear us?

Many people grow up with the subconscious assumption that when people die, they become powerful spirits or souls. These powerful beings can see you, hear you, grant you favours or hurt you. That’s why people are so afraid of ghosts. (I blame the movies for that.)

So people offer prayers to dead loved ones and, besides keeping the dead updated with their lives and how they miss them so much and how life isn’t the same without them, etc, they also ask the dead for favours.

“Please make sure ah boy studies hard for his exam, and give him good marks so he can go to a good school ok?”

“Please give me 4D numbers in my dreams.”

I’ve often wondered about this. If people really believe that the dead are so powerful they know what’s going on in the living world and can grant favours, then why is everyone scared to death of dying?

We should all look forward to being powerful beings who can alter the fates of our still-living loved ones. Or even our enemies.

Have you also wondered: If these spirits/souls can hear or see us when we talk to them, doesn’t that mean they can see us any time of the day, 24/7?

So your dead relative knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you’re awake.

He knows if you’ve been bad or good.

Etc.

It worries me. Actually, scares me.

When I go to the columbarium to pay respects to my dead relatives, I have to go with the assumption that they know I’m there to “see” them and that they can “hear” me when I think to them. Otherwise, what the hell am I wasting my time there for? Which means I also have to assume that they can see or hear me at any given time of my life. Unless you believe they actually live in the columbarium and are limited to contact within the premises.

Regardless, it all means that my dead relatives also know when I cheat on my bus fare and they can also see me shave my legs in the bathtub.

Ack.

So it’s not a new concept because people already believe that God, or whatever deity they believe in, can see them and judge their actions.

But it’s a bit discomforting to think also that someone, who used to be a peer in your life, can now spy on your every activity just because they passed away before you did.

If we don’t believe that, then why do we talk to the dead?

And why do people believe that their dead parent/ancestor/whoever will watch over them?

And for people who ask for favours and offer flowers and food, and burn paper clothes, cash, cars, credit cards, condominiums, laptops with broadband access…

What are they thinking?