Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Fonts have Won Me Over (Goodbye, Blogger)

Starting today, I will be moving my blogging base to thefabulist.wordpress.com. Wordpress blogs have snagged my heart in the past (particularly their header fonts), and yesterday, I gave up trying to modify a Wordpress-template-for-Blogger template for The Real Thing. So please bookmark / RSS / graffiti the new site and visit often, because it already feels more homely than this one.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

BERSIH / Beings

Last weekend, yellow was the colour on everyone's lips. I'd forgotten about the Bersih rally until my sis called and said it was jammed everywhere; did I want a lift to church for worship practice? Then she proceeded to tell me about her colleague who was on the KTM Komuter and noticed that it was filled with makcik-makcik and pakcik-pakcik who looked like they were going for a picnic, what with all the bekalan they had.

She asked them where they were going, and one makcik related that they had come to protest against the price hikes(?!), and how hard it had been for them to travel down from Baling, Kedah. Everywhere there had been road blocks. Later, they decided to switch to the KTM Komuter and were still journeying. Fatigued, she started crying and my sister's colleague felt like flinging herself out of the train in shame. Here she was in the capital city, cursing the jam when hundreds or thousands of folk were flocking in from the remotest corners of Malaysia to try and join the rally.

I don't know what you know or have heard about the rally, but I do urge you to read alternative news sources. You can't depend on mainstream newspapers--they are owned by the main political parties and are limited in what they can say. For example, they say only 4,000 people gathered for the rally, compared to the number of 40,000 upwards given by the organisers. Go to blogs and read firsthand accounts of what happened. You will find that the rally was significant; it wasn't just an illegal blip in our lazy media's radar that should go unnoticed.

( |o}===:::

Meanwhile, I've been having loads of fun on my new Macbook. Trust all those Mac fans--it really is great. I won't talk about the looks, cos we've heard enough about that, but the OS is so worth um, selling your used underwear online for! Or, or... taking bets to swallow a live goldfish for! Yeah. (Of course, you can do it the hard way, like me, and blow your bank balance to smithereens.)

Due to jealousy I suspect, my PC decided to fake death last week. It wouldn't turn on. Then, it turned on (there was a yellow light) but wouldn't boot (didn't send anything to the monitor). I opened the cover and peered in--not that I know what to look for, but I guess if you see a dead rat or cat inside, that'd explain that something was wrong--but it looked normal. A-okay, just very dusty. I unsettled the dust with the air squirter I use to get specks of dust off my digital camera, then tried turning it on again. Didn't work. Planned to take it to the shop today, so I tried resurrecting it one last time. Hallelujah! It was alive! So since this afternoon, I've been digging up my MP3s and other stuff and trying to burn them to CDs. Can't risk another bout of PC jealousy and depression.

I will also be attending the Writers for Women's Rights Programme, organised by AWAM (All Women's Action Society) next Thurs to Sun. An ex-classmate whom I got in contact with again thanks to Facebook had been a participant the previous year and urged me to go for it. I applied, and got in. Little did I know that I would be expected to stay the entire duration at the hotel where they're having it at, which is
so near my house! I could walk back every day to take a pang (i.e. crap) in the privacy of my own home, and sleep in the comfort of my own bed if the room stinks. I don't think they want that, though. I think they want us to bond with the other strangers we will meet; one of whom will be my unlucky roommate. (Shudders.) Oh, the beauty of rooming with unknown persons. (Shudders again.)

Anyway, I'm pretty excited about that. I don't think they will turn me into a violent, shoulder-slapping feminist like some people I know, but I reckon it'd be good exposure for me. More reports about that once it's over (hopefully).

Lastly, depending on whether I can finish writing any songs real soon, I may or may not appear at Project OMG next Sunday night (which stands for Open Mike Gig, though
ohmygawd is what I'll more likely be feeling if I manage to make it there with guitar in hand and voice stuck somewhere in my colon). A friend is one of the co-organisers so I feel like I have more time to decide on whether I'll be terrorising the audience with my ditties, though she may not agree. So unless you want to see me twirl on stage in a pink tu-tu during my supposed slot, please pray for inspiration to descend on me like a gentle mist. Or with the furore of a storm, I don't care, as long as I have some decent songs!!!! ARRGGGGHHHHH. If you're asking why am I torturing myself, well, let's just say that it is the end of the year, and if you can't do the crazy things you've wanted to do since the beginning of the year at the end of the year, you're probably never going to do them.

Thanks in advance. (*crosses fingers*)

By the way, my granny, who fell down recently, has been recovering considerably well thanks to God's grace and expensive cactus juice. She can walk short distances, though she pants a lot and you can hear her lungs straining. I don't know if she can hear it cos she's also rather deaf. But to those who have prayed for her, thank you. It's scary cos she's so old and fragile, while I am but a human with no superpowers.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Wayang Kata / (And we thought we were poets)

I'm not exactly a poetry kind of person, though I will say I was born under a corny star, inheriting that rare superpower to plague almost any earthling to submission with the most corny rhyme. Said in time. Worth a dime. How sublime.

Feel the power yet? :D

Anyway, yesterday I tried expanding my appreciation for poetry by attending Wayang Kata at No Black Tie. A friend was amongst six poets competing for a spot to Singapore for some poetry competition, and I didn't mind the impulse decision to go, spurred on by other reasons like the chance to hang with the twins a few days before their birthday(s).

On the whole, it was a rather different experience for me since I don't usually go for readings of any kind. I really liked some, and got mildly annoyed with some others. But what I loved best was when Ciplak and Fahmi Fadzil performed an ode to our Angkasawan, which had me grinning till my cheek muscles almost cramped. Of course, their performance had nothing to do with poetry whatsoever.

In the LRT today, I pulled out the book of poems the British Council gave to make us feel better when we passed them our hard-earned admission fee of RM10. I've only started on a few pages, but it seems to promise a good read.

On another front, I was forced by my Mum to clear some childhood junk a few days ago. Besides some very shocking photos of me undergoing puberty the World must never, ever see, I came across my primary school autograph book, signed by my very own poet friends. They're fantastic.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Existentialism and reasons for insomnia

I'm alive
In case you were wondering if I had joined a caravan of singing beatniks or if the aliens had finally overcome the gravity pull to suck me into their space craft (in which case let it be known that I was the first Malaysian astronaut, not Dr SMS), no such luck. I'm alive, busy as usual, procrastinating like mad, and playing too many Scrabulous games on Facebook. Came back from Phuket a few weeks ago and have been at the mercy of my computer as its memory is down to 256MB RAM (I think one card got busted), all the while wasting my life away as Photoshop loads, stalls, says hi, stalls, lets me adjust stuff, stalls, saves, stalls... you get the drift. I have 500+ photos, of which 50% I will likely delete cos I don't have the patience to touch them up and they look yucks without any Photoshop magic.

So is my grandma
Some of you may also know that my only surviving grandma (maternal) fell down twice recently. The first fall happened on Wednesday, 26th September. She was teasing my niece, doing that 'shame-shame' thing with the forefinger stroking her own face, while backing up. There was a stool behind her. Either she'd wanted to sit on the stool, and missed, or tripped over it by accident. But she fell back and was in pain. I only got to know of it at night when I came home from work, and saw the doctor walking into our house. It was the shoddy, el cheapo doctor from the opposite clinic who—on the last occasion I was sick and went to see him—had wrapped the thermometer in CLINGWRAP before shoving it into my ear to take the temperature (there are disposable covers you're supposed to buy and use, ya know), and whom I suspected had REUSED the wooden stick you hold down people's tongues with to say 'aaaaaah'. Cheap Chinaman con-doctor who charged me RM40 for a simple check-up. Gah! Well anyway, he gave my granny a jab, which she thought would work a miracle as she tried standing immediately. But bones take a long time to heal, especially if you're 97, and eventually she decided that lying down was better.

On Friday, 28th September, I boarded a plane to Phuket with my colleagues. It wasn't after I came back on Sunday that I found out she had had a second fall on the day I left. She'd fallen in her room—perhaps she'd overestimated the strength in her legs. But she was really weak after that, and my aunt said that if she has a third fall, that would be the end of her. My uncle and aunt brought her to Assunta Hospital for a check-up that lasted all day, and the X-Ray showed her bones to be extremely brittle. She broke a hip bone, I think, and also fractured a part of her spine. I don't remember the details. The doctor gave her some calcium thing to sniff up alternate nostrils every day. I know because I sat on her bed twice, and let her talk. I haven't done that before.

Fast forward to today and she's making progress. She can stand on her own, but still needs to be pushed around on either a wheelchair or a typist's chair (easier to get on and out of). Some church members have visited and prayed for her in Chinese, which is good. She nods her head and allows them to pray. My aunt who's a Catholic had been pushing to get her baptised by a priest, as she believes that through baptism alone, one's salvation is sealed and sins are forgiven. The day before the priest was supposed to come, my grandma told my aunt that she wasn't ready and doesn't have the faith to believe in her heart. That appointment was cancelled.

I pray for her healing, and her salvation. My mum's been a solid help, finally earning praises from my all-too-critical grandma. Her remarks and judgmental comments have always cut my mum, who, despite serving my grandma all these decades, has never really been 'good enough' for my granny. Everything she does has always been unappreciated and seen as second-grade. We are hoping there will be a glorious ending to this accident yet; that God would turn this fall into a miraculous, redeeming act.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

KL / Sepuluh Tahun Sebelum Merdeka

I don't like KL. It's filthy, chaotic, and littered with shady characters acting as if they own the place. After sundown, it gets worse. The high-pitched sounds of traffic are replaced by dark desires that rumble in low decibels. The emancipated man at the bus-stop becomes a drug addict in need of fast cash; the shifty-eyed man sweeping floors becomes a sex-starved maniac whose wife is a continent and a half away. You don't need much imagination to commit a crime.

Yet, here is the heart—and soul—of the nation. More pertinently to me at least, here is its arts scene, buzzing and beating harder since The Annexe opened its doors to the public. Twice this month, I've ended up here alone, at night, praying on the LRT that I don't get mugged or raped or assaulted or battered or harassed or decapitated (maybe you do need some imagination after all) while walking the 200 metres or so from Pasar Seni station to The Annexe and back. It's not the wisest thing to do, but somehow the friends I ask to come along always can't make it. Grrr.

Fortunately then, for both my solitary nighttime adventures, my mind came back piqued by a new idea, a new concept, a new insight. In other words, the hassle was worth it.

( |o }===:::

And so I decided to risk my life tonight because a historical documentary called Sepuluh Tahun Sebelum Merdeka by virginal filmmaker Fahmi Reza was being screened. For free. I tend to avoid historical stuff because it has such a powerful effect on me, leaving me snoring and unconsciously sniffing at the next person's shirt, which I can't decide in my sleep is a durian or not, but tonight's doco won The Most Outstanding Human Rights Film award at this year's Freedom Film Fest organised by Komas, while excerpts from reviews, plonked into the promo postcard, all praised it. I am a sucker for ratings and good reviews, so I was sold.

Basically (which means I don't remember the details), the documentary covers the period from 1945-1948 in Malaya, and brings to life a historical nugget missing from our Sejarah textbooks—of how left-wing political parties formed a multi-racial coalition that demanded independence from the British, and came up with a referendum dubbed the People's Constitution. This version of history is gleaned from archived text, historical commentaries and interviews with former leaders and members of these parties. The snappy editing and music choice helped heaps in sustaining interest, and a particularly humorous section comparing this alternative referendum against UMNO/Britain's referendum hit the nail on the head. Oh, and I love the fonts.

But the highlight of this doco is an event that has been blanked out by the authors of our history books. In 1947, after the British refused to cater to the wishlist of the multiracial coalition of Putera-AMCJA, a Brit-educated Baba called Tan Cheng Lock suggested a hartal as a way of getting their attention. Having spent time in India, his inspiration came from Gandhi and Nehru, who were also fighting for independence from the Brits and had used this strategy successfully many times. The idea was tested out in several states, and, having been found successful, thousands of flyers announcing a nationwide hartal for 20th October 1947 were printed by the printing presses belonging to the Chinese merchants (an ally) and distributed. Finally, the day dawned. During this hartal, the rakyat showed their support for independence by closing all shops and staying in. Business came to a standstill, costing the fuming Brits 4 million pounds—a huge sum in that day. It was the biggest single public demonstration our nation has seen, yet most Malaysians don't know anything about it. (Unfortunately, as history has proven, the British Government still did not acknowledge the voice of the rakyat demanding freedom, and only granted us independence 10 years later.)

Even if you're not a history buff, rest assured that this documentary is as accessible as any mamak in Malaysia. And we were lucky to have Fahmi in attendance for a discussion session after the screening. It helped in understanding more about how the Government (the hand that weaves those historical words) either claims a piece of history as theirs, or plays other events down, championing instead their political agendas. Meanwhile, the left-wing leaders who also struggled for independence either ended up in jail or in silence, their sacrifices all but wiped out.

The event left me with several questions and impressions. Would a hartal of sorts work in today's Malaysia, in the event that the ruling Government acted way out of line? Who would organise it? Or even if some left-wing group tried to organise say, a total boycott of government-linked companies like Petronas, would the man on the street be afraid of being openly accused as a Government detractor? What would the effect be of screening this film ahead of the elections to the younger generation, especially Malays, who seek a different Malay role model other than the keris-waving drama queen? The documentary showed progressive-minded Malay leaders of yesteryear, who did not talk all day about racial issues so as to divide and remind us of our differences, but instead focused on gaining independence through unity.

Fahmi also brought up the point of how our textbooks keep emphasising racial divisions, but fail to mention segregation by class, which has had more impact on our nation's state and laws than you and I would probably like to know. It's certainly stuff to think about, and an interesting alternative to those who find it hard to entrust an entire nation's future to UMNO's present leaders, or their ability to write truthful textbooks.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Buku Muka

I'll tell you a secret. I'm addicted to Facebook. Since my boss (older than me by at least a decade) mentioned in a meeting that he's on Facebook, I figured I should succumb to the hype and jump on the bandwagon, y'know. Can't be seen as a non-nerd—not while I work in a tech/web company!

On a slightly more noble note, I am actually interested in web culture and social trends. So Facebook fits in nicely with my learning goals and interests. And for some reason, perhaps because I never was on the other social networking Goliath i.e. Friendster, it's made me rather hyper about finding friends and checking notifications. These days, I'd consider myself an evangelist for Facebook. I've been asking heaps of people if they're on, and explaining that there are so many fun, time-wasting things to do on it.

"Like what?" they ask.

I usually say that you can poke people, have an aquarium or zoo, draw graffiti, fight with others, buy people drinks, send baked items, and play Scrabulous, but even as the words come out, I feel like a nine-year-old kid jumping up and down with his new toy. Listen, all ye working folks. Facebook is dangerous! If you're as easily distracted as me, you can get addicted to it!

On a side note, my main gripe with Facebook is that it doesn't give you the flexibility of choosing how you'd like your name to appear. For those who type in their Chinese names with surname first, Facebook will automatically assume that those are their first names and thus address you as such. I hate being called by my surname, and attempts to change that have been ignored by Facebook. In fact, they've officially rejected my appeal and banned me for two weeks from attempting to change my name again. Idiots, I say.

Sickensore / Lab Rats

Two paper cuts and one sore throat mark the end of a week cooped up in a very small, very white and very cold research facility in downtown KL. For company, I had a sick research partner, loads of A3 paper, marker pens, a videocam, ciplak Post-it Notes (not from 3M), a one-way mirror and 25 strangers who came and went out a little richer. My colleague poisoned the air with her germs and took it upon herself to help them breed and inherit the earth. This morning, another colleague and I fell sick: wet stuff was coming out of his nose while he questioned the day's first participant; I remained sullen, taking notes while my throat burned.

Research work is both boring and fun. I'm not an extrovert or people-person to begin with, so listening actively to people talk (and trying to be interested) did stretch my personality quite a bit. I had to learn to ask questions clearly—I tend to stop mid-thought in conversations, especially if I start concentrating on the sound of my own voice ("Oh gosh, what am I saying? Do I sound that bad? La la la la la la...") or alternately, if I have one of those 'moments' that exist only in my head—and responding with appropriate follow-up statements/questions. I also tried varying the tone/drone of my voice so that participants wouldn't fall asleep, framing questions in as neutral a way as possible, and adjusting my language and word choice to match the other person's lingo.

The first few sessions I was forced to moderate required a lot of energy. I needed time to hype myself up and mentally prepare. But as I got the hang of it, it grew easier. I pretended I was acting out a stage role; here, (duh) the role of a researcher. In some cases, I tried giving 'fake' responses by acting casual or ignorant about a subject, but what I was really trying to fish for was their honest opinion of things. This role-playing was fun.

So it's been an interesting week out of the office, to say the least. I've been very pooped, but it was cool learning new things about myself and trying on a different work scope. It's all gooooooooddddd.... :)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Of Language and Sex

I've been conducting some Top Secret Research in KL for the past two days. This week's schedule ends tomorrow, but the whole of next week is all about shaking hands and disinfecting them with unadulterated brainpower alone, while doing my best to listen attentively.

Since Central Market was en route home, I decided to drop in on some KataGender arts installation thingy and a forum on 'Youth Movement Since Merdeka' (part of the 50:44 event). For the arts exhibit, a bunch of old t-shirts were hung up on several clothes lines, each with a one-line story of gender-related injustice painted on it along with the year on the other side. Honestly, it didn't leave much of an impact on me. I think that if an elaboration of those stories and suggestions on how the viewer-participant could respond (write to MCA, join a club, demonstrate/fornicate outside Parliament, etc) were included somewhere, it would have helped the message. Also, some torn clothes/clothes dumped on the floor might have added a nice touch to symbolise the struggle (and consequences) in issues dealing with gender identity.

Up a flight of stairs, and I found an inconspicuous spot at the Youth forum. Sat down and listened to the first panelist, Hishamuddin Rais, a former student activist who is infamous for his outspoken mind (which has gotten him into a Top Secret Cell). Well, two things he said made sense. Although he said it with activism in mind, these pointers can be applied to whatever message it is you wanna get out.
  1. Stop preaching to the converted—get your message out to the unconverted, who need to hear it more, and collectively, are able to make a greater difference. (In tonight's context, the 'lost' youths of Malaysia.)
  2. Say it in the language of the masses, i.e. use Bahasa Malaysia. It is not about using BM simply because it is the national language or anything to do with iffy patriotic connotations; rather, we should come to view BM as a strategic language that is essential in communicating whatever our gospel to the masses, bridging the racial divide and changing mindsets.
Thinking about it, I am of the opinion that if we did speak mainly one common language, racial tensions might be less (though a blot in history that proves otherwise is the racial riots in Indonesia between the locals and the Indo-Chinese, and all those incidences of ethnic cleansing).

Anyway, that was pretty good stuff to mull over as I left early enough not to be abducted by KL's 'scruds' (dodgy people, usually men, who like dark corners and bright ideas that pop up when they covertly observe other people, usually women, anxiously clutching their bags, eyes darting, and walking alone).

Tomorrow there's a mass prayer and a forum on the long overdue need for an inter-faith commission (their words, not mine). If you're interested, go to The Annexe @ Central Market, 8pm onwards.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Post No. 100 (+1)

Wow! I just realised the previous post was post no. 100. I am a certified blogger now! (By my own standards.) Wheee!

Saharadja at Mont Kiara Jazz Fest

I had been looking forward to the Merdeka gig at No Black Tie, which was meant to be a night of poetry and music featuring the likes of Amir Muhammad, Azmyl Yunor, Pang, Mia Palencia and Isaac Entry. However, when we got there, I realised (i) I was underdressed; (ii) we needed a reservation.

Dang dang dang.

So, by virtue of being booted out of NBT, a friend and I found ourselves on the road to Sunrise, Mont Kiara for its annual jazz fest. We arrived just in time to get coffee and settle down for the second set, which featured a band from Bali called Saharadja.

If this had been the World Rainforest Music Festival, they would have so totally rocked. But their brand of world music, heavy on the percussions and with an interesting mix of violin, djembe, trumpet, flute, didgeridoo, guitar, drums, bass and tribal calls, seemed wasted amidst the concrete walls that surrounded the soundstage. The crowd's response was rather mediocre, as is expected when you have a free sit-down-type event that is F&B and kid-friendly. (It is also likely that the hot Aussie violinist in the centre diverted substantial attention away from the music.)

After a while, I picked up the camera and went in front to shoot some pics. Immediately, I was zapped by the energy that bounced off the stage, and my impression of them improved 100%. They rock, and so do free gigs.

Saharadja's guitarist: a really animated dude

Friday, August 31, 2007

31 August, Merdeka

Jalur Gemilang, Melaka, 2004

Happy 50th Merdeka!!!

A strangely silent pause.

Just what's so happy about it though, I can't tell. I'm sure it's something to do with being free from colonial rule, something-something about being independent, and maybe a lot about not having to sip tea daintily all day (but hey, guess what our national drink is). Don't get me wrong, I'm no deviant, but I am somewhat tired of superficial celebrations where flag-waving and badly lip-synched patriotic songs are the best show our leaders can whip up. And as if to compensate for their lack of nationalistic lustre, we have an international fireworks competition! Yay! Surely that's something for the rakyat to cheer for!

Give me something else to believe in, leaders. Not smoke, fire, or short-lived flames. Give me something that will benefit all Malaysians, for that is what we are—Malaysians.

But who in their right minds would sacrifice such a position of unquestionable privilege and comfort for the sake of the masses?

( |o }===:::

On a livelier note, this Merdeka was probably my most happenin', ever. I purged eight times since yesterday. Knocked out from all the effort, I accidentally fell asleep before midnight and missed all the charades on TV and possible fireworks nearby. Dang.

Oh wait, I feel a ninth one comin'. Gtg.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Lennie develops on the night of the lunar eclipse

The blank Polaroid lay flat on the table. "Shake it! Shake it!" I said excitedly.

"No! That's the wrong way," said Rach. "You'll mix all the colours up." Tickled by the cleverness of the sentence in her head, Rach grinned and said, "Let's watch Lennie develop."

( |o }===:::

At times, the imposing nature of age—that always increasing, never decreasing number—gets the better of me. Almost. It is as if I were a subject strapped onto a sterile metal table in a lab, society and all her expectations giving me a curt, disdainful glance before proceeding with the mandatory exam.

Married? No.
Attached? No.
Car? Second-hand; purchased this year.
House? Parents'.
Income? Err... it's complicated.
Career success? Blank.
Goals? Blank.
Spiritual health?

And so they prod before the morphine kicks in and I am dreaming again that I am singing and playing in front of an audience, their monotonous queries fading into the background.

( |o }===:::

The office celebrated the August babies today, in what must have been a stroke of numerical genius in my favour. There were four candles side-by-side on the cake, and I had trouble blowing mine out without killing someone else's lifeline. You'd think that perhaps, one would get better at blowing out candles as they grow older, but no, that's simply not true. Your puff of candle-blowing power decreases from a developing bad posture, your accuracy suffers from neckache and your reluctance to answer to the call of a higher integer means that you need to try at least three times before you 'succeed', thus inadvertently prolonging the moment of symbolic aging in the spotlight.

( |o }===:::

I once bought a book at a warehouse sale that was about a white explorer who had been caught by the natives in some far-off land. As I don't remember the details, we shall imagine that they were bloodthirsty cannibals who hissed, snarled and sucked their ulcers dry at the chance to taste this exotic white meat. Did it taste like chicken? Or did it taste like the stillborns, only perhaps less tender (and much hairier)? While they danced around the fire and lowered him into the gigantic charcoaled pot, he suddenly remembered a piece of news he'd read a few weeks before embarking on this suicide mission. It had said that on this exact date, there would be a total solar eclipse happening in the region he was in. Battling fear and a semi-conscious urge to crap his pants, he cried out to the translator (for how else would the locals know what he was saying?) and the people: "WAIT!"

The croak came out dry, bouncing off the skin of the pounding drums and an earth that roared under the soles of hungry warriors. Again:


The celebratory march stopped. Cold eyes peered at him, spears lifted. Warily, the white explorer gazed for a hint of hope in the sky—and there it was. A sliver. Pacman nibbling into the sun. Pointing to it, he put on his best imitation of God and said, "I will kill the sun."

Needless to say, the white explorer lived to tell the story.

( |o }===:::

If you didn't already know, a total lunar eclipse happened today. Rach called it a 'happy birthday present to you from God' as we watched it live over the Discovery Channel website while engaging in collective oohs and aaahs. Sure, it was cool, very cool in fact, but a more meaningful 'present' were some simple acts of care showed by thoughtful friends. Overall, it was a very nice birthday, and a possible reminder to a weary cynic of 'churchese' that God cares. So thanks to you guys who rock so well.

"Lennie develops, 2007"

Polaroid: RM3.50. Company: Priceless. Line: So corny

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Fried Green Tomatoes

Last weekend's Pay Less Books sale saw me scavenging for cheap reads. In less than an hour, I'd rounded up 7 books. The first to be devoured was Fannie Flagg's Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. My verdict: I love it! It's funny, lovable and you feel an affinity for the characters. Here's one of the funniest chapters, regarding a character called Evelyn, a woman facing menopause:

September 1, 1986

Ed Couch came home Thursday night and said that he was having trouble with a woman down at the office who was a “real ball breaker,” and that none of the men wanted to work with her because of it.

The next day, Evelyn went out to the mall to shop for a bed jacket for Big Momma and while she was having lunch at the Pioneer Cafeteria, a thought popped into her head, unannounced:

What is a ball breaker?

She’d heard Ed use the term a lot, along with She’s out to get my balls and I had to hold on to my balls for dear life.

Why was Ed so scared that someone was out to get his balls? What were they, anyway? Just little pouches that carried sperm; but the way men carried on about them, you’d think they were the most important thing in the world. My God, Ed had just about died when one of their son’s hadn’t dropped properly. The doctor said that it wouldn’t affect his ability to have children, but Ed had acted like it was a tragedy and wanted to send him to a psychiatrist, so he wouldn’t feel less of a man. She remembered thinking at the time, how silly… her breasts had never developed, and nobody ever sent her for help.

But Ed won out, because he told her she didn’t understand about being a man and what it meant. Ed had even pitched a fit when she wanted to have their cat, Valentine, who had impregnated the thoroughbred Siamese cat across the street, fixed.

He said, “If you’re gonna cut his balls off, you might as well just go on and put him to sleep!”

No doubt about it, he was peculiar where balls were concerned.

She remembered how Ed had once complimented that same woman at the office when she had stood up to the boss. He had bragged on her, saying what a ballsy dame she was.

But now that she thought about it, she wondered: What did that woman’s strength have to do with Ed’s anatomy? He hadn’t said, “Boy, she’s got some ovaries”; he had definitely said what balls she had. Ovaries have eggs in them, she thought: Shouldn’t they be as important as sperm?

And when had that woman stepped over the line of having just enough balls to having too much?

That poor woman. She would have to spend her whole life balancing imaginary balls if she wanted to get along. Balance was everything. But what about size? she wondered. She never heard Ed mention size before. It was the other thing’s size they were so concerned about, so she guessed it didn’t matter all that much. All that mattered in this world was the fact that you had balls. Then all at once, the simple and pure truth of that conclusion hit her. She felt as if someone had run a pencil up her spine and dotted an i on her head. She sat up straight in her chair, shocked that she, Evelyn Couch, of Birmingham, Alabama, had stumbled on the answer. She suddenly knew what Edison must have felt like when he discovered electricity. Of course! That was it… having balls was the most important thing in this world. No wonder she had always felt like a car in traffic without a horn.

It was true. Those two little balls opened the door to everything. They were the credit cards she needed to get ahead, to be listened to, to be taken seriously. No wonder Ed had wanted a boy.

Then another truth occurred to her. Another sad, irrevocable truth: She had no balls and never would or could have balls. She was doomed. Ball-less forever. Unless, she thought, if maybe the balls in your immediate family counted. There were four in hers… Ed’s and Tommy’s... No, wait… six, if she counted the cat. No, wait just another minute, if Ed loved her so much, why couldn’t he give her one of his? A ball transplant… That’s right. Or, maybe she could get two from an anonymous donor. That’s it, she’d buy some off a dead man and she could put them in a box and take them to important meetings and bang them on the table to get her way. Maybe she’d buy four…

No wonder Christianity had been such a big hit. Think of Jesus and the Apostles… And if you counted John the Baptist, why that was 14 pairs and 28 singles, right there!

Oh, it was all so simple to her now. How had she been so blind and not seen it before?

Yes, by heavens, she’d done it. She’d hit upon the secret that women have been searching for through the centuries…


Hadn’t Lucille Ball been the biggest star on television?

She banged her iced tea on the table in triumph and shouted, “YES! THAT’S IT!”

Everyone in the cafeteria turned and looked at her.

Evelyn quietly finished her lunch and thought, Lucille Ball? Ed might be right. I probably am going crazy.

- Fannie Flagg, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

Monday, August 06, 2007


Today, I understood a bit of what a monkey, squirrel, bird, panda, tiger, fern, crawler experiences when it loses its hideout to men in chainsaws and tractors. You feel bare. You feel like you could run for a thousand miles with your little heart churning out blood and fear, yet still end up in the jaws of a well-camouflaged croc or at the end of a shotgun. You dart for cover, but to your disgust, it's a measly hibiscus plant. To quote 99% of horror movies: You can run, but you can't hide.

Then there's the excruciating heat. The ground burns beneath your feet, and whatever overhead shelter there was from the scorching sun has blown away; collapsed; ceased to exist. If you're unlucky and wear a thick fur coat in this hot and humid climate, you begin sweating like a pig. If you're an actual pig with a thin epidermis, sunburn and skin cancer might just kill you off before a pack of hungry coyotes. You become a helpless victim to the elements.

This afternoon, I lost some of the "protection" I've known my whole life when I arrived home to a facade that looked different. It was our mango tree. It was missing. Suddenly, the whole house and garden seemed naked. Anyone on the street could look right in. In fact, it felt mighty weird, as the mango tree had been with us from as far as I can remember (which is a very long time ago), and had served us well, bearing luscious fruit and generously sharing its shade.

But today, its stem held itself up proudly for a last time; its branches grandly bowed and swayed for a nondescript finale. Only my dad was there to see it go. As the men started hacking into its 30-degree inclined trunk; as they fell blow after blow into termite-infested branches, the tree's two decades of love and labour became mere memories. The same tree I had tried climbing as a kid; the same tree I had curled up with a book in (and failed, for it wasn't destined to multitask as furniture); the same tree my parents and relatives spent hours gazing up its branches for signs of a yellowing fruit; the same tree my mum fell from and oozed blood from her head; the same tree a pair of yellow birds in the neighbourhood frequently sang lovesongs on; the same tree the garden squirrels played hide and seek in; the same tree the bats and birds loved to lepak in (while relaxing their anus muscles over my car)—this same tree was now gone. All that remained, when I returned home, was a story half a foot tall; sawdust and debris all around; roots still in the ground.

And the Sunday sun blazed down as usual. Only this time, there was no one to shelter me.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Neighbours Pt II (Wildlife edition)

A fly sticking around before the rain

A cat imitating a punk headbanger after the rain (click to zoom)

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Rabbit vs. Grandma

Rabbits are territorial, and so are grandmothers. If you lived in my house, you'd soon realise that the toilet downstairs is akin to a battlefield where a silent but tense power struggle is waged out every day between rabbit and grandma. The former loves to dash in for a quick poo if no one's looking; the latter tries to clampdown on such loose behaviour by constructing an elaborate rabbit-proof barricade before she heads off to bed (which is when Lump roams the lands). So far, it's been effective. For someone who's 97 years of age, I think her contraption is brilliant.

Lump surveys the mountainous terrain ahead

A closer look reveals the extent of creativity at work here


One rainy Saturday a few weeks ago, I decided to document my neighbours. I must admit, I've never spoken to any of them. My family used to trade New Year cookies for Raya ones with the neighbour on the right, but that tradition dissipated into a mere childhood memory when the 'datuk' from next door passed away.

The neighbours on the right

An old Chinese lady used to live on our left, but a few years ago, she opted out, and sold the place to the management of a printing factory nearby. The management then proceeded to conveniently dump what must have been a hundred and two male Nepalese workers in that house. The feisty, loud-mouthed neighbour two doors down kicked up a big fuss, and recently, the number went down to ninety-nine. I don't have a major problem with them... except for well, perhaps one. There's this young Nepalese chap who thinks it's very amusing trying to peep at me whenever I get down from the car, close the gate, etc. Once I was trying to wash the car, and a bunch of them—him included—just returned from the factory. He grinned, sat down at the porch and proceeded to gaze in my direction as if I were some kind of Saturday matinee Tamil movie. I felt like throwing my dirt-soaked sponge at him, but for the kinky connotations such an action could imply.

The neighbours on the left

My room faces the back, and the dudes at the back are total slobs. I don't waste my time observing their daily routines, but take a look—doesn't it just look like a junkyard? The water drainage pipe is hanging from the roof, and each time there's a thunderstorm, some part of the house creaks and falls away.

Room with a view: the neighbours at the back

And as a bonus, check out this back neighbour's neighbour (pictured below). Is it too much to ask that the people in my neighbourhood be more civilised?

The back neighbour's neighbour

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Andy McKee playing 'Drifting'

I stumbled into the arms of an amazing fingerstyle guitarist today. No, not Tommy Emmanuel. StumbleUpon, that nifty surfing tool, introduced me to Andy McKee playing a song he wrote called 'Drifting'. I immediately forwarded it to my guitar buddies online, and soon, an oasis of sorts (saliva, actually) had formed on our keyboards.

Stuff like this inspires me to want to pick up fingerstyle guitar. It's the most comprehensive style that allows you to perform solo yet still sound 'full'. Don't know where I can find a teacher, though, and the time. Roger Wang lives too far away and Az Samad is in Berklee. Sighs.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Mating season

I have spotted an opportunity for baby bunnies to exist. I have seen the flashing neon sign, alternating between "Single & Available" and two hearts overlapping as one. I smell sweet love in the air.

The two suitors don't know it yet, but I have *evil* plans. Recently, I found out that a colleague of mine has a rabbit, and not just a rabbit, a female rabbit! And not just a female rabbit, a FEMALE ANGORA RABBIT!!!!

She's brown like Lump and a cutie (though Rach thinks she's on the hairy side). Look at this picture I stole off the owner and judge for yourself:

Potential girlfriend #1

Her name's Raisin. I like her eyes—they look so much more gentle compared to Lump's 'how-can-I-outsmart-my-owner' look (and is that mauve mascara?). Given a male bunny's natural stamina, I guess he's also distressed that he's still a virgin.

Now I've only got to convince Raisin's owner that both rabbits would totally dig a romantic evening out frollicking in some garden, and that depriving them of that would be a devastatingly cruel act against the laws of love. Hmmmmrrrmph.

Janice is back! But where are the housemates?

"lol", 2001

Janice, a good friend who used to hang with me in Canberra, is back in Singapore after spending some time in the States dancing and making coffee and going for Bible classes. Wheeeee! If you didn't know, Janice is a professionally trained psychologist who prefers working in a cafe and trying out new recipes. She's a good person to talk to, and one of the handful who can stand shopping with me. So she totally rocks. See you soon, Janice!

Since I'm reminiscing my uni days, here is an ex-housemate of mine, Nat, caught reading during the summer hols. She used to blast Britney over her hi-fi and torture the rest of the housemates with it. Hers was an amazing display of consistency, except for the times when she blasted the Backstreet Boys. Then when Jess, my other housemate, tried using Hootie and the Blowfish to out-blast Britney, Nat would retaliate by knocking up the volume even more. Things could get pretty ugly, especially if you had to study with 'Hit Me Baby One More Time' on repeat. Besides that, Nat also dressed a lot in pink. Shocking pink. Tight tops in shocking pink. But what's most shocking is that she was the oldest amongst us at—what, 26 then? Yep.

"Natalie in Summer", 2001

And here's Jess, my musical buddy, singing in the N1 laundry where we used to jam till the grog or our throats ran dry, or until Nat or the weird neighbour from upstairs appeared, yelling at us to shut-up-do-you-know-what-freaking-time-it-is? How I miss those good ol' days.

"Nights at N1", 2001 (My favourite shot of Jess)

Monday, July 23, 2007

3a.m. in a living room on Foch Road

I'm on the last leg of my Singapore trip. The guys are already asleep--William felt sick after walking in the drizzle with me and Cheok didn't have a weekend. He's been working non-stop on a pitch, and tomorrow it's yet another day at work, except that he has a shoot tomorrow, which sounds slightly more relaxed. I would say I'm so glad to be out of advertising, but I just checked my new office email and there are some pretty out-of-this-world deadlines there. They are rather impossible IMHO, taking into account I'm just one person, and I am technically on leave/holiday till Monday. But anyway. Might be forced to do it tomorrow before taking the bus home.

William has just walked past me looking quite green. He's now in the toilet, but I haven't heard major puking yet. Okay, he seems alright. Maybe he's just tired. I did, after all, wake him up at 8.30 this morning to lead the way to the MRT station so that I could meet Felix at Buena Vista and go to church. Church was... rather standard.

There's been a cool breeze blowing since I got back. We're on the 12th floor, with a rather good view of what used to be a red light district haunted by transvestites. There are some dodgey pubs around. Coincidentally, I read an article earlier that said that transsexuals are recognised in Singapore, except that they need to undergo a full sex-change operation. The gender on their birth certs don't get changed too. Some male-to-female transsexuals turn to prostitution because they're out of money and can't find anyone who'd be willing to employ them.

But the streets below us are now empty and quiet--it's friggin Monday tomorrow after all. Somewhere, some construction is going on as I can hear a machine drilling and smell the black oil carried by the night air. The occasional car passes by every minute or so. At this moment, life is slow and I don't want my holiday to end.

The air is brilliant and blowing, and this moment belongs to me, here.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Singapore Pt. II

Singapore is a fine city. In both senses of the word. It's my second visit to Singapore in a year, which makes that a personal record. One day I imagine I might work here, since I know more than five people and therefore shouldn't feel completely lonely, and also because it's a fine city. If you earned the same amount as you did in that country up its border (where I currently reside), all you'd need to do is multiply that by 2.3 and wahlau, you'd be rich! Your parents would be happier with the extra pocket money and so would you. Yes, I might work here one day. (I'd just have to deal with not being able to understand Mandarin-speaking cabbies and waitresses.)

What I have been doing since getting here on Friday night.
Eating fine food (had Jap and one of those real-meat-with-juices-flowing burgers today), tossing between getting a Macbook or a normal laptop or the office's Dell one, hanging out with my ex-colleagues Cheok and William who have been really angelic, walking in and out of shops, spending a bomb on stationery, shopping, getting fat, learning to surf the web on an iBook and discovering the joys of two-finger page scrolling, oversleeping (woke up at 1.35pm today; how absolutely piggish), and attending the TOMMY EMMANUEL concert at Esplanade.

I'd been wanting to see Tommy in action for some time now, but when I was in Australia for a month last year, he was shuttling in between some weird-named Scandinavian country and another planet. Then this year, while reading Mia Palencia's blog, she happened to mention that she'd been to a Tommy E gig last year. Lo and behold, a whim like a dim sum came ker-plonk into my brain, and so I googled "Tommy Emmanuel" and "tour", and excitedly found out that he was going to be playing in a few months in Singapore!

So who's this Tommy guy actually? Well, he's an oldish chap from Melbourne, Australia with two daughters and a few more kids via World Vision, who also happens to be among one of two(?) Certified Guitar Players in the world. He's most known as a fine fingerstyle player, which is a playing style that combines a moving bassline, rhythm and melody/lead section played at the same time by the same guitar player. He also does rather crazy stuff on the guitar. I mean, he doesn't pick strings with his teeth or salivate all over the strings, but what he does is beat it up real bad till it sounds pretty good. Like today, he used a drum brush to beat the guitar body below the saddle to create a purely rhythm jamming session. The pickup on the first guitar used today is also VERY sensitive, and each time he thumped over the soundhole, a heavy 'boom' akin to a kicked bass drum was produced.

But what THE highlight of the night was for me, by far, a song called 'Initiation', which he wrote after spending time with the Aboriginals in Alice Springs as a lad. I'm not sure of the time span between the inspiration and actualisation of the song, perhaps 30 years as he joked, but what he had wanted to do was to capture the sounds of the Aborigines and produce that on a guitar. Today, he did just that, immaculately, splendidly, magically. Using heavy delay effects and certain other effects (I'm guessing a Phase Shifter though I've never used that effect myself), he created a populated oasis in the middle of an arid bushland, where the calls of the original inhabitants of Australia melded with their droning beats, clucks, atmospherics and waaah-waaaaah didgeridoo sounds. It was the most amazing thing I've seen produced on a guitar, ever. (The Esplanade has wonderful acoustics too, which did wonders to the listening experience.)

With that, I'll end my adventures for today. Tomorrow, if I wake up on time, I'll visit Felix's church with him. Then on to more shopping! :D

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Lump is cute, but have you seen him wet?

When wet, my rabbit looks like a rat.

(This is for those of you who have only seen pictures that depict him as this outrageously cute fluff ball. He IS, but he can also look pretty scrawny. Tee-hee. These were taken at least a year ago, maybe two.)

Monday, July 09, 2007

Anson & Alex do their thang

More fluke shots from Ai Mei and Terence's wedding. Here we have Anson on rhythm guitar and Alex on congas. Motion is natural—my PhotoShop skills ain't that advanced. :)

Saturday, July 07, 2007


Experiments in crazy

Yesterday's wedding rehearsal involved musicians, singers, shofar blowers and dancers. Here is Janet dancing, and me having no freaking clue what's happening with all the light. They do, however, seem intent on dancing with her.

Experiments in candlelight

In the days to come, I'll probably be writing less and shooting more. My new toy has left me as poor as a church mouse, especially once I pay the credit card company for it. But for now, I'm still trying to figure out the mysteries of the camera and photography in general. I wish I were a lot more technical in this area, but all the f/x-number, aperture and whatnot is rather confusing. Still, it's digital and I can afford to push any combo of buttons and just shoot. Whee!

Candles in the Anglican church where Ai Mei and Terence will be wed tomorrow

Friday, July 06, 2007

Made in 1910

My maternal grandma is 97 years old. For someone her age, she's in pretty good shape and fiercely independent, but when you're almost a century old, your body does get worn, and her leg muscles have been grumbling incessantly in recent days.

Despite having known her all my life, I haven't been very civil to her since my rebellious early teens. Now, I am past acting like James Dean but our static relationship has come to be the accepted way of life. The lack of conversation partly explains why my Cantonese sucks so bad. But even if I could speak the language, she's now hard of hearing. I do help her with stuff on occasion and when she asks, showing the care through actions, but I know it's far from ideal.

I don't know how long God's mercy on her will last, but the fact is that she isn't a Christian and doesn't seem close to being one at this point in time. Which leaves me feeling blue, as I recall her sacrifices for me particularly when I was a kid; how she's served and taken care of me. Despite her controlling ways (as the mother of seven, grandmother of 13 and great-grandmother of five), I do, after all, love her.

I took these shots because I needed to preserve her on 'film'—memory is so unreliable.

Poh-poh, June 07

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Cheers, Mate

I spy with my little eye, something beginning with... B!


Beer. Also known as:
- belly girth enhancer
- burping agent
- better days ahead

This is an early celebration for the latter. (Crosses fingers in hope that it's not premature. Otherwise, darn, those calories coulda been saved for later.)

Also presenting my new Nikon D40x baby. I <3 superzoom lenses.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

reCAPTCHA & Other Reads

You know how leaving comments on people's blogs sometimes involves having to figure out some squiggly alphabets that are hard to read? Well, I just learned that some of these are linked to reCAPTCHA, a programme that digitises old scanned texts by having humans solve these 'puzzles' around the world, all the time. It's pretty interesting and if you go to the site, you can actually help digitise scanned words. (After 20 'successes', I also realised it's easy to get addicted to reCAPTCHAing.) Anyway, never once did it cross my mind that all those annoying validation processes potentially have a noble cause.

Two other pretty good reads:
The Worst Jobs in Science 2007 (from Popular Science) - think 'Whale-Feces Researcher' or 'Elephant Vasectomist'
The Formula (from New Yorker) - what if we built a machine to predict hit movies?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Music Binge

Over the past few days, I have found myself addicted to downloading mp3s ever since I rediscovered mp3 blogs and mp3 blog aggregators like The Hype Machine. When I say addicted, I mean seriously addicted, to the point that I figure out strategies for my downloading activities, as not all of these activities take place at err... private property, and because one particular machine at this non-private place has err... Alzheimer's, and err, perhaps I am supposed to be doing other things...

Anyway, mp3 blog aggregators really do help you scour the high seas for free mp3s while discovering new music you like (they compile the latest mp3 blog postings and make the content searchable). I download music torrents a lot, but there are major limitations like i) you first need to know what you want to download; ii) most torrents are for latest releases--the old albums are usually taken off; iii) if you're into niche music, it'd be easier to find me at a Paris Hilton concert than you getting your feed here.

While hunting down great music on your own can be very rewarding, it also takes time. A lot of time. I've sat through hours of patient downloading, all the while reading other people's glowing reviews of said band, only to click 'play' and discover the music sucks--to me at least. (On a side note, with the gluttony of music in the world today, you do need to start sharpening your own earbuds to what you like so that you don't drown in all the sounds. Different people like different music, so it's useless trying to find reasons to agree with all the hype if you really don't.)

Anyway, three bands / artistes that stand out from my current binging, in no particular order, are:
  1. The National (listen to them on Spinner here)
  2. Thomas Dybdahl (whose collaborations led me to discover another amazing voice, Christel Alsos)
  3. Peter and the Wolf (among other things, this dude plays in cemeteries at night and travels to gigs by boat)
It's all great music. You really should check them out. By the power vetoed me by My Honourable Self, go!!!

, , , ,


IRRESISTIBLY HOT Angora male, two and a half years old, seeks companionship of funny, friendly rabbits or humans of any gender. If you like playing catch, stroking soft surfaces, having a warm rug of high-quality fur under your feet, or entertaining the whims and fancies of a lonely, sexually charged virgin bored, neglected bunny, please reply to this post with the validation code: 'HOT BUNS'. Confidentiality is assured.

Special note from rabbit: I ran up the stairs FOUR times tonight cos not one of 'em two-leggeds were around, and I was feeling bored as usual. Each time I reached the top and stood at the bedroom doorway, my 'owner' would shout 'Lump!' in a grr-ing kinda tone it hurts my ears even to think of it and she'd try to trick me into going back down again. I stood my spot but NO! she had to take some blue thing and aim it at me, then like magic, it rained! Indoors! I HATE it when it rains indoors! Especially on my face or just me, cos no one else seems to get wet. Sometimes I think that that younger two-legged is a god or miracle worker, the way she makes yummy food appear out of nowhere, but for all those other times (which would fill 90% of the clock), I think she sucks.

P/S: That pic of me was taken when I was much younger. You can't see cos of the crappy phone cam quality, but I actually look rather like Brad Pitt.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Aged Dawgs

Reading the news can make you laugh. Really:
TOKYO - Japan will get its first nursing home for dogs with round-the-clock monitoring by doctors and a team of puppies to help aging pooches feel younger, a pet products company said Wednesday.

Owners pay 98,000 yen (US$800) a month to keep their dogs at the Soladi Care Home for pets, which opens Friday, according to a joint release by Soladi Co. and the Endo Veterinary clinic in Tochigi, eastern Japan.

Veterinarians at the home will offer round-the-clock monitoring, and residents will be fed specially fortified food, the release said.

The home, which can accept 20 dogs at one time, will also employ puppies to play with the aging dogs to help them keep fit and feel younger, the release said.

With $800 US DOLLARS, EACH MONTH, multiplied by 20 'residents', I think I could run a mini zoo. Heck, I think I could upkeep the whole of Zoo Negara (just the animals, not the workers).

The disproportionate distribution of wealth, and the careless way it is often spent, depresses me. I know poorer people would similarly balk at basic wage earners like me dishing out RM4-5K on a camera, which is what I plan to do soon (crosses fingers). The parting of the hard-earned cash will be painful and I'll probably unwillingly subject myself to bouts of post-purchase dissonance. All these money issues. If only things here were more reasonably priced, relative to the standard of living. (For e.g., the camera system I want would only be USD$1K if I lived in the States, or a few hundred if I lived in Europe. I'd still have money left over from a month's salary, rather than slogging for a few months just to get a cam.)

Does the current system not encourage people with lowly incomes to steal? :(

Stuff you don't want to hear at night

After waiting weeks for my Spidey 2 download to finish, I sit down in a semi-comfortable chair, turn off the lights and double-click the file only to find that...




There are two big yellow tractors and two big dust-coloured trucks filled with dirt outside the gate. For the past few nights, they have been digging a big long hole in the road about one foot deep, covering it back again so that I can drive out to work in the mornings, then returning late at night to dig another big long hole at exactly the same spot. Despite staring at the mess below, I fail to understand why. There are no pipes, no wires, no anything to make sense of the confounded hullabaloo that is happening at 3am. I pity my parents as their room faces the din. To add to the annoyance, tonight, the workers have decided to dig to Indian music on the radio.

BANG! Another crazily loud bang that sounded like a collision between a bike and a car. In reality, it's just more of the careless shoveling. I bet they feel honoured they have the power to keep people from having a decent night's rest.

A glance out the window again, and finally, I see the pipes. They look like gigantic red caterpillars with a never-ending wobbly midsection. They'd better not be of some dodgy material, supplied by some corrupt government contact's brother-in-law and designed to disintegrate in two weeks.

Gah. Loud noises can drive you mad.


When I horridly broke my Kyser the other day, I recalled that I'd lent a friend my old Dunlop trigger capo. So I texted her and asked if she could return it. She came along on Wednesday night, and presented to me a SHINY NEW SHUBB CAPO. And 2 boxes of Ferrero Rocher! She apologised and said she had lost the capo at a friend's wedding; would this new one do? Would it?! Of course it would! I still want the black Kyser (in memory of my old one) but this is great. Thanks, Debbie!! :D

Champs, we're back in business.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Book Bug

For reasons unclear, the Boss decided to give the Workers workers an off day on Friday (and Saturday), so I started on J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, a classic published in 1951 that has courted a fair amount of controversy for "offensive language, premarital sex, alcohol abuse, and prostitution". Of course, I wasn't aware of such labels at the time, and post-enlightenment, I don't agree to calling it all that, because... well, times have changed. (Seriously, read it and see my point.)

What I found interesting though, is a bit of related trivia: (i) Mark David Chapman, the assassin of John Lennon, was carrying the book when he was arrested immediately after the murder, and referred to it in his police statement; (ii) John Hinckley, Jr., who attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in 1981, was also reported to have been obsessed with the book.

Ooh, watch out people. I may just turn homicidal.

A day or two before starting on that, I'd just disposed of Yann Martel's Life of Pi, a novel that has won the Man Booker prize. Wassat? Oh, just another literary award. The first problem with book awards is that they almost certainly make me want to buy the damn book. (Note to self: There may be minors reading this. Move along pipsqueaks, you don't belong here!) The second problem is that if a book has won an award, it usually raises my expectations of it, which is fair, surely—otherwise why give it an award? However, this robs a person like me from enjoying a book for what it really is, which seemed to be the case with Life of Pi. Unless:

(i) all the brilliant bits that bowled the judges over were butchered out from my copy;
(ii) I am a daft reader (possible);
(iii) I've read millions of better books in my life (impossible—I don't even know if I've read a thousand books, period);
(iv) all the other books vying for the award that year were crap.

Despite my apparent grouses though, Life of Pi ain't bad. It's a light read and the zoology aspect is pretty interesting (Pi Patel, an Indian zookeeper's son, gets stuck aboard a lifeboat for 221 days with Richard Parker, a Bengal tiger). And... I just realised: the protagonist is sixteen years old, which is the SAME AGE as the protagonist in Catcher during the period the novel talks about. What a meaningless coincidence!

This concludes the reading of three novels in just over a month. I feel so productive. (The Time Traveler's Wife wins my vote.)

Monday, June 04, 2007

In the ruins

Nine years I have loved you.
Nine years you have loved me.
Nine years on, you lie in the ruins.

Today, for clamping you the 'right' way for a song I wrote (which is upside down of how I usually clamp you), you paid a hefty price. You died in service. Faithfully, just like always.

This picture is in memory of how a spanking new you looked like outta the package, and the spot where you received your death blow. Now I will wait to get one of your black brothers, but remember, I will miss you.

Kyser, you're da best!


(P/S: I am sad. Kyser is the best!)

(P/P/S: This is a capo, not an idiosyncratic instrument of torture.)

Sunday, June 03, 2007

2 B R 0 2 B by Kurt Vonnegut

My research into corporations and blogging for an upcoming article led to a wild romp round the Web for the past--OMG--six hours. In that time, I have discovered several interesting blogs, checked out this blog's stats on Technorati (where it's miserably ranked at 2,130,500 with an authority rating of 2), understood 1% more about Web 2.0, and discovered Project Gutenberg. (Oh, and of course, gathered some intelligence for the article.) Despite the vast amounts of time I spend reading stuff online, do not be deceived: I am not a fan of reading stuff online. But since the latter site offers e-books for free, hey, here's the top download at Project Gutenberg, 2 B R 0 2 B by Kurt Vonnegut. It's not a bad read at all (unless you abhor Times New Roman or Courier) and is a more wholesome option than looking at porn.

Friday, June 01, 2007

To Pastor Tim (whom I'd call Timmeh, but for fear of incurring that swallowed-annoyance look)

"Hello, Pastor."

Kampung Jus, Melaka, July '05 (Whee!!! Check out my eyebrows!!)

You don't need to worry if you left an impact. You did. Thank you for praying with me through dead-ends and my darkest days. Your quiet joy in God, your love for Him and the way you worship are inspiring. You don't take God as a sugar daddy as many are wont to do. You took Him as Lord, ready to follow His leading. Your faithfulness and service are some things we will visibly miss.

Thank you, Pastor Tim, for sharing your life with us these five years.

Today // Tomorrow. Time turns the page, and behold! A new adventure beckons.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Lina Joy

Triumphant shouts of "Allahu Akhbar"—meaning, God is great—greeted the landmark ruling passed today in Malaysia's highest court. Since 7.30am, 300-odd Muslim supporters from 80 different Islamic bodies had begun joining the concerned and the curious outside the courthouse. Whatever the court's decision (and there were only two possible outcomes), they must have rehearsed their reactions the night before in their heads. Which is why a few hours later, in a 2-1 majority decision (two Muslim judges; one non-Muslim), the Federal Court announced their rejection of Lina Joy's appeal to drop the word 'Islam' from her IC, and spontaneously, unanimously, the circumcised crowd roared.

This Big Issue sets a precedent for future religious-based rulings. It will confirm, to an extent, a nagging suspicion that has bugged our national conscience: How much of an Islamic country is Malaysia? Can citizens still believe in the freedom of religion granted under Article 11 of the Federal Constitution, or is the Syariah Court sneaking up to devour any delusions Malaysians, particularly the minority, have concerning our religious freedom? Pertinent questions to a country that is rumoured to face the voting booths later this year.

My initial thoughts on this case are rather convoluted (which pretty much reflects the state of my mind most of the time). I don't know nuts about the law, and I don't hardly read the papers.

Even if I were to spew my thoughts, and in the process spring-clean my brain, they'd probably just echo popular sentiment. Some examples include:

  • There's no hope for Malaysia. We're doomed. The system favours Islam, Muslims and on a lighter note, mamaks (who are Muslim).
  • This case really demonstrates how the Federal Court is allowing itself, via the powers that be inside it, to be shackled by the Syariah Court. The recent string on conversion cases show how they conveniently pass the bucket—and their responsibility to uphold justice—to the Syariah courts who greedily lap up their growing power. (Yes I am being judgmental here.)
  • Perhaps Malaysians surely couldn't have expected any or both of the Muslim judges presiding the case to say yes to Joy. With Lina's Muslim lawyer getting death threats in the past, such a liberal judge would have had his Merc bombed the moment he stepped into it; his family destroyed.
  • It seems like Barisan now wants to attract more Muslim voters compared to non-Muslims.
  • If the Church in Malaysia had come together and fervently prayed for the issue, would the decision have been any different?
(Cue commercial break)

As it is very late and I'm tired (tonight and yesterday, I left work at 12.40am and 10.45pm respectively), and also because I had an Angkor (not Anchor) beer courtesy of Rachel and her recent adventures in Cambodia, I will rush on and merely state that with each passing year, I'm becoming more pessimistic about the country I was born in and now reside, and her future. With alternative news sources booming, the rose-tinted image of Malaysia I held as a kid has shrivelled up and died. I read of corruption, nepotism, greed, injustice. Politics is a shit-smeared undergarment that is never washed.

With troubles all around, let's go back to the Lina Joy case. The demerits of the court's decision are obvious to the minority and especially to Lina Joy herself. Ultimately however, what matters is that Joy has the freedom to choose her God in her heart. At the very least, that's something no one can take away.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Planets, to Scale

Remember that chart in school, with the nine planets in our solar system drawn on it like one happy family? Well, that's a big bullish lie.

On Friday, I read the second chapter of Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything while lunching at the Departure Lounge. It was a drone of words compared to the first, but an illustration of how big the universe we live in stood out, which went something like:

"If Earth were the size of a pea, and you tried to draw the surrounding planets to a rough scale, Jupiter would be 300m away, and Pluto (though it's not a planet anymore) would be 2.5km away, the size of a bacterium."

Now that seems pretty far out to me. Also, I learned that our solar system is only a trillionth of the entire universe. What is out there?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

To Anybody, and Nobody

I think, wistfully,
of you
then of all the missed chances
in my sleep.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Teabags & Tears

I am sitting with a damp, used teabag lodged between the plastic lens of my spectacles and a shut left eye. The words 'Cane's Green Tea' dangle freely from the upturned bag, rustling in the fan breeze against my static hair. I look like a pirate, a joke, or both. I have just finished reading Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife, reciprocating its pleasure with my tears. Tomorrow is a work day and this is my feeble attempt to escape social scrutiny.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Staring into the screen, I see stars

I want to elope
with your wayward
your yellowed skin

in intent
of emancipating me
from cubicle hell

Monday, May 07, 2007

A Public Appearance on a Public Holiday

Meet Zara. She's a malnourished vegan who doesn't want to eat animals because "I love animals". While I don't doubt her sincerity (two years of being a vegan might have saved err... 3 cows, 2 goats and a few hundred chickens?), I do have reservations that any such love is mutual. For instance, if I dumped her in the rugged (often misconstrued as wildly romantic) African landscape with nothing more than a professed agape love for animals, my meat-fed guts tell me that a starving lion would probably prove my suspicions right.

But I digress.

Meet Zara.

Zara is also my new partner in rhyme (sorry, these lines don't come supplied with a puke bin). And rhythm. And music. In other words, we are going to be rockstars together. Or poor buskers who might, in the hazy future, be able to describe in detail what a Bukit Aman cell looks like. Hey, we've all got to start somewhere.

And so our particular venture into the very public sphere of busking (i.e. begging for money aided by a musical instrument) began last Wednesday, a public holiday. I had only busked once on the infinitely safer streets of Canberra; Zara, zip. After two practices, we had about 11 songs we could cover quasi-decently—enough for one set. We decided to try our luck at the recently revamped Central Market, a stone's throw away from the historic birthplace of KL. Such non-exclusive places tend to congregate the craziest kinds, so for safety reasons, I engaged the services of Reb C, who is a few dozen sizes smaller than me and a few elephants lighter, to protect us from the baddies and also to take pictures.

It must have worked, for we were not robbed. As we sang, smiled, screwed up and said thank you whenever someone was kind enough to actually pop money in, we were never once booed, impaled by another busker's guitar, or bounded off to jail in a flashing police car. While all that would have made a more thrilling blog post than this, I shall be content with the memory of my first-ever busking experience in Malaysia. For those who'd like to see us strut more embarrassment on the streets, my meat-fed guts tell me there will be more to come.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Blowing. Breathing. Brewing.

Over the past week, my scent has changed. I smell of stale cigarettes and communal sweat. I smell like a million bucks stuck in a sewage line. I smell of desperation.



A seismic shift in the seasons.
( ... )

I smell very different these days.