Monday, March 27, 2006

Worlds Apart

food!, originally uploaded by mincaye.

No, the title of this entry has nothing to do with the pictures. I just decided to throw them in, so it wouldn't be all words.

Pictures taken at the canteen last Thursday. Li-Shia's tucking into nasi lemak (she's got a strange craving for them lately), with a bottle of soya milk (one of her favourite drinks) by the side. And Wai Loon's smiling at pulut inti; very delicious, I must say (the pulut, not the smile).

Haven't been blogging lately. Have neither the time nor the inspiration. Just finished writing the first draft for a science essay (for competition, due this week). Have been listening to Jars of Clay's 'Worlds Apart' over and over again, for the last few hours (background music).

Great song.

I am the only one to blame for this
Somehow it all adds up the same
Soaring on the wings of selfish pride
I flew too high and like Icarus I collide
With a world I try so hard to leave behind
To rid myself of all but love
to give and die

To turn away and not become
Another nail to pierce the skin of one who loves
more deeply than the oceans,
more abundant than the tears
Of a world embracing every heartache

Can I be the one to sacrifice
Or grip the spear and watch the blood and water flow

To love you - take my world apart
To need you - I am on my knees
To love you - take my world apart
To need you - broken on my knees

All said and done I stand alone
Amongst remains of a life I should not own
It takes all I am to believe
In the mercy that covers me

Did you really have to die for me?
All I am for all you are
Because what I need and what I believe are worlds apart

And I pray


Additional: [this is the best part]

I look beyond the empty cross
forgetting what my life has cost
and wipe away the crimson stains
and dull the nails that still remain
More and more I need you now,
I owe you more each passing hour
battle between grace and pride
give up not so long ago
So steal my heart and take the pain,
wash the feet and cleanse my pride
take the selfish, take the weak,
and all the things I cannot hide
take the beauty, take my tears
this sin-soaked heart and make it yours
take my world apart
take it now, take it now
and serve the ones that I despise
speak the words I can't deny
watch the world I used to love
fall to dust get blown away
I look beyond the empty cross
forgetting what my life has cost
so wipe away the crimson stains
and dull the nails that still remain
so steal my heart and take the pain
take the selfish, take the weak
and all the things I cannot hide
take the beauty, take my tears
take my world apart, take my world apart
and I pray, and I pray, and I pray
take my world apart

Worlds apart.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

κύριε έλεισον

rublev's trinity, originally uploaded by mincaye.

On page 13 of the BLC Lent & Easter Prayer Guide is printed this icon of the Holy Trinity by the 15th-ccentury Russian painter, Andrei Rublev, over the trisaigon) thrice-holy chant of the Orthodox Church; it has been sung for over a thousand years.

Holy God, holy and mighty,
Holy and immortal,
Have mercy on us.

It's a prayer I intend to memorise, to recite in the manner of the Celtic circle prayer (Encircle me, O God...) at the beginning of the book. I'm beginning to find these written prayers more effective than the spontaneous methods most Christians are used to.

Of Rublev's painting, Henri Nouwen wrote:

The more we look at this holy image with the eyes of faith, the more we come to realize that it is painted not as a lovely decoration for a convent church, nor as a helpful explanation of a difficult doctrine, but as a holy place to enter and stay within... Through the contemplation of this icon we come to see with our inner eyes that all engagements in this world can bear fruit only when they take place within this divine circle.

In some ways, it echoes Augustine's famous saying, "Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee." God is a safe place, a refuge; not just one to run to, but to dwell in. Likewise, God is not in the church, so much as we, the church, are in God.

This Lent, so far, I am finding self-control a very difficult virtue to cultivate. It ought to be a time of restraint, of arresting many of my natural impulses, but I seem to be failing.

But I realise I've been spending less and less time in God's presence, just being there and being still. And this, I'm certain, is the reason. By his grace I am able to try again; by his gift of silence I am able to express feelings for which words are inadequate.

Capote ended with a St Teresa of Avila quote, printed in white words across the black screen:

"More tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones."

I pray that I will allow God to use the rest of this season to train me to listen to him more, and speak less; that my prayers will become less and less self-centred and more focused on his heartbeat, that I may learn to say, "Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."

By God's grace and mercy alone do we stand on this earth;

Holy God, holy and mighty,
Holy and immortal,
Have mercy on us.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

How far?

behind bars
Originally uploaded by mincaye.

Over the past few months especially, I've done many stupid things.

Probably I'm much afraid.

Of what, I do not know.

How far to pursue one's passions?

When does passion become obsession?

Obsession, addiction?

Is there yet redemption?

And what of the journeys that must be completed?

Those that ought to be?


(Words aren't quite enough).

O head, that thou may return and lash thy rein upon this wayward heart.

Global Spirit

global spirit, originally uploaded by mincaye.

The most exciting thing about live music is the experience of raw energy and communication between the musicians and the audience; this is evident in everything from large orchestra concerts and solo classical recitals to marching band shows and U2’s live performances. But for sheer elasticity of time and sonic texture, nothing comes close to jazz, and Global Spirit’s concerts at the KL Performing Arts Centre from 16 to 18 March were about as good as it gets.

Global Spirit is led by saxophonist Greg Lyons of the United Kingdom, and boasts a cast of international musicians with roots and backgrounds as diverse and eclectic as their brand of music. Trumpeter Damon Brown hails from the UK, but lives in France; Finnish pianist Jarmo Savolainen studied with Lyons in the United States; bassist Christy Smith is an African-American with roots in two continents; and Lewis Pragasam, hailed by some as Malaysia’s God of Drums, traces his heritage back to India. Greg Lyons himself lives and performs in Malaysia.

In true Malaysian fashion, the concert on the 17th (which I attended) began some fifteen minutes late. But though there were false starts (when the lights dimmed several times) before the band actually took to the stage, we were not to be disappointed once they did. Leaving enough room only for a brief round of applause, the band took a bow and launched right into their first piece, a ten-minute blues number which immediately set the tone for the rest of the evening.

Altogether, they played some nine or ten pieces (a relatively good number for contemporary jazz) ending with Suraya, which capped the night at 11 p.m., forty minutes later than scheduled. But after all, that’s the wonderful thing about jazz: it’s impossible to tell when the show will end, what with flexible room for improvisations and solos, signature features of the genre.

In this, Global Spirit followed a rather predictable (but highly exhilarating!) pattern in most of their songs. Lyons and Brown led with the melody on wind and brass, while Smith and Pragasam formed the rhythmic backbone, with Savolainen playing something in between rhythmic back-up and melodic counterpoint. At some point, the saxophonist and trumpeter would take a breather, leaving the Finn to tickle the ivories with a subtle, icy humour. In turn, the rhythm section would take centrestage, with Smith developing the groove (and stretching time as if it were bass strings) and Pragasam heightening the tension with his highly energetic drum solos, before the return of the entire band.

Three things I immensely enjoyed above all. The first was their third number, a composition by Greg Lyons entitled ‘Built to Last,’ whose central melodic theme very much resembles the folk classic ‘Turkey in the Straw.’ (Lyons later mentioned that all folk music across the globe share similar pentatonic features, so it might have also sounded quasi-Chinese) The second was the informal, inviting setting: the hall (KLPAC’s Pentas 2) is a simple box, very much like a small cineplex, with terraced plastic seats. In fact, there wasn’t even a stage! Nevertheless, this simplicity only served to highlight the excellent music, and complemented by seamless lighting changes and dry ice, raised the overall performance to ethereal proportions.

However, it was the third element that lingers most: these musicians had no airs about them. During the interval and after the concert, they would mingle with the audience, chatting over a couple of beers or so. In a world defined by glamour and limelight, these highly-experienced international performers proved that what makes music resonate with an audience is its heart, which beats in simple and compound time alike across various continents, and whose soul is broad enough to encompass the world, yet small enough to gently warm the lives of its listeners.

(Thanks Soo Tian for inviting me, and thanks for being my date. It was great!)

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Men in Black?

alvin & me, originally uploaded by mincaye.

Meet Alvin Kang Nathan, president of the V.I. Christian Union in 2000.

I bumped into him last night at the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas. He was there with a friend from St John's Institution, whom he met at ISCA (Inter-School Christ Ambassadors) meetings ages ago.

It was he who recognised me. Pretty remarkable, considering the fact that we hadn't seen each other since 2001 (or was it 2002?).

He's bound for Sheffield this year, to do engineering. Was in TAR College for some time before this, then worked for a year (last year).

One of the GREAT spiritual leaders, in my opinion.

By the way, Akouo is now 'open.' Visit:

Friday, March 17, 2006

And so one chapter closes...

montage stpm, originally uploaded by mincaye.

The STPM results came out yesterday. Present were last year's Upper Six class teachers, the editorial board (represented by Jino, Denise, Li-Shen, Kervindran, Khin Yew and me), Li-Shia and, of course, the STPM candidates themselves.

Above, Mr Leong is chatting on his handphone while awaiting his students.

Then there's Jon Mah looking somewhat apprehensively at Mr Leong, who's putting together his testimonial, result slip and some advertorial flyers.

Centre left, Theen Yoong is sitting beside Pn Hasnani, biology and class teacher of U6BF (my class this year; our class teacher this year is Mr Shariffudin, who teaches us General Studies).

Inset, clockwise. Li-Shia looks rather flustered; and it's not even her results! Jia Hun signing. Pek Lean before opening his slip. Yuen Hong, one of the top three scorers, with a 4.0 CGPA. Chin Fei, who arrived late.

Below left, the VEB team.

And finally, Weng Ken with a CGPA of 3.92, and a 3 A, 2 A- score. Congrats!

Congrats also to Tien who scored 4 As, and Yen for that amazing A in English Literature (she didn't take any classes). Hope has dawned!... for me.

STPM is, to me, truly a milestone. Only those who have been through it know how hard it is. I've only another seven months or so to go, and the challenge is already shifting into the next gear.

And so, yet another chapter closes. It's the end of their entire schooling career, and now the world of varsity and work beckons these friends of mine. All the best!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

On the choices we make

capote etc., originally uploaded by mincaye.

Watched Capote yesterday with Li-Shia. It was a very good movie; not the epic sort like Schindler's List or The Return of the King, but more reserved, covering some of the emotional territory of A Beautiful Mind.

It's not surprising that Philip Seymour Hoffman won the Best Actor award for his role as Truman Capote; and I've never heard him speak in such an effeminate manner!

Incidentally, we caught the very last show at 4.50 p.m. Today, it's been taken off the list. Thanks Li-Shia for belanja-ing!

One of the lines that stuck with me most, was Harper Lee's reflection at the end of the movie on Capote's actions. After the murderers are executed, Capote tells Harper, "There wasn't anything I could have done to save them." She replies, "Maybe, but the fact is you didn't want to."

He actually uses the murderers, keeping them alive just to get the details he wants for his story, and then sees to it that their appeal to the Supreme Court is unsuccessful, just so he can write an ending to his story.

Why do we make the choices we make?

On another note, while Li-Shia and I were walking about, we passed this Seed shop, and were glued to the picture outside it for some fifteen minutes or so.

It would be really nice to take something like that someday. Though of course it may not be so easy to get willing models, considering where the guy's putting his left hand... *ahem*

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Some thoughts...

achtung baby
Originally uploaded by mincaye.

A few random thoughts during service on Sunday (Tien and I agree that our thoughts are often on everything but the sermon; all sermons should be as short as those of the Roman Catholic masses for maximum impact, I'd say):

More on the marriage conspiracy! Pastor Vincent's sermon text was Genesis 1:1, 26-28 and 2:15-17. Just check them out.

(I wrote the following on the church bulletin, while reflecting on the ushers standing at the doors and by the aisles)

Even into church, we carry our burdens. It is folly to imagine church as a place of smiling faces and utter joy. So many stories must go untold, hidden beneath the beaming facade of ushers' faces.

For a moment, I recalled C.S. Lewis' words in The Screwtape Letters, in which the novice demon Wormwood is instructed to cultivate a holier-than-thou smugness in his human, an intolerance for people in church who don't appear 'churchy.'

Over the last few Lent meditations, I was particularly struck by Matthew 5:48 and Luke 6:36;

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

These verses reminded me of the call which echoes throughout the entire book of Leviticus:

Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.

And as I thought about that, I recalled God's words to Moses regarding the construction of the Tabernacle in the Exodus:

See that you make them according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.

It dawned upon me that God is the ultimate pattern. The Tabernacle's 'pattern' was only a metaphor or foreshadow of the pattern of holiness that was to serve as the template for God's people.

And Jesus is the incarnation of that pattern. Perhaps Lent is about realigning ourselves to the pattern set forth by Christ: a pattern of truth, sacrifice, love and faith.

Speaking of which, Brian McLaren's article 'Found in Translation' is an excellent read on the contextualisation of the 'kingdom of God' in today's culture:

Read it here.

After dropping by school to observe the issuing of the SPM results, I met up with Tien, Ming and Mich for lunch at KLCC.

There were some intense moments in which we had to confront certain realities, and upon reaching home, I found my thoughts expressed in two songs from U2's Achtung Baby:

"...We're one
But we're not the same
We hurt each other
Then we do it again" (from 'One')

"And I'd join the movement
If there was one I could believe in
Yeah I'd break bread and wine
If there was a church I could receive in...

And I must be
An acrobat
To talk like this
And act like that..." (from 'Acrobat')

(Indeed, it's probably their most emotional album.)

Practised piano this morning. Scales in sixths are DIFFICULT! But pieces are fun, and it was nice to rediscover Richard Clayderman, since playing through 'Ballade Pour Adeline' at Li Ling's.

Later today, will attempt to prepare my essay for the IMPAC-Dublin Literary Award for Young Malaysians, write a long overdue piece for Pek Lean (former President of the Consumer Club; Li-Shia's predecessor), and do a little trigonometry.

Watching Capote with Li-Shia tomorrow, and hopefully V for Vendetta before the end of the holidays.

Lunch now.

A little older, a little wiser?

li ling's birthday, originally uploaded by mincaye.

On Sunday night, Li Ling threw a belated birthday party. Those present were: Chun Hong, Jino, Wai Loon, Chiam, Phon, Len Yi, Soo Ee, Li Fah, Ching Yeng, Kian Ti, Melody, Eileen, Li-Shia, Wai Yin, Tsu Wern, Fiona, Pearl, Yin Ching, Phak Hoe, Kiat Yee, Li Ling's cousin and me.

We had steamboat, grilled ham and sausages, and some mashed potato courtesy of Ching Yeng. Interestingly, the largest stomach of the class, Phak Hoe, was late by over an hour!

Oh well, Li Ling was probably one of the few who exhibited some restraint, for amidst confetti and camaraderie, the night was witness to the following:

Jino attempting (albeit unsuccessfully) a drunk look.

Chiam lamenting his lack of height, hence placing his chair on higher ground.

Wai Loon on guitar... Woohooo! (he reprised his famous 'Happy Birthday' performance)

Kian Ti making the Channel V sign with chopsticks, bracketed by his left hand.

Fiona and Chun Hong stepping on each other's toes.

Chiam tucking into sausages, though claiming to be on a diet.

Li-Shia 'urinating' 100 Plus. (she accidentally tipped over a can lying at her feet)

Ching Yeng fiddling with the padlock key, deliberating with much hesitation whether or not to open the gate for Phak Hoe and Kiat Yee.

Chiam and Li-Shia attempting all sorts of intimate poses.

And the highlight of the night... Phak Hoe kissing Jino as a 'thank you' for the Ultraman figurine he, Fiona, Wai Yin and Yin Ching bought.

A very fun night, infused with music from the piano, guitar and voice... but most of all, from the laughter of a bunch of friends having a great time.

I once thought, 'maturity' is the token by which grown-ups sulk longer and play less. So long as we can, play on! We won't be young forever, after all.

Thanks Li Ling!


random items, originally uploaded by mincaye.

For want of a better title, I have settled for something typically Hwei Ling.

This is a random selection of photos from the Putrajaya trip. But instead of offering my thoughts and feelings, how about giving room for yours?

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Parting ways

farewell sam, originally uploaded by mincaye.

L-R: Tien, me, Yen, Soo Tian, Mich and Sam

Travelled to Putrajaya to spend a day with Sam before he leaves for India tomorrow. Tee Ming met us in KL Sentral to pass us cookies she baked for him.

After a rather eventful day taking photos in his house and having lunch at a restaurant in Alamanda Putrajaya serving Penang fare, we parted ways at about four o'clock.

Soo Tian headed for KLIA, and should be either on the way back to, or already in, Alor Star. Tien, Yen, Mich and I made our way to Mid Valley, where we got lost in MPH and were joined by Shern Ren, Tee Keat, Yen Mii and Jon Mah.

The day ended with dinner at the Chopstik Noodle House.

Tien read Romans 12 after lunch, with particular emphasis on the second verse;

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—-his good, pleasing and perfect will.

It reminded me of today's Lent meditation, on Matthew 5:43-48;

You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

I'm so far from this, so far from being transformed out of the pattern of this world.

(God I need you tonight).

Friday, March 10, 2006

"Encircle us, O God"

intimacy, originally uploaded by mincaye.

The 'caim' (Celtic prayer for stilling the heart) quoted in Bangsar Lutheran Church's Lent/Easter prayer booklet was an immense source of peace during the past week of exams.

Encircle me, O God,
Keep faith within,
Keep pride without.

Encircle me, O God,
Keep hope within,
Keep despair out.

Encircle me, O God,
Keep love within,
Keep fear without.

Did well for Maths (probably my worst subject), and tied with Yin Ching at third highest in the class. Li Ling was top, Soo Ee second. Twelve passed and fifteen failed.

It's good that the mid-term break has now begun; the week ahead shall be one of rest and re-alignment of my priorities. I must set my focus for the next few months, in studies, editorial board, walk with God, etc.

Will also be spending the holidays working on three essays for; IMPAC-Dublin Litarary Award for Young Malaysians, Malaysian Science Association essay competition and New Straits Times--LimKokWing essay competition.

Am hoping against writer's block, heh...

Had an interesting discussion with Steven Sim and Soo Tian over MSN just now. It started with Steven noticing my MSN nickname, 'we end where we began'; it reminded him of something he was thinking about.

The subject was, "Can something beginningless have an end?" In the end, we arrived at the conclusion that humans are too stupid (the same conclusion Yang Jerng and Steven arrived at on some related topic).

Our minds cannot comprehend infinity; we are a convergent race, not a divergent one;

Rays of light converge at the retina, and so we see.
Sound waves converge at the eardrum, and so we hear.
God converged with us at the cross,
and so we are saved.

We are limited by time and space; but also, we derive our meaning and significance from this limiting context, as Eliot wrote:

...To be conscious is not to be in time
But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden,
The moment in the arbour where the rain beat,
The moment in the draughty church at smokefall
Be remembered...

Journeying down to Putrajaya with Soo Tian, Tien, Yen and Mich tomorrow to meet up with Sam before he leaves for India on Sunday to do medicine at Manipal. Then parting with Sam and Tian, and heading to Mid Valley for dinner, where Ming, Shern Ren and Yen Mii will join us.

I look forward to it.

(Thanks Valerie for taking the photo).

Guitar Maestro

li ling's birthday, originally uploaded by mincaye.

OK, that's probably an exaggeration, but Wai Loon (of pseudo-Air Supply fame) is certainly an interesting guitarist.

Last Friday was Li Ling's birthday (also Mrs Chang's), and Wai Hung brought the guitar used for CU meetings to the VEB room.

Some of us were lounging there during our Bio period (Pn Hasnani was busy that day) when Wai Loon noticed the guitar. So we journeyed through Richard Marx's 'Now and Forever' and Clapton's 'Tears in Heaven' among other songs.

At some point, we decided to attempt the Happy Birthday song, and pulled off a last-minute surprise for Li Ling with a dramatic procession led by me and Wai Loon (narrator/singer and guitarist respectively), with Kian Ti, Phon and Valerie in tow (with the leftoever snacks the probationary members brought for their 'toast' the day before).

I'm really proud of that shot/portrait of Wai Loon and the guitar. Now to work on Kevin and his electric guitar...

Now everyone can fly!

lunch with tony fernandes, originally uploaded by mincaye.

Standing from L-R, minus cabin crew: Ameer, Alice, Weng Kit, Tony Fernandes, Phak Hoe, Li-Shia

Kneeling from L-R: Ken Ming, Chun Hong, Kian Ti, me

Had lunch with Tony Fernandes, CEO of Air Asia, last Wednesday at the JW Marriott. It was a luncheon organised by the Victoria Institution Old Boys' Association (VIOBA), part of their Leadership Series Talks.

There were some 160 persons present, and each paid RM100 for the lunch. But ten presidents of clubs and societies in school were offered free seats, and indeed it was a great lunch!

The ten of us were:

Kian Ti, Board of Monitors
Phak Hoe, Form Six Council
Chun Hong, Science & Mathematics Society
Li-Shia, Consumer Club
Alice, Chinese Language Union
Akmal, Society for the Prevention of Crime
Ameer, Bowling Club
Ken Ming, Music Society
Weng Kit, Horticulture Club
yours truly, Victorian Editorial Board

The subject of the talk was:

"Perfecting leadership to get extroardinary results out of ordinary people."

It was an exciting talk punctuated with jabs at Singapore, the biggest of which came at the end with the slide shown above, heheheh...

But jokes aside, I found it inspirational, and several ideas/thoughts that particularly stuck with me include:

"My job is internal branding: selling an idea to the staff."

"During crises like SARS, other airlines cut advertising costs; we tripled it. I knew Malaysians very well: cost low enough, they'll risk their lives for it. RM800, SARS; RM88, who cares about SARS?"

There were some pointers on fostering teamwork that I feel are applicable to the editorial board scenario. And we managed to get Mr Fernandes' handphone number and e-mail!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Ash Wednesday

ben & soo tian
Originally uploaded by mincaye.

This was taken by Chin Hor after the Ash Wednesday service at Bangsar Lutheran Church. Notice the ash on our foreheads...

Not a very traditional Christian (nor, for that matter, a very modern one), I've never actually celebrated Lent.

But this year, I find the meditation booklet co-written by Sivin, too good to be left unread. So I'll be following the daily meditations right up until Easter.

At any rate, one can never pray too much or too often. As Yoshua once told me, "Prayer is our lifeblood. The moment we stop praying, we die."

In all likelihood, I'll be away from blogging for a little while, as I have a week of exams just around the corner.

And since yesterday was Ash Wednesday, I shall leave with an excerpt from T.S. Eliot's poem of the same name;

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?)...

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.