Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Mixing drinks

Originally uploaded by mincaye.

My cousin, Ronny, celebrates his 20th birthday today. His family dropped by last night, and at about midnight we celebrated with cocktails and fruit cake.

I made him a Kamikaze (two measures of vodka with a hint of lime cordial), and two Daiquiri (not sure if it has a plural) for Leanne and me (a measure of rum, nearly a measure of lemon juice, and a little sugar; I ended up using pandan syrup as the castor sugar was nowhere to be found).

The amounts were just right, and filled the cocktail glasses nicely. (I think I'm getting better at this!)

Actually, I'm beginning to feel that I enjoy these 'elegant' cocktails more than the fizzier ones. Somehow the ones that are mixed in tall glasses with drinks like ginger ale and tonic, just don't taste as 'cocktail-ish.'

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Reinventing the V.I.

clock tower, originally uploaded by mincaye.

Thanks to the Malaysian upper-secondary History syllabus, students are doomed to remember George Santayana's words, "Those who cannot remember history are doomed to repeat it."

I believe this will only result in throwing out the baby with the bathwater. The point that's constantly hammered in, seems to be that we learn history in order to avoid the mistakes of the past. Hardly any mention is made of keeping and perpetuating what is good.

In recent years, there have been many changes in my school, the Victoria Institution. It is becoming less and less distinct, especially with the construction of the new hostel blocks and the influx of rural students brought in under the government's FELDA distribution scheme.

What becomes of a premier school if meritocracy is not enforced? For this reason, many of my seniors have declared that they have given up on the V.I. Word has it that the 'glory days' are long gone.

But a thought came to me yesterday; one that gives me hope that the V.I. is not lost.

I have mentioned before that the school Christian Fellowship scene is undergoing some major revolutions, and Nigel commented that these changes seem to be cyclic. I believe something similar is happening to the V.I.

When I entered the school in 2000, I found out (as everyone did) that it was run almost entirely by the students. Teachers had very little control or authority over clubs and societies, and so this power was often exploited by the students.

Over the years, the teachers have been taking their revenge. One by one, the boards have been 'retaken' by the teachers; along the way, many students were sacked from their posts and replaced with those chosen by the teachers.

This is very complicated (unless you witnessed it yourself); suffice it to say that the school is increasingly being run by the teachers now.

In fact, as recently as Friday, there was word that the school administration was planning to shut the Prefects' Room during school hours, stripping them of one of their most valuable assets/privileges.

However, beneath and behind all this, I think there is another battle going on. I'm not sure if the following will come across clearly, but I will try.

There has always been, in the V.I., something known as tradition. Back in the days when I was a junior, we learned the 'traditions' from our seniors. Or at least, their version of it. To many of them, the V.I. would be nothing without these.

Now, most of the traditions were bad, and used by the seniors as a means to exploit their juniors and usurp the authority of the teachers. Even the 'V.I. Spirit' was a corrupted hypocritical ideology. And seniority became a pecking-order, caste-like thing.

So it comes as no surprise that the teachers intervened. But in reclaiming their power and authority, they have erased virtually the entire past of the V.I., both good and bad. Hence the opinion of the seniors that the V.I. is going down the drain.

The following words were spoken of T.S. Eliot, when he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature:

[For you, Mr Eliot,] Tradition is not a dead load which we drag along with us, and which in our youthful desire for freedom we seek to throw off. It is the soil in which the seeds of coming harvests are to be sown, and from which future harvests will be garnered.

I am convinced that the V.I. has many more years in her yet. For 113 years the V.I. has maintained its colossal position in the education scene of the country, and it has always been driven by a force of tradition that transcends the petty 'traditions' of the generations.

People like Mr Chung Chee Min and Kok Kin are living evidence of this. They have inspired me to serve the school as they did, and have imbued me with a love for the school and its history, which neither my seniors nor my teachers did.

And now, as the Editor-in-Chief of the Victorian Editorial Board, I feel a burden to pass this legacy on to my juniors. This board, alone of all boards (save maybe the Seladang Editorial Board) is still holding on to its independence.

Indeed, the teachers and school administration are already beginning to show signs that they want to conquer even this plot of land, but then again, I am not like other people.

Perhaps this is why I was exposed to Brian McLaren's ideas: so that I would be prepared to reinvent the board in order to resist domination by the school. And God has provided the board with a new advisory teacher who is our ally in this.

These are difficult times, and I dare not say that the Victorian is the final outpost defending the tradition of the V.I. But it is certainly one of the few remaining pockets of resistance.

Mordecai the Jew said to Queen Esther of Persia, "And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" Perhaps this is why I have been put here. Perhaps this is my purpose as the editor this year.

I don't know for sure. But I do know two things: that there is hope for the V.I., and that it rests squarely in the hands of those who remember the good in its past, and who strive to redeem the school from itself.

Some things never grow old...

A&W, originally uploaded by mincaye.

This is the A&W restaurant along the Minerva road, where we had lunch yesterday.

Dad used to live in the Sulaiman Court flats, where the Sogo Shopping Complex is now. He remembers this A&W from his childhood days (that's about forty years ago!), and that there was a basement level then.

During Chinese New Year then, he and his siblings would buy 30 sen buns from A&W with their ang pau money, and eat them with tomato sauce.

How times have changed.

Return of the Chair-Stacker

vilads, originally uploaded by mincaye.

Yesterday's VILADS (VI Literary and Debating Society) practice session was fun. I called Sui-Jon at 9:15 a.m., and within an hour he was at school. He's back from Kolej Tuanku Jaafar, Seremban, for the Chinese New Year.

Generally, the morning was spent working on Gustave's Solo Acting piece and the debate topic for the Forensics, and rehearsing the sketch for an upcoming anti-bully campaign event in school. The short skit is an excerpt from E.N. Dorall's A Tiger is Loose in Our Community.

This time around, the debate topic is, "Developed nations have an ethical responsibility to eradicate poverty in developing nations." I still prefer the former topic (dropped because of many objections), "Feminist ideals are detrimental to the attainment of gender equality."

I'd called Sui-Jon because he wanted to say hi to Miss Shanti, and also because I had an 'art commission' for him.

Group picture, L-R: Moi Kok Lum, Sui-Jon, Miss Shanti, Jon Siao, Gustave, Moi Kok Ming, and Li-Shia and me.

Top row, L-R: Sui-Jon and his 'chair on three legs'; Sui-Jon and me skiing with Wilson looking on; Li-Shia and Jon, with Sui-Jon is a very strategic position.

Bottom row, L-R: Jon's laces tied to mine by Li-Shia; me and Li-Shia, with a cameo Sui-Jon again; the Big Gulp and the small boy.

Dad brought me and Kevin to Minerva that afternoon, where I attempted to find some books for English Literature, to no avail. Even the Pustaka Mukmin opposite did not stock any.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

An 'Ultra' Happy Birthday!

phak hoe, originally uploaded by mincaye.

Phak Hoe loves Ultraman. So Valerie and company bought him an Ultraman pillow and figurine. We celebrated his birthday (which is actually today) yesterday.

The middle photo is a group shot of my classmates, taken by Li-Shia. Si Toh, Vincent and Justina were absent that day. Some of us were doing Jinq Sien's now infamous bunga teratai pose.

Bottom left is a shot of Phak Hoe assembling the toy, and next to it, a close-up of the completed Ultraman. Above is Phak Hoe's favourite picture, a shot of him in an Ultraman stance.

Happy 19th birthday, Phak Hoe!

Friday, January 27, 2006

An experiment in colour and exposure

experiment, originally uploaded by mincaye.

One of the wackiest things I've done with my camera so far. This was taken in the school hall, during Kian Ti's meeting with a number of class monitors.

Selecting a slower shutter speed (approximately 1-2 seconds), I set the camera for long exposure.

Phon and Kian Ti, standing and sitting respectively, did not move, and so appear as clear subjects. The blurs are the students who walked to and from Kian Ti.

Later, I used the DiMAGE Viewer software (provided as part of the camera set) to 'tweak' the photo a little. Contrast and saturation were increased, and hue set to purple to produce a negative-like quality.

Doesn't look like a school hall, does it?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Blender: Observations

observations, originally uploaded by mincaye.

Our new canteen operator needs to learn much about efficiency and speed. However, the food is good and prepared with better hygiene standards than before.

I just discovered today, via Miss Shanti, that the canteen staff actually have daily debriefing sessions after recess to evaluate their work and decide how to better themselves in wanting areas.

Due to the carelessness of a girl who threw a sanitary pad into a toilet bowl, the girls' toilet is now closed for repair.

Hence, they are now using the boys' toilet on the second floor (next to the VEB room) as Li-Shia indicates, while the boys have been pushed up even higher to the boys' toilet on the third floor.

During Maths lesson the other day, Phak Hoe sneaked an entire mandarin orange, piece by piece, into his mouth, though indeed I believe Mr Leong knew; the scent of oranges was most pervasive.

Today, Mr Leong gave the class a box of mandarin oranges as a Chinese New Year gift. Kian Ti opened it with much hesitation, dramatically and amidst much suspense; the class was almost worried that it might be a list of holiday assignments!

To handphone, or not to handphone?

handphones, originally uploaded by mincaye.

In light of the recent debate over the bringing of mobile phones to school, an Interactive Debate Board has been set up along the path to the school canteen.

Students can write their comments on the motion, "Mobile phones should not be used in school," on a piece of paper (provided in a box) and pin it up on the board.

Above; Soo Ee, Fiona, Len Yi and Wai Loon are clearly demonstrating their "Yes to Handphone!" stand.

At any rate, mobile phones will still be brought to and used in school, no matter what Hishammuddin (our Minister of Education) says.

How else would, say, Mr Kali (Chemistry teacher) contact Kian Ti (class monitor)?

Sunday, January 22, 2006


running the race, originally uploaded by mincaye.

Twelve couplets for the girl in the photograph: twenty-four lines.

You're off and running, there's no turning back;
Walking along on this well-worn track.

Our Father whose work in you has begun
Will not let go till the masterpiece is done.

Balancing a heart of glass on an empty plate,
And you cannot turn back: it's too late, it's too late.

As you draw closer to God, nearer the light,
Don't give up, but keep fighting the good fight.

For faith is the assurance of things hoped for, things unseen;
A journey of many dangers to a place none have been.

Go on and cry if you must, spare not the tears
That speak of dreams and anxiety, hopes and fears.

He will guard your heart, our Father above,
With his peace, his grace, his undying love.

By his word, he silences the tempestuous storm,
Making all things beautiful in his Shalom.

Look for his glory in the scattered shards of clay
His grace in broken lives, living day after day.

Though the thorns are not removed, and the surfaces rough,
His promise holds true: grace alone is enough.

So press on and persevere; run till the day is done,
And on through the night, till the bright morn of the Son.

You're off and running, there's no turning back;
Walking along on this well-worn track.

Tiga sudah cukup

christian union
Originally uploaded by mincaye.

Wilson cancelled Friday's Christian Union meeting because many, apparently, could not make it, and he had ISKL Forensics Debate practice on.

But I wasn't aware of the change, so I went to the usual classroom after briefing the new Editorial Board probationary members on the orientation.

Only Sam was there, strumming on his guitar. So I called Wilson and then told Mum to come pick me up earlier. But before I knew it, Li-Shia appeared, and I realised CU would go on. So I called Mum to change plans.

"For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them," Jesus said.

We sang the following songs, accompanied by Sam on acoustic guitar:

God Will Make a Way
You are the Peace that Guards My Heart
Awesome God
Amazing Grace
The Old Rugged Cross
One Way
Blessed be Your Name
Open up the Gates
Because He Lives

A very diverse selection indeed, and there was no 'formal' list to begin with, so we just suggested songs as they came to mind. The first and last were Sam's, and they just pierced right into me;

God will make a way
Where there seems to be no way
He works in ways we cannot see
He will make a way for me...

...Because he lives, I can face tomorrow
Because he lives, all fear is gone
Because I know, I know he holds the future
And live is worth the living, just because he lives

We closed the meeting in prayer, and I led. It was a joy to pray then; sometimes it isn't.

We prayed for the challenges ahead of us: Sam is getting used to Pure Science in Form 4, while Li-Shia and I have the STPM to deal with, in addition to our extra-curricular responsibilities in the Consumer Club and Editorial Board respectively.

God was with us, and he will be always.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


lanterns, originally uploaded by mincaye.

Shot this while waiting for my father at Times Square this evening.

Have been seeing red lately, and the condition has been aggravated by some things that happened during the Board of Chairmen's meeting this afternoon.

The Editorial Board is truly my greatest challenge this year. It's the 80th edition of the school magazine (the Oak Anniversary).

But it is a challenge mainly because I consider the board a ministry; there is so much potential, so much that my members (and myself) can be.

Yet there is resistance from the teachers and school administration. They tug in opposite directions: the teachers have creative ideas and visions, while the admin prefers a baptism of indifference.

The hardest place to stand is in the middle, yet that is where I am now. To be idealistic and realistic at the same time is virtually impossible.

But don't say that to the One by whose hand the sky is strewn with stars and dead men are brought to life. Indeed, we will only make it through this year by God's grace alone.

He has never brought me into something he never saw me through, and I believe every member of the board is here for a purpose. God's not done, and "he who has begun a good work in [us] will complete it to the day of Jesus Christ."

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Scarred Satellite

seremban moon
Originally uploaded by mincaye.

(Composed 8:05 a.m. this day. Special thanks to Li-Shia and Matthew.)

Satellite, you who turn your face towards us
Living on this earth, lifting the tide
By day and by night,
And the theme for a glad rush of song.
Why do you hide? As if afraid
Of your incandescent light... which
Isn't your light anyway,
But the soaring strength of the Sun
Reflected on your fractured face.
Though the clouds mask your sweet, shy smile,
Plotting to visit dark nights upon us,
You always return (as Albom wrote)
For the Sun still shines.
And in your fragile gaze,
Where scars and stripes do mar your face--
There is yet hope for the children of the earth:
If the glorious God of the heavens
Is living in your eyes
Then maybe we, his broken sons and daughters
Can limping live this life.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Coming and Going

This morning, Rev Donald Anamalai (formerly of the Full Gospel Church, Alor Star) addressed the congregation at Glad Tidings PJ. His sermon text was taken from 2 Kings 6.

One theme in particular stuck with me: Jesus says come, and he also says go.

Lately, the greatest challenges and struggles I've been facing seem to revolve around these two words. And the Scripture passages from which they are drawn simply aren't letting me go:

"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me--watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." (Matthew 11:28-30, The Message)

Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven." (John 20:21-23, New International Version)

Bound for the Promised Land

On 23 December last year, Tien Li SMS-ed me;

"Write if you must, weep if you need. But don't let go of the twine in your clutch. He who hasn't abandoned this decadent world won't leave you. It may seem as though you're circling in the Wilderness. Go on... till the Promised Land."

It was meant as an encouragement, and as I thought about it yesterday, the song 'On Jordan's Stormy Banks I Stand' came to mind. Originally written by Samuel Stennett a couple of centuries or so ago, it was updated by Christopher Miner in 1997 and recently performed by Jars of Clay. Very powerful.

On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand
And cast a wishful eye
To Canaan’s fair and happy land
Where my possessions lie

All o'er those wide extended plains
Shines one eternal day
There God, the Son forever reigns
And scatters night away

I am bound, I am bound
I am bound for the promised land
I am bound, I am bound
I am bound for the promised land

No chilling wind nor poisonous breath
Can reach that healthful shore
Where sickness, sorrow, pain and death
Are felt and feared no more


When shall I see that happy place
And be forever blessed
When shall I see my Father’s face
And in His bosom rest


Saturday, January 14, 2006

Eliot's Ash-Wednesday

Originally uploaded by mincaye.
I love T.S. Eliot's poetry. When giving his speech at the Nobel Banquet on 10 December 1948, he said:

"Poetry is usually considered the most local of all the arts. Painting, sculpture, architecture, music, can be enjoyed by all who see or hear. But language, especially the language of poetry, is a different matter. Poetry, it might seem, separates peoples instead of uniting them.

But on the other hand we must remember, that while language constitutes a barrier, poetry itself gives us a reason for trying to overcome the barrier. To enjoy poetry belonging to another language, is to enjoy an understanding of the people to whom that language belongs, an understanding we can get in no other way... When a poet speaks to his own people, the voices of all the poets of other languages who have influenced him are speaking also."

Maybe that is why his monumental works, Four Quartets and The Waste Land, have references to both Eastern and Western thought, encompassing a wide range of philosophical and religious ideas.

Gustaf Hellström of the Swedish Academy remarked on T.S. Eliot, prior to the speech:

"The position you have long held in modern literature provokes a comparison with that occupied by Sigmund Freud, a quarter of a century earlier, within the field of psychic medicine... In his opinion there must be sought a collective and individual balance, which should constantly take into account man's primitive instincts.

You, Mr. Eliot, are of the opposite opinion. For you the salvation of man lies in the preservation of the cultural tradition, which, in our more mature years, lives with greater vigour within us than does primitiveness, and which we must preserve if chaos is to be avoided.

Tradition is not a dead load which we drag along with us, and which in our youthful desire for freedom we seek to throw off. It is the soil in which the seeds of coming harvests are to be sown, and from which future harvests will be garnered."

This year, I will be participating in the International School of Kuala Lumpur's South-East Asian Forensics Tournament once again. It will be my fifth, a record for any student from my school, the Victoria Institution.

I intend to attempt Oral Interpretation, an event in which I've no experience. But since this is my final year, I thought of giving it a shot. If all goes well, I'll be reading excerpts from Eliot's poem, 'Ash-Wednesday.'

The text can be found here:


Just a sampling of some of my favourite lines:

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man's gift and that man's scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?...

If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word...

Blessed sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated

And let my cry come unto Thee.

I've Never Been to Me

A beautiful song, by Charlene (whoever she is). Echoes of brokenness all over.

Hey lady, you lady
Cursing at your life
You're a discontented mother
And a regimented wife
I've no doubt you dream about
The things you'll never do
But I wish someone had talked to me
Like I wanna talk to you

Ooh I've been to Georgia and California
And anywhere I could run
I took the hand of a preacher man
And we made love in the sun
But I ran out of places
And friendly faces
Because I had to be free
I've been to paradise
But I've never been to me

Please lady, please lady
Don't just walk away
'Cause I have this need to tell you
Why I'm all alone today
I can see so much of me
Still living in your eyes
Won't you share a part
Of a broken heart
That has lived a million lies

Ooh I've been to Nice and the Isle of Greece
Where I've sipped champagne on a yacht
I've moved like Harlow in Monte Carlo
And showed 'em what I've got
I've been undressed by kings
And I've seen some things
That a woman ain't supposed to see
I've been to paradise
But I've never been to me

Hey, you know what paradise is? It's a lie
A fantasy we create about people and
Places as we'd like them to be
But you know what truth is
It's that little baby you're holding
It's that man you fought with this morning
The same one you're going to make love with tonight
That's truth, that's love

Sometimes I've been to crying for unborn children
That might have made me complete
But I, I took the sweet life
I never knew I'd be bitter from the sweet
I've spent my life exploring
The subtle whoring
That costs too much to be free
Hey Lady, I've been to paradise
But I've never been to me

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

"Slay me, Redeem me"

σκληρον σοι προς κέντρα λακτιζειν

The Slaying of the Sinner (composed yesterday)

This evening smells of a smoky day--
The battle is lost and the walls gave way.
But it is not over yet, this painful ordeal
Till the mortal is slain to seal up the deal.
'Twas like the wise words of old, when a parent
Or nanny or grandparent, or aunt
Would say, "Don't play with fire or you might get burnt."
Some lessons are simply too hard to be learnt;
Really, none could fault the godly advice--
It's just mortal flesh that falls prey to lies.
Ask of the devil--he gives as he says
But then you'll be running, hiding, all of your days:
The demons' lust is never quenched; they thirst
Also yours, and in your sin they are satisfied first.
Laughing and mocking, you now walk in their ways,
Past the point of no return, and so will you stay:
No more temptation needed--you have conceded the fight
Thrown in the towel, night after night.
Evil becomes you, as you stray further away
From the path that can save you, the Path of Grace.
And though you deny it, your darkness will show
As a candle put out when a strong wind blows
And your life thrown into chaos, a messy disarray.
You go under again, no longer knowing the light of day
And bury yourself in the fires of hell:
"At least it's warm here, with pleasures yet to savour," you tell
Yourself--all that remains in a world growing smaller,
Consumed by your lust in this hour.
This is my testimony, written upon the Word
That alone can sustain all words--the sword
That will kill me, ready to move at my word.

All kinds of witches and warlocks came out of the woodwork with their books of spells and incantations and made a huge bonfire of them.

--Acts 19:19a, The Message

"Have I your permission?" said the Angel to the Ghost.
"I know it will kill me."
"It won't. But supposing it did?"
"You're right. It would be better to be dead than to live with this creature."
"Then I may?"
"Damn and blast you! Go on, can't you? Get it over. Do what you like," bellowed the Ghost: but ended, whimpering, "God help me. God help me."

--C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

"Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes."


What does it mean to repent in dust and ashes?
To die? (dust to dust)
To reach the end of the line, with no more burning passion? (ashes)
To die to sin?
Just to die?

Jesus is Saviour and Ruler/Lord, as they say.
Is he also Slayer and Redeemer?

Today is Hari Raya Aidiladha/Qurban/Haji.

Adha means 'feast';
Qurban refers to Abraham's sacrifice;
Haji refers to the pilgrimage of Muslims to Mecca.

Let us be mindful that we are pilgrims on a narrow road,
That our path is the Greatest Sacrifice,
And that our celebration is just beginning.

In spite of tears we will laugh;
When the tears flow most readily, may we laugh most heartily.


Monday, January 09, 2006

Paths into the Future

hippocrates oath
Originally uploaded by mincaye.
The picture on the right is the Oath of Hippocrates, framed and hung on a wall in the Kluang clinic which Yoshua visits. This shot was taken when Tee Ming was brought there during the Kluang d'NA reunion last year.

As the picture is too small for the words to be legible, I reproduce the oath as follows:

I swear by Apollo the Physician and Asclepios and Hygeia and Panacea and all the gods and goddesses that according to my ability and judgement, I will keep this oath and this stipulation.

I reckon him who taught me this art equally dear to me as my parents, to share my substance with him, and relieve his necessities if required, to look upon his offspring in the same footing as my own brothers, and to teach them this art, if they shall wish to learn it, without fee or stipulation and that by precept lecture and every other mode of instruction.

I will impart a knowledge of the art to my own sons, and those of my teachers and to disciples bound by a stipulation and oath according to the law of medicine, but to none others. I will follow that system of regimen which, according to my ability and judgement, I consider for the benefit of my patients and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous.

I will give no deadly medicine to anyone if asked, nor suggest any such counsel, and in like-manner I will not give to a woman a pessary to produce abortion. With purity and with holiness I will pass my life and practise my art. I will not cut persons labouring under the stone but will leave this to be done by men who are practitioners of this work.

Into whatever houses I enter, I will go into them for the benefit of the sick, and will abstain from every voluntary act of mischief and corruption and further from the seduction of females or males, of freemen and slaves.

Whatever, in connection with my professional practice, or not in connection with it, I see or hear in the life of men, which ought not to be spoken of abroad, I will not divulge as reckoning that such should be kept secret while I continue to keep this oath unviolated.

May it be granted to me to enjoy life and the practice of the art respected by men in all times. But should I trespass and violate this oath, may the reverse be my lot.

Something in the article 'How I Would Choose a Doctor,' published in The Star's Fit For Life pullout yesterday, ignited some sort of passion in me.

The full article can be found at


But the excerpt I need is below;

A charitable doctor? Someone who will waive his or her consultation charges? Someone who will supply medication to patients free of charge? Dream on – such a creature doesn’t exist! However, there are many doctors who feel moved to waive their consultation charges, or charge only a token fee – and a few who will actually dispense medication free of charge to poor patients.

These are the doctors who actually take the trouble to find out about the economic circumstances of their patients and may be moved to offer them free services. These are the ones who really take the “Hippocratic Oath” seriously.

"Dream on - such a creature doesn't exist..." These are the very words that used to fuel my desire to become a doctor. As I have said before, if I ever become one, I would have to thank Patch Adams.

But lately my interest in this field has been waning. Too many people want to become doctors. I have always wanted to be different; indeed, I am what I am simply because I'm always the odd one out. Hence my peculiar and unique point of view on many things, and my stubbornness.

Besides, we already have at least five doctors within the d'NA community: Jason, Jimi, Sam, Tee Ming, and perhaps Audrey and Tee Keat. Looks like the future of medicine is in good hands.

My passions have turned, over the last year or two, to literature, biology and theology. No matter what, I want to do something in which I'll be able to do that which my blog represents: read, think, write and take photographs.

My mind is not scientific enough to comprehend mathematics and the hard sciences, so the science fields are out. But I still love biology, simply because I love nature and photography. And I love colour; one of the things I have against Malaysian textbooks is their lack of colour.

It is also true that my mind is not imaginative enough to comprehend fiction and much poetry, but I still love literature because it offers a perspective into humanity, which encompasses anthropology, philosophy, psychology, sociology, history and theology: an amazing spectrum across which my thoughts can frolic.

And lately, the interest in theology. I realise that, so far, none of my friends have expressed any clear desire to become a theologian, within d'NA and without. I recall that line from the Guinness advertisement, "Somebody's going to do it; why not you?"

Indeed, why not? I feel very much at home with people like C.S. Lewis, and I can certainly envision a career like that of Dr Leong Tien Fock and Dr Ng Kam Weng. If I am not going to become a priest or a pastor, why not a theologian? Besides, STM is not a bad place to study.

I really don't know anymore. And I'm slowly giving up on the STPM. I just hope I have enough fuel left over at the end of the next ten months, so as not to fail the exam.

Wide Sargasso Sea: Midway Thoughts

wide sargasso sea
Originally uploaded by mincaye.
This is one of the books I'm reading for English Literature. Yen will be glad to know I finally got down to starting something.

The themes of loneliness and brokenness run through the novel like the waters and seas of the Caribbean, where the story is set, and are expressed so succinctly in the following excerpts:

You can pretend for a long time, but one day it all falls away and you are alone...

"...Then people came to see us again and though I still hated them and was afraid of their cool, teasing eyes, I learned to hide it."
"No," I said.
"Why no?"
"You have never learned to hide it," I said.
"I learned to try," said Antoinette. Not very well, I thought...

I began to wonder how much of all this was true, how much imagined, distorted.

Earlier this evening, I had hoped to watch The Batman on Cartoon Network, but found out that my grandfather no longer subscribed to it.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Holiday plans

Over the next three days of Hari Raya Qurban holidays, I intend to read:

1. Chemical Kinetics
2. Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea (For STPM English Lit)
3. Eliot's The Waste Land

A thought came to me during yesterday's Christian Union meeting, the first of 2006:

When I was younger, I always used to wonder what first-time visitors to the CU would think of us. And so I was worried if anything we did might give them cause for labelling us 'weird' or 'pointless' or anything along those lines.

But now I realise that that was wrong. If we cared so much about being polished, we would cease to be that organic community sustained by grace and forgiveness. And until now, it is this very element that is, to me, the great wonder and mystery of God's fellowship of believers in the V.I.

On Theology, Poetry and Popular Science

lewis & keats
Originally uploaded by mincaye.

This entry is for Shern Ren.

Just yesterday, I managed to finish Lewis' essay 'Is Theology Poetry?', one of the nine essays in the collection The Weight of Glory, and the only one I had not entirely read.

Towards the end of the essay, he gives a response to the 'popular scientific picture' of his time. As it turns out, little has changed since then. To quote some parts of his lengthy argument, which I loosely paragraph:

The whole picture professes to depend on inferences from observed facts. Unless inference is valid, the whole picture disappears. Unless we can be sure that reality in the remotest nebula or the remotest part obeys the thought laws of the human scientist here and now in his laboratory--in other words, unless Reason is an absolute--all is in ruins.

Yet those who ask me to believe this world picture also ask me to believe that Reason is simply the unforeseen and unintended by-product of mindless matter at one stage of its endless and aimless becoming. Here is flat contradiction. They ask me at the same moment to accept a conclusion and to discredit the only testimony on which that conclusion can be based.

That alone should be sufficient to knock atheistic evolutionism off its feet. But Lewis goes further by probing into the motives for accepting evolutionism, which he holds was
'devised not to get in facts but to keep out God':

More disquieting still is Professor D.M.S. Watson's defence. "Evolution itself," he wrote, "is accepted by zoologists not because it has been observed to occur or... can be proved by logically coherent evidence to be true, but because the only alternative, special creation, is clearly incredible."

He also cites the puzzle of the chicken and the egg; which came first? And he gives parallel examples of trees growing from seeds, humans from embryoes and the modern express engine from the 'Rocket.'

What we often forget, he contends, is that the seed fell from a tree, the embryo came from two adult human beings, and the 'Rocket' from the mind of a genius.

At the end of it, he paints a reductio ad absurdum picture of the argument:

If minds are wholly dependent on brains, and brains on biochemistry, and biochemistry (in the long run) on the meaningless flux of the atoms, I cannot understand how the thought of those minds should have any more significance than the sound of the wind in the trees.

And in conclusion, I find that I very much agree with Lewis, in that the Theological position is like being awake, while the merely Scientific one is like a dream: only one has room enough for the other.

Christian theology can fit in science, art, morality, and the sub-Christian religions. The scientific point of view cannot fit in any of these things, not even science itself. I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.

Now what's with the picture of Keats' collection of poems above?

Yen gave it to me for STPM English Literature. Lewis writes in that essay, that the modern scientific worldview is just a variation on the themes/ideas of Keats' Hyperion and the Nibelung's Ring (I forgot by whom).

As I looked through Hyperion just now, I am more certain than before that I will more likely be doing Thomas Hardy rather than John Keats, for Hardy's poems have a more reflective nature and are less graphic/epic than Keats'.

Some thoughts on Eliot

Originally uploaded by mincaye.

At tuition class this morning, I worked through the following poem by Richard Wilbur with my 15-year-old student:


I read how Quixote in his random ride
Came to a crossing once, and lest he lose
The purity of chance, would not decide

Whither to fare, but wished his horse to choose.
For glory lay wherever he might turn.
His head was light with pride, his horse's shoes

Were heavy, and he headed for the barn.

The phrases are staggered and begin and end in mid-line, but this was new to her. So I cited some examples from Eliot's 'Little Gidding' to illustrate how and why this technique works:

Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
Every poem an epitaph. And any action
Is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea's throat
Or to an illegible stone: and that is where we start...

...The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree
Are of equal duration. A people without history
Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern
Of timeless moments...

In the first part of the excerpt, the terraced effect serves to emphasise death and endings, while the nature and enigma of time is the subject of the second.

It also dawned upon me that in the fifth and final stave of 'Little Gidding' (also the very last stave of Eliot's Four Quartets), profundity and clarity are one in the lines;

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

It is said that Four Quartets 'expands the spiritual vision brought out in The Waste Land.' I think I'll spend the next few days looking into it.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Fare forward, voyager!

jeremiah's farewell, originally uploaded by mincaye.

A day before school started, Chien Yih had a farewell party at the J.W. Marriott to say goodbye to friends. He left for England yesterday; going to study at Stowe.

The VI Christian Union/NSCF 2004 gang appears in the above photo. The CU gave him some very symbolic presents (you figure it out):

1. 2 cans of tuna fish and 5 burger buns
2. a baguette and a bottle of Ribena
3. a bottle of sparkling juice
4. a Thank You card
5. a copy of the Victorian 2005 magazine

Now let me try to label the group photo.

On Chien Yih's right, clockwise: Rebecca, Li-Shia, Jason, Emily and me.

On Chien Yih's left, clockwise: Doen En, Shueh Yi, Wilson, Weng Ken, Jon Mah and Joanna (below the baguette).

In the photo below, are four generations of CU presidents: Jon (2003), me (2004), Chien Yih (2005) and Wilson (2006). It was somewhat unfortunate that Kenneth could not join us as he had a wedding to attend. He was president in 2002.

Reflecting upon this, T.S. Eliot's words in 'The Dry Salvages' comes to mind:

Fare forward, you who think that you are voyaging!
You are not those who saw the harbour
Receding, or those who will disembark.

Go in peace, Chien Yih, and have a blast of a time in England!

An end... or a new beginning?

At night, after the first day of school, Eliot's famous words in the fifth and final stave of 'Little Gidding' came to me:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

Even as I grow older and prepare to leave school, there is something about it that seems so new and so fresh. Even in this final year, I am discovering new horizons in familiar territory.

Thoughts on Mark Haddon's book

Some quotes that left an impression, from Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time:

"And I said 'yes,' because loving someone is helping them when they get into trouble, and looking after them, and telling them the truth, and Father looks after me when I get into trouble, like coming to the police station, and he looks after me by cooking meals for me, and he always tells me the truth, which means that he loves me."

"...But I think it is worst if you don't know whether it is a good thing or a bad thing which is going to happen."

"And whenever I thought about the future I couldn't see anything clearly in my head and that made a panic start. So Siobhan said I shouldn't thnk about the future. She said, 'Just think about today. Think about things that have happened. Especialy good things that have happened.'"

It's a simple tale about a 15-year-old autistic boy and how he perceives the world. One of those rare gems, its profundity is in its very simplicity.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Resolution: Incarnation

eucharist, originally uploaded by mincaye.

(I took this photo at the Cable Car, during the family dinner. It was good to be reminded of the Eucharist on New Year's Eve. For the record, the montage of the Cable Car dinner was the 200th picture I uploaded onto Flickr).

When Balian meets the Leper King in Kingdom of Heaven, the King says,

"When you stand before God, you cannot say 'But I was told by others to do thus,' or 'That virtue was not convenient at the time.'"

We are responsible for our actions, for the consequences of our decisions. I've started using the Poetry Speaks Calendar, and today's poem by Rafael Campo, addresses this;

On New Year's Day

If hopefulness resides in what we can
resolve to change, then let us give up sweets,
nail-biting, cigarettes, the habits of
our weak humanity--we can succeed

if only we try hard enough, resist
potato chips and shed ten pounds, return
whatever book we have that's overdue,
forgive inequities and do what's just--

because today is anything, it is
our natural color, it is when we
begin to save, it is the better spouse
we'll be, it is beginning to be free.

It is as Joshua challenged Israel when the covenant was renewed at Shechem after they had taken possession of the Promised Land;

"But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord."

I love C.S. Lewis' poem,

What the Bird Said Early in the Year

I heard in Addison's Walk a bird sing clear
'This year the summer will come true. This year. This year.

'Winds will not strip the blossom from the apple trees
This year, nor want of rain destroy the peas.

'This year time's nature will no more defeat you,
Not all the promised moments in their passing cheat you.

'This time they will not lead you round and back
To Autumn, one year older, by the well-worn track.

'This year, this year, as all these flowers foretell,
We shall escape the circle and undo the spell.

'Often deceived, yet open once again your heart,
Quick, quick, quick, quick! -- the gates are drawn apart.'

Today at church, Pastor Vincent mentioned six principles when it comes to making choices:

Ideal: is it in harmony with the Word of God?

Integrity: will I want others to know what I am doing?

Improvement: will I be a better Christian?

Independence: could I become addicted or 'governed' by the decision I make?

Influence: will it harm others?

Investment: is it the best use of my life and resources?

One area of my life which has been rather stagnant for quite some time now, is Quiet Time. By the grace of God, I am helped here in two ways this year.

Firstly, I am the Editor-in-Chief of my school's editorial board. That means I have access to the Editor's Room, which can be a 'prayer room' early in the morning before school starts each day.

Secondly, TMsquared 2006 seems geared to assist quiet time, considering the stuff we are going to be exploring this time around: Spiritual Disciplines--Classic & Contemporary Works, and Basic New Testament Greek.

For the month of January, my Bible study focus is on the book of Romans; I did Jonah in the week after Christmas. This resembles Bishop Dr Hwa Yung's method of prayer, in which he prays as items come to his mind.

Likewise, as a theme (or themes) of a book suggests itself to a situation I'm facing, I will read through and reflect on that book. I've never done this before, so it'll be something new and challenging, but also flexible and 'unforced,' heheh...

As I looked through some of the odds and ends I stuffed into my d'NA Stage 1 file, I found something Nigel wrote for the National SCF Leaders' Camp in 2003 (de Kopitiam Connection), entitled 'The Journey of a Leader -- A Meditation.'

The first part, in particular, pierced me like a sword;

"When God first called us to be leaders... He did not give us a whole detailed plan did He? All He did was just to call us... as we go along our journey, God will slowly reveal more and more of His plan."

As I stand upon the threshold of Upper Six, i.e. the very end of Secondary School and my last year as a teenager, I am filled with all kinds of fears, ranging from worries about the STPM and the editorial board, to matters concerning relationships with friends and my own identity.

Only one assurance do I carry with me: that God called me into Form 6. Again and again I have thought of giving up; dropping subjects left, right and centre; quitting the editorial board; taking a one-year sabbatical; working somewhere for awhile.

The only reason why I'm staying where I am at the moment, is that somehow I am convinced that God deliberately called me into Form 6, not unlike the manner in which he called Moses to return to Egypt or Jonah to go to Nineveh.

Though my fears outweigh my hopes, I pray for the strength and grace to carry on. Already God is sending me these in the form of my friends who walk this journey with me, and I am grateful for that.

And so, what is my New Year resolution? It is simply that this year may be one of Incarnation and Intercession.

Incarnation, because it is birth and death. As Eliot wrote in 'Journey of the Magi,' the birth of Christ also implied the death of the old way of things. In every decision I make, part of me lives while another dies; may it be a year of many right choices.

There is no way any of us can make it through the year if we do not uphold one another in love. Intercession is not mere prayer; it is approaching the Throne of Grace on behalf of our brothers and sisters, it is coming before God as a community of faith.

And they are complementary: when we intercede for one another, Christ is in some mysterious way made incarnate in us. Someone once wrote that the Holy Spirit makes each of us an 'after-Christ,' reflecting the image of the One who is.

Our constant reminder is the Eucharist. For in the manner that God was made incarnate as one of us, and so interceded on our behalf before the Father; in that same manner I believe we are called to conduct our lives.


Sunday, January 01, 2006

Enter Uncle Jon

jon mah
Originally uploaded by mincaye.

Jonathan Mah, ex-president of the VI's Christian Union, turns twenty today! Yup, that's the big two-zero!

Hence, he is now officially Uncle Jon Mah; having lived on this planet for two decades so far, he has eaten more salt than all of us younglings still in school.

d'NAers soon approaching this milestone include Yen, Tien, Mich, Hwei Ling... starting with Aunty Mich!

Here's a bit of juicy info: pictured with Jon above is his wife, a.k.a. his guitar. He guards it more carefully than Frodo did the One Ring; woe betide the human who lays a finger upon the stringed instrument!

Thanks for everything, Jon, and see you tomorrow!

To end a year...

family, originally uploaded by mincaye.

It happens that my grandfather was born on 31 December. So we ended the year with a birthday dinner at the Cable Car restaurant in Cold Storage, Section 14 PJ. He turned 78 last year (yes, last year).

Two comments on the photos:

1. The photo of my food was taken with extended exposure... finally, I discovered the secret of taking flashless photos in relatively dark places.

2. The masked-ball photo at the bottom is something I could very well imagine whacked-out teenagers doing! Party stuff courtesy of the restaurant.

I daresay 2005 ended well. An amazing trip to Alor Star, graduating from d'NA, celebrating Christmas on both ends of the ecclesiastical spectrum, and the dinners on the last two nights of the year... ending the year with friends and family.

But there is one friend with whom I wish I could've spent more time last month. As of now, we are in lands so far removed that we can only see each other, to borrow a John Williams phrase, 'across the stars.'

After all these years...

old friends, originally uploaded by mincaye.

Friday night, I had dinner (and supper) with some old friends from Standard Six (and their siblings/cousins). They were:

Top, L-R: Edmund and Qiao Ying

Middle, L-R: Denny, Edmund's sister, Lenny (Denny's brother), Brian (or is it Bryan?--Denny and Edmund's cousin)

Bottom, L-R: Jin Yu, Shi Hui, Pei Yi, Pei Wern (Pei Yi's sister)

We had this excellent steamboat/barbecue at Restoran Talipon along Jalan Kuchai Lama, off Old Klang Road. All-you-can-eat for only RM 18 per head; quite a steal!

Most importantly, we had fun with the food, playing with crabstick, mushrooms, black pepper beef, eggs and butter... and imitating Chef Wan here and there.

Later we went to an Arabic cafe in Ampang (I forgot the name of the place) for supper. Some observations:

1. Turkish coffee is very strong
2. Arabic tea is pleasant
3. Beware the half-asleep, half-high waiters!
4. Staying late into the night with good friends is a wonderful thing

Eventually we had to leave slightly earlier than we intended to (about just past 1 a.m. instead of 2), as Jin Yu was giving me a lift home, and Dad didn't want me back too late.